Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Sometimes the Fabric Speaks

On Saturday I made an a-line skirt. I ended up having to draft the pattern for it myself because when I looked through my stash of patterns every skirt that I had was very full, but the flower pattern on my fabric had really clear verticle directionality that just wouldn't work with a circle skirt, at some point somewhere on the skirt I would have ended up with sideways flowers. It's hard to see in the picture, but the flowers all have stems.

I'm glad that I realized that before I started cutting out skirt pieces.

I was going to write something up about how I drafted the pattern, but I forgot to take pictures of that part of the process. The skirt was pretty simple, basically just the front and two back pieces. I made a facing, rather than do a waistband. I used french seams on the side seams and a clean seam for the back seam with the zipper. Because I drafted it myself I gave myself very generous seam allowances, The back I used a 1" SA so I could turn over the edge of the fabric and still have plenty to work with while sewing in the zipper.

I did end up having to finagle the fit a little at the end, it was good through the hips, but a little loose at the waist. Either my math was bad, or my measurement. I'm not sure which.

All in all, I am really pleased with my finished skirt. 

I had a heck of a time taking pictures though because it was super windy. 

Also, I love this outfit, everything I am wearing here I made myself, and that is a really incredible feeling. I talked about the sweater here, the collared shirt here, and the cami under that shirt here. I'm also wearing a rayon slip that I know I made within the last year, but that I apparently never bothered to write about, so it looks like I've got another post about my underwear coming up.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Bird Dress

I think my hero worship of Gertie Hirsch is pretty well established at this point seeing as I've written about her at least four other times on this blog. I bought her newest book, Gertie's Ultimate Dress Book* the day it came out and spent a happy few days reading it cover to cover and picking out pattern pieces. I absolutely love that the skirts, bodices, and sleeves are interchangeable so you can mix and match to get way more than the 23 styles that she features. Although I don't love every dress in the book I do like most of them. When I bought the book I didn't know what dress I was going to make first, but I did know what fabric I was going to use.

Back in November, I bought a pretty quilters cotton with a surprisingly soft hand and good drape featuring a blue background and stylized birds. I originally thought I would use it to make a skirt, but then it came time to move and in the chaos, I never got around to using the cotton. Later I decided to make a dress instead, but I didn't want an all over pattern of the birds because the fabric had a distinct horizontal stripe and I didn't think it would look good in a bodice so I picked up a yard of plain light blue cotton and 5 yds of navy blue piping. Then the fabric sat for another month.

Finally, this week I made myself a dress.

I was going to make the Floral Surplice Dress, but the pleated skirt that it called for would have had my birds sitting sideways, which would have just looked wrong. So instead I used the Surplice Bodice and the All Around Pleated Skirt - basically more like the Floral Chiffon Dress, but I left off the cap sleeves. I added pockets because it's me and I will always add pockets. 

Yay pockets!

One of the big challenges of this dress was the piping that I used to outline each section of the dress. I love the finished look, but I had a heck of a time sewing it in place because it was smaller than my seam allowance so it was invisible once it was sandwiched between pattern pieces. I have no idea if there is a "right" way to sew in piping, but what I did was machine baste a line on each dress piece at 5/8" then I hand basted the piping to that line. Then when I sewed the pieces together I sewed over that line again so that my piping was exactly where it was supposed to be. 

This technique actually ended up helping me fit the bodice too. When I made a muslin of the bodice I noticed a couple of fit issues. Not surprising seeing as Gertie even warns that for those over a C cup an FBA will probably be required. I didn't have to make major modifications, but I did have some gaping at the neckline. I solved that by making small tucks along the neckline while I was hand basting the piping. 

From the front, the tucks are nearly invisible and now my bodice sits nice and snug to my chest. 

The other fit problem I corrected was the bottom edge of the midriff piece. The pattern nips in pretty sharply at the waist, but my actual waist is straighter than that so I drew a new line from the armpit of the back boatneck bodice and the front surplice bodices pieces down to the bottom of the front and back midriff pieces so I could smoothly add the extra 3/8" that I needed on the bottom edge of each piece. Because the skirt pieces are pleated I didn't add anything to them, I just adjusted the pleats until everything lined up correctly.

One thing I wish I had done was make the arms a bit bigger, they are a little snug under my armpit. I didn't notice on the muslin, but I do on the finished piece, which makes me wonder if it has something to do with the piping. It doesn't bother me enough to try and fix it on the dress, but I will keep it in mind when I make another dress out of this book (and yes, I am totally already thinking of the next couple of dresses I'm going to make). 

Another change that I made was to line the midriff. The Floral Surplice Dress uses a facing instead of lining the bodice. I am so used to lining the bodices of dresses that I forgot about finishing the seams (which was totally dumb on my part because Gertie talks about seam finishes and lining versus facing in earlier chapters of the book and reminds you to finish your seams in the instructions). I was super bothered by the unfinished seams and didn't want to try and pink them because of the piping caught in them, so I partially lined instead, and in the future, I will stick to fully lining my dress bodices. 

One last note: I did not bother trying to perfectly match the patterns for the skirt side seams, but I did line up the branches that the birds are sitting on. The first time I cut out the back skirt pieces I didn't think about the pattern until I laid it next to the front skirt piece and realized it was off. So I cut my pockets and front facing from the skirt back and recut the skirt. I am glad I took the time to do so because I would have just been driven batty if I had sewed them together and the pattern didn't flow.

All in all, I am really happy with this dress, and I cannot wait to make more dresses from Gertie's Ultimate Dress book. I think I am going to make the Blue Wool Work Dress next. 

*P.S. I am totally not getting paid to promote Gertie Hirsch, her book, her patterns, or her blog. I just think she is rad and I totally want to be like her when I grow up. :)

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Strawberry Curtains

My grandmother passed away in April of 2014. She taught me how to knit and continually inspired me to keep at my other fiber related passions. She was also a great sewer and quilter. When she passed I got one of her sewing machines and I've been happily sewing on it since then. I also got first dibs of going through her stash. Grandma was not the fiber snob that I am, and she had very difference taste in colors than me, but I still managed to bring two large totes worth of fabric home with me. One of the fabrics that I picked out was an adorable vintage cotton with strawberries and leaves printed on it. I picked it out intending to make kitchen curtains out of it, for like a hot minute when I saw the yardage I had visions of a full skirted 50s style dress, but common sense prevailed and I made curtains.

I faced several challenges while designing my curtains. The first was that my lease states that I cannot hang curtain rods. Fortunately, my windows have nice deep frames so using a pressure rod instead is not a problem, but it does sort of dictate the look of the curtains.

Secondly, my windows are relatively small, 41"x45" on the inside of the frame. Because I can't use curtain rods I can't use curtains to visually change the size of the window, so I needed a curtain design that wouldn't visually overwhelm the window.

Thirdly my strawberry fabric is only 36" wide, but the muslin that I was using to line it (also out of my stash) was the now more common 44" wide. I let the strawberry fabric dictate the width of my curtains, and got a little creative with the lining on the back, working on the basis that I'll never really have to look at the back of the curtains.

I decided to let the width of my fabric largely dictate the design. Because it's so narrow I didn't want to make two panels of curtains, I felt the window would end up looking overwhelmed. So I cut three panels of my strawberry fabric 50" long and sewed them together with a 1/2" seam allowance to get one panel 106" wide by 50" long. My mom taught me that curtains should be between two to three times the width of the window. Twice the width can look a little bare, but three times can be overwhelming on narrower windows. My curtains are almost exactly 2.5 times the width of the window.

Isn't the fabric cute? Anyway, then needed to make a lining so I cut two 44"x50" panels out of the muslin, then one 19"x50" piece, then I had to sort of piece together the remaining muslin to get a second 19"50" piece.  I then sewed all of those together to get a second rectangle 106" wide. 

From the right side, I don't think my Frankenstiened lining is that noticeable, and when it's hung no one can see it.

Then I put my fabrics right side together and sewed around the right, bottom, and left sides, leaving the top of the curtains open. I turned the fabric right side out and very carefully pressed the edges. I used a knitting needle to poke out the corners to get them nice and square. I wanted to make sure that only the strawberry fabric was visible from the right side so I actually turned it about 1/16" in towards the back, instead of trying to press right down the middle of the seam. 

So when I top-stitched the edges from the wrong side you can see just a little bit of the strawberry fabric.

And from the right side you can't see the lining at all.

Then I sewed the curtain rod pocket. To do that I turned down and pressed about 1/2" of the top, then I turned it over and pressed down about 2.5" and sewed the channel. 

Next, I cut two more rectangles from the strawberry fabric, this time 6"x36" to act as ties for the curtains.

Because I chose to make only one panel instead of two, but I also like symmetry, I decided to attach the ties to the top of the curtain and use the to tie the curtain up instead of to the left or right. 

I sewed the rectangles into a tube using a 1/2" seam allowance, turned it right side out and pressed it. I chose to press the seam to the center instead of the side so it would look prettier from the front.

I then top-stitched all the way around and sewed a buttonhole on one side of each of them and sewed the button to the other. The cute pink buttons also came from my grandmother's stash.

I carefully centered the ties over the two seams on the front of the curtains from sewing my original panels together, then I sewed the tie down following the stitched from sewing the curtain rod pocket. Had I thought about it in advance I think I would have sewed the ties on at the same time I made the pocket, but I was careful enough that I think you have to be looking closely to see where the doubled stitching is. 

I think it drapes beautifully when hung, and the button is a cute, subtle detail. 

And here is my finished curtain, hung in the window and looking rather adorable if I do say so myself. 

I am really happy with the final product. The red in it goes well with all the other red accents in my kitchen without being too overwhelming. I think it makes my kitchen look more "finished" and because the fabric was all out of my grandmother's stash it didn't cost me a dime, and now I will think of her whenever I look at my window. It sure beats our charming view of the parking lot. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Fiance's Flannel Shirt

I thought today I would take a break from home decor projects and share a shirt I recently made for Fiance.

It fits him really well, but he hates having his picture taken, so I elected to model it instead. It's a bit long on me, but it has that comfy wearing my boyfriend's shirt feeling. I like it so much I might make myself one too! When he put it on he pointed out that the pockets are not level, but they really aren't off by much. Oops. I probably should have measured before I sewed them on, instead of eyeballing the marks on the pattern.

The pattern is Negroni by Colette Patterns. I really enjoyed making it. The instructions were easy to follow and they actually tell you how to make a fully finished garment, which I appreciate. The pattern uses flat fell seams. I did make one modification, They call for a 3/8" seam allowance on the shoulders, but I used 5/8". I though the stitching on the flat fell looked prettier that way, it seemed disproportionate at only 3/8" and Fiance has fairly narrow shoulders, so the extra 1/4" on each shoulder wasn't detrimental to the final fit. 

The only other change I would make is to the buttons. I think it would look much more handsome with 7 buttons placed closer together, instead of the 5 that it called for. I also wouldn't place the buttonholes so far in on the facing, just because I think it looks a little funny. All in all, I like this pattern very much, and I'm pretty sure I will be using it for more flannel shirts in the future.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Fabric Pouf

All right y'all, let's just all agree to pretend today is Saturday and that I followed through on writing at least one post on time this week.

So, as promised, here is my post about the fabric pouf that I made a couple weeks ago. I used this pattern from HGTV. It was pretty easy to follow and the whole shebang took less time than a load of laundry (I know this because I started a load of laundry shortly before cutting out the fabric).

I will say that it made me really love my rotary cutter. After I printed out the pattern and taped it together I folded my 2 yds of canvas into eighth and cut out all of the pieces at once. I could not have done that if I was using even the sharpest sewing shears.

Then I sewed the pieces together, except for one section of one side, flipped it inside out, and stuffed it. The pattern called for 1/4" seam allowances, and if I made this again I would change that to 1/2" just because this pouf is going to see a lot of hard use and I don't think 1/4" gives enough strength to the seam. In fact, after just a couple of weeks, there is at least one spot that I need to repair already because of raveling. 

I also ignored the portion of the directions where if said to use 10 to 15 old towels to stuff it, because seriously who has 10 to 15 old towels just laying around. I don't think I've even owned that many towels over the course of my life, much less kept them when they got to gross to use any more. I used two 32 oz packages of fiber fill instead. 

And then I used the ladder stitch to sew the opening shut.

It looked all nice and neat at the side when I was done, but I stitched the bottom really ugly because I wanted to know it wasn't going anywhere on me. 

Then I flipped it over to hid my ugly stitches and wah-lah! Now I have an ottoman. 

I totally love the pattern on this fabric, it manages to be bright and bold and earthy all at once. It looks good with the chairs we currently have and will also work with the couch that Fiance and I are going to make. I used a treated canvas, and for once I'm really glad that I didn't wash the treatment off because I spilled coffee on the pouf, but it just beaded up and I was able to pat it off with a rag, no harm, no foul. I feel like this sucker is going to last us a good long while, and I'm really glad at the end of my work day to have somewhere to put my feet up. And it was way cheaper that buying something ready made would have been. Yay!

Friday, March 11, 2016


So, this week totally slipped away from me and I didn't post on Wednesday. I was going to write a great post about my new fabric pouf. Oh well. Tomorrow I will write that post, and maybe Sunday or Monday I will post again about the curtains I recently finished, but for tonight, I'm curling up with a glass of wine and my newest sewing book, Gertie's Ultimate Dress Book. I totally want to be Gertie Hirsch when I grow up. She rocks so hard.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Canvas Boxes

Remember the canvas boxes I posted the other day? I finally have time to write up how I made them. I'm not sure this was the best method because I was pretty much making it up as I went along, but it worked! Here they are:

To make 5 of these 5"x5" boxes I used 1 yd of 9 oz canvas, 1 yd of quilter's cotton, and 1 yd of the stiffest interfacing I could find. 

To begin I used my rotary cutter (oh man to I love that sucker) to cut the interfacing into 5"x5" squares. I cut the canvas into 6"x6" squares and the quilter's cotton into 6"x7" rectangles. You will need five of each per box. 5 of my lining pieces are 6x6 because I messed up when I was cutting, but if you pay attention the entire time you shouldn't have this problem.

Then I sewed the interfacing to the center of each canvas square. I made them smaller than the canvas because the interfacing was so stiff that I didn't want it in the seam allowances, but this does mean the stitching holding it on is visible from the right side. My fabric and thread are both black, so you really have to be looking closely to find it, but if you chose a printed canvas or your thread wasn't a perfect match these stitches will be visible. 

Next I sewed four of the squares together in a line using 1/2" seam allowance. These are the sides of the box.

Then I sewed on the fifth square to make a sort of 'L' shape.

Now comes the slightly tricky part. Between the canvas and the interfacing you end up having to kind of manhandle the box to keep it under the pressure foot while you sew. Start sewing the sides of the box to the bottom (the small leg on the 'L')

When it is all sewn together turn your box right side out.

Now sew your lining pieces together the same way you did the box. They will be much easier because they are nice and limp. If you are using a patterned lining make sure you orient your pattern in the same direction for each side piece.

With the wrong sides out fold down the top edge 1/4" and sew. This will be easier if you have the kind of machine with a narrow arm, but it's not hard even without one.

When you are done with the hem put the lining into the boxes. Poke the lining down into the corners of the box. 

Then fold the top down over the edge of the box and admire how cute it looks!

If you want to you could sew the lining to the box by pressing the top 1/4" but not sewing anything until the lining is in place, but I knew I would have make-up and lotion in at least some of these and I wanted to be able to throw the lining into the wash if need be. 

One of my boxes is 1/2" shorter than the others because my lining was shorter, but I still wanted the cute folded down visible lining so I trimmed the top of the box down to be even with the interfacing before putting in the lining. If each box was next to each other I might be able to tell one was shorter and it might bug me, but with stuff in between each box on the shelves it's not obvious that one is smaller. 

I've been using my boxes for a couple of weeks now and I totally love them. This is the most organized and the cutest I think my bathroom has ever been, and next week I can start sharing non-bathroom related home decor projects with you!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Undervaluing Crafts

I think I've mentioned before that I joined Instagram. I have been having way too much fun finding new craftspeople and bloggers that way. Today I want to talk about a video I found a couple weeks ago on Instagram by Style Sew Me, she blows my sewing skills out of the water. If you are a crafter I'm sure you've encountered the scenarios she outlines in the video. 

I've been getting an increasing number of friends asking to trade money for sewing. Pretty much 99% of the time I want to say no because the amount of money offered is never enough for the amount of time I would have to put in. I don't think this is my friend's fault. They have no idea how much time I put into some of the stuff I make, and therefore, don't know that they are offering me the equivalent of $0.10 an hour. Especially since their only price comparison is the poorly made, disposable clothing commonly found in places like Target. When everywhere you go sells shirts for $15, scarfs for $20 and sweaters for $25 you have no idea that those prices won't even cover the yarn for most handmade goods. 

I've been guilty in the past of offering a lower price point too, because I know my friends don't have any more money than I do, and the reason that I sew my own clothes is because I can't afford custom prices.

But I am saying enough it enough. I am more than willing to trade money or goods for knitting or sewing, but from this moment forth I am going to ask for a reasonable amount of money for the time that I put in. I'm going to take this as an opportunity to teach people how much time it takes to sew or knit an article of clothing. I am not going to contribute to the undervaluing of handmade goods by allowing people to pay me less than my time is worth. 

I'm going to finish with this image I found on Facebook back in November. 

Please wish me luck actually sticking to my guns on this one.