Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sriracha Knit Hat and Socks

Once we told the herd about Raspberry, they made it quite clear that baby gifts would have to be made. They are a serious bunch when it comes to planning for celebrations.

Little Sriracha, the newest and youngest member of the herd, was the first to formulate a plan. Remembering how cold it was once she was hatched into the world as a dragonlette, she decided that "dragonscale" hat and booties would help keep the chill away from our tiny one.

Sriracha's Gift for Raspberry

These are both free patterns that I found on Ravelry - the Easy Peasy Newborn Sock Hat by Keri McKiernan and Toe Up Baby Socks by Sheila Toy Stromberg.  Both patterns can be adjusted for different head and foot sizes.  I knit a newborn size hat, and the socks are 0-3mos and 3-6mos. The small socks basically fit on Phin's thumb; they are so tiny!

Thanks to the sock pattern I've learned a new bind off - the aptly named Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off. It really is sole mates (wocka wocka)  with Judy's Magic Cast On, which I use for my toe-up socks. If you are not a sock knitter, but are interested in learning, baby socks are a great way to go. These are basically knit the same way as adult socks (these ones have a short row heel), but because of their small size, they are less overwhelming and less of a time commitment for a first timer.

Naturally these were knit up in the same yarn that I used for Sriracha. Baby hats and socks are perfect for using up leftover sock yarn. So far, 2 skeins of ToshSock, which is a 100% merino superwash, have yielded a pair of socks for me, a baby hat, 2 pairs of baby socks and, of course, Sriracha herself. Not too shabby considering that there is still enough for another pair of baby socks. The beautiful purple colorway is called Vishnu.

Milkshake the Cow was wandering by during the photo shoot. She does tend to get into things. So I'll leave you with this picture of the hat being modeled by her.

Dragonscale Knits

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Simple "Maternitized" Ruched Knit Dress

I've been getting so much wear out of my V1314 Tracy Reese dresses (both the maternity one and the unaltered one which still just fits) that I decided to bang out one more, this time in a fun cotton jersey print from Fabric Mart.

I really like how this print has photographed. It really isn't that blue in real life. The print is black on an off white background with blue highlights, but here it looks brighter and crisper -  navy with a lot of blue.

I hadn't announced that I was pregnant when I posted the black version of this dress at about week 18. So, now at week 30, I thought I'd mention how I "maternitized" this pattern.

Most pregnancy growth is on the front of the body. So, really not much extra room is needed on the back, leaving just one piece of this dress to alter. Also, one of my pet peeves for maternity clothing is seams that pull to the front (like this). This can be avoided to a great extent by adding the needed room where the room is needed (ie: the front) and leaving the back pretty much alone.

When I first sewed this pattern - as a tunic - I had traced an 8 through the upper back and a 12 through the bust.  The bust was a little big then and I had to take it in. But now that my bust is a little fuller (thank you, Raspberry), it fits really well exactly how I had originally traced it. Also, it was a little big in the upper midriff - again perfect for pregnancy. So, the only other thing I needed to do was add some room to the front bumpage area. I added about 4 inches there just by grading out by 2 inches at each front side seam and then tapering back in below the hip. It's not a perfect way to alter a pattern, but it certainly worked well enough. Since it's a ruched dress, I simply eased any extra front length into the seam.

Ruching is a pregnant figure's best friend. If I was altering a non-ruched pattern to accommodate a growing belly, I would also add some length to the center front, like I did with this dress (yes, that dipped front hem was a strategic decision). But thanks to the ruching, there is enough fabric to go over the belly without pulling up the hem in the front.

I should probably add that this dress is designed with a lining, which is not ruched, but I have omitted it on every version. Since I want the ruching to be able to spread out over the bump, it would be counter-productive in a maternity garment, I think.

Anyway, here it is styled for work.

The color is more accurate in this shot. 
After taking this photo, I went back to the Craft Lounge and took about 2-3 inches off the hem so it hits at the knee and not below. I've been leaving my hems a little longer in general these days; it's a luxury when you are tall! But I think I've probably swung too far toward modest. So, up goes the hem.

Anyway, I had a tough time accessorizing this dress. None of my necklaces looked right.  They all sort of got lost with the print or were too jarring a contrast. So, I threw on a black fly away sweater with a belt with a silver buckle and added silver accented flats and earrings.

How would you accessorize this busy dress if it was yours (either with or without bump)?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Project Bump: DKNY Dress/Tunic

So far in Project Bump, I've been sewing and wearing a lot of ruched, fitted clothing that is appropriate for work. But I thought it might be wise to add some more casual pieces and additional silhouettes so I have something to wear on weekends and once I'm on maternity leave.

One of the first things I mentioned for my Bump wardrobe, is that I've been looking outside of maternity patterns for interesting things to sew.

From the front: not looking so pregnant

So, this is V1179, an out-of-print DKNY pattern. It has a pleated neckline with a cowl collar and, I think, fits the bill for maternity without being "maternity".

I picked the pattern because the neck pleating gives it lots of volume through the loose middle while creating shape through the bust. I did not make any fitting changes whatsoever. Talk about easy to sew!

The fabric is a crazy multi-animal print ITY knit from MetroTextiles. I bought it on an impulse (how easily that happens at Metro!)  and by the time I got it home I was very not sure what I would do with it. But I think this was just the right pattern and, if you can't tell, I'm really liking throwing caution to the wind and embracing horizontal stripes/prints!

Cowl and pleating

A minor thing I'm not crazy about is that the cowl doesn't fully cover itself - you can see where it meets the neck pleating. At first I thought I had made some kind of mistake with sewing this part since I just glanced at the directions, but it looks like that on the Vogue website as well, so apparently that is just how it is.

To do again, I'd make this dress a bit longer and give myself just a little extra room in the hip/thigh area. As is, it's a bit shorter than my hemline comfort zone - really, this is more tunic length than dress on me, particularly when sitting. So, I probably won't wear this until it's a little bit cooler and I can pair it with dark tights or leggings. Then I will wear it plenty!

From the side: there's a bit of a bump
Again, a point I made with my striped skirt - how hard is it to do just a little bit of print matching at the side seams?  Not all that hard, but worth the effort. Otherwise, I'd have ended up with something like this.

I think this will be fun to wear when I don't feel like flaunting my belly and when I am transitioning back out of maternity wear. It's definitely not my norm - both the print and the style are outside the box for me - but that's kind of what excites me about it.  Just slipping it on feels fun!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Ruched Skirt 2.0: This Time in Stripes

If you follow me on Instagram, then you saw a sneak peek of this skirt on Labor Day.

This is my second - and altered - version of Megan Nielsen's Ruched Maternity Skirt. Now that I have the fit worked out, this took very little time to sew up. I liked it so much that I had to wear it right away.

The fabric is a mid-weight viscose blend that I bought at Paron Fabrics. It sewed up beautifully. In fact, I went back and bought more so that I can make a top, too.

One of my pet peeves in maternity clothing is how poorly it's made. I've seen countless numbers of tops where the print matching is just terrible (here and here) - clearly no effort was made.

Matched stripes

Really how hard is it to even do a semi-decent job matching up stripes? This really didn't take all that long - just a few minutes extra minutes while cutting and then pinning - and yet it makes the skirt look so much better. 

In these photos, I styled the skirt for fun, but I also plan to tone it down a bit for work by wearing it with a white blouse and drapey black cardi. I feel like this is more me than anything I've sewn to this point of my pregnancy. It even warranted a "so, you'd alter that so it fits after pregnancy, too, right?" from Phin. So, it seems like it's a hit. Anyway, I'm really happy to have it in my wardrobe for both work and play.   

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Nesting: Knit Cocoon for Raspberry

This is a redemption post - woo hoo!

Back in December I had a sewing/knitting/baking fail weekend of epic proportions. One of my fails was this sad and shapeless knitted cowl.

It should have looked like this.

But the nice thing about knitting, is that you can unravel your yarn and it basically ends up back in it's original form, unlike sewing. I actually knit up this ball of Malabrigo Rasta three times before landing on the right project for it... a cocoon for Raspberry.  It looks a little pinkish in these pictures, but the color is really a very rich red.

Laurel Love Cocoon with Hearts

This is patterned after the Laurel Love Cocoon by Melissa Riley, which is basically a tube sock for your baby to be swaddled in. I'm learning a lot about newborn development these days. Going from the confined quarters of the womb to the great big world is tough, and being swaddled can give a sense of security and comfort to a sensitive baby. Also, with such little motor control, swaddling can help a fussy baby remain more calm. Poor babies!  I'd be upset all the time, too, if I hit myself in the face with my own hands on a regular basis.  

Cosy Cocoon Swaddle

The original is plain, but I decided that it would be a perfect application for a little bit of lace and cable work. I picked the heart pattern from the center of these cashmere socks, which have since sprung a hole.

With a curious stowaway
Not only did it add more interest to the cocoon, but it made it a more enjoyable project to knit. You could really knit this up with any lace pattern that fit within the number of stitches.  I knit this 17 stitch pattern on one side and left the back plain. Other than that, there isn't much to say about this quick and satisfying project other than the yarn is plush and lovely. It is thicker than the called for yarn, so I knit it up on size 15 needles, reducing the total stitch count to 38.

A knit cocoon did spark some interest among the herd, and Dragon was elected to investigate this new curiosity.

Dragon the Hippo

I think he really does show how we can use the cocoon as Raspberry grows. When Raspberry is too tall to snuggle all the way down, it can be used up to the chest or waist to allow for arm movement.

Anyway, this was a fun and quick project with a double bonus - the use of yarn from my stash that happens to be the perfect color for the holidays.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Franken-dress #1: A Maternity/Non-maternity Mash Up

Picking up where I left off on Saturday, one strategy for creating a maternity wardrobe that is fun, has style and doesn't bore me is to take a basic pattern - my Megan Nielsen ruched maternity skirt (MN1008) - and give it the ol' frankenpattern treatment.

Another of my other strategies is to look beyond maternity patterns. I noticed early on that McCalls has a "Suitable for Maternity" section on-line rather than maternity-specific patterns. Inspired by this idea, if not the actual patterns listed there, I created a pinterest board drawing from all different pattern companies. I've already sewn a bunch of not maternity patterns with minor alterations to make them maternity appropriate.

V1314 Tracy Reese with a little more room in the middle, V8977 Very Easy Vogue with a dipped front hem and Ralph Pink Hareem pants (also in black) with extra waist room

For a franken-dress series based on the Megan Nielsen skirt, I figured that just about any top or dress that has an empire/below the bust seam or could easily be altered to have one would do. So, for my first go-round, I picked Jalie 2804, the very popular Empire Crossover Top.

Jalie 2804 - MN1008 Frankendress!

And a crazy loud print fabric. I think this is a winning combo! I should add that Jalie - in addition to including maternity variations in some of their patterns - also lists regular patterns under the maternity header when suitable. Go Jalie!

Top first: I cut the front pieces as drafted and, for the back, simply merged the top of the Jalie into the skirt to create one pattern piece.  From there I only needed to change the construction order slightly.

There is a lot to love about Jalie patterns and this one is no exception. They include a large number of sizes (27 women and girls sizes) in the one envelope, the instructions are solid but concise and their construction methods are straightforward and effective. The neckline on the top lays flat and secure against my sternum - again, go Jalie!

I made a few minor changes for fit and style considerations along the way. I omitted the modesty panel on the grounds that this dress could be suitable for nursing if I left it out. To make it less low cut and because the size I cut was a little big on me, I overlapped the front crossover a bit more. Finally, I left off the optional shoulder ties since I think they would have made the dress look more casual than I wanted.
For the bottom:  I made a number of changes to my MN ruched maternity skirt prototype that I am very happy with.

Gratuitous happy bump shot.

My first version was very fitted. This worked out just fine in very stretchy black jersey, which slims and camouflages, but in any other color I felt that the skirt might be uncomfortably close fitting, potentially unflattering and get too tight before the end of pregnancy. So, I added 2" to the center front and 1" to the center back. I also added a bit of length in the middle so that I could extend the ruching by a total of 2", which hits at a more flattering location IMHO. 

Much improved ruching; sad wavy hem.

I'm really pleased with my little frankendress pattern, except for one big glaring flaw: the fabric.  I love its loudness and how soft it is, but this jersey created all kinds of problems.  First, it took me forever to actually cut this dress. I struggled to get the fabric on grain and then realized the print is off grain. So I tried to cut it with the print rather than the grain.

Next, the hem is wavy. Folks, I hemmed this dratted thing three times! Three times! It's much improved as it is now, but it's a sad, sad day when Steam-A-Seam Lite fails to produce a nice hem! I can only blame the fabric for this one. It looks good enough to wear and the print does a lot to hide this flaw, but in the photo above you can see the sorry truth.

Last - and this is the one that means the dress will have an even more limited shelf life than my belly dictates - it's already pilling pretty badly after just one wear.

Pilling by the end of the first day! Gaaahhhh!

Fortunately, I have a clothes shaver and the busy print will help distract from the pilling. I really like this dress and will wear it until I feel like it really doesn't look good, but I'm disappointed about this fabric fail. Perhaps when it's no longer fit for public consumption, I'll wear it around the house and to bed. It really is that soft and comfy.

On the bright side, I can't help but think that my little wardrobe project is off to a great start and this is proof that my strategy will work!  So, a big victory despite a fabric flop.

Last shot of me in this happy colored dress!  More versions of my franken-experiment in the coming days!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Project Bump Basics: Megan Nielsen Ruched Maternity Skirt

When I started contemplating sewing a maternity wardrobe and looking at some of the patterns and styles available, it seemed like slim pickings. The big four (plus Burda and KwikSew) offer a small number of basic styles, and most indy pattern companies don't have maternity patterns. There is nothing wrong with this per se - maternity is a small niche. But it sure is a time when you need new clothing asap and it seems like even the basics on offer missed the memo that the modern, urban, stylish mom-to-be prefers to wear something more like this:

Isabella Oliver - these viscose/elastane dresses cost $199 and $155

This basic silhouette can be dressed up with statement accessories, paired with a jacket for work or worn with sandals for more casual wear. Thankfully, indie pattern maker Megan Nielsen has sort of filled this niche with her ruched maternity skirt and wrap top. And Simplicity has actually licensed the wrap top and another pattern, which is available on their website.

So, as my very first maternity specific sew, I decided to try the ruched skirt.

I think it looks great and it's been getting very regular wear. However, it really is the padded push up bra equivalent of maternity wear. Even though there's been some growth in the last week (yippee!!), it hasn't been huge. But this skirt accentuates every curve. So, perfect for showing off new and burgeoning curves.

However, things did not start out well (see here) when I sewed it up according to my pre-pregnancy measurements (which is what you are instructed to do). It was extremely close fitted - more than I was comfortable with across the hip/thigh, and so I let it out as much as possible. I still find it very fitted. Fortunately, I used a very stretchy rayon knit. In fact it's the same fabric from my stash that I used for my latest V1314 dress. So, despite the fact that it looks like it's fitting about as closely as possible, there is still enough stretch remaining that it should be wearable for a few more weeks.

My other quibble is that I don't love where the ruching stops.

It's pretty high on my hip/thigh, basically at crotch level. Obviously part of this is my height - I should have lengthened the ruching and added length to the skirt. However, there is no lengthen/ shorten line, and I guess I wasn't really thinking.  In future versions, I will extend the ruching at least a bit and lengthen that area. By the way, this is the below the knee length on me. It hits right at the top of my knee.


My last quibble is with side seams - when you fold down the waistband to create a casing for elastic, the side seams don't line up exactly. So you have to finess the waistband at both the seams to make it work.

Little complaints aside, this pattern gets a ton of things right.

First, it's in tune with the modern maternity vibe. It can be dressed up or down, and I love that it is over the belly instead of under, so you don't have to wear a big tent-like top with it, although you could. In these pictures, I'm wearing a non-pregnancy tuxedo-style blouse that I strategically unbuttoned at the bump.

Also, this pattern is easy and quick to sew - 2 pattern pieces and all there is to do is sew the seams, waist and hem and add the elastic. And that is the kind of sewing needed during pregnancy!! Last, it looks great and is very, very versatile.

One of my strategies for sewing a maternity wardrobe is to start with a few basic building blocks that I can play with.  This pattern is a winner and - with a few changes to address the close fit and ruching - has been my jumping off point for a mini collection of franken-dresses and top+skirt outfits. So, stay tuned to see how I've played with it this week.