Friday, March 28, 2014

Birthday Gifts for a 3-year old

My daughter turned three a few weeks ago.  It's hard not to go overboard in buying character toys for her (My Little Pony, Strawberry Shortcake, anything with a Disney Princess), because that's really what she loves-- she is a three year old girl, after all.  So instead we tried to find some gifts that would let her expand her imagination and creativity, as well as some homemade gifts that could (hopefully) have some special meaning over the years.   So before too much times passes, here are a few pictures of her homemade gifts:

The dress is New Look 6115, part of their Pattern Runway collection.  I've had it in my pattern collection for about a year, so it was really good to finally have an excuse to make it.  But the best part of this dress is the fabric: the center panel and bodice are made from Sarah Jane Studios Wee Wanders collection. I follow the Sarah Jane Studios blog, and if you have never seen her work, you definitely need to check it out.  She is an artist who creates the sweetest prints, embroidery patterns,  jewelry, and fabric that celebrate childhood. When they announced last year that the Wee Wander fabric line was coming out, I knew immediately that I would have to buy the sea foam Summer Ride-- a print of a little girl riding her white horse.

See, my little girl has her own white horse, Nellie, who is her best friend.  They do everything together-- hold long conversations, play outside, go to the library, sleep together--  everything.  Nellie looks a little love-worn these days, but she is very much a part of the family now.  Every three-year old should have a friend as good as Nellie, and this fabric was the perfect way celebrate their friendship.

The second handmade gift was made with a pattern from the book Oliver + S Little Things to Sew.  This book was written by Liesl Gibson, the designer and owner of  Oliver + S, Lisette, and Lisel + Co patterns.

I made the Bias Tape Apron, which is a full apron with velcro back closures, side pockets, and bias tape trim. Perfect for a little girl who loves to help me bake!

  After taking a picture of her in her dress, there was no way she was going to let me take a picture of her in her apron, too.  One outfit picture a day is her limit, and sometimes not even that many.

Finally, as part of her birthday gifts she received a doll crib that had been my mom's when she was a little girl.  To go along with the crib I made a little mattress, sheet, and doll quilt.  It's such a sweet little bed, perfect for Nellie!

I guess I really don't need her birthday as an excuse to make her things, and she does get lots of handmade clothing throughout the year, but it was fun to give them to her as presents!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sewing Excuses

Sometimes I have a hard time coming up with excuses to sew beautiful garments,...because, quite honestly my days are full of some pretty messy stuff- soggy spit-mushed foods, stuff that comes out of all parts of the human body, cheerio dust (you know the stuff that results when you step on a dry cheerio), etc.  So whenever we get an invitation to a wedding I get an incredible excuse to sew something beautiful, something out of the ordinary, something made of challis, charmeuse, and lace.  And that's just what I did.    

The Skirt
This is the new pattern from Sewaholic Patterns, the Gabriola (there's a sewalong right now).  I LOVE this pattern.  I love long flowy skirts, but the reason I love this long flowy skirt is because of the way it is shaped.  It has a lot of different panels, some cut on the bias.  You know how a lot of maxi skirts are just gathered tubes of fabric, this my friends is no gathered tube of fabric!  It elongates the body and swishes a bit when you walk.  I like that!  As far as sewing goes, this was not a difficult skirt to sew, my pieces never did line up perfectly but with so many parts of it cut on the bias I figured they wouldn't.  Sometimes in sewing I've found that with some patterns you just have to trust the process and keep plodding on, trusting that its going to come together in the end.  That worked in this case.  
The fabric is rayon challis from Hancock's.  Originally I had envisioned a coral skirt but the only coral fabric they had was polyester and I generally try to avoid polyester.  I probably should've lined this skirt but will just wear a slip with it instead.  

The Lace Shell 
This lace shell turned out exactly as I hoped it would.  Its Butterick 5922.  I guesstimated where I wanted the sleeve to hit and then cut it off there.  As for the neckline, it was originally much higher up and had a slit opening with hook and eye closure.  It did. not. look. good., so I sewed it up and widened the neck which fixed all the problems.  I used the Grainline Pattern's Scout Tee neckline as a guide and it was perfect.  The lace is a stretch lace from Hancocks (see a theme here, Hancocks is only a short distance from my home!).  I treated it like a stretch fabric, using a stretch ballpoint needle to sew.  I read some online tutorials about using wonder tape for the hemming but just pinned everything down instead and went slowly.  With practice all the hems came out great.  I ended up having a bit of a sway back with this pattern and lace but I feel it was due to the lace not the pattern.  My muslin in stretch jersey did not have a sway back soooo note to self stretch lace is not entirely equal to stretch jersey!  I really love how this turned out, I've wanted a lace shell like this for a while and it was my first time to sew with stretch lace.  So glad I did!

Charmeuse Camisole
This was my first time to sew with silk charmeuse and I used the slip pattern from McCalls 6696, cutting it off at camisole length.  Its a simple make with rouleau straps.  I was a little skeptical about the instructions for making the straps but they worked perfectly!  I have to say I intended to make the skirt out of charmeuse but after sewing this camisole I knew that it would be a major headache to try to get the charmeuse to behave for all the parts of this skirt.  The charmeuse feels wonderful as a camisole, so soft and light weight.  I see why everyone raves about its texture. 

The Shrug 
The shrug is Mccalls 6845.  I used a damask fabric that I think is rayon (I thrifted it ages ago) and it worked out pretty good.  Admittedly my sewing of it was a bit sloppy but the effect is just fine.  I am one of those people who gets chilled all the time so I knew I'd need a little shrug to take along.  I used my serger for most of the construction and this is a super quick make.  I also tried it in chiffon which didn't go so well.  

The Clutch Bag
This bag was made using this tutorial.  It was super simple and turned out great.  I used some shiny upholstery fabric for the outside and some lace fabric for the bow.  A simple make.  This is a perfect example of why I sew.  This bag cost next to nothing to make and turned out as cute as or cuter than a little clutch I'd buy at the mall.  Plus I am at the point in my life where I prefer my own handmades because they represent so much of myself in each stitch, my thought, my preferences, my time.  I feel the depth of personality in an object that I've created that I don't feel when I just buy something at the mall.  Its strange and hard to describe but I'd say I've felt this way more acutely in the past couple of years.  Going to buy something at the mall or anywhere else just holds no allure for me anymore.  Anyone else have these feelings? 
Since I forgot to include the clutch in my pictures I had to recruit a model.  She was very willing and also wanted to show me how versatile my clutch is.  See below how it can function as an impromptu hat if there is a sudden downpour.  Sweet and hilarious girl.   
So what about you, does it take something like a wedding invitation to give you a good sewing excuse or do you just make these kinds of garments regardless?  Do you feel differently about buying something from the mall now than before you made your own garments?  I'd be interested to hear some other's thoughts on this idea....

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Free T-Shirt Patterns

Even though it's now officially spring, we woke up this morning to a dusting of snow on the ground.  It has to warm up some time, right?!  And when it does, we want to be ready with some spring and summer tops!  So here are ten free, downloadable women's t-shirt patterns to get you started, go check them out!

  • Doe and Deer, the Plaintain Tee.  Comes in all sizes. Check out a great way to customzie this shirt here
  • The Easy Tee by It's Always Autumn.  The pattern comes in size large, but she provides a tutorial on how to draft your own size.  Also, browse her website for variations on the shirt.
  • Cation Designs, the Dolman Sleeve Tee. Only one pattern piece and no set-in sleeves, so this should be a quicky, easy sew!  Comes in all sizes.
  • The Ariadne Tunic by Tanit-Isis Sews.  A hip-length flowy tunic with a key-hole opening in back.  Pattern available in all sizes.
  •  Hemlock Tee by Grainline Studios.  She produces great patterns, and I'm sure this shirt is no exception.  A boxy, one-size-fits all shirt. Scoop Top
  •  the Kirsten Kimono Tee by Maria of Denmark.  All sizes available. You must sign up for her newsletter in order to receive the pattern.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

8 Free Tank Patterns

Tomorrow is the official start of spring and I've been gearing up for some spring sewing even if the weather isn't cooperating.  We thought it would be helpful to post a list of some free sewing patterns out there to inspire our sewing for spring, and hopefully yours too!

Free Tank Patterns:
So Sew Easy's Gathered Front Top.  It features princess seams and pleats down the front of a knit tank.
Grosgrain featuring the Colette Sorbetto Tank A woven top with a center pleat detail.
Sew in Love's Crop Tank A simple crop tank.
Sew in Love's Hi-Low Tank Features a longer hemline, good for leggings.
By Hand London's Polly Top Tank A woven top with a front panel for shaping instead of bust darts.

Free Cami Patterns: 
The Sewing Space's Sammy Cami A knit camisole.
So Zo's Cami  A knit camisole.
Melly Sew's Summer Bias dress (although a dress, could easily be cut off to be a great camisole) Woven camisole.

For reference I've tried the following patterns for purchase with varying degrees of success:
Burda 7509- I really liked this tank but its cut on the bias, which uses more fabric than a straight grain design.
McCall's 6696- This is a dress pattern but I cut the slip pattern off to make a great camisole.
Simplicity 2599- A popular top in blogland.  I like it but found it a bit shapeless around the waist area.
Butterick 5922- I used this top to make a knit tank and a lace shell top with sleeves.  The neckline is pretty high so I cut it lower but it was a great pattern for knits.  The stretch lace was a little more difficult with this pattern.

It seems every summer I am always looking for the perfect tank pattern.  I am still on the search!  Maybe one of these days I will put my mind to drafting my own!  But for now off to print all those patterns and start compiling them for summer sewing!!

Thanks to the website Free Pretty Things for You for the adorable clipart!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Alter your Fabric: A Stamping Tutorial

Let me start this post by saying I am no fabric stamping expert.  Anything I have learned has been through trial and error and while none of my ideas are originally my own (I mean my Mom taught me potato stamping as a child) I think there are some basic stamping tips that I've discovered that you might find useful if you have fabric in your stash that needs a little something extra.  My two favorite stamping techniques are homemade foam stamps and potato stamping. There are many ways to stamp your fabric but I like these two techniques since they are inexpensive, the materials are easily found and they are relatively quick.

Potato Stamping
Supplies needed: potato, fabric paint, fabric, paper to go under fabric (I use freezer paper), old plastic lids for pouring your paint onto. 
Let me tell you about some of the paints I've experimented with.  These should be easily found at Joanns, Walmart, Hobby Lobby or Hancock fabrics.  From left to right, Tulip Matte Soft fabric paint, I have found this to be one of the better fabric paints that is easily picked up at the store.  It isn't as stiff when it dries and stays colorfast even through a lot of laundering.  The second bottle is Tulip Matte Dimensional fabric paint and I think you probably should recognize this from the 80's.  Its kinda like the puffy paint you made so many t-shirts with in the late 80's- that is unless you weren't born yet or were still in diapers.  It stands up from the fabric and is not ideal for stamping.  It also dries very stiff.  As far as laundering goes, it's color fast and adheres well but isn't the best for the purposes of stamping.  The third and fourth bottles are another form of the Tulip Matte Soft fabric paint and I picked them up from Walmart in a kit.  So they have the same qualities as the first paint I mentioned.  The fifth and sixth bottles are Jacquard screen inks.  They work the best with screens but I have used them with some success in stamping.  They are much thicker than the Tulip fabric paint so the result is a little more stiff.  Overall I'd say that the Tulip Matte Soft fabric paint is your best bet.  

Ok, enough of paints, lets start potato stamping!
1.  Cut your potato in half down the middle and lay it on a piece of paper.  Trace around potato so that you can know the amount of space you will have for your design.
 2.  Lift up potato and draw design, I chose a simple cat silhouette.  Simple shapes usually stamp better than complicated ones.  Cut out drawn design from paper and lay on top of cut potato.
 3.  Trace design onto potato with pencil and then cut surrounding potato away from design about 1/4" deep.
4.  Now you have your stamp.  Dab stamp in fabric paint and start stamping your fabric.  
5.  Follow the instructions for letting the paint dry and then your fabric is ready for sewing!

Foam Stamping
Supplies: Foam sheets, fabric paint, fabric for stamping, paint brush for touch-ups, paper to keep paint from seeping through fabric, old plastic lids for the paint, something to mount the shape on like the back of an old stamp or very thick cardboard, craft glue.

1.  Draw figure to stamp on foam sheet.  I used the silhouette of a cat, dog, and flower (my children are really into cats and dogs right now).  Cut out shape and glue to wooden block, back of an old stamp block or thick cardboard.  Below are both examples.  The flower foam is glued on the back of a stamp block that I never use.  
  The dog and cat silhouettes are mounted on a few layers of cardboard glued together.  In the second picture I'm showing you the layers glued together.  To do this just cut out a few squares the same size from scrap cardboard, put glue between the layers and a rubber band around them.  Let them dry for a day and then mount your foam shape to it.   

3.  Dip foam stamp in fabric paint and stamp away.  A brayer might be helpful here but I just use a finger to smooth the paint on the stamp if it looks like its going on very uneven.  

4.  After you are done stamping your fabric you may need to touch up your images with a little paint and a paint brush.  You can see the cat images below need some touch-ups.  
5.  Follow the drying instructions on your paint and your done!  Now get sewing!  I used the cat fabric to make this child's skirt.  Its for a special friend that just turned 3!

Thanks for reading and if you stamp fabric using this tutorial we'd love to see it in our flickr pool!  Also for an example of how these techniques can be applied to an adult garment check out this post.  

Saturday, March 8, 2014

T-Shirt Skirt Tutorial

With a newly 3-year old daughter who loves skirts and dresses, I'm always looking for cute and easy ways to add to her wardrobe.  Enter the t-shirt skirt: cheap, minimal sewing, and lots of potential for customizing with applique, bows, buttons, trim-- you get the idea!  It's also a great way to upcycle/recycle old clothing.  So raid your closet or the local thrift store for old t-shirts, check out the tutorial below, and then share your creations with us in the I Sew, You Sew Flickr group!

Step 1:  Choose a shirt that is large enough for your skirt.  Iron your t-shirt and lay it flat on your cutting table.  Line up the bottom of the shirt so that the hem is straight.

Step 2: Measure how long you would like your skirt to be.  I used a size 4T skirt fits my daughter to estimate the size.  Since this is a simple gathered-waist skirt, I don't worry about the width-- if the shirt is wider it will be more gathered, and if it is narrower it will produce a straighter, less-gathered skirt.

Once you know how long you would like the skirt to be, add an additional 1.5 inches to account for the waistband.  Mark where you want your line to be, and cut.

Step 3: Press under 1/2 inches along the top of the skirt, and then fold and press an additional inch.  Pin in place.

Step 4: Starting in the center back, stitch along the inside edge of the waistband, leaving approximately a 2 inch opening to thread the elastic.

Step 5 (optional): Add your applique, trim, bows, or other decoration to the skirt.  This step can also be completed after the elastic has been added, but it may be easier to add these extras before the skirt is gathered.

Step 6: Cut your elastic.  I usually use 3/4 inch non-roll elastic.  A good rule of thumb is to cut your elastic one inch shorter than your child's waist measurement.  Using a safety pin or a bodkin, thread the elastic through the opening in the waistband, pulling it through the skirt.  Using a zig-zag stitch sew the ends of the elastic together with an 1/2 inch seam.

Step 7:  Stretch the waistband and the elastic so that the opening lays flat, and then stitch the opening closed along the inside fold, matching the other stitching.

And you're all done!  No hemming the bottom, no sewing the sides--  that's about as easy at it gets!

We'd love to see what you're creating, so if you have a t-shirt skirt you'd like to share, add it to our Flickr pool, which can be found here.

Happy Sewing!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Oh Peony you look so sweet and innocent!

The Colette Peony, what can I say, it looks so sweet, it sounds so innocent....then on further examination of those dreaded bust darts, it hits you, this dress has an evil streak.  Evil bust darts that mock you in their complexity, and you know that if you lived in 1950 those darts would have been standard on everything and you would have instinctively known where they should go on ye old bust...but being that it is 2014 you have no idea where they should sit.  You make not two, but five muslins of the top before you realize you should go down a size (I know sometimes the old brain just gets there slower than it used to).  Then when you're proud you've fixed the front, you turn around and realize that this dress has not one evil streak, but two.  All this to say that if you make a dress that is tailored and fitted, naturally it's going to take some time to get that fit right.  I think I came about as close as I can to getting it right (thank you to my husband for doing his best at pinning the back alterations).  My critical eye still sees small tweaks that need to be done but at this point I'm calling it good.
I'm a little unsure of my fabric choice.  My wearable muslin was in linen and I think I may like the feel of that dress more than this one made of cotton lawn.  The lawn, as opposed to the linen, makes the bust darts crisper sooooo, "pointier" than the linen which behaves more like a lady.  The lawn is from Hancock fabrics and is really nice to the touch.  It puts me in the mind of a Liberty of London print and has that rich shade of royal blue that I love.  But I think the pattern may be way too busy...opinions out there?    
I am glad I took this dress on, I'm really fond of it and it taught me a lot about bust darts and back alterations.  If you do decide to make this dress I think there are some really helpful tutorials out there that are worth reading.  This one talks about positioning the bust darts in relationship to one another in the correct way.  While this one speaks to the shape of the darts and how to streamline them for a better fit.  Some of the other alterations I made were to the back width, neckline darts and to the back length (next time will pinch out even more in this area).  All those alterations also led to tweaking the skirt a bit to be in line with the altered back and front.  If you decide to make this dress just know that a fitted dress is bound to require more, well, fitting and might result in some frustrations because it's not likely to be a quick make until you get those fittings right.  The overall construction of the dress is easy its just the fitting that is time consuming.

  If you read all of this post, thanks, because I'm feelin' kinda wordy.  I'm blabbing on because I figure if you're like me, I like to hear other sewist's opinions so that I'm better aware of what I'm getting into when I start a project.  So when making the sweet little Peony you can know that she is indeed sweet, but she's got a little devil in her too!