Monday, April 24, 2017

Totes for Sure!

One of the great things about sewing is that if you are exhausted from working on a bodice muslin, you can set it aside and sew some quick and easy tote bags. It's even more of a win if you use fabric remnants from stash.

These four tote bags were all sewn up from stash.

These two (above) were sewn from home dec fabric remnants that I bought the very first time I met Oonaballoona. We were both in LA for work and got drunk on fabric at Mood LA.  Because I couldn't decide which fabrics were my favorites, I made the totes reversible. The pocket can be on the inside or outside.

Flip side! Reversible tote bags!

These other two are made from remnants of past projects and are not reversible.

I made a blue wax cloth tote.

It's lined with quilting cotton and has an internal pocket.

Inside the blue wax cloth bag

And the orange cotton canvas one is from remnants from Phin's diaper bag.

It is lined in wax cloth and has fun rainbow straps.

This one might be my favorite.

The only part of these totes that wasn't from stash are the webbing straps. I could have sewn straps, but since I was going for quick and easy, purchased webbing seemed like the path of least resistance. The blue ones are from Botani and the rainbow strapping was a find at Vardhman, a trimming store that I should go into more often.

As you can see, each of these totes is a different size and dimension. That's entirely based on the size and shape of the remnants that I had.  But if you want a tutorial for reference, you can always look at Purl Soho's Easy, Easier and Easiest Totes. For the most part, I made these totes like the Easy Tote - lined, with a pocket and a boxed bottom.

How do you like to use up remnants from projects past? What are your favorite easy sewing projects for times when you feel like sewing but don't feel like a challenge with fitting or fussing? 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Rainbow Sweater for Taco: But Will He Ever Wear It?

Knitting baby sweaters is such a mixed affair. On the one hand, they are so much easier and quicker to knit than adult size sweaters. But babies grow fast and toddlers, well, they don't always appreciate their mama's efforts.

I knit this beautiful rainbow sweater for Taco over the winter, thinking it would be a great spring sweater. I intentionally knit it a bit large; I didn't want him to outgrow it as quickly as his Teddy Sweater, which I also adored on him. This was wise; toddlers are tyrants. Taco has so far refused to wear it. At all. Not once. Toddlers.  But I think it is large enough that it will likely fit in the fall. 

The pattern is Atlantic Coast by Gabrielle Danskknit. The yarn is Mighty Stitch from KnitPicks. It is a worsted weight 80/20 blend of acrylic and superwash wool, and is super soft. Truly.  I normally favor natural fibers, but this was just the thing for this little sweater that Taco may or may not wear. Even better, it came as a rainbow colored sampler set. So, I just had to buy a few balls of black, and my stripe pattern was set.

This was a really easy and satisfying knit. The sweater is knit top down, all in one piece with a simple ribbed neck, hem and button band. I could see this being my go-to sweater for baby gifts and such.  And if Taco ever wears it, I would be up for knitting it again in a larger size.

This is not the first garment Taco had rejected.  He also refused to wear these cute black corduroy overalls that I sewed him for the holidays, except for on Christmas. I never blogged about them because I have already written about the pattern - KS 3145 - twice.

But here is your slice of Taco cuteness in overalls since he refused to model his new sweater.  

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Mini Wardrobe Final Piece: A New Nettie Dress

Last post about my mini wardrobe! When I finished the first 4 pieces, I had a number of scraps of faux leather left over. It was the sort of annoying amount that almost isn't worth saving, but is too much to feel justified in tossing. So, I decided to use it to make one last coordinating piece of my Mini Work Wardrobe.

This is a Nettie Dress with faux leather insets.

I sewed the Nettie Dress by Closet Case Patterns twice last spring (here). One is perfect as a wearable muslin - but only in the deep winter on account of it being a snuggly sweater knit -  and the other, which fit better, turned out to be a fabric fail. So, I knew I would sew the dress again. I still don't feel like I have totally nailed this pattern (note to self: the bust dart height needs adjusting).

I decided to use a remnant of black ponte for this dress. I knew the ponte would be more stable than the fabrics I had previously used and figured that I would just s
ew the dress with a smaller seam allowance to give myself some extra wiggle room. But after cutting, I realized that the seam allowances for Nettie are only 3/8" to begin with. Oopsie! So, I've ended up with a rather close fitting dress, particularly thru the bust. C'est la vie!

The fun part of this dress is the faux leather accents which inspired it. I didn't stress too much about perfection. I just drew the insets onto the pattern - triangles that peak at the waist - traced off the pieces and added seam allowances. One of the great things about a pattern like Nettie is that a small simple embellishment can transform a simple dress into something more.

I've already had a few people ask about the neck binding. It's important to note that I used a stretch faux leather for this dress; it married well with the ponte.

I cut the neck band according to the Nettie Dress pattern's specifications. Since this is a stretch fabric which is not a knit and doesn't really have a grain line, I cut it with "the DOGS" (that's the Direction Of Greatest Stretch) which you find by grabbing hold of your fabric and stretching it in a few directions until you find the way it stretches most. In this case, that was perpendicular to the selvage.

I followed the basic method of inserting a neckline binding that Heather outlines in her sew along (prep the band here and insert it here).  I find that I get the best results on a neckline when I:
  • stretch the binding more around the curves and don't stretch at all or very little along the straighter parts of the neckline - this prevents any parts of the neckline from gaping. It hugs nicely; 
  • make sure NOT to stretch the neckline of the dress. ONLY stretch the binding. Otherwise, wonkiness ensues. 
To make sure that the faux leather stays neat and doesn't flip to the outside, I stitched in the ditch as best as I could - you can see the stitches peeking out in the photo below, but it really is not discernible when I wear the dress.

And that is all there is to tell for this dress, other than I really like it. And messy haired photos.

Bed head, in need of a haircut, and sun damaged. My hair. 

So, that's a wrap on my mini-wardrobe! I've been wearing it pretty nonstop for work to the point where I don't really remember what I wore before. Ha ha.

But I do have lots more going on, so check back soon. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Mini Wardrobe Pieces 3 & 4: The Skirts!

This is my attempt at a proper post about drafting my pencil skirt using Kenneth King's The Skirts CD-book.

At some point last summer I decided to sew a pencil skirt and went on the hunt for my pre-baby self-drafted skirt pattern. I had spent a lot of time on it and really achieved a great fit.  But I couldn't find the pattern anywhere. During pregnancy a lot of moving and reorganizing happened as we made space for Taco. I spent a lot of time looking, but in the end concluded that I must have tossed the block and patterns, thinking that they would probably never fit again, even though the skirts I made from them still do. Sigh.

A post shared by Clio (@cliophineas) on

So, I went through the process of carefully measuring and re-drafting, with Taco helping. Naturally, moments after cutting fabric for a wearable muslin I found the original pattern. Go figure. And the patterns are virtually identical, aside from Taco's creative scribbles on the new one.

Anyway, the wearable muslin - the turquoise skirt in the photo above - really has never been particularly wearable, and not for any fitting issues. It's a bit of a fabric fail.  The stretch cotton sateen I used is unbelievably clingy and afflicted with a terminal case of static cling.  Seriously, it sticks. I've tried a slip, tights, no tights... it's a clingy mess. But the actual fit was fine. So, when I was doing my mini-wardrobe, I sewed up two skirts - one in suiting and one with a faux leather front just for fun.

Faux leather skirt!

I honestly think that drafting your own basics is a great way to get a perfect fit.  And a skirt is a great place to start, since they are the easiest garment to draft - no worries about fitting your shoulders or crotch or other tricky areas. Kenneth King's method is solid and has good fitting tips sprinkled in for good measure (eg: for those with a 10" or more waist-hip difference, he recommends twin darts, which really improved the fit for me.)  I did more of a comprehensive review when I first used his method in 2013 - here.

I haven't 100% nailed the fit with these first two skirts. I was a little sloppy transferring changes back to my flat pattern, but I think I am almost there.  And now that I have a good working pencil skirt, I may actually go back and draft a straight skirt too, since the pencil skirt is supposed to be a bit more slinky and curvy.

One of my planned uses for this pattern is already in the works. If you saw my IG feed, you know I am working on a sheath dress. Rather than reinventing the wheel, I used this skirt pattern as the bottom, adjusting the dart placement to line up with the bodice darts.  Here is a sneak peek of the back waist area with invisible zipper, if you didn't see it on IG.

Oh! One last thing. So, the faux leather that I used for this project is what was left over after the peplum top I made a few years ago. Remember that project?  Well, you will be pleased to know that I still have that top and it goes great with the faux leather skirt. I haven't actually had an occasion to wear the two together, but the next time I have a reason to don as much faux leather as possible, I'm ready!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Mini Wardrobe Pieces 1 and 2 (Trousers and Jacket)

I promised more details about my wardrobe pieces. So, here you go.

The project really started from these trousers and jacket.  Both of which had been on my to sew list for about a year.

For the trousers, I used BurdaStyle 9/2010 #115, which is a tall pattern. You've already seen my gold wool trousers from this pattern, which was the second version I sewed. So, I won't bore you with a rehash of the fitting changes.

I added a lining to these trousers made from a poly-silk that has been in my stash for a long time.

I had made a top out of it years ago from New Look #6915 which is long since OOP. The top is still in my wardrobe - it has held up beautifully. So, I feel as though it's now a bonus piece in this mini-wardrobe.

Bonus top!

For the jacket, I used OOP Butterick B5567. This is view B.

The finished jacket calls for a button on the collar band, but I decided to leave it off. I would never actually button it, and sewing a buttonhole on this faux leather, which is pretty stretchy, would not be particularly advisable.

This is a straight size 8 with zero changes to the fit. I'm really rather pleased with it.  It's perfect for those days when I want a light layer over, say, a sleeveless top or want to wear a jacket for work, but not a suit.

Anyway, this outfit has been in heavy rotation in my wardrobe since I finished the trousers. It's a basic with a bit of personality, which suits me just fine.  

I'm not sure I've been bitten my the mini-wardrobe bug or SWAP fever, but I'm really enjoying having outfits rather than just separates in my wardrobe these days. So, perhaps there will be more. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Mini Wardrobe Reveal! TNT Patterns for the Win!

Life and sewing are funny. Somehow I find myself super excited about what might be the most sensible and boring sewing project that I've ever undertaken. Back in January I posted about how my plan to sew trousers exploded into a mini-wardrobe project. Well, here are the results.

Behold!! It's my 5 piece mini wardrobe primarily for work, composed of a jacket, a dress, trousers and two skirts. A little recap on how this all happened...

If you follow me on IG, you might remember that back in September I redrafted a pencil skirt pattern from Kenneth King's The Skirts. It's more basic than my normal sewing but will lend itself to lots of style manipulation. This is the wearable muslin that I made but never blogged.

But I set it aside temporarily to work on what I really need: more trousers! I used BurdaStyle 9/2010 #115, which is a tall pattern, to make a pair of lined trousers. You've already seen my gold wool trousers from this pattern, which was actually my second version.

For this first version, I pulled out a large cut of black cotton blend suiting from stash to sew up a hopefully wearable muslin. After some final tweaks, the fit turned out to be nearly perfect. So, not a wearable muslin at all.

Wow, I don't really love these shoes with these trousers. Oh well.

Encouraged by my success, I started playing with the suiting fabric and realized that I had more than enough to also make a pencil skirt using my newly drafted pattern and potentially a cute little jacket, too.

And thus was born my mini wardrobe for work. I used OOP Butterick B5567, which I have been meaning to sew for about a year, to make a cute little jacket to go with the skirt and trousers - a 3 piece wardrobe. Since I had some faux leather in my stash, I decided to jazz up the jacket with some faux leather parts, as you can see.

But why stop there? I had enough faux leather for a skirt too! Admittedly, it came out a bit clingy. Maybe it will be saved for date night since Phin seemed to approve.

And since I had a smidge more faux leather and some ponte, I decided to round out the whole thing with a dress.

So, there you have it. My quest to fit my bottom half inadvertently led to a mini-wardrobe project! More on each of these makes in the coming days, but I'll leave you with one more collage of the five pieces.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Fauxgyle Socks: Business Casual Socks with a Fish Lips Kiss Heel

I almost always have a pair of socks on my needles, even if they aren't my primary project.  Socks are easily portable. They are great to work on when you commute or travel or when you are in between bigger projects. I also find that switching between projects of different weights of yarn/needle sizes seems to help my wrists.

Someone was being helpful

That said, these socks took a long time, even knitting them as an in between, travel project.

I've knit so many socks by now that you might think there isn't much else to learn. Not true! I am just at the beginning of my sock learning, particularly when it comes to the heels. For these socks, I decided to try the Fish Lips Kiss Heel that is the brainchild of the Sox Therapist.  In her words it is, "An innovative, new method for knitting perfectly-fitting, beautiful, simple heels."  

Heel close up

This method requires careful foot measuring done by a friend and some math to calculate where you should start the heel. I did the toe-up version, but top down is also included in the instructions. There is a lot to like about this heel pattern. The short row stitches - she calls them a twin stitch - are really great, and as promised don't leave gaping holes. I found them easier to work than the wrap/turn stitches that I've tried. I didn't perfectly nail the fit of these socks on this first go-round, but that is on me, and not the pattern. The foot of my sock is about 1/4" too long. I'll see how these heels wear compared to my usual sock heel before committing to another pair.

My only less than stellar comment is that the instructions are 16 pages long. Some of it is awesome - there was loads of insightful information about sock fit, comparing store bought and hand knit socks. But 16 pages is a lot of info to wade through or go back and find a specific point you want to reread. So, be forewarned that knitting these socks requires something of a commitment to many pages of explanations rather than just knitting from standard format knitting instructions. And that was just the heel.     

The other reason these socks were fairly slow going is that I am not speedy when it comes to working cables. I'm awkward with the cable needle. The pattern that I used for the sock, aside from the heel, is Business Casual by Tanis Lavallee. It's a faux argyle pattern. I really love how it looks. I could see myself using this very gender-neutral pattern for both men's and women's socks in the future. Hopefully my cable technique will speed up over time. 

There's not much else to say except that I used more of my stash of ToshSock in an flaming orange colorway. ToshSock is very cushy, soft and warm. It knits up densely and has some give. It's a great choice if you want 100% wool, without any elastane/polyamide mixed in.

Oh, right. While knitting these socks, one morning I opened my project bag to see that one of my favorite AddiTurbo sock knitting needles was bent. But the excellent customer service people at Skacel replaced it lickety split at no cost to me. I shall forever sing their praises.

My next socks, which are not yet cast on are going to have another new feature that reader LinB emailed me about.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

New Jacket and Refashioned Skirt!

Here is another two-for-one post! I refashioned this embroidered skirt and liked it so much I made a little jacket to go with it.

I bought the skirt because of how much I liked the embroidery. Isn't it great?

I should have taken before photos since, birds aside, the skirt had some glaring problems. It had a strange asymmetrical flounce at the waist, was about 2 inches too long to be flattering on me and didn't fit well at the waist.  It also had a side seam zipper that was wavy and never ever laid flat.

I fixed all those things, moving the zipper to the center back, removing the flounce, shortening the length and refitting the skirt. I even added a grosgrain facing rather than a new waistband. You can see my not perfect, but always improving, fell stitches at the edge of the grosgrain.

New CB zipper and hook and eye with grosgrain waist facing.
It came out really great, if a bit short for my usual office style.

I was so happy with it that I was immediately inspired to sew up an easy coordinating jacket. I used view D of OOP Butterick 5567.

I made view D (bottom right of envelope)

This is the second view of this pattern that I have sewn up, but the first I've blogged about. The pattern is a quick and easy sew and would make a great first jacket pattern for a new sewist. It is unlined, and only slightly fitted. The darts are sewn and then top stitched - a very nice touch. The only fitting change I made was to grade from the 8 to the 12 from the underarm to the waist.

I'm attracted to the shape of this jacket, which you can see well here:

I used a baby blue wool fabric that has been in my stash for quite a few years. I bought it when I was thinking of making a cape - it has a plain weave and a sort of rough woolly feel to it and lofty hand. It gave the jacket a firmer hand than was intended for the pattern. In a thinner fabric with a softer hand, you would get a bit of drape around the collar, whereas this jacket's collar sort of stands at attention, which I like.

The only notable sewing details are that I finished the seams with bias binding. Above is the hem before I turned it, which I also bound in bias tape. You can see the top stitched dart in this pic.

For a closure, I had one largish snap professionally set at Star Snaps in the NY Garment District.

And the one sewing trick that I like for this sort of project is the one where you use fusible interfacing to cleanly finish the edge of your facings. (Below) The method is simple. First, trim 1/8" to a scant 1/4" from the interfacing on the edge you plan to finish (you need this to account for turn of cloth.) Next, sew the fusible interfacing and your facing piece right sides together at the edge that you want to finish. Last, turn to the inside and fuse creating your neatly finished edge. Voila!

Neatly finished facings.

There's not much else to add other than I love this outfit and think this jacket is a real winner for a very simple but cute topper. I'm sorry it's OOP, but I can see how it is a bit of a sleeper. I have a feeling this will not be the last time I sew it. The short sleeve versions would be really fun as part of a casual summer suit in linen.

Stay tuned for my first version of this jacket which is part of my 5 piece mini-wardrobe.