April 28, 2012

Sewing Resolutions Recap, or, how well have I kept my promises?

In January I made a list of sewing related New Years Resolutions and since it's nearly May I thought I'd take a look and see how well I've been keeping them.

The main goal was to create a closet catalogue to figure out what I wear most and what garments I need to make more or less of - basically sewing guidelines.

This isn't to say that I am restricted to sewing within my self-imposed rules but I made them for a reason - to get the most out of my sewing and my wardrobe!

These guidelines include - sewing garments with sleeves (because I rarely wear sleeveless anything), with long sleeves (because I lacked them), solid color tops, tops that were nicer than plain t-shirts, casual dresses, "Church appropriate dresses" (because sometimes I need to look fancy but not like a skank), pants, blazers and coats. I also needed to stay away from sewing skirts (I have way too many) and sewing clothes that required other clothes (like tank tops underneath a see-through shirt).

There were some other things I was going for, too, like sewing things I can wear in summer, finding my personal style and trying new shapes and silhouettes.

Well now I'm going to assess my progress and analyze each project to see how well I've done.

Raglan Sleeve Knit Dress w/ Crochet Back
Little Black Knit Dress
Date: April 26
Guidelines followed: It's a casual dress with sleeves! Not too short that I need to wear tights with it and it's a plain color. Check!

The "Summer Concert Tee"
The "Summer Concert Tee"
Date: April 24
Guidelines followed or ignored: Well, it has sleeves, I can wear it in summer and it isn't a plain old t-shirt but it's not a solid color. Semi Check. **I made a few other versions of this shirt and they all fit under these same guidelines.
New Look 6100
Orange Shorts
Date: April 1
Guidelines followed: Great for summer! Um, that's about it. But I like them so I'm giving them a check!
Eva Dress Croquette Blouse
Eva Dress Croquette Blouse
Date: March 19
Guidelines followed: Solid color, fancier than a t-shirt and has sleeves! Check!
Darling Ranges Version 2.0
Darling Ranges Redux
Date: March 14
Guidelines followed: Casual dress with sleeves! And I love this dress so it gets a double check!
Darling Ranges Dress
Megan Nielsen Darling Ranges Dress #1
Date: March 9
Guidelines followed: Casual dress with sleeves and I don't need to wear anything under it because it's lined. Check!
Simplicity 3850
Simplicity 3850 Muslin Pants
Date: Feb 26
Guidelines followed or ignored: Well, they're pants, but they're a little big and I only wear them around the house so I'm not giving them a check. Fail.
Red Lola
Victory Patterns Lola Dress
Date: Feb 17
Guidelines followed: A casual dress with sleeves (and semi-long sleeves) and bonus points for going out of my comfort zone and trying a silhouette without a defined waist. Double check!
Simplicity 2512
50s Skirt Restyle
Date: Feb 10
Guidelines followed or ignored: It's a skirt. And I plainly forbade myself from any more skirts because I've got way more skirts than anything else I own and I hardly ever wear them. Ok, maybe "forbade" is a harsh word but really, I've got to stop making skirts. I'll let this one slide because it was an old project that I finally finished. Still, it's a guidelines fail.
Vogue 1247 Top
Vogue 1247 Shirt
Date: Feb 1
Guidelines followed: Solid color with sleeves and it's not a plain t-shirt. Gotta give it a check!
Sweatshirt Jacket
Self Drafted Sweatshirt Jacket
Date: Jan 21
Guidelines followed: It's a blazer and long sleeves and a neutral color. Should be good, right? Well, I only wore it a couple times and decided I didn't like it as much as I first thought. I think because it's a little bulky. Unfortunately, fail.
Jeans from Hell
The "Jeans from Hell"
Date: Jan 10
Guidelines followed or ignored: They're pants, but even when I first made them they started stretching out. Now that I've lost weight they are completely unwearable and after all the trouble they put me through I doubt I'll be trying to fix them. Big fat fail.
Colette Jasmine
Black and White Colette Jasmine 
Date:Jan 9
Guidelines followed: Solid color, nice looking top with sleeves. Check!
Victory Patterns Anouk Dress
Victory Patterns Anouk Dress
Date: Jan 1
Guidelines followed: Church appropriate dress with sleeves that's still casual enough to wear out and about. Big fat check!
***So it looks like I've been doing pretty good with most exceptions being garments with fitting problems. Not too bad, Dixie. I'm gonna give myself a pat on the back for that!

Did you make any sewing resolutions this year? Or do you have any general sewing goals you want to accomplish? Sewing work appropriate clothes? Better fitting clothes? More cake, less frosting perhaps?

Speaking of the cake v. frosting idea that Tasia at Sewaholic brought up. I'm definitely a cake person. I've learned that I like wearing what I sew more times than it sits in the closet so it's cake for me but I don't think that the cake has to be boring! Take my Anouk dress or my Darling Ranges dresses. For me they're definitely cake - clothing I need and wear often but they're also pretty dresses with fun prints and girly shapes. Even my shirts that I've made are useful, wearable and pleasing to look at. If I'm going to make cake I'm at least going to mix in some cookie crumbles or add a truffle center or something. Dang, now I've just gone and made myself hungry...

April 26, 2012

Little Black Dress and a Crochet Applique Tutorial

Raglan Sleeve Knit Dress w/ Crochet Back

I bought my first crochet applique for this t-shirt I made a couple weeks ago and I got hooked!

So I bought a few more and added an applique to this simple raglan sleeve knit dress and now I'm going to show you how you can use them on your next project!

Raglan Sleeve Knit Dress w/ Crochet Back

This is basic a raglan sleeve dress but you could always add appliques to patterns with set in sleeve or anything else. I'm using good ol' plain black cotton jersey for this project.

Raglan Sleeve Knit Dress w/ Crochet Back

These types appliques come in all shapes and sizes, some are meant specifically to be front or back yokes but it's really up to you how you use them.

I started with my unassembled cut out pieces. It's much easier to add an applique before everything is stitched together.

I'm using my applique as a back detail like the other shirt. Lay the piece out flat, right side facing up, and arrange the applique on top. One of the problems with appliques is you may have to adapt your pattern to fit your applique and change your neckline. If this were a set-in-sleeve dress I'd just line up the top ends of the applique with the shoulder line. In this case I'm letting it stretch over the raw edge (arrow in the pic above) and I'll cut it off later when I assemble the dress.

Pin around the outer edge of the applique.

Using matching thread and a small zig zag stitch, sew around the perimeter of the applique. You need to use a zig zag stitch because knit fabric is stretchy and it. Even if you use these appliques on a woven fabric I'd still recommend zig zagging because it serves as a seam finish to prevent fraying

Now cut out the fabric from behind the applique. I cut big chunks out first, then went back and cut very close to the stitching.

Raglan Sleeve Knit Dress w/ Crochet Back

Before sewing the pattern pieces together you have to attach any collar or neck finishing to the front. Since my dress has raglan sleeves I sewed the sleeves to the front and added my collar. Because you now don't need a collar for the back you'll have to adjust the length of your collar accordingly to only fit the front.

Raglan Sleeve Knit Dress w/ Crochet Back

After the collar I assembled the rest of the dress.

Raglan Sleeve Knit Dress w/ Crochet Back

I didn't fully have a plan for this dress when I began. I started with a basic raglan shirt block and adjusted the sleeves, neckline, and length. Lastly I added elastic to the waist by creating a tube using leftover fabric on the inside of the dress and inserting some 1" elastic. Not too bad for just winging it! In fact, I'm really quite satisfied with it! Who doesn't love making a dress in less than a day that fits and looks good?

Raglan Sleeve Knit Dress w/ Crochet 

If you want to buy some appliques of your own check out this Etsy shop.

Raglan Sleeve Knit Dress w/ Crochet Back

AND I'm including an applique in a giveaway next week, along with some ruffle elastic and other goodies so stick around for that! Hope you liked the tute!

April 24, 2012

The "Summer Concert Tee" Downloadable Pattern

The "Summer Concert Tee"

Yep, that's right, I'm launching another pattern download It's launched! You've seen the variations of the shirt to get to this point and now I'm almost ready to release the pattern.

I'm calling it The Summer Concert Tee because it is something I'd totally wear to a music festival in the hot summer sun while jamming out to my favorite bands (in between complaining about $5 water bottles and telling the jerk in front of me to close his umbrella, uh, yeah...).

The "Summer Concert Tee"

The shirt is fitted at the shoulders but loose at waist and hip, cropped in front and longer in back (great with high waist shorts!), scoop neck (my fave style), dolman sleeves with longer sleeve cuffs that make for a fun look in a stripe.

The "Summer Concert Tee"

I'll be releasing it for purchase next week for $3. It willl be in five sizes as usual and be available as a PDF download with instructions and pattern in one document.

Ok, readers, here's the thing. This shirt, in essence, is a lot like another pattern I made previously. I know you all love free patterns but I've decided to take the old one down. It's not just because I want to make money. I have other reasons:
  • I made that pattern over a year ago and since then I've learned much more about pattern making as well as the program I use to turn my patterns into PDFs.
  • This new pattern has better fit and construction with details like wider arm openings and a different way to attach the collar. The front piece is slightly wider than the back (because ladies are more curved in the front than the back).
  • The new pattern also has more accurate sizing(!!) because of tips and tricks I've learned on my software.
  • Better instructions, illustrations and pre-sewing info. Having made more patterns I know what's important to include - like properly labeling each pattern piece with all the info (duh, Dixie!). This one will have helpful graphics for some of the steps.
  • Better printable format and visual design.
  • While the design is similar I redrafted this entire pattern from scratch.
The "Summer Concert Tee"

This new shirt pattern is just a better product all around and I'm almost embarrassed by my old patterns. That doesn't mean I won't ever release any new free patterns in the future. They'll most likely be simple, easy to sew designs for clothes and accessories. I have a clutch design that I'm working on and I intend to make a free pattern for it.

I'm leaving up my old shirt pattern up for one week so go download it now while you still can if you haven't already! Once I launch the Summer Concert Tee I'll discontinue that old pattern for good (even on BurdaStyle).

The "Summer Concert Tee"

Alright - back to the current t-shirt!

The Goal: This top is part of my Shorts and Shirts Summer Wardrobe (my orange short were my first pair of shorts). The mix of orange and mint will be pretty daring but I'm not afraid of crazy color combos this season.

The Fabric: A gray and mint stripe from The Common Thread.

The Pattern: Version 4.0 and my final version of the upcoming Summer Concert Tee. You can see the second most recent version here.

The Changes: Version 3.0 was almost identical to this version only the back of that one was shorter because I ran out of fabric, oops. This new version doesn't have the crochet back piece but you can easily add one to the design.

The "Summer Concert Tee"

The Results: Thumbs up! I love the colors. The collar sits nicely. And I'm proud of myself for not being lazy and changing the thread color on my serger so the inside stitches are gray instead of bright white. I'm giving myself a pat on the back for that one.

***And stay tuned, ladies and gents, I just finished my shorts that I'm working on for my next pattern. Yep, you heard right! I'm veering away from knits (which I love) and making a pattern for a pair of woven shorts! Will the excitement never end!?!?!

April 22, 2012

My Sewing Book Club and how you can start your own!

(My contributions to the book club meeting - organizer wallet and travel neck pillow)

You may have read in previous posts that I am part of a local sewing group that gets together a couple times a month for various sewing extravaganzas. Well, as part of that sewing group, my friend Susan and I began a Sewing Book Club of sorts and dubbed it BiblioStyles (a mash up of "bibliophiles" and the name of our sewing group, Sewing with Style).

We had our first meeting in March and I'm just now getting around to blogging about it. Our first get together was a little small - only four people but I have no doubt that it will grow over time as we cover some popular books.

(Susan shared tips for using elastic thread to make her awesome "Gazillions of Gathers" shirred pillowcases.)

I'm going to let Susan explain the details of the club and perhaps give you an idea to start your own where you live (or maybe even an online one, who knows??). Susan blogs over at MoonThirty.com and writes about all kinds of sewing, crafts, recipes and has many a sewing book review to boot.

***Mixed in this post are photos from our first meeting (Fabric by Fabric: One Yard Wonders) and projects made by the participants.

Ok, first let's get to know you: What's your sewing experience? What do you like to sew? Why did you start your blog?
I played around a little bit with sewing as a kid then went through a looong hiatus. For some reason one day in early '09, and I still don't know exactly what triggered it, I was struck with a strong desire to learn to sew. I bought a cheap Kenmore machine just in case I didn't end up sticking with it. I bought a couple of beginner sewing books and worked my way through those (along with lots of Internet tutorials). Then I branched out into garments about 6 months later. I'm still much more confident with bags and home dec stuff than I am with apparel, but I love doing both.

I've wanted to write a blog for many years now; even before I began to sew, I tossed around the idea of starting a baking/cooking blog. I suppose that I just wasn't really motivated to do it until now. My goal is to inspire others with my projects and patterns, just as I have been (and continue to be) so inspired by the incredible crafting community.

(Susan's "Jet Set" pieces which include passport cover, luggage tag, tissue case and travel tray. That travel tray is so cool - it uses snaps to hold up the sides!)
What gave you the idea to have a sewing book club?
I've always loved book clubs. But these days I read very few novels -- when I curl up with a book, it's almost always a sewing project book (or the occasional cookbook). When I joined our local sewing group, I found a great group of folks who loves to talk about this craft as much as I do. So, making the leap to the book club felt like a natural next step to me.

What do you like about the group sewing experience?
I really love getting others' input and feedback from their experiences with the projects I want to try. It's also an awesome way to get more out of my sewing book library -- I now want to tackle projects that I didn't necessarily consider before I saw them made up.

How often does the group meet?
Right now, our goal is to meet once per month. We'll feel it out as we go... If it's too much, we'll move to bimonthly.
(Susan and fellow book-clubber show off their Day Out Bags and share pattern experiences)

What did you make from Fabric by Fabric: One Yard Wonders?
I had so much fun with this book! I started with the "Gazillions of Gathers" shirred pillow, which I made twice. I also made the "Day Out Bag" and several pieces of the "Jet Set." I had great results from all of these, and there are quite a few more I still want to make.

What's the process for choosing books? And what are some upcoming books for the club?
We've started by trying to choose books that have a wide appeal. That was what was so great about Fabric-by-Fabric -- its variety of projects for a range of skill levels. Of course, no single subject will appeal to everyone, so we also plan to alternate months between the crafting and apparel books. Offering a range of difficulty is part of that mass appeal. A few of the upcoming selections include Lunch Bags!, The BurdaStyle Handbook, and Sewing in a Straight Line. We also intend to have some meetings where we combine books with a commonality (The Bag Making Bible and A Bag for All Reasons, Built by Wendy series, etc.), as well as "theme meetings," such as fitting books, couture technique books, etc.

(My failed kite which I had such high hopes for. No matter what I did the thing would just go up in the air, spin and dive into the ground. Never once could I get it to stay up for more than 5 seconds. I tried researching kite making websites to find a solution. I cut tails, lengthened tails, tried to decrease weight, nothing worked. After so many crashes the wooden dowel rods started poking through the oilcloth and falling out. Massive fail. I still don't know what went wrong.)
What are some ways that readers can form their own sewing book club in their own town?
Go for it -- sewing book clubs rule! It has worked really well for us to be teamed up with a local fabric store. It's mutually beneficial, as they are able to provide a great space and the meetings help bring them business. We also set up a deal where our host store offers a discount on the meeting book to our members. Aside from having a great location, I'd say the other important piece is just getting the word out. We use Meetup.com as our platform, but it could also be beneficial to put up a flyer on an approved bulletin board at your local library or community college, for instance.

As far as the meetings themselves go, they really don't need a lot of choreographing. We tend to use a round-table format to share our projects and our results, and the open conversation is awesome. Actually, this is one of the examples where we depart from the format of a regular book club: even those who don't have the book or who haven't tried anything from it are encouraged to attend. The discussion can help participants decide whether to purchase the book. Anyone who loves crafting has value to add to the conversation!
***Big thanks to Susan for essentially writing this post for me, haha. ;) Check out her blog and her series on basic tote bag sewing. This lady is a handbag making queen. Also, there was another participant who made different bag from the book but I completely forgot to photograph it, sorry!

Our next book is Lunch Bags. I plan on making a sandwich wrap and snack bags. We pushed the Colette Sewing Handbook back because of schedule conflicts but I'll be sure to share any and all projects I make for BiblioStyles.

Oh, and if you're in the Austin, TX area and want to join in the fun we'd be glad to see you!

April 20, 2012

Using scraps: One Yard Wonders Cheeky Panties

Fabric by Fabric: One Yard Wonders

I have a relatively small stash, much to the shock of my sewing friends who seem to have entire guest bedrooms filled with fabric. Most of my stash consists of leftovers from already made projects. I hate those small cut up pieces which is why I love using scraps. It's such a satisfying feeling!

And making your own undies from leftover jersey is the perfect way to use up scraps. Why on earth haven't I done this earlier? Undies are so fast to sew!

Fabric by Fabric: One Yard Wonders

I used the panty pattern from the Fabric by Fabric: One Yard Wonders Cheeky Panty and Cami set. I don't really need a cami so I scratched that.

Fabric by Fabric: One Yard Wonders

On a side note - people always photograph unmentionables on a clothing line outside. Maybe I ought to string up a line in my backyard?? Nah... too much work...

All you needed was a little bit of fabric - I used extra rayon jersey from this shirt and a tiny bit of white jersey, and some elastic. I used pink elastic with cute little ruffles.

Fabric by Fabric: One Yard Wonders

With my experience sewing bras I didn't need to follow the directions and the size M fits well. You could even easily use this pattern as to make swim suit bottoms, too.

I think I'm really getting my money's worth out of this book!

Ruffle elastic

Later in the next couple weeks I'm going to have a giveaway and I'm including a couple yards of the same ruffle elastic that I used only in black. You can sew your own undies, too!

Have you ever made your own underwear? It's something I always thought would be a fun to try but never got around to doing it until now.

April 18, 2012

How to add a V-neck to a t-shirt

V-Neck Restyle
Hey readers! Today I'm showing you how to make a nice and pointy v-neck for all your t-shirting needs. You can use this method to alter an existing t-shirt, like I'm doing here, or use it on a pattern that calls for a v-neck, or use it as an alternative neckline option for a pattern. Either way the shirt will be almost completely assembled when we add the v-neck.

I'm using a plain white shirt that I like. White goes with everything, nice and comfy, yada yada. One problem - it's a crew neck. Not all crew necks annoy me but this one does because I feel like it's constantly choking me so I never wear the shirt! Well, there's an easy fix.

I bought a small amount of white rib knit to match the shirt. You don't need to use rib knit. You can use the same fabric as your shirt fabric if you can't find rib knit to match. The difference between rib knit and regular t-shirt jersey is that rib is stretchier along the crossgrain than jersey which is why it is often used for collars and cuffs.

Mark new necklineCut new neckline

First I cut my new neckline shape out. I marked a dot for the point and connected it to the shoulder seams with a ruler. If you're using a v-neck t-shirt pattern obviously this part is already done for you.

If you want you can stay stitch the neckline along the stitching line. I'm using 1/4" seam allowances because I'll be using my serger.

Stay stitch, clip

If not, you'll still need to reinforce your center point by stay stitching a couple inches from the point on either side, pivoting at the point.

Carefully clip the center point to the stitching line but don't cut through the stitch.

Now to prepare the collar - if you are using a pattern it's easy because you just follow the directions for the length of your collar piece. If you're altering like me, measure the neckline opening. Mine is 26".

Gaping neckline

Now we have to consider some design theory - if you were to wear your shirt as it is now you'll notice that the unfinished neckline is a little loose and gaping. This is because the neck is cut on a curve/angle and we know that fabric cut on the bias is extra stretchy. This is no different. We want our collar to wrangle in that floppy, stretchy neckline so it sits nice and flat without being too loose or puckering.

If we cut our collar the same length as our neck opening then the collar will still be loose. If we cut it too short it won't be able to stretch enough to accommodate the big neck opening. I find the sweet spot is to cut a length of collar somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4 the length of the neck opening depending on the stretch of your fabric. If you are using regular, not-so-stretchy jersey go for 3/4. I'm using rib knit which is stretchier than jersey so I'm going closer to 2/3.

Cutting Collar

I want my collar to have a width of 3/4" with 1/4" seam allowances. Easy - that's 1". Because the collar is folded over I'll double that amount - 2" wide by 18" long, which is about 2/3 of 26" (my neck opening measurement) plus seam allowances.

Stitch center back

Cut out your collar and stitch the short ends together, right sides facing. This will be your center back.

Collar Loop

Next fold it over, wrong sides facing, matching long edges and press. Now you've got a collar loop.

Angled stitching makes point

Fold the loop in half with the center back at one end. The other end will be the center front V. Stitch at an angle on this end like the photo above. In the picture the fold is on top and raw edges are on bottom. Open up the collar and press the V like in the photos below. Now you have a nice point!

Pointy collarInside pointy Collar

If you want to tack down that extra collar fabric on the inside you can stitch in the ditch of the center front seam.

Matching points

Now to match up the points - remember that tiny clip we made? Spread open the clip and use the stay stitching as a guide to match up the seam lines of the shirt and collar point.

Pinning collar to neckline

Pin the collar to the neck opening matching center back and center front. With right sides together evenly stretch the collar to fit the neck opening and pin. This may take a time to get it balanced. If you have trouble you can pin and sew one half of the collar at a time (like the pic above).

V-Neck insideAfter being serged
Starting at the point stitch all the way around ending up at the other side of the point. I'm using a serger but you could easily use a zig zag stitch for the same effect. Also, if this is your first time trying this technique - use a zig zag stitch rather than serger. It's much easier to seam rip zig zag stitches if you make a mistake!

Tie and cut off your tails if you're using a serger.

Finished V-Neck

Press the collar away from the shirt with seam allowances towards the shirt. Almost done! Using a zig zag, twin needle, or a straight stitch if your v-neck is wide enough to fit over your head without needing to stretch, stitch down the seam allowances to the shirt fabric. This prevents the collar from flipping out and exposing the seam and creates a nice finish. I broke my twin needle so I'm just doing a single straight stitch.

Now I have a much more wearable shirt! And you, too, can create nice pointy v-necks on your shirts!