Tuesday, November 26, 2013

pattern review - prairie rose dress by wee muses

I recently had the privilege of testing the Prairie Rose Dress pattern by Wee Muses.  Foe those of you who aren't familiar with Wee Muses, the designer is Anneliese, the creative genius (and I don't use that word lightly!) who writes the Aesthetic Nest blog.  Seriously, if you haven't seen it already, go take a look for yourself.  I'm pretty sure that her creativity is endless!

Also, Anneliese is offering 20% OFF all purchases with code THANKS20 through Wednesday, December 4, on both her Wee Muses and Aesthetic Nest patterns!

I have to be honest, this pattern is nowhere close my usual sewing style, but sometimes I just like to try something different.  So when Anneliese asked me if I would like to test the pattern, I jumped at the chance.  And then promptly realized that I did not have enough of any appropriate fabric, so off to Joann's I went with my 60% off coupon in hand :)  A few months ago, I had fallen in love with this pinstripe linen (which I didn't buy at the time for some odd reason) and I really hoped it was still in stock.  Luckily it was, and not on sale to boot, so I was able to use my coupon and get it for the lovely price of $6.79/yd which isn't bad for nice linen fabric.

Once I dug this trim out of my stash, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and to work.  The pattern is great!  The instructions are easy to follow and the entire dress went together quickly and beautifully.  Right up until I was closing the opening for the waist elastic that is.  As I cut the trailing threads, I also cut a nice size hole right in the back of the skirt!  Of course, I still had to take pictures and get my review back to Anneliese, so I opted to not add trim to the bottom of the dress knowing that I would have to cut it off later.

I swear that I tried to get a picture of Mae without her fingers in her mouth, but she wasn't cooperating at all.  On that particular day, I considered myself blessed that she even stood still :)  I will also add that I intended to take pictures with a flower clip on her little elastic belt, but that poor little flower didn't even survive long enough to get in a single picture!

Since Mae has been such a stinker lately, this last picture is Mae-less.  I did end up cutting off the bottom of the dress (it makes it a perfect tunic length) and adding the trim to match the collar and sleeves.  Since Mae's kind of tiny, I actually like the shorter length better oh her, but you will just have to take my word for it since I'm unlikely to get a picture anytime soon :)

Dress - Linen
Trim - Cotton 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

no more unfinished projects!!!

In the spirit of yesterday's post, I decided that I need to deal with the fallout of my own inability to limit choices in my life.  In my defense, all of these were from by pre-blogging days.  Now I generally finish what I start in order to share on the blog, so not much gets left undone anymore.  Anyway, this is what too many choices looks like for me :)

These are only some of the unfinished projects scattered around my sewing room right now, but I know I need to start small or I will lose all momentum.  So, I have set a goal to finish these two dresses and two skirts by December.  I also have a couple of patterns to test, so I should be plenty busy for the next few weeks.  I may not have as many posts as normal, and not all of them will include sewing projects, but I promise will share a bit as I finish each project :)

I know I'm not the only one with unfinished projects.  So what project is your nemesis?  You know, that project that stares you down from across the room until you stuff it in a drawer or something :)  Leave a comment and let me know.  I always love hearing from you!

Monday, November 18, 2013

all I want for christmas is ...

'Tis the season ... the season where my kids scour the catalogs that come in the mail and oh so meticulously (sometimes with multiple drafts!) compose their Christmas lists.  After all, it's difficult to see the 14 million different toy options available and whittle it down to a respectable list of approximately 10-12 items :)

All joking aside, do you ever wonder if your kids are presented with too many choices on a daily basis?  I think back to the Sears catalog we used to get in the mail when I was a kid.  That was all we got ... one lonely catalog .. and that was plenty for me.  I didn't count, but I'm guessing we've had somewhere around 40-50 catalogs show up in our mailbox in the last few weeks.  It overwhelms me, not to mention the kids!

A few years ago, I started reading about the minimalism movement which directly contradicts modern day consumerism.  I read a few blogs and borrowed a couple of books from the library ... and I truly enjoyed reading about people's journeys toward a more minimalist lifestyle.  I envied how some are able to embrace the lifestyle with almost no effort, but for me (and my family) the path didn't seem so clear.  In America, everywhere you turn, you are bombarded with rampant consumerism messages.  In fact, most Americans are so used to the exposure that they often don't even notice it anymore ... it's just a fact of life and we accept it.

I am generally a non-confrontational person.  I don't seek out conflict or go looking for trouble.  But somewhere along my journey into minimalism, I decided that was the only option available to me :)  I was going to have to fight ... fight the gimmes I heard multiple times a day from my kids ... fight the envy I see in my kids (and myself!) when someone has something cool or new ... fight the tendency to abuse stuff because there is always more ... and probably most relevent to me, fight the belief that this is the only way we can live because everyone else does it too.

The first think we did was get rid of TV service.  This helped get the consumerist attitude out of our faces and pushed it into the background.  After all, I figure if you don't know that it exists, you most likely won't want it, unless you have a really vivid imagination in which case you should invent it :)  Out of all the things I've done, I'm pretty sure this has had the biggest impact overall.  It truly is a case of out of sight, out of mind.

Next, I tried to teach my kids that they don't need the newest and best of everything.  If you are happy with what you have, then there is no need for more.  My oldest makes fun of me all the time because I don't use my smartphone, but shortly after I got the phone I realized how stupid that move really was.  I didn't need it because my old phone served my needs just fine and the fact that it was only a penny didn't justify my buying it. Now I'm just waiting for my contract to expire (this month!) so I can dumb it down again and reap a smaller bill as a reward :)

The comment about being happy with what you have brings me to my next plan of attack.  I want to teach my kids that happiness does not stem from stuff.  The saying "you can't buy happiness" is 100% true.  There have been countless studies done which prove that happiness only increases up to the point where basic needs are met.  Beyond that point, an increase in wealth does not translate to an increase in happiness.  We, both in my home and as a culture, need to learn to embrace what we have and find happiness in the people and places around us.  We live in a beautiful free country full of interesting people, and I know I personally need to focus on and be thankful for that a whole lot more than I am now.

It's kind of funny, but when I started writing this post, this was not at all where I intended to go with it.  I was actually going to attempt to put together a list of sewing related things I might want for Christmas ... seems I really strayed off topic on this one :)  But now that I've written it, I'm not taking it back.  I really don't need anything for Christmas.  Sure, there are plenty of things I want, but I already have everything I need, and it is imperative that I remember that.  Maybe I just need to emulate my 9 year old a little more.  The other night while he was making his Christmas list he looked through the catalogs and told me he couldn't come up with anything for his list.  When I asked him why not, he told me he already has everything he needs and he doesn't think he would play with anything else.  Once again, I found myself envious, this time of my own son, who seems to have had found his personal path to happiness :)  Although I did question that when he was fighting with his siblings later that same day over every little thing!  Perhaps it's not happiness but contentment that I'm seeking ... happiness is too dependent on circumstances ... as evidenced by my bickering kids :)

If you are open to the idea of minimalism and want to learn more, here are a few great blogs to get you started:

Thursday, November 14, 2013

the wonderful terrible twos and a knit izzy top

Mae wears pretty much everything I make, but you will probably be seeing a little less of her sweet little face for a while.  She has decided that sitting still for pictures is clearly not in her best interest.  And I have decided my sanity is important to me, ergo making Mae sit still for pictures is not in my best interest either :)  I'm assuming that since my blog is about sewing children's clothing that most of my readers are moms so I shouldn't have to have any explanation other than she's 2.  No more needs to be said :)

I won't stop posting outfits.  They just may not have a body in them until Mae decides pictures are her thing again.  Or at least until I can once again take clandestine pictures outside while disguising it as something fun ... you know, in about 6 months or so when the world thaws out.  Oh what fun it is to be a mom ... or grandma ... or aunt ... or anyone who sews for a little one :)

Today you get your first Mae-less top :)  I took my Izzy Top pattern and modified it a bit to make a knit top.  I wanted a quick project so I eliminated the gathered skirt and extended the side seams to the length I wanted.  Then I used bindings to finish the neck, sleeves and bottom.  The entire process, including modifying the pattern, took less than an hour, and I am not a fast sewer!  I can see myself making several more of these :)

I used this fun feather print from Girl Charlee accented with a red organic cotton jersey for the bands.  I really like this top and Mae must too since she wore it for the rest of the day after I tried it on for fit.  Most of the time when I tell her I want to try something on her, she tries to wiggle out of it about 5 minutes after I put it on.  She seems to understand very well that "try it one" is a temporary state :)

Feather print - Girl Charlee cotton/rayon/spandex knit
Red knit - organic cotton jersey from fabric.com

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

the bumblebee dress: pattern tour and giveaway

I'm excited to be part of the Bumblebee Pattern tour at Sewing Mama RaeAnna.  Make sure you check out all the other participants as well.  The talent these ladies have is amazing!

I was lucky enough to test the Bumblebee Pattern before it's release and realized what a wonderful and caring woman RaeAnna is!  She put a lot of effort into this pattern (her first!) and it really shows.

Scroll down to enter the giveaway to win a copy of the Bumblebee Dress pattern along with a gift certificate to the Ribbon Retreat and some free fabric! After all, who doesn't love free fabric :)  Or, if you tend to be a bit impatient (and incredibly unlucky!) like me you can buy the Bumblebee Dress on sale here for only $5 until November 18th!

I posted my first Bumblebee Dress (with minimal changes from the pattern) here, but for the second one I wanted to do something a bit different.  A few months ago I bought this goldish (the color is actually called mustard) chambray from fabric.com.  I didn't have anything in particular planned for it, but once I started designing this dress, I knew the color would be perfect.  But since the chambray is an almost utilitarian looking fabric, and I was going for a dressier look, I dug through my fabric until I found this lovely cream silk dupioni.  I think it adds the perfect amount of shimmer to make the dress a little unexpected :)

I made a few small changes to the pattern like using narrower ruffles on the bodice and sleeves.  I'm not really much of a ruffle person, but I think that is because I hate sewing them, not because of how they look :)  I kept the larger ruffle on the bottom, but I added a high-low hemline because I wanted a tunic that could be worn with pants.  It's just too cold in Michigan to wear a dress and tights in the middle of winter, and a dressy top with pants is a much smarter, frostbite-free choice :) To create the hemline, I cut the back of the dress about 2" shorter than the pattern and the front about 8" shorter.  The only other change I made was to add a band between the bodice and skirt because I thought it added to the overall traditional look.

I generally don't do embroidery, so I chose to add pintucks and buttons to the bodice.  Just a little nod to my humble beginnings in heirloom sewing :)

I drafted my own pants pattern (more about that later this week!) and sewed them from a stretch cotton sateen.  I have never used that particular fabric before, but I definitely will again!

I don't know if you have ever worked with silk dupioni, but that stuff is a bear to sew.  It frays like mad!  Poor Mae ran through my sewing room while I was cutting and ironing and acted like she had just run into a giant spider web :)  And then when I was gathering the ruffles, I had to spend a few minutes collecting silk strands from my clothes and everything else in the general vicinity.  The silk also snags rather easily, but thankfully the slub texture hides any minor imperfections that occur while sewing ... and there were a few :)

I've said it before, and I will probably say it again :)  The Bumblebee Dress is a great pattern that has so much potential for customization.  You can take a look at the other stops on the tour and see for yourself just how true this is!

And we're outta here!  That's all for today :)

Dress - Robert Kaufman Interweave Chambray in Mustard
Bodice/Ruffles - Cream silk dupioni
Pants - Navy stretch cotton sateen from Joann's
Buttons - Joann's
Boots - H&M

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Monday, November 11, 2013

pattern review - japanese pattern book

Before I start my post, I would like to take a moment to thank all of this country's veterans.  I don't know where we would be without you, so thank you from the bottom of my heart!


I've given up the ghost on Pattern Review Fridays :)  It seems that the posts are just as likely to go up on Saturday or Sunday (once on Monday!) so I'm just going to post pattern reviews whenever I feel like it.  Schedules seem to stifle my creativity anyway.  The week will be rolling along just fine until I realize it's Thursday and there's no Pattern Review Friday garment sewn, let alone photographed and ready to be posted :)  So today, you get a pattern review on Monday.  Who knows, maybe next week I'll go wild and post one on a Wednesday!

Today's dress is from the Japanese sewing book A Sunny Spot.  This book, from what I can gather with my nonexistent Japanese language skills, encourages you to mix and match the pattern pieces to create unique garments.  And if it doesn't encourage that, too bad, I did it anyway :)


I started with Dress A type 1, added the sleeves from Dress B type 3 and used the back opening idea from Dress A type 2 although I fully lined the bodice for structure instead of using facings.  I made a size 90 which was perfect except it is a little tights across the back so it may not still fit next spring like I hoped.   But Mae seems to like it so I think it will get plenty of use this fall and winter :)

I love the simplicity of many Japanese patterns.  They lend themselves really well to busy prints like this floral rayon challis.  This is the first time I used that type of fabric, but I already plan to buy more because it is the perfect weight for flowy summer garments ... not that we have much need for those this time of year :)

Originally I used elastic cording to create a button hole loop, but about 5 minutes into wearing it, Mae ripped one half of the button loop right out.  So I redid the back opening with ties instead and ended up liking it better than the original button :)  Gotta love those happy accidents!

Dress - Rayon challis floral print
Tights - Baby Gap
Boots - H&M

Thursday, November 7, 2013

tutorial - sewing the caroline dress

It's time to sew!  If you missed the first post for the Caroline Dress, go here to learn how to draft your pattern and prepare your fabric for sewing.

Sewing the pockets:

Sew the entire dress with a 3/8" seam allowance.

1. Sew the pocket to the pocket lining along the top edge, right sides together

2. Press the seam away from the pocket lining

3.  Fold the pocket in half, right sides together, lining up all the edges.  Sew around the sides and bottom, but leave an opening for turning the pocket right side out.  Make sure to backstitch on either side of the opening so you do not rip your stitches while turning the pocket.

4. Clip the top corners and trim close to the seam along the curves.

5. Turn right side out through the opening, press the edges well and (optional) topstitch about 1" from the top of the pocket.

6.  Repeat for second pocket

Assembling the dress front

7.  Pin the pockets to the dress.  I just eyeballed this step :)  I tried to keep the bottoms of the pockets parallel to the hemline and the tops an equal distance from the center and side seams.

8. Sew along the sides and bottom of the pocket about 1/8" away from the edge.  This will both attach the pocket to the dress and close the opening along the bottom of the pocket

9.  Use pins to mark the center of the skirt and 3" on either side of the center.

10. Lay the fabric wrong side up.  Bring the left side over until the center and left pin are lined up.  Crease the fabric along the fold.  Unfold.  Now bring the right side over until the center and right pin are lined up and crease that fold.  The picture shows the left crease (with notes!) to give you a visual since I'm not sure I can adequately describe this step with words :)

11. With the skirt still wrong side up, bring the center pin over the right hand pin and crease the fold.  Unfold.  Repeat for the other side by placing the center pin over the left hand pin and creasing that fold. You can see in the picture that the the skirt is creased along the original lines I drew while drafting the pattern.  Fold along the creases to make the inverted box pleat.

12. Make sure that the yoke and skirt are the same width.  If they are not, adjust the pleat.

13. Pin the yoke to the skirt

14. Sew and finish/serge the seam

15. Press the seam up and topstitch if desired

16.  Finish constructing the dress according to the directions from this post :)

Red - Chambray
Purple - Interweave Chambray in Sorbet by Robert Kaufman

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

tutorial - drafting the caroline pattern

Now that you have the basic aline pattern (if you don't, you can get it here - remember to download and open the pattern in Adobe Acrobat before printing) and you know how to add facings, it's time to customize the pattern.  The Caroline Dress is the first variation I am sharing with hopefully many more to come :)

The Caroline Dress is a high yoke aline dress with an inverted box pleat and two cute faux buttoning patch pockets on the front.  You can use any pocket pattern you already own or you can get my version for free here (once again - make sure to download and open in Adobe Acrobat before printing).

Drafting the Pattern:

1. Print the Basic Aline Pattern and assemble - there are directions on how to assemble the pattern here if you need them.

2.  The back piece will be used as is, but the front piece requires a couple of simple modifications. First, draw a line across the pattern perpendicular to the center line about 2" below the neckline to create separate yoke and skirt pieces - shown in red on the picture below

3.  Cut on the line drawn in step 2 and make notes on the pattern to add 3/8" to both the bottom of the yoke and top of the skirt for seam allowances.

4. Next, make one more note along the center fold of the skirt piece to add 3" to the pattern for the inverted box pleat.  If you are not comfortable cutting the fabric based solely on notes on the pattern, then redraw the pattern pieces with the changes.  I know I have left off seam allowances in the past, so I tend to redraw my patterns if I plan to use them more than once :)

5. If you have not made pattern pieces for the facings, then follow the directions found here.

6.  The final pattern piece you need is the pocket.

Cutting your fabric:

7. Cut the back piece as directed on the pattern.

8. Cut the front skirt piece with the top seam allowance and 3" addition along the center of the pattern.  I traced the pattern flat in the picture below to show exactly how to cut the front piece, but you can cut it on the fold.

9. Cut the yoke piece - don't forget to add the seam allowance along the bottom.

10.  Cut 2 pockets along the top line in the pattern out of the main fabric and cut 2 along the lower line for the lining.  These can be cut from the same fabric as the lining will not show. The picture below shows all the pattern pieces except the facings.

11.  Cut the facings for the dress.  If you use the original pattern pieces to make your facings, be sure to add 3" to the front facing piece on the fold so it matches your modified skirt piece.

That's it for pattern preparation!  I will be back tomorrow with directions on how to sew the Caroline Dress :)  Until then, here's a closer look:

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

tutorial - adding facings to an aline dress

Yesterday I posted a free aline dress pattern in sizes 18 months - 5T that you can download for free here.  Today I will show you how to draft facings to finish the dress.

*** Download the pattern and print from Adobe Acrobat... do not print directly from Dropbox as it will not print correctly ... also check to be sure the 1" box is the correct size on the first page of the pattern before cutting your fabric *** 

Aline dresses are generally finished differently than a yoke bodice dress since there are no linings involved.  With an aline dress, all edges including the neckline, the armscyes in a sleeveless version, and the hemline need to be finished.  One method is to use a narrow bias binding, but that often results in a wavy edge.  Personally, I prefer to face any exposed edges which results in a nice smooth finish.  As an added bonus, if you are using a lightweight fabric, the facings help give the the dress a bit of structure.

The directions included here are for one of the most basic dresses you can make, a simple back closing aline dress without any embellishments.  There are many, many ways to customize this dress, one of which I will share later this week :)

Preparing the Pattern:

1. Click on the link above to get your free Basic Aline Dress pattern pieces.

2. Print the pattern pieces being sure to select no scaling or the print actual size option.  You can print just the first page to start and measure the 1" test box if you are unsure whether the pattern is going to print the correct size.

3. There are only two printed pattern pieces: the front and the back.   But you will also need to cut out several facing pieces later in the sewing process.

4. The pattern pieces need to be assembled by matching the stars on pages 1-8.  You will need to trim some of the pages to overlap the others.  For reference, the size 18 months back piece should measure 16 3/4" along the fold line if the pattern is printed and assembled correctly.

Cutting your fabric:

This pattern uses approximately 2/3 of a yard for the size 2T.  I did not measure for the other sizes, but none of them take more than 1 yd.  The facings can be made from the same print or about 1/4 yd of a coordinating print.  You will also need one button and 2" of elastic cording or 1/8" elastic.

5. Cut one front and one back piece, both on the fold.  Make sure to iron a crease along the center line of the back piece.

6. Cut a 5" long x 3" wide piece of fabric for the back opening.

7. Now you need to cut the facings for the neck, armscyes and hem (optional).  First you will need to use the pattern pieces to draw the cutting lines for the facings.  To do this, draw lines 1 1/4" away from each of the three edges that require facings.  I "borrowed" my daughter's compass to make sure the lines were a uniform distance from the edges, but you could also make small tick marks with a ruler and then draw a line connecting them.  Make sure to make note of the grain line (parallel to the front and back center line) for the armscye facings. I labeled the three facings on the picture below:

8. Now use those lines for the facings to create new pattern pieces or just be lazy like me and cut them out one at a time and then tape the pattern back together after cutting each facing piece :)

9. Cut the front neck facing on the fold.  Cut two of the back neck facings (mirror images) and add 1/2" to the center back of each one. I traced them in the picture below just for illustration purposes ... you can just cut them :)

10. Cut out two front and two back armscye facings, mirror images of each other, as shown in the picture below.

11. Cut the front and back hem facings on the fold.  Sorry, no picture of this step :)

Sewing the Basic Aline:

All seam allowances are 3/8"
Clip all curves before turning right side out
Iron frequently - this isn't my favorite step, but it really does make a difference :)

12. Finish the bottom and sides of the rectangle needed for the back opening.  Fold the rectangle in half long edges together and iron in a crease along the fold. Open the rectangle with the right side facing down. Make a mark 4" down from the top.  Draw a line on either side of the crease at an angle as shown in the picture.

13. Pin the rectangle on the back of the dress, right sides together with the top edges and the center creases lined up.

14.  Start on the top and sew down one side of the crease following the lines drawn in the previous step.  When you get to the bottom, pivot the fabric with the needle raised and start sewing back up the other side stopping a couple of inches from the top.

15. Lift the edge of the rectangle on the side you haven't finished sewing yet and insert your 2" piece of elastic cording 1" from the top edge.  Tuck it tightly up against the line sewn in the previous step.  Continue sewing to the top edge.  Make sure to back and forth over the elastic cording a couple of times to keep it in place.

16.  This is what the cording should look like at this point.

17. Cut in between the two lines of stitching all the way to the pivot point being careful not to cut through any stitches.

18. Turn the facing to the back so the wrong sides are together and press well.  Topstitch along the opening.

19. Place the front and back pieces right sides together.  Sew and finish/serge the shoulder seams.  Press the seams toward the back.

20. Iron the lower edges of the neck facings under 1/4"

21.  Pin the short edges of the facings, right sides together and sew.

22. Press the seams open.  Now you are ready to attach the neck facing to the dress.

23.  Pin the facing to the dress right sides together matching the raw edges.  The back facings should overlap the back opening by 1/2" as shown in the picture.

24. Sew the facing to the dress.  Clip the curves.

25.  Turn the facings to the inside of the dress.  Your back and front neckline should now look like this:

26.  Topstitch about 1/8" from the edge of the facing. 

27.  Place the dress right sides together and sew and finish/serge the side seams.

28. Now it is time to attach the armscye facings. This is done pretty much the same as the neck facings.  Please reference the pictures in steps 20-25 if you are unclear on any step.  For some reason, I forgot to take pictures of this stage, so if you need help muddling through my way less-than-perfect directions, please leave a comment or contact me via email using the button at the top of the page :) Iron under the longer curved edges of the facings 1/4" (step 20).  Pin a front and back facing rights sides together (step 21) and sew into a circle.  Make sure you are sewing the top of the front facing to the top of the back and the bottom to the bottom.  Pin the facing to the armscye right sides together with the raw edges lined up (step 23) and sew.  Turn the facing to the inside of the dress (step 25) and topstitch close to the facing edge (step 26).  Repeat for the second armscye.

29.  This is what the topstitching should look like on the front of the dress.  Now all that is left is the hem and a button :)

30. The hem facing is sewn the same way as the armscye facings.  Or you can just sew a narrow hem if you prefer.  I like the look of the facings so I finished the hem that way in the picture :)

31.  Add a button and you're done!

I know this isn't my best tutorial, but it's late and my brain seems to have reached it's capacity for the day :)  Once again, if you need clarification on anything, please leave a comment below or use the mailto button (looks like a little envelope) at the top of this page to email me.

Dress - Cotton print from Joann's
Facings - Michael Miller Dumb Dot
Button - Joann's