Today’s Pattern Story: Simplicity 1170

Simplicity 1170 four women in blouses with patient looks on their faces

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  • keep an attentive, thoughtful look on your face for up to three hours straight
  • subconsciously register pauses so you can say “why, I never thought of it that way!” or “what an interesting idea!” at appropriate times
  • make mental lists of things you would rather be (or should be) doing, and remember them even after you are released from your “conversation”!

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quick mask hack: add a nose wire with piping!

Hi folks! Like everyone else in possession of a sewing machine and any amount of free time at all, I’ve been sewing masks! I’ve been using the NYT pattern — not because I necessarily think it’s the best, but because it was Good Enough, and I found myself falling way way way down an internet hole of different patterns, techniques, etc. …. which was not getting any masks sewn!

I’m very lucky in that I have tons of leftover/scrap high-quality cotton fabric, and literally MORE BIAS TAPE than I knew what to do with. I also have (as regular readers know), vast quantities of piping, and much love for same.

I also wear glasses, and was interested in maybe having a mask with a nose wire so that I could fit it tightly and limit the amount of glasses-fogging that could occur. Plus (and this is the important part) I had some leftover wire from a project that I don’t even remember doing. The only problem was, the wire was thin and sharp … hmm … what to do … piping!

By adding wire to piping and piping the top line of the mask, I could have a tighter-fitting mask, not poke myself in the eye, and also have piping! Win-win!

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Cut out your mask pieces (fabric and lining) and sew the center seam of your mask as directed.
  2. Cut a piece of piping long enough to go the whole top edge of the mask: mask and piping
  3. Cut a piece of wire (with paper scissors, not fabric scissors!) about 3/4 to 5/8 as long as the piece of piping (I just eyeball it): wire, piping, and mask
  4. Insert the wire INTO the piping. Just poke that sucker in between two stitches!
    wire inserted between the stitches of the piping
    Skoosh it through the piping, like you were putting elastic or a drawstring cord through a casing. It should go through reasonably well, although you might have trouble if there’s a seam in your piece of piping. Take care not to shove it so hard that it bunches up the piping cord or goes through the piping fabric. (This is easier than it sounds, I promise!)
    wire inserted partway into piping
  5. Make a sandwich of the piping, lining fabric, and outer fabric:

    Note that the piping edge is going DOWN into the mask!

    (I had yards of this fine white cotton fabric and wasn’t sure where it had come from, and after cutting quite a lot of it for mask linings I realized that it was leftover from the surplices my husband’s grandmother used to sew for her local priest …)

  6. Sew the piping sandwich. I use a narrow foot. If your lining fabric is thinner, put that side up. Basically you want to be able to feel or see the edge of the piping, so that you don’t sew over it.
    IMPORTANT: there is a slight chance you could break a needle if you accidentally hit the wire (I haven’t yet) so do wear some eye protection! 
    mask sandwich going through sewing machine

    Pivot the needle at the center seam:
    pivot the needle at the center seam

  7. Turn and press:
    right side of the mask, showing piped edge
  8. If your fabric is likely to fray, you can finish the edge with a narrow zigzag. If you’re feeling super-ambitious you can also edge-stitch the lining, but I haven’t.
  9. Finish as you otherwise would!
    finished mask

I hope you find this helpful! Stay well!

another mask pattern

With a few small adjustments this mask would handle both airborne virus particles and help a LOT with social distancing!

picture of frankly disturbing knit balaclavas

NOTE: THIS IS A JOKE PLEASE DON’T MAKE ONE OF THESE INSTEAD OF A REAL MASK. GOT A GREAT MASK PATTERN? PLEASE PUT IT IN THE COMMENTS!

 

(If you really want to make this—I don’t know, social isolation does weird things to people, no judgment—the pattern is available on Etsy from seller PatternGrove.)

 

Still on the Fringe(s)

Hello! Happy New Year! Well, 2019 has been a blur, hasn’t it? I did more sewing than I did blogging, that’s for sure. 😬

The dress I was obsessed with for most of the latter half of 2019 was the Chalk and Notch Fringe dress (with some significant alterations, mostly in the pocket department). I liked the neckline and the roominess of it, and the shirt-tail hem (which I faced for better weight/drape rather than using a narrow hem finish). It’s nice in the summer, with sandals, but I’ve also been wearing it over a long-sleeved tee/with a cardigan and leggings with boots.

What did I make it in? Well, probably a better question is what didn’t I make it in. My favorite was probably the Nani Iro double gauze, which I made in two colorways because one is never enough:
blue Nani Iro grace stripe dress

I didn’t take a good picture of the multicolor stripe, but you can get a glimpse of it here. I also made it in a lovely gray broken plaid double gauze from Stonemountain and Daughter (did you know they send you sewing stickers now if you mail-order?), but no pictures of that yet, I’ve been too busy wearing it!

This pattern is great for fabrics with large motifs (and/or masochists), because there’s really only one big, important seam to match:

Anna Marie Horner fabric matched across front seam

In order to have pockets in the style to which I have become accustomed, I split the front skirt panel into three pieces, and changed the pockets from in-seam to scoop, like so:

view of pocket with black piping on black and white gingham seersucker fringe

(Of course there’s piping, pockets are 87% to hold your stuff and 10% to give you an excuse to add piping, and 3% to put fun linings in.)

By making the skirt three panels (I did this with the back skirt, too) I could add some more gathers and make my now-customary Sir Mix-A-Lot adjustment to the back pieces.
gray chambray fringe dress back view

I replaced the cuffs and ties in the pattern instructions with plain ol’ bias finishing:

bias tape finishing on Fringe dress sleeve

This dress has a button-front version, which I also made at least three times (but only have pictures of one version so far). This is a gray chambray with some slightly dodgy topstitching:

gray chambray fringe dress with white buttons

With any luck it won’t be another year before I update again!

Another Shirt-shirtdress

Remember my erstwhile obsession with making shirtdresses out of shirts?

It’s back.

I started this time with (again) the Seamwork Veronica, because it’s easy to make and to wear, and the panel version (for subscribers) is a perfect target for weirdnesses such as this:

shirt-shirtdress blue gingham

This particular dress is made out of (I think) four men’s shirts of varying gingham and stripe patterns (I tried really hard to find all different ginghams but ended up with the stripes, which I think worked out okay).

I thought about trying to cut the waistband so that it too would unbutton, but the placket width was slightly off (and I was more than slightly lazy).

But I remembered to take construction pictures this time! So here’s how I cut out that center front skirt panel from the front of a shirt—I extended the front panel to include the curved hem.

shirt-shirtdress construction center front skirt 3

Here’s a closeup:

shirt-shirtdress construction center front skirt 2

Basically, I created a new pattern piece for the full center front panel (since it’s too hard to put buttons on the fold) and drew a line to mark the CF, which I could then line up over the center of the buttons in the shirt. (I did the same for the CF bodice and CB bodice & skirt pieces [not pictured]).

For the CB, I was able to keep the locker loop and yoke, which I always like (but not enough to go out of my way to sew myself, oh no):

shirt-shirtdress back bodice with locker loop

The pocket backing is cut on the bias from the sleeve (men’s shirt sleeves have a lot of fabric in them):

shirt-shirtdress construction pocket facing cutting on bias

Here it is, constructed:
shirt-shirtdress pocket + piping

A little in-progress view of the bodice:
shirt-shirtdress construction

This is right after I resewed the front pocket to overlap the side bodice piece — I usually use washaway tape to hold the pocket in place while I sew, because otherwise things go badly.

Here’s the full back view:
shirt-shirtdress back

You can almost see that there’s a shirttail hem on the back, to mimic the one on the front—here’s a closer photo of that:
shirt-shirtdress curved hem piecing

And the piecing of that, since I couldn’t get the curved hems on the shirts to match up well with the pieces I was cutting. (I actually like how this turned out better …)

I just took the curved hem bits I had left over and eyeballed how they should match the front skirt, like so:

curved hem eyeballing

Then it was just a matter of making sure I had seam allowance on the other side, too:

shirt-shirtdress curved hem construction pinning

Finished result:
shirt-shirtdress curved hem construction

Unless you already have a lot of old men’s shirts lying around, making a shirtdress out of shirts is not that much less expensive than buying yardage (at least not in SF, where a decent shirt at a thrift store will cost you $5-9, depending on condition and whether or not it’s on 50% off sale that day). It takes 4-5 L or XL shirts for one dress, and I try to limit myself to shirts that are unwearable as shirts when I can—ones with stained cuffs, frayed collars, or minor holes that I can work around. I hear tell there’s a Goodwill warehouse in Burlingame that has a ‘pay-by-the-pound’ sale, but I haven’t gone yet—if you’ve gone, feel free to leave your report in the comments!

I want to make a version that is all different flannel plaids for fall, but finding coordinating flannel plaids on intermittent thrift-store trips is a loooooooong project. (It’d would also be fun to make one in Hawaiian-shirt prints, or one in novelty prints … )

Coffee Candy, Ranked

[This is not a post about dresses, so if you only want to read about dresses, please either scroll down or wait until I post something else, thanks!]

A few weeks ago I was in SF’s Japantown and found that the grocery there (Nijiya Market) sells my favorite coffee-flavored candy, coffeebeat. (I love this stuff and hadn’t been able to find it for ages, so this made me very happy!)

Also, it has the BEST packaging:
Coffeebeat

Coffee candy is odd, in that it melds something that is considered ‘for grownups’ (coffee) with something that’s for kids (candy). This narrow audience of immature adults and/or precocious children means that there isn’t a ton of coffee-flavored candy out there. (I’m deliberately leaving out high-end fancy chocolate that includes coffee.)

“Erin,” you might be saying (and are saying for the purposes of me setting up this blog post) “If coffeebeat is your favorite coffee candy, how do all the other available coffee candies rank against it?” I’m so glad you asked, imaginary blog interlocutor! Here, I will rank all the best coffee-flavored candies for you!

NB: I don’t actually like to DRINK coffee (other than cold brew) so none of these candies are ranked by how well they replicate the experience of drinking a hot cup of coffee.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    1. coffeebeat

I know we covered this above, but coffeebeat’s particular blend of coffee, chocolate, and a crunchy candy shell, plus the adorable packaging, puts coffeebeat at the top of the coffee-candy list.

2. Coffee Crisp

Does what it says on the package: is coffee-flavored, is crisp. (In the small print you will also find that this is Canadian.) These are addictive and my son knows that if he brings me back one of these when he returns home from college I will do all his laundry without complaint, which makes this a pretty powerful candy bar.

3. Coffee Nips

These are delicious, but terrifyingly sticky and the sworn enemy of dental work. You can lose a filling just opening the box. (I imagine unscrupulous dentists keeping bowls of these in their waiting rooms.) Nips come in other flavors, including Butter Rum, which is what you buy when you think Werther’s are for whippersnappers.

4. Coffee Rio

 

Coffee Rio is a kinder, gentler Coffee Nip (at least, texture-wise) which comes in more coffee flavors (although I’ve never seen anyone eat the Raspberry Mochas, and I would be slightly weirded out if you told me those were your favorite, but de gustibus, whatever). These are easier to find, being carried by most Trader Joe’s, and come in sugar-free versions, too.

5. Hopjes

Hopjes taste a little more on the bitter side to me, but they have the best typography (after coffeebeat, of course) so that’s a definite plus. They’re also usually available at bulk or penny-candy shops (for grandma? I don’t know, several of the Amazon reviews for Hopjes mention grandmas) which makes them more accessible.

6. Sperlari-Lavazza

These are a hard candy that have a soft center, but not a liquid one (this is an important distinction). Sperlari candies are also classy, because they’re Italian, but the best Sperlari candies are the anise ones.

7. Bali’s Best Coffee

The espresso and latte flavors have fillings that can be a little grainy (and disconcerting if you weren’t expecting them) but the plain coffee flavor is delightful and not too strong.

8. Kopiko

Kopiko is a fine (and caffeinated) coffee candy that comes individually wrapped. Kopiko is great for when you have a sore throat but still want to maintain the pretense that you are a working person doing work things like a worker (but should really just be zonked out on the couch with those lozenges that make you think of yodeling).

9. CoffeeGo

CoffeeGo’s schtick is that they replace coffee. They do not. They also do not replace candy. I’m not sure what they replace.

10. Pocket Coffee

You might think it’s called “Pocket Coffee” because it’s convenient to keep in your pocket, but I suspect (from the taste) that the coffee in Pocket Coffee is actually brewed from pocket lint. If you are old enough to remember liquid-center chewing gum, and are thinking “huh, I’d like to experience that again, only with cold espresso,” then maybe this is for you.

 

I haven’t tried the coffee Werther’s, this Brazilian coffee candy, these suspiciously-unreviewed Coffee Drops, or these Woogie Fine Drops (the sellers describe eating them as “sinking into an abyss of rich and succulent coffee flavor”, so be warned).

I may have tried these French hard candies in junior high school (they look familiar and are supposedly available at Epcot (!) which makes them exactly the kind of thing I would have purchased at 13) and these Simpkins coffee “travel sweets”, but I have no firm recollection of either, just that at one point I had a nice round tin with coffee candy in it, which I later used to hold my D&D dice.

If you have a favorite coffee candy, feel free to rave about it in the comments!

(blows dust off blog) “Hey, this thing still works!”

Been busier than any number of busy things you could mention (the devil in a high wind; an English oven at Christmas; a bag of fleas) and so sewing has taken a backish seat, but I have managed to make a few more Seamwork Veronicas (the panel version for subscribers).

Today I managed to take pictures of one of them that’s been in process for a couple weeks (this is actually a very quick pattern to sew, it takes a couple weeks if you only get ten minutes a day to sew in …).

topstitched chambray Seamwork Veronica

Forgive the foreshortened perspective … here’s the bodice:

topstitched chambray Seamwork Veronica bodice

The pockets:

topstitched chambray Seamwork Veronica pocket

The waistband:

topstitched chambray Seamwork Veronica waistband

More topstitching:

topstitched chambray Seamwork Veronica bodice seam

The back shirring:

topstitched chambray Seamwork Veronica

And the whole back:

topstitched chambray Seamwork Veronica

You may be saying, “huh, Erin, I don’t remember the Veronica dress looking quite like that” so here is a (not-exhaustive) list of the things I have altered:

  • added 2 inches to the center front and back skirt so that I could get more fullness
  • changed the pockets from the kangaroo kind to actual scoop pockets in the skirt side panels
  • omitted the center back seam in the bodice, skirt, and waistband and just cut everything on the fold
  • did a FBA (full butt adjustment) on the center back to keep the skirt from being shorter in the back than the front
  • shortened the bodice a bit to lessen the blousiness
  • finished the hem with a 3″ bias band
  • finished the neck and sleeves with bias binding
  • changed the back channel elastic to elastic shirring (with this very nice Seamwork tutorial)
  • scooped the neck about 1.5 inches

As you may have already figured out, my topstitching is not what you would call precise, but I am calling it wabi-sabi and retiring from the ring. (It was fun to do and I think it livens up the joint.)

The fabric is a cotton/silk? blend (maybe?) very very very lightweight not-gray-not-blue-somehow-both chambray that I’m sure I bought from FabricMartFabrics a while back. I would dig through my email receipts to confirm but 1) I’m lazy and 2) everything on FMF sells out in less than a week so there’s no utility in doing so; I can’t link to it. The fabric is a bit sheerer than I expected but I only own all of the slips in the northern hemisphere so we’re good on that front. (And back.)

Considerable alterations aside, this is a very comfortable dress for summer, and I’m all set to make at least, oh, three or four more until I get tired of it. It’s just so darn easy, both to make and to wear! (I’ve already made two others, both in seersucker, that I haven’t photographed yet.)

Next step for this dress is to do a version that has panels in the back as well as the front … and maybe even a version with a flat collar?