<![CDATA[Sew Many Mistakes - Latest]]>Tue, 31 Oct 2017 14:36:09 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Failing at pattern hacking: a Kirsten tee to dress... to skirt]]>Wed, 15 Jul 2015 07:39:58 GMThttp://sewmanymistakes.com/latest/failing-at-pattern-hacking-a-kirsten-tee-to-dress-to-skirt

I love Maria Denmark's free Kirsten Kimono Tee, which was my second "grown up" make and first successful knit make (after my strange BHL Polly Top in hatchi knit). Aside from the slightly droopy neckline I was happy with it and gifted it to mom before taking any pics. Anyhow, at some point last summer I had the not-so-brilliant idea of lengthening the pattern into a maxi dress. I am not sure why I thought it would look good when I normally don't like straight dresses with kimono sleeves. Go figure. I decided to try my idea on this gorgeous jersey print instead of the many boring solids in my stash. Again, go figure. 

I also had the idea of ruching the midsection  like so (a technique I've never used) to make it more unique and flattering so I cut the dress extra long. Why would you ruch a nice print like this? And WHY oh why would I wear these awkward formal shoes in the picture? SO MANY "GO FIGURE"S!!! The whole thing was so half-baked it was no big surprise that I hated the pre-ruched version immediately and no amount of ruching would change that. It fit like a column whose sole purpose was to emphasize my lack of curves. And sway back. Ugh.

This time I had a different approach to the neckline (for some reason still ignoring the pattern which calls for a simple binding). I came up with this complicated process where I cut off a 1 inch strip of jersey and applied knit stay tape to it. Then serged it onto the right side of the dress along the unstabilized egde, fliped over and zig-zagged. Why I did not simply apply the knit stay tape to the back of the fabric, fold over, and stitch down is beyond me. However, unlike my original Kirtsen Tee it didn't droop or gape so I guess that was a success?

So there I was -- having wasted one of my favorite knits on a dress I hated. What to do, what to do? I know! Turn it back into a kimono tee! I chopped the bottom off, hemmed... And promptly tossed aside! Somehow it STILL didn't look right. And I didn't know why. I gave it to mom who, strangely, loves it.

At that point it was determined that the bottom part of the failed dress is to become a maxi skirt.  I first decided to interface the entire top part (about 9 inches from the top) for some structure, then fold it down into a waistband-like thing and install a zipper. I am not joking. A zipper! WHY? Why would anyone do that on such a thin knit? I do not have an answer for you. Realizing the nonsense of all this I peeled off the interfacing (which was disturbingly easy, isn't interfacing supposed to stick better?), folded the top into a casing, inserted some 2in elastic, and considered myself done with this stupid, stupid thing. But to my surprise the skirt isn't so terrible after all!

For some reason by the time I was done straightening the bottom the skirt was almost too short for a maxi so I left it unhemmed. And the shape still highlights my lack of curves (the pattern lines don't help). But with a solid tank and a head scarf in a matching pattern I feel like I almost feel cool in it. Not the most exciting make, but much much better than the dress I started with. Plus the fabric feels divine against the skin in the heat. So there is that.  

<![CDATA[Sallie Jumpsuit #2 and first adventures in pattern matching]]>Tue, 07 Jul 2015 06:38:14 GMThttp://sewmanymistakes.com/latest/sallie-jumpsuit-2-and-first-adventures-in-pattern-matching

My first Sallie Jumpsuit was such an instant favorite that after two days of wearing it non-stop I had to start a second one (and do laundry). Now that size and fit were mostly figured out I was ready to risk a nicer fabric. I had my mind set on this ultra soft mystery knit I got for $2/yard from L.A.'s Fabric District (I know I know, us L.A. sewists are so lucky and spoiled, it's sickening). It appeared to be some sort of rayon poly mix with great recovery and a thick and very spongy/bouncy feel. It also screamed "I will pill like crazy if you just look at me the wrong way". But you can only ask so much for $2/yard. Most importantly though, it had a fun print! And by fun I mean the kind that inevitably drives you to homicidal rage fantasies against its unknown designer. But we'll get to that soon enough.

First I want to say that I love my Sallie #2 even more than my Sallie #1.  I have probably worn it 10 out of the last 14 days. Everyone is getting sick of seeing me in it. I don't wash it often enough (at least I am saving water! #CAdrought). I just don't care, I don't want to take it off because it is literally the most comfortable thing I own. There is only one downside to the Sallie Jumpsuit, or any jumpsuit for that matter: peeing naked. But it is so worth it!

This time construction was much easier. Because of its sponginess the knit traps a lot of air and I was worried a double-layer bodice would be too stuffy. So I used the leftover thin jersey from Sallie #1 for the lining. As a result Sallie #2 took up less than 1.5 yards of 60" fabric. Making the lining out of a cheaper solid knit is a great solution if you are sewing with a pricey fabric you want to use sparingly.

As before, I lengthened the bodice, but this time I added 3 in rather than 2. I marked the sleeve seams carefully and joined them without much of a fight. I used knit stay tape to stabilize the neck opening with great success. I was so busy congratulating myself that I sewed the bodice to its lining the wrong way so my careful 2 mm stitching around the neckline had to all be unpicked. Took 1 hr 45 mins to fix. So I strongly suggest pinning things together then flipping the entire thing inside out to make sure you have joined everything as intended. I also, AGAIN, forgot to sew in the back ties. So I had to unpick 2 inches of the second neckline seam to add them. When it rains errors, it pours.

One issue with my Sallie #1 was a bunch of horizontal fabric excess in the lower back caused by my sway back. For this version, I drew a curved line across the lower back that pulled up the pants by an inch at the CB, tapering to nothing at the sides. I curved both the elastic casing and the pants joining seams. I forgot to snap pictures but I made the same adjustment for my Sallie #1 (that poor waist seam has now been redone 3 times and I am contemplating another fix). It still pools a bit but it is much better than before. Also, as before, I eliminated the pockets. I really don't need them.

All in all, the bodice took me just a few hours, mistakes and all, and I was rather happy.  The real pain began when I started matching the seams. To be fair, as soon as I laid the pattern pieces onto the fabric I thought "Uh oh. These chevron stripes are insane". They are uneven both vertically AND horizontally. Meaning that as you look top to bottom some stripes are closer together than others (which is noticeable immediately). But also, as you look left to right, the lines get closer and further apart by as much as an inch (which is only noticeable when you are mid-crotch seam). Seeing as I'd NEVER matched any sort of pattern before, Crazy Chevrons were obviously the perfect place to begin. When life hands you lemons, make an impossibly tricky lemon meringue soufflé.

The pants' center back and side seams worked pretty great, right off the bat. Of course they are not the most noticeable seams either, unless someone is looking at my butt for way too long. And if they are, well then they fully deserve my mismatched back seam! I am quite proud of it though (the back seam, not the butt).

But my good luck ended there. By far the most mismatched seams were the front crotch and waist, Which are incidentally the most visible ones too. GRRR! The worst part was that it really wasn't my fault! It was Crazy Chevrons' fault. And their sadistic designer! You can see that the very middle of the CF seam is well-matched but as you move up and down it all goes haywire. You can also probably see that the zig zag lines on the top left of the CF are much further apart than those on the top right. After MANY attempts of fixing the situation shown on the left, I ended up with what you see on the right. Not ideal but I decided that I can live with it. My boyfriend however cannot. The mismatched zig zag is all his OCD physicist eye can see. Oh well. 

I usually wear it with a belt anyway so it mostly hides the waist seam, which is the single thing I don't love about this make. I do think I will avoid chevrons for a while though. Lastly, I'd like to return to a point I made in my previous post. Namely, that Secret Pajamas Sallie can be worn with equal success at home, at work, or at happy hour. Allow me to demonstrate!

Is it any surprise I am already plotting a Sallie #3??? I am a woman obsessed!
<![CDATA[Pattern review of the Sallie Jumpsuit by Closet Case Files]]>Sat, 27 Jun 2015 04:41:39 GMThttp://sewmanymistakes.com/latest/pattern-testing-the-sallie-jumpsuit-by-closet-case-files
What if I told you that I recently sewed myself a pair of pajamas that I wore on a plane, to work, and then to a bar? And that I was appropriately dressed in all cases? You'd say that’s some crazy talk, right? It is crazy. But it’s not just talk. It is A Thing and she is called Sallie. You might be thinking, looking at the picture above, "Umm, you can't sleep in this". Oh but you most certaintly can, ladies and gents. It is that soft and comfy. I didn’t believe it at first either. 

Having tested her Ginger Skinny Jeans, I was happy to try out Heather’s new baby, which she described as an easy make, easy wear knit jumpsuit, culottes, or maxi dress. Aka “secret pajamas”. I thought the pajamas comment was a stretch, but since I don’t own a single jumpsuit I decided to give that view a try. Use a cheapo fabric, give some useful feedback, wear it once or twice, and call it a day. 

Next thing I know, I am wearing it literally all the time. And I mean ALL the time. Getting compliments left and right. And ignoring my summer research job in favor of making a second one. Sallie is addictive and a bad influence. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! 

Note: Since the pattern changed little after testing my comments below are fully relevant to the final product.
My first Sallie was made from a flimsy navy jersey with unknown contents and poor recovery bought for $1.50/yard from L.A.’s Fabric District. Like I said, I didn’t expect to get much use out of this garment. I hate strapless bras so I chose the V neck tee for the top and taped it together on A4s. But for the pants I used the copy shop pdf. It was my first time using a print shop and I am a convert! It was much cheaper than I expected: the pants, which would have taken hours to tape together, came to only $4.99. All indie designers should have copy shop versions! So far so good. 

Since I like a closer fit I went with my hip size (8), even though my waist and bust are a solid 10. The pants were a breeze, took less than an hour. Crotch and all. I wasn’t sure about the pockets though. My knit was so thin I knew any pockets would be bulky and show through and I would never put anything in them anyway. So instead, I cut out the legs per the pattern but sewed the hip straight down, using a large enough SA to accommodate for the new hip curve. I also left them unhemmed. Yay knits! The fit was spot on. I love them so much I plan to add a waistband and make a few standalone pants. So comfy, even pretzel legs are no problem!

The top is where my stupidity kicked in. I’d never made a self-lined top before so of course I had to mess up almost everything about it. To stabilize the back neckline I used elastic tape for the first time. Why would I try a brand new material on a dark, fragile fabric for a pattern test on a deadline? Good question! Surprise surprise, I was terrible at it. I sewed close to the edge but when I folded it over the elastic wouldn’t bend where the fold was and the edge stuck out. I am guessing I was doing it wrong. I unpicked and re-sewed along the very edge. Better but still annoying. So for the front neckline I used knit stay tape. As Heather warns, if you are a curvy goddess the knit stay tape might not give the V neck enough stretch for an easy Sallie entrance/exit. But if you are a column shape like me you will be fine with knit stay tape. Naturally, with all the commotion of stabilizing I forgot to sew in the back ties. Hello Clover unpicker! 

The underarms were also a minefield. Did I carefully mark the little underarm dot as indicated on the pattern? Of course not! How important could a little dot be? So, naturally, my seams did not meet up properly and there was tons of puckering in the underarm. Eventually Clover unpicker and I did figure it out but it was not a bloodless struggle. Lesson learned: underarm dots matter!

Next came the waistline. After the debacle with my Onyx Shirt, I was NOT about to ignore my long torso. I added 2 full inches to the bottom of the tee. I was also worried that I might not like the gathering at the waist and figured some extra length would create a horizontal fold that would fall over and cover the waist line. As it turns out, going down a size almost eliminated the waist gather anyway, but it was a good thought.

So with zero experience of joining knit tops and bottoms, did I follow Heather’s beautiful instructions for the waist? Of course not! Why use an elastic casing as suggested, when I can torture myself with the abominable clear elastic tape some more? I sewed that into the seam used to join the pants to the tee, patted myself on the back, and put my new jumpsuit on. 
As can be seen on the left, the extra length in the waist did create a beautifully soft fold over the waist seam, giving it a very classy polished feel IMHO.

But less than 24 hours later I noticed that the elastic had stretched out so much the entire thing was hanging down and the crotch seam was now a good 3 inches too low! Thus I undid the whole thing,  unpicked the elastic tape, took in some of the pants' depth, and sewed a regular elastic casing per the original instructions. Please learn from my errant ways and follow the instructions, at least the first time you make this.

Alas the elastic I used also stretched out a bit and after some wear the waist drops and is no longer "hidden" in a fold of fabric as in the picture above. Next time I will make it a bit tighter. Still, it is not unattractive like this, I don't think, especially if you also have a belt thing going on.

After all my insanity it is surprising how quickly and how gorgeous Sallie #1 came out. 

So gorgeous that I promptly got onto making Sallie #2, with a better, more interesting fabric. Patterned with variably sized, "artisically" uneven, high contrast chevron stripes. That needed to be matched.

To be continued…

<![CDATA[Made with mom: a swirly girly chiffon skirt]]>Wed, 03 Jun 2015 04:52:50 GMThttp://sewmanymistakes.com/latest/made-with-mom-a-swirly-girly-chiffon-skirt

A couple of weeks ago my awesome mom (who doubles as a sister and best friend) came up for a few days while the boyfriend was away at a conference. Usually when she visits I try to have a list of fun L.A. things for us to do. But this time we had work. I had Sewing Ideas. One of them was to make an infinity dress with black jersey straps for the top but, as a unique twist, a double layer chiffon circle skirt as the bottom. I was confident it would take under 4 hours because circle chiffon skirts are real easy, right? Ha. Ha. Ha. 

After cutting the infinity dress straps from the nicest black jersey, we did a mock wrap top and quickly realized that this style of dress is not for me. I have a wide ribcage and all the ways to style this dress involve wraping the straps around your chest. So we abandoned the dress idea and decided to just make the chiffon skirt. But as I had never worked with chiffon before I was in for a rude awakening. 

Cutting it out was OK because an extra pair of hands really helped. But the waistband was a real hassle. The 3in elastic I wanted to use was so tight mom had to use all her might and both hands to stretch it taut while I fed the layers through the machine. Naturally, when we layed out the dress on the floor (since my table is too small) the kitty was all "If it's on the floor then it's for me to lay on!" and there was no convincing her otherwise. We ended up cutting 3-4in off the bottom and I discovered that even-ing out a circle skirt is quite the challenge. Especially since I didn't want it to be even. It's confusing, I know! The thing is, I was after a "casually uneven" look, and I also wanted the two layers to both be visible at the bottom, which meant they had to be "casually uneven" in mismatching ways. But not too mismatching. Thankfully having mom to help made the whole process more funny than frustrating. Moms are best, especially mine! 

Another challenge was that the edges of the chiffon on the inside of the waistband were itching my back so I sewed on a ribbon to cover them up. And all I had was red satin. It's no biggie as you can't see it from the outside but it offends my sewing soul any time I peek inside. I wondered how RTW chiffon skirts deal with this and on my next trip to Ross I checked out a few. Apparently most chiffon skirts have a lining (and for a good reason, as I was about to find out...) and the edges are serged and hidden between the chiffon and the lining. Note to self. 

But by far the hardest part was figuring out the hem! I tried my narrow (rolled) hem foot and instantly gave up, curves are SOOO hard! I googled "how to hem chiffon" ten time but mostly found tips for straight hems. There were some options for curved hems but they required specialty items (horsehair braid?). I explored various bottom trim options to no avail. I was getting pretty demoralized when mom suggested a narrow hem on the serger. I'd never done one and my serger is a basic Brother so I didn't expect much. But after many tries I figured out a tension setting that could secure the (already fraying!) fabric without disrupting the soft way it fell. As you can see below the final result is a bit too letuce-like, but I think it's the best I could do. 

The entire thing took us almost four days. Of course we didn't sew all day and night, but it was definitely harder than expected. But it was also TONS of fun because it was with mom and now every time I look at it I think of how nice it was to do a project with her. She really is my best friend. Which is why I am naming it after her. 
The Vera Skirt.

All in all, I am pretty happy with how this came out and am almost tempted to try a maxi version. I especially love that I can wear it with little heels and pretend to be a dainty ballerina (as opposed to the clutz I actually am), or toughen it up with a moto jacket and combat boots. Still I think the best thing about this skirt is its delicious swirliness. Unfortunately it is not terribly common for a grown woman to casually twirl while walking down the street. But I just might have to!

P.S. I could post a tutorial but there are so many circle skirt tutorials out there, and my tweaks are not something I recommend really (skipped the lining, used a ribbon to cover the edges). But I'll do it if people ask for it.

<![CDATA[The Onyx Shirt by Paprika Patterns: a review]]>Sat, 30 May 2015 09:06:04 GMThttp://sewmanymistakes.com/latest/the-onyx-shirt-by-paprika-patterns-a-review

Meet Onyx — Paprika Patterns' new minimalist hi-low woven shirt. When Lisa asked me for a review, I was excited because I love her work. But also a bit skeptical because I have a big anti woven tops bias. I prefer close-fitting clothes, but hate any restriction in my underarms and shoulders, so 99% of my tops are knits. Still, there is something so sleek and grown up about the structure of woven shirts, that for a while I've been waiting for a pattern that challenges me to get over my silly bias. And with Onyx, get over it I did. Like a phoenix from the ashes, this top rose from the pits of my blunders and skepticism and stole my heart.

I chose the cropped version because I thought the darts would make it more fitted. But that also meant the possibility of flashing my tummy and I am self-conscious about my tummy... I decided, hey may be Onyx is the universe telling me that it's time I got over that disempowering bias too. My third bias was, amusingly enough, against using bias tape because I always imagined that it would be crunchy, hard to install, gape-y, and motion-restricting. Lastly, after a year of knowingly (or unknowingly) going after projects that are a bit (or a lot) past my skill level, while also learning to deal (or fail to deal) with my weird shape, I was sick of pattern alterations. Just sick of them! So in my rebellious mode I decided to make it as is, come hell or high water. You just sit and watch (my tummy), World, you just sit and watch! 

Since I was throwing all caution to the wind, I chose a bright busy fabric unlike anything else in my closet. Lisa had suggested an "African wax print" which I'd never heard of. I looked it up and while I don't have any in my stash (but now am obsessed with getting some, thanks Lisa! ;p) I liked the idea of it and thought a bold quilting cotton might do instead. Plus I only had one bias tape and it was bright red. Clearly it was meant to be for Onyx.

My measurements fell between size 3 in hip and 4.5 in bust, so I cut a straight size 4. This version is only 2 pattern pieces (yay!) so I got to the scary bias tape part in no time. Halfway through the steps I remembered you're supposed to read the instructions ahead. So I did. And what do I see? A Tip Box: “For a fun alternative, you can stitch the bias tape to the outside of the garment to create a contrasting neckline edge.” And that my dear reader is how I discovered that not ALL bias bindings are visible....

See, I had assumed "bias bound" always meant using a contrasting edge strip visible on the outside. And I would be puzzled because while tons of patterns would say “finished with bias tape”, I did not encounter garments with a contrasting edge all that often. Turns our bias bindings can be hidden! WHOA! Creating crazy untrue stories in my mind, then puzzling over how they don’t seem to match reality is a thing I do. So I had to unpick and re-do the first few steps. But aside from that it was pretty easy. I couldn't get the edge stitching close enough to the edge but I figured it's good enough for a first try and you can’t see the seam much anyway because I had The Perfect Matching Red Thread. I told you it was meant to be!

After the bias tape was done I basted to check for overall fit. And SHOCKINGLY the top was too short. There is "cropped". And then there is “this was not meant to look like this.” Since I had quite knowingly done this to myself by refusing to do a long torso alteration I just had to laugh. I would have left it as is, to remind myself that fighting one’s biases is one thing, but willingly dropping a hammer on your toes is another. But I owed it to Lisa to not mislead the world into thinking that the Onyx is not proportioned right. (So to punish myself in another way I decided to French seam the sides). 

Since I was too attached to my successful bindings to start completely over, I thought may be I could add length by creating an “extension” strip that matches the hi-low curves on top and bottom. I also pinched out the bust dart from the front as I figured the extension should be dart-less. And then the real fun began.

First, it took me a while to figure out how to pin the pieces together since the opposing curves of the hi low hems were throwing me off. I then basted it all together to check length. It looked way better, yay! I thought the basted stitch could hold things together while I serge the seam and call it a day. But NOOO. I had to go and decide that since I French-ed the side seams this seam should be French too. Un-baste. Get re-confused about how pieces should go together because French seams are weird. Re-pin. Re-baste. Decide that I don’t want a French seam after all because if it doesn’t press down correctly it will stick out on the inside and flare the shirt out. Un-baste. Re-baste the way I had it originally. Curse self. Serge. At that point I was clearly too tired to make optimal decisions so I went to bed. The next day, on a clear(er) head, I decided that after ALL this I still don’t have enough length for a proper hem. So I decided to finish it with another round of bias tape, which by now I was clearly addicted to. I think it was actually a blessing in disguise since it seems to nicely highlight the top's structure.  My only issue with the final fit is that I need a sway back adjustment. I am not sure how to do that on this pattern. But I bet it will look ok without one if I use a more flowy fabric. Which I have already picked out.

After all my biases and mistakes I am surprised by how much I like how this came out. I have worn it a few times already and the underarms feel just fine, to my shock. And if you don't make bad decisions like me, this shouldn't take you more than a couple of hours at most. I love that I can wear it with jeans or dress up with a skirt. It's actually a lot less boxy than I expected. Give this a try, even if you have issues with the premise. I am proof that the Onyx can withstand whatever abuse you throw its way and still look nice. Thank you Lisa for allowing me to play with another one of your versatile (and resilient!) creations!

P.S. I am sorry for the weird angles and cropped photos. My boyfriend, it turns out, is a terrible fashion photographer. (All my other blog pics were taken by my mom when she visited). Le sigh.
<![CDATA[Pattern testing the Jasper Sweatshirt by Paprika Patterns]]>Sat, 18 Apr 2015 03:50:04 GMThttp://sewmanymistakes.com/latest/pattern-testing-the-jasper-sweatshirt-by-paprika-patterns1
I first encountered Paprika Patterns via their adorable folded mini skirt tutorial, which has since been released as an official pay-what-you-want pattern. Late last year, I was just thinking that I should give it a try, when I received an invitation to test their next pattern: a sweatshirt / sweaterdress with a unique collar/hood. Up until then I'd been very good at telling myself that I am NOT purposefully avoiding my first set-in sleeves. Nooo sir. I just so happen to only like patterns that have cap kimono or no sleeves. Really. *gulp*. But as I learned with the Ginger Jeans, the best way to face your sewing fears is to promise someone else that you will. With a deadline. 

Just to be clear, my comments are based on testing the unfinished product and the final version of the pattern is a bit different from what we were given. For example, rather than separate side panels the pattern now has princess seams. So take this post with a grain of salt (by the way how did this expression come to be as a sign one should be cautious? To me everything tastes better, not worse, with a grain of salt! :)).
One of the my favorite articles of clothing is this military jacket from Express. It looks dressy yet it is made of the softest, comfiest, slightly stretchy sweatshirt knit. As a result, unlike virtually all RTW jackets, it doesn't have that pulling restricted feeling in the underarms. Whenever I get compliments on it, I extend my arm and giddily exclaim "Touch it! See? It's a sweatshirt! Isn't that the coolest eeeee-ver???" 
I've always yearned for clothing that combines casual chic designs with the comfort and softness of lounge and sportswear. I know exceptions exist, but as far as I can tell (and afford), the two rarely meet. 
Which is why I was pretty excited when I saw the Jasper Sweatshirt. The hooded version looks closer, in my opinion, to a traditional sweatshirt (though the hood is cut crosswise which is atypical), but the collared version was something else. I felt like it came pretty close to the rare symbiosis of style and easy comfort that I am always lusting after. 
What I loved about the Jasper pattern
1. I love that I can dress it up or just wear it with jeans. Not very many sweaters in my closet that I can say that about. It is true that I wouldn't wear it to a club or a swanky bar (as if I go to those anymore, haha!), as it is too casual for that. But I do think it is more versatile than 90% of sweatshirts out there. I even hesitate to call it that.

2. It wasn't as difficult as I feared! There were more pattern pieces than I expected but they fit together well and the instructions were mostly clear. It's probably even easier now that it's got princess seams. I am a total beginner (albeit one constantly tackling "intermediate" patterns because spending 12 hrs on a task that should only take 2 hrs is totally SO MUCH FUN!). So if I can set in sleeves so well (look! no wrinkles!) then anyone can!

3. You can wear the collar buttoned down on the side (and I do think different button choices can give this a very different feel). Or you can go bold and wear it up for a more chic, distinctly European look. 

Sorry for the artsy filter. I don't have an excuse for myself. 
Where I had difficulty (and made a few, but not sew many, mistakes)

1. The pocket instructions were so confusing to me that I decided to skip them entirely. This could be because I've never made welt or side pockets (my only experience with pockets was on the Ginger Jeans). But honestly I am not sold on pockets for this pattern anyway (by the way they do feature in the final version of the pattern. 

Since I am hoping for a dressier look I am reluctant to add any extra fabric in the sensitive tummy area. Plus I rarely keep my hands in my pockets. Though I have to admit that when taking the photos I kept making a futile "hands in pockets" motion, as if my mind really wanted pockets there. But that could just be because whoever knows what to do with their hands in photos? Not me!
2. I am getting some wrinkling in the lower back, probably due to a sway back? It actually looks worse in the photos than it really is. In fact my bf specifically said that it fits nicely in the back when I first put it on. I am only mentioning it because I am trying to be maximally critical (I am tired of pattern testers that just endlessly sing the pattern's praise. I believe the designers need our honesty, and so do the rest of the sewing community). So there. I am dilligently bringing up anything I could possibly complain about :).

3. Because it's so fitted it can be a bit hard to put on and take off. And the sleeve cuff barely fit around the free arm of my serger. But that's really my own fault for buying a fabric with no stretch, but still wanting it to fit pretty close. I don't know what I was thinking!

Actually I do. I was thinking that this project will likely fail (because Set-in sleeves AAAAAAHH!), so I bought the most basic sweatshirt knit I could find at JoAnn's and it didn't stretch. Lesson learned. I am now on the hunt for soft and stretchy sweatshirt knits in interesting colors and prints. And I am failing miserably! Apparently sweatshirt knits only come in solids and with no stretch, boooring! I might try a French terry knit, but those seem so thin and almost too stretchy. If you have any suggestions, please halp!!!!

In short the "issues" I encountered were either super minor, my own fault, and/or hardly noticeable. I rate this pattern a solid A and you should totally give it a try! I'll be definitely making more as soon as I can find some fabric options that don't make me fall asleep! Love love love!
<![CDATA[Magic Hippie Potion]]>Tue, 23 Dec 2014 10:18:20 GMThttp://sewmanymistakes.com/latest/magic-hippie-potion
As a scientist I try to apply a scientific mindset to most aspects of my life (well, except when it comes to matters of the heart, but that's a story for another day...). Which is why anything labeled "alternative" or "holistic" raises red flags for me until I see some good research* that turns the flags from red to yellow, and, in rare cases, green. 

My partner is also a scientist, a particle physicist who approaches everything with a scientific mindset (including matters of the heart, but that's a story for yet another day haha:)). So imagine my surprise when, about a year into dating, when an especially insidious flu was decimating Southern California, he said we should try this "natural remedy" that a hippie friend of his mom had taught him. But the real shocker came when it worked. And kept working. I call it Magic Hippie Potion.
I didn't think it would do much. The first time I only agreed to try it because I was pleased that the bf had offered to make it for me, and I wanted to reward his babying me behavior. Though I did worry that it would taste gross. Steeped ginger garlic and parsley? Yuck! But actually it was shockingly delicious! I could drink it everyday if I wasn't too lazy to make it (you do have to finely chop up things and stuff...). 

How you make it

A big mug of hot water, the juice of 1/2 lemon, 1tbsp organic honey, 1 inch fresh ginger root (peeled and finely chopped or grated), 1-2 cloves garlic (peeled and chopped or grated), 2-3 fresh parsley sprigs (stem and leaves). You can tweak the proportions (like add more honey or lemon if you like the taste) and it doesn't change the effectiveness much as far as I can tell though more honey does make it less healthy. I also sometimes skip the parsley and it seems to still work, but skipping the other ingredients is not advisable. 

As you see it's far from rocket science. All but the parsley are commonly thought to be cold and flu folk remedies all around the world. What was new to me was that there was some actual science to support their use (see below).

How you take it

The MOST important thing is to make it and drink it as soon as you start feeling the slightest inkling that something is off. Don't wait until you feel full-on sickness! Make this and drink a full cup as soon as you think your nose might-be-perhaps-just-the-slightest stuffier than usual. Or if you feel the faintest little tickle in your throat that might hint at the possibility of getting a cough. Or if you feel soreness in your muscles and you haven't worked out recently so hmmmm. Basically use it to attack at the first sign of suspicious activity on the part of your upper respiratory tract. 

Why it might work

Once I noticed how well Magic Hippie Portion worked for me, while everyone around me was dropping like flies, and then it kept working flu season after flu season, I decided to recommend it to my students last year. Fall midterms were upon them and half of the class was sniffling all lecture long. Since I wanted to set an example by how we should approach all natural remedies, I did some homework before sending them the recipe. I looked up the research on all five ingredients in Magic Hippie Potion. Here is what I found:

"Ginger is commonly used to treat various types of “stomach problems,” including motion sickness, morning sickness, colic, upset stomach, gas, diarrhea, nausea caused by cancer treatment, nausea and vomiting after surgery, as well as loss of appetite. Other uses include pain relief from arthritis or muscle soreness, menstrual pain, upper respiratory tract infections, cough, and bronchitis. Ginger is also sometimes used for chest pain, low back pain, and stomach pain." However, there is also some preliminary evidence for its effectiveness in treating colds and the flu, though it is insufficient.


"There is some evidence that fresh garlic, but not aged garlic, can kill certain bacteria such as E. coli, antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and Salmonella enteritidis in the laboratory". Also a recent double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that a garlic supplement reduced the frequency and duration of the common cold.


"In the laboratory, honey has been shown to hamper the growth of food-borne pathogens such as E. coli and salmonella, and to fight certain bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, both of which are common in hospitals and doctors' offices. But whether it does the same in people hasn't been proven."

"In a study that involved 139 children, honey beat out dextromethorphan (a cough suppressant) and diphenhydramine (an antihistamine) in easing nighttime cough in children and improving their sleep."


Super high in Vit C.  While there is no reliable evidence that Vit C prevents or cures the common cold, "some studies show that it may help prevent more serious complications… such as pneumonia and lung infections". In addition a recent meta analysis of the effects of Vit C supplementation on health found no effect on the incidence of colds but some evidence that Vit C supplements reduced the duration of cold symptoms.


Other than its antioxidant properties and high Vit A and C content I haven't found much else. But it really adds to the fresh taste.

So it's not so magic after all and not quite so hippie either! It actually made sense why it might help a tiny bit. But for me it helps A LOT; 9 out of 10 times when I feel a sickness coming on and drink a bunch of this for 3-4 days, I don't actually get sick even when I am surrounded by flu factories! I am so convinced that it works that I'm sure I'm also getting a huge benefit from the placebo effect too. I'll take it! 

I hope you give it a try and that it works for you and your loved ones as well as it has worked for me and mine! :)


As you can see in the picture at the top of this post, you can also pre-chop and mix all the ingredients except the parsley and keep it in a glass container, ready to go. You just boil water and drop a tablespoon of the stuff to steep then drink/eat it all. I find the ginger taste to be much stronger this way and I haven't had a chance to see if it works as well as freshly-made, but I thought I'd mention it.

* Hippie potions aside, interest in the principles of Eastern Medicine and alternative/holistic approaches to health and well-being is rapidly growing among well-trained academics and funding agencies are finally willing to support such research. And not just bad research, of which there is plenty, but the kind that uses double-blind randomized experiments, large random samples, and ends up in JAMA. For example, a recent meta analysis of randomized control trials supported the benefits of mindfulness meditation. There are also similar reviews on yoga, acupuncture, and others, which I will link to next time I am feeling researchy for my blog. It's not all about sewing! I think lol. 
<![CDATA[How I almost quit sewing before I even started because of Sewing Class]]>Thu, 20 Nov 2014 08:50:28 GMThttp://sewmanymistakes.com/latest/how-i-almost-quit-sewing-before-i-even-started-because-of-sewing-classAfter a few years of occasional refashions of Goodwill clothes into costumes for dress-up parties, I moved to Los Angeles and settled dangerously close to its glorious Fabric Distric. Not knowing the next thing about sewing, I'd venture down there, buy anything that looked pretty and cost under $5/yard, then stash it away and promise myself to learn how to sew. Soon. Really soon. Any day now. For reals this time. This went on for about 3 years. 
Eventually I ran out of storage so in April I decided that either I'm going to get serious about all this or I'll have to be a grownup and donate my fabric to a more loving home. So I found an Intermediate Sewing class of three 5-hour sessions at the community college (there was also a Beginners class on how to use a sewing machine and make a pillowcase, but since I had played enough with my Brother I wanted something a bit more challenging).

So bright-eyed and bushy-tailed I walked into my classroom on a Saturday morning to have my little sewing soul crushed. 
You see, my instructor knew what's best for me. No ifs ands or buts. Everyone in the class, but me, had taken her Beginners class, made their pillowcases, and thus proven their worth. I tried to explain that I already knew some basics, holding up the furry skirt I made without a pattern as proof. I wanted to learn how to read patterns and make something a bit harder than rectangles. She glared at me and began to show the class how to read a pajama pattern. I asked what a grainline was. More glaring. I was told that my questions indicated I didn't know basic basics and should have taken the Beginners class instead.

Halfway through the 1st class I was convinced that I don't know anything, that I need to sew a market bag "to fill the many big holes in my basic knowledge", and that everything else I thought I wanted to do would have to wait. I was also convinced that she hates me. 

All my life I had been a good student and, though I was never a teacher's pet, I always felt respected. I wondered about all the kids who were convinced that "the teacher hated them". Randomly, just a week earlier I was reflecting on my own students and how awful it must be to want to learn and feel like your teacher hates you. "So glad that I am done with school (after 22 years of it lol!) without ever experiencing this!" And then BAM, there I was in sewing class, age 33, feeling like my teacher totally hates me! Snippy remarks, sighs and glares, less time spent on my station, no words of encouragement while others got them constantly, etc. 

Things didn't improve much for the remaining 2 classes. I did make a market bag that I quite like actually (though I did manage to sneak in a lining, against her admonitions to follow her simple pattern). 


My next project was to be a basic A-line woven skirt, nevermind that I never wear such skirts. Ever. I bought some overpriced cotton from the store she recommended (I didn't know any better!) but could not bring myself to get an A-line pattern. So I bought this McCalls yoked skirt instead. I'd always wanted to learn how to make yokes, though I didn't know that's what they were called. My teacher wasn't pleased that I'd gone off her script again. But I had sent her a forceful email with a list of things I insist on being taught and my resolution to not spend any more class time on the market bag. My very own Declaration of Independence. 
Unexpected power struggle with sewing teacher: win!

The 3 classes ended just in time for me to finish my muslin and find out that Big 4 patterns fit ridiculousy. Lovely.

I was SO OVER IT ALL! I liked and wore almost exclusively knits. But "knits are not for beginners". Neither were any patterns more complex than A-line skirts, which I don't wear. I didn't know what to do! Desperate, I emailed my friend Seamstress Erin to bemoan my discouraging class and my absurd muslin (btw you'd think my teacher would warn us about the well-known ease problem of commercial patterns). Erin gave me three pieces of what I now know was fantastic advice, which went something like this:

1. Sew what you want! What your teacher told you is bullshit!  Don't sew things you hate just because they're easy, because then you'll never wear them and then you'll never want to sew again. If you like knits sew with knits. If you like complex patterns, try them. Jump in, and if it works it works. You'll still learn, it will just be the hard way. 

2. Join Craftsy and watch their free classes. Sign up for a few paid ones. You'll learn a lot and you'll always have them.

3. Try indie patterns. They're more expensive but they fit much better than the Big 4, and the sewalongs and the online sewist community are extremely helpful.

And they have been. I am so so grateful to Erin for pointing me towards the light. The light that fixed my broken sewing soul. :)

If you ever took sewing classes, I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences! There ARE tons of basics I still need to learn and Craftsy, youtube, and sewing blogs can only take me so far. For example, I just can't seem to figure out the Anna dress by By Hand London! After learning that I have (and fixing) my forward and rounded shoulders, rounded upper back, torso that is bigger in the font than back, sway back, and big ribcage, I still don't have the fit right! I am on my 5th muslin and I keep getting a weird vertical fabric indentation in the chest (as if the fabric is "falling" between my bewbs). I've tried everything, even bought Fit for Real people. 

So things like that make me think that I really really do need to take another class. But I'm scared! It's not just a potential waste of time and money. I'm scared I'll get crushed again! Then again, may be I've grown resilient. I did make jeans on my first try. *walks away singing Nothing's Gonna Stop Me Now*
<![CDATA[Of love and errors: My first real make (born 06/11/14)]]>Thu, 30 Oct 2014 22:09:17 GMThttp://sewmanymistakes.com/latest/the-polly-top-my-first-real-make
I consider By Hand London's Polly Top to be my first "grown up" make. It's got serious flaws (curly fries, ahem, bindings anyone?) and I made a comedy of rookie errors ("It says it's for wovens, but I'm sure this paper-thin jersey will work too, right?"). But I still like it because it's bright, soft, and my true Firstborn.

To be honest, I didn't treat it as my true firstborn at the time. I thought "Well I've made some refashions, that patternless skirt, and a few other silly things (a knit pillowcase. don't ask). So surely I already Know Stuff. How hard can learning the rest be?" (Ha ha ha!). I did realize that the fact I'd never laid eyes on an actual sewing pattern was a problem. So I downloaded a tiered skirt Burda pattern, taped it, and screamed! What in the world was that??? It didn't make ANY sense! So I did what I always do when things don't make sense. I went to school. I signed up for a 3-session sewing class. It was not a good experience, but I did learn one thing: how to read and, most importantly, appreciate, the pure genius that are sewing patterns. And for that I am forever grateful! 
After abandoning my first Big 4 pattern at the muslin stage, I followed a friend's advice and picked up an indie pattern. The Polly Top was free, received glowing blogger reviews, and was beginner-friendly. Which turned out to be pretty much the first and last good decision in that entire process...

First, I ignored the fact that the pattern is designed for wovens. I didn't know it mattered! Not only did I pick a knit, but I picked a really challenging one: an almost see-through tissue knit that is probably called that because it feels like Kleenex! But hey, I had two big pieces in matching colors (from some random trip to L.A.'s Fabric District where I probably thought "oh hey, this is soft and $1/yard!"). So I proceeded, blissfully ignorant.

I had used the white piece to make a pillowcase (umm, yeah...) and the orange for God knows what else. Which somehow had required that I cut off all selvedges. Since I did learn what selvedge was in sewing class, I knew this was not cool. But by then nothing could stop me! How important could lining your pattern on the grain be, reeeally? ONWARDS! 

Inserting the center panel was not very hard (it's easy to go around those curves when your fabric stretches like a piece of well-chewed gum). I even made a slight sweetheart curve as a mod. Then I sewed the shoulders and the side seams, using a straight stitch. Because, I'd read somewhere that if you don't plan to pull the garment downwards a straight stitch works fine for knits. This part is actually true. IF your garment follows the grain so it won't stretch down on its own! But who's keeping track of such details...

Of course the shoulder straps did stretch out by ~3 inches just in the course of sewing (now that I've learned to tell the grain on knits, I can see that I'd cut the entire top on the bias. Hilarity!). I cut off the extra length from the straps and was about to resew them, when I was struck by an idea! I'd forgotten to pre-wash the fabric! What if it shrinks? Somehow, despite the thing being by then 2 sizes too big I was worried about shrinkage... So, with the side seams attached and the shoulders detached, I handwashed it and hung it to drip dry (!!!). By morning, it was another 3-4 inches longer than I'd intended. But so what? It clearly wants to be a tunic! Who am I to stop It? I proudly sent a phone pic to my mom.
The REAL challenge was the bindings. The pattern called for bias tape. In a moment of rare clarity, I realized that anything heavy will drag down such thin knit and the ends will flop over. For some reason I was convinced that a binding from the same knit would not work. So I went to JoAnn's and bought the thinnest thing I could find. It was a slippery woven poly that I think is meant to be used for lining. Somehow I didn't expect that attaching a slippery woven binding to a knit garment would be that hard... Of course it was! And it didn't work very well. The bindings flop down from their weight after all. They look crunchy and all around make the whole thing look so DIY. But I do love their color! And I love the slight gather that formed in the front. So whatever!
Sorry that it is so wrinkled! I am literally too scared to iron it! I think if I do it might stretch out enough to become a dress!
I've debated going back and redoing the bindings. But part of me wants to keep my first baby the way it was born, in all of its glorious imperfections. It doesn't need to be perfect. It just needs to make me happy! Which it does! It reminds me of all the hilarious mistakes I made and how much I've learned since then. It's a testament to my future progress. 
<![CDATA[OMG I MADE JEANS: Pattern testing the Ginger Jeans by Closet Case Files]]>Wed, 22 Oct 2014 04:32:35 GMThttp://sewmanymistakes.com/latest/omg-i-made-jeans-pattern-testing-the-ginger-jeans-by-closet-case-files
A couple of months ago, Heather of Closet Case Files issued an open call for pattern testers for her upcoming (then) mystery pattern. I was so excited, and impressed, because it was the first time I'd seen such a call. Unlike most big indie pattern designers who seem to primarily rely on other big indie pattern designers for testing (causing a big controversy and even accusations of cliquey-ness and of pattern testing being a front for free publicity), Heather has stated her commitment to using testers of all shapes, sizes, and skill levels. I.e. regular people who have nothing to lose by being brutally honest. Brave move! And now she was making good on that promise! There was a short web form to apply through and a few weeks later I was ecstatic to get a testing invitation. If I had to guess, I'd say she probably picked me because I'd only made a few things ever and she was curious how a complete beginner would fare with her new pattern. So was I! 
That is, until I heard that the new pattern was jeans. NOOOOOO! PANTS ARE SCARY! AND JEANS ARE THE SCARIEST! Even to experienced sewists (or so I've heard). On top of it, RTW skinny jeans have never fit me right. I don't own a single pair because they're always too tight at and below the knees (I don't know why, I am a wimp with no muscles in my calves so I don't get it). 

And in general, 9 out of 10 RTW jeans of any style don't fit me right, because my waist is too big for my hips/thighs. So if I can breathe in them they bunch up under the butt and across the back thighs. The only place I can may be, just may be, find jeans that fit me is Express. On big sale days and even then the pricetag hurts. So there was just NO WAY I could make something remotely wearable so early in my sewing journey.

Still, I wasn't about to say "No" to my first pattern test! Plus even if I failed miserably, I'd still have something to say and critique (this is me, after all), which would hopefully be helpful to the designer. I hope! So I immediately emailed Heather to ask if it's ok to do it with 0 pants experience and hardly any sewing experience. She replied right away that yes, yes it was, and that I can totally do it. So I did!

And it worked! And better than I could have imagined!!! 
I am so happy I want to stop random strangers in the street and be like "Look what I made! Look at that topstitching! And did you see my butt? See how there's no fabric pooling under?". But that would be weird.

I am not saying my creation is perfect because clearly it isn't. But honestly these Gingers do fit me better than 90% of RTW jeans and better than 100% of skinny jeans I've tried. And they are my first! I can't wait to try it again. I am also secretly terrified that this was all beginner's luck, that the universe will correct itself the next time, and my second attempt will turn out rightfully terrible.

I will save the pattern details for another post (I might wait to post a full review after I try the official released pattern, because I know she's made changes based on feedback). 

But I can already tell you this:

1. YOU CAN ABSOLUTELY DO THIS! I know jeans are scary. But if I can follow this pattern, anyone can! And she is making changes based on feedback so I imagine it'll be even easier for you. And there'll be a sewalong! 

2. I first made these very rudimentary shorts to test the butt fit. It was very helpful and if you have any doubts I recommend it highly. I didn't end up changing the crotch lines or anything much about the pattern, but it did help me figure out sizing, especially since I had no idea of my pant size plus my denim was so stretchy. The shorts came out quite good actually, so I'm going to try to turn them into something wearable.

3. If you're unsure start with the skinny version (it comes in a stovepipe version as well) and a light stretchy denim. Stretchy things are easier to fit, in my limited experience. 

4. The pattern is easy to grade! I've only ever graded once before on my Gabriola Skirt, and messed it up in that I didn't grade the hips enough. But since it didn't look too scary, I graded my Gingers to my heart's content. I ended up tracing one size in the waist, then graded to TWO different sizes in the hips and thighs (one for inner seam and one for outer seam), then back to the waist size in the knee and below. I'm not giving you numbers in case she changes the sizing on the official release, but I am happy to tell you more in the comments.
5. The pattern is easy to modify! I couldn't figure out the fly front zipper, and when I finally did, I decided that I didn't like it. So I modified it slightly. I also changed the waistband closure and the amount of top stitching, and I removed the belt loops. After reading my critique, Heather told me she's actually changing the zipper since someone else mentioned that too. Btw I love how responsive, grateful, and not at all defensive she was in response to my 3-page critique of her pattern! I couldn't be more grateful to her for this experience! 

And my favorite addition: my insignia on the back pocket, a letter S with kitty ears because I'm obsessed with kitties. It was my first time doing a free hand design on my rickety Brother, so it's not quite right -- the ears are not perfectly symmetrical. But I am hoping my even double topstitching will distract viewers from the kitty ears. 
(Huh, now that's a sentence I don't get to utter every day).

6. But most of all, making the Ginger Jeans REALLY BUILDS UP YOUR CONFIDENCE! The fact that I would be arrogant enough to modify things on my first try just goes to show how much this pattern ends up building one's sewing self esteem. I feel unstoppable and so proud of myself. Ok may be be too proud. But but... in my defense... I made jeans! Jeans!!!! I made them! And they fit! And, and. I made them! 
*brain leaves skull*