Friday, November 27, 2015

Maker Gift Guide : Novice Natural Dyer

There is one thing I know for sure, starting a new hobby is expensive. Like many makers, I was recently bitten by the natural dying bug. With all that goldenrod and poke weed just sitting around, why not collect some just to see what happens. Free weeds make any hobby seem like a bargain, but as you dig deeper into any new project you realize it's rarely that simple. If there is someone in your life with little pots and old jars filled with experiments, do her a favor and get her some proper tools.  A few necessities from the hardware store gathered into a neat little package would make a great gift for the maker in your life. 

1. The Modern Natural Dyer by Kristine Vejar. Any new craft is best begun with a good instruction manual. I started dabbling in natural dye just before Kristine Vejar's new book was released. It is the third book I tried (not to mention all the websites), and it was definitely the most helpful. It's great for a beginner, and the beautiful images make it a great gift. 

2. Scale. I am a trial and error kind of girl, and dye is a fun thing to experiment with, but if you want to get the same results twice a good scale (and good notes) is a must. 

3. Really Big Pot. Even the roughest google search for natural dye recipes will tell you that you don't dye in the same pot you cook in. Dyers suggest a non reactive metal pot. I find that enamel is the most economical option, and available in the kitchen section of most big stores. 

4. Prereduced Indigo Crystals. Indigo is a very popular natural dye because of it beautiful and iconic blue color. It's also nothing to be trifled with, and required fermentation to achieve the signature color. This is pretty advanced for the novice, buy you can skip the most complicated parts with indigo crystals that dissolve in water. 

5. Rubber Gloves. The point of dye is to intentionally stain something permanently, but let's not stain our hands. Rubber gloves are a must. 

6. Storage Bucket. When could a plastic bucket ever be a good gift?! When you use it to store the dye you worked so hard to make. Many natural dyes can be used at room temperature, or the dye liquid can be stored for extended periods. A simple 5 gallon bucket gives you plenty of room for the dye and a few pounds of yarn or fabric. The lid keeps your dye snuggly protected when you're not using it. The bucket also makes great gift wrap. Tuck all the supplies in the bucket and top it with a bow!

For more dye inspired gift suggestions check out the Novice Natural Dyer Pinterest board

Monday, November 23, 2015

Chambray Dot Franklin Dress

A little something for Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma's house: the Franklin Dress from Brooklyn Pattern Company. I've had my eye on this dress since it was first released last year. Its very similar to a dress I made from a vintage pattern a few years ago, but that pattern only had one size. I love the classic lines, but never found the time to try to size up the pattern. Now I don't have to. Erin generously gave me a copy when we met in Philly a few months ago.

I have been hoarding this fabric for a long time. I bought it two summers ago at Homemade while on one of those extended family vacations where aunts, in-laws, and cousins all share the same house. Luckily, my extended family (my husband's actually) likes to fabric shop. I think we've perused every scrap of fabric on the Jersey Shore. Homemade is one of our annual stops, and it just keeps getting better. 
Pattern: Franklin Dress from Brooklyn Pattern Company. This pattern has puffed, 3/4 length sleeves with a kid friendly elastic edge. The yoke can button at the front or back. I chose the front buttons so L could dress herself. There are on seam side pockets, so L can carry home all the lucky pennies she finds on the sidewalk. 

Fabric: Robert Kaufman Chambray Union Dot. I love this fabric, and have thought it too precious to cut into for some time. It's silly really, because you can still buy it. It is the perfect print for this dress, but I fear it is a bit light weight to hold up to little girl wear and tear. I don't like the kids to have to be to careful of their clothes, and the first time L wore it the velcro on her coat snagged some of the dots. might have to save this for special occasions until after the holidays.

Size/Fit: Based on L's measurements I made a size six. It fits with room to grow. 
I added some navy blue piping at the edge of the front and back yoke. The buttons are a vintage mix-match from my stash. I like the look, but I love that I didn't have to leave the house for more buttons. 

Pattern: Franklin Dress from Brooklyn Pattern Company
Dress Fabric: Robert Kaufman Chambray Union Dot from Homemade
Ridiculous Red Boots that somehow go with everything: Old West Boots

Friday, November 20, 2015

5 More: Tried and True Shirt Patterns

It's Day 20 of the Bimble and Pimple Sewvember on Instagram. If you've been playing along, you know that today's photo prompt is tried and true. As I was mentally sifting through my mountain of patterns looking for the "best", I was feeling a little guilty about picking just one. It's like choosing a favorite ice cream. My favorite depends largely on the season, or my mood. So as not to hurt the feelings of any of my beloved stable of indie designs, I've whittled it down to a small group. Whether they are the most worn, or the most sewn, these are the 5 shirt patterns I come back to again and again.

For me the value is in the versatility. Often the simplest design, the kind you scratch your head and think "do I really need a pattern for this?" are the best because they leave the most room for you to modify them. It's an added bonus if the designer offers modification tutorials for a that pattern.

When looking for a pattern to become your "tried and true" look past the bells and whistles to the core structure. I think about the design lines I'm looking for and decide which core features I need to achieve the look I want. If you want a set in sleeve, or bust darts, find a pattern that offers them because they are crucial to the fit. If you want a scoop neck, or a hi/lo hem those can be easily added without significantly impacting the over all fit.

1. Basics Tank from Cali Faye Collection
Image from Cali Faye Collection
Core Features: Tank top, No Dart

This top fits me like a glove with very little alteration. It does not have a dart, but makes me feel like a million bucks so I don't mind. The elliptical neckline and curved hem flatter my best features. It is amazing that something so simple can do so much. This is my very favorite woven tank tee.

Modifications: Elastic Waist Dress (you can purchase the dress as a separate pattern, more experienced seamstresses can add their own). I would love to lengthen this into a shift dress, haven't done it yet.

2. Lou Box Top from Sew DIY
Image From Sew DIY
Core Features: Dolman Sleeve

Perfect simplicity. Easy to add a skirt. Simple sewing at it's best.

Modifications: Elastic Waist Dress, Cover Up, Button Back.

3. Scout Tee from Grainline Studio
Image from Grainline Studio
Core Features: Set in sleeve, no dart
I've never made this pattern as directed. I tinker with the edges (the sleeve length, hem shape, and neckline), but at the core it's still a Scout Tee.

Modifications: Knit Scout, Long sleeves, Tiny Pocket Hem, Split Neck, Button Back (I did this, but haven't blogged it yet.)

4. Archer Button Up from Grainline Studio
Image from Grainine Studio
Core Features: Button-down, cuffed sleeve, collar with collar stand, back yoke, no dart.

I love this pattern for the sew-a-long instructions on the Grainline blog. The pictures are very detailed, allowing the novice to achieve a very polished finish. I recommend a crisp cotton for your first try. I once made with a 10 ounce denim which is so thick it made the finishing a hot mess.

Modifications: View B is well worth the sew. I modified the ruffle placement to be more flattering on me.

5. Alder Shirtdress from Grainline Studio
Image from Grainline Studio
Core Features: Button-down, no sleeves, collar with stand, back yoke, dart

I consider this to be an extension of the Archer Button Up because the mix and match possibilities are great. Use the Grainline tutorial to add the Archer Sleeves to the Alder and you have a pattern for all seasons.

Modifications: View B is just as good as View A. Add the Archer Sleeves. View A as shirt. View B as shirt.
1. Alder + Archer 2. Lou Box Dress 3. Split Neck Scout Tee 4. Broken Stripe Lou Box Top
Sure, my "tried & true" is pretty heavy with Grainline patterns, but if they were crap I wouldn't keep buying them. Actually, there are many great top patterns out there. Look for a pattern with good instructions, and good support information as part of the pattern or offered on the designer's blog. Make the pattern based on your actual measurements. Maybe you'll love the fit, but probably you won't, fit is subjective. Use your rough draft to tweak the pattern to your own specifications. Do you need a full bust adjustment? Are darts always a little low? Do you grade between sizes? It's worth the effort to figure out these modifications, then you can whip up a top that makes you feel like a million bucks over, and over (and over) again.

What are your tried and true patterns? What makes you sew the same thing again and again?

Check out #bpsewvember on Instagram for more tried and true pattern idea.


What's up with 5 More? 
I suspect that if I'm up into the wee hours of the night searching for a certain style of sewing pattern, others are probably shopping for it, too. With the 5 More series I try to sift through the mountains of patterns, and possibilities in search of 5 safe bets, for good results. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Kid's Cocoon Dress

The Halloween Cowgirl turned out to be a much bigger project than I originally intended, there was a lot of trial and error with the embellishment, and the sequins drove me very near the edge of sanity. When it was finished I needed a break. Not a break from sewing, just from figuring. I impulse bought the Cocoon Dress seconds after I saw Trine's blog post. It's got great style, and I suspected from the t-shirt like construction that it would be a sure thing. Not to mention, L is suffering from a serious shortage of cold weather clothing (how does she grow so fast?!). A couple of Cocoon dresses would go a long way to fill that gap. 
Pattern: This is the Cocoon Dress from Groovy Baby & Mama. It is a basic t-shirt dress with the addition of a few curves to give it a cocoon shape. It comes with optional shoulder ruffles. This is a great first release from GB&M, the fit is accurate, the instruction clear, the price very reasonable. I will definitely make it again, and can't wait to see more from GB&M.

Fabric: Quilted Knit from the Joann Doodles Collection. I rarely impulse buy at Joann. I go in, get my staples, and get out. But this fabric had to come home with me. I only bought a yard (because I was originally thinking sweatshirt), but it's extra wide (57"), and I easily got a size 6 dress and two sets (oops) of sleeves out of it. The one short coming is that it isn't fleece on the wrong side, and isn't very cozy.

Size/Fit: I think this is a pretty accurate fit. I sewed a size 6 based on L's measurements. I could probably have gone up to a 7 for additional wear, but wanted to play it safe since this is my first attempt, and L wasn't home when I was cutting.
Alterations: Because this is a Groovy Baby & Mama pattern decided to do it up in GB&M style. Instead of the optional shoulder ruffles,  epaulettes at the shoulders. The pleather accent goes a long was to give this super sweet fabric a little edge. To make a clean neck finish with the added material I used a neck band rather than turning the raw edge under as directed. This fabric is sweatshirt weight and I wanted it to wear like a sweatshirt. I lengthened the sleeves by 3 inches and added 2 inch cuffs, so that L could wear it without a cardigan.


Pattern: Cocoon Dress by Groovy Baby and Mama
Fabric: Quilted Knit from Joann Doodles Collection
Leggings Pattern: Playtime Leggings from Oliver and S (blogged here)
Shoes: Coed Chukka Boots from Lands End

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Men's Hudson Pants

I never buy clothing for my husband. He is way to hard to please. Once I bought him 4 black fleece jackets for Christmas in the vain hope that one of them would be "right". He returned all 4. (At least that's how I remember it, if he wants to tell his side, he'll have to get his own blog) Given my low odds of success, sewing for him seems like an exercise in futility. I would love to sew the Jutland  Pants, or a few Strathcona Henleys, but the stakes are way too high. When the Men's Hudson Pants came along, I knew they were the perfect project for me to try out sewing for men. The time investment is relatively small (pdf printing to finished garment in less than 3 hours), and the loungewear look means if they never leave the house I can still count it as a success. This was definitely a great opportunity to hash out some of his complex specifications. 
The Men's Hudson Pants are the newest addition to the True Bais pattern line up, and Kelli's first pattern for men. I tested this pattern, so I guess I should mention that I got it for free, and give you a chance to temper my enthusiasm accordingly. Keep in mind, I had already made half a dozen pairs of Mini Hudson Pants when Kelli asked for volunteers, and I threw a few elbows (or would have) to get the chance. 

The Men's Hudson Pants are a quick sew, and a reliable fit, just like the kid's version. If you need one pair, you probably need 3 and can whip them all up in an afternoon.  This fabric is a perfectly soft sweatshirt knit with 40% stretch from Fleishman Fabrics on Fabric Row. If you live in Philly, hustle yourself on over there, a light heather gray and navy were in stock a few days ago. Either would be perfect for this pattern. 
The thing about Hudson Pants is that they seem to multiply almost on their own. While rummaging for sweatshirt fleece, I came up with enough to make a few pairs of Mini Hudson Pants for the kids. For J's I used some delicious sweat shirting from It has very little stretch, so I went up a size and added a bit to the length of the cuffs and waistband. 
For L's I used an uber discounted berry pink sweatshirt fleece from Surplus City. I actually made this pair first, and forgot to make the cuffs longer to compensate for a total lack of stretch. I didn't have enough to cut new cuffs so I found some coordinating jersey knit, ironed some knit interfacing to the back, and made a decorative patch. Not a bad looking mistake. 
A whole family of Hudson Pants, these guys are ready for some serious holiday lounge time.

Pattern: Men's Hudson Pants by True Bias
Fabric: Sweatshirt Fleece from Fleishman Fabrics
Pattern: Mini Hudson Pants size 10 by True Bias
Fabric: Charcoal Sweatshirt Fleece from
Pattern: Mini Hudson Pants size 7 by True Bias
Fabric: Sweatshirt Fleece from Surplus City

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween

I could pretend that I made this costume for L, but as anyone who has ever hand sewn sequins knows...I made this costume for me. When J was 2, I made him the first version of this costume, and it wasn't quite what I had envisioned. I was new to sewing, had never drafted my own anything, and the end result was respectable, but not quite right. I had some unfinished business with the cowboy/girl and I had to finish it this year. 
This vest is a modified Hansel and Gretel Vest. The chaps are self-drafted using a few basic measurements. The button down shirt is a hand me down Theo Button Up from J's outfit in Stylo 3. The boots are from eBay, the jeans from Lands End. 
The belt buckle is layers of wool felt and embroidery. I've never embroidered before (the internet taught me how) and the biggest obstacle was transferring the image. I usually use a window as a light table, but I did this well after bedtime the night before L's school party. I wish there was no shadow of the pencil I traced the image with, but the singer marking pen let me down, and I was too tired to much improvisation.
My kids have never (ever!) had a full sized candy bar, and tonight they each have two. I think that about sums up our trick or treat experience. Philadelphia is a city that is more than happy to chew you  up and spit you out, but somehow Halloween and free candy (and free wine) bring people together!

The skeleton below was made by my mother-in-law 30-ish years ago! It's aged well and J was thrilled to wear Grandmom's creepy costume (which is lucky considering how long it took to sew on all those sequins!). 
Happy Halloween!


Vest Pattern: Hansel and Gretel Vest by SweetKM
Main Fabric: Sew Classic Micro Suede from Joann
Accent Fabric: From my stash
Wool Felt: from Felt on the Fly
Chaps Pattern: Self Drafted
Button Down Shirt: Theo Button Up by Zonen 09
Boots: Old West 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Plaid Flannel Scout Tee

Last week we went on a last minute over night trip to the farm, and ended up staying a whole week.  This Scout Tee (pattern from Grainline Studio) was the only non t-shirt I packed. I wore it to church, date night, and a funeral. It's a lot of print for this shrinking violet, but even after all that over-wear, I still love it.

This is a pretty reference rich blog post (and there will be a link recap at the end). Between the slit neck variation, and plaid matching, I was all over the inter web learning new things. I've matched plaids and stripes before, using my own made up techniques. In a concerted effort to learn new things, I actually looked up plaid matching before I started cutting. Wouldn't you know the Grainline tutorial landed at the top of my search. I used Jen's instructions, and read the nicely illustrated she suggested by Really Homemade. Both are worth the read.
PATTERN: Scout Tee from Grainline Studio. The first time I made this top, I didn't love it. Yet here I am with another. I blame it on the wealth of variations supplied by the Grainline blog. The basic scoop neck Scout is not something I need more than one of (actually I've never made it without variations). When you tinker with edges, it suddenly becomes something perfectly suited to me.

FABRIC: Royal Stewart Plaid Flannel from Joann. I love the contradiction of a warm weather pattern in a cool weather fabric. Any Scout is great for layering, but a flannel Scout if perfect for layering in the winter. This fabric is an annoying 41" wide, so I bought 2 yards to avoid a late night trip back when I ran out. The repeat is the same in both directions, so I cut the pieces out perpendicular to the salvage. I could have gotten by with much less even with the lengthened sleeve and plaid matching. I'm pretty happy with the feel and wear of this flannel. The only short coming is that it's a bit too light weight for the slit neck. A heavier fabric would have a crisper finish at the cut in the neckline.

SIZE/FIT: Size 4 at the bust, graded straight to a size 10 at the hem side seam for a slight swing. I think this is my Scout sweet spot.

ALTERATIONS: I used the Grainline Madewell Scout Variation tutorial for the neck, and lengthened the sleeve.
Pattern: Scout Tee from Grainline Studio
              Madewell Variation Pattern Tutorial
              Madewell Variation Sewing Tutorial
Fabric: Royal Stewart Plaid Flannel from Joann
More: Plaid Matching Tutorial from Really Handmade

This project on Kollabora.