Monday, September 18, 2017

Someone Else's Pants: A Little Lace, A Little Shirring

As I think back about all the sewing and all the fun of this summer I have a confession to make: I wore someone else's pants all summer long.

You see, years ago, my very excellent friend Magenta had this pair of awesome summer pants - they fit her perfectly, were light and airy and had some fun details. As they started to wear out, we had plans to recreate them for her. This was so long ago that there weren't any tutorials or info about doing a rub-off floating around the blogosphere, and I was a much less experienced sewist. Between not finding suitable fabric and not knowing how to create a pattern, our plans fizzled.

Fast forward to early in the summer when I realized that I needed more pool and patio clothing. Life at that moment involved long weekends full of fun at our town's wonderful community pool, shopping at the farmers marked and grilling in the backyard. Sewing something fun to wear around town, at the pool and in the yard was a must. A rummage thru my stash yielded some black gauze. I also found some black crocheted lace and elastic thread. Perfect, I thought to myself.

I was about half way through this project when I realized that I was finally sewing those pants; the ones we had talked about so long ago. But for me. Oops! Sorry Magenta.

And they were one of the easiest things I've sewn recently. They are my TNT trouser pattern sewn up as a pull on pant in an airy gauze. They look as different as could be from my other trousers from this pattern, which makes me love them even more. As a reminder, my TNT pattern is BurdaStyle 9/2010 #115 - Slacks with Notched Waistband - which is a talls sized pattern.

To make them a pull on style, I simply left the darts open, eliminated the pockets and straightened out from the hip to the waist a bit, so they would fit over my hips. I also added a few inches to the rise so that they would sit at the waist without a waistband.

I've had elastic thread in my stash for years. So, it seemed like a good time to experiment with a shirred waist. It's far from perfect and somehow I neglected to take photos of it, but I feel like I know what I'm doing with shirring now, and may use it again in the future as a design detail.  It's fun and summery.

The last detail is the two rows of crocheted lace I added to the calf and hem.  It was a feature of the original pants and I think is the thing that makes this a fun summer make.

Anyway, I couldn't let summer end without mentioning these pants, which I wore non-stop.

Next spring, Magenta, we will have to have a pants making party and make one in every color for us both. These are not the last pair of these pants that I will own, and I already have some enhancements in mind like a simple pocket, slightly different placement of the lace and a waistband with a drawstring, among other things. Anyway, until next summer...  

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Swimwear: Part Mermaid on my Mom's Side

You may remember that I sewed a hacked Bombshell when I was pregnant. At the time I predicted that the top would probably fit post-pregnancy but that I would need to sew new bottoms. Turns out I was right.

Original version with prego belly included

At the time, I must have had the forethought to buy enough of the fabric to make more pieces after pregnancy because I found two yards of the stuff when I was rummaging in my stash this summer hoping for a scrap of swimsuit fabric. Clever past me. 

As this project was completely unplanned, I somehow forgot I was going to make a Bombshell bottom and pulled out Vogue 9192 instead.

I ended up sewing the bikini bottom (View D) and the cover up skirt (View F). There is not much to tell except that I learned that rubber swimsuit elastic is firmer and less stretchy than other elastics and - more important - you should avoid any un-sewing of the stuff.


I didn't make any changes to either the bottom or skirt except that I added a little bit of length (2") to the skirt. It probably wasn't necessary. They both fit very well out of the envelope. The only change I'd make in the future is perhaps taking the waist in a bit and using slightly wider elastic.

The skirt is a win I think; I love the style. This is a piece that I have been wearing as a cover up and for splashy days. Really, you could take a dip in it, but I think I would reserve it for wading rather than swimming.  I'm very happy with it paired with my bombshell hacked top.

I like that the length is adjustable. The construction was really simple - you press the seam allowances open and sew them down to create a casing for the pull ties.

The bottoms - sorry for the lack of picture of me wearing them, but I just didn't feel up to taking pictures of my bum and thighs - is a very modest cut. It's exactly what I would pick out for my mom, who is a modest lady. For myself, I would choose something with a lower rise and perhaps cut a little higher on the sides. That said, I'm happy for the full bum coverage. One thing that I will add is that when I sewed swimwear in the past I just self-lined anything that needed lining.  This time I used swimsuit lining fabric and the difference is worth it. It's thinner, lighter and very soft and comfy against the skin. The sandwich method of sewing the bottoms made for a really cleanly finished inside.

There's not really anything else to say because both pieces were easy to sew, are well drafted and fit the bill. Sometimes there is just no need to over-complicate things.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Swimwear: For My Little Fish

In the Craft Lounge, I'm already transitioning to autumn by putting away the light fabrics and plotting out my projects for the cooler weather ahead. However, I'm still trying to catch up on posting all of the summer clothing that I sewed. And I've had a very productive summer.  Instead of taking a big vacation, I decided this summer to make every weekend a long weekend by taking Mondays off.

So today it's more swimwear. This time for Taco.

At his cousin's pool party

At the snack bar at our community pool (with ice cream)

Two of my favorite makes for Taco that have been getting non-stop use are these little, one piece rash guard swimmies. The pattern is an altered version of KwikSew 3730, which I sewed last summer (here) in seersucker.

The pattern is designed for woven fabrics. Sewing it in a knit and getting the more trim fit of a rash guard required slimming the whole thing down - side seams, armscyes and sleeves.

Wow, washed out color in this shot.

And in swimsuit fabric

To give the pattern a more rash guard/wet suit-like look, I altered the center front from a button closure to an exposed zipper and altered the collar to a rounded mandarin-style.

The proto-type - the blue version - was sewn with a poly knit remnant that I had in my stash.  You probably don't remember waaaaaaay back when I sewed a top in this fabric for myself (here). It's  not 100% perfect as swimwear, but Taco likes it. The zipper is a closed-end, plastic tooth number I picked up at Panda Zippers, a store I often overlook.  Closed end plastic zippers are somewhat challenging to come by, even in the NY Garment District.

Anyway, I futzed around with the pattern a bit more based on the changes I had to make as I sewed the proto-type version. This second version is in actual swimwear fabric. It's a bit of an eye popping fabric.

It's a bit of a bummer that photography is not allowed at our community pool. Taco has taken to the water with such delight. You'll have to make do with snack bar photos.

We are planning on starting swim lessons in the fall. Taco really discovered his inner little fish. So, our need for swimwear will outlast the summer.

Two and a half is a charming little age; our days are punctuated by squeals of delight, peels of laughter, and moments of surprise. Not that there aren't struggles, but there are far more happy moments and there is much to be grateful for when I think of life in Clio-and-Phinland these days. More time at home was a great call for this summer!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Swimwear: For Those Splashy Days

I had no plans to sew any swimwear this summer.

That's the funny thing about sewing plans, isn't it? They can change on a whim or for a need. In this case, both. Inspired by whim and need I ended up sewing five items of swimwear this summer.

Here's the first. It's a not-a-swimsuit.

You see, when you spend time at the community pool with a toddler, you don't actually get to do much actual swimming. Most days I don't get deeper into the water than my knees, which is as deep as the toddler pool gets. But I still get wet from Taco running over to me for a big wet hug or from playing with him in the fountains or at the water's edge or just sitting on the wet ledge with my feet in the pool watching him play. The same is true for days we play at home in the sprinkler. I always end up running thru the sprinkler at least once.

Parenting a little kid means that some days are just splashy. And I don't always have the will to slather us both from horn to tail in sunscreen nor do I always feel like prancing around in a swimsuit in the yard or at the pool when I'm not going to actually swim. What's a gal to do?

Chalk this up as another why sewing is awesome momentThis is a sundress sewn up in swimsuit fabric. So, it's quick drying, comfy and appropriate for poolside and sprinkler, but isn't a bathing suit. Really I could wear it anywhere - to the beach bar, on a boat or for water-sports like paddle boarding. Now I'm sort of wondering how I ever got along without something like this in my wardrobe.

Anyway, when I wear it to the pool, I do wear bikini bottoms underneath. Wet underwear feels gross. Ewwwwwwww

The fabric is from Spandex World and the pattern is OOP Simplicity 3503, which I sewed once before in 2009 (here).

I made a few changes and enhancements. As drafted, the skirt is gathered at the center front and back. I trimmed down the skirt so that it wouldn't have the gathers, thinking that less fabric to get wet would probably be a good thing.  Also, since I planned to wear it without a bra, I sewed bra cups in between the fabric and lining at the bust. If I had thought of it I would have sewn an elastic band into the seam at the underbust to create a built in shelf bra. Next time. This is enough for poolside.

Photo taking is still a challenge. I've been trying to just get Phin to snap a few pictures whenever we can fit it in when I am actually wearing whatever it is we're photographing, rather than trying for a photo shoot.

These were taken on our way out to the pool. After a minute or two, Taco got bored of waiting with his bucket of trains (which goes with him everywhere, btw.)

A Halloween pail repurposed as a train carrier

So we actually got a few unanticipated "action shots."

Leg hugs

And with that we were off to the pool for splashy fun!

Two more swimwear posts to follow! Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Romping Around!

It seems like the list is endless, but another thing that irks me about RTW clothing for tots is that retailers seem to have collectively decided that 2 years is the age/size when little ones stop wearing rompers. For a slim tot like Taco, whose shorts/pants are always sliding down, rompers are the ideal summer outfit.

Taco with my sister's beagle

I'm not going to rehash this pattern - Butterick B5625 - since I sewed and reviewed it last summer (here).  At the time I commented that it was so quick and easy that I would sew many more versions if summer was longer.  This year I got to execute that plan. The only change I've made besides adding a little length at the lengthen/shorten line is that I've eliminated the snaps at the crotch/inseam. Phin and I found it just as easy to undo the shoulder buttons for diaper changes. So, snaps became irrelevant.

An additional nice thing about this pattern is that it doesn't take very much fabric.  All three of these rompers were sewn from remnants that were hanging around in my stash and that I cut during my epic May cut-a-thon. Sewing for toddlers has some distinct benefits that way.

The red is linen left over from trousers I made for myself a few years ago. The seersucker was left over from a different romper I made for Taco last summer. And the off white pinstriped linen blend, well, that was from a large cut of fabric that you will see the rest of at some future point, since it has been sewn but not photographed.  I'm really delighted with the buttons I chose for it.

I haven't been able to snap any photos of the red and white, but they're getting a lot of wear. I really would put Taco in a romper every day all summer long if I had sewn even more of them.

Anyway, I shall leave you with this picture of Taco enjoying the blue frosting off a cupcake at his cousin's Minion themed birthday party. The blue seersucker actually hid the evidence of the frosting that ended up everywhere later on. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Ease into Motherhood: Yes, I Wear White

I had already been drafting this post when Seamstress Erin put out an open invitation to share experiences of sewing and motherhood in a series called "Ease into Motherhood." Becoming a parent is one of the most normal, yet profound, things that most of us will do at some point in our lives. But how do you ease into something that is like being hit by a 30 foot wall of water? A tsunami of normal.

These days, when a woman has a child, everything she does gets the word "mom" added to it. Think "mom jeans," "mom (hair) do," "mom style" and the like. A woman with a child no longer meets friends for a drink; instead it's "momtinis." She can't have social plans sans child without it being "Mom's Day/Night Out." She can't disagree or do things her own way without it being "mommy wars" or being labeled as that type of mom (seriously, just google types of moms to see the degree of labeling.) Other people - coaches, teachers, anyone who interacts with her in her role as a parent - will even call her "Mom" rather than bothering to learn her name.

I used to be called Clio.

Is it any wonder that many new mothers suffer from a loss of identity?

What's in a name? We're sold this bill of goods that says we should be MOM before anything else. In our pasts, we may have had hobbies and activities, pursued goals and aspirations, and led rich and interesting lives. But once we are mom, we are supposed to be happy and grateful for our selves to be subsumed by motherhood, everything else about us a distant second. I'm a mom first - the mantra of mothers who work - silently adds lest you think I don't truly and deeply love my child because I need things in my life outside of motherhood.  It's not healthy to see ourselves as one dimensional.

Mom is also a name that has a strong attachment to gender norms. So is Dad. And it starts early. From the moment I was pregnant, people in our lives assumed that it was me who wanted to have a child and Phin was along for the ride. Phin even had other men commiserate with him that now he would have to help out at home. Phin and I already had a marriage in which I commuted and went on business trips while he worked from home, which meant he had more time to cook meals, shop and run errands. We eat really well, btw.

The Tsunami. Pregnancy was one of the happiest and healthiest periods of my life. I loved being pregnant. And Taco was an easy newborn. Knowing it would be a tsunami, I gave myself a lot of room to recover and adjust to caring for him, while Phin, who gave himself a generous paternity leave (perks of being your own boss), cared for me. Our home was full of love. It was the second three months that were a struggle. I was ready to get back to doing the things I loved doing, and I was tired of being at home all the time. That's when sleep became a challenge and Taco became more demanding - he was desperate to sit and later stand, but hated the bouncy chair, the swing, or anything other than my lap or arms. I felt like I was drowning; constantly busy yet accomplishing nothing.


It was such a relief when Taco was big enough for the jumparoo, which he was happy to go in at least for a few minutes at a time.

To this day, Taco's motor skills are well above average and his sleep needs are at the low end of normal for his age group. (Read: he's incredibly active and doesn't sleep much.) It was exhausting. Still is. To boot, as we ventured out more as winter was ending and Taco was older, the assumptions and associations of being a mom felt awkward and uncomfortable to me and simply didn't jive with my self image.

I'll never sew again. Sewing, in my mind, was THE THING that could help me feel like me again - a changed me, to be sure - but me at heart. Around this time, another mom in the otherwise wonderful support group I joined at a local lactation center was unsympathetic when I expressed my frustrations. She told me that she used to sew, too, before her first child was born four years prior. Her meaning was clear - sewing is not something that moms have time for and I should get used to it. Get used to giving up my things... my me. I remember emailing a few sewing friends to say "OMG I have a mom-nemesis who says I will never have time for sewing again!"

Taco's WTF face

I later learned that my nemesis was suffering deeply from postpartum depression. My heart softened toward her; I wondered how many other pieces of herself she had given up. But the encounter also convinced me that I needed to prioritize the things that make me feel like me. Sewing. Baking. Knitting. Even work. When I announced on this blog that I was pregnant, I had said "We've built such a wonderful life together and feel like we have so much to give to a child." For that to remain true, I needed to be true to myself and not give up those things that most define me. 

Getting back to sewing helped me feel like my days were not just a blur of nursing, napping and trying to amuse and help my tiny child grow up. Baking, too. In the beginning it was slow going. I remember telling my moms group it took me three days to bake anything: one day to take out the ingredients, one to bake, one to clean up. Sometimes it took 4 days. Sometimes it took weeks to sew something - one seam at a time, one task at a time. But I was sewing. And life got easier when Taco started taking fewer but longer naps.

Jacket sewn one seam at a time

I cannot overstate how important finding a new mom's group run by a social worker was to my experience of new motherhood. It was not a group to talk about parenting tips or our babies; it was a place to talk about ourselves and how we were doing, without judgement. Being told that it was ok to feel how I actually felt and be who I am as opposed to some notion of how mothers are supposed to feel and supposed to be was powerfully validating. I don't have to conform to gender normative ideas about motherhood to be a great mom to Taco. Most of all, the group taught me that my child deserves a mother who is a whole, multi-faceted person and that I don't need to justify or explain or feel guilt for my life outside of motherhood or the times that I need to step away to care for my own needs.

And so I decided to just be me and chart my own course through motherhood. Being a mom has changed me, but it is not the sum total of me. And while I don't have all the answers, being me means:

I like my career.  I didn't feel conflicted when I went back to work when Taco was 6 1/2 months, and I don't feel constantly torn between work and home. Part of this, to be sure, is that I have an incredibly family friendly employer that allows for a great work-life balance; I work a 4-day week - 3 in office, 1 at home. Plus, the commute that used to be a drudge is now time for me to knit. It's the perfect transition between work and home. When I get home I'm ready to give Taco my full attention until bedtime.

Trying on my knitting

When Taco naps, I sew.  I do not pick up a toy, clean a thing, shop online, go on FB or do anything else mundane or that is a time trap during naptime. On the days that I am home, that is my time for me and I keep it like an appointment. Having that reliable, but limited, block of time has made me such a better planner and a more productive sewist. My sewing has also changed. I'm a much less selfish sewist. I sew more for Phin and Taco than I ever thought I would and for the first time I've sewn things for work. I focus more now on developing and then using TNT patterns, which helps me be more productive and have more wins.  Also, sewing connects me with friends and gives me something to talk about besides Taco.

Taco Plays with My Orange Serger Thread

I'm messy and I don't care. Truly. Taco and I bake together. I have just taught him how to crack an egg (he still needs coaching) and it is our favorite thing ever. I also let him play with flour, cupcake liners and non-sharp baking utensils. I am convinced that involving him in the kitchen now is going to pay big dividends someday - already he is generally happy when I ask him if we should bake together and will go to the pantry and start pulling out ingredients whether they are needed or not. If this becomes a shared hobby, so much the better. But in the meantime, I get to bake.

Playing in the Pantry

I wear white. These are my new white trousers sewn with my TNT trouser pattern. Ta-da!! I love them and wear them all the time, which is why they are so wrinkled in these pics. I was sewing these trousers at the same time I was admiring a white sweater knit by another sewist/knitter. There was a comment about her clearly not being a mom. Apparently, moms don't wear white. Something about messes.

With a new seersucker Ogden Cami

I refuse to dress like a mom, whatever that means. I wear silk, I wear white, I wear leather. I wear what I want. If it gets ruined, c'est la vie. I enjoyed wearing it and can sew another. Why limit myself.

I prefer being called a parent. This post aside, I generally don't refer to myself as a mom or working mom or talk about motherhood. I prefer parent. It is a more equal word than mom and not loaded with gendered ideas or norms. And to be clear, I could not do any of the above without having an equal partner in Phineas.

When I went back to work, he rearranged and scaled back his work to be at home with Taco on the days I'm not. Doing all the childcare ourselves, while both having careers, has been a huge commitment. Parents. The two of us working together as equals. And the best advice I can give about getting thru early childhood with a partner is to forget about keeping score of who is working harder, doing more or getting less sleep, and instead focus on sharing what little free time there is as equally as possible. That is really what fights about who is doing what and whose life is harder are about - the stress caused by lack of free time to pursue an interest, exercise, see friends or just be quiet. Making sure we both get what we need in terms of caring for our selves enables us to be whole people for Taco. 

Me at 40; Taco at 10 months. In Venice.

I am Clio. 

I am a sewer of frosting, baker of brownies, knitter of socks, world traveler, resister, sometimes scuba diver, very slow runner, maker of friends, drinker of wine, eater of pizza, proud aunt, admirer of strong women, reader of books, best friend of Phineas, fabric lover, sister to four amazing women, career woman, daughter, and Taco's Ma-ma.

Me being me, Taco being Taco, both happy. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

I Love a Good Jumpsuit

I'm happy that jumpsuits still seem to be going strong as a trend. I've been thinking about sewing a fun and colorful jumpsuit for summer for the last few months, and now that the dog days have arrived in the NY area it moved to the top of the priority list.

This is Very Easy Vogue V9116 sewn up in knit that I bought at Metro Textiles during Pattern Review Weekend last month. The pattern definitely delivers on being very easy to sew.

I love how fun this jumpsuit is, even though I think there are some distinct improvements that could be made both to the pattern and to this awful camera angle.

First, I should tell you that when I compared the crotch curve of this pattern to my TNT trousers, they were very differently shaped. I'm not making a judgement about one or the other, but simply saying that my TNT pattern is "me shaped" and I was skeptical that this pattern would fit as well, given the degree of difference in the two crotches.

So, I melded the two patterns together, using the upper portion of my TNT pattern and the leg of the jumpsuit. Luckily, by simply not marking and sewing the darts of my TNT trousers, the two had very similar waist and hip shapes and measurements. I added additional seam allowance at the waist (where the waistband would attach) to accommodate the higher waistline of the jumpsuit.

What I didn't change was any part of the top of the jumpsuit. This is straight out of the envelope.

The changes that I would make for next time are relatively few and definitely easy to achieve. In looking at the photos and line drawings, I thought there was going to be enough blous-i-ness that I would be able to get the look I wanted from the pattern (slightly less blousy than drafted) without adding length to the top, which is a normal alteration for my 5'9", long-torsoed frame. I was wrong. The jumpsuit fits a bit high on the waist on me. Next time I will probably add an additional 1-2 inches to the top.  Additionally, what I didn't notice in the photos is that the trousers are definitely NOT too long in the crotch. I should have added an additional inch of length above the crotch at the waist. Overall the jumpsuit just fits thru the torso length.

You can see that the top is low cut on both my front and back. I think this is also why you can just see a slight peek of the black strapless bra I am wearing, despite a strategic safety pin. I plan to sew a snap to keep things better in place on this version, but in the future I think extra length would help bring things up and let the crossed front sit a bit better. It seems well drafted.

My only quibble with the pattern is how the waist is constructed.  Here are the instructions: 

On this version of the pattern there is a lot of bulk at the waist. The two sides of the front bodice are self-lined and overlapped. The bodice is then sewn to the pants at the waist with two rows of stitching to make a casing for elastic. I elected to trim the overlap layers back as much as possible. Even so, the way the casing is sewn adds to the bulk. You end up with a 3/4" casing with 3/8" elastic threaded through it  floating inside the jumpsuit waist area. 

I serged the 1/4" seam allowance.

I compared this to a RTW jumpsuit that I own.

On the RTW version, the waist is serged with 1/4" elastic stitched on the waist seam line. It works just as well and I don't feel like the waist is bulky at all. Again, this is an easily fixable quibble.

Overall, I am happy with this jumpsuit and will definitely get some wear out of it this summer and beyond. I've been wearing it a lot. Fun, too-loud patterns are perfect for summer, and this print incorporates all my favorite colors - orange, hot pink and turquoise. Honestly, this outfit seems incomplete without a Mojito in my hand.

Anyway, I hope you are having a great summer. And stay tuned for when I actually blog about the 3 trousers,  1 jumpsuit, 1 shorts, 3 rompers, 1 rash guard and jacket that I've also sewn. Oy. Photography is not our forte!