Tag Archives: summer sewing

Tempo Sundress by Love Notions

I learned a new skill in order to sew the Tempo Sundress: shirring.

I still had the elastic thread I bought many years ago when I tried unsuccessfully to shirr. I read that many others had been unable to shirr with a Brother machine, and the tension on the bobbin case needs to be tightened by turning a screw. I decided to experiment before taking apart my machine. The shirring tutorials say to hand wind the thread with little to no tension. I tried hand winding the bobbin with a significant amount of tension, started sewing, and suddenly my flat, squiggly lines bunched up into shirred fabric.

My fabric was a cotton from deep stash with an interesting plisse texture with some stretch from the slightly gathered texture. I had two yards and never knew what to do with it.

The photo below shows the pattern piece and how much smaller the fabric became after shirring.

I cut out a size large according to my bust measurement. Then I added an inch to the bodice front. That was a mistake, as the bodice was too large on me. For the interfacing for the bodice facing I used a light woven fusible interfacing. I switched to an orange cotton for the facing at the top bodice because I thought a smooth fabric would work better than my lumpy main fabric.

I took an inch off the bodice length. I have a difficult fitting situation with needing more length in the front for my bust, but having a short back. I added 1/2 inch to the front tapering to nothing at the sides, and subtracted from the back in the same way. Even so, the bodice hits past my waist in the back.

The straps are sandwiched between the facing and the bodice, making it difficult to access the fit and placement before sewing.

The deep inseam pockets are attached to the waist at the top, which keeps them securely anchored. The skirt is gathered to the bodice. I tried taking big seam allowances on the bodice to compensate for the largeness, but the fit is still off and the straps are too far apart on my small shoulders. I will have to make some alterations to feel more comfortable wearing the dress. I would have liked to made another bodice, but didn’t have enough fabric. The straps are supposed to be wide enough to cover bra straps but they don’t on me. I made them 1/2 inch wider, which wasn’t enough as they are folded in half. I may add some elastic to the straps because I can tell I will have a problem with keeping them up. You can see the strap ready to slip in the back view photo. In the photos, I wore the dress with a bra with clear plastic straps.

A cute dress, good use of stash fabric, but needs some work. And I can shirr!

Quick Summer Refashions

Is there such a thing as too hot to sew? For me, there is. My sewing area is not in my cool zone, and I don’t like to set up my ironing board on a hot day. Sometimes I try to cheat and sew without pressing when I should to avoid the iron, but that doesn’t work out so well.

Rayon is a cool fabric for summer, and I have two quick refashions to show you.

The first is from my own closet from over a decade ago. I didn’t sew then, and I bought the dress at the drugstore, which shows that I was never much of a clothes shopper. The dress was rarely worn, and became too tight in the bust, and the elastic didn’t sit in the right place. I didn’t have much fabric to work with so I didn’t use a pattern and just improvised. I made a bandeau top elasticized on the top back, and made straps fashioned from the leftover top pieces. I like the swingy shape from using the bottom of the dress.

The sun faces are upside down. I don’t think I noticed things like print placement before I started sewing.

The before photo is from over 10 years ago when I was in my late 40s.

The second refashion was of a maxi dress bought several years ago at the thrift store that needed to be resized. It’s one of those dresses with the thin ties that tie at the back to give some shaping to the waist. The length was perfect but I never properly finished the dress because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it , so it sat in the refashion pile. The border print was the prettiest part of the dress, so I decided to make another simple boxy top. I used my altered Maya pattern and black bias tape for the neckline.

Even though I also liked the dress, the top will get much more wear than the dress would have. I already have another dress with the same style but with a print that I like more that I’m keeping as is.

Using recycled fabric already in the system is also an example of sustainable sewing. This type of sewing is concerned with limiting ecological waste, and is an issue widely talked about in the sewing community.

“Sustainable fashion refers to clothing that is designed, manufactured, distributed, and used in ways that are environmentally friendly. The whole idea behind “sustainability” in general and sustainable sewing in specific is that of leaving a minimal impact on the planet. This idea incorporates issues like carbon footprint, waste creation and disposal, and labor practices.”

A large portion of my sewing is sustainable. Most of the tops and dresses I sew fit this category with the fabrics sourced secondhand, but I usually have to buy new bottomweight fabric for pants and new knit fabric. I bought three different knit fabrics last year – a ponte, a cotton knit, and a rayon knit and sewed them all. I have no knit fabrics in stash. To be honest, I started sewing with secondhand fabrics as a more affordable way to sew, and not because of the environment. I also like the creativity of upcycling textiles such as making clothing from sheets, tablecloths, and scraps. I like using what I already have, and I love the advantages of sewing this way from both from a thrifty and environmentally friendly perspective.

Adventures in Quilting: Patchwork Placemats

Some say that sewing clothes is not cheaper than buying them. Well, it is in my case. I have managed to sew for cheap using thrifted fabric and patterns, discounted, and free patterns. I also get “free” fabric (and often free shipping depending on the seller) from Amazon with credit card points. I can make a top or shorts that I will wear for years from one yard of fabric. I can make pants and most everything else with only two yards. Quilting is a more expensive hobby. You need yards and yards of fabric, and then more fabric to coordinate with the main fabrics. Piecing is only the beginning, and there are many more steps to completion. Machine quilting is so awkward and difficult that some quilters are not even quilters – they send out for the quilting to be done professionally. While I will never be primarily a quilter, that doesn’t stop me from having quilting aspirations from time to time. I’ve collected a large number of fat quarters and fabric odds and ends over the past 15 years. Mostly, I have ideas and plans that never come to fruition.

Years ago, I bought some fabric pieces at the thrift store, including a stack of fabric cut into 4 x 6 inch rectangles. Some were already pieced together in a long sequence. The fabrics look dated and ugly together. It has been said if you don’t like a fabric you haven’t cut it small enough.

From the pile, I noticed some fabrics that coordinated together and would make impressionistic American flags. I decided to make placemats for the patriotic summer holidays. I bought a yard of navy stripe fabric for the backing, and navy for the binding.

They took me a long time to finish. I started last year, and the stitching looked so bad due to tension problems, that I gave up, and put them away.

In addition to the problems with my machine, my attempts at quilting were atrocious, and caused major distortions.

I also had tiny stitches from holding on too tightly while quilting. These placemats just looked sad!

I wanted to finish them this year. I started by spending an entire afternoon removing all the quilting. I was still having problems with finding a quilting pattern that I could sew well. I finally liked the way they looked when I changed to a chevron pattern. Each rectangle contains three lines of diagonal stitching. They finished at 12 1/2 by 16 1/2 inches. Done is good! And I am pleased with them.

I have watched various quilting videos over the years. Right now, I am a fan of Karen Brown of Just Get It Done Quilts. Karen has a website and You Tube Channel. I especially like her concept of an ugly quilt. Maybe I could make one of those! The idea is that a quilt that isn’t seen as perfect or special will actually be used and not just stored away. These everyday quilts aren’t just bed quilts, but can be used on the couch, in the yard, at a park, for the dog, etc. My dog digs and scrumples bedding so I wouldn’t have to worry about him wrecking it.

I also like watching the way Karen stacks fabric, makes blocks, then cuts them up and recombines them. Karen has great ideas for simple blocks and scrappy blocks. None of the quilts she makes are actually ugly, but I think I could manage that.

So, should I make something ugly from the rest of these rectangles and this long pieced strip?

Summer Dresses: Laundry Day Tee and Bardon Dress

Shorts are a summer staple for me. I’ve sewn six pairs since 2017, and I love wearing them. But I want to have an alternative to shorts for going shopping or out to lunch. My plan for this summer is to sew casual dresses that are comfortable, have pockets, and are loose enough to not need a zipper. No constricting belts wanted either, but a self -fabric sash is a comfortable option for shaping.

I started with two fabrics, a knit and a woven, and two free patterns.

I used the navy stripe cotton/spandex knit to sew a sleeveless Laundry Day Tee by Love Notions with a V-neck. I sewed a size medium and added inseam pockets. I chose to cut the fabric with the stripes being vertical for the lengthening effect.

Next up is the Bardon dress by Elbe Textiles for Peppermint magazine. I chose size E by my upper bust measurement and did a 1/2 inch full bust adjustment to the darted bodice. The adjustment added 1 inch to the waist which I should have taken away with vertical waist darts but I forgot that the FBA also added to the waist. I also shortened the bodice by 2 inches due to my short torso. I didn’t want the pockets, which are sewn on the first tier, to hang too low for my short arms to reach. My fabric is a red cotton I bought at a thrift store many years ago, with the pattern having a stripe-like effect. The bottom tier was very wide, 48 inches per side, and I cut it on the cross grain in order to be able to cut the full width of the pattern. I also like the visual interest it creates.

A gust of wind caused the dress to billow into a perfect bell shape!

These patterns are keepers! I would make both of these dresses again, perhaps with some alterations. For the Tee dress I would add ease to the underarm area and some width to the back hip as I would prefer the dress to hang straight and not pool at the back. The tiers of the Bardon dress lend themselves to playing with the lengths and proportions, and I can imagine several variations.

I styled these dresses with accessories for going out. They are even easier to wear than shorts since it’s only one item of clothing, but look more polished. The Laundry Day Tee dress is a sporty classic in the navy and white stripe, and doesn’t feel too different than wearing shorts. The red, flouncy Bardon dress is a fun dress and more of a stand out look. So I hope I’m ready to be outstanding this summer!

Combining Prints Sewing Challenge

For March I took part in the sewing challenge sponsored by the Instagram group Sew Over 50. It was called “pattern mixing”, #so50patternmixing. At first I didn’t even understand what that meant. The challenge was to combine two or more prints in a garment. I have combined a print with a solid, but have never thought to use multiple prints – that sounded a bit loud and overly busy to me. Actually, it can be bold or subtle.

I have many times been drawn to a fantastic print, but not all prints are wearable to me. I wouldn’t want to wear skulls or dancing hippos. I came across an excellent blog post by 7 Pine Design on “Sewing Prints Versus Solids”. Prints are marketed to the home sewing customer, who tend to be drawn to them. I find it hard to pick out prints for clothes, especially from online photos. I’ve learned that stripes, dots, gingham, and plaids are safer to stick with. I have mixed feelings about florals; some I like, some can have a dated look.

One of my sewing goals for the year is to explore creativity, so I set aside my sewing queue: challenge accepted! Once I decided to take part, I added two conditions of my own – I would use only fabric odds and ends instead of yardage, and it would have to result in an item I would actually wear. It was fun looking through all my fabric and thinking of possibilities.

I paired a thrifted floral piece with an odd shaped gingham piece left over from pants and shorts I made previously. The floral had bleeding I had to work around.

I used my pillowcase top as a prototype to make a boxy top from my Maya pattern. I flat felled the gingham strips on either side of the floral and made two panels that I cut my front and back from.

The small scale gingham reads like a solid from a distance, so this is a subtle use of two prints. I changed the neckline to a v-neck which I have never sewn before. I drafted a v neck facing, but I didn’t make the v deep enough.

I was inspired to sew a second item!

I used an Instagram tutorial by @merrileeboniface and shared on the Sew Over 50 page for making a robe from a vintage flat sheet, and adding a second fabric as an accent. I found a forgotten fitted twin sheet at the bottom of my own linen closet, and combined it with the leftover lavender gingham I bought at an estate sale for $1 and previously made a shirt with, and estate sale 100% cotton rick-rack. The slide below is from the tutorial.

tutorial and photo by Merrilee Boniface

I was using a different size sheet so I used the length I had to make a longer robe. I made the sleeves 4 inches shorter, partly by taking some width off the sides, as this is a drop shoulder pattern. I have short arms, and these sleeves with the pretty trim aren’t made to be rolled up.

I got out my vintage daisy bowls from the 1970s for this photo shoot. I was surprised to find they were made in Italy. America is not the only country to no longer manufacture many items anymore.

It’s a pretty robe for patio lounge wear, and to have breakfast in.

Below are photos of the belt, the inseam pocket, the hanging loop, and the belt loop and a peek at the pocket from the right side.

I became aware that vintage sheets are sold on EBay and Etsy, are very collectible, and are used for various sewing projects. The sheet I used was made in the USA by Cannon and is called Daisy Delight. The Cannon Mills Company was an American textile manufacturing company based in Kannapolis, North Carolina, that mainly produced towels and bed sheets. Founded in 1887 by James William Cannon the company remained family owned until 1982, then was sold to another company that went bankrupt in 2003. Below are the front and back of the label.

I’m wearing it with the simple cap sleeved cotton jersey knit nightshirt that I made in 2019. It still looks good after hundreds of wears and washes.

This was a fun project to put on my Dritz dress form as I was sewing it. Most of the time I keep my sewing mannequin in the closet and don’t use it.

As I was sewing the robe, I realized I own many vintage items. I never thought much about their value, and that they are sought after by collectors. I use an iron with a cloth cord, my ironing board has a wooden top under the padding, and some of my kitchenware is old. I used to go to estate sales in my neighborhood, and buy more old things, but these sales are infrequent now. The older generation who came before me is gone, replaced by young families with babies and toddlers like when the neighborhood was built in the 1950s. Now I’m a part of the older generation, the vintage one. I hope the women who left behind fabric I later bought had already sewn many of the fabulous and useful items they had planned, and used most of their favorite fabrics. I am carrying on to do the same.

Spring Sewing – Classic Tee and New Look 6515

I’m ready to step into the warm, sunny days of spring!

I was looking forward to sewing a cool spring outfit from these two fabrics: a soft cotton double gauze and a floral slinky rayon/spandex knit. I sewed a tee and wide leg pants. They are also both on my “Make Nine” list for 2021.

The tee shirt is the Classic Tee from Love Notions.

I made the crew neck tee with short sleeves in size medium. My measurements put my bust in a size large and my hips in a size medium, so I printed the pattern with both sizes and compared it to other tees. I decided on the medium and am happy with the fit. Previously, I found this very stretchy fabric hard to sew with, but I wanted to try again with this simple pattern. I thought I wouldn’t have a problem with the fabric growing with a pattern with sleeves and a higher neck.

I sewed the seams with my serger, but I cautiously machine basted the neckband binding on before serging.

New Look 6515 is one of the patterns I bought off EBay last year.

I planned to make the pants full length and without the slit. I was sewing with the fabric known as double gauze for the first time. There are two layers tacked together. The fabric is called bubble gauze at Joann where I bought it with a gift certificate from a sweet friend. It is very soft, airy and crinkly textured, and sometimes used for baby items. (I have since found out there is a smooth type as well).

Oddly enough for someone who googles everything, I didn’t look up how to sew with double gauze. I decided to just go with my instinct. I thought it best to avoid ironing the fabric as much as possible to retain the texture. I read the opposite while looking up tips for sewing with double gauze while writing this post, that double gauze requires quite a bit of pressing. Okay, ha!

This fabric doesn’t have structure and is a little thin, so it isn’t especially suited to most pants. The suggested fabrics listed on the pattern envelope are batiks, chambray, cotton types, gauze, linen types, so it’s a match. I can also imagine these pants even more unstructured in a flowing rayon with a slit above the knee. They would almost look like a skirt.

I started with a size 16 which matched my hip size allowing for some ease. The finished hip measurement for each size is given on the pattern.

The waist is partially elasticized, and the legs are full so there is no fitting or shaping. I thought the legs were too wide on me, so I slimmed them down. Maybe I slimmed them down too much, but they still swish when I walk. The waistband has an interfaced flat section, and it is folded to make a double layer. The elastic is inserted into the one of the openings shown below, extends a bit into the flat section, and is tucked in and sewn down at each seam. I love this waistband!

The pants have seams down the middle of the front and back. I subbed an inset pocket for the inseam pocket provided with the pattern.

Mistake of the month: I was merrily zipping along serging the seam allowances and didn’t realize I was catching part of the pants. I did this on parts of 3 out of 4 panels. Luckily there were no holes and I was able to unpick them. I did this gently; the open weave makes the fabric fragile.

Both the tee and the pants were easy to sew, and I highly recommend the patterns. The tee will also go great with jeans and the pants with sleeveless tops. These pieces will be light enough for wearing in the summer to the grocery store, and if I ever go anyplace else. Actually, I feel optimistic about the summer, and these are happy clothes for going out.

I love the cool and fresh colors and textures of this outfit!

A Look Back at 2020

I sewed clothes! To be precise I sewed 17 clothing items: 5 pairs of pants, 3 shorts, 7 tops, 1 dress, and 1 skirt. This is 3 more than last year, despite being sick in the winter and then needing to change my sewing plans to sew masks. I think nearly everyone with a sewing machine sewed masks this year, especially early on when they weren’t available at the store. I not only sewed masks but I spent a lot of time looking up mask patterns and reading how to make masks that were more protective. Sewing to survive, literally.

I knitted quite a bit less this year due to hand problems, only completing 1 hat. I didn’t finish any other needlework, although I did start a cross stitch project toward the end of the year.

Of the bottoms I made I wore the navy ponte knit pants, the pull-on jeans, and the denim shorts the most – 1, 3, and 4 in the photos. The traditional zipper fly jeans I made were nicely sewn but the waist didn’t fit right so I never wore them. The last 2 pairs of pants were just finished in December so I don’t know their frequency of wear yet.

The tops I wore the most are the tee shirt and swing tank, 3 and 5. With tops I’m able to use more diverse fabric sources: a refashion from my own closet, a thrift store refashion, fabric from an estate sale, and a garage sale sarong.

Of this group I wore the masks the most.

Some of my stand out outfits:

I sewed 5 items from my Make Nine list from last year:

My other sewing goals were:

To buy and learn how to use a serger – I did this toward the end of the year. I haven’t used it very much as of yet.

To match stashed fabric with patterns, especially for tops – I did this well.

To buy fabric wisely, especially to buy more bottomweight fabric for pants – I did well with this, I also bought some knit fabric as I had none in stash.

Techniques I want to learn are sewing a collar and welt pockets – I only sewed a collar without a stand and no welt pockets yet, so this one did not happen.

Next signpost ahead: 2021