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 themom100.com

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 tasteofhome.com 

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!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Nettie Sweater Dress (Times Two!)

Look!  I've actually sewn a pattern more than once! And I finally managed to snap a few pictures.

The Closet Case Files Nettie Bodysuit and Dress is a pattern that came out while I was pregnant with Taco, so it went on the "sew this eventually" list. I love bodycon dresses and I love sweater dresses. So, it seemed pretty natural to merge the two loves. I haven't sewn very much with sweater knits, so before trying to work with the good stuff, I figured I would work with the okay stuff, ordered on-line.

Here's my first version of Nettie, with very little in the way of alterations. Aside from grading from a 10 on top to a 14 at the hip, the only change I made was to add a little length. I was counting on my sweater knit being a nice stretchy rib to account for the extra room I need through the bust these days. I'm happy enough with how this dress looks and fits. But check out the back. 

Let's talk about this puddling of fabric.  I think if I posted this dress on a sewing forum or this blog with a photo of the back captioned "Help! What is the problem/what alteration do I need?" it would spark a conversation about the sway back alteration. In reality, that is not what I think is going on.

Pre-Taco, I didn't need a swayback adjustment. And the most tangible post-partum change to my body is that my bust is a few inches larger (this will probably change after we finish weaning.) Since a bigger bust means that I need width and length added to the front of the dress in order to go over the bust, what is going on here is a puddling of fabric at the back waist, because the dress is essentially riding up in the front - taking the extra fabric it needs to go over the bust. Further evidence is that you can see that the wrinkles actually do creep around the side of the dress and terminate at the bust.

Wrinkles originate at the bust.

To test this theory - and because I wanted another, lighter weight Nettie for the warming weather - I sewed the pattern again.

Now in red

This time I made an FBA.  You can see that I left the darts in rather than rotating them out. There is a very logical reason for this: Taco woke up from a nap at that point and I forgot to go back and rotate them out before cutting fabric. These things happen with a small child. My FBA is very imperfect. It looks like the dart should be about an inch higher.

Bust dart.

However, shoddy job with the FBA aside, you can see that - having added width and length - I no longer have fabric pooling at the back waist. Voila. FBA for the win. Sort of. Adding fabric to the front left me with too much fabric at the front waist. I really should take it in a little bit at the midriff.

Oh look. No puddled fabric.

But, dang! Doesn't the back look great?

The long and short is that I am not done with this pattern. I actually see both of these as wearable muslins, the key reason being that the fabric just doesn't measure up for me. The gray fabric is a little scratchy. And the red one... Ahhh, the red one... I feel slightly fraudulent about these pictures, which make the dress look pretty good. I had to choose the red dress photos carefully so that my unfortunately colorful choice in undies and bra didn't show thru this thin red rib, which is also not very stretchy. It just isn't a lovely fabric to sew or to wear. It clings to every little imperfection.

There is a lesson to be learned for me here. I should always sew with fabric that I would be happy to wear, rather than just ok fabric. My sewing time is limited; I want my results to be top notch. And if I had started with beautiful fabric from the start I'd have two dresses that I love instead of two that I think are ok.

That said, I did learn a bit about sewing sweater knits. The favorite tip that I picked up was to use lingerie or other stretchy and light-weight elastic as hem tape. First sew the elastic to the right side of the fabric. Then trim and turn to the inside to form the hem. By catch stitching the elastic to the fabric, you get a very stretchy and invisible hem.

Red lingerie elastic as hem tape

Anyway, come Autumn, you can expect to see another Nettie in a nicer fabric. Although I'll call these a win for now.

I mean, really, just look at the awesome high and tight armscye. It's perfect! I need about a dozen more of these as dresses and tops in all the neck and back variations.