Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Velveteen Rabbit Sew Along: Welcome and Schedule

Welcome to the Velveteen Rabbit Sew Along!

If you have never made a stuffed animal before, the Velveteen Rabbit is a great place to start because it has a simple shape without too many curves or tight places. This sew along will help guide you through the process.

The holidays are coming right up and I know many of you makers are getting busy. I wanted to get this sewalong up to help those of you that might be considering making a special toy for someone special on your list!
Velveteen Rabbit in Maroon and Pink Cotton Velour

About the Pattern

The Velveteen Rabbit pattern is a PDF sewing pattern to make a nearly life-size standing rabbit toy. The bunny stands about 14 inches tall when his ears are down, and is weighted to feel like a real rabbit. The pattern is designed for woven fabrics such as quilting cottons and velveteen, but it also includes instructions for how use a stretchy fabric like cotton velour or minky.

The pattern includes downloadable step-by-step instructions with photo illustrations. The sewalong and the accompanying videos provide additional examples and information.

The pattern was first released in Love Sewing Magazine in Spring 2017. The version that is for sale on this website or Etsy includes more detailed instructions.

If you haven't gotten your pattern yet, you can get it at my Etsy store here. Use code VELVETEEN to get 10% off through November 27.

Sew Along Schedule

Welcome and Schedule
Day 1: Fabric and Supplies
Day 2: Assembling the PDF and Cutting (Video: Understanding Napped Fabrics)
Day 3: Sewing the Ears (Video: Assembling the Ears)
Day 4: Sewing the Body (Video: Attaching the Ears)
Day 5: Stuffing, Weighting, and Finishing (Videos: Introduction to Safety Eyes and Stuffing)


If you are working on assembling your materials for making your rabbit, here is what you will need:

Velveteen Rabbit Pattern
1/2 Yard Main Fabric
Fat Quarter (18”x22”) or 1/2 Yard Contrast Fabric
Matching sewing thread
1/4 yard cotton muslin or similar plain woven fabric (for weighted bags)
Sew-in Horsehair Canvas or medium/heavy fusible interfacing for ears
Two 12mm safety eyes
Embroidery floss
Stuffing (Wool or Polyfill)
Ground Walnut shells or poly pellets for weighting

Optional (suggested for stretchy fabrics or thin fabrics):
Additional cotton muslin for interlining or medium interfacing

History and Inspiration

I've always been a fan of classic toys, and the Velveteen Rabbit is one of my favorites! Most of us know about the Velveteen Rabbit from Margery Williams' 1922 book, The Velveteen Rabbit.

It was Williams' first book, and it told the story of a young boy who receives a stuffed rabbit toy for Christmas. Once the novelty of the talking and mechanical toys wears off, the rabbit becomes a favorite toy. Their relationship grows for many years, but one year the boy gets sick, and all of the toys that consoled him when he was sick are discarded. Left overnight in the garden, the rabbit cries a single real tear, then a fairy grants his wish to be a "real" rabbit. The following summer, the boy sees rabbits playing in the yard and remarks on how much one of the resembles his former toy.

Cover of the first edition of The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, Illustrations by William Nicholson.

While the book made the idea of a Velveteen Rabbit famous, such a toy might have been commonplace in 1922. There are several stuffed rabbit toys in museum collections that date back to before Williams published her book. One of my favorites is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The Velveteen Rabbit Pattern was strongly influenced by this sweet standing rabbit.

"Toy rabbit called 'Tiny', in an upright stance, printed cream velvet with brown spots," ca 1902, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
There are also several excellent examples of "velveteen rabbits" by the famous toymaker, Steiff. The orange bunny was sold at a Christies Auction for over $2,000!

Steiff Rabbits: Left: Steiff sample, ca. 1929 | Right: Steiff jointed rabbit, ca. 1910 (ebay)
Other examples of upright stuffed rabbit toys can be found on Ebay and collector websites. 

Left: Vintage Farnell Winfred Rabbit, ca 1925 |  Right: Antique Edwardian Mohair Bunny (ebay)

The velveteen rabbit has been around for a long time, so you can be sure that it won't go out of style in a hurry.

Here are a few more that I created from the pattern. The one on the left is made from a silk/rayon velvet with a white ribbed cotton velour ears and belly. The one in the middle is made from a cotton print by Cloud 9 fabrics.

I'll be back tomorrow with the first sew along post where we'll talk about fabrics, hope to see you there!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Cow Skull Kalle- Closet Case Files Kalle with Long Sleeve Expansion

Black shirts are the basis of my fall wardrobe, so when Heather announced sleeves for the Kalle Shirt, I couldn't sew one up fast enough. 

This one is made in black tencel from Threadbare Fabrics. I'm okay telling you that it is AWESOME fabric because I've already purchased some more for my stash. It is thick, smooth and silky and presses like a dream, sort of like a high quality matte silk charmeuse without the price tag. The tencel I've bought has varied widely in its qualities-- this one is by far the nicest I've seen.

I've already sewed the Kalle several times, you can read more about it here and here. To make this Kalle, I used my shortened tunic pattern in size 12.

I didn't muslin the sleeves, but I did baste on the sleeve and cuff to check fit. It fit perfectly. The sleeves might be just a tad on the long side, but I decided I liked them that way. So I removed my basting and sewed the sleeves in properly. The armhole and sideseam are finished with a faux flat fell, as suggested by the pattern.

In typical Closet Case style, the sleeves are an understated but cool design-- they have a super wide cuff with traditional tower plackets. I decided to put a double button on the cuff so that I could turn it halfway up.

I used some more of my favorite smokey mother-of-pearl buttons. With the double cuff and extra-long length of the Kalle, I used one whole shirt set and the leftovers from another set.

I sewed the inside yoke with a piece of silk from a roll end from Emmaonesock. I totally didn't realize this fabric described as a "rorscharch pattern" had bull's skulls on it, but when I noticed this I knew it would be the perfect secret detail for this shirt.

The jeans in these pictures are, of course, my black Closet Case Ginger Jeans.

I guess I should also say that purchasing the expansion pack makes this the most expensive pattern I've ever bought- $14 for the original pattern, and $7 for the expansion, no discounts. But this is now the 4th Kalle I've made, and I'll probably make more, so that is in its favor. Since the Kalle was the first shirt pattern I ever sewed, the sew-along was like a sewing course filled with super-useful tips for fuss-free shirt making, so that also is in its favor. Finally, this pattern fit my body without a single change (I didn't even make a muslin for the first Kalle)... and that's pretty invaluable. Of course, this last item won't be true for everyone, but this pattern does seem to work for a wide variety of body types.

I know it is such a stereotype for artists to dress in black... but I just can't help myself. Lately my self-chosen uniform has been black collared shirts with black jeans. Occasionally I wear a white shirt. Somehow I don't find it boring at all, and getting dressed has never been easier. This Kalle is a fun addition to my very small (but growing) shirt wardrobe-- just a little bit different, but still very classic and understated. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Sewing Beautiful Basics: Liesl Classic Shirt in Black and White Linen

Button down shirts are comfortable and versatile-- who would have guessed? Certainly not me, based on my prior experience of ill-fitting, gaping, button-popping shirts.

To be fair, I've never really invested in a quality shirt, tailored for a woman. All of my shirts have been cheap, trendy models found on clearance racks. Bought on impulse, and just as quickly banished from my closet after the inevitable wardrobe malfunction.

Sewing up the Closet Case Files Kalle Shirt this summer (x3!) was a wardrobe-level revision event. I knew I needed a long-sleeve model to get me through the fall into winter, so I started looking for a classic shirt pattern. 

I thought I had what I needed in the Grainline Archer, which I had bought earlier this year in anticipation of wanting to make a shirt. As I was printing and taping, I also started browsing the HUNDREDS of reviews, and looked at the pattern in greater detail. To my surprise, there seemed to be quite a bit of dissatisfaction with the pattern, especially when sewn in larger sizes. Multiple people described the cuffs as being excessively large in the larger sizes. I also was a bit confused as to whether the shoulders were supposed to fit or be dropped-- the pattern description doesn't specify, they look fitted on the pattern model but many reviewers described them as dropped. Then, I realized that the pattern didn't include a tower placket for the cuffs, and that little bit would cost me an extra $10, on top of the $16 original pattern. The fact is, I can probably make ANY basic shirt pattern fit, and I could draft the features I want... but really the experience I'm looking for with a paid pattern is to have it fit and have the features I want with minimal fuss. At that point, I neatly folded away the half-taped pattern and stared searching for a new pattern.

I finally settled on the Liesl Classic Shirt, which is advertised as a completely classic shirt with all of the expected shirt-y details-- tower plackets, separate top and bottom collar pieces, etc. My only previous experience with this brand is the related Oliver+S kids patterns, where I have sewed the Art Museum Vest with great success. The fact that some Liesl patterns are produced in concert with Butterick makes me nervous that they'll exhibit the hated excessive ease problem, but there was no indication in the few reviews out there that this was a problem. 

Since it wasn't any more expensive to get the paper pattern, I went this route. I was sort of regretting it as I entered a second week of obsessively checking the mailbox, but finally it arrived. 

I made a few changes. I removed the front bust dart through the highly technical method of ignoring it, then removing excessive length from the front panels. I also graded out a size from under the armholes to the hips. I did a quick muslin, which confirmed that I needed a generous (1 inch) full bicep adjustment. I would have been surprised if this were not necessary-- tight biceps is a major reason why RTW shirts and jackets don't fit me properly. Other than the biceps, the fit was spot on-- the shoulders are just right, the width and length of the arms are perfect. The length of the shirt is also perfect on me (although I neglected to take any untucked photos).  I love the way the pleats are handled in the back... the two spaced out pleats are much more flattering than the classic center pleat, while still providing a blous-y effect.

Generally, the drafting of this pattern is fantastic. It includes separate pieces for the collar facing and the cuff facing, which is very handy. The markings on the tower placket pattern piece are very helpful for figuring out how to attach it. The pieces all fit together beautifully, and the markings are professionally done and easy to interpret. The pattern also includes cup sizes which I'm sure would be very useful for many sewists. 

After checking my adjustments with a second muslin, I sewed it up in black linen.

The construction was fairly straightforward. The instructions which came with the pattern were reasonable with good illustrations, but I opted to follow methods that I learned sewing the Closet Case Files Kalle shirt, such as using thread tails to pull out the collar points and Heather's alternate method of collar attachment.

I used a variant of the burrito method for the yoke construction, and cut a bit of scrap patterned linen for the inside yoke. 

The tower plackets came together surprisingly easily, although I had to resort to the sew-along photos to make sure I was getting everything right. The directions in the pattern for the cuffs had me scratching my head-- I have no idea what the directions were trying to describe, so I just did it the way that made sense to me based on other cuffs I've sewn.

The buttons are real mother of pearl shell buttons from The Thackery. I would usually buy buttons like that in bulk, but I loved having all of the different sizes in their shirt button sets. They are truly lovely and feel wonderful 

I am absolutely in love with this shirt. I wore it an embarrassing number of times this week- a black shirt is just always appropriate in my workspace. I know it is linen and the "rules" are to pack your linen away for the winter, but I don't intend to stop wearing it anytime soon! I just love how linen looks after it hangs to dry, and how it softens with wear.

And then I made a white one. Same linen, from Fabrics-store.com, in pure white. It was a pre-cut piece, so the cost was extra-reasonable!

For the white one I upped the ante a little and french seamed the armholes and side seams. The buttons are extra thick mother of pearl, from The Thackery. 

The one thing about the black shirt that I'm not fully happy with is the way the front and back tails join. The method in the pattern just has you join them after hemming and sew a little reinforcing triangle. While I did my best tucking in all the little ends, some are already starting to escape and fray. So for the white linen shirt, I decided to cut a softer curve and finish with self bias binding-- very similar to the way Kalle is finished. I'm much happier with this finish-- together with the french seams, it makes the inside super clean, no chance of fraying.

So far so good with the whites I've been adding to my closet. I do really love wearing white. I'm not sure that they will last though... just this weekend I had a bit of a scare. I noticed colored spots on the freshly washed whites I was hanging to dry, and realized that I must have gotten maker on my hands after picking up the kids' drawing supplies. Fortunately it was washable marker and just washed right out. However, I am thinking that I might sew my next white shirt in cotton thread, in anticipation of the need to dye it sometime in the future!

I'm also wearing my previously blogged Ginger Jeans in these photos. I did make one huge change since I blogged them. They did in fact stretch out unacceptably with wear, and I was just going to take in the side seams, but then I had the brilliant idea to take the excess out of the center back-- effectively doing a swayback adjustment. I took a full two inches out of the center back waistband and huge wedge out of the yoke. This improved the fit dramatically... the jeans are now comfortably relaxed without feeling like they are going to slide off. I always do swayback adjustments on fitted shirts and dresses and even coats... I don't know why it never occurred to me that my jeans would need one too!

I'm loving these shirts. You can't get much more basic than white and black shirts, but they are all I want to wear right now. If I'm in the mood for embellishment I fulfill it with bright lipsticks and jewelry. The necklace is a thrift store find and the lipstick is Mac Breathing Fire, which was a freebie and I love it!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Velveteen Rabbit Pattern is available on Etsy!

When my daughter was born, a family friend gave us a copy of the Velveteen Rabbit. Of course I had read it as a child, but I as a new mother the idea of something that is so loved that it becomes "real" struck me as all the more poignant. 

So when I started making home-made toys for my kids, the Velveteen Rabbit was high on my list! 

My first pattern, the Bunny Lovey, is very sweet for a baby, but the Velveteen Rabbit is a toy that a child can play with throughout childhood. It is soft and cuddly, but also is wonderful for imaginative play or for taking a place at the tea-table. 

Love Sewing Magazine noticed my blog posts about my first versions, and they asked if I had finished the pattern. Last spring, in cooperation with Love Sewing Magazine, the pattern was released in the spring of 2017. 

Now, I am happy to be able to offer it to you as a downloadable PDF pattern on the Unlikely Handmade Store on the blog and on Etsy. The download includes the PDF pattern, which you can print on your home printer, and photo-illustrated, step-by-step instructions in a downloadable PDF. 

This fall I'll be doing a little sew-along on the blog! So get your pattern and your fabric ready, and we can make up a Velveteen Rabbit in time for the holidays! 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Summer of basics: Final three!

For the Summer of Basics Make-Along at Fringe Association, I need to choose my favorite 3. So here they are, being worn together!

It was a hard choice because I ended up making so many great basics this summer, but if I have to pick, it would be my rust charmeuse cami, my black ginger jeans, and my black rayon twill Kalle shirtdress. (Click on the links to see the posts on each of these)

I love the cami because I drafted it myself to fit over my beloved racerback bras, and I can make it out of a luxurious slippery fabric like silk and the racerback will NEVER creep off my slopey shoulders. It is also a nice, thick, sturdy silk that is not likely to tear and has been pre-washed so that it won't require any special care.

The black Ginger Jeans are an obvious pick. These are the most comfortable jeans I've ever made! Black jeans are great for dressing up and down, and I'm sort of in love with the black-on black topstitching and matte black rivets and jeans button.

The black Kalle shirt dress is a wardrobe staple that I'm not exactly sure how I've been without for so long. It is just such a versatile piece.

The drapey rayon twill is really lovely to wear, and I love all of the fun shirt details, like the scrap of silk I used on the inner yoke and the smoke gray real shell buttons. 

I also love how I can change the look by adding a belt, or wearing it unbuttoned over a cami or tee.

So those are my pics for #summerofbasics, #sob17finisher, #sob17bestcombo. 

I think I'm not done with basics, quite honestly... fall is approaching, and I'm thinking about making a button-down shirt with sleeves, such as the Grainline Archer or the Liesl Classic Shirt. 

What are your favorite basics for summer/fall?

Monday, August 28, 2017

Black Ginger Jeans-- Summer of Basics

One of the most worn items in my closet are my jeans, especially my black ones. There is a pair of black jeans in my wardrobe that is so comfortable that it might be endowed with a trace of supernatural powers. It's been my favorite pair for 5 years, and there are periods where I have worn them almost every day. They've fit me through some pretty dramatic body changes-- I haven't worn them when I was pregnant or directly postpartum, but they are they first jeans to fit when things start to fit again. 

I bought another pair of jeans at the same time I bought the "magical" pair, in a slightly different colorway, and they just aren't as magical. I've tried to buy the same ones, but I can't find the exact same ones, and similar cuts of the same brand just don't fit the same. (If you are curious, the original two pairs were NYDJ, bought at a somewhat unbelievable price on Amazon... so I'm not even completely sure they are NYDJ, or they could have been seconds or something.)

Of course the first thing I did when I got my Ginger Jeans pattern was compare it to my favorite jeans, and the cut is remarkably similar. However, when trying to reproduce a favorite pair of jeans, it seams like finding, or making, a good pattern is only part of the problem. 

One of the big problems is the HUGE variation in denims. The thickness and the amount of stretch and recovery varies widely. My "magical" pair is made of a denim that is quite thick, has lots of stretch, and has incredible recovery. I've never found any denim on the market that is quite like it. I've also sampled lots of twills, since the "magical" pair is a black-black shade which means it is either an overdyed denim or a twill, but the stretch twills I've sampled are even farther from the mark, even the ones that are marketed as particularly pants-worthy. Cone Mills denim is widely cited as some of the best out there, but it is not a super-stretchy denim. My first pair of jeans was from Cone Mills denim, and while there are lots of improvements I can make in fit, I'm not altogether convinced that I'll ever make a pair that are super-comfy from Cone Mills. 

These are made from the Black Turkish Denim from Threadbare Fabrics. This denim is thick without being too thick, and definitely stretchier than Cone Mills. I have high hopes. 

I also made the fit more relaxed. The fact is, my "magical" pair are not skinny-skinnies, which is probably why they are my favorite pair. In the Ginger jeans pattern, I cut a straight 14, which is pretty much my size by the numbers right now. 

I did a 1/4 inch full belly adjustment, but I think that might have been somewhat of a mistake, because when I baste-fit them, there was too much fabric in the front crotch. I ended up taking material away from the front crotch curve to correct this. 

In baste-fitting, I decided that a full bum adjustment might be helpful, since it felt like the back waistband was being tugged down. Using Heather's suggestions for a quick and dirty full bum adjustment, I added 3/8 at the top and bottom of the back crotch curve, making the seam allowances there a scant 1/4 inch. I also deepened the J of the back crotch curve. These changes seemed to really improve the fit for me. Next time I will definitely factor this in when cutting.

I made was to make the waistband facing out of the same stretch denim. Previously I've gone with quilting cotton for the waistband facing. Since I'm going for comfort, I decided that stretchy was the way to go. 

With all these changes plus the stretchier Turkish denim, I ended up taking the side seams in an extra 1/4 inch on both sides, from the waistband to mid thigh. 

I went with black topstitching on this pair, and I didn't even bother switching to topstitching thread. It made things go soooo much faster to not be switching thread all the time. These were by far the fastest jeans I've made, they went together in record time.

The rivets and jeans button are the lovely matte black ones that Angela Wolf carries on her website. I found these rivets harder to install than other rivets, the posts seemed to blow out through the caps half of the time, but I could just be out of practice. I blew through nearly the whole packet of 10, but ended up with 5 decent ones in the appropriate places. 

I've entirely given hope that my machine will sew an automatic buttonhole on a jeans waistband so I didn't waste time trying this time. I sewed the buttonhole with the zigzag stitch on my machine, following a hand drawn guideline. 

The weather is just now getting cool enough to be true jeans-wearing weather, so we'll have to see how these hold up. I have high hopes that they'll be a hit this fall! I would really like a black-black pair, so I have some more of this same denim on order, as well as some black dye!

Do you have a favorite pair of jeans? Have you tried to replicate them, either through buying or making a similar pair, and have you had success?

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Black and White Kalle Shirt/Dress-- Summer of Basics, Kalle by Closet Case Files

Basic black and white. 

This is, of course, the Kalle Shirt Dress by Closet Case Files. I'm just a bit obsessed with it.

Also, it happens to fit a huge gap in my wardrobe... I don't own any basic button down shirts. To be completely truthful, there might be a few oddball items that sort of fit the bill in my closet... I still have the white tuxedo shirt that was my uniform when I had a catering job a LOOOONG time ago. Maybe I can think about letting go of that one now that I have a white shirt to replace it.

I did in fact buy a bunch of button down shirts back when I started my job in 2008. But NONE of them fit very well and I was constantly checking to make sure I was decent. I always had to tape or pin that point right at the bust, because there was NEVER a button in the right place. Those shirts are long gone. You can bet that when I made these shirts, I made sure there was a button in that special place!

The white Kalle is cut at the tunic length, and shortened just a bit more. I wanted it to be just long enough to tuck if I was in the mood, but the fact is, I'll probably wear it untucked.

It is made out of twill tencel from Emmaonesock, with real shell buttons purchased from a seller on Etsy. I also made a double pocket, and made the pocket just a tad larger (about a 1/4 inch all the way around). This might have been inspired by Helen's white shirt, which I love!

The black shirt dress is made out of bamboo twill, also from Emmaonesock. This fabric is just luciously drapey! I hope that it turns out to be durable-- I've been disappointed with the durability of the rayon items in my closet. I always wash gentle cycle and air dry, but many rayon items (especially knits) end up pilling in areas of high wear, or sometimes they just stretch out and look saggy. I guess only time will tell.

I did the inner yoke in a scrap of black and white silk, and the buttons are real gray shell. The pictures don't do the buttons justice, they have that colorful, luminous quality of real shells. I also love that the set I bought came with smaller ones for the collar... it is one of those small details which you notice when you have made something yourself!

I made the dress 2 inches longer than my previous Kalle dress. Since I'm 5'4" and I usually shorten Closet Case patterns by 2 inches, that means I made the pattern exactly as printed. It makes it just long enough that I feel good about wearing it without leggings to work.

I also love it belted! Which has alerted me to the fact that I own no decent belts... I was surprised this black one even fit. Don't look too closely, it is one of those plastic-y belts that came with something I bought a long time ago.

And, of course, it has pockets. I still have a love-hate relationship with inseam pockets, but I'd rather have a pocket than none at all.

I am in love with both of these items. I wore the black shirt dress for the first day of classes, belted, and felt very artsy and chic. I'm really happy to add these basics to my closet, they go with everything and I think they will be in constant use during the rest of summer and beginning of fall. 

I've had to wash the white tencel twill one already... the blue chalk that I used showed up terribly! It still isn't completely gone, but it seems to be fading. I did my usual gentle cycle wash and hang dry, and it came out all wrinkly. It did iron up beautifully... but I'm not used to having to iron things. My linen Kalle looks quite acceptable after hang drying. Is that just a tencel thing? Any tips?