To be a bit cliché, this shoemaker is a professional Web Developer and her child is this blog, but it was past time to launch what I have of a new design. All the content is still here, everything else is a work in progress (kind of like most of my sewing projects)!
With my sister’s graduation coming up, I realized that I need something dressy–yet–casual, and nothing in my closet fit the bill. So, since I loathe clothes shopping and love fabric shopping, I decided to make Simplicity 2245, view A—a Lisette dress.
There must be something in the water at Carl’s company, because many of his coworkers have become or are becoming parents recently. I made one of these elephants in the craziness of the week before Christmas, but forgot to take photos.
Welcome back to another Vacation Christmas reveal. I was far busier over the past two months than you might have guessed based on the frequency of my posts here. Now that we’re traveling to Missouri and delivering gifts, I can show you what I’ve been working on. These were the second of three types of gifts I made for the 10 nieces and nephews Carl and I have between our two families.
Boys are hard to sew for. I never know what to make. It seems like 90% of the projects out there that are age appropriate (6–10y.o.) are also very girly. But, when I came across Chez Beeper Bebe’s Nature Explorer Bag, I knew I’d found my project. In the right colors and fabrics, it’s perfectly boyish, but still useful. It’s also relatively quick and painless, which was awesome, because at Thanksgiving, Carl’s sister announced that she’s engaged and he has two boys of his own, so that upped the number of these bags to five!
Welcome back to another Vacation Christmas reveal. I was far busier over the past two months than you might have guessed based on the frequency of my posts here. Now that we’re traveling to Missouri and delivering gifts, I can show you what I’ve been working on. These were one of three types of gifts I made for the 10 nieces and nephews Carl and I have between our two families.
Over the summer, I saw the Summer Reading Bag posted on Sew Mama Sew and knew it would be a great gift. It was quick to make, simple to put together and overall seems to be a great hit. I made these bags for the five oldest nieces, who range from 4–13.
As a gift giver for Carl, I’m kind of lame: I usually get him things he needs but doesn’t want to spend his own money on (like jeans, sandals, etc…). For his birthday this year, I decided to supplement that with yet another item he maybe needs: a bag for his cycling stuff so that he doesn’t have to use our reusable grocery bags. This way he has a dedicated bag that won’t get co-opted for other uses.
Bijou Lovely has a great tutorial for a market tote that I based his bag on. Her instructions are clear, she has plenty of photos to illustrate what she’s talking about, and the result is a very roomy, practical, quick tote. For most purposes, it needs no changes.
That said, it is a little feminine and has no pockets, which were two cons for my purposes. But both were easily modified.
My sewing machine has been limping along, so my projects are all on hold while it gets serviced. I did manage to whip up one last thing before the machine went to the shop: a few gift bags for Christmas using allpeoplequilt.com’s Small Treat Totes pattern. With a finished size of 4″x4″x2″, they’re about perfect (if not almost too large) to house the jewelry I’m giving to my four older nieces, and the little finger puppets for the youngest.
I didn’t stick to the pattern 100%. The main change I made is the fabric layout. The original pattern calls for two fat quarters: a light pattern and a dark pattern. The result is four bags, two with the light pattern featured on the outside top and two with the dark featured.
None of the Christmas-themed fabric I picked up (50% sale at Joann) had small enough patterns to pair with each other, so I chose to use my holiday fabric on the upper outside and interior of the bags, and using a green dot fabric from my stash for the contrast on the bottom of the bags. I paid a very small amount of attention to fussy-cutting some of the exterior panels, but for the most part just cut the required rectangles from strips.
As usual, allpeoplequilt.com provided easy-to-follow directions for the project. They have you construct two panels: the lining, ribbon handle, and outer panel (of the focus piece and contrast). Then, you sew the two panels together, turning it inside out and pressing for the finished bag.
This is one of the panels. In the original pattern, the large piece on the left would be the same fabric as the smallest piece on the right.
In order to have a flat bottom, you fold the corners so that the two corner seams are touching, then press and sew a straight line across, creating a triangle of excess fabric (which you trim off).
View of the corners after pressing and stitching, but before trimming.
One thing that is not clear in the instructions is that you need to do this corner treatment to all four corners. I realized this during construction of the first bag, but decided to not flatten the lining corners for sake of time. It results in a baggy lining with excess fabric on the interior instead of a flat one. It doesn’t affect how the bags look, however.
A finished bag.
This is a great quick project that is adaptable for just about any gift or treat-giving occasion.
This is a project where fabric size is important: you will need fat quarters to cut out all the pieces without wasting a ton of fabric. A normal quarter yard cut is not tall enough to fit two of the panels on top of each other. I was working with half-yard pieces that I’d picked up for various other project ideas.
This can also be a great project for scraps—who says you need to cut all the panels out of the same fabric? The pieces needed are: 2 5.5″ x 6.5″; 2 3.5″ x 6.5″; 2 2.5″ x 6.5″. If you can scrounge up those pieces, anything goes, right?
The handles could also be created from the fabrics you use. I grabbed a spool of 75%-off Christmas ribbon. The pattern recommends heavy grossgrain ribbon (which is what I bought), but depending on what you plan on putting in the bags, I don’t see why lighter ribbon wouldn’t work.
An unawesome photo of five treat totes for five awesome nieces.
The project that started this new quilting hobby of mine was the idea to make a quilt for my oldest friend’s baby-on-the-way. Because she reads this blog occasionally, I couldn’t talk much about it while I was working on it, but now that it’s done, I get to share!
I started the fabric shopping plan with a certain quilt plan in mind—a simple sashed nine-patch layout—but then came across a bit of fabric that I fell in love with. The design didn’t suit the small squares of the nine-patch, though. So, I decided to use the basic pattern of the 1930s–Inspired Wall Hanging featured on allpeoplequilt.com. I went through a lot of their baby quilt designs and liked many, but when I saw this design, I not only liked it a lot, but realized it is about the same size as a crib quilt. I thought I could use my inspiration fabric as the outer border, and maybe as a square instead of the rail fence blocks. So, the choice was made. While I dig the ’30s reproduction fabrics, I wanted to go a little more modern with the quilt. The end result looks quite a bit different, don’t you think?
The entire quilt was based off the fabric that I used as a medallion on the back. (I intended to use it for the outer border, but couldn’t fussy cut it in a way that I liked without cutting off too many animal heads). I took my color cues from it, resulting in a palette of creams, red, blue, green and yellow. Ultimately, I decided to stick to four patterns for the offset square blocks mostly for simplicity’s sake. I picked up a fat quarter for each, which was more than sufficient.
One part of the original design that I really liked is the way the center blocks are highlighted by the surrounding white prints and the center rail fence blocks. I wanted to keep that contrast. Then, I realized that the fat quarters that I chose are basic cotton prints, while the border fabric is a quilter’s flannel. That gave me the idea to play around with texture in the quilt, since babies and toddlers are very in to tactile sensation.
The result of that decision means that the white and off-white fabrics I chose were not just patterned, but different textures. Two are basic fat-quarter white-on-white/white-on-beige prints. Another is a 100% cotton linen-like weave. There are a few silk blocks. A cotton embroidered eyelet fabric was used as well, ultimately layered over the color fabrics so that there was something between the holes and the batting (which also gave a tint to those blocks, since the color bleeds through a bit). I grabbed each of these (except the fat quarters) from the remnant bin. To continue the texture bit, I also decided to use a different green fabric, swapping out the fat quarter I bought for a green/white stripped cotton seersucker.
The inner border is a very fuzzy yellow furry-type fabric that seemed fun. The outer border is a plain brown quilter’s flannel. The back has a medallion of the inspiration fabric, with the same outer border as the front of the quilt, and an applique of the elephant shape from the inspiration fabric cut out of the yellow furry fabric. I hope the baby has fun exploring all the different textures.
The project construction details that are provided by allpeoplequilt.com made cutting and piecing pretty simple. For the rail fence blocks, I tried to make sure the blocks were never made using the same sequence of the white fabrics. I then laid out all the pieces and did a lot of moving around of the pieces for the hourglass blocks and solid white squares so that the textures and patterns were distributed in a way that I liked. The instructions gave a very clear description of the steps needed to construct the four different hourglass blocks needed in the quilt.
I sewed the pieced part one row at a time, then put the rows together. Adding the borders as described in the instructions was simple as well. I did modify the outer border plans so that it has a log cabin motif instead of two longer pieces and two shorter, because my fabric wasn’t wide enough for the two long pieces.
I did a bit of piecing for the back, rather than making it plain. I had a yard of the inspiration fabric, which worked out perfectly for a square to mirror the 34″×34″ pieced square/inner border of the front. I added an outer border of the brown quilter’s flannel, again with a log cabin motif. This border is a couple inches wider than the front’s—to be trimmed after quilting. I machine appliqued an elephant to the bottom right corner of the medallion for a little more interest. In hindsight, adding a little batting so that the applique was raised a bit would have been good, but didn’t think of that until after the fact.
Well, I managed to quilt it. I used a ~1″ diamond pattern all over. I’m somewhat unhappy with how it came out, and yet happy at the same time. From a distance, it looks fine. Up close, you can see how uneven the grid is. I tried marking with chalk, but ultimately I need some sort of guide that attaches to my machine, because the chalk plan didn’t work. Also, about half the quilt shows the darker bobbin thread (I used dark brown on the back, ivory on the front), because my machine decided it wanted to mess with the tension and nothing I did changed it. Then, at the end, it decided to work correctly again. What can I say, it was a labor of love, and its imperfections show that?
I had about 3″ of extra fabric on all sides of the backing, so I just folded it over and hand stitched it down, rather than cutting it off and using a separate binding. I think bias-tape bound quilts are more common, but I like the look of self-bound quilts, especially since my binding was going to be the same material as the edging on both sides anyhow.
So that’s that. My first finished quilt. I learned a lot. I have a lot of improvements to make, mostly dealing with impatience making seams not line up properly. Now it’s time to go back to the wedding quilt and hope I can finish it before my cousin and his wife’s fifth anniversary. Judging by the time it took me to quilt this small crib quilt, their queen one seems very daunting. They’ve been married for two months so far… my goal is actually Christmas, but I’m already doubting myself there.
One of my younger sisters is graduating from high school this weekend, so I’ve been working on packing for our trip. This seems like the perfect opportunity to wear a dress I bought last summer but haven’t worn. However, I need some sort of jacket or shrug for it, since it just has very thin straps and late spring evenings in MO can be fickle. Sounds like the perfect chance to put some black silk georgette in my stash to good use. Taking advantage of a $3.99 Vogue pattern sale, I picked up the stylish V8622 pattern, and decided to make view C.
This silk georgette is just barely transparent against the skin, and is a nice matte black
The pattern recommends for crepe or chiffon—in other words a sheer, flowing fabric. Georgette is a crepe fabric that is just a hair more opaque than chiffon, but has the same type of flowing, draping hand and is a little stronger, so I think it’s a great substitution.
I purchased five yards of 45″ black silk georgette a while ago with plans to make a little black dress. Since it’s been sitting in my stash for a while on account of my not having any suitable lining material (it’s just barely too sheer to self-line), I decided to sacrifice it for this project. The pattern calls for 3 1⁄8 yds. of 45″ fabric for the large size. The body of the pattern doesn’t use much more than 1.5 yds; most of the need is due to the bias cut for the pleated upper and lower parts. I managed to use closer to 2 5⁄8 yds. by slightly modifying the layout and cutting the cuffs separately instead of as part of the cross-folded main layout.
It was an adventure to cut out the pieces—the fabric was sliding all over the place and I don’t own a cutting table or rotary tools (soon, I hope, soon). When it came to the sewing part though, the georgette was surprisingly easy to work with. It wasn’t sliding around at all, although it did require some fussing with the machine tension and careful feeding so that it didn’t pucker along the seams.
The pattern and construction
This pattern is rated Average by the Vogue people, which is only one step down from their hardest patterns. I’d rate this particular view as Easy. It is by far the easiest of the three styles in the pattern, though. For the most part, the instructions and process for creating the pattern were very clear. The instructions even step you through creating the french seams needed with the sheer fabrics they recommend using. The pattern pieces clearly mark the pleats needed, and the instructions not only have you baste the pleat lines for easy pleating, but also clearly step you through the easing needed for the pleated section attachment.
How to make a french seam. A french seam is a traditional straight seam with the raw edges enclosed. They’re pretty straightforward: (working with a 5⁄8″ seam allowance)
Sew a 1⁄4″ seam with the wrong sides together. (This step creates a seam with the edges on the outside of the garment.)
If the fabric edges are ragged or raveling, trim them so that they are as straight as possible. It is very important that your allowance is no greater than 1⁄4″ at any point along the seam.
Press the seam allowance to one side.
Fold the fabric along the seam, with the allowance inside (right sides of the fabric together now). Press to a firm crease along the seam.
Sew the seam with a 3⁄8″ allowance. This will encase the first seam, giving a nice, smooth, finished edge on the wrong side of the garment.
Press the final seam to one side
The one major problem area in the instructions are the cuff attachment steps. The instructions tell you to create another french seam, but are ambiguous as to the proper side on which to sew the seam. I’m not 100% sure how they intended the seam to go, so I used my best judgment: sew the cuff seam on the opposite side of the garment than the other seams. This hides the seam inside of the cuff, which is blindstitched to the sleeve. Doing it in this manner helps the cuff hang correctly, and ensures you don’t have a pesky seam trying to fold down to the outside of the garment.
Unfortunately, since the instructions were so ambiguous, I started doing the first seam the same way as the others. Because I didn’t feel like ripping the start of the french seam out, the seams where the cuffs meet the sleeves are currently unfinished. I plan on overlocking those seams as soon as my machine is fixed (it refuses to pick up the bobbin thread of the needle is moved to the left, so I can’t do zigzags or overlocking stiches). Because that seam is well hidden by two layers of fabric on the front, an overlocked seam will be sufficient by my estimation. If I were sewing the shrug for someone else though, I would have removed the seam and put in a french seam. But hey, time is money, and I just wanted to finish at that point.
Also, don’t forget to pull out your basting stitches when you’re done. The instructions don’t bother to remind you.
The completed project
I’ll try to post a better photo when I wear it this weekend.
The result: a versatile black shrug/jacket thing in silk, which can be dressy enough to wear over a cocktail dress or casual enough to go with a strappy tank and nice jeans.
Project time & cost
I didn’t care much about cost in this project, since I was making the shrug mainly to keep from having to go clothes shopping (*shudder*), and to clean out some of my stash. But it ended up being a relatively cheap project:
$15.21—~3 yards of 100% silk georgette fabric that cost me $5.07/yd inc. shipping.
$ 3.99 + tax—Vogue pattern on sale.
$ 2.39 + tax—Gütermann silk thread (orig $3.99, but I had a 40% off coupon).
Total: ~$22.00 give or take a few cents for sales tax.
The entire project took me about 3 hours from start to finish, which wasn’t too painful.
Can sewing your own clothing really be cost-effective? is a question I’ve been mulling over lately. The answer is entirely relative. Is making my own stuff cheaper than buying clothes from places like Walmart/Target/Steve and Barry’s/Gordman’s (which is where a lot of my wardrobe is traditionally from)? No, not really. But it is cheaper than buying high-quality clothing. A quick internet search for a similar item turns up things like these:
The first shrug above is from Saks Fifth Avenue and retails for $150 online. It’s made of silk georgette and satin, and looks like it has nice french seams. It’s a decent substitute for the pattern I made, but costs almost 7 times more. The second image retails for about $40 from JC Penney. It’s made of a Rayon/Spandex blend and probably has overlocked seams. It’s on sale for $15 now, so cheaper than my cost, but I doubt the quality is very high. Not to mention, you can’t get silk at that price point. If I ever make this pattern again, I might take a cue from the Saks shrug and add the contrasting satin cuffs. Leaving off the pleated section and finishing that edge with a rolled hem would also be simple.
So is sewing my own clothing worth it? I think so, at least in some cases. I’m very tired of buying items, wearing them once or twice, and then having them fall apart from crappy quality. When I make something, I’m well aware of the quality of my product. In this case, my seams are french-finished, not serged, so I’m not going to end up with raveling seams. A cheaper shrug would surely be overlocked. Additionally, I know that stress points are reinforced. And best of all, I know it fits me without any additional modification, since I made it and fitted it to start with. That’s a lot more than I can say for most of the items I can purchase in stores.
Carl’s sister is expecting a new addition to the family this week, and I wanted to make something personalized for the baby that can still be used as a toy, not just some pretty thing that is never touched. The local fabric store was having a five for $5 sale on Simplicity patterns this weekend, and it was kismet: an adorable Two Pattern Piece Stuffed Animal collection. I think it was the vintage-y calico prints that sold me, but also the simplicity of a two piece pattern, as I’ve never attempted something like this.
This pattern set comes with pieces and instructions to make four animals: elephant, cat, giraffe and piglet. I thought the elephant was especially cute with its little trunk, so that was my decision for this project. I have plans to make at least two more in the near future, including grandiose thoughts of modifying the pattern to make a bunny or dog.
Ease of creation
This was an extremely simple pattern to construct. The directions were very clear, and it’s all pretty simple construction. They even do a pretty good approximation of where curves need to be clipped on the diagrams. The biggest issue beginners might have would be sewing the curves (just go very slowly). If worse comes to worst, someone who is having issues with the curves around the corners of the limbs could just make sharper 90° corners.
Total project time: 3.5hrs.
It took about 45 min to cut out the pattern and pin up the seams. The sewing part was actually very quick, and was done within about 15 min (with the exception of the back stuffing hole). The rest of the time was experimenting with/completing the personalization, stuffing, doing the eyes, and sewing up the back by hand.
One thing I don’t understand
The pattern calls for substitution of “safety eyes” instead of the felt ones if the animal will be used as a toy. I don’t understand why hard little plastic pieces would be preferable to soft, well-attached felt ones. The closest explanation I could come up with is that the felt could easily be ripped off and swallowed, but somehow the hard plastic pieces can’t be (really?).
I decided to make the felt ones, but with a modification for safety: rather than making the eyes out of two contrasting pieces of felt that are glued or hand stitched on as called for in the pattern, I used one white circle of felt and created the pupil with hand-sewn black embroidery satin-stitching straight through the felt into the body of the animal. This change ensures that the felt eyes are very securely attached—the baby would have to somehow remove all of the embroidery to get those pieces off. If the parents choose to keep the toy away from the infant in light of this “lack of safety,” my feelings won’t be hurt, however I don’t see how it’d be an issue.
Maybe I’m projecting here—I still have the very first stuffed animal given to me tucked away in a box somewhere. It is a little pink bear that rattles, which my uncle bought in the hospital gift shop. Its name is “Jiggles,” and it wears a t-shirt that says “baby’s first bear.” But regardless of my reasoning, I thought personalizing it would make it a great keepsake. My decision: embroidering her name and birth date on the ears with the simple embroidery functions on my machine. I could do it by hand, but it’s been many years since I tried to do any lettering, so the machine sounded like a good choice. Since they’d already decided 100% on the name, and the baby is scheduled for surgical birth, I can do this and have it ready for the big day.
In testing (always test these things), I found that the background print on the fabric I chose was a little too busy to allow lettering to show up well, even with a contrasting color. I had some white 100% wool felt remnants leftover from a previous project, and decided to make an insert for the ears with the personalization. This sets off the lettering (the best use I’ve found of it on this machine function so far), and gave a little more interest to the solid patterned toy.
Even though the ears aren’t stuffed according to the design, I choose to leave all stuffing out until after I’d sewn on the ear patches just for sake of easy maneuverability with the machine. The body being stuffed would make it a little more difficult and I had no desire to do it by hand. If you are doing this and don’t have the convenience of knowing the name and date before birth, it is still possible to get everything ready and add the patches afterward, but will likely need to do it by hand. Or, it might make a great meet-the-baby party gift after you know all the details.
Making it More Fun (for the baby)
The second modification I made was adding a rattle. Annoying to the parents? Perhaps, although I’m sure no where near as annoying as the newer electronic toys are. Endless hours of entertainment for a developing infant? Definitely.
Getting creative here, I used the empty shells of two tea lights with a little rice inside. Completely encasing it with clear duct tape provided a great seal that should stay water-tight if the animal is washed. I added the rattler it to the middle of the body wrapped in a little bit of spare batting I had, and put in the rest of the stuffing around it. It can barely be felt through the stuffing. It’s not loud, but does provide some audible interest.
The Finished Product
Now, I just need more baby nieces and nephews to sew cute things for! This wasn’t the only adorable pattern I bought.