This is 100: Seven Sewing Tips

100 posts that is.  I have been blogging for a little less than 5 years, so I thought it was time to make some updates, and to examine my progress.

Actually, I thought it was time to change my header, and then noticed that the 100th post was coming up.  Good timing!  Do you like the photos I chose?

When I started I wrote:  I’ve never thought of myself as being fashionable, so it feels unexpected to be turning the focus and camera on myself, and what I’m wearing.   Can I finally discover my style?

Well, yes!  I have learned what I want to sew and wear.  I have been most happy wearing my casual, everyday clothes.

Let’s take a look at most of the clothes I made in 2016:  3 tees, shorts, pants, culottes,  a pretty blouse, and a refashioned dress.   Some of my refashioning is making a few alterations to make a wearable item, but I often use the fabric to cut a new item like with my tee shirts and culottes.

What I’ve learned about sewing clothes:

1)  Know what patterns to pick and what you will actually wear.

I want to sew and wear basics and a few extras.  By extras I mean things that are experimental in some way or a little different than what I usually wear or have interesting sewing details.

2)  Make fit changes to the pattern.

I started by adjusting the fit as I sewed.  Figuring out how to transfer these changes to the pattern is a real game changer.  It’s the start of developing tried and true patterns to use again and again with design changes.

3)  Know your figure.

Are you short waisted?  Need a full bust adjustment?  You will have to change nearly every pattern to fit your non-standard body.  Some of these adjustments will be obvious, but others are things you probably never noticed about your body like forward shoulders or one hip higher than the other.

4)  Make a muslin or mock-up of a pattern before cutting into your fabric.

This can feel like a chore, but it’s useful for testing new techniques and learning about fit.  Developing slopers or sewing multiples of a pattern are strategies for avoiding making a toile.  The most important thing I’ve learned from reading other sewing bloggers is to find some basic tried and true patterns.

5)  Keep detailed notes on projects.

I usually do things differently than the instructions, and a year later when I want to use the pattern again I won’t remember what I did.

6)  Use the right fabric for the project, in a print or solid you will want to wear.

I made a lined summer dress from quilting cotton and it was too heavy for my liking. Knowing the difference between a pattern that needs a fabric with drape and one that needs crispness will increase the likelihood of a successful outcome.

7)  Learn new techniques so you can make clothes with the features you prefer.

You may prefer a different type of pocket than the pattern provides, or a waistband with partial elastic, and you need the knowledge and experience to make your custom garment.

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I’ve also enjoyed keeping a record of my home sewing, embroidery and cross stitch projects, as well as the occasional knitting and crocheting.

As far as blogging goes, will I reach 200 posts? Maybe not, but I have a few more ideas and I’m going to continue for a while longer.

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Top from Vintage Simplicity Dress Pattern 8183

It was the summer of 1969.  Young and old came together and watched in awe as American astronauts succeeded in landing on the moon.  It was also the summer of  the Woodstock music festival in New York and of two nights of shocking murders in California which were later found out to be committed by the Manson Family.

In my world, I was in elementary school with the summer off.  I was listening to “In the Year 2525″ by Zager and Evans, ” Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies and Donovan’s “Atlantis” on my transistor radio.  My library’s reading program for kids was titled “books are out of this world” and my reading consisted of books like “The Happy Hollisters” and the Beany Malone series.

The jiffy pattern, Simplicity 8183, of a darted dress with a low cut H-shaped back was released in 1969 for summer sewing.

I have a bunch of vintage patterns from thrift store shopping, but I actually set out to buy this one after seeing it on the “We Sew Retro” website.  I bare arms and legs but don’t have any clothes with an open back.

This will be my blue summer – I’m not talking about moods but fabric.  I picked up yardage of two different shades of chambray at an estate sale.

I decided to start on my chambray summer sewing with a top made from this pattern.  It’s sized for a 36 inch bust, and I’m bigger than that.   I started by doing a full bust adjustment to the pattern after I traced it off on medical pattern paper.  I made a mock-up using a sheet – too tight!  I added 1/2 inch to the seams.  I kept the front and back waist darts, but I made them shallow as I wasn’t going to use a zipper and didn’t want the top to be too fitted.

The fabric frays easily so I sewed french seams to enclose the raw edges. I planned on swapping bias binding for the facing pieces.  After I started working on the top I had the idea to substitute red piping as an accent around the very long neckline.   For the armholes I made  bias binding from the chambray fabric.

I had scraps around from the denim skirt refashion so I made the strap from denim.

A big goal with this top was to keep my bra from showing.  Initially, I tried to get the strap on the top to cover my bra, but it wasn’t quite working so I raised the back 3 inches.

I tried machine stitching a little section of the piping to the inside of the shirt, but didn’t like the way it looked.  I wanted a clean look to the front of the top as if I were using facing.  Instead I invisibly hand stitched the neckline, armholes, and hem.

view of inside

The finished top:

It has a front too.

I had a devil of a time getting the strap straight, and unpicked it a few times.  The thread is a great match, so both my fabric and nerves were fraying.  I think I was trying to attach it too close to the curve.

In the photos of me wearing the top, I noticed some strain lines across the back and I was thinking of removing the strap.  It was a cute part of the design that attracted me to the pattern, yet I raised the back and don’t really need it.  I also belatedly thought of making a strap with buttonholes on both sides that can be buttoned on or left off.

What do you think?

I wish you a happy summer of ’17.  I doubt it will be as historically memorable as the summer of ’69 but I hope it will bring you memorable days of enjoyment with family and friends to look back on.

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Little Free Libraries

I first read about Little Free Libraries in my local newspaper.

The first one was built in Wisconsin in 2009 by the son of a teacher.  It was an enclosure with a glass door mounted on a post constructed to look like a one room schoolhouse.   There are now more than 50,000 registered in the United States and even a few worldwide.

They are generally put in the front yard of a home and initially filled with books by the owner or steward.  Then anyone can come by and take a book, and hopefully the same readers or others will also leave a book.

I love the idea of sharing a love of reading and books, and I also enjoy the various creative designs of the structures themselves.

The first one I came across was in a mall.

 

After Memorial Day, on my morning walk with my dog, I came across my first neighborhood little library.

There is a registration fee of $40 if you want your front yard library to be part of the official Little Free Library movement.  The fee entitles you to a charter sign, number, and to have your library location included on a map on the nonprofit organization’s website.

The little library down the street from me is a neighborhood “secret” – no sign.  I took one book, put three in, and was pleased to see my books were all quickly taken.  I actually feel proud my picks are popular! The little two shelf container is very full; I think more people have put in books than taken them out.  There is a good mix, including many children’s books.

can you guess which book I put in?

My full size neighborhood library is about a mile away.  Although close, it takes me about 20 minutes to get there on foot.  I donate most of my books there.  I used to keep more books after I read them, but yarn and fabric has cut down on my storage space, so I like to pass them on.  My sewing and craft reference books are my keepers.

I also go a very low priced used bookstore  and recently started reading books on a tablet.  I resisted the e-book revolution for quite awhile, but now embrace it as another option.  But there is no substitute for a physical book that doesn’t need to be charged and can easily be shared and passed on to others even decades later.

Do you have a little library near you or would you consider putting one up?  Where do you get your books from and what do you do with them afterwards? Are you a reader of hard copy books or e-books?

 

For more information:

Little Free Library website

Libraries of Distinction – a Pinterest board with photos of the many creative Little Free Library structures

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Vintage Embroidered Pillowcases

I bought a set of pillowcases for $1 each at the thrift store.  They aren’t quite plain; they are stamped with a sweet design of a girl in a heart of flowers.

One of the reasons I think the pillowcases are vintage is that the fabric looks old and  feels like 100% cotton.  The pillowcases don’t have any tags, and the inside seams look different from modern cases.  The style of the design also looks like it’s from the 1950s or 60s.

What floss colors would you use?  I got out all my variegated pinks for the flowers.

I put tissue paper between the hoop halves to protect the fabric, and then tore it away from the center.

I embroidered back stitches, lazy daisies, and french knots.

I decided on a single ply black thread for the outline of her skin.  While I was stitching her, I thought she looked like a lamb with hooves.

I had a little bit of what knitters call second sock syndrome after finishing the first.  I changed the color of her dress for the second one.

 

Tastes have changed since these were sold. Do these pretty ladies have a place in the modern world?  I admit that I folded the pillowcases and stored them away after finishing them.

Would they still be considered vintage even though they’re newly embroidered?

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Button Front Denim Skirt Refashion

I found some great 1970s skirt patterns at my small neighborhood thrift store.

I also bought this long button front denim skirt with pockets there.  I want the basic a-line shape of the first pattern but this time I’m taking a shortcut using this secondhand garment.

Look closer:  I’m not wearing it!  I’m just holding it up to my waist because the skirt waist is itty-bitty tiny and mine no longer is.

So I cut out the pockets and snipped all the way across to get rid of the tiny top which left the skirt with a huge waist.  I unpicked the hem just at the side seams and cut my new a-line shape keeping the width at the bottom and narrowing at the waist to a just right size.

Before sewing, I switched to a denim needle on my machine. I added two darts front and back.  I struggled with reattaching the pockets.  They had a long opening like side seam pockets but they were inset pockets folded over.

Sometimes it can be easier sewing from scratch than trying to figure out how to rework something.

On to the waistband, which I cut, interfaced, folded over, and sewed on.  I attached bias binding to the raw edge.

The last step: making a new buttonhole on the waistband.  The top buttonhole is horizontal, and the rest are vertical.  A horizontal button is more secure, and can take more stress.

I finished by top stitching the top and bottom of the waistband.

And there you have it : a basic casual classic  to wear about town.  Like this:

I feel like an editor for a fashion magazine setting up an outfit shot.  The little patchwork denim purse is also thrifted.

How I wore it:

Or as worn with another of the kimono sleeve tees I made from a big thrifted tee shirt.  The tee is actually a pretty aqua shade but the sun is bleaching the color out in the photo.

 

Casting on for a Blanket

The needles were all packed away on a high shelf in the closet. The yarn had been displaced to make room for fabric.

This winter, rainy days and nights made me wish I had something on the needles to pick up and knit.  My hands found varied uses during my knitting hiatus and rested from too much repetitive motion.  The numbness in my fingers had subsided and I had stopped wearing my hand braces at night.  In truth, I think I had gotten burned out on knitting, and needed a break anyhow.

I saw a garter stitch blanket that I wanted to cast on for right away: Caron Essential Stripes Knit Blanket.  It was the perfect combination of comfort knitting with just enough interesting aspects with the use of three colors, striping, and color blocks. I like that it is knit in five panels.  There won’t be much sewing up to do, and the weight of a big heavy mound on the needles with long rows to get through is avoided.

Which yarn to use and which colors?  I swatched with a few different acrylics and read reviews on yarns.  Some of the negatives I read about were yarns described as scratchy, splitty, and squeaky. Sounds like a cartoon trio of mice!  Another thing to avoid is an acrylic that is “plasticky”.

Why acrylic?  I want a blanket that is easy care, machine washable,  durable, and low cost.

I have never had a yarn squeak, but I did discover some differences in yarns.  Take a look at these two samples:

2 acrylic yarns: top Red Heart Soft, bottom Loops and Thread Impeccable

I have a definite preference in the appearance of the two yarns.  I much prefer the bottom yarn that is matte to the shiny one.  The Impeccable has more heft, looks cottony and reminds me of marshmallows.  It’s also more sturdy and less stretchy.

Besides individual preferences, choosing a yarn depends on whether it will be knitted or crocheted and what will be made from it.  If I were making something to wear, I would be more concerned with drape.  The colors and shades of a color a yarn is made in is also an important consideration.

The pattern was written for Caron One Pound, and the blanket looks very appealing in the pictured colors in the beautifully staged room.  They didn’t have those colors in the store, and I wanted to swatch before deciding on my colors.  I did buy one skein of the One Pound to swatch, and it is also matte, although a little stiffer than the other yarn I knitted up.  It would also be a good choice for a blanket that will hold up through frequent washing.

So for this blanket, Impeccable it is!  After much waffling, I settled on the aran, navy, and soft rose combination.

There wasn’t a photo of the entire blanket, so to see how the sections would look together I mapped it out using my old Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet that I still have installed.  I played around with it and made some changes.  By reading the pattern more closely I also realized that the panels are meant to be laid horizontally (widthwise) with the ridges going vertically.

knitting on size 9 Susan Bates circular quicksilver needles

I’m not on a tear to finish this.  I just love that it’s there waiting to pick up when I want to knit.

Have you left and then gone back to a craft years later?

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Beginning a Vintage Inspired Star Quilt

The board game, Monopoly, will be retiring its thimble token this year.  Does that mean hand sewing is “out”?  I don’t use a thimble for most of my hand sewing, but it is essential for hand quilting.

Quilting magazines were always available at my neighborhood grocery stores and drugstores.  During the past year I’ve noticed they no longer stock them.  I think that’s not because quilting is no longer popular, but much of the focus for patterns and fabric has shifted to the online marketplace.  I would guess that my location, a big city in southern California, is also a major factor why these quilting magazines aren’t selling enough to be carried.

One drawback to making quilts is it’s expensive in comparison to making clothes. Much more yardage is needed for all the coordinating fabrics, backing, and batting.  But that’s also the fun part of quilting – playing with different fabric combinations.

Peace & Unity Selvedge

A year ago I bought a set of 20 fat quarters of Civil War Reproduction fabric called Peace & Unity.  Time to decide on a pattern and get to work!

I liked the quilt on the cover of the December 2005 issue of American Patchwork & Quilting that I bought at a used book store.  It features sawtooth star blocks set on point alternating with a yellow print fabric.  The quilt is dated circa 1900 and is titled Vintage Stars.

Quilting Magazine Cover

on point layout of quilt

Besides the fat quarters for the stars, I would need various shirting fabrics for the background part of the blocks.  It was hard for me to settle on the fabric for the alternating squares, and I still might change it if I decide I don’t like how it looks.  Budgeting is a factor; I bought 5 yards of the gold print for $10. Although the print reads like a solid from a distance, it has cross hatching in a slightly darker shade of gold.

fat quarters and gold square

Because many of the fat quarters were dark and deep colored fabrics I pre-washed them as a precaution.  They are high quality fabrics and didn’t bleed at all.

The star blocks in the magazine pattern are 7 inches.  I made sample 7, 8, and 9 inch blocks before deciding on an 8 inch block.  I decided on a 8 inch block partly because of the size of the quilting rulers I own, and also because I wanted to make my flying geese with this Amy Smart, of Diary of a Quilter, tutorial of a no-waste method of making four flying geese units at a time.  There is no formula for a 7 inch block using this method.

I am cutting a 5 1/4 inch square and four 2 1/2 inch squares of my background fabrics.  I will make three stars from each fat quarter cutting a 4 1/2 center and four 3 inch squares for each star.

The flying geese measurements have a little extra so they can be cut to the correct size after sewing them.  For the 8 inch blocks they are 2 1/2 by 4 1/2.

Although this is not a hard block to sew, my sample blocks were still 1/4 inch off, either bigger or smaller on one side.  This isn’t a block that can be cut to dimensions at the end, because this would cut off the points.

I took care with the following steps  in order to get a uniform size:

  1. Cutting the pieces exactly.
  2. Sewing the scant 1/4 inch seams.  I changed to the 1/4 inch foot.  When sewing the geese units I lined up the gauge on the foot slightly to the right of the center line.  Another problem I had was my stitching veering off at the end and I had to correct that.
  3. Pressing!  I was mindful to press the seams in the suggested direction, but I noticed I was not always pressing out the seams completely.  There was a little tuck of fabric making the row 1/8 or 1/4 inch shorter.
  4. Measuring the rows before joining them to make sure they were 8 1/2 inches across.
  5. Making small adjustments when sewing the final rows together so that the seams were matched.

2 finished sawtooth quilt blocks

I like seeing my pile of stars growing!

Any thoughts on quilting?  Are quilting magazines still carried in your neighborhood stores?

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