Monday, September 19, 2016

Megan Nielsen Dove Blouse

I was very excited to get an email a while back about being a pattern tester for a Megan Nielsen pattern. I have admired her patterns for a long time. The pattern I was sent was the Dove blouse. I really like this pattern, and I keep thinking of new variations of it that I could make.

It was a little bright out when I was taking these! Haha
I chose this rayon challis (no longer available) from to use for my first version of this top. I wanted to just make the pattern as-is to get a good feel for it. I tend to alter patterns (and recipes) the first time I use them, but I wanted to give this a fair shot at simply being itself. My initial impression was that this was a very versatile pattern that could be altered in a number of ways, but it's very wearable in its original incarnation, too. It's been a great casual-but-not-too-casual shirt. I work part-time, have a toddler, and like to look a little put together but in an easy, quick way. This fits my wardrobe needs perfectly.

The flared and bell sleeves are not my style, but the rest of the blouse definitely is. My biggest issue with this was my fabric choice; I've never sewn with challis before. I definitely stretched out that V neckline. I also had some issues with the hem, mainly due to my decision to just start sewing without going out to buy matching thread (I know) and then the fact that I misread the seam allowance and made the whole shirt shorter than intended. I need to re-sew the hem before it falls out completely. I didn't have any issues with the pattern pieces fitting together correctly or even any fit issues. Overall, it's a top that I really like. It's very comfortable and the style is easy to wear. I'm planning to make another one in a linen that I have, I just need to verify that I have enough of it first! It may end up being sleeveless, and/or colorblocked.

What I learned: The pattern itself was straightforward and fitting-wise, this was the easiest pattern I've sewn. I did learn a lot about using lightweight, easily stretched out fabrics. Stay-stitching was useless for me here; I can never get the tension quite right on my machine and I couldn't get it low enough to stop the fabric from gathering while trying to sew a line of stitches across a single layer of fabric. And as mentioned, I ended up stretching the neckline out. My project after this one was also rayon, although it was more of a gauze (post to come soon!), and I was able to keep it from having the same issues I had here by using fusible interfacing on the areas that I would have otherwise staystitched. In the future I might also try using a wash-away stabilizer, the type used for embroidery, on any areas that need extra stabilizing while sewing that I don't want to risk changing the drape of, like a center front seam. Oh, and just buy the matching thread! I do like the clean look of no visible topstitching, but my hemming job does not meet the qualifications for something that will last more than a few wears and washes.

Oh the waves on that neckline...

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Royal Quills Half Buckle

As a continuation of the DIY babywearing discussion - which, by the way, is basically running non-stop in my brain - I recently made a half-buckle carrier, aka a wrap strap mei tai with a buckle waist. Some half buckles have padded, structured waists meant to be worn on the hips, much like an SSC, but I just wanted the quickness and ease (especially for unfastening) of a buckle on the waist straps but otherwise wanted a wrap strap mei tai.

I got this beautiful Kokoskaa size 2 wrap from the Babywearing Swap on Facebook. It's a cotton/Tencel blend and was beautiful to wrap with. I almost kept it as a shorty but really wanted to make this carrier. It made me a Kokoskaa fan and a huge Tencel fan. It's soft and smooth and lovely with enough texture to keep it from being slippery, and the pattern and color are gorgeous. I used a linen that I already had in my stash for the inner panel, doubled up.

I made a test carrier to verify that my guess for the measurements would be OK. I had a tablecloth that I never ever use and don't really like. It's about 2/3 cotton, 1/3 polyester, so technically OK for babywearing but it's just very tablecloth-y if you know what I mean. It was short, so my tester had short straps, but they were actually useable. Not ideal, but useable for me - everyone is shaped and sized differently, and the wonderful thing about DIY is that you can customize to fit your own shape, size, and wrapping preferences. I chose to make my final carrier with longer straps, but I now know what I can potentially get away with.

Most of my shapes were rectangles, so I pulled threads to cut on grain
Disclaimer: I am going to explain my process in some detail. It is for reference only, it is not intended to be advice for you and/or any carrier you intend to make.

I made up the pattern myself. It makes me happier that way (although sometimes it makes me more frustrated, too). I basically used a rectangle with rounded top edges for the body of the carrier, and I traced off my Tula curves for those rounded edges. The rest of the body is not like the Tula - there are no darts and it's not the same width or length.

Making a carrier has a few basic steps - sew straps, both waist and shoulder; attach straps to carrier body; sew carrier body panels together. It doesn't need to be done in that order. I chose to make my waistband unstructured/unpadded and meant to be worn apron style, although I can wear it non-apron as well. I also chose to sew the carrier right sides together with just a single opening for turning, although many tutorials use a method that leaves separate openings for each strap. The steps I took were:

* Sew narrow waistband straps from linen (to take the place of webbing), attach buckles; female end of buckle attached with x-box, male end threaded (correctly threaded! - it took me more than one try) onto longer strap

* Sew shorter, wider waistband "straps," approx 3" x 4.5" finished size. I could have done a separate waistband that extended wider than the panel and skipped this step, but I chose to just make the panel longer and have short waistband straps. You have to measure the narrowest part of your waist where you might wear this to be sure your straps/buckles/webbing won't be too small or too large around your waist. My test carrier clued me in to this.

* Stitch narrow waist straps onto wider straps by laying the narrower ones on top of the wider, centered, with the female buckle half extending just off the end of the wider strap and lining up the ends that will be inside the body panel

* Cut taper on longer strap. They started out as one taper from wrap cut in half, so one was longer than the other and both were angled the same direction. Lay shorter strap on top of longer strap, right sides together, and (while adding seam allowance) cut longer strap at same angle. They will now mirror each other.

* Hem shoulder straps on both long edges and one short edge

* Pleat shoulder straps to 4.5" wide (find center of strap, fold one edge to the center then fold back towards outer edge so fold meets center and hemmed edge is about 1/2" from folded edge; repeat on other side; repeat both steps on other strap)

* Arrange all straps on top of outer body panel (wrap fabric panel), right sides together, so the appropriate amount of strap (the part that will be seen on the outside when completed) is pointing "into" the body panel and the rest (which will be in the seam allowance) is pointing "out" of the panel.
   * To line up the waist straps, I marked with pins on the body panel where I wanted the bottom corner of the straps to be, 1.5" up from the bottom (for seam allowance plus .5") and 1" from the edge (seam allowance):

   * Then I marked with pins on the straps how far I wanted to sink them into the carrier/how far I wanted them to stick out (I left about 4.5" of the wider waistband part sticking out of the body panel when it was all completed) and lined up those pins with the pins on the body panel:

   * Then I pinned them in place. The pins used to line them up were taken out or they'd be in the way when it came time to sew everything together.

* Place inner body panels (linen) on top of the straps and pin everything in place. I rolled up the shoulder straps to keep them out of the way - they created a busty little carrier ;)

Might be a little hard to see, but the left side of this shows the basting stitches that keep everything aligned, right side has normal stitch length
* Stitch around the entire carrier leaving a good opening for turning (5" or so) - I prefer to stitch up to the opening, backstitch, stitch forward again to the opening, then baste across that space, change back to regular stitch length, do a few stitches, backstitch, and keep going. That way, I know my opening edges are lined up, it gives me a good line to press open that seam, and I can just pull out those basting stitches when I need to open it up and the stitches on either side of the opening are still reinforced so they don't pop open when I pull everything right side out.

* Turn everything right side out, press

* Sew X-boxes for reinforcement over the strap ends inside the carrier

* Top stitch around the carrier

* If I'm feeling crazy some day, I'll slipstitch the opening closed instead of just letting the topstitching keep it closed.

My carrier is about 18" wide x 19" high at the inner strap edge (then has a slight curve up in the center). It fits my almost-2-year-old very well, and I can adjust how far up the panel comes between us to get her arms in or arms out, but she usually prefers arms out. The wrap straps are nice - they give extra support around her and I can spread them out and adjust them on my shoulders to spread out the pressure of carrying a 30 lb child. The finished straps are 73" at the short taper.

It rolls up nicely, too.