Tuesday, December 6, 2011

flannel kisses

project jam #2

This weekend I set out to turn some soft, squishy flannel into cozy pajamas.  I was craving a change of pace and had just received my copy of The Colette Sewing Handbook by Sarai Mitnick - clearly a sign that it was time to make some clothes.

in Colette Sewing Handbook

Well, I definitely learned some things about myself in the process.  Let's see...

First off, the Oliver & S Bedtime Story Pajamas pattern was wonderful.  So wonderful!  Two years ago I made the kids pjs from a Simplicity pattern and really decided then and there that I would never, ever, ever sew clothes again. Granted, that was my first go at clothes and I hadn't a clue at all, but it was a tremendously stressful experience.  Now, I'll admit that I relived a bit of that when wrestling with my options for tracing the Oliver & S pajama pattern so as to preserve all 5 sizes included on one ginormous tissue paper.  Why don't they include more than one tissue paper so that you can just cut each size out as needed?  I mean, these patterns aren't cheap and tissue paper is... I think?  I turned to The Colette Sewing Handbook for suggestions and didn't come up with any ideas that were available to me that night.  So, I threw caution to the wind and cut the tissue paper in the largest size I'd be sewing this year (basically feeling that I'd never sew pajamas again anyways, because What Was I Thinking!).  At least the Colette book reminded me to iron the silly tissue paper and that pattern weights (like my camera and scissors) would be so much easier than pinning.

how to mark pattern dots

Really, once I got past cutting the tissue paper pattern pieces to size, the rest of the process went smoothly.  I did a good job transferring all markings and cutting my pieces thanks to suggestions in the Colette book.  Before this I never had a good technique for transferring the dot markings, for example.  The Colette Sewing Handbook suggested placing a pin through the dot in the tissue paper and then using a marking tool to mark around the pin insert point on both sides of the cut fabric.  Worked quite nicely!

in Colette Sewing Handbook

All in all it was really nice, as a beginner, to have the Colette book on hand.  It's not that Oliver & S was lacking in key information, it's just that as a newbie I don't even know my options.  Take seam finishes, for example.  Last time I made the kids pjs, I think I completely skipped seam finishes (or just pinked a few edges).  The whole pattern was like a foreign language to me and the thought of adding the "extra" step of finishing seams seemed like a cruel joke.  Many washings later, I totally get the point.  The Colette Sewing Handbook had a nice how-to section on seam finishing options that made me feel in control.

Aria Pjs overcast seam finish

In the end I went with an overcast stitched edge.  I think it looks dandy, and hope it holds up well.

sewing the kimono sleeves

When cutting pieces for Aria's Bedtime Story Pajamas, miserable memories of sewing those pjs two years ago almost had me skipping the pajama top altogether.  I mean, you can always just sew pants (those are easy), buy a t-shirt and applique some fabric on it to make a set of pajamas.  But, that kimono style top is so darling...  I'm so, so, so glad I persevered because the Oliver & S top design is incredibly easy to sew.  My favorite part was finishing the sleeve seams and side seams with one long right angle stitch line. 

Oliver & S Bedtime Story Pajamas

Hip, hip, hurray for straight lines!

in Diamond Mine flannel by AMH

I love how her pajamas turned out!  The flannel is Diamond Mine from Anna Maria Horner's Little Folks collection.  It's trimmed with Hugs & Kisses in Candy, also by Anna Maria.  I happen to know from experience that Anna's flannel holds up very well over time, staying nice and thick and warm.  I can't wait to see how these look on her, but they're stashed away for now until Christmas Eve!

Aria Christmas pjs

So, remember how I said that I learned some things about myself?  Well, while making these pajamas and taking breaks to read The Colette Sewing Handbook here and there, I came to realize that I am a quilter.  Shocking right?  But hear me out.  I love to make quilts, the easy ones and the hard ones.  The ones for people and the ones for no reason.  The ones that take forever and have to be fixed and finally turn into something I can appreciate at the end.  I don't always love every minute of the process, but overall I'm motivated to do it and I don't actually care that it takes quite awhile.

I so don't feel that way about making clothes.  I don't want them to be hard.  There is only a limited amount of time I want to spend making them.  And, also, I don't particularly aspire to be able to make myself a tailored, awesomely fit garment.  I mean, at first I thought that would be cool, but now I see that I just don't have the passion to take me there at this time in my life.  It's a whole ton of work to get there! 

in Colette Sewing Handbook

Sewists that are ready for that rode take a pattern as a starting point, make a muslin (wearable or not), make adjustments to the pattern and repeat, repeat, repeat until they're thrilled.  They also probably want a dress form.  I, on the other hand, just want to open a pattern like these Bedtime Story Pajamas, cut out one size, follow the directions and come out with a fabulous item all in one go! 

Clarity is key.  If you do feel passionate about learning to make yourself beautiful, well-fit clothing, I think The Colette Sewing Handbook is an awesome place to start.  Sarai Mitnick's writing is clear, friendly and illustrated so well with in-process photographs. 

in Colette Sewing Handbook

Plus, this dress is one of the included patterns!  And, if you want to make "easy" clothes for kids (whose lack of curves make for a quick fit), the Colette book is also a nice extra reference for navigating your options or unscrambling way-too-brief directions that you'll find in some patterns.  For myself, I think I need to look in the direction of knits.  Knits have that stretch that helps a pattern accommodate more shapes and also create a finished look that I like.



I recently pinned this quick tutorial for making a dress from a simple knit top.  I love how the author really threw the dress together.  That's the attitude I hope to take this spring with dress-sewing season gets in my blood again!

26 comments:

  1. You are brave. I used to love to sew clothes when I was younger, but have not attempted it for a while.

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  2. I sew clothes a lot and the best thing I ever learned was to trace the pattern by laying freezer paper on top. Cut out the freezer paper and then iron it on to your fabric. It sticks, you cut and then peel it off, over and over, you can probably make each freezer paper pattern set 4-5 times before it loses it's stickiness. So much easier to cut out too, no worries about pattern weights or stuff shifting. The jammies are adorable! Oliver + S are the best patterns, hands down. I have the Colette book on my Christmas list!

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  3. Your PJ's turned out really cute. I might try clothing sewing next year and I have seen some really good reviews of the Colette sewing handbook so I think I will buy it.

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  4. I agree with Courtney, I love tracing my patterns onto freezer paper. It's like magic! I get what you are saying about not absolutely loving making clothes. I do really love making my kid's clothes and I really love quilting as well. I think I will always do both. But I don't have a desire to be very good at making myself clothes.

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  5. I really enjoyed reading your post. I too am a quilter and have no desire really to make clothes unless it's a fast twirly skirt or appliqued tee. I did make my daughter a super cute pair of pajama pants, but the pattern language was very difficult for me as well. I have also made Halloween costumes, but again the directions are difficult, so I end up just winging it after I get to a certain point! I learned to sew when I was 30, just 4 years ago, so I have a lot of catching up to do!!!

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  6. I go in fits and starts on making clothes, but I trace all my patterns rather than chop them up (partly because I make things for my mum too, and she's a totally different size to me, being a good 7 inches shorter for a start!) then I can have personalised adjustment on each traced version.

    Your jammies came out really cute though, I'm sure they'll look great on her :o)

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  7. Rachel, they are the cutest Pj's!, you are a clever girl. I bet you could make clothes too. Especially with help from that book. i also pinned that dress. i look forward to seeing you make that.

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  8. The pjs are super adorable! The hugs and kisses trim is just perfect with the flannel you used. And it's good to know that this PJ experience was much smoother than your last!

    I still have aspirations to dabble further in garment sewing, but I doubt I'll ever be a master of it. I hear what you're saying about wanting a direct and easy(-ish) process.

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  9. Your PJ's turned out great! If I know I'm going to use a pattern over and over again, I iron it onto fusible interfacing, it makes it much more sturdy for repeated cuttings. This works best with a favorite bag pattern or PJ patterns, as I plan on making another set of PJs for my youngest out of the same vintage pattern I used for my oldest.

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  10. Omg...I totally can relate! Sewing clothes just isn't my thing at all. While I truly love the finished product, the making it doesn't really jazz me as much as quilting. Now bags/purses might be a different story, I enjoy that every now and again, but definitely not clothing. Kudos to those garment sewists though -- I am envious of their creations!!

    The PJs are super cute, too!! I'm sure the kids will just love them!

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  11. Thanks for chiming in, friends. I was kind of putting this pressure on myself to learn to make myself clothes, so it's nice to realize that's not what I really want (as useful as that passion would be). On the freezer paper, aren't most pattern pieces wider than freezer paper? Do you have multiple pieces for one pattern? Seems like that would get difficult.

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  12. Oh gosh I feel the same way. I had grand ideas of making beautiful dresses for my daughter, then I tried it. I just didn't enjoy it the way I do quilting. I'd rather be unpicking the odd wonky seam on a quilt than be trying to get a gathered ruffle to sit just right!

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  13. Oh, I love your post, thanks for sharing. I'm a sewer of clothes, but I love your honesty in saying that you aren't. That said, I sometimes like to be able to just get a pattern, cut out the one size and away I go. That of course happens rarely, especially when you are making something like a wedding dress, of which I have done 3 now. I love that gorgeous gorgeous PJ pattern. The pair you made have turned out so well, you have inspired me to make a pair or 2, for my great nieces and nephews.

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  14. Love this post- I have yet to attempt any garment sewing but really want to try some pj pants and a tunic for myself. Your pajamas turned out just great Rachel. Aria will love them!

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  15. These turned out so super cute! I hope you share a picture of Aria wearing them!!

    I have a desire to sew quilts, home dec, children's item and clothes, but I seriously cannot follow patterns to save my life. I want to, but I just can't! It's the same with knitting for me. I do have a dress form on my Christmas list, so I am planning to give sewing clothes for myself a real go in the Spring -- we'll see...

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  16. these pajamas are awesome! i've sewn this pattern lots of times, but i always let my kids choose the fabric. let's just say their taste isn't the same as mine. :) i've found it easiest to use snaps instead of ties. the ties came untied a lot and they were too young to re-tie them. i've gotten super lazy and now make the pajama pants only with a matching appliqued shirt. but the kimono top is pretty adorable. nice work!

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  17. ps i do lots of garment sewing and i'd be lost without swedish tracing paper. you can find it on amazon. it's *awesome*. i always trace out my patterns (unless it's a cheap simplicity pattern because that tissue paper is awful!). the oliver + s patterns are pricy and i have four kids, so they will almost certainly be used again. i've used some of their patterns (like this pattern, for example!) a dozen times. so thankful for swedish tracing paper. trust me, you'll love it!

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  18. yep...you've pretty much summed up how I feel about sewing clothes...with the one exception being that I like having the skills to make a special garment when I need to. My daughter's Christmas dress, my flower girl dresses, altering my wedding dress... Those are all important to me that I did myself. But trust me I've had soooo many flops with garment sewing that I am well in the quilting camp myself.

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  19. the PJs look really cute! i am 100% in the quilters-only camp with you. my mom is an accomplished garment seamstress, and she really does glance at the pattern and then go her own way from there. on the other hand, i thank my lucky stars that i can just walk into a store and buy garments rather than have to make them myself!! i have the patience for the 8,000,000 steps it takes to make each quilt...but no way for clothes. glad i'm not the only one! :o)

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  20. i wish i was as proficient at making clothes as i am at making quilts. i really want to be good at sewing everything. practice practice practice i guess. i really just like to sew, it doesn't really matter what it is for me. although, it makes me really happy when i finish something for my daughter and she gets so excited that it is for her.

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  21. for tracing i like to use carbon paper. i just layer it in between the original and my paper (i got a giant roll of free paper so that doesn't help too much) and trace the pieces.

    it would be costly to print each size on a different sheet paper. it's also helpful to have all the sizes on one in case you are in between sizes and need to grade (like if you had a large bust and small hips, for example).

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  22. I'm with you Rachel, the idea of spending several nights making a garment doesn't float my boat, but I quite like the idea of quilting night after night. I still try my hand at making clothes though as I'm hoping it will grow on me. Plus there are only so many years you can get away with making your kids' clothes so I need to make the most of it now!

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  23. those PJs are lovely. My mum used to make all mine and I loved them. I always had a new pair for Christmas and always felt very special because no-one had a pair of PJs like mine!

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  24. I'd like to know if you made the pajamas the same size you would have bought at the store?

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  25. Nope, I made them in size 6, even though she's wearing a 7 now in most stores. The 6 is definitely big enough!

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  26. For those of you that have made this before, do you think velcro closure would work, rather than snaps? Liam has trouble with snaps so I'm thinking buttons or velcro for him.

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