Archive for the ‘sewing’ Category

Project #273 – Red Hat

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

A red hat! Designed for the desert! I have a little visor to keep the sun off of my nose and forehead, and it’s a bright enough color for Clark to find me if we get separated someplace crowded.

I do this sometimes, wear a bright, improbable color, when it comes to crowd situations. The first time I visited Japan, on my very first day, my husband (then my college boyfriend) took me to Tokyo Big Sight for the Comiket. The Comiket is the world’s largest Doujinshi convention and attracts about
half a million people each year. I had no idea what Comiket was or how many people would be there when I agreed to go. On my first day in Japan. Ever.

So, when we arrived we waited in a field in a block of oh…about 20,000 people waiting for there to be room in the building for us. When we were finally allowed to go in, we walked as a giant mass of people. And that’s all I could see: people, people, people. There was a massive staircase and people moved up it by the thousands, undulating like a wave. Inside was not much better. I don’t think I saw one piece of art through the thick, jostling crowd.

Luckily, I decided to wear a eye-bleedingly neon green striped sweater, so each time the crowd split us apart Clark was able to follow the green glow and find me again. So, we were separated again and again but each time he was able to find me, grab my shoulder or my hand, and eventually guide me to the other side of the convention center and out into the blessed, less crowded parts of Tokyo.

As a lesson from that day I tend to try to wear things that will help him find me if we go somewhere crowded. Cairo is crowded, I believe, so I think it will be a good idea to keep this hat handy.

Anyway, the pattern is Vogue 7981 and my full review is here.

By the way, Clark still apologizes for that first day.

Project #272 – Milk Carton Halloween Costume

Saturday, October 31st, 2009



I wish I could say that this Halloween costume was a last minute idea, but I put several hours over three days into making Clark’s costume extra craptacular.



Sticker lettering on felt is not the mark of quality.



Still, I like the structure and it’s something that I might use again.  I used drinking straws reinforced with wooden skewers as the basic structure.  They’re held together with paper clips.

Despite the less than stellar craftsmanship, most partygoers at the massive fete we attended got the joke.  Next time I will make room in my schedule for proper prototyping.

Project #271- Twist Front Shirt

Friday, October 30th, 2009

I finished my third piece for the wardrobe contest, a twisted knit shirt from Butterick 5429. The pattern, unlike the picture, sews up pretty loose, so I ended up taking out a few inches on the sides and front to get a more flattering fit.

The fabric I used for this shirt is a wonderful double knit cotton. It’s thick enough not to show my bra and but comfy and sporty. I want this fabric in every color.

Project #270 – Box-Pleated Skirt

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

The key to making almost any kind of zippered skirt without buying pattern after pattern is to start with a well fitted yoke. The yoke is the upper part of a skirt that fits over the hips. You can attach many, many kinds of skit to that (ruffled, pleated, flared, tiered, A-line, etc…) and each time end up with something that fits perfectly.

Usually, I’ll pull a yoke off of a skirt I like and then use that over and over again. Today’s yoke comes from one of my favorite Japanese pattern books. The skirt attached to it is box-pleated and has a black bottom border. I made it to wear while giving blood tomorrow, the colors are Halloween festive.

The pieces for this skirt are pretty simple: four yoke pieces (front, back, front facing and back facing), a big rectangle for the skirt cut to the width of the fabric, and a skinnier rectangle for the border, plus a zipper for the side.

The skirt construction is pretty straightforward.

  • First, I attached the border to the skirt, folding over the border in half and sewing it to itself at the skirt-border seam line to form the hem. I left a little folded over border facing open at the edges so that I could hide the side seam when I sewed the whole thing together.
  • After that, I sewed my back and front yoke pieces together on one side.
  • Next, I box pleated the skirt to the size of the yoke (spacing evenly) and basted the pleats in place.
  • Then I attached the skirt to the yoke, leaving one side open. I then sewed that side shut, using basting stitches for the upper 8 inches so I could add my zipper.
  • Lastly, I sewed in the zipper

I’m in love with the new line of bird-themed fabrics at IKEA. They’re reasonably priced for what you get and the designs are just fantastic this season. The chickens seem to like them, too.

Project #265 – Hourglass Jumper

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

I love reissued retro patterns. There is something about mid-20th century clothes that is so hard to find these days. Maybe it’s the solidness and shape of the clothes. It’s hard to replicate that using today’s construction technique and fabric-buying short cuts. There are a lot of darts and a lot of yardage in this dress and I just can’t image anyone taking the time.

Still, it’s a little like wearing armor. Wearing this kind of dress makes me want stand up and take charge of something. No one can push me around in a massive, tailored dress like this.

Project #263 – Genji Costume for Mary

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

My chicken Mary is special. Well, not “special”, but extraordinary. She’s not as big as her sisters and her feathers are a little more red than what is usual for a Rhode Island Red, but she also has a unique ability to tolerate having her picture taken. While Catherine and Elanor will peck and squawk when compelled to stay still, Mary takes it all in stride. Catherine and Elanor will walk immediately out of view range of my cacmera, but after being put back in place once or twice Mary will just stay and wait until you are done. She’s behaved this way ever since we adopted her as a wee chick.

I decided to press my luck today to see what we could accomplish with Mary’s unusual amount of patience. I decided to enter her in the New Yorker’s Critterati Contest, a competition to see whose pet makes the most convincing literary figure.

I swear that I’ve never dressed up a pet before; I’ve always felt bad for dogs in sweaters. Mary has never worn a hat before, at least not a real one. I don’t know, I felt…compelled to see if I could pull this off.

I decided to make a chicken-sized Genji Monogatari costume. There would only be two pieces needed to set the character and both were relatively easy to make. The hat took a few minutes to fashion out of felt and a rubber band. The robes were a cinch to make out of scrap fabric. The question would be whether they would fit and whether Mary would tolerate wearing them without freaking out.

I waited until nightfall; Mary is a lot more comfortable being handled after dark. Saralinda was on hand to assist and hold up the background. After some initial resistance, Mary acquiesced to wearing the costume.

She really knocked it out of the park. In fact, she did so well that I was kind of freaked out that she could stand still for that 5+ minutes while wearing something completely foreign to her. I took lots of shots while my friend Saralinda held a posterboard behind her.

We took a video just to show how still and regal she was. That, and to prove that we didn’t just Photoshop a hat onto a picture of a chicken. I ended up really apologetic because her stillness was just so eerie.

Of course, she was happy to toss off the costume herself the second we stopped taking pictures. She was compensated handsomely in the end.

*UPDATE* Mary was one of the winners chosen by the judges! Yay for Mary!

Project #262- Anti-Cold Corduroy Skirt

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

It’s time for another Make-A-Skirt Thursday! The weather has been turning chilly, so I’m switching to warmer fabrics, namely corduroy. It’s one of my favorite fabrics to work with. Despite its ability to keep out the winter chill, it’s also breathable and wearable in summer heat.

There are two things I love when it comes to skirts: A-line silhouettes and pockets. Simplicity 3754 has both, but the pleats under the pockets are a bit much for what I want, and I already have two skirts with that detail. So, I took the slim skirt and flared it out into the shape I had in mind.

I also plan to wear this skirt in conservative Egypt, so I lengthened the hemline a little. I edged the pockets in navy blue twill to give it a little character.


The back came together really well. The pointed yoke has been a pain in the past, but this is my third time with this pattern and I managed to get it right on the first try.

I put this skirt on as soon as I finished. It’s been cold in the house during the day, but we can save money on heat if I dress warmly. I think this skirt will probably pay for itself a few times over in gas bill savings.

Project #256 – Pillow Case

Friday, October 16th, 2009

There were some very lovely fabric stores in San Diego. I *heart* Rosie’s Calico Cupboard. It’s huge and crammed with lots of designs that I’ve never seen before, all nice 100% cotton. Clark even got into the spirit and purchased a yard of fabric in order to make a new pillow case.

I’m usually bad about mending things or making things he requests in a timely manner, so I made a concerted effort to give him what he wanted.

Pillow cases are one of the easiest things to make, ever. They’re just a rectangle sewn on three sides and then cuffed and hemmed on the remaining side. I made mine in about 20 minutes.

I used one of our old pillow cases to measure out my new one. Unfortunately, one yard is not quite enough to cut out a case with the butterflies flying in the correct directions. Our butterflies look a little disoriented.

When you measure out your fabric make sure to cut a few extra inches on one end for the cuff. After you sew up the three sides, just fold up the extra twice and sew it in place.

Oh, I should note that I used a serger to finish my seam edges. I would recommend using some kind of seam finish so that the case won’t unravel when it gets thrown into the wash.

Project #255 – Canvas Circle Skirt

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

I love making circle skirts when I have fabric that is at least 59 inches across. They can be cut in just one piece if you buy two yards. That means that just the waist and hem need to be finished in order to leave you with a finished garment.

Plus, circle skirts are great. Swish. Swish. Swish.

[I shortsightedly forgot to take pictures of the process of making this skirt. If the directions aren't clear, they're very similar to my illustrated ones for a circle skirt template.]

Cutting out a circle skirt isn’t hard. You’ll just need a yardstick, some chalk and a little patience. First, fold your fabric to find the center point. Mark that.

Now, if you have two yards of fabric, it should be 72 inches long and (ideally) about 59 inches wide. If you want to go for the maximum length*, then mark the edge of the fabric 29.5 inches across the width in one direction and 29.5 inches in the other. Now, mark 29.5 inches from the center across the length at a 90 degree angle from the two width-wise marks. Do that again for the opposite end. Now you will have a center mark and four additional ones laid out in a ‘+’ shaped configuration. Make some more marks to fill in the edge of your circle, pivoting the yardstick around the center mark and going out 29.5 inches. Cut along your marks.

Now you have a giant flat circle that needs the center cut out so you can actually wear it. Measure yourself at your hips. This will be at least how wide the skirt must be so that you can step into it to put it on. To figure out how big it should be I used the circumference equation, circumference = 2πr. I substituted my hip size for the circumference and solved for r and got about 6 inches, so my diameter will be 12 inches. I cut the smaller circle out using the same center point technique as the outer circle.

Fold down the edge of the inner circle to form a casing for elastic. Clip if you need a little give to make the casing lay flat, sort of making shallow sun rays from the inner circle. Sew in place, leaving a 1 inch opening. String narrow elastic through the casing and adjust so that the skirt sits comfortably at your waist; give yourself a little breathing room. Clip the extra elastic and sew the ends together. Tuck the elastic into the casing and sew the 1 inch opening shut.

Finally, just the hem is left. Folding up fabric to make a hem on a circle skirt is always kind of a pain. It’s always annoying tying to ease in the excess fabric from the edge and it’s usually about nine yards of sewing. No thanks. Instead, my edge finish of choice is bias tape. It adds a little contrast and no easing is necessary.

If you’re not familiar with sewing with bias tape I learned how to apply it properly from this tutorial.

*I always recommend going for the maximum length at first. It’s easy to remove excess length, but not vice versa.

Project #241 – Striped Shirt

Monday, September 28th, 2009

There is something about this shirt that gives me an acute case of ‘I don’t wannas’. I managed to get it to a state of near completion, but I just can’t get myself to finish the bottom hem and add buttons. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this shirt, but every time I look at it I get the urge to clean the kitchen, or cut out a pair of pants, or do anything but work on this project.

This is the exact opposite of how I usually prioritize household tasks. My normal mode of operation is to perform tasks that can be accomplished easily so that I can give myself a check mark on my to-do list. So, it’s not the most efficient scheme, but it’s one that maximizes my self-satisfaction. This shirt is a good example of a low hanging fruit, one that shouldn’t take more than an hour to complete, but self motivation is lacking.

I’m going to put this one aside and take a break from it. Perhaps the urge to complete it will return later when I’m trying to avoid something else.