Completed: Maternity t-shirts

Having experienced over 8 months of pregnancy so far, I can safely conclude that I don’t like it. I am looking forward to holding and seeing this little human that is growing inside me, but wish the growing inside me part didn’t have to happen first. If only I were a bird, or a man. My husband might argue that being married to a pregnant woman is not easy either but I don’t see him willing to trade with me right now. Especially with that whole giving birth part of pregnancy looming on the horizon.

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Funnily enough, I don’t think I look all that pregnant in these pictures.

During the moments I didn’t feel too crappy I managed to do some sewing but not that much. My sewing machine hasn’t been neglected this much since I first got it! Today I thought I’d show you some maternity wear. Actually, I’ll show you the only maternity wear I made…

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From the side though, there’s no mistaking what’s going on in there!

When my belly started to expand a bit too much to still fit comfortably in my regular wardrobe I adapted a t-shirt pattern hoping that I could use it to sew some t-shirts/sweaters that would last me through the rest of my pregnancy. I believe I was 24 or 25 weeks pregnant at the time (it took a while before I grew huge). I used the t-shirt pattern from Meg McElwee’s Sewing with knits Craftsy class. I made two t-shirts from this pattern years ago and at 25 weeks I was still wearing these although they started to get a bit short in the front. The fit of this pattern is a bit looser than the other t-shirts I made for myself which made it more suitable for an expanding body and a good starting point for a maternity shirt.

Changes made to the pattern:

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Schematic of changes (in red) made to the sewing with knits t-shirt pattern. The original pattern has shaped side seams but I found it too much trouble to incorporate this into the drawing.

  1. Added 1 inch to bottom of both front and back bodice because the rise of maternity pants is much lower than in regular pants and I wanted to keep the belly band of the pants covered.
  2. Added notches on both front and back bodice to make sure I could align the pattern pieces properly after all the changes that were later made to the front bodice only. The top notch is 18 cm from the top and the lower notch 6 cm from the bottom. I based this on how the original t-shirt fit me and took into account that I would lose some fabric in the seam and hem allowances. The area in between the notches is basically where I expected my belly to start and end at its largest, so where extra room is needed.
  3. Added 8 cm of extra length to front bodice to allow extra room for expanding belly.
  4. Added ½’’ of extra length to bust area of front bodice to allow extra room for all those additional cup sizes that you accumulate during pregnancy (it’s quite crazy, really).
  5. Graded out the sides of the front bodice to allow extra room for expanding belly. Started with nothing just below the top notch to 1 inch at widest part of belly and then straight down to the hem so in total 2 inches were added to the t-shirt circumference.
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My husband calls me turtle when I wear this t-shirt…

Construction wise the only changes that were needed were that the extra length that was added to the belly part of the front bodice was gathered to fit in between the two notches of the back bodice. The extra length at the bust was simply eased into the back by stretching the fabric between the top notch and top of the bodice as they were sewn together with my overlocker.

I managed to complete 3 t-shirts and I have pictures of 2. The third one is plain grey and I prefer to wear the ones shown here. Pictures didn’t happen until 36 weeks in a quick “let’s a least get pictures of these shirts while I’m still pregnant shoot”. I should have paid more attention when I put the shirts on, the one with 3/4 length sleeves was twisted a bit, the left side seam is oriented too much toward the front and the right side seam towards the back. Ah well, at least there are pictures…

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After more than 10 weeks of wearing these shirts regularly I can say that I am very happy with how they turned out. They are very comfortable and the changes I made to allow for expansion appear to be sufficient to also last the couple of weeks I still have left. I am glad I managed to make these shirts, I think I have worn them often enough to warrant the time spent making them and I feel much more comfortable in them than I would have been in the ready to wear shirts I tried on in stores and didn’t buy.

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Normal service will most likely not return anytime soon on this blog as it took ages to get this single blog post done… I’ll be back though, there are too many things I still wish to show you.

Completed: Shopping bag

140713_shoppingbag2My brain has been a little fried this week due to working too much and sleep deprivation caused by mosquitos in our bedroom (ok, and working at 2 am one night but that was for a good cause). I wanted to work on a simple project and decided to tackle something I’ve been thinking about for a while now.

I used to have a shopping bag that I could attach to my bike. Sadly it got a large tear in one of the sides when I, one time too many, overloaded it. I missed using it. It made grocery shopping a lot more enjoyable because I didn’t have to carry a heavy backpack on the way home but could simply click the bag onto my bike instead. The clips of this bag still looked pretty good so the thought occurred to me that perhaps I could salvage these and use them to make myself a new shopping bag.

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If you now think that this doesn’t really sound like a simple project you should take into account that I have been making bags for ages and to me they’re just a couple of rectangles and straight lines of stitches with a little bit of easy maths involved to get the proportions right. Also, if your stitching is off by a couple of millimetres that’s usually not a big deal when you’re making a bag. In garment sewing a dart that is off by a couple of millimetres can already look really weird. I intended to match the pattern at the seams on the outside of this bag but it didn’t really work out that way and I don’t really care because it’s just a shopping bag.

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I started by taking the old bag apart (I can’t find the pictures that I thought I had taken before deconstruction) and it turned out the clips are attached to a large firm plate that was sewn to the back of the bag. There was absolutely no way I was going to use my sewing machine to stitch it in place in my new bag. Really, it feels like plastic and I think you’d need a really sturdy industrial machine to make that work. Fortunately, the old stitching had left holes so I used those to attach the plate to the new bag with a running stitch (after I had made a couple of buttonholes to fit the clips through).

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For the outside I used a piece of upholstery fabric I’ve had for years. I’m really curious whether someone has actually used this fabric to upholster their couch. Originally I had bought it to make a bag as well but thought it was probably a bit too much when I got home and only used a small piece to add an accent to that bag. Leaving me with a huge piece of left-over fabric that took up a lot of space. I already considered getting rid of it at some point because I couldn’t see what I would ever use it for. After making this bag I still have a huge piece left…

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The top of the bag was made with black canvas left over from this bag. For the lining I used black Kona cotton and two fat quarters from Jane Sassaman’s Wild Child collection for Free Spirit. If I had had enough black fabric I’d probably have used only black for the lining but I think the print is a nice surprise when you open the bag. Everything was interfaced with a fusible woven interfacing.

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I used a separating zipper for the top because I thought that would be easier during the construction and turned it into a non-separating one by adding a fabric tab at the end. The fabric tab actually caused me the most trouble. My first attempt at a different shape didn’t work at all. My second attempt was sewn wrong sides together and I didn’t even notice this until after I had trimmed the seams and tried to turn it right side out and surprisingly was met by the interfaced side… Luckily the third attempt worked out fine.

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The bottom of the bag contains a gridded bag bottom that is held in place by four metal bag feet and some hand stitches across the bottom seam. The plate that was already sewn in at the start did make the construction more difficult because it made the bag less flexible than it otherwise would have been. When I was trying to manoeuvre the bag so I could top stitch the top edge by machine I quickly realised that this really wasn’t going to work and used a hand sewn running stitch instead.

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Bag bottom before it was attached.

I am really happy with my new bag, although I still need to actually use it to transport groceries. It already wins from my old bag in the looks department and I only used materials I already had on hand, which means I saved at least 20-30 euros that I might otherwise have spent on a new bag.

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UFO busting: When in doubt make a pillow

Pillow bias side

You may have noticed I haven’t spent much time busting UFOs these past couple of months. This doesn’t mean I don’t have any left (if only!), it means I’ve gotten rid of a bunch, which feels pretty good, and simply moved on to creating other things. The new things I made got finished and are being used so I am definitely improving in the “finish what you start” department. Well, apart from that quilt that’s been almost stationary on my design wall since January, but I promise I’ll get to that soon.

Unfinished skirt

I haven’t done much creative things during the past couple of weeks and needed to get sewing again. Preferably with a simple no fuss instant gratification project. I had looked at this unfinished skirt several times already unsure what to do with it. I think I started it over 3 years ago and at the time it seemed like a really good idea to use this fabric for a skirt. Now I think the fabric was never really meant to be used for a garment. It is quite loosely woven and frays horribly. Cutting the pieces on the bias resulted in too much stretch so it ended up way too big. I’m also not so sure anymore that the finished skirt would flatter me all that much. But, what to do with it? Turning it into another garment wasn’t going to work either. And then it hit me.

fraying fabric

Oh the fraying…

When in doubt make a pillow.

Pillows are one of my all-time favourite projects. I should really get a larger couch just so I can properly display my mishmash of pillows in all their glory (you surely must have heard stranger reasons to buy a new couch, right?).

I used the back of the skirt to cut one side of the pillow on the bias and a left over piece of fabric to cut the other side on the straight of grain. To add some stability and minimize fraying both pieces were underlined with some Kona cotton and the edges were overlocked. The bias piece definitely stretched out during this process. Luckily not really noticeable in the finished pillow.

underlined and overlocked edges

I couldn’t find my invisible zippers so decided against making a closure. Instead I sewed all around the pillow right sides together leaving a small gap for turning. Then I stuffed the pillow with the filling of another pillow that was no longer being used because it had become lumpy from being washed too often. Worked brilliantly (and no my new pillow isn’t lumpy!). Finally the gap was closed with some invisible hand stitching.

Pillow straight of grain side

I love my new pillow and don’t care that it doesn’t really match with the rest of our living room décor. It is much more useful than the skirt ever would have been.

Completed: Comox Trunks

I’ve made a piece of underwear! They’re Thread Theory’s Comox Trunks and I made them for my brother.

Thread Theory Comox Trunks

Clearly, the best part of these trunks is the elastic! I don’t have a lot of elastic in my stash and what I had didn’t feel nice enough to sit next to your skin all day long. I wasn’t very optimistic about finding anything really nice and then stumbled upon this elastic in a stall at a local weekly market. It feels very soft and it has stars on it! They also carried several different colours. Just brilliant.

These trunks were easy to make but I didn’t follow all of the construction steps. The attachment of the binding pieces to the fly seemed a bit fiddly so I simply folded the binding strips in half and used my overlocker to attach them to the front pieces. This does leave an exposed seam inside the fly but since I suspect most men don’t even use the fly I don’t think this will be a problem.

Thread Theory Comox TrunksI sewed the inside front pieces wrong sides together. As a result the seam allowance ended up inside the fly and not on the inside of the trunks, so there is one exposed seam less that might cause irritation. With hindsight I should also have done this with the binding piece for this front piece because that seam did end up on the inside of the trunks and could easily have been hidden as well.

To further reduce the number of exposed seams I used a different method for the attachment of the gusset. I now wish I had taken pictures as I worked but I promise I’ll do so if I make them again. Basically, you skip the part where the gusset pieces are basted wrong sides together and instead work with two separate pieces. Layer the two pieces right sides together with the front (or back, doesn’t matter which side you start with) sandwiched in between. Sew this seam. Then, leaving the gusset pieces right sides together stuff the entire trunks inside the gusset pieces (fabric is allowed to spill out through the sides of the gusset) until you can layer the gusset pieces right sides together with the back sandwiched in between. Make sure nothing else is caught in between and sew this seam. Now, you can pull the trunks right side out through one of the gusset’s sides, et voila, you have hidden both seams on the inside! It feels a little bit like magic. If you have constructed yokes on classic tailored shirts you might have used this technique before.

Gusset with hidden seams

Seams of the gusset are hidden in between the two gusset layers.

I used my coverstitch machine (4 threads) to attach the elastic. This worked well, but next time I should pay more attention as I am sewing because I didn’t catch the trunks in all places on the first go and had to do some fixing.

The one thing I didn’t like is how the pattern pieces are printed from the PDF. With a PDF pattern you have to do some assembling after printing and my printer tends to scale when it shouldn’t which can make it difficult to line things up. I, therefore, have a very strong preference for the layout of the pieces to be optimized so that a pattern piece is scattered across the least number of pages possible. In this pattern (PDF for size 24-36), piece 3 could have fit on 1 page instead of 2. Piece 4 could have fit on 2 pages instead of 4 and piece 5 could have fit on 1 page instead of 2. Yes, this does result in the printing of more pages, but it does also result in less taping and less fudging when things don’t line up. On some pieces text runs across the markings that you need to line up the pages which I think is a bit sloppy and could easily have been avoided.

This pattern piece sums up what I didn't like: Printed across too many pages, text is placed across the diamond that you need for matching up. The mark that indicates you need to cut this piece on the fold is place right on top of the line that you need to cut for matching up the pages which I found a little confusing.

This pattern piece sums up what I didn’t like about the PDF. It is printed across more pages than necessary. Text is placed across the diamond that you need for matching up. The marking that indicates you need to cut this piece on the fold is located right on top of the line that you need to cut for matching up the pages which I found a little confusing. I also had some matching issues, but I fully blame my printer for that problem.

To conclude, I think this is a well drafted pattern that is very quick to make. I did all of the sewing in just one evening. I can’t really say too much about the written instructions that come with the pattern because I barely looked at them. I did read the sewalong blog posts and those were definitely helpful, even if I decided to ignore some of it. The size range of the pattern seems quite large with 24-45. I made size 30 and my brother is positively skinny so I suspect this pattern might also work for teenage sons (if willing to wear mom-made underwear, that is). The pricing of the pattern is also very reasonable as the PDF version is only CAD 7.50.

Thread Theory Comox Trunks

If you are wondering why I used grey thread in my overlocker the answer is laziness. My coverstitch machine was already threaded with the dark blue thread and I didn’t feel like unthreading it…

Have you ever made underwear? I found these trunks very easy to make and am now thinking that making underwear for myself might not be as difficult as I used to think. Except for bras of course, those are on a completely different level of sewing and fitting.

Completed: Improvisationally pieced t-shirt

Improvisationally pieced t-shirt

To make a long story (not even that) short, this t-shirt is an excellent example of what happens when I:

  • Decide to use a 65cm long, 1.5m wide piece of fabric to make a ¾ or long sleeved t-shirt. People, this doesn’t fit unless you are a child or possibly when you wore a size XS pre vanity sizing. Why I didn’t simply make a short sleeved t-shirt with this fabric? I’m not sure.
  • Leave the left-over fabric of my previous t-shirt in the vicinity of my cutting mat after completing said t-shirt.
  • Decide to make ¾ length sleeves because that length could be cut out of the striped fabric.
  • Don’t want a sleeve that is just stripes because that might look weird.
  • Think it would be cool to have a strip of stripes down the length of one of the sleeves, preferably the left (guess where it ended up…)
  • Piece a strip of striped fabric in between 2 pieces of purple fabric to create a new piece of fabric to cut out the second sleeve.
  • Pieced sleeveRealise I must have made a calculation mistake because the new piece of fabric that I created is too narrow after a certain point to cut out the sleeve (the purple fabric was slightly weirdly shaped at the sides due to other pattern pieces having been cut around it).
  • Decide to make short sleeves instead.
  • After cutting the sleeve realise I still have some purple fabric left that is wide enough to be added at the bottom of the sleeve!
  • Realise it is too short to convert the short sleeve to a ¾ length sleeve.
  • Wish I hadn’t already cut the short sleeve.
  • Attach the piece of purple fabric anyway.
  • Attach more stripes at the bottom of the sleeve to make it ¾ length.
  • Start construction of the t-shirt.
  • Use the striped fabric for the neckband so the stripes on the sleeve won’t feel lonely.
  • Put it on and feel relieved it’s wearable.

What do you think? Is improvisational piecing going to be the next big thing or should I instead make sure to buy enough fabric for future projects?

t-shirt front