Friday, July 30, 2010

How to measure your toddler

If your toddler is anything like mine, measuring him or her is pretty much an impossibility.  My niece, Gracie, whom I do most of my sewing for, goes from a sweet, tractable child to screaming, crying, red-faced monster in 3.5 seconds when you try to measure her or get her to try on  something you've just finished making.  From listening to that child, one would think you're doing something horrible to her by running a measuring tape around her chest or arm!

Don't get me wrong--she loves measuring tapes.  Gracie steals them whenever the opportunity presents!  She just hates anyone trying to measure her!

I've given up trying to measure her... while she's awake.  Just about the only thing she has tantrums over is Auntie Laura trying to find out what size she is.  So here's my favored method.

Wait until she's fallen asleep, preferably in someone's arms so that they can help.  Tiptoe over to her, and slide the measuring tape underneath her. Slowly and carefully  tighten it to get your measurement.  Write that down.  Get your accomplice to lift the baby slightly so you can get the measuring tape back.  While you're at it, measure the kid's arm because you'll probably need that, too.  Write that down.  Get your accomplice to lay the baby on her back with her legs straight out.  Measure from neck to knee and neck to ankle.  Write those down, too.

If you've managed to make it this far without her waking up congratulations!  If at any time, the toddler has woken up, distract with kisses, cuddles, tickles, and if all else fails, cookies or cake!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

For the curious, the insides of the 1946 dress and the 1948 undies!

The insides of the dress--
The front--

And the back--

The panties, front--

And back--                                                        

And finally, the slip. Front---


And back--

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

1948 slip and panties

And now on to the rest of the outfit--what other people won't see!  The dress definitely needed a slip to go underneath, and while I was at it, my SIL can always use another diaper cover for Evie.    This one started different-- drafting facings for the inside of the slip.    I traced the back and front, went about three inches down on each side, and connected the sides with a nice, curved line.  On the front facing, I added an inch to the straps so that I could have them button instead of sewing shoulder seams, as I was unsure if it would fit over Gracie's head.

I used regular tracing paper to do it, and made sure to cut two of each piece--one of the fabric, and one of the interfacing.  The next step was cutting out.  I added two inches to the bottom of the skirt pieces and an inch to the front shoulder strap.  I went ahead and cut the slash lines (one of the weirdest parts of this pattern) and then basted down the previously traced transfers.  After stamping, I embroidered them.  As with the 1946 dress, it used outline stitch and french knots.  Unlike the dress, it also used colonial knots and satin stitching.  Colonial knots are pretty much  just bigger french knots.  I hooped it because that makes it easier.

  After that, I just followed instructions.  The slip is lace-edged, and the ruffles are serious!  I cut them on my rotary cutting mat, sewed them together, and then narrow hemmed and added lace before I gathered them for ruffles and sewed it on.

The pattern actually called for french seams!  The most interesting part of the pattern was the way the skirt of the slip was gathered only at the sides, then sewn to the top.  I encased that seam in bias tape.  I also encased the ruffle seams in bias tape.  After that, it was just a matter of top stitching the waist seams, edging the neck and sleeve holes in lace, and sewing on the facings.  The edge of the facings were encased in bias tape, and then whip stitched to the waist seams.  After that, I added the buttons and buttonholes, and here's the finished product--

And here are details of the embroidery--


The large knots are colonial knots.  :) I made a few construction changes to the panties, as well.  The main change was that I assembled the front and back and even ran the elastic through the casing before I sewed them together.  Everything else was pretty much as the pattern asked for.  Here is the finished product--

  And here are details of the embroidery--

  Oh!  My other change to this was embroidering the yoke of the panties.  It wasn't on the pattern.  The yoke and the released tucks are the most interesting part of the panties, I think.  And it's also interesting that the legs are just left open.  Out of different fabric and lengthened, this could easily be a pair of shorts for Gracie!  Tomorrow,  for the curious, I'll post pictures of what the inside looks like, and I'll be reviewing the patterns over on Pattern Review.

1946 dress--Finishing up.

Okay, we've got everything but the placket and hem.  Normally, I'd tell you to ignore the placket fold line, because nine times out of ten, there's something going on that makes it so that there's no room for the buttons where they should go--between the collar pieces.    For this dress, though, there wasn't a problem!  I folded on the fold line and ironed it down, before using a hem stitch (by hand) to tack it in place.   This has the advantage of being completely invisible from the outside of the dress.  This is the same way I tacked down the bias tape binding around the collar.  After that, I moved on to the hem.

This was the most challenging hem I've ever done by far.  It had a five inch deep hem so there's plenty of room to grow, and it's darn near being a full circle skirt.  I decided, after asking around, that the best thing to do was machine gather the panels individually and then hem it in place, but it didn't work very well.

It looked really bad from the outside, so after ripping hair out, I decided that the thing to do was to fold it three or four times and hand gather the panels.
  While the result is puckered from the inside, it's smooth from the outside.
  I did iron it afterwards, and the hemline just disappeared.

  This is in process of actually hemming it, not just having it pinned in place.    After I finished the hem, it was time to do the buttonholes and buttons.  I compared the buttons to the button guide, and it was exactly the right size for my buttons.  So I used transfer paper, like this--


And my most useful tool--a wooden chopstick to transfer the button markings.  Because my version of this pattern is longer, I moved the template and added more buttonhole marks to my fabric.  After that, it was just a matter of sewing the buttonholes by machine, cutting them open, sewing on the buttons, and giving it a final press.  And here is the finished product!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

1946 dress-- construction

Okay, now that everything is embroidered, it's time to put it together.  At this point, we should have 8 shoulder ruffle pieces, 2 front panels (remember, we've already french seamed them together), one back panel (ditto), 4 sash pieces, all embroidered on the ends, a length of self-made bias tape,   and 2 collar pieces, one of which is embroidered.

My first move was to start sewing the pieces together with the collar, ruffle pieces, and sashes.  With right sides together, sew them, then clip the curves, turn them, and then top stitch them--except for the collar.  Instead of top stitching the collar, open up the bias tape, apply it to the edge of the collar, and sew along the fold line.  Then, fold the bias tape over the edge of the collar and whip stitch it in place.  Above is top stitching the sash.  Next, we need to sew the shoulder seams together, which french seaming again.  :)

After that, we need to gather the sashes and pin and sew them in place on the front panels of the dress-- 

Anything (like a sash) that's going to be pulled on, I always stitch through it more than once just to make sure it can't be ripped out by accident.

My next step goes against everything I've ever picked up about garment construction--I sew the collar on before the sleeves, and against conventional wisdom, I always install sleeves flat.  It's just easier to sew it that way.    My first step here is to encase the edge of the middle bit of the front panels in bias tape.  The directions say to simply fold it over and top stitch it, but that still leaves a raw edge, so I skipped it.

So,   We're going to fold the collar in half, and line up the middle with the middle back seam, pin, and sew it on.  Then, to finish the raw edge, I sew over the same seam again, this time applying commercial single fold bias tape.  And this goes over the whole edge--it's topstitched around the edge of the collar, and then where most people would say to whip stitch, I carefully use a hem stitch to tack it in place.  This has the advantage of being invisible from the other side.

Next, we need to baste the ruffles together.  There are two different sizes, and the wider one goes on the bottom.  After they're basted together, they need gathered and sewn to the body of the dress.  Make sure that the thinner ruffle is on top, otherwise you'll need to pick it out.  After they're sewn in, I finish the seams with bias tape again. 

Now come the side seams, which I french seam.  All that's left now is the hem, the front plackets, the buttonholes, and the buttons.... which I'll cover in another post along with the underclothing to go with it!

1946 dress-- french seaming and embroidery steps.

Okay, the next step in the process is sewing the dress panels together.  I know it sounds funny, but the embroidery on this dress is over a seam, and if we're sewing the front panels together, we might as well do the back, too.  When you're sewing a seam, you usually sew with the right sides of the fabric together.  But I'm a firm believer in french seaming.  I don't have a serger (commercial pieces are finished with one) so I do french seams.  With french seams, you put the wrong sides together, sew a scant 1/4 inch seam--
In this picture, my machine is set to the right needle position, which give me an exact 1/4 inch seam from the side of the foot. After all the initial seams are sewn, I fold the right sides together, encasing the other seam's raw edge, and sew it again.  It makes the inside nice and neat and keep the garment from falling apart when it's washed.  (My sister claims I'm crazy for doing french seams on baby and toddler clothes, but I say that if I'm going to all the time and effort and expense of making something, it's gotta last!)  After the dress panels are sewn together, it's time to transfer the embroidery designs.

I've tried all of the transfer methods currently on the market.  It's hard to get a line dark enough to follow with the heat transfer pencils.  Transfer sheets are better for transferring pattern markings that have to be washed out.  My favorite method is the Sulky iron-on transfer pen.  Micheals sells it, and it's available online.  All you need is a pencil, the transfer pen, and some tracing paper.  Don't buy the stuff from the fabric store; it's a rip off!  Buy it in the school supplies section of your local discount store.  There's more of it, it costs less, and one pad will last a long time.  Trace off the transfers, go over them in the pen, and then cut them apart.

Next, hand baste them where you want them to be.  Make sure that the transfer ink side is against the fabric, or you'll end up with the pattern on your iron.  Then, follow the instructions on the pen package.  Because we already have the iron out (I'm lazy, you see) now would be the best time to fuse the interfacing to the fabric.  I purposely cut two interfacing pieces for the collar to give it a nice shape, and I always interface button plackets.  I get much less in the way of puckering with the buttonholes, and ti gives a bit of support to the buttons.

For the embroidery, we're doing a lazy daisy, an outline stitch, and a french knot over and over again.  In this dress, there are 20 flowers made from french knots and lazy daisies.  Four of the flowers are on the ends of the sash (because I said so!) two on the collar, and fourteen on the front of the dress.  These are all easier to do if you use a hoop, though it's not completely necessary.  The only oddity with this pattern is that there are lines in the centers of the lazy daisy petals.  Sometimes I kinda forgot about them and had to go back and put them in.  I think it's there to make it look like real petals. 

Next post--construction.

Monday, July 26, 2010

1946 dress- homemade bias tape

I use quite a bit of commercial bias tape. It's very useful for nicely finishing curved raw edges where french seaming won't work. It's worth it to me to buy the stuff because making my own is expensive fabric-wise and time consuming. I know there are machines out there that automatically do the pressing and folding for you, but I don't have one, so I do it the old fashioned way--by hand and iron. In cases where you need an exact match to the fabric, knowing how to make your own is essential. And making your own cording is pretty much the same thing, though that's a topic for another day.

The first thing you know is that bias tape is meant to be stretchy, so that it can easily go around curved edges. This means that you need to cut it on the cross-bias, or diagonally on the fabric. Because it's in long strips, I prefer breaking out a quilting tool--my rotary cutter, mat, and ruler. (Yeah, I quilt, too.)

The first thing to do is make the piece of fabric into a square. Because I wanted to know which way the grain was running, it meant cutting off another edge other than the selvage edge. Next, I folded it into a triangle and cut the end on the fold--

Now, commercial bias tape, which we're trying to emulate, is approximately 1 inch wide. So we need to cut 1 inch strips. The ends of these strips aren't going to be straight, because for all intents and purposes, we cut diagonally across a square. We need to square them up to be of any use to us.

Next, we lay one strip over another and pin them diagonally and sew them together. The number of strips you sew together depends on how much bias tape you need. Make sure what will be your seams are all on the same side of the fabric, because we want the raw edges neatly tucked in. Check before you sew it. A few seconds of checking saves a few minutes of unpicking!

Next, trim off the excess fabric-- And start ironing! First, the seam allowances need ironing open. This is just about the only thing I bother with doing that. While you're at it, press the whole strip to get rid of the cutting creases. Then, starting at the beginning, fold it in half and press lightly--just enough to get a visible line. After that, start over again. (See? I told you this would take some time. It's just like making quilt binding, only quilt binding takes longer because there's more of it!) Fold the raw edges to the line you just made and press them in place. We're going for really good creases here, so don't be afraid to be aggressive about it.

Once you've finished, you have bias tape! I can count on one hand the number of times I've needed to do this, because it doesn't have to match exactly on the inside of a garment. A shade or so off doesn't really matter. But for say, the collar of my latest project, it does matter because it's out in the open.

In the morning, I'll go over the next steps--a bit of french seaming, stamping the embroidery pattern, and doing a bit of fancy hand stitchery.

1946 dress- Cutting out and first steps

Okay, so you've found a great pattern and you want the garment pictured. So you go to the store and buy the yardage it says you need on the back of the pattern envelope. The first thing you should know is to always round up to the nearest yard... just in case. In the case of my latest project, I needed around a yard and a half extra because of the changes I made to construction.

And here's the pattern. So now that we have the pattern, we need the rest of our tools. So we've gathered together a water soluble fabric pencil, scissors, a seam gauge, pins, the fabric, and a ruler. Next, we need to unfold the fabric and start pinning the pattern pieces to it. Some people use weights, but if you're sewing with a child or children in the house, pins are more secure! I mean, anything shiny is a magnet for a toddler to appropriate and yell, "MINE!" So we're going to pin it! I'm not sure if you can see it, but there's an arrow pointing horizontally on the pattern pieces. Now, this arrow points in the direction of the grain of the fabric. I've never been able to see it, but Mom says it's there. You cut this way because cutting cross-grain gives you more stretch to the fabric, which you usually don't want. Now, the grain of the fabric always runs parallel to the fold and the selvage edges. The selvages are the edges where the fabric was attached to the machine that wove it. If you look closely, you can see the tiny holes were it was attached to the machine. The arrows appear on every pattern piece except for pieces that are cut on the fold, because they're going to run with the grain anyway.

Now most people who sew start with washing and ironing both the fabric and the pattern. If the pattern is exceedingly wrinkled, I'll iron it, and the same for the fabric. But I've never had shrinkage problems after washing, so I usually don't bother to prewash my cotton. Most of what I work with is either cotton/poly blends, quilters' cotton, or cotton broadcloth. Basically, it's inexpensive fabric that with a bit of effort can look very expensive.

So, we've pinned down the first pattern pieces. Because this is a 1946 pattern for a little girl, it's going to be short. The back of the pattern envelope has a "finished garment length". This is important, because it tells us how short it will be. My next step is to go to the Simplicity website and check out the lengths of the same size dress. (The sizing on the big four hasn't changed since about the 1920s.) This dress is a size 3 and its finished length is 17.5 inches. I want plenty of room for Gracie to grow, so I left the 4 inch hem that the pattern calls for. Now, a dress that comes just below the knee for a size three is between 22 and 23 inches, so I'm going to add five inches to the skirt. This is where the seam gauge, ruler, and fabric pencil come into play. I set the seam gauge for 5 inches, and measured from the bottom of the skirt. Normally, I'd use the lines built into the pattern to add inches, but I didn't want to cut into a 1946 pattern, and the baby was trying to steal away my supplies, so I just added to the bottom. We'll keep using the seam gauge along the bottom, just to make sure that the measurement stays the same, and repeat for all four pieces of the body of the dress.

Now that we've made the dots, it's time to connect them with the ruler. When I'm adding length, I prefer to draw out the extra cutting lines so I have something to follow:

Next, we cut out, following both the pattern and the lines. Next, We need to cut out the four sash pieces and the sleeve ruffles. (I took pictures, but can't seem to locate them!) The sleeve ruffles are too long for the folded fabric, so we need to open the fold. I decided to make both the ruffles and the sash double sided, so we need four of each piece. I prefer to cut in twos. So now those are cut out, and we need to cut out the collar. Most collars are cut on the fold, and this one is no exception. I'm doing it double sided as well, so I cut two.

Next, we need to cut interfacing for the front button plackets and the collar. The pattern doesn't call for it, but interfacing is always a good idea. The last thing we need to cut out for this dress is bias strips for bias tape. More on that in the next post.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

My sister-in-law, Joanna, thinks it's magic to turn flat fabric into a piece of clothing for Gracie--especially the kind I like to do. So in the next week, I'm going to do a series of photo essays taking you from start to finish--how to sew together an outfit! Now, I'm going vintage with this one in the 1940s, so it has details that most things I make don't--embroidery and the like. It's also going to be my entry for the Sewing for Children contest over on Pattern Review. Most of this stuff, I've figured out through trial and error and the less than satisfactory instructions included in patterns. I have my own way of doing things and my own order in which I always sew things together because it works best for me. So don't be surprised if what I say contradicts how it's "supposed" to be done.

Joanna, this series is for you!

I am now the proud owner of a brand new pair of gingher shears. Pretty aren't they? I've been using Fiskers, and they are okay, I guess, but I needed new scissors due to 1) the couch ate both pairs of my sewing scissors 2) they were getting dull, anyway, and fiskers don't hold the best edge Ginghers are heavier, have a knife edge, and are supposed to last forever. Getting them sharpened is fairly straightforward, too!

We decided that it was time to invest in a quality pair of sewing scissors, especially since I could get them on sale for 40% off this week. And I've just finished threatening everyone in the house with death, dismemberment, and unspecified torture if they try and cut paper with them. Hopefully, they'll work better and for longer than the old ones, and it helps that they actually have a sharp point, a tin case so I don't lose them so easily, and a sheath for carrying.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Am I the only one who finds trapdoor footie pajamas hilarious? I don't know why, but they make me giggle! We're doing a pajama Christmas this year. I only mention it because it's the framing I need. It's something everybody needs, and they're easy to make. I'm not going to have a two-month sewing marathon this year like I did last year. Heck, last year I finished the last present on Christmas Eve!

Anyway, in looking for pajama patterns for the kiddos, I found several with trapdoors! And for some reason, I'm finding them hilarious...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

New day, new blog

I've been on LiveJournal for fandom for years. I write fanfiction, though my writing time has gotten nibbled away at over the years and I no longer write as much as I used to. Nowadays, I sew. Frankly, it's easier to keep an eye on my niece and sew than it is to write! I'm handicapped and homebound, so sewing is something I can actually do. And well, I don't remember a time when I didn't sew. Mom gave me one lesson, and I had one other lesson as a teenager at church, and I've gone to a few quilting classes, but otherwise I'm a self-taught, trial-and-error kind of sewist. Until last Christmas, I never even owned a sewing book! I've figured out ways to make things work for me that sometimes go against conventional sewing wisdom. I've picked up things from sewing instructions that work pretty much any kind of sewing. I've discovered that some of the things I've done for years are labeled as "heirloom", which I think is just plain weird.

I'm keeping my fandom Live Journal, but I decided that I needed to separate the two. So here we are--my brand new blog! The shiny hasn't rubbed off it yet and I have plans for it... What I mostly make are little kids' clothes for my nieces and nephew. Modern, vintage, and everything in between. I make what I like and if it's from the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s or 80s, so be it. (The nightgown pictured above that Gracie is wearing is 60s.) The project I'm currently working on is this one:

Pretty isn't it? I'm making view 2 with the collar from view 1. I lengthened the whole thing by five inches to make it below Gracie's knees (she'll grow and I don't want it too short too fast) and made some changes to construction. I'm considering entering it into the Sewing for Children contest over on Pattern Review. I figure why not? And I'm pairing it with a vintage underwear pattern because my SIL can always use more diaper covers, even if they are one size bigger than Gracie is, and slips for toddlers are near impossible to find anymore.

I have this in size 3, too, to go with the size 3 dress. I need to make up a set in size 2 soon, though, because I made Evie three vintage dresses for the Vintage contest. I quilt, too, sometimes, usually as presents for people. In fact, most of my sewing is for other people. The last thing I made for me was a pair of pants around this time last year. Soon, I'm going to start posting things about sewing process and the like. :) I'm documenting making this latest dress for the curious and I'll even post pictures of the inside once I'm done with it.