Archive for the ‘sewing’ Category

Project #119 – Parasol Dress

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

I have four weddings and two high school reunions to attend this year, all out of state, which means that most of our disposable income will be going to pay for plane tickets, gifts, food, and…umm I think there is at least one mandatory bachelor party in there, so yes, some of our money will probably be going to strippers. Sigh. Good bye vacation days and money.

So, this means that I need to spend as little money as possible on clothes, and therefore I need to work with what I’ve got. Luckily, I’ve already got a substantial stockpile of silks and prints that are wedding-appropriate and pass the strict no black (Unsupportive!), no white (Upstaging the bride!), no red (Hussy!) wedding dress code. Though I do believe that these rules are outdated and I don’t fault anyone else for wearing any of these colors, there is some deep neurosis in me that keeps my brain beeping “MUST. FOLLOW. OLD. TIMEY. WEDDING. RULES!” Though I will tell the bride ‘congratulations’ because the logic behind not saying it (‘Congratulations’ is supposed to imply man-trapping.) is just absurd.

The pattern for today’s dress is a vintage reprint from 1960, B6582. I’ve made view B before, but at a size too small as you can probably tell from the picture. This try, of view C, turned out much better, probably because I’ve learned a lot about fitting in the last year. The fabric is a little loud, but probably appropriate for the (likely wacky) wedding celebration I’ll be attending this Saturday.

Yardage Countdown to buying more fabric:

1 yard – Yellow T-shirt
2 yards – Hiking Skirt
1.5 yards – Office Shirt
3.5 yards – Parasol Dress
Total: 8 yards
Remaining: 22 yards

Project #118 – Office Shirt

Monday, May 4th, 2009

I’ve spent the last week wearing nothing but home made clothes just so I could get an idea of what kinds of things I’m missing. I have plenty of skirts and daytime dresses, but I’m definitely short on shirts, especially the kind I can wear to work. I’ve had a copy of Simplicity 2614 for a few weeks, and a quick shirt without any zippers or buttons sounded good for a shirt that I need to complete in one evening.

Actually, standing with my hands on my hips makes this shirt look a little less boxy than what it is, but what more could I expect from a shirt with no buttons or zippers? Anyway, it all works itself out when stashed under a cardigan.

Okay, my fabric stash is starting to turn into a subject of embarrassment. The corner that it occupies in the living room just grows and grows and grows and it’s threatening our furniture. I need to do something about it, so I am banned from buying any fabric until I sew a total of 30 yards, which I’m going to try to adhere to for once. Muuuuust…beeeeee…FRUGAL!

I’m going to count my hiking outfit from yesterday and the day before so here is the current total:

1 yard – Yellow T-shirt
2 yards – Hiking Skirt
1.5 yards – Office Shirt
Total: 4.5 yards
Remaining: 25.5 yards

That’s a good start, three garments in three days. I won’t be able to hold off from fabric buying forever, so I might try to make a week out of this, though I’ll have take a day off in order to complete a wedding gift. I’m going to try hard to get it under 20 by the end of the week.

Project #117 – Sunnny Yellow T-Shirt

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

I made a whole outfit for hiking and then didn’t go. At first, we were reluctant to go because it was raining, and then we got too embedded in the afternoon’s activities to be much interested in going outside.

Still, I love the bright, sunny color. It’s a shade that’s bound to be easy to find in the woods, a plus should I take a tumble down a gully. The fabric came from the knits floor in Tokyo’s Tomato fabric store. I was a little apprehensive about using the last bits of such a nice cotton interlock. It’s going to be a long, long time until I will be able to get more.

The pattern is an old favorite, V2925. It only takes about an hour and a half to sew this shirt, and that’s including the time to rethread the serger at least five times. It didn’t seem to know what to make of the light, airy cotton knit and broke a thread every time I adjusted the tension.

Project #116 – Pattern-Free Hiking Skirt

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009

I believe that skirts shouldn’t be saved just for church and the office, and they certainly don’t have to be uncomfortable and restrictive. I wear skirts while doing yard work and skirts while helping friends move. It might be a little eccentric, but a good knee-length skirt looks much more flattering on my pear-shaped body (Thanks for the big butt, Cuba!) than a pair or shorts or most pants. Plus, the right skirt is more comfortable than pants. Almost all of my skirts are designed so that I can squat in them, leap in them, and run in them. Usually, my casual skirts are made of tougher materials like denim or corduroy. Of course, I always wear a pair of shorts underneath for modesty’s sake and so that I can do all that squatting and lifting without worrying about showing people London or France. I’m happy to say that I haven’t worn pants for two weeks, and if I play my cards right I won’t wear them at all until October.

So, the plan is to go hiking tomorrow at McConnell’s Mill Park. The trails are a little rougher and narrower than most of the state parks around here, but because it is an hour north it is like traveling a week back in time, season wise. I would like another chance to see the tree blooms.

I designed today’s skirt to stand up to the terrain, but it was already late so I needed something I could make in an hour or so. I used about 1.5 yards of gray denim. Basically, the skirt is a big trapezoid (two, actually!) with a slightly curved top and bottom. The top is the width of my fanny, plus a few inches, so that I can take it on and off easily. The height is the distance from my waist to my knee, plus a few inches for the casing of the elastic at the top and the hem at the bottom. The bottom can be as wide as you want it; mine is about 1.5 times the length of the top.

The waist is 1 inch elastic. As I’ve said before, I used to be anti-elastic (too sweatpanty!), but I changed my tune when I realized that I will inevitably get fatter as I age and it would be nice to have clothes on hand that still fit.

Oh, and my skirt also has pockets, which are optional, I talk about how to insert them here. Pockets are the best; you won’t regret it if you add some.

After cutting out your pieces, lay your two trapezoids like sides together and sew up the sides, accounting for pockets, if you have any. Next, roll down a casing at the waist a little larger than your elastic and stitch it into place, leaving two inch opening. Insert your elastic and once you have it in place stitch it together and clip the excess. Sew up the opening. Hem. (Confession: I have not hemmed my skirt yet.) Fini!

Project #109 – DIY Green Screen

Friday, April 24th, 2009

I used a green screen to do a lot of the art for my wedding. We made the first one out of green paper from office depot and taped it to the wall in the dining room. Despite being paper, it lasted for a few months with minor repairs. Sadly, by the time the wedding came and went the screen was too tattered to do much and I tossed it as part of spring cleaning.

Still, it would be nice to have a longer lasting green screen solution. This week cheapo poly-cotton fabric went on sale and I bought enough to make a screen at least 7 feet tall with a little extra for standing on.

The fabric was only 45 inches wide, so I sewed a second panel to the side to make it 65 inches wide. The pole came from the hardware store. I sewed a single line of stitching to create a sleeve at the top of the green screen for the pole, a hardware store purchase. I fastened a thick string to both ends of the pole for hanging and kept it from slipping with the application of tacks.

This new screen flutters with the breeze, unlike the old one. When the fabric catches the light it changes in brightness, which can be problematic when removing the background. Still, I was able to remove all of the green after just a few minutes for a test image. Plus, I like how portable and easy to install this screen is. The paper green screen would never have survived a trip outside.

Project #108 – Tanuki Skirt

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

It’s finally warm enough so that I’ve been able to spend the last week wearing dresses and skirts instead of pants. I dunno, skirts, at least the kind I like, are just more comfy. I spent yesterday evening squatting over the garden bed pulling out weeds between the rain showers. I always wear a pair of shorts under any skirt, so there is no danger of me flashing anyone. Still, the neighbors must think that I am a little eccentric.

I finished turning my tanuki embroidery into a skirt for this Make-A-Skirt Thursday. The fabric is a nice medium weight linen, so it’s sturdy enough for an errand-running skirt. I used my new favorite wardrobe pattern, B5335.

The bottom hem is the perpendicular edge of the fabric. It’s been woven in such a way that it will not unravel, but it still looks a little raw and rustic. I’m not sure if I’m in love with the effect, but I might be too lazy to put in a real hem.

It’s still a little plain, so I’m thinking about adding more embroidery. I’ll be hand washing it anyway, so extra embellishment won’t make a difference.

Project #104 – T-Shirt Dress

Monday, April 20th, 2009

I managed to get through sewing all of this dress except for one seam before I started dinner last night. I’m still getting over a nasty head cold so by the time I finished burning the chicken I just wanted to put down my spoon, lay down on the kitchen floor and go to sleep. So, I went to bed without eating dinner and without finishing my dress.

If I had to choose between one or the other it would have been a tough call. I like food, but I also like new dresses, they take the sting out of Mondays.

Knit dresses are one of my favorite ways to scratch an itch for a new dress. They’re fast and the good ones are as comfortable as a pair of pajamas. However, good patterns for knit dresses are sometimes few and far between. My solution is usually to take a pattern for a t-shirt, lower the hem and widen from the hips downward. Today’s dress was a longer version of last Tuesday’s green t-shirt, B5335.

The lengthening process is pretty straightforward. Simply measure the distance between your waist and your desired length and add that amount to the pattern pieces, front and back, with your ruler starting at the waist.

I’ve converted a few other patterns from shirts to dresses. These two are my favorites:

V2925: This pattern is only two pieces, which is fantastic.

S3835: I added darts to the back of the dress to give it some shape. I made it for my birthday last year.

Project #99 – Green Cotton T-Shirt

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

This shirt took 30 minutes to make, minus the hand stitching around the neckline and hem. That’s half an hour to cut out the pieces, sew them together, and take a snack break. I can see why t-shirts are so cheap and plentiful; they’re comfy, versatile, and probably take less than 10 minutes for a professional to make.

I was talking to some friends about clothing construction a few months back and it dawned on me that most people still think that clothes are made by big machines where people dump fabric in on one end and finished garments come out the other. It’s like talking to suburban kids who have never seen a farm and think spaghetti grows on trees. Nope, there just aren’t machines precise and talented enough to do real sewing without a person pushing on the petal. I used to imagine the the pattern pieces would just be stamped out by machine, but now I know there are always people on staff who do nothing but cut fabric in any clothing factory. So it’s really not that different from sewing a t-shirt at home, except that the sewing machines are much bigger and faster.

It’s weird for such a simple garment, but it’s tough to find a pattern that fits just right on the first try, especially one that fits lady curves. I like the raglan sleeve and the high neckline on this pattern. I reminds me of a t-shirt I had years ago and loved, but lost in a chaotic move. It’s from B5335, which is turning into one of my new favorite wardrobe patterns. I think I might adapt this into a dress pattern next.

Project #90 – Yellow and Black Dress

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

It was so windy today that I got knocked down twice by particularly nasty gusts while trying to weed the garden. I’ll take any sign that tells me to stop weeding and do something else. It’s a chore that never fails to leave me cranky and grumpy.

I’ve made yet another dress this year that will have to wait in the closet a few days for more pleasant weather. I heard that there was a good chance of sleet and snow tomorrow. Winter flips one final bird at the city before departing for a few months every April. When I first moved here I would usually fall for the first few warm days of spring and plant my doomed seedlings too early and put away my winter clothes. This, of course, would explain my complete inability to grow cucumbers or melons year after year, because when I say ‘when I first moved here’ that included everything up until a few months ago. Still, I’m not going to fall for it this year and I won’t have a late frost yank the football out from under me.

Still, I’m prepared for the hot days ahead. Cotton and billowy skirts are a definite win for people who live in homes without air conditioning.

I lost the second page of directions to this pattern, so I ended up guessing. I think it’s a sign of my improved skills as a seamstress that for once I didn’t end up with three sleeves, or an upside down skirt for once. Small victories are nice.

Project #82 – Fibonacci Petticoat

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

It’s Thursday again and time for another skirt. Yay! I’ve made a few underskirts this year already; they’re great for guarding against the winter chill, but they’ll be stifling by the time May rolls around. Today I made a short, single layer petticoat that will be more comfortable in warmer temperatures. This skirt is made from strips of cloth so no store-bought pattern is necessary. You’ll just need a ruler, scissors and something to mark cutting lines on the fabric.

As I mentioned before, I prefer to use the Fibonacci sequence to help determine how much fabric will go into each of the skirt tiers. I decided to do six really short tiers so that I would be able to get the maximum volume for my single layer (I do double and triple layered petticoats for winter). The sum of the first six non-zero Fibonacci numbers is 20 (1+1+2+3+5+8). I measured out my two yards of cloth and cut it into the 20 strips I would need.

Here are the strips folded into quarters so you can see the fabric breakdown for each tier. Almost half will go to the bottom tier.

I sewed the strips for each tier together into a ring and serged the edges so I can throw the whole thing into the washing machine without worrying. If you don’t have a serger you can use a zig-zag stitch or bias tape to protect the raw fabric edges.

It took about an hour and a half to serge the edges of the fabric pieces and stitch each tier together. I was so bored that I calculated how many miles of cloth my serger can sew in an hour as I watched it plod through each tier. It can stitch about 3 yards of fabric per minute and about a tenth of a mile in an hour. Oh, and I had to stop and rethread the machine twice, which is the worst. Above is a picture of the pile of fabric I shaved off when I serged the edges of the fabric. Oy!

I’m going to wear the finished project underneath my dress for the concert tomorrow. I volunteered to work the merchandise booth at the Good Night, States show, so I thought I would wear something cute. I always volunteer when someone from the band asks because I like being guaranteed my own chair. I ♥ sitting!