What to do with Left-Over Fabric

Sewing blogs and sites abound with questions about how to use left-over fabric.  For the past few years I have packed it into large zip-lock bags, labeled it and donated the bags to the local second-hand shop.

Before we moved I saved some bits and pieces for my granddaughters.  Several days ago while at our house they discovered their “stash” and had a limitless amount of fun with what they found.   All they needed were safety pins (like every pin I could find), scissors and their creative energy.  Here is the result:

Lesson to self:  Never underestimate the creativity of a child.

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Mira’s Sewing Lessons: Pajama Top

About a year ago, I blogged about teaching Mira to sew her first pair of pajama pants.   Unfortunately because we live hours from each other and because visits are filled with other fun activities, we have little time for sewing.  However on our last visit we had a “sewing date”.  Her choice was to make a pajama top to match the beloved but now “high-water’ pants she made last year.  She designed the top, using a complimentary flannel print for the sleeves.

So proud in her new pj top

Hmmm. So how could I help Mira sew a pj top with no buttons and yet so she could pull it over her head?  With not many patterns to chose from, I bought a raglan knit pj top.  By cutting it several sizes larger than her size, cutting out the neckline to fit over her head and by placing a small amount of elastic at the neckline we were set to sew.  As far as the fabric type, pre-washed flannel is great for a project such as this because the fabric is easy to sew and it doesn’t ravel easily so there’s no overcasting.

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Me:  “What’s the first safety rule for sewing?”

Mira:  “Never put your fingers near the needle.”

She passed the test and we were ready to sew.

Little did I know that Mira was envisioning a hood on the pj top.  So when the sleeve and side seams were done, Mira said, “Now, let’s add a hood”.  (Guess I’ve made sewing look way too easy).  Her bathrobe has a hood, so I traced the pattern and we had a hooded pj top.

What a proud girl she was, every step of the way.  Sewing (and trying on) time took about one hour.

Meanwhile…..

Catie did art projects with her grandpa while eagerly awaiting her turn at the sewing machine.  At age 6, she’s not quite ready to sew independently, so we came up with a plan to sew quilt pieces.  It worked beautifully.

Cate sat on my lap and when needed at the beginning and end of stitching a square, she toggled to reverse the stitch.  It was perfect for her – she was involved and still safe.  Meanwhile, her foot stayed right on top of mine.

 What a fun time we had.  To be continued….

Sewing with Pre-ruffled Fabric: Part 2

IKEA Fabric for Valances and Pillows

In the two weeks since my last post, Kevin and I took a road trip to Wisconsin and Minnesota where we visited family and friends, and we saw Megan and Chris’s new home.  All of those miles traveled and I didn’t visit a single fabric store.  Well, just one.  However Megan and I did purchase fabric for window valances at IKEA.  Though the supply is limited, they have great fabric.

More tips for sewing with pre-ruffled fabric:

As I mentioned in the last post, sewing with pre-ruffled fabric was more challenging than I anticipated.  I stopped with tip #7, “Plan for where the ruffles will land on the garment”.  When cutting the black and white tank, I laid the pattern on the center front of the neck so that the entire ruffle would be visible.  That was the correct way to cut, unlike Deb’s tank where I cut in the middle of the ruffle.

Ruffle at center front of neckline is positioned correctly

In the following, I didn’t plan well and cut through the ruffle.  Fortunately I was able to recover by adding a piece of ruffle to the neckline before binding the edge.

Center front ruffle was cut away. Oops, but a little patch fixed it.

8.  Like with other stretchy garments, sew a small piece of stretch fabric or clear elastic into the shoulder seam.  Because the fabric is so lightweight and to avoid bulk, I didn’t extend the stabilizing fabric to the edges.  My choice was a small strip of cotton jersey.

9.  To bind the edges, use a very light weight fabric.  Again, I used cotton jersey with 4-way stretch.  BTW, white looked awful on the black and white fabric.

Sewing a strip of neck binding
Turn the binding over and topstitch
Another binding: 1" wide fabric was folded and serged onto the dress. No topstitching.

When the garments we sew are worn, we always learn more about our creations.  And thus a few more tips:

10.  When planning for an adult skirt, cut the fabric width approximately the same size as the wearer’s hip measurement.  Children don’t mind having a little extra bulk on their hips but it’s not as flattering for adults.  (I am now making this adjustment to Angela’s and Megan’s skirts).

11. Last of all, I learned that some of these fabrics may not work for children’s clothes.  At age 5, Catie proudly wore her new skirt to the playground.  After she went down the slide a few times the edge of the ruffles started to ravel (or unravel if you chose).  I don’t know if this would occur with the more commonly available poly or poly/nylon pre-ruffled fabric (i.e. black and white tank).  The grey ruffles feel like they are made from rayon, are softer and less stable.  It’s hard to be sad about the skirt as it was fun to sew it.   I’ll make her a new one from the yet unused black fabric.

Did I mention that  I paid $8.00 for all of the fabric for these garments.  It was great fun to find such cute fabric for such a bargain and to plan for the garments; but it was frustrating at times until I learned the nuances of working with pre-ruffled fabric.  

What are your experiences in working with this fabric?


Ruffled by Pre-ruffled Fabric

For some months I have been enamored by the pre-ruffled fabric which is common in ready-to-wear garments and which is sometimes but not often seen in the sewing circles.  Surely it’s not a product I’ve been able to find at the name-brand sewing and craft stores.  So when I found four pieces of pre-ruffled fabric in a bin at Jomar’s recent half-price sale, I was thrilled.  That is until I began to make garments from it.

Since I struggled to learn how to work with this unusual fabric, it’s only fair to share some tips with you. With about four yards of fabric in hand and because several pieces were 72″ wide, I was able to make one garment for each of the girls in our family – six in all.  So now we’re all dressed in grey and black.

Cate's skirt - wide twill elastic on a single piece of rectangular fabric.
Mira's jumper/sleeveless dress. Learned that its tough to make anything other than a straight skirt.
My tank top. Edges are finished with black jersey.
Deb's tank top. This is tapered but the effect is lost with the ruffles.
Angela's skirt - slightly longer. Waistband of black wide elastic.
Megan's skirt. Yoke top made from black jersey and has 3/4" elastic at the waist (no zipper)

10 Tips for Sewing with Pre-ruffled Fabric:

1. Use simple designs, preferable with straight lines.  The easiest and best look is to cut a rectangle of fabric and add a waistband to the fabric.  Absolutely avoid darts or multiple seams.  Even a tapered tank was more design than this fabric could handle.

2.  Pin the ruffles in place prior to cutting as it’s really easy to remove a part of a ruffle that you’ll want later.

For this skirt, I sewed the elastic and then pinned the ruffles in place before cutting.

3. Because the backing fabric is made from nylon knit (think nylon stockings), it runs.  Avoid pulling the fabric.  Even removing stitches created runs in the fabric.

4.  Machine baste all seams before placing the final seam (yes, that means all).  I made the mistake of trying to sew the edging without basting first.  When I removed the stitching it was a real mess.

5. Plan for the garment to be longer than you desire.  Shortening is easy – just cut the nylon backing between the ruffles.  Couldn’t be easier.

Fabric back - easy to hem by cutting away what you don't need. No other finishing is required.

6. When cutting, match the stripes perfectly.

7. Plan for where the ruffles will land on the garment.  Here’s an example of a time when I cut away part of the ruffle.

Center front ruffle was cut away. Oops, but a little patch fixed it.

I have more, but since the hosting site isn’t cooperating, I’ll have more tips in the next post.  Stay tuned!

Post-publication note:  Part 2 is here

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.