Winter Coats for Beatrix Kiddo

Pattern: Martha Stewart's Doggy Coat
Fabric: Italian wool (wool coat), waterproof fabric (raincoat) + fleece (lining)
Cost: wool coat was from remnants, raincoat materials were $4

I don't think I realized that I would be doing so much sewing for dog, but Mr. Made said he knew I wouldn't be able to resist. Dog clothes are fun because they are relatively quick to make and the results are usually incredibly cute. Even when I mess up, I have the excuse that it's just for the dog, so it really is no-pressure sewing. Feel free to judge me for being a crazy dog lady, though, as I'm totally obsessed right now.

This round of outfits was inspired by the change in the weather. Mid-way through December it's finally cold enough for some coats in California, and over Thanksgiving we visited family in the high desert where temperatures dipped below freezing at night. Today I even caught her hanging out by the heater, so it was definitely time to get her some outerwear.

The Wool Coat:

This pattern is free and comes courtesy of Martha Stewart, who has two french bulldogs, Francesca and Sharkey. Because frenchies are oddly shaped (read: stocky and sausage-like), I have found it is easiest to sew patterns especially made for them. This one fit nearly perfect straight from the pattern, and only need to be shortened as Beatrix is not quite as long as other frenchies. I'm not sure how it would fit a more regularly-shaped dog, but the straps are fairly adjustable and the pattern is quite simple.

For this jacket I used a remnant of a beautiful Italian wool that I got on sale at Stone Mountain years ago, and had used for this dress (which I still wear all the time). I lined it with a plaid fleece I had laying around, which had never been used for anything but is very soft. Martha of course uses $33/yd waterproof-coated linen for her coats, but Beatrix does just fine with remnants, thank you very much.

The instructions have you quilt the two pieces together, and then bind the edges. I substituted buttons for velcro, and cut two more button holes for her harness buckle to fit through near the neck. The only other change I made is that I cut both the lining from and the shell from the same pattern piece, as it didn't make sense for there to be two separate pattern pieces if they were just going to be quilted together.

What's great about this coat design instead of something with sleeves is it really is a lot more functional. It allows for a greater range of movement compared to the hoodie sweatshirt I made her (not yet blogged) or some of the funny outfits I'm planning to make her. Here she is chomping on a stick and generally wriggling around:

The Raincoat:

The wool coat was quickly followed by another project - a waterproof raincoat. #Hellastorm hit the Bay Area last week with 8 inches of rain in two days, and the Kiddo needed something to keep her dry. (It's actually raining again now as I type this.) Of course she needed a classic raincoat, and for less than $100, please.

For $4 I bought half a yard of waterproof material and fleece lining, and to Martha's pattern I added a hood from a dog sweatshirt pattern. One of the interesting things I've found about dog patterns is that they don't often follow the same conventions as regular sewing patterns. I think many of them are made for people who don't normally sew or perhaps by people who don't make human clothes, and so it takes some time figuring out. The Millamilla patterns, for example, sell their instructions separately from the PDF pattern pieces, and so of course I didn't pay for that piece and was left to my own devices. Martha offers her instructions on her website, but without pictures and the usual sewing lingo. To make this raincoat, I skipped the quilting and binding and simply sewed the lining to the shell right sides together and then flipped it right side out. I then sewed the hood on top of that and hid the raw edges under the sewn-on "collar" provided in the Martha Stewart pattern. This seemed to work pretty well, and gave a nice clean finish.

Like the wool coat, I'm pretty happy with result. While we didn't take her out in the pouring rain, we did test it in some light rain and I'm pleased with the results. It's enough to keep her from smelling like a wet dog when she comes back in the house, and hopefully makes her a bit more comfortable. I'm not sure if the hood is totally functional, but it does stay on for the most part and could help keep her dry. Mostly though it's just adorable, so I'm kinda looking forward to the rainy day tomorrow. 

Hope everyone else is staying warm and dry! Probably time to make myself a winter coat, too...

Baby Pants

Pattern: Baste + Gather's Baby Got Back Leggings for Cloth Diapered Babies
Fabric: ponte
Cost: free pattern + remnants!

When my brother was a baby, my mother used to change him, squish his chunky little legs, and exclaim: "Nice legs!" One day during his changing he looked down and inspected himself, proclaiming, "Nice legs!" I think even he must have known how adorable those little baby appendages are!

For my coworker's second child, a baby boy, I decided to make up a few pairs of Baste + Gather's Baby Got Back Leggings. The pattern is free, I used scraps for the fabric, and it took only a few hours late one night to put them together, making them the perfect gift. I sewed him up a pair in size 0-3 months and 3-6 months so he'd have something to grow into, as babies grow so fast!

Today my coworker sent me some pics of his older daughter, who is 2 years old, wearing the size 3-6 month pair. Isn't she cute?! She's a petite little thing so they fit her great, and for a toddler not in diapers they give a sort of drop-crotch look. For bigger babies, the pants come sized all the way up to 2T.

I'm already planning on making up some more pairs for my cousin's son for Christmas. I think they would be super adorable with little knee pads and other details. The pattern itself actually has a few variations for adding applique shapes or ruffles, so there are a lot of possibilities!

Now to explain to my mother why I keep making baby clothes...

Pattern Review: Ginger Jeans

Pattern: Closet Case File's Ginger Jeans
Fabric: 1 1/2 yd stretch cotton lycra sateen

Hellooo! I am making my triumphant return to the internet after spending the past month writing my application for a masters program in public policy. I have been missing sewing like crazy and have no less than thirteen projects in my queue that I can't wait to get started on. I have also realized that sewing is not only a fun hobby, but a necessary creative outlet that gives the rest of my life balance. So, needless to say, I'm glad to be back!

First up is a project I completed last month - Closet Case File's Ginger Jeans. Those who have been following along will know that I have spent the last couple of years mildly obsessing over finding my perfect go-to jean pattern. After about seven versions, I have a very modified Colette Clover/BurdaStyle hybrid that I would say comes pretty close. So why try a new pattern? Honestly, I was curious to see if all the rave reviews for Heather's Ginger Jeans were true. And what really sold me on trying out this pattern was the picture of Heather herself: not only was it the style I like, but the pieces hug her curves beautifully! I was hoping they would look as good on me as they do on her.

I don't usually write pattern reviews because, to be honest, I don't often follow directions or cut patterns out as-is unless I'm pattern testing. But since jeans are an area of interest to me, I thought I'd take the opportunity to go through and jot down some notes. Here it goes:

My first impression was that there were a lot of pattern pieces to cut out! I wanted the low rise of View A but the tapered leg of View B, so I cut out all the pieces. Everything except for two pieces needed to be cut again for the other version, so there was a lot to do. However, I do eventually want to make the high-rise jeans, so I consider it worth it.

Next up were the instructions. Heather is so adorable! She realizes how intimidating jean making can be and cheers you on the whole time! This is one reason I like indie patterns, as I think the detailed instructions can make sewing so much more accessible. While most of the techniques were familiar to me, I did enjoy following her instructions for the fly front - I think I have made the best fly front I've ever done! However, be careful as she confuses left and right at some points - sometimes left refers to the side when you're facing the jeans, and other times it refers to the side when you're wearing them. But the illustrations and paying careful attention to detail should help you figure it out.

After constructing a beautiful fly front and nice back pockets, I basted everything together and tried it on with bated breath. The result? Pretty good! I would say it's the best fit in the legs I've ever had straight out of the envelope. I think my lower half is generally pretty easy to fit aside from some small tweaks, but I was pleasantly surprised. There was no bagging at the knees or extra fabric in the thighs like I had with the Colette pattern.

As I sewed them up, the one change I made was to modify the back seat curve to match my self-drafted pattern, which involves deepening the curve and bringing in the center back by about 1/2". Now that I have been wearing them for about a month, I can confirm that I need to make even more changes to this part. My waist curves in sharply from my booty, so I need to curve the back yoke and possibly take in the sides near the waistband. It fits great up to the yoke, but above that I need to take in about two more inches total - yikes!

This is actually a fairly typical fitting issue for me, and one I've encountered on my other hybrid pattern as well. However, I was slightly disappointed as I'd hoped they would be as curve-hugging as they look on the envelope.

Conclusion: In the end, straight from the envelope I got a pattern that was pretty close to the one I already had, but without the 7 pairs of drafting and refitting to get there. What is more, I'm not that great at drafting, so it is awesome to have a pattern where all the pieces line up and the elements are each nicely designed. You can tell Heather put a lot of thought into this pattern, and I wish these had been here when I first started sewing jeans. The details on these look great, and it is the best fly front I've ever done. However, the back gape is a reminder that a new pattern is not a panacea for my fit issues, and I will need to spend time making some adjustments to the back for the next pair.

So this version is a wearable muslin. Unfortunately the black is hard to photograph and they attract dust and specks like crazy, so apologies if the pictures aren't as detailed as I'd like. Hopefully I'll be back in a few months with a new version, as I am in  need of some more pants! I'm hoping this pair can be the base for my ever elusive perfect pants block...

Sutton Blouse

Pattern: True Bias's Sutton Blouse (pattern tester)
Fabric: 1.5 yds rayon challis
Cost: $15

This is True Bias's new pattern, the Sutton Blouse! You know I love me a kimono top, so it's no surprise I'm sporting another one here. Kelli drafted this out of a desire for more v-neck patterns, which I think can be more dressed-up and sexy than your every-day crew-neck. It also features an inverted back pleat, high-low slit hem, and a one-piece yoke detail. 

I made mine up in white with a red yoke, which is really quite sporty. However, after seeing Kelli's gorgeous single-color green version, I am totally envious and have plans to make one just like that next. The yoke gives you an opportunity to play around with color or just interesting seam details, which takes this top a notch above basic.

As a pattern tester, I sewed mine up in size 0, the smallest size. Because it's a loose-fitting top, I went with my bust measurements, where I often fall into a smaller size. The fit was not too snug at all, and in fact fit me a bit big in the shoulders (no surprise there, as that is another common adjustment for me). Since I made it up, Kelli took about an inch total from the ease and 1/4" at the neckline, which I think should make the fit even better on me. She also raised the neckline by a 1/4", and I might raise it even a bit more to suit my tastes. 

As for the other design details, I love the seaming and think it would add a lot of interest to even a black or dark-colored shirt. I am not a fan of high-low hems, but I know they are very popular right now, so that is another interesting design feature. And the back pleat ensures I will be able to ride my bike to work without ripping any seams - always a bonus for me!

Finally, I have to say how much I love Kelli's instructions. I think she does an excellent job of explaining every step of the way, right down to the stay stitching and seam finishes. While she rates the pattern "intermediate" because it is made for slippery drapey fabrics, I think her instructions would be perfect for a beginner looking to tackle a new pattern. 

The one thing I am struggling with for this top and a few others I've made recently is the fabric. After hearing a lot about rayon challis from other bloggers, I have made up a few shirts in it. Unfortunately, I have now also discovered it wrinkles like crazy. I originally thought rayon didn't wrinkle, but I am either mistaken or it depends on the blend and the weave. I've bought two different ones from different sources and had the same problem. Wear it while sitting for a few minutes and I get up looking like, as one Pattern Review member put it, a "wilted flower."

In thinking about the clothes I reach for most often in my closet, I have also realized that the ones that do not require ironing are easiest to wear. There's a Scout tee I have made out of some synthetic blend that I reach for almost every time, despite the fact that it doesn't breathe very well. So I have been on the hunt for some new fabric ideas. I did see a fabric labeled as "travel linen" at my local store that is sadly no longer there, and I am not opposed to buying fabrics with a hint of synthetics in them to prevent the wrinkles. Does anyone out there have any advice on nice drapey or shirting fabrics that are not as prone to wrinkles?? Thx in advance!!

Beatrix Kiddo (The Costume)

Pattern: Self-drafted doggy tee
Fabric: 1/3 yd vinyl
Cost: $15

Happy Halloween everybody! 

For her first Halloween, B decided to go as her namesake, Beatrix Kiddo from Kill Bill. (I couldn't help myself.) If you haven't seen the film, Uma Thurman plays a former assassin whose team attempts to murder her and her family on her wedding day. Armed with a Hattori Hanz┼Ź sword and dressed in a yellow jumpsuit, Beatrix Kiddo aka Black Mamba exacts her revenge, one by one. 

Being the evil killer that she is, B had no problem putting on her vinyl jacket, picking up her sword, and getting ready to slay some treats. She doesn't seem to mind wearing little outfits (I tested it out with a t-shirt a few days before), but man is she hard to photograph!

The sewing itself was a new experience for me. I had never made anything for a dog before, and fitting is a completely different story - especially with a very sleepy model! I started with a Big 4 pattern for a dog jacket, but it did NOT work for her. French bulldogs are much more stocky than the average dog, and for the pattern to work I would have needed to rotate the sleeves a full 90 degrees forward. I took a deep breath, went to the fabric store for a yard of muslin, printed out a different pattern, and went to town. After about 7 tries, I had a t-shirt that worked pretty well for her. (Might post that later with some thoughts on sewing for doge.)

Next was sourcing the fabric (I wanted stretchy vinyl but ended up with something more akin to upholstery), borrowing my mom's embroidery machine to make patches, and sketching out my final design with the help of Mr. Made. We also watched Kill Bill Vol 1 for good measure, which came with this great little sword.  

Below is the final result. I still need to add the snaps on to the top and bottom, but other than that it's complete. I gave it the motorcycle jacket look by adding yellow patches down the side, and also stitched on "Kill Bill" and "B. Kiddo" patches to make things a bit more obvious. My mom's Bernina does letter embroidery, so the patches were pretty easy to do. The whole thing closes with a separating zipper, which makes it easy to get it on and off. For a bit of added stretch, the black stripe down each side is a stretch pleather remnant.

Of course, now I have nothing to wear for myself, but I'm hoping I can pull something out of the archives. We're taking B to a friend's Halloween party tomorrow, and I need to figure out if I should go as a theme with her or not - perhaps another Kill Bill character, a Quentin Tarantino character, or maybe just go with the whole kick ass super hero theme and recycle my Batman costume... It doesn't matter though because B always steals the show!

Happy Halloween everyone! I leave you with this adorable outtake of B trying to eat a treat...