June 27, 2012

The Week of Swimsuits Pt 2: Kwik Sew 3608

Thanks for the kind words on the last post. Normally I wouldn't even put pics of myself in a swimsuit on Facebook but I guess you guys are special and it's all in the name of "sewing science", right? I also can't deny that these are slightly photoshopped pics - a little birth-mark erasing here, some tan line blending there... you get the idea. Anyway, let's just agree to pay attention to the suit and not the model, ok? ;)

Here's another swimsuit I made and it is probably my favorite because I think the design just looks so cool. It's a monokini from Kwik Sew, #3608, which I think might be discontinued because I can't find it on the KS website. You can still buy it online and probably in stores. I don't know why they discontinued it because it is one of the more modern designs they have.

The pattern includes the strapless monokini and a tankini pattern which I like, too. I didn't intend to blatantly copy the envelop design, either. I just had a bunch of really nice black nylon/lycra and used that.

This suit has a nifty shelf bra inside in the lining and some bust gathers on the sides. Again, I added some swim cups that I bought from Sew Sassy.

(check out those sloppy stitches!)

Kwik Sew has very good instructions and this suit whipped up in no time! Learning from my purple suit I decided to cut a size S but I discovered that I should have lengthened the suit in front by about 3/4". When the sizes shrink widthwise they also get slightly shorter. I've lost weight but not height. Something new I need to consider when sewing... Either way it's not too bad and I only had to pull the top up a few times.

Having never worn a monokini before I was worried that the center front piece would get floppy and loose whenever I'd bend over or sit down. To my surprise that wasn't much of a problem. It stayed in place pretty well without getting folded as I moved around.

 ***A note on the upcoming swim suit sew-along: I'll make a post with a list of swim suit patterns and have a poll on which one we want to make. If you have a pattern you know you want to try out leave a comment so I can consider it. During the voting time I'll post a big list of necessary supplies and places you can find them online so you can order everything you need!

June 22, 2012

Using Scraps: Wine Bottle Gift Bag (Guest Post by Leah of Struggle Sews a Straight Seam)

***What? I'm still gone? Craziness. Lucky for you there's more guest post greatness coming up!!!!

Leah's blog is one of my faves to read for several reasons: her big smile in every photo along with her hilarious writing style always makes my day. You really get the idea that this is one fun lady! Her enthusiasm for her sewing projects is contagious! Not to mention she's got an adorable cat who frequently makes appearances (I love cats and sewing...). I love how she brings her unique heritige into her sewing. Part Russian and Puerto Rican, you'll often see her posing in cute shorts amongst palm trees in Puerto Rico and she is using vintage fabrics that she inherited from her grandmother to create her own clothes. Thanks Leah for coming over to the dark side my blog!! ***

When Dixie asked me to do a guest post, I couldn’t have been more thrilled. A guest post? For one of my favorite bloggers? Are you kidding me? Where do I sign? I was all ready to do something Faustian and just give my soul or what have you but Dixie assured me all I had to do was a tutorial. Ha. Is that all?

One of the many things I adore about Dixie is her dedication to using small amounts of fabrics and scraps. The great scrap debate rages across the interwebs, with some desperate to use theirs and others scorning these humble bits of fabric and all they can do. Me, I can’t bear to part with tiny bits of even the crappiest fabric, let alone half or quarter yards. So I like to think up projects that can efficiently employ such pieces of precious (and non-precious cloth). And I figured, what better way to show my devotion to Dixie then with a scrap-based tutorial?

So here it goes, my tutorial for wine bags! I love wine. I love it deeply and completely. But I know that not everyone is into it, so this would be a great way to package sparking cider, soda, or even Perrier! I like to bring wine whenever I go somewhere for dinner, or stay at the house of a friend, and my mom actually gives
bottles of prosecco away at every settlement (she’s in Real Estate). So I thought this might be a great way to make that gift extra special, while using access fabric too!

What you will need:
  • About ¼ of a yard of fabric of any kind
  • Thread
  • A sewing machine (unless you are sadistic and want to hand sew this thing)
  • Pins
  • A Pencil
  • A bottle of whatever you plan to put in this bag
  • Measuring tape
  • A Ruler

Step 1:
Measure your bottle both lengthwise:

and widthwise

Allow whatever seam allowance you enjoy. I personally am a ½ inch kind of a girl, but hey, find the you in you and ask them what they desire in a seam allowance.

So say my bottle was 13 inches long by 6 inches around. So adding ½ inch seam allowance per seam, I would cut two pieces of fabric that were 4 inches by 14 inches. I personally added an inch on the top (and would add another, for the future) just so the whole bottle would be completed covered in the bag (and preserve the surprise!) but again, do what feels right.

I also cut two pieces of fabric 5 inches by 1 inch. These will become the strap of the bag. Feel free to alter those dimensions should you want thicker straps, but I wouldn’t go much thinner, as liquids are heavy.

Step 2: With right sides together, pin and sew the body of the bag, pivoting around
the corners.

Step 3: Lay the strap pieces together at a right angle.

Using your ruler, mark a line across the center of the square formed by the overlap
of the two pieces of strap fabric:

Step 4:
Pin and stitch along that marked line.

Trim the excess and iron.

Press the strap in half, right sides together

Step 5:
Pink the seam allowance on the body of the bag.

Turn the top of the bag over by ½ an inch (or whatever works according to your seam allowance etc). Turn it over again, and stitch the double fold in place. (I like to wait until I’m attaching the straps and do it all in one step, so you can do that too, if you like!)

Step 6: (Optional)
If you want the bag to have a rectangular bottom you can sew along the bottom two corners of the bag. You don’t have to do this but I like it, personally. You just sew perpendicularly to the corner, creating a little sewn triangle:

And it will look like this:

Step 7:
Sew the strap together on the long side, leaving the two short sides unsewn.

Taking a safety pin, pull the right side of the strap through until the whole tube of fabric is facing the correct way (i.e. you can see the right side and the wrong side is the inside of the tube).

Step 8:
Attach the strap to the body of the bag, using the two seams as your placement guide. I like to do a zigzag stitch because I like the way it looks, making sure to double back over the places where the strap meets the body of the bag. As I mentioned before, I tend to double this step up and be hemming as I’m attaching,
but if that doesn’t work for you, no worries!

And there you have it! A lovely wine/prosseco/yoohoo bag to bring to your next shindig!

Thanks, Dixie, I loved making this tutorial, and I hope your readers enjoy it too! ~Leah

June 19, 2012

Summer Concert Tee to Cardigan (Guest Post by Lizz of A Good Wardrobe)

***We're continuing onward with the guest posts while I'm on vacay! Today I'm excited to have the lovely Lizz from A Good Wardrobe here sharing an awesome modification for my own pattern! I'm so flattered! 

 Lizz is currently living my own personal dream - going to school for pattern design in one of the coolest cities in the world and calling her wardrobe "good" is a total understatement. When I first came across her blog I fell in love! Er, let me explain. I fell in love with her clothes! She makes sophisticated and classy designs with a touch of femininity and, if I do say so myself, 100% badassitude! I seriously want to sneak in her house at night and steal all of the clothes she's made! Wow, that sounds creepy... But really, it's as if someone else made all of the clothes I'd imagine I'd want to make. Well, while I'm experiencing some serious sewing swoon over here let's get on with the post, shall we? ***

Hello, Dixie DIY fans! I'm Lizz from A Good Wardrobe! I can't tell you how excited I was when Dixie approached me about a guest post. I knew that I wanted to share with you one of my favorite things about sewing: pattern modification. It's amazing how tiny changes to an existing pattern can create an entirely different project. With just a few key patterns, you can create an endless amount of garments.
I live in the San Francisco Bay Area which means that on any given day I could go through two or three major weather changes. Layering is a must - especially in the summer. I've been in desperate need of a lightweight cover up recently and my spring/fall cardigans are just too heavy for the job. I thought it would be fun to play around with Dixie's Summer Concert Tee to create a cardigan and show you all how to do the same.

Fabric:  2 yards of jersey fabric or other single knit that does not fray. It's important that the jersey's right side curls onto itself as this design utilizes the natural curling tendency for the collar.

Please refer to the pattern for additional supplies and instructions on working with knit fabrics. 

1. Print and assemble the pattern but don't cut it out just yet. 

2.Select your size according to the pattern's size chart. I'm in between sizes and chose to size up since this a loose fitting garment. 

3. Draw a grain line parallel to the center front. We'll be modifying this piece and will need a grain line when cutting out later.

4. Using a curved ruler or freehand, draw a line extending from the high neckline point (where the neck and shoulder meet) to the center front. You can see mine in the photo - it's the blue line.

This is your new center front. When it's time, cut 2. 

5. Draft a new collar piece.
- Measure the new center front from hemline to high neckline = a
- Measure back neckline from center back to high neckline = b
- (a + b - hem allowance of 1") x 2 = c
- Draft a new collar pattern 2" x measurement c 
- Mark grain line running the length of the cross grain (selvedge to selvedge)

6. Cut pattern pieces out: front (cut 2), back (cut 1 on fold), sleeves (cut 2 on fold), and new collar piece (cut 1). 

7. Follow the pattern directions steps 1 -4. At this point you will have the garment constructed and hemmed leaving only the collar to finish. 

8. With right sides together attach the collar to the garment being careful not to stretch.
 The collar hem and side will be left unfinished. 

That's it! You can have this cardigan finished and ready to wear in an afternoon. I hope you enjoy making it as much as I did. Happy sewing! 

June 16, 2012

DIY Couture (Guest Post by Susan from MoonThirty)

***Hola readers! By now I'll be burning my skin on some beach and drinking virgin daiquiris from plastic cup... or something like that, haha. But just so you all don't miss me too much ;) here's the first of some awesome guest posts I have lined up for you while I'm gone.

Let me tell you a little about Susan - she's a crafting queen with a throne room to make anyone envious - her crowning glory being a closet packed to the brim with all kinds of fabric! If she were under siege she could last years working with all the fabric she has! Ok, enough medieval monarchy metaphors, haha! 

But really, though. Susan is awesome. She loves craft, home dec and apparel sewing and has an amazing knack for pairing fabric textures, colors and prints. And she has a library of crafty books big enough to rival that fabric closet of hers. So let's give a big standing O for my friend Susan!***

Thanks so much to Dixie for having me here! I have learned so much from her in the short time we've been friends, and I am constantly inspired by her creations.

As I've mentioned early and often to anyone who'll listen, I love sewing books. I'm a bibliophile since early childhood, so when I began to sew, the introduction of this genre to my book collection was inevitable. Being primarily a self-taught sewist, the all-purpose and specific-topic sewing guides I've collected have been invaluable to my evolution in this craft. The best ones contain both techniques and projects! The majority of my library is more geared towards projects other than apparel, but that's largely because I haven't found nearly as many books about garment sewing that actually contain things to make. However, it seems that's starting to change -- the last few years have brought many exciting apparel publications to the market, including this recent release by Rosie Martin, DIY Couture.


I love way this book was designed and organized. It contains a patternless set of ten garment "shapes," for which the author created eight unique collections, each containing a variation of the original ten garments. This should help clarify... the ten shapes: 

And an example of the collections:

Now, I have to admit that I didn't necessarily love most of the finished garments that were photographed for the book, but that was quite irrelevant to me. I don't buy a house based on the color of the paint on the walls. I could tell right away that it was the infrastructure of the book that I wanted -- tell me how to create these ten garments the way that I want to, and we're all set. Based on my experience so far, I believe the author was successful in doing that. There are no tissue patterns included in this book -- instead, the author walks you through the process of making your own pattern, which you can either draft on the paper of your choice or directly onto your intended fashion fabric. She uses a combination of personal measurements/preferences and existing garment tracing in order to create the pieces. I was excited about the prospect of learning this process, as I have extremely limited experience with it.

I automatically zoned in on the Grecian Dress as my first piece to attempt from the book. I think this was for two reasons: it looked extremely simple to make, and it was a style I could see myself wearing. The author drafts the garment directly onto her fashion fabric, but I wanted to create a paper pattern. I rarely -- OK, never -- make a garment the first time without subsequently wanting to make a few changes, and I knew this would be easier if I had a pattern from which to work. I drafted my Grecian Dress for a knit fabric, though I'd make very few changes to make it from a woven. I was really surprised at how easy it was to create my own pattern for this simple garment. By far, it took me less time than when I have to make an alteration to a commercial pattern. An even more importantly, I felt I knew the shape intimately -- after I made the first version (nightgown, not pictured), I knew exactly where to go in the pattern to make the changes that I wanted to make. This may sound overly simplistic for such an uncomplicated garment, but I have had a lot of trouble over the years training my mind to think in the 3D realm that apparel sewing requires. So this was just the right experience to help me gain that confidence!

Normally when I review something for my blog, I detail precisely where I made modifications to the author's pattern or techniques. Here, I'm not going to do exactly that because the instructions are really guideline-oriented anyway, meant to customize to your heart's content. But here's the scoop on my specific garment, in case you're interested in making something similar:
  • I made my garment long tunic length, using a measurement of about 40" from the very top of the raw edge at the neckline, all the way to the bottom (as cut/unhemmed).
  • I used 1/4" elastic on the inside for the garment shaping at the waist. I attached the elastic 3" below the waistline to result in the amount of blousing I wanted.
  • I finished my edges with binding made from my fashion fabric, but left the raw edges exposed. I've been wanting to try this technique for a while. Basically, I just cut 1" strips on the crossgrain, pressed them in half lengthwise, enclosed the garment's raw edges in the folded strips, and stitched. I like the finished unfinished look. :) It would be cute in a contrasting fabric too.
  • I used a very lightweight slub cotton jersey from Fabric.com. I bought it about a year ago and it doesn't look like this exact color is currently available, but here are the similar ones they have in stock. It was super stretchy which made the neckline a bit of a challenge, but it's comfortable!
The other pieces that are high priorities in my to-try list are the cloak, the hoodie, and the romper. Thanks to Rosie Martin for an inspirational and educational book that will keep me busy for quite a while!

June 14, 2012

I'm leavin' on a jet plane...

Yep, I'm heading out on vacation for a couple of weeks. But no worries, folks, I've got some awesome bloggers lined up for fun guest posts while I'm lounging on a beach in the Dominican Republic. And look out! When I get back I'll have tons of swim suits that I've made to show you! No, I didn't make all of those in the sketches but I did make quite a few. ;) See you all later!!

June 11, 2012

Attack of the Sleeves!, or, the Colette Taffy Blouse

Taffy Blouse
(holy moly! thems some huge sleeves!!)

Going into this project I knew that the Taffy Blouse from the Colette Sewing Handbook (this month's BiblioStyles pick) had flutter sleeves. I like flutter sleeves. They're pretty and great for summer when I don't want fabric touching my body. What I didn't realize until I looked at the pattern pieces was that the sleeves were near full circles! Completely unlike any other sleeve pattern piece I've ever seen, these sleeves are BIG! I was worried they'd be too big and while overall I am satisfied with this shirt I do have a couple minor gripes.

Taffy Blouse

These complaints are all a little nitpicky and had I bought this shirt in a store I'd never even care.
  • I wish the neckline wasn't so wide because sometimes the shirt slips showing bra straps, a pet peeve of mine. It doesn't slip off my shoulders entirely, though, so that's good.
  • The sleeves are definitely a statement. I might have preferred slightly less bulk but they're ok and they look cool when the wind blows.
  • Here's a tip if you want to try this shirt but are worried about the huge sleeves. Simply cut out a wedge shape out of the center of the sleeve. Only cut to the seamline, however. This way the length of the seamline stays the same and will fit the armhole. This will make a less dramatic circle shape without messing with the underarm seam.
  • And finally, I bought this fabric as a remnant without having a plan for what to do with it (something I hardly ever do). I liked the graphic shape print but I noticed that the squares were not printed on grain. They slope at about 5 degrees. Not much but it makes a difference if you want a straight stripe look. Some friends suggested that the bias cut taffy blouse might work because the diagonal direction might work with this print. I can still tell that the lines aren't straight and that annoys me but I guarantee no one else would notice.
Ok, enough complaining. I really do like this shirt! On to the nitty gritty.

Taffy Blouse

The Goal: I wanted to use up this fabric and at the same time I needed to do a project for BiblioStyles, my sewing book club.

The Pattern: The Taffy Blouse, the last project in the new Colette Sewing Handbook. I cut a size 4. I was nervous because the last Colette pattern I made (the also bias cut Jasmine top) I cut an 8. Maybe it's because of the bias but I think I might have gotten away with cutting a 2 except I think the armholes would have been a little tight (a frequent problem for me).

The Fabric: Cotton lawn (or voile? I can never tell the difference). For the bias binding I used my handy dandy bias tape maker (love that thing!!) and cut strips of black lawn off an old dress that I never wore (does that count as a re-style? haha!).

Taffy Blouse

The Changes: Nothing major - I lengthened the darts by a little over an inch. I really should have moved them up a little higher, probably a factor of the size I chose more than the pattern itself.

I didn't make the waist tie because I wanted to save time and get the shirt finished before I went out to take pics (I ate crepes with some friends out at a trailer food park. These shots were taken behind an airstream trailer. I thought it would make for a super cool background until I looked at the photos and realized there was all this trash and cinder blocks and random buckets lying around! I had to do a lot of cropping and using of the stamp tool in Photoshop to clean these pics up!). But because I don't like the way this shirt looks on me un-tucked (kind of square-like) I'll add a tie made from the graphic fabric to blend in and stitch on some tie holders on the sides.

Taffy Blouse

The Results: I think I'll get a lot of wear out of this top. I paired it with my Sweet Shorts and I think they work well together. This top doesn't meet my requirements for solid color tops for easy mix and matching but oh well. The sleeves work for summer and I'm glad I did some stash busting!

June 9, 2012

Going old school: The Portia Top Pattern

Hey folks, I've been busy this last week cranking out swimsuits I hope to use on my upcoming vacation but I wanted to post about a pattern I made last September (wow, it feels like a lot longer than that).

I made the shirt and pattern in conjunction with "The Refashioners" - a cool idea from the lovely Portia. She sent a bunch of bloggers a surprise package filled with a thrift store garment and we were challenged to re-make it into something new. My surprise outfit was big enough for me to incorporate into two shirts, the second of which I self drafted and made into a pattern.

I never did post the pattern here for whatever reason but perhaps now is as good a time as any.

Quick rundown on the shirt - it's a pieced together design with cut-on cuffed sleeves, pleated shoulders, a round neckline and interesting seaming. You could play around with some fun color blocking if you want.

This pattern is more old school Dixie style - basic instructions (no pics), not quite as detailed of a layout but an advanced beginner or intermediate level sew-er should be able to put it together, no problem.

It comes in 5 sizes ranging from bust size 32"-40"

Instructions and pattern are all in one PDF. Like any other of my patterns be sure to print without scaling and tape all the pieces together by matching the letter and number notches.

It's pretty amazing for me to see how far my pattern making skills have come in only a few months but I hope you enjoy this older free pattern! As always, let me know if you have questions or comments. I love feedback!

June 3, 2012

Shorts and Shirts Summer Wardrobe: Pattern Runway Sweet Shorts

Pattern Runway Sweet Shorts

These shorts were much more difficult to make than expected - not because the Pattern Runway Sweet Shorts are a difficult pattern, they're not, rather I made many dumb mistakes that resulted in unnecessary effort. I couldn't even get the photos of them right the first time! The pics turned out all blurry. These are Sweet Shorts Pictures 2.0.

Even for all the pitfalls and confusion I can say that I really like these shorts. They fit like a glove and are comfy and cute. A triple threat when it comes to clothes sewing!

The Goal: These are the last pair of shorts for my Shorts and Shirts Summer Wardrobe and seeing as they're plain black they'll probably get the most wear.

Pattern Runway Sweet Shorts

The Pattern: Pattern Runway's Sweet Shorts with the scalloped hem in front. I like that it's not too scalloped like something a five year old would draw when making a picture of a boat on the ocean. It's a classy scallop! I was between sizes so I made the executive decision to slice right down the middle between a small and a medium. Perfect fit!

Pattern Runway Sweet Shorts

The Fabric: Black cotton bottomweight from Joann. Nothing fancy but it gets the job done and it's not too drape-y nor too stiff. The pockets are leftover yellow batiste, nice and lightweight for the pockets.

Pattern Runway Sweet Shorts

The Changes: I didn't make a muslin, instead I added extra seam allowance space in the crotch area because I knew I'd most likely have to make changes there. Luckily the back was fine but in the front I had to make a common adjustment for me - moving the crotch line farther outward at the lower curve. Amy at Cloth Habit has a great visual tutorial of the change I made.

Pattern Runway Sweet Shorts

The other change was to the side seams. My thighs aren't sticks but for some reason most of the shorts patterns I use make my thighs look stickly. I trimmed only the back leg pieces at the side edges and kept the front shape the same. This tucks in the back leg area nicely while leaving the front in its original size.

But - mistake #1 The bottom of the legs use a facing rather than a hem which is good because trying to hem that front curve would be impossible. Unfortunately when I altered the back leg sides I needed to alter the facing, too. Well, oops, I cut the facing too short. I tried to make it work but alas - no luck. So I had to re-do the facings.

Pattern Runway Sweet Shorts

Also, I love the idea of the welt pockets in back and I was determined to follow the instructions given in the pattern. I know that in early editions of this pattern there was some typo or mistake in the pocket directions but I believe I have the fixed version. I really did try to follow along and I got to the point where I was about to add the pocket bag when I gave up.

Pattern Runway Sweet Shorts

I've made welt pockets before but his time the directions and I just didn't get along. I didn't always understand the illustrations (everything just looks like a rectangle to me!) nor did I really know what the pocket was supposed to look like in the end. I even went to Pattern Runway's blog to read the tutorial on welt pockets there. The tute made more sense than the pattern directions for me.

I understand why she wants you to make these pockets in a certain way. The pocket should extends all way to the waistband seam for extra support and she has a clever way of making sure the pocket lining fabric doesn't show through in case the pocket gapes slightly. But there seriously has to be an easier way of explaining it.

Pattern Runway Sweet Shorts
(yeah, I should really finish those edges, or at least pink them...)

In the end I reverted  to my fave way of doing welts - what I call the "one piece welt" because the window backing and welt flap are the same piece. Poppykettle has an awesome tutorial for this technique with clear pics and easy to follow instructions. The only thing I did differently was to incorporate Pattern Runway's welt backing so you can't see the yellow lining at all from the outside.

I made another mistake by attaching the waistband back facing first rather then the front piece which caused problems trying to add the invisible zipper. Lots of unpicking. Ugh...

Pattern Runway Sweet Shorts

And then I had to decide whether or not to take time to fix a sway-back issue under the waistband. Because I wanted to fight my compulsive laziness, I had this great idea that if I went ahead and unpicked part of the back waistband then that would force myself to fix it because the stitching would already be un-done. Only later did I realize I had accidentally unpicked the front waistband! Ugh. Lots of re-stitching. Even after fixing the back the issue is only partially resolved. There's still some extra fabric folded at the upper back but it is better than before.

The Results: These are great shorts! I love the styling, the high waist, the top stitching in front and I even love those pesky welt pockets. Perhaps I'll make them again in the future and change the pattern up a little bit. I love Lizz's version with gathers and a belt tie.

Oh, and Justin took these pictures while we were out today. He figured out how to do the fast-frame picture taking and wanted to use it so to appease him (gotta keep my important photographer happy!) I did some dancing. We can call this the "happy shorts" dance.