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.

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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!





Teaching Mira to Sew: Chapter 2

A Hand Crank Machine isn’t the Answer

Teaching a child to sew isn’t something I have expertise in, so my efforts with GD Mira are somewhat of an experiment.  Like many experiments or sewing projects there are successes and failures.

Several months ago I proudly blogged about 8-year-old Mira’s first attempt at machine sewing with her mother’s sewing machine.  Sewing lesson #2 was several weeks ago, which from my perspective wasn’t as successful.  Her viewpoint may have been different as the quilt she’s making is now 16 squares and she continues to be quite proud of her accomplishment.

Proud as Punch

Here’s the story.  Several months ago I bought a Singer Spartan vintage sewing machine for $9.95 with the hope of replacing the motor with a hand crank.  Through a series of unrelated events, this too heavy to be mailed machine was transported from Philly to Mira’s house in Wisconsin.  Prior to our visit several weeks ago I ordered a hand crank for the machine (this little attachment was surprisingly heavy for the size of the wheel – I guess maybe that’s the point).

In case you’re wondering if it’s difficult to convert to a hand crank, it took our technically inclined SIL Stephen about 5 minutes to remove the motor and install the crank.

My thinking behind this was that it would be easy for Mira to use a hand crank machine independently – much like a child’s sewing machine. Additionally I thought possibly the hand-crank machine would make it possible for Caitlin to sew as well – after all if big sister does it, so will Caitlin.  It turned out that I was a little off-base on this thought process.

The hand crank was actually difficult for her to maneuver; needing to turn the crank with one hand and guide the fabric with the other was difficult.  Maybe the tension wasn’t set correctly or the needle was too large but at times, the needle didn’t go through the fabric easily which made it even tougher for Mira.  She felt much more competent when she used the electric machine, which she could do without my assistance.

On the other hand, this was a great solution for Caitlin, who now has 4 pieces sewn together.  She loved turning the crank while I held the fabric.

In this case, higher tech was better.  Next time I’ll pull out the electric machine for Mira and will tag-team with Caitlin to use the hand-crank.  This experiment didn’t work as I anticipated but then how would I know if I hadn’t given it a try?

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.”

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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.

Sewing for the girls…..

This holiday season was a sewing delight.  In addition to the usual holiday outfits for Mira and Caitlin, lots of winter leggings, muffs (or hand slippers as Mira called them) and a few miscellaneous pieces of clothing were lovingly sewed for the girls in my life.

Caitlin in her new swirly dress
Proud Mira sewed her stuffed dog

In addition there were the pettiskirts for my grandneices.  With lots of fluff and in bright colors There was a lot of swirling when they opened their gifts.

And for the big girls – for my MIL there were several knit tops in her favorite style, a felted wool jersey top for Angela (oldest daughter) and for both daughters, cashmere scarfs which were felted and re-fashioned from my favorite thrift shop. What fun it was.  Most delightful of all was seeing Mira hand-sew a stuffed dog which she received for a gift.  The photo is priceless.

Muffs (aka hand slippers)
Megan in her cashmere scarf
Angela in her cashmere scarf

Now it’s time to start sewing for Megan’s June wedding.