Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I made something that wasn't a quilt or a bag!

Yeah, it really does happen.  :)

I am one of those people that finds something that I like and proceed to buy it in every color.  This is no exception.  In the last month, I've made PJ pants and t-shirts for myself.  I love making PJ/lounge pants/shorts because they are an easy way to use up fabric (3 yards for pants, 1.5 yards for shorts).  I find that I like mine on the very baggy side, so I'm totally fine using quilting cotton that doesn't stretch.

The other garment that I make pretty frequently is t-shirts.  I have pretty long arms, so I can never seem to find shirts with long enough sleeves.  So, the best way to get around that is to make my own.  I found a pattern that I liked, The Perfect T-Shirt from Pamela's Patterns, and I made some tweaks to make it work for me.  Some of the tweaks included shortening the armhole, lengthening the sleeves and body, and making a full bust adjustment.  What was it that I liked about this pattern?  I like the curved hem and the fact that it isn't super fitted.  I wear t-shirts almost every day, and this one has been excellent for a variety of different types of knits including 100% cotton jersey and interlock, cotton blend jersey and interlock, rayon, and ponte roma.  It's also been great for both solids and prints.  I've made this shirt 20 times (no, that isn't an exaggerated number), and I don't think that I'll stray too far.  In case you are wondering, once I got the fit tweaked to my satisfaction, I traced the pattern using Swedish Tracing Paper.  I did this to preserve my altered pattern as much as possible.  When my traced one starts to look super shabby or if I wanted to make a modification like short sleeves, I can just trace a new one (I have 2 sets of sleeves - 1 for long sleeves and another for short).  :)

My most recent batch of shirts used a variety of fabric including 2 interlocks from Amy Butler's Glow collection, 2 jerseys from Katy Jones' Priory Square collection, 1 jersey from Bari J's Emmy Grace Collection, and 1 jersey from Jeni Baker's Geometric Bliss collection.  All of the jerseys are from Art Gallery Fabrics, and they are super duper soft and comfy.  If you have noticed that the shirt on the bottom right isn't finished, you'd be correct.  I was obviously quite sick of cutting when I got to that one because I cut one of the sleeves with the print facing downward.  I didn't have enough fabric on hand to re-cut the sleeve, so I had to order it online.  I hope to be able to finish it this weekend if my fabric arrives in a timely fashion.

I tried 4 or 5 other t-shirt patterns before settling on this one.  When I want a more fitted shirt (that I will primarily use as a layering piece), I like Jalie 2805.

This shouldn't come as any surprise, but I'm pretty picky about my fabrics.  I tested probably 7-8 different fabrics before settling on what I really wanted to use.  If I'm going to use a solid, my favorites have been the 100% cotton interlock from Nancy's Notions.  I did test the cotton/poly interlock from Nancy's, and I found them to be very soft but the polyester did cause pilling.  The fabric seemed to stretch out of shape much more quickly.  My other favorite is cotton jersey.  The one I like most is from Robert Kaufman.  It's the Laguna Cotton Jersey collection, and it is 95% cotton and 5% spandex.  I've also used fabric from the Laguna Cotton Heather and Laguna Cotton Jersey prints, and it's all been great.

The only thing that I really don't like about jersey vs interlock is that the edges curl with jersey.  It is a little more fiddly to cut and sew than the more stable interlock, but the end result is worth it for me.  If you are going to sew with either of these materials, I'd highly recommend using a walking foot or dual feed if your machine has it.  Another recommendation is to use either a jersey or a stretch ball point needle.  The ball point on the needle will push the fibers out of the way rather than piercing and breaking them.

I do find that I get a lot of questions (once people hear that I made my t-shirts) about whether or not I use a serger.  The short answer is partially.  With the Pamela's Patterns shirt, the shirt isn't very clingy, so I use my regular sewing machine with a straight stitch.  It isn't necessary to serge the seam allowances with  these types knit (they don't fray like wovens), but I like the finished look of the overlocked seam.  At the very end, I do use my serger to do a coverhem (not all sergers do this, but mine does) on the neckband, sleeves, and hem.  The effect given by the coverstitching will really make it look more store bought.  Using a twin needle in your sewing machine can give you the same appearance on the exterior if you don't have a machine that will do a coverhem.  I will say that I pretty much suck at sewing in a straight line on my serger, but I'm thankful that I'm pretty particular about getting a good color match on thread.  It hides some of the boo boos, and I"m fairly OK with it as long as it looks fine on the outside of the garment.

For a more fitted shirt, using a narrow zig zag stitch or the "lightning bolt" stitch would potentially be great choices.  As with all fabrics, please make sure to run some test stitching to check tensions and make sure that the fabric is behaving as it should.  For folks new to garment sewing, you will want to make sure that you wash your fabric (as long as it is something actually washable) before cutting out your pieces.  Even though I don't normally put my t-shirts in the dryer, I do toss them in the dryer on low during the pre-washing process.

Making garments can be intimidating, but so can making bags or quilting.  It's a process, and they all take time, practice, and a bit of work to figure out what you really like.  Is it worth it in the end?  For me, yes.  I'm paying a lot less per shirt than I was when I was buying my shirts, and I like that the ones I've made fit better, last longer, and give me more options in the way of prints or colors.  Best of all?  I can say that I made them.

So, that's it for this post.  I have some stuff that needs to be sewn, so I'm off to do that!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Review: iCases by Patterns by Annie

I recently upgraded from an original iPad Mini to an iPad Mini 3, and I decided that I should make a case for it because it will surely accompany me to QuiltCon in February!  My first thought was to look for one of Annie's patterns, and I hit the jackpot.

Exterior fabric is Treasure Box from Amy Butler's Lark Home Dec Sateen Collection
Lining/Binding fabric is Neo Dot from Michael Miller

The iCases pattern from Patterns by Annie is primarily designed for both sizes of iPad, but it could be easily adjusted for other size devices. Measurements are included for both the regular size iPad and the smaller iPad Mini.  

The fabric requirements for the small bag included 1 fat quarter for your main print and a half yard of fabric for the lining and binding. In addition, you will also need a zipper, Velcro, Soft and Stable, and Pellon SF101.

My pattern adjustments started before making any cuts. The pattern indicates that the case is designed to hold either a naked device or one with a minimal shell, I needed to increase the size of my fabric and S&S. My iPad is in a fairly thin case (it's a Tech 21 Impect Mesh case if you're in the the market for a really good case) plus an Apple Smart Cover. The dimensions in the original pattern needed fairly minimal adjustments that consisted of resizing the cut pieces to be .5" longer and .5" wider 

Not too tight and not too loose!
With my pieces now at the revised size, I followed the pattern. This pattern is very easy to follow and does not have a lot of steps which usually means it will be a pretty quick project to finish, and it was. 

I love that this pattern has a Velcro closure on the front flap which does not interfere with the magnets in my iPad. Another plus is the zipper pocket on the back of the case. This will be an excellent pocket to keep an extra pair of earbuds and a syncing cable. I love how padded the case feels with the iPad inside. It feels secure and well-protected.

I can't really say that there was anything I really dislike about the pattern, but as with most things I did make some additional changes (besides resizing the pieces). I had the case all sewn and bound, but I really didn't like the accent fabric on the front flap. That piece of fabric covers the stitching like from attaching one of the velcro strips, but it was far more distracting than the stitching would be for me, so I pulled off part of my binding and removed the offending piece. As soon as I took it off, I was so much happier with it. If you choose to make this same choice before starting the pattern, you can skip the Pellon SF101 because it's only used on that one piece. 

The second change was one of my regular modifications. I opted to hand finish my binding.  Obviously, I had a little bit of binding fail because I didn't do a fussy cut bias binding (I didn't even think about it if I'm being honest), but I obviously should have taken that into consideration.

I feel like the iCases pattern would be suitable for an adventurous beginner. Sewing through the thickness of multiple layers of Soft & Stable was probable the most challenging part for me, but it was worth it. I love my case!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Review: Swoon Coraline Clutch/Wristlet

I've seen a lot of people making Swoon patterns, so I thought I would give them a shot. I saved the one that I really want to make, the Bonnie Bucket Bag, for another time and decided to start on a simple one to get a feel for the flow of Swoon's patterns with the Coraline Clutch.

Coraline has 3 options. There are both large and small sizes that have a handle (the Coraline Clutch) or you can make the small size as a wristlet strap and no handle (the Coraline Wristlet). This third option was my pick because it is adorable, and I don't like the handles on the Clutch design. 

I used It's a Plus from Rashida Coleman-Hale's Koi collection for the exterior
The interior fabric is Waving Pennants from the same collection

For the small size, the pattern requires 1/4 yd for main fabric, 1/4 yd for interior, and 1 yd of Pellon SF101. Since I had to cut a strap, I wound up having to use an additional 1/8 yd of my main fabric plus one 1" d-ring and swivel clip. 

Upon reading through the instructions, my first impression of the pattern was that it appeared to be pretty straightforward, so I cut my pattern pieces and fabric. 

When I was cutting my pattern pieces, I thought the way the darts were done was odd. I had never made darts how the pattern instructed. It worked in the end, but I don't think they had quite as clean of a finish as a normally constructed dart (like I've done in other bag patterns and clothing). I think their method for creating the darts would be easy for somebody that has never made darts and isn't likely to do so again outside of a Swoon pattern, but switching to the more conventional approach later may lead to confusion. 

With the darts done, I continued on through the remaining steps of the pattern. When I got to the edge stitching of the finished bag, I ran into issues. I had trimmed my seam allowance and any extra length on my zipper, but there was still so much bulk on the ends where the recessed zipper is that I feared I would break a needle (which is normally quite difficult for me to do on my Juki). I made it through the edge stitching part, and I am not pleased with how it looked. The bulk made my stitching look slightly wonky in some places, but it's finished. 

I wish I had opted to pad the bag with some fusible fleece (probably Pellon 987F because I think the heavier Pellon Thermolam TP971F would be overkill) because it feels very thin and flimsy to me. 

I can pretty confidently say that I am not a fan of this pattern, and I probably won't make it again. I am still planning to make the Bonnie Bag, so I'm not writing off all Swoon patterns. 

I do love how much stuff I can fit in it. I have my essentials which include an EpiPen, a small wallet, keys, my earbud pouch, and my iPhone 6 (not pictured because I used it to take the picture). 

I did also like that it was a very quick project. 

Of course half of my essentials are made out of Tula Pink fabric!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Review: The Beatle Bag by Abbey Lane Quilts

Yes, a bag.  If you groaned when you saw that this would be another bag, that's just too bad!  I am a bag junkie, and I am not afraid to admit it.

So, the Beatle Bag is a pattern from Abbey Lane Quilts that has been pretty darn popular.  It's been so popular that they just debuted a smaller size at fall Quilt Market (yes, I have the pattern but I haven't had time to make it yet).  I've seen quite a few pictures of this bag, and it looked interesting.  For carrying all of my stuff, I still think that By Annie's A Place for Everything bag has my loyalty.  This little darling, however, is the perfect size for my English Paper Piecing (EPP) project.

I used Tula Pink's Camo Deluxe from her newest collection, MoonShine, for the exterior with her Hoppy Dot from her Fox Field collection for the straps and binding.  The interior is her Vintage Stars print from her Fox Field collection

The materials requirements for the bag are pretty straightforward.  You'll need 1 fat quarter for the bag exterior, 1 fat quarter for the inside of the bag, and 5/8 yd of an accent fabric.  In addition, you'll also need Velcro, Soft & Stable, a ring for the exterior strap to loop through, and 4 Beatle Bag inserts.  You may also need pin cushion filling and double sided fusible webbing (I did not use either of those items).

When I purchased this pattern, I had the option of buying it as a kit that included the vinyl pages that were already sized/configured to work with this pattern.  So I said, yes please!  If you have the option, I'd seriously consider spending a few more dollars and purchasing it as a kit because the vinyl is a nice weight, it's already the correct size for the bag, and there are pre-cut holes that the inside straps feed through..

I did have a couple of issues with this pattern.  The first is more of an annoyance because it is an error in terminology.  The pattern uses Velcro (aka hook and loop tape) in several places.  One place says to use the loop side and then sew the soft side.  Well, the loop side IS the soft side.  You can't sew the same side in 2 different places, it just doesn't work.  So, the correction is to first sew the hook side (the scratchy one where it says to install the loop) and then the soft side (the actual loop side) when it says to install the soft side. If you don't believe me, feel free to read all about which side is which straight from the manufacturer - 's FAQ page.

The 2nd issue that I had was with sourcing the 2 1/8" ring that is used to hold the bag closed.  I found all kinds of rings that were 1.5-2" on the exterior, but the 2" inner diameter was hard to find.  I actually went out on a limb and checked at my local Home Depot where I found them sold in a pack of 2.  EXCELLENT!

Of course I had some modifications.  I wouldn't be me if I didn't change up at least one thing!  My biggest changes are the omission of the pincushion and using bias binding (instead of straight grain).  I'm not generally into pincushions of the non-magnetic variety, and my sensitivity to nuts can be problematic if I was to forget about the crushed walnut shells that are often used to stuff pincushions and put a pin in my mouth (yes, it's a bad habit that we all seem to do far too often).  So, leaving it off made sense.

As I mentioned, my other change was to the binding.  While this bag doesn't have a lot of curves to be bound, it does have darts at all four corners.  In order to make that transition more smooth, I decided that I'd rather use bias binding.  It allowed me to get a nice curve on those edges with the binding remaining flat over the corner (and I didn't have to use the fusible tape to hold it down).  Per usual, I also hand bound the edge instead of machine binding.

So, anyway, I've used it, and I love it.  It's a great little bag,  I could see myself making this one again, but it probably won't be anytime soon.  I'm anxious to get my Itty Bitty Beatle Bag made so I can give an accurate assessment.

A quick view of the empty bag before it gets loaded up.  The right side is where the pincushion would have been.

All filled up with my EPP supplies (Tula Pink's Diamonds in the Sky if you are curious)!