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Archive for October, 2009

My leap into sewing began about 9 years ago when I took a quilt class with Susan (the mother of a good friend from high school – also the mother of my ex-boyfriend).  We’ve been taking this class every year for about the past 9 years.  Susan has been very diligent with doing her homework assignment each month.  I have not been as good.  However, I’ve been doing much catching up in the past few months.

The class is on the first Saturday of every month, at a local quilt shop.  The homework for each month is to sew one quilt square based on a pattern that you are given in class.  They provided the fabric and the instructions.  Each year you could choose from a group fabric combinations.  Examples of past years are:  pinks & greens, black & white, country, blue & yellow, brights, and many other groups.   At the end of the year, if you’ve done all your homework, you’re left with 12 quilt squares that can be turned into a quilt, table runner, throw, or whatever else you want to turn them into.  I have only made 2 finished quilt throws from 2 different years of homework.  The other years I have either completed the squares, but don’t know how I want to finish off the quilt, or I haven’t done all my homework to make a complete set of 12 squares. 

Here is one year that I did all my homework squares, and finished into a throw.  I used leftover scraps of fabric to border the completed squares, and to fill in space between the squares.  That year I had the “black and white” group.  I used a “Day of the Dead” fabric by Alexander Henry for the back side of the quilt.

Day of the Dead quilt

Day of the Dead quilt

This year I have selected the “30s” grouping of fabrics.  This fabric is comprised of patterns that are reproductions of or inspired by prints of the 1930s that were originally imprinted on feed and flour sack bags.  The theory was that with money being tight, and women using the fabric of the bags to make clothing, etc., if you had a pattern that women preferred, they would be more likely to buy your product.  Here is a little history on feedsack fabrics.

Here is my finished homework square from September. 

Quilt Class Homework

Quilt Class Homework

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This is another project from Weekend Sewing by Heather Ross.  Here is the picture of the Summer Blouse from Weekend Sewing (the model is also wearing the head scarf from the book).

Weekend Sewing Summer Blouse

Weekend Sewing Summer Blouse

This is only my second project that I’ve ever done that involves sleeves, which always seems to intimidate me.  After perusing a couple other sites/blogs for errors, this is what I learned:

  • There are no basting markings on the sleeves (they were omitted from the pattern)
  • The placket plunges really low, only to be mostly sewn back up
  • The neckline runs impossibly high
  • The hem runs impossibly short
  • The sleeves are either way too long, or just right
  • The bias tape requirements are incorrect
  • The top runs big, and if you’re not careful, will produce the “when are you due” questions

I’m still learning, and a part of that is learning what modifications can be made after you begin sewing (like shortening a hem), and what modifications have to be made before you cut the pattern (like lengthening).  This is why it has been so helpful to read blogs about these projects.  Right away I knew had to at least lengthen my pattern before cutting.  The other modifiations could be made after I cut the fabric (though this results in some waste of fabric, since the pattern would be altered after I was finished, it would not waste fabric for future creations of this blouse).

I think the biggest thing I learned from this project is that sometimes a fabric that you have that you had no idea what it could be used for might just be waiting for the right project.  And so it was with this fabric.  Let me start by saying I love ladybugs.  When I first started quilting, I collected any and every ladybug fabric, in the hopes of making an ultimate ladybug quilt.  That was over 9 years ago.  Have I made a ladybug quilt…no.  I’ve made a few ladybug quilt squares, but that’s as far as I’ve gone.  As a result, I have lots of ladybug fabric.  In a recent attempt to thin out my collection, I started going through my ladybug stacks, looking for fabric that, while it had ladybugs on it, didn’t hold much appeal for me, or didn’t really go with the rest of fabrics.  Such was the case with this fabric, which I had with an orange background and with a green background.  I don’t remember where or when I got it, or, even why, as it is a bit odd, even for ladybug fabric.  It features ladybugs, flowers, and bumblebees, 3 things common to many ladybug fabrics.  But, it also features carrots, ears of corn, and apples.  Now that just makes no sense.  The fabric is also very lightweight, almost sheer.  I had pulled this fabric out, and was very close to selling it on Etsy.  Then, I decided to make the Summer Blouse.  I had thought this blouse would be perfect for some of my whimsical ladybug fabrics, but which ones?  Then, I saw this fabric, and it clicked. 

peach ladybug fruits & veggies fabric

peach ladybug fruits & veggies fabric

It’s whimsical and lightweight, and a flattering color.  And, since I was going to sell it, I probably wouldn’t mind if it got ruined and turned out horrible.  I decided to go with the peach color for the shirt.

I decided to make my own bias tape.  I first used the peach fabric, and  I originally cut it so that the final size after all the folding was ½”.  Once I did that, I realized that it looked much wider then in the picture.  After scrutinizing the picture closer, it looked like the bias tape should be more like ¼”.  I then made the decision to use the green fabric for the placket and bias tape.  I didn’t use a bias tape maker, so the folding was done by hand.  Not too difficult, though I “steamed” my fingers a few times in the pressing process.

Once I had cut out the front and the back, and sewn the shoulders together, I started making adjustments to how low the neckline was in the front and back.  I trimmed the back by about ¾”, and the front by a few inches (I really don’t like high necklines).  I also figured about how low I’d like the placket to go (I didn’t want to have to cut it and sew it up), and shortened the placket by at least 3-4 inches. 

Summer Blouse placket detail

Summer Blouse placket detail

I didn’t have too much trouble attaching the bias tape (which was not exactly cut on the bias).  The button loop was a nightmare and ultimate failure for me.  I had even bought a loop turner, but despite several attempts, could not get the fabric to turn right side out.  I tried using a smaller seam allowance, but after 3 failed tries, decided to make a loop out of the bias tape, since it was about the right size anyway.  That actually turned out fine.  I used a ladybug button from my stash of ladybug buttons (yes, I have a stash of just ladybug buttons – did I mention I like ladybugs?).  Sewing the button on was fine., though, like others who have made this shirt, I doubt I will ever wear it buttoned.  Even with all my trimming an alterations, it is still a bit high.

Summer Blouse button detail

Summer Blouse button detail

For the sleeves, I decided to see if I could attach them without doing the basting step, since one blog mentioned that the basting made the sleeves look “puffy,” and I definitely wasn’t going for the puffy shirt look.

To be on the safe side, I added about 4 inches to the hem.  In elongating the pattern, I must have done something incorrectly (maybe I didn’t account for the fact that making the bust darts would make the front shorter).  As a result, when I finished sewing both side seems, the back was about an inch longer then the front.  However, that was easily remedied before I hemmed the bottom.  I just trimmed the back to match the front length.

Summer Blouse front - unhemmed

Summer Blouse front - unhemmed

Summber Blouse back - unhemmed

Summber Blouse back - unhemmed

With the sides sewed, but the bottom unhemmed, I was able to see that the shirt was really wide, and flared out quite a bit.  I didn’t want to add any extra darts, and thought I could remedy this by trimming in the side seams.  I could not take in the sides evenly, so I tapered the seams in, taking in towards the bottom about 1 ½ inches, but not taking in much at the bust.  That seemed to remedy the maternity look of the top. 

Summer Blouse front

Summer Blouse front

Summer Blouse back

Summer Blouse back

Since I had extra bias tape leftover, I decided to trim the sleeves with the contrasting bias tape.  I think it looked really nice, even though my sewing wasn’t precise.  I like my sleeves long, and to drape over my hands.  Even so, I probably had to trim at least 1″ off the sleeves.  For the bottom hem, once I had evened it out, I decided I liked it the longer length, and didn’t trim any of the length.  I made a ¼” double folded hem, as I didn’t think I’d like the look of a wide hem.  I did not use the contrasting bias tape for the bottom hem, as I thought it would not be as flattering.

Summer Blouse sleeve detail

Summer Blouse sleeve detail

I even had enough fabric leftover to make a matching head scarf (another pattern from the book).Ladybug Headscarf

Head scarf side view

Head scarf side view

The end result turned out much better then I expected.  I think it helped that I had the perfect pair or orange jeans to go with it.

Summer Blouse outfit

Summer Blouse outfit

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I decided to just go for it.  Sleeves, silk charmeuse fabric, elastic thread…BRING IT ON!

 

This is my first attempt at the Kimono dress with obi sash from Weekend Sewing

Weekend Sewing Kimono

Weekend Sewing Kimono

The fabric I chose is a gorgeous cream silk chartreuse fabric with ladybugs and flowers.   

Kimono ladybug fabric

Kimono ladybug fabric

The fabric was given to me by my good friend Mary, who, in her more ambitious sewing mind, had hoped to use the fabric to make an oriental top and skirt for me.  When she realized that it was just a sewing fantasy, she gave the fabric and pattern to me.  I had never worked with silk fabric before, and the pattern was a little ambitious for me.  When I saw the kimono dress, I thought this fabric would be perfect.  It was very painful to make that first cut, knowing there would be no turning back, and that all was lost if I did a miserable job, or if it looked miserable on me.  But, I made myself dive in, and started cutting.

Now, I had done a little research first.  Prior experience with projects in this book has told me that not only are some of the directions wrong, but sometimes there are inaccuracies in the pattern, and that there were issues with how the final product turned out.  So, I decided to read a few blogs by people who had done this project, and TRY and learn from their mistakes and tips.  But, it also had to be tempered with my inexperience at adjusting patterns or garments, and my impatience to actually get projects finished IMMEDIATELY.  My sewing class doesn’t start up again until the week of October 4th, and while this was a perfect project to have the guidance of my sewing teacher, once I’m ready to sew something, that’s it.  I can’t wait.

Here’s what I learned from other blogs and other people’s notes on this pattern.  Elastic thread can get old, and if it gets old, it doesn’t work as well.  On this dress, the bodice tended to be very big and roomy.  I also read that if you want the sash to be as long as the one in the picture, you would need to make the sash much longer.

I decided to start with the sash, since I was using 2 different cotton materials for the sash.  The main fabric had a white background, with many red labybugs throughout.  The facing of the sash was a red fabric with black polka dots.  The directions called for double sided interfacing, which I had already bought in preparation for this project.  I had never worked with it before.  NOTE TO SELF – don’t just rely on pattern directions, read interfacing directions as well.  I thought I knew how interfacing worked, so I didn’t read the directions.  Well, for double sided interfacing, you adhere one side to the fabric, THEN PEEL OFF THE PAPER, which leaves an exposed interfacing to adhere to the other fabric.  Needless to say, my first sash has the paper still inside of it.  On the plus side, it’s made it a fairly stiff sash.  I had read that the sash should be longer, and I added a couple inches at each end.  I don’t have a tiny waist, and it fit fine, but was nowhere near long enough to drape like the one in the picture. 

Obi sash first attempt

Obi sash first attempt

So, on to sash #2.  I decided to use the white background ladybug fabric, but to have that as the facing, and on the main side use the same fabric as the dress.  I added a few inches to each side of the sash, and the resulting length was very nice and drapey.  This time I did remove the paper from the interfacing, but because I was using 2 different fabric textures for the sash (cotton and silk), I was not able to get a perfectly smooth sash, and there are now some permanent wrinkles/creases in the sash.  However, once the sash is tied, none of this is noticeable, unless I proceed to take off the sash and show someone each time I wear it (which, knowing me, I’ll do at least once).  

Onto the dress.  The kimono itself is only 4 pattern pieces.  I paid attention to some tidbits that said when working with delicate and slippery fabrics, it is sometimes easier to use a rotary cutter to get the clean lines.  Done, and while not even, pretty decent.  As to the statements from other sewers that the bodice was too big/roomy, I didn’t know how to fix that on the pattern, so I figured I would just sew it all, and make adjustments after.  You can make something smaller, but rarely bigger, so I figured I was safe in making it as directed.  I traced the original pattern onto pattern paper, and used that to cut out my pieces.  All went well with the cutting.

It was a little tricky lining up the pattern pieces for sewing, as the fabric was very slippery, but it seemed to line up pretty well.  The sewing went much easier then expected, and without any hitches.  Heming the sleeves was trickier.  Doing the 1/8” hem twice, was quite an effort in folding, ironing (and steaming), and folding again.  I think I have a few steam burns, but not too bad.  You also have to be careful when folding that you don’t fold on a slant, as then you will have some lining up issues.  My edge stitching was not too clean, but on a 1/8” hem, as long as you’re within the fold, it’s barely noticeable.  

Kimono bodice

Kimono bodice

With the bodice sewn, I was able to try it on.  Without having the skirt attached, it is hard to tell exactly how it would fit, and if it would gather.  I was at least able to determine that it would fit me.  I never seem to be able to tell whether something will fit me until it’s finished.  During the process half the time I think a garment will be too small, and then too big, and back and forth until it’s finished, and thankfully usually fits.  Sewing the side seams on the skirt was easy, and it seemed to fit comfortably after it was sewn.

Working with elastic thread, and attaching the bodice to the skirt.  Not so scary as I was lead to believe.  I had hand wound the bobbin, and made sure to use the elastic thread in the bottom bobbin only.  I pinned the bodice to the skirt.  Here’s the tricky part.  Had I been more knowledgeable and more patient, I might have tried securely pinning it, flipped it to the correct side, and seeing how the bodice would drape once attached to the skirt.  I think this is probably the stage where you can correct any problems with how the bodice drapes.  I didn’t do that, and forged ahead.  The sewing went very easy, and I checked my sewing as I went along to make sure that the fabric was gathering.  It was.  The sewing actually went rather quickly, and I was almost surprised when I was done, how decent the dress was turning out.  I tried it on, and saw the gathering problem that most people have had with this dress.  I’m fairly ample up top, and in all fairness, most wrap dresses I have I end up having to pin them at the bust, so that’s pretty standard for me.  The dress fit me pretty well there, but at the waist is wear one of the flaps had a big gaping gather.  It is very difficult to try and alter or adjust something while you have it on, but I didn’t have the patience to wait for class to get help.  Since the bodice was already sewn to the skirt, trying to take that out, and adjust, seemed to difficult for me (I worried I would rip the fabric).  Instead, I was able to do a small fold in the overlapping bodice (like a dark), and sew right on the hem to keep the fold in place.  I also added a few stitches where the bodice meets in the front, to eliminate the need for a pin.  Both adjustments turned out very well, and did not hinder the drape of the dress.  The waist seems a bit high, which affects the placement of the sash (any higher, and I would have belted my chest).

The hem.  I find it odd that a book about sewing, written by someone who sews, and which includes patterns for dresses that are recommended to be made out of fabrics like silk, mentions that for these kinds of hems, she takes the dress to a seamstress to do the hem correctly.  I mean, if even the author doesn’t do the hems, how is the average sewer expected to do a decent job.  If I’m going to pay someone else to sew, then they can sew the whole thing, or I can just make something that is less difficult.  She also recommends trying the dress on with heels, to help determine the correct length.  I think that tip can be helpful, but I chose to just wing it.  I noticed that the length was pretty decent on the dress, and it seemed to already hit me just below the knee, and a little above my calf.  So, instead of trying to pin it while I was wearing it (the fabric was just so slippery to work with), I just decided to give it the minimum hem.  I figured I could always shorten it later.  The folding and ironing was a little easier, since I was working with a wider edge.  I quickly sewed it up, and tried it on.  I got lucky.  The hem looked pretty even (on a drapey fabric, I think uneven hems aren’t as noticeable), and it hit my leg in just the right spot.  Phew.   

Kimono and obi sash

Kimono and obi sash

Wearability.  I wore the dress for Yom Kippur Break Fast (which I hosted at my house).  It helps to fast before wearing any kind of clingy fabric.  After an evening of sitting down, getting up, serving, and general hostess duties, I was able to get through the evening without any seams coming undone, without flashing anyone, and surprisingly, without getting too wrinkled.

Kimono front

Kimono front

Kimono back

Kimono back

Tips for people who want to make this dress:

If you like a longer sash (like the one in the picture), add at least 4 or more inches to each side of the sash.  You can then pin the sash together, and do a practice tie, and cut to the desired drape you want

  • If you want to mix fabrics for the sash, be very careful when you iron and fuse the sash
  • Try on bodice while pinned to the skirt to sewing the bodice to the skirt, to see if you can make any adjustments to how the bodice gathers
  • Don’t be afraid to work with silky fabrics, but maybe it shouldn’t be your first project
  • Use new (not old) elastic thread

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