O Christmas Tree

We got our Christmas tree yesterday.

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Yes, that tree skirt in the picture is made from old neckties. I wrote up a tutorial years ago over on my old blog. I left it up because it still gets a ton of hits, especially this time of year. One of these days I’ll get it moved over here. But for now just click on over there if you want to make your own. I think it’s a fun skirt for a tree.

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The kids decided that the tree makes a good home for their Beanie Babies. We now have a tree full of “woodland creatures”.

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If only the cats will stay out of it maybe we can decorate it with ornaments and all the proper trimmings. If not, well….at least we have a tree.

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Schoolhouse Tunic Revisited

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I don’t know why I like the Schoolhouse Tunic by Sew Liberated so much. Maybe because it is so quick and easy to sew I get almost instant gratification. It could also be because it is very comfortable, and I am all about comfort over fashion these days. Or maybe it’s because the pattern is so basic, it lends itself well to modifications.

My first tunic, which I wrote about here, was made with a grey and rust polka dot fabric by Kaffe Fassett. I kept pretty true to the pattern. I like it. It was comfortable. I wore it once and felt ridiculous with all those polka dots, so I dismantled it. I kept the top and replaced the bottom with a solid black skirt. It looks much better now.

My favorite tunic was made from a really nice, med-weight, red linen. The drape of the fabric was perfect for the pattern. I made a few changes by lengthening the skirt, adding pockets, gathering instead of pleating the back skirt, and leaving the sleeves off. This one gets the most wear, as it is the most versatile. I pair it with long-sleeves, leggings, and tall boots in the fall. And I wear it over shorts and a tank in the summer. Here it is making an appearance in the brick pits at Colonial Williamsburg last summer.

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I’ve been wanting to make another one for awhile now. I’ve had the pattern and fabric sitting on my sewing desk for months, but I’ve been distracted by other things. I finally decided to tackle my sewing pile last Sunday. After repairing several tops and converting worn jeans into shorts for the kids, I decided to reward myself by making a top for me.

This time I made the short version with a few other modifications and I think this is my new favorite summer top. I used a light-weight, cotton poplin print by Vera Wang. I had some left over from a dress I made a few summers ago.

With this one I left off the pleats in the skirt and gathered the front and back instead. It reduced some bulk that the pleats caused, and I just think it looks better that way (at least on me). For the front, I ran a gather stitch between the pleat marks. And for the back, I just ran a gather stitch across most of the back, leaving about 2-3 inches on either side. (I didn’t take a close-up of the back. I should have though.)

And for the sleeves, I decided to make little, gathered, cap sleeves. I finished those off with some black bias trim that I made from some fabric in my scrap bin.

If you are wondering how to make the cap-sleeves, I thought I’d write up a little tutorial to show how I made them. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take photos while I was sewing, but hopefully you’ve sewn enough sleeves that it will all make sense. (If you click on the photo, you can view it at full resolution and it might be easier to read.)

Overcoming My Fear of Knits

I decided now was the time to finally overcome my fear of knits. I’ve been sewing on and off for over 20 years, but I have avoided knits like the plague. There is really no rational reason for this fear. I’ve been deconstructing t-shirts, which are technically knits, for years. But the thought of actually piecing together a garment from a stretch knit sends shivers of terror down my spine. I’d rather sew zippers. My old stand-by excuse is that I don’t have a serger. I know it’s possible to sew knits without a serger, but it sounded like a good excuse to me.

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Since I’ve come to the realization that a serger is not in my near future, I decided that I just needed to confront my fear and try a new challenge. I feel incredibly foolish for not having done this sooner. I’ll admit, I would rather sew wovens, but this knit top I made a few days ago wasn’t such a bad time.

Before I started on this project, I did some reading up on sewing with knits. I found this big list of tips very helpful. Be sure to read the comments on this post too, because some of them are just as helpful as the article itself.

Then I chose a few patterns and decided to start with McCall’s M6356. It said it was “easy” on the pattern envelope. I also really liked the style and draping of the top.

I chose a nice jersey knit in red, because I promised my husband I would start making more colorful clothing. My go-to color is usually black. But I like red too. And red looks really good with black.

It was a pretty easy pattern. I had a few bumps along the way, but overall the top came together fairly quickly. I learned a few things though. I’m an imperfect seamstress. Or maybe the better way to look at it is that I’m a “good-enough” seamstress. I hate pins, so I rarely use them except for matching seams, and I don’t measure hems and stuff like that. I often wing it. If it looks even when I look in the mirror, and everything fits comfortably, then it’s good enough for me. It’s worked out so far because, except for the obvious t-shirt deconstruction, people rarely know that a lot of my clothing is made-by-me.  I found with knits though, you have to be a little more precise and careful than with wovens, knits are harder to unpick (they snag easier), pins are your friends, and measuring is important – you don’t want your seams stretching at wonky angles, and since knits tend to cling more to your body, one wonky seam becomes an obvious distraction.

I didn’t have any stay tape for the shoulder seams, and I couldn’t find any locally, so I just used single fold bias tape. I read somewhere that bias tape was an acceptable substitute. It seemed to work. I’ve ordered some stay tape online though for my next project.

The top is not perfect, but it’s “good-enough”. I think I’ll be giving knits another go. I have two more tops and a skirt cut out. I’m just waiting for the mailman to deliver my stay tape.

Pattern H from the Stylish Dress Book

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I know I said I would blog this dress months ago, but things got a little busy around here over the summer.  Maybe it’s a good thing I waited so long because that gave me time to make a second dress. This is Pattern H from the Stylish Dress Book.

I thought I would have a little more fun photographing this dress.  I was getting tired of snapshots in my living room, so I went on location for a couple of the photos to an abandoned munitions plant.

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And for the other photos, I tried to recreate the doe-eyed look of the book model, who likes to hold random objects.  This dress became both a photography and sewing lesson.  What a great way to combine my two favorite hobbies.

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I used cotton poplin for both dresses.  The first one is made from a Vera Wang print I bought at Fabric Mart.  The second one is just ordinary poplin from Joanne’s Fabrics.

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I like this pattern the best so far from this book. It is definitely the most comfortable of all the dresses I’ve made from this book and it kind of reminds of the house-dresses women used to wear back in the day. It’s a great dress to wear while running errands. And it even made an appearance at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, making it the most comfortable day of our trip for me.

The instructions were a little confusing, especially with the language barrier.  I ended up not consulting the instructions and just constructed it myself, based on what I already know and what made the most sense to me.  I also thought the back was slightly odd-fitting, so I made a few adjustments to the bodice for a better fit.

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I also made the sleeve pleated instead of gathered on the second dress and added an exposed zipper just to make it a little different.  I like how they both turned out, and I’ve gotten quite a few compliments on the polka-dot one.

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I still recommend the swedish tracing paper for these projects – you can trace the pattern, add your seam allowance, and then sew it to check for fit before cutting your fabric.

And keep in mind that these patterns are all one length, so you may need to make an adjustment.  I am 5’4″, I made this dress the length of the pattern, and it hits just above my knee, just to give you an idea.

If you need a little help translating the pattern and instructions, check out this helpful series over at Label-Free.

And Google translator is always helpful with conversions and translations.

Recycled Sweater Purse

sweater purseI did finish my sweater purse. Actually, I finished it a couple of weeks ago and am finally getting around to posting it. It is not my best sewing example, but I still like how it turned out. I used two sweaters – one red and one gray. And the lining was some cherry fabric by Michael Miller that I had leftover from an apron I made last year. Both of the sweaters I used were wool, so I felted them in the washer and dryer. Felting the sweaters helps add some texture and strength to the wool. It is easy to do – just wash them in hot water and dry in the dryer. Repeat this process until you can no longer detect the weave in your sweater.

I’ve been using my purse daily since I finished it and it is holding up nicely. I’ve also gotten a lot of complements on it, even if it’s not my best sewing example. I do like the purse though. It is big and roomy, so I can carry all the stuff I need to take with me when I go out – even a textbook fits inside for the days when I need to study in my spare time. The only thing I am not happy with are the handles. I didn’t have anything else on-hand at the time, so I used what I had. I might change them out in the near future for circle handles. I think circles might be easier to carry. The shape that is on there now keeps getting tangled and they just don’t function properly.

I kind of just made this purse up as I went along. And I didn’t write a tutorial because there are hundreds of them on the Web already. I did however, compile a list of some of the best ones I found for you to browse for inspiration.

Janome – Recycled Sweater Purse

Recycled Sweater Coin Purse by Maize Hutton

How to Make a Felted Tote from a Recycled Sweater

Girl’s Spring Mini-Tote

And you can download a free pattern at YouCanMakeThis.com. And while you are over there, be sure to check my ePatterns – on how to make clothing from recycled ties and denim.

Have fun and happy upcycling!