Friday, March 26, 2010

Project: No project

I have spent what seems like a million years making a shirt that does not want to be made. I sewed in some amazing sleeves and then I finished the belt (that's too short, I swear I'm not joking) but the hem is being a beast. I really don't think a pattern envelope should suggest a certain type of fabric if it requires one that needs so damn much easing.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Project: Rompers

This is the romper pattern that I'm going to use for that amazing alligator/crocodile fabric that I was going on and on about before. How strange is this? I bought the size 4 at a thrift store up in Pittsburgh and my MIL had the size 2. The cheaper one is from 1970 and the more expensive one is from 1972. It's like they just "updated" the hairstyles and changed out the applique. I love it. Check out the beret on that kid.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Project: My invisible zipper

Here is a sneak peak at my shirt. In the spirit of full disclosure, I have cropped out the part of the zipper that's not quite straight. This fabric is super slippery and I did not do a perfect job. But I think the best way to learn how to do something is to learn the hard way.

When my Dad taught me how to drive did he let me learn in the family sedan? No. He made me drive the monster Dodge Ram full-sized pickup truck through the tiny streets of our neighborhood. Were pedestrians leaping off the sidewalk and into the safety of their shrubbery? Yes. But I honestly think I'm a better driver because of it. And I'm not making that part about the sidewalks up. I really did drive up on the sidewalk. Listen, that's a big vehicle and that was a tight corner.

Anyway, if you're going to sew in a zipper after never having done it before, why start on muslin or thick cotton? That's too easy. Around here, we go for the gold (or in this case faux satin shantung).

I read a million tutorials online and watched 400,000 videos on YouTube but the most helpful piece was this one on Sew, Mama, Sew.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Project: cool buttons

I saw these cool buttons for sale on a website that was not Etsy. I don't remember where it was but I am thinking that it might be pretty easy to make them (these are commercially made -- if they were handmade, I'd just buy them). Maybe a different shape because you'd have to use a covered button maker and I've only seen round ones. What do you think?

Apologies to the owner of this photo. I did not plan to write about these so I just pulled the image to my desktop in order to not forget about them (figuring that I would actually forget about them but I can't stop thinking about them) so now I'm in quite a predicament.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Project: I finally spent my Christmas money

So now that it's March, I finally got around to spending my Christmas money -- and in one fell swoop at that. I went nuts on Spoonflower and bought these rad Heather Ross gnome and mushroom prints that I have been drooling over for ages but could never find. Best of all, I got this fantastic alligator (crocodile) repeat from Anda of boosterseat.

I don't know what I'm going to do with the gnomes but I got a yard of each and a yard of the mushrooms. The mushroom color matches both gnomes so it will be a nice border or trim or cuff or collar and I should have some left over no matter what.

I'm going to make a super cute romper with the alligators. I'm using a vintage pattern that I borrowed from my mother in law who made a few for my husband's sisters when they were Zadie's age. I don't know why but Zadie is crazy for alligators and crocodiles. Do you know how to tell the difference? The crocs have a severe underbite while the gators have an overbite. Chomp! (I once saw a gator fly out of a small pond and eat a sunbathing turtle. I am not lying. I have a witness and I will never forget that sound).

Check out Anda's gallery at the bottom of her spoonflower page. Zadie is nuts for school buses (and thanks to my local BOE closing the historic school we can see from our house [and the number one reason why we moved to our otherwise third-choice neighborhood], she'll be lucky enough to ride one every day grrrrr....).

4 yards of fabric plus shipping was about $79 but I can do whatever I want with my Christmas money and a new living room rug is so boring.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Project: Awesome loot

Today I spent the afternoon at thrift stores with my good friend Sandi. We haven't hung out in months since she lives far away now (and there has been more snow this winter than any other in the last 35 years). It was gorgeous outside and we had tons of hand-sanitizing fun (I can't stand the way my hands feel after rifling through the discarded goods of strangers).

I picked up a ton of vintage books for Zadie, some weird clothes to tear up for fabric (including a red velvet bolero jacket from the children's store Limited Too that was huge on me -- I'm not lying), and a small plush carton of orange juice. The best find, by far, was this Ready to Wear Designer Collar (ready to wear where? the Salem witch trials? a Thanksgiving Day parade?).

I bought this cute little alligator pattern from andwabisabi on Etsy after having seen it on Feeling Stitchy. I want to make a little pocket for a romper I'm going to sew and this alligator is going to make it work.

Anyway, why go to Michael's and buy weird and expensive cross-stitch fabric when you can buy this hilarious collar for $2 and cut it up?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Project: Soundtrack

I'm not sure why but I have not been into music for a few years now. It used to be something that I felt really defined me. I was all about what I was into. So I don't know why I stopped listening. In fact, when I traded in my Toyota Echo over a year ago, I didn't even bother to put my fully stocked CD case into the newer (used) Corolla.

Yesterday one of my friends posted on Facebook that Alex Chilton died. He was 59. Big Star was pretty much the soundtrack of almost every summer of my college years (it was the early 1990s and they had just gotten back together). I have not been able to stop listening to this album, recorded live.

I actually started listening to my CDs this past weekend. We needed to move a shelf to make room for Zadie's new little table and chairs and it was full of CDs so I started copying everything I wanted to my computer so that I could get rid of all that plastic. I have fallen in love all over again. I think periodically I will post about what I'm listening to. And I promise I will never have anything that plays as soon as you load the page. I absolutely hate that.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Project: Polka dots and ruffles

I bought the pattern to make this super cute ruffly dress from Etsy during the great series of blizzards earlier this year. The directions were super easy to follow and this was quick to put together. If my sewing machine had a longer stitch length, it would have been even easier (add that to the list of requirements for my future upgrade). Instead, it takes me years to make a ruffle perfectly ruffly.

I used fabrics from the Nicey Jane line by Heather Bailey. I think the polka dots are just perfect for a little girl.

The pattern called for an extra row of ruffles on the bottom but I think I had enough going on that one more would have been one too many. I still have the ruffle and I'm thinking about turning it into a flower or something.

As you can see, the dress is hanging off of Zadie but it was also really hard to get on (and off). There's definitely something wrong with the fit. The pattern didn't call for a closure but I'm going to have to cut it open in the back and add a button and elastic so this will be easier to manage during toddler-wrangling-getting-dressed time. I'll probably just tack up the straps with a longer stitch so that it will fit better but allow for some growth.

Does anyone have any suggestions for alterations that might be better than these?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Project: Spring Top Week

I decided to give myself another challenge (like I need any more on my plate right now). I'm signing up for Spring Top Week over on the Made by Rae blog. I'm going to design and sew a top all by myself all for me.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Project: No project weekend

It was one of those weekends where I got nothing done and just ended up making a big mess out of my studio space.

Friday after work, I finished up a project for my mom. It's been hanging over my head and over the arm of the office couch for weeks now. I had the supplies to finish it, I had the time to finish it, but I did not need to finish it because it is a Christmas tree skirt. I really enjoyed making it and I love doing nice things for my mom but who needs a Christmas tree skirt in January or February or March, even? Christmas in July, sure... But now it is finished and it looks gorgeous and she loves it and will probably use it for the next 20 years (or else).

I was excited to have that finished up so that I could start on something new (Plan B). I bought a pattern to make some cute sailor pants for Zadie a while back and thought I would get to work on those. Unfortunately, I was not able to find buttonhole elastic on my last trip to the fabric store and I don't need 5 yards of it so I need to wait until the next trip to a different fabric store before we'll have yellow elephant pants in our lives. I had forgotten about the stupid elastic so I feel like I wasted time getting everything set up and cut out only to have it sit there.

Plan C was to actually make something for myself and follow through on that pattern challenge I signed up for last month. I got out my teal silky fabric and cut out all the pieces (a huge pain as I did not have enough fabric to do it easily; I really had to make it work and had about 2" left in a weird shape -- it was like Tetris or something. From now on I'm buying more than the pattern envelope says). Then I had a lot of problems getting my brand new chalk marking pencil to actually make my dart lines and once I finally got to sewing, everything started bunching up because I probably need to use a thinner needle and I don't have any and there are no fabric stores open on Sundays within a reasonable distance. I was able to sew the front facing in because the sewing machine seemed to be okay with attaching the cotton to the silky stuff without bunching up. But anyway I can't get started on the rest until I get some smaller needles.

Plan D was to get started on that Burda dress. I got all the pieces put together and easily made the adjustments from the Danielle to the Maya shape. After I put Zadie to bed I was going to sew a "muslin" of the bodice out of some ugly blue flannel so that I'll be able to make adjustments to the pattern before cutting into my good stuff. I feel like the neckline might be a little low for me and I have no idea how European cuts are going to work on my body. I was too tired to do this so I watched Ruby and went to bed but couldn't fall asleep.

Fabulous. I feel like I got nothing accomplished and am still tired. The week ahead is a busy one at work so there's no way I'll be able to squeeze much into my evenings. Does this ever happen to you?

See flickr for notes on the photo if you want the mess explained.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Project: Etched mirror silhouette tutorial

I wrote up a tutorial to make these gorgeous etched mirror silhouettes for the Mother's Day issue of Modern Handmade Child. It's a simple project once you get the supplies together. It took me longer to get a good profile shot of Zadie than it did to make this project!

Follow this link and click on the special Mother's Day Issue to the right. Page 26 - 28. Sorry Mimi and Grandma Char for the spoiled surprise on your Mother's Day gifts.

And I will be posting a longer tutorial on the non-toxic version using flocking powder sometime soon.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Project: Interview with Kim of True Up

Kim took this photo while buying fabric at the Fall Quilt Market

I'm so excited to have fellow writer Kim of the amazing True Up blog here for the Project: Project interview series, "Not the Same Five Questions." Kim is a fine enabler, crafter, and mom with a fabric stash to envy.

doesn't this look delicious?

You know a lot about fabrics and design. What is your background?

Thanks! I am self-taught in all the fabric stuff. My background is in linguistics and publishing -- right now I'm a contract speech pathologist. But I have always had something creative going on -- it was photography and then web design for a long time. I got into sewing about 10 years ago.

quilt project

You manage to strike a good balance between enabling and educating fabric addicts readers. Is that one of the goals of the blog?

Definitely! I'm glad you noticed. When I started out I not only wanted to spread the word about great new fabrics I came across, I also wanted to educate myself about the design process and about different types of fabrics.

great ebay fabric haul

One of my favorite posts was “The Great eBay Fabric Haul.” I even read all the comments. What projects came out of that stash?

Ahhh ... that was a great eBay win! That doesn't happen much any more -- too many collectors are clued in now. It was mostly scraps -- some of them found a way in to quilts, some I traded in swaps, but most of them are still hanging out in the stash!

vintage button find

Like many of your readers, you’re a mom. Does the blog allow you to work at home or do you have a day job?

It does allow me to stay home part-time. As I mentioned above I'm also a speech-language pathologist. I do that a few days a week while my mom and husband take turns caring for my 2 1/2 year old son.

beautiful decluttered stash

You mentioned something about surface design on your blog. Any secrets you care to spill?

I have secrets, but none I can spill! I have found that one of the biggest hurdles in creative life is option paralysis -- but I am thankful I have those options. I'll let you know when I figure it all out!

Thanks again to Kim for the honest and interesting answers. True Up is really important. If you haven't seen it yet, take a look especially at her Digital Fabric Printing Experiment. It's incredibly helpful. And I think I need a storage system like that for my fabric. It's so much better than my ugly plastic 3-drawer system.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Project: Trades are awesome.

The best part about Etsy, for me, is the community. I like that when I have a question about something, the person who actually made that thing with their own two hands is going to answer me back.

Since I've been in this pattern/sewing kick, I've been looking really closely at some of the toddler dresses. I emailed the owner of DevonRose demanding that she make patterns of her designs because they are awesome. She wrote me back saying that she doesn't use patterns -- she just cuts straight from the fabric. What?!? Is that possible? Not for me. There's no way I could do something like that. She is like a magician.

Anyway, she had bought one of my yetis a while back so we got to "chatting" and she suggested we trade. Awesome. This green dress is amazing. The craftsmanship is really impeccable. That's something that's really important to me. I couldn't find a stitch out of place (and you won't in my stuff either). These little fabric covered buttons just rock (I'm so going to buy one of those fabric covered button maker thingys next time I leave the house). Check out how the underskirt just perfectly accents the hem. I love it. I also love her blog. Good stuff.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Project: Thrifting

I rarely get the time to go to thrift stores anymore plus I just really don't like the stores we have here. The ones back home where I grew up are way better.

Anyway, check out these awesome shirts I got to turn into dresses for Zadie. That patterned one is so funky. I actually might make a skirt for myself! I just love old man prints.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Project: Corduroy

With the feeling of Spring in the air, I've decided to get all the corduroy out of my system to make way for bulbs popping through the snow, buds on the forsythia, and huge doses of antihistamines and decongestants. Go March!

I made this adorable dress using a the Parisian pattern from ManiMina on Etsy. The collar piece absolutely gave me fits. I could not get the pattern to make sense at all so I ended up fudging it. After a couple of tries, I got it to work and actually made two of these. The armholes were too tight on this one for my niece so I adjusted the pattern 1/2" on each pattern piece so that it would work better for her.

The floral fabric is a very fine wale corduroy that I got at JoAnn's. It's soft and gorgeous and has washed up really well. The collar is linen because I thought that would really add to the Fall feel to the dress. Zadie has gotten a lot of wear out of this and both girls call it their "pretty dress" and beg to wear them when they're fresh out of the wash. I just love the vintage button I used for the closure paired with a satin ribbon.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Project: Someone else's project

I just had to take a minute to write about what just came in the mail -- this awesome Retro Ruffler from Raegun. I consider Marissa an online friend. We have emailed and sent convos and left comments on each other's flickrs and blogs and whatnot but we've never met and we probably never will. But I still feel like she's in my circle, you know. Etsy is like that.

So when I saw this little goodie -- and then I saw that one of my friends had gotten one too, I decided just to buy it. (Even though it was the middle of Winter and it would not get worn for months). I love it. There's a lot of detail. It's a cute vintagey design that got me right away. I like the color in this picture but I went with a blue floral one with dark blue ric rack because I think Zadie will look super cute in it. I wish she would let me put it on her but she has been in a mood for over a week and I haven't been able to get a thing on her except fleece. Sometimes I think she is not my child.

EDIT: I finally wrangled said toddler into this thing and wow. It is so cute. Even cuter than the kids in the listing photos (ahem). It's also a great fit. I ordered a 3 because my kid is really tall (considering her elfin parents) and I was worried about the rise. Awesome. It's a perfect fit now and I'm sure we'll get two summers out of it. It's not tight around the thighs, is roomy around the cloth diaper, and had super long straps that can be tied differently to adjust fit. Yay!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Project: Loot.

Although there is a quilt shop and a weird upholstery fabric store in town, we don't have a true sewing shop with different types of fabrics and notions and patterns and all that deliciousness we love and hoard. So when I go to the sewing store, I stock up because it's a 45-minute drive. Last weekend I went to visit my parents so that my mom could watch the kid and I could have as much uninterrupted time with my list as I needed. Success. I bought these fabrics for projects for me. The teal faux silky stuff is for this top (see note) that I wrote about before. I should be able to wear it to work if it ever warms up. The cotton dots print is for this dress. I'm going to make the Maya version because I want something cool and lovely for Summer. I had to buy zippers too. I have never sewn a zipper before. Ever. Someone has always done it for me.

This dotted swiss is for this dress (see note) for Zadie. I thought I would make it very much like the pattern and add trim in two different colors. I love dotted swiss. I would use it for every project if it made sense. I just love the vintage feel to it.

Finally, this is the haul for the second Oliver + S pattern that I'm going to attempt, the Playdate dress. I didn't mean to buy fabric so like the example on the package but after seeing the nursery rhyme toile, I had to go for it. And chartreuse with deep blue and red is so underrated. I think it will add a perfect punch.

I love shopping for supplies. So much of making good projects is in finding the right materials, making a good list and checking it more than twice, and living with the patterns and fabric until it feels right.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Project: Vote for the Yeti Dreaming of Soup!

I am a finalist in the Lil Blue Boo & Dharma Trading Design Challenge! How exciting. Go vote for me here. There are 15 other entries and they are pretty good so I'm going to need all the help I can get.

Remember I did a reverse applique using an image on the bottom piece of fabric. That's not easy! Plus I embroidered that soup freehand to make it all dreamy. No stencils, no tracing, no nothing.

Go give the yeti and shout out.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Project: Do you really need to cut bias tape on the bias?

not on the bias

I did some experimenting and my answer is, Yes. And . . . No.

see how it's all bunchy?

As you can see in these first two pictures, I did not cut the fabric on the bias because I didn't have enough of the solid. I thought I would make do with the little that I had. It didn't work and I ended up ripping off the trim stitch by stitch.

So when adding bias tape to any type of curve, you really do need to cut the fabric on the bias. I ended up buying some fabric and using the diagonal line of my cutting mat to make that perfect 45 degree angle.

on the bias

It turned out much better.

But I had to buy a 1/2 yard of fabric to get nice long strips (I don't like lots of seams on my bias tape). I needed about 3 strips for this project and had two bizarre triangle shaped pieces of fabric left over. What a waste. If you're like me and you rarely use bias tape around a curve, I recommend that you just buy a pack of bias tape in a color that's close enough. You'll get about 3 yards for less than $3. That's much less than the cost of 1/2 yard of nice quilt-weight cotton and you won't have fabric left over -- just extra tape to keep on hand for future projects.

If you're using the bias tape for a hem (even a sleeve cuff), not cutting on the bias is going to work out just fine and it won't waste so much fabric.

Edit: One of my friends just asked me what bias tape is. I forgot that not everyone who reads this sews! My plan wasn't to make Project: Project all about sewing but the weather has had other ideas and I've done little else since January.

Anyway, bias tape is that orange stuff in the pictures. It is basically 2" strips of fabric with three folds that create a clean little way to cover up the unsightly edges of a project. It is usually used for binding the edges of quilts. Quilt bindings need to be cut on the bias so that one single thread of a piece of fabric isn't the one getting all the wear. If the fabric is cut on the bias, or the diagonal, then many threads make up the edge, prolonging the life of the binding. Quilt binding does not need to be cut on a true bias (the 45 degree angle); it just shouldn't be cut on the square (or parallel with either direction of the weave of the fibers).

For clothing purposes, I cut my bias for the experiment on the true bias so that it would have the maximum give and stretch. But like I learned, if you're just adding some trim to a cuff or a hem, any way you cut it is going to work.

Hope this helps!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Project: And the winner is...


Thanks to everyone who entered to win the dress. All the fabulous comments really made my day (and week and month).