If You Have a Little Girl in Your Life

Oh, it’s irresistable.  If you have a little girl in your life, and you sew, you will want to make something for her with ruffles…or a little bit of lace, or some gathering, or bows or frills.

You won’t be able to resist, I’m not kidding.

I have a wee one in my life. But she lives far, and I don’t really know her size.  She’s two years old this week, but I decided to make her a 3T dress.

Isn’t that pattern cute?

Anyway, garment sewing is not really my thing, but I am more and more interested in it as I would prefer something that fits and is one-of-a-kind, than something store-bought and cheap.

I found these great fabrics, and in my head I had it all created before I even found the pattern.  You know how that is…then you have to go looking for a pattern that comes close to what you already had in mind.

Then the fun begins.  And frankly, the older I get the more difficult it is to follow a pattern. Sew this on the straight of grain, this on the bias, flip this piece backward, and this one sits on the fold.

Ugh.

(Not to mention that sometimes patterns have mistakes, so it helps to know a little about what you’re trying to do.)  Moreover, I usually just want to do something my way and not the way it shows in the pattern.  For instance, on this dress, I replaced the waistband with a ribbon, and I used a ruffler foot to gather the bottom ruffle.The pattern called for the more traditional method of manual gathering.

I also changed my color scheme a bit from the original layout.

My tip for sewing any garment pattern:  Read the pattern from start to finish.  (Every pattern will tell you this.)  But read it again.  And read it again if necessary.  Unfold the pattern pieces and stare at them as well. Get comfortable with the whole process in your head before you even lay out your fabric. Trust me on this one.

This turned out almost exactly the way I pictured it.

I learned a little about the zipper on the back…I would raise it a bit higher.  But all in all I am happy with the result.

 

 

 

I found out this week that they are coming in to town, so I will be able to give it to this little one in person.  I know at two years old, she won’t care.

But what can I say?  I couldn’t resist.

I only hope it will fit her for at least a few weeks so she can wear it. The matching bag is an in-the-hoop project in machine embroidery, and I added her name there.

Maybe we can get a few pictures of her wearing it before she eats her birthday cake!

A Little Lace Goes a Long Way

I have this stash of lace from my mom, that I keep in the basement, well-protected.  I never know what to do with it, but it’s always in the back of my mind as a resource.

The other day I purchased a (very) cheap sweat-shirty looking top on sale at a discount store where I normally buy groceries. So you know the price was right.

I wore it a few times before I started to get an idea to “cuten” it up a bit.

I ran downstairs to my stash of lace and found something perfect. I added it around the bottom of the shirt.

This took MAYBE half an hour.

It’s cute, right?

That’s when I got out the ruffler and decided to try ruffling the lace a bit to create a flower pin to wear on this shirt (or any other for that matter). I adjusted the ruffler to take a small “bite” so that the ruffle was soft.

You can see that it forms a natural curve and so I then proceeded to sew it onto a piece of wool I had around.

Really, this is very easy and fun stuff if you have the right tools.

I added a button and hot-glued a pin-back onto the back.  Pin-backs are widely available in places like JoAnn’s, Michael’s, etc.

To summarize, everything that’s needed for a project like this:

  • Lace
  • Ruffler foot (or needle and thread if you gather by hand)
  • Basic sewing supplies
  • A round piece of felt
  • A button or another cute center (silk flower?)
  • Pin back
  • Glue gun

This looks adorable on a handbag, a headband, a jean jacket, anywhere! You can also ruffle some fabric and create another look.

Have some fun…I highly recommend a ruffler foot for your machine.  They haven’t changed in years, and I wrote about it here.

So take a break from quilt blocks and try something new!

How Do You Redecorate?

This is the time of year when I look around my house and everything looks stale.

The bathroom needs new accessories and new towels, the pictures on the walls have been there a hundred years.  Well maybe not that long but they might as well be.  And I don’t really have a lot of enthusiasm and energy (read $$$) for a huge renovation.

Then along came this fabric collection.  I LOVE it.  And I’m not even into roosters.

IMG_3403It’s called El Gallo by Deb Strain for Moda.

With all the blacks, grays and reds, I just thought it was elegant and fabulous.

I had to have it for our kitchen.

We have one large window and one small window in the kitchen, and I quickly grow tired of the valances, so I make new ones whenever I have the time.  I decided I would make this set reversible.

Now, this is so easy to make, it’s unbelievable.  Simple valances for a kitchen or bedroom are nothing but straight lines.  I can’t tell you how many people think that’s some sort of inborn talent. Really it’s not.  It takes a sewing machine, some thread, and the will to practice.

For a simple reversible valance, you need two types of fabric, preferably contrasting in some interesting way.

1.  Measure your window.  You’ll need 2 to 2 1/2 times the width of your window in fabric to get a nice gathered appearance.

2.  Decide the length of your valance and add an inch or so for seam allowances.

3.  On mine I included 2 inches of contrasting fabric on the bottom, which I laid out the opposite way on the reverse side. See the picture below.

4.  Place the fabric right sides together and sew all the way along the top and bottom, making a large tube.  I used a serger because it finishes the edges at the same time.

5.  Turn the whole thing inside out and press the seams along the top and bottom.  This is the most time-consuming part.

6.  Next, I serged the ends of the tube…not shut, just all the way around.  if you don’t have a serger, just fold and press the sides under twice, about a 1/2 in. on each side.  Don’t sew the front to the back just yet. We have to add the rod pocket.

7.  About 2 inches from the top, sew a line all the way across the valance.  Make sure your rod will fit before you sew the second line of the rod pocket, usually down about 2-3 inches from the first line. Sew all the way across.

8.  Now you can use a topstitch to sew the sides together leaving the rod pockets open.

9.  I also added topstitching along the bottom contrasting fabric.

10. Done!

IMG_3383Once the valances were up, of course I needed some accent pieces with roosters on them.

Now, frankly, I thought roosters were yesterday’s news. Washed up, used up, replaced by chubby hens with skinny legs.  I don’t know, just not current any more.

But I went into Strawflower Shop in downtown Geneva and asked them if they had any roosters. “Oh yes,” the gal exclaimed, “upstairs in our furnishings. I’ll call to let them know you’re coming up.”  By the time I reached the top of the stairs, an elegant woman greeted me.  “I understand you’re looking for roosters,” she said, as though I were buying fine wine or maybe a new car.

“We have quite a nice selection in our kitchen area. Roosters are always in demand, you know.”  I didn’t know.

But I did find a lovely rooster for the kitchen wall.  Who knew they were in demand?  I guess I’m cool. Again.

IMG_3397

Looking up at the valance you can see that it's reversible, with contrasting detail.

Looking up at the valance you can see that it’s reversible, with contrasting detail.

 

 

 

Baby Steps Toward a Project

I’m getting ready to start working on the polka dot project.  I have an idea about creating a tree with the different polka dots as the leaves.  I am starting as a base fabric some absolutely lovely twill which I ran across on rosie.com, which had an advertising link to Honey Be Good. Honey Be Good sells premium organic cotton.  I’ve only purchased this red twill there so far, but wow, the twill is yummy.  I need some clothes made out of this stuff.

I’ll be adding wool as the trunk of the tree, and I wanted to outline it in white.  I’m never sure how it will all turn out, but that’s the thought right now.

So I experimented on the machine using white perle cotton, size 8, as the blanket stitch thread.

perleAs you can see, the perle has a lot of dimension, jumps off the fabric and generally adds a lot of pop. But size 8 is just too large to go through the tension disks properly.

 

 

 

 

backside  I used a 90/14 needle and reduced the tension somewhat.  But you can see that the back side was looking like it might get knotted and nested at any moment.  Considering the size of this project, I just don’t want to be worrying so much about the  thread.

 

aurifil 28

 

I switched to Aurifil, size 28, and used the triple blanket stitch.  I made the blanket stitch a little wider for visibility, since the thread is so much finer.  Aside from having a more “machine-stitched” look, it does the job with the same “eyeball impact”.

 

finalSo here’s where I’m eventually headed.  I will be using much larger pieces of wool on the twill, with the white blanket stitch around it.  Eventually the whole project will be machine quilted, but not until I get all the details that I want.

I urge you to really experiment with your machine and some of the thicker threads.  You can get a hand-stitched look, and even when it does not look quite as hand-stitched, you can certainly add texture, dimension and detail to your project.

Be bold.  Nobody is writing the rules.

Finally, Ready for the Rainy Season

raincoat

raincoat3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whew.  I don’t think I’d make another raincoat anytime soon .  While the vinyl fabric sewed up nicely, bulky seams were difficult.  The sticky vinyl would grab hold of my needle and pull it out of the machine.

I switched to a titanium-coated needle and same thing.  It got to be a bit of a wrestling match.

In general, I’m pleased with the result.  More than that, I’m pleased that it is done.

I may go back and tweak a thing or two.  Doesn’t everyone?

Happy Easter, friends.

The Making of a Raincoat – Part 3 – A Tale of Two Sleeves

Just as anticipated, the answer to the sleeve dilemma appeared when I least expected it…in the form of a petite white-haired woman who walked into the store.

We chatted for awhile, and I invited her to join some other customers in having a little cookie treat in the back classroom.  I sat down with a cookie myself, and almost thinking aloud, I mentioned  the “speed bump” I had run into using vinyl-covered fabric.  It’s actually a dream to work with.  It sews and folds and presses just fine (with a pressing cloth).  But vinyl-covered fabric doesn’t have a lot of “give”.

When setting the sleeves on the muslin and on the lining, I had no trouble because I could ease the fabric.  Not so with this.  So I ended up with two sleeves that appeared to be too big for the armhole.

The petite woman looked at me.  “Why don’t you undo the sleeve seam and the side seam, attach the sleeve, and then sew up the sleeve seam and down the side?”

I looked at her, disassembling and reassembling the coat in my mind.  It was an obvious solution – and I never would have thought of it.  “That just might work…”  I said slowly.

“Mmm-Hmmm,”  she said, taking another bite of cookie.  “I used to do a lot of garment sewing, and you know, you can forget about pattern instructions.”  She waved her hand dismissively, with a twinkle in her eye.

Sure enough.

The next day I went back to work on the project, and tried what she suggested.  Voila!  Two (almost) perfectly set sleeves.

IMG_1329[1]Onward to the next set of challenges.

And a special shout out to all the women who help other women every day.  You make the rockin’ world go ’round!

The Making of a Raincoat – Part 2 – The Saga Continues

Even though I don’t have much time to work, I’ve been diligent. At this point, I have completed the lining and facings, as well as the hood.

IMG_1324[1]IMG_1321[1]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So far, so good.  I also got most of the piping created, as shown below.

IMG_1328[1]

Yesterday, I started on the body assembly.  I had to stop last night because no matter what I did, I could not get the sleeves to fit the bodice.  I finally put down the work and went to bed.  Unfortunately, it will be a few days before I can get back to it.  I’ll have to think about what is happening with the sleeves and see what adjustments can be made.

Never fear.  At this point, it’s just frustration.  I haven’t stitched a bit of the sleeves, so no “unsewing” yet, just pinning.  A day or two from now, it will all become clear.  So I will wait until the project is ready to advance.  I suppose it’s good practice–learning when to step back, take a break, and wait.

I’m not good at stepping back or waiting.  I’m good at barreling through.  So for now, I will let the rain coat take the lead.  I will let it rest.  And when we’re both fresh, we’ll pick up where we left off, and the rest will be easy.