Sewing that's Retro, Geek, and Chic
May 30, 2014Posted by on
Over on Instagram, lots of us who sew have tons of fun sharing what we’re currently working on and cheering each other on. Sometimes, I get comments asking for more details and photo examples.
Recently, I was asked how I mark and sew darts.
Since I had a mockup with a lot of darts in line for my next project, I posted the step-by-step as I built the mockup. It seemed popular, so I thought some of you who may have missed it on IG would like to see it as a blog post tutorial. =)
First, cut-notch each leg at edge of fabric. (Obviously, you can’t do this with darts that aren’t at the edge of a seam.)
Put a pin through each dart point before unpinning the pattern piece. Unpin pattern, open to fabric wrong side & mark dot with pencil, chalk or whatever works on the fabric you are using.
For straight darts, line a ruler up with marked dot & notch at edge and use Clover Chaco Liner or a pencil to draw legs.
For curved darts, you can put pins thru at intervals down each leg and dot mark same as points.
Use a french curve to connect the dots. (You can line up french curve on paper pattern & then place on fabric to make sure curve matches.)
Start pinning at dart point (about a mm from dot). Weave pins through 4x, and make sure to go through the lines on both sides. Second, pin at notched edge to help fold dart evenly. Then continue weaving pins through from point to notched edge (right to left).
I like assembly-line dart sewing. Do you think this vintage pattern from 1959 has enough darts??
Hand crank needle into end of dart right through marked line and remove first pin.
Stitch directly on marked line. Guide fabric with left hand and hold next pin head with right hand, allowing the machine to pull each pin out as you go.
Reduce stitch length when close to end point of dart.
I like to stitch off the edge of fabric at point and usually backstitch inside of previous stitchline. Sometimes I just stitch off and hand knot thread ends – it depends on project & fabric.
Pull out a tailor’s ham and start pressing all those stitched darts. Yay done! Time to start actual construction…
And in case you’re curious, this is the pattern (pencil skirt version) I was using for my mockup:
May 25, 2014Posted by on
And Happy Geek Pride Day!
Today I’m spending the afternoon working at the little local fabric store and wearing my newly made Star Trek comic print skirt.
I didn’t use a pattern for my skirt. It’s just a basic petticoat-style skirt with an elastic waistband, which I made with rectangles of fabric. (More details in a minute.)
I still have plans to remake a better fitting knit Dandelion top a la TOS style, but I haven’t gotten to that point in my sewing queue.
So I’m just wearing an old store-bought polo I’ve had in my closet for years with my new skirt. The polo’s a bit too long for the skirt, but it’ll do for now.
I’ve had this fabric for months knowing I wanted a geeky skirt out of it. I was even able to print-match across the seams without losing too many inches!
Here’s a simplified how-to diagram to explain making the elastic-waistband skirt (detailed instructions following):
Mine finished about 19½-inches long (knee-length worn a couple inches below waist) using the following measurements & steps:
- Cut one 6½-inch tall strip for yoke and three 17-inch tall strips all the width of fabric (mine was 44 inches wide).
- Sew shorter yoke strip together for center back seam, creating a loop with the fabric.
- Sew three longer strips together end-to-end (match print if desired and able), creating a loop about 3-times the diameter of the yoke.
- Hem longer loop with a double-fold – ⅜-inch fold then another ⅜-inch.
- Fold top of yoke down ¼-inch then another 1¾-inch for 1½ -inch elastic casing. Stitch down leaving opening at center back for elastic.
- Mark the four quarter points of each loop of fabric on unfinished edges (top of larger and bottom of smaller yoke loop).
- Gather larger loop and attach to yoke bottom edge with ½-inch seam allowance, matching 4 previously marked points.
- Insert elastic cut at comfortable length to fit just below waist. Overlap and stitch ends of elastic and stitch casing closed. Evenly distribute fullness around waistband.
- Stitch in the ditch through elastic at center back and through the elastic in 2 or 3 other places on the waistband to hold it in place.
Here are a couple of sewing tricks I like to use:
This skirt works really well with a petticoat underneath so I pulled out my ‘50s style petticoat (it’s an XL kid’s size so it’s shorter than the period appropriate length).
My husband hates the petticoat look but I love it!
It required spinning.
We will see how many fabric store customers notice my geekiness at work today or even know what today is. By the way, I always keep a towel in my car – but my dog gets more use out of it than I do.
Speaking of the dog, you might be wondering “where’s Wensley?” because he usually likes to photo bomb. Believe me, he tried but there was a door in his way this time:
And I leave you with this silly picture, because I still like the skirt best with the petticoat underneath:
One to beam out. So long, and thanks for all the fish!
May 20, 2014Posted by on
I’m still alive* and sewing, I promise!
Most recently (aka last week), I made myself a Sewaholic Cambie Dress.
I know that anyone who has read sewing blogs for the past few years has probably seen one or fifty versions of this dress. Honestly, I’ve seen so many – and while I’ve always liked them – I just sort of filed the information away thinking that maybe someday I’d try the pattern for myself.
Well, that “someday” finally came and I ordered a couple of patterns from Sewaholic Patterns to see how they fit my body. Here’s my Cambie:
I made it in a brightly colored large-weave cotton with 2% spandex piqué fabric. I love textured fabrics, especially when they are a solid color!
The color of this fabric is incredibly hard to photograph! It really messes with the white balance on cameras. I’ve discovered that digital cameras want to read anything with a mix of green and blue as bright turquoise with all the green removed. (Must be that whole Orion slave girl makeup issue on film.) The fabric is definitely green but it has a drop of blue in it – a color somewhere in the zomp and Persian green range in this article about the color spring green on Wikipedia.
Anyway, I think I’ve come pretty close to color-correcting these photos to match real life.
I made a mockup of only the bodice to check the fit. (I knew both skirt options would fit just fine without adjustments.)
The only changes I made to the pattern were so minimal they’re almost not worth mentioning. I scooped out the underarm a little (it was awfully high and straight), smoothed the neckline curves slightly, and shortened the front shoulder straps by a full inch (apparently a commonly needed alteration for this pattern), as you can see in the mockup photo above.
I also decided to make a neckline facing instead of fully lining the dress. I chose to do this because my fabric was rather thick & didn’t need one, and I didn’t want to lose the comfort of its slight stretch.
Speaking of hard to photograph colors, this fabric is also hard to color-match with thread! I never did find a perfect match. Good thing there’s no topstitching needed with this design! I ended up using emerald green (too green!) thread on my serger and a teal (too blue!) thread to stitch everything together.
I made View A with the A-line skirt. I really like the full gathered skirt version too and will probably make one in View B at some point.
All the above photos show how I wore my new dress to church on Sunday. I went with neutral wedges and a simple necklace to make it all about the dress the first time. But I know I’m going to have lots of fun pairing it with other accessories later!
I particularly like it with the yellow shoes and narrow belt:
In the end, I was surprised how dressy this fabric actually is. (I probably shouldn’t be, considering piqué has long been associated with white tie.) I’ve always thought of piqué as somewhat casual because it’s cotton and usually used for summer dresses. But this larger weave has a shimmer to it as the light hits the texture.
You may have noticed that Wensley likes to photo bomb my blog pictures. So to conclude, here’s a goofy shot of me imitating him jumping at the back door during the shoot:
* After a bunch of costuming jobs, I came back to find that WordPress had messed with some of the settings for inserting photographs, making their newest “upgrade” more of a downgrade. Incredibly frustrating and un-motivating when it comes to blogging! So while I waited for them to get their act straightened out, I spent my time sewing a lot of things for myself. And now I have a backlog of things to blog.
March 19, 2014Posted by on
It has been far too long since I’ve had a chance to sit down and blog! That doesn’t mean I haven’t been sewing – just more work sewing than fun sewing.
At the beginning of January, I decided my sewing room needed a major cleaning/reorganizing. I spent a couple of weeks rearranging the furniture in my sewing room and adding a few new pieces. I think it will really be more efficient in the long run. (More on that to come in a later post.)
I got about 90% finished with the reorg and then I started getting back-to-back jobs and the last 10% has been taking the longest to finish.
But before I got work-busy, I did manage to build myself a new ironing table! Yes, table! No more wimpy ironing board for me! You might recall that I’ve been using the square end of my ironing board and ignoring the pointed end for years.
I’ve always loved the large tables set up in costume shops where I’ve worked (there are usually multiple irons sharing one large surface). It was high time I had my own personal table at home!
And because I know all of you who sew will want one for yourself, I took lots of photos so you can make one too. =)
I’m not sure how long IKEA’s carried this, but I just noticed it recently. It was exactly the size/height I’ve been looking for to use as an ironing table base, and it is solid wood. Plus, it even had the bonus of drawers and shelves!
So for $149.00, I had the perfect table base and I didn’t have to engineer anything from scratch. (I still find it amusing that the least expensive large piece of furniture in my sewing room is the cutting table!)
The dimensions of the NORDEN sideboard are 47½” long x 16½” wide x 35⅜” tall. The height was perfect but the top surface was a little small. I needed something that wasn’t too big and would fit along the wall where I already had my ironing board without blocking the closet door.
First, I constructed the sideboard table exactly as the IKEA comic book instructed because I had come up with my own simple plan to make the surface bigger without having to alter the original design.
I wanted a surface area that was significantly larger than my ironing board, which measures 13½” wide x 53” long (to the narrow pointed end). I decided 60” long would be a decent size to fit my space while still being long enough to iron fabric yardage in one pass from selvage to selvage.
I also determined that 19” wide would not take up too much space in my room – I had to be careful not to make my sewing room feel crowded with the other furniture rearranging.
Then, my husband and I went shopping to buy some supplies at the home improvement store:
- 1 piece of 19” x 60” plywood ¾” thick (we bought a full 4’ x 8’ sheet but had the store cut it to size)
- 2 square dowels 1” x 36” each
- 10 flat headed Phillips machine screws size #6 – 32 x 2 in
- 10 nuts to fit the #6 machine screws (ours came in packs with the screws)
- 10 flat washers size #6
We already had these but you will also need:
- 1 wood drill-bit 5/32”
- Measuring tape or yardstick
- Staple gun & ½” staples
- Adjustable crescent wrench or socket wrench (to fit nuts)
- Nail setter or a piece of flat metal you can hammer to completely set the staples
- Any kind of (power or hand) saw that can cut 1’ square dowels
- Gloves (recommended for handling the plywood)
- Safety glasses/goggles
We cut each square dowel into 3 pieces measuring 3”, 14.5”, and 18.5”. The small 3” pieces were a good size to keep the dowels from blocking the drawers on the front of the sideboard. Exact size is not important as long as you are able to frame each corner of the existing tabletop with the dowels.
We turned the IKEA unit upside down, placed it on the plywood top, and marked it so the base would be centered on the plywood lengthwise. (Note: make sure you remove the adjustable shelf before turning table upside down!) We offset the sideboard table a little closer to the front edge so that the dowel would be flush with the edge of the plywood (thus, prettier and easier to cover).
Then we put some extra plywood scrap on the floor underneath everything. This was so we could drill all the way through the plywood top without worrying about drilling into the carpet beneath.
Starting with the two small front dowels, we butted them up to the edge of the sideboard and drilled one hole all the way through the dowel and the first layer of plywood that would be the new top.
Then we unstacked everything and put bolts through from the top (the part that was facing the floor while drilling) and attached them with washers and nuts on the dowels on the bottom.
After that, we did the same with one dowel on one side – drilling one hole on each end because this piece of dowel was longer.
We continued drilling, unstacking, and attaching one dowel at a time so we could make sure everything fit perfectly and would be tight around the sideboard.
Finally, we had the dowel frame all attached. It didn’t matter that the bolt heads weren’t perfectly flush with the top surface because I knew the padding I would be putting over everything would smooth any height difference out. As long as the dowels were secure on the plywood, it was perfect.
I initially had plans to secure the plywood top to the IKEA sideboard after covering it with appropriate ironing fabric, but it ended up fitting so snuggly we didn’t need to. For once, one of my crazy IKEA hacks actually turned out to be less complicated than originally planned! Win!
You may have noticed I was able to move my fabric tubes from under my cutting table to under my new ironing table. This was perfect because with my new furniture arrangement, the tubes were a little more in the way under the cutting table.
Next came the hard part: waiting for specialty fabric to come in the mail so I could cover the plywood top.
The best ironing tables in costume shops are covered in a drapery interlining fabric called English bump cloth. I read somewhere (apparently I failed to save the link) that it was first used as a curtain interlining for British royalty in order to better insulate palaces from the cold and damp.
Bump cloth is a thick, somewhat flannel-like fabric that adds body and structure to fancy drapes.
I found some at Fabric.com in my first search and placed an order. Even though the website said there was around 40 yards in stock at the time, I received an email a couple days later saying they were sold out. Grrr. (I have had such rotten luck with Fabric.com completely filling my last few orders!) If you feel like taking a chance with them, here’s the link for their Hanes Drapery Interlining Bump Cloth listed as item #UK-528.
Once I learned I wouldn’t be receiving my first order of bump cloth, I started looking elsewhere. I eventually found some at BuyFabrics.com and it was less expensive than Fabric.com’s! I quickly ordered 2 yards (I was planning to use two layers to cover my plywood top) and they shipped within 24 hours! Here’s their link for English Classic Bump Natural Interlining.
While I waited for my bump cloth, I went to my local JoAnn Fabrics and purchased 2 yards of aluminum coated ironing board fabric in their utility fabric section. (You can also buy it on their website.) I knew I wanted another silver ironing surface like I had on my ironing board before because it looks better for longer. Most costume shops cover their ironing tables in muslin, but leakage from irons stains muslin.
As of yesterday, Fabrique! (the little fabric store where I work part-time) also started carrying silver ironing board fabric! You can order it from the website as well. From what I can tell, this fabric might have a slightly heavier muslin backing for the aluminum than what JoAnn sells. Too bad I wasn’t able to buy it from work when I needed some!
Finally, my bump cloth arrived and I could finish my ironing table!
The following steps can be used to cover any wooden table surface to create an ironing table if you already have a piece of furniture and don’t want to buy a NORDEN sideboard.
I discovered, even after pulling the bump cloth tight, there was still too much slack when I rubbed the top surface. So I pushed the extra up toward the front of the tabletop while my husband held and spring clamped the excess in place.
Once the plywood top was completely covered, we just pushed it in place on the sideboard. It fits nice and snug. If I ever need to recover it, I can just take the top off and change out the fabric that needs to be replaced. Super easy. =)
I love my new ironing table!
Bonus: I no longer need to iron yardage in steps before I roll it – I can roll as I iron! And all my ironing tools fit in one drawer while my press cloths & ironing products (aside from interfacing) all fit in the other drawer. I chose to hook my sleeve board over the right edge of the tabletop because I use it often and it makes the tool drawer a bit crowded. I don’t need to leave everything on the open shelf above where it gets dusty – now I only keep spray bottles and sizing etc. on the shelf above.
I just need to clean up the used gravity-feed industrial iron I bought used years ago, and I’ll have totally finished my ironing upgrade!
I hope you find the above tutorial helpful and are inspired to build your own ironing table! Send me a photo or link if you do – I’d love to see!
January 9, 2014Posted by on
So, you may have noticed my previous post was a bit long. But did you stay with me till the end? Did you see there was a giveaway? You did? Well, it’s time to announce the WINNER!
And thank you for all the nice comments! It means a lot to me when I get some even from those who aren’t wanting to enter a giveaway!
As with my past giveaways, names were placed in the hat:
My husband drew the winning name, and the lucky winner of the Spearmint coat pattern is:
Congratulations, Fwaire! Please email me your mailing address and I’ll put your pattern in the mail. =)
So I’ll be drafting a new collar and adding some other details. I think I’m going to make this version unlined, with bias finished seams on the inside. It will be an olive-y cotton corduroy:
Of course I wish I had copies of the pattern to send to everyone else who entered, but you can buy a copy from Lolita Patterns in downloadable pdf or already printed on pattern paper. A sewalong will be coming soon on the Lolita Patterns blog.
January 1, 2014Posted by on
I’m not sure I would have originally chosen to make myself a coat in this style, had I only seen the pattern for sale. After all, I already have 4 (store-bought) fancy coats to wear when I’m dressed up and I wasn’t sure I could justify a fifth.
But the collar was interesting, and the more I considered it, the more I could see myself finding a way to make it my own. Plus, pattern testing for a designer is always a fun challenge because it forces me to try styles I may have passed over otherwise. (How can you grow if you won’t step outside your comfort zone?)
I’m intrigued by Lolita Patterns for two basic reasons:
One, they are based on the Japanese style of dress called Lolita fashion that is both girly and conservative, meaning you get the cute anime look without the sleazy, Halloween-costume vibe. (Lolita fashion. Now I finally have a term for that style!)
And two, the pattern sizing is based on two separate blocks and has very little design ease. Technically, my measurements were not on the chart, so I was hoping that the “very little ease” part would work in my favor.
Disclaimer: My version of the Spearmint coat is based on the test pattern I was given. The test pattern needed more work than Amity originally anticipated, and the final pattern being sold has been corrected, but I’m not sure exactly how my end results compare to the finalized pattern.
Also keep in mind that this is being labeled as a “top coat” for a “California winter,” or a “transitional coat” for more extreme climates, and some of my alterations were done to allow me the option of wearing thicker layers with mine. (I plan to wear mine most during Spring and Autumn.)
I chose to make the shorter version of the coat, which is actually 6 inches shorter than the final pattern – it’s now drafted to hit more at the knee.
I went digging through my fabric stash and came up with 2 yards of heavy weight 100% cotton blue denim (I bought it 5 or 6 years ago because it was only $2/yard). I also had 2 yards of an amazing dress form print quilting cotton that I thought would make a fun lining.
The pattern called for 3 yards of each, but I am “The Queen of Eking” and I was determined to eke it out of something I had.
No matter how much I wanted to like the shade of the denim’s blue, I just wasn’t feeling it. It was a bit mom-jean blue or something. It might have worked well if I distressed it after making the coat, but since I couldn’t be sure, I didn’t want to take the chance.
So I pondered my options while I made my two mockups and preshrunk my fabric a total of 3 times (washed in hot and heat dried). I didn’t have any fabric to spare, so there was no room for error.
Ultimately, I deliberately decided to use the wrong-side of the denim as the right-side. It has a slightly heathered grey-blue look from a distance but it’s definitely a twill weave up close.
I simply liked the wrong-side color more, and it even coordinated better with the lining print. And, as you would expect, no two pairs of jeans in my closet are the same shade of blue, so I knew a coat this more neutral color would go with all of them. Besides, the head-to-toe matching denim look is a total fashion no-no for me anyway. My personal rule of thumb is: make whatever you wear look intentionally styled. If someone has to wonder if you meant to do something, you didn’t make the contrast obvious enough.
As I mentioned before, two mockups were made, and this was so I could be sure my alterations were satisfactory. I only tested the outer layer, and didn’t bother with the pockets for my mockups (Not bothering with things like lining or under collar saves time and muslin too, but I did make corrections to all the paper pattern pieces for the lining as I went.)
Main changes made to the pattern, based on my first mockup:
- Reduced the width of the collar – mainly at the shoulder and back – so it wasn’t so overwhelming on my small frame. I anticipated the need for this because I often have to shrink large scale design elements. (Photos of the first mockup show the collar at a stage where I had taken it too far in my experimenting.)
- Narrowed the center front opening so it wouldn’t try to spread open to the sides of my bust in an unflattering way (the princess seams were in the correct place, but the neckline wanted to shift everything out to the sides).
- Added just a slight bit of room to the center back.
- Increased the armseye and sleeve ease so I could comfortably wear layers.
The second mockup turned out to be unnecessary because my alterations were good, but I’m glad I took the time to be sure and didn’t jump right to the real fabric.
These are perfect examples of why mockups are necessary! And don’t feel like you have to make a completed item! I didn’t do a lining, pockets, buttonhole, or true hems (I just folded edges once and basted down to check finished length).
So it was finally on to the real fabric!
Sure enough, I managed to eke everything out of the 2 yards of fabric. It helped that I had reduced some of the collar width and that the pattern has only 3/8 inch seam allowance. (Note: you may want to add to the seam allowance if you make a Spearmint with fabric that frays easily.) Astonishingly, I only had to piece two pieces!
I put a seam in the center back of the neck facing, which I then topstitched and mostly covered with a tag.
And I creatively pieced one side of the under collar, which no one will ever see unless I lift the back of the collar to show them.
For the most part, I followed the written instructions just as they were. I did, however, make a few exceptions based on personal preferences:
- I did not use the horsehair canvas in the ruffle collar. My denim was plenty thick and I knew the two layers of the collar would be more than stiff enough to hold its shape on its own.
- Nor did I use necktie lining to ease in the sleeve caps because I didn’t want to add thickness to the denim. (The pattern did fit really well together so there wasn’t much need for ease assistance.)
- I chose not to turn the coat through the sleeve lining for two reasons. 1. Thick denim. 2. I like to construct collars completely separate before attaching them to a garment. There is more control, thus, the end result looks better. I turned my coat through an opening at the center back hem that was about 8 inches wide and slipstitched the lining to the coat hem to close it by hand.
- For easier on and off, I used antistatic lining fabric for the sleeve lining instead of the same fabric I used for the rest of the lining.
- I added tons of decorative topstitching.
- I added a coat hook loop.
After joining the coat to the lining and adding one large button, I had a completed Spearmint!
And here are a few more photos of some of the details:
Overall, this is a great pattern! The pieces fit together very nicely and I love the separately drafted lining and finishing details. The instructions may be a little brief for a beginner, but with the extra tutorials and sewalongs on the Lolita Patterns blog, most sewists of any level should have no trouble making this lovely coat for themselves.
As payment for being a pattern tester, I was given one copy of the paper pattern.
Obviously, I do not need another copy since I have already altered and adjusted the test pattern to my liking. So it’s Giveaway time!
If you would like a chance to win a copy of this pattern in its beautiful packaging, just follow these simple rules:
- Leave me a comment on this post and be clear that you want to enter. (Any comments are welcome, even if you don’t want to be entered in the drawing, but you have to let me know if you are entering!)
- In your comment, include your plans for your version – fabric, color, etc. How do you intend to make it your own?
Giveaway is open to all locations. Winner will be chosen at random.
Deadline for entry is closed
at 11:59pm on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 United States Central Time (GMT -6). I’ll announce the winner in a post on the following day. Winner announced in this post.
Good luck and Happy New Year!
And now if you’ll excuse me, Wensley sees that I am wearing a coat and thinks we’re going for a walk…
December 24, 2013Posted by on
It’s Christmas Eve… so how about one more post for 2013!
Wensley makes a cute Christmas card. It’s the Jack Russell in him. =)
You may remember last year’s card, which was his first. We didn’t try any dress up then because we didn’t know how he would take it.
This year we pulled out the Santa hat we had for our last dog and I shortened the elastic a bit to fit Wensley.
We only pulled out the front window tree with its plastic ornaments this year (I’ll do battle to protect the special glass ornaments on the bigger den tree from the dog next year).
Coming up in future posts (in no particular order): the details of the Wonder Woman cape build, some handmade Christmas gifts I stitched up, pattern testing results, and a giveaway.
Merry Christmas, everyone! May you all have wonderful holidays with good friends & family!
See you next year!