Wednesday, April 2, 2014

my back to school outfit - Simplicity 1805 knit top

I haven't been posting much but I have still been sewing though. I have a few projects finished I need to post and also have been working on a quilt for a wedding gift. But one other thing has been keeping me even busier - applying for college!

College, you say? Right before my oldest child was born I earned a B.A. degree in Art Education K-12. Since graduation I have been a stay at home mom and I put my teaching dreams on hold. I have loved being home but I also have been thinking of going back to school for a long time to get an additional teaching endorsement (since Art teaching is hard to find a job in). I recently decided to look into attending the nearest university (about an hour away) fall semester as a part time student. When I realized that I had time to make it into the Central Washington University for spring, I jumped at the chance to start sooner and today I started classes!

I was sooooooo tempted to go shopping for something new to wear for my first day. That back to school feeling does it to me every year even when I'm not in school. But instead I decided to wear my favorite jeans, comfy boots and just sew myself a new top. These aren't great pics, but what I had time for.

The time flew by the last two weeks since I started applying to get into CWU and I ran out of time to work on anything more than a simple top. So last night I went for fast and immediate satisfaction. Simplicity 1805 (view C) fit the bill. It only has four pieces - front, back, neckband and bottom band.

I did need to raise the shoulders a little and sew in an additional inch on both sides of the neck (which is basically taking two inches of neckline at both sides of the neck where the front meets the back). Then I took 4 inches out of the neckband so it would fit right and not hang too wide on my shoulders or too low in front. I might just try a smaller size (than the medium I made) next time.

The dolman style sleeves are very comfortable to wear. I'll definitely be making more of this one!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

McCalls 6785 twins! aka another cowl neck top

My daughter continues to wear her velour cowl neck top frequently. Makes this sewing mama very happy! Though now that temperature are rising here, I have a feeling it will have to be packed up with the winter clothing soon. But in the meantime, Anna's good friend has liked it so much that she wanted one as well.

With some fabric wrangling (instead of cutting out a one piece cowl part, I cut two pieces out to sew together), I had just enough to make a second identical top for Anna's buddy. Once the top was completed, they requested matching skirts as well. And fortunately, it was a day where I had the time to fulfill their request along with fabric both girls liked for skirts. The style of skirt and top together aren't my favorite but they both seemed very happy, so who am I to argue?

Just hamming it up for the camera! These two are really best buddies.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Lady Skater dress, girl size

My daughters brought home a flier from school about the local daddy-daughter dance and my eight year old daughter was SO EXCITED to invite her daddy on a date. My almost-ten year old daughter, Anna, wasn't quite as excited about this idea until she found out that lots of her friends were going with their dads too. Suddenly she loved the idea!

We don't dress up a lot around here. Dresses or skirts are a given every Sunday for church and occasionally for other events but extra special occasions don't pop up very often. So I thought this would be a great reason to sew really special dresses for my girls. You know - the frilly, girly types with lots of lace or ruffles that are just darling.

My girls had other ideas. I let them look through my bins of patterns and online. Neither of them found anything they loved and anything even resembling frilly was completely ignored. Instead, my older daughter described a dress one of her friends had recently worn to church. I tried combining a Jalie top with a simple skirt pattern to match her description and came up with this:
 It did not turn out so well. The gathered neckline of the top part caused the waistband part to bow out and other parts fit my daughter oddly and looked it just looked terrible. The photos don't even do the failure justice. I really couldn't see a way to fix it so I cut off the top part and turned the bottom into a skirt. And then I went on to plan B.

Plan B was to slightly alter the Lady Skater pattern. I had heard great things about this pattern from other sewing bloggers and it seemed like it would be fairly simple to sew. But I made the big mistake of purchasing the adult size pattern with the intent to size it down (it was labelled for adults and teens and I was thinking teens meant not much bigger than my tween). I should have just started with the the Skater Dress for Girls and enlarged it slightly for my size 10 girl.

Long story short - after many more hours (and many more alterations) than this dress should have taken me to sew, I finally finished it. It was more casual than I would have chosen initially but my daughter loved it and it matches her style and she had fun wearing it to the dance!

Some basic details: Both the main patterned fabric and the black fabric were ITY jersey. If I recall correctly, they were purchased at a Hancock Fabrics several years ago. I added a belt to add some contrast at the waistline and to match the look of the contrasting neckband and arm bands. And for the first time ever, I made thread belt loops (using the serger) that were sewn into the side seams. This dress was sewn almost entirely on the serger and then hemmed with the coverstitch. Only the topstitch along the neckline and armbands and the ends of the belt were sewn on my regular sewing machine.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Boneyard Shawl knitted with alpaca & silk yarn

Finished a knitting project that's been lugged around here and there for a few months now - the free Boneyard Shawl pattern. It's another really popular project (not quite 15,000 strong but still very popular) on Ravelry. So easy to knit and I used every possible inch of my 4 skeins of Debbie Bliss Andes yarn (a soft alpaca & silk blend). You can't tell from the photos, but this yarn has such a pretty lustre to it that is so pretty.

You can get a feel from the photos about the smaller size of this shawl. If I would have had more, I would have loved to make this a bit larger but at this size it's still great for keeping my neck warm (especially with the alpaca in it!) and wearing cowl like. And you know I love my cowls!

Have a happy knitting weekend!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

McCalls 6785 knit top with side ruching

The cowl neck tops from this pattern were such a hit with my daughter that I asked if she wanted another one. Instead, she chose the round neck dress with side ruching/gathering (view D), and made shirt length rather than dress length yet again.

The fabric used was a lightweight jersey - I think some type of rayon blend that is soft but has already started to pill a bit from her wearing it about every three days (like I said, this pattern is a hit!). I will definitely be making at least one more for her in this style I'm sure, but with better quality fabric.

The pattern pieces for the sleeves and front and back are the same ones used previously. But instead of cutting the front and back lengths at 3 1/2" past the lengthen/shorten line, I cut 5 1/2" past that line for more length to be gathered up at the sides. 3/4" was added again to the sleeve lengths.

Because I used a serger for all of the construction, I had to think through how to sew the side seams to be able to insert the ties. The directions advise to sew the front and back together at the sides, then clip the seam allowance 3/8" above the recommended spot. Then the lower part of the seams would be pressed open.  Side channels would be sewn by stitching for several inches 3/8"from the center seam on both sides of the center seam.

I didn't want to cut a serged seam of course.  Instead of serging the front to back at the side seams, I serged the edges of the cut pieces separately. Next, I used the chainstitch to sew the front and back pieces together at the seam allowance and I pressed open the seams allowances. After that, I used the chainstitch (could have used the regular sewing machine but wanted to try out my chainstitch feature and it supposedly has a little more stretch than regular straight stitching) to sew the 4 side channels (a 3/8" row to the left and right of both side seams) where the side ties would be inserted. Then, I sewed from the top (underarm area) down to the bottom of the shirt. *The pattern advised hemming the front and back pieces previously so that was already finished.

After making the ties (a few inches shorter than the pattern advised) very fast on the serger (another new technique I'm in love with, thank you Babylock Evolution workbook!), I inserted them through the side channels up several inches from the bottom hem (I think maybe 6" up - can't remember exactly) and sewed over the tops of them a few times to reinforce that area. *Next time I will actually make longer ties I think and insert them higher up into the shirt.

My daughter hasn't complained or even mentioned it but because I didn't have the ties gather very much of the shirt, it tends to create a baggy look around her bottom and I think the top would be cuter with higher up ruching.

I used the same material for a neckband and then sewed a narrow coverstitch line of stitching along the seamline to hold the neckline flat. 

Don't know how much I can say it, but I adore my Babylock Evolution! I had a Janome CoverPro 1000 before and liked it, but I LOVE the coverstitch capabilities on my Babylock. It breezes through any fabric I've used so far without a bit of trouble. No threads breaking, no tweaking of tensions, no trouble at all. I don't even mind that it's a combination machine that I have to switch between serging and coverstitching because it's fast and the quality makes it worth the extra couple of minutes. I read sewing blogs and like to hear about opinions and thoughts on machines and different models, brands, etc. so I hope no one minds too much if I ramble on sometimes about my machines. :)

And there it is! Another finished top. Made entirely on my serger! (with the small exception of hand sewing the ties closed at their ends). Comfy as a t-shirt but with side details that my daughter loves and makes her feel really cute in. That makes me one happy sewing mama!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Honey Cowl aka infinity scarf

Though I didn't just finishing knitting the Honey Cowl, I finally got around to getting it photographed. Only 5 months later...

I used to wait and wait until I could align having a photographer around (my hubby or 14 year old son, or when desperate one of my young daughters paired next to the tripod) with remembering to put on whatever I had finished knitting or sewing while there was still daylight. Those stars did not always align well! I finally got a clue and purchased a wireless remote for my camera to do the photo work myself. This blog might finally have a chance of staying updated now that I've discovered and learned how to use that wonderful little remote.

Please excuse the drab brown lawn and landscape in the background. That's what winter looks like most of the year here in easter Washington state. Not much snow which is how I like it, but we do get quite a case of the blah browns for a while along with cold temperatures.

On to the cowl details. The Honey Cowl appears to be wildly popular at At least that's my guess judging by the 15,000 times it has been knitted and posted there. Yes, fifteen THOUSAND times. Wowza!

I can understand why it's so popular now that I've knitted it though. It's a very fast pattern to grasp and knit. Also, it's simple enough that I was able to knit it while watching tv and in the car and it only took me about 4 days of occasional knitting. It's easy to customize and make wider or narrower, longer or shorter. For this version, I cast on 160 stitches and then knit it as wide as I could until my yarn ran out.

The Debbie Bliss Rialto DK yarn I made this with is so luxuriously soft that I wish I had more. And even though it's not the most exciting color I chose, I think it will be a good neutral to combine with a lot of outfits and different coats or jackets. 

It's not quite long enough though to wear comfortably twice around my neck. In the above photo I was feeling quite choked by the cowl. The next time around I'll cast on more stitches and perhaps go up a size of needles to get a looser gauge. But overall, I really enjoyed knitting it and I'm positive I'll use the pattern again.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

McCalls 6785 cowl neck top for girls

I'm on a cowl neck sewathon! As I mentioned in this Renfrew review and this second one, I adore cowl neck tops. And I've converted one of my daughters to the cowl neck way. Just one more little daughter to go...

When I was wearing one of my Renfrew cowl neck tops the other day, my middle daughter commented about how much she really liked it. I remembered that I had a pattern for her size with a cowl neck option and offered to sew her one, especially since she's in need of some long sleeve tops for this very cold winter. She was so excited to pick out fabric from my stash for new tops!

First up was a sky blue interlock knit from I only remember that because the packing slip was right near the fabric in my bin, lol. It's a smooth and soft fabric that has a nice feel and weight to it. If there is enough leftover, I'm going to use it for a short sleeve top for myself.

I cut out view C, childrens size 10. Instead of making it dress length as it's intended, I shortened it quite a bit to be a regular shirt length. From the lengthen or shorten line on the front and back neck pattern pieces, I cut 3 1/2" longer than that line. The sleeves were a close call. I had only enough length to flip the edge over about 1/3 of an inch to hem them. Yikes! Hoping this fabric won't shrink any further. (*And after my daughter wore it for the first time, she asked me to shorten it to 3/4 length because she felt like the full length sleeves weren't long enough for her when she raises her hand in class. Silly girl, lol. So she'd prefer a shorter length that looks shorter on purpose).

This top was SO EASY to make. And the cowl construction was even easier than the cowl on the Renfrew top because this cowl consists of only 1 piece instead of 2. I may have to try and alter my Renfrew cowl pattern pieces to be constructed the same way. The only thing about this pattern I'd skip is the neckline stitching. The pattern has you stitch around the neckline to hold the seam down but I found that it lies flat without that stitching anyway.

Last step was finishing the sleeves and bottom with a narrow coverstitch. Easy-peasy. Babylock Evolution, how I adore you!

So the verdict? - my daughter loved it! So then I went ahead and made version 2.

This top was sewn with dusty teal blue velour, also from that same order from It's such soft, velvety material, but turned out to not like my iron. I've never sewn before with velour and none of my ironing experiments yielded good results. They all kept the iron marks so I just opted to not iron any of my seams or hems. It's a knit top so I figured it would probably be just fine and so far it has.

The things I changed for this version was added about 3/4 of an inch to the sleeve length and I skipped the neckline stitching.  And it turns out that velour is very popular with the 4th grade crowd. My daughter came home and said she received about a dozen complements and several kids asked her where she got her top. She said she was excited to tell them her mom made it. That sure made my day! :)

Both tops were hemmed with a narrow coverstitch.



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