Pattern Testing – Nautilis Swimsuit

I made a swimsuit! I’d been thinking about making one for a while, so when I saw that Seamstress Erin was looking for pattern testers for her new swimsuit pattern I jumped at the chance. Nevermind that it was still cold and rainy here when I was sewing the suit…

Eek! Swimsuit photograph!

Eek! Swimsuit photograph!

This is my first time sewing with swimsuit knits, and I’ll admit being a little apprehensive, despite plenty of experience sewing knits in general. I needn’t have worried. This was a quick easy project. I suspect there will be more swimsuits in my future. Actually I’d really like to make a tankini version, as that’s my swimsuit style of choice. It sounds like that will be discussed in the upcoming sewalong Erin is going to run.


So, I know there are lots of great swimsuit patterns out there these days. I’ve certainly been drooling over a few of them. Having only sewn up the Nautilus so far, I can’t comment on how it compares to other patterns out there. I will say though, that for someone sewing there first swimsuit, this pattern had great directions. Very clear and well explained. Lots of diagrams, and a section at the beginning with some helpful tips for sewing with swimsuit knits.

So, obviously I made the two piece version. I have a really long torso, and have never had any luck buying tank suits, so I’m out of the habit of wearing them. Although, that’s the beauty of being able to make my own I suppose. Now I can have a tank suit that fits it I want to! I opted to tie the straps at the neck, halter style, rather than fiddle with attaching them to the back band. I may go back and change that. Haven’t decided yet.


As to fit, the pattern is great. The bottom piece fits me perfectly. Seriously. I’ve never had a purchased suit fit anywhere near that good. I was so surprised when I tried it on. Just couldn’t get over the fact that it fit so well. Actually, I think I might try using the pattern to make underwear with. Why not? Anyway, I picked rather drastically different sizes for the top and bottom, based on the sizing chart. As it turns out, I should have sewn an even smaller size for the top. Need I mention that I’m very pear shaped? The sizing chart went through a few changes during the pattern testing process, and I chose my sizes based on the first version. I suspect a top sewn based on the final sewing chart will fit perfectly. That’s not to say my top didn’t fit me. It will work just fine for pool use. But it is a smidge loose on the sides, so I won’t be wearing it in the wave pool at Water World anytime soon. I suppose I would recommend sizing down, if one is between sizes. Swimsuit material does stretch, after all.


My fabric was a standard swimsuit knit, nothing special there. And regular swimsuit lining. Oh yea, did I mention the suit is fully lined? Maybe that’s standard with swimsuits, I don’t know. But I definitely like that the suit is lined. Oh, and despite how it may look in the pictures, the suit is actually a really rich navy blue color. It was far too cold out to do any kind of outdoor photos, so the sub par lighting in my entryway had to make do.

There’s not much else to say about the Nautilus pattern. It was a quick easy project, with great directions, and very satisfying results. And now that it’s finally gotten hot in my neck of the woods, I need to get myself to the pool!


Lots of sewing and lots of sneezing

Well it’s just been nuts here. The last month has been full of frenzied sewing and not much photo taking. Oh, and the spring crud that seems to be going around. Everybody in my family has been sick. I still sound like death warmed over. Ugh.

In between snotty tissues and coughing, there’s been lots of deadline sewing. First off is the wedding quilt for my sister-in-law. Who got married last June. Really, as long I they get the gift before their first anniversary then it’s not late. I love that tradition. It’s saved my bacon a few times for wedding gifts.


The quilt is actually the 8th one I’ve finished this year. So I’m way ahead on my goal, but way behind on documenting any of it. If I can just make it through the next couple of weeks of scheduling madness, then I’ll have time to start photographing things.

The rest of the sewing is all related to the upcoming wedding of some good friends. First off was sewing one of the bridesmaid dresses. The wedding is going to be fairly casual, and the bridesmaids were simply asked to wear dresses in certain colors, no real specifications on style. My friend who I sewed the dress for is currently seven months pregnant and wasn’t too happy with the limited selection of maternity dresses she could find. Brilliant woman that she is, she tried tracing a pattern off an existing simple jersey dress she owns. We tweaked the pattern a bit, and with relatively few adjustments came out with a lovely dress for her. Gotta love good jersey! I made a copy of the pattern, and plan on making a few shirt versions soon.

Next up is a silk robe as a bridal shower gift. The pattern is from Amy Butler’s In Stitches. I haven’t actually made many things from this book other than the bathrobe. But I’ve made at least five robes at this point. It’s my go-to bridal shower gift.

My husband is one of the groomsmen in the wedding. The guys are wearing dark jeans, light dress shirts, light colored ties and brown vests. He already had everything except for the vest, so that’s where I come in. I actually made formal vests for my husband and the groomsmen for our wedding, so I’ve already got a good pattern. It’s just a matter of finishing the darn thing at this point.

Vest for husband

Vest for husband

Last, of course, is a dress for me. I’m not in the wedding or anything, but assuming I can find the time, I’m going to make a dress to wear. Nothing fancy, as the invite made it clear that the wedding is casual. But something that will look nice and at least be comfortable. I’ve got the fabric picked out already (from my stash of course) and the pattern. Whether I get time to sew it up before the wedding is a whole different issue.


Aside from all that, there have been a few pairs of boxers for the husband, a quick t-shirt or two for me, and a pair of Thurlow shorts almost entirely finished! Look at me, sewing before the season, instead of halfway through it! That never happens.

So yea, really busy. Anybody feel like that happens every spring?

12 Quilts – Number 2

Second quilt for the year is a quick little baby quilt for some good friends. Pretty basic, and very straightforward to piece and quilt, but I’m happy with it all the same. Hopefully it will be well used. This one I did actually start and finish entirely this year. All in about three evenings actually. You’d think that will nine months to prepare I’d have managed to get the quilt done more than a week before the baby was due, but no, apparently not.

Basic blocks and cross-hatch quilting

Basic blocks and cross-hatch quilting

The quilt is made entirely with stash fabric (and really, it’s prettier in person than the photograph). Mostly the fabric is leftover bits and pieces from other baby quilts. It was actually quite satisfying to pull the whole thing together from stash fabric.

Pieced block

Pieced block

My standard formula for quick baby quilts is to use 5 to 6 inch square blocks and lay them out in a simple grid such that the finished quilt is about a yard square. In this case, I added a few pieced blocks (just two rectangles put together to form a square) to make the most of the fabric scraps I had.



The backing fabric was just a little bit too small, thus the pink strip at the bottom. It’s hard to see in the photographs, but the binding is also pieced together from the scraps. Let’s just say there’s not much of this fabric left.

Not much else to say about this one. Quick and easy. Which is good, since the recipient arrived early! I’m not the only one who waits until the last minute to make baby quilts, right?


12 Quilts – Number 1

Okay, of the twelve quilts I plan on finishing this year, here’s the first one – the Wizard quilt (I know, really creative name, right?)

Kind-of hard to photograph...

Kind-of hard to photograph…

This quilt is from a kit that I bought probably at least a decade ago (yikes!). I followed the pattern, except for a little re-arranging of the final block layout.

Original pattern

Original pattern

Even if I didn’t remember buying it so long ago, I’d know it was an old quilting purchase by the backing fabric. In my earlier years of quilting, I would always buy large pieces of fabric for quilt backings, so the back would be all the same fabric. In more recent years, I try to piece the backing together using any leftover fabric from the top and whatever else I can find to match in my fabric stash. Does anybody else do this? Maybe I’m just weird. It actually feels a little weird now to have a quilt backing be out of only one fabric. Excepting baby quilts, which are usually small enough that I can find a single piece of stash fabric for backing.

Pegasus backing fabric

Pegasus backing fabric

I finished the quilt top during a really productive weekend retreat two years ago, put it aside for a while, and then at the same retreat this past fall I started quilting it. Finally got around to finishing it last month. And let me just say that quilting retreats are one of the best things in the world. I go on one every Fall with a group of women from my quilt guild, and it’s an absolute blast. Not to mention that I can cram an insane amount of sewing into a weekend where I don’t have to cook, clean, or take care of anybody or anything else. Such luxury!

Embroidered label

Embroidered label, still pinned on

Aside from the fabric, which I love (and really, it’s so much prettier in person), my favorite thing about this is the quilting. The whole thing is quilted in a spiral with my walking foot.

Spiral quilting

Spiral quilting

It was so easy, and sort-of relaxing to do. And it looks so finished! I don’t know how else to describe it. But I’m thrilled with the quilt. The technique is from a Craftsy class about quilting with your walking foot. To be honest, I still haven’t finished watching the class. I got far enough into it for the spiral design, and then promptly stopped watching so I could go try it out. Awesome, awesome way to quilt something, especially a larger quilt. This one, for reference, is about 64 inches square.

Spiral quilting and wonky log cabin blocks

Spiral quilting and wonky log cabin blocks

The one thing I will mention though, is that the quilt top can shift a bit during quilting. Even though I had the whole thing pinned pretty heavily (using those bent quilting safety pins), the top still shifted a bit. Had I left a generous amount of batting and backing around the edge of the top this wouldn’t have been an issue. As it was, I ended up having to add additional little triangles of backing at each of the corners before finishing the quilting.

Backing addition

Backing addition

I’m probably not explaining this very well. Imagine you have two squares of paper on top of each other. Twist the top square just a little and suddenly the corners of the top square are hanging off the edges of the bottom square, just a little. If you look closely at the back, you can see the seams where I had to add in the extra little piece at each corner.

See? Right there...

See? Right there…

Thankfully, it was a pretty easy fix. I plan on experimenting with this technique some more, so next time I’ll just allow for some extra batting and backing around the edges.

I smile every time I look at this quilt. I can’t even describe how happy I am to have it finished. And it feels especially nice to have made such a big start on my quilting goal for the year.

Anybody else out there making a good start on goals for the year?


Back in January, like most of the rest of the world, I started thinking about the new year and what I wanted to accomplish. Let’s just say it’s a long list, like usual. And not necessarily worth posting anywhere. But as I’ve actually made some progress on one of my goals, I thought I ought to at least put it out there to share.

I’m going to finish twelve quilts this year.

Yup. Twelve. Actually, it shouldn’t be that hard. It’s only February and I’ve already finished three. Maybe I should actually push myself and revise that number up a little. Maybe.

Note that I said “finish” and not “make” or “start and finish”. Really the main thing that makes this a fully achievable goal is that I have a pile of completed quilt tops waiting in my studio, and that I’m counting small wall hangings and baby quilts just as equally as bed quilts. I’m really bad about piecing a quilt top and then never actually quilting it. So, this goal is my attempt to clean out my studio a little bit, and get more into the habit of finishing my quilts all the way.

I’ve got to take photos of the quilts finished so far, but here’s a little preview of the first one. More to come soon!

Spiral quilting and wonky log cabin blocks

Spiral quilting and wonky log cabin blocks


Starting Over

So. The last time I posted here was around the same time my brother ended up in the hospital for a week. It was very scary. After lots of worrying that I’d lose him, posting here just didn’t seem that important anymore.

Things have since gone sortof back to normal. He needs a new kidney, but is otherwise healthy, and dealing with all of this amazingly well. My family has pretty much settled into this new reality, and we’re all very grateful for modern medicine.

That said, by the time things started to seem normal again, I felt like I’d been gone too long to come back here and try writing again. But, it’s a new year now. Well, a month into it, really. Anyway, I figured I either needed to start posting again now, or never.

So, I’m just going to start over here. I don’t have any pictures to post, or anything terribly exciting or informative to write. I just thought I ought to write something. There it is. Happy (late) new year. It’s a year of new beginnings. In fact, I’ve got to get a baby quilt made for some friends who are expecting a new beginning here in the next week! Off to sew.

Red Renfrews and a Plain Plantain

As I reach for the me-made shirts in my closet far more often then store bought at this point, it seems prudent to make a few more. Enter one of my favorite shirt patterns: the Renfrew. I’ve already made eight (I think) shirts off this pattern, in a variety of fabrics, and using most combinations of sleeves and neck finishings on the pattern. This is the first one I made with a cowl neck and the three-quarter length sleeves. As usual the top went together without a hitch. This one is made out of a super drapey rayon-poly jersey. It feels great, and is light enough I should be able to wear it well into the spring.


The lovely lady standing next to me is my mom. In a funny bit of coincidence, she happened to be sewing a red Renfrew at the same time I was. So of course, we took pictures together. Her top is made out of a heavier weight cotton interlock. She added the machine embroidery accents. Also, she made the cowl removable! I think it’s a great idea, as it makes the shirt wearable for a great range of temperatures. Too hot? Take the cowl off. Too chilly? Put it back on! I didn’t even realize she’d made the cowl a separate piece until she told me. She did mention that she made the cowl slightly larger around (maybe and inch or two – I should probably check).

Removable cowl!

Removable cowl!

As there was a little bit of my mom’s red fabric left, kiddo got a shirt too! I love that I can sew clothes for him out of what might otherwise be considered scraps. I know that won’t last for long, given how fast he’s growing, but I’ll enjoy it while I still can.

Kiddo’s shirt is off a vintage pattern for Toddler Sportwear by Sunrise Designs. I’m guessing it was printed in the late 1970’s, or early 80’s since my mom made clothes off this pattern for my brother and I. Thankfully, after we both out grew it, she tucked it away to use for future grandchildren. And I’m thrilled she did! It’s got nice classic patterns for shirts, pants, shorts and jackets that should be enough to keep kiddo dressed for a while. And it’s sized 1T through 4T. Anyway, this was the first shirt we made him off this pattern, but it fits so well, my mom has already cut out four more. She also machine embroidered the bunny on his shirt. The text reads “I’m your little Valentine”. Yes, it’s a Valentine’s Day shirt. That’s how long it’s taken me to get around to this post. Sigh.

ValentineKiddo2And one more picture for good measure…


While I was on a shirt making roll, I decided to try out the Plantain, a free pattern by Deer & Doe. I’ve seen the shirt made up on countless other blogs, and thought it would be good to make something other than a Renfrew for once. You know, variety and all. Anyway, I’m pretty happy with how it came out.


Since I really had no idea how this was going to fit, I opted to make a test version before cutting into any of my really nice fabric. I’d already made two other shirts (maternity, no less) out of this blue fabric, so I wasn’t too worried about wasting this fabric if the top came out awful for some reason. Admittedly, this isn’t the best fabric choice. It’s a cotton/lycra (or spandex? how does one tell?) blend, so it’s got plenty of stretch. Not much drape though. Still, the shirt is wearable, and now I know how the pattern fits.


I didn’t bother with the elbow patches this time. Maybe on the next shirt. The bottom hem does tend to roll up, but I know that’s due to the fabric, since both the other shirts in this fabric do the exact same thing. The sleeves are a bit shy of the three-quarter length on the pattern, because I simply ran out of fabric. The length works fine for me though.

In the lengthy interval it’s taken me to get this post up, I’ve actually finished a second Plantain. This one is out of a lovely, drapey rayon jersey. It’s a much better fabric choice for this pattern.


As with the first one, I used up the whole piece of fabric, and the sleeves are actually a bit shorter than the pattern’s three-quarter length sleeve. Still just enough to cover my elbows though. But not really long enough for the elbow patches. Eventually I’ll make a long sleeve version and put on the elbow patches.

PebblePlantain2There’s not much else to say about the Plantain. It’s a lovely pattern, and one I’ll certainly sew again. Actually, I’ve already played with it some more since this last shirt. But I’ll save that for another post.