Mira’s Special Creation

On several occasions in the past year, I have blogged about by GD Mira’s progress in learning to sew.  She has been very eager to learn to sew however because we see each other infrequently, there are months between lessons.  (When we move from Philly to Wisconsin this will change).

On our last visit to Wisconsin and after not being together for about 3 months, Mira couldn’t wait for her lesson.  On a phone call before our visit she asked if we could have some special time together: “I have something special to show you”.  I wasn’t sure of what was up but now I know that she was excited about her “creation”.

Once again this turned out to be a lesson for me.  I didn’t understand that she wanted to “create” and I was thinking that she wanted to sew.  Now I understand these to be distinctly separate goals.  I came to the after-school lesson with a piece of pre-smocked sun-dress fabric, thinking this would be a quick win.  She could sew up the side seam and add ribbon for the straps.  Quick and easy and she would have a sense of accomplishment.  Wrong I was.

About a year ago, Mira received a Fashion Design Kit, which includes a small dress form.  For a long time she didn’t play with it but prior to our lesson she draped the dress form with several pieces of fabric.  She had ever so carefully pinned her design onto the dress form (sorry, I forgot to photograph) and some of the pieces were already hand-stitched.  In the following photo you can see where she hand-stitched a small collar and as well as the back seam on the leopard fabric for the jacket.  

Together we discussed options and decided on a plan to convert her idea into an outfit for her Barbie Doll.  Mira used the machine to sew the jacket to the skirt, dictating that the length of the skirt had to be “just right”.  Somehow I needed to construct sleeves, which were a part of her intended creation.  Together we pulled it off, and then she sewed a red ribbon onto the outfit – the perfect alternative to sewing on snaps; or worse, a buttonhole and button.  Last of all Mira sewed several sequins on the top to make it ever so special.

And here is the proud girl with her creation. 

For many reasons, I can’t wait to live nearer to our GD; having more time to teach Mira to sew is at the top of the list.  She really enjoys it and already understands that it’s a creative outlet.

Note:  If you’re thinking of purchasing a Fashion Design kit, please be aware that the model/dress form is quite a bit larger than a Barbie doll.  This was a little bit frustrating but in the end we were able to use a real Barbie to assure that the dress would fit properly.

Graduation Dress(es)

Parents have so many opportunities to be proud.  Several weeks ago we had one of those occasions when Angela graduated with a master’s degree in nursing.  Kudo’s to you, Angela.

Of course, for graduation, a new dress was in order.  If not for the graduate, at least for the daughters of the grad.

Angela’s graduation and our trip to see her family was only a week after we returned from our Central America trip.  Being away for several months, I hadn’t sewed any clothing for Mira or Caitlin and I just couldn’t show up empty-handed.  That just doesn’t happen. Imagining that graduation would be a sunny May day, I unearthed Simplicity 3943 and sewed a sun dress for each granddaughter.  Instead it was 49 degrees, windy and rainy but that didn’t stop the girls from enjoying their new dresses.

In position

 

As usual, I put the finishing touches on the dress after we arrived at their house – in part because of time constraints (shouldn’t really have this as an excuse now that I’m retired), for fit and so the girls could help if they desired.  Catie was thrilled to have the opportunity to help sew on the straps and roses on her dress and on Mira’s. Then she was so excited to wear the dress that she tried it on about six times but each time she wouldn’t allow her mother to see her.  She decided to make her dress a “surprise” for the graduation luncheon and program. I am sure this is a day she will always remember, which is probably just how her mother wants it!

  

Steve the Sweater

One of my winter projects was to upcycle a sweater which I purchased from the local second-hand shop.   It was a rather boxy size medium Sigrid Olsen women’s sweater with the neckline trim made of crochet and cut loops of yarn.

Unfortunately I didn’t photograph the sweater but it looked much the same before and after – originally just a different size and with less shaping.  

Tutorial

This is a pretty easy project and doesn’t take long to finish.  For this type of sweater, the steps are:

1. Remove the neckline trim and crocheted bottom edge and the buttons.

2. Felt the sweater in the washer and machine dry until you have the desired amount of felting.  The result was not only a sweater of a smaller size but one that was incredibly soft.

3. Cut the sweater pieces apart at the seams.

4.  Re-cut using a child’s sweater or sweatshirt pattern. Keep the front overlap intact so you can use the buttonholes and finishing. In this case there was barely enough fabric to cut a size 7 sweater.

5.  Sew the pieces together by laying one seam over the other (probably a 1/2″ overlap), using a backstitch.  This results in a nice flat seam which is amazingly strong.  It takes several hours of sewing time in front of a good movie.

6. Re-attach the neckline trim and the braid at the bottom both with a backstitch.

7. Replace the buttons.

The Result

On our last visit to Wisconsin, I gave Mira the sweater.  She loved the softness and named it “Steve the Sweater”, in place of her favorite plush bedtime partner, Steve the Fish.  He was mysteriously missing so Steve the Sweater became her replacement sleeping partner.

Mira’s request:  “Ramma, will you take a photo of me and put it on your blog?”

So this blog post is for you, Mira.

Love, Ramma.

Giveaway: Upcycled Felted Wool Sweater

It’s Been a Year

It’s been a little over a year since I started this blog.  Thus far you could observe that I’ve been dabbling in a number of types of sewing.  It may seem that I’ve not immersed myself in one particular type of sewing – that’s because I do enjoy just about any type of sewing (excluding mending).  Over the years the type of projects seem to depend on what’s going on in my life.

Changes Ahead

Speaking of what’s going on in my life, I’d say we’re in a year of significant change.  I’m retiring in a month, we’re taking a 2 month trip to Central America, selling our home in Philly and moving back to the midwest.  How’s that for change?  It’s a little weird that I won’t use a sewing machine for 2 months and what about not getting up and going to work every day.  Sound good.  Oh, and I may need to send one or two machines to storage while we show our home.  Hmm, which can I part with?

Where is this going, you ask? It’s a long way of saying that I want you to stay with me while I am not posting about my sewing life.  In the months of March and April, I’ll replace sewing content with traveling content.  Maybe even a word or two of Spanish if my brain can soak up a few phrases.

Giveaways

I don’t want to lose you, my loyal followers.  To get you in the habit of visiting my blog while I’m away, I’m going to do a series of giveaways which are representative of my last year’s sewing.

The first one is your choice of three felted upcycled toddler sweaters.  All you need to do is to leave a comment indicating which one you’d prefer.  If you’re interested in making one of these in the future, ask a question about how to make the sweaters.  The deadline is midnight Monday, Jan 31; then the random number generator will work it’s magic.

 

Description:

1. Hooded Grey merino with snowflake design.

2. Wool and cashmere.   Sleeve, 1/2 of the front and the back are felted cashmere.  Oh, so soft.

3. Red wool Snowmen with wool/angora cabled sleeves.

Time for Leggings: Free Pattern and Tutorial

In the N. Hemisphere it’s winter and that means it’s time for females to cover their legs.  Well, maybe not all females; even in the depths of winter we all see young women and teens with bare legs but not me.

So I say it’s time for leggings; a fast sewing, get results in minutes item for the winter, mostly for my granddaughters but also for my daughters.  I’m talking about the footless “tights alternative” as opposed to the ever popular leggings which are more of  a “pants alternative”.  The web is full of  photos and comments about whether it is appropriate to wear leggings in lieu of pants.  Rest easy in that we’re not touching that fashion controversy in this post.

My 2 GD’s absolutely love the leggings I make for them.  They wear them as tights under skirts or dresses and as an additional layer under pants, especially during very cold weather.  Since they’re inexpensive and very easy to sew, I often make 8 or 10 pair at a time and they are delighted when I arrive with package in hand.

Leggings Tutorial and Leggings Pattern (pdf)

Materials:

  • Length of 2-way or 4-way stretch knit fabric.  I often use spandex or lycra which would be used for leotards or dance-wear but also use other cotton or cotton-poly stretch knits, often to match a t-shirt or top.
  • Leggings pattern (pdf)
  • Narrow lingerie elastic for the waist

Notes:

The pattern is a size 2-4.  In order to make a larger size (girth), split the pattern down the middle and add 1/2-3/4″, depending on the amount of adjustment needed.  This works well great for girls who need a little more sizing but no more length.

To make a size larger such as a size 4-5, make the same split down the center of the pattern piece and add as much length as you need.  No worries if you make it too long, you can just cut the bottom off later.

Cutting:

  1. Cut 2 identical pieces from the pattern.
  2. Generally when cutting fabric I try to avoid the need to cut against the grain, for leggings you want to have the greatest stretch across the garment, not lengthwise so the leggings are comfortable with movement.
  3. If possible, cut with a rotary cutter.  It goes much faster and makes a nice clean-cut at the bottom.

Here is my mass production – 3 pair for my Mira and 2 for Cate.  Yes, there will be comparing when I arrive with clothes in hand but I’ll make sure they each have the same number of pieces of clothing!

Sewing

  1. Serge (or use a lingerie or knit stitch on a standard sewing machine) center front and center back seams.  A straight stitch will not work for this as the seam will rip out during wear.
  2. Serge inseam in 2 steps.  Start at the mid-point of the inseam and stitch toward the leg bottom.  Then sew the second leg.  (The reason for this 2-step process is that when starting the seam, the serger has a difficult time keeping the bottom fabric even).  Or maybe it’s me?

This has probably taken 5 minutes of sewing time: You now have nearly completed the leggings and just need to add the elastic.

Attaching the Elastic

Sew the elastic using a zig-zag stitch.  (You could use a coverstitch but I find that zig-zag works just as well and it’s much faster).  As you can see in the following photo, the elastic needs to be slightly smaller or tighter than the waist, otherwise they won’t stay up.  Mira and Cate are both pretty slim, so keeping them up is a problem if the rise is to short or if the elastic isn’t tight enough.

Finishing the Bottom

If using lycra or spandex, I usually leave the bottom unfinished.  If using cotton-poly-stretch, a narrow rolled hem works well.

The other step I take is to secure the bottom of the seam with a few stitches.  Or you can tuck in the serger threads.  The purpose is to keep the bottom of the seam from opening during wear.

Here you see a photo of about a dozen pair I made a while ago.

Leggings for Adults:

There are probably lots of ways to construct a leggings pattern for adults, however here’s what I did:

1. Take a pants pattern front and back and tape or pin together at the side.

2. Tuck or fold the pattern from top to bottom to reduce the width of the pattern.  In this case, I aimed for the pattern to be 3/4 the size of my daughter’s actual measurements.

3. Shorten the rise so it is slightly shorter than the measurement of the person who will wear these.

4.  Narrow the width of the leg so it is slightly smaller than the actual measurement

5. Cut and sew in the same manner as the children’s leggings.  If you have access to 1″ lingerie or fleece-backed elastic, it words well.  I would stay away from the harsh elastic for general use.

Why not Mosquito Netting?

Several weeks ago after she posted a comment on my blog, Dhilma and I shared a few sewing related email messages.  She is a physician working in Sri Lanka as a lecturer and like many of us, has a passion for sewing.   She was very interested in making a crinoline for her niece.  So before I posted a child’s crinoline pattern, several weeks ago, I sent the pattern to her.

A few days ago I received a very kind email from Dhilma – I could feel the excitement in her message.  With her permission, here is an excerpt:

“I really enjoyed making it [crinoline] and then admiring the end result! In our country (Sri Lanka) tuille is very expensive and so I used cheap mosquitoe netting which I bought at SLR110 (less than $1.00) per yard (60 inch width)I used the whole yard that I bought and some poplin (cotton material) for the short lining and the band at the waist. I am sure my niece is going to strut around in this petticoat alone so I plan to embelish it with some shiny sequins.”

Now isn’t that an absolutely brilliant idea?  Why not use mosquito netting instead of tulle?  For some of us it might be as difficult to obtain mosquito netting as it is for Dhilma to get tulle.  Oh, and never mind that for those of us in the North, mosquito netting is the last thing on our mind right now – maybe thick wool or a fleece throw for those of us in the deep freeze?

The real point is that sometimes we need to improvise and if we allow our creativity to rule, it will work out just fine. Thank you Dhilma for reaching out and for sharing your beautiful creation.  It is absolutely adorable and I am sure your niece will love it.

Free Child’s Crinoline Pattern

One of the fascinating things about a blog is taking a peek behind the scenes of a website.  As the blog owner I have regular access to the type of searches and other sites which refer users to the blog.  For me, this experience provides the same level of intrigue as other “back stage” experiences; maybe like being in a cockpit of a plane or in a production studio.

You Asked: Free Crinoline Pattern


For me, a peak into the wonders of the internet revealed that the most common word searches for my blog are submitted by sewists seeking a (free) crinoline pattern for under a child’s dress or a wedding dress.  About six months ago, I posted a brief tutorial for a wedding dress crinoline, which is what the search engines are targeting.  I understand why that posting gets a lot of hits, because when I tried to find a free crinoline pattern online, I struck out – hence the reason for the post.

Last week as my good friend Barb, was making a flower girl dress for her granddaughter, she asked me for directions on how to make a child’s crinoline.  That request reminded me that I’d started this post a long time ago.  Because of the number of photos and the length of the text, this would have been a really boring and long blog post.  Instead I put the instructions and photos into a really long and boring document.  This is hardly high fashion, but it’s a try at writing instructions.  Now I understand why there are so many patterns which are poorly written – It’s really tough to describe how to sew a garment, even with a lot of photos.

Click below to open the pdf:

Childs Crinoline Pattern

Please leave a comment with feedback on whether this give you the needed information.  Enjoy!





Tutorial: Making a Dress from a T-shirt

Copying Children’s Ready-to-wear

One of my favorite sewing challenges is to copy ready-to-wear, so when DD Angela told me that Caitlin wanted a dress with a T-shirt top and a ruffly skirt, I visited the store where she’d seen the dress and of course, surreptitiously took a photo.  This didn’t seem to difficult.

Before I go further, I should mention that while this tutorial is for making a child’s dress, the same technique would work for an adult.  In fact, here’s a similar idea for a summer dress – this was in a storefront when we were in Greece last spring.  It’s still on my list of things to make someday.


Instead of sewing a t-shirt for the dress, I happened to find a cute one on the sale rack.  In the eyes of a child, I am sure it was far cuter than anything I would make, as it had massive amounts of glitter.  Now that I had the t-shirt, my next stop was the fabric store where I purchased 2″ black twill elastic and 1/4″ green ribbon for the skirt. The lace for the skirt was left over from a previous project.


Tutorial:

1.  If you’re using a purchased t-shirt, it is best to use a fitted style, as opposed to the standard boxy t-shirt.  If not, taper the sides so it is somewhat fitted.

2.  Measure the length you’ll need for the sides of the top of the dress. In this case, for a size 5, I aimed for 6″ on each side.  Cut the t-shirt off at this point, making sure to keep the bottom seam even.  I find that it’s easier to hold the side seams together while cutting as the bottom cut will be more even.

3. Now measure a length of elastic – about 1-2″ longer than the child’s waist, plus 1″ for the overlap.  I used a length of 24″.  This should also be the approximate circumference of the shirt.

4. Overlap the elastic about 1/2 inch and sew together with a zig-zag or straight stitch.

5. Mark the center front and back, and the sides on the elastic with chalk or pins.

6.  Also mark the center front and back on the shirt.  

7.  Pin the elastic to the shirt at the center markings.

8.  Sew the elastic to the shirt, stretching slightly if the top and elastic are not the same size.  A zig-zag stitch works well for this.  On my first attempt, I tried a cover-stitch but it didn’t work well.  Admittedly, I’m rather new to cover-stitching so maybe that was the problem.

9.  Now repeat this process to attach the skirt.  (Your eyes aren’t fooling you – the black colors are different from one another).

I’ll do a later post on how to make this skirt as I need to think about how to describe it before I can do a tutorial.

The dress was a huge hit, as I anticipated.  It was for  Cate’s birthday and she wore it for the entire weekend; she even slept in it one night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What would I do differently?

The obvious is that I’d try to get the blacks a little closer.  Also, this dress just fits so I would have preferred it a little larger.   In this case the 100% cotton t-shirt was 2″ larger than Caitlin’s chest measurement – would go for a larger size the next time.  Other than that, I’d do it the same the next time.  What a fun dress.  Now I need to make a similar one for her big sister.

The Joy of Having a Grandmother who Sews

Laura Ingalls Bonnet Tutorial

Several weeks ago Angela and Stephen took our granddaughters on a trip to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.  From the photos and stories, it appears that one of the delights was living in a rustic cabin.  This experience brought to life the stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  It sounds as if they played the part in every possible way.

Here’s an account of our first phone call after they arrived home:

Caitlin:  “Ramma (that’s Grandma), can you make me a Laura Ingalls bonnet?  And one for Mira too?”

Me: “I’m sure I can, I’ll just need to find a pattern.”

Caitlin: “Ramma, I want mine to be brown calico with little dots on it.”

Me:  “I’m not sure if I have any fabric like that, but when you come to visit for Uncle Shaun’s wedding, you can see if there is some other fabric you might like me to use.”

Caitlin: “Well I want it to be brown calico with little dots.”

Me:  “OK, I’ll see what I can do.”

Caitlin:  “If you don’t have fabric with dots on it, I know how to sew and I can help to sew the dots on the fabric.”

*************************************************************

Now that’s a girl who believes anything is possible and will do what is needed to get the desired result!

When Catie and Mira came to visit, they eagerly went through my 3×5 fabric swatch cards.  Based on my guidance on what type of fabric would be appropriate for a bonnet, they touched and stretched the fabric swatches and sorted the cards into piles.  In case you’d like the same direction, I told them the fabric couldn’t be stretchy like a T-shirt or shiny like for a party dress.  It worked.

After careful consideration each of them made a selection.  Catie’s wasn’t brown (no surprise here because I never purchase brown fabric) but it had dots on it.  Whew, we didn’t need to sew on all of those little dots!

As I’m sure you would do, I searched the internet for a free pattern or tutorial and found this great Laura Ingalls Wilder Bonnet Tutorial which spared me a trip to a fabric store.

Mira's bonnet

Tutorial Additions:

If you decide to make a bonnet such as this, here are a few changes which I would  whole heartedly recommend.

  1. Add 3/4″ to the length of the crown piece (will be 17-3/4″ long) to make an elastic casing.
  2. Fold the casing and sew in place.
  3. Run an 8″ piece of elastic through the casing and secure the ends.
  4. Now sew the brim to the crown.
  5. On the side which will be attached to the crown, cut the interfacing 1/2″shorter than the brim pieces.  This allows you to fold the fabric over the interfacing when attaching the brim to the crown and reduces bulk.
  6. Top stitch the edge of the brim – it gives a nice finished look.

Caitlin's bonnet

So in the end, it’s not brown calico with hand-sewn dots, but the bonnets sure are cute.  They’re off in the mail and I can’t wait to see photos of the girls who will likely wear them when their parents lovingly read them the Laura Ingalls stories.  What a joy it is to create treasures and hopefully “grandmother memories” such as this.