Thursday, August 30, 2018

Summer Came to an End, School Began

Two weeks ago, my little sister began her last year of Jr. High. How can that be?? How can it be that summer's already over? And, crazier still, how can it be that my little sister is this grown up? Almost done with her pre-highschool years? These things have snuck up on me!

The calendar isn't lying, August is almost over and school really is in full swing. The school bus rumbling down the road at 6:30 am is proof of that. And my little sister's wardrobe of outgrown clothing isn't lying either. The girl is growing up - and it's time to make her some new school clothes! Cute, comfortable, and easy to wear clothes, perfect for throwing on quickly those mornings she has to leave the house earlier than she'd prefer. Welcome to my slot on the Winter Wear Designs Back 2 School blog tour!

I set out to clothe my fast growing little sister for the new school year, armed with an old knit maxi skirt and a stack of Winter Wear Designs patterns. Oh, and some rayon fabric from Walmart, but I'll get to that later. First up, let me tell you about the skirt that became a fabulous pair of comfy, cute, sister approved, pants!

I spotted it back in the spring. Back when I was making myself jeans. Denim, and denim-look, fabric was on my mind. I saw it, abandoned on that thrift store rack, and I just knew it was destined to become a pair of pants for my sister. A pair of pants that looked like jeans but were actually sweatpants. Ultra fashionable and ultra comfortable. My sister needed pants like this and the XL faux denim maxi skirt just couldn't be anything else. Thus, the skirt came home with me, and I began searching for the perfect pants pattern.

The Aviator Pants pattern by WWD was just the pattern I needed for this skirt to pants transformation. First I prepared the skirt by removing the waistband.

Then I removed the back pockets, and the skirt became a viable piece of fabric - ready for the pattern!

It took a bit of finagling to get the entire pants pattern on to the skirt! The skirt was cut at a slight A-line with the hem being slightly wider than the waist. As the widest part of any pants pattern is at the top, the crotch curve, I basically had to lay my pattern out "upside down", with the top edge of the pants at the hem of the skirt, for the pants pattern to fit onto the width of the skirt. In order for the pattern to fit on the length of the skirt, I took advantage of the angled lower leg seam option included in the Aviator pattern. Since I was able to offset the upper and lower leg pieces while cutting out, I was able to fit the entire length of the pattern onto the skirt. That wouldn't have been possible if I'd cut the legs as solid pieces from waist to hem. Angled pattern pieces are great when using limited amounts of fabric! And angled seams look pretty awesome on finished garments as well - especially when they're top stitched!

Even with the angled seams and the topstitching, the pants went together ridiculously easily, as knit pants are apt to do. At the bottom of the leg in the front you can see top stitching from what used to be the back yoke of the faux jean skirt. And at the bottom of the back of the leg there's a lovely topstitched curve. That used to be the faux front pocket of the skirt. With the angled seams and the evidence of the fabric's former life, the lower legs are my favorite part of these pants!

The cuffs and waistband are made from a navy cotton/poly/Lycra blend I found in my stash. And to add a bit of jean-ness to the pants I re-used the back pockets from the original skirt.

To up the range of motion, and the comfort level, I added a crotch gusset to the pants. This isn't actually included in the pattern, but it's a very easy addition. You can just use the gusset piece from any gusseted leggings pattern. The range of motion a crotch gusset allows just can't be beat!

I finished the pants in one evening, gave them to my sister, and she's worn them pretty much constantly since then. 

Apparently they're comfortable. And she likes them. 

So, with the pants done, and approved and accepted by the sister, it was time for me to move on to the top half of her wardrobe. She needed some nice, new, well-fitting, shirts to wear to class. I picked two different Winter Wear patterns for this particular task - the Refined Raglan and the Omega Blouse. Both patterns are for woven fabrics, which was perfect as I'd scored some lovely, drapey, woven apparel fabrics while on vacation earlier this month.

First I made the Refined Raglan, out of a pink, orange, white, and black rayon challis.

For a little extra sass, I cut the sleeves to elbow length (halfway in between the 3/4 and short sleeve lengths on the pattern piece), and added gathered sleeve flounces.

The founces are just rectangles, cut several inches wide (maybe about 5"?) and approximately twice as long as the bottom of the sleeve was wide. The bottom edge of the flounce is actually the selvage edge of my fabric, so I didn't bother hemming it. Thankfully this fabric had neat, pretty, selvages!

Even with the added sleeve ruffles, the Refined Raglan was a quick, gratifying, one evening after work sew. Thus, the following evening I was able to whip up the second shirt I'd picked out for my sister (and I believe this one is my favorite of the two shirts). The Omega Blouse!

This softly gathered yoked blouse looks incredibly sweet and grown up all at once, and it's just perfect for my sister! This tree climbing monkey, whose growing up faster than I'd like sometimes, while still being the same ornery little sister she's always been.

I made up the short gathered sleeve, and shirt tail hem option of the Omega blouse in an amazing blue floral synthetic crepe. I'd contemplated saving this fabric for a dress I plan to make my sister eventually, but fabric was really perfect for the design, and I have no regrets.

For a little extra something, I added lime green piping to the front yoke seam.

The finished shirt looks both elegant and playful, with very little effort. Perfect for school, church, or anything else! I think this pattern is a repeater!

In fact, I'd say all three patterns can be made again for my sister - and soon if she gets her way! The pants, raglan shirt, and blouse make a great beginning to her back to school wardrobe. Now I just need to make more! 

She's already picked out fabric from my stash for a second pair of aviator pants, and requested a tunic-length Omega blouse to wear with leggings, so I guess I need to get on that!

She's back in school, and I get to clothe her for the occasion!

Don't miss out on any of the stops on the 
Back 2 School Blog Tour 2018

Monday 8/27

Tuesday 8/28

Wednesday 8/29
Carrie of BeriBee Designs
Livia of  Liviality

Thursday 8/30
Diane of Sewing With D

Friday 8/31
Jessica of Jot Designs
Patricia of Sew Far North

Friday, August 24, 2018

A Most Cute and Comfortable MuuMuu

I've tested a heck of a lot of patterns this summer. An awful lot of patterns. At least one a week throughout June and July. There's been a time or two I've considered the idea that maybe I signed up to test a few *too* many patterns this summer - but my summer wardrobe is now well stocked with all the things made during testing! And those garments have been worn, worn, and worn again over the last few months, so they were well worth making. That said, among all the patterns I've tested recently, one stands out as being, hands down, the most comfortable thing I have sewn in the last few  months - the Montavilla MuuMuu by Sew House Seven.

Now, by definition, a MuuMuu is a relatively shapeless garment, hanging straight down from shoulder to floor, and shapeless garments have never really been my thing. Until last year in Africa. It was hot! Loose-fitting, long, "MuuMuus" were seriously the most comfortable thing to wear in that heat! My friends and I bought MuuMuus upon arriving in Africa, and I wore my two in constant rotation for the next three months. They were a definite departure from my usual style, but have a mentioned they were comfortable!? And, when worn with a belt, they had just enough shape to make me happy. All this is what went through my mind when I was sent a line drawing and an invitation to test the Montevilla MuuMuu.

The Montavilla MuuMuu reminded me of my Africa dresses, but with a bit more detail. When I saw the line drawing I immediately knew this dress would have a place in my closet, and it would be a dress I'd wear all summer long. I was right. This dress is incredibly comfortable, light and airy to combat the intense heat we've had this summer, and it has huge pockets. What more could I ask for?

When it came time to fabric shop for this project, I totally lucked out. Hobby Lobby had just marked all their spring fabrics down to half price. Thus I had a lovely selection of lightweight cottons to choose from - all within my budget!  After hemming and hawing for a few minutes, I picked out a rose printed cotton cambrey. It was breathable, lightweight, had just enough drape for the design, and was very opaque (so I wouldn't have to worry about a slip or lining, when would defeat the point of this cool and comfortable dress.). Plus, the print was pretty and I knew I would enjoy wearing it.

Once my fabric was acquired, I set right to making my Montavilla MuuMuu, well, almost. During the two weeks this pattern test ran, I also happened to be testing the Casey Skirt and 10k Tank patterns, and I was costuming the Mulan children's play. It was the craziest two weeks of my summer! I began this dress little bit by little bit between all my other sewing commitments (Those were the two weeks I barely slept and lived off coffee.). My fabric got ironed at work, while the youngest child was napping and the older two were watching a movie. The PDF pattern got taped together under the same set of circumstances a few days later. The dress got cut out late one night at home - after I'd finished the costume pieces that absolutely had to get done that night. Then the dress got all sewn up the day after the play opened (Once my time was actually my own again.). As soon as the hem was sewn, I threw my new dress on and it was everything I'd hoped it would be.

With my MuuMuu done, I could really appreciate the details of the design.

The ruffled cap sleeves, made by gathering the outer leg of the shoulder dart, adds some texture and interest to the bodice of the MuuMuu. 

These ruffles are probably my favorite detail on this dress.

There is elastic under the arms, gathering up the side panes of the dress, allowing for a comfortable and flattering fit.

There are huge, and when I say huge, I mean huge, patch pockets in the side panels at hip level. And who doesn't love having fabulous pockets to store stuff in? Especially when those are ginormous pockets don't that disturb the style lines of the garment!

And finally, to modernize the MuuMuu a bit, and allow for extra ventilation on those miserably hot summer days, there are two knee-high slits in the front skirt of the dress.

Cool and comfortable, I've worn my dress countless times this summer. At home, you can't beat the comfort of it when worn loose without a belt. Then, for a quick trip into town, or even for church on a Sunday morning, an added brown belt gives the MuuMuu a bit of shape, which makes me feel pretty.

And feeling pretty, in your most comfortable dress, is definitely amazing. 

If you're interested in the Montevilla MuuMuu pattern, it can be found here.

*I received this pattern for free in exchange for testing, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The High-Waisted Swimsuit I Didn't Plan to Make

Two years ago I decided to make myself a swimsuit. I bought the pattern. I ordered the fabric. I didn't make the swimsuit. Six months after I bought my supplies, I was sewing my wardrobe for the World Race. I thought I'd get my swimsuit sewn up while I was at it. A new one piece swimsuit to take along on my year long mission trip? It sounded like a good idea to me, but alas, it didn't happen.  A year later, I returned from the World Race, and remembered I still had a swimsuit to sew. I wanted to sew it, but I'd returned home in the middle of winter so a swimsuit seemed a rather impractical sewing project. Late spring rolled around, and I thought I'd make the swimsuit for my summer of taking the kids I nanny to the pool. Once again, the swimsuit making plans didn't come to fruition. Finally, I figured I'd get my swimsuit made in time for the beach vacation I was going on. Well, I got back from said vacation yesterday, and still, the planned for one piece swimsuit hasn't been made.

It would appear swimsuit making never made its way to the top of my sewing list this summer. Except, it did. I actually did manage to make myself a swimsuit this summer, it just wasn't the one I'd been planning on making. It wasn't a one piece. I didn't even use an actual swimsuit pattern for half of it. And, I didn't even use the swimwear fabric I bought two years ago. Oh no, that fabric is still sitting in my stash, awaiting the day I will make the originally planned swimsuit. Rather than use my carefully picked out swimsuit pattern and pretty purple fabric, I bought some black and white galaxy print swim fabric when I found it on sale at Joann's. Less than a week after I aquired said galaxy print fabric, I made myself a swim top. But let me start at the beginning. . .

As previously mentioned, I've spent quite a bit of my summer hanging out with the kids at the pool. On one of those first pool afternoons of the summer a swimsuit caught my eye. It was a bikini, but the top was different than any swimsuit I'd seen before. It completely covered the upper back and shoulders, and tied in the front, under the bust.

Now, the worst sunburns I've had in my life have been on my upper back, across my shoulders. This swimsuit covered that area, so those sunburns wouldn't happen. (I swear, I do wear sunscreen, I'm just pale and burn easily) Almost immediately, I decided I just had to re-create the shoulder covering bikini! Thus, on my next trip to Joann's, I acquired the patterns and fabrics to do so.

For the top, I decided to use Simplicity 8654. It's a reprint of a 1940's pattern, and had just the shape I was looking for. There were only a couple changes I had to make to turn it into a swimsuit pattern, rather than a woven crop top pattern.

First, as I would be using a very stretchy knit fabric for my swim suit, rather than the zero-stretch woven the pattern was drafted for, I traced the pattern one size smaller than I usually make in Simplicity patterns. Looking back, I probably should have gone down two sizes, but just going down one size worked out ok. 
Second, I widened the shoulders slightly for extra sun coverage. 
Finally, I removed the darts from the bodice back. Thankfully, there were no front bust darts to contend with, otherwise those would have had to be removed as well. (The lack of front darts is the primary reason why I picked this pattern over a similar Vogue pattern for the top.)

I cut the top out of both my galaxy swimsuit fabric, and a swim lining fabric. I then cut out extra triangles of my galaxy fabric to line the front ties with, so when the top is worn the white lining doesn't show on the "wrong" side of the ties. With my top cut out, I began to assemble it.

Now, I had never before made a swimsuit. And, for my first ever swimsuit piece, I wasn't even using a swimsuit pattern. Thus, I had no instructions telling me how to construct this thing. So, I basically just winged it. I googled "how to apply elastic to swimsuits", read a couple tutorials for that particular skill, then went for it, constructing the top in the manner that made the most sense in my head. There was nothing particularly complicated to it. Except for adding bra cups, or rather attempting to add bra cups. Those were really hard to get placed exactly perfectly. In the end I decided my swim top had enough support without cups and abandoned them all together. Other than that I had no real issues.  I ended up stretching my elastic a little too much while applying it to the neckline and lower edge of my top, so the edges are a little ruffly looking rather than laying perfectly flat. This isn't ideal, but I decided it was fine. As this was my first piece of swimwear, I didn't expect it to turn out perfect, just cute and wearable! And in that, I believe I succeeded!

The swim top was actually easier to make than I had expected it to be! The weekend after I finished it, I wore it with some plain black swimsuit bottoms on a float trip with my brother and some friends. Thanks to the back and shoulder coverage, I came home from that float trip with no major sunburn - a first for me when it comes to float trips!

Now, when I cut out my swimsuit top, I also cut out a pair of high-waisted swimsuit bottoms (from McCall's M7168) to go with it. Only, I didn't have time to make them before my float trip in June. Thus, they became lost and forgotten at the bottom of my "to sew" pile. Until I bagan packing for my end of the summer beach vacation.

Suddenly I remembered I'd planned to make some high-waisted bottoms to wear with my top. Before this swimsuit, I hadn't worn a bikini since I was 10. I knew I'd be more comfortable wearing my top at the beach and hotel swimming pool if I had the extra coverage high-waisted bottoms would provide. Thus, I dug out my cut out pair, and sewed them up the night before I left on vacation. The bottoms went together even quicker and easier than the top! (Using an actual swimsuit pattern, rather than an adapted shirt pattern, may have contributed to how easy they were to make)  

My finished swimsuit was just what I hoped it would be - perfect for the beach!

Playing in the waves!

Watching the sea creatures the tide brought in! 

And building sand forts!

It's not the swimsuit I've been planning on making for two years, but I'm incredibly pleased that I actually managed to make myself a swimsuit this summer! Maybe I'll make the intended one piece next summer. . .

Photo Credit to Bretta and Julea Gerhard