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March 9, 2014
You know that yummy hotel luxury robe that you always think about stealing but if course totally don't? (I mean, there's no room for it in the suitcase, anyway.)
Good news! Bathrobes are easy to make, and spa terry velour is ridiculously plushy and luxe.
OK, first, let's talk about this fabric. One side is looped terry, and the other is a velvety velour.
When you pre-wash and run it through the dryer, you're going to get the fluffiest dryer lint maybe of all time. I'm not even joking.
Sewing it is pretty straightforward, but there are a couple of things to be prepared for. First, cutting it in two layers at a time can be a little tricky. I have some nice, sharp sheers that I only use for cutting fabric, and cutting two layers on the cross-grain was a challenge.
That leads me to the second thing: Be ready with a heavy duty needle for your machine! I never had any real problems stitching, but I suspect if I had gone with a needle intended for medium or lightweight fabrics, I would have bent or broken it because of the fabric's dense weave.
But with those two considerations in mind, making a new bathrobe was a simple affair. I used a pattern that's been in my stash forever, but there are always plenty of bathrobe patterns available.
Robes like this are a great way to turn a staycation into a spa-grade event, and they make luxe gifts. You could even personalize them if you have an embroidery machine, or add a machine-washable applique as a design feature. Mine will be replacing the robe I've had for way longer than I care to admit, which will now be turned into mop pads. And I will be wrapped in pink fluffy bliss.
February 28, 2014
I am anxious for spring and found my daughter's upcoming picture day to be a great excuse to make the first spring dress of 2014 (side note: did you know that there are two pictures days now!) I decided on Oliver + S Ice Cream dress for two reasons:
1) It seemed like a comfy, no frills, limited fasteners and with pockets that my daughter requires (her rules, not necessarily mine)
2) It is my favorite dress pattern. I just love the look and styling and knew she would love wearing it.
I let her pick the fabric. She decided on gray quilting cotton with dogs playing on it. Gray seems to be one of her favorite colors and I loved that it was an easily matched fabric. Since she got bored after picking the main fabric I got to have my fun picking out the second fabric. But I actually went with two fabrics for the top and border. I layered an eyelet fabric with a colorful polka fabric for a fabulous peek-a-boo effect that toned down the brightness of the polka dot allowing the main fabric to shine and gave some more visual interest to the white eyelet. This is the same eyelet I used for my square top variation. I used the polka dot as the lining and the eyelet as the exterior fabric however instead of having the lining's right side face out towards the inside of the dress, I reversed it having the right side of the lining fabric face towards the eyelet and the outside of the dress so the dots would show through the eyelet. The effect is beautiful and delicious. You can play around with this effect with many different fabrics. Try pairing different fabrics over a bright patterned quilting cotton like sheer fabric, lace fabric, sweater knit or even tulle.
My daughter loves her dress and so do I. She is a big leggings and t-shirts girl but she really does love this dress. I hypothesize that it is the loose overall fit and comfortable neckline. She is always asking to wear it and I can't wait for picture day. I just hope it is not washed thin before then.
February 26, 2014
Sticky Back Fusible Web is one notion you didn't know you couldn't live without. It has many uses and is customizable to use for just about any project you can think of. I love it and am always finding new uses for it. However, my favorite ways to use Sticky Back Fusible Web is for adding slot seam zippers and quick hems. Here's how:
Slot Seam Zippers:
Stitch your seam together where the zipper will go. Press the seam allowance open. Mark on the wrong side of the fabric the zipper placement and cut 2 pieces of sticky back fusible web the same length and ½'' wide. With the non-sticky side down, place each piece of web on each side of the seam on the seam allowance and press in place. Peel up the backing and center zipper on seam and between markings. The zipper will stay in place without pins while sewing in place with a zipper foot. Stitch straight down one side, across the bottom right below the zipper stop and back up the other side. I like to open up the seam down the zipper as I am sewing up the second side so when I get close to the top I can open the zipper without raising both my needle and my foot. I can just raise my foot leaving my needle in place and move the slide out of my way as I finish up the second side. Finish ripping open the seam and you're done. Now you have a perfectly finished slot seam zipper that is sewn and topstitched in one step.
Cut 1'' pieces of sticky back fusible and place them sticky side down along the edge of your project on the wrong side. Fold your hem up using the web as a guide and press in place. Topstitch your hem in place. Voila, so easy. No measuring, no pinning and no hem rulers!
February 25, 2014
So, unless you live in a media blackout, it's no secret that Atlanta has had a bit of a wacky winter. While I know many other parts of the country (and the world) have had much harsher conditions this year, I am unabashedly over the cold weather. As I type this, our snow has gone, but there's a cold drizzle coming down outside.
Alas, I can't jet off to a more glamorous and toasty location, so to help me recover from the cold-weather blues, I decided to make myself a new frock to remind me of travel and warmer weather. And what's more romantic to think about than springtime in Paris? I've been coveting all of the Michael Miller Eiffel Tower prints for quite a while, and it seemed time to use it for a bit of stitching therapy.
With just a few hours in the sewing room and Simplicity 1873, I took a make-believe trip to France and came out of it with a new dress. I made the version with the cap sleeves, but cut the skirt to the shorter length because I'm shrimpy.
I also opted to bind the neckline instead of cutting a facing. I don't love facings; I can never seem to get them to behave and stay in place and not get wadded up in the wash to the point that they require pressing. So I simply cut a bias strip out of my fabric and finished the neckline with it.
While it's not in the budget to go visit the Eiffel Tower this year, now I can at least carry a piece of it with me. Like a souvenir without the trip!
February 16, 2014
I'll say it loud and proud: I loooooove stretch velvet. I have since I was a kid. Back then, it seemed like such a fancy and grown-up fabric. And while my tastes have matured and I recognize that stretch velvet is not exactly the most haute couture of textiles, I am still terribly fond of it.
But finding ways to add this fabric into your wardrobe can be tricky. It can look costumey. (In the interest of full disclosure, I'll admit that I actually really like costumey street clothes, but I recognize that I'm in the minority on that one; I've watched enough "Project Runway" to learn that.) So I decided to make a couple of shirts that are cut sort of like fancy T-shirts.
I used McCall's 6754 for my first shirt, which I cut out of pink stretch velvet. Because of the way the pattern is laid out and pieces together, you get a little bit of play with the nap of the velvet that creates some pretty contrast that shifts with the light and angle that the garment's viewed from.
I turned to a vintage pattern I've used before for my second shirt. I didn't use the sailor collar; I just cut facings to match the body pieces to finish the neck edge.
The gathering along the sides of this one rally shows off the texture of the royal blue stretch velvet.
The costume lover in me is plotting to wear this one with a yellow skirt or pants and a red hair accessory so I can be a modern Snow White.
What I really like about a comfy top out of stretch velvet is the versatility. Throw on a blazer over it, and it's ready for the office. Pair it withe a pretty, flowy skirt and an eye-catching necklace, and it can easily go on a date or for drinks with friends.
Do you have stretch velvet fever? How do you make it part of your wardrobe?
February 14, 2014
This month's product of the month is the Schmetz Twin Needle. This notion is great for hemming knit garments and gives an elastic but professional finish to your knit edges. The twin needle creates a double row of straight stitching on the right side and a zig zag stitch on the wrong side which is very similar to the cover stitch found on most ready-to-wear knit garments. Twin needles are also great for pin tucks on wovens but that is another post that can be found here. I love the results achieved by the twin needle for hemming knits. I was so over the standard zig zag stitch: it didn't look as neat, professional and it often rippled as I stitched it up. The twin straight stitch adds the finish I love and drastically reduces the rippling. However, I did have a serious issue with tension on my Brother he-120 so I am including all the tips I tried in case you have similar issues.
Let's get started
First my main issue was with my upper thread being too loose and my bobbin being too tight. Even with my tension disc set all the way to 9 (this is where I set it when stitching gathering rows so the bobbin should have been loose as a goose) I was still seeing some upper thread on the wrong side and my zig zag was not taunt. So I tried rethreading just in case it was my error. No change. Then I tried centering my needles instead of just moving them to the slight left of center to clear my foot. I thought if the needle were centered then the zig zag would be pull on both upper threads evenly. No change.
A missed stitch!!
Next, I tried stitching with some light weight paper under my fabric in case it was an issue with the feed dogs. No change. I saw slight improvement when I moved the paper on top of the fabric but not enough.
With paper on top of fabric
I then tried using my walking foot and while I saw no change in my tension issue I did see that the tunneling effect was greatly reduced. So the right side appearance was much nicer but the wrong side was not correct and looked "off". Next I tried lengthen in the stitch length. This helped but only slightly but gave a better result on the right side.
Longer stitch length
I decided to take a chance and threaded my bobbin again but this time I did not run it through the guide but I just pulled it up through the needle plate. Since the bobbin tension was too tight I thought this would loosen it up. It worked great and gave me the tension I needed.
Left: the usual threading of the bobbin
Right: the less tension method
This was a very time consuming experiment that involved two machines (the tension issue occurred on two Brother machines) I had to keep tweaking and sewing, tweaking and sewing but finally I was able to create the correct tension and next time it will be so easy to hem my knit garments. Thank goodness spring is coming!
I have found many posts around the blogosphere that give tips on using the twin needle on knits but only a few were truly helpful. Here are a few of those I found good reads and warmly recommend. Please add you tips in our comment section with how you achieve good results with your twin needle.
February 2, 2014
I really love '50s poodle skirts. (I always like adding a little motif or design element to any garment.) Lately I've been thinking that it would be fin to adapt the idea of the poodle skirt to a slightly more modern design.
I used Simplicity pattern 1500 for my foiled faux-suede skirt a while back, and I really like the swingy cut of the skirt, which is almost a full circle. So I decided to revisit it. I like it because the skirt is cut in four pieces -- that means that if I mess up a design motif to the point of irretrievability, I can just cut another!
For motifs for my two skirts, I used a design cut from a T-shirt for one, and a foil iron-on I've had in my sewing room for several years for the other.
For my first skirt, I used a Brussels Washer Linen Blend, which comes out of the dryer so soft. I cut a Jack Skellington design from an old T-shirt, leaving plenty of fabric around the design, and positioned it on one of my skirt panels. I always do any embellishing that can be done before assembly first. That way, if something goes awry with the design elements, you don't have to seam rip anything. Just cut a fresh panel and try again!
I safety pinned the design in place, and then straight-stitched around the outside of the design a little less than a quarter-inch from the image.
Here's my design panel with the stitching in place, before I removed the safety pins:
After the pins were removed, I carefully cut away the excess fabric about an eighth of an inch from the straight stitching. Since I'm using a T-shirt scrap, I don't need to worry about fraying, but if you cut a design from a woven fabric to use on your skirt, you might want to consider a zig-zag or satin stitch around the edges of your applique.
Here's what my stitching looked like on the back side of the skirt panel:
I finally used a foinf iron-on that I'd been hanging onto for years for my second skirt. I have mixed results with iron-ons, but this one turned out lovely (and SO shiny!). I used a lightweight twill for this one.
After my motifs were in place, I just assembled my skirts as normal according to the pattern directions.
Jack seems to approve.
He even approves of the princess version.
One of the things I like most of this is that it gives me a chance to bring some beloved designs out of the stash and into my wardrobe, while still incorporating new fabrics to freshen up my skirt collection. Now I'll be eyeing any novelty cotton print with a skirt agenda, that's for sure! And I'm already combing through applique embellishments for ideas for my next skirt. Maybe butterflies ...
January 24, 2014
We work hard and when it's time to relax we want to do that hard as well. When we go to work we wear work clothes, when we go someplace nice we wear nice clothes and when we relax we wear relaxing clothes.
I don't mess around with my lounge clothes. I want soft. I want comfy. I also want cute; it makes me feel good. But, and please bear with me, I don't always want yoga pants. Wait, don't stop reading. The only reason I say that is because sometimes, just sometimes, I want a slimmer fit. Some days, I am clumsy and the wider leg of my yoga pants is not condusive to walking, running after kids or even watching a good movie. So I created an alternative version for those days. You decided for yourself or better yet make both so you can have another reason to relax.
I started with my previous yoga pants pattern that we drafted back here but from the just above the knee down I tapered the leg all the way down to the ankle taking off an 1.5'' on the inside and outside of each leg. This is not enough to give the pant a tapered look when wearing, it appears as a straight leg when worn. I cut the pattern pieces out of ITY Jersey Knit Fabric and stitched the two front pieces together at the crotch. All seams are 1/4'' unless otherwise noted.
Next, cut 4 patch pockets from printed Jersey Knit Fabric using this pattern piece and with right sides together stitch two pieces together leaving the top open for turning. Press. You can finish the top with your serger, bias trim or fold over and top stitch. Repeat for second pocket. Pin pockets to the front of your pants 1'' from the top and 1.5'' from the center seam. Top stitch each pocket in place.
Finish assembling the pants by sewing the two back pieces together at the crotch seam (right sides together) then stitch the side seams, inseam and assemble the yoga band and stitch it to the top of the pants. (see this previous post for instructions). Finish the bottom legs with a turned hem.
Now cut four pieces of 1/4'' elastic to 4'' long. With pants right side out, pin one piece of elastic 1'' above bottom hem on the side seam. Using a small zig zag stitch (your machine may have a elastic zig zag stitch, see your manual) start sewing about 1/2'' from the edge of the elastic, back stitching in place. Sew for about 1/4'' then start stretching the elastic. Keep sewing and stretching until you reach the last 1/2'' of elastic then back stitch in place and clip your threads. Repeat for the remaining piece on that leg and the other 2 pieces of elastic on the other leg. This will give you a ruched effect at the bottom of each leg.
These lounge pants are just the thing for hanging out, running errands, making sure you don't look like you just rolled out of bed to drop off your kids at school though you totally did, pajama pants, and yoga pants. Add your own style with different pocket shapes or add length to your pants and increase the length of the elastic for a greater ruching effect. The pockets are just the right size to fit an MP3 player, cell phone, lip balm or to hide chocolate candies which you can eat unseen during a movie.
January 22, 2014
Awards season is upon us (insert squeal here) and the dresses are breath-taking, chic and inspiring. Bu,t before you start sifting through your pattern collection let's take a look at one very popular award show dress fabric: satin. Satin has a high sheen due to its weave. The warp yarns (finely spun threads that are tight) are floated over the weft. Floats create a more uniform surface unlike a typical weave which is over-under, over-under. This uniform surface can reflect more light than tradtional weaving. Think of the smooth surface of water without wind (satin) and with wind (tradtional weaving). Unfortunatly, the floats are also the reason this fabric is prone to snags. There are many types of satin; some with oodles of drape and plenty of body. Let's discuss.
Satin Charmeuse: This is the satin that comes to mind most readily when you think of satin. It is light with a lot of drape and can be shaped easily but it is also tricky to sew because it is so slick. It is very important to choose a pattern that includes alot of drape with this fabric. Charmeuse cannot hold a shape very well, it depends on the body to give it shape but it can be manuipulated with gathers, ruching, swags to highlight body assets.
Duchess Satin: This satin has a great deal of body making it very unlike Charmuese. It shares the sheen but must be approached differently in terms of shaping. Your best bet is to create shape with creative seam lines instead of gathers. Duchess is a very dramatic fabric which makes is a favorite during award season.
Satin Chiffon: This is a lighter fabric than Charmeuse with an tranlusent quality. Typically chiffon is matte but with some stretch and satin has a sheen and no stretch but together, satin chiffon, has some stretch with more shine. Notice how the green gown above has less of a sheen than the previous two dress but it still has the sexy drape similar to charmeuse but it is not as clingy. It is lighter than charmeuse which allows it to drape the body but also float around it. This is my favorite of the three satins.
January 10, 2014
You may have seen this month's product countless times but have you really noticed it. It stabilizes your t-shirt shoulders so your sleeves don't end up on your waist. It keeps the stretch in your knit dress' waists. It is also used as hanging loops for your beloved jersey LBD (Little Black Dress). It has many uses but do you use it? A few month's back my mom made a t-shirt topped twirly dress for my oldest daughter. My daughter loved it but was only able to wear it once. Why? Because the skirt pulled on the top too much and holes started to appear at the waist seam. I told my mom and she went through a slew of declarations that included:
I used the correct size needle
My tension was perfect
I used a stretch stitch
I even used a brand new stretch needle!
I assured her it was nothing that she did. She needed to add clear elastic to the waist as a stabilizer. "But that wasn't in the pattern" she replied. I know, I know it rarely is. Clear elastic is a key notion needed for sewing knit garments but I rarely see it in pattern instructions. Perhaps this post can get the word out that although not mentioned, it is best to be safe and order some clear elastic for any knit garments you are making. Add it to shoulder seams (sew it inside the seam allowance so it doesn't show on the right side of the garment), gathered waists (pulling on the elastic while you sew it in place will create great gathers) and necklines. It will prevent the floppy look that knits can adopt when under strain for too long or stretched out. The clear elastic helps by absorbing some of the stretch of the area and then it bounces back, helping the knit fabric to recover as well. Clear elastic is tricky to work with at first because it is more rubbery than the more common elastic and you must use one hand to steer the elastic and one to steer the fabric but it doesn't take long to get the hang of it. I used a stretch stitch that my machine's manual suggested for sewing on elastic and a stretch needle as opposed to a ball point. The stretch needle pierces the elastic better than a ball point and I don't have to switch needle to sew the rest of my garment.