Monday, December 29, 2014

A Classic Sewaholic Robson Trench Coat

I made a trench coat, ya'll!

This is definitely one of my proudest and most challenging makes of 2014 (the top slot, of course, goes to my wedding dress!) so prepare yourself for photo overload.

This is the Sewaholic Robson coat, made in a straight size 8 with no adjustments.

The fabric is a water-resistant cotton blend in "pumice stone" color from Mood Fabrics. The buttons also are from Mood. The buckle is from G Street Fabrics. Bias binding for the seams was purchased at my local JoAnn Fabrics.

Normally, I talk about the pattern first in blog posts, but the biggest challenge with this coat was the fabric, so I'll start there today.

The main quality that made this fabric desirable for a trench coat -- its water resistance -- made it a bear to sew. I used a heavy duty needle (several of them, actually -- more on that in a moment), and the machine really tried to make a go of it, but this pattern includes a ton of layers in some parts, such as the shoulder seam, so there was much cranking on the hand wheel to start those parts.

The fabric also tended to produce a kind of waxy dust when sewn, which I can only assume comes from the water-resistant coating.

Oddly, the fabric didn't seem to have any issues with ironing and lots of steam, although the fabric tended to trap steam, another hazard, I suppose of water-resistance. The main issue with ironing, though, was that the fabric refused to hold a crease.

The absolute biggest challenge with this coat was the buttonholes. They were a NIGHTMARE.

I had the coat all done up to the buttonhole stage, and I was feeling pretty proud of my work. I really took my time on making this coat nice. Up to the buttonholes.

The machine was just NOT having it with these buttonholes. It kept skipping half the buttonhole and making huge jumps in its stitching. I tried messing manually with the tension, with the stitch length -- with everything I could think of.

In despair, I posted a picture on Instagram and the ever-brilliant Brooke suggested that perhaps I needed a new needle. All of a sudden, my problem was fixed! I think I needed two more needles before the project was done. If I had to guess, I'd say that the coating on the fabric dulled or gummed up the needles.

It all worked out in the end, though.

Except for the part where I incorrectly placed all of the buttonholes, so there are some buttons sewn on top of buttonholes and some buttonholes that go separately through the main fabric and facing.

I think by the end, I was just exhausted. This project really took a lot out of me.

The only "change" I made to the pattern was to pick up a buckle for the belt. The buckle came from G Street and was fairly inexpensive. I just sewed it on to the end of the belt.

It doesn't exactly match the buttons, and looking at these photos, either the beltloops are uneven, or I didn't pull the coat down correctly. I'll fix it sometime. Maybe. Never.

One of the coolest things about this pattern is the opportunity to use a fun contrast bias binding on the seams. The coat has no lining, which I appreciated, because the number of layers I had without the lining was enough for me!

I used a bright blue for a pop of color. Don't tell anyone, but there is a slightly different bright blue on the insides of the sleeves. I bought the wrong color on my third trip to JoAnn for more bias binding.

I definitely needed much more bias tape than the pattern recommended, that's for sure.

The pockets seemed oddly placed to me at first glance, but I started surreptitiously examining the trench coats on my morning commute (creeper status!) and I discovered that most trench coats have these pockets. I had ample opportunities to examine a large variety of trench coats because it seems as though they are the go-to for commuters in the fall here.

I had a bit of trouble getting the sleeve to ease nicely, but at this point, I'm just calling it a feature.

I am super proud of this project -- and glad to finally have my own trench coat -- but boy am I glad to call it finished! Do you ever have projects like that? I made a nice, simple skirt after this and it felt like a breath of fresh air!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Christmas New Look 6223 in Winter Cardinals Fabric

Happy holidays, readers! 

Over Black Friday, I shopped a bit online, including at Modcloth, which so helpfully let me know it was having a sale.

Now, we all know that nearly all 100 percent cotton dresses at Modcloth are made from easily attainable quilting cotton, right?

I saw a dress made from this winter cardinals fabric and just had to have it. I found the fabric online at Hancock's of Paducah (which had the best price -- $5! -- but did trigger a fraud warning on my credit card since it's apparently a local store in another state!) The fabric is Timeless Treasures Season's Greetings Winter Cardinals in ivory.

It's a lovely drapey quilting cotton.

The bodice is lined in plain white lawn, which I buy at least 5 yards at a time. I line nearly everything with white cotton lawn!

All in all, the fabrics were perfect for a structured dress like New Look 6223.

New Look 6223 is a favorite basic pattern of mine -- though I may need to buy a second copy the next time New Look patterns are on sale, because I seem to have misplaced the sleeve piece. Originally I wanted to do this dress up with cap sleeves, similar to my Oscar de la Renta dress, but I went without after I couldn't find the sleeve piece. (I know, I know, Frankenpattern, etc., but as I've said before, homegirl ain't got time for all that! it's just not fun for me.)

The pattern is exceedingly simple. It's a six-dart bodice with a pleated skirt. In this case, I gathered the skirt instead of pleating. I also forgot to put in the pockets (I now have two white lining-fabric pockets on my cutting table). Woops. 

I cut an 8 at the bust and graded to a 10-12 at the waist. I left a bit of extra ease in the waist since I wanted to wear this dress dancing. 

I didn't bother pattern-matching in the back or at the waist (I am of the opinion that matching a pattern like this across the waist just looks wrong and I just didn't feel like matching on the back seam and wasting fabric). The only pattern adjustment I made was to be sure I wouldn't have two red cardinals placed in, shall we say, compromising positions on my chest. 

This dress was an easy make -- I spent my afternoon in my sewing room on Saturday and worked on it while watching "Rehab Addict" on Netflix and I was finished in no time. 

In fact, I wore this dress for the first time Saturday night to a ballroom dance. We have monthly social ballroom dances at the place we take classes. With my small cotton crinoline underneath, it was perfect for an evening of dancing. (I know it probably seems strange to wear a sleeveless dress with no stockings in the middle of winter, but trust me when I say that after a couple hours of dancing in a well-lit art gallery, you'll be sweating!)

I plan to wear this again with black tights and a cardigan for a Christmas Eve showing of The Nutcracker as well.

When I wear it, with the red, green and gold colors, I feel festive!

Even when it's cold outside!

Do you have Christmas sewing plans? I'd love to hear about them!

Merry Christmas and a happy new year to you all. <3

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Wintry Owls Sweater and Sewaholic Hollyburn Skirt

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! 

I hope all my American pals had a fantastic Turkey Day. (And I hope my international friends had a lovely Thursday!) 

Mine was super low-key and relaxing, which was just fine by me. My Black Friday, though, was slightly more exciting. 

Greg and I have been taking ballroom dance classes for the last few months and the place we take classes, Workhouse Arts Center, is insanely awesome.

The arts center, which has everything from yoga, to glassblowing to comedy shows, was a prison until 2001. It's called the Workhouse because it's a prisoner-built prison. Is it a bit creepy that we take dance lessons in cell block 11? Possibly. Is it also cool as hell? Most definitely. I'm a super nerd for old buildings with interesting history and the Workhouse complex certainly fits the bill! 

Anyway, the Workhouse had an open house on Black Friday, which included an hour-long ballroom dance practice session/exhibition thing. (I swear they don't pay me -- I just think this place is super cool.) So I convinced my dad that he should come with Greg and I. 

Of course, I had to wear a new outfit for the event and have Greg photograph it at the Workhouse. A change of venue is always nice, right? I'm sure you all get sick of seeing my front yard. 

This is the Owls sweater by Kate Davies and the Hollyburn skirt by Sewaholic. 

I'll talk a bit about the Owls first. 

I knitted the majority of this on a train trip Greg and I took from Washington, D.C., to Seattle in August for his sister's wedding.

We were on the train for four days and I knitted the entire body and one sleeve on the train trip.

(Funny story about how the day of the trip I sent Greg to the yarn store with a list because I finished my previous project and wanted to start this one but didn't have the correct size needles! I swear to god my husband is the best sport ever.)

This sweater is made with bulky yarn, so it is an incredibly quick knit. I used Billow from KnitPicks, which is a 100 percent cotton and it is SO soft. Sadly it doesn't do a great job holding its shape, but its softness totally makes up for that.

This was also my first experience with cables, and I found them surprisingly simple! I opted not to sew on the button eyes, though, to make the design seem a bit subtler so the sweater would go with more outfits.

I also left the body short so I could wear it with my high-waisted skirts. I don't really wear pants that often, so I usually want my sweaters to go well with skirts.

The most difficult part of this sweater for me was trying to figure out how to connect the body to the sleeves in order to knit the yoke.

I'd never knit a bottom-up sweater before, so I was a bit at sea. I ended up first getting everything set up backward. Ravelry sorted me out though: I posted a thread asking why I couldn't use the instructions for the yoke (I was set to knit in the wrong direction.)

The eventual solution?

I was reading the directions and thinking about MY left and not the SWEATER'S left. Oy.

After that, though, it was fairly easy to finish! Ha!

This past week, I decided to whip up a quick Hollyburn from black twill I got from Mood. It's a Theory fabric and it is lovely. 

These pictures were taken on second wearing -- I wear most of my full skirts with a very minimal cotton petticoat and tights for warmth, so there's no point to washing after every wear -- and despite the twill's slight stretch factor, the skirt still looks great. The recovery is great.  

I also put in my very first centered zipper on this skirt. I don't know how I've never done one before, but I hadn't. Surprisingly simple! I usually put invisible zippers in everything, but since I've made this skirt several times already, I decided to challenge myself a tiny bit. 

 Here's a pic Greg snapped of the outfit in action, as I was trying to waltz with my dad.

And an outtake my dad snapped of Greg taking pictures of me. So meta.

What did you do for Black Friday? Hit the stores? Hit the dancefloor? Something else entirely?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Week Costume Series: Renaissance Festival Outfit With Truly Victorian 110 Corset

Happy Halloween and welcome to the final post in my Halloween costume miniseries! (See posts 1 and 2.)

While I'm not planning to wear this costume for Halloween this year, I did make and wear it recently, so I thought I'd post a bit about it.

Two years ago, one of my friends took me to the Maryland Renaissance Festival (don't ask how I lived my entire life in Maryland and had never been before -- I seriously have no idea) and I was instantly and irrevocably hooked.

Fast forward to this past spring. One of the ladies in my sewing group is very interested in Civil War-era garment construction and offered to give a little class on corset-making.

A corset is not something I generally have need of in my daily life, but I figured I could turn it into a Renaissance Festival costume and learn some interesting construction techniques, so I went for it. I'm going to put this out there now: My costume is in no way historically accurate -- it's just for fun.

The corset was made from Truly Victorian 110.

In class, we made mockups -- for which I ordered the cheapest possible white coutil from It was still fairly expensive, but I had never worked with fabric of this type and weight and wanted to try it. 

I made my mockup in a straight size C, and it was fairly obvious that I needed to grade out at the hips, so my final version was a C-D-E size. 

For my final corset, I chose a tea-colored coutil. 

This corset is far from perfect -- for whatever reason, you can definitely see some of the notches I cut in the seam allowance to make the seams lie flatter. And there's a few places where the fabric could be a bit less wrinkled, which probably would be fixed with more boning and more flat steel boning (as opposed to spiral steel, which is used for the majority of the boning on this corset.)

By far the most difficult part of this project was getting the boning into all the channels. There are definitely a few channels I sewed ever so slightly too small.

For the back, I bought corset lacing and size 00 grommets. The lady who led the corset class brought her grommet setter -- so fun! 

You can even lace this type of corset by yourself -- though it can be difficult to get the lacing even (you can see above how the gap down my back isn't exactly even and parallel).

The binding is just plain homemade white bias tape. I wish I had been able to find a close color match to the corset fabric, but nothing seemed close enough. I kind of half-assed the binding because I was in a hurry to finish -- hopefully I'll find some nicer binding at some point and redo it. 

The rest of the costume I bought at the Renaissance Festival. The shirt and skirt are from Wolfstone Kilt Company, a local Virginia company. 

I also wore a knee-length underskirt/slip I made from a bedsheet a couple year ago to provide a small amount of poof. 

I know it's totally "cheating" to buy pieces of the costume I could easily make, but I've got a lot of projects going on at the moment and the clothes at the Festival's Wolfstone booth are just so inspiring and beautifully made. Tough to resist!

As for accessories, I bought the little brown hat at a hat booth at the Festival. The basket probably once belonged to my mother but has been in my various bedrooms for at least the last 10 years. The cloths inside the basket are napkins I dyed for our wedding (and are covering my cellphone, sunglasses, wallet and lipstick!) The blue shawl in the first picture was made by my mother (I wore this costume for the first time two weekends ago and it was a bit nippy!)

All in all, I had the best time wearing this costume. So many people go to the Festival in costume that it's easy to pretend to be in a fantasy novel -- so fun!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween Week Costume Series: Candyman Vest, Bow Tie and Sleeve Garters

Continuing this week's Halloween costume series, today I present the candyman to my candy corn: my husband, Greg. 

I had in my head that I wanted to make a candy corn dress, and I needed a costume for Greg that coordinated. So what did I do?

Subjected myself to another vest and tie set!

At this point, after making six sets of vests and ties, plus a sample, for my friend Ashley's wedding, I am basically vest expert. Or at least as much of a vest expert as I care to be. :-P

This is Simplicity 4762, inspired by the candyman in the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (coincidentally one of my absolute favorite movies growing up.)

I definitely wanted to do a striped fabric and black bow tie. After some intense searching, I found lots of theatrical productions of Willy Wonka that included sleeve garters, so I decided to work up a set of those, too.

The pattern includes a simple four-button vest. I lost the pattern piece for the back waist adjuster, so I eyeballed it. (That is going to be a theme for this costume.)

I didn't bother to match the pattern at the back since the stripe was so small, but this did result in a larger-than-normal white stripe at the center back.

For the buttons, I used some of the cover buttons left over from the vests I did for the wedding. I love the clean, well-matched look of cover buttons.

As for the fabric, I used quilting cotton for the striped fabric and a heavier quilting cotton for the black accessories. 

The lining is a lining sample I bought for Ashley's wedding from It was one of those times where a swatch cost 75 cents and a yard cost under $2, so I just bought the yard. 

The black sleeve garters are made the same way I made scrunchies as a kid -- a small loop of elastic in a fabric tube.

The bow tie is essentially a tiny bow belt (it's a fake tie) with a button at the back of the neck.

I'm definitely pleased with the way this came out -- it's much more comfortable than a jacket would have been (and a lot less work!) Perfect for dancing!

What do you think? Are matching costumes too cute or too insipid for words? :-P

Monday, October 27, 2014

Halloween Week Costume Series: Candy Corn Dress

This year, I've really gotten excited about making costumes, and, since it's Halloween week, I thought I'd post a miniseries of three posts on my recent costume makes. 

First up? This year's Halloween costume. Greg and I dressed up as a vintagey candy corn and candyman.

I'll post about Greg's candyman costume on Wednesday and my costume from this year's Renaissance Festival on Friday, all in time for Halloween. Sound good?

But today, my vintagey candy corn dress!

Surprise, surprise. This is yet another version of Butterick B5748. I seriously cannot quit this pattern.

I've worn versions of this dress in two weddings (including my own!) and made a general version from bedsheets -- and I wore it frequently this summer.

At this point, I can make this pattern in my sleep.

For this version, I took one of the skirt pattern pieces -- since it's a circle skirt, the two pieces are the same, I felt I could sacrifice one of them -- and measured to find it was 25 inches. At 13 inches, I made a mark on each side and the center and eyeballed a curve between them.

Since the skirt is on the long side, I slashed at the curve I drew and didn't add seam allowance, just used the new pieces and sewed them together with a 3/8-inch seam allowance.

For fabric, I used plain old quilting cotton from JoAnn. Total, for both my costume and Greg's, plus some thread I needed, I came in under $30, despite the fact that I used the nicer, more drapey quilting cotton.

I lined the bodice in self fabric, but didn't bother to line the skirt since I knew I'd be wearing a petticoat. The seam allowances are all serged.

 After making Greg's bow tie, I decided to make myself a little bow belt so we'd match a bit better. This is a simple bow, belt and button assembly.

To give myself some floof, I wore one of the petticoat crinolines from my wedding. This is the Modcloth Va Va Voluminous short petticoat in white. The net is soft and it provides a lot of lightweight floof.

Plus, it gave me a more triangular, candy-corn-type shape.

Looking a little wrinkled from the back -- we tried really hard to get good jumping and spinning shots, but it didn't work out, which is why I'm a bit wrinkled in this picture,

We wore these costumes to the Halloween dance at the local arts center, which is where we take ballroom classes. Not to brag, but we were totally one of the three couples who won the costume contest. ;) We had so much fun! We're new to ballroom, but I am loving the classes. Our teacher is a hoot!

What's your Halloween costume for this year? Got any exciting costume projects coming up?