Thursday, 11 January 2018

Black Ninjas

I have mixed feelings about this title, to be honest. It does describe what this blog post is about though: 5 out of 4 Ninja Pants in a black fabric, so I'm going to leave it. I have been meaning to sew myself a pair of dress black tights for ages, and I finally went out and bought 3m of fabric to do it. It's a good thing I did, because the fabric had less stretch than I thought it would, so my first pair went to my mother, who has smaller legs than I do. The second pair is nearly perfect. You might be able to tell in the pictures that the crotch curve isn't perfect, but in this case it's not a big deal because I mostly wear them under dresses.

As someone who lives in Nova Scotia, bare legs during the winter is just not feasible. I have fleece-lined tights in black and blue to wear under dresses and sometimes even jeans, but they are no good for wearing with tunics or dresses that are a little too short to be appropriate for the office. Opaque black leggings are the perfect fix. I had already sewn up the P4P Peg Legs and wanted to give the 5oo4 Ninja leggings a try as well. Both patterns are free if you join their Facebook groups, so all it required was some extra taping and tracing. I made up a quick pair of shorts to check the fit, which I now sometimes wear for Frisbee under my shorts.

I did the usual grading between 3 sizes to properly accommodate my derriere, added 2 inches of length so they were long enough (my first pair of leggings that are long enough!) and omitted the pocket because I was lazy (I added one in to the pair mom got). There is a bit of extra fabric around the knees, but that doesn't bother me too much. I assembled everything on my serger, and it came together like a dream. I still love my serger, and am definitely putting some miles on it.

When I sew my next pair I'm going to see if I can fix the extra fabric at the front, but it's better than a camel toe, #realtalk. I love having leggings that are long enough and stay up. I added a 1-inch elastic at the waist to double-ensure they stay up, and while it is sometimes a bit uncomfortable at large dinners (maybe I should take that as a hint not to over-eat), I really like the extra support. I also like that there is enough fabric around my calves so they are not suffocating, which is a common occurrence with store-bought pants for me.

Overall, these leggings are a success (after a failure), and I've already gotten a lot of wear out of them. I love the gusset and optional pocket, and the simple waistband. I'm tempted to see if I can squeeze one more pair out of the fabric I bought, but it's appealing to me to make a skirt or dress out of it.


Pattern5 out of 4 Ninja Pants
Material: A black circular knit, I think
Modifications: Graded between sized, sized up to accommodate less stretch, added length
Learning: Be more careful when checking stretch of fabrics, and I finally did a nice gusset!

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Agility Tank Sports Bras

Since I'm not a terribly prolific sewist, I tend to shy away from combining multiple garments in one blog post. In this case, they were such quick sews that I'm alright with putting them together. I bought the agility tank pattern over a year ago because as soon as I saw it I knew I had to have it. I haven't gotten around to making it because I was nervous, and I own a lot of sports bras so I wasn't in a hurry to get new ones. Recently I increased my level of activity by starting boxing, and so I use more athletic wear in a week and have an excuse to give the pattern a try.

This pattern was much easier than I thought it would be. Once I get around to creating it with an attached tank top I might change my mind, but just making the sports bra was really fast. I don't need a huge amount of support, so I just line them with a different knit fabric. I also like them to finish near the bottom of my ribcage, so they are a bit more longline than the pattern calls for. I opted to make one of each of the variations - a strappy back and t-back. I think I like the look of the strappy back better, and that is what I will make more of.

First I made the sea-foam green strappy back bra. One of the reasons that I finally made this is because 5 out of 4 patterns was having a contest that I wanted to enter. Those who follow me on Instagram might remember I posted a picture of this bra next to a picture I found on Pinterest, where I also tried to copy the pose. I didn't win the cover-stitch machine, but I did get a free pattern out of it! I think I'm going to get the riptide shorties so I can make a bathing suit bottom that actually covers my bottom.

My most amusing mistake with this bra was I started it with some elastic that I had kicking around without really checking the size of it. I ran out of the elastic halfway through, and ran out to pick up some more according to the pattern specifications. When I continued the work, I realized that the elastic that I started with was smaller than the elastic I bought, and this you can see that one set of straps is thinner than the other. Not a big deal, but kind of funny. I lined this one with a bathing suit lining fabric.

I decided I also wanted to create a galaxy print sports bra, mostly because I had the fabric already, and it wasn't really enough to make much else. Luckily I had enough to make almost 2 full sports bras, because I royally messed up my first try on this one, despite having already made one. I barely glanced at the instructions because I had very recently finished my first one, so I totally forgot to pre-stretch the elastic for the neckband. Turns out that is an important step, because it turned out awful. I re-cut both the front and back pieces in the main and lining fabric and started over and totally omitted the elastic this time (it was optional). From then on it was smooth sailing. I used the leftover main fabric from the first sports bra to make the lining of this one, and it is great against my skin.

I like this pattern, especially as a base. I might be making modifications in the future based on more inspiration. I didn't bother with cups for these ones, but I might in the future. This is also a maternity/nursing-friendly pattern, which will likely come in handy in a few years.


Pattern: 5 out of 4 Agility Tank
Material: More scuba knit and some bathing suit knit from a random kijiji lady
Modifications: Kept some of the length I was supposed to cut off to make it more longline
Learning: Pre-stretching elastic is an important step!

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Navy Nancy Raglan Dress

At one point I decided that I really wanted a raglan shirt pattern. Many indie designers that I follow and like have one, so I needed to decide which one I wanted. I ended up deciding on the Nancy Raglan pattern from 5 out of 4 Patterns because it has a shirt, dress and maternity option. I'm not planning on getting pregnant for at least a few years, but I'm a huge fan of forward thinking. One thing I like about 5 out of 4 patterns is that they are drafted for a 5'8" woman, so it fits me nicely without needing as much length added.

I've always liked how t-shirt dresses look, but I have never found one in a store that looks good on my. If they fit my hips at all, there is no way that they will fit my waist and bust, and they don't generally looks good when they're really tight around the hips. One on the dress options for the Nancy Raglan is an a-line dress, so I decided to make an a-line t-shirt dress. The fabric I found in the discount knit section of Fabricville, and when I brought it to the cutting table the girl behind it was like "Wow, great find!". As soon as I made the dress I regretted not buying more because I didn't find anything wrong with it, and it was really soft and easy to sew with.

This dress came together really quickly, and it was all assembled on my serger. I love my serger more and more with every project. I made one funny mistake: I sewed the shoulders together fine, but then when I started sewing the sides, I sewed them inside out. I just cut off the seam and re-sewed it, but it was a lesson learned in rushing. I might try a less a-line variation of the dress, and try using the pattern for a crop-top. I already have a off-white long-sleeved version cut out, and I'm toying with the idea of making it in orange as well (exact same fabric and price, just a different colour).


Pattern5 out of 4 Nancy Raglan
Material: A lovely discount knit from Fabricville for $3/m
Modifications: Added an inch in length. I used medium for the shoulders and arms, then small for my bust and waist, then up to a large for my hips.
Learning: Raglans are super easy!

Andrew's pose suggestion

The look I give Andrew on a very regular basis

Thursday, 23 November 2017

It's About Time

As you can see, the title is a pun. Andrew has been asking me to sew him something for years, so I finally sewed him a shirt using a pocket watch print fabric. I decided a few years ago that I wanted to build my fabric stash, so I looked around on kijiji for people getting rid of fabric for cheap. I found a couple, so my friend Ally and I drove out to a stranger's house in Lower Sackville and raided her stash for about $1/m. This fabric immediately caught my eye for a shirt for Andrew because he loves novelty print shirts, and I bought him a pocket watch for one of our dating anniversaries.

When I took my second sewing class a while ago, I learned to sew a button up shirt. I haven't made one since, but The one that I created was very straightforward, no collar stand or sleeve plackets. When there was a pattern sale at Fabricville, I picked up a similar pattern in Andrew's size so that I still didn't have to learn how to do with more complicated/precise aspects of a button up. I then hid it out of sight because I felt guilty every time I looked at it.

Those who have watched LetterKenny might recognize this pose

I made a muslin because fitting a male body is unfamiliar to me. I basically had to do the opposite of what I do for me - let it out at the waist, leave a narrower waist and chest. Andrew and I now have matching muslins from an old sheet, with no closures and a single sleeve. I'm still trying to come up with a good Halloween costume to make with them. This fit pretty well out of the envelope - I graded out 2 sizes for his waist and added an inch in length, but those were the only alterations necessary. I might have added another inch, but I did not have enough fabric.

Another LetterKenny pose

I barely managed to eke out this shirt in the amount of fabric I had. Any major mistakes would have been fatal to Andrew's dream of a handmade button-up shirt. Luckily, my mistakes were all minor. The biggest one was accidentally cutting a hole in the shirt right below the collar. I patched it, and the location means that it won't likely be noticed, but I feel bad about it. The other obvious error is that the pocket is quite crooked. Andrew says he doesn't mind, so it's not a big deal, but next time I will be more careful with pocket placement.

I managed to convince Andrew to come to Fabricville with me to pick out buttons for the shirt. We decided on wooden buttons because we thought they suited it best, and picking out any other colour would have been difficult. I think the biggest disadvantage of completing this project is that Andrew likes it, and now wants me to sew more things for him. His next request is a Christmas poncho. What is a Christmas poncho, you ask? Apparently it's a Clint Eastwood as the Man with no Name style poncho made out of Christmassy fabric. This is why I have never heard anyone call Andrew unoriginal.


PatternMcCall's M6932 View B
Material: A really lovely rayon-like woven for $2 from a lady off Kijiji and wooden buttons
Modifications: Added 1 inch to the length and graded out 2 sizes at the waist
Learning: This was my first yoke! Also, be more careful with trimming seam allowances. And check pocket placement more carefully.

The crooked pocket

Thursday, 16 November 2017

My First Orla Dress

I'm calling this my first Orla dress because I am confident I will be making more. This was more a wearable muslin, that I also made a muslin for. Seems redundant, but I felt it was necessary to make the wearable muslin actually wearable. Anyway, on to the dress!

I was really inspired by #AnOrlaAffair, put on a few couple of bloggers back in July, but as I was in the middle of packing and getting ready to move into my new house, I didn't feel like I had the time to try a new pattern. Since the pattern wasn't going anywhere, I knew that I could just give it a try later. The fabric I used for this dress was left over from stuff I bought super cheap about 3 year ago, so if it went horribly wrong it wouldn't be a big deal. As you can see, it didn't go horribly wrong, but it wasn't amazing either. It certainly does not photograph well.

First up, I used an old bedsheet for a quick and dirty muslin, to test the fit/proportions and that I knew how much to gather the skirt and how to put in the sleeves. I ended up taking some width out of the skirt (I had added it in because my hips are larger than the size that I made for my waist/shoulders) and I removed some of the length of the skirt that I had also added. I'm thrilled with the fit - since the shoulders are supposed to be wide, they sit nicely on my shoulders. I might make the neck a bit smaller in the future. I will need to practise neckbands on wovens before I really like any that I make, but that's totally fine with me.

The dress came together really easily. There is nothing really tricky in the construction, other than my usual problems with necklines. I had to install the invisible zipper 3 times, but that was entirely my fault. There was a bit of vertical stretch in my fabric, and when I installed it the first time I stretched the fabric, so it turned out wavy. The second time I didn't install it evenly on both sides. Finally I hand-basted it in, checked it, then sewed it in. Third time's the charm.

The biggest problem here is the neckline. There's two problems: I suck at necklines in general, and the fabric does not have much body to keep it up. My next Orla dress I will use a stiffer fabric in hopes to remedy point 2, and I will practise and research some more for point 1. On that note, if there are any neckline geniuses out there, feel free to send tips my way! The first day I wore it, the neckline sagged so much that I reached out to a sewing Facebook group that I am part of to ask for recommendations. The most popular one was to add a pleat in the neckline, so that's what I did. I toyed with the idea of darts, but really like the pleated look.

This dress gets the barely wearable label, but not the love label. I have high hopes for my next one though!


Pattern: Orla Dress by French Navy Now (Free!)
Material: A super light crepe-like fabric from Fabricville from a few years ago (likely $2/m)
Modifications: Added 1 inch to the length of the bodice and 1 inch to the skirt length. In the future I will use a stiffer fabric and might make the neck smaller.
Learning: Woven neckbands still suck, and I should take my time doing invisible zips. My next one will be a better fabric choice.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

A Different Kind of Make: My Armoire!

When we bought our house a few months ago, I knew I would need to come up with a solution for more closet space. I try to keep a reasonable amount of clothing, but since our house was built in the 1940s, there's just not much space. Even though right now we could use the closets in the extra 2 rooms for our clothing, that's only a short-term solution. What I needed was a wardrobe that I could use to store both hanging and folded clothing.

I looked around at Ikea and Canadian Tire to see if they had what I wanted. Some were pretty close, but either too flimsy, too small, too big (our ceilings are only about 7ft) or too expensive. Luckily, on the list of attendees for my house warming party was Dave, from Dovetail Design, an amazing carpenter. When I was giving the tour of my house, I mentioned my vision for this armoire, and he said that sounds like a really fun project and he would be willing to work with me to make it. Here is the pin on Pinterest that was my original inspiration. As you can see, the one I created ended up quite different, but it was a good starting point and got the conversation going.

We started with a design session at my house. We measured the height of the lowest part of my ceiling (it has an attic-style slope out at the edges) and the width where I wanted to put in. Knowing that I wanted some hooks at the end, we made it a couple inches narrower than the space, and I ended up with a wardrobe approximately 6 feet tall and 5'6" wide. Dave has built closets before, so he already knew the depth should be about 22 inches to accommodate hangers, and I wanted the shelves to be wide enough for 2 stacks of clothing. We ended up with 36" wide shelves, which is 2 stacks of sweaters but 3 stacks of t-shirts, which is perfect.

I learned a lot building this with Dave. I got to use a chop saw and a table saw, I learned about different things you need to think about like when to sand and clean things up and how to keep in mind what is going to be visible. We opted for a pre-finished black back because it provides a great contrast, and a white closet rod. I wanted 5 hooks - one on each side on the inside for necklaces and my favourite belt, and 3 on the end for bras and belts. We used half inch pine plywood so that it would be sturdy but not too heavy, and I love the look. The facings give it all a nice look.

I've had this armoire now for a few weeks, and I love it. I discovered that wine boxes fit perfectly along the bottom for socks and underwear and other things that don't fold well (we got a lot for moving, they're not because we're alcoholics, we hide that better). It fits all of my clothing with room for more, which is good, considering my sewing habit. The 2 sides come apart, so it's pretty easy to move it, and I anticipate using it forever, regardless of where I live (although if my next house has a walk-in closet I might face a conundrum).

I have some left over plywood that we're planning to use to make some shelves for my sewing room, and I can't wait to learn more.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Diana Joggers

When the timing works out and I apply/get selected for pattern testing, it's the best. Once in a while it's really nice to have a deadline, a convenient forum for feedback, and help with instructions. This testing experience was one of the best that I've ever had. I made 3 muslins and ended up really happy with my pants. I also made a pair of shorts after that were a dud, but that will be for another blog post.

On to the pattern! I have been wanting to make a pair of joggers for months now. Unfortunately, I have also decided not to buy new patterns until I have made all the ones that I bought and intend to make, and I have been trying to avoid buying new fabric as well. As soon as I saw this testing call, I knew it was the perfect solution. I already had fabric that would be perfect, so not only was I not buying a pattern, I didn't need to buy fabric either! It was a perfect workaround to my rule. Unfortunately when I went to Fabricville to buy Wonder Tape I fell in love with one of their new fabrics and bought some with the intent to make another pair of joggers, thus breaking my rule. When I took the fabric home I decided I might want to make a dress, so much for not buying new fabric, I tried though!

As with most of 5 out of 4 patterns, there are a whole lot of options to this pattern. I chose to make the mid-rise full length pants with patch pockets, an encased elastic waistband and banded bottoms. For my muslin, I used some cow fabric I got from a friend because it was about the right amount of stretch. My first muslin had some wrinkles on the backs of my thighs, so I scooped out the back crotch curve, added some to the outside of my hips and extended the back pattern piece to add some more space for my thighs. This was along the right lines, I just needed to add a little bit more to the crotch curve and I was happy with it.

Sewing up the pants took almost no time at all. After making a muslin everything was super easy and straightforward. This was my first time using Wonder Tape (well, the Fabricville knockoff version) and it made the patch pockets a piece of cake. Do not skip that step, it's awesome and now I want to use it for everything. I did almost everything on my serger, which was super quick and nicely finished. This was the first time that I threaded the left needle with a different colour, I used a regular thread in burgundy with the fun little wheel that came with the serger and it made the seems very clean.

Overall, I definitely recommend this pattern for joggers, and the tutorial includes great pants-fitting tips, which is worth the money on its own. I'm hoping to make a thicker pair of these for winter lounging, and a fancier pair to wear out in public. I have a lot of other things to make as well, but I can't wait to get back to this pattern! I would have liked to get better pictures, but these will have to do. The angle is a bit off because Andrew is tall, and was having difficulty focusing on the pants (except for this picture, clearly he could focus on my butt).


Pattern: Diana Joggers by 5 out of 4 Patterns
Material: A nice and light sweater knit from the discount section of Fabricville that I fell in love with and intended to use for a sweater of some sort, but is perfect and soft for these pants
Modifications: I didn't need to add any length to the pattern (I did and then removed it), but I needed some adjustments to get the fit I wanted for my rear end. My next pair I will slim out the calves some.
Learning: Pants fitting! There is now a crotch curve tutorial on the 5 out of 4 blog that I really want to try as well. This was also my first yoke, and I am proud to say I only messed it up once.