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Back to School August 18, 2009

Filed under: sewing — stephres @ 9:02 pm
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Back to school outfits are tricky for us because we live in Florida and it is still extremely hot in August (but frigid in the classroom’s a/c) and they have P.E. every day, which limits the fanciness of the outfits. We have always managed to have fun though, and part of the fun is letting Megan pick the fabric. It is never what I would have chosen, which is great. She gets total freedom and usually picks what pattern she would like, too.

For kindergarten, she went with froggy fabric and we made a skort. I loved this skort pattern and made it quite a few times. It was challenging having to lengthen it to ensure it was appropriate for school, but very easy to put together.

I cut a frog out and stitched it to her t-shirt and covered the seams with ric rac. I wrote her name on it with a fabric pen the last minute. Megan had the same teacher as Jacob, so this was mostly for her new friends.

The next year, Jacob allowed me to make something for him. I was thrilled! He picked camo fabric for easy fit shorts. Oh well, at least it was something. I found a shirt from wal mart that matched. He wore it exactly one time, the first day of school:

Megan had big plans. I made her a twirl skort out of crayon fabric and appliqued a t-shirt. I can’t believe how much fabric it took, but she loved it!

I was ruffling forever! I am old school when I ruffle, I never could figure out the ruffle foot and never really liked the dental floss or sewing over elastic method. I am very OCD about my ruffles so I do them by hand to make sure they are perfectly even around the bottom. Thanks to Tom, it is is easier with upholstery thread in the bobbin, but it still takes forever for one twirl skirt and two twirl pant legs! It is so worth it to see the twirl though. I was pretty sad to see that it is way too short to wear this year, so off to Tessa it went. It is so nice to have a friend the same shape as Megan (tall and thin) exactly one year younger. Otherwise, I would sit and cry over the outfits that are too small!

The headband was super easy but I don’t make them much any more. They just do not stay on an active girl’s head. If she would just stand there and not move (or jump or play), it would be fine!

I also had run all over town looking for a cream colored shirt, which I thought would have matched better. Fortunately, someone on the disboutique thread convinced me black would look like a chalkboard so it would be fine, which it was. I was also distressed to find I ran out of all matching thread when I went to applique the letters on the shirt. A normal person would probably wait until the next day and go to the store, but after all that ruffling I was itching to be done. I used denim thread to applique around the letters. It really made it too thick and I probably should have waited, but I was happy to be finished!

Here they are together:

This year Jacob declined a custom made outfit so it was up to Megan. I had purchased a cute German pattern, the Katrin, and really wanted to make the wrap jumper. Unfortunately, the fabric Megan picked out is rather loud. It is bright yellow, with red apples and bees all over it. I tried to steer her over to the trendy owls in fall colors but she was not having it. I decided maybe a top would be better (and I wouldn’t have to worry about trying to lengthen it). So what size? I looked at her chest, bust and hips measurements, and they were all different sizes! I just closed my eyes and picked a size (not really, I just picked the one in the middle of the measurements) and went for it. The pattern came together quickly and easily. The hardest part making my own binding. That took forever and was not at all fun, but I really like the look so it was totally worth it.

I am trying to decide if it needs anything else. I think I have learned my lesson from headbands that end up lost or stuffed on the bottom of her backpack, but the urge is still there to accessorize. Also shoes! Black ballet flats would be perfect but won’t stay on her long narrow feet. I think we are going to head to the Skechers store today to see what we can find. They have to be cute, able for her to play in, and stay on her feet. And on sale wouldn’t be hurt either. Wish us luck!

Man, it *just* fits her; no growing allowed! It was easy and fun to make, so I am sure I will be doing this pattern again. I would love to do it in knits, if I could find some cute fabric. It also has adult sizes so I could make one for me. Not in bees and apples though! 

This school year scares me a little bit. Will I be able to keep up with my duties of PTA President and my hobbies and blog? I hope so!


Vida Sew Along Part Four July 25, 2009

Filed under: sewing — stephres @ 3:38 am
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Ready to finish this up? I am, for sure. I don’t like to tackle huge projects like this without breaking it up in chunks so I don’t get discouraged.

10. Pin the bodice lining pieces right sides together to the dress bodice making sure that the corners all line up. At this point the straps are lying in between the bodice and the bodice lining hanging down.

Got it?

11. Sew around the top edge. Trim the seam allowance and grade the seam allowance at the V in the center.

“Grade the seam allowance” might sound weird, but all it means is to make little cuts in the back bodice piece in the V. I drew some on so you could see; just make some snips right up (but not over) the seam.

Next, trim your corners where you have a 90 degree turn, just the corners on the straps and where the buttonholes go.

Last trim around any curved part of the bodice with pinking shears. Or you can clip your curves. You want to clip and trim close to the seam, but don’t go over!

12. Turn the bodice, press and topstitch the top edge.

Use a bodkin (or something) to poke the corners out. Do not skip pressing! I know you were thinking about it!

13. Under the arms sew a row of stitching approximately 1 cm or 3/8 in. from the underarm seam. This should extend slightly beyond the side pieces.

Ok, this is what I do. Use a fabric marking pen (this is a pen with ink that will disappear when washed) mark 1/2 inch from the top along the side pieces. I make little dots but you can connect them to a line.  Start at one side:

And make little dots to the other side:

Now just stitch over your dots. Start at one side and backstitch and then follow the dots (or line if you connected them) to the other side and backstitch to lock.

14. Thread a piece of elastic through the resulting casing. Stitch one end of the casing, securing one end of the elastic. Try the dress on and cinch the elastic to the desired fit, pin the elastic. Stitch the elastic in place and trim any excess. Stitch the button holds and attach the buttons.

My side pieces measured at 6 inches across so I cut my 1/4 inch elastic at 4 inches. Do have your model try it on if she is available. The shorter you make the elastic the more difficult it is to thread and attach it though.

Here is my elastic with a safety pin:

Now remember which way you pressed your side seams. If you were paying attention they are pressed toward the back so you are going to want to thread the elastic from the front and ending in the back so it will be easier to navigate that side seam that is right in the middle of the casing. Work the safety pin in between the bodice and lining to the casing and push it through. When the end of the elastic just peeks out from the beginning opening of the casing, sew the casing closed. I follow the topstitch line for the side piece to make it easier. Don’t forget to backstitch: you don’t want your stitches coming out! Continue to thread the elastic through and when you get to the other end pull a little bit of elastic out and sew the other end closed.

I don’t like my lining flopping around, so I tack it down at the side seams. I just take a needle and thread and attach the lining to the seam with a few stitches. It won’t show from the front and will keep the lining inside, where it belongs.

You will be better prepared than me and have buttons all picked out. Yellow flowers was all that I could find that remotely matched so that’s what we’re going with today. Mark your buttonholes (or button holds, according to farbenmix) with a fabric pen. It should look like a capital I.

Sew your button holes, and sew your buttons on the straps and you are DONE! Great job!

I would love to see your vidas, so please let me know if you found this tutorial helpful.


Vida Sew Along Part Three

Filed under: sewing — stephres @ 2:05 am
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Ok, when we left you, the vida looked like this:


Notice anything different? I decided to add a line of ric rac over the seam between the middle and the lower pieces. 

4. Stitch the side pieces and place them right sides together on the front and back middle dress pieces and stitch. Press the seam allowance towards the side pieces and topstitch.

You should have four side pieces, either of two different fabrics (for front and back) or one fabric for all four. Well, I guess you could have four different fabrics, but whatever. Take the side that you want for the front and line it up like so:


If you have any ruffle action going on, you might want to pin the bottom of the ruffle inward so it’s out of the way of the stitching.


Flip the side piece over and pin.


Sew, serge or zig zag, press toward the side and topstich. Repeat for the other side and attach the side pieces to the back the same way. Here it is with the side pieces stitched, seams serged and topstitched:


5. Lay the front and back dress pieces right sides together, pin and sew the side seams. Hem.

I learned from Carla it is much easier to press the hem on a straight edge instead of a tube, so I press the hem now and then I unfold the seams and stitch the sides together.


So then stitch and serge (or zig zag) the side seams and press them toward the back of the dress. Then refold the hem and sew it.

6. On the bodice lining pieces, iron on two small pieces of fusible interfacing where the buttonholes will be made. Do the same in the middle of the back bodice lining to strengthen at that point.

So for the front lining piece I cut two rectanglish squares of interfacing and iron on the back of the  front lining piece where buttonholes will go.


For the back lining piece I take the pattern piece and cut out the interfacing and then trim a little all the way around.


7. Fold the strap pieces in half lengthwise and stitch each of the long edges and one each of the short ends. Turn the shoulder strap pieces and press. Topstitch along the edges of the shoulder straps.

Confession time. I do not follow these instructions at all. I did the first time I made the vida and I didn’t like the straps at all. So now I do it this way:

I cut out 4 straps. I iron on interfacing on one set of straps. Sew two straps together (one with interfacing, one without), right sides together on three ends, leaving one short end open. Repeat for the other strap. Turn them right side out and press and topstitch. These are my straps:


8. Take the unfinished shoulder strap ends and pin them onto the right side of the back bodice and stitch into place on the seam allowance.

Nothing much to add here, except make sure the prettiest side of the straps is facing the bodice when you attach it.

9. Take the bodice lining pieces and sew them right sides together along their side seams. Hem the bottom edge.

Again, I press the hem before sewing the pieces together. I serge the bottom of each lining piece, press it up and then unfold and sew the lining pieces together. Then I refold and press and sew the hem.


Ok, let’s take a break! We’re almost done: next we’re going to put it all together!


Vida Sew Along Part Two July 24, 2009

Filed under: sewing — stephres @ 10:29 am
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OK, are you ready to sew yet?  Let’s start by reading the helpful directions:

1. Finish all edges of the cut out pieces with zig zag or four-thread overcast stitch.

What? That is completely unnecessary. Skip that.

2. With right sides together, place the upper front and back pieces onto the middle dress pieces and stitch. Press the seam allowance upwards and topstitch.

Easy enough. This is where you will be glad you marked your pattern pieces. Find (1) and (3) and right sides together, pin the bottom of (1) to the top of (3):

Stitch the two together, zig zag or serge and then press upward. A little hint about pressing. Start on the wrong side and press the seam upward and then flip it over and press it again. It makes it lay nicely. Then topstitch if you want. Because we are adding a Euro ruffle over the seam it’s not necessary but if you are a stickler for rules by all means do it.

Repeat for the back pieces.

Let’s talk about Euro ruffles. I am not a big fan of the rolled hem look. I think it is cute as a lettuce hem on knits but don’t really care for the look on regular cotton. It just looks messy to me, I think because my mom taught me to sew and you just didn’t do that. Fortunately, Heather taught me a way to do Euro ruffles that is slightly more tolerable.

Take your strips, fold them on the long side, right sides together and stitch. Turn them right side out and press so that the seam is fairly middle down the back. You do not need to do anything to the ends. Run two stitches of gathering stitches on either side, but leave the middle free. For gathering, I use an upholstery thread (thanks Tom!) in a weird color so I can see it easily to take it out later. A gathering stitch (also called a basting stitch) is just the longest stitch on your machine. This is what your strips should look like:

Line up the ends with the end of the jumper so that the ruffle will lay across the seam. Gently pull at the gathering stitches with a seam ripper and pin to the bodice. Stitch right down the middle of the ruffle. I hold the ruffle down with two fingers, trying not to stitch the upholstery thread (or my fingers!):

Take out the gathering stitches and you’ve got a Euro ruffle! I guess it’s not too bad, but it’s still not my favorite.

Repeat for the back.

3. Stitch the lower front and back pieces onto the middle dress pieces in the same way. Press the seam allowance upwards and topstitch.

This time I am going to add the ruffle before I stitch. Take your strip and fold it lengthwise, right sides together. Stitch along the ends and turn right side out and press.

Run two sets of gathering stitches on the raw edge side of the strip. I usually start this 5/8 inch from the edge, so I don’t run over my gathering stitches when I sew the ruffle on. Pin the ruffle to the top of the lower piece (4), gently pulling at the gathering stitches. Sew the ruffle on the lower piece (4), making sure to sew closer than your seam allowance so the stitches don’t show. Because my seam allowance was 1/4 inch, I sewed the ruffle on at 1/8 inch. Take out the gathering stitches.

Pin the top of the lower piece (4) to the bottom of the middle piece (3), right sides together, sandwiching the ruffle in between. This is what the two pieces look like without the ruffle.

Just flip it over and pin. Here is what they look like pinned with the ruffle in between.

So sew the pieces together, zig zag or serge the edges, press upward and topstitch. Repeat for the back pieces.

Now we are at the end of Part Two and we only completed steps 3 out of 14, but don’t be disappointed. Look at what we have done so far!

Look how cute it is already! And now that we are done with ruffles, it will go a lot quicker, I promise.


Vida Sew Along Part One

Filed under: sewing — stephres @ 3:06 am
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I decided to do a Vida sew along this week. Hopefully I will get it done before we leave town tomorrow to pick the kids up. What’s the sewing equivalent of your eyes being larger than your stomach? Cause I have that, bad. I want to finish this sew along, make a dress for my mother and make some pj pants for Jacob. By tomorrow, of course. What? Quit chattering about it and get started? Ok!

The first step is to decide what fabrics you want and how many different ones. Look at some vidas to get some ideas. I’ll wait:

As Megan has so helpfully modeled here, you need fabric for the top front piece, top back piece, the top and back middle pieces, four side pieces, two bottom pieces, straps, lining and any ruffles you want to add.

Ok, now that you’ve collected your fabric, spread out the directions and start tracing. I traced everything onto tissue paper and then add a seam allowance. Tom has a really great technique of putting two pencils together with a rubber band and tracing the pattern. I trace the pattern, then take my ruler and draw dots 1/4 inch out and then connect the dots. Do NOT add extra seam allowance at the fold markings. Whatever way you choose to add the seam allowance, remember how much you added and sew that amount! The only pieces I don’t add seam allowances to are the straps. They are wide enough without adding anything. Do yourself a favor, and copy all markings: grainlines, fold markings, numbers and descriptions. That will save yourself from wondering, what size did I make last time? Oh, a 7/8! Here are all my pattern pieces all cut out:

Now that I am all spread out on the floor, I always find my helper comes running. This is not my relunctant helper who grumbles while running errands, but my ball fetching helper, who will put his squeaky ball right on my delicate tissue paper pattern pieces until I throw it for him:

Shoo away any helpers and let’s get started cutting. Start with your cutting list. You need (1) front upper bodice cut one time on a fold. Next is (2) back upper bodice, also cut one time on a fold. I used the same fabric for both these pieces so it’s pretty easy:

Next is (3) front and back middle section, cut two of these on a fold. Some people like to do big appliques on this section. I like to cheat and use a pillowcase!

Next is (4) front and back lower section, cut two of these on a fold.

Now the sides (5). Let’s talk about the grainline first. On this piece the grainline is running diagonal across the pattern piece. What does this mean? How do you place it?

When you place a pattern piece straight up and down you are following the grainline. When you run a piece diagonal you are following the bias. The bias has more give and stretches a little, while the grainline does not. That is why more patterns follow the grainline; you don’t want your garment to stretch in a weird way and hang funny. Conversely, that is how we get bias tape. We want a little stretchiness in bias tape so we can curve it around sleeve holes and other curves. Bias tape and other bindings is cut on the bias, diagonally across the fabric. You are going to pin piece (5) so that the grainline marking is straight up and down with the fabric, like this:

Now I am doing the same fabric for the front and back so I left the fabric folded. If you are doing different fabric for the front and back side pieces you will want to unfold, cut one piece and then turn upside down (so your markings are facing the fabric) and pin and cut out. Then repeat for the second fabric. I am using the same dots so here is my second set of (5) pieces:

Last are the straps (6) and front and back lining pieces (7) and (8). Cut out 2 straps and one lining piece each on the fold.

Hey you are almost done! You just need to cut out any ruffles if you want them. Most people put ruffles on the top and bottom of the middle piece, so measure the width of the top and bottom and double for the ruffle. I am going to do one regular ruffle on the bottom so I cut strips to equal 24 x 5 inches and one “Euro” ruffle on the top so I cut a strip 22 x 3.5 inches. I double over my ruffles so I take my desired finished ruffle length (2 for the regular ruffle and 1.5 for the  Euro ruffle), double it and add 1/2 inch seam allowance. It’s totally a personal preference though. Instead of ruffles, you can also add ric rac or other trim.

Time to take a break! Stay tuned for Part Two!


Monkeying Around July 15, 2009

Filed under: sewing — stephres @ 1:12 am
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If there is one thing Megan loves more than her little toys, it is places to put her little toys. She probably has over a dozen little purses and bags and uses them all. She has a purse for her costume jewelery, her little pets, her coins, etc. Most of her bags are mommy-made and I think she prefers them that way. It is a quick and easy project.

I start with some clip art. Today I am making a monkey purse so I found a cute round monkey head:

The monkey needs a seam allowance, so I marked at 1/4 inch out and then connected the dots.

Here is the monkey head all ready to be cut out:

Cut out two pieces of fabric for the front and back. I traced the monkey’s face and ears onto cream corduroy but you could use a light box of hold it up to a window to trace:

I used a black fabric marker to draw on his face. Of course you could sew but I wanted to keep this quick and easy!

Sew on his face and ears with a satin stitch. Before I cut them out, I ironed on Heat n Bond Lite so I could iron them in place before I sewed.

I went and got an old purse and measured how long the strap was (18 inches) and then cut out one strip 18 by 3 inches. I ironed the raw edges inward a tiny bit and then folded in half and sewed up both long ends. Very easy!

Baste the strap to his ears. I think in hindsight, the strap should have been closer to the top!

I pinned the monkey together and sewed around, measuring exactly where I stopped and started at his head so I can sew the lining the same way.

Here is where I opine the virtues of pinking shears. I LOVE my pinking shears. In normal patterns, this is where the instructions would tell you to clip all the rounded parts (which is the entire thing, since his head is completely round). I find it much easier to trim close to the stitching with my pinking shears. And look how cute it is!

Yes, I realize no one will see it once it’s all together. But I know it’s cute!

Ok, now do the same steps with the lining. Add a closure before sewing, but it is not necessary for a child’s purse. Leave a 2-3 inch gap in the bottom so you can turn it inside out. With your monkey right-side out and your lining inside out, pin the right sides of the opening together.

Sew the top of the purse, pull the purse through the hole in the bottom of the lining and push out the edges with your fingers. Sew the hole closed with a zig zag stitch or slip stitch by hand and push it in the purse. You can topstitch if you would like. Isn’t it cute?

I made the monkey purse for a friend, so I made a Hello Kitty purse for Megan. Here is the template I used, but if you google “Hello Kitty Coloring Page” you can find a bunch:

And here is the finished purse. I cut the eyes, nose and whiskers out of felt and hand sewed them on. The eyes and nose were attached before I sewed everything together and the whiskers after the purse was completed. I added the bow in the lining fabric afterward and sewed it on.

She likes it!


Organizing! July 9, 2009

Filed under: sewing — stephres @ 9:00 am
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I hate to organize! It seems like a job that is never done. As soon as I’m done with one kid’s room, there is the other kid’s, and the linen closet and WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON IN MY CLOSET? I cannot even walk into my walk-in closet. It looks like one of those hoarder’s houses on the makeover show where the homeowner just blinks and states she doesn’t know how it got so bad, it’s just thirty years of clutter. But you have three artificial Christmas trees because you can’t find yours so you buy another. And another. That is what my closet looks like; there could be three Christmas trees in there and I would never know. Don’t believe me?

So I am ready to organize this fabric that seems to be engulfing my closet. Let’s be serious though, there is a serious amount of non-fabric clutter in there. So 6 garbage bags later I *think* there is enough room for the fabric and my clothes to peacefully coexist. I start my organizing with a trip to the comic book store. I buy 100 comic book boards for $10 and two comic books for my reluctant helper and we are off.

I fold the fabric longways and the wrap around the board.

I made a little triangle with the end of the fabric.

And tape closed.

Repeat 100 times and find that another trip to the comic book store is required. So I got smart and bought 200 comic book boards (and one comic book for the reluctant helper) and I finish the rest of the fabric.

What to do with the scraps? I treat them like my paper scraps and sort by color and file in a gallon ziploc bag.

So here are the final pictures. I really would have preferred a tv team come in and done all this but I am glad I took the three days it took to get all neat and tidy. This is the corner where my fabric was tenuously piled in a mound spilling all over my shoes:

And this is my fabric on shelves, all pretty!

In this bin is the flannel and knit fabric. It is just the right size for those boards, so if you are working with bins the boards work great!

And this is the bottom of the shelves, featuring clothes I bought Megan on sale that are too big (hopefully now I will remember to give them to her when they fit) and my store bought patterns. My patterns are closer to my sewing machine because they are the ones I actually use! Oh, and there is a little pony which was a duplicate gift two birthdays ago that was lost in the clutter. Does anyone want a little pony?

Hope you enjoyed this little tour of my closet. I can tell you Tom did NOT appreciate seeing all the fabric laid out like that, so this is a project you might want to tackle when your husband (or in Tom’s case, wife) is out of town.  My reluctant helper said that it looks good but “too bad you won’t keep it looking that way.” Phooy, no faith!

Now I am waiting for the clean house team to come in and take care of my scrapbooking desk: