Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sew Daring

It's a knit dress! I feel like there should be some shouts of excitement. Perhaps some dancing about. I sewed a knit dress. What's more, it's a Franken-Dress. A combination of two very lovely knit patterns, McCall's 6957 and 7092. GillianCrafts of Crafting a Rainbow dared me to stitch up a knit dress as my sewing dare. Dare done.

I should be excited, but I'm not. I don't like this dress. I didn't enjoy sewing this dress. In fact, toward the end, I was powering through just to finish the dress and get it the heck out of my way. I managed to stop and try it on just short of the hem. The low part of the high/low hem was too low, so after a few photos, I hung the dress and walked away.

Let me go back three weeks, when the dress was just a pile of pieces and I was looking forward to tackling a new adventure. Okay, I was somewhat leery of attacking a knit. I managed to actually rethread my serger in pink thread because I knew the back seam was going to show through to the front because of the lower back hem. There was excitement. I managed to thread it right the first go and it took barely five minutes! A few tweaks and adjustments later and I was ready to go.
The moment of excitement and bliss.  This is going to be
the most awesome dress ever. Ha.

This is where things started to go horribly wrong. The back pieces serged nicely. Happy sewist. The front modesty pieces folded in half and again, serged up like a dream, as did the top bodice pieces. It wasn't until I went to put the pleats into the front that the swearing began. Since the pattern calls for the bodies pieces to be folded in half and THEN the pleats neatly folded and stitched, there are four layers of super thick scuba knit in six spots across the front of the bodice. These layers then layer on top of the modest pieces, which are also folded in half and then layered on top of each other. So in a four inch wide spot, there are no less than eight layers of scuba. Both machines staged a mutiny at this point.
Don't ask.  Just don't. It's terrible.

I responded to the mutiny with suggestions that are not even anatomically probable for a human, much less a machine, and rethreaded the sewing machine with the super heavy duty denim thread and after a few more tries I switched to the denim needle. More swearing. More unflattering and highly unlikely suggestions. I resorted to hand sewing a couple of spots just to get everything to hold together and declared the front empire waistline complete. Rethreaded with the pink thread and the needle for knits, the machine and I tackled the center back seam. Two simple layers of scuba and the machine skipped it's way down the seam. Literally skipped. There were spots here and there with two and three stitches that didn't sew. Yet more swearing. I tried several different needle combinations before I just went back to the jersey needle and restitched the entire seam over the top of the first run. It still skipped, but in different spots.

Every single seam in this dress has been stitched through twice, sworn at the entire length of stitching and in some places, I still had to go back and run it through again. I looked at my work and sighed mightily. Not a single seam lay flat. This is scuba. It is not iron friendly. I tried on a scrap, just in case, with a press cloth and because I'm a glutton, I even hit it with steam in hopes of finding something, anything to get it to flatten out. Short of going through and stitching each seam allowance down, it ain't gonna happen. The whole thing has a sloppy look because of it.

By this point, my animosity toward the fabric was pretty high. I still thought the dress looked pretty on the hanger. Honestly, more than anything I was just relieved that the assembly part was pretty well done. I tried on the dress and hated it. The back portion of the high/low skirt was so long it brushed the backs of my ankles. I drug the hubs out to take pictures and get his comments. He was confused by the back length, confirming my own concerns that it was too long. After looking at the pictures, I was more sure that this dress was horrible. So I did what any self respecting sewist does. I posted it on Instagram and begged Gillian to convince me to not hate it.

It didn't' work. My feelings were so strong that I hung the dress figuring I would come back in a day and hem it just to have it done. A day turned into an entire week. The dress hung off the curtain rod in the dining room. I would walk by it every time I went to the pantry and glare furiously at it. Finally, I was more tired of having it hanging unfinished, so I went back and cut a full 8" off the lowest portion of the high low skirt on the pink dress. The skirt back at a more comfortable length for me, I put a 3/8" hem around the whole thing.
The white is 6" of pattern I cut before I decided
it wasn't near enough off the back. I cut
above the line of washers.

Finished and done.

I took the finished dress outside to take a few pictures in the sunshine...and found some lovely pull lines on the surface of the front of the skirt. The final nails in the coffin for this dress.
Ignore the white bit of fuzz.  Just look at those stupid pull
lines!  I haven't a clue where they came from.

After spending so much time glaring (and swearing) at it, I've decided that I don't completely hate it. However, the pull lines are pretty obvious, so it really isn't a wear out of the house dress. It is a good stay at home and lounge around the house on a Saturday sort of dress, while still being presentable if company happens to drop by. I don't really have any of that, so I guess that's something.
Inside back, the seam that annoys
me the most.

The seams that just refuse to lay flat.

I'm coining a new sewing phrase just for this dress...Wearable Wadder. Frankly, I think that translates into I put far to much sweat and swearing into the dang thing to throw it away in spite of its incredibly obvious problems. Do you have any wearable wadders?

Friday, June 5, 2015


Recently, I've been reading posts about people's sewing spaces. I think it is wonderful to have a space dedicated to sewing. My space is also dedicated...dedicated to feeding my family. Once upon a time I had an rather large sewing space in a spare room. When Thing 1 arrived on the scene, my space was split in half and shared with the hubs. Thing 2 came along, and we knew it wouldn't be long before both Things would need their own space. My space was once again reduced, this time to a bit of room in Thing 1's closet and a few bins for fabric out in our storage container.

There are some real positives to sewing at the dining room table.
1 - I have to be neat. Everything must be picked up and tucked away in time to put hot food onto the table. It forces me to keep tidy, or waste precious sewing time in cleaning up.
2 - My sewing is almost super organized.
3 - I love my sewing tools, but I'm less likely to waste money on tools that take up tons of space. Which leaves me more money for fabric.

The things that I consider essential in my sewing supplies have been reduced to one basket and a small, flat storage case. Let's check out the pieces.

First, the basket. Overall, this is not a very large basket. It is large enough to hold several of the square mason jars, my box of machine bits, some interfacing, bias binding, ribbon and a couple of patterns that are next up in the sewing queue and need to be cut out.

I can also tuck the foot pedals and cords for my sewing machine and serger in along one side. One of the large square jars has the flat portion of the lid removed so I can use it to hold my collection of scissors and marking tools. The small square box at the bottom left is my hand sewing kit, consisting of some needles, a needle threader and a thimble.

Top shot. You can see I have a couple of spools of thread tossed in and the spools of ribbon change based on what I'm working on.  Currently, I'm down to the wide spools of white and black. There are four jars in the basket.  Two of them in the lower center are 8oz, and are stacked one on top of the other.  The bottom one holds coils of horse hair and stay tape, while the top one holds my pins. In the lower left is a large jar that holds 100 Wonder Clips.

The second, open top jar holds my cutting/marking tools. From left to right, they are a Nancy's Notions seam guide, Fiskars 45mm Rotary Cutter, Fiskars spring loaded snips, Gingher Scissors in 8" bent dress maker shears, 5" craft scissor and 8" pinking shears.  On the far right is assorted marking pencils in white, blue and silver. Underneath all of this is my Olfa 24x26 cutting mat.

My jars. The left is 16oz, wide mouth, square. The right is 8oz, wide mouth square. Pins are glass head so I can iron over them. I used to have some plastic headed pins but after an ironing incident, I switched to glass head.

My sewing box, which holds my bobbins, measuring tape, machine needles, assorted small tools and an empty pill bottle which doubles as my sharps container for bent pins and used needles.

A close look at the assorted tools.  Left to right they are a Dritz mechanical marking pencil, Gingher seam ripper (LOVE this!), flat blade rotary marker, 4" ruler, bamboo point turner, 6" ruler.

One of the things that helps keep me tidy when I'm sewing is this bowl.  It's nothing spectacular.  I made it years ago in a pottery class and until recently, it's greatest achievement was the near sentient colony of dust bunnies that was living in it's rather shallow depths.  These days, it is my sewing version of Rachel Ray's garbage bowl. Snips of fabric, bits of elastic, the loads of trimmings from the serger and whatever else gets clipped, snipped, unpicked, etc while I stitch goes into the bowl. At the end of the day, I can just dump the bowl and save myself loads of time picking up all those little bits.

And this is a gratuitous shot of my able assistant who is nearly always in the middle of my sewing business.  She likes to lay right next to the foot pedals of whatever machine I'm using, hoping for a quick rub between seams. She looks a bit grumpy here, but that's because I woke her up and made her sit on the table for this picture.

So that's my space. Do you share your space with the rest of your family? What do you consider your essentials when it comes to your sewing tools?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Playing Dress-Up

Before - Plain, double stacked and glued washers
I suppose everyone who has looked to buy pattern weights has witnessed the absurd costs companies think we should pay for them. The packaging isn't any better than the pricing, when it comes down to it. Seriously, a pack of four weights? Where is the point in that? You'd need how many packages to hold down one large skirt pattern piece? How about a coat back?

If you've shopped for pattern weights, then your next step was probably Pinterest, the mightiest time suck of the internet. Based on my own hours of wasted time, I'd say the washer style pattern weights are probably the most popular. They are certainly the easiest to make. A stop at the hardware store and you've got yourself a stack of weights. What's more, they come in a variety of sizes, which is particularly useful for everything from tiny facing pieces to large coat/skirt pieces. You can leave them plain, paint them with spray paint or nail polish, or wrap them in fabric strips or ribbon.

My preference is ribbon wrapped. I'm not going to share a tutorial, because frankly, there are loads and buckets of them already out. It isn't particularly difficult, all you need is some ribbon, glue, washers and perhaps a good movie on the TV. I like my weights with a little heft so I use a double stack of washers, hot glued together to keep them from shifting about while I'm wrapping. The glue in between isn't required, but I find it easier to work with them stuck together.

After - Pretty!
I took some time today to add a few more to my growing stash. I really like to lay out a full pattern in my living room floor and have found that I kept running short on a couple of the sizes I like to use. We were in our local Atwood's Farm & Ranch store, which runs the washers for $1.99 for a pound. Ten dollars netted me enough washers to make seventeen weights. The seven largest weights accounted for half my cost. After I got them wrapped, I thought they were very nice but lacked something. Honestly, I've felt this way about all my weights, so this wasn't at all surprising. I dug into my ribbon and button stash to come up with a fix.

A bit more hot glue and a little dressing and Voila! Fancy weights. Just because their sole purpose in life is to hold down my patterns while I cut out my fabric doesn't mean they can't be pretty.

The buttons were bought several years ago and intended for a Christmas project. My tree has a snow theme going for it. The colors are some of my favorites, which meant I had a load of ribbon bits in varying teal/aqua color tones. It didn't even occur to me that there might be another underlying theme until Thing 1 came to take a look at my project and proclaimed them Frozen Weights! Ha. Elsa should be so lucky to have pattern weights that look so good!

How about some close up shots at my fancy new lovelies?


Do you use pattern weights? Have you ever considered dressing them up a bit?

Monday, April 6, 2015

That's A Wrap

Despite living in Oklahoma, my internal thermometer iss set to freezing. This means I spent at least 3/4 of the year layered up. It is rare for me to be seen out and about without some sort of cardigan or lightweight jacket. So when Kimberly of Straight Stitch Designs put out a tester call for a cardigan, I jumped at the chance. The timing couldn't have been better for me. Honestly, this is the last thing I sewed before the Cedars and Elms began their annual fornication routine that drags me down with the Allergy Plague. The Bradford Pears joined the party as I was finishing up the cardigan, putting me out of sewing commission right into the first days of Spring Break. The monsters are back to school and thankfully, I'm starting to remember that my lungs belong on the inside of my body. I might just survive until the Dogwoods and Cottonwoods jump into action.

I bought this lovely ivory Pontielle knit from nearly two years ago with the intent of making it into a cardigan. Score one for the home team for actually using the fabric for the purpose it was purchased! The knit is a good weight for the capricious Oklahoma Spring weather, which can range from 40's in the mornings to 80's by the time the sun goes down. It also pairs nicely with t-shirts and jeans as well as skirts and slacks.

Seriously loving the way the front
hangs on this!
This is a quick make, with three seams and a couple of set in sleeves. Kimberly suggests going with unfinished hems, but I opted to fold over my edges and stitch them down with a double needle. I like the way the hem adds body to the front drape with this particular knit. The pattern calls for setting in the sleeves after the side and shoulder seams are completed. While that definitely works, I ended up stitching the shoulder seams first and stitching the sleeves in flat. As a tester, I really should have followed the pattern directions, but I was behind nearly all the other testers and I knew that particular part of the pattern was well tested. I wanted to serge those particular seams and I knew that trying to do it with setting in the seams was a recipe for disaster for me, despite my serger having a free arm feature.

For anyone wanting to follow my lead and stitch the sleeves in flat, you will need to do the slice into the front pattern pieces and stitch the center neck seam first. Mark the center back and match it to the center neck seam. Pin, or use Wonder Clips to line up the centers out across to the edge of the back shoulder seams. Stitch and press, then line up the sleeves and stitch those before tackling the side seams. At this point, you can call it done or you can go the extra mile and hem the sleeves and body. I added some stay tape across the shoulder seams to give that area some extra support. As an avid wearer or cardigans, I knew that seam would get the most strain. Despite two runs with the serger, I still managed to have a pesky hole where the shoulder met the neck on one side. After a few choice words questioning the parentage of the fabric, I dug out a needle and thread and hand stitched the hole closed. You can't even tell it was ever there!

The only addition I made to the pattern was an elastic band across the back. After I tried on the finished cardigan, I thought there was too much loose fabric across my tush and I just didn't like the way it hung. Using one of my favorite cardigans for reference, I encased some elastic in fabric and stitched it across the center back. Kimberly asked if I would write up a tutorial for this and since I took tons of photos of the process I said I was delighted. Look out next week for that tutorial and a chance to win your own copy of this awesome cardigan pattern!

OMG!  The Sun!  It Burns!

Obligatory tush shot

Do you have a favorite transitional garment to carry you through those awkward capricious weather days?

Friday, March 13, 2015

Sew Selfish of Me

Although I've read about them over and over on various other blogs, I admit, I've never made secret pajamas.  Until this week.  After my first run through with the Bellevue from Straight Stitch Designs, I wanted to give one of the other options available with the pattern a try.  Kimberly thoughtfully suggests you can combine the accent pattern piece with the front/back pattern piece for a long tailed T-shirt.  Pair that with some lovely bright pink cotton/Lycra jersey from FabricMart I picked up as part of my Christmas stash build from the hubs and voila.  Secret Pajamas.  This shirt is so incredibly soft and cozy and I can wear it with jeans or, even better, with lounge pants, curled up in my cozy chair on a rainy day. I want to sleep in this shirt and possibly make cozy, comfy sleepy time shorts to go with it.  

Beyond cutting the front and back panels each as a single piece, I went with short sleeves.  Spring is supposed to arrive next week, no matter what my internal thermometer claims.  Thankfully, Kimberly has done it again with an awesome cardigan I'll be blogging about shortly.  I've been curled up in it and Miss Bellevue all day, watching it rain.  Go me!

Not a bad tush shot.

Is the timer working? I don't think it's flashing.
Wait, did I turn on the flash? What the...oh, there it goes.
Have you ever unknowingly sewn secret pajamas?  Did you ever actually sleep in them?  These are the taxing questions of the universe that are bound to keep me up until at least five minutes after 10. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Testing... Testing...

This is my "it should be on
auto focus mode" face to the
hubs behind the camera.
When I saw the call for pattern testers on Straight Stitch Designs blog, I took one look at the shirt she was modeling and thought, "oh, how cute a woven shirt with a knit accent band." I was so wrong. Imagine my surprise when I opened the pattern and it was for a knit shirt with a woven accent band! Considering my knit sewing skills consisted of 2 maxi skirts, done a good year apart, I had a moment (okay, a good half hour) of panic. I very nearly sent Kimberly a lovely, thanks but no thanks note. I am so glad I didn't!

First, I made a commitment when I signed up to test and backing out just wasn't an option for me. Second, for a person who has made a whopping 2 skirts out of knits, I have, frankly, an obscene amount of knit yardage in my stash. And third, I decided that I would focus on expanding and refining my sewing skills this year and that included getting over my fears of knits. All of this culminated in my perfect sewing storm. Fortunately, only a collar was sacrificing to the raging waters of knitware.

The pattern is called Bellevue and is definitely a good knit top for a beginner as well as advanced sewist. Once I started putting the top together, most of my knit sewing anxiety faded away. I was thrilled at how easy the pattern went together. Kimberly's instructions were well thought out and easy to follow. Her diagrams are straightforward as well. As at knit novice, I had no problems stitching up and attaching the raglan sleeves. I eschewed pins, as I was tackling my top with the serger and pins are so easy to get lost when you're serging along. Hitting a pin on your sewing machine is bad enough, on a serger...OUCH! Instead, I reached for my trust, bold red wonder clips. I love these little babies! There is no missing that baby when you come up to the knife.

Fabric selection was remarkably easy. As I mentioned, obscene amount of knits, which might have caused some stumbling, but I've had this lovely piece of embroidered white knit in my stash forever. I didn't buy this fabric, it was given to me. Honestly, I can't remember when, but I would vaguely put it around 20 years ago, by possibly a grandmother out of their stash. Yeah, that old. I would say that it is easily the oldest piece of fabric remaining in my stash. Without this top, it probably would have lingered on until it crumbled into dust. It isn't that I haven't pulled this fabric out and tried to convince myself to use it before, I have! There was a scant 1 3/8 yards, however, which meant that nothing I tried previously would work. I was thrilled to discover that not only would the knit portions of this blouse fit on the slim yardage, but I had enough to eek out 3/4 length sleeves.

Rotary cutter is your friend with knits!  Just line up the ruler
along the straight edges and go to town.  The curves take
more work, but the results are worth it.

The original pattern suggestions, which have been greatly expanded by the testers, called for chiffon as the accent. I invested in a yard and then proceeded to do unspeakable things to the poor airy bits of fabric fluff.  Let's just say that I have some more work to do on refining my chiffon cutting/sewing skills before I go tackling that amethyst chiffon skirt I dream of adding to my wardrobe, okay? Rummaging through my stash, I unearthed a remnant of blue linen. Not as drapey as the chiffon, but the knit was a bit heavier than t-shirt, so I figured the pairing would work. It certainly cut straighter, and hemmed up in nothing.


The sleeves hemmed up beautifully using EZ Steam II. I have read about this stuff in passing on other blogs where people have used it to tack up knitwear seams and then finish everything off with a double needle. At a recent run through JoAnn's, I saw a box and picked it up. The way Thing 1 loves her knit maxi skirt, I figured another was in my near future. I had no idea I would be using it sooner on something for me! I honestly don't think I would have tackled the double needle hem on the sleeve cuffs without it. So super easy to use!

My only hitch in putting this top together came with the neckband. I'd never done one, but that hadn't stopped me so far. I pinned and stretched and sewed on my regular machine...and it went all sorts of wonky. I stopped about four inches in and reread the directions, then pushed forward against my better judgement. I should have stopped and asked for help. By the time I did, I had one neckband that needed to be unpicked. White knit. White thread. All stitched together using a stretch stitch. Let's just say there was swearing. Lots and lots of swearing. In the end, the neckband didn't survive. Thankfully, I had just enough of my precious knit left to cut one more neckband. The second one, after a pep talk from the very helpful Kimberly, went in perfectly.

Neckband 2, after a good peptalk and a nice cup of tea.
The pattern gives two options for the neckband, one with the band showing and one with it tucked away. I tried on the top and with the able assistance of my wonder clips, tried out both options. I decided, the visible neckband was more to my taste. After that, it was all down to the double needle. I stitched in the neckband and then did a line along the accent piece.

Neckband showing

Neckband as a facing
So, what do I love? The overall style is good and Kimberly got the fit down really well. I sewed up the pattern in a straight 16. Next time, I will go with a 14 at the bust and grade out to the 16 at the hips as I like my tops more fitted.

What didn't I love? Having worn the top an entire day, I can safely say that the things I don't love are minimal. 90% of my unhappiness with the top is pure fabric. As lovely as the embroidered knit is to look at, it itches. I'm hoping a couple more runs through the wash will take care of that problem. The other is in the sleeves. I need to go back and narrow the cuff area. It bags out on me and catches in my coat. Kimberly fixed this after the fact so it shouldn't be an issue with the pattern now.

Will I make it again? Absolutely. I have the last revision of the pattern assembled and cut, the fabric is washed and waiting. The pattern has an option for a straight raglan t-shirt, no accents and I can use a nice staple shirt, so I'm going to tackle that next. In pink. Because you can't have too many pink raglan t-shirts in your closet.

Kimberly is running the Bellevue pattern on sale until Friday for 20% off.  So go grab one quick!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Plethora of Pink Pleated Plaid

Let's hear it for alliteration! This was a kill two birds make for me.  First, I cleared out a couple of yards of pretty pink plaid from my stash and secondly, I conquered the dreaded UFO.  Go me!  This fabric, which I suspect is all poly, wanted to ravel like mad, but was really good to sew with.  I bought the fabric *mumble* 10-ish *mumble* years ago when a local children's clothing factory was going out of business.  It was always destined to be the perfect pink plaid skirt. It took me a while to get there, but I can honestly say I'm thrilled with the results.

When it came to laying out the pleats on this pattern, I have to offer up thanks to my amazing Home Ec teacher for teaching me how to properly mark something like this plaid.  Basic markings just weren't going to show up and making sure I had each line matching meant the very best marking I could do at the pattern layout level was the good old tailor tack.  

Tailor tacks are dirt easy, people.  If you can thread a needle, odds are in your favor that you can make a tailor tack.  Tasia of Sewaholic covers the marking in her wonderful reference Sewtionary, on page 214.  If you don't have this book, it is SO worth the investment! Until you can get your own copy, here is my quick and dirty version.

Tailor Tacks are just a couple of quick, very loose stitches
at the marking point.  

Close up of the stitching.  No knots, just stitch very loosely
a couple of times through the pattern paper.

This is what they look like on the reverse side.  Make sure to
use a brightly contrasting thread!

Remove the pattern by gently tugging the stitching through
the paper.  You may want to make a hole in the paper first
if you're using a PDF pattern.  Gently pull the fabric layers

And the nerve wracking part, clip the threads.

You're done!  Each fabric layer keeps part of the stitching.  The
bright yellow stood out on the pink and black plaid making the
pleats easy to tackle.
Everything marked and then the markings clipped.  I used a ruler to run a chalk pencil between the two markings, then pinned like a mad woman to make sure each of those horizontal lines matched up.  I'm pretty dang pleased with the results.  Honestly, I spent more time matching and pinning plaids than I did sewing the skirt.  
Ruler and chalk pencil.  It is all about playing connect the dots
or in this case, the tailor tacks!
My only snag in getting this skirt from dust collecting fabric to fabulous wearable pleats was the waist facing. Somewhere between pinning and sewing the pleats, the skirt came out a full inch and a half wider than the facing, and that isn't counting the seam allowances!!! I didn't have any spare fabric to cut a new waistband, so I did what any sensible sewist would do.  I logged onto Vogue Fabrics and ordered some 1 1/2" wide petersham ribbon in black.  Mood also carries this, but Vogue Fabrics won out in the shipping. I bought enough to do two skirts, plus a couple of swatches of some wood that caught my eye.  I'm still eyeing you, Teal Herringbone Wool Suiting!

Don't judge my white serger thread.  That beast is a nightmare
to thread!

The petersham wanted to drape all over the place while I was
pinning it out to the waist.  

I moved the guide on my edge stitching foot all the way over
and it was just the right spot to make a very neat, straight
understitching line.  

Another shot of the edge stitching foot.  The white plastic
part is the guide that normally hangs out much further to
the right.

Check out how tight that line is to the edge!

Edge stitched and ready to press into place.

I could have gone the same route as my last skirt and used the twill tape, but frankly, I just wasn't happy with the stiffness.  I am so glad I waited for the petersham!  The width was perfect and the soft, flowing texture really suited the fabric much better than the twill.  I used a narrow hem and then understitched the peterhsam before tacking it in place. The hem on the skirt, which I neglected to photograph, is also hand stitched, as is my preference for most of my projects.  
Pleats all pressed in place after the waistband and hem were finished.
I love this skirt!  It is super comfortable.  These shots aren't perfect, it was bloody dang cold outside and the camera battery was dead, so you have indoor phone shots as a result.

Check out that matching plaid actions!  Time consuming, sure, but oh so worth it!  Next up is nightshirts for Thing 1 and Thing 2 and then I'm tackling View D on this pattern in a nice heavy denim.

As a side note, these days it seems that the title Home Ec has gone by the way side. Around here, they now call it a very bizarre "Family and Consumer Sciences".  Um...what?  Did you take Home Ec, or a similarly styled class in school?