Thursday, May 26, 2016

Ginger Jeans: This Is How a Habit Forms

I ask: is there anything quite as soul crushing as sewing something that you think looks surprisingly good on - better than expected even - and then seeing the results of your blog photo shoot and feeling like you really should have burned said garment in a fire? That's sort of my experience with my first pair of  Closet Case Files Ginger Jeans.

I loved them until I saw photos. It probably doesn't help my attitude that my bra is peeking out. What can I say... there are days when I'm not quite so put together. These are the only pics I found palatable out of 2 rounds of shooting. (Note to self: never ever take photos when you are downhill from your photographer. The angle will make you look half as tall and, thus, much wider.) 

Anyway, these are view A, the low rise, straight leg Gingers. I LOVED sewing them. I started these thinking that they'd be at best a wearable muslin, but the fit is pretty fantastic almost right out of the envelope. I've already worn them a number of times.

These are sewn in a black stretch "denim" that was given to me by my sister in a moving purge. Honestly, I'm not strong in my conviction that this is actually denim, which is why I'm calling it "denim," if you get my drift. It's a stretch twill but it is fairy light weight with a less prominent weave than any pair of jeans in my closet. I think this is partly to blame for my "burn it in a fire" sentiment. They are comfy on and I thought they looked pretty darn good in the mirror, but on camera, the fabric seems to cling in a most unflattering way because of it's thinness.

I made a few simple changes to the pattern on this version - I added 2" to the length and transitioned from a size 14 at the hip to a 10 at the waist. But there are a few additional fitting changes to make so the pattern is perfect on my next version. Oh yes, there will be a next!

First, I scooped out the back crotch curve just a little while I was sewing it. I'm waffling about whether this was necessary, but a slight bit more room in front crotch would be an improvement. So I will lengthen the front crotch by 1/4" to 3/8" at most and perhaps not incorporate the back scooping into the final pattern.

Next, I need more length. These jeans are ok with flats, but anything with a heel and they look a bit silly. I also need a bit more calf room, since they are a bit snug on my "athletic" calves, which makes them ride up at the knee.

Lastly, although I know that denim relaxes with wear, I was not prepared for quite how much this fabric would relax, particularly at the waist. So, I will make things a little more snug throughout and really snug up the waist in future versions. Honestly, I think the fabric is the main culprit in my negative feelings about these jeans.

The only other change that I would make is that I would use my TNT method for zip flies for any future jeans. I think that the Ginger pattern and sew along instructions are terrific for a very simple and reliable zipper fly insertion, but I just love the method Kenneth King demonstrates in his Craftsy Jeanius class. I find it slightly more sturdy and I like that there is a little more of an overlap. That said, this is personal preference and you will have very good success if you follow the steps in the Ginger pattern.

One thing that I will second that Heather addresses during her sew along is that pocket placement is SO much more important to how good the back side of these jeans look than you might think. I was very glad that I didn't just sew on the pockets, and instead played around with the placement, sewing them on last. I didn't nail it 100%, but I hope to in the next version.

I really had fun sewing up jeans. Would you believe that I have several other pairs planned in my head - 2 flares and another pair of skinnies. What can I say? This is apparently my year for repeats and for jeans. When I finished these, I almost immediately bought all the other jeans patterns out there. So I can sew jeans in every style!

As always, I had fun picking out the hardware. Aren't my star rivets cute? And they were easy to set in with a hammer.

Anyway, this is a terrific pattern that I'll be using many times over, despite my initial fabric misgivings.  

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Cheaters Guide to #MMMay16

Me Made May 2016 has passed the half-way mark and the adorable outfits photographed in creative and scenic vistas at the beginning of the month are slowly but surely giving way to bleary office bathroom selfies. So, it seems like the right time to jump into the fray.

I really admire those of you who pull together thoughtful me made outfits each day and who remember to snap a cute photo before your 17-month-old hugs you after eating blueberries. However, this post is not for you. This post is for those of you who are unhappily wearing "wearable" muslins that really didn't work out and shouldn't be worn, frou frou party dresses that you are trying to dress down so they look work appropriate, or the same ill fitting me made cardigan that doesn't match anything else in your wardrobe for the third time this week despite its blueberry stain, which you tell yourself is in an inconspicuous location. It isn't. For all of you, this is my magnum opus of cheatery for that most wonderful month of the year. It may not help you for this year, but with a little sewing, it could revolutionize MMMay17 for you in 5 simple steps.

Cheater's rule #1:  sew a coat or jacket. If, like me, you have a weather appropriate jacket and a commute, you can wear it most days and call yourself a winner. Unlike a cardi, it won't stink after three weeks of near-constant wear need as frequent cleaning since you won't be wearing it all day. Plus, jackets are impressive. Even more so if it is leather, because non-sewist heads practically explode on learning that you actually sewed leather. Win.

Bonus cheat for all you knitters: scarves and shawls. Double down and finally put all those beginner projects to good use.

Cheater's Rule #2: Sew a bathrobe or kimono. Why limit MMMay to daytime hours? Ten minutes of swanning around your boudour in a silk bathrobe and your MMMay daily goal is met before you've even put shoes on or finished your coffee. Big win.

Winning at MMMay while nursing. 

Bonus: you will feel like you are swathed in luxury even if your pajamas are so decrepit that a house elf would turn up their nose.

Cheater's Rule #3: Socks and undies
Just because your me made isn't obvious or for public consumption doesn't mean that you don't win. You do. Every time you pick a wedgie or adjust a slouchy sock remind yourself that you are secretly #winningallday.

Maybe don't post photos of you in your undies unless you want that sort of attention.

I walk all over my me mades on an almost daily basis

Bonus cheat: no one will be the wiser if you are indeed actually cheating and not wearing me made underoos. Shame on you. But your secret is safe with me.

Cheater's Rule #4:  Accessorize
Look at any "outfit" in a magazine or posted on Pinterest and you'll see that accessories are included. So I ask: why exclude accessories from MMMay? Did you sew a purse or tote bag or string a few beads on a necklace? If yes, you win.

Just a few of the clutches and bags I've made.

My very first sewing project ever was a tissue pack cover. Why am I telling you this?


Because every time I sneeze in May, I win. And May is allergy season. #Boom
Bonus cheat for all you moms: wear your child. After all, you made them practically from nothing. They are the ultimate me made accessory. Double bonus if you actually made that ring sling or carrier. Again, this is something you can achieve daily without having to repeat outfits.

Taco was so small when I made this ring sling!

Cheater's Rule #5: The MMMay proxy.
Is your spouse, child or any other loved one, liked one or one-who-annoys-you-but-you-made-something-for-anyway wearing something you made today? I call it a win if someone, somewhere is wearing something made by you.  If you can't pull yourself together for a me made outfit or are having a bad hair day, all you have to do is sweetly say to your hubby, why don't you wear your Hudsons today? Then pump your fist while their back is turned because you WIN!

So, Taco in his overalls?


Phin is his shorts?


Phin wearing his pajamas in the morning and Hudsons with hand knit socks in the afternoon while rummaging in his diaper bag and babywearing Taco - who is wearing his overalls and playing with Dijon the Giraffe - in my ring sling?

MMMay win of shut-the-front-door epic awesomeness.

And there you go. Me Made May in 5 simple steps for all my fellow cheaters. Now if you are thinking, But Clio, MMM is not about #winning. Well, then you just don't have a type A personality. Also, this post is probably not for you.

Humor aside, what I'm actually saying is that I've reached a point in my sewing where I use and wear items I've sewn or knit most days, even when I am not wearing a me made outfit. My sewn and knit garments and more just blend right into my life. For newer sewists, well, I hope you stick with sewing long enough to get to this point, too.

But also, I've always felt like MMMay is just one of those things that isn't for me. I've never needed encouragement to wear the things I make. More important, I don't sew basics or in a need-driven way, and one suggested goal of MMM is to encourage sewists to see the holes in their wardrobe and fill them. It's a worthwhile goal, but I will never do this. The last time I tried, my mojo immediately went on hiatus until I vowed that 2013 would be the year of the frosting diet and I would only sew things that are fabulous. This is probably why I am the mom on the playground wearing a silk top in the sand box and why I just can't seem to sew a sensible suit in a muted color for work. I'll wear my me made frosting, but buy the boring basics; they aren't worth my precious sewing time.

All that said, I am happy that we have things like MMMay to rally around. It's part of what makes our community a community. But don't expect me to pop up in you IG feed with the MMMay hashtag anytime soon. I'm content to be cheating from the side lines, smugly winning with little effort. Are you a cheater too? Do tell...

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

What a Great Pattern! True Bias Sutton x 2

Bonus Taco Cuteness

I'm very late to the party with the True Bias Sutton Blouse. Like the Nettie Dress, I was pregnant with Taco when it was originally released, and so it went on the "maybe sew this eventually" list. As with the Nettie, I'm so glad that "maybe eventually" arrived. I made two versions of the top which have been on my go-to outfit list for the playground recently.

Peeps, this is one terrific pattern. And I don't just mean that it has an easy fit, goes together perfectly and is a very versatile style. It is all of those things. However, what impresses me about the Sutton pattern is the thoughtfulness of its construction methods. I don't just mean that the instructions are sound and clearly written, although they are. What I mean is that each step was carefully considered and the best construction method was chosen given that the fabric recommendation is for lightweight wovens like cdc or challis - the sort of soft drapey fabrics that are prone to fraying. The net result is that the insides are perfectly finished and just as beautiful as the outside.

Bound neck and french seams on the cf and yoke

Here are the insides of my blouse. Isn't it beautiful with its french seams, bias neck finish and cleanly finished side seams and hems? These are the kind of finishing details that I generally ponder over and decide to include on my own. It was really nice for once to have it already worked out. Thank you, Kelli!

French seam back yoke and pleat

Clean finished seams, slits and hem

The Sutton is actually a bit outside my comfort zone when it comes to style. It has loads of ease. And yet, I don't feel like I am drowning in fabric. I think the soft drapey fabrics called for make this top look considerably less boxy or baggy, if you know what I mean.

"Action" shot

The first version I sewed is in Hell Gate Fabrics' cotton/lyocell georgette in cobalt (still available here). It made me very happy to support a friend (Hi Sonja!) and a fabric store that specializes in fabric that is healthier for the environment (and us, too). I was doubly happy when this fabric washed, sewed and pressed so very nicely, too. The only changes I made to the pattern are that I lowered the neckline by 1" and graded out a bit at the hip.

My two versions with beautiful necklines

My second version is in a silk habotai from my stash, originally purchased at Paron Fabrics. For this version I lowered the neckline an additional 1" (so a total of 2") and eliminated the front center seam, so that I wouldn't have to try matching the tie dye, which was uneven anyway, across the front. I used the bound V-neck instructions from The Dressmakers Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques.

Final thoughts:  Really, I think this would be a terrific sew for an advanced-beginner sewist who wants to up their game with finishes or test the waters with sewing slithery fabrics, while not having to simultaneously worry about fit. And, in the end, I love my two tops! What a great pattern! I couldn't be happier that I used "special" fabrics for them. I know some will think it is crazy that I wear silk and georgette to the playground - going down the slide or crawling after Taco. But that's just how I roll... now with a stroller.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Taco: Is There Anything Cuter Than Overalls on a Toddler?

I love dressing Taco in overalls. I think they are the cutest of the cute for him. Here is an abundance of sickeningly cute Taco cuteness on the playground with Grandma Muse, "modeling" his new KwikSew 3145 overalls.

I haven't told you much about Taco recently. At 16+ months he is precociously daring. He was an early walker, and since his first steps has not really looked back. That may sound like I'm bragging, but other parents of early walkers know it's really a cry for help. He is the kind of baby who - if you take your eye off him for 10 seconds - will suddenly be standing on top of the kitchen table helping himself to a banana. (Yes, that really happened. In 10 seconds. He loves bananas. And climbing.)

Taco is happiest outside. When he wants to go out, he will go get his shoes or his outdoor ball and stand by the front door or the stroller, waiting until Phin or I acquiesce.  And really, how could you not give in to this little face...

So, really, Taco is keeping his parents young, or at least fit, because of all of the cardio involved in chasing after him.

Anyway, back to the overalls... The stars seemed to align for this project. I have jeans sewing supplies on hand because I'm working on Ginger Jeans for myself. Plus, I received several pieces of stretch denim from my sister, who decided one summer that she was going to sew jeans for herself regardless of the fact that she had never sewn before. It worked out as you would expect. And there was a pattern sale, so Kwik Sew 3145 made its way to my pattern stash.

Taco is rather small for his age and slim for his height.  How typical that I would have a child with special fitting needs!  Pants that are long enough generally slide down as he walks, runs and plays, while pants that fit his middle are too short, which is another reason why overalls work so well for him. So, I sewed a lengthened version of the size L (12 mos), which are still quite baggy on him. There is enough length to cuff them for now, but that will change soon.

Grandma won't let Taco fall...

This may sound silly, but one of the reasons that I really like this pattern is that it is the only baby overall pattern I found that had an actual overalls back.

Kwik Sew K3145 

Most baby overall patterns simply end at the back waist and have crisscrossed straps, like McCall's M7038 below. There is nothing wrong with a more simplified pattern - especially for baby clothes - but it just isn't what I wanted in this case.

McCalls M7038

I have to confess, these were a fair amount of work for something that Taco will outgrow or that will be too warm to wear in 3 months. They are every bit as detailed as adult overalls, just in miniature. There was a huge amount of top stitching, which I executed well, but not precisely. Perfectly fine for a tot, but for an adult garment I would take more care.

The pattern and instructions were very clear and accurate; everything went together perfectly and simply. But if you make these overalls, I strongly advise changing around the order. As written, the instructions have you dancing between the iron and sewing machine an inordinate number of times. Essentially, it has you construct all the pockets one by one - press, top stitch, press again, top stitch to the pants, repeat for each pocket type - instead of doing them in a batch. Silly.

I also saved myself a little bit of work by having the button holes sewn at Jonathan Embroidery and the leg snaps set at Star Snaps, both in the NY garment district. It cost $10 for the two services ($7 for 10 snaps and $3 for 2 button holes.) I am very happy with the quality.

After all that work, you would think I would be done with this pattern, but these overalls are so adorable that I do have a next pair planned. I even have the fabric ready. However, I will likely hold off until summer has passed. (Wow, even as I write this, I'm waffling and talking myself into another, simplified version to do now. LOL. They are so very cute, aren't they?)

Anyway, we had a lovely afternoon at the playground with Grammy, and even managed to snap a few pictures of my Sutton top, which will be the next post. You can get a sneak peak in some of these photos.

 But why would you be looking at me when there is Taco?

Edited: OK, one more shot I just found on my phone because it shows the back so well. Taken on our front lawn earlier in the day...

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Popovers, Because You Asked

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw these popovers that I made this morning for breakfast. A few people asked for the recipe.

Easy-peasy Popovers from

1 cups minus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoons canola oil
1 cups milk
2 large eggs, beaten
Combine first three ingredients, stirring until smooth. Whisk eggs into flour mix until smooth. Grease muffin or popover pan. Fill half way with batter (makes 12). Place pan in a cold oven and set for 425. Bake without opening the oven for 25 minutes. Check. Bake for up to 30 minutes until deep golden brown. Eat warm with Nutella or jam. 
I prefer Nutella.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Old New York in My Kitchen: Diner Corn Muffins

Have you ever found something that you didn't realize you had been looking for until the moment you found it? This is one of those stories.

About five years ago the diner in my parents little Brooklyn neighborhood closed; the family that owned it sold the property after 35 years. That's NY real estate for you. Locals - including my family - still lament it. It was the go-to place for brunch or lunch or when you didn't feel like cooking dinner, with a menu that was immune to food fads, yet always seemed to have what you wanted.

Anyway, since then I've found myself periodically trying recipes for corn muffins and corn bread, without really being clear on what I was looking for, but always feeling disappointed with the results. For whatever reason, I decided to give this recipe a try.

This was exactly the muffin I had been craving without even knowing it, albeit at about half the size of its diner kin. If you aren't familiar with the NY diner corn muffin, it's not the sort of thing you would eat with chili con carne or that you would consider adding corn kernals, cheese or jalapeno's to. NO way. The classic NY diner corn muffin is a little sweet, definitely corney, moist and appropriate for breakfast. When you ordered it you would be asked if you wanted it toasted (you did) and it would come to your table all buttery from being split (crown from base) and thrown onto the griddle in a pool of butter, most likely next to a pile of bacon.

Split the wrong way

There is something distinctly throw-back-ish about this classic diner corn muffin, and that is sort of why I like it. I didn't realize how much I missed it until I was happily munching on one. Here is the recipe, which some kind soul posted on 

1-1/4c cornmeal
1c all purpose flour
1/3c packed brown sugar
1/3c sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1c buttermilk
3/4c vegetable oil
Directions: In a bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, sugars, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, beat egg, buttermilk and oil; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake at 425° for 12-15 minutes or until muffins test done. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack. Yield: 1 dozen.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Oops, I Made Jeggings

Wow, two posts in two weeks! Slowly, I'm beginning to photograph my many finished projects, albeit imperfectly.

My big spring sewing project is jeans... for me, for Taco and maybe Phin too, although he may prefer shorts. So, to get my jeans sewing mojo going, I jumped on the bandwagon and decided to try the Jalie 3461 Éléonore Pull On Jeans.  Frankly, who could resist the promise of jeans without having to sew a fly, rivets, belt loops, etc, etc, or doing lots of complicated fitting?  It seemed like some strange voodoo magic that I wanted to investigate.

Yeah. All black is tough to photograph. Sorry, kids. 

That said, it was not without some trepidation that I approached this pattern. Afterall, voodoo. Pull-on is not usually a sure thing when, like me, you have a 14 inch difference between your waist and hips. Smartly, I did a little math and realized that the called-for stretch woven fabric - with 20% stretch - cut to roughly my waist measurement (as this waistband is) would probably not stretch enough to go over my hips.

Instead of moving on to a different pattern, I decided to give the Éléonore a try in a mid-weight knit that had about 50% stretch. I bought this Bebe knit from FabricMart to make maternity leggings, but never quite did. It has a diagonal texture that makes it look a little bit denim-like. I would be shocked if it's RTW use had been anything other than "ponte pants," which it is perfect for in every way, despite not really being ponte.

So, I cut most of the pattern pieces in a size Y based on my hips, and the waist in a size  T, knowing that I would likely have to do some tweaking to the area between the hip and waist. And predictably, the only problem that I ran into with the fit was that I had major gaposis at the back yoke where my figure transitions between sizes. If you don't follow me on IG, here's what I posted (sorry for the crumby back-lit phone photo).


This makes perfect sense since this is the place where I start narrowing dramatically. I figured that I would have to narrow the yoke while also adding some depth to it, so as to avoid a case of plumber's crack. However, I tried simply basting out the extra width first and that seems to have solved the problem entirely. These equally crumby phone photos are from after I attached the waistband.

No gaposis here! (ha ha, I love the debris field in the background)

And here is a sunlit picture of the back. I tucked in my cami so you can see the waist and yoke.

Again, no gaposis!

After that, Éléonore was a cinch to finish. I cut a lot of corners by using my serger for most of the seams, and I used a twin needle for speed and stretch for what little top stitching I did do.

So, I'm about as happy with these as could be. As usual, Jalie really nails the fit. I've never gone wrong trusting their size chart, measuring tape in one hand. These pants have exactly the right amount of negative ease. The only change I would make would be to lengthen by 1-2" above the knee. I sewed the tiniest of hems and these are still ankle length, which is normal for me.

The question that remains is whether I will sew these again in a stretch denim or not. Probably not. I hadn't really meant to sew jeggings or ponte pants, but that seems to be what happened in this case. And that's fine. But when I tested the stretchiest denim (25% or so) in my stash by marking the waist measurement and seeing how far the fabric would stretch, it was indeed not far enough to make it over my hips. So, if I were to sew these in a fabric with only 20% stretch, they would need a zipper or a larger (and therefore gathered) waist. And doesn't that defeat the purpose of all that voodoo?

Anyway, I will enjoy wearing these as a yoga-pants/work-at-home-day alternative. And if I do come across another perfect fabric - maybe a fun print - you may see another version. And now, on to actual jeans!