Sunday, March 23, 2014

Scrap Stash and a Knit Gift

Pattern from "Knit Two Together" by Mel Clark 
I was really ambitious trying to complete knitting projects before my trip. I wanted to make at least one gift to give away to hubby's friend in Japan. I had planned for a couple more, but I've run out of time.  I haven't knitted a new project for about two years. I doubt I will ever get really proficient since I keep taking long breaks right after my the knitting improves.  I thought tackling a table runner would be easy, but it wasn't.  Lace patterns are just fussy and difficult to fix. After about six false starts, I finally finished something that probably would have taken a pro three days. But for me, it was more like two weeks.    

Euroflax Sport Weight 100% linen with mother-of-pearl beads.
Japanese gift-giving culture include fairly elaborate wrapping jobs, but I have to pack my gift in a suitcase so I doubt it would survive paper wrapping. I decided to make my own "bag" out of the stash scrap I had in the box. Incidentally, I used this same fabric for a couple of things this week. Here's the first wrap-bag...hubby thinks it looks very Japanese:

This is the first buttonhole I've made since getting my Bernina fixed.  So relieved that the memory feature worked!

This bag was made from scraps from this project:

Curtains for the laundry room.  Excuse the poor pictures. New phone camera...:-( 
I used eyelet fabric for the top, so it could gather nicer than the canvas check print below.
I made these curtains from a large scrap piece pants from this project:

The eyelet scrap came from the Frida Kahlo challenge blouse:

The original cream checked fabric was a recycled long curtain I got for next to nothing at FABMO. The eyelet was a piece I bought last Spring from Hart's Fabric. The rosettes from the original eyelet blouse were scrap pieces from another shirt. I don't know about other sewists, but I hate throwing out my scraps.  I read on another blog that we should just throw them out so it doesn't clutter our workspace...yes and no. I think even the tiny pieces can be used for stuffing or a fabric collage that could eventually be turned into a new piece of wearable art.  What do others do with their scraps?  

Happy sewing!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Summertime...and the livin is easy.

Fabric from FABMO, biased tape made by me using scrap cotton fabric with owl motif.
Note: I omitted two pleats from the neckline.
Just realized my last post was early December. I was still in the holiday spirit, and finding excuses not to study for my exam. This is what I've been doing really for the past three months...head down in books and flashcards. I've never studied so hard in my life.

Now that I've completed one hurdle, I took the last three weeks to catch up on sewing and knitting projects. I found myself sewing a lot of pieces for the Summer months. I'm basically sewing like I'm flying to Hawaii again...but I'm not.  I'm actually going to Japan and Hong Kong! Side note: I've been doing a lot of research on what I want to buy while in Japan.  "Everything" is not in the cards. Plus airlines have become really stingy with checked-in luggage capacities. My husband's eyes bulge slightly when I put the words "shopping" and "Japan" together in the same sentence. I'm less likely to go overboard in Hong Kong, but Japan is the Land-of-Plenty for crafters.

In tribute to my upcoming holiday...I broke out my first Japanese pattern book. I have mixed feelings about the above blouse. In fact, all the patterns look more like house dresses than things I want to wear out.  Being on the vertically challenged and pudgy side, this top and other patterns in the book (see it HERE) looks a little like maternity wear. In Hawaiian, they are called "Muumuus." That's what I get for buying a pattern book with the word "SMOCK" in the title. But all the models in the book look darling.  See how cute it looks on her...

Actual photo of the pattern in the book.
In case someone is wondering about how difficult these patterns word: EASY. The only challenge was copying the pattern itself from the labyrinth of other patterns on top of each other. I suppose if someone is a Burda pattern master...this process should be simple. The instructions are basic and in English. I couldn't figure out the seam allowance, or I'm just a poor reader and haven't found it yet. There are no plus sizes, and the largest size looks like a US size 10 if you shop at the GAP, or really a size 14 in standard pattern size.  The largest bust size was 38-ish. I graded the pattern up an inch, and really...I didn't need to do that. There was a lot of built-in ease. It is a smock afterall. I plan on grading it back down if I make it again. I'm borderline petite in height, and I felt like the length barely fit me. Someone taller would need to grade the length.

I've been getting some knitting done as well. I finally completed the linen skirt that's been sitting in my closet for two years because I needed to learn a stretchy bind-off stitch. When I originally completed my skirt, the bind-off was so tight, I was only able to get one leg into it. Sadly, I am not a very experienced knitter, and I thought I would need professional help to resolve the waistband problem. But the internet once again, saved my knitting day.  I used Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off technique. Get the tutorial HERE on Rivalry. This is the BEST stretch bind-off stitch EVER!!!

100% linen by Euroflax. Pattern from my favorite knitting book:
"Knit Two Together" by Mel Clark and Tracy Ullman. See it HERE.
I made a bunch of other things these past couple of weeks...including finishing up my UFO Bombshell bathing suit that I started last Fall. It was a bit of a disaster, and even after grading the size up, it still feels a bit snug to wear. I already failed on my first muslin attempt. Instead of making a second, I dived right into my actual fabric (obviously overconfident). I decided that I don't like the pattern. Others might disagree. I found the instructions a bit clumsy and missing some of the professional bathing suit techniques. For example, I don't know if this suit will stay on if I make a strong dive into the pool. I might come out of the pool topless. (This may not be the fault of the pattern but the discovery that I am shaped a bit like a giant jelly bean. I must remember that the whole point of sewing for myself is so I don't feel a need to go on a crash diet.) Perhaps this is the reason why it's so tight in the mid-section, and slightly loose in the bust. Seriously, the muslin I made was tighter than a sausage casing. I hate sewing with four-way stretch jersey too. But the project did force me to use my serger. I suppose some good came out of that one. Overall...the suit doesn't look "that" bad, and it's fine for lounging around the pool. But if it don't fit ain't right. I've got a Kwik Sew bathing suit pattern that I'm planning on using next.

Jersey zebra print fabric from Lining from Joann's Fabric
Bombshell Bathing Suit Pattern
by Closet Case Files on Etsy. HERE
Before the year's end, I plan on making quite a few jumpsuits. This is probably the single most beloved item of clothing that I had in the 80s when jumpsuits were paired with enormous shoulder pads. I dipped my toe in a short jumpsuit reserved for a bathing suit cover-up. I did not use all the extra fabric to match the stripes. It was one of those non-repeating prints (a pain). For what I was using it for...I wasn't so bothered by the stripes being off a bit. I do love the pockets on the jumpsuit.  I might end up wearing this around the house over the summer sans the beach. My daughter hated it, but I love the retro 70's feel of the colors. I might make this again in the long pants version using a light denim. I've also been on the hunt for good overalls lately. I'm just reliving my youth vicariously through my sewing.  Who else does this?

Fabric from Joann's sale table, $4 a yard. Poly-cotton terry cloth blend.
Pattern: McCall's M6063 (EASY)
One of my favorite top designs is the v-necked wrapped neckline. I feel like it's the most forgiving and works as a nice camouflage for my carb belly. The problem with tops like these that are store bought is the neckline usually run too low and without a safety closure, leave gaps to peep inside. Kwik Sew makes a nice version that suggests adding elastic to the front neckline. This was brilliant and kept everything in place without having to include a not-so-flattering closure.  If you decide to use this pattern, don't skip this important step!

I made it using two types of fabrics and sewed the wrap different directions. The lace one is leftover fabric from my Burda lace dress from last year. (See HERE) I had just enough to make the top. I suggest using a stretch fabric for better fit. My lace version is a snug fit, and the cotton t-shirt striped version is extremely comfortable. But they both have completely different looks. I did not line the lace top like I did with my original dress and I shortened the bottom so that it would be less bulky in case I decide to use it as a camisole.

Paired with my hand-knitted linen skirt.

Happy sewing!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Sewist's Christmas & What's Under Your Tree?

This delightful sewing box can be yours for 29 pounds, and found at:
Elephant In My Handbag.
This is MY holiday wishlist. I don't really care about yours. 

Did I just turn into an eight-year-old girl all over again? If I look in the mirror long enough, I'm sure I'll find her tucked away in some corner playing dress-up with a doll. Nope, it's not a dollhouse you see here.  It's actually a sewing box. Wouldn't this be a great gift for that sewist-little-girl (or big girl)? YES...this would be a great gift for ME. Okay...too childish for me?  How about something more nostalgic like a cookie tin with handles? Don't give it to me empty silly...stuff it with lovely embroidery thread and these delectable needles from Bohin. (You can purchase some of the Bohin hand needles on Amazon too.)

Find this at Elephant In My Handbag HERE
I am shamelessly writing this post to tell you about a giveaway that is nothing short of "HEAVEN" for sewists around the world. Tilly and the Button has put together a collection of yummies to fatten up a lucky sewist for months to come. onto her site and enter...or better yet, don't click on her site so I can win the whole thing for myself. I'm not kidding.  But to thwart part of my guilt (-y pleasure that is), I am going to share with you some more gifts that I want to see under my tree, besides winning this freaking amazing contest from Tilly and the Button.

Back to the sewing box. I actually saw this on Tilly and Button, and Elephant In My HandBag is one of the contest sponsors.  I poked around their site, and found all sorts of fun sewing gifts. I mean really, really adorable things.  My favorite are their kits. Don't you want to make a lamp, but didn't know how or have the time to collect all the supplies? Don't fear!  Here's a kit for your crafting pleasure...

Lampshade kits and shade choices HERE.
Or maybe one of these cute Japanese dolls (for me of course), if you don't feel a hankering for a new lamp:
This doll is so popular, it is currently out-of-stock. But write them and see when
they are getting the next shipment HERE.

If you missed the Craftsy class sale that ended yesterday, I'm sorry. They were selling all their classes for $19.99. I splurged. I bought many, and really not enough at the same time considering all the classes that are still sitting in my WishList. But I have a sneaky feeling that the sale is going to come back around before the year ends, so keep your eyes peeled to your mail from Craftsy. In the meantime, there are some pretty fun things going on over there, and I recently picked up some yarn to match the sweater class that I bought (YESTERDAY). Craftsy also has a few kits to consider, and well, compared to some of the US kits out there, I think theirs are pretty darn nice. You know how to get there...I don't need to give you the info right?'s a little link for ya to something nice HERE for a real little girl and not your imaginary one. For the knitters out there, here's a kit that I think is beautiful and maybe simple enough for even me to tackle HERE.

My husband doesn't like to second guess on gifts. When he was in China, he called me from his phone to video conference me in to look at some fabrics from a local silk shop. But one type of fail-proof gift are Japanese imported textiles.  Particularly from Echino and Kokka. Just make sure you get me at least four yards from any of the print selections HERE at Hart's Fabrics.

You can order this print from this Etsy store HERE in HALF YARD increments,  but it's cheaper at Hart's Fabric.

Available on Etsy HERE in HALF yard increments, and at Hart's Fabric. (Cheaper at Hart's)
As soon as the weather gets warmer...I'm going to sign up for a sewing retreat or a week-long workshop. The first that comes to mind is Susan Khalje's class that's coming to San Francisco. I was also on her site recently and saw an announcement about videos soon to be available!  OMG! I love her, and if you want to get a taste of Susan, then sign up for her Craftsy class, and then read everything she writes in Thread's magazine. I can't wait until her videos come out.  Check her out HERE. Susan also puts together trips to France. Wouldn't that be a dream trip and something fantastic under the tree?

SewEzi Portable Sewing Table. $249.00 Get one HERE.
How on Earth did I almost forget to add this to my wishlist. Here's the thing, I sew on a tabletop, and lately I've really been wanting a flushed surface to sew on. Spending thousands of dollars on custom tables that aren't portable really isn't ideal. One day I'm going to move, and my next home will probably be smaller, and I might even lose my sewing studio (gasp). How do I prepare to size down now and still get what I want in a table? Enter the "SewEzi" table. It's portable folks and it also has custom inserts. I could get one table and multiple inserts to trade machines. The only problem is the price at $249. If I had to redesign my room all over again, I would buy a couple of these to set up my two machines. Santa? Are you still there?  HERE is a review about the table from another blogger.

Another drawback is the lack of tables available for sergers. An overlooked need for home machines. Ever use your serger and wish there was just more space? I do...all the time. The best I can find are extension tables. I am probably not waiting for this one because it's on sale right now at Sewing Machine Plus for $79.00. There's free ground shipping for orders totaling more than $49.

Picture from Sewing Machine Plus. Get the insert HERE.
Well...if you (hubby) are getting a big bonus this year, and feel like splurging it on your lovely wife, here's something that wouldn't fit under the tree, but would look great in my sewing studio. I have saved the best for last.

More information about Brother's new Dreamweaver XE machine HERE.
I have been going back and forth about what I want in a new machine. I think I just want it all, and still keep a high-speed single stitch for everything else. I really can't get away with less than four machines. I currently have six, so I would be willing to part with two of them to have this one. Okay, maybe one of them to have this one.  I've been a big fan of Bernina for years, but after using my Juki, and sampling other machines, I have a renewed respect for other brands. For what this Brother machine offers, a comparable Bernina would be three or four times more in price.

Thanks Santa in advance for my gifts!  Happy holidays everyone!

Monday, November 18, 2013

1950's Blouse - Eva Dress Pattern

I added non-woven interfacing to this final collar, because I wanted something stiffer. 
You can flip the top ear down, but I like the option of having it stick up to change
the look of the blouse. 

If you've been wondering what I've been up to, it's mostly been studying.  But I did sneak in some sewing in small bits this past month.  I stumbled across Eva Patterns online, mostly by accident and started trolling other blogs where sewists have used her patterns.  What I liked about the patterns are the range of sizes. I was feeling confident and decided to pick up a couple of patterns and see how I would fair with some vintage styles: a 1920's dress and this 1950's blouse

The back came out straight too. 
I'm going to call this blouse "Lucille" after Lucille Ball. I think it's something she would wear, and may be even in these colors if her shows were in color. Excuse the unfinished hem. I decided to shoot the pictures before finishing everything by hand.  The fabric is 100% light stretch cotton from Hart's Fabrics. It was part of my 2012 Spring stash purchase. I think the colors works year-round. Because the pattern is so large, I suggest 50" wide fabric. I made mine with 45", and I had to shave off 1.5 inches from the hem to complete it. So instead of a nice two inch hem I wanted to help weight the blouse down, I'm doing one instead and will probably add some hem tape for the weight.  

The pattern came three sizes too small, so it required some heavy duty grading, and a full muslin. The markings on the patterns took some getting used to and not your typical modern pattern markings.  I suggest everyone read through the instructions carefully.  In the end, I did have to use a lot of my drafting skills to figure things out for my body type.  If you're the right size for the pattern, then it will be a breeze to sew. 

I was nervous about using a striped fabric. I lined up the print so that they matched on both sides. I didn't know if the front was going to Chevron the way I wanted, because one never knows how these things will shift during cutting. 

Because I sized up so much, I had to create new facings for the pattern. The blouse itself is really one pattern with two cuts. It pattern looks hand drawn rather than machine. I loved the way the arm shape looked, and how the curves really matched my hip and French curve. This made for a beautiful pattern, but difficult to grade. I decided to add a facing to the sleeve opening and create a thin bound opening to stabilize the fabric. I have to warn you that the sleeve is very tapered by the time it reached my forearm. It's lovely to have something fitted and still have plenty of room to move, which the Kimono sleeve allows. 

Here is the first muslin, and after I tried this on, I felt like it still didn't have enough ease for me. I'm not used to the tailored fit of the 50's, and I still needed to add another inch to the hem. I think this blouse was meant to pair with a high waisted skirt. 

This is the second muslin I made from a slightly stretchy knit fabric I got for mostly free at FABMO. It's a really old print, and I thought it would be relatively painless to sew with, and I was right. The print is crazy, so you can't see the style lines. This muslin turned out well enough that I can keep it as a blouse. 

Gussets are my achilles heel. This pattern wants you to put a square gusset in after you sew up the arm seams.  I did that with this second muslin, but I think it took me almost as long as sewing the complete blouse to make this gusset work.  Sorry...I don't think you can see it very clearly here. I decided that for my final piece, I would use a half gusset, which is a triangle, stitch into each arm and then sew up the sleeve.  This is not a horrible way to do it, but it's not as pretty as a square gusset. I will admit now that my gusset still looked crappy with the final, and I didn't take pictures because I'm disappointed at how the corners puckered a bit.  Sigh.  I've never sewn a flat gusset, gore insert, or anything that required a clean point well.  A part of my subconscious must be adverse to sharp corners.   Happy sewing!

Construction notes:
1. Graded up three sizes, and added more ease 
2. Added a 2 inch facing to the sleeve cuff.
3. Added non-woven fusible interfacing to the bow facing as a stiffener.
4. Gusset is challenging
5. Short-waisted
6. Better with 50" wide fabric (2.5 yards)

Final: 45" wide 100% cotton: Hart's Fabric
Second Muslin: 45" wide vintage polyester knit, FABMO
Thread: polyester (Gutermann)
Interfacing from: Fashion Sewing Supply
Pattern: Eva Dress, $14.00 plus S/H

Friday, October 11, 2013

DIY Patches for Jeans - Tutorial

My husband hates these jeans. But I love them. They are the most comfortable pair that I own, and I could wear them forever. Some of you might suggest that I rub the pattern and make another pair, but it's not the same.  You see, it's the way the denim has worn down like an old pair of flannel pajamas, making them sleepwear worthy.  However, I've been banned from wearing them, especially to bed, because according to my husband, they are an embarrassment even in the dark.

I don't like doing alterations or repairs much on clothes. It's like cleaning the house for me...pure work and short-lived satisfaction. So instead of sewing just any old patch onto my holy jeans, I decided to make my own. Remember that growing box of scraps that I showed you in my last post? I'm trying to use pieces out of there whenever I can. The leftovers from my daughter's quilt project from two Summers ago have really come in handy. I've used it for interfacing, bias tape, and today, I turned one of the pieces into patches.

It's not a quick and dirty job though. The whole process took me a couple of hours, and the hand stitching was the most tedious, but rewarding. I can't believe I said the words tedious and rewarding in the same sentence.  I'm not a quilter so I don't make appliques too often, but they do come in handy once in a while for apparel detail. These patches are functional and decorative, and can be used for more than just holes. Once you get the hang of it, they can be created to embellish as well as repair garments.

If anyone is interested, here is how I made them using supplies I had on hand:

1. Fabric for patches (if your jeans are stretch, you might want to use washable stretch fabric instead). My jeans don't have stretch in it, so I used basic cotton. You can even recycle your jeans into patches for other jeans.
2. Shapeflex from Pellon to add some stiffness to the patch (leftovers from my Weekender Bag).
3. 800 Clear Fuse from Pellon to use as the iron on between the patch and the jeans.
4. Embroidery thread and a nub of good bee's wax. I used a rayon embroidery thread that I had in my stash for a long time. It had a very nice sheen, but not the most sturdy. Try to use sturdier thread.
5. Stitch Witchery hemming tape to iron on edges that lift up or did not adhere to the Clear Fuse.

The rest is pretty self explanatory.

1. Trim the shredded thread around the holes in your jeans.

2. Iron on the Shapeflex according to instructions to your chosen patch fabric. Make sure you have a piece big enough to cover your patch. I covered my complete right knee area because the hole was very big, and I wanted to stabilize the fabric in that area.

3. Place the 800 Clear Fuse behind your patch, but do not iron yet. Make sure that the "sticky" side of the Clear Fuse is against the Shapeflex or the BACK of your patch.  You are creating the adhesive for your patch, which should be the same shape as the patch, see next step.
3. Cut out the shape you want to use as a patch. You can get creative here and cut around the designs on your fabric like I did, or you can make your own. Remember that the 800 clear fuse is on the back, and whatever you cut out of the fabric should be matched on the fuse.

4. Iron your Clear Fuse to the Shapeflex or BACK of your patch.  Leave a little corner UN-IRONED, so there is somewhere you can hold onto when you tear away the Clear Fuse backing to expose the other sticky side.

5. Now tear away the backing of the Clear Fuse.

6. Center your patch on your holes, and iron the patch to your jeans. NOTE: you might need to put a piece of fabric against the inside of your jeans, so the sticky Clear Fuse doesn't fuse to the back side of your jeans.  This is just used like a pressing cloth.  It doesn't stay on, but you could  create a second patch for the back side of the pants, and double up on the patches. This certainly would be much more thick and sturdy. I'd recommend double patches for around the knees of children's pants and maybe even the crotch areas where there is a lot of friction. Make sure your second patch is the same size as the exterior/outside patch. So both can get stitched together.

7, Check the patch edges for areas that are lifting up. If you see them, this is because some of the Clear Fuse adhesive did not make it to your patch.  This is where you would cut out strips of Stitch Witchery and iron it in between the patch and the jeans to hold the patch in place.

8.  Now bee's wax and thread the needle and stitch around the patch.  I used a double-side running stitch (also called a Holbein Stitch). If you don't know how to do this very historic hand stitch, you can learn it HERE. It basically looks like a running stitch except there are no spaces, and both the front and the back look like a continuous stitch.

I left the patch edges raw. You certainly can fold it under before ironing the patch, and then stitching the folded edge afterwards. I thought it might add some bulk so I didn't opt to do that. I might run in the problem of shredding later, but I'm hoping the adhesive will help keep the shredding to a minimum. I like the rustic-looking, (my definition for uneven) stitching.

The bottom right patch is what it looked like before I stitched it. 

Another option:
You could always cut the holes much bigger and stitch the patch from behind the hole, and then hand stitch it together. If you decide to use this step, you don't need to use the 800 Clear Fuse application. I decided not to do it that way because I want to reinforce the jean's fabric more. However, I think it would be an interesting look doing the reverse, and I might try it next time. You can see an example of this HERE.

More embellishments:
I was pretty tired after hand stitching all the patches, but you could embellish more by adding seed beads or even sequin to highlight the print. I might do that later...then update a photo. You can see examples of how other people have creatively repaired jeans HERE, HERE, and HERE. There is even a person selling patched jeans on Etsy HERE.

Happy patching!