July 2012 Archives

Machine Embroidery Tips

July 30, 2012

I still consider myself new to the embroidery game even though I have had my machine for a few years. I own a sewing machine/embroidery machine which may explain why I don't log in much time on the embroidery side. But when I do remember this great feature, I use it hard. I love how fast and easy it is to add that little something special to gifts or projects. I have often used this side of my machine to whip up last minute gifts for parties, showers or thank you tokens. However, using your embroidery machine, if you are new to it or even if you have a few years under your belt (like me) can be tricky if you don't have some helpful tips to get you through the frustrating learning period. These tips really helped me when I got started.

1)      You are going to break some needles, so just know that ahead of time. My first breakage freaked me out because I had rarely broken a needle and never in that fashion. The machine goes so fast and then all of a sudden, crack, broken needle. You can break your needle for several reasons. My most common was wrong stabilizer for the fabric or wrong needle for the fabric or tension.

2)      Test your embroidery pattern first on scrap fabric. You can find the right combo of stabilizer, needle, tension and fabric without ruining your project.

3)      Once you have the right combo of fabric/stabilizer/needle/tension, write it down in case you have to embroider that fabric again you can save some testing.

4)      Buy embroidery bobbin thread. You don't use the same thread in the bobbin as you do on the upper. Embroidery machines use a certain kind of thread just for the bobbin. Purchase it and wind several bobbins for reserve. It will help prevent needle breakage and other issues that pop up in machine embroidery.

5)      Don't expect to get it right away. This is not a TV infomercial; you can't set it and forget it. There are techniques to machine embroidery that you will need to learn, just like with sewing. It is not a load-machine-push-button-you're-done process. Give yourself some time to learn and don't worry if it is not perfect at first.

6)      If the machine sounds like a hammer, turn it off. Mine would always sound like a hammer banging when I was thisclose to breaking a needle or the thread. I knew I had missed a step, loaded something incorrectly or had the wrong stabilizer and could prevent a big blow-up by listening for this sound.

7)      Purchase Machine Embroidery Essentials by Jeanine Twigg. It is a lifesaver and I would have given up on machine embroidery forever if not for this book. She will walk you through needles, tension, stabilizer and fabric. You can get a head start on some of the common combos. If you are going to try machine embroidery at all, this book is a must for your shelves!

8)      Stock up on stabilizer. You will use a lot of it and you don't want to be out when the mood strikes. Also, you can patch sticky stabilizer by cutting out a piece bigger than your hole and placing the patch on top. Don't patch it from the backside. It works better from the top. Don't patch too often. Once your sticky stabilizer is no longer taut, chuck it and hoop a new piece.

Check out our Machine Embroidery section here


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Pattern Review: Plushy, Luxe Cuddle Bears

July 29, 2012

I never outgrew my love of stuffed animals. I still can't resist an adorable plush when I see one. Fleecey, furry, fuzzy -- it makes no difference. I love them all.

Lately, I've had a hankering to make a few, so I thought I'd test out Kwik Sew 3246. It has two different sizes of bears, and I chose the smaller of the two, which still comes in at an impressive 20 inches, so it's not exactly tiny.

I chose to make one version in Doux Cotton Velvet, and one in an upholstery-grade Antique Cotton Velvet, which is meant to withstand a lot of rubbing -- perfect for a cuddly stuffed bear! 

I have made plush toys before, with varied results. Assembling them always takes more time than I expect it to. These took about three hours each, give or take. That being said, I had greater success with this pattern than with other plush patterns I have tried, and some of that slowness is admittedly born of the fact that I usually stitch apparel, so craft sewing is not my most practiced arena. 

I will tell you this, the inside of a teddy bear is not pretty. Behold:

1-Inside-out.jpgOnce you flip it, things get a little better, but it's still a little dicey in the cuteness category. Those threads you see dangling are are attached to the eyes on the inside, and they're used to mold the face a bit once the bear's stuffed.
2-Empty-bear.jpgHere's the closeup on the Doux Cotton Velvet bear. I didn't end up doing a whole lot of shaping on the face, because I preferred it a little more au naturel.

3-Purple-head.jpgHere is the face of the Antique Cotton Velvet bear. You can tell from these close up shots that my chin piecing technique needs some work. These guys both look a little dejected.

4-Ivory-head.jpgHere are my two bears, all assembled and ready for huggin'!

Now that I have two under my belt, my mind is whirring with ideas. I want to make a feline version with pointy ears and a long tail. Maybe for Halloween. These would also be fantastic baby gifts, especially if you embroidered the baby's name and birth date on the feet.

Now my biggest question is: What should I name these guys?

Blog of the Month: Dixie DIY

July 27, 2012

I felt instantly head over heels for July's blog of the month, Dixie DIY, when I read her About page. It was a very "Jerry Maguire" moment; she had me at "quick, lazy and cheap". These 3 words I often use to describe myself though I try to throw in a "classically chic" when I think I might be overheard. Dixie has a penchant for crafting and telling it how it is. I love to read blogs that fit those 2 criteria. Dixie's blog is beautiful and easy to navigate. Her sidebar skills will blow you away. There you can find her own patterns, posts on other patterns she has made, projects made from scraps (hip hip hooray!), and craft tutorials. I mean, what more could you ask from a craft blog! Dixie claims that in order to finish projects quick she will over look details to get the job done. I say she is too hard on herself because from where I sit, the details are amazing especially on her Dia de los Wallet (see picture below). I especially love the old-timey feel of her pictures. They are quite good but also have a vintage feel to them that is refreshing and interesting. What is most mind-blowing are her ideas for modifying clothing. Dixie's Crochet Applique Little Black Dress is to die for (I want it in my closet right now). She has also made a bra with tips which is quite encouraging since this is a project I have always wanted to try. All Dixie's blog post are well labeled so you can easily find skirt, tops, dress and also feature the pattern company and number so you can Google it easily.

One section of Dixie DIY you don't want to miss is the Restyle page. It is full of ways to rework your wardrobe. My favorite is the gold tipped shoes. Don't forget to check out Dixie's current project: A Kwik Sew  Ruched Halter Swimsuit. This is part 5 of a multi part series on swim wear that you don't want to miss. Dixie DIY can also be found on Burdastyle, Etsy, Sewing Pattern Review and Pinterest. 

All pictures are copyright Dixie DIY

Christmas Knitting, NOW

July 25, 2012

Summer knitting is not just about hiding away in the air conditioning it is a great time to start your fall and holiday knitting projects and gifts. You will never have that sweater ready for fall if you don't start it now. I know, I know, you are looking at the temp and scoffing at sitting with wool yarn in your lap. What better excuse to hide inside during the hottest part of the day than because you are preparing for the holidays. I find my fall sweaters are always brighter and more cheerful when I start them in summer. Add to the above the fact that school is starting soon which means you will have the time to start some summer knitting projects. All good news! Plus I can throw another one at you: try working up all your knitting projects (or a majority as a compromise) in chunky weight yarn. Your projects will fly off your needles, leaving your with more time for you or to complete more projects:  including sweater, mittens, scarves and (my favorite) shawls.


I love shawls because they can be any size, any funky design you like and are perfect to wear any which way you like. Shawls knit in chunky yarns are even better in my book because they actually keep me warm. I love the lightweight shawls but only for an accessory. If I want a shawl that looks good and is super warm I have learned to knit it in a heavier gauge. I recently made the Pembroke Shawl from Interweave Knits in Lion Brand Wool-Ease Chunky which turned out amazing. I really enjoyed working with the yarn but also I love how quickly something so beautiful came together. The delicate lace pattern was not overwhelmed by the thick yarn but gave it new depth and texture that can be missed in a light weight yarn. I believe the design stands out more with the chunky yarn because there is less of it. With a lighter weight yarn, you must repeat the design over and over and it is very small. With a chunky yarn, you repeat the design much less so you see more of it. After many years spent knitting shawls in fingering and DK yarn it was refreshing to be able to see a new take on an old favorite. My Pembroke Shawl seems so warm and cozy even though it is not very big (36'' across the top). It only took 2 skeins of yarn making it inexpensive with dramatic impact. Knitting the Pembroke Shawl as inspired me to rethink my favorite shawl patterns to try them with a thicker yarn. It has encouraged me to try many other patterns with a chunky yarn like Lion Brand's Wool-Ease Chunky or Amy Butler Sweet Harmony Yarn. I am actually excited this year to start my holiday projects because of this nice little chunky weight "short-cut" I've found! 

Valori Wells Jewels for the Home Pillow

July 23, 2012


It is hard not to be attracted to Valori Wells Jewels for the Home Pillows with such an eye catching photo on the pattern envelope. I had to make someof Valori's pillows for myself because I am a pillow fanatic. I need more for my bedroom, living room, nursery and my 3 yr old's room. Any of these pillows would be perfect because there are 11 to choose from and I love mixing prints. With so many pillows to start off with you might think it would be hard for me to decide which would be the inaugural pillow. However, the bird appliqué pillow drew my eye and I had a plan. I wanted to make this pillow to go with some others I had planned from the Sew4Home Nursery collection. I thought a selection of animal pillows would work great for my new nursery but this pillow could easily work in an office, older kid's room or guest room. Since I would be parking my bird appliqué pillow in the nursery I used the same print as the glider I recovered and chose a complimentary knit for the bird.


I chose a cotton knit for the appliqué for several reasons:

1)      This cotton knit is really soft and the different texture of the knit on woven would be interesting for the baby

2)      I loved the colors together

3)      I don't see appliqués in knit very often and when I do they look amazing.

4)      I have a TON of knit scraps that need to find a purpose


Using a knit for your appliqué is not that different from using a woven. Make sure you have the right side facing out and don't stretch. I used Heat n Bond Lite. Trace the appliqué design on the paper side of the fusible and then iron on the fusible to the WS of the knit fabric. Then cut out the bird and before removing the paper, decide the perfect placement. Make sure you place your bird at least the a seam allowance's distance away from each edge then iron in place. Use a satin or zig zag stitch around the edge of the bird to secure it in place and for added detail try a contrasting but complimentary thread color (I used chartreuse).


The next modification I made was to add a zipper closure instead of the envelope back. I did this simply because the pillow would be used in a kid's room and I didn't want to redress my pillows all the time. To simply add a zipper, lay your zipper along the bottom edge of your pillow fabric centered and mark the zipper stops on your fabric. Then pin your front and back pillow pieces together, RS facing, along this bottom edge. Stitch using a regular stitch until you reach the first mark then switch to a basting stitch until you reach the second mark then switch back to your regular stitch. Make sure you backstitch at the beginning and end and right before you switch to basting and again when you switch back to regular stitches.


Press your seam open and line up your zipper with your marks and pin in place. Using a zipper foot stitch your zipper in place. Flip your pillow to the RS and open the basting stitches using your seam ripper. Stitch up the remaining sides of your pillow (RS facing) making sure you leave your zipper open for turning. Clip your corners and turn your pillow RS out. Press if needed.


I encourage you to try all Valori's pillow from this pattern. They just look like fun. She gives instructions on how to customize each to different pillow sizes. I can't wait to try some on floor pillows as well as Euro pillows for my bed and the guest room!

Find Valori's printed fabrics here


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The Future is Now

July 22, 2012

I'm overdue for an entry in our "From Screen to Closet" series, but luckily, inspiration struck recently. I was at an entertainment expo, visiting the booth for the upcoming "Star Trek" video game, and found myself waiting in a long, unmoving line. As I stood there, I had the opportunity to watch booth attendants come and go, and all of the ladies there were wearing dresses based on the ones seen in the recent J.J. Abrams reboot of the franchise. I was so struck by the modern, clean lines of the dresses that it took me a while to notice the seaming on the skirts. The more I looked at these costumes, the more I thought the style would adapt perfectly to day wear. I made a quick sketch while I waiting in my line, so I could whip up my own version when I got home.

1-TrekDress.JPGTo put this dress pattern together, I turned to my stash of patterns and pulled out three, thinking I could combine various elements of them to get the look I was after. The sports bra in the Kwik Sew on the left is one I have made many, many times, and I know (and like) exactly how it fits through the bust. The Jalie pattern in the middle (now out of print, I believe) has a raglan cap sleeve and fitted bodice that I knew would be a great base for my dress pattern. And the elderly Butterick pattern on the right has a simple, basic skirt that I felt would easily lend itself to adaptation. If you have a good pattern library, you probably have patterns that have similar characteristics.

Time to start combining pattern elements, Dr. Frankenstein style! First, I traced out the sleeve and the upper bodice sections from my Jalie pattern. I knew I would be altering and shortening this section along the bottom edge, so I didn't bother to finish tracing that area. You can see how I initially traced the front neckline exactly, but then redrew it with a subtle V.

Once I had the bodice pieces traced, I pulled out my tried and true sports bra pattern to refine what I already had on paper. Knowing that this particular pattern perfectly hits right below my bustline, I set it on top of the other pattern to determine the bottom edge of my bodice. I also used it to create my dart, though I did not do a direct tracing of the dart here. I just used it as a guideline for placement and depth.

I did the same thing with the back of my Frankenpattern, using the sports bra to guide the length of my back bodice.
(Also, aren't you DEEPLY impressed by my fancy pattern paper? I realized recently that I have a lot of notebooks sitting around unused; reduce, reuse, recycle!)

7-TrekDress.jpgTracing the skirt was a fairly simple affair. I just had to match the width to the bodice where the two would join, and then taper that width (which was slightly narrower than my original skirt pattern) out to the width of the lower skirt. I also shortened the skirt a bit.

Once I had my skirt pieces traced, I drew in the seam line that would create the pieced effect I liked so much on the costumes that had inspired this project, marked them with a double dash (so I will know where to join the individual pieces) and cut the side skirt from the center piece. 

Now, if you just cut those pieces out as-is and assemble your skirt, you're going to find that things have shrunk a bit! The also probably won't fit together quite right. Don't forget: You need some seam allowance! Since this is a very simple piece, I just cut a little extra at those lines when I cut my fabric -- 1/4 inch, since that's the seam allowance I was working with for other pieces as well.

9-TrekDress.jpgNow, to create the trim at the raglan sleeve seams and the binding for the neck and sleeve edges, I used a scrap of black lycra to cut strips about 1 3/4 inches wide. For my raglan seams, I first stitched my strips along the edges of each piece in roughly the middle of the strip width. 

10-TrekDress.jpgThen, I folded the trim so that all raw edges met, and basted along the edge. You can see below that my initial run of stitching was not quite in the center of the trim. I just trimmed that extra fabric off after basting it into place, and made sure to use the same distance from the edge when sewing my subsequent pieces.

11-TrekDress.jpgHere is what one of the sleeves looks like with both edges of trim in place, ready to join with the body of the garment.

12-TrekDress.jpgHere is what the garment looks like with the sleeves sewn to the back of the bodice. Because I used a contrasting trim (the movie and booth attendant costumes had colors that closely matched the rest of their dresses), it creates a neat design line.

I sewed together the rest of the garment, which is all pretty basic so I won't bore you with each step. I bound the neck and sleeve openings with the same lycra I used for the raglan sleeve trim. Here's a closeup of one side of the completed bodice:

14-TrekDress.jpgAnd here's the dress, all assembled. The shot on the dressform shows the color a little bit better, but the one on the mannequin is a better example of how the garment fits.


15-TrekDress.jpgI love this dress -- even more than I expected to! I used a medium-weight rib knit for the body, which gives it a little shape that a drapier knit wouldn't have. I love that I can wear this in the warmer months as-is, but I can easily see it layered over a turtleneck and tights with a pair of chic boots for autumn and winter wear. And I really love that it looks ultra modern and even a little futuristic, but doesn't read as costumey at all. This would also be a great one to make running dresses out of, now that I have a pattern at the ready!

Do you ever combine multiple patterns for a custom design? It's something I love doing, though it does often involve some tweaking along the way. It's so rewarding, though, when the resulting look is truly one-of-a kind.

Pintuck Pillow

July 20, 2012


I have had the idea for a pintuck pillow in my mind for some time and seeing it come to fruition is very exciting. It is even lovelier than I had pictured in my mind and I want to share the How-to with you. You can customize this style to fit any pillow size and any shape. My pillow is a 20'' square, knife edge pillow. Here's what you will need to get started:


1 yd of desired fabric (1 yd will cover most pillows) I recommend twill in solid or vertical stripes

1 zipper to fit pillow cover




Cut front pillow piece to 1'' longer than your finished pillow, i.e. if your finished pillow is 20'' cut the length at 21''. Cut the width to 4'' wider than your finished pillow (1'' for the seam allowance and 3'' for the 6 pintucks).  Cut the back pillow piece to 1'' longer and wider than your finished pillow. Set back piece aside.

Pintuck pillow.jpg

pintuck close up.jpg

To mark pintucks, place a pin at the center of your front pillow piece and then mark at ½'' intervals 1'' apart according to the illustrations above. Pinch your ½'' marks together and stitch on the RS to create pintucks using 1/4'' seam allowance. You will make 6 pintucks in all. Press right hand 3 pintucks to right and 3 left hand pintucks to the left. Insert your zipper along the bottom of the pillow using Holly's instructions making sure the pintucks face the correct direction as pressed above when sewing in the zipper. Once your zipper is inserted, open it a little and then sew up the remaining 3 sides of the pillow using ½'' seam allowance. Trim corners and turn pillow cover right side out and insert pillow.


While I made my pintuck pillow out of home décor twill fabric but you can make yours out of lightweight quilting cotton as well. Just be sure to lightly interface to make your cover more durable. You can also opt to make your pintucks smaller using my twin needle instructions here. I don't recommend this method of adding pintucks for any fabric thicker than quilting cotton; the results will be bland and not as noticeable as the fabric gets thicker. You can try adding a contrast band for your pintucks. 

Visit my Blog at www.gruenetree.com

Sewing with Voile: Simplicity 1872

July 18, 2012



Being that it is summer and judging from the morning news shows it seems to be HOT everywhere so what more appropriate fabric could there be to demonstrate than Voile. This very light weight fabric is made of 100% cotton and is semi transparent (though with a print it is less so). Voile actually comes from the French for veil because of its drape and transparency. When used in apparel it is typically layered or worn as a layer. I have decided to use our Designer Essentials Cotton Voile Fabric in Cilantro (though I call it Key Lime) in this gorgeous Cynthia Rowley layered skirt dress pattern. The lightweight drape of the voile works very well with the generous ruffling of the skirt and the layers means I don't need to line the skirt. The bodice, however, I am planning on wearing a chic lace slip underneath. This is my first post pregnancy project (though I have 3 months to go, you can tell I am ready!) and my criteria were simple: beautiful, ready for spring, and nursing-friendly. The wrap style of the bodice means it will work for nursing; I have added a hook & eye to prevent any baby grabbing wardrobe malfunctions. The color and light weight fabric means the pattern meets criteria #2 and it is of course lovely. If you plan on making this pattern I have a few suggestions. #1 Make a muslin but if not measure the pattern pieces at least twice. This is designed to go over your head and gathered at the waist but mine is at least 2 sizes bigger than I was looking for and I cut it one size bigger than I wore before pregnancy so I could wear it sooner. The dress is way large; it is so large I could fit it on now at 7 mos pregnant. #2 Add the hook and eye even if you don't have a baby. You don't want your décolletage to pop out at inopportune times. #3 Consider adding elastic at the waist as recommended by MyBeauBaby. I have NOT added my elastic yet (but will) because I don't yet know how much elastic to use for the size I will be. Plus I want to take in the dress a bit (to do this I will detach the bodice and take it in. I will also detach each skirt layer, take each in and then reattach. It sounds like a lot but it really won't be because there aren't any gathers to get in the way.



Now for the good stuff: tips for sewing voile! Voile is similar to light weight cotton (AKA quilting cotton) except that it is not. You will see in a min what I mean. If you sew with quilting cotton you already know how finicky it can be. It can fray easy, rip easy and can get pulled down into your machine. All this applies to voile (FYI to prevent having your light weight fabrics, including knits, being eaten by your machine, start sewing your seams about 1/2'' away from the edge, sew backwards to the end and then sew forward. If you start at the end, your fabric will get pulled down into your bobbin case) but it is even more delicate. Start with a test piece and get your tension right before you start otherwise you have to fight thread nest, pulling and uneven stitches. Also, go for the smallest needles (I used a size 10). I started with a size 12 needle and you can see the visible needle holes from the larger needle (you can see the holes below). Once I switched to the size 10 my seams were much improved. Decrease the temp on your iron a bit. The highest cotton setting is just too much for this lightweight fabric and overkill. You don't want to scorch your voile, just press it. Also, use pins that are a similar size to your needle. The thinner the better so you don't leave visible marks. Lastly, don't mark the fabric; it is so light anything will show. I use tape to label each pattern piece. The tape stays put to identify the pieces but also removes the label once you are done. 


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Tools: Rotary Cutter

July 16, 2012


If I were to suggest one tool to beginners to sewing it would be,hands-down, a rotary cutting tool. This must-have tool completes similar tasks but doesn't replace a good pair of shears but what it does do with save you tons of time and hassle. I currently have 2 sizes of rotary cutters, a 60mm (which I have had for about 7-8 years) and a 45mm. I love having both sizes and recommend these 2 sizes once you have tried the rotary cutter and see what it can do for you. First, let's start with the larger, 60mm, rotary cutter. I use this as my default cutter and it is especially handy for long, straight cuts. The 60mm is great for home décor, apparel and some quilting. The larger blade means that is can cut faster which is especially great for long, straight lines. The 45mm is much smaller and more nimble than the 60mm. It is great for quilting and some apparel. I especially love it for cutting out the tight curves of the hills in my current quilting pattern (Denyse Schmidt's Hills n' Hollers) and for some neckline and crotch plackets and other tight, curved areas. Having one of each size rotary cutter means that you can jump from one to the other to fit the project, to get you out of a tight spot, or down a long straight away.


Upcoming blog project!


I have cut out 85 hills with this rotary cutter!

There are 2 other items that go with a rotary cutter. The first is imperative, a cutting mat. Otherwise you are just going to cut up your table and dull your blade faster. Most cutting mats self-heal so they will last you a LONG time. I have had mine for 7-8 years and it still looks and works great. Keep them out of direct sunlight to avoid curling and buckling. The second item is less imperative but no less handy, a transparent ruler. These are especially great for cutting straight lines with your rotary cutter (you can use it as a guide), for truing up your fabric and cutting bias strips. The clear ruler can help you see your fabric patterns, determine if your patterns pieces are on grain and can help you line up markings. You can also purchase specialized blades like pinking blades or chenille blades.


A 3 tiered skirt plus bodice and facings-phew!

Caring for your blade is easy. Make sure your clean out the lint from your cutter often and replace (or sharpen) your blade as soon as you notice the cut start to deteriorate (skipped areas or having to go over a line several times) this will save you a lot of time and hassle. Also, when working with a new rotary cutter or blade run it over a scrap piece a few times to get the blade moving well; they can be stiff at first. A rotary cutter may seem like a bit of an investment in the beginning (because you need the mat and ruler to go along) it will pay for itself in time save and hassle with in the first month if not sooner. You will love it!  

Visit my Blog at www.gruenetree.com

Free Pattern Download: Medina Mini Kaftan

The latest Hot Patterns free download is here, and I have had the exquisite pleasure of test driving it.

This was an interesting project for me. While I loved the design of the Medina Mini Kaftan the moment I saw it, I didn't feel like it would be great on me. I'm short and kinda busty, so often, garments that aren't fully cinched in at the waist can make me look a bit fluffy. But, I wanted to try it out just the same!

For my first version, I selected a cotton lawn from the new Liberty of London Tana Cotton Lawn Hello Kitty print. I looooove Hello Kitty, and these sophisticated prints are just subtle enough that I can wear them even in the most grown-up situations. And it's nothing short of dreamy to work with. Love it! 

I opted to make the trim out of the same fabric as the rest of the tunic, simply because I couldn't decide on a contrast color.

The pattern itself is super simple to put together. The trim for the sleeves seems tricky initially because it's cut with an angle at the bottom, but once you're stitching it into the armsceye it makes total sense and fits perfectly. And the elastic that encases about 2/3 of your waist is perfect -- it adds shape and and creates a flattering silhouette, even for those of us with ample bustlines! Hooray!

I know this is pictured on the pattern art as a beachy cover up, but I am so delighted with this kaftan that I've been wearing it in heavy rotation with leggings as a dress. The lawn is perfection in the Atlanta heat, keeping me cool and comfortable even in high humidity.


But of course, I always have to make a second version of any pattern so I can really play!

For my second version, I used a stretch ruffle knit. I still used cotton lawn for the sleeve edging and the ties, and I used the same exact yoke piece from the pattern to cut a facing for the neckline, also out of lawn. I also stitched the V opening of the neck closed at the very top to create a keyhole effect.

The only tricky thing in working with the ruffled fabric choice was making sure I kept the ruffling free along the line where the elastic casing needed to sit. With a little planning and care, though, it was no huge challenge. And I didn't even bother to hem it -- I just let the ruffles do the work for me.

I LOOOOOOOOVE the way this version turned out. It's my new favorite dress! It's very flattering, hugging curves without being too tight. Again, LOVE.

This  pattern offers itself up to innumerable design and variation possibilities. Maybe I'll eventually get around to making it as a swim cover up!

The Nearly-instant Shrug

July 15, 2012

Summer in Atlanta can be challenging when it comes to clothing choices. It's steamy outside, of course, but many buildings have the AC cranked up so high that it's like walking into an ice cave. What to do?

Well, right this second, you are exactly two seams away from a shrug that won't drag you down, will ward off the chill of over air-conditioned buildings, and is small enough to fit in most handbags. Two seams.

You'll need about 3/4 of a yard of a lightweight knit, with a 60" (or close) width. I used an avocado rayon knit that is ultra soft. 

Here's how to whip this thing up:

First, fold your fabric so your selvage edges meet, right sides together. Then, stitch all the way down the selvage edges, joining them.

1-InstantShrug.jpgYou'll have a tube when you're done with that first seam. Refold your fabric so that the seam you just made sits at the center of one side of your tube.

Using a ruler, mark about 8.5 inches from each folded edge. I used a Sharpie for these photos so the dot is a little easier to see.

Here's my fabric showing both markings:

For your second seam, stitch along the edge from marking to marking, leaving your seam open between the markings and the folds. Those openings are your arm holes. When you pull it off the machine, it will just look like a squared off box, but turn it right side out, put your arms through those holes, and voila! A drapey, casual shrug.

5-InstantShrug.jpgFor my quickie version, I just left the raw edges, but you could easily hem them if you prefer a more structured look. You can also add a closure at the front, or just use a brooch with a pin back to close it.

Take THAT, grocery store air conditioning!

This is a fun project to share with young sewing enthusiasts, as it gives them a finished project in a jiffy and builds confidence. But I love that it's also a way to fill a gap in my wardrobe without spending a lot of time or cash. These are so quick, I often make two or three to take on vacation with me. Since I sometimes get vacation brain and lose jackets, these are a perfect solution -- if I lose one, I know I can crank out another when I get home.

How will you customize your shrug?

My First Quilt Part 1

July 13, 2012


I have decided to take the next step in sewing, a new challenge to push myself and a new set of skills as well as to see what all the buzz is about. Yes, that's right I am making my first quilt. Actually I am tackling 2 quilts at once but I am using the same pattern for both though one quilt is a twin size and the other is crib size (however, I will be using it as a floor/play quilt*) I am both super excited and scared. I think I have chosen a relatively simple quilt pattern for my first foray into a great art, Denyse Schmidt's Hills n' Hollers,  but I am still shakin' in my boots a bit. If I mess up, that is a lot of fabric at stake or if it doesn't look good, it is on a big scale. But I am not going to think about all that because the pattern I choose is a Denyse Schmidt and I am also calling upon her book: Denyse Schmidt Quilts. The quilt is appliquéd which makes me feel much safer than making quilt blocks. And having read the pattern instructions I have a few tricks up my sleeve. Read on to check them out.



Ok so here is my game plan. I am not looking forward to hand appliquéing 25 and 60 hills for the baby and twin quilts respectively. So I googled a few other blogs to see what short cuts, if any, that they used and decided from there. Off the few blogs posts I read the only short cut I found was Blair Peter's on Wise Craft. Her quilt was GORGEOUS but she attached her hills with fusible web. She swears it turned out well and even looks great after washing. I believe her and want desperately to try it just to save time, but I have not have the best success with fusible web over the long turn without some sort of stitching to hold down the edges. So I have decided to choose her option #2 but modified. Side note: I giggled a bit at Denyse's description of the hills seams allowances as "generous 1/8''. Being new to quilting I don't really know if this is generous but coming from the land of 5/8- ½'' seam allowances this is hardly generous. End Side Note.

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My modified option is to add 1/4 '' seam allowance to each hill pattern piece and then baste ¼'' away from the edge, press along the basting line and then topstitch each in place. I think it will look great; granted not as great as hand appliquéd but my goal is to finish this sometime this year and to keep myself focused. If I hand appliqué, neither goal will be met. To accomplish this, I first traced each pattern piece from the original (which Denyse instructs you to do so) then cut each out and then traced each piece again adding the ¼'' seam allowance and then cutting those pieces out. The larger pieces I then traced onto my fabric and cut those out according to the pattern instructions.


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For my girls, I am FINALLY cutting into my favorite fabric collection (Erin Michael's Uptown by Moda). I am excited and scared about this as well but what better way to enjoy this collection than to see if everyday nestled around my little ones. Plus this is my only fat quarters collection which is perfect for making this quilt. This quilt is a great excuse to purchase a fat quarter bundle. The background of each quilt is muslin; I love the color and texture. For the backing I am using some fabric that I have already used for some window treatments in the girls' room and I want to tie it all in together. I cannot wait to see the finished projects!!

* See my post "What not to make for baby"

Visit my Blog at www.gruenetree.com

Beyond the Onesie!

July 11, 2012

A baby comes standard with a pack (or 3 dozen) Onesies. If you are lucky some of those rompers will be decorated in a style that you like, with a cute appliqué or design. However, most will not be lucky because the thing about baby presents is that not everyone has the same style. Luckily, revamping your onesie collection is pretty easy and fun. You can use these techniques and tips for your little one's wardrobe or as a great gift for another special babe in your life; you can even use them on older children's clothing as well.

Here's what your might need:

Heat transfer paper

Circle cutter

Embroidery supplies


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First up are the plain white Onesies. These are great because you can purchase them in packs of 5-8 and really go to town which is what I did on a pack I was recently gifted. I was jonesing for some embroidery so I had an idea for a reverse appliqué with "Love" embroidered in the center. To make this reverse appliqué I used my Circle cutter to cut a 5'' circle from my heat transfer paper and then cut another 4'' hole from the center of the first to make a ring of heat transfer paper. Then I placed the ring on the RS of my quilting cotton (I made sure to get some dogs inside the ring to show up) and ironed it in place. Next cut out your circle and place it on the WS of the front of your onesie and iron in place. Stitch the ring in place with coordinating thread and turn your onesie RS out. Cut out the center of your circle from just the onesie, using your stitch line as a guide. Finally, hoop your onesie and embroider your special saying. I wrote "Love" with a water soluble marker.



Next, I found a great apple that I wanted to turn into an appliqué so I used the same technique as for my deer head appliqué and stitched around the apple with a straight stitch. For the letters, I didn't want to machine stitch for fear of sloppiness so I choose to just use a running stitch and go over the letters with embroidery floss to hold them in place and give some definition.



My third onesie I wanted to add some more texture so I decided on a gentle ruffle that was more texture than ruffle so it wouldn't bug the baby. To do this I cut a 4'' strip twice as long as the front of the onesie and with RS together I folded the strip in half lengthwise and stitched ½'' from the edge. I pressed the seam open and turned the tube RS out and pressed again with the seam down the center (this becomes the WS of the ruffle). Next I ran a gathering stitch down each side of the strip ¼'' from the edge. Pull the threads to gather the strip as much as you like and knot the thread when finished. Pin strip in place and stitch to your onesie over the gather stitches, folding under the short raw edges to prevent fraying. Done!



My last romper was a bit of a departure because this one is a hand-me down from my first little girl. It was packed away but when I pulled it out I discovered some staining that nothing could defeat. So again, I leaned on my trusty circle cutter and cut out several circles from some red micro dot, linen and a little heart from a Heather Bailey Nicey Jane Print. I ironed on freezer paper to cut the circles and then used heat transfer paper to adhere them to the romper. Then I stitched in zig zag around all with a contrasting thread. You can't even tell there was ever a stain and the giant polka dots make the romper look better than ever.

You can use all these tips and techniques to add some wow to your rompers or your own wardrobe. Pairing short cuts, like heat transfer paper, with embroidery can make your projects not only time savers but also unbelievably cute. These ideas can be used on any age to brighten up any top or to cover just about any Oops that comes your way.

Check out my circle cutter series here: Part 1 & Part 2

Trending At Fabric.com: Mixing Patterns & Prints

Hello Lovelies,

I hope everyone is enjoying the balmy carefree days of summer!  So I have a question for you:  Have you ever been in a fashion slump or ever felt the need to spice up your wardrobe a bit?   A simple cure for a fashion slump is mixing up things in your closet with pieces you already have and stepping out of your style comfort zone.   One of my favorite trends of the moment are print and pattern mixing.   For example, have you ever considered pairing a floral and stripe together or wearing a leopard print with polka dots?   Maybe you think you could never pull off this look, but I guarantee that you can.   Just follow these simple guidelines and in no time you will be mixing patterns like a fashion pro!   


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Look for prints and patterns that work well together

Floral prints paired with stripes or polka dots or animal print paired with stripes or polka dots always look great together.

Try to stay in the same color family if you are new to mixing patterns & prints

It's ok to stay on the neutral side when your new to mixing patterns and it will still have the same effect as mixing bold colors it will just be tad more subtle.

Leopard, polka dots and stripes can be thought of as solid fabrics

If you are feeling confused about what pieces to pair together just remember that a leopard print or stripes can be thought of as a solid fabric. A leopard print skirt would look fabulous paired with a polka dot print  And stripes paired with a floral or tribal print would look amazing.

Don't' try to match

Remember don't try to be too matchy, that will totally defeat the purpose of mixing unexpected patterns and prints.   Remember keep it fun, playful and carefree.  Don't try to over think it just go with it.

Find a color that ties the prints and patterns together

Look for a color that can be found in all the prints and patterns.  The base color will help tie everything together.

Combine fabrics of different textures with fabrics of different weights

For example a pretty silk blouse would look great paired with a cool linen print for a great warm weather look.   Or try silk with a chunky patterned sweater or cardigan for the perfect fall look.

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Takeout Tonight! Make a quick, custom carryall from a takeout box!

July 9, 2012

We're stepping away from the sewing machine for this one! It's gonna get a little crafty, and there will be some sloppy gluey fun, so put on your grubby clothes or a coverup.

The project is a customized box that you can use for a gift box or as a handbag (though it won't stand up to a whole lot of wear and tear). Coordination obsessives: This is a handy way to really get all your colors together for an outfit or a gift presentation.

To start with, you'll need a plain takeout box. You don't want a used one, and it should not be waxed. You want just plain cardstock. (You can also always make your own!) My sample features a red box, but ideally, you want a white one. I definitely had some issues with the color bleeding during the process.

With a pair of pliers, straighten the wire ends of your handle so you can easily remove it from the box. Set the handle aside -- it will get reinstalled at the end.

3-takeout-box.JPGOnce your handle is removed, unfold your box and lay it out flat.

You'll also need a piece of fabric to cover your unfurled box. For this project, I opted for a striped cotton print, but you could use almost anything. (Hello, stash reducer!) As with anything, testing is key -- some fabrics will not react well to the Mod Podge we'll use in an upcoming step.

I like to use my unfolded box to size out and cut a rough square of fabric big enough to cover the whole thing..

4-takeout-box.JPGNext, I liberally apply Mod Podge to the outside of the box. Liberally. You can get pretty glorpy with it, especially if your fabric tests were successful. 

Once you have a good coat down, slap it down on the wrong side of your fabric. You may have noticed that my work area is covered with cut open plastic grocery bags. This is key to easy cleanup and preventing sad, sad happenings.

5a-takeout-box.JPGNext, layer another set of plastic bags on top of the project. Make sure all sticky bits are covered.

6-takeout-box.JPGOnce you have all your protective plastic in place, put weights on top of the whole shebang. Coffee table books are excellent for this. (Can you guess who my favorite cartoonist is?) Check to make sure all the little flaps are covered. That's what all those little decks of cards are for in the image below.

7-takeout-box.JPGLet your weighted, gluey project sit for a while. Now would be a good time to do some sewing if you have a project on hand.

After a couple of hours, peel back the plastic and begin trimming your fabric right to the edges of the box.(Note: Use your cruddy scissors, so long as they can cut fabric without chewing it up.) It's OK if the glue isn't completely dry at this point, but you do want to make sure your box and fabric are well adhered to one another.

Go ahead and fold the box at all the creases. It's actually beneficial to not have things 100 percent dry at this point, because your fabric will be a little more elastic.

Notice in the photo below the area where my red box color bled. White is right!


Next, go over all the handle insertion holes with an awl or old seam ripper to make sure the fabric is open. Since there is going to be some gluey residue, this is not the time to use your nicest, sharpest tools. This is the time to use the ones that aren't that great, but you haven't had the heart to throw out.

10-takeout-box.JPGRefold your box back to its original shape and replace the handle.

Now, you can add whatever decoration you like. For the demo, I opted to keep things simple with a satin bow, hot glued in place. Looking at this box, you can tell I've already got Halloween on the brain, even though it's only July!

This is obviously a very simple project, but it can be upgraded in a number of ways to suit your needs and style. Use a brocade or dupioni scrap. Sub out the metal handle for a ribbon or cord to make a softer, more elegant look. Reinforce the cut edges of your fabric by adding a decorative trim -- just be sure the box will still fold into shape easily. Add rhinestones, appliques, or a cut out motif from your favorite print. Use craft papers instead of fabric to cover your box. Lacquer the exterior after your Mod Podge is dry to make it a little more modern. This also a good rainy-day project for little ones, though they'll need some supervision and assistance. You can get crazy creative and burn through your scrap pile at the same time! 

Chevron Decrease

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The Chevron Decrease, AKA the Double Decrease is one of my favorite visual techniques. The vertical ridge that it creates makes for an interesting texture as well as focal point in your knitting. It is not so intricate that it must stand alone; the chevron decrease compliments other stitch techniques to create some beautiful combinations. This decrease is easily achieved but it can also be easily misunderstood. If you do not slip your stitches correctly the look you end up with can be sloppy, or just "off" looking. With my video to guide you, you can make sure you do the Chevron Decrease correctly because I also show you an often made mistake as well as the correct method several times. Couple this decrease with an equal number of increases to create your own chevron pattern for some hip fall styles! 

Maternity Tankini

July 6, 2012

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I have been looking for a maternity swimsuit for a few months now without luck. Either the one I loved is out of stock or all available are all in black. So when I found this tutorial for a maternity tankini I was excited! I have been squeezing myself into my pre-pregnancy swimsuit since the weather turned warm and it is NOT working out. I needed something with room to grow and a sure fire way to make sure the swimsuit fits and that it will accommodate me as I grow is to make it myself. I have made 2 of these tankinis, one according to the tutorial as written and a second with modifications I thought would make it easier to make and to fit me better. You can choose which you prefer and make your own. It only takes a few hours and about 1/2 yd of swim knit and about ½ yd of lining (or you can self line like me and order 1 yd of swim knit). I only made the top from the tutorial opting to make my bottom from Kwik Sew Swimsuit I made last year only one size larger with the skirt. I liked the fit and the look plus I wasn't sure how well the bottom from the tutorial would work without elastic and since I needed one size bigger than my existing suit I didn't have one to trace as per the tutorial.

Back to the top: The first time I made it the measuring instructions were not clear but I waded through any way. I also could not tell where to start sew the tube to the skirt and where to stop for the peek-a-boo back so I just sewed the tube all the way around to the skirt without the peek-a-boo look. Also, I could not get the gathering to work when sewing through 2 layers of knit; my thread kept breaking. I also tried elastic thread and stretched elastic; neither gave me enough gathering to give me the look of the original. Plus once I tried on my top it was way too tight around the belly and a smidge too loose on the bandeau top. The instructions on gathering the sides were not clear enough for me and I could not get it to work out.  I realized I needed to tweak the tutorial to get the fit and look I wanted and needed.

First, I put on a tank top that fit well. When I say well I mean it is form fitting and hugs my curves. I bought mine from Old Navy and they are not maternity just one size larger than my regular tank tops. The extra long length enables me to fit them over my belly while still leaving me covered if my pants slip down (which often happens with maternity pants). This tank allowed me to take accurate measurements because I had a seam that went up both sides so I used that to start and stop my measurements. First I measured from one seam to the other around my back at the smallest area (Measurement A). Next measure from one seam to the other around the front at the biggest part of your belly (B). Then, measure from your bra band down the middle of your belly to where you want your top to end (this is the length of your tankini skirt) (C). Next, measure around your bra band all the way around, not from seam to seam (D). Then measure from your bra band up over the biggest part of you breast to where you want the bandeau top to sit (mine was 7'') (E)

Now follow this formula to get your cut measurements:

A - 2'' + 1''= Cut width F

B  - 2'' +1''= Cut Width G

C + 4'' = Cut length H (mine was 16'')

D - 5'' + 1'' = Cut width I (mine was 29''-I wanted this part tight since I have a bigger chest and want the support)

E + 3''= Cut length J (I cut mine at 10'' but in hindsight I should have cut it to 9'')

Cut one skirt front F by H, cut one skirt back G by H. Cut two bandeau tops (either one from knit and one from lining or both from knit) I by J.


With RS together, pin short sides of bandeau top together and stitch using zig zag to create circle. Repeat for lining. Fold bandeau in half and measure and mark opposite from seam. Sew basting stitch at this mark and also on the seam and pull thread to gather (gathers with be at center back and center front). Repeat for lining. With RS facing, pin lining and exterior together along top and stitch using zig zag. Turn RS out and pin bottom edge together, set aside.

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Pin skirt front to skirt back along sides and sew using zig zag. With RS facing pin skirt to bandeau top with the bandeau seam at the back and stitch using zig zag. Stretch the bandeau to fit the skirt. Stitch in the ditch a basting stitch* on the RS from right below the bandeau top down the side seams of the skirt to the bottom edge and pull to gather as much as you need (it helps to try the top on to see how much gathering you want). Stitch over to secure. Hem bottom as needed.

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*It helped me to stitch right next to the ditch on the opposite side of the seam allowance (i.e.: seam allowance was tucked to the right while stitching on the left, see above). The less fabric you have to baste through the easier it is to pull the thread to gather. You can stitch in the ditch to secure the gathers.

Check out our swimsuit knit fabrics here

Visit my Blog at www.gruenetree.com

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Poppy Brooch for Remembrance on the 4th of July

July 4, 2012

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I had never known the tradition of wearing a Poppy Flower for Remembrance of War Veterans until I went to a Veterans' day memorial ceremony last year. It was very touching and so beautiful that I still have the simple crepe flower on my trench to this day. One a day where everyone is decked out in the Red, White and Blue, what better way to accessorize than with a crocheted remembrance poppy. Your poppy can symbolize anything that you love about the USA, a beloved soldier or veteran or as a thank you to our founding fathers (I count all those revolutionary soldiers among them) and mothers that worked tirelessly 236 years ago. I adapted a super sweet poppy earring pattern I found on Ravelry by Janet McMahon for my brooch. All you need is some worsted weight yarn in black and red and a size J/10 hook.

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Follow the poppy pattern using 1 strand of black and 2 strands of red yarn and only make one poppy, unless you want to make another for a friend. Once finished find a small piece of felt approx. the same color as the red of your poppy and using a spool as your pattern trace a circle and cut it out (or grab these ready made felt circles). Next, take a pin back (you can recycle one from another broken pin or use a safety pin) line it up on your felt circle and mark cut lines for the pin and end to fit through.

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Fold your circle in half and cut small slits at these marks. Fit your pin back into the slits and then line your felt circle on the back of your poppy and glue in place with fabric glue. Pin your felt circle down until the glue is dry. Wear your poppy with pride and as a great accent to your patriotic wardrobe. Rock it out at the bar-b-que or watching fireworks. You can also increase the yarn gauge and hook size to make coasters or as a hat pin. 

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Visit my Blog at www.gruenetree.com

Simple Summer Book Bag

July 2, 2012



Summer is hitting full swing and you need a simple but chic book bag to keep up with you. My canvas embroidered book bag features a small gusset and one shoulder strap that makes it as easy to grab as it is to carry. The gussets allow for maximum carrying capacity while the clever one strap design means you can grab this bag with one hand and not have to worry about the one strap sliding off your shoulder while the other stays in place. The one strap also allows for you to easily reach in the bag while wearing for a quick snack attack, to return a book or snatch those car keys. The Simple Summer Book Bag can fit several books or you can use it for a trip to the pool, as a grocery tote or knitting bag (like we need another!). Here how to make your own:



1 yd of cotton canvas

Embroidery floss and you favorite Sublime Stitching Pattern


Cut out two 18x18 in. squares and one 4x25 in. strap from canvas. Set strap and one square aside.

Apply embroidery pattern as instructed and embroider up your pattern in your favorite colors. I just adored my love birds. Press to regain shape of your square once embroidery is finished.


With RS facing, pin and stitch around 3 sides (bottom and 2 sides) using a ½ in. seam allowance. Pin corners so seams line up and draw a 2 in. line for stitching your gussets (see photo below).



Stitch over gusset line, back stitching at both ends. Double turn top of bag ½ in. and topstitch.

Fold strap in half lengthwise and press. Open and fold raw ends towards the center line and press. Fold in half again with raw ends inside and press a final time. Pin strap closed and topstitch open edge.


On the inside of the top hem, mark 2 &3 in. from the side seam on right front side. Flip bag over and repeat on the back. Line up strap between these 2 marks and pin in place. Stitch strap in place using 2 lines of stitching, 1/8 in. from top edge and ½ in. from top edge. Done!

Fill you book bag with your favorite books for a day at the park, bookstore or indulgent goodies at the farmer's market. Try to remember to bring a notebook so you can write down names and numbers of all your friends who will ask you to make a Simple Summer Book bag for them as well.



Vintage Through the Seasons

July 1, 2012

Sometimes, I fall so in love with a vintage pattern that I want to churn it out like a uniform. I want to test it out with different fabrics to see how it behaves. Because if there's one thing I've learned about vintage patterns, it's that they never look quite like the stylized sketch on the envelope.

This week, I was feeling gung-ho for a jacket project. I decided to go with the jacket that comes with Vintage Vogue 8767. I chose this one because it's similar to a jacket owned by a friend that I have been coveting for quite a while. (Hers is a true vintage piece, given to her by an old friend of the family.)

Since we are in the midst of a ridiculously hot summer, I opted to make a short-sleeved striped stretch linen blend version first. My thinking is that even though we're in the steamy season, it will be fine for early morning on the way to work, and a welcome layer in office air conditioning. This fabric was ultra dreamy to work with. Crisp enough to make handling easy, with enough give to make working around curves a snap.

One of the things I love about vintage patterns is that they don't rely on interfacing much. This one is completely free of it, and it's unlined. That means all you have to cut is your fashion fabric, so it's a simple project to get underway.

There's a bit of handwork that goes into this one -- the buttonholes and the facing both require a needle and thread, but it's all pretty straightforward. There are actually two phases of hand stitching on the buttonhole -- you apply the facing for it to your outer shell and hand tack the facing to close it, then you slit the facing and hand stitch it to the back of the buttonhole you've already created. This makes for a nice, clean finish with all raw edges encased, so it's worth the extra effort.

The other technique that this pattern features, and which I have seen on other vintage patterns, is layering the pressed edge of one fabric on top of another and stitching it in place from the outside, rather than the usual "right sides together" approach. It takes some getting used to, but when joining curved edges like the front pieces of this jacket, it really does help to ensure a clean, perfect join.

I almost always work on (at least) two projects concurrently, and I really love cutting out two projects from one pattern at a time. Keeps things interesting, and saves time in the long run.

My second version of this jacket is for autumn and winter. It's a long-sleeved version cut out of plum stretch velvet. I am SO pleased at the richness of this fabric -- I remember a time when all stretch velvet looked a little cheesy, but this stuff is divine.

Here's a little tip I use when marking dark fabrics, especially knits: metallic Sharpies. It won't work on all fabrics (bleeding through can happen), so be sure to test with your fabric!

Of the two versions I made, the stretch velvet is by far my favorite. The drape of it is very flattering, and I can't wait until the weather cools down so I can wear it! (Though at the moment, it seems like the weather will never be cool again.)

Instead of blind-hemming the sleeves for this version, I made a quick cuff finish. I always find it cumbersome blind hemming on stretch velvet, so it seemed like a natural change to make.

I love that this style is lady-like enough that you could wear it to work or even a semi-fancy luncheon or shower, but you can also style it with jeans and graphic tee to pull of a thoroughly modern look with a nod to the past.

Here's to time traveling in style!

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This page is an archive of entries from July 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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