November 28, 2011

Finally Finished - McCall's 5613

McCall's 5613

Alright, so it's not even December yet but I already feel a overwhelmed with my challenge of handmaking most of my Christmas presents this year. Luckily I finished my last of three little girl's dresses, one for each of my cousins. You can see the other two here and here.

McCall's 5613

This dress was made from McCall's 5613, version D. I liked that it can be worn in the hot Texas weather or with a sweater or shirt underneath for colder days.

The pink and yellowish-green fabric was a remnant from the store I intern with and the buttons were from a multi size pack I bought at Joann. I had a hard time finding the right color buttons.

McCall's 5613

Oh, and you know what's annoying? When you buttons are too big to fit in your button hole maker foot. Oh, well. I made it work.

I really think it is a pretty cute dress and I'm sure my little girly-girl cousin will love the flowers and pink (she's 2 and 1/2).

McCall's 5613

But phew, I'm glad to be done with other people's clothes. I never realized how much I'd worry and fret over if I made the right size and I have no way to tell.

While these dresses are adorable I'm glad to be getting back into making clothes for myself. I'm halfway finished with a pencil skirt right now and I'm almost ready to launch my knits lessons and sew-a-long!

Now if only I could finish that darn monster quilt...

November 26, 2011

Holiday Gift Guide For Those Who Sew

A couple years ago my boyfriend's mom (also a sewer herself) smothered me in awesome sewing supplies for my Christmas present. It was awesome!

Remembering that got me thinking - what are some good gifts to give to someone who sews? Especially if the gift giver isn't that familiar with sewing?

I hope this little guide might be helpful to those who want to wish a very inspirational and creative Christmas to someone special!

Let's lay some ground rules first - like buying clothing, personal style and preferences of the recipient can be hard to predict unless you know the person really well. So I don't recommend buying fabric, trims or patterns for the sewer on your list. Neon green floral poly satin may not be her preferred fabric choice.

But every sewer will love useful tools and refilling her stock of supplies!

(source: zipit)

Try parking yourself at the notions aisle of your local sewing store and create a grab bag of items like multi size packs of universal machine needles, packages of elastic, zippers in different lengths and colors, snaps, bias tape, all purpose thread, etc.

Some supplies she may already own but it never hurts to have more than one around - especially when you're knee deep in a project and you just cannot find that darn seam ripper! A magnetic pin cushion, rulers, thread clippers, really nice scissors, and of course, seam rippers make great gifts.

But wait, all these utilitarian products aren't making you excited about shopping? Trust me, sewing enthusiasts would love to have all of those little things but if you want to go above and beyond here are a few ideas that will really make her happy -

  • A top of the line cordless iron. Sewers are always ironing and having a great one can really make the process easier.
  • Ginghers. This company makes very nice (but also expensive) cutting tools. The dressmaker's shears are a classic.
  • A gift certificate to her favorite fabric store. Sure, gift cards aren't the greatest but if you get one to a local indie store rather than the big box places it will be more special.
  • A gift certificate to get her machine serviced. You're supposed to get your machine serviced and cleaned up once a year but I know that I often don't get around to it, partially because of the cost. This is a thoughtful idea for the budget sewer.

Want some more creative gift ideas?

"How Much Fabric"? Reference cards. These pocket size cards are on a ring and are easy to carry around in a purse. The charts estimate how much fabric you might need for a given style of garment. These are especially useful when a sewer is at a store, spots the perfect fabric for that pattern she just bought but can't remember how much fabric the pattern called for.

Mind Your Own Beeswax Thread Conditioner. This company molds its conditioner into fun little shapes. You run your thread across the little beeswax shapes to make hand sewing smoother. Good for hand basting, slip stitching, catstitching and more. You can order it here but you can probably find it cheaper from other websites. You might also find it in independent sewing stores.

Vintage Patterns and notions. If the recipient likes vintage style this could be an option. Check out estate sales, antique stores, ebay, and etsy. You can often find patterns for under 3 bucks a pop. Don't know her size? That's ok, it is expected that the sewer will have to make adjustments with old patterns. Just pick a few that you like for some instant sewing inspiration.

Hey, what about books?

Books are a great idea for gifts and are easy to find. Here are options for different levels of sewing experience.

Well, that about sums up my little holiday gift guide for sewers. Please, help me add to this list by commenting with your own ideas of what sewing presents you would want for Christmas?

November 24, 2011

Little Girl's Dress #2 - McCall's 6388

McCall's 6388
Little Girl's Christmas Present Dress numero dos is completed!

There's nothing like finishing a project to ease some stress. In fact, I'm nearly done with my third dress for my little cousins and after that all I have to finish making is my monster quilt and handmade Christmas can be wrapped up for this year.

I often find it difficult imagining what a pattern could be rather than what it looks like on the pattern envelope. That could be a good or a bad thing depending on the style and models. This time was no exception. I saw the child model and it immediately reminded me of my cousin who is about the same age and looks a lot like the girl pictured. I was sold.

McCall's 6388

The fabric is a rayon lawn or voile (?). Something really thin so I underlined the body of the dress with plain white cotton. The little buttons are from my stash.

My cousin loves pink and purple so I thought this fabric would be cute but not overly sugary cute or ugly wal-mart hot pink style. Sorry, I have an aversion to a lot of kid's clothing you find at big box stores these days.

McCall's 6388 
I liked the design details in this pattern - the over-ruffle on the skirt that frays with wear, the front and back yoke, and the gathered lower sleeve stitched to a cap sleeve is a style I've never seen before.

McCall's 6388

Even though I measured each girl before choosing sizes, of course, no one is a perfect size. With all the work I'm putting into these dresses I am crossing my fingers that they fit!

November 22, 2011

A Tough Decision


I've made a tough decision. I'm donating some of my old handmade clothes to charity.

This is a big deal for me because it is so difficult to say goodbye to all my hard work. These (very stuffed) bags represent hundreds of hours of work and a lot of money and that makes things a more personal than just store bought clothes.

Also, I wonder would anyone want my old stuff? It's not like they're pretty on the inside and there are no size tags but I can't let that unpolished feeling keep these clothes cluttering up my closet.

The clothes I'm giving away are all either really old, don't fit or aren't my style. Basically, if I haven't worn it more than a couple times then it's out. I want my closet and drawers to represent my personal style rather than my handmade disappointments. And most of these garments have been documented on the blog so it's not like I'm completely forgetting about them.

I've never donated my clothes before so I'm feeling a little emotional about it but I'm sure I won't miss these individual pieces. Have you ever given away your hand sewn clothes? Why? How did you feel about it?

Maybe the worst part is that even though I'm giving away so many clothes, I'm still short on closet hangers!

November 19, 2011

One Yard Wonders Oven Mitt and Hot Pad


I have finished quite a few present for this Christmas but they've all been pretty easy. I still have a bunch of projects in the halfway or not-even-started stage. I'm a little nervous that I won't finish everything because it's so much work.


This gift set was fairly simple. I used the mitt pattern from the One Yard Wonders book paired with some Christmas themed Alexander Henry fabric I got from the store where I intern. I'm giving them to my friend before Christmas so she can have some time to display them.


Miss P offers a great idea on her blog on how to make your own perfectly measured bias tape with masking tape and I took that same concept to make my quilt line guides.


One snag in the project - my seemingly thick batting smooshed down so thin when I quilted my fabric so I had to double it up. I made the mitt first so my fabric had already been quilted with the top fabric, then batting, then inside fabric. So because I'm lazy, rather than add the extra layer of batting and re-quilt it. I just cut another layer of batting and inside red fabric and layered them inside without quilting. It works. ;)

I was also too lazy to change my serger thread, too, I just realized. Gosh, I'm a terrible gift maker. Haha!


I made the bias binding from the red button fabric.

What a fun and an easy way to show off cute fabric and trims! Making holiday themed decor is really getting me in the mood for Christmas.

Are you doing any holiday crafts this year?

November 17, 2011

Little Girl's Dress - BurdaStyle Magazine Oct 2011 Issue

Little Girl's Dress - BurdaStyle Magazine Oct 2011 Issue

Whoa, sorry for the unexpected absence from me! Sometimes I don't realize how long I've been away from the blog.

But I have been working on both my upcoming pattern and some Christmas presents like this cute little dress!

I have three cousins under the age of 8 and they are all girly girls who love pink and playing dress up. I like to think of them as little Charlie's Angels because the oldest is blonde, the youngest is a redhead and the middle one is brunette. It will be several years before they understand that reference, though.

This year I'm making each girl a dress and I finished the one for the oldest first.

BurdaStyle Magazine Oct 2011

I found the pattern in the October issue of BurdaStyle Magazine, style 146. The dress also has a tunic variation.

The fabric is from Hancock Fabrics and has a stripe of silver weaved in for some sparkle (which you can't see well in these photos).

BurdaStyle Magazine Oct 2011

I never before used a pattern from the magazine even though I own a few issues. This dress seamed easy enough to try.

All the patterns pieces are printed in different colors on one giant sheet of paper and you have to find and trace the pieces you need. A couple patterns have illustrated instructions but this pattern only had written. While I could figure most of it out on my own a little visual help in a couple places would have been nice.

Little Girl's Dress - BurdaStyle Magazine Oct 2011 Issue

For example, the pattern calls for a total of four buttons with button holes on the shoulders but after assembling my pieces I couldn't figure out a way to fit four. Instead I sewed two buttons and ditched the button holes because the neckline looked big enough to fit her head through.

Little Girl's Dress - BurdaStyle Magazine Oct 2011 Issue

Also, the method of stabilizing and binding the neck opening confused me. The pattern calls for twill tape and Vilene Bias Tape (a notion that is rarely used in the USA) but the instructions only described using the twill tape. I didn't have any twill tape on hand so after looking up Vilene Bias Tape I decided to make my own.

I cut a 1/2in wide strip of iron on interfacing on the bias. The bias cut makes it ease to form to the neck curve. Then I sewed a straight stitch down the length of the strip. This provides extra stability so the interfacing doesn't rip. I adhered it to the raw edge, serged the edge and folded under and top stitched with my twin needle.

It works well but this method may have caused my button problem because I didn't use twill tape. I would have abided by the magazine's instructions if I had more easily understood them.

Little Girl's Dress - BurdaStyle Magazine Oct 2011 Issue

Besides those issues the sewing process went pretty smoothly. I serged all the seams and used my twin needle on arms and hems. I even stitched an extra button on the inner side seam in case they lose one of the buttons.

Little Girl's Dress - BurdaStyle Magazine Oct 2011 Issue

Before I wrap it up I'm debating whether or not to order some personalized clothing labels as a finishing touch. That might also help her figure out which side is the front and back because they look almost exactly the same!

November 8, 2011

Book Review! Colette and BurdaStyle


I'm interning at a fabric store in Austin and we just got both the new Colette Sewing Hanbook and BurdaStyle Sewing Handbook (yes, they are both "sewing handbooks") books in stock. I scouared through each, snapped some pics and now I'm sharing my thoughts with you!

First of all, both books are the same retail price, both have beautiful photos and both are spiral bound, making them easy to lay flat on your sewing table as you read.


Colette's book is geared more towards beginner garment sewers while BurdaStyle is more for those with intermediate skills.

Colette Sewing Handbook

The Colette book has the classic, streamlined style you know from their patterns.

Colette Sewing Handbook

I love Colette's approach to teaching. I remember when I first started sewing and I was so excited to work on projects that I skipped learning some essential skills. The book is organized in 5 sections, or "fundamentals". You learn a few basics then dive into a project. Then you learn something more advanced and work on a new pattern and so on. This way you're never in over your head but you always feel like you are progressing and putting your skills to work on something wearable.

Colette Sewing Handbook

The patterns are basic but each has a little twist - scallops here, pintucks there. One shirt has bias binding which teaches you to make and sew binding and also allows you to add your style to the shirt. Another dress has enough darts for you to work on a perfect fit.

Colette Sewing Handbook

Each lesson features ample illustrations and photos, just like Colette's patterns.


What particularly stands out is the reference section. I love the up close images of different fabric types.


And I've never seen a book with examples of fabric wrapped on dress forms. What a great way to illustrate drape.

On to BurdaStyle -


BurdaStyle's book focuses more on fashion and style than technique. Lots of eye candy for fashionista sewers.

BurdaStyle Sewing Handbook

It features lots of input from users from sewing room inspiration to user created variations of five standard patterns (skirt, dress, top, coat, handbag) included in the book.

BurdaStyle Sewing Handbook

Each pattern has instructions for the original look. Also included are a several other variation designs, a few with their own instructions. Every original design is cute but what's really great is seeing what contributor does with the style to make it his or her own.

BurdaStyle Sewing Handbook

At the end of each variation is a little Q&A with the BurdaStyle user who created it.

BurdaStyle Sewing Handbook

This book is more for the fashion savy sewer who is advanced enough for pattern manipulation and is looking for a creative outlet rather than learning basic fit and construction techniques. If you like the concept behind the Built by Wendy books (basic patterns and alterations to the designs) then BurdaStyle will be right up your alley.

BurdaStyle Sewing Handbook

Each design has a difficulty level and decent instructions but if you are advanced enough to alter patterns drastically you probably won't need to read the instructions much.

Both books are great but are for slightly different audiences. I'd probably buy BurdaStyle's for myself as inspiration but the Colette handbook would make a great gift to someone who wants to learn garment sewing.

Has anyone bought either of these books yet?

November 2, 2011

In the works

I'm not sewing anything at the moment (besides my crazy monster quilt) but I am working on a new project - a pattern for my ballet dress. I'm trying to make my instructions clearer while adding better cutting layouts and supplies, and trying to find the most efficient way of printing the pattern pieces. Basically I'm attempting to up my game to make everything more precise and easy to follow.

But it's not just a new pattern that I have up my sleeve! I'm working on a new series of posts for beginners on how to sew knit fabrics and that will culminate in a sew along of my new ballet dress pattern. The ballet dress is a great beginner knit design because it not only teaches you how to sew hems and seams on a knit but also how and when to add elastic or stabilizers and how to attach a nifty collar. Plus it's a pretty simple design and easy to fit and alter.

So look for more on my little project later this month. I've still got a lot of details to flesh out. ;)