McCall’s M5248 – Candy cane pajamas

It must seem like all I ever make are aprons and pajamas…and there will be at least one more apron since I recently won an apron pattern!!! It’s a digital reproduction of a 1938 Pictorial pattern by Anna Depew of A Few Threads Loose.

What’s even better than winning a pattern is winning one that you’ve really, really wanted! Anna wrote a post about this pattern back in July, and I fell in love with it, but she hadn’t yet decided to make a reproduction. I looked around and found another fantastic vintage apron pattern which I used for my gingham apron. I’ve kept an eye out for the Pictorial version, but I haven’t seen a single one listed anywhere…and now I have the reproduction! Yay!!!

Back to pajamas…

A few weeks ago we had a snowy weekend, and that was the perfect inspiration for making another pair of flannel pajamas. Fortunately it’s been warmer lately, since I refused to wear the pajamas until they’d been photographed. My photographer has been busy getting ready to launch his software product, so I finally figured out how to use the automatic timer. I’m also running into a challenge because all the walls in my house are painted in pretty bold colors that are great to look at every day, but not so great as backdrops. I’m going to go with the notion that everything doesn’t have to match.

This is the same pattern I used for my polka dot pajamas, with a few modifications.

I lowered the waist scientifically instead of doing another cranky hack job, so this time I took off 2.5″ at the front, 1.5″ at the rear, and 2″ at the sides, tapering along a straight line drawn with a ruler. It is possible, and perhaps even likely, that a French curve would have been wiser – but the end result fits so well that I don’t care. I also shortened the length, and actually did so using the handy lengthen/shorten line on the pattern. These two changes resulted in several minor adjustments to the crotch and inseam that I didn’t think would make a difference, but which turned out to be quite useful. Next time I’ll take off another inch off the length, but now that I’ve learned my lesson I’ll do so in the proper place.

I am almost done with several other projects right now, all of which are significantly more challenging than making pajamas. One of the dresses is my Peony, which has been mostly educational and only a bit frustrating. I say “only a bit” because I’ve been wanting to learn more about fitting, and boy did I get the opportunity with this pattern! The other projects include the Sureau dress, Thurlow trousers, and the lone pattern that doesn’t have a sew-along to be late for: a vintage McCall’s dress that’s done except for the buttons. Apparently I don’t enjoy sewing buttons, because I’m averaging one button per week. Or less.

The flannel I’ve been using is fantastic. I found it at, and took advantage of their holiday sale to order even more…so I’ll be making one more pair of winter pjs!

Butterick 9578 – Black and pink half apron

I’ve been wanting to try out Butterick 9578 for a while, and the Did you make that? Apronalong gave me an excellent reason to make yet another apron in spite of the fact that I rarely cook.

I blame my pose on my photographer, who gives me directions like “wave your hands around” or “look at the ceiling.” Most of my photographs are clearly pictures of me caught in the middle of telling him how ridiculous his instructions are.

There’s no copyright on the pattern, but it’s probably from the late 1950′s.

I’d been planning on making the full apron, but thanks to Karen’s apronalong and the convenient timing of a fabric sale, I decided to make both a half and a full apron. I started with the half apron so that I could experiment with the pattern.

The apron has four sections of pleats; no gathers. The pleats are a really nice touch.

The pockets are made by sewing squares of both fabrics together, then the top corner is turned down to display the contrasting fabric.

The directions just say to fold the pocket down. I was planning on tacking it down, but they lie pretty flat. There are four pockets total, and they line up at the corners.

The apron goes pretty far around, unlike the last apron I made.

Here’s a side view so you can see about where the pockets stop.

I really love how this turned out. Now I’m off to finish the full apron since the apronalong ends tomorrow!!!

New Look 6354 – Halloween skirt

A month or two ago I took a look through my fabric stash and found this festive Halloween print.

I used it for a craft project almost 20 years ago, and had about a yard and a half left. There was clearly no other option but to make a skirt. So I did! I wore it to work today.

The pumpkin/moon pattern is cute, but the texture of the fabric isn’t all that enjoyable – it’s a cotton that’s just a tiny bit too stiff to be really pleasant. Because of the texture, and the fact that I was working on numerous other sewing projects that were much more demanding, I chose trusty old New Look 6354 because I knew I could whip the skirt out in no time. And…voilà!

I look extra goofy in that shot because both my photographer and I had spent the last few hours at the office eating far too much candy. She finally had to put the camera on a table because she was too sugared up to hold it still. But we were both very happy, if a bit less productive than usual.

Because I was squeezing this skirt for Halloween I wasn’t measuring carefully. I ended up making the elastic waistband too loose; it just kind of sits in a lump at my waist, and rides up when I sit down. I should probably take the elastic in about 2 inches. The fabric is just a tad too stiff for this pattern, so the skirt bunched up in front every time I walked more than a few steps. A slip might have helped, although I suspect something else would have gone awry. But in spite of the shoddiness of my handiwork, it was a lot of fun to wear. I’ve got a ridiculous amount of leftover Christmas fabric, so another holiday skirt might pop up soon…

Fun with La Mia Boutique – October 2012

I’ve been studying Italian, which is a slow process because I have so little time…until I came up with the idea of combining Italian and sewing! Now I can study while I sew, and sew while I study – how awesome is that?

The first step was to purchase this book:

I figured a book that covered the basics would help me learn sewing terms in Italian more quickly than looking each up as I ran into it. This book is actually a translation of A to Z of Sewing: The Ultimate Guide for Beginning to Advanced Sewing, so if I get really confused I can always get a copy in English.

My next thought was to look for sewing blogs written in Italian. So far I haven’t found any, but my search did lead me to Anna’s blog Paunnet, which was a total score. Her blog is a treasure trove all on its own, and on top of that she’s introduced me to Deer and Doe so I’ve joined yet another sew-along!

Sureau Sew-along

Of course, this means I have not only added another project to my very large list, the pattern is in French and I’m supposed to be learning Italian. Incroyable!

The third and last component of my Italian/sewing plan was to find at least one sewing magazine in Italian. I found La Mia Boutique mentioned on several sites, including this post by Sewingplums which provides links to a variety of independent pattern companies as well as to pattern magazines written in multiple languages. I figured subscribing for a year would at the very least mean I’d feel guilty about not studying when each new issue arrived.

My first issue (October) arrived about 2 weeks ago, and so far it’s been quite fun. Paunnet posted a detailed look at the patterns in this issue, and I completely agree with her assessment: not only am I unlikely to want to wear, much less make, most of what is in this issue, it’s a challenge to picture anyone else doing so either. That said, there are several patterns that I do like, and since my goal is to learn I’m actually going to try to make something from one of them.

I decided to start with a blouse. The pattern is actually for a dress, but I’m not a fan of it from the waist down, and it looks like it should be easy enough to turn into a blouse. Maybe.

I’m going to use the first fabric I purchased for my Peony dress which I’m making for the Sew Colette 2.0 Sew-along. (I’m having a terrible time settling on a fabric for that dress…but on the plus side, I’m rapidly adding to my fabric stash!) It’s a silk-like fabric made from 100% polyester. Obviously NOT the right choice for Peony…but it should work well for this blouse.

I had no idea what to expect from the magazine, since I’d only seen bits and pieces on other websites. The patterns come stapled in the center. Each piece of paper contains shapes for multiple patterns, with different color lines indicating which pattern is which.

My pattern pieces are outlined with green, and while this seemed crazy at first – in a colorful way – it’s actually pretty straightforward.

I’m a recent tracing paper convert, although I have yet to confess that to my sewing instructor (hi Mom!), so I’m actually looking forward to tracing my pattern pieces. Thanks to Gertie I started with Swedish tracing paper, which I love. In fact, I love it so much that I can’t bring myself to try out anything else.

I’ve got my dictionary and optimism ready – buona fortuna a me!!!

Apronalong apron #1

I’ve been pondering aprons since signing up for the Did you make that? Apronalong, and the question I kept coming back to was: why on earth would anyone ever bother with a half apron?

A week or so I ago finally realized the reason: pockets!!!

Obviously you can put pockets on anything, so while I’ve been strangely anti-pocket this year and didn’t put any on the apron I made in August (in spite of the fact that they would have provided an opportunity to use even more rick-rack), I do actually like pockets. Thanks to my epiphany, I now have a cute half apron complete with pockets!

It’s a bit hard to tell from this photo, but there are actually two pockets on this apron. I sewed a seam down the middle to split the one wide pocket in half.

I found this pattern from a list of links to free apron patterns that SachitaBean posted on Karen’s blog.

The pattern is pretty straightforward, although if I make it again I will sew both sides to the ruffle at once. That might be a bad idea, so if you try this pattern make sure to use your own judgment. The apron ties seem a little long, but since I’ve only made one other apron I could be totally off base on this. I’m making another half apron so I’ll compare the ties when that one is done.

One of the best things about this pattern was that it gave me an excuse to use two sewing machines at once on the same pattern!

I generally have both set up for different projects, but on this one I used both yellow and pink thread, so it was perfect for the duo. So there! I say to my friends who’ve questioned my having two. I’m not answering to anyone who questions my having four…that’s a different topic entirely. And no, I have not even turned on the Rocketeers yet…they’re just so pretty that I can’t bring myself to actually use them.

Here’s a fuzzy picture of the back:

And not only does this apron have pockets, it has pockets on both sides because it’s reversible!

I wasn’t sure how well that would work. I was a bit concerned that the inside pocket would make the apron too thick and maybe bunch up, but it turned out to lie quite nicely.

I’m making at least one more apron for the apronalong – the one in progress is from a 1960s pattern. And, of course, it has pockets!

McCall’s M5248 – Brown and white polka dot pajamas

I love polka dots. And I love pajamas. What could be better than polka dot pajamas?

Flannel polka dot pajamas!

Lucy likes them too!

Four of my current sewing projects involve fitting issues, which is fine because I’m learning a lot – but I really just wanted to finish something for a change. Pajamas seemed like a nice, safe, easy project. Little did I know…

The last time I’d made pajamas was about 10 years ago, and as I’d tossed that pair years ago after the fabric had worn thin I couldn’t review how well they’d turned out. I did remember that I’d had some issues with the pattern (Simplicity 9329), although so much time had passed I couldn’t recall any details. I saw a reference on someone else’s blog (I can’t remember who) to McCall’s M5248, so I decided to give it a go and then compare the two patterns.

The new pattern worked pretty well right out of the gate, except that it was a bit too high in the waist. Two inches too high. I even made a muslin (I’m getting muslin-happy – who makes a muslin for pajamas?) and didn’t even think to look at the waist. I had no idea there was a problem until I tried them on – after sewing the waistband and threading the elastic and ribbon through. Oops.

Fortunately my sewing shears are nice and sharp, so I hacked two inches off all around and stitched everything up again.

The pattern calls for a self-fabric drawstring, but that didn’t seem as fun as a piece of ribbon. I used double-sided, 5/8″ ribbon. I also threw in some elastic, because who wants their pajama bottoms to fall down? Besides, this way I can leave the ribbon in its nice, neat little bow.

The Simplicity pattern calls for two holes for the drawstring, but the McCall’s pattern only has one and that seemed odd. It works just fine, but the way the fabric folds means it’s a fun task to thread everything through. To be fair, it was a lot easier with the first waistband – by the time I’d sewn that, chopped it off, and then worked the elastic through again, I was a bit cranky. (The ribbon and elastic had been pinned together, but decided to part ways somewhere in the depths of the waistband.) Fortunately my handyman stopped by and saw my plight; he worked the ribbon through in mere minutes with the help of some wire and duct tape.

Here’s a close-up so you can get a feel for my reaction when I realized I’d lost the ribbon.

It turns out that hacking 2″ off all around wasn’t the best plan. I should have tapered the cut – a little more in the front and a little less in the back. They fit okay, but could be better. I’m going to modify the pattern accordingly and see how the next pair turns out. I do still want to try the Simplicity pattern, but I appear to have embarked on a quest for the perfect pajama pattern, and like any quest there promise to be many adventures and misadventures along the way.

In the meantime, while they’re not perfect, this pair is comfortable and super cozy. And yes, that is a Lucy shirt I’m wearing!

New Look 6354 – Daisy skirt

This is a skirt version of the seersucker shorts I posted about a while back from New Look 6354. I made view E, partly because I didn’t have very much fabric, and partly because the fabric I used is a medium-weight cotton and is therefore a bit too thick to work well in view F’s wider skirt.

Alas, that fabulous view is not from my house. We spent the last week in a cabin in Marble, Colorado – the white blob in the background on the left side of the picture is the marble quarry. It was a lovely vacation, made even lovelier by the fact that the nearest cell signal is 30 miles away. Of course, the nearest gas station is also 30 miles away, which was a bit less fun.

I adore this fabric, and even though there wasn’t much left on the bolt (maybe a little over a yard) I knew I’d come up with something to do with it. I didn’t put much (okay, any) thought into the weight of the fabric, but after I’d finished the skirt and started reading up about cotton I ran across a Tilly and the Buttons post about sewing clothing with quilting cotton. I would happily make this skirt again from the same fabric, but I have learned that there is one thing you run the risk of when using a cotton like this one…wrinkles!!! I made the mistake of wearing the skirt for a few hours before the first round of pictures, and I now have a nice collection of wrinkled skirt photos. (For the record, it took three sessions – partly because I neglected to bring my iron on vacation.)

As long as I’m not being photographed, I don’t seem to mind the wrinkles. The daisies are so happy there’s no way you can look at them and be upset! And if I have to avoid sitting down when I wear this skirt, I’ll just wear it to events where there aren’t any chairs.

This skirt was the inspiration for sewing machine #2 – that was before I discovered the Rocketeers and brought my total to the current somewhat ridiculous four. While the daisy skirt is held up by elastic, the pattern calls for a decorative ribbon as well. It had been probably ten years since I’d made a buttonhole, and it turned out that my 25-year-old Kenmore is no longer willing to make one-step buttonholes. I didn’t even know there was a way to do them in more than one step! The very nice technician at the sewing shop offered to show me how, but I was thinking about everything I had in the queue at the time that needed buttonholes (four patterns, for a total of 14 buttonholes), and the three extra steps per hole! felt insurmountable. I mean, really – that would have been an extra 42 steps! I struggled with the concept of practicality for a minute or so, then came home with a spiffy new Janome:

It sews lovely buttonholes, and I don’t even have to be sitting at the sewing machine while it does all the work! How awesome is that?

The Mister was a bit alarmed when he walked into the room to find me ten feet away from the Janome while it was industriously making a buttonhole, so I promised to stay closer to it “just to be safe.” But – wow! And look at those buttonholes!

McCall 987 – Black gingham apron

After reading about Anna Depew’s latest apron I knew I needed to sew one myself. That didn’t mean I actually needed an apron…I have three perfectly fine store-bought ones. And it certainly didn’t mean I’d sew an apron nearly as well as she did.

Unfazed by these facts I plowed ahead, using this lovely pattern from 1942:

I quite enjoyed making this, and the extra excitement of having a needle break made it even more fun. This is the attitude of someone who took too much time off from sewing… Years ago such an occurrence would have made me irritated instead of gleeful, especially considering the fabric I was using. Who breaks a needle sewing lightweight gingham?

Fortunately I had some spare needles in the secret compartment of my sewing machine. It did briefly occur to me that they might not be the right size, but to be sure I would have had to dig out the manual, so I decided to hope for the best. Luck was on my side.

Even a casual glance will tell you that while this is a cute apron, it’s not as figure flattering as the pattern cover might lead you to believe. But it is cute!

I love the strap in the back.

I learned a few things from making this:

  • If you can’t understand the directions and decide to go your own way, figure out what your way is before starting.
  • It’s best to not drink sangria until after you’ve finished sewing for the day.
  • I love rickrack.

Wow, do I love rickrack. What’s not to love?

(There are a slew of ways to spell rickrack, so I’ve opted for Wikipedia’s version.)

I didn’t use as much rickrack as the pattern called for. The instructions say “Trim apron with rick-rack braid as illustrated on envelope.” Since the envelope was in another room (coincidentally, the same room as the Kenmore manual), I put two strips of rickrack over the two front seams. After my photo shoot I realized I’d under-rickracked. I quickly added it to the side seams, but decided not to continue the rickrack up the straps as indicated on the pattern cover. That seemed like an excessive amount, even given my newfound obsession. Besides, I was out of rickrack.

Here’s the final version, although it’s somewhat difficult to see because I was distracted by my newly washed and therefore extra fluffy companion.

Lucy matches the apron – she even has a red collar!

If I make this again I’ll use a different material. I love gingham, but this fabric (it’s 65% polyester, 35% cotton) is too thin to really protect your clothes if you’re doing something like cooking. Fortunately cooking is man’s work in our household, so I can wear my apron while I do women’s chores, like sipping wine while watching my chef slave over a hot stove, or cuddling with one of the dogs.

McCall’s 6740 – Blue shift dress

The first pattern I attempted after my multi-year hiatus from sewing not only required the basic skills which I’d had at one time, it also was designed for stick figures instead of people. I had to add 1/2″ to the diameter of the shoulders just to get to where I could pull the sleeve up my arm, and it was clear that more work would be required even if I managed to stop sewing things inside-out.

I quickly switched patterns.

The new pattern, chosen because of its simplicity (and lack of sleeves), was a simple shift: McCall’s 6740 [© 1963].

Hooray for a remedial sewing opportunity! But it provided some challenges. The first one I tackled was the neckline. Here’s the before picture:

It’s not the best photo, but take a look at the girl in the giraffe version on the pattern. She looks happy, doesn’t she? She’s probably on a beach vacation, so she’s able to ignore the uncomfortably high neckline. Sure, some people don’t mind the feeling of being on the verge of being strangled, or turtlenecks would never have taken off. I’m not one of them. This one isn’t even that tight, but for a summer frock that should make you feel carefree and happy, the neckline is surprisingly high.

Not anymore!

The inside of the dress now looks a bit Frankenstein-ish since I made the decision to lower the neckline after I’d clipped corners and trimmed away the extra fabric on the seams, but the outside looks much nicer – and the dress feels way more summery. I also learned a valuable lesson…just because the women depicted on the pattern look comfortable doesn’t mean you will feel the same.

The next task was to deal with the width of the neck. I definitely do not have narrow shoulders, so I was surprised to find that the straps were far too wide for my build. After some thought, mostly involving lots of button browsing (I love buttons!!!), I decided to fold in the fabric neckline on the front of the dress and add buttons to make it look like I’d planned this all along. I tacked it down about 1/2″ on each side.

The last step was the hem. I cut the dress out at the longest length, then asked the man of the house what he thought of the dress. He said it looked nice in a shapeless kind of way, and reminded him of the dresses his aunts used to wear when he was little…right at the time when dresses like these were all the rage. If that’s not success, I don’t know what is!

That said, it was hard to imagine I’d ever actually wear something that looked that much like a potato sack, so I hacked off 9.5″.

That’s our brand new fence in the background. The process of getting it built has been kind of like making this dress.

Now I just need a beach vacation!

New Look 6354 – Seersucker shorts

This past spring I rediscovered sewing, much to my surprise. I was spending a ridiculous amount of time on the computer between my day job and editing my novel, so perhaps my subconscious came up with sewing as a way to add a bit more balance to my life.

I decided sewing a dress would be my ‘reward’ for sending my manuscript off to my editor. This was a good plan in concept, but after sewing one of the sleeves on inside-out for the third time in a row it became clear that I needed to brush up my rusty sewing skills with some simpler projects.

One of these projects was a pair of shorts: view C from New Look 6354. I love seersucker, I needed some new shorts, and it was a super easy pattern. I only sewed something inside out once. Yay!

The pattern says “easy 2 hour” and that’s probably about right, although I did everything in bits and pieces so I have no idea how long it really took.

The waistband uses 2-inch thick elastic, which I initially found alarming, but it turned out to look just fine.

I did, of course, completely forget to put in the buttonholes that are supposed to contain a piece of ribbon for the drawstring, but that turned out to be serendipitous because on my next project I discovered that my buttonhole attachment was broken.  And with all that elastic, the ribbon is merely for decoration anyway.

I turned up the hem a smidgen after these photos were taken because the fabric is fiercely determined to unravel and I didn’t want any bit of it exposed.

The next time I make this view I might shorten the length a bit.  And maybe I’ll remember the buttonholes.  Maybe.