Saturday, October 29, 2016

That time of year again... Halloween.

It's that time of year again, when people find out you sew and start asking you to make costumes for them... (To which my response is, it's cheaper to buy commercial than to hire me, and my costume sewing is limited to pint-sized kids who look at me with big, sad eyes and beg!) I don't always make costumes for the kids. It's usually about every other year. By the time Grace was three, she'd figured out that if she wanted something, I could make it for her. And that was the beginning of... unusual costume requests. That year, it was a vampire pumpkin. This year, it was a creepy possessed, broken doll. So I went into the stash... and came up with a 1990s Simplicity Daisy Kingdom pattern. Luckily, the crinoline I made her last year still fit, so I didn't have to make one, and I had almost all the materials in my stash. Total cost? $1.75 because I didn't have a yellow 12" zipper. I drafted the pocket later, after Grace decided that the doll had a pet voodoo doll and we needed someplace for it to sit.

I used a gingerbread cookie cutter for the shape and partially modeled it after Lilo's doll, Squidge, from Lilo and Stitch. She's made from scrap and things I had laying around. Somehow, I think that the young women leaders who taught cross stitch and basic sewing every thought it'd be used for this! Apparently, said pet had to be chained to Grace, so I aged a bit of chain I had by pouring toilet bowl cleaner on it and letting it sit for 30 minutes. Hello, dolly!

To complete the look, Grace needed a really, really big bow...Ten inches here and made with wired ribbon so that it would stand up on top of her head. I figured out how to make basic bows when she was a toddler simply because of how expensive they are.

And then pantaloons. Which are from an out-of-print McCall's Ruffles and Lace pattern. I used leftover fabric from her baptism dress and ended up putting red ribbons on the outside of the legs and on the front of the waistband. The rest was all makeup.

Well, and a lot of attitude. The heart on the front says, "Hug Me," and she's covered in cracks that have been "stitched" back together.

The heart will be removed next week, because she's decided that she wants to wear the dress to church. No objections because without the pantaloons and heart, it's just a really pretty dress!

And next to who started it all.... Nicole wanted to be Jigglypuff. But with Jigglypuff costumes at $36, that just wasn't going to happen. I was staring at a picture, and realized that it was really fairly simple to make; after all, I've made pumpkin costumes before! That's right. Pumpkin costumes. But so we weren't wasting money, I made the under part out of Peekaboo Pattern Shop's Alex and Anna Winter pajamas. The hat is an out-of-print McCall's, with self-drafted ears and hair curl. And the shoe covers are from Simplicity's toddler Wizard of Oz pattern. 

But, well, according to the Pokemon experts at my house, Jigglypuff has a microphone. So I got my sister to crochet half a ball and got to work on a toilet paper tube...  And we have a recognizable Jigglypuff.

Little brother Alex wanted to be a Squirtle. So I repeated the process for him, only self-drafted a tail, used different colors for the front and back of his turtle shell, quilted in lines, and then went over them with black fabric paint. He loves it! Actually, at my congregation's Halloween party today, the tail ended up coming unsewn from the top, so I had to do some quick repair work for Monday.

It's whip stitched on top, you see, and he managed to pull it out. The white line is a matter of recycling. See, I'd decided that the hem of Grace's baptism dress needed some lightweight chain in it to make sure it wouldn't float up. And I put it in a white tube to make sure nothing showed through. Well... it made the dress not hang right, so I removed it. The chain became part of her Halloween costume, and the tube part of Alex's.

Here's a better view of the jammies. He's on the line of needing a 4, so that's what I made and they're a little baggy. But hey, they'll still fit next year!  What was really cute was a little boy dressed as a Pokemon trainer decided he had to "capture" the wild Squirtle and spent several minutes and many different attempts with styrofoam pokeballs trying to do it. And then he moved on to our Jigglypuff!

Total cost for the little ones was about $11 each and that included jammies to wear later. Usually, sewing is about the same for making it as buying it. But just not so this year for Halloween costumes. The kids look great, and I got to make them something that was either too expensive or unavailable that can be reused later. So, do y'all think it was worth the effort?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A special dress for a special day

In my church, we baptize at eight years old at the earliest. Grace has just turned eight, and thus needed an all-white dress. My grandmother made mine thirty years ago. She was an amazing seamstress, and compared to her, I'm a baby beginner! Because white fabric is see-through when wet, I started with a white cami and panties. Thus far, the cami is unhemmed and will remain so until next week. That way, I'm sure it's long enough! I used Peekaboo Pattern Shop's Classic Panties and Camisole pattern. The fit is excellent, and the pattern is sooo addictive! I made 36 pairs of panties from this pattern last year, and 14 camis.

With the first layer taken care of, I moved on to a slip. Next up was an out-of-print McCall's pattern, McCall's 4505, combined with the embroidery from a vintage Simplicity pattern. (Simplicity 2558)

I made the a-line slip, lengthened it by 3.5 inches (well, 5, but I shortened it later because it hung below the dress!) and embroidered it using the embroidery from the Simplicity pattern.

I know slips are kinda old-fashioned these days. You can't really buy them anymore, but well, transparent when wet!  Thirty years ago, my grandmothers and my mother would have had a heart attack if I wore a dress without one, but these days it's standard. Grace has declared that this will be her new nightgown after the fact.

And on to the main event! Vogue 7664 from 2002 was already in my stash and kinda what I wanted. I made a few changes to the pattern, by fully lining it and adding embroidery to the middle panel. I kinda mixed the two views together because I wanted the bodice and collar from the long sleeved version and short sleeves. I also lengthened it because 6X wasn't at knee length for her. I made a six and added three inches. I used the sash embroider from View B in the center panel as well.

 Here is a detail of the embroidery that I stole from the apron pattern and put on the dress. I also featherstitiched the hems, including the skirt lining, because I'm nuts.
 The collar is embroidered as well, and I'm very, very tired of bullion roses! There were 42 just on the skirt, and I haven't counted the ones on the bodice and sash.
 I can't get the dang thing to rotate, so I'm afraid they're on their side. Here's the whole dress. It's made from sheermist cotton/poly batiste from Hobby Lobby. Cotton batiste would be more traditional, but it's well out of my budget. Last time I looked 100% cotton batiste was $25/yard. I can buy silk for less! Now that the blood stains from pricking my fingers are gone, it's all white, which is important for occasions such as this.

So was it worth the three weeks I spent on it?

Friday, September 4, 2015


Has it really been over two years? What can I say? It's been difficult and my sewing projects are few and far between. Seeing as I have a bit more time now that my sister-in-law is staying home (though I'll still have the baby a couple days a week) I'm going to try and update this old blog with projects. There aren't that many--I've mainly been sewing for birthdays and Christmas, and exclusively stash sewing--but I'd like to talk about them.

Lately, the project has been teaching Gracie to sew. She started asking at three, but to my mind wasn't old enough because she didn't follow directions yet. We've learned to sew buttons and regular seams and made three projects-- a pillow and two sets of doll clothes. See, I bought an inexpensive American Girl knock off for her to sew for. She can't take it home until it has a complete wardrobe. Right now, it's living on my mantle piece and she's already picked the next project for it. Apparently, Emma needs a dress to wear to church!

This is Gracie and Emma with our first project-- a cami and pj pants. We got to learn how to make casings and hems and how to cut out a pattern. We also learned a bit about knits, and I found out that Grace is a bit afraid of my big old Pfaff. I bought her a 1/2 size machine that the top speed is a lot slower and it has less power than my Pfaff 1222E.. I figured it would be harder for her to sew through her fingers with it, and it's closer to her size without being a toy. She picked the pattern and the fabric.

As with the last one, Grace picked the pattern, fabric, and trims. :) She also asked me why I'd never made her a pillowcase dress. I don't think she liked my answer--I just don't like them! Which, to be honest, is probably why she wants to make a standard dress next time. This one, we got to work with sewing on trims and shank buttons.

Honestly? My aim in this is really to give her the tools she needs so that she can maintain her own clothes when she grows up. If she wants to take it further, then that's wonderful! But really, sewing is a life skill. One that I want all three kids very much to have. When Nikki and Alex get older, I'll make sure both of them know the basics as well. And I will probably start the same way-- sewing lines of stitches on paper.

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!