Handmade Kayak Paddle Jacket

Since moving to Santa Cruz, my favorite new toy by far has been the second-hand kayak we scored on Craigslist. It has more than paid for itself this past fall and, after a short break in December and January, I had it back on the water in February with my mom and Beatrix, and my dad alongside us in his rowboat. The otters of Elkhorn Slough have been phenomenal. 

Pattern: Jalie Maxime Jacket
Fabric: ripstop nylon and nylon rainwear
Cost: free - remnants

I wanted a new paddle jacket for the cooler months in spring, so I decided to see if I could make my own. After some research, I downloaded the Jalie Maxime Jacket. I liked that it was designed for athletics with things like a zipper shield, chin guard, and elastic cuffs and hems. I also wanted one with a front zip because temperatures can change quickly when you're paddling and I wanted to be able to cool off a little if I needed to. 

The jacket is made entirely with fabric from three different water-repellant scraps I had laying around. The sleeves and upper body are made from my most waterproof fabric, a water-repellent "aviator flight outdoor satin" (whatever that is?) that I used in my raincoat. I modified the Jalie pattern so that the jacket yoke and upper sleeve were cut in one piece, similar to McCall 6531. I also eliminated the pleat there. The body is made with light blue ripstop nylon, which isn't totally water-repellant but dries quickly. And there's even some black ripstop nylon filling in over the rest of the jacket. For the sleeve cuffs, I opted to use poly spandex (swimsuit fabric) to make a cuff that fits tightly to my wrist to help keep water out. Since they're stretchy, I can also push up the sleeves when it gets a little warmer. Finally, I used a stretchy cord rather than elastic at the hem of the jacket. 

Here we are out on the water and it worked well! It keeps me dry from splashes and also dries quickly in the sun. Not bad for a bunch of scraps from my cupboard! Since this is a water jacket, I sewed small buttonholes at the bottom of each pocket to drain water if needed. But mostly the jacket just gets some ocean spray. 

Aren't the otters just amazing? 

Spring Dress Mash-Up

After a few years of t-shirts and sweatpants, it felt good to break out the dress patterns again. It took me about a month to sew this one up, and I enjoyed taking my time to make something nice. 

Pattern: McCall's Meadow Dress M8105 with McCall's Dawn Dress M8104 
Fabric: 2+ yds rayon
Cost: free

This dress is a mash-up between M8104 and M8105, mostly because I got the two mixed up in my head and thought it was one pattern. Once I dug them out and realized my mistake, I couldn't help but try making my vision a reality. The dress is mostly M8105 with the cut-on sleeves and sleeve ruffles of M8104. 

McCall's M8105 is actually a pretty clever pattern. The base is a simple strappy dress, but there's a tie overlay that attaches to the neckline and wraps around the body, giving it a faux-wrap style. It makes it very easy to fit but with a sophisticated draped look. 

What was not so easy was adapting it to have cut-on sleeves. That, and making it out of just 2 yards of fabric. I used every scrap of the fabric and puzzled through some fitting issues with the sleeves and the ties. Admittedly, I probably wouldn't recommend this mash-up, as the ties can pull a bit on the sleeves. But it ended up looking pretty good and even gives me enough movement for dancing. 

But I can't quite make up my mind about the sleeves. I love the flounce in theory, but on my body it feels like it overwhelms my frame. For our second wedding this month, I took the sleeve flounce off to try it the other way. What do you think? This is the second time I've sewn a project with the sleeves from this pattern and the second time I've taken them off, so there might be a lesson in there. 

As a bonus, the Mr. got to finally wear this coat I made for him way back when we thought we were going to a wedding in March 2020. 

Jaws Jacket

Maybe it was the chills that ran through my body as we sat at yet another outdoor hangout, maybe it was just the effects of my COVID booster shot, but I knew I needed another cozy, fuzzy jacket in my closet. I wear my teddy-bear-lined parklet jacket all the time, so there was no denying the utility of a second variation on the concept.

Fabric: 2 yds upholstery remnant + minky lining
Cost: $80

The star of this jacket is really the fabric. Aside from being ridiculously soft and fuzzy on the inside AND out, it's a fun texture and nice color with lots of dimension. This is not the sort of fabric you can dream up in your head and go out and find. Rather, I walked into the store with an open mind and, after perusing the fur aisle, I found this beauty in the section of upholstery remnants and knew it was the one. The ribbed texture even makes it look like a quilted jacket

Because it was a 2-yd remnant with a few flaws I wasn't sure I'd have enough for this project, but at about $12 there was no harm in trying. And while the outer layer was cheap, I spent another $30 on minky lining and nearly another $30 (!) on ribbing. But look at that shark lining! Isn't it perfect? I may have a new obsession. 

Aside from getting fuzzy fabric everywhere, it actually wasn't that difficult to sew with. I made sure to match the ribs where it mattered but otherwise it came together just fine. I even accidentally placed the flaw (a big hole!) in the middle of one of my sleeves but was able to sew it shut by hand and it completely disappeared. It did help that the whole thing was lined - imagine trying to finish those bulky seams! 

The ribbing is fancy Merchant and Mills ribbing that sells for $14 a yard. It is admittedly a bit lightweight for this project (would be better on a t-shirt of light sweatshirt) but it's really hard to get ribbing, especially locally. 

The pattern is Simplicity which I bought because it includes instructions for lining. I then of course promptly ignored all the instructions, but it was nice to know that I had all the pattern pieces I needed. I also wanted a raglan sleeve as I already have similar jackets with a set-in sleeve. 

Unlike my parklet jacket, this one is a bit more snug and feels a bit bulky in all the layers. But it is delightfully warm and good enough for dinner or a drink out. Now I just might need fuzzy pants and I'd be all set. 

I'll leave you this parting shot from the beach :) 

Avocados and Houses

In 2017, an Australian millionaire remarked that many millennials couldn't afford a house because they were spending all their money on avocado toast and expensive lattes. "Shouldn’t they be economizing by eating at home? How often are they eating out? Twenty-two dollars several times a week could go towards a deposit on a house," he opined. These remarks spawned a million memes and, rightfully, some harsh criticism for his words. 

In the United States at least, my generation (currently those between 25 and 40 years old) has faced a stagnating minimum wage, the deterioration of workers' rights through a gig economy, the Great Recession, the rising cost of college (and corresponding rising debt), and continued racial and gender barriers in a system that is decimating the middle class. The idea that small-scale, individual decisions could fix these problems, or that a great many millenials could even buy these small luxuries to begin with, was laughable. While I'm all for smart money decisions and saving, if you're scraping by on a minimum wage job (or jobs), hoarding your pennies will not buy you a house where I live. 

So of course when I saw this avocado toast fabric at Stonemountain I knew what I had to do. A quick search revealed that they sold a houses print from the same company, and my 'avocados and houses' shirt was born. I'm not sure everyone will get it, but it's funny and just a little bit snide. 

Pattern: McCalls Misses' Dresses #7920 as a top with ties
Fabric:1 yd each of Dear Stella in Avocado Toast and Holiday Village
Cost: $30

It took me a while to decide the best way to combine these two fabrics into one shirt, but I eventually settled on a simple button-up shirt. The pattern is McCall's #7920 (originally a dress pattern) that I've made before and like the fit of. I added the ties from McCall's #7976, which on its surface appears to be a very similar top but is much more over-sized. 

The darts give it a nice shaping in the back and the front. 

The patch I ordered from Etsy full the full millennial effect. 

Admittedly it's a very bright shirt in a novelty print. But I finally wore it out today and got compliments at both the yarn shop and fabric store, so I think it will be a fun one to wear. Maybe I'll find a good outdoor brunch spot and can get some avocado toast. ;)

Made It Through 2021!

This is my tenth sewing year in review. It's become somewhat of a tradition--a little something I do in that lazy time between Christmas and New Year's to reflect on what I've been making. In some years I've run the stats; in others I try to learn something from my mistakes. But as the years go on I'm also just content to make things as my heart desires. Last year I made a lot. This past year I made less. I like to just make things as the mood strikes. If I wear it, that's great. And if I don't, hopefully it at least makes me smile or challenges me in some new way.

One big difference from ten years ago has been the rise of social media, especially Instagram. It seems hardly anyone reads blogs anymore. But I've been doing this so long I'd hate to part with it. So below is a little roundup story I made for Instagram along with some notes about where you can find each project. It's a nice little index of the year. And if you want to watch the video, I'll add it below. 

My favorite project of the year was this embroidered jumpsuit. It was a technically interesting project with lots of fitting and time spent learning new embroidery skills. It used fabric from my stash. And it was a celebration of sorts for getting vaccinated and being able to see more friends, mostly outside in the warm, welcomed days of summer. I loved making it and I loved wearing it, and if there's one memory I want to hold on to from this year it's this one. 

Many of the other things I made this year were well-worn, made me smile, or both! They include:

Most Worn:
Other Favorites:
  • My Perfect T-Shirt pattern, sewed up in two new prints - sharks and stripes
  • Women Shirt - there's just something about this top that feels right - it's fun, put together, easy, and I wore it to get my vaccine!
  • Seabright Swimmers were a fun one-piece suit with great sun protection for kayaking
  • October Days Sweater was a real triumph for me in knitting a beautiful, complicated light-weight sweater that I actually wear
  • Exaggerated shoulders were a new look this year and made both my favorite and least-worn lists
  • The Green Blazer was something I didn't wear at all, but I still like it! Maybe there will be more opportunities this year? (probably not)
  • Railroad Denim - the jury's still out on this particular pair of pants, but I really loved trying out the custom fit of Fayma patterns
There are also a few things that probably won't make the cut
  • My Myosotis dress fit better than the last version, but has gotten a lot less wear. Maybe it just feels too prairie? 
  • Lawren Bathing Suit - despite having a lot of fun choosing the fabrics and loving the cut of this suit, it was still a bit short on me and the neckline was too high. I may try this again with a few adjustements
  • Party Cami was an experiment in converting an old thrifted Halloween Costume into something wearable, but I'm not sure it's made the cut
  • McCall's #7976 Tie-Front Top - this was an interesting experiment in buying two nearly identical-looking McCall's patterns with very different fits. I like the #7920 better

By far my biggest project this year was moving in June. After feeling a bit priced out of the SF bay area, we took advantage of an opportunity to move a few hours south to Santa Cruz County to a new (old) house and closer to family. The change of scenery has brought me a lot of joy, and I'm also trying my hand at seeing how far some paint and a screwdriver can take me in fixing up our place. It's been fun to balance these new skills with sewing projects. 

I hope the new year has something bright in store for you! I don't know where this year will take me, but I'm so ready to be done with 2021!

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