My Sewing Mess -or- Shout Out to Karen!

Category: ,

Hello Friends,

Recently, Karen of Sewing by the Seat of My Pants posted about the, erm, tremendously cluttered state of her workroom. I thought I would attempt to stand in solidarity with her. Here are a few before and after photos of my sewing space.

Here I have attempted to label all of the interesting and not-so-interesting clutter. I was totally at my limit trying to organize this space and get the fabric to fit neatly into my bins. You see them below blocking the doorways. They usually live in a closet off our daughters' room, but I had dragged them out so things could be put away.

My worst enemy are my remnants. In my mind a scrap is something smaller than my hand, but a remnant is larger. I have no good system for keeping them tidy. I know that fabric remnants can be terribly useful with crafty sewing, but they drive me crazy. As I have gained more experience with sewing, I have become more of a fabric snob, so getting rid of some of the fabrics was easy. But the cottons and the wools and the lining and the fleece... I finally had to hand my husband a bag of possibly useful scraps and tell him to just stick them in some bin. I just couldn't make any more organizational decisions!

I kept at it, with David sitting at the kids' art table working at his lap top and playing upbeat music. Slowly, everything found a home (or its way into the fabric recycling bin). Look! I can actually access my BurdaStyle and Threads collections without knocking over other pattern books or bike locks or anything else:

And there are no bags of fabric on the floor. Here is the proud stack of bins:

The blue plastic Ikea bag holds foam and stuffing. Below it is the uncloseable bin of large pieces of thick fabric, then craft sale/Etsy materials, and finally a bin of home dec, vinyl, and quilting cottons. The shorter stack is topped by a white plastic bag holding the materials for my Cruella DeVil fake fur coat, underneath this is a bin of lighter weight fabric (which is far heavier than anyone ever anticipates), and finally a bin with fake fur and batting.

The good news is that I was inspired to whittle down the uncloseable bin and now it can close with plenty of room to spare (blog posts forthcoming). The bad news is that my sewing space is getting a little ridiculous again - so much so that I am avoiding being in there. The never-ending cycle begins again...

Sham's Tablecloth Skirt

Category: ,

Another moment of planets aligning! Toward the end of November, I was given the task of making seven "simple" skirts for a group of girls to wear in a presentation at our church. I agreed to do it even though I am not thrilled with the thought of making seven of anything, but then I was given the fabric and nearly fainted. Polyester organza, people. Just about my least favourite. And the girls who were to wear the skirts are roughly 10 or 11 years old (larger than any of the child models I have running around my house) and not at all the same size. Ack! This project went from simple to not-so-simple in the blink of an eye.

Then I stumbled across Sham's Tablecloth Skirt tutorial. Actually, I think I followed a link to it from Myrna's blog. Anyway, the simplicity of the rectangles appealed to me and my loathing of laying poly organza out for cutting. I asked a friend if I could borrow her serger, which I thought would make the process easier. This was my first time using a serger and I did appreciate not having to finish the seams.

Here is one of the finished skirts backstage. I couldn't get a decent shot of all eight on stage together. As it turned out, I ended up making eight skirts. There were two skirts made from pink squares, two from navy blue squares, two from forest green squares, and two from light blue squares. The pink fabric shredded when you looked at it funny (certainly when young people are struggling into their clothing during a quick scene change), so there were repairs that needed to be made after the first rehearsal to the ones with pink. I used a very wide black elastic for the waistbands, which helped them to blend in with the black t-shirts and pants the kids wear during the performances.

The girls loved their skirts and so did the director. They were easy to make - so easy that I didn't bat an eye over making an eighth one the night before the opening performance.

I've actually torn the fabric to make myself one of these skirts. Mine will be a linen-rayon-lycra blend.

Here is the serger I have borrowed. It's a Pfaff Hobbylock 2.0. I made a few other things with it (posts forthcoming) and have enjoyed having it around, but I am ready to send it back.

My Birds on a Wire/Blank Canvas Tee

Category: ,

Many of you know that Steph of 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World has drafted a t-shirt pattern with cut on sleeves. She has also, kindly, drafted it in various sizes and made it available to anyone free of charge. Steph's generosity was the last planet to come into alignment as I happened to have a length of sequined fabric that wanted to be made into a simple top as well as tickets to a show this past Monday.

My bust is 35" exactly and my waist is not well-defined, so I printed out the 35II pattern and grabbed a length of bamboo/cotton jersey that has been aging in my stash and whipped out a shirt - as is, no measuring. Here are the results:

Hoo boy! That is one tight shirt! It's a good thing that jersey is very stretchy, or I wouldn't have been able to get into it. And it is short - I didn't hem it and it barely covers my belt. It certainly wouldn't stay tucked into anything.

Now, I am not pointing any fingers at Steph. I very easily could have made a mistake when I printed the pattern. And really, that's neither here nor there. With every pattern I make I have to remove almost all of the waist shaping, so this is nothing new. I did notice that the shoulders of the shirt did not land on my shoulders properly - the only part that was too large.

So I thought about it and tried again. Of course, I still did no real measuring (I might could have saved myself some work if I had), I added one inch to the center and one inch (roughly) to the side seams on the front and back pattern pieces. Obviously, I was terrified of making another too small shirt, because instead I made a too large shirt! I added about 2 inches to the length and I smoothed out the shoulder line. I also changed the shape of the front neckline a bit - raised it and widened it a tad - but maybe I shouldn't have.

Ha! I saw from the pictures (and the mirror) that the added amount to the center front and back made the neckline too large. I did the math and realized that I added 8 inches to the girth of the pattern overall. Silly me. So it was back to the drawing board. I removed half of what I added. I unpicked version two and was able to cut out version three from those pieces. For version three I did no hemming or finishing of the neckline.

This was a pretty close fit! For my final version, I scooped a bit more out of the underarm to make the bust a bit more snug. The final version is two layers, square sequined mesh on the outside and a soft thin jersey on the inside. I decided to wrap a binding around the raw edges of the two layers on the neck edge and the sleeve hems. I will also do this for the lower hem. For this picture (and for our night out) I wore it unhemmed.

Aside from finishing the bottom edge, I also want to handstitch a few "quilting" lines between the rows of sequins to connect the layers. As I wear it now, when I lift my arms, the outer layer lifts up more than the lining and then doesn't slide back down into place. I am hoping that if the two pieces are connected throughout, it will behave better. I also need to remove the sequins that are caught in the side seams - they are poking out and are uncomfortable on my bare arms.

All in all, I like this shirt. I am not as thrilled with the fabric - sequins just aren't nice to touch - but it's a useful addition to my wardrobe.

Sewing Geek Moment


One Sunday in late November, we took our kids to the movies. Now this was only their second time in a movie theatre for two reasons: 1) we are not made of money, and 2) a year and a half ago, when they went to see a movie for the first time (it was some talking dog movie), it was TOO SCARY for my 6 year old son who had to keep leaving the theatre - yes, we were that family.

So anyway, this time we took our kids to see The Muppets. We have rented DVDs of The Muppet Show, so they were acquainted with the characters and some of the regular jokes. The movie was a hit with all of them. But this isn't a charming family moment blog post. No.

Throughout the movie, I was struck by the costumes for Amy Adams. Very vintage inspired. But toward the end of the movie something made me sit bolt upright in my seat and poke my husband and whisper furiously to him. Unfortunately, he was entirely the wrong audience.  You are the correct audience.

So I'm calling a do-over. You sit there all still and attentive, scroll down to the picture, and then imagine me poking you in the arm.

Sarah: (whispering loudly) That blouse!! It's made of silk twill! Some of the bloggers I read have sewn with that EXACT material!
Esteemed Blog Reader: You're right! How fun is that! (end scene)

For the record, Carolyn made a jacket from it, Elizabeth made a dress from it, and Trena admits to buying the fabric and later says she made a dress - but I can't find the evidence. I am sure other bloggers I read bought and sewed up that fabric, but my rudimentary Google searching skills haven't located them.

I'm such a sewing geek.

Dropped Off the Face of the Earth


You know how it goes when a blogger stops posting for a long time and then they come back with either lame excuses for not posting (like life got busy) or some sad story (death of a beloved pet)?

Well, I actually dropped off the face of the earth. And there's no internet connection out there.

But I'm back now.

Halloween Completed!

Category: , , , ,

So I guess as a sewing blogger, you either post the Halloween photos and discussion on November 1 when everyone else is doing so, or you wait more than a week when maybe people are interested again? That's what I'm hoping, anyway!

Halloween has come and gone and we had a good time. Clara decided to be a true four year old and not allow me to photograph her in her costume, so I only have this one from when I was constructing her wings:

I looked at a couple of homemade parrot costumes for tiny children to draft the wings, but if I had to do it again, I would make them differently. Clara decided against tailfeathers, which was probably a very wise choice as the felt wing feathers were heavy and kind of stiff. I should have invested a tad more cash and bought a couple of "feather" boas in each colour. That would have been lighter and would have pleased Clara a great deal.

At the last post, Peter's costume only lacked a holster. I had to drive a couple of towns over to buy some brown vinyl that I deemed thick enough for a holster, but it went together fairly easily. I used a diagram from this site to guide my construction and actually made him stand with a sheet of tissue paper wrapped around his body to sketch the holster outline to fit him. The holster attaches to his belt by way of two snaps on each end. The only four small snaps I owned - none of them match each other! I need to remember to pick up snaps next time I am at Dressew. He decided (and received permission) to carry his sister's "space blaster" as his gun - as it lights up and makes noise.


Lucy's cape came together very simply, though I kind-of wish that I had held firm on making it out of red wool as it would have been warmer. But, it also would have been more expensive and bulkier and wouldn't have fit nicely into the dress-up box. So probably the crushed panne velour and tricot lining were the correct choice. It is simply a half-circle and a hood copied from Oliver + S Little Things to Sew. This hood is nice because it isn't pointy like the one from the Simplicity pattern last year was.

As much as I like sewing complete costumes, I am glad we were able to buy her dress and turtleneck at a thrift store. Ideally, she would have had black boots that buttoned up the sides, but we both realized that was incredibly unlikely. She desperately wanted ringlets, so off to youtube we went and found that most of the instructions for ringlets called for curling irons and hair products that I didn't have. Then I thought of rag curls and found a helpful video (which I can't find now, but there are a hundred or more of them), so that's what we tried. It worked pretty well and she was very pleased.

Oh and would you just look at this face! She's so blasted cute! And those teeth (or the lack thereof)!

Han Solo Pants Simplicity 9499

Category: , , ,

Here are the Han Solo pants, completed. I have used this pattern many times - for Peter's Anakin Skywalker pants last year as well as a few pairs of pajama pants. This time I made them out of stretch fine-wale corduroy.

The picture of Han Solo I was working from has him dressed in quite skinny pants, so I took a good bit out of the outseam. Given the stretch of the fabric this was no problem. They aren't "skinny jeans" but they do get at the general look of Han.

Once I had the fit correct, I sewed the outseams with a flat-felled seam. (I have no picture of this - it turned out blurry.) Then I sewed the crotch seams separately with a faux-felled seam. I found during fitting that I needed to reduce the seam allowance to 3/8" in the crotch curve, which is not enough of a seam allowance to flat-fell. I sewed the seam and then zigzagged the seam allowances together, then pressed them to one side and topstitched them down.

I used 2" wide waistband elastic in the casing - I added extra to the top of the pattern before cutting the fabric to accommodate this. Han Solo wears a belt so I had to figure out a way to make belt loops. I cut strips of fabric from my scraps that were 1 1/2" wide. I pressed them in half - wrong sides together, then turned the raw edges in to the center and pressed again. I then edgestitched along both long edges. I pinned them into place below the waistband and zigzagged them down. Then I marked the point where the belt loop should meet the top of the waistband and wrapped the loop material to the inside of the pants and zigzagged again - without catching the elastic. I trimmed the loop material and hand-stitched the cut edge to the inside of the waistband. (Phew! That's a lot to explain - I hope I did't lose you.) And, once Peter tried the pants on it became obvious that the belt loops are HUGE and need to be stitched down a bit more.

I have enough belt loop material to make a loop at the center back after Halloween. I won't do it now, because we still have to rig up a holster that attaches to the center front and the center back of the belt - and a belt loop there would get in the way. Either that or I will just remove all of the loops.

Here is the shot of Peter wearing the pants. The fit isn't great. I realized while driving yesterday hat I should have taken them in at the inseam to snug up the crotch. Oh well. Peter loves them. He wore them two days in a row to school and wanted to sleep in them, but I drew the line at sleeping in cords. That's just silly.

And here is a gratuitous shot of Clara while we were making chocolate chip cookies. She is impersonating the beater. She says it looks like a "tough guy" spinning around in the bowl.

Han Solo Shirt Finished! BurdaStyle 05-2010-145

Category: , , ,

I finished the shirt late Sunday afternoon. Peter loves it. It all went together pretty easily, but the cuffs were a bit finicky. It's definitely NOT perfect. None of the edges are identical to their mates, but it's not so far off to be noticeable. This fabric has a fair bit of stretch to it, which made edge stitching the collar and cuffs a bit tricky, but I am hopeful that after a trip through the wash everything will be just fine. speaking of the cuffs...

They turned out pretty well! I sewed almost the entire shirt on my vintage Singer and of course used the buttonhole attachment to make those lovely buttonholes.

They only time I used my Janome was to zigzag the seam allowances in the sleeves and side seams. Then I topstitched them in place as a faux flat-felled seam. I actually couldn't topstitch the entire side and sleeve seam because the sleeve is simply too narrow to manage it. On an adult shirt I think it would be possible.

I used my narrow hem foot to hem the shirt, but had to stop near the side seams because the layers of fabric were entirely too thick to go through the spiral on the foot, so I had to go back and finish those sections by hand.

Here are some shots of Peter wearing the shirt. Obviously the sleeves are too long, but he will continue to grow, so temporarily, I am going to remove and move the buttons on the cuffs to make them more snug. That should keep the sleeves off his hands. He wore the shirt to church Sunday evening and received PILES of compliments. He then wore it all the next day playing Star Wars with the other kids (and got it dirty! Let's hope the fabric comes clean easily!).

In Progress: Han Solo Shirt Burda Style 05-2010-145

Category: , , , ,

I sit here at the computer feeling rather smug and pleased with myself. Over the last few afternoons I tissue fitted and cut out the pattern pieces for Peter's Han Solo shirt. Then, on Friday morning I had a stroke of brilliance. I checked the Vancouver Public Library catalog for David Page Coffin's Shirtmaking. To my luck, both copies were available at the central branch. I had just enough time - and a willing six-year-old - to jump in the van, drive downtown to the library, park on the street (45 cents in the meter), dash in the library, find and check out the book, dash back to the van, and drive back past my own neighbourhood and over to Clara's preschool just in time to pick her up.

Wow! I am loving this book. It is totally worth all of the accolades it receives. I just wish I had read through it to find the seam allowances he recommends before cutting out all of my pieces. I did use the book to draft plackets for the sleeves and the neckline. I was so scared that I would do something bone-headed, but so far I haven't. Everything has been pretty easy, though very precise. The only thing I would change about the book are the instructions for attaching the back yoke to the shirt fronts. He describes the "burrito" method, but there are no illustrations. Seriously.

Anyway, here are some of my highlights so far:

Front, Inside, and Reverse side of the neck placket (my first ever!!)
(Those lumpy areas are not really puckery - they are just wet. I was removing some washable marker.)

Attaching the yoke with the "burrito" method.

Yoke turned right side out (before pressing).

Close up of the finished collar.

Sleeve plackets. Nearly identical.

And, how I managed to keep my sleeves straight. The fabric Peter chose has a lovely texture woven in it, but both sides are nearly identical. I went through all of the pieces and marked each right side with a yellow pin. Then, once I figure out which sleeve was which and which placket went with which sleeve (thanks, David Coffin!), I pinned the pieces together and pinned a label on them as well. Phew!

I had a lot of fun today working on this and contemplating all of the different precise steps. The shirt just needs the sleeves attached (these will be faux flat felled seams since I don't have enough seam allowance to do it properly), the side seams sewn, the cuffs attached, and the hem finished. Definitely doable.

We interrupt costume sewing...

Category: ,

to bring you a finished item from the summer.

I made this quilt using all but four pieces from two charm packs. The fabrics are Central Park by Kate Spain for Moda. The border fabrics are a couple of things I picked up to go along and the back is a plain yellow I've had in the stash for a few years. I used an inexpensive polyester batting in the middle. The layers are hand stitched together at intermittent intersections with some embroidery floss. The binding is bias and sewn by machine, but finished with a prick stitch (the same stitch that I use on zippers) on the back side.

It's a cheerful little throw, but I think I would really like something a little bigger and with more drape.


On the costume front, I have had to re-assess what I have to accomplish and the time I have to get it done. I have altered my coat pattern pieces, but I am putting cutting and sewing the coat on the back burner. If I get it done in time, great, but if not, so be it.

David has been delegated the tasks of taking Lucy shopping for an appropriate dress to wear under her cape and finding Peter a belt that we can add a holster to for his costume. Nobody really cares if I make the costumes except me. I love doing it, but it does get to be a bit much sometimes.