archives: sewing

plantain tee

Maggie told me to make it, so I did. She’s never led me astray before, and I’m so pleased with the results of letting her boss me around!

pepperknit | plantain tee

She specifically said to make a Plantain Tee (free with newsletter sign up!) in a bamboo jersey. When I was at Mood shopping for fabric for a dress to wear to a wedding, I stumbled upon the bamboo jersey section. When I got a staff member to cut the dress fabric for me I spontaneously said, “and let’s add a yard of something from over here… how about that one,” picking a color somewhat blindly. Yes, it’s in the teal family—what else? I gravitate to that color when I’m looking for color, what can I say.

Turns out to make the Plantain in any sleeve length but short you actually need more than a yard, but I didn’t know that, so I’m glad I only wanted short sleeves anyway right now! I cut the pieces out using the pattern pieces for the size 40 in the bust and the 42 for the hips, just grading it out as smoothly and evenly as I could. The bamboo was kind of slippery and quite stretchy, so getting the fabric set for cutting was somewhat stressful, but it seems to have gone well enough.

I used my serger to sew all the seams, and that went very smoothly. I didn’t topstitch the collar because the seam sat flat, and I don’t really have the best tools for topstitching. That’s why I had major issues with the hemming: turns out I am kind of terrible at hemming. When I made my Union St. Tee, I did a zigzag for the hems, and it came out great with no effort at all. So I guess I thought it would always be that simple. I secured all the hems on this Plantain with the zigzag, and wow it looked like utter crap. I sent Maggie a photo and she suggested it might “block out,” to use a knitter’s parlance, but I really thought I just did a bad job. So I picked out all of the hems and redid them, using just a long straight stitch, my walking foot, and extra care to not stretch the fabric AT ALL. The extra time to pick out the stitching was frustrating but definitely worth it, because the hems are drastically improved.

pepperknit | plantain tee

In the end, it’s pretty successful! It’s amazingly comfy, I think the deep scoop is flattering but not too revealing, and I definitely will want ones in other sleeve lengths. (I’m not sure about the elbow patches—looks cute, yes, but I fear my skills in sewing them down will just make them look like I hurriedly covered actual holes or something.) I don’t exactly know what’s happening on the back in that photo—it looks like it’s pulling in odd ways? But then, we’d just gone up and down a ton of stairs and were sweaty and maybe that was affecting it. Jason says it looked pretty normal when not frozen in a photo.

I wore it today as we explored the Sutro Baths and Land’s End in San Francisco. I’m a loyal (obsessed?) listener of 99% Invisible, so I’d heard the episode about the Sutro Baths. I honestly thought, from the podcast, that they would be remote, requiring some effort to find, and you’d not really be able to walk all over them—but I was very wrong. They’re part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (“Sutro District”), so there’s an info center and free bathrooms, and paths all around. Sure, it’s on the far western edge of the city, but we just hopped on the 38 R bus down Geary and it took us right to them! The ruins are on the edge of Land’s End, which has paths leading to amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a fun place to visit on our first day of a trip to SF.

pepperknit | sutro baths

pepperknit | seal rocks

pepperknit | land's end

pepperknit | plantain tee

these shorts don’t fit

pepperknit | city gym shorts

—but that doesn’t mean I’m not wearing them as I type this.

I learned a lot from making these shorts, not least of which is that my current body measurements are not in proportion to what a pattern writer assumes. The finished shorts are too tight across my hips and yet kind of loose at the waist; since when did I become pear-shaped? Anyway, I know how I could tweak these for the future, I suppose, and they fit well enough for wearing around the house—which was their original intent anyway.

The pattern is Purl Soho’s free City Gym Shorts, and I used a quilting cotton that I bought a few yards of a long time ago because I just love it. I still have enough to use as the backing for a baby-size quilt in the future. The binding and waist are in two different shades of blue Kona cotton, actually—both from fat quarters in my stash. I didn’t have the called-for 1-inch elastic, but I have a bunch of 1/2-inch elastic, so the waistband is a little weird (I didn’t change its depth to match the elastic), but whatever.

pepperknit | city gym shorts

I also learned how annoying making double-fold bias binding without the little device is. I made a lot of length of it, and folding the sides over and ironing it down was so tedious. Next trip for sewing supplies will involve one of those bias tape makers.

The pattern doesn’t match across the fronts or the backs, because I paid no heed to making sure that would happen (cut each piece on doubled fabric, so who knew what the lower layer looked like)? Somehow I didn’t think about how that would end up looking when I started cutting. I would pay attention to that in the future for sure.

It was interesting to follow the steps of making a pair of shorts like this—each seam is so simple and obvious, but I feel as though I would not have figured it out on my own without the pattern’s guidance. I like the style, and if these fit I’d be quite pleased to wear them out of the house. I could use some actual gym shorts for when I finally recommit to going. Maybe in time my measurements will start to match patterns more if I do!

pepperknit | city gym shorts

Union St Tee

I really ought to have just walked down to Union Street in Brooklyn to take these pictures; instead we’ll settle for a different street in Brooklyn just a few blocks away. (I’m guessing the pattern was not named for that street exactly, as I don’t think the designer lives here!)

pepperknit | union st tee

After truly YEARS of wanting to sew clothing but being terrified and unsure, Friday night I bit the bullet and cut into a knit fabric. I made the Union St Tee, and though it is a bit big on me, and it has its issues, I’m over the moon for it!

A few years ago I sewed a handful of things—a Tova top, which I wear from time to time despite how heavy the fabric is, a Washi Tunic that I wear once in a blue moon because I really don’t like how wingy the sleeves are, and a Washi Dress that I absolutely never wear because it is completely not my style. Then I wished I were sewing clothing but felt stumped on what to make. So many cute dresses abound online, but what do I wear on a daily basis? Tshirts with jeans. So I should sew those.

My mom and I found this fabric at Joann’s, and I figured a simple T shirt was the way to go. I wanted some ease, so I made the Large, and it’s definitely too long on me, but I can still alter that. The stripes on the fabric don’t align from sleeves to body because I just didn’t have enough fabric to make that happen—I barely eked out the sleeves as it is, and that they match each other was hard too. They also feel a bit too long to me, too, but no big deal.

I used my serger to sew all the seams with what I feel is great success. It really wasn’t nearly as tricky as it seemed before I did it. However, in a glaring misstep, I sewed the neckline to the WRONG SIDE the first time and then had pick out the serged seam—boy did that take forever. When I redid it, I ended up with two small puckers. How infuriating, after the first, incorrect attempt had had no errors at all! I decided I can live with the puckers, because I am not going through ripping it apart again. I don’t have a twin needle so I did a simple zigzag on my normal machine for the hems. Even with the time wasted fixing the neckline, it took me only about two hours to make.

The pattern was fantastic. Despite my limited experience with garment sewing, I’ve printed and taped my fair share of pdf patterns. This one has layers built into the pdf, so you can pick which size(s) to print! No navigating a mess of slightly different lines, or guessing a curve when it’s a solid eighth of an inch thick because so many sizes are overlapping. You could easily print out two sizes at once so that you can grade from one to the other where necessary. i don’t understand why other designers aren’t doing this. In the future, I would prioritize one of Hey June‘s patterns over another, for sure.

It’s exciting to think I can now start actually making clothing I’ll wear.

pepperknit | union st tee

fraternal baby quilts!

pepperknit | twin HST quilts

I know that every new quilt is my new favorite, but truly: I love these quilts. I love them because I think they look pretty cool, but I also love them because they are exactly what I intended.

See, these were made for a close friend and coworker. Four years ago I was tasked with working with her team as a sort of adjunct help, and I didn’t know how I’d mesh with her, their leader. But it turns out we see eye to eye on so much—we approach the world in similarly straightforward, logical ways—and now I’m a full member of her team. I feel confident in saying that we trust each other completely, as colleagues and as friends. So when I was thinking about quilts to make for her upcoming twins, well, I felt as if the pressure was on.

pepperknit | twin HST quilts

I wanted clean, geometric shapes. Sharp angles seemed appropriate. Solids, definitely. The design needed to be a complete quilt—not made up of different discrete squares. I want to say “no creativity” but that feels too stark… except it’s exactly what I wanted. They needed to feel logical and sharp, but of course I wanted them to be interesting and attractive. I wanted the two to coordinate in gender neutral colors, even though I knew pretty early that it would be two boys. HSTs were clearly the answer.

They were also so easily executed in a completely logical way: One night, I selected fabrics from my stash of fat quarters and cut all the squares for both quilts (actually, the day she told me she was pregnant with twins). Another night, I sewed the diagonals of all the squares (that’s 128 diagonals—and epic chain-piecing evening!). A few nights later, I cut the HSTs apart. A few days after that, I ironed them all open, etc. It was just so… straightforward. Perfect. The only fussy time was spent arranging, and rearranging, the HSTs until I liked the look.

pepperknit | twin HST quilts

This might all sound weird, and maybe it’s not giving the right impression of my friend. Maybe she doesn’t even see or get what I was going for, but no matter—the babies will have cute little blankets to drag around, play on, or even sleep under!

For the backings I bought a gray gingham that was crazy off-grain or I don’t even know what but it made basting and quilting them absurdly difficult. (And was purchased at Purl Soho, so… that was exceptionally annoying.) A friend who is an experienced quilter was over the day I basted them and she was the one to point out that the fabric was causing my problems, not my skill level. For the labels, I wanted two matched phrases but came up blank. My friend Holly suggested these two sweet thoughts, so I embroidered them and sewed them on on opposite corners (because they’re fraternal! get it?).

pepperknit | twin HST quilts

wip: postage stamp quilt

Back around Christmas, when I was feeling the full weight of my stash, I decided to slash through my scraps a bit, get that bin under control, and start making more things out of leftovers from past projects. So one afternoon—until my wrists started to ache, in fact!—I cut all my scraps into 2.5″ squares however I could.

scrap squares

Of course, not being a sampling of all the fabrics in my stash, there was only so much I could envision doing with them. I’d kept them organized by color, so I thought about slightly organized 9 patches, in coordinated color schemes, which I’ve seen others do and really liked. I arranged and rearranged the blocks a few times and just wasn’t feeling it. So I just set out a 6×6 grid of them, pulled at random, and walked away.

Walking away was really key here because I thought it looked nice when I pulled the fabrics but it was only a while later, when I walked past the table, that the block really sang for me. Seeing it from afar made me happy, and so I sewed it up right away. I dumped all the squares into a bag so I could pull even more randomly, and I made another, and another—in just that one night I made 4 blocks. With each one I’d determine an initial layout quickly, then walk away, sit on the couch for a bit, and then come back to see if I wanted to swap out a block or flip the placement of two.

postage stamp blocks

A few days later, I made two more.

postage stamp blocks

It is amazing to me that I dipped into my scraps, which filled a relatively small plastic bin, and suddenly had the equivalent of a piece of fabric that’s 48 x 24! Obviously now that I’ve started I want to keep going forever—I’m not going to stop at a baby sized quilt; this one will be for me! A highlight of all the fabrics I had in my first years of sewing? What a precious thing. This means that the next time I feel up for an afternoon of cutting, I’m going to sneak off 2.5″ strips from various fabrics that weren’t in the scrap bin, to flesh out the variety a bit more. I suppose I’ll be adding to it in bits and pieces over time, too.

I hope it isn’t too long before I come back to these blocks, and I hope it isn’t too long before I have enough area covered to make myself a blanket!