Monday, September 6, 2010

Dot Dress & Hiatus

My end of summer project was McCall's 5845, a fairly basic sheath dress with a low back that will be great for work.  I've had this dot fabric since I started sewing but was never sure what to make with it.  This dot top/black skirt combination reminds me of (and was probably unknowingly inspired by) Assorted Notions' version of the coffee date dress.
The only thing I changed from the pattern was to raise the back about 3 inches so that it will cover my bra.  Unfortunately I didn't think to check this before cutting out the back but luckily I had plenty of leftover fabric and was able to cut new pieces.  I fully lined the dress (it looks a little hybrid because I used an old dress lining for the skirt portion and made the top new).  I attached the invisible zipper by hand--it did take forever but I love the result!
This is my first time doing slant pockets and I really like them.  I didn't have a pattern but had checked out a few dresses with pockets like this at Ann Taylor and figured they would be easy enough to make...and they were!  This will probably be my new go-to pocket as I'm finding that side seam pockets on fitted skirts tend to splay open too much.
My next project for the fall is a jacket inspired by this one from Gap.  This will be my first attempt at sleeves and buttonholes so it will be quite a project.

This will probably be my last post for a while as I'm starting a part-time master's program next week while continuing my full time job.  Between school and work I won't have much spare time to spend on sewing, but any projects I do manage to complete I'll post here!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Sleeping Shorts

I was lucky enough to inherit a bunch of fabric from a friend whose mother's friend was cleaning out her sewing closest.  Most of the pieces are small (1/2 yard or less) of quilting fabric but a lot of fun patterns and everything came neatly folded so how could I turn them down?!  Most of them will probably sit in my sewing closet until it needs to be cleaned out, and those that I use will be for linings or pockets or testing ideas (like French seaming in-seam works!).  There is actually a fair bit of this cute purple flower fabric, probably a little over a yard, and I thought it would be the perfect print for sleeping shorts.  I did have plans to make some make-shift bias tape out of another patterned fabric but these ended up coming together around 12:30 one night and hemming was just so much easier!
I used this tutorial from MADE with almost no modifications.  The only thing I changed was the length (I just copied some sleeping shorts I already had) and I skipped the elastic around the waist and just used the drawstring.  I must not have added enough allowance on the top because my casing ended up being fairly narrow and I was having a really tough time getting the elastic through.  When I had it about halfway through I realized that there was no way the drawstring would fit with the elastic in, and since the shorts weren't too loose I didn't really need elastic to hold them up, so I went with drawstring only.

I really love this pattern and plan on making a few more sleeping shorts (or pants) for myself with my fabric stash.  It will also be very useful come the holidays as I'm always stumped about what to sew for guys.  But what guy doesn't love a good pair of pajama pants...perhaps in a nice pink floral?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tie-Front Top

I've been wanting to make a tie-front top for quite a while, since trying one on at Ann Taylor (not available anymore) and seeing this cute dress version from Very Purple Person.  So I scooped up McCall's 5884 at a Joann's sale a few weeks ago and found a great cotton shirting on clearance.  The fabric is very very tiny checks and pale green, not a color I wear a lot but it's so pale it almost becomes an off-white.
I love how the shirt turned out and am so glad I checked out Pattern Review before making it--according to almost all of the reviews the front is cut way too low, and I followed their advice and raised the front neckline almost 3-4 inches.  Thank goodness I did: if I hadn't the keyhole formed by the slit and the tied tie would have been down at my belly button!
I used a new technique (for me) to finish the armholes: bias binding.  I sort of followed Amanda's instructions but I didn't look at them until after I'd sewn the bias tape onto the raw edge, sandwiching it.  The fold under and sew took me a couple of tries but I followed her advice and used lots of pins and went really slowly and pulled the fabric as much as possible and I think it looks great!

I'm so happy with my tie-front shirt and am excited to have mastered the bias binding technique.  After cutting this only took me about 4 hours to complete--and it probably would have been 3 if I'd gotten the armholes right the first time!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Chinchilla Bag

This was my little brother's birthday present--he turned 23, not 5, but I think he liked it anyway!  I just made a simple tote bag with lining (its actually reversible since there are no pockets in case he's embarrassed by the orange chinchilla) and did a giant applique chinchilla on the front (he and his girlfriend have the cutest black velvet chin).

Friday, May 28, 2010

J.Crew Look-A-Like T-Shirt

There are so many embellished t-shirt tutorials out there and this one is so easy I almost didn't post it...but I love the way it turned out (in only 5 easy steps!)

I copied this J.Crew t-shirt:
1) Get an extra long t-shirt (mine is from H&M and cost $5).  Decide where you actually want it to hit and cut off the bottom (leaving an extra 3/4-1" for the hem).
2) Hem the bottom (I folded twice but once I did it I realized I really only needed to do it once since the jersey won't fray).
3) Cut the bottom piece into 3 strips of the same length (more or less) and decreasing in width about 1/4" for each one. You'll want to cut off the old hem as well.
4) Ruffle the strips and gather them to approximately 9" long.
5) Stack the ruffles and pin and sew to the shirt in the same position as the J-Crew one.  I highly recommend trying it on while pinned to make sure you like the placement.
Now just press and you're done!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


My last few projects have either been from patterns or too straightforward for tutorials.  I made my first (successful) shirt from a pattern, Vogue 8495.
I love the yoke top and especially the sleeves (well way the should piece extends out to a point)!  This fabric is actually the Liberty of London scarf from Target.  They've been getting such great reviews and they're big enough to make shirts!  I got both patterns but haven't decided yet what to do with the darker one.
 My other pattern project was this bag from Lotta Jansdotter's Simple Sewing.  I used another pattern from this book for a gardening tote, and had a bit of a tough time following the written instructions with very few illustrations.  But after having done one pattern from her book I found this one much easier to follow and it took surprisingly little time to complete!
The strip of bias tape here is actually the opening of an outer pocket where you can put a magazine or newspaper.
I used a little of my favorite ginko fabric for the inside pocket.
I also made another skirt/shirt to dress creation.  The top I got at Target on clearance and the skirt came from a Betsy Johnson dress that I found at a thrift store years ago and could only wear as a swim suit cover up since it was huge!  I love the color combination and the dress is very comfy!
And finally now that I've been sewing for 8 months I decided to organize my fabric closet (instead of having piles of fabric hidden around the house in various bags and boxes like some very bizarre squirrel).  I doubt it'll last long but it looks great now!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Shoe Makeover 2.0

My original shoe makeover ended up being a bit of a disaster: the glue gun was not as powerful as I'd expected and I lost one decoration on the train a few days after I made it.  Luckily the original gemstones had been sewn on so there were already holes in the leather that I could sew through.  I whipped up these flowers (using an upholstery sample--no fraying!) and had whole new shoes in less than 30 minutes!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Easy As Pie Dress

I love skirts and dresses and wear them pretty much every day during the summer.  These dresses that look like a shirt and skirt seem like a great middle ground and a wonderful shortcut for those mornings when I have no time and nothing to wear.  Plenty of tutorials have been done about these (Grosgrain, Little Red Roost, Presser Foot has one coming up) and they're so simple you don't even really need one!
I used the standby Freshly Picked skirt tutorial to make mine (I wanted pockets).  I also added a lining, made the same as the skirt without the pockets.  Then it was just a quick two steps to attach the skirt to the elastic and the elastic to the shirt!  I used this great top from Target that I got last weekend (can't find in online).  Most of the other dresses I've seen in this style have been made from tank tops but I prefer real tops especially since I'm looking to add these to my work rotation.
To be completely honest I totally screwed the skirt up the first time I did it.  I didn't want it to be too poofy so I used much less fabric than I should have.  On top of that I lowered the pockets (for absolutely no reason) so I ended up with a too tight skirt with pockets hitting at my upper thigh!  Needless to say I spent a lot of time with the seam ripper, cursing my love of French seams.  Once everything was apart I just added an extra panel to each side, and with the busy pattern you don't even notice the extra seams!

This is definitely a quick and easy way to get a new dress, and even redo an old shirt you don't wear much anymore.  For the next one I want to do something like this (although with a lower waist).  I looked at it at the store and there is (small width) elastic only on the back where the skirt and shirt meet, and the tie is only sewn in on the front.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Boat Top

It's been quite a while since I've posted, but that's only because I've been working on presents that can't be seen yet!  One of them is this dress that I made for my brother's girlfriend.  The fabric is from Spool and is really soft.  I love how it turned out, although I'll need to make some adjustments for it to fit her.
But back to the main reason for this post: I decided one night after work that I'd like to make another top from scratch, now that I'm a bit more familiar with shapes and darts.  I'm also getting ready to make the coffee date dress and wanted to try out an all in one lining.  I used a shirt from H&M to get an idea of the pattern and just cut around it.
I wasn't really sure how to figure out where the darts should go, so I just approximated how far down from the armhole they should be, and how far in they should go (next time I'll have them go a little further in). 
Then I sewed one side together (with French seams), cut out the facing pieces and sewed them together at one side.  Next, following these instructions from Grosgrain's Frock by Friday Sew Along, I sewed the facing to the shirt, right sides together, everywhere except the top of the arms.  Then I understiched where possible (sewed the seam allowance to the facing), and notched the curves.
Next came the fun part of figuring out how to sew the arms together at the top.  I really have no idea how to explain it.  I just followed Grosgrain's instructions, thinking the whole time that there was no way this could work, but magically it did!  I'm so excited about this new technique--its not really complicated, you just need to do it once to understand how it works.

I finished the shirt with a French seam on the other side.  I realized after making the darts that I had cut both front and back pieces the same length, but with the darts the front was significantly shorter.  I didn't want to waste any material in the hem as it was already just the right length, so I used this great tutorial from Adventures in Dressmaking to add a hem facing.

I love my crazy geometric boat shirt!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Spring Skirt

I found this amazing fabric on sale at Joann's a few months ago and thought it would make a really cute spring skirt.  I used this Cynthia Rowley pattern for Simplicity--it has a nice high, defined waist and pockets (although now that I found this tutorial I can add pockets to anything!)
This was my first use of an invisible zipper and I didn't really understand the instructions so kind of messed it up (instead of it being completely invisible you can see the stitching around the sides).  But that's ok--the pattern is so busy you really don't notice.  Also if you look closely in the back the two sides don't line up--oops!
From cutting to finishing the skirt only took me a couple of hours--its so cute and easy I'm sure I'll make more, although maybe with a bit less volume.
I also wanted to share some better pictures of the first skirt I made:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Old Lady Shoe Makeover

I have the hardest time finding spring/summer shoes that are comfy and cute.  I love slip-on/ballet flat style shoes but lately I've noticed that the lack of support makes my feet ache by the end of the day.  I found these shoes at T.J.Maxx for a very reasonable price.  I like the shape and support but hate the awful fake gemstone things.
So I decided to make them over and was inspired by these shoes:
Blume leather ballet flats from J.Crew

I cut off the stones and made a miniature version of the flower corsage from Made by Lex.  Using my brand new mini glue gun I glued it to the top of the shoe.
The best part of this makeover is that if I get sick of this color/style (or it gets dirty) I can just pull it off and put on something new!  I like this ruffle option as well:

And I think that one large flower with few petals, like the one on this headband, would work well also:
Large flower headband by Made by Lex

Now I'm ready for the 80 degree weather this weekend!
PS-After wearing these shoes out one day the fraying got out of control so I sealed the edges with a candle.
PPS-After having worn these for a couple of days I realized that the glue is not enough to keep the fabric on the shoe (the roses however are still firmly attached to the strip of fabric).  There are holes in the leather where the original decorations were sewn on, so I did a few hand stitches to secure the flowers.