Dog Dress

Pattern:  self-drafted
Fabric: remnant ponte
Cost: free (scraps)

Do I have more serious/useful/important things to sew? Yes. But sometimes you're tired, your house is under construction, and you just need something light. Something fun. Something that results in your dog wearing a dress. Yeah...

This dress is mostly just a series of almost-rectangles sewn, gathered, and buttoned together. The body is a trapezoid sewn into a tube to accommodate her proportions, and the skirt is the same shape but I had accidentally made it too small to be the body, so it became the gathered skirt. I told you I was tired!

The most tricky thing about making a dog dress was actually how to handle the under side of the skirt, or the part which runs along her belly. Since dogs stand horizontally, I knew a skirt would hang funny there (and could possibly get peed on), so you'll notice that this skirt is more of a butt ruffle as I eliminated the belly portion entirely. This seems to be a fairly common treatment for a dog dress (some inspiration here). 

I cut the straps to measure, which was a bit of a challenge on a very sleepy puppy (she usually puts herself to bed around 8, and evenings are prime sewing time for me). As a result, the length was fine but the functionality was lacking - you can see in the picture above that they tend to slip off her shoulders. To remedy this, I later attached a cross strap between the two straps at her chest, much like the H-strap on lederhosen. This seems to have resolved the issue.

If you came here for a dose of cuteness, I hope you got your fill. For serious sewing, I hope to be back soon!

P.S. Looks like she got her little self featured on Kollabora's Weekly 6

Under Water

A few weeks ago I received three emails in rapid succession during the middle of the work day. One was from my neighbor, who lives upstairs and next door, asking if I had the water shut off instructions. The second was from our property management company, informing us that there would be an emergency water shut off in the building. And the third was from my next door neighbor, who lives under the first neighbor, informing us that water was raining down into her apartment.

When I got home, I went upstairs to check in with my neighbor and inspect the damage. Our building was built in 1970, and any unit with the original valves is playing a risky game. As it turns out, his dishwasher had begun to leak, and when they tried to tighten the valve it instead exploded, gushing water into his kitchen and living area for the better part of ten minutes. The water, in turn, leaked down through my next door neighbor's ceiling, causing the same if not more damage down there. Now, several hours after the incident, both neighbors still looked shocked and confused, meekly inspecting the damage. I offered my upstairs neighbor a hug and a shot of whiskey, and promised to check in later; I had a standing appointment to go running and couldn't be late.

It wasn't until I returned home from said run that I noticed the large puddle that had collected on my kitchen floor. It wasn't a lot, but rather looked like someone had given the floor a very wet mop. Why I hadn't thought the water leak would have affected me was either hubris or wishful thinking, but luckily the damage wasn't nearly as bad as my neighbors'. I cleaned the puddle up with a single bath towel and called my insurance company. It appeared that the damage was mainly to the floor, and that the water had leaked through the baseboards from my next door neighbor's into my place.

This was over three weeks ago, and the clean up saga continues. As it turns out, what was just a small puddle of water had wet the floor from my sewing area, around the kitchen, all the way to my front door. The insurance company sent men with fans to dry the area, tented my entire kitchen with plastic for a weekend to remove asbestos in the wet drywall, stripped a portion of the hardwood from the floor, ran more fans, and scheduled a contractor to make repairs. Now we are finding, as it turns out, you cannot just replace a section of hardwood floors so the entire living space, from the living room to the bedroom to the closet, will have to be torn up and new hardwood floors installed throughout. Luckily my neighbor's insurance should hopefully be covering the work, but it is still a major pain!

ny sewing area and kitchen with the fans (left) and asbestos tenting (right)

On my part, I've been playing contractor, scheduling with nine different companies to get through inspections, clean-up, and reconstruction. What started as some small damage is likely to take over a month to repair. As for my sewing area, I have moved my desk into a cramped corner of the living room. I have still been managing to sew away, but have been taking things at a more reduced pace. Luckily, none of my sewing supplies were damaged, although they were briefly sealed up behind the asbestos tenting when the environmental company failed to notify us what exactly they would be covering up.

All this is to say that I've been doing more dreaming about sewing lately than actual sewing. But I will be back soon, and with new hardwood floors to boot! Oh, and get your pipes checked! I'm about to ask my neighbor directly upstairs to do the same...

The Frenchie Sewing Story

Well, international puppy day has come and gone, and so has the crazy dog lady sewing challenge, so I figure it's time for an update on our pup, Beatrix Kiddo. She turned one year old in February, got spayed shortly before, and has been a bundle of fun and energy for the entire six months we've had her.

A few months in, the weather turned cold and I finally had the chance to make her some little jackets, documented here on the blog. The real joy about sewing with a frenchie, however, is having a little sewing companion. While their demeanor makes them great apartment/city dogs, french bulldogs were originally bred in England as companions for lacemakers. During the industrial revolution and the mechanization of the textile industry, they accompanied their owners cross border to France where they waited patiently at the foot of the table, keeping their owner's feet warm as they stitched away. Centuries later in my sewing room, Beatrix has dutifully taken her place at my presser foot like it was meant to be.

So what have I made her?

Besides the things I've posted here, I have managed to sew a few other things. When we found out we were adopting here, we converted an old trunk into her bed and I made the cushion and cushion cover. How does she like it? Well, when we first brought her home she would wake up at 4am because that's the time her former dad would get up to go work. Then she learned to sleep in until our alarm clock went off around 7. Now, she sleeps in until well after I've gotten out the shower and am getting ready for the day. Smart girl!

I have also made her a few bits that haven't ended up on the blog, mostly because they never made it past muslin stage. Frenchies are tricky to fit because they are so round and stocky, but after a muslin t-shirt I did make her a sweatshirt that I love. I need to sew her up another one and do a full post on that, as version 1 has already met its end.

Come Christmas time I also tried to make her some onesie pajamas. Unforatunately, I never quite achieved the perfect/practical fit, even after 3-4 tests. Maybe next year.

Mostly though, she hangs out sans clothes, or maybe with her harness and bow on, and goes just about everywhere that we do.

If you do like this sort of thing, you can follow along at BeatrixKiddoFrenchie on Instagram because, yeah, we're crazy dog people like that.

Freemantle Cocoon Coat

Pattern: Marilla Walker's Freemantle Coat
Fabric: 2.5 yds wool outer, 2.5 yds cotton lining
Cost: $45

When I first started sewing in earnest, I spent a lot of time looking for the right coat style. I am not a particularly frilly girl, so ruffles, peter pan collars, and a lot of shaping just didn't seem like me. My most-worn me-made coat is a simple grey affair, and my favorite thrifted jacket is black tweed in a motorcycle style. This winter, when I was tempted to make a new coat, I again went searching for something interesting but wearable that would easily fit into my wardrobe.

Serendipitously, around that time Marilla Walker asked if I wanted to review her new pattern, the Freemantle Coat. Cocoon coats are very on-trend right now, and the Freemantle pulls heavily from street style and fashion inspiration. It is interesting and unique without looking overdone or too done up. While coats take a good amount of effort to sew up, I knew this would be the perfect project to try out, so I said yes. (Plus, Marilla's maiden name, Freemantle, means cloak-maker. How cool is that?!)

Clockwise from top left: La Garconne, Elizabeth SuzannGoodnight MacaroonBanana Republic

Before diving into the coat, however, I did want to make sure that the proportions and styling worked for me. Marilla has pinned some really great inspiration, and I assembled some more images to focus on what I really wanted (see above). The first thing I really like about this pattern is the shorter sleeves - just like with my winter swing jacket, I think showing a bit of arm really helps balance out the volume of the garment. I cut the sleeve length exactly as suggested, but also cut the sleeve sides along the more tapered lines for View B in order to bring down the volume just a bit more.

For the size, Marilla suggested that I take into account the extra ease in the pattern as she knew that I have small shoulders and things tend to run large on me. I cut the smallest size and the fit was perfect. The silhouette was still very cocoon-shaped without looking like I am wearing my boyfriend's jacket. The fit is good through the shoulders and hips, and bellows out around the body, just as a well-fitting cocoon coat should.

The last and most obvious mod I made was to switch up the collar. While I love the look of the cut-in collar on view B, for mine I wanted something a bit more traditional/less sporty. I used the collar from my McCall's 6172 blazer pattern, modifying the length a bit to work with the pattern. The overall hack wasn't too bad, and if you're interested Marilla explores how to modify the collar in this post.

For more inspiration, you can check out C's color-blocked version, the lovely Portia, and this very natural version.

For the construction, I took my time cutting, assembling and finishing the jacket. There are a number of interesting things to share here.

First, because of the billowy shape, Marilla has you underline the coat rather than line it. I have rarely had the chance to underline, but I do know that, like lining, if you are off then the coat won't hang properly. For this reason, I took extra care in cutting, lining up, and basting each piece together. I had everything laid out on the bed just to make sure I didn't get it all mixed up. This technique was great for the fabric I chose, which is very loosely woven and benefited from the solid cotton underlining. It just made everything much more sturdy and durable.

To conceal the inner raw edges of the coat, Marilla suggests that you bind them and then hand sew them down to the lining. I am a bit allergic to hand sewing, especially when it involves over 12 yards of bias tape, so I simply serged the raw edges, pressed them, and then sewed them down using my machine. I think the technique is fine, and the stitching lines are barely noticeable in this fabric. I suppose the wool could get a bit scratchy without the binding, but it doesn't bother me. For the facings, however, I did sew them in by hand, and for that part it was well worth it.

Another technique that I had the chance to practice on this garment was clapping all the seams after pressing. I have rarely if ever done this before, and it worked amazing! Because of the thick wool, many of my seams started out as quite bulky, so Marilla recommends in the instructions to press them and then clap them with a clapper or wooden spoon as the seam cools to press everything flat. My wooden spoon worked great, and the before and after was quite astonishing, giving the coat a much more professional, clean finish.

I did, however, struggle MAJORLY with one part of the pattern: the sleeve gusset. The design for this was actually really intriguing: instead of a separate gusset piece it is actually part of the sleeve, and sewn up using a bit of sewing origami. Here I felt that the instructions could have benefited from some more illustrations, as it took me an entire evening to figure out precisely how everything went together. There's no sewalong for this pattern, so there wasn't much reference. If you're sewing them up, I recommend looking at this picture from Marilla's blog, which helped a lot in figuring out how everything went together.

Even after putting sewing it up, however, I do feel that the gusset is a bit off. While the construction is interesting, I think having a one-piece sleeve with gusset causes some twisting when you move your arm. You can see this in some of the tester versions, where the fabric twists and bunches when you bend your arm and looks a little off grain or constricted somehow. While I think it looks fine in normal wear, this part did bug me a bit.

Overall, however, I would consider this a success. I finished it last week and have already worn it twice to work and twice on the weekend. The color fits nicely into my wardrobe, and the style is casual enough that it gets pulled out often. I am even more in love with the sleeve length now, as it's perfect for Bay Area whether, where it's never quite cold enough for a full-on coat. It's kind of like those people who like snuggling up in bed but with their feet sticking out - you feel nice and warm, but still get some ventilation in there!

My fabric choice also ended up working really well. It has the right drape for the pattern, holding the shape but also hanging nicely off my shoulders and around my waist and hips. In truth, Mr. Made thinks it's a bit frumpy, but I have always been a bit of a man repeller and really appreciate the tailoring that went into this pattern. The shape is especially fun and interesting to me, and I'm so glad I gave it a try. It's one of those fun but practical sewing projects that make you glad you can sew!

So what do you think? Do you stick with tailored coats or appreciate the design elements of an oversized ball of wool? 

The Menswear-Inspired Camas Blouse

Pattern: Thread Theory Camas Blouse
Fabric: 2 yds black ponte
Cost: $6 (got it on sale, baby!)

I often try to 'dress up' for work only to find myself reaching for my comfy knits and 'easy' clothes. This winter, however, Thread Theory came out with what could be the answer to my dilemma: the Camas Blouse. It's a cute blouse with a front placket, yolk, and gathers, but made completely in knits! Besides being super comfy, I love that knits don't wrinkle, making them super easy to wear (and 3/4-length sleeves are my fave!). Before this point, Thread Theory had been making exclusively menswear, so I was also super excited to try out some of their menswear-inspired women's line. Morgan sent this along for me to try out. 

This version is a bit of a tester. I am doing some blog posts now for the Thread Theory blog, and we wanted to try to make it up in a thicker fabric to explore how that would work. I do have some recommendations for sewing this up in a ponte, so you can find those tips here

I cut a size 4 based on my bust measurements, but I think I need to size down even more. Even though I trimmed the sides in at the hips, it is still a bit big in the bust. *Sigh* things always seem to be too big in the bust. Luckily, Thread Theory provides REALLY detailed finished garment measurements, so I'll definitely be using those in the future to resize a bit.

For this version, I fixed the gaping and tried to make the front placket lie flat by shortening the placket considerably at the neck. While the collar is designed to sit a bit away from the body, in a thick fabric like this I found I really needed to tighten things up and contour the placket to the back of my neck (see below). This helped considerably, but I think I tightened a bit too much in the front, where some puckers have now started to form. I have flattened them out in the top pic, but you can see them above.

The shirt does have some lovely details though. I made the gathers into pleats for this thicker fabric, and I really love the special little touches without it being overly feminine. I hope to make this again as soon as I find the right fabric!