Thursday, October 27, 2016

Dino dress

Some friends cleaned out their fabric stash recently, and I was the recipient of a bunch of assorted fabrics. When I saw this dino print, I knew I had to put it on my body somehow.
I'm going to a science writing conference this weekend, and I'll be spending Halloween with my 2- and 4-year-old goddaughters, and a garment with dinosaurs on it is perfect for both occasions, so I finally got around to making something with it this week. There was a scant yard, so I couldn't make a whole skirt or dress, and I thought with something that loud it would be a good idea to tone it down rather than make a whole shirt out of it. It's also kids' flannel PJ fabric (just like the bicycle skirt I made a few years ago that's now one of my favorite skirts), so rounding it out with a lighter-weight fabric would be a good idea. I eventually decided on Butterick 6280, which has the option for a contrast center panel in the front and two in the back.

I didn't quite have enough fabric to do the contrast in the center back as well (I could have if I hadn't cared about flipping the pattern upside down), so I did view B without the back contrast. I thought about doing sleeves in the dino print as well or with a dino print border, but when I saw the forecast for the conference/Halloween, I decided to go sleeveless. (85 degrees on Halloween! Yay Texas!)

I had a lot of options for contrast color. My friends' fabric included red, yellow, and light brown fabric that would have gone well with the dinos, but I wanted something a little less bright, so I decided on an old green sheet.
Construction was pretty straightforward. I cut a 10 in the shoulders and bust and sloped out to a 14 in the waist and hips. It was a little snug at first from under the bust to the top of the hips, but letting out about an inch in the side seams fixed that. I might cut a 12 in the top next time, but that might make the shoulders a little too wide. I think it would be nice for the neckline to be a less snug or lower, but it might be challenging to change that significantly. Part of the problem is that it's so bulky (6 layers), and there's not much that can be done about that.
The dress has pockets! At first I made them in a contrast yellow polka dot fabric (I wanted the contrast there but thought the flannel would be too stiff), but they showed more than I wanted when they were just lying there, so I recut them in the green sheet. Later I realized I had done a 5/8" seam attaching them to the dress rather than 1/4", and that probably would have fixed the problem, but I had already committed to the green by then.
It was kind of a pain to put the lining in, more hand sewing than I prefer. I might simplify the lining next time. The one mistake I made was in the zipper I chose.

I have a ton of zippers from a fabric store going-out-of-business sale (RIP, Hancock) and my mom's stash. I didn't want to go out and get a zipper just for this project, so I used a 22" tan invisible zipper I had on hand. The tan matches a color in the print perfectly, so I wasn't worried about the pull being a contrast color, but I didn't realize the zipper would show as much as it did when it was finally made. When I zipped it up after making it, it didn't show at all, but it turns out that actually putting a body in the dress and moving around makes it show a little bit. Not a huge deal, and it's a novelty dress after all, but I kind of wish I had gotten a zipper that matched better, either invisible or not.

Overall, I'm happy with this dress. I think it's really flattering and fun, and I'll probably get some non-Halloween use out of it as well. I like this pattern, too, and I'll probably make it again. It's definitely a good way to show off a fun fabric.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Summery striped top

We've moved into a house, and I've been trying to get back into the sewing groove now that I have more space to spread my stuff out. This is a refashion of a top I thrifted a year or two ago. It was a vintage (I'm guessing '80s) blouse with long sleeves, and like many blouses that fit me in the shoulders and bust (this one was even a little too big in the upper chest), it was too tight in the hips. It is 100% silk, and it's that really soft, suedey silk. (I don't really know the names for different weaves of fabric.) It's very lightweight fabric with a beautiful drape, so I decided to make a flowy sleeveless summer top out of it.
I don't have a full-length mirror in my sewing room yet, and I'm really bad about taking good "before" pictures.
I cut the sleeves off, made the armholes a little smaller, and finished the armholes with bias tape I bought at Liberty in London when I was there two years ago. I love the floral print with the black background! I think it looks perfect with the black and white stripes. The fact that the shoulders were a little too wide ended up giving the shirt a really relaxed cap sleeve look.

Then I tackled the hip issue. I cut two triangles of fabric out of the sleeves I had removed. I decided to make the stripes on the triangles horizontal instead of vertical for a little visual variety. I ripped out the side seams up to a little bit above my natural waist and sewed the triangles into give me a total of about 6 extra inches in the hips. It took a bit of trial and error to get everything smooth, but it worked out. Then I finished the bottom hem with more of the bias tape.

I'm pretty happy with the result. The one tiny flaw is that because the bottom of each triangle was cut straight across rather than scooped in a little bit, the bottom hem stands out slightly around the hips. If I were more self conscious about my hips, it would probably bother me. I may go back and fix that someday, but I'd have to pull off a ton of bias tape and then reattach it, so I probably won't.
It's a nice, easy summer top. I think it looks good with skinny jeans, and more importantly, it's soft and breezy. I could just live in it all summer.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Shape-note placemats

At the beginning of the year, I participated in one of those "comment on this post and I'll make you something" things, and I finally got around to making the first one. I've wanted to do some shape note-themed reverse applique placemats like the ones I made for a few people a while ago. Two of the people who commented on my post are shape-note singers, and I've now made a set of these placemats for one of them. She did a lot of the organizing for a recent singing, so they are in part a thank you for all her hard work.

For these placemats, I used a heavy maroon canvas-ish cotton and some shiny gold polyester to mimic the colors of the Sacred Harp, the tunebook we use most of the time. I did the best I could on making the stencils for the shapes, and I'm pleased with them. The gold contrast fabric didn't lie completely flat while I was sewing it, so it's a little wavy. I might try to stabilize it the next time.
Overall, I think they turned out pretty well.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Black and red wedding napkins

Some friends from grad school got married, and I made these napkins for them. I made two each of four different patterns, unified by having black backgrounds and red in the design. I used red thread for the stitching. Jon and I had a lot of fun picking out the patterns we were going to use. We ended up with the skulls & roses print I already had from making this apron and bag for the bride (well before she was a bride), "love" printed fabric, some owls, and some little aliens. I think the patterns capture how fun the bride and groom are, and I was especially happy with the owls because they had some owl themed stuff at their wedding.

To make the napkins, I used the "casual" mitered corner napkin tutorial here. I didn't get the mitering perfect, but I was happy with them overall. I think I started with 18 inch squares and lost a little over an inch to hemming, so they ended up about 16 1/2 inches finished.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

PJ Pants for the Whole Family

These are my 2nd and 3rd entries to the pattern stash contest. Jon needed new PJ pants, and we had an old green flannel sheet set that had been retired, so I made him a pair of pants.The first pair I made ended up too big for him, so I took them instead. (Although we are basically the same height and weight, Jon and I are a study in sexual dimorphism. But that's for another day.)

Tonight I finally got around to making the second pair, this time using a unisex pattern. He likes them!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Bicycle skirt

Pattern Stash Contest  I joined a while ago, but I haven't really done anything there yet. Yesterday I randomly went to the page and checked out the contests. One of them is a pattern stash contest, in other words, perfect inspiration for me. I haven't done much sewing lately, and most of it has just been mending or minor refashions, so making a new skirt from scratch last night was a real treat.
 This is Simplicity #4036, a simple A-line skirt pattern. I think I bought it in grad school, but I'm not sure. It's been sitting around for a while. I got the bicycle flannel and this purple cotton-poly blend (I think) years ago in the remnants pile at Joann's. I knew I wanted to make a skirt out of it, but I also knew that I didn't have enough of it for a whole skirt, so it languished for a while. I knew I wanted to piece it together with the purple fabric somehow, but I was hemming and hawing over how.

I think it would have been cool to have more elaborate piecing going on, maybe with the front and back made up of panels of both bicycle fabric and purple fabric, but because the bicycle fabric is directional, the layout didn't work very well for that. So I decided to do the simplest piecing imaginable, just making the front in one and the back in the other, with the panel fabrics switched. I wasn't sure I would like it, but I really do. I also set in an exposed zipper rather than an invisible zipper because I didn't have an invisible zipper of the right length, and it just seemed fun.

The fit is kind of big because I made a 16 instead of 14. Next time I'll probably make the 14, but I like that this one is roomy and cozy, and the extra space will make it more bike friendly. Now if only the weather would agree with my skirt that it's time to bike! It was 20 degrees on the first day of spring. (That's Fahrenheit.)

You can read my review at

Sunday, November 11, 2012

I am your sunshine?

Mia nominated me for a "Sunshine" blog award. I am not really into these memes usually, but I really liked the questions she asked, so I answered them. But I am not going to nominate anyone else. The buck stops here! (But thanks, Mia, I had fun thinking about these. I'm trying to do "NaNoWriMo," but with a few short stories rather than a novel, and all writing exercises are helpful.)

The "rules:"(which I am breaking, since I'm not doing 4 or 5)
1. Include the award logo in a post and/or on your blog sidebar.
2. Link to the blogger who nominated you.3. Answer 10 questions about yourself.4. Nominate 10 other fabulous bloggers and ask them 10 questions.5. Link to your nominees in your post and let them know about the reward.

1. Are you left- or right-handed? (Or ambidextrous?)

I am right-handed but left-eye dominant, and I naturally stand on my left foot if called upon to stand on one foot. I figured out the eye thing the first time I shot a gun (it is not a regular occurrence , and I couldn't aim for crap because I was holding it on my right side and trying to use my left eye to aim. If I were to become a marksperson, I would start shooting left-handed.

2. What was the last thing you drew or doodled?

Since I'm a mathematician, I doodle all the time. Mostly I draw genus 2 surfaces. (I study surfaces of genus greater than or equal to 2, and apparently I'm a lazy doodler, so I just make two holes, even though the surfaces could have 800 holes, or seventy billion.) I've been drawing a lot of triangles, too, and I have some ideas for cool pants and dresses that I have been doodling. But most likely a genus  2 surface is my most recent doodle.

3. What’s the best present you ever received?

This was a toughie. I have a great family and awesome friends who really know me and find things that are perfect for me. My grandparents got me a sewing machine when I was in middle school, and obviously I've enjoyed that for over a decade now. I really like presents that are activities to do together. I think spending quality time with someone is really important for sustaining a relationship, whether romantic or not. Jon got me tickets to a Chicago symphony concert that I really wanted to go to last year (and that wasn't really up his alley), and I really enjoyed that. I've gotten tons of wonderful, really meaningful presents, but those are just two that come to mind as especially nice.

4. What’s the best present you ever gave?

Jon went to take a temporary job in France three weeks after we got married, and I made a book for him before he left called "Jon's Evelyn Book." It has pictures of me and us together. Every year for our anniversary, I make him another Jon's Evelyn Book, filled with pictures from the past year (or old ones I've dug up and think he'll like). 
5. What words do you have difficulty spelling no matter how many times you look them up?
I have always been a good speller, but mountain was a hard work for me for a long time. Occasion too. I know how to do it now, but it took me years. I am currently working on infinitesimal. I think it should have a double s, but I am wrong.
6. When you’re putting on shoes and socks, do you do sock-shoe-sock-shoe or sock-sock-shoe-shoe?
Hrm, I think I do sock-sock-shoe-shoe. Just yesterday I was thinking about how socks and shoes are a good example for understanding commuting and non-commuting. Commutative actions don't care what order you do them in, like putting on your left and right socks. It doesn't matter what order you put them on in. Non-commutative actions do care: putting on shoes first and then socks is not the same as putting on socks and shoes.

7. Did your parents make things up about the world when you were a kid? What’s the best/worst thing they told you? (My dad told me there was whale blubber in ice cream. I told everyone.)
I honestly don't remember. They probably tried to give me as much accurate information as possible, especially when it came to scientific facts about the world. They're boring that way. This isn't quite the same, but I do remember my dad trying to tell me about higher-dimensional space. (So like fourth dimension and beyond.) I insisted that he was being ridiculous and obviously the world was just three dimensions, so we couldn't even say anything about four-dimensional space or higher. Then he told me that there might be situations where there were more than three inputs in a problem, and (alert: this is my interpretation now of what he was probably trying to say then) the way you can think about modeling those inputs would be a graph in four or more dimensions. It made me think, but I stubbornly held my ground for that argument. I couldn't let him know I thought he might have a point. 

8. What’s your favorite punctuation mark?
The semicolon. Kurt Vonnegut, one of my favorite authors, didn't like it (something about a transvestite hermaphrodite; I don't have a problem with transvestite hermaphrodites, although I have never met any), but I think it's grand. It's a nice understated way to connect two ideas without having to decide between "and," "but," "because," or other conjunctions. I think that lets you have a little more creativity.

9. What’s your favorite single-use kitchen implement (or other single-use household implement, if you don’t spend much time in the kitchen)?
We try not to have too many unitaskers, but a pastry cutter is one. I don't use it a ton, but there's really nothing else that can help you incorporate solid fats into pastry dough as effectively. Cheese graters are good, too. And my tea maker. And when we move and have more room in our kitchen, we want to get one of those seltzer makers you sometimes see in Sky Mall catalogs.

10. What’s your favorite “unsolved event,” mysterious creature/person, or otherwise creepy weird thing that hasn’t been figured out by modern man? (I find the Dyatlov Pass incident fascinating.)
I recently learned about these things called "fairy circles"in Namibia. They are these circles where grass doesn't grow, but eventually (over the course of a few decades) the circles are revegetated. Scientists recently documented the whole life cycle of these circles, but various hypotheses about why they occur have been discredited. The hypotheses include fungi or other diseases, ants or termites, and natural gas deposits beneath the surface. I'm also curious about who poisoned Victor Yushchenko and who poisoned some tourists in Thailand. (The tourist story is very sad.)