Thursday, September 8, 2016

Girl Quilts!

I have been waiting patiently for weeks to show these off to you!  Out of my plan to make 5 girl quilts, I have finished 3 in the last 2 1/2 months, and all three have gone to their new forever homes.  So I can finally brag about them and show off all the colourful details!
 I started this journey by making 4 boy quilts.  I started them in the fall of 2011, and I have since given 2 away.
 I'm keeping this black camouflage one for myself (don't worry, the borders are complete now!), and I still have one more to finish, whose recipient is yet to be determined.
 Ever since I started the boy quilts, I was dreaming of making girl quilts.  I knew I had scads of funky girly coloured fabric that would just be so totally awesome.  So, after acquiring a few more funky girly fat quarters to supplement my stash, I started making girl squares in Februrary 2015.  
 I kinda overshot my estimation of how many squares I would need, and I made exactly twice as many girl squares as I made boy squares.  160 vs. 80.  So, I exhausted myself by spending an entire quilting retreat weekend assembling said squares.  
 But, many months after the fact, I am happy to have that many squares to play with.  I have enough for 3 baby quilts, 1 lap size, and 1 twin size.  This is the first one I finished: the lap size.  I was saving this funky flowered border fabric for just the right person, and it looks awesome.  I found this while I was shopping for the girly fat quarters.  The border fabric and the matching sashing went together, and they were both on sale.  Score!
 The second one was a baby size, and I made it as funky as I could.  I love how the lime green striped sashing pops, and I love the railroaded effect I got from carefully placing the rainbows on this animal print flannelette.  
 And I was fascinated that the top edge of the bigger quilt was the same size as the side edge of the baby quilt (5 squares across).  And I love how different they look beside each other, even though the squares in the middle are pretty much the same.
 The lap size is quite big.  Its finished measurements are 59" x 77".  And I managed to make them a couple inches bigger by using 1" sashing.  By the way, these are all Yellow Brick Road quilts.
 Even the baby size is decent.  They are 50" x 59".
 And now I get to introduce you to the newest leg of my sewing journey!  Longarm Quilting!  Right around the time I was ready to finish these quilts, my local quilting store announced that a longarm quilting studio was moving in upstairs.  You take a certification class to learn how to use these amazing machines, then you rent time and finish your quilts!
 After I did my certification class, I decided to quilt the baby size first, as it's always  easier to practice on something small.  I used the basic meandering pantograph pattern that they recommend for your first quilt.  It's pretty cool.  You follow the pantograph at the back of the machine with a little red laser, and the machine follows the design and stitches onto your quilt.
 I was very comfortable with the fiddly details, like marking the edges of the quilt, measuring, balancing the design, etc.  I feel like my upholstery skills come in handy with this kind of stuff.  Not to mention that the machine itself is a big industrial sewing machine on casters.  No problem.
 I was, however, a little too ambitious on my first day, and I decided to quilt both of my quilts in the same session.  It took me 5 1/2 hours, and I was exhausted!  Running this machine is pretty physical, and I would have been wise to do one at a time.  But I had given myself a deadline, as I do, and I had to power through.
 It actually boosted my confidence when I showed myself that I am a professional seamstress, and the technical details that always come with things like this don't even phase me.  That's just part of the process.  
 For my second quilt, the lap size, I graduated immediately to a fancy design.  I chose leaves with swirls.  And I used wool batting on this quilt, because I want to try a few and then decide what my favourite batting is.  It was a bit more challenging than the cotton/poly 80/20 that I chose for the baby quilt. (The 80/20 has already become my favourite.  That was an easy decision!)  The wool was much thicker, which makes the quilting stand out more, but I had to make extra adjustments as I went along to compensate for the shrinkage.  See what I mean about technical details?  Upholstery plays a big part here, too, because it involves batting and quilting.
I am very pleased with how well the leaf pantograph turned out.  I was a little leery while I was trying to follow the lines with my little red laser.  I felt a little jerky sometimes, but the sewing machine is a bit smoother than it feels, and it turned out quite lovely.
After a couple hours of binding and attaching my label, it was done!  I used the same fabric as the border, so the binding essentially disappears on this quilt.  And as far as the wool batting goes, I would like to try one that I intend to keep for myself, so I can see how it wears with time.  It felt a little stiff and thick to me, but I imagine it will relax and get softer as time goes on.
The little one was a dream to quilt.  The 80/20 batting is popular, and I can see why.  I love it.  It's thinner, but still has some loft, and it's incredibly easy to work with.  I had no issues with it at all.
I actually bound this one and gave it away last, but I'm trying to follow some semblance of order here and not confuse you.  It sat folded in my sewing room until after I finished the third quilt, and I had so much success with the binding on that one, that I dove right in and finished this one the next day.  
 I love using up scraps for the backing.  I did buy some flannelette in the bargain centre at Fabricland right around the same time I bought all my batting for these quilts.  But after I made the backing for the lap size quit, I had strange sizes of leftovers, so I supplemented with strips of scrap flannel.  The teal green print is actually from this baby's mom's jammy pants that I gave her last Christmas.  I love being able to incorporate personal details like that.  Makes it special.  
 The simple meandering quilting pattern on this one is actually the most appropriate for these busy quilts.  They are so bright and crazy, that this design just complements them.  But, I also know that these are excellent canvases for me to practice on, so I like to try out the complicated designs so I can become a better quilter.  
 Here is girl quilt #3.  I got creative with my borders on this one.  I wanted to do it all in blue, but I didn't have enough.  After letting it sit and percolate for about a week, I came up with this simple idea of using both colours, each in an L shape.  It helps that they are a similar value in colour.  I'm quite pleased with how it turned out!
 Again, I am fascinated with how different they look!  One is very bold and dynamic, and the other is very soft and girly.  I love them all in their different ways.
I chose a very ambitious pantograph pattern for this one.  It's even more advanced than the leaf pattern I used for the lap quilt.  But, I knew one baby size quilt wouldn't take that long to quilt, even if I pushed myself out of my comfort zone.  
 This quilt took me 2 hours and 45 minutes to quilt, and I estimated 2 hours, so it took a bit longer, but I was really happy with the design.
 The stitching is quite dense, so it takes a bit longer.  I really felt like I was pushing myself, and I loved the challenge.  I also challenge myself to be fast, to make the most of the time I'm paying for.  This is a strange concept for me, because I'm not a particularly fast sewer.  But it felt good to push harder and go faster.
 I also challenged myself with the binding.  I decided to cut my binding at 2 1/4" instead of 2 1/2", as the binding on the lap quilt was a bit big, and I wanted to cinch it in.  And then I remembered that my mom used to hand baste her binding.  Since I had to pin at least every 2", I thought I'd give it a try.  It took a bit longer, but the results are astonishing.  It is well worth the extra time.
 I had enough room to stitch in the ditch without running over my basting thread, and I loved how I could get those corners just right by hand stitching them nicely first.
 I love how it turned out.  And, as I mentioned above, I bound the other baby quilt right after this one, because I was so chuffed with how well the binding turned out.  
And I used up more scraps on the back of this quilt.  I love how you can make a big dent in your stash when you dig up stuff for backing, borders, and binding.  The watermelon binding was a stash buster, and I'm glad I found something that worked so well.  I tried out probably 5 different colours, and had to let it sit for a while before I finally thought to dig through a few more fabrics and found the watermelons.

And here you can see the quilting pattern.  It's really pretty.  It's almost too much for this little quilt, but nobody is going to notice the artistic value of this but me, and I love being able to practice on these little quilts.  
I have learned so much in making these 3 quilts, and I am so proud of myself!  I feel like I stretched quite a bit making these, and I have gained a lot of confidence in myself.
The icing on the cake is the love I feel when I get to give gifts as precious as these.  I actually prefer making gifts for people instead of doing paying sewing jobs.  The feeling is incomparable.  Gift sewing is full of love and generosity, and paying sewing is quite a chore, at least for me.  This is the best way to fulfill that feeling!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

McCall's 6559 Maxi Dress

I hope ya'll like lots of pictures, cuz I made two dresses from this pattern, and I love them both, and I love to take lots of detail shots and fun crazy poses.  So, enjoy them all, or scroll through quickly, your choice.  :)

I have been wanting to make maxi dresses for what feels like 3 years now.  This is one of 3 or 4 maxi dress patterns that I have, and it is the quickest and simplest, and I finally got around to it.
 I made both these dresses from view C and D, one short, one long.  I normally go for a racerback, but I don't have a great criss-cross/racerback bra at the moment, so I'm going the boring route with good ol' straight bra coverage.  As a side note, I do really love the colourblocked/striped versions E and F, and I will be happy to use up small pieces of my knit stash someday to make a funky patchwork maxi dress.  But that's for another day.
I made the first dress out of a 1-metre cut of this funky green/black/yellow/white ITY knit that I've had for a handful of years.  I originally envisioned testing a Jalie crossover top with it, but this was calling my name, so I went for it.  I'm glad I did.
Since I had a limited amount of fabric, I had to shorten the hem by 2".  It's a wee bit too short for me to wear in public, but it will make an excellent "wear around the house on a hot day" dress or a beach cover-up.
Since I have been lurking this pattern for the last couple years, I knew that the neckline was low.  I originally added 2" to the height of the neckline, but once I got it on to check for fit, I decided 1" was sufficient.
This is what my neckline alteration looks like.
I was a little leery of the armholes, since most armholes in most patterns are way too high on me and I have to lower them by 1/2" to 1".  So I kept a close eye on this one, and I was pleased to see that once I stitched them down 5/8", they were perfect.  I was also cautious about a tiny bit of a fold/gap at the lower front armhole near the bust, but once I stitched everything down and put it on for a few minutes, it all but disappeared.  So, armholes are good.
The centre back of this pattern is meant to be placed on the fold, meaning it is a straight line.  Since you can easily get this dress on one length of fabric, it needs a centre back seam.  I added seam allowance to the straight line, sewed it up, and tried it on.  I was hoping to avoid a swayback adjustment as that would tilt the pattern slightly, and I would like to preserve the grainline to make it easier to lay on the fabric.  So, instead, I drafted a curve at the waist at centre back, taking it in by about 1 1/2" total, or 3/4" on each piece.
Here is what that adjustment looks like.  Worked like a charm.  The dress hugs my curves on the back, but still hangs nicely from the front.
My only other alteration was to grade out from an 18 at the bust to a 20 at the waist and hips.  This is very strange for me, because my bust and hips are equal, which usually means that I would either take the hips in slightly or leave them as is for ease.  This is a very slim-fitting dress.  For reference, I have negative 3 1/2" ease at the bust, and about 2 1/2" ease at the hips.  I have never made a top in a size 20, even though it's closer to my measurements.  I made a wise choice and went with the 18, which fits nice and snug, and as you can see above, fits nicely at the armholes and neckline.  A 20 would have been too big.
Here you can see that the skirt hangs nicely.  I'm happy with the amount of ease I chose.
I love the way it hugs my curves at the back.
I am especially proud of myself that I am learning to fully embrace the coverstitch option on my serger. In one of my last knit tops, I learned that if you pin the pesky curves, they are much easier to stitch down.  
So I painstakingly pinned everything, spacing them about 1 1/2" apart.  I also pinned and coverstitched one armhole/neckline at a time, so as not to get the pins all tangled and accidentally pulled out of place. 
I also coverstitched with a lot more patience than I have employed before, and I am pleased as punch with the results.
My serger still has a tendency to get caught up on every seam and bump, so I have to coax and pull gently to make it behave, and it's usually always a little bit crooked near the seam, but I've long since learned to live with this.  I may look into getting a smoother presser foot for my serger and see if that solves the problem.  I can't complain, because I have a Babylock serger/coverstitch machine, and I am very thankful.  It has been my pride and joy and right hand man for many years.
 Look at that!  Doesn't that look professional?  I love it.
Now, hold onto your hats, because this green stuff is positively boring compared to this!  I bought 4 metres of this from Fabricland a couple three years ago, and I had forgotten how dynamic the print was!
 I started this dress the day after I finished the green one.  I also traced myself a paper pattern with all my adjustments.  In addition, I added 4" of length to the bottom, which is just about right, because I am 5'10", and patterns are designed for 5'6".  (I'm also having fun playing with different camera angles, and I love this shot, as it shows off a totally different angle of my sewing room than what you normally see.)
 The only slight difference is that I hemmed this at 1", and the pattern calls for 5/8".  But I imagine that different fabrics will hang differently, and I hope that the deeper hem will give me enough to work with for most knits.
 I did the coverstitching exactly the same way as the green dress, and it all turned out beautifully, except for one little bit.
Right at the back corner of the neckline, I missed a little bit, but I won't bother fixing it, because I have another top with this same problem, and it doesn't really do anything.
I'm absolutly chuffed with how good this looks from the inside!
And here is my 1" hem.
And one more from the outside, because it's just so pretty!
Did you know that if you forget to turn the timer off on your selfie (which is how I take all my full-length shots), that you don't have to worry about touching the button to get your photo?  I'm gonna use this trick again!
 Here is the boring side angle from this side of the room.
 And the boring front angle.  (Well, it's not that boring.  Look at that dress!)
And just to show you how slim this dress is, here's an action pose.  I hope I never have to run in this dress!  My only consolation is that it's not a pencil skirt.  And it hardly uses any yardage at all.
 I put my phone on the shelf and got some shots from this side, at different heights, and I had a lot of fun with it.
 Now that's a better full-length shot, wouldn't you say?
 And since I'm so thrilled with finally having my dream maxi dress made, I had to ham it up a bit more. :D
 I love the white socks peeking out.  Speaking of feet, I have absolutely no idea what kind of shoes to wear with this dress.  I'm not much of a shoe person.  I really like deck shoes, so I might get a new pair of those.
 And one final shot of the back, to show the centre back seam.  I've never been one to pattern match anything, except plaids or stripes.  And I like that this almost matches!  It really is a cool print.
I'm going to have so much fun wearing this dress, as well as the green one around the house.  I have a very cool black and white camouflage knit slated for this pattern, so that should be fun.

Thanks for reading and putting up with 35 photos!  :)