Sunday, August 4, 2013

Raglan Sleeves

Let's talk about raglan sleeves.  So what is a raglan sleeve, anyway?  It's a sleeve that stretched directly to the collar piece.  A pattern piece for a raglan sleeve looks something like this--

This is from Ruby Jean's Closet's Sweet Cheeks Peasant Blouse--I've simply printed two of them and stuck them together.  Ignore my wobbly lines.  I'm really bad at mouse drawing! Notice how similar it looks to a one legged pant pattern piece?  The top edge is part of the neckline, while the bottom edge is the bottom of the sleeve.

Now, once we have everything cut out, and ironed, we need to prepare the fabric.  This particular pattern features gathered, puffed sleeves.  Raglan sleeves are most common in sports wear and coats, but occasionally appear in dresses and blouses.  In fact, I've never seen a blouse like this with anything but raglan sleeves.  So first step is to sew in the casing.  I'm the first to admit that I'm a lazy seamstress.  I see no reason to spend an hour with a hot iron, singeing my fingers when I can spend a few minutes with bias tape to get the same result. Since this also has ruffles, we sew those on, too, and put the casings in the front and back of the shirt.  There are matching seams on the front and back pieces, so we pin in the sleeves.  In a lot of ways, raglan sleeves are easier than traditional sleeves, because we don't have to contend with the sleeve cap and setting in sleeves.

 Now, we need to sew the sleeves in and finish all four seams.  (That's what I love my serger for.  Lovely finished seams done very, very quickly.)

Once it's sewn together and the seams finished, the side seams are next.  Every pattern with raglan sleeves I've ever seen would have you stop with sewing and finishing the side seams, but I know better.  Story time!

My mother was born in 1945.  That means that she grew up in a time where Home Economics was a requirement for girls, and sewing was part of the curriculum.  (This was in the fifties, I think.)  In school, one of the projects was a raglan sleeve blouse, which she made to the approval of her teacher... and the first time she wore it, she lifted her arms and the sleeves ripped out!  She brought it to her mother, and Grandma laughed herself sick, fixed it, and then explained the problem.  With raglan sleeves, there is a huge amount of stress placed on the seams.   Which means that where they meet  is where if you don't do something, it will rip out.

So first things first.  We cut a rectangle of bias tape... Fold under the raw edges and pin over where the seams meet.

 Next, we sew around it to secure it, and then I prefer to sew through it in an X from corner to corner.  That reinforces the point of greatest stress.  Now when you lift your arms, it won't rip out. By using matching thread, it doesn't really show from the outside unless you're looking, either.

Now all that's left to finish the blouse is the neck casing and hem.  And remember, LAZY!  Hello bias tape casings, goodbye burned fingers!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Sewing for Baby Alex

By now, Alex has probably outgrown this, and I'm not certain he ever wore it because it turned out a bit wide. I'm also not entirely happy with this one.  While I adore the way a piped placket looks, it made it a bit thick and hard to button.  And the train embroidery ended up a little too high.  A quarter inch lower would have been better.  I also would have preferred the collar to actually meet, but it didn't. I'd like to blame the pattern, but it must be something I did, because it's something I struggle with.

I love whipstitch piping, though.  I changed up the sleeves a bit to have piped cuffs, but otherwise, this is made as it was supposed to be.  It's, of course, from a vintage pattern.  :) Vintage 80s, in this case.  It's Butterick 4723, and I have it in multiple sizes.  This is one pattern that I'd actually love to have a complete set of!  Remember, patterns of this era were one size only.  :)

I actually used the embroidery pattern for the girls' Easter dresses this past year, too.  I'd wanted to do a Sunday romper for Alex with a train motif, so when I found this, it was perfect!  Exactly what I wanted, and cute to boot.  As soon as I locate pictures, I may be doing a post about the baby shower gifts I made.  With everything that happened that month and the aftermath, I never got around to posting about them.  And believe me, I went a bit crazy at finally being able to sew for a little boy!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

the birthday presents

I did actually finish those birthday presents.  For Lizzie, I did another Minnie Mouse outfit.  The headband, at least was a hit at the time, and it's one of her favorites now, but, well, to a three-year-old clothing is an unexciting present!

Richard has a yen for turtles.  His first ever toy was a stuffed turtle that Uncle Geoffrey gave him the day he was born.  Add to that fact that both his parents went to Georgia tech, and you have Tech Turtle.  He's made from a vintage toy pattern, and I'm completely convinced that those are the way to go. 

I'm afraid I forgot to take pictures of Gracie's present.  Hers was tricky, because I was cutting down a doll clothing pattern to fit her extremely skinny favorite doll.  Hopefully, Christmas won't be as difficult.  Someday, I should probably blog about baby gifts as well--I have enough pictures, after all--but my blog time and sewing time are limited these days.  Though y'all can expect a post on raglan sleeves within the next week!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

This year's models

It's been a while since I've posted. In my defense, having three kids in the house under the age of six keeps me busy. Add in the three adult children I'm responsible for and my 90 year old grandmother, and life is hectic. I've made a few things though--like swimsuits for the kids. After all, what seamstress with kiddos can resist making their kids coordinate? I certainly can't!

Isn't Alex a cutie in his swimwear?  I certainly think so!  This is Peek-a-Boo Pattern Shop's Surf's Up Board Shorts.   Yeah, I know.  He was about a month old here an nowhere near ready to hit the pool, but all things being equal, he needed one, too!

I even did the pocket.  And unlike Nicole, Jon doesn't know what to do with those yet.  (One of my favorite things is watching when toddlers discover what pockets are for.  It's just sooo cute!)

The girls mostly match--Grace informed me that she's too old for ruffles on her behind.  And here I remember having Sunday-go-to-meeting undies with ruffles on them until I was six or seven!  They grow up so fast!

Nikki is happier to model these days than Gracie is. 
Don't ask me why.  Pull out the camera, and Nikki is right there, grinning at you!  But Grace wants to hide from it.  Bribery isn't even working!  This is also from Peek-a-Boo--it's the Santa Monica Tankini.  I fell in love with this last year when it showed up on Girl Inspired's blog.  Perhaps I was unconsciously guided by her color choices, too.  Mine is made from a medium weight swimwear fabric I got from ebay.  I went with medium weight this year because I didn't want to fuss with linings, and because of the weight, it's less shifty than the stuff I used last year.

And be prepared... you may be seeing this fabric for a few years yet to come, because I have a ton of it.  Suit-by-suit, it's cheaper than ready to wear, but to get the good deal, you often have to buy in bulk.  I love how tankinis make it easy for the kids to go to the bathroom, and how easy it is to change swimmy diapers, and by making them, I get the modesty of a one piece.

Also doesn't hurt that I have the cutest models in the world in my living room!  Nikki is always happy to smile for the camera so she can see herself on film.

Oh, and the hems?  I had an epiphany!  How you get pro hems on knits is to use a double needle--the biggest your machine can take.  For mine, that's a size 4.  But regular tension with give you a pintuck effect... which is not what we want.  So just loosen the tension.  Duh!  Right?

 Don't you just love the 'well duh!' epiphanies?

Grace finally agreed here... for two brownies and some Goldfish.  She's a natural at this, but for some reason...  Ah, well, five year olds!  I love teal and turquoise on the girls.  It makes their eyes stand out and their hair pop...

And alas, no ruffles.  *sniff*.  I love the fit of these.  With a few length tweaks, they're perfect.  Much better than the fit of RTW.  Grace is in the 99% for height, and most of that is in her torso.  She's always been tall, and that's really what brought me back to sewing in the first place--she needed clothes that fit!  To be honest, last year's suits were from Butterick and Kwik Sew and they didn't fit half as well as these do.  I ended up taking in the bottoms on Grace's last year. Yay for independent pattern companies!

I have a few other things to tell y'all about before we get to the raglan sleeves.  I'll be cutting that out tomorrow and taking pictures while I sew so I can tell y'all all about how that works... and what the books don't say.  Some things you learn from books.  Others you learn from people.  The only person I've ever heard say this was my grandmother, but I figure she ought to know, considering that she was a professional seamstress and supported her entire family that way during the Great Depression.  One of the reasons why I know so many "vintage" techniques is because of her and my mother, who was taught by her, teaching me!

  So y'all have a nice sleep in the swing with us, and we'll see you tomorrow about a few more unblogged projects!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Pattern Review: Elle's Princess Twirl Dress

Okay, I was rushing a bit, so I didn't take many pictures, unfortunately, but Elle asked me to review her Princess Twirl Dress.  I received the Snow White version, and thought it would be perfect for a birthday present for Nikki.  (This pattern--an updated version of it, that is--is available at Elle Garrett Designs)  My first glance over the pattern gave me... issues.  First of all, aside from some arbitrary RTW sizing, it doesn't have any sizing information.  Bad idea.  After having tried it on Nikki, I'd say that it runs small.  She's just starting to get into 2T in most brands, and it was tight on her.  My thought of her being able to put it on herself isn't going to happen.  In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if it doesn't fit in a month or two.  It's just that tight.  I'm a measurement girl.  I want measurements.  I need them.  I just don't want the measurements of a child that will fit into a certain garment, I want finished measurements, too!

See, this is a 2T cut to a 4T length.  And it was perfect for length on Nikki.  I guessed and cut it one size longer and it turns out I was right.  The directions were also too brief if you're aiming for a beginning sewer.  I actually followed them since I was testing the pattern.  Truthfully, there are easier ways to achieve this garment.  There were absolutely no instructions for the waistband casing.  The neckline casing and arm casings would have been easier to achieve with bias tape--less bulk to sew through, and less ironing.  Since I was working with polyester satin and organza, I really should have done it my way because there would have been a lot less fraying.

The pattern itself had no instructions on how it should be assembled.  Part of my difficulties might have come from that. I taped it together as best I could without any information on how it went together.I'm sure that it was slightly bigger because I'm used to sewing with PDF patterns from places like the Peek-a-Boo Pattern shop that have to lay the paper side-by-side and tape it instead of on top of each other.  There was also nothing on how big the seam allowances should be or if they needed added in. 

Next, the skirt and the waist seams didn't match--I had to ease in the skirt because the opening was bigger than the bodice bottom.    Also, there were no instructions as to reinforcing the raglan sleeves.  This is a common problem, and to be honest, I've never seen a pattern or sewing book that says to do it, even though it's a necessity.  My mother and grandmother taught me that--if you don't reinforce it, the sleeves will easily rip out.

Another thing, there were no provisions for attaching the sash.  I ended up using crochet thread and making some hand crocheted belt loops to keep it in place.  The fabric here is slippery.  Without them, the sash will slip down and off.

And next to last--these are full circle skirts here.  If I didn't sew vintage, I'd have no idea how to go about hemming them, and I certainly wouldn't know that it needs to be hung up for a minimum of 24 hours to allow the bias cut bits to stretch before you hem it.  And that wasn't mentioned.   The skirt was a full two inches longer in some places after being hung up.

Last but not least, fishing line through the hem, as the pattern suggests, will only give the desired result if it's the correct weight.  The pattern doesn't give a weight of line, so I used what was laying around... and it wasn't the right weight.  My version doesn't have that lovely ripple effect in the pattern picture because  I didn't use the same fishing line that she did.

Nikki loved it, though.  She calls it her "Super dress" as in Supergirl.  :) Baby Alex's nursery is decorated in Superman, and the colors are right, so it's on the brain!  Look for Ricky's birthday present post in the next few days.


Saturday, April 27, 2013


Welcome to the world, Alexander!

He was born at 1:55 this morning, 8 pounds, 4 ounces, 20 inches long!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Kids clothes week.

Well, letssee...  Day 1 I prepared the patterns and basted the embroidery transfers to fabric.  Day 2, I stamped the embroidery, cut out the pattern, embroidered one onesie, screwed it up, and picked it out, and then basted the pleats for the romper.  Day 3, I did all the embroidery, and today I finished preparing the pleats, cut out the lining, pressed all the pieces again, and prepared stencils for the extra onesies I have lying around.  Since they're 0-3 months, I need to get them done and home with Joanna!  Yeah, I'm doing more decorating commercial pieces this time.  But I've got more to do lately.  Tomorrow, I'm going to sew together the romper, and hopefully, tonight, I'll paint one of the onesies.  I love freezer paper stenciling!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


It's Kids' Clothes week again. And I've... sorta been working on a few things. I started Monday, and prepared my pattern... including the embroidery. Baby Alex is getting one fancy romper to wear to church. And since at last measurement, he's going to be around six-seven pounds, this should fit for a little while. (The pattern says it'll fit to 13 pounds.) I also started a project that I've been wanting to do ever since I saw it on Delia's (of Delia Creates) Nesting series last year--the signed bum onesie! It was a guest post by Simple Simon and made both me and Mom laugh. I had some spare onesies, you see, and they'll only fit for the first three months. I also had some green embroidery thread and transfer materials. I figured, why not?

Anybody remember the My Child dolls from the 80s?

I thought (and still do think) that they're prettier than the more famous Cabbage Patch Kids.  And yes, they were the competition--by Mattel.  Anyway, I'm doing an Xavier Roberts signature onesie, but I also did a My Child one. Yes, that's the butt logo.  One thing I learned after having to spend time unpicking it last night was that you really need to interface or stabilize the knit fabric.  Otherwise, it stretches and deforms.  Thus this isn't as perfect as I wanted to to be, but I, um, made some small holes in the fabric unpicking the embroidery.

I happened to have the right colors of thread for this, too!  Don't you love it when a crazy idea comes together?  The other things I've been working on for KCW aren't ready to show off yet, but so far I'm meeting the challenge.  And birthday presents are still forthcoming!  (Including a review of Elle's Snow White Dress pattern... because it's now slated to become Nikki's birthday present.)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Found... and a much begged-for project

Found the scissors!  And they were in the ottoman... where I'd already looked!

Ever since Christmas, Gracie has been begging for a "green dinosaur" for her new baby brother.  Now, I have a lot of Georgia Tech fleece, so, because this is her "0 birthday" present for Baby Alex, I asked if I could use that.  Nope.  Only a green dinosaur would do...  But it could have bumblebee/Georgia Tech spots, spines, and feet.  And using the other two bee fabrics I have took some convincing!

There isn't a lot of fabric to this project because it's a small toy--just right for a small child or a baby.  Really, the spots and spines can be done with scraps, and there's maybe 1/4" yard of green fabric in the toy.

This is the same Dilbert the Dinosaur pattern I used for Gracie's psychedelic pink dinosaur that I made her for Christmas.  I've found that fleece is a fairly good fabric for stuffed toys because it's fuzzy, wears well, and doesn't fray along raw-edged seams.

It's a cute pattern, but turning the spikes is a nightmare!  It requires the smallest tube turner they make and a little bit of swearing... though it wasn't as bad this time.    And I have to admit, I didn't exactly follow the instructions this time.  I've made it before, so I powered through it.  I also changed out the felt eye for safety eyes and embroidered a smile on his face.

And of course, once it was done, he needed something. He just didn't look complete!  With the girls, I'd tie a bow around the toy's neck.  But this is for a baby, so I didn't want dangling ribbons for both a safety issue and the fact that it's for a little boy.

Lucky me, I have some licensed Tech ribbon in my stash that made a perfect collar for Alex's "pet"!


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Lost and not found.... yet

Life with an active, curious toddler in the house means that I'm forever taking things away from her and putting them up higher.  Last week, I took my shears away from her... and now I can't find 'em.  Yep.  Gone.  They're not where I thought I put them, nor in my usual stashing-away-from-Nikki area.  And there's no way I'm blowing the money on a new pair when I have a perfectly good pair of scissors that were just sharpened last month.  I've cleaned out my living room stash corner, searched through the messy inside of the ottoman, and plumbed the couch cushions.  After the girls go to bed, it's time to check under the couch....  Wish me luck.

Has this ever happened to you?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Vintage clothing reality show

I admit it.  I've become a reality TV junkie.  Oh, mostly not the game shows like Survivor.  Well, Project Runway is the one of those I watch.  Not quite as fun now as it used to be--for one, Mom's not here to make fun of the runway looks with me anymore, and the quality of their contestants has gone down.  And yeah, I love Toddlers and Tiaras and Dance Moms--which my entire family makes fun of me for!    (Except Gracie.  She loves the sparkles, and that was why she got the Rapunzel dress last year.  She wanted a "fancy dress"!)   Partly, it's because that's what is on television these days.  Mostly, though, I love things like Pawn Stars, Storage Wars, and Auction Kings where I get to see strange and marvelous things.  Guess it comes from addiction to the original--Antiques Roadshow

My latest, though, is L.A. Frock Stars on the Smithsonian channel.  It's about a vintage clothing store in L.A. named "The Way We Wore".  If they only had a kids' section, it would be perfect!  They specialize in designer vintage clothing, and the entire half hour is eye candy.  They also rent the space next door as a "design inspiration" space that's stuffed with goodies.  Oh, the stuff they showed off last week!  Lots of lovely, HTF vintage ribbon.  I was wiping drool away.  GIMME! 

Their prices, though, illustrate why if one wants vintage, one sews their own.  I suppose there are less expensive vintage stores.  Actually, I know there are.  But if I ever want to dress in vintage style, I'd need to make my own, anyway because of my non-standard size.  Considering all of the "designer" patterns that have been released over the years, though, with a bit of sewing skill you could easily make your own instead of dropping hundreds of dollars on one dress.

So have y'all been watching this one?  What do you think about the clothing they show off?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My mother used sneaky, underhanded tactics to teach us how to sew.  She started with embroidery.  "You mean you can make pretty pictures with thread?  WOW!"  (Come to think of it, she used similar tactics to each us to cook!)  Since Easter is Sunday, here's what I'm working on--

The colors are Grace's choosing, and the fabric is a pricey pale pink batiste that I found at rock bottom prices online.  While easier on the budget than some at retail, it didn't cost me much, and will be my last fabric purchase for a while since finances are really shaky right now.  I have to find a way to finance my habit!

Really, the Easter dresses are simple this year.  Because they're batiste, I hacked out a slip pattern to go underneath.  Because semi-sheer needs a slip.  I know they're impossible to buy anymore, and when you do find them, they cost.  But I'm doing a simple a-line white cotton batiste slip with adjustable straps. No lace, to avoid the "itchies", no fancy work.  Just utility.... that can go under most of their dresses. 

We're going ahead with the usual Easter plans--a big dinner, Easter baskets, and an Easter egg hunt for the kids.  It's mostly so we can spend time together as a family.  We've always been close, and hard times have a tendency to draw us together.  We've, unfortunately, had plenty of those, though not as bad as this one.  And due to preplanning, I have everything we need for it in the house.

The pattern for this came from Simplicity 2461. 

The pinafore, or "apron" as Grace would say, has been changed into a slip with a pattern hack.  I like that it comes in both 4, which Gracie needs, and 1, which Nikki is on her way into growing into.  I'm changing the sleeves to banded, because Grace complains that elastic sleeves pinch. 

The embroidery is from another pattern, that I purchased to make fancyish rompers for Alex to wear to church.  The bunnies were the girl view, and I just borrowed the embroidery pattern from it.  I kinda like the fact that it's just outline stitched with french knot details.  And yeah, it's by hand.  Supposedly, my 1965 machine will do embroidery, but I've never found the extra hoop or needle plate that will allow it.  And even then, it would require experimentation!  So it's by hand for me.  And luckily, this type of embroidery only takes a couple hours!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A new normal

It's hard.  But life goes on and we have to find a new normal.  The funeral is tomorrow.  And since Easter is next Sunday, I have to start the girls' Easter dresses.  Financially, well, I promised Mom that I wouldn't stop sewing, but it'll be hard because we only have 1/2 of the income we had before.  Momma said that if you have a gift, you need to use it.  And she thought that sewing was mine and made me promise.  So for a while, at least, it will  have to slow down.  I'll have to use more stash and less going off and buying for projects that never happen.  (Which is where the stash/hoard came from to start with!)  I also understand now why she spent so much time worrying... because that's my job now.  I have a 90 year old grandmother I'm now responsible for.  And my two older siblings are autistic, the one just younger than me has mental health issues, and I have to take care of them all... and the kids, too, if nothing changes with Jared and Joanna.  And with my own disabilities, it's a daunting task.  But we'll manage. Because it's worth having.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

More vintage ugly

We're playing a waiting game with Momma right now.  I can't sew.  I can't settle to much of anything.  I've been praying nonstop for 24 hours because what we need now is a miracle because she's gone from bad to worse and the doctors don't think she'll make it through the night.  And it's not the cancer that's killing her.  So this is my distraction.  I need it right now, and I hunted out the patterns soon after the first batch.

A few years ago, Gertie had a vintage ugly contest that I don't think anyone ever won.  And it it, she cited a pattern that I couldn't help remembering--Apron Chaps.  So does anyone need a pair of eyelet, lace-edged chaps to protect your totally 70s looks?

What about a flower dress complete with petals and petal hats?  (And yes, I realize that this one is not irredeemable!)  Or is it not groovy enough for you?  (60s!)

How about a round, toddler-yoke dress or tunic from I believe the 80s?

Or a mumu to go over your long-sleeved blouses and pants?  It's not labeled as a maternity pattern, but I swear that this 70s pattern should be!

I have this pattern somewhere.  McCalls 2386.  Fifties, I think.  Does your toddler need jodhpurs? 

Or your baby girl need an appliqued smock that doubles as a dress?  (I have this one in two sizes)

Sorry I didn't rotate this one.  It's fifties Advance.... and the dress doesn't fasten in the back.  While I've had discussions with my sisters on the joys of ruffle butt panties when you're little, I don't think I'd ever make a dress on purpose to show them off...

How about dress your baby like Barbie, complete with daisy duke length circle skirt and belly shirt?  (late 80s-early90s)

I don't know what it is about this 80s knit pattern that makes me go ick.  Really, I don't.  Other than the fact that it's some of the worst casual clothes of my childhood on one envelope...

This 90s McCalls pattern reminds me of a clown suit.  And while I don't have this particular one, I have at least five similar ones in my four boxes of patterns I'm going to get rid of.

And speaking of clowns, doesn't that collar scream that it belongs on a clown suit?

And I swear that the little girl on the right of this Butterick pattern is trying not to complain about the giant collar and bow her mother stuck her with. (90s, I think)

And speaking of giant sized collars, what was it with sailor collars down to your navel that pattern companies loved in the 90s?

And one more awful sailor--the little girl in the picturefrom this seventies pattern (not the illustrated one!) is obviously complaining about the fact that they put her in something that was meant for a boy, while her brother next to her wonders why he got the shortie one.

And this little boy in this 80s Simplicity is turning bright red from the embarrassment of being forced to wear what are obviously girl overalls!

I admit it.  I have something of an obsession with this 40s pattern.  I don't have it, but I'd like to.  It cracks me up, though, that both the little boy baby and the little boy toddler have flower and vine embroidered jammies.

Does this make my butt look big?

(And I've made every single view of this pattern.  Every.  Single.  View.)

Did you know that knitting patterns came in ugly, too?  What is it about underwear patterns that they're always awkward and ugly? (20s, BTW)

And now we get into the category of 50s random animal appliques.  Bunny knee patches anyone?

Or how about elephant embroidery ones or teddy bear bows? Don't forget the Tyrolean strap on the back of the overalls.

How about a bib or three from a mail order pattern that tie completely around the body?

Or a Mail Order pattern apron that is a skirted kitty?

Lamb appliqued overall shorts with bulls eyes on the hips!

How about the aforementioned decapitated animal head pockets?

And one last decapitated head for good measure--McCalls this time instead of mail order. 

Thanks Simple Simon, for being my distraction tonight as I wait for news and pray that it's good.