Saturday, June 30, 2012

Tutorial: adjustable waistbands

When Gracie got into toddler clothes, adjustable waistbands were something of a revelation.  I mean, I'd seen buttonhole elastic at Hancock Fabrics when I was a teenager and wondered why in the world would someone want something that already had holes in it!  I'd never really seen it used before, and had no idea what it was for.  And to be perfectly honest, I sewed things here and there and knew the basics and taught myself tricks along the way (I never owned a sewing book or even looked at one until I won one in 2009!), but I didn't really get serious about sewing until I had a problem--see, I was diagnosed with lymphedema and suddenly had three inches of bandaging on each leg to contend with and none of my pants would fit over it.  Suddenly, I had to make pants unless I wanted to go naked!  And then, a couple years later, my sister and my sister in law both got pregnant, so I had little kiddos coming to sew for and decided to try my hand at quilting and started making them clothes.  But I digress.  :)

When Gracie got her first pair of pants with an adjustable waistband I spent a lot of time examining them to figure out how they were put together.  After all, if I could figure out how it was done, then I could replicate it in homemade clothing and even convert regular waistbands that were too big without too much effort.  If you're dealing with RTW clothing, you'll need to rip out the topstitching holding the bottom of the back middle belt loop to the waistband, and rip out one to one and a half inches of waistband on either side of the side seams.

 Okay, so we've got out pants cut out.  The first thing we need to do is sew together the backs.  Measure the entire back side and then cut the elastic three buttonholes bigger.  This enables you to finish the raw edges of the elastic.  I burn it with a lighter to seal it, and then do a rolled hem just so that it looks nicer.  (I keep lighters around just to seal ends of elastic and ribbon.)

Next, it's time to break out the iron.  Iron down the waistband and the seam allowance, and fuse a 2.5" piece of interfacing to either side.  This stabilizes the weave and prevents puckering of the buttonholes.

For RTW, simply fuse the interfacing and open the waistband for marking.

Next, measure the elastic, not the buttons (I almost made this mistake!) and mark the fabric. Make sure that it's right outside the seam allowance. This is for both you-made (I hate the term home sewn.  ;) It brings to mind home ec classes and it's often almost used as an insult!)  Make the buttonhole, and well, my next step is to always fray check the buttonholes before I open it.  I was even more thorough on this particular pair of pants because the bottomweight I bought for it online turned out to have a looser weave than I was expecting.  Cut open the buttonholes before you do anything else.

For you-made, the next step is to sew the pants as normal.  For RTW, sew up the waistband, but don't mess with the belt loop you ripped the stitches out of.  After you have a complete waistband, slip a safety pin through the buttonhole and thread the elastic through one buttonhole, the back waistband, and out the other.

This is what it should look like.  Now, the next step is to sew buttons right over the side seams on the front side of the pants.

Put the knot on the inside of the waistband so that all you have is neat stitching on the outside. 

Button the elastic and stretch out the middle and pin it.  Sew over it three or four times to lock the elastic into the waistband.  Pin the belt loop in place and top stitch it in place.

Now the waistband of your new (or old) pants is adjustable!

If it's an old pair of RTW pants that already has an elastic waistband, I'm afraid this can't be done without ripping out the old elastic, but it will work on just about any pair of jeans that didn't come with one--even adult sizes!  (Perfect solution if you're in-between sizes)

And here's the result--pants with a waistband that can be tightened or loosened according to need.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

For cuteness--Sandy in its natural habitat!

Poor Nikki scraped up her little nose, but for cuteness, she's wearing the Petite Poché Sandy outfit sans bonnet.  (My nieces are not fond of hats, thus I rarely make them!)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Summertime take two

Every year, my brother and sister-in-law take Gracie and now Nikki to Florida for my SIL's family reunion.  Usually I make a couple of beach-appropriate outfits, but this year I went a bit nuts!  The swimsuits and criss-cross dresses were the first.  I've always made those, but this year, I wanted to do playsuits and dresses, because I fell in love with the vintage patterns of them over the winter.  I was lucky enough to find Simplicity 1151 in both size 1/2 and 3--the correct sizes for the girls!  But before I lucked upon the right sizes, I'd asked around for something similar, and was referred to the Petite Poché Sandy pattern. 
I think it was here that I went from manageable plans to "I've totally lost my mind!"  See, I took the girls to Wal-Mart to choose fabric from their discount fabrics.  $1.50-$2.50/yard is within my budget, you see!  Gracie fell asleep on the way and so stayed in the car with Grandma, while Nikki and I went to choose fabric.  Whichever fabrics she decided were yummy (literally) came home with us.  The crisscross dresses were the first to use some of the fabric,  and I did a pattern hunt for other things.  I fell in love with the back closure of Kwik Sew's "Oh! Riley's Ruffles" and made it with some help from my stash. 

And just to be fair, if I make something for one child, I have to make something for the other.  So, mostly because I still had the pattern out, I went to my stash and pulled fabric for Simplicity 4203.  My SIL had commented how cute it was, anyway, and I'd picked up a new with tags outfit for $1.50 last year at a yard sale in a similar style that Gracie actually wore out last summer, so I knew it'd be popular!

I also happened to have bows and ruffley socks made to match, so when that outfit was done, they went home with the girls, too.  But I wasn't crazy... yet.  After all, it was still two and a half weeks until they left for Florida, so there was still plenty of time to make the playsuits and dresses.  In the meantime, I'd tracked down different overalls patterns for the girls to go with the vintage playsuit pattern, because it was too young for Gracie, and there was no way that Nikki would hold still long enough to put on the original pattern's version.

I also knew that Gracie would dub the Sandy pattern's overalls to be too "babyish", so I had to go digging through my pattern stash in search of high waisted shorts.  This is where I lost it, I'm afraid!  You see, I'd stumbled over McCalls 3191 during the winter, and couldn't resist it.  I'd clicked BIN with only a half second's thought.  So I decided I would make the ruffley one.  But of course, I had to show it to the girls' Mom for input, because if she hates it, I won't make it because then it won't get worn.  She was in love with the double-strapped back, so I needed to make that one, too.  But if Nikki had those, Gracie needed two more outfits, too!  So when I cut out Nikki's new clothes, I dug out a couple more patterns for Gracie, too.

I'd had this pattern since last year and wanted to make it when I bought it but hadn't gotten around to it.  I finished it over the weekend along with Nikki's, but had to wait until the embroidered appliqués got here to send Nikki's and Gracie's other outfit home.  I gave Gracie the choice, and she wanted the ruffles immediately! 

This one was from the ever-popular Butterick 3477, which was also what I used for the bottom of the Petite Poché Sandy pattern for Gracie.  Nikki's clothes turned out cute, as well--it just took time for the appliqués to arrive.

I love the giant bow in the back of this one and all the ruffles!  I was lucky in finding a sunflower patch that was almost identical to the sunflowers in the print that I found in my stash.

And I loved the flowers and butterflies I found for the pockets and the potted flower for the front of the double banded one. 

Once these were done, I knew I had to get the playsuits done if the girls were going to have them to wear at the beach.

I used New Look 6768 for Nikki's overalls, and cut them off to shorts.  But the bottom was so huge that I gathered them in to bloomers.  The dresses in this one aren't quite what they looked like finished, because I found ribbon that matched the whipstitch piping, so I tied bows and sewed them in the collar gap to make it look more purposeful instead of an accident.  It was also around this time that I found the Sweet Cheeks Peasant top, which I found impossible to resist!  But if I made that, then I needed something for them to wear on bottom.  So I went to what is fast becoming my favorite PDF pattern source and bought the Pier 49 pants. I found a great twill on ebay at a fantastic price (A little over $2/yard) so I bought some of that and started on the Sandy pattern.

So I finished that one, cursing all the appliquéing, and being mad at the scallops because they weren't deep enough.  They were simply too gentle to show up well!    With three days left before my deadline, I had to redo the straps on Gracie's because even with being cut to size 6, they were four inches too short.  And here I thought I was good because I'd chosen the shorts pattern to replace the bottom based on the fact that the rise was the same!

So I quickly replaced the straps (and I'm still not quite happy with it.  When they get home, I'm stealing Gracie's overalls back and replacing the shorts with a two-inch higher rise) and started speeding though two pairs of Pier 49 pants and two Sweet Cheeks Peasant blouses.

Both were fairly straightforward and easy patterns, but the pants were complicated by the fact that I'd decided to test my theory of how to make the waistband on the pants adjustable.  I'd spent some time a year or so ago examining similar waistbands on RTW toddler clothes ad thought I'd figured out how to replicate it.  Turns out I was right!  (Tutorial to come.) 

I sent the last outfits home that day, happy that I'd finished right on time... only I hadn't!  The sleeves on the blouse are raglan sleeves, and like all raglan sleeves, have to be reinforced at the join to keep from ripping out.(This is something they don't say in all the books, but I learned it at my mother's knee)  Of course, I didn't realize I'd forgotten it until after ten that night!  So after a dash to my brother's house and caging the blouses and 20 minutes of reinforcing later, we dropped them off.  And I was done.  For now.

Why I say for now is that I know Gracie and Nikki could use some pretty summer dresses for church.  So as soon as I recover from three weeks of mad sewing,.... here we go again!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Vintage Toy Patterns

Over the past five years (ever since we found out we were getting kiddos!) I've collected quite a few vintage toy patterns.  They range from thirties though seventies, with at least one nineties thrown in.  Don't get me wrong--I own every modern toy pattern, too!  From personal experience, handmade toys are likely to hang around when the store bought toys break and get thrown away.  The first toy I made for Gracie was from a free PDF pattern.This one is far from vintage, but it's the right size and shape for a one-year-old to carry around.

My very next foray into toys was clown dolls from around the 40s.  My sister, who claims to be scared of clowns even admitted it was too cute to be frightened of!  Most of the vintage toy patterns I've made tend to be of the mail order variety, and the clown is no exception.
    I made one of these for Lizzy in April, only to have Gracie demand I make one for her, too.  :) Which I did--for hers and Ricky's second Christmas when they were 18 months old!  It had gotten lost in the toybox.  The best thing about dolls like this is that their clothes are easily made from leftovers. It's a good way to use up scraps that are too big to toss, but not big enough to use on clothing projects.  Toy patterns like this one usually include margins, which are an extra set of lines around the patterns that are meant to be cut off.  Because the seam allowances tend to be small, I usually leave them in place.

The next toys were a sock monkey and a sock elephant.  I got those patterns from a vintage 50s book, though they're still available when you buy the traditional socks for it--Rockford Read Heel socks.  The sock monkey looks like every other sock monkey you've ever seen, but finding the elephant pattern was something new.  Since, at the time, Gracie was taken with "elpitents" (and she even pronounced the p!) it seemed the perfect gift at the time. 

That Christmas brought along Lizzy, and for her, it was another of the "first" dolly, plus a turtle from a 70s pattern for Ricky. His first ever toy was a beanie baby turtle, that he's very attached to, and, aside from tractors, turtles are his favorite toys. 

At the time, my sister-in-law was pregnant with Nikki, so I decided that Gracie needed a baby doll of her very own,  (I not want a baby, I want toys!)  For this one, I turned to a 30s mail order pattern that I just had to have because it was soooo pretty.   It helped that the doll came with patterns for three bonnets, diapers, a romper, a dress, and a coat.    Last Christmas was store bought toys because I'd been sick and didn't manage to get anything made.  But then came April, which is the start of present sewing season, as all of the kids have May birthdays!

I made a clown for Lizzy (picture above), and from yet another vintage pattern, a frog for Ricky.   Also a mail order, the original pattern was meant to be transferred to the fabric.  (And yes, that's a turtle below it, which Ricky will be getting for Christmas!)

The eyes were supposed to be embroidered, but I cheated and bought the eyes from Joanns.  He's the cutest frog I've seen in a long time!  I was lucky enough to find fabric that coordinated perfectly--he's green with white spots on top, and white with green spots on his tummy.  A basic knowledge of embroidery is necessary for most vintage toy patterns (and quite a few clothing patterns, too--embroidery was something most women learned how to do!)   But lucky for us, there are tons of sites out there that will teach you any stitch you need to know how to do.

For her birthday, Gracie got an Alice in Wonderland doll.  Out of all the public domain copies of vintage patterns I've used, the Alice pattern was the only one from the big 4.  This one was an early 40s Simplicity pattern.  The most frustrating part was that the shoes didn't actually fit!  It required a bit of stuffing to get them on the poor doll's feet.    The worst part, really, was tracking down soutache braid that matched the doll's dress. 

This was right before I put blush on her cheeks.  Gracie loves her doll, and even though she knows it's Alice, she immediately dubbed it, "Tangled"! 

Nikki got a dolly for her birthday, too.  It's a small, 9" doll with jointed limbs from yet another mail order vintage pattern.  Doing curls for once was interesting.  I learned that if you wrap wool yarn on dowels, boil them, and then dry it in the oven, you have curly yarn!  This one was surprising in that the dress didn't fit.  I used the correct seam allowances, and even pulled stuffing out of the dolly, but the dress was too small, so I ended up sewing it onto the doll. 

It was just the right size to fit in Nikki's hands, and she commandeered it several times before her birthday, too!  I painted the socks and shoes onwith non-toxic paint  here instead of embroidering them, which was something new.

 In a few months, I'll probably start looking for more toy patterns for Christmas.  And chances are, they'll probably be vintage!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

It's been a very long few weeks.  I've been sewing like a madwoman, but haven't had much in the way of idle time--I've managed to make 14 outfits for the girls, including the crisscross dresses I posted about last.  Now with the girls safely off and in Florida, I actually have some breathing space!  Tonight, I'm still not coherent enough to be able to post much, but tomorrow, I'll start off with Vintage toy patterns.  Honestly, I'm in love with 'em.  They're better than the few and far between modern ones, because there was a time when most toys were homemade because store bought toys were so expensive.  I've made quite a few toys since Gracie, Ricky, Lizzy, and Nikki came into our lives.  And, according to Gracie, the toys Aunt Laura makes are better than the others she gets.  Four years, and every year she's gotten at least one doll from me.  Growing up, my grandmother used to give all of us handmade presents, and it was something I wanted to pass on.  The presents we got from Grandma Clay were always to be looked forward to because you never knew what, exactly would be coming out of the wrapping paper.  Things like Henrietta Hippo, the poop duck, small bears.... the list goes on. 

Vintage toy patterns are also fairly easy to come by, because people sell photocopies of them on ebay.  Once the copyright is expired, they're fair game for that.  I think that the reason clothing pattern aren't being sold that way is because of size--toy patterns are small, and clothing patterns aren't.  So until tomorrow, because I really need to spend some more quality time examining the backs of my eyelids!