Gray Archer in progress - cut pieces and ribbon

The latest project on my sewing table is my third Archer, which I’ve affectionately dubbed “The Archer of Many Details.”  I’ve been meaning to try out a bunch of new-to-me shirt-making techniques, and I figured I’d give them all a go in a single project.  Two birds and one stone, you know how it goes.  :)

The main fabric is Robert Kaufmann pinpoint Oxford, a chambray with a crisp hand that presses like a dream.  It’s the same fabric I used for my first Archer, which I love (and actually wore today!).  It makes a really crisp, professional-looking shirt, which is exactly the vibe I’m going for.  I saw it at Grey’s Fabric and immediately scooped it up in a whirlwind of spontaneity.  I’m sure you can relate, ha.

Ok, onward to the “many details.”

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Bound buttonholes - two-piece piped method - large gallery image

Sew Skillfully Banner

To kick off Sew Skillfully, I decided to learn how to sew bound buttonholes.  Exciting!!  : )  The book I’m using (Reader’s Digest New Complete Guide to Sewing) details several methods for making the buttonhole and finishing the facing on the inside of the garment.  For my first attempt, I chose the following:

  • Buttonhole: Two-piece piped method
  • Facing: Windowpane method

To be honest, I chose these methods because they seemed to be on the intricate end of the spectrum, and I wanted to get the best finish possible.  Call me a sucker for detailed procedures!  I actually really enjoy sewing complicated things sometimes, and pushing myself to learn these more advanced techniques is exactly what Sew Skillfully is all about.  No shortcuts, at least for now!

I made 2 buttonholes using this method.  I’ll show you my second one first, because it came out better.  Not surprising.  :)  Ok, let’s dive in!

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Sew Skillfully Banner

I consider myself an intermediate sewist.  I’ve sewn a bunch of garments, most of them successful, and definitely feel that I’ve moved on from the “beginner” title.  Interestingly, I can easily see myself squatting in the intermediate category indefinitely, happily sewing a wardrobe full of garments that fit well and that I love wearing.  Advanced techniques aren’t necessarily required for sewing successful garments.  If my main goal in sewing is producing a wearable wardrobe, I think I have most of the skills I need at this point.

However, that is not my only goal.  I want to learn, push myself, explore!  :)  One day I’d like to graduate from “intermediate sewist” to “advanced sewist”… and perhaps even “expert sewist” somewhere down the line.  (A girl can dream, right?)  Enter the Sew Skillfully project.

Sew Skillfully is:

- A fun way to challenge myself to learn more intermediate and advanced sewing techniques, without necessarily incorporating them into a specific garment project.

- A way for me to document my progress, ask questions when I get stuck, report on any interesting findings, and share tips and recommendations with you as I come across them.

- My own small contribution in advancing the sewing blogosphere beyond content focused on absolute beginners, an area which has been fully saturated, in my opinion.

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Summer Blazer by Allspice Abounds - Simplicity 2446 - front

After about a month of work, I’m thrilled to show you my finished Summer Blazer!

Summer Blazer by Allspice Abounds - Simplicity 2446 - showing lining

Isn’t she a beauty?  :)  Made of breathable cotton and fully lined in silky Bemberg rayon, this light jacket is the perfect companion for summer days with just a hint of a cool breeze.

Project Stats:

Pattern: Simplicity 2446, a classic-cut, fully lined blazer in 2 lengths.  This is the cropped version, more or less.

Fabric: The shell is a medium weight cotton print, and the lining is Bemberg rayon (my absolute favorite lining fabric).

Modifications: A bunch of fitting alterations, made for my first blazer.  For this version, I chopped 4.5 inches off the hem but left all my other modifications in tact.

Level of crafty satisfaction:  I have to admit, I’m feeling pretty smug about this one.  :)

Before I throw a bunch more photos at you, a few quick notes:

  • I wrote two in-progress posts about this blazer (Part 1 and Part 2), featuring close-up photos of all the details and diving into construction and finishing techniques.  Check them out for all the nitty-gritty.
  • For all my posts on Simplicity 2446, including my first blazer, click here.
  • The white fabric is a killer to photograph outdoors, but I’ve included some indoor shots at the end of this post so you can see the details of the print.

All right, it’s picture time!

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Spring Archer repairs - pocket unfolded

This weekend I decided to tackle a little project that had been on the back burner for quite a while: repairing one of my handmade garments.  I don’t know about you, but making repairs and alterations is not one of my favorite things to do!  However, my Spring Archer had some serious problems that needed attention, and I wanted to breathe new life into this much-loved shirt.

The problems

  • My two-layer pocket idea was a total FAIL.  After a few rounds in the washing machine, it became apparent that I hadn’t properly catched the underlayer in the topstitching, and it kept flopping out as you see above.
  • The sleeves were too long.  This cotton seems to stretch vertically over time, ugh!
  • The sleeve cuffs were too wide and kept sliding off my wrists.  This is no doubt due to the extra width (about 1 inch) added to the sleeve when constructing the tower plackets, a fact which I only realized after it was too late.
  • The tower plackets were too long, and therefore, kept gaping open during wear.

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Summer Blazer progress 2 - compilation

My Summer Blazer is moving right along!  Today I have more in-progress photos for you, including construction of the infamous notched collar and finishing the sleeve cuffs.  I’ve been really enjoying working on this project and love all the detailed work, and I’m excited that this blazer is nearing the finish line!  Pretty soon I’ll have a classy jacket to pair with all my summer skirts and dresses.  : )

To recap, this is Simplicity 2446, a fitted, classic-cut blazer from the Amazing Fit series.  I cropped the length a bit compared to my previous version.  The jacket is constructed in a cotton print and fully lined in Bemberg rayon.

Like a proud mama, I took lots of photos of my baby.  Enjoy!

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Forest Mushroom Mittens - right mitten finished

I knit a mitten!  Emphasis on “a”, since there is only one mitten so far.  : )  I didn’t get any sewing done this past week due to my back injury, but all that time sitting on the couch was a great way to bring back my knitting mojo, at least temporarily.  These are the Forest Mushroom Mittens (on Ravelry) by Elinor Brown, published in November 2010.  I started knitting this mitten in December 2011 and just managed to finish it now.  It sat in a drawer for almost the entire time in between, how sad!  What can I say?  When I got my sewing machine, my knitting took a back seat!

I’m quite pleased with how this mitten turned out, even though it’s not my best knitting work.  (BTW, have you seen Tasha’s latest colorwork cowl?  That woman is a fair isle ninja!)  The yarn is Cascade 220 Superwash Sport in brown, white, and red, and I used US 2 (2.75 mm) double-pointed needles throughout.  Lots more photos below, and full Ravelry notes here.

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Back pain


Sewing friends, today I want to share with you a cautionary tale about what can happen after too much sewing.  I know what you’re thinking: is it even possible to sew too much?  Are you crazy, woman??  I wish I could sew ALL the time!

Yes, that’s what I thought too.  Until last weekend, that is.  John was out of town visiting family, so I had the entire weekend to myself.  Perfect for a sewing marathon, right?  Especially considering I was sinking my teeth into a juicy blazer project!  Well, after many, many hours hunched over the sewing machine, a few more hunched over the computer blogging, and a lifetime’s worth of poor posture, the universe decided it was about time that I was punished for all my hunching over.

MY BACK FROZE.  Now friends, I have never had the pleasure of giving birth and therefore don’t know the kind of pain that’s involved, but let me tell you, this was the WORST pain I’ve had in my life, on par with getting my wisdom teeth out.  OUCH.  I’ll spare you the agonizing details and simply say that I was fairly immobile for several days and watched way too many daytime tv talk shows to pass the time.

Needless to say, no sewing progress has been made this week.

Thankfully, I’m almost back to normal at this point thanks to lots of time off my feet, lots of painkillers, and a friendly chiropractor down the street.  A few lessons learned from this eye-opening experience:

  • Hunching over the sewing machine is not good for your back!  Sewists, beware.  Get a chair with lumbar support, take breaks, and stretch.
  • Hunching over the computer is not good for your back either.  Good posture is a must!  I’m sitting up nice and straight while typing this, and I tried to correct myself at work all day.
  • You don’t have to be a grandparent to get sciatica.  Also: YOU DO NOT WANT SCIATICA.  My leg is still twitching…
  • No one will hold the door open for you in public places, even when you’re hunched over, limping, and hobbling around on a cane.  Ask me how I know this.
  • Just like with sewing, there can be such a thing as too many paternity tests.  They all start to blend together after a while!

So, next time you find yourself at your sewing machine or writing up a long blog post, do yourself a favor and take 5 minutes to stretch out your lower back.  Your body will thank you for it.  : )

Summer blazer progress 1 - compilation

After the plethora of Renfrews that have been popping up on this blog lately, I decided to switch gears a bit.  My next project is a bit more meaty, a bit more challenging, and quite a bit more exciting: a fully lined blazer!  YEAH BABY!!  : )  Can you feel the excitement??

Simplicity 2446 pattern art

I decided to revisit Simplicity 2446, a classic-cut, fully lined blazer in Simplicity’s “Amazing Fit” series.  And let me tell you, after an absolute saga of fitting adjustments that I had made for my first version of the blazer, I think the adjusted fit IS quite amazing.  : )  It had better be after all that work, am I right?

I’ve been wearing my blue blazer a lot lately, and I always feel so classy in it.  The only problem is that it’s quite long – perfect for wearing with slim-cut jeans (which is how I always wear it), but too long for wearing with skirts and dresses.  I’d been dreaming of a white summer blazer for the last few months, so I decided to use my perfectly fitting pattern pieces to make a somewhat cropped version in a lighter color.  I chopped off 4.5 inches from the hem, but kept everything else as-is.  Summer Blazer, here I come!

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Black striped Renfrew maxi dress - finished

Happy summer to those of you in the northern hemisphere!  It seems that the warm weather is finally taking hold, and women wearing maxi dresses are flooding the steamy city streets, myself included.  : )  If this new dress looks familiar, it’s because it’s nearly identical to my previous one.  Let’s face it, this isn’t the first time I’m guilty of cranking out multiple garments from the same pattern.  Ahem.  : )  I know what I like, people!

What IS different, however, is that these photos were taken in the great outdoors (well, those steamy city streets to be exact) by someone other than myself.  Shock!  Gasp!  I know, not what you expected on this ol’ blog, but I like to give my readers a nice surprise once in a while.  If I’m going to show you identical twin dresses, the least I can do is give you some sunshine in the photos!

John was kind enough to snap these photos for me.  We found a “good wall,” as they say, and here are the fruits of our labor.  Many thanks to my wonderful boyfriend for tolerating my sewing obsession addiction hobby, and always with a smile.  : )

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