(Mis)Adventures in Sewing: The Tiny Pocket Tank

I’ve been dabbling in some sewing over the last month attempting to sew up a giant stack of fabric I picked up in spring. I had high hopes of sewing up a fresh new summer wardrobe, but one thing led to another and my summer wardrobe is now being sewn in September. C’est la vie. Thankfully tights, leggings, and sweaters can be layered so summery clothes can still be worn in the cooler months.

In any case, I started this little journey by printing out my copy of Grainline Studio’s Tiny Pocket Tank and proceeded to cut it out in a muslin fabric to give it a try. I was a little nervous about the pocket & doing the bias neckline since I’ve never tried either, but it’s a simple pattern that is very well written, easy to follow, and has great online tutorials and tips. I was optimistic that I could handle it.

 The muslin I’d purchased at a box store for fabric and although I thought I’d picked a higher quality fabric from their selection, it just was pretty terrible. If I even looked at it, it frayed instantly and a whole lot. I kept going, though, despite the fact that it was not fun work at all. When I got to the bias neckline, I discovered the bias binding piece I’d cut was at least 6″ short. Already frustrated this put me over the edge. Flabbergasted and beside myself, I set it aside for a time-out.

A couple days later I hauled my muslin Tiny Pocket Tank out and tore through the bin of supplies to try to figure out what on Earth caused that bias binding on the neck to be so short. Eventually I discovered that I’d managed to miss taping together the final piece of the bias binding when I was assembling the pattern. Doh! 6inches recovered and mystery solved, I tried it on for good measure. 

It. Was. Huge. 

I’d heard about sizing issues with this pattern so I’d measured myself very carefully, but it was still at least a size too big. I called my efforts to salvage the muslin and tossed that little disaster in the bin. I thought the best course of action was to start fresh. I sized down and tried again with one of the fabrics I’d purchased from Alewives Fabrics in spring.

The results? Meet my new favorite top.

blue det 2It’s far from perfect, but I’m really happy with how it turned out. I managed to sew the pocket on decently.

blue detAnd this time the bias binding on the neckline turned out great. Amazing what can happen when you have the pattern printed properly, isn’t it?

It’s still plenty big, but it’s more of a roomy fit than an ‘I’m drowing’ situation. I find it obscenely comfortable. The bust dart on the side opposite the pocket is a little wonky, too, but I think that’s due in part thanks to my small bust line and my never having seen a busy dart. The fact that I was managing without a proper tailor’s chalk didn’t help either. The rogue dart is still in the realm of things I’m comfortable wearing though, so mostly that’s just me being overly picky, I think. Overall I love the fit and walked away from this project feeling pretty confidant. That’s saying something because I’m really not much of a sewist and my confidence is really not all that in this realm of craft.

I went ahead and attempted to make another Tiny Pocket Tank in a seersucker I also got from Alewives Fabrics. This was kind of an experiment for me since I’d never used seersucker before. I didn’t quite anticipate how stretchy this fabric would be so – I won’t sugar coat it – I found it to be kind of a struggle.

plaidThe stretchy-ness of the fabric really tested both my patience and my skills, but it turned out just fine. It’s definitely not as nice as its blue cousin above, but it’s still every bit as wearable. Looking at the photo, I could have ironed the underarms a bit better there -they aren’t as lumpy in reality as they appear, but I’ve been waiting days to get photos with decent light so we’re going with it. That’s what I get for making my summer wardrobe in September!

blueSomeday I’ll get some photos of these on my person, but for today I’ll just be showing you by way of my handy clothesline. A little bit of trial and error, but I’ve got two new tops to show for it that I really love. I’ll get this sewing thing down yet!

Knitting Sarah Sews a Bento Bag

It’s no secret that I’m a really lazy sewist. Sewing is something I’ve been exposed to and done for almost as long as I can remember, but for whatever reason I do not have the patience for sewing that I do for knitting. These days, I also have two big obstacles. First, I haven’t properly magically tidied up my sewing area yet. Second, the only space for my sewing machine is in the basement. The lighting isn’t great and my beautiful sewing table needs a minor repair (for which I keep forget to purchase the proper piece). My iron and ironing board are stored upstairs.  I have a lot of excuses, as you can see. That being said, every now and then I pull up my big girl panties and get to work and I enjoy the fruits of my sewing labors.

Last Friday, by complete randomness, I decided it would be fantastic to sew myself a little one-skein bento bag. Finally. A few months ago when I bought fabric from Alewives Fabrics for my ‘summer’ (whoops!) wardrobe, I threw in a fat quarter pack from Leah Duncan’s collection, “Gramercy,” for Art Gallery Fabrics because I really wanted to try my hand at some sort of bento bag and I thought the prints included would be fun. Well, *mumble, mumble, mumble* later, I’ve finally done it!

IMG_0448I adore the results!

I used this blog post as a guide — it has a nice and easy to follow photo tutorial which I followed by sight. I admittedly glanced over it, but did not actually read it (lazy sewist, remember?), I just followed the pictures. It turned out well though despite my best efforts to ignore instructions!

The only thing that I did that was unique to this guide was that I used two fat quarters to make my bag. For each half of the bag, I folded the fat quarter into a right triangle right sides together, sewed the sides, and turned them inside out. This allowed me to have the right side of the fabric on both the inside and the outside.  The down side of this pretty aesthetic is that it makes a rather small bag.

Perfect, however, for a single skein project…

IMG_0449This is the bag tied with a full 400yard skein of sport weight handspun inside. It’ll be just about perfect for any hat or sock project, I think.

 Of course, the allure of the sewing machine and all of its magical buttons is strong for the youngsters in my house and I was quickly talked into making another with my daughter using some fabric she’d picked out a little while ago. I was very happy that I’m able to unplug the pedal from my sewing machine and use the start/stop button and speed control so that she could focus on the basics, like sewing a straight line and keeping track of her fingers.

IMG_0452She did great and was very proud of her accomplishment. I’ll admit that I’m pretty proud of her, too.

There was some additional sewing over the weekend that did not pan out. I was trying out a new pattern with a cheap muslin and despite my best efforts there were some pretty major sizing issues. I’m hoping to give that one another try soon as I like the style and even though it’s a summer top, it’ll make a great layering piece over the cooler months. It may be taking months longer than I’d hoped, but slowly and surely I’m going to work my way through my (thankfully pretty minimal) fabric stash. All the patience and good luck you can send my way will be much appreciated!

Embracing the chaos

After a very all-over-the-place July, it has been a bit trying getting settled back into the routine here. It just hasn’t been happening. This weekend, I just decided to go with it. Embrace the chaos and do something fun amid the crazy. So I set my knitting needles aside for a few hours & got out my sewing machine.

Now I grew up in a house where my mom sewed a lot. She did (and still does) quilt and she even made fair bit of my clothing all the way through high school, so sewing is something for which I have a decent understanding. You can say things like bias tape & stitch-in-the-ditch to me and I’ll know what you’re talking about. I actually brought my sewing machine – a Pfaff that was about 5years older than me that weighed roughly 45lbs — with me to college, but didn’t really use it much, but like knitting it was high on my list of things I pursued after graduation . I even worked at the retail store Nancy’s Notions — the companion to the catalog/shop created by the esteemed Nancy Zieman of Sewing with Nancy — for a few years when we first moved into our house. My knowledge grew a bit, I experimented a lot, and I splurged on a decent sewing machine and serger. Although I tried a lot of new things, generally speaking I didn’t get very far. I made a attempts at clothes for myself, a few little tops and pants, and blankets for my kids when they were born, but for the most part I switched almost exclusively to knitting for the portability of it once I had my babies. Life was far to on-the-go to be tied to a machine.

After a  L O N G  hiatus, a few months or a year ago I learned about Made by Rae patterns from reading a blog — I think it was Jane Richmond’s, but I’m not sure. I instantly loved the modern style of the patterns. The pattern I liked at the time though – the Washi Dress — involved smocking and I was just not in a place where I had the confidence or patience to deal with smocking. When the Ruby Dress & Top came out this spring & showed up in SouleMama’s blog, I jumped at it. It was mid-March after the longest, coldest winter in recent memory and I had been looking at spring & summer tops not really finding what I wanted. This pattern was four pieces and the hardest part would be the gathers (I failed to notice the bias tape aspect before purchasing the pattern). What really sold me though was the fabric SouleMama used… my favorite was the dress made with  Nani Iro fabrics which I discovered in stock at Alewives Fabrics thanks to the handy link in the post. I selected that fabric along with some plain white muslin and a couple others (I was pretty ambitious back in mid-March) and I was convinced I could make my spring & summer wardrobe really awesome for less money & better quality than my ready-made options. I figured I’d have these sewn up before the school year ended.

Well, on August 2nd, I got everything out & re-ironed my (thankfully) already pre-washed fabrics.

20140804-131124-47484301.jpgI even found my nice sewing scissors — no small miracle in the disaster/dumping ground that is my sewing area.

20140804-131125-47485382.jpgFor the first Ruby top, I used plain white muslin. I like muslin partly because it is cheap, but also because I honestly really love crisp, white muslin. Every spring I buy one or two white tops which inevitably get trashed with coffee spills, dirt, and all the other disasters that befall truly worn & loved clothes. Every year the tops I buy are not quite perfect. I hoped to change that this year…

20140804-131126-47486422.jpgAnd within a couple hours I had hit my mark. It. Is. Perfect. The fit, the feel of the muslin, everything. It is 100% fab. I did follow the super amazing Ruby Dress Yoke Lining Video Tutuorials to make a fully lined yoke. Honestly, for someone just trying to get back into sewing, I highly recommend this route. While the fully lined yoke is labeled as slightly more advanced, I think having the tutorials there to hold my hand made it a million times easier than if I had tried to go it alone even with an unlined yoke. The pattern is extremely well written, but the tutorials really take you step-by-step.

I had such a great experience sewing this top — and my kids were so impressed that I managed the feat — that the following day I whipped up two more.

20140804-131127-47487589.jpgThis time I was a little more brave and busted out my super cool prints from Alewives Fabrics. I was so determined to do a good job that I even ripped out one of the hand sewn finishing seams after realizing I had botched it a little.

20140804-131128-47488827.jpgIt took longer than expected, but it was worth it. This morning I was ready for a little photo shoot…

muslinMy beautiful muslin.

turquoise flowersMy lovely Sarah Jane Studios Wee Wander Meandering Petals. This one reminds me prints from the 1950s. I love it.

tulipsAnd my beloved  Nani Iro print. There are so many things I love about how this one turned out. From the tulips, to the swath of blue on the right side of the yoke to the underarm bias tapes that are different colors. I love all three, but this one makes me feel like getting back to sewing was worth it.

I have a few more fabrics left from my overly-optimistic order this spring. I may whip them up this fall yet — I can see wearing these over long-sleeved tops or paired with sweaters this fall. I may also wait for next spring. Whatever the case, my eyes are starting to sneak peaks at the Bianca Dress & Top. I have a simple black dress that’s a very similar style that I picked up on super discount at Target 4 or 5 years ago and it needs to be replaced since I wear it a couple times a week with heavy tights & boots in winter. There is some shirring/elastic at the waist on the Bianca Dress which is kind of scary for me, but there’s a tutorial for that shirring… You know what, I can probably handle it. The overly-optimistic seems to be working for me… as does embracing the chaos.  With results like this…

all 3I think I’m just going to keep going with it.