And we continue forward….

photo

I apologize for the break. I was detoured when I decided to sew some things for my 96 year old Grandma who was living in Utah. I planned out the perfect housedress for her, thinking about whether she preferred zippers or buttons, patch pockets or seam pockets, etc. Ordered enough material to sew for her until she was 110, and waited for her measurements. Well, unfortunately, she died and I miss her very much. The unfinished dress I was making her kind of stopped me in my tracks. Should I finish it? Should I throw it away?  I still haven’t made a decision. But in the meantime, I also made my yearly migration to Kansas and am now finally settling down to sew for the next 5 months.

We have a project (the black robe) which I left in Minnesota, so we’ll have to re-do that number over. I am, instead, going to do Kwik•Sew 3284, the top.

I also left all my re-drafted patterns that I’ve already done, and I’m very sad about that! I spent quite a bit of time fitting things, and now I’ll be starting from scratch. It will be good practice for me, though, and hopefully I’ll be losing weight and will have to redraft everything anyway. The power is in the knowledge!

I also am sewing on new machines down here. I brought down my modern machine, an entry-level Babylock Molly but have acquired 2 new machines! One is the Viking 936 serger, which I got from my friend and neighbor, and an almost mint-condition 100 year old Singer red-head treadle. I am very excited to do some sewing on both of them.

My neighbor, D, has several vintage and modern machines, and I plan to do some sewing at her house over the next few months to experience them all. In fact, we have a regular group of women who meet at each other’s homes to sew. It is great fun, and the women are wonderful to spend a day with, but it’s a bit of an adjustment to sew in someone else’s house.

I’ll be going gung-ho on this Kwik•Sew project, so check back often!

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Just like old times….the Mystery Fabric Stash

The Mystery Fabric Stash + Springer Spaniel

I’ve mentioned a few times that I had access to a literal mountain of fabric when I learned how to sew. I find it hard to believe, looking back. In fact, I don’t really remember what made me decide to sew something, except I had seen my mother sew incessantly as I was child and just assumed that I could do it, too. Nobody taught me to sew, and it never occurred to me to ask anyone any questions. Apparently, one day, I walked into a storage closet, grabbed some random piece of fabric and the sewing gene kicked in.

Like a springer spaniel puppy pointing at a bird, or a young swallow pointing its beak to Capistrano, I must have held the fabric up against my hand, checking for coverage, and thought, “This would make a nice skirt.”

I know that by the time I hit 7th grade sewing class, I had already been sewing for a few years. Now, part of the mystery of the fabric room is solved by the fact that in 5th grade, you don’t need a lot of fabric to make something, especially with the hemlines of the 6o’s. So my mother may never have even noticed the little bits and pieces I was using up.

Another piece of the puzzle is that my mother was the Winter Carnival Queen in St. Paul and had a multitude of ballgowns she probably didn’t know what to do with. I specifically remember a rocking gold lamé bathing suit, too. Mom, if you’re reading this, did you have any idea I was sewing up your entire fabric stash?

Anyway, sewing for me was a matching of the few patterns I could afford on babysitting money (did you know that they used to let 9 year olds babysit?) with this plethora of textiles.

The room was a cedar closet in the corner of our basement. I remember the day I discovered it. I saw a bunch of garbage bags–but wait. Were there even garbage bags back then? There must have been, because I remember opening a bag out of curiousity, and taking out each piece of fabric, one by one, fascinated by how different each was from the next. Eventually all the fabric and old formals were out of the bags and on the floor and I was sitting on a giant pyramid of color and tactile glory. I never put them back into the bags, but instead would root around in there like a truffle pig, searching for inspiration for my next project.

I had no idea what the fabric was made of. I made overalls out of pink baby flannel with little sheep on it. I made a vest/skirt combo out of hunting dog upholstery fabric. It made no difference to me, and I wore each and every thing to school.

Even now, as I’m recounting this story, I find the whole thing hard to swallow. But it’s true.

Fast forward to today.

I have heard about fabric stashes, and wanted to control my purchases so it was unlikely I would ever have one. I ordered only fabric that was plain, versatile, and about 75% off so I could sew all my patterns without worrying about “hard-to-handle” fabrics or ruining a garment with my rookie ways.

Except I ordered some stuff from Fabric Mart. And they gave me Free Mystery Bundles.

Now, unfortunately, only one is in yardage big enough for a plus size woman to make good use of. The others are in yardages between 1/2 yard to 1-1/2 yards. They’re called “small project” bundles.
Luckily I have a very tiny grandma I’m planning to sew for, too, eh?

I loved opening these little garbage bags of fabric and pulling them out, piece by piece. It was like time traveling to 1968. At first I thought, “none of this is useful to me, what should I do with it..” But, within the hour I was sorting them by weight and color, and imagining how I could combine them or use them. To be honest, it was the most creative moment I’ve had in sewing since I’ve returned.

So, I will flag these mystery fabrics whenever I use them, because I’m adding to my 100 patterns goal: I will use each and every mystery piece of fabric, even if it’s not always for clothing. I have always found that I’m most creative when limitations are imposed on me. That’s when I have the most fun.

A few asides: Yes. I know the masthead is ugly. I need to make a real one. I just needed a placeholder, and now I’m lazy about replacing it. I promise you won’t have to look at it too much longer.

also, if you want to follow the blog, please select “follow” over on the right, and my posts will be sent to you in email. It’s very easy. And it just occurred to me that if I edit the post after I publish it, you might get it sent to you more than once. So I won’t do that again. Sorry.

And feel free to comment. I love the comments, because it lets me know someone is out there, reading this.

Happy sewing!

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Why Kwik•Sew®?

When I sewed as a child, I never looked twice at a Kwik Sew pattern. As a self-taught wild child in the sewing room, I didn’t know how to judge construction details or appreciate pattern drafting. I couldn’t tell the difference between my own mistakes and the pattern company’s.

Plus, the envelope covers are really plain.

Someone on patternreview.com thought that it was because the drawings and photos lack accessories. If that’s true… wow. I have to pay more attention to accessories in my daily life, because the effect is amazing. But as a kid, I just knew that Kwik Sew patterns had absolutely no appeal to me.

Imagine my surprise when, as an adult, all I heard was reverence towards the brand. How finely drafted the patterns are, how they are printed on thick white paper you can use again and again… how they just seem to fit well right from the get-go. I heard that the instructions were so good they actually taught you how to sew.

I was intrigued, and about a week later I found out that McCalls had bought Kwik Sew and was having a huge warehouse sale. They were getting rid of the old white-paper patterns so they could be consistent with the more standard tissue paper used in most other pattern brands.

Now, this news is sad for Kwik Sew fans. They really like the white paper, and I do, too. But it’s expensive, and probably a main reason why Kwik Sew patterns cost about $12/each. Other brands cost as much or more, but the big 4 regularly go on sale down to a buck or two. If you want a big 4 (McCalls, Butterick, Vogue or Simplicity) pattern, chances are that within a month you’ll find it on sale for 1-3 dollars. Not so Kwik Sew. Kwik Sew is infamous for never going on sale.

So this big warehouse sale was something to take note of. I don’t remember if the patterns were $1.49 or $2.49, but they were pennies on the dollar. Add to that the fact that they were the last of the white paper patterns, and also add in that the future is unknown now that McCalls is the owner.

Will the instructions remain so clear? Will the illustrations remain as accurate? Will the drafting still be impeccable? I had no clue.

So I placed a big order for patterns. Most of these were out of print, and therefore slightly out of fashion, but since they all looked somewhat dismal to me I didn’t care. I was in it to learn how to sew using the patterns. My initial order was for all the plus size patterns.

Then I started thinking about it and placed a second order for regular misses sizes, since I determined that parts of my body were in that range. I knew I would be doing a lot of alts regardless.

Then, as the sale drew to a close, I placed a third order…and this was a chaotic one. I grabbed all the patterns I wasn’t sure if I would look good in but had construction details I wanted to learn. I also bought styles I had never worn but might look good on my menopausal body. I realized that the first patterns I bought were instinctive buys based on what I looked good in as a teenager. This third batch included patterns like the following, which I’m pretty sure are not a good predictor of what I’m ultimately going to make from the pattern:

Boxy jackets? I’ve been told we should avoid them. But maybe in a good fabric they would actually be a good choice. I realized I was clueless, so I simply stocked up, knowing that once these patterns were gone, it was possible that the Kwik Sew of renown might be gone, too.

I ended up with exactly 100 patterns. And as I counted them, I knew that this was a truly weird situation and that maybe I should blog about the patterns and the surprising (amazing!) fact that I have loved each and every thing I’ve made so far! But the envelopes! My theory is that they make the garments so unappealing on the envelopes that you are thrilled to death with whatever you sew and consider it a great and welcome surprise.

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Pattern #5 KS3603 top (aka elvira’s robe)

I’ve spent a couple of days mulling this one over. If I make the drawstring one, I can get a second chance at inserting the elastic. I didn’t have a safety pin or bodkin at the cabin for my pants, and it was hell. Problem is, I have never worn such a thing, and it looks like maybe the effect will be empire-waist in nature, and I think* that’s not flattering on me. Plus, I really need a lightweight fabric for the drape to be right.

If I make the shirt, it doesn’t have darts, and I know I’ll need to make them from scratch. That would be good for me. But I don’t really need such a plain shirt. Of course, that’s what I said about the drawstring pants.

Fabric-wise, I have 3 options in my stash that would work…maybe a few more. I have a handkerchief linen, but it will be very plain in the t-shirt version. I have this strange poly stuff I got for $1/yard that looks…victorian/asian? The drawstring version might look OK in that, I guess. It would drape right.

I have some curtains… very light gauze-like cotton. That would work best, but it’s narrow and I’d have to cut it on the cross grain.

I have 2 shirt-weight cottons, both of which I think would be a little heavy for the drape. It’s really nice cotton, and I hate to waste it if the result looks home-made. I usually avoid cotton because I’m terrified of it looking home-made, as if I had used quilting cotton. I know people use quilting cotton successfully, but I lack confidence.

off to go commit to something……
(one hour later) Here’s the fabric I had to choose from.

And the winner is that black number in the middle. It was $1/yard, and I planned on using it for lining, but now I think I’m going to make the drawstring top out of it, but lengthen it into a robe. I have some $1/yard black tricot, too (both of these are on clearance at fabricmart.com right now) so I’ll make a matching nightgown out of that when I learn about knits. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a fancy nightgown/robe set, LOL.

Here’s what I will learn from this pattern:

1) refresh myself on how to size up a pattern without a dart and measure length with no one to assist me.

2) Work with a fabric other than cotton/linen. This is thin poly, but it feels OK because it’s so light. But I’ll bet it will be hard to sew. I plan to use a teflon foot.

3) I think I will try a french binding. I think that’s what it’s called… where all the seams are enclosed?

4) Try to wrap that fold over facing piece without creating a single inadvertent tuck,  esp. by the back of the neck. When I made my robe we determined (thanks Miss Fairchild!) that it was because I had to cut the seersucker on the cross grain. We’ll find out with this project if cutting with the grain will help or if I’m manhandling the fabric through the sewing machine.

5) See if the underbust drawstring look is a good one or a terrible one on me.

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Pattern #4 KS3482 Elastic Waist Pants

OK, this is the last one where I’m only going to re-post my patternreview.com review. The photos are horrible, and I’m so sorry. I really wish you could see the lack of wrinkles in these pants. You can click on the photos to see them larger. They are fresh from the dryer, so a little tight, actually. They grew the first time I sat down!

Pattern Description: 
Women’s pants and shorts with pocket in outside
leg seams have elastic in casing at waist. View A
are full-length pants, View B are cropped, and
and View C are shorts. Pants and shorts are very
easy to make and have special easy-to-follow
sewing instructions.

Pattern Sizing:1X-4X

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?No! And that’s a GOOD thing!

Were the instructions easy to follow?
Yes, the pattern has special “learn-to-sew-instructions”.

There was a pattern error, I think… it was mentioned in another review of the pattern and I found it to be true. The pockets have these dots that signify the opening of the pocket in the seam. Well, the dots look nothing like they look in the instructions and if you were to use the dots in the manner the instructions say, you would have a very small hand opening. pocket dots

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I like basic drafting of the pattern…like how the curve of the leg straightens up where the hem folds up.

Fabric Used: Linen, washed about 5 times. The photos show the pants unironed, because they will be worn this way.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
I used a strange elastic for the waistband, and so far I really like it. It has a drawstring built in to a wide piece of elastic. I used it so the drawstring goes to the inside of the pants, and simply zig-zagged the two elastic edges together. Now, what was silly of me is that I poked a hole in the material so the drawstring could go through, never thinking that a better solution would be to simply rip out some stitches in the center front seam.

I draped the waistband to the elastic, leaving plenty of excess to play with.

I trimmed off the pockets. The pockets are problematic (to me) in this pattern because by the time I finished draping the waistband where I wanted them, the pockets were very high on my hips and gapped open. They took some of the stress the elastic was supposed to take. Plus, they were bulky when made out of linen. I love pockets, and will try to incorporate them in my next pair by lowering them and by using a lighter fabric. The pockets do have a little self-facing built into them so you can use a lighter pocket material if you want and not have it show (hopefully).

I made an “underbutt” dart, 1″ on the inside seam below the crotch tapering to nothing at the side seam. This was made in the muslin and just taken out of the pattern, so not really a dart. But it took away a lot of back leg fullness that plagues me.

I also took out half inch leg width out of the back legs. I did this right on the grain line, although I’m sure that wasn’t the right way to do it. And I pinched out some width on the outside leg seam by the hips.

I also hand sewed the “casing extension” to the pants to avoid the sweat pants look.

I don’t know how the pants got a tad short….that was unexpected. (edit–they were newly washed…they have since “grown” to normal length) I’ll make them longer next time, and also add 1/2 inch the the height of the waist in the next version.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I will definitely use my alts in another pair, but I think I would prefer a detached casing for the elastic. Although maybe not, as I kind of like the fact that these don’t have a horizontal seam there.

Conclusion: 
I love these pants. These are the best fitting pants I’ve had in a long time. They are nothing fancy, but I haven’t experienced fit like this in a long time. I don’t know if it was the pattern or my alts. I do know that the muslin turned out so nice with no alts that I decided to make them out of linen instead of flannel.

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Pattern #3 KS3587 robe

Pattern Description: Women’s kimono-style wrap robe has extended shoulders, patch pockets, front and neckline band, and tie belt.

Robe is very easy to sew and has special easy to follow sewing instructions.

Pattern Sizing:1X-4X

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yuppers

Were the instructions easy to follow?
Beautiful instructions. They even tell you what direction to sew the seams so when you cross over another one, it’s in the right direction.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
It was easy to construct, even though there were a lot of pieces for a Kwik-Start pattern. I loved how they put the sleeves in BEFORE they sewed the side seams and underarm seams. Very easy.

I didn’t like, and it’s not the patterns fault, that there was a lot of very long edges that you had to measure and iron a fold on. That hurts my back after a while.

I wish they had included a hanging loop in the back neck… I’ll add one in if I make it again.

This is a little big on me… and this may be the reason it falls open at the chest. Plenty of chest room…

Fabric Used:
A 100% cotton seersucker.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
I didn’t change anything, thinking that robes were an easy fit and OK if they were too big. I mean, who doesn’t like a big robe, right? Wrong. Wish I would have made it in a smaller size, although it takes up enough material that I think it’s worth more of a paper fit than a muslin.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I want to make these for presents, because the seersucker is so awesome. I would make it again, except in a smaller size–although I have other robe patterns I’d like to try out.

Conclusion: 
It goes together flawlessly. I got some puckers in the neck and that long facing, but they disappeared in the first wash. I think they were because of the seersucker. You don’t iron seersucker but you have to press some parts, so it gets a little wonky. And the combination of the air pillows in the seersucker combined with a 130″ seam, well…. I think all the little pillows flattening gave me extra fabric by the time I reached the 2nd half of it. I think if I do it again, I’ll sew that part (the front facing/binding) in 2 parts, each from the bottom to the middle of the back of the neck.

Seriously, seersucker and easy bathrobe is a great combination, but be prepared to spend time pinning. Also, don’t use iron-on interfacing for the pocket facings, or any color other than white.

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Pattern #2 KS3765 straight skirt

I’m not spending any time on these first 4 patterns I’ve already completed.

Here’s my review from patternreview.com:

Pattern Description: Straight pull-on skirts in three lengths have side seams, center back seam, and elastic in casing at waist. View A has a high slit in center back seam. Skirts are very easy to make and have special easy-to-follow sewing instructions. Pattern includes 5/8″ (1.5 cm) seam allowances.

Pattern Sizing: XS, S, M, L, XL

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?Yes

Were the instructions easy to follow?
Totally easy! And yet I still screwed up. I got cocky and pinned all the seams together right away and the pattern said to finish the edges before sewing the seams. That would have been easier!

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I LOVE this pattern. It doesn’t look as good on me in the photos as it feels on me. I think it’s actually very attractive, the way the back hangs in a slight curve. The waistline confuses me, I guess… I don’t know why the back pattern piece was contoured the way it is….you basically get a little point in CB. I suppose there’s a reason for it. Anyway, I wasn’t expecting much from a Kwik-start elastic band skirt, but this is now my favorite skirt! I’m going to make more of them. I just love wearing it… as casual as a pair of shorts when done in this linen.

Fabric Used: Linen, washed several times.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I had bought a macrame stretch waistband that I thought I would try on this, so I just stitched it to the top of the skirt. It was very wide, so I cut it in half, and it was still really noticeable (and not pretty—looked like some kind of utility rubber), so I folded it over to the back and slip-stitched it. It’s very subtle now. I have the front part of of my t tucked in so you can see it. (Sorry, the t-shirt is all I have to wear as I am up at the cabin right now–it’s not a very nice outfit).

I also sewed 1/4′ seams instead of 5/8 inch seams as I was a little worried about it not being a plus size.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I recommend this to anyone, not just beginners like me.

Conclusion: 
All I want to do is make this skirt a bunch of times, but I am working through a bunch of Kwik Sew patterns teaching myself how to sew. So I really shouldn’t dilly dally. But maybe 1 more. I am really excited about this skirt because I know I will really wear it, and am excited to! I couldn’t believe that the elastic waist looked good!

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