Crazy Sweater Party: Simplicity 8089 Batwing Top and Simplicity 1072 Pencil Skirt Reviews

In my newfound postnatal sewing bliss (seriously, it’s been a huge step forward in feeling like myself again), I’ve been sewing completely out of stash. I’ve made a streak of 11 garments (some underthings and selfless sewing, so not all blogged) from fabric I already had on hand — in some cases, for over a decade. Instead of going for an even dozen, I decided to lose my mind and binge on a ton of new fabric.

While there’s some gold in the stash, I didn’t have more than a couple of knit pieces, both of which are not really my style anymore. I am living in knits lately in order to keep up with Baby JuJu. (So much rolling and she is just about ready to crawl!) I could keep sewing wovens and make some great garments, but I want to make the types of pieces I reach for week after week — the types of things that feel comforting when I’m tired and stressed and don’t have energy to want to look good.

I didn’t end up spending a lot since I snagged some great deals, but it was definitely the biggest one-time fabric purchase I’ve ever made. Rather than having some detailed plan, I grabbed mostly fabrics that just caught my attention, which means I ended up with a big stack of prints. The goal is to just have fun sewing it all up, and to go ahead and really sew it all — no sitting on things waiting for the perfect pattern or inspiration. Just sew it up with no regrets, make some questionable choices, make some awesome choices, have fun, and don’t take any of it too seriously.

(Yeah, we’ll see it how goes. Will keep you posted.)

I ordered a couple of hacchi knits to make transitional pieces as we head into spring, and this print just caught my eye. I knew it might turn out to be not-so-great in person, but my what-the-hell buying spree dictated that I order some and find out. I ended up settling on Simplicity 8089, since I’ve been wanting to sew it up for over a year. I love the batwing sleeves and slouchy style! Look at me, being carefree with my fabric! (Picture me pretending to be carefree while actually biting my nails.)

Okay, enough preamble. Here’s the deal: this pattern is hella easy to stitch up. Like, super duper crazy easy. I mean, patterns labeled “easy to sew” should be, but that’s not always the case. There’s a front, a back, a neckband, and a cuff. And that’s it. The sleeves are cut on, so no setting them in, and also no waistband to achieve the look, just a few nicely drafted pattern pieces.

Flying squirrel pose!

A few quick notes:

*The sleeve cuffs are narrow. I have chicken arms, and they’re tight on me. If you have any doubt, measure the pattern piece ahead of time — it’s an easy check, and totally worth it. I like my sleeves to fit closely and almost always have to narrow sleeves, so I actually loved that it was drafted that way out of the gate.

*The neckline is a bit of an in-between size. It’s not quite big enough to feel intentionally off-the-shoulder, but it’s big enough to expose your bra straps when you’re not paying attention. Not really an issue, just worth nothing.

*Uhh… I don’t actually have any more notes. It fits as expected, and the directions offered no curveballs. Win?

Casually staring at the exterior of my apartment, like you do

I ended up having a lot of fabric left over. I cleaned up my stash piles a few days earlier, and realized that a lot of my “stash” is just large leftover pieces. You know, big enough to make something but not big enough to make just any old thing. So, I’m on a no-scraps mission! I considered making a more spring-ish top, but settled on a matching pencil skirt.

This was also a Simplicity “Easy to Sew” pattern and — damn!! — they aren’t kidding! This skirt was so ridiculously easy. Again, it should be, but I’m always surprised when pattern companies don’t find ways to make things overly complicated. The front and back share the same pattern piece, so don’t expect any shaping, but that’s what the stretch is for.

Nary a dart in sight!

I ended up added a lining and attaching the waistband differently than directed, so it could have been even simpler. (I opted to attach the waistband casing so that no seams would show on the inside, in contrast to the directions, which have you just stitch the waistband to the skirt right sides together and call it a day. Good job on keeping it simple, Simplicity, but I don’t want to see those seams!)

I really can’t recommend this skirt enough for beginners. It’s fun to make, the end product is super wearable, fit issues are easy to diagnose and fix, you can finish it quickly, and make it in a ton of different fabrics and lengths and no one would realize it’s the same skirt. No need to make crappy aprons and dodgy t-shirts — make yourself a sexy pencil skirt, and instantly get over any (wildly unnecessary) fear of knits.

My strategy as always: crazy print, simple lines

So, the final outcome of this fabric is: a totally wearable, if slightly wacky, transitional top (I’ve already worn it twice in less than a week — so easy to throw on); a totally wearable and super comfy skirt (which I have yet to wear); and a secret dress!

Flip flops make me smile: California girl forever

I’m not sure if I’ll end up wearing these two together often (or at all), but I like having the option. It’s a good casual weekend lunch look, and again, super comfortable. I also managed to squeeze my first pair of baby leggings out of this cut, but they came out pretty questionable, so no photos, and they probably won’t get more than one or two wears. Fine by me — it was a trial run, and I think I can refine my pants pattern easily after trying these on JuJu.

I didn’t plan on sewing up two super-easy patterns, but I’ve gotta say, it was really fun and satisfying to tear through two hard-to-ruin projects so quickly. Highly recommended as a sewing palette cleanser! I’m still not sure how this print reads (crazy? fugly? cool?), but I’m already following through on my goal of just having a good time with my fabric indulgence.

Welcome to the closet, my Secret Dress of Sweatery Comfort!

Downward Facing Yoga Bra: Simplicity 8339 Pattern Review

Holy cow, I made sportswear!

I really would not have thought this was possible, but it was actually — dare I say it? — EASY! Best of all, I made this sports bra, ahem, yoga bra completely out of scraps!

I always thought that effective sportswear required specialty stitches, notions, and fabric. Now that activewear fabric is available everywhere, turns out I was wrong about the other two. Plus, there is a way better range of activewear patterns from a variety of pattern companies. Time to put my old ideas aside and try something new!

I went with Simplicity 8339, because it’s more traditional in its style, but has some customization options. (Must colorblock All The Things.) I didn’t necessary want a strappy, cool bra. I wanted something that felt substantial, and also that didn’t require making a ton of fussy skinny straps. Gross.

I had a really enjoyable time sewing this bra up! The directions were clear, and the construction was not complicated. It was a bit fussy attaching bindings in thick activewear fabrics as the seams started to pile up, but not unmanageable. The pieces all fit together smoothly as drafted, and there weren’t any big hiccups, making this a quick project to whip up.

I’m quite pleased with the look of the bra. I have an outdated view that handmade sportswear will look, well… handmade. It’s just not true in this case. The bra is cute, well-shaped, and has great details and colorblocking possibilities. I may never pay for a retail sports bra again!

The fabrics I used are leftovers from my maternity dresses: green scuba knit and gray heather lycra/spandex/something-like-that knit. Overall, very little fabric is required here. If you go by the yardage listed on the pattern envelope, you’ll have enough to make multiples. If you’re at all interested in making yoga pants, leggings, etc, then consider just adding on a bit of yardage when you buy your fabric and you can probably squeeze a matching bra out of it.

Simplicity also did a really good job of providing individual pattern pieces for each cup size. Plus, there are two sets for each cup size to accommodate all the band sizes. It’s not that unusual, just adds up to a lot of included sheets, of which you only use a small percentage. It also makes it easy to switch a size up or down after you try it. Having worked in product development, I can just imagine the designer/product team being super excited at a meeting, like, “Screw it! Let’s just include ALL the pattern pieces and give the customer exactly what they want! I don’t care how many extra sheets of pattern paper it takes — it’s going to be amazing!!!!” I also thought the directions for finding your cup and band size were explained well.

Okay, but here comes the kicker. I’m not sure this bra really fits me all that well. It’s well constructed and everything, it just doesn’t have as much support as I was hoping for. My girls are squished in, and there’s a bit too much… bouncing. To be honest, I might just be more critical of things I make. I keep meaning to try on one of my favorite sports bra and see if the bounce issue is something I just didn’t really notice and nitpick with my RTW bras. Now that I’m nursing, I’m much more aware of anything that’s harsh on the milk-makers.

Am I really posting this picture on the internet? I must really love my sewing peeps…

I think it’s a size issue possibly with the fabrics contributing, so I’m probably going to try this pattern again with a different combo (going up a band size at the very least). Again, there’s nothing inherently unsupportive in the design, but you do need to really nail your size. I might also try some power mesh for the lining. I haven’t worked with power mesh, but it seems to have supernatural powers.

The one modification I made turned out to be a bit of a mistake. Two of the views call for an elasticized casing with hooks and eyes as a closure. I did not want to fool around with buying or installing specialty sporty hooks and eyes. Nope, not for me. So, I just made a continuous casing, which made the sewing part easier, but the actual getting-the-bra-on part much harder. Don’t do what I did. If you’re a C cup or over, you’re just asking for some painful squishage when getting this on. The other view (C) has just a straight-up elastic band attached. I’m loathe to source specialty elastic for one small piece, but I’m very curious to try this version. I just can’t with the hooks and eyes, so fingers crossed.

In the end, you can see why I’m calling this a yoga bra. It’s cute, and perfect for gently bending over and reaching, which — I’ll be honest — is the only exercise I’m doing lately anyway. (I know it’s a myth that you can’t start working out again while nursing, but it’s a damn convenient myth, so I’m going with it!) I’m just really pleased with how the final outcome looks that I can’t bring myself to call it anything less than a success. Sometimes things just work out, right?

Welcome to the closet, my Mostly Functional Fitness Foray!

All Feathered Up: Simplicity 1253 Blouse Pattern Review

So, Simplicity 1253 has me stymied.

I wrote up my review post the same day I completed the blouse, filled with self-pity and angst over how frustrating this project was and how it didn’t line up with my expectations. Then I wore it a few times. And now I kind of love it. This is not the first time this has happened.

I don’t want to sugarcoat the experience because I like to be able to look back honestly and see growth or obstacles rather than just sunny commentary. At the same time, I also don’t want to be all, “Wahhh! Woe is me,” when in the end, I have a top I’m really enjoying. Overly dramatic creative tension it is, then. On with the review!

My streak is over. (Sort of.)

I had been a roll of making things that I loved, that turned out great, and that made me think I was getting pretty okay at this whole sewing thing.

Then this thing came along.

Let’s start with the fabric. I LOVE this border print feather fabric. It’s so vibrant and fun! Everyone who sees it tends to comment on how rad it is — even my husband. So I didn’t want to screw this up, especially because I can’t get any more of it. That said, I’ve been working out of my stash and in a “sew the good stuff” mood lately, so this piece was getting stitched up, one way or another. (Sidenote: I totally fabric binged since writing this. It was a good 11-garment stash streak while it lasted!)

Technicolor feather love!

I debated a ton of different patterns. In the end, I went with Simplicity 1253 because of the simple lines. There are some neckline pleats, but that’s about it. I edited out the neckband since it wouldn’t work with the print, and I added a lining. Other than that, I made this without any changes.

As lovely as it is, this fabric is lightweight and slippery. There was no way I was going to try to execute anything complicated and overly seamed, or that required a close fit. This thin, delicate polyester fabric needed something simple and at least slightly drapey. I also knew I wanted the border to run from the top down, instead of having the border at the bottom. So, I set out!

As soon as I was done cutting, I knew my plan hadn’t done justice to the border. Without the neckband, the top was lower-cut than I realized, and a lot of the gorgeous border feathers were lost. Well, shit. No use crying over it, though — time to get sewing!

Oh my goodness, you guys — this fabric hates me. This polyester wiggled and moved and slid and slithered and was just an overall bitch and a half to cut and sew. I had to stop and sew my husband some woven cotton boxers halfway through just to have the satisfaction of working with a friendly, pressable fabric to reset and refresh myself.

When your friend gets that good angle!

It’s not just the fabric, though. I made SO MANY unforced errors while constructing this relatively simple top. Seams went wonky, I would catch additional layers in my seams, I couldn’t get the button loops turned AT ALL, and it was just sloppy all around. Of course, it wasn’t intentionally sloppy, but the amount of times I had to unpick stitching was some kind of personal record. On delicate fabric, no less. Sigh. Can I blame it on baby-induced lack of sleep? Because I’m totally going to.

I also wish I’d sized up about half a size. I cut a 10, as per usual, and it’s a little tight in the arms, shoulders, and back. In a knit, the fit would be perfect, but in a woven (which is what it’s designed for), there’s not quite enough room to move effortlessly. I was worried going to pop a seam bending over to lift the baby out of her crib, but it turns out it’s okay. I wore this a couple of times already and have been able to care for Baby JuJu and hug copious people with nary a popped stitch. Phew!

Also, I have to comment on the sleeve buttons. They are so oddly placed! Because they’re on the inside/underside of the sleeve, they don’t show up from the front, or the back, or… really… from any angle. Definitely not worth the effort of adding six loops and six buttons! Lesson learned: adding buttons to one-piece sleeves is a non-starter.

Let’s also chat about the button loops for a second. I got a lot of great advice on Instagram about how to turn the loops, but in the end, this fabric was just too delicate. That, and I didn’t have the patience. After trying several solutions and waiting for the perfect large needle to arrive and then having that plan not work, I decided to stop Wile E. Coyote-ing this thing and just move on. I substituted pre-made 1/4″ bias tape for the loops. Gotta say, I don’t recommend it. They’re way too thick, and made it difficult to stitch over them smoothly. Next time, I’ll consider ribbon, which I wish I would have thought of earlier. It would have been a lovely, seemingly intentional touch instead of a total eyesore and mismatch.

I’m seriously embarrassed by how crappy the stitching is, dudes.

That said, I really like the length of the sleeves as-is; this is going to be a great transitional item between seasons. Another thing to like about this pattern is the length. It doesn’t have the look of a long, baggy tunic, but there’s the perfect amount of coverage in the back. The back hemline curves down and offers perfect butt coverage to wear with leggings. Bonus! I did struggle with hemming the curved back hem; it came out a bit wavy. It looks dreadful in photos, but I’m guessing that it’s much less noticeable to anyone else when I’m moving around. Not worth fussing about.

The back makes much better use of the border! Argh!

In the end, I really don’t love this top. I don’t love the neckline, I don’t love the gathered sleeve caps, I don’t love the fit, I don’t love the hem, and it’s just so meh for fabric I was crazy about. I’m optimistic that I’ll still wear it. Sometimes I try to “save” my most loved garments and don’t wear them as much as I should, so hopefully this top will meet the opposite fate. (Sidenote again: After wearing this a couple of times, it’s growing on me. It’s not OMGAmazing, but it’s Quite Good, and the fabric puts me in a good mood. Still wish I would have chosen a boatneck pattern for maximum featherage.)

I also can’t say I regret cutting into my precious feathers. Fabric that sits on the shelf is mostly wasted. Even if this blouse isn’t my best work or my favorite garment, I had the pleasure (debatable in some moments…) of cutting and stitching a project, the fun of wearing it a few times, the enjoyment of photographing/writing/reflecting on the process, more space in the stash, and the affirmation that my skills and lifestyle are good enough right now to merit good fabric.

So, welcome to the closet, my Feathered Comeback Kid Blouse!