Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Challenger Shirt

If you've ever seen "The Bucket List" with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, then you've seen the car I'm trying to depict as a shirt. It's the yellow one on the right, for those who still don't know. It's a 1970 Dodge Challenger... a loud and fast muscle car.

My FIL spends each summer going to car shows and cruising with other classics. It's his pride & joy, and I can't blame him. You'd never know that it was green and in awful shape when he got it from a police auction. He's done an amazing job restoring it, and maybe my sewing gift will earn me a ride in it, for once!
So, I started with Simplicity 4287, a Threads collection pattern with 3 short sleeve variations for little boys and grown men. Yes, there will be a little boy version in the near future, so Little Man can be just like Papa! The pattern was Out of Print, so I ordered directly from Simplicity (a first) and was very happy with the service. Although it wouldn't have been difficult to slap a stripe on a short sleeve shirt, I really liked the way this panel had a slight curve to it, like the hockey stick stripe on the car.

I ordered the cotton/poly blends from fabric.com, and even though it's super lightweight, you can't beat the price and the free shipping on first-time orders! Why the blend? To prevent the black from leaching into the yellow during washings. Isn't Ann at Gorgeous Fabrics so smart? She didn't have what I needed, but pointed me in the right direction. That's customer service!

I made the XL according to the measurements on the pattern envelope, and the fit is right on the money. My only recommendation for working with this pattern is to cut 2 of the yoke pieces, not 1 as the pattern recommends. Every shirt I've made or bought has a double layered yoke, so I really don't know why the pattern would only use 1.

To topstitch, I used 2 spools of yellow threaded through a single needle (another first for me), and chose a 5mm stitch length. Looks just like embroidery thread, but way neater and faster than hand stitching! Thanks to Summerset for her tips, I used yellow for the buttonholes, but black buttons to tie in the stripe color.

As for my embroidery, I did my test with 2 options. One as a normal filled Brush font (just like the car decal) and another as a running stitch outline. DH and I preferred the cool look of the outline version, but knowing FIL's somewhat poor vision, we chose the solid version for easier reading. Of course, I also had to add his name in a smaller matching font.

He loved his Christmas gift, and it was easy to make. I spent more time mulling over my embroidery decisions than actually making the shirt!

Sunday, December 28, 2008


That's the license plate of the truck that just hit me... xmas08. The last week has been filled with wonderful moments, and also some that made me say (and not in a good way), "Really? Really?!" (Gotta love this season of Saturday Night Live...)

Thursday 12/18: Last day of school/work, and expecting a big snow storm and an extra day to get Christmas stuff done at home. One week to go, lots of time to finish my to-do list. No problem. (Insert sound of God laughing.)
Friday 12/19: 8" of snow later, DD and I spent a few hours on her Christmas dress. She sat in front of me and worked the pedal SLOWLY (I didn't know machine could go that slow without stopping!), pausing to remove pins, and keeping the edge of the fabric lined up at the 5/8" mark. She also transfered some markings with the water soluble marker, and DH took some video of the momentous occasion (first unaided stitched with a real machine).

Saturday 12/20: Wake up to the sounds of DD sick with the flu. Within moments, DS is right next to her participating also. DH headed off to work ("Call me if you need me...") and it was not a fun day. Laundry, and lots of it. More snow.

Sunday 12/21: Kids slightly recuperated, had Christmas jobs to finish for clients. Very little "fun" sewing. More snow, probably over a foot at this point.

Monday 12/22: I wake up with the flu. Really?!? Really?!? Why am I surprised? Entire day wasted.
Tuesday 12/23: Did I mention I wasn't done shopping? DD and I are well enough to fight the crowds at Costco where we fill up the cart with essentials and party staples. Couple more errands, naps (me, too!), and the test stitch out for FIL's shirt. Oh yeah, we were confident it was a 1971 Challenger, but just to be safe we called to confirm, and good thing we did. It's a 1970. If you've ever seen "The Bucket List", it's the yellow car Jack Nicholson is racing.

Wednesday 12/24: Christmas Eve! Yes, I can sew today. Actually, make that, "I HAVE to sew today." FIL's gift should be finished when he opens tonight, and DD's Christmas dress needs another sleeve and a hem. Finishing just in time, both get done and turn out great! (Reviews for another day...) For him, Simplicity 4287, and for her Simplicity 3668. She wanted to copy a dress from "Imagination Movers" that Nina wears for the Christmas party, and we did pretty well. Didn't have the peppermint striped tights, but we did put her hair up!
I return home after the party, leave out cookies, chocolate milk, and carrots for Mr. Santa, tuck the rugrats in, and get to work wrapping. No, I hadn't wrapped a single item at this point. So, at 1:30 am, I crawl into bed.

Thursday 12/25: Merry Christmas!!! DD arrives home a half-hour early from work. A special surprise for the kids? No, silly readers... the FLU!!! (Really?!? Really?!?) The kids arise, and open presents, and Daddy makes it through, then disappears to bed to rest and recuperate. Thankfully, he had nowhere to be that day and we weren't expecting company! Putting toys together and taking care of DH, but no sewing. I did get some sewing tools though, and am eager to put them to work! (Another post, too!)

Friday 12/26: Crunch time. I will be hosting my family (40 people) the next day and the house needs major rehab. Cleaning, cleaning, and more cleaning. Forecast: 60 degree temps tomorrow. Huh? As they say here in Michigan, "If you don't like the weather, just wait a few minutes."

Saturday 12/27: Party time. The family is healthy, the house has been disinfected, and we are ready for guests. Being the last of 9, and having all but one sibling not live in the area, this crowd is immediate family: Brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, great-grandkids, and this year a good number of "significan others". It was a great end to a horrible week, and now I sit in my peaceful home, looking out the window at green grass, and wondering what's in store for 2009...

My next sewing project is to finish a shirt for DH that was supposed to be a Christmas gift, but got postponed too far back. It's BWOF 9/08 #145, and just needs sleeves and a hem. So, I'm headed downstairs to make that happen, then it's onto something fun. I think I've earned it! I hope your Christmas was smoother than mine, and that you had a chance to do some "fun sewing". Happy New Year!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Almost There...

Okay, here is the almost finished FIL "Tribute to the 1971 Challenger R/T" shirt. It matches the car, but needs a couple things...
1. Buttons. I bought black, but am having a brain fart. Black buttonholes, right? Or, yellow?
2. Embroidery. The original plan was to stitch the car on the front left chest, but the placement of the yellow/black seam is right where the design should go. And, the design I found isn't exactly his make/model. So, here's my idea: Embroider (in a script like the car decal) " Dodge Challenger R/T '71" on the black, running vertical up along the black/yellow seam, in silver thread. Or yellow?
The pattern is Simplicity 4287, a Threads Magazine Collection (out of print) pattern. Can't remember how I stumbled across it, but I ordered it from the Simplicity website, and they had one in stock! It's exactly what I was looking for: something with a little retro vibe and the stripe built in. You can't tell from the picture, but to topstitch the front seam (and back yoke), I used two spools of yellow thread running through the same needle. Great effect, I'm really happy with it!
Can you say "indecisive"???
The next project is DD's Christmas dress. I have red panne stretch velvet, and will use Simplicity 3668, the short sleeve dress version. I want to add a sash and bow in the front, where the pleats meet the yoke, and found 3 options. Candy cane striped cotton, Grosgrain striped ribbon, or sparkly candy cane organza. Opinions??? I also plan on lengthening the sleeves.
I'm exhausted. It's been crazy getting the holiday decorations up and winding up this last week of work before 2 weeks off. The embroider work continues to keep me too busy, so I'm really looking forward to having time off work to sew some fun projects! And, my sewing area is all re-organized and cleaned up. So nice having it all in one area, much less back and forth, and way less clutter.
Hope you are all doing well. With all the wild winter weather, my sewing friends in the Northeast have been in my thoughts. Hope you are all safe and warm!

Saturday, December 6, 2008


Nothing new created this week to share, and yet, I have been busy sewing!? How did that happen?

1. The embroidery side business sends is averaging about 5 items each week. Some require logo designing (time spent at the computer searching for the right picture, choosing the right font, spacing the designs correctly) and some can go directly to the machine (stitching the "rough draft" to make sure it's right, and then stitching out the final version). This week it was polo shirts for the Theatre Staff at school (easy) and a chef jacket for a colleague. The chef jacket was fun, she wears a cap made of a cotton "skull and cross bones" print, so she wanted a matching skull on the jacket and her nick-name. Would you take food from a chef wearing a skull and crossbones logo? Hmmmm..... Actually, she's a great cook, and if it makes her smile, who am I to care? The jacket also had a pocket added to it, and it was my first welt pocket and I used the illustrated instructions from the Spring 2008 SewStylish magazine (p. 47). Came out great!

2. I hemmed 2 pairs of jeans for my father-in-law, and patched a ripped back pocket. If they made a machine just for denim (you know... that part of the hem that has a flat-felled seam and when you fold it over and sew, your machine actally growls at you?) I'd be at the store in a heartbeat.

3. Three more fire department shirts needed embroidered names and titles. Can't complain about that, they put cash in my pocket and pay for my fabric addiction!

Today I was planning on making my FIL a shirt for Christmas. It's a short sleeve button-down that will match the 1970 Dodge Challenger he restored and takes to shows all summer long. The fabric is all cut out, the pieces are all pinned and ready to sewn, but the serger needs to be rethreaded before I start. Not a big deal, just a 2 minute job. But, first I'll need to find my machine. Have I shown you my sewing area?

Yes, it's a mess. Actually, mess might be an understatement. Here's what happened... (Honey, I know you're cringing that I've shared this mess with others, but really, it's okay. They understand that with sewing comes mess and that disorganization is actually a sign of true genius. Really.)

My "sewing table" is the pool table. It's always covered in bags, thread, patterns, my "toolbox", fabric, etc. It's such a waste, we decided to sell it. So, last night I cleared it off, uncovered it, and grabbed the camera to take some pictures of it. You know what happened. Such a beautiful table. Why don't we play it more? I hate to sell it. The kids will be older and hanging out in the basement with their friends and we'll say, "We used to have a pool table, but my sewing crap kept it out of reach, so we got rid of it." So, the sale is on hold, and my job is to get organized. Which starts in a whole other room... to clear space to make a new home for my organized sewing stuff (blank shirts for embroidery and boxes of fabric), so I can shift my tables together. This all happens at a very good time since I'll be hosting my enormous family for Christmas dinner. The cleaning had to happen, the pool table will get used, and the chaos will disappear. Meanwhile, there's the usual 18 loads of laundry, the 2 rugrats to play with, the Christmas tree to decorate...

So, if you'll excuse me, I have a lot of work to do. By next Saturday I should have some pictures of a new and improved sewing space and a rockin' canary yellow and black short sleeve mens shirt!

p.s. Dawn, Bunny, Summerset, Lindsay and other sewing friends: I'm so incredibly JEALOUS of your productivity, there are no words for it. Keep up the good work, and I wish I could do so much with so little time. You are all amazing!
Here's the photo of our staff wearing the teal shirts I embroidered. Katie's Day was a big hit!