Wednesday, February 24, 2010

UPDATE--Next Project: Spring Dress from Simplicity Pattern

I've almost finished this dress (just need to add the sleeves and hem the bottom) and I've been really disappointed by the pattern.  It was impossible to understand the directions as to how to attach the pockets so I just ended up making something up on my own.  It worked fine but they don't lay as flat as I'd like.  I have, however, discovered my new favorite sewing trick: binding tape!  I'd never used it much before but had a packet lying around and decided to use it on the hems with the zipper, since the fabric was fraying a lot and kept getting caught in the zipper.  It makes it look so nice and finished!  I ended up putting it around the neckline as well (I had some problems with the liner) but I'm not sure yet if I like it...I'll have to wait until the sleeves are on to know for sure.  It'll end up being a cute dress but I'm glad I'd already used a dress pattern before, otherwise I would have been completely lost!

As I've mentioned a few times recently I kind of went overboard at the last Joann's sale and got a bunch of patterns and fabric.  My next project will be this dress with the sweetheart collar and cap sleeves (just like the picture on the left, but probably without the buttons.)  I love pockets in dresses and am really excited to learn how to make them!
I cut out the pattern pieces Monday night (even though I'm a 4/6 in real life I appear to be a 12/14 in pattern world!) and cut all the fabric last night so I'm ready to start sewing!  I'm using a great Simply Silky print from Joann that was 50% off on top of already being on's a large print that kind of looks like brushstrokes in blue, brown, purple and yellow (hard to describe but very cute).  I realized after cutting the fabric that I didn't allow for matching the pattern where the 2 parts of the back meet, so hopefully it won't look weird!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Marc Jacobs-inspired Rosette Jersey Skirt

I love this skirt!  It was really simple to make: the only time-consuming part was making the flowers and even that was made easier by the fact that everything is jersey, so you don't have to finish anything!  I used a heavy weight jersey for the skirt itself since I wanted it to be warm enough to wear this winter, and a light jersey for the flowers, so they were easy to sew.  The only real problem I ran in to had to do with the shape of the skirt, and that was easily fixed.

I started by cutting 3 rectangles: 1 for the body and 2 for the top and bottom.  Here was where I messed up: I didn't think about the fact that I didn't want the skirt to be the same width at the waist as as the bottom.  As you can see in the actual picture it's more of an A-line, although a slight one.
To fix my mistake I ended up adding a triangular panel in the back that added about 6" to the bottom hem, but kept the top the same width.  Here's what it looked like when I was getting ready to attach it to the rectangular panel:
This problem could have been avoided if I'd stopped to think and either a) cut a large rectangle as wide as the bottom needed to be or b) cut a trapezoid.  But this worked just fine and you don't really notice the back panel.
Here were the final measurements for my 3 main pieces:
Body panel: 36"x15" plus triangle 6"x15"
Top piece: 36"x5"
Bottom piece: 42"x5"

Next it was time to ruffle and pin and sew and ruffle and pin and sew...35 flowers total!!!  I cut the strips 24" long and about 1/2"-3/4" wide.  I didn't worry about them all being exactly the same thickness or exactly the same length once ruffled.  Once the strips were ruffled I pinned them to the skirt, using as many pins as possible to keep them in place while I sewed them on.
This part was definitely slow going.  I would recommend putting the rosettes as close together as possible...touching or almost overlapping.  I left a small space between each of mine and when the skirt is on it stretches and they're further apart.

Once all of the rosettes has been sewed on came the easy final steps: attaching the bottom and top.  I couldn't tell on the original but I thought that they looked thicker so I decided to fold the fabric in half and have strips of about 2 inches (although after trying them on once pinning I preferred a slightly smaller piece on the bottom, about 1.5").  This also had the added advantage of not having to do any hems!  I just folded the long piece in half lengthwise (wrong sides together) laid them on the body of the skirt (right sides together) sewed together with a stretch stitch and trimmed off any extra!  Finally I folded the skirt in half (right sides together) and stitched up the last hem--I just used a straight stitch for this since the skirt won't be stretching lengthwise.

A word about working with stretch fabrics: think long and hard before you cut about which way the skirt will be stretching.  Twice I cut too soon only to realize that the fabric was stretching lengthwise, not along the width as I wanted it to.  I'm sure this is something you get the hang of the more you work with fabrics like jersey but I'm not quite there yet.

I can't wait for the "warm" weather this week (45 degrees!) to wear my new skirt!

Update: After pressing the hems I realized that the waist of this skirt is way too big.  The flowers make the skirt fairly heavy so you need a pretty tight waist (using the jersey's natural stretch) to hold it up well.  I'll do some re-hemming of the back hem or maybe some darts tonight to fix it.

Up next: Joann's just had a huge sale and I got a bunch of patters and fabrics--more spring/summer appropriate but it'll get warmer soon, right?  I also have another shirt makeover in the works that should be up soon.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

UPDATE--Coming Soon: Marc Jacobs-inspired Rosette Jersey Skirt

It's now Thursday and I'm still working on this skirt.  I've gotten almost half of the body covered (as you can see below).  In addition to the making of the ruffle strips and pinning and sewing taking longer than I thought, I ran out of black thread and decided after pinning half of them to switch to a thicker jersey for the skirt itself!  But after a "quick" trip to Joann's (they were having an amazing sale and now I have so many more projects to do!) I'm back on track and will hopefully be done by this weekend.
I had a bunch of black jersey lying around so I started looking online for inspiration and came across this Marc by Marc Jacobs skirt at Bloomingdale's.  I think its adorable and I've already gotten started on the ruffles for the flowers.  I should have a tutorial up soon!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Snow Day Sweater Dress Makeover

The record-setting snow storm that hit the mid-Atlantic this week gave me 2 snow days (!!!) and plenty of time to work on my newest project--except for the 3 hours we lost power Wednesday afternoon.  The snow was absolutely beautiful but after the 15 inches we had last weekend I wasn't even tempted to go out and play.
I've had this gray sweater dress from Express for about 3-4 years now and it's always bothered me to wear it.  I always get compliments when I do but its so overwhelmingly gray and the long sleeves annoy me, plus its kind of itchy.  I decided to spruce it up and change the neckline, since boat collars don't really work for me.
I based the idea for the new shape of the dress on this Butterick pattern (that I own but haven't made yet).  I obviously really like this purple broadcloth fabric (since I've used it in the past 3 of 4 projects) and I like the purple-gray combination.  To give the dress a little more flair I decided to use the belt as a ruffle that would just peek out of the side of the purple strips.

I started off by shortening the sleeves to 3/4 length.  I simply measured how long I wanted them to be, cut, and reattached the original cuff.  In order to get the sleeve to fit in the cuff I had to baste it and gather it a bit.
Next I prepared the purple strips and the ruffles.  I decided that I wanted the waist band to be about 3" wide (I checked other dresses I own with waistbands), and knew that I would want the 2 strips that make up the collar to form a strip the same width when they joined in the middle.  Therefore the collar strip would be 1.5", joining at the bottom of the v-neck to form a 3" strip.  I marked the design on my dress with chalk, which may give you a better idea of this.
For the waist I cut a strip 4" by 33", and did a double fold hem of about 1/2" on each side.  For the collar I cut a strip 2.5" by 44" and only folded over once (since it was going to be completely attached to the shirt anyway).  Now may be a good time to say that once I was partway through this project I realized that my dress was very stretchy, while the broadcloth was not.  I knew this would cause problems if I attached the waistband all the way around, as I probably wouldn't be able to get the dress over my head and shoulders.  So I decided to leave the waistband unattached in the back, and I'll show you the rest of my solution a bit later on.

After cutting the purple strips I was ready to prepare the gray ruffles.  I cut the belt in half (it ended up being 1" by 67").  I decided to use 1.5 times the length of the purple strips for the ruffles, so I used 1 strip for the collar, 3/4 of one for the top of the waistband, and the rest plus some extra strips I cut from the leftover sleeve material for the bottom of the waistband.  I then made a ruffle with each long strip, gathering them enough so that they were the same length as the purple strips.
Next came the pinning...and repinning...and more pinning.  And between each step trying on the dress and getting hundreds of tiny stabs and scratches.  My arms look like I was mauled by a very weak and dull-clawed kitten.  But I finally got both sides of the collar pinned correctly and I sewed very close to the edge, slightly overlapping the 2 strips in the middle. 
The final step was to add the waistband.  As I said earlier I realized that I would never be able to get the dress on if I attached it all the way around, so I decided to leave it unattached on the back.  In order to do this I first pinned the front and 2 inches around the back.
Then I hemmed the top and bottom of the waistband that were not attached to the dress, going right up to where it would join the dress but being careful not to go too far.  I left the ends unhemmed since I knew I would have to remeasure and do them last, once everything else was in place.  Next I sewed the waistband top and bottom to the dress and tried it on.  Luckily I'd left enough room in the back and was able to get it on!  With the help of my boyfriend (who marked where the 2 ends should meet) I was able to finish the back, hemming the edges and adding 3 hooks and eyes so that once the dress is on the belt can be "buckled" in place.
This is what the back looks like when the dress is on.  By looking at it when its off you can see just how much the dress stretches!
I'm really happy with the way this dress turned out and it was definitely a great way to spend my snow days!  You may not be able to tell but the waistband and vertical strip only ended up being about 2 1/4 inches wide, instead of the 3 I was going for.  I must have used more fabric than I meant to when hemming.  And even though this didn't really help the itchiness problem I'm sure I'll wear it more than I did before!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Another Nightie

I love my dragonfly nightie so much I decided to make another one, this time using an old t-shirt and black jersey material and following the same tutorial from Sew, Mama, Sew!  The pink t-shirt (a Yuengling shirt that my boyfriend got for free at a bar) was so big that I was able to make the nightie even longer, and this one is 27 inches long.  It's hard to see the straps but I used a thin white ribbon (thus avoiding what I thought was the hardest part of the last one).  I used the t-shirt inside out and kept the original hem so I covered the hem stitching with the same ribbon.
 Coming tomorrow: a sweater dress makeover tutorial!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Cute and Quick Nightie

I whipped up this super cute nightie in about an hour tonight will watching (listening) to the Super Bowl.  Check out Sew, Mama, Sew! for the tutorial.  The only thing I changed was the length...mine is about 24" long (including the purple band).  I've had this cute dragonfly cotton fabric for a while but hadn't found the right project for it--this was perfect!

Flower Top Tutorial

The inspiration for this top came from this beautiful shirt that Alexis of MadeByLex posted this summer.  I've been wanting to make a version all year and finally felt ready and found some great organic cotton on sale at Joann's that seemed like it would work well--light but still sturdy enough to make the flower.  And with it looking like this outside what better time to make a spring/summer shirt?!
 I started with a yard and a half of fabric and based the shirt on this Spring Ruffle Top from Sew, Mama, Sew!  Using their handy measurement equations I cut out the front and back pieces (on their tutorial they have the measurements for a band that goes around the chest, and then the large pieces--I just combined the two) and the straps.  The large pieces were 22" long, 20" wide at the top and 22" wide at the bottom.  The straps were 5" by 22" (although when I actually attached them I shortened them to about 14").
I then cut the remaining fabric into 4" strips (approximately 52" long) to use for the flower.  I was able to get 6 strips out of the fabric but I only used about 4 and a half.
I folded the strap pieces in half (right sides together) and sewed along the long side, then turned it inside out and pressed (no need to hem the ends since they'll be attached to the body of the shirt).  Next I hemmed the top of the front piece, folding over 1/2", pressing, then folding over 1/2" again.  I attached the straps to the front while topstitching the hem, approximately 5" in from each side (I pinned and repinned until I got them positioned correctly.)  I reinforced the straps by sewing another line just where they connect to the body.

And now for the fun part: the flower!  The first strip I tried to ruffle before attaching but the fabric was so thick when folded in half that I didn't have much luck.  For the rest I just ruffled by hand as I pinned, then sewed in place.  The easiest way to do this was to fold the strips in half (wrong sides together) and then press them.  My fabric was sturdy enough that I didn't need to sew them together and since each layer of flower will cover the previous one I didn't worry about having unfinished edges.  Now you just pin and sew in concentric circles!
You can see in the first picture that when I got to the point where the circle was finished I would just move the fabric inside to the next level and keep going.  I ended up with 8 layers total.  When you get to the end it gets hard for the machine to get through all of the layers but go slowly (I even had to make the needle go down by hand a few times) and stop often to turn the shirt.  Since I didn't want to bother hemming the part that would show on the inside of the flower (but didn't want unfinished edges showing) I just folded the unfinished edge underneath so that it was hidden once the strip was sewn in place.  Here's the finished flower (front and back):
Now you just need to hem the top of the back piece (exactly like you did for the front) and attach the straps.  I did a lot of pinning and repinning here to get the straps right and they ended up being 14" long and a little closer together on the back than the front (so they won't fall off your shoulder).
Next pin, baste, and then sew the sides together (right sides together).  I ended up having gone too wide at the top, as you can see in the picture below, but this was easily fixed at this step.  I did a double line of stitching for the side seams and then pinked the edges (not shown here).
Now just hem the bottom and you're done!  I'm so excited to wear this shirt this spring (hopefully by my birthday it will be warm enough!)  And thanks again to Alexis for letting me post this tutorial...hope you enjoyed it!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

My First Pattern

 I've been hesitant to buy patterns thinking that they will be too complicated and confusing but I actually found this one to be fairly straightforward.  When I first opened up the package and looked at the instructions I was a bit worried, especially since I didn't know all of the terms, but once I took the time to go through them slowly and was actually working with the fabric I found it to be pretty easy.  The hardest part was cutting out the fabric, since no matter how many times I looked at it I could not figure out how the diagram of how to place the pattern pieces on the fabric was supposed to work.  So I just cut out the pattern pieces and fit them on the fabric in my own way which worked just fine.

The pattern for this dress was unlined but I decided to do a lining since the gray fabric is fairly thin.  I spent a lot of time looking at dresses I had bought that were lined to figure out how it should work.  In the end it was really helpful to do a lining because a) it was sort of a test run before cutting the outer fabric to make sure all of the pieces were big enough and b) I didn't have to hem or make a different neck interfacing piece.

The hardest part of the dress (besides the cutting) ended up being the zipper.  The way I learned how to attach zippers is incredibly easy but I didn't realize until I was at the point of attaching it that I had already sewn up too much of the back.  I ended up having to undo that sewing and then put the zipper in the way I know how, which took a lot of time but was worth it.

I wore this dress to work last week and it was great--very classic and simple but easy to accessorize and the fabric is versatile enough that I'll be able to wear it almost year round!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sweater Makeover

I've had this sweater for a few years but don't wear it very often - I love the color but it was a bit too big and not very flattering (sorry no before picture).  I decided to fix the shape and update it, and I was inspired by this J.Crew sweater.

To bring in the sides I turned it inside out and first pinned, then basted, a line starting at the underarms, curving in at my waist and curving back out to meet the bottom hem.  It might be hard to see in the picture below but this is the final seam.  I've used this technique a couple of times now (including on a Banana Republic dress on huge sale that was 2 sizes too big for me!) and as long as I pin and baste before sewing the actual seam it works very well.

I used a thick broadcloth fabric for the ruffle, as I just happened to have that nice purple color lying around!  To make the ruffle I cut a long strip (probably about a yard long) 4 inches wide, then folded it in half lengthwise with the right sides together, sewed one short end closed and down the long side.  Then came the time-consuming process of turning the fabric tube right side out (this time I used a knife sharpener with rounded top which worked pretty well).

Once the tube was right side out I pressed it flat and ruffled it.  To do this I sewed 2 rows down the middle, being sure not to overlap them, with the tension set to the highest number and the stitch length as long as possible.

Sewing 2 rows is helpful when ruffling thicker fabrics, and also helps to more evenly distribute the ruffles.  Then you just pull the strings and move the ruffles to evenly distribute them along the strip.

I then pinned the ruffle to the sweater, being sure to keep the sweater itself flat, then sewed in place.

I started with just the shoulder ruffle, like the J.Crew sweater, but thought it would be fun to add more.  I remembered seeing this shirt by Alexis of Made by Lex and liked the idea of a shape/line that continued onto the back of the sweater, so I added a squiggly circle on the side that curves around the back (in the picture it's laying flat but you can see where the side seam is, about a third of the way in from the left side).

This project was really easy and I was able to finish it in one evening and wear the sweater to work the next day!  The longest step was turning the ruffle inside out and then forming the ruffle.  Definitely a fun and easy project that makes you feel like you have a whole new piece in your wardrobe!