Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Quick Update

Sorry for the radio silence, work and life have both been nuts, and will continue to be for at least a few more weeks.

I've finished the wrap dress, I am very happy with how it came out and I will be posting pictures soon, probably this weekend.

I've also made a nice full slip, out of a knit and I will be posting about that as well. I will not be modeling it however, it seems far too much like posting pictures of myself in my underwear (even though it covers more skin than a great deal of dresses that I've seen).

And I've started knitting a linen sweater, even though I've still got half a sock and the orange wool cardi on the needles, because I'm having some project ADD apparently.

Today I got the fabric for another new outfit. Next Wednesday I will be taking the sewing test to try and opt into a higher level prereq class in the hopes of getting everything done in time to start the Apparel Design program at Seattle Central this fall. If I can't get into this class I won't be able to start the program until September 2016 because it only ever starts in the fall. That would be a bummer.

There is nothing I'll have to do during the test that I haven't done before, but I've never done it with someone watching/judging me, so I'm rather nervous. Even though I'm sure that what I'm wearing won't matter I still feel like I could use the burst of confidence that a new outfit will bring me. Plus, it really can't hurt.

I went to Jo-Ann's armed with my coupons and dreaming of red wool and polka-dots. I'd been thinking about buying this red wool for about two months now, but when I got to the store I found the color was darker/rustier than I remembered, and they didn't have any polka-dots with a white background like I wanted. I ended up getting a hot pink linen-like (but actually rayon) fabric for my new skirt, and a teal and white quatrefoil pattern for the shirt. They look surprisingly fantastic together. I'll post pictures of them eventually too, but I popped them in the wash as soon as I got them home. I'm hoping to get everything cut out, and possibly even the skirt made tomorrow.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Flat Fell Seam Sleeve Cap

Last night, about 3am I was laying in bed, contemplating my ceiling and wishing that I was asleep when I had an amazing 'no sh*t Sherlock' moment. I finally realized that I don't have to put together patterns as dictated by the directions. I can color outside the lines y'all!

See, I'm working on Butterick 5030*, it's this really cute wrap dress that I'm making with a lovely teal and white floral linen. The problem is the linen is a really loose weave. I'm also going to make a slip to wear under the dress so being slightly sheer isn't a problem, but I needed to construct the wrap in such a way that it wouldn't just keep unraveling to nothingness on me. I was already Frankenstein-ing the pattern a bit, I'm using the bodice from D/E/F, but the collar from A/B/C, the belt from A/D and the sleeves from C/F. So I figured if I'm already changing everything else, why not change the construction methods too?

And here is the bodice to my newest dress. Obviously I haven't added the collar yet, and I haven't hemmed the sleeves

I decided to do a flat fell seam for the shoulder and sleeve cap. Even though it seems to be the way most commercial button-up shirts are made I hadn't tried doing a flat fell on a sleeve cap yet because the curve seemed to make is trickier. 

It's hard to even see the second line of stitching on the sleeve cap, which pleases me because I'm not into a lot of visible top-stitching. You can see if on the shoulder seem here though. 

And this is what it looks like on the inside. See all those nice finished edges? yummy! I love those.

Rather than sew the sleeve together at the underarm and the side seams of the bodice then attach the sleeve I decided to attach the sleeve immediately after sewing the shoulder seam. It's hard to tell in the picture, but that allowed me to sew the entire side seam with a nice smooth french seam. It seemed to me that it would be easier and less bulky that way, rather than having to do the flat fell seam in the round while manipulating french seams. 

I'm pleased with how the dress is turning out so far. The flat fell on the sleeve cap was far easier than I thought it would be and it's definitely how I am going to sew my sleeve caps in the future. Hurray for 3am realizations that I don't have to follow the directions step-for-step in order. 

*I am in no way associated with Butterick, although I would dearly love to work for them, I do not at the present. I've just been making a lot of their patterns lately because they fit me with little to no alterations needed, and, more importantly, they were on sale for $1.99 at Jo-Ann's recently. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Bad Skirt

I have been accused in the past of posting pictures of my projects in order to make myself look good, and to belittle those who do not have the skills that I do. This is not, and never will be my intention. I firmly maintain that absolutely anyone could learn to sew or knit. It doesn't take some inherent talent you were born with, it just takes the willingness to take the time to learn. And sometimes even those of us who do practise still screw it up. Like my pi shawl that took several tries, or today's project, the skirt that went bad. 

I wanted a cute denim pencil skirt. They seem like a good weekend wardrobe staple to me, a casual alternative to jeans. I had a few yards of denim that I inherited from my grandmother, so it was a fairly low-risk project. All I had to buy was a pattern (Butterick 5566 view C if you are curious) and a zipper. I figured even if I didn't like the first one I had enough yardage left to try again. And that is a good thing because boy-howdy do I not like the first one. 

I think there are several things that went wrong with this skirt. First and foremost is that I picked a bad pattern for my body. Technically the skirt fits, in that the measurements of the waist and hips of the skirt match mine, but the construction of this skirt assumes that the wearer has more hips and less booty. Consequently, I have puffy extra room along my hips and the skirt pulls across my butt. As you can see in the photo below the skirt is trying to ride up because there isn't enough room for my derriere, this is causing unsightly bubbles, and it is also making the hem of the skirt sit unevenly with the back being higher than the front. If I had liked everything else about this skirt I could have fixed that by adjusting the hem, but it doesn't seem worth the effort is a skirt with several other problems. 

I should have taken a picture from the side, because that is where it really looks worst. There is an excess of fabric in the front of the skirt with makes my stomach roll look huge. As soon as I put the skirt on I remembered why I do not like high-waisted skirts/pants on me. I keep thinking they should flatter my figure by making my torso smaller and my legs look longer, but they tend to just make me look fat instead. Although as my boyfriend said it does make my torso look shorter. His first reaction to the skirt was "oh yuck, that's awful" though.

Untucking my shirt did hide most of the fit problems, although I'm back to having a torso that goes on for miles instead of nice long legs. But the point of this skirt was to wear a tucked in shirt to show off the cute detailing around the waist. 

Fit issues aside there are still other problems that you can see in that photo. For example that point at my hip is not my hip, it's the seam refusing to lay flat and thus creating excess bulk. When I make a second skirt, with a different pattern, I think I'll use a flat fell seam in order to force the seams to lay flat, just like a pair of jeans. I think I will also stay stitch the waist as soon as I cut the fabric. I cannot believe how much it ended up stretching while I was trying to sew it, which I'm sure contributed to the fit issues. 

So, even though I hate this skirt, I'm glad I made it because it was a learning experience for sure. I've learned that I need to start paying more attention to patterns that will look good on me, not just grabbing patterns that are cute. I will try again for a denim skirt, but in the meantime I've got a cute floral print linen that is just begging to be made into a dress. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Pillowcase Tutorial

The weekend before last I made a couple new pillowcases for my bed, I thought today I would try to explain how I made them. 

I know pillowcases seems like a silly thing to bother making when they really aren't all that expensive to buy, but they are also dirt cheap to make (especially with coupons), and are gratifyingly quick. I made two in about 40 minutes, and that was while stopping to try and take pictures. 

Pillowcases take about a yard of fabric each. I got two yards of white quilters cotton at Jo-Anne's for about $8. You can use just about any fabric you want and you can come up with all kinds of fun color combos, but I like white, so that's what I went with. 

Step one, cut your fabric. I actually tore mine, rather than cut it, so I knew that it would be straight on grain. I didn't care if the edges were a little fuzzy because I knew they would all be fully enclosed. 

I wanted each case to be 20"x30" when finished. For each pillow case, you will need two rectangles. The large rectangle will be 41"x 26" and the smaller will be 41"x11." These dimensions will give you a half inch seam allowance. 

Because pillowcases are meant to be washed often I wanted all of my seams fully finished. My original plan was actually to use my serger, but by the time I got around to sewing the cases I actually forgot that was the plan, so I used french seams instead. 

So, once you have your rectangles cut it's time to start sewing. Begin by sewing the smaller rectangle to the long rectangle along the long side. 
Press your seam closed towards your smaller rectangle. Then press down your seam allowance on the other side of the rectangle. Now you are going to fold your smaller rectangle in half. From the right side, line your folded seam allowance up with your seam and top stitch as shown in the picture below. This will fold your seam inside of the smaller rectangle, thus making it so you have no raw edges. I tried to use a contrasting thread so you would see what I was doing in the picture. You could pin the seam in place before sewing if you choose. I almost never pin anything, which is why there are no pins showing here.

Once the smaller rectangle is secured to the larger one you are going to sew your edges. Remember we are doing french seams, so you are going to fold the case so that your right sides are out, and your wrong sides are together. Even though I've done them dozens of times I still find french seams rather counter-intuitive and I have to remind myself WRONG sides together. Now sew your seam at 1/4." When you get to the corner drop your needle and rotate the piece. 

At this point you should have something that looks like a pillowcase, but with raw edges on the right side. Trim those seam allowances down to 1/8" and turn your pillowcase inside out. Press your seams. Now sew your seams again, using a 1/4" seam allowance again. 

 It turns out that if you want to take a picture of what the pillowcase now looks like you should use a contrasting thread to make it clear. I tried. If you zoom in really close you can almost see it.

My bad pictures aside, you can now turn those suckers inside out, put them on your pillows and plop them on your bed. 


I hope my tutorial made a little bit of sense. It was harder to write than I thought it would be, especially seeing as my pictures are not that good. I have now learned that if I want to write a how-to I need to use contrasting thread, and maybe not white fabric. Hopefully, you have learned how to make a fully finished pillowcase without a serger. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


Well, on Saturday I said I would post about my Pi Shawl "tomorrow" and it's now Wednesday. Anyone else ever had those weeks where they blink and several days have gone by?

Regardless of what day it is, I'm finally sitting down to write about it. My original goal was to finish the shawl by February 13th, so I could wear it to a friend's funeral. I grossly underestimated how long it would take me to finish the shawl. Even working like mad it took me until the 24th. I'm okay with that though because I think the shawl turned out beautifully.

It was surprisingly difficult to get a photo of it blocking. I had to stand on a step-stool to get high enough to get the entire thing in the frame. The shawl is just a bit less than 5 feet in diameter. As you can tell in the photo I use child's play mats for my blocking. This has the advantage of being much cheaper ($16.99 for 26 12"x12" mats) but I'm a little afraid of color transfer, so I only use them for my darker projects. As this one was done with black yarn I wasn't too worried. I also have to say if you ever make this shawl make sure you have a lot of pins handy when you block it. I used every single one of my pins to block this shawl. It's got to be lucky having exactly the right amount, right?

Here is a photo with the shawl thrown on my bed so you can see the lace pattern a bit more clearly. The pattern is Heliotaxis Pi Shawl and it's available for free on Ravelry. It's a great pattern, well written, and it's available charted and written out. I found it fairly easy to follow, although I did have to rip out this shawl at three different points. That is more on me because I refuse to use lifelines and occasionally I forget how to count.

And speaking of ripping out, I just have to gush about this yarn for a moment. I used Rowan's Fine Lace. This yarn is 80% alpaca, 20% merino wool. Normally neither lace weight nor alpaca is known for its ability to bounce back after being ripped, but this yarn handled it like a champ. It's also incredibly soft. I owe my boyfriend's mom a huge thank you for giving me this yarn for Christmas.It was a real pleasure to work with and I will absolutely use it again (and for the record, I am in no way affiliated with Rowan, but I do really like their yarns).

I hope you like my pi-shawl as much as I do. I'll be back "tomorrow" to talk about the pillowcases I made last weekend.