Thursday, May 31, 2012

Assorted Swimwear

Before our recent vacation, some of us desperately needed new swimwear. Well, more accurately, the speedily growing 8 year old needed new suits, and I wanted to try some ideas for a suit for myself.

For mine, I decided to modify some non-swimsuit patterns to make a tankini and swim shorts set. I modified and lined "Bloom Camisole" (Ottobre 5-2009-1) for the top. 

Then I turned "Jazz Pants" (Ottobre 2-2008-5) into shorts, using wide elastic for the waistband. I lined the shorts with "Simply Basic Undies" (Ottobre 5-2009-2), attaching the two layers at the waistband. The shorts worked surprisingly well, although my black fabric wasn't very stretchy, so I'll try a different fabric next time.

I blogged the above suit before. Can you tell I used the same floral fabric as in my suit? Crazy lighting.

The suits got a beating on the trip - chlorine, sun, multiple washings, so they're a bit faded now.

The orange suit with crazy Chez Ami fabric is a tank suit turned into tankini top with swim shorts.
Seahorse swimsuit (Ottobre 3-2009-38) and Seamus trunks (Ottobre 3-2009-40).

And lastly, the Mermaid suit (Ottobre 3-2011-30). My mother-in-law helped me narrow down fabric choices for this one and I think it's my favorite of the suits I've made.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Wrap Top and Wrap Skirt Duo

I wanted to make this outfit as soon as I saw it in Ottobre's latest women's issue. It took me a while to source a decent striped knit. Navy's not my best color imo, but I like the striking effect of blue and white.

Good thing I bought 2 yards of the striped knit, because my first effort at the top was a miserable failure mainly because the back hem came down to just about, oh my waistline, way above the waistband of the skirt. I never joined the "exposed midriff" trend and half a lifetime later it still doesn't seem to be my thing.

The other problem was the stripes were going in the wrong direction on the front, even though I followed the stripe direction arrows. I saw other people had this problem, too. The pieces are a little counter-intuitive, but cutting out a longer version of the top gave me an opportunity to correct the stripes, too.

Above you can see how I slashed horizontally on both pattern pieces (back and front), and added 4 inches. Some truing of lines is necessary.

Note that most of the hems are built in so you'll want to add seam allowances just to the shoulder seams. At least that's what I did! I made none of my standard shoulder pattern alterations.

Aside from the strangely short length, I found the fit to be very good. I used a stretchy knit with good recovery, so that certainly affects the fit of the wrap, but the wrap portion is quite snug with no gaping and the vee is not too low. I liked the look of the ruched sides, too.

So, all in all, I thinks it's a great top. If your knit is not very stretchy, the midriff might be too snug. As the pattern is drawn, the tightness of the wrap appears to be what really makes it work without gaping.

And the skirt. This was very quick to make. The waist and front overlaps are faced (in red gingham in this case). There are 4 darts and three buttons. (One is decorative, with a functioning one on the inside for the underlap).

The skirt overlap is fairly wide which makes the wrap securer than most.
I referred to the line drawing for button placement, but the skirt hangs lower than I'd like. But as you can see from the back view, it's too big anyway. I've never made an Ottobre skirt before and didn't think that I usually take out hip width when I make Ottobre pants.

So, if I made the skirt again, I'd slim it slightly and add length to compensate for raising the skirt closer to the waist.

Martina Cap-Sleeve Top (Ottobre 2-2012-10)
Serena Wrap-Around Skirt (Ottobre 2-2012-11)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

1981 Peasant

I had a lot of fun making this one. And this is one of the few cases where I've actually purchased a fabric intended for a certain pattern and then made it up in fairly short order.

This fabric shouted "70's" to me, so I thought of the vintage peasant top pattern I had. Little sister got the same fabric in yellow. How soon will I sew that one up?

When I make a garment for the kids it seems it is either a complete fail or a complete success - meaning they never wear it or they wear it non-stop so I never want to see it again.

This red shirt fall in the "success" category. I'm sure the fabric's already fading from the wash.

The sleeves are raglan and the neck has an elastic casing. Surprisingly, the pattern guide for elastic length was just right!

I chose the view with the cute sleeve ties and learned a new technique in the process. I won't try to describe it in words, but it was kind of like a waistband finish with each band using an inside and outer layer.

The pattern, Simplicity 5394, is from 1981. I guess it's not 70's after all.

I did end up making a skirt to match since Sara's current skirts are either wildly printed or wildly colored. Oops, need to make more basics.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Blouse, Skirt & Pants Style Book

In Mid-April, we took a trip to a place in California where, conveniently, one of the few Kinokuniya stores is located in the U.S. Because it is a Japanese bookstore, it sells Japanese pattern books and magazines, and lots of other tempting items like every eraser shape imaginable.

I bought 5 erasers packages (one for each kid) and 2 books and 2 magazines for myself. The prices were much better than I can find online. And way cheaper than flying to Japan.

The "pattern book" section was so tightly packed with hundreds of pattern books, it was hard to pry books from the shelf. Plenty of crocheting, felting, beading, origami, crafting, etc. books had their shelf space, too.

Here's an overview of one of the books. I'll show you the rest in other posts.

Blouse, Skirt & Pants Style book (ISBN 9784579113439) is my favorite of the bunch. It features 12 basic patterns: 6 for tops and 6 for bottoms, with 4 variations on each style.

The pull-out pattern sheet includes the basic patterns, and the diagrams show how to change the basic pattern to achieve the different styles.

4 sizes are included:
S (79, 60, 86) in cm or (31, 23.5, 34) in inches
M (83, 64, 90) in cm or (32.5, 25, 35.5) in inches
ML (87, 68, 94) in cm or (34.25, 27, 37) in inches
L (91, 72, 98) in cm or (36, 28.5, 38.5) in inches

For each pair of styles, several fabric swatch options are shown.

And then those garments are shown made up in those "fabrics".

Above, you can see the diagrams showing what to alter from the basic pattern to get each style variation.

A separate section gives the fabric layout guide and stitching instructions. The sewing steps are numbered on the illustration in case you don't read Japanese.

I've traced two items from the book so far, the sleeveless vest and slim pants above. Unfortunately, "I traced" does not mean the same thing as "I sewed".

The poncho blouse looks really interesting, as do the wide pants. The blouse would be nice in lawn.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


My oldest girl really needed a new leotard for gymnastics (they stretch vertically, but only so much). Since they're fairly quick to make, I made unitards for the other girls, too. Knowing you'll inherit your older sister's old leotards is not exactly the same as picking fabric for a brand new one.

Molly chose this animal print with hearts because it matched her idol's (older sister's) new suit. Just think of the trouble you can get into if you idolize a 6 year old.

Molly's suit is in a straight size G (toddler 3) because she hasn't slimmed down (yet?) like the other two. She's apparently getting plenty of nourishment despite her generalized refusal to eat meals. After comparing their measurements to Jalie's chart, I did slim the older girls' suits by two sizes.

The neckline is lower in the back than in the front. I made Sara's black suit first and didn't realize this, so my binding seam is in the front. Oops!

Do you like the black and baby blue zebra print? It used to be black and white, but came out of the washer black and blue, ha ha.

I think the fit is pretty good. The shoulder straps seems to sit a little wide, especially on Sara, and that's her widest part. The fit on Sara's two suits (the black and the zebra print) is quite different because the fabrics are so different. The zebra print is soft and flexible and the black is very thick and taut. So, Sara felt the black suit was a little snug in the upper thighs. Because of this, I added width to the legs in Molly's suit, which seems to have been a good idea.

One of my hopes was to make a leotard or unitard which would require as little readjustment during class as possible. You know, instead of run, front handspring, landing, tug tug tug, run, front handspring, tug tug tug, landing you just have run, front handspring, landing.

So I observed all the girls' in their class to see which kind of suits required the least adjustment. (Oh, the things sewists are willing to do - in public, no less!) Both tank suits and unitards required semi-frequent adjustments. One girl whose unitard was gigantic on her never adjusted her suit. Tank suits with bike shorts over them seemed to need the least adjustment. I think if the legs were a little looser on these unitards, they wouldn't ride up quite as must.

I like the construction on these because they seemed to whip up pretty fast without the need for any elastic.
I serged the binding strips to the right sides, folded them over the edge, and coverstiched.

The crotch piece is a rectangle sewn to the insides of the legs.

Here you can see the crotch lining piece (which is identical to the crotch piece). After serging the crotch piece to the suit pieces, I serged one side of the lining, right sides together, to the seam. Then I folded under the seam allowance of the other side, pinned it on the inside as well as I could, reached inside and pulled the not-yet-sewn-seam out, and serged it, thus enclosing the seam.

The pattern I used is Jalie 3138. It includes both a tank leotard and a unitard.

Previously, I've used Jalie 2443 for gymnastics leotards, which is also very nice. It has a tank leotard with several different views, including one with sleeves. That's out of print, but available for download for cheaper than a new Jalie pattern from here.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


My number 2 boy turned 10 (last month). I think you can tell from his expression that he's a pretty funny guy. I think he might find a career as noise effects guy if that job description doesn't die out completely in this digital age.

So I made the expected birthday shirt. I tried to do something interesting by using letters this time. Of course he asked me, "Why didn't you use Roman Numerals?"

This pattern is from Ottobre 3-2011-24 and is intended to be slim-fitting. It is certainly slim-fitting! I normally slim his shirts by two sizes, but this one I traced as is. Good thing I didn't alter it.

I think it fits really well and the sleeve and neck bindings are a nice step up from standard t-shirt hems.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Back to our Regular Programming

No, our vacation didn't last a month. (If only!) But it's taken me a few weeks to get back into the groove of normal life. I'll be posting my backlog of sewing in the next few weeks.

You probably don't want to see ALL 1400 photos from our trip, so I've uploaded just a few highlights.

But first, the trip statistics. You know I love statistics, but my husband may love them even more.

We took 12 days to drive from Minnesota to California and back again, driving different routes to and from.

Total miles driven: 4800
Average miles per gallon: 19.17 (fully loaded van, driving through the mountains = not fuel efficient)
Total fuel stops: 24
Average price of gas: $3.89/gallon
Lowest gas price: $3.529 in Wyoming (our local gas prices are $0.10 - $0.15 higher)
Highest gas price: $4.699 in California
States visited: 10
Public restroom visits: 70 (including an outhouse at a state park which was a terrifying experience for the youngest two)
New bird species identified: about 35

We made a short stay at two different resorts: one in Newport Beach, California and one in Phoenix, Arizona and tried to stop at as many state and national parks as possible.

Our first two stops were the Lewis and Clark National Monument in Council Bluffs, Iowa and The Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The Petrified Forest National Park may have been my favorite stop. Molly's an aspiring paleontologist in the visitor center.

Through binoculars (and camera zoom in this case) we got a nice look at a good number of petroglyphs (rock writing) dating from 1000-1350 A.D.

The old Route 66 used to run through the Petrified National Forest. This old car part is from Route 66's glory days, but it's not petrified yet.

The desert landscape is strewn with petrified logs and fragments.

I love this photo of Sara doing what she does best: reading. Here we were packing up the car in the morning after stopping over at a hotel on our way to the Grand Canyon.

Brown pelicans flying in formation on the Pacific coast.

A great shot of an Allen's hummingbird. My husband spent a lot of time getting shots of these birds and managed to get a video of a parent feeding a young one.

The whole family at Crystal Cove State Park right on the beach. The state park is an ideal way to see the beach and its flora and fauna.

As we entered the Mojave desert, heading toward California, our air conditioner's blower fan went out. At the dealership, we discovered it'd be good to replace the leaking water pump and radiator, too. The good news is the dealership was just down the road from Kinokuniya, the Japanese bookstore. The kids got some cute erasers and I got some pattern books.

Leaving California, we stopped at Joshua Tree National Park on the way to Phoenix, Arizona.

The girls are sporting their handmade Ottobre suits.

Saguaro cactus.
It was crazy driving through desert and a blizzard in the mountains in the same day. Here we're in the Colorado Rockies, where we stopped to do a bit of hiking at Genessee Park.

On our last leg of the trip, we stopped by Mount Rushmore, Wall Drug, and Buffalo Gap National Grasslands in the Badlands. Phew! It was a great trip.


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