Birthday Negroni

I have decided to make a collared shirt for my dude for his upcoming birthday. The requisite confidence was drummed up after (almost) completing my first Archer (it still needs buttonholes and the only machine I have that can do those is currently in the shop with alignment issues). I bought the Negroni pattern, figuring that he is a slender fellow and hundreds (thousands?) of people have made the shirt to much fanfare. I didn’t really understand what a ‘camp collar’ was, but I thought it looked like there was a little stand there and I could just omit the loop for a more classic look. Fast forward to actually taping the pattern pieces together and a quick peruse of the instructions and it turns out: camp collars do not have stands. They are just flared collar pieces attached to the neckline. This would not go over well with the dude.

I plan to lengthen my Archer collar pieces and follow Peter Lappin’s widely cited modifications to produce a more traditional collared shirt. Thank you, thank you, thank you Peter Lappin.

I measured some shirts while the dude was at work and he fell pretty cleanly into the Large range, with the exception of the sleeves, which were a good 2″ shorter than the listed measurements. Instead of being wise and following the pattern, I rashly shortened the sleeves by 1.5″. And now, three weeks ahead of the birthday, I find myself questioning whether the underarm seam measurement included the cuff or not…because the cuff pieces are 3 inches wide and I’ll be losing just over an inch of that to the seams. I’m pretty sure I’ve messed this up. And I don’t have enough fabric to re-cut the sleeves because I already had to use it to re-cut the back and the yokes.

Here’s how that went down: I double-check the instructions to make sure I’m folding the pleats in the correct direction. I pin them and baste them. I attach the yoke using the seems-fancy-but-really-isn’t ‘burrito’ method (thanks Archer and Ruby!). I grade the seam allowances, press the seams, and edgestitch along the bottom of the yoke. I go back to the ironing board to press again and think that the pleats look a little poufy. Hmm..they are going in the right direction aren’t they? I go to the closet and check a few shirts and it now appears that I have in fact folded the pleats the wrong way. They are facing in and all of the commercial shirts in the closet have them facing out.


I thought I double-checked that! I sit down with the seam ripper and begin to take it apart, but it quickly becomes clear that my edgestitching is going to make this a complete nightmare. It’s okay, I think, because I bought enough fabric for my inevitable mistakes. I set the whole thing aside because it’s 10 pm and I can’t really see that clearly, and decide to cut the new pieces in the morning.

I approached the whole thing in a surprisingly positive state of mind this morning, cutting a new back and two new yokes. This time, I cut them with the stripes going horizontally and I feel good about this subtle change. I get to the part where I’m folding the pleats and I look again at the instructions. I’m confident that I’m going to do it right this time. I decide to look at the old back just to make ultra sure that I’m not going to repeat the same mistake. And the way that I have my new pleats pinned is the same way that I had my old pleats sewn. I check the shirts in the closet. I speak the instructions out loud to myself. I look at my new back. I look at the old back. I had the fucking pleats right the first time. I had been looking at the inside of the shirt and it was too dark in the room and I was tired and blah, blah, blah, I’m a tool.

No matter, I tell myself, as I soldier on. These new horizontally-striped yokes are better anyway. And the shoulder seams are lining up better this time for some reason. And the edgestitching was too close to the seam anyway and would have been better at 1/8″ or even 1/4″. Sure, you just re-did this whole thing for essentially no reason and now have no fabric left to fix the sleeves, but you’re going to be pdg* at the whole lined yoke procedure by the end of this.

Also, for the record, it is not at all clear in the sleeve-attaching instructions that you are to line up the 1/4″ pressed edge of the sleeve with the raw edge of the body. I mean, the math doesn’t work out so you know there’s something up, but by no means is that spelled out.

The sleeve plackets weren’t a complete disaster, but I did attach the first one the wrong way, a mistake that was only discovered once I’d already slashed and turned it. A replacement placket was cut – luckily, it’s a small enough piece that the scraps were sufficient – and went on without a hitch, imperfect edgestitching notwithstanding.

Still to do: attach sleeves, pray quietly, attach collar, attach cuffs, hem.

(Probably not the worst first tower placket ever installed, but using a fabric with a tighter weave next time will help with slippiness at the point.)

*pdg = pretty damn good


Big Butt Baby Pants

I think I’ve made 12 pairs of these pants, though I seem to only have a photo of this pair from last Christmas.

I have made them with contrasting bums, matching bums, folded hems, side pockets, in denim, in quilting cotton, in old shirts, in fine wale corduroy…and every single one of them has been adorable.

My nephew is 2 years old now and I have, I will admit, given him a lot of gifts. A lot a lot. But he was my first one and I had years of baby craft ideas backlogged and it has just been so damn fun to make things for him, even when he couldn’t care less (and most of the time, frankly, he could not care any less). But these pants! They have been by far the most appreciated gift. Not by him, mind you, but by my amazing sister-in-law. (She really is an incredible woman. Truly, the works: smart, gorgeous, fun, caring, etc., etc. and who is just killing this whole parenting thing.) They easily fit over his cloth-diapered bum, but don’t look ridiculously huge when he’s staying over at Gran and Grampa’s and is wearing disposables. Finding fabric for them is endlessly fun and they take so little that, if it’s a non-directional print, I can sometimes eke a pair out of a quarter metre.

He’s a pretty small kid, so I usually make down an age size and I narrow the legs a little. I find this makes them look a little less like pyjama bottoms and a little more like pants he can wear to daycare.

Puzzle Ball

I made three of these guys a little while ago. They’re a great travel project since the pieces are small and they each require a lot of hand-finishing (they do require prep work at the machine, though).

For the record, they weren’t much of a hit with the baby boys who received them, but my little niece has been happily enjoying her barely-touched hand-me-down.


Made from a Martha Stewart pattern – the Oilcloth Pocketed Bib, to which I would love to link, but my cursory search turned up only a video and not the downloadable PDF. Great pattern, and easy to knock out assembly line style.

Used a variety of prints, most by Aneela Hoey, flannel for the back, and big snaps which needed to be hand-sewn on and which have not all stood up to the inevitable abuse they’ve suffered. Velcro likely would have been the wiser choice.

Amy Butler Sweetheart Quilt One of the first (and sadly, probably, last) times I ordered fabric online was for this little cuddling quilt. For years I ordered all kinds of things and never had to pay duty, leading me to wrongly believe that it only applied to certain items or that there was a price limit that I was never exceeding…then I got stung repeatedly on large items and small, craft-related and not, and now I’m order-shy.

At the time, this fabric was so exciting for me – unlike anything I’d ever seen or could get my hands on locally – it was the fabric I’d enviously watched other sewing bloggers use. This was a wedding quilt, so the extra cost wasn’t a huge issue and the fabric was a real joy to use. Just simple 5×5″ squares, machine-quilted with straight lines (which was simple to do, but did seem to accentuate my inability to piece a decent corner).

I have attended a record number of weddings in the last 5 years. I shudder to do the math, but it’s something like 25 of them. For some of them I make a quilt, but never a big, proper, capital-letter Wedding Quilt. Always a rather small quilt, meant for cuddling on the couch. Bigger than a lap quilt, sure, but if two were to fit under it, they’d have to be snuggled in pretty tight, and it would be there more for comfort than for major warmth. I think I’m going to start calling them Sweetheart Quilts.

Hot Air Balloon Mobile

I’ve made two of these (one with raffia baskets and one with hemp baskets) and the only advice I can offer is in the hanging stage.

First, you need to recruit a set of sympathetic hands to help you hold everything as you try, and try, and try, and try to balance things. Second, don’t lose hope when you begin to think that you’ve put so much work into this thing only to see it fail at the last step. Third, have a stiff drink, take a deep breath, and try again.

Penguins & friend

My aunt and uncle gifted me a Singer 127 several months ago and after a thorough cleaning and oiling, belt replacement, and many hours of research I got her running. Being a vibrating shuttle, it’s a completely different system than I’m used to (one example: the thread goes through the needle from left-to-right, not front-to-back!) but I’m really enjoying it so far. It’s the first machine I’ve used (out of a grand total of three others – a later edition Singer, a Kenmore entry-level, and a vintage Bernina) where I can keep the speed steadily slow. This ability to maintain a relatively consistent speed has already improved the quality of my cornering.

The treadle has been replaced by an electric motor with a knee bar but the machine still gets a fair bit of independent momentum and doesn’t stop immediately after cutting power. This is actually kind of great because it’s almost like it has the ‘needle-down’ feature. The bobbins won’t wind perfectly evenly but it hasn’t seemed to affect the tension terribly.

These little gentlemen were the inaugural project on the new-to-me machine. I made up a pattern after seeing pictures of projects made from Fiona Dalton’s book ‘Hop, Skip, Jump’. Shipping from Australia is prohibitive so I will have to wait for a second printing of the book and hopefully wider distribution (I gather it sold out very quickly the first time) before I can get my hands on it.

I used scraps for everything: a slightly nubby poplin for the black, flannel for the bellies and underwings, and a peachy orange cotton for the beaks and legs. Bodies stuffed with recycled Polyfill, legs with flax seeds. As usual with stuffies, the eyes were the hardest decision, so some got 1/4” and some got 1/8” black safety eyes (reinforced with lightweight interfacing, the first time I’ve done that, but certainly not the last).

Instead of using a sweater sleeve cuff, I knit the toques from scrap wool. I surprised myself by opting to knit them flat instead of in the round. They’re really quite tiny and it’s just one seam up the back…I think that negotiating DPNs or a magic loop would have actually taken longer. Pompoms made with Clover pompom maker (total convert!).

The blue one was made from chambray scraps and instead of flannel, I used the wrong side of the fabric for contrast. After it was ‘pointed’ out to me that the penguin beaks could be a hazard to the extra wee ones, I opted for a simple triangle.

Weaving, the first

Another Creativebug class is to blame. This time, Annabel Wrigley’s Weaving for Beginners, via the Michaels Makers program. This one is just an experimentation in texture, using stash supplies: alpaca, wool, cotton, acrylic, blends…it’s all in there somewhere.

Definitely love the herringbone/fishtail/Soumak stitch portions, though I had to watch the video about 8 times each time I tried it. I think my favourite is the heathered bulky stuff.

A close-up of the back, because I always love seeing them from other people.