Harley helps.

Harley helps.
Harley, my hard-working sewing assistant.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Alabama Chanin t-shirts

I've been experimenting with making plain t-shirts lately, preparing for the day when my beloved Esprit t-shirts finally kick the bucket. (Why did you have to close all your US stores, Esprit, why, why, whyyyyyy...?) 

I made a size medium short-sleeved shirt from Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, using black rib knit from Jo-Ann. (Used my machine. Sorry, Natalie.)

Love this fabric, although I get '90s Banana Republic flashbacks when I use it.

My super-fancy sewing blog pose. Guess I need to work on that.
It's got a bit more ease than this long-sleeved version, also size medium, using Alabama Chanin medium-weight cotton jersey fabric from one of their garage sales:

Although I do love the bell sleeves:

And my husband says, "Woo, I like that," every time I wear the Alabama Chanin version. 

Let me just put in a plug here for the Alabama Chanin fabric, though -- it sews like a dream, and it's really soft, especially the lightweight cotton jersey.

The pattern itself is super-simple, just front, back, and sleeve pieces. I'm not a huge fan of bias binding, which the book calls for, so I didn't use it -- just tucked the neckline under on both and stitched. I hemmed the short-sleeved version and didn't bother on the long-sleeved version (which is what the pattern calls for, actually -- you leave the sleeves and hem unfinished, so they roll). I like the unhemmed version a lot, but at some point I'm going to have to practice binding and/or finishing hems so I can make shirts to wear to work.

It took a grand total of 45 minutes to an hour to make each one. Low cost, low stress, instant gratification...I think I'll just make t-shirts from now on. (Although I'll always miss you, Esprit.)


PR review for posterity:

Pattern Description:

Alabama Studio Sewing + Design short-sleeved and long-sleeved tops. It's the same top pattern with different sleeve variations -- you can also make sleeveless and cap-sleeved versions.

Pattern Sizing: 

XS-XL. I made the medium.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?

I think so, except I didn't use bias binding and I'm, er, not quite as skinny as the girls in the photos.

Were the instructions easy to follow?

Yes, absolutely. They were for hand-sewing, though, and I machine-stitched mine.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?

I like the length (long enough to cover my big ol' beer belly). And I loved the bell sleeves on the long-sleeved version.

Not a fan of bias binding -- it just seems overly fussy to me. It's also fairly fitted (as you can see!) Alabama Chanin midweight cotton jersey fabric doesn't have a lot of give -- although I have faith that, as the book says, it will stretch out over time to conform to my body.

Fabric Used:

Short-sleeved version: Black rib knit from Jo-Ann (cotton/spandex, I think).

Long-sleeved version: Alabama Chanin midweight cotton jersey from one of their garage sales.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:

I machine-stitched mine instead of hand-sewing and left them plain/non-embellished. 

The book calls for bias binding around the neck of each shirt and the sleeves of the short-sleeved version. It also calls for leaving the sleeves and bottom of the long-sleeved version unfinished. For mine, I just tucked the neckline under on both and stitched. On the short-sleeved version, I hemmed the sleeves and bottom; on the long-sleeved version, I left the sleeves and bottom unhemmed.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?

Oh yeah. Already planning more (and saving up for the next garage sale).


Practical, comfortable, easy to sew, and I love the variations. Definitely making this again.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

holiday sewing recap

Catch-up post!

(And I made some ACTUAL GARMENTS and they turned out OK, so I'll post about those later. Very exciting. But first, gifts!)

I made Cation Designs' awesome all-purpose plushie pattern in Very Serious Bunny and Stoic Doggie as Christmas presents for my niece and nephew.

Serious! Stoic!

Bun bun and doggie tail.
I absolutely love this pattern. It's ingeniously drafted: One body pattern + various switchable ears, paws, and expressions = 7 different animals. It took an afternoon to make each, mostly because I couldn't get the hang of the ladder stitch -- lame, I know. After several tries, I wound up just topstitching the opening closed with matching thread.

To the review:

Pattern Description:  

Cation Designs' free All-Purpose Plushie Pattern, downloadable as a PDF.

Pattern Sizing: 

One size with switchable parts

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?

They looked more or less like the pictures on her blog, so I was happy.

Were the instructions easy to follow? 

Yes, absolutely.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? 

It's a really simple, quick make with lots of options -- one body pattern + ears, paws, tails and noses to make 7 different animals. Easy to sew, adorable, and small enough to make with scraps.

If I could do one thing over again, I'd splay the ears and paws a bit wider before sewing everything together -- they tended to tighten up when I stitched (as you can see from Mr. Bunny's legs -- although I don't think the recipient minded).

Fabric Used: 

Bunny: Wool dyed with purple basil

Doggie: Wool dyed with dyer's coreopsis

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: 

I topstitched the opening with matching thread instead of using a ladder stitch.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? 

Yes, absolutely; it's a quick, easy, fun make, and perfect for gifts.


Mr. Bunny went to live with my niece; his new official title is Dora-the-Explorer Watcher. Mr. Doggie went to live with my eight-month-old nephew, who named him Baa.


I also made this pencil roll for my mother-in-law.

She's in assisted living and uses a wheelchair. A couple of years ago I made her a Kindle cover (just a padded envelope, with a snap), but when we went to visit, she was using it as a sort of clutch to carry around pens and pencils and change and stuff.

So I thought I'd make her an actual pencil roll. I used quilting fabric and batting, stitched three pockets and added two long pieces of ribbon at one end so she could roll it up and tie it.

Not the best picture, I know, but here's how it looks when it's tied.

She does a lot of journal-writing, crossword puzzles, and Sudoku, so I added a small blank book, pens and pencils, a pencil sharpener and eraser.

She liked it (that's the word, anyway), so yay. I hope she can use it.


And also, finally, I made catnip fleecy blankets for the kitties at our local shelter. No pictures, but they're super-simple:
  1. Acquire fleecy blanket remnant from Jo-Ann's.
  2. Cut into rectangles.
  3. Sew right sides together, leaving opening at one end.
  4. Trim and clip corners and turn out
  5. Add a little dried catnip. How much depends on the size of your blankie; probably not more than 1/8 cup.
  6. Tuck opening edges under and topstitch all the way around, using a short stitch and clipping loose threads so kitty isn't inclined to pull them out. (5a: Watch kitty FREAK OUT when s/he realizes you're sewing with catnip.)
  7. Place on any available surface. Watch kitty go nuts/nap.

Next up -- I made stuff by Alabama Chanin! And Drape Drape! Which should be interesting, because I just spilled coffee on my keyboard and the p doesn't work anymore.