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Hot Patterns Free Pattern Download: Aspen Cardigan

March 31, 2014

LI-Aspen-Cardigan.jpgIt's time for a new free pattern! It always feels like Christmas or my birthday when we get a new Hot Pattern download to test out. This time around, it's a cardigan with a ruffled peplum, designed for knits.

(Knits, I will never stop loving you.) 

The big draw here for me: There's no hemming or closure notions needed. The edges all around finish with a band of fabric, and it's designed to hang open (though I'll share some ways I played with closing it up wrap-style). Easy-peasy, perfect for a grab-and-go layer in your wardrobe. 

I made two versions of this, both in very fluid and drapey knits. For the first one, I went the ultra deluxe route and used designer knit -- a LIberty of London Dufour Jersey Knit in Darby Blue. It's like butter. 

The second version uses a slub jersey knit in a ballet pink. It's a much more economical option, but it also has a lovely drape. 

The cutting and construction is all straightforward. To cut a size 14, I used a little less fabric than called for on the pattern -- just a little more than two yards.

During construction, the only place I had to really take my time and exercise patience was getting the band that goes around the lower edge, center front and neck edge in place and lying smoothly. The curved bottom front edges were the trickiest bit. Once I had things figured out on the first go, the second one was a much smoother affair. 

The completed cardigan has a soft swing, and the peplum is not as full as I had expected based on the pattern sketch. This is a good thing -- it gives you more of a figure skim and less of a puffy effect. 

1-Aspen-Cardigan.jpgBut then while I was snapping photos, it occured to me that this garment is far more versatile than I had been thinking initially. I cut a strip off of a bit of knit yardage I had on hand and made a quick sash, overlapping the fronts of the cardigan like a wrap. And it is SO CUTE.

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The soft pink, which is so girly and perfect for spring, also got a little belting treatment. 

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This time, I used a chiffon scarf wrapped from the back, criss-crossed in the front, and then tied in the back. This is a perfect treatment to create an hourglass figure -- use a dark color for your sash and give yourself an instantly nipped-in waist.

4-Aspen-Cardigan.jpgWearing these soft, drapey fabrics in this fluid cut also made me think that it would be fun to make this up as a cover up for pajamas or even for poolside. Another versatile freebie from Hot Patterns! Huzzah!

Get your copy of this pattern here. Happy stitching!

Spring knitting: Cotton Yarn

March 17, 2014

cotton yarn1.jpgSpring is upon and whether or not you have felt warmer temperatures it is time to prepare for the change of season where your yarn is concerned. Put away your wool and cashmere and grab your cotton. I want to show you three great lines of cotton yarn we have at Fabric.com and explore some spring patterns.

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(Coral Colored Yarn) First up is just prefect for dishcloths which is my all-time favorite spring knitting project. They are small, quick, and don't take up a lot of lap space. Coincidentally, my dishcloth usage increases during spring and summer in direct correlation with watermelon consumption. Peaches n' Cream cotton yarn makes an excellent dishcloth because it is tightly wound and features 4 ply of quality cotton yarn. You can scrub and wash all day long and it will still last years. I do recommend that you increase your needle size because it will shrink and thicken after the first few washes. Increasing the needle size will make sure your dishcloth retains a good size and will keep its flexibly that a good dishcloth needs.

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(Yellow Colored Yarn) Secondly, we have a similar cotton yarn from Lion Brand, Kitchen Cotton. While this will also work for dishcloths I prefer it more for wearable projects because it is less tightly wound so it has a bit more loft, drape and a better hand when next to the skin. You can use it for light sweaters, shawls, wraps and blankets. It also has a bit of a sheen which makes it an excellent choice for baby and kids wear since it will be smooth and nice to the touch.

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(Blue Colored Yarn) Lastly, I want to share our Lion Brand Organic Cotton which is not wound with several plies but it is combed and lightly wound with a thin ply of cotton to give the overall yarn a slub look that adds texture and softness to your projects. You might remember it from my Worsted Swirl Hat. It is unbelievably soft and still has good stitch definition despite the slub texture. Being that it is organic makes it a great choice for kitchen items and kids wear as well as wonderful for bedding (pillows, blankets, etc.). cotton yarn5.jpg

Product of the Month: Twin Needle

February 14, 2014

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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.

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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.

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A missed stitch!!

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Still wonky

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.

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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.

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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.

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Left: the usual threading of the bobbin
Right: the less tension method 

twin3.jpgPerfect!

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.

MoonThirty

A Stitching Odyssey

Made by Rae

Product of the Month: Drapery Pleat Tape

December 18, 2013

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The joy of home decor is that there are so many short cuts, tools and cool notions that make interesting details a piece of cake to pull off. This can come in the form of hem tape, roman shade ring tape or giant plastic grommets that install without a press. One of my favorites is pleat tape. It is a wonderful multi tool that gives a professional look without a lot of work. Pleat tape can help give a professional finish at the top of draperies, can make pleating easy and includes a slot for metal hooks that the drapes hang from. It is suprisingly easy to work with. All you need is enough tape to go across the top of each curtain panel. Be sure to order a bit extra because you want to start the tape the same distance from the first pleat on all curtain panels. 

To apply your tape hem the sides of each curtain panel and fold down the top edge of the curtain. You don't need to double fold the top edge since any raw edges will be under the pleat tape. Pin the pleat tape in place on your curtain panel and sew along the stitch lines provided on the top. You will notice these lines are in a contrasting thread on the tape. This will ensure that you do not sew on the cord used to pull up your pleats or on the pockets the metal hanging hooks sit in. Once your pleat tape is securely stitched in place gently pull the cords in the pleat tape with even pressure. These cords work like pulling the bobbin threads to create gathers. The pleat tape and the weight of the fabric make it thick so you may need to help each pleat to slide along the cord. Once you have all your pleats in place and looking nice, knot off your cord. You can stitch parallel to these cords at each end to secure them but do not cut them off. Should you even wish to let down the pleats for cleaning you can pick out your stitches and then unknot the cords. This is very helpful for drycleaning. 

Using pleat tape can save hours of measureing, pinning and stitching and give a quality, professional finish everytime. I recommend it for every room. Even if you do not pleat the drapes, the tape helps to stablize the top of drapes for a clean look and an easy way to hang your drapes. 

Nearly Invisible Knit Increases

December 6, 2013

I have been on a sweater knitting rampage lately which is weird because I prefer fast knits. However, I went on a bit of a hiatus after my second baby was born; it's tough to imagine but I just didn't have the time. But I have grown accustomed to two kids and I needed my knitting fix again so I have been burning through sweater patterns. One trend I have noticed that has been giving me a challange is invisible increases that, well, aren't invisible. No increase can truely be invisible because you are adding a stitch-creating something from nothing. But some of these invisble increases are very visible and in a most distrubing way. They all tend to leave holes in my sweater, like a yarn over increase but smaller. I have tried video's, blogs and forums to figure out the way around this and have found nothing. I was left to solve it on my own. The answer came one night while I was night by the fire. Knitting makes me relaxed and sleepy at night so I accidentally increased on the wrong side of my cardigan but didn't notice until the next morning. I was shocked and excited not because I had to frog all the way back to my collar (which I did any way just to fix my holes) but because the increase was less visible when done on the opposite side. 

Continue reading Nearly Invisible Knit Increases.

Yummy, Versatile Faux Suede -- With Sparkle

November 17, 2013

LIa-redford-suede.jpgI'm always on the lookout for a good faux suede. Often, faux suedes never quite fulfill my desires. I want super ultra soft, but also easy to stitch. I want it to feel luxurious without breaking the bank. 

The Redford Faux Suede that's now in stock not only meets all those requirements for me, but it ALSO has some shimmer to it. Heaven! The finish on this is so luxe -- it feels amazing to the touch. The drape is fab because the fabric isn't super heavy. It has a great flow to it. 

I decided to make a swingy skirt with this fabric. I opted for the shortest version of Simplicity 1500. Since I'm only 5'3" tall, the shortest version comes to just above the knee on me.

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One of the fun things about the finish on this fabric is the visual delight of it. Because it has natural variation, you get a lovely effect. There's also little to no fraying.

But, just like regular leather, it benefits from some special handling. Some may find that it wants to stick to the presser foot or plate while stitching, so you may want to use tissue paper layers to sandwich the fabric and prevent drag. And, if you remove stitches, you can have residual holes showing, as seen below. A little gentle rubbing takes care of most holes, but a little extra care and patience will help prevent ever needing to think about it.

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I found I could iron this fabric on a low-medium heat setting, but I don't recommend doing so on the foiled side of the fabric, as it does change the texture a bit. But it irons beautifully, and the result is nice, crisp edges.

I also wanted to give you an idea of what stitching looks like the faux suede finish. The hem of this skirt is just folded up and straight stitched; this is what it looks like on the exterior of the garment:

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And here's the finished skirt:

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I'm glad I stuck to a pattern with simple lines -- this fabric has so much visual play thanks to the gold finish, it might look really overly-fussy if there were a lot of piecing. This fabric makes for such a statement piece, I will probably stick to a solid black shirt and tights with black boots when wearing this skirt.

My scraps were too pretty to toss, so I thought I'd let our cats in on some stylish fun. I used a buckle set from a worn-out collar to make a new one, and the model seems quite happy with the result.  

5a-redford-suede.jpgMy remaining scraps are absolutely going to get used up! I see many possibilities, so you may see this fabric pop up again in accessory posts. I also feel a strong urge to order another color for a jacket. Maybe red ... 

The Yummiest Leather You'll Ever Sew

November 3, 2013

LI-Leather-Jacket.jpgWhen I got an email from Kristl asking if I'd want to make a project using the Perfection Fused Leather that had just come in, I nearly jumped for joy. 

Making myself a leather jacket has been on the sewing bucket list for years -- YEARS -- but it always gets deprioritized for other things or because I feel like I don't have the time to devote to the careful stitching that leather requires or the cash to buy a hide. So you can see why I'd be so excited to play with this new yummy textile. This leather is lightweight and has a rayon backing, making it much easier to sew than unbacked leathers.

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I selected a pattern with clean, simple lines -- Simplicity 2341 -- and simplified it further by eliminating the trim and combining the snap collar of view A and the zippered pockets of view C. I also decided to line the jacket (I used a purple satin), which is not called for in the pattern.

While the rayon backing on this leather makes stitching right-side-together seams easy as pie, any time the face of your leather is going under the foot, you'll need to use tissue paper on it to prevent it from sticking to the pressed foot or the feed plate. Once your stitching is done, you tear away the tissue paper. (Sometimes, you have to spend a bit of time picking tiny bits of tissue residue from your stitching. Put in a favorite movie and have at it!)

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You'll want to set your stitch length a little longer than you would set it for sewing woven fabrics. Even though the backing fabric reinforces and supports the leather, you still don't want to perforate it any more than necessary.

A lot of people like to use binder clips in lieu of pins when working with leather, because pins can leave holes in your fabric.
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I prefer hair clips to binder clips, because you can more easily remove them as you stitch, and they don't leave imprints on the leather. But, they also don't grip as tightly, so you may have to experiment to see which you prefer and what the situation calls for.
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For my sleeve lining, I cut leather facings and stitched them to the bottom edges of the lining pieces before assembling the jacket. That way, the interior of my finished sleeve edge still shows leather rather than lining.
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I sewed the sleeves to their linings at the hem, turned them, then top stitched along the bottom to finish.  I inset my sleeves last, after the rest of the jacket was assembled, and bound the armsceye seams so there are no raw edges showing inside the jacket. Because a jacket like this is best if it has a perfect custom fit, I highly recommend making a muslin first. The sleeves as drafted in the pattern just didn't sit properly on me at the shoulder seam, so I had to make some adjustments. Since you want to sew leather as little as possible to prevent perforation and cracking, you don't want to have to take out and reset seams to get your fit right.  

I'm really pleased with how this project turned out, and I am in LOVE with the supple, buttery fused leather. As is almost always the case when I find a new textile I love, now I want to make something else (or many something elses) with it!
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Blog of the Month: The Craft Mom

October 11, 2013

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I have stumbled upon a great site: the Craft Mom. It is a mix of Coupon Mom meets Martha Stewart. It has everything a crafty person could need: daily craft coupon, sale and discount alerts, product reviews and crafty project tutorials. It is awesome. The Craft Mom was created by two ladies Lorrie and Julia. It is great sewing and knitting resource. 

Everyday there are several posts on fresh craft/fabric/yarn store sales, discount codes and coupons. This is my favorite post because I love saving a buck and usually when I do score a coupon or a code I am able to convinve myself that it means I can put a little more in my cart because I'm saving. You can also find upcoming craft shows, events, charities and parties. 

On the projects and tutorial page you can find pictures and links to some great, fun projects from around the web. The Craft Mom doesn't have any in-house projects but provides an avenue to find good projects and introduce you to new blogs, crafters, and materials. 

The project reviews are in-house and usually result in a give-a-way (Hooray). Each items that is sent to the Craft Mom or used in a review is carefully considered and written about genuinely. I have already adding a few things to my wish list and my christmas gift list. 

Finally, you can find a page dedicated to Kids' crafts; it is called the Craft Mom after all. This is, again, a collection of various fun and colorful kids friendly projects from around the web. This is a great resource for the upcoming holidays to give your kids something to do, allow them to contribute to holiday decortations and to have fun activites for the days off of school. 

This should be your new first stop in the morning when checking on your facebook page and email. If you are going to craft then you need to read the Craft Mom. 

Hot Patterns Halloween Free Pattern Download: Voodoo Chile Skirt

September 24, 2013


voodoo-chile-art-2.jpgI have been not-so-patiently waiting for this year's Halloween freebie pattern from Hot Patterns. When it landed in my inbox, I'm pretty sure I squealed aloud. What makes me love this one so very much? It can work its wiles long after the holiday has passed! You can make it up in sparkly, costumey fabrics, but it's also completely able to blend into your year-round wardrobe when you make it out of versatile wardrobe fabrics. And it's made for knits (loooove!). AND it involves no hemming (double looove!). 

The first thing you'll notice when you assemble your pattern is that there's a lot more curve to the skirt pieces than you're probably used to. This is where the magic is -- it sets this one apart from the pack. Even though it's a fairly simple pattern -- just these pieces and a rectangular waistband -- the curves and assymetry of it mean that cutting may take a little while. (Since construction goes quickly, it's a fair trade-off.)

1-voodoo-chile.jpgI made several versions of this skirt in different fabrics to give you an idea of what you might expect from different textile choices.

The first version I made was in a very inexpensive sparkly knit from my stash. (Seriously, I think I paid less than a dollar a yard for it -- it's a bargain bin find.) Because the fabric is so flimsy, it wouldn't be a great choice for repeated wearings in your wardrobe, but it's perfect for a modern take on a witch or fortune-teller costume. 

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For my second version, I used a spandex knit that would normally be used for swim or activewear. This one has great body and drape, though you might be surprised at how quickly the weight adds up with this fabric. 

3-voodoo-chile.jpgWhen I first selected a plisse knit for version number three, part of me was trepidatious. I wasn't sure how it would come out, but I really, really love this version! The springiness of the fabric gives it a really nice body. I love the plum color so much that I didn't want to use a different knit for the waistband, so I cut a narrower version of the waistband piece out of the plisse and inserted elastic to make up for the lack of recovery in the knit. This one can easily do double duty as a costume element or a wardrobe piece.  

4-voodoo-chile.jpgNext I wanted to play with contrast a little bit, so I used a gray and black striped knit paired with a solid black for the draped pieces. The striped fabric is a polyester knit I had in my stash, but it's not very stretchy -- it stays crisp compared to the poly lycra jersey I used for the ruffles.  I wore this one while tootling around town yesterday and got a compliment on it from a stranger on the train, so I call that a win! (Has it become abundantly obvious that this is a year-round style in my book?)

5-voodoo-chile.jpgSpurred by the success of the first contrast experiment, I forged ahead with a higher-contrast chevron knit combined again with black. My chevron is an ITY, so it's very, very fluid. The black is the same poly lycra I used in the previous skirt. This has great swing and movement.

6-voodoo-chile.jpgMy last version is out of a simple poly/lycra blend knit with tiny stars printed on it. I love how the solid black of the non-printed side peeks out here and there in the cascading drape of the ruffle inserts. I have a feeling this one will be a repeat performer in my fall wardrobe, because it's beyond comfy and will pair perfectly with T-shirts and sneakers for weekend wear.

7-voodoo-chile.jpgSo, after six, I had to restrain myself. But there are so many other combinations I would love to try! Color mixes, different prints, using sheers for the ruffles, reversing the curve of the lower edge -- there are so many ways to make this skirt uniquely your own. That's some good voodoo.

Get your free pattern here, and have fun creating!

Free Pattern Download- Create Kids Couture Barbara's Bloomers

September 3, 2013

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We have a new free pattern download from Create Kids Couture who have brought us Aiden's Shorts, Millie's Schoolhouse Skirt, and Hannah's Pillowcase Romper. This month we have Barbara's Bloomers and Bonnets set. The bloomers come in a short and long version with added ruffles. This is a great addition to any little girls wardrobe especailly one that is growing fast. Slip on some bloomers under a favorite dress turns is from too short into a tunic. I love putting bloomers on my baby in the warmer weather. She is not quite a walker so crawls everywhere but I want to avoid the whole tshirt/diaper combo and opt for more of a complete outfit with pretty bloomers. I love the longer, capri version for both my girls. The added knee coverage is great for my 4 yr old who comes home with a new bruise or scrap each day and my 11 mo old who is on her knees and on the go all day. 

My modifications turned the bloomers into knickers for a paired down style that my 4 yr old prefers. While she is all for a good tutu, she is more likely to opt for knit pants over ruffle bloomers any day. I decided on the same style for my infant but added a small ruffle just to say "I'm a girl" while we are out and about. To create my modifications you will first need some jersey knit fabric in the same yardage as recommended in the pattern. I suggest cutting a size down because you want knit garments a bit fitted because it looks better and fits better. Since my oldest is in a size 5T, I went with a 4T for her. I took 2'' off the width of the pattern piece for both the 4T and 12-18 mo. size I cut out for my baby and took it off the fold side. I also added 2'' in length to the capri pattern because I found it didn't quite go over my 4 yr old's knees, I did the same with the 12-18 size just to be sure I could get more than a few weeks wear out of them. Then, I created a cuff that is 10'' wide by 4'' tall (this is roughly the width of my adjusted pattern piece width which means it is approx half the cut pattern). I cut the pants pattern pieces according to the instructions and cut 2 cuffs with the stretch across the width. For the small ruffle on my infant pants I cut some jersey 1'' by double the width of each pant leg (4 times the width of one pattern piece) and gathered it.

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I gathered the bottom of each pant leg before folding the cuff in half and stitching it onto the bottom of each leg (for the ruffle stitch it in between the cuff and leg). Then complete the bloomer assembly instructions.

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These bloomer/knickers fit perfectly and both girls loved them. My 4 yr old, who is not always a fan of most clothes I make for her, did not want to take them off and my infant went about her day as usual without any hinderance. They both looked cute as a button so I am just as pleased. I love the creativity Create Kids Couture brings to their patterns and what it inspires in me.  

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