Carolyn sews the Carolyn Pajamas: shirt muslin

Carolyn Pajamas shirt muslin - with pillow

This post could alternatively be titled: “Thou shalt not question the great Heather Lou.”

I know I’m late to the party with this pattern, but that’s nothing new for me!  Although I suspect most of you have already sewn up the Closet Case Carolyn Pajamas and/or have seen a bunch of gorgeous versions online, I hope you’ll indulge me as I work my way through this pattern, one muslin at a time.  Now, I know this pattern is named after the one and only Carolyn of Handmade by Carolyn – a ridiculously talented sewist by all definitions – but ever since it came out, I couldn’t help but think that it would be cool to sew up a pattern with my name on it.  If I tell myself that it was actually named after me, well, that’ll just be my own little delusion.  :)

(By the way, thank you for the comments on my last post about my blog photos.  I think I actually managed to relax in the photo above!)

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Three simple summer tops

Three simple summer tops

My streak of extremely simple projects continues!  This summer I found myself in desperate need of simple tops to wear to work.  I wanted all the following characteristics:

  • Short sleeves, since I always seem to get cold in sleeveless tops in air conditioned buildings.
  • Low enough neckline to be comfortable, but high enough that I won’t have to worry about flashing anyone.
  • Relaxed enough fit to not have to worry about showing off a full stomach, but close fitting enough to still be flattering.
  • Must be made of 100% cotton (to survive the 1-mile, often very sweaty, walk into work) and knit fabric (for comfort when moving around all day).

Ah work, you kill me!  So many requirements!  Of course, these are all self-imposed requirements, but they limit the available design options a bit.  I hemmed and hawed over what to do, and I finally decided on simple t-shirts, modifying my already-heavily-modified Renfrew pattern to fulfill my list of demands.  It was a good excuse to make a few fitting changes that I had been putting off, most notably a broad back adjustment.

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Lace and floral undies

So Zo undies with lace and florals - front

Another pair of pretty underthings to add to my collection!  As sewing time and mental agility have both been low lately, I wanted a fun, quick project to make the best of a few free hours this weekend.  After reading this bra-making post over at the Sewcialist blog while drinking my coffee this morning, I decided that something feminine and lacy was in order.  And besides, it’s lingerie month!  I still haven’t hopped on the bra-making bandwagon, but handmade undies hold a special place in my heart… err, lingerie drawer.  This pair of So Zo undies is very similar to my previous pair, with a few minor tweaks to improve the fit and durability.  In other words, I learned from my mistakes last time.  :)

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Five weeks and counting…

Garden 1

As the days get hotter and stickier, preparations for my thesis defense become more and more frantic.  Multiple daily showers are met with multiple daily freak outs.  I’ve given up wearing my nice handmade clothing because it instantly gets soaked with sweat as soon as I walk out the door, and who’s going to see my outfit when I’m holed up in my office all day anyway?

Garden 2

I’m in full production mode, which consists of writing as many pages as possible each day and sticking to a schedule in which there is NO room for any more unexpected disasters… you know, the kind that have plagued my PhD since day one.

Garden 3

It’s a very exciting feeling to see five years of work finally come together, to get closer and closer to achieving a lifelong dream, and to know that I have a fun new adventure waiting for me on the other side.  I just have to stick to the schedule and write, write, write.  No summer vacation for me this year… just plenty of hours chained to my computer and covered in sweat.  :)

Garden 4This PhD has been a very interesting journey, simultaneously filled with doubt and frustration, excitement and amazement.  I think the dominant feeling these days is anticipation.  Someone once told me that in order to survive a PhD, you have to really want it.  Well folks, I WANT IT.  This degree is so close, I can taste it!

Five weeks to go.  Just have to keep writing…

In the meantime, I took a few minutes to enjoy the beautiful summer evening tonight.  Let the record show that these plants are still alive despite my constant presence and notorious kill record.  :)

Altered pink cowl-neck top

Pink cowl-neck top - finished narrow   Pink cowl-neck top - altered front

Remember my wrinkly pink top with the not-so-drapey cowl from last week?  I decided to chop off 3 inches from the hem to reduce the wrinkles around the midsection and help the top hang a little more smoothly.  The original top is on the left, and the altered (shorter) version is on the right.  What do you think?  Did I save this top or just make it worse??

Pink cowl-neck top - back narrow   Pink cowl-neck top - altered back

I’m happier with how the top looks in the shorter version, but honestly, it feels a little too short during wear.  When I lift my arms up, my midriff is on display!  Definitely not ok for wearing to work, and I certainly won’t be able to wear this top with jeans.  With a skirt that sits close to my natural waist, like the one I’m wearing here, I think I can *just* get away with it.

As a test run, I wore this outfit to work one day last week, and everything went ok.  No wardrobe malfunctions to report, thankfully!  I hope I wind up wearing this top a few more times before the summer is over.  The bright pink color is too fun to waste.  :)

I spent this past weekend hacking my Renfrew pattern even more and will have another top to share later in the week.  I’m sewing my way through 3 knits that I picked up on a recent day trip to Portland, Maine.  I believe it is a federal offense not to purchase fabric while on vacation, right??  :)

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend, whether you’re melting in the summer heat or in the midst of a polar vortex!

Mis-proportioned cowl-neck top

Pink cowl-neck top - collar detail

Today I have a moderately successful project to share with you – a good idea in theory, but unfortunately met with poor execution.  I think my “dissertation brain” is starting to throw off my sewing, as I’ve been diving head first into projects lately without my usual level of prior thought, research, etc.  I can’t help but be reminded of the old adage, “measure twice, cut once.”  Lately I feel like I haven’t been doing any measuring at all, just cutting with abandon!

Here was my plan for this project, a simple knit top for summer:

  • Start with my modified Renfrew pattern
  • Add mini sleeve bands that I drafted last summer
  • Draft a drapey cowl-neck
  • Omit the hem band and add a shirttail hem instead

I thought this combo would make a fun little summer top to pair with skirts and shorts, but instead I wound up with a wrinkly and ill-proportioned mess!

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So Zo undies with lace waistband

So Zo undies with lace - finished

My adventures in sewing lingerie continue!  I haven’t yet taken the plunge into bra-making like much of the online sewing community, but I’ve sewn plenty of handmade undies and swear by them.  The latest addition to my lingerie drawer is a somewhat fancier pair of So Zo undies, my go-to pattern for comfortable, well-fitting, and flattering (seriously!) underwear.  The pattern is free and easy to use – check it out if you haven’t already!

So far I’ve only used cotton jersey and fold-over elastic (FOE) for my handmade undies, which is a great combo for everyday wear, but let’s face it, not all that exciting.  This time, I wanted to try a somewhat elevated version with different materials, both to inject a little excitement into my handmade lingerie wardrobe and also to learn how to sew with new-to-me elastics and trims.

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Updates to the Tulip Quilt free pattern

Tulip Quilt by Allspice Abounds - one row of tulips

It’s been about 3 months since I posted my Tulip Quilt free pattern, and it’s about time for a few updates!  Here’s what’s new:

  • Updated photos featuring more natural light.  I’ve been meaning to do this ever since I moved into a sunnier house.
  • A few minor updates to the text of the pattern, most notably updating the embroidery instructions to include French knots for the bird eyes, which I had forgotten to include the first time around.

You can download your updated, free copy of the pattern on the dedicated Tulip Quilt page or on Craftsy.

Tulip Quilt by Allspice Abounds - bird detail

To my great surprise, this pattern has been downloaded nearly 3,000 times!  I cannot tell you how utterly shocked and delighted I am by this.  I have no idea what’s typical for a free quilting pattern, and it’s not like I’m making any money at all from these downloads, but I’m quite happy with its progress.  Thank you!

Even more exciting, two finished quilts inspired by the pattern have been posted to the pattern’s Craftsy page.  Seeing each one pop up over the last few weeks has absolutely made my day.  I love how each quilter put her own creative spin on the pattern and created a truly unique piece.

Tulip Quilt by Allspice Abounds - cover image

If you’ve made a quilt using or inspired by the pattern, you can add your photos to the Flickr group, upload your project to Craftsy, or send me a link or email.  I’d absolutely love to see what you’ve made.  :)

Velour Blouse in voile and rayon

Velour Blouse version 1 - finished

I’m back with another project from She Wears the Pants, this time the Velour Blouse, No 5.  Now, let me get something off my chest right away: this blouse is a total FAIL.  I’ve seen too many sewists blame themselves for failed projects when there was clearly something wrong with the pattern, but this time it was really all my fault.  I didn’t make a muslin (the horror!), I used a woven when the pattern is specifically designed for knits, I used a lining that was too stiff, and I chose a design feature (cap sleeves) that never, ever works for me.  WHY did I do this, you ask?  It was a little sewing experiment, throwing caution to the wind and ignoring the little voice inside my head.  Lesson learned – that voice is there for a reason.  :)

With that said, I actually enjoyed sewing this blouse, and I continue to be impressed with the professional finishing techniques in this pattern book.  I already have plans to fix this top and may even make a knit version.  The pattern is good; I was just a little reckless with my choices on this project!

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Sarrouel Trousers in floral rayon

Sarrouel Trousers in floral rayon - finished

After making a muslin of these shorts, asking for your brutally honest opinions, and hearing the vast majority of you exclaim “I would never wear them!”, I went ahead and made a version in fashion fabric.  And you know what?  I love them.  Yes, this look is not for everyone, and it may not even be working for me (la la la, I can’t hear you…), but they’re interesting and different and oddly liberating to wear.  I’m so enthralled with them that I wore them on the streets of Boston for a full day of work at the university.  Read on for a slew of photos, some minor construction notes, and my experience wearing a non-traditional garment out in public.

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