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Swing Top Revision April 14, 2010

Filed under: sewing — stephres @ 4:17 am
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I love the Emma swing top, but I have always thought I would love it a bit more without the open back. So I fiddled around this weekend when I had some time and this is what I came up with:

It was not that hard so you can do it too, I promise!

Material needed: Emma Swing Top Pattern (available from and fabric amounts instructed in pattern, 3/4 inch elastic

The first step is to cut out the pattern pieces. Cut out the front and lining, band, ruffles, straps and front contrast and front contrast lining as normal. For the back, measure your munchkin from armpit to armpit to get a back measurement (or measure all around and then divide by 2). Now take your back measurement and multiply by 1 1/2. Take your back piece and extend it. Megan’s back is 12 inches so I multiplied by 1 1/2 and got 18. So I extended the back piece so the top would be 9 inches (remember you are cutting on a fold).


Now cut out a back contrast piece and back contrast lining piece that same length as your back piece. The width should be the same as your front contrast pieces. I cut out the back contrast piece 1 3/4 x 9 inches and the back contrast lining piece 2 x 9 inches.

Now put the top together by the directions. You will have to fiddle around to decide where the straps go in the back, I put them in 4 1/2 inches from the sides because that looked about right. You want them more in the middle than on the side. When you attach the contrast piece to the top, make a gap in the sewing at each side. Decide how long you want the back elastic. I made mine 8 inches. Insert the elastic with a safety-pin and attach at each seam. Sew your gaps closed in the contrast and you are done!

Hope this helped! This is a cute little summer top that is very versatile so I hope I made it little more modest.


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!


Tunic Dress July 3, 2009

Filed under: sewing — stephres @ 9:55 am
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This project started when I was watching What Not to Wear, a must-see show. I watch a lot of these how-to programs but can never seem to put into practice what I see. I used to be on quite a decorating show kick, even though I still have no clue in that department. Anyway, one of the hosts was lamenting the fact that the contributor’s wardrobe had no “day dresses.” Day dresses are apparently imperative to the modern women’s wardrobe. I thought of my wardrobe, which consists almost exclusively of t-shirts and capris, so much so that even Jacob mentioned that it was very boring. It is a little embarrassingwhen a nine year old is giving you fashion advice. So I decided to make a day dress. It would be great for subbing, comfortable and easy, I thought. I started (where else?) with a pattern from Carla Crim: the Patricia Tunic. You can find Carla’s patterns at and, at the risk of sounding redundant, they are the best. I had already spied a tunic dress another sewer had made and submitted to the I Made This portion of the website, so I had a good idea of what I wanted it to look like.

I had already made two tunics from this pattern and was pleased at how they came out. I even altered it a little already, adding elastic in the sleeve hem. This is Jennifer Paganelli’s gorgeous fabric!

So I started with this basic pattern. It has three pattern pieces, the center front, two side pieces and one back. Luckily, Carla indicates the finished length right on the piece so I measured myself to determine how much more length I needed. I ultimately added six inches to each piece. I cut off the pattern piece at the next to last cutting line, measured six inches and then taped it back. I also decided I wanted more of an a-line so I taped a piece of paper to the pattern and ran the ruler from the widest part of the pattern down to two inches from the end of the cutting line on the side. This gave me more of a flared out shape to the back and side pieces. This is what the pieces looked like when I finished:

Everything looked good so far, but I was a little gun shy about cutting into my expensive Heidi Grace fabric (even though I got it at 40% off thanks to the coupon). So I tried it in muslin first and discovered that I did not measure correctly and the back was an inch shorter than the front! Good thing I practiced first!

After I corrected my mistakes I tried again and it came out perfect! It is a little tight getting it on and off but it fits so well I wouldn’t want to go up a size. I added a band along the bottom for a little more length. Here I am meeting the author of the pattern, Carla herself and her son Louie!