Athleisure Mini-Suite — or, How I Started Living in Pajamas

I didn’t intend to make a sort of suite, it just kind of happened, but I’m excited about the end result!

I’ve been wishing for more athleisure-y pieces — things that go from “Oh shit, the baby’s up at 4:30 and wants to start the day” to “Let’s go out in public and try not to look dead,” with all the requisite crawling, reaching, stretching, and bending that comes in between.

This little collection is just four pieces, and all of them were super-easy to sew up. First up, the leggings:

I made these using a Simplicity pattern (Simplicity 1280, which I bought for the top and sewed up here), and I’ve got to say, stick with the top on this one. The leggings come out super long and pretty baggy. Granted, I have chicken legs, so don’t take my word for it if you are buff or have curvy legs. But if you have a body type like mine, go for a different pattern, or you’ll end up recutting the whole thing, like I did.

I also added a yoga-style waistband that’s just folded over. I love this style of construction, because everything comes together so easily on the serger, with no casing or visible topstitching. I only used my regular machine for the hem of the pants — generic zig-zag since my busted machine can’t handle a twin needle stitch without repairs.

These have a definite “athletic wear” vibe since the fabric is pretty synthetic and has a bit of a sheen. The spandex knit is super light and comfy and feels great for warmer weather. I took a number of inches off the bottom, and am happy with these overall.

Next, I needed another top to match with the leggings, so I snagged some tissue-weight rayon jersey knit in navy. I used McCall’s 6435, which is one of my most-used patterns.

Unnecessarily Skeptical is the new Blue Steel

Tissue knits can be fussy to work with, so I wanted a clean finish on the neckline instead of a narrow hem where the stitching would be visible. I cut an extra piece for both front and back yokes (barely squeaked this out in a yard of fabric!) and fully lined the yoke portions. With the exception of the extra cutting (front and back pieces in this pattern are cut in a single layer, so the tissue knit is even more wriggly), this fix was as easy as it gets, and I’ll probably do the same thing if (when) I make this again.

Next up, the funnel-neck sweatshirt.

I made a prototype of this funnel-neck style previously and just tweaked it here. I edited out the thumbholes, shortened the bottom band and cuffs, widened the sleeves, and reshaped the kangaroo pocket.

Baby JuJu gives this garment a drooly thumbs-up, because she loves to chew the drawstrings at the neck. Seriously, the cording was JuJu’d the second it was off the cutting table at the store. I’m happy with all of the adjustments I made — it’s comfy without being clingy or baggy.

This sweatshirt and my brocade jacket somehow became my default morning outfit. /shrug

I was super stoked about this orange French terry when it arrived. I remember when everyone in the sewing blog world starting freaking out about French terry and I was like, “Um, I already know what this and am not impressed,” like the snotty piece of work that I am. But dudes. I was ignorant. I just didn’t realize. This French terry is not like your 10-year-old-but-still-wearing-it-because-reasons Gap sweatshirt. This fabric is so so so soft! It’s delicious! I finally understand all the aforementioned freaking out. That said, I’ve only worn this sweatshirt a few times and it’s already pilling a bit in places (all the tears and weeping!!), so I’m reserving my final judgement.

The shorts are also made from this French terry, and they were also super easy.

I used McCall’s 7610. I was hoping to squeeze out the longer length of pant, but alas, it was not to be despite my best fabric-Tetris efforts. (And probably for the best, because I would’ve looked like a walking Creamsicle if I wore these two together…) I added the curve to the sides of these shorts for a little more interest.

Improvised curved hem does not diminish the Creamsicle Factor

And let me tell you — these are short, dudes. I know inseams have gotten shorter since I was a wee lass of 20, but damn, these are some short-ass shorts. Not sure I can wear these comfortably outside, and I definitely cannot rough-and-tumble at the park in these.

That said, they’re perfect PJs and loungewear (my code word for pajamas that I don’t change out of in the morning).

There you have it! None of these pieces is really exciting on their own, but together, they’re a fun little set that lets me go from bed to playtime to pretending I work out.

Welcome to the closet, my Affable Athleisure Suite!

Unselfish Sewing + Dude Sewing: Simplicity 8427 Men’s Shirt Pattern Review

FACT: I am a selfish seamstress.

I hate sewing for other people. I love being able to pick and choose where to cut corners, where to fudge things, what details to add or omit, and all that. When I sew for someone else, I feel obligated to sew in a textbook fashion, lest they think the item is too obviously homemade. Also: too much pressure.

Still, since I’ve had a bit more sewing time (shockingly to me, having a baby eats up less free time than a long-ass commute), I’ve found it in my cold, dead heart to make a couple of things for others. And I literally mean a couple — just a sleepsack for JuJu (unblogged and unworn at this point), and this shirt for my husband. Oh wait, and a couple of pairs of boxers, but those are so easy that I’ve already forgotten about them.

Another reason why I hate unselfish sewing? Because other people always want details or features that are actually a huge pain in the ass, and they have no way of knowing this when they make the request. They’re not actually trying to torture you, it just kind of turns out that way. For me, men’s shirts epitomize this. Oh, you want me to whip you up a quick garment with a bunch of pieces, fiddly details AND a need for exactitude and perfection in order to look good? Sure thing.

I decided to switch from McCall’s 6613, which is a little boxy, to Simplicity 8427 on a whim, and it was the right decision! (Anecdote: I hate unselfish sewing so much that I made a version of 6613 for my husband YEARS ago — like, before we were married — and I still haven’t sewn the buttons on to give it to him!) Thankfully, this pattern solves my shirt problems and I’m in love!

I am not one to fangirl, but Mimi G has been hitting it out of the park for me lately!

Note 1: This version is kind of a wearable muslin, since the fabric is not ideal shirt fabric — quilting cotton, and not super high-quality at that — so I’m going to focus on the pattern here instead.

Not the most wearable, but definitely the foxiest fabric around!

Note 2: Part of this being “selfless” involves me not even hinting to the recipient that I would want to take a modeled photo. So you’re stuck with me instead, because I have no shame.

Here’s the quick and dirty: this is a men’s shirt pattern that turns out a quality shirt while using modern methods to make the process easier and more fun. There might be other patterns out there like this, but it was new to me to see these methods included as the main instructions in a Big 4 pattern. What am I talking about?

  1. Yoke constructed using the burrito method (which I have never been able to really *get* from tutorials before this)
  2. Sleeves set in the flat
  3. Buttonholes marked on separate pattern piece to be marked after construction
  4. Self-fabric facing and interfacing for the front button/buttonhole zones — simple as fold and fold!
  5. Itty bitty loops that don’t require turning (loop-turning is my current nemesis)
  6. Minimal hand-stitching and mostly optional top-stitching

The first loop I’ve made in months that didn’t make me swear!

There’s nothing revolutionary here, but put together, it made for an awesome sewing experience. So much of the fiddliness was taken out! There was also a tower placket that came together relatively easily. I’ve never done a tower placket before, so I can’t compare if the method was typical or streamlined in any way. But the fact that I made it correctly (and pretty damn neatly) on the first try is a good sign!

Loving the placket — even if he usually cuffs his shirts.

And while fit is personal and YMMV, I cut a straight size and it fits my husband much better than I hoped. I was worried it would be too form-fitting and that the sleeves would be too wide and long, but nope! It’s a really nice fit. (My above-average-height husband typically wears a shirt size small because he’s super lean, and I cut a straight 38.)

The only thing I might change is to add collar buttonholes to make this a true “button-down” shirt. Most of my husband’s favorite shirts have this feature, and it goes an extra step to keep things from looking homemade. Also, I might consider adding a sleeve tab if I made this in a casual fabric that was yarn-dyed instead of printed.

Totally goes with the vest I made him! He looks way better in this than I do…

Bottom line? I totally recommend this pattern. If you loathe sewing men’s shirts, but feel bad that you never make anything for a dude in your life (or you are a dude in your life or just like this style), consider trying this one. Yes, you’ll spend a bunch of time cutting out a million pattern pieces compared to making a cute something for yourself, but because this is well-drafted and the instructions are clear, you might be surprised at enjoyable it can be.

Welcome to… someone else’s closet, my Foxy Fabric Selfless Shirt!

Obligatory Me Made May Reflection Post: 2018 Edition

Phew! We did it! Whether you made a pledge or not, we’re all Me Made May 2018 survivors!

Me Made May is about cultivating thoughtfulness and reflection on our wardrobes and sewing choices, and that’s really my favorite aspect of it. Each of the last three years has been wildly different for me, and brought up different challenges: office-appropriate makes, maternity makes, and now full-time-mom style.

I pledged to attempt 100% me-made garments (excluding pjs and underthings), but promised myself I’d go easy and let myself cheat as much as needed. It was surprisingly simple to go nearly 100% me-made, but a few early cheats (before the jeans were finished) really helped me keep my momentum going. I didn’t feel trapped by too many dressy garments, and I just wore what I wanted on most days.

Takeaway: Cheating is good. I wholeheartedly endorse participating with cheating (on your pledge) rather than eschewing the whole thing out of fear (not enough garments, clothes aren’t gram-worthy, etc).

I did end up wearing more dresses and skirts than I normally would. Naturally, jeans and stretchy pants are easier, but dresses were surprisingly not that hard. I loved wearing my basic black M6886 dress (with modified hem and sleeves), and could totally see that being my uniform once I’m done nursing. I did end up changing into pants at some point in most days, usually for our evening park trips. I don’t need to be flashing my neighbors while rolling around and playing with JuJu.

Takeaway: I can wear more skirts and dresses in my everyday life. Also, wearing a couple of different outfits each day is kind of fun, and another way to keep rotating in my favorite me-made garments more often.

I also found myself reaching for some surprising garments pretty often. I wore my brocade coat almost every weekend for bleary-eyed Sunday morning coffee runs. I loved wearing super comfy sweatshirts and leggings with my fancy jacket, and it put a spring in my step. I also wore my new Butterick caftan tee a few times (plus as pjs). I never would’ve guessed that I’d wear a shirt as both daywear and nightwear, but it was a delicious treat to roll around in, essentially, pajamas.

Takeaway: I dunno. Make all the fancy jackets? Make all the pj tops? How about this: make what you moves you, and let your wardrobe surprise you. Sometimes having all your outfits planned and perfect doesn’t leave enough room for surprise favorites.

Like in previous years, the optional “sharing selfies on Instagram” part of the month — which I really enjoy — hammers home that most sewers on Insta are using indie patterns. Like, I could scroll through dozens of posts before coming across a Big 4 project. While it doesn’t feel isolating or anything, it’s always a quirk that gets amplified so much in May that it’s impossible to ignore. I’ve foregone indie patterns for the most part because I have zero problems with Big 4, but I’m wondering if it’s time to branch out a bit. I don’t want to do something just because the cool kids are doing it, but I’m curious as to whether, as a Big 4 fan, I’d find the features other sewers rave about to be noticeable or worthwhile.

Takeaway: If everyone else is jumping off a cliff, maybe see what’s down there.

Instead of trying to sew anything to fill holes (besides the yet-to-be-posted 8222 jeans, which were a last-minute whim anyway), I focused on mending and refashioning. It wasn’t the most fun sewing — starting from scratch is always the most exciting to me! — but it was still satisfying trying to find ways to give old garments new life. Some attempts were busts, and that’s fine — I feel better giving a garment a second (or third) try before giving up on it and sending it to the scrap pile. Also, wearing some older makes helped me look at them with fresh eyes, and a few unexpected garments are now in the “refashion” section of the closet. I hope to continue with this exercise next year, and have May become a “Make Do and Mend” month for me.’

Takeaway: It’s pretty satisfying to put some love into your wardrobe. It’s not as much fun as creating, but it’s a key part of having a handmade wardrobe that really functions.

This year, rather than big takeaways, the whole experience for me was more about having fun and celebrating the sewing community. Wearing 31 days of me-made was not a challenge, and it didn’t feel much different than other months. It was fun to encourage myself to wear different garments instead of my regular defaults, and I do love ending up with a photo record of my wardrobe that updates from year to year.

All in all, a great experience, and I’m definitely “in” for next year already!