May 30, 2012

Why does sewing have to be so hard??

(the fabric-covered-buttons from hell)

I'm currently trying to draft a look-a-like dress based solely on a picture. Not all of this is difficult - I can make a fitted bodice and a gathered skirt. I can insert a zipper and sleeves. But this dress I'm copying does have a big fat collar and I'm having a little trouble recreating it. But one of my biggest issues are the buttons.

I need four fabric covered buttons. I've made these kinds of buttons before. You get a kit that has two metal button pieces plus a little plastic cylinder-like tool to help you in assembly. The packaging has a template you cut your fabric from and it all goes together all hunky dory-like.

Well, not these buttons. These were the "no tool needed" type. Which is stupid because that tool is very helpful! It bends the fabric over the edge of the outer button piece for you and keeps it in place while you attach the backplate.

These "no tool" buttons have "teeth" that are supposed to catch the edge of the fabric, only they do not. They're almost as useless as the teeth on the big, flying monster in the last half of The Avengers (I mean, really, that thing is so huge - what does it need to chew!?!?).

The equally useless instructions give you this tip: "Use a pencil eraser to help catch fabric on teeth." A pencil eraser!? This is 2012! I don't even own a pencil. I have an iPhone to take all my notes but that won't help me here. (You think I'm kidding - no, I own one mechanical pencil with no lead and a tiny eraser nub.)

Yeah, teeth = pointless.

So I used glue to keep my fabric in place - which doesn't work that well either because you have to hold the fabric down long enough for the glue to stick then you have to quickly slam the backing on top and use a pin to stuff any outlying fabric into the button before it all explodes in sticky glue mess in your hand.

Oh, and there's a correct way to put the backplate down over the button. Turns out I was doing it the wrong way. In my defense this illustration in no way has any sort of arrow or indication of which way is "up." Stupid.

No wonder both my hands, my boyfriend's hands, the spool of thread I was using and the back of these buttons took a beating. Only after three buttons did I figure out that the back was upside down. Why don't you look at this picture above and guess which way was the "correct" way.

(my spool of thread - busted from trying to attach the button backplate)

Even when I had the pieces facing the right direction I still need a hammer to jam the two together. Last time I heard a hammer was, technically, a tool.

I don't think I've ever been so frustrated or cursed this much during a sewing project even with all the seam ripping I've done in my life. These stupid buttons don't even look that good from the right site anyway. *Facepalm*

This combined with my collar-drafting troubles have convinced me to put this project away for a day or two and come back to it when I'm not feeling like I want to beat something (or someone) senseless.

What's the most frustration thing you've ever done in sewing? Notion related or otherwise? Have you every had so many problems with a project that you had to take a step back and work on something else?

Oh, and Susan, I know you are some sort of genius when it comes to these kind of buttons - well, don't tell me how I'm doing it wrong. You've just got some crazy button mojo that us mere mortals do not have and I have accepted that.

May 27, 2012

Swimming in my Swimming Suit

 Kwik Sew 3779
(The internet and I just got a bit more cozy.)

Sorry for not being around much the past week, but I think I have a good excuse: SWIMSUITS! Yes, I've been sewing swim suits. As of now I have 3.5 done (I'm working on some bikini bottoms). I won't show those others for awhile but this is the first of the batch that I told myself I had to finish before starting on new suits.

I have a couple explanations I want to get out of the way - no, I did not intend to copy the pattern's envelope photo (Kwik Sew 3779). Originally I wanted to make the strapless style in purple until I bough a swim bra made for halter tops which necessitated Version B of the pattern. I never ended up using that bra, though, so... whatever.

Kwik Sew 3779

And then since I figured I already made a copy of the envelope sample I might as well go all the way and wear a statement necklace like the lady in the photo. Because when I go swimming I totally want to wear fancy jewelry (not!). Oh, well, I guess since I am no where near a body of water and instead am in my backyard getting bitten my mosquitoes I can wear a necklace if I feel like it.

Kwik Sew 3779
(Fun Fact: I'm proud to say that these pics were only minimally Photoshopped. Like for the birthmark on my hip... the internet and I don't need to be that close.)

Also, I cut the pattern pieces out about a year ago during my first foray into swim suit sewing. I finished one suit last year but never posted about it because the bra cups I bought were waaaaay too stiff and I never bothered to fix the suit. That being said, I've lost weight since last year and now the size M that I cut is waaaay too big and I look like I'm swimming in it (ha, I made a pun).

But I thought I'd still post this suit as a review of the pattern and supplies I used.

Kwik Sew 3779
(This is the only back shot you're going to get, so be happy about it.)

If you've never sewn a swim suit before they are quite easy and quick. If you've made a bra then swim suits will be a breeze. Even if you haven't made a bra they're still a breeze.

There aren't many commercial swim suit patterns. Kwik Sew has a handful and so does Jalie. Some bra pattern makers also have swimwear patterns. The big four don't have much of a selection but I like this new one from McCall's.

As for this suit I liked the ruching and the halter top had decent sized straps. The construction was fairly easy and if you pay attention to the illustrations and instructions you shouldn't have any problems.

I said that I never ended up using my halter-style swim bra because I bought these cups from Sew Sassy. After looking at a RTW swim suit I already own I realized it used the same cups. I believe you can also insert them in either direction (flat edge up or down). For this suit I just stuck each one in the halter triangles and sewed everything together like normal. After observing lots of bikini tops at Target (more like fondling them, if we're going to be honest) I found that often they had the same cups stuffed between the outer and lining fabrics and I thought if it was good enough for them it was good enough for me.

If you're wondering if the cups get bunched up or wiggle around all loose inside the suit, surprisingly they don't! They just sit there being nice and not moving around. The best part is I didn't have to stitch them in place like this style.

Also, the other view of this pattern calls for elastic under the bust for support. With the strap style you don't need that extra elastic but if I made this again I'd add it for extra stability and support.

Kwik Sew 3779
(See how much fabric I can pull away at the sides. The ruching ought to look more tight like this rather than lumpy and saggy. Ew.)

I started adding elastic to the neck and arm holes. That's when I knew the suit was going to be too big so I shortened the leg elastic by about an inch and a half. Now the leg holes fit much better than the top but even so, the torso is still too big which causes the ruching to look sloppy rather than taut. The only way I could fix that would be to take the whole thing apart again and sew up the sides and re-sew all the elastic... That prospect certainly doesn't excite me.

Oh, and when doing all the ruching make sure you are accurate. On side isn't as ruched at the bottom as the other... annoying.

Kwik Sew 3779
(Fun Fact: This is probably the only time you'll ever see me where flip-flops. Because I hate them. A lot.)

I doubt I'll be bringing this suit on my vacation this summer. Perhaps I'll give it away to a friend. I still like the style and might try another version sometime soon. Even if it wasn't a complete fitting success I do think it was a technical success and I'm applying what I learned in the suits I'm sewing now!

BTW, I'd love to see others' handmade swimsuits so if you've made one leave the link so I can check it out and be inspired!

May 21, 2012

Shorts and Shirts Summer Wardrobe: Bow Blouse

Bow Blouse

Fact: When making a shirt with long neck ties you will inevitably stitch those ties to other parts of the blouse by accident.

The tie bow was the last piece that I added to this shirt and I still stitched the ties to the facing twice.

Bow Blouse

This blouse took a while to finish for two reasons: firstly I self drafted it and that took a lot of tweaking, and secondly I've been distracted by video games - namely Elder Scrolls Skyrim. Yes, I admit it. I play video games. Ok, well, not always, just lately. And that game is the longest game in the history of game-kind. I could read the entire Game of Thrones book series before I finish this game! I'm glad sewing doesn't take as long as this game.

Anyway, on to the shirt.

Bow Blouse

Karel, a sewing maven from my sewing group was kind enough to lend me a big fat pattern drafting textbook. I was like a kid in a candy store with that thing. I know a lot about drafting but certainly not everything and it was nice to learn the "why" of what I was doing.

Bow Blouse

I began with a basic bodice block (the same I used for this dress). I rotated the darts to the shoulder and turned them into gathers. Next I made a yoke from front to back that I made into one piece so I don't have a shoulder seam. Then I turned the back darts into tiny pleats (hard to see with this print). I made gathered, semi-flutter sleeves, lengthened the shirt by doing a rough body measurement of how long I wanted it to be, and finally I two 33" long strips that I stitched together and used as the tie. There's also a neck facing holding the tie in place. The sleeve and bottom have baby hems which I like with this fabric.

Bow Blouse

I put some scrap bias tape to good use by making flat piping between the yoke and shirt pieces in the front and back.

The fabric is a rayon I bought from (I love rayon lately!). Justin said he liked it but the print reminded him of his grandmother, to which I said "Your Grandmother is one classy lady."

Bow Blouse

Since I made the neckline and tie from scratch at the end it's not quite the most accurate portion of the blouse. The front V isn't really pointy even though the facing is nice and pointy. Not exactly sure how that happened. Also I cut the facing too big and had to fix that while I was sewing. What I did here was just cut a neck hole in the fabric that I could stick my head through then cut the V shape later. Next time I'll make my v-neck into the original pattern.

Well, now I'm more than halfway through my Shorts and Shirts Summer Wardrobe. I've made two shorts (one was already made) and two tops. Only one pair of shorts and two shirts left to go! Not bad, I figured it would take me a lot longer to sew this mini-wardrobe.

May 17, 2012

Shorts and Shirts Summer Wardrobe: Chambray Shorts

Shorts and Shirts Summer Wardrobe: Chambray Shorts

Shorts! With buttons! Justin called these the Sergent Pepper shorts when he first saw them. Must be all the buttons... Anyway, this marks three out of four of my shorts I'm making for my Shorts and Shirts Summer Wardrobe. I'm nearly finished with my next shirt for SSSW but I'm self drafting it so it's taking awhile.

Shorts and Shirts Summer Wardrobe: Chambray Shorts

These shorts were also self drafted by combining the best bits of crotch curves from a few patterns and pants I owned to create a franken-crotch that I think works pretty well.

These shorts sit lower on the hips with a waistband and has bound edges rather than a hem. I used my handy-dandy bias tape maker (thanks Polly!) and some old navy linen blend scraps that I had to create the binding. It makes a nice contrast to the cotton chambray I think.

Shorts and Shirts Summer Wardrobe: Chambray Shorts

The shorts close at both sides and have a little curve at the bottom where they meet. I used twelve metal buttons total. The design on the buttons are little flowers which I like because I think it makes them look less military.

Shorts and Shirts Summer Wardrobe: Chambray Shorts

I got the idea for the buttons down the side design when I put on my other shorts for the first time this season and realized they were too big. With these shorts if I lose or gain weight I can just move the buttons over and resize the shorts easily. No having to undo hems and waist bands and re-sew side seams. The buttons are both decorative and practical!

Shorts and Shirts Summer Wardrobe: Chambray Shorts
(this was the only shot of the back that was in focus which is weird because my camera ought to have been on auto focus. and this pic has that darn tucked-in-shirt line, too. ugh)

Shorts and Shirts Summer Wardrobe: Chambray Shorts

If I make these shorts again I'll use a fabric with more substantial hand and less body. That's just a personal preference. This chambray folds and wrinkles pretty bad and doesn't always like to sit flat. But on the other hand, they are very light weight for summer!

Shorts and Shirts Summer Wardrobe: Chambray Shorts

The shorts have curved pockets in front and small darts in back.

I'm planning on making a pattern for these because with the binding and button sides they're really easy to make and fit. But that's going to have to wait for a couple months because I'm going on vacation in June and I have to whip up a bunch of clothes for my trip - including swimsuits! So much sewing, not enough time!!

May 14, 2012

Raglan Top to Dress Tutorial

Raglan Sleeve Knit Dress w/ Crochet Back

So I made this knit dress that I posted earlier this month from a basic raglan top pattern. A couple people asked if I'd make a pattern for it but since it's just an altered pattern I thought I'd show you how to do it yourself.

If you've never done any pattern alteration more than just for fitting you'll find that it's a pretty simple idea.

I used the raglan sleeve pattern from Wendy Mulin's Sew U Home Stretch book. You can use any plain raglan sleeve pattern for knits. The pattern in the book comes with front, back, sleeve, collar, cuff, and hood pieces so if you want you could make a hoodie. I left out all but the front, back and sleeve pieces.

I like raglan sleeves because you don't need to do much, if any, fitting at the shoulders. So if you have really sloped or broad shoulders, etc, you'll find this style easy to sew and wear.

I cut the neckline to fit the crochet applique but if you're leaving that out you can adjust your neckline any way you want. I just widened the original crew neck style by about an inch or two by lowering the neck on all the pieces (orange line).

Next I shortened the sleeves by several inches. In the end my sleeves curved up a little at the center (purple line).

To make it a dress I measured how long I wanted the dress + seam allowances. I extended the side seams of Front and Back and gradually angled it out to an A-shape making sure I had enough ease around the hips (pink line).

Finally I copied the waistline markings that were already on the original pattern so I could add my elastic waist (green line). If your pattern doesn't have a designated waistline you can measure on your body from under your armpit to your waist then transfer that measurement to the side of your front and back pieces from the bottom of the armhole.

Then just sew everything up as normal!

Just hem the sleeves and bottom. You'll have to create a new collar or binding because your neckline is now bigger. Measure your new neckline and cut a strip of fabric about 2/3-3/4 as long as the measurement and attach as normal.

For the waist you can stitch the elastic directly to the inside of the dress or I cut a strip of fabric as a casing and sewed it inside and inserted the elastic.

There you have it! Not so difficult to alter a pattern like that, right? Now go forth and sew!

May 11, 2012


And the winner of the three vintage patterns, crochet applique, ruffle elastic and a copy of my newest pattern PDF is...

Trisha! Congrats! I'll be contacting you soon by email to get your address.

Thanks to everyone who entered on both the blog and facebook! I really enjoyed reading your responses. Some of you had successes on your first sewing attempts, some fails. Some even tried really difficult projects at the first go. I'm impressed

May 6, 2012

Pecan Street Art Festival Dress

Pecan Street Art Fest Dress

I debated calling this the "F*** it, I'm Moving to Portland" dress. Justin and I went to the Old Pecan Street Art Festival here in Austin today (they block off a whole street downtown and fill it with arts and craft vendors, food stalls and local performers) and even though we were there only about an hour we were at each others' throats by the time we walked to the car because the heat turned us into angry, sweating monsters. That's right, summer is upon us and I'm feeling a lot like I ought to up and move. The heat was so fierce today that I had soaked through my dress and I felt like a big, fat, disgusting mess. Ugh.

Pecan Street Art Fest Dress

But luckily this is a black print dress that hides sweat discoloration pretty well. On the other hand, only Photoshop can hide the super red lips I had from eating a cherry snow cone.

The Goal: I've been sketching several dress designs lately. I seem to have ideas popping into my head out of nowhere all the time. This is the first that I decided to work on because even with the fancy back and sleeves, the base of the dress is simple - fitted bodice and gathered skirt - and if I get that to work for me I can use the pattern as a jumping off point for more designs.

Pecan Street Art Fest Dress

The Fabric: Smooth and soft rayon floral print from The Common Thread. I love this stuff so much! Too bad the store is sold out or I might have to get more. Has anyone else found this online?

The Pattern: I used a basic bodice block with side and waist darts (hard to tell in the pictures). The sleeves took some time to figure out. I ended up folding what looks like an extra long oval in half lengthwise and gathered it (easier than trying to do a baby hem). The skirt is just two big, gathered rectangles. Had I paid more attention I would have added pockets!

Pecan Street Art Fest Dress

As for the criss-cross back I used my handy dandy new bias tape makers that I got for my birthday (thanks Polly!). I used the wider tape for the "net" and narrow tape to bind the neck hole and as a facing for the armholes.

Pecan Street Art Fest Dress

I did an invisible zip on the side for closure (center back wouldn't have worked with the net design).

The netting took more effort than I thought. I had to stretch the bias strips more taught than I thought otherwise they hang all floppy and loose. It also took time to make sure the strips lined up correctly and intersected in the right place.

Pecan Street Art Fest Dress

The Changes: Since this isn't a pre-made pattern I'll talk about what I'll change next time. First I'll probably use the bias tape as a facing around the neckline rather than a binding. It will probably help make the back netting smoother. In fact, I think that was my original plan but by the time I got to that point (the last step before completion) I forgot and just sewed it as binding.

Pecan Street Art Fest Dress

It took me awhile to figure out a good placement for the ruffle sleeves since they don't reach around the entire arm hole. At first they were way too high so I lowered the ends closer to the side seams. I'll adjust the pattern for next time.

I love this rayon fabric but it has a rather loose weave and the weight of the skirt pulled the bodice down so much that I had to pull it up at the shoulder seams and re-stitch, making the bodice another 5/8" shorter. If I used a more stable fabric I probably wouldn't have that problem.

Pecan Street Art Fest Dress

The Results: It's super cute! These pictures make it hard to see the seams and detailing but this is a really pretty, comfortable, flow-y dress. I think it fits my sewing resolutions - a dress that I can wear everyday (but it's also dressy enough to wear to a wedding, perhaps) that's not too short, doesn't require any extra clothing  or special underwear to wear with it (like a cami underneath) and it has sleeves! Well, sort of, I think they still count.

Pecan Street Art Fest Dress

I have a couple other designs I'm working on next. I seem to be on a fancy-back kick lately with this dress and the crochet back dress I made last week. The next dress I'm drafting has a back cut out! Fun times!

I haven't forgotten about my Shorts and Shirts Summer Wardrobe. I'm drafting a top soon and I've finished my last pair of shorts that I hope to share with you soon!

May 4, 2012

Giveaway Giveaway Giveaway!!!


In honor of the release of my newest pattern (thanks to everyone who's bought a copy already!) I'm doing a giveaway!

That's right - one of you lucky readers can win a red crochet applique (check out my little tutorial for using them in your projects), two and a half yards of black ruffle elastic (perfect for using on undies made from scrap jersey), not one, not two, but three vintage patterns and a copy of my own Summer Concert Tee PDF pattern.

Vintage Patterns for Giveaway
The patterns are from the 50s, 60s and 70s. The first is a delightful kimono sleeve dress in bust size 32. Wouldn't it be cute with a contrasting print on the shoulders? I really love this design but luckily I have another very similar design pattern that's a few years older so I feel ok giving this one up. I'm also giving away a cute 60s shirt dress pattern. These styles would be great for summer. This one is bust size 36. The last is a fun dress and top set. These would make for cute and comfy beach cover ups! The 70s pattern says size small which means it should fit bust size 32 1/2-34. Sorry that the sizes are rather small. I think the largest bust size in my entire collection is a 37.

Ruffle ElasticRed Crochet Applique
I love the fluffy ruffle on this elastic and I can imagine so many tops and dresses you could add this applique to. Maybe a flutter sleeve blouse with a gathered front or a sleeveless tee?

I'll snail mail all these goodies and email the winner the Summer Concert Tee pattern PDF.

I'll announce the winner on Friday, May 11. You don't have to be a follower to enter.

Just leave a comment here on the blog answering this question: When was your first attempt at sew clothing from a pattern and was it a success? For example - my first clothing pattern project was in high school. I tried making a dress but it was an utter failure - the fabric I picked was way too thick and I didn't even bother taking measurements or reading the instructions! Yeah, it took me a couple more years before I did pattern sewing again.

Be sure to leave your email address in the comment if I can't find it in your profile.

If you want a second entry you can go to my Facebook page and answer the question there, too!

May 2, 2012

Summer Concert Tee Pattern Now Available!

Today's the day! I'm very pleased to announce the release of my newest pattern. I first showed you my finished version last week and now it is ready for download.

You now can buy the pattern for $3 at my store or soon on Craftsy's pattern page. Either way you'll get an email within 24 hrs for an instant download (usually just within a few minutes at my store).

As usual - remember to print the pattern at 100% without scaling. Don't make the pages "fit in the printable area" or anything fancy like that. The file is already optimized to print on standard letter or A4 sheets. Once printed, line up all the pages matching letter and number notches so that it looks like the Printing Layout guide. The instructions are included with the pattern in one PDF for easy printing and reference.