mardi 11 octobre 2016

Finished Project: Merino vest and two unexpected ways running changed my life

So yeah, I started running. Never in a million years would I have thought I would enjoy running. And yet. And yeah we've all heard that story before, and since this is still a sewing blog I won't bore you with my version of it.

But aside from now being obsessed with sewing my own athletic wear, running also introduced me to two small things that kinda litterally changed my life (not even exagerating): Merino fabric and Almond milk.

Granted, it's not like these two things just came out last month, and it may seem like a lot of "duh" moments for some of you, but if it wasn't for my newly found athletic interest,  I might not have been so inclined to try either of them. And now that I have, I can never go back.

Since the main sewing object of this post is this vest (actually completed last fall but never blogged about), I'll start with Merino. And with this statement: I'm Cold. As in, pretty much always. As in, if it's a sunny, hot summer day, but all of a sudden there's a very light breeze, I might actually get a shiver and reach for a sweater. In the past, whenever we would go out for a hike in the winter, I would pile on layers upon layers of clothing, with varying success rates at achieving comfortable warmth. Also, I would look like the Michelin man...

But THOSE. DAYS. ARE. OVER. Enters merino wool fabric. It's soft, breathable, doesn't retain sweat smell. And it's incredibly warm.

As I mentionned in this post, I got quite excited when I purchased my fabric from NZ Merino and Fabric, and ordered 5 pieces. After making my orange hoodie (also worn in those photos), I made this black vest. The vest was originally part of my race outfit but I ran out of time and finished it later.

The fabric I used this time is a heavier Merino/Spandex sweatshirting. I was originally hopping for someting a litte heavier, but in the end it's perfect.

I used Mc Call 7026  View A, without the sleeves.
I lengthenned the pattern by 3cm and made the following asjustments as I sewed it:

-Took in about 1.5cm at the front princess seam in the bust area.
-As a result, I shortenned the shoulder seam the same amount
-one issue that I ran into was that the back princess seams where a bit too tight, pulling the side seams towards the back at the waist. I had already trimmed and overlocked those seams when I realized that, so instead I let out the side seams as much as possible to compensate. If I was to make this again I would probably add 1cm ease to the back princess seams.
-The pattern comes with pockets in the side seams. I thought I would add zippers to them to make them more functionnal. Unfortunately, the pockets turned out way too bulky and made the waist line quite unflattering, so I removed them altogether. In hindsight, I should have tried cutting them out of the lighter mesh fabric that I used for the bra lining, as opposed to the same merino sweatshirting...

I also made one mistake and cut the collar pattern piece a of couple sizes too small. I didn't have enough fabric to recut, so I slashed the piece in half along the center back and added a strip of fabric to compensate for the width different. It worked fine, you wouldn't know it was a cutting mistake and not a deliberate design element.

I finished the armholes and the hem with black bias tape to avoid those areas from stretching out too much. I seem to always have that problem when sewing hems on knit. If anybody has tips on how to avoid those area becoming all wavy after sewing the hem, I'd love to hear!

I love the result, it's exactly what I needed. An additional layer to keep my core toasty.
I do still pile on layers when going out to run/hike in the cold (average is about 4), but now two of them are warm, light merino layers as opposed to thick fleece or some polyesther puffer (I would love to make myself a down puffer using this kit, but that's a whole other scale of sewing...)

As a side note, I wore these pieces pretty much every other day last winter for running, hiking, etc and washed them about as often, and they've sustained machine wash perfectly so far. Another win for merino!

I only have one full piece left, that I would like to make another running top out of, probably a half zip like this. I've  also traced a RTW merino bra and panty and plan on making a set or two with my remnants. Yeah for Merino-everything!

And now for the second life-changing item brought on by running: Almond milk. I'm not lactose intolerant, far from it (cheese and butter on bread? sour cream on... everything? yes please!), but I've always hated the taste of milk. Never could drink it. As a kid I used to put loads of sugar in my cereals to cover the taste, and then eventually I stopped putting milk in my cereal altogether (I prefer them crunchy anyways). On the other hand I always loved the idea of a cup of warm chocolate or a creamy latte on a cold winter day, never actually liked the taste. 

It's only when I started working out at home, as sort of ground work to build up muscle resistance and strength for running, that I looked for ways to make myself energy smoothies without using milk. I tried almond milk and loved it! My favorite recipe: 1 banana, 1 cup of almond milk, a table spoon of almond or cashew nut butter, add your protein powder of choice and voila! delicious nutritious breakfast drink. And of course it wasn't too long before I tried using almond milk for hot cocoa. Perfect! The taste of chocolate without that un-appealing milk flavour (:P).

So now when I come home after a hike/run in the cold and rain, I fix myself a cup of hot almond milk cocoa..and it's glorious...


vendredi 10 juin 2016

Finished Project: Merino Plantain Top

This is fabric piece #4 of 5 of my beloved merino stash. When I originally purchased the other pieces my main goal was to make warm activewear for winter running. But I couldn't resist buying this extra piece, which color was called 'Seattle Grey'. Living in Vancouver, only 3 hours north of Seattle, that reference to our most common winter weather totally spoke to me.

Instead of activewear, this time I wanted to make a simple every day top, so I decided to try Deer and Doe's free pattern Plantain. I liked the A line shape and the wide round neckline.

I cut a size 36 everywhere except for the hem, where I cut along the size 46 line (which added about 3.5cm to the length). The fit was good right off the bat, although I think I could probably use a bit more ease around the bust.
Other than that, I added 2.5 cm to the sleeve length (long sleeve version). The sleeves where still feeling a little short even with the added length, so instead of hemming them, I added a small sleeve band, which also created a slight gather at the wrist. I like the result.

I've had some issues with my previous merino makes, to get the hem to sit properply and not get all wonky after a few wash - mostly due to the stretchiness of the fabric. This time thanks to the A-line shape, the hem doesn't need to stretch over the hips, so I actually added stay tape to the hem. It worked perfectly to keep it nice and clean (at least much cleaner then without tape).

The pattern came together super easily, nothing difficult about the construction. Overall, a pretty simple to make, easy to wear shirt, with the added bonus of warmth without bulk, as merino fabric is incredible that way.

I've only got one piece of merino left (but quite a bit of scraps which I could probably make underwear out of even), destined to be another running top. But that probably won't happen until later this year as I'm now in the process of making myself...a pair of wide-legged super comfy sweat pants...

We took the photos at the bottom of Bridal Veil Falls near Chilliwack, BC, a pretty scenic setting for an otherwise

dimanche 1 mai 2016

Finished Project: Strathcona Henley

This is piece #3 of my Merino wool stash. I haven't blogged about piece #2 but the opportunity to photograph this one presented itslef last week-end so I jumped on it.

This is another piece for B. When I first bought the fabric online, from New Zealand Merino and Fabric, I was really attracted by the color and thoughti it would be great for a garment for him. I can't remember how I thought if the Strathcona Henley by Thread Theory but it turned out to be a perfect pairing.

The fabric is a heavier weight merino knit, colour "Ottawa Blue", although it looks more like a dark blue-ish grey. Super soft and super warm. 

As far as the pattern goes, I cut a size M and it fit pretty well right out of the enveloppe. Looking at the photos now, i think it could have used a broad shoulder adjustment, but otherwise it's pretty good. The only change I made was to add a hem band. My previous two merino knit makes have folded over hems and those tend to twist and flip over a lot, so I thought with a band I would avoid this issue.

The construction is super simple, but I did struggle a bit with the plaquette. The fabric was too thick for my machine so I ended up having to  hand-baste everything to make sure it wouldn't shift or stick while sewing. I also didn't topstitch the collar or cuffs for that same reason. I left the cuffs alone as there was no issue with them flipping over, but I did an invisible catch stitch on the collar band to keep the seam allowance down. It worked well.

I had found the perfect buttons. but when came time to attach them, I could not find them. I went through all the bags of scraps and fabric and notions that are in a state of permanent hanging from one of my dining chairs, and nothing...Turns out my maching wasn't having it with the buttonholes anyways (I did a test on folded scraps first, and it was just too thick). I really wanted to call this finished so I ended up just hand sewing the plaquette halfway to the top, where Brice would have buttoned it up. The result is ok, but after a few wash, the plaquette has become to twist a bit. I think next time, rather than fusible interfacing I might use stay tape or even a lighter weight piece of muslin to keep the plaquette nice and straight.  

Sure enough, after I'd finished hand sewing the button-less button plaquette, B. found the missing butons under some paperwork on our desk...I'm still considering getting the buttonholes done at Spool of Thread (a local sewing studio with machines a bit more advanced than mine), but not sure if I'll even get around to it.

In any case, B. loves his new henley, it's the perfect layer for cooler spring days. We took the photos on while on a camping trip in the Squamish Valley. Doesn't he look handsome?

I have already used piece #4 of my merino stash and made it into a Plantain top, will hopefully take some photos of it soon. I now only have one piece left that is destined to become another running top - might be time to order some more!

samedi 28 novembre 2015

Finished Project: Men's running tights (and a few thoughts on Spoonflower)

This was actually the first item that I completed for our October Hallow's Eve race. B. was running the Marathon for the second time, and he wanted to be a bit more "dressed up" than the year before, while still wearing a costume that wouldn't be a hassle to run with for 42 km.
So I decided to make him tights, and he also asked for a cape. I really wanted a print that would be fun but would also reflect that he was doing something pretty impressive, a physical prowess (to me anyways). So I looked for cartoony super-heros prints.

I looked at several websites including Funki Fabrics. They had some good options, but it ended up being quite pricey and I as worried about shipping times. Eventually I ended up on Spoonflower and found this super cute "action hero" print, with colors that were pretty much B's usual color scheme (red and black). Also turned out Spoonflower had just introduced a new fabric to their catalogue: Sports Lycra, intended for leggings and tights. It all sounded pretty perfect, but I still did some research on their product and found out that some of their fabrics didn't sustain washing very well and colors tended to fade especially on natural fabrics.

Because the lycra had just been released, there hadn't been a lot of feedback on it, but fortunately I found this thread on Pattern Review that sounded like the lycra didn't have the fading problem. So I went ahead and ordered 1 yard (still pretty pricey), and then waited.

When the fabric arrived I wasn't disappointed! The colors were vibrant and the scale of the print was great. I washed it right away and the colors didn't change at all. Success!

To make the tights, I looked at several available commercial patterns. This Jalie one was an option, as well as this one from The Green Pepper. I was concerned about the crotch area though, as none of those had gussets or any type of "crotch shaping", which i would think would be more comfortable to include on men's tights. So eventually, I just grabbed one of B.'s RTW tights, one that he hadn't worn much and that wasn't stretched out of shape yet, and just traced it.
It turned out to be the best option. I just added a waist band as the original tights didn't have one, only a wide elastic sewed at the waist.

The tights came together super fast. I was really happy with my choice of tracing the existing tights as they pretty much had the perfect lines: crotch pieces (similar to that of tight boxer shorts, so basically like underwear) and the legs had one piece that wrapped around most of the leg (no side seam), except for one vertical band on the inner leg, from crotch to bottom. So this was perfect to add a bit of contrast with using the same black moisture-wicking polyester fabric on the inner leg piece as I had used in my own activewear.

When B. put them on the first time though, I realized the limitation of the Spoonflower fabric. Because the design is printed on a white fabric, the white tends to show when the fabric stretches, so if it stretches too much, the colors end up looking quite faded (especially if the print is in dark colors).

I only had one yard of the Spoonflower print, so I couldn't recut the main leg pieces. Instead I removed the black inner-leg pieces and recut those about 1inch winder. That way I made the leg a bit wider and the fabric didn't have to stretch as much.

As I said, the tights came together really easily. I used a zigzag stitch on all the seams, and a wider and narrower zigzag stitch to finish the edges. I used wooly nylon in the bobbin...I don't know if the wooly nylon really made a big difference in the feel of the edges...But I felt all "technical" using that kind of thread :P

In the end I was really happy with the result and they fit B. perfectly. I was a bit worried that they would fall apart or that some seams would end up being scratchy or uncomfortable, but B. took them out for a test run and they were fine.

One thing I did notice about Spoonflower, is that a lot of the print feel like they have obvious repeats. This is due to the way prints are designed and uploaded - as a single tile basically that is repeated.  In the case of these tights I didn't mind because it's really only the one little character that is repeated two ways but in some other designs, i find that the repeat takes away from the design itself, it becomes more prominent visually than the actual print, if that makes sense.

Funny enough, B. found this link on facebook a while back, explaining how create a pattern repeat that doesn't feel like a repeated square tile. I would definitely try this if I ever design a print myself.

Another thing that I learned in sewing those tights and mine, is that the amount of stretch of the fabric is extremely important. Because those kinds of patterns are designed with negative ease, if the fabric doesn't have the proper amount of recommended stretch, the tights will probably end up...well too tights. So in the future, I'll definitely take the stretch of my fabric into account when making a new pair.

The cape was made last minute the night before the race. I bought a piece of light-weight, water-repellant nylon and just finished the edges with my narrow-hem foot in about 15 minutes (so glad I have that one). The cape was just attached to B's backpack with safety pin and it held up no problem for 42km....He was actually quite a sight to see racing up and down the hills :)

lundi 23 novembre 2015

Finished Project: Running my first Race in my Activewear

I wouldn't say that I only started running just so I would have an excuse to sew activewear... but almost.
I kind of became obsessed when I started following Dawn's blog Two on Two Off. I became really inspired both by her sewing productivity, and also by how athletic she was, running half marathons and such..all the while being a mother of 4...Anyways, hats off to this impressive lady, and soon I became obsessed with sewing my own tights and sports bra, etc...

As it happens, B. got really into trail running a couple of years ago, and after a while I figured I should give it a try, if only to see what all the fuss was about. So when he signed up for the Mountain Madness Hallow's Eve Trail Marathon, I decided to register for the 10km race. And there was my perfect excuse to sew some fun activewear!!! I won't lie, I was slightly more excited about all the pieces I was going to make than about the race itself.
Because the race was Halloween-themed, I thought I would use fun fabrics, rather than plain old black or grey. I found fabric with little superhero characters on Spoonflower and I knew it would be perfect for B (seperate post to come).
For me, I had my eyes set on something with skulls, and found a cool print from Spandex House.

Because the race was in October, I knew I couldn't just run in a sportsbra, I needed a top. I think someone had mentioned how good Icebreaker clothing were for winter outdoor activity, all made out of warm Merino wool...Since I was pretty set on making my entire outfit, I decided to source out Merino fabric online, and sure enough, I found what I was looking for at New Zealand Merino and Fabric.

I got a little merino-crazy and ordered 5 pieces of fabric (on the left of the print). 3 destined to become running/outdoor tops (orange, blue and black) and 2 to make everyday shirts (light grey for me and probably a Henley-type shirt for B in dark grey.) Merino is just so soft and cozy...I couldn't resist.
Once I had figured out my main fabrics, I put together a little mock-up of what i wanted the full outfit to look like:
For the patterns, the Cora tights by Jalie patterns felt like an obvious choice right away (especially after seeing it on Dawn's blog). For the bra i went with the Pneuma tank by Papercut Patterns, i liked the double straps and the tank version with a loose layer on top. I chose McCall 7261 for the top. I had just enough fabric to make the hoodie version, but I left out the pocket. I also wanted to make a merino vest with Mc Call 7026 but I ran out of time (currently on my sewing table though).
I then started researching online where to source technical fabric: Fabric that was breathable and moisture-wicking. After looking through ebay and amazon i finally came accross Spandez by Yard, an online store that carries an impressive amount of technical polyesther and spandex, from mesh to jersey knit, to various weights of wicking polyester, etc... I got some black and blue poly spande from the M-200 line, and some black nylon spandex tricot mesh (used in the bra).

I had never ordered so much fabric on the internet, and all at once. For a whole week I got a new package in the mail everyday, delivered to my work. My co-workers got to see the full extent of my sewing obsession! 
And then it was time to get sewing. Of course, even with planning this project a couple of months ahead, I ended up finishing the last item on the week of the race!

I made the tights first. The pattern comes with a side seam, but because I was using such a bold print, and didn't want to cut it up and have to match it, I taped the side front and side back together into one piece that would wrap around the side.

I cut size Q based on my measurements, lengthenning to size S at the bottom. Unfortunately when I first cut the skull fabric, I didn't take the stretch into account. My fabric had a lot less stretch than what the pattern recommends (there's a handy little scale to test your fabric stretch on the pattern cover). So even before sewing the pieces together I knew the skull pieces would be too small.

Instead of re-cutting a bigger size, I slashed my pattern piece in half lengthwise and added about 2cm of width. I also slashed it horizontally accross the crotch and added 2.5cm of height. I also had to adjust the pocket piece  (2.5 cm deeper), as well as the waistband.

After these changes I recut my skull fabric. The tights came together really fast and without any major difficulty. I used the patterns's recommanded technique for stretchy fabric: "First stitch: wide zigzag stitch along the edge of the fabric, without stretching the fabric", then "Second stitch: straight stitch 6mm from the edge, stretchy thefabric gently to preserve the seams elasticity".
I have worn the tights many times and haven't had any problems of stitches breaking, so I'd say it's a pretty realiable technique.

Next the bra. I won't go into much details as I've already written a full tutorial on how I added a lining and foam cups. As for size, based on my measurements, I cut between the two smallest sizes on the pattern and i didn't have to make any adjustments (see red line in photo below).

I used the main fabric for the front only, and used blue polyester wicking fabric for the back. I really like the contrast with the orange of the straps. Speaking of, those actually gave me the hardest time. I followed Sophie's tutorial on how to create elastic straps, but the turning over was a total pain in the butt. The safety pin kept un-hooking and I had to start over like 3 times. Those alone took me 2 hours to make.  

Finally, the hoodie. I cut a size 10, added 2.5cm to the bodice and sleeve length, and removed about 3.5 cm in sleeve width. I originally planned on making the turtle neck version, but I had enough fabric to make the hood, so I went with that. 

I think I also took in some of the hood depth when I was putting it together, I can't remember exactly. The merino fabric is pretty lightweight so the top turned out a bit more drapy, but I don't mind it.
You can't tell on the photos, but I used a slightly lighter thread to add a zigzag topstitching on the princess seams, the hood seams and the hem, just to give is a bit more interest.  The hem is a little wonky, proabbly due to the light weight of the fabric, but I can live with it.

The fit of the top isn't amazing, maybe a little too loose, but it's really comfortable, and soo warm! I actually wore it over another long-sleeve running top and I didn't get cold at all. I've been wearing this top pretty consistently since I made it to go run at night, and it's a great layer.

So that's it for my active-wear sewing spree! (well, aside from the running tights that I made for B, photos to come in a seperate post). It was quite the project and it's got me eager to make more pieces. I'm currently completing the final item (black merino vest), but I'll most definitely make more tights and the tank version of the pneuma pattern is on my list for spring.

Active wear sewing is quite popular these days, with so indie pattern designers coming out with their ow patterns. Are you sewing activewear? what are your favorite patterns?