Saturday, June 30, 2012

New Curtains for the Guest Room

The fabric is a cotton twill from my stash. I purchased in England  years ago and finally decided to use it. I love the ladybugs and dragonflies on it!

I was careful to line these drapes - I want them to last...and boy, does the sun do a number on unlined drapes!

I made pockets for the rods.

I really do love the bright colours of the drapes, which are quite a heavy twill. 

I made ties too and here are the drapes tied back. I have to work on some sort of sheer  fabric. I don't like the blinds (an odd colour that came with the house...) and sheers would hide them nicely.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Big List of Patterns/Instructions/Tutorials for Sewing Dolls and Doll Clothes

As a teacher, I am always encouraging my students to learn outside of the classroom. As a sewing enthusiast, I like the idea of the young boys and girls learning how to sew.

When I was a little girl, I did a lot of sewing for Barbie and the knock-off dolls I owned. My medium was Kleenex and scotch tape at first. Then I used fabrics - rags actually. And needle and thread. This was my first foray into sewing. I graduated to sewing classes that made clothes for me and skipped the step where I made elaborate clothes for my dolls. 

I see all kinds of patterns for elaborate dresses and costumes for Barbie now. I have no idea if they have been around for years (and I was just not in the "know") or if these are a relatively new invention. 

Here's an example of a dress pattern for Barbie from Butterick. There are tons of them listed on Ebay. There are also some free patterns for making Barbie clothes, like this one.

So then I thought about the doll kit, I purchased and sewed by hand in Florida one winter break. And I went looking for doll patterns on the internet. I had one of those kits with a plastic head - that looked something like a cabbage patch doll - but there is no reason why a rag doll wouldn't be a good first project for a child.

I really like the doll and the instructions here:

Basic doll
And if you need a quick tutorial on making dolls hair, look here.

Martha Stewart has a cloth doll template (and the dolls look amazing) here.

Here is a link to a list of doll projects: 

Mini Baby Mannequin
Here is a link to a pattern to make this baby doll. This doll was made in a neutral colour to denote flesh tones, but I think any scraps could be used to make this doll.  
Here is a link to a Penguin Doll. Obviously, you need more fabric , and fabrics of specific colours for this  doll. 

Here's a site with instructions for sewing, crocheting or making paper dolls.
activities for kids 20 Patterns To Make A Doll  {sew, paper, crochet,}

Do you remember Raggedy Ann? Here's a link and here's a link if you want to make a zombie version. has a few doll kits available for between $10 and $20

Fairy Doll Making Kit
The kit looks cool. I bet any kid would be wowed by this. The customer reviews warn of a long and complicated process though. And since the kit includes tape rather than needle and thread, perhaps it isn't a doll sewing kit. Here's the link.
Here is an American Girl "sew and stuff" kit. The customer reviews are a lot more favourable.  Here is the link.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Red Knit Dress

It is June and teachers in Ontario are typically very busy in June. Report cards and getting ready for the  next school year, all the year-end things to file and send in, and for me, a change of schools. All this and the students are off-the-wall because they are excited for the hot weather and summer break. So, I've only completed a bit of sewing in the past few weeks...Here is a red, knit dress.

When I was learning to sew, I was taught never to change a pattern. NEVER. So one of  the great things about sewing blogs has been that all of the blogs I read ignore that advice (or maybe never got it in the first place!). Here is the back of the red knit dress I made. Oh, and since it is a knit, I sized down 2 sizes. 

The dress was loosely based on this pattern. And I mean  loosely...first of all, I made  it from a knit and second, I changed the top of the dress completely. (Here is another version of this dress that I made recently). I think changing patterns will be something I can get into for awhile...I love the freedom of it all!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Preshrinking Interfacing

I put my fabric and my zippers, twill tape, elastic and other notions through a cycle of laundry before I get started on a project. But I had no idea that interfacing, even fusible interfacing, is supposed to be pre-shrunk too!

To avoid distortion and puckering when the finished garment is laundered, you must pre-treat all interfacing. Preshrinking fusible interfacing eliminates the ripples that can show up during the ironing process. (I thought this was caused by a too-hot iron!)

Non-fusible interfacing can be laundered with the fabrics for pre-treatment.

How do you pre-shrink fusible interfacing?

1. Put it in a sink of hot tap water and completely submerge it. Make sure it is thoroughly saturated.

2. Blot between towels (never wring) to get out some of the water.

3. Lay flat to air dry (hanging can cause distortion).

A Pictorial of the process I used: 

Here is my interfacing, a couple of metres purchased about a month ago.

I filled the sink with hot tap water...

and submerged the interfacing. Do you see a glass jar sitting in the sink? its holding down the interfacing, which is so light, it floats. My goal was to completely and thoroughly wet it. I let it sit in the water for about five minutes.

Then I put it out on the fabric I purchased for my Cambie dress. I figured the interfacing can lay flat and the pre-washed  fabric will help to sop up any water.

I folded it up so it isn't dripping onto the floor....

and here is my basset hound, thoroughly bored with the whole process. And also, very tired from the dog park where a new puppy took malicious delight in chasing him all around. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Wearable First Attempt

Here is the finished dress. I made a lot of changes to it. I cut out a size that ended up being too big so I made some changes as I fit the dress. Its a cotton satin fabric that I found for $6/m and scooped up.

I love the front of the dress.

I love teh shoulder detail. It is tucked together and finishes about 1/2 " in from where it otherwise would. Its a nice, subtle detail.

I wasn't sure about the line that would go across the stomach. I thought it would cut m in half and really not be flattering. It turns out is close to an empire cut but not exactly that high.

Here is the pattern. I cut out all the pieces as instructed but then changed things and put it together in my own way. (I also had to take this dress in quite a bit as it fit big). I will definitely make this pattern again but in a more breathable fabric. It is really hot right now and I couldn't imagine wearing this fitted dress anywhere. It will have more appeal when it cools off this evening.
This is a pic of my devoted basset hound who slumbers while I sew.

Half awake but not quite there yet.

Fully awake and still staying put.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Duvet Cover and What-turned-out-to-be a Nightie

This is my new duvet cover. I made it out of my stash. Years ago, I dreamed of a denim bed ensemble and I had a large comfy denim comforter and I bought this fabric to make pillows and a bed skirt. Well, the denim comforter is gone, I don't know where, and I decided to make this fabric into a duvet cover. Yes, I made the pillow shams too (ages ago).

I was so excited to have a new duvet cover, I actually put it on the duvet before affixing buttonholes. (No super long zipper for me. I figure five button holes will look better.

My finished seams...(and plans to make button holes on the cover this weekend).

I started this dress with the idea of having a nice summer dress. I started it ages ago and have since misplaced the pattern. So, I winged the rest. The good news is I finished it. But, it isn't that flattering on me -actually it just doesn't suit me at all. So its a nightie now.

I spent quite a bit of time on the case for this pull - something I worked out on my own and was really doing via trial and error.

It worked.

I even made my own bias trim! (Thanks to this tutorial at Colette)

So, here is my new, lined nightie. (Unless I lose twenty pounds....)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Book Review: Sew What? Skirts

Sew What! Skirts (16 Simple Styles You Can Make With Fabulous Fabrics)
by Francesca Denhartog and Carole Ann Camp

I think if I were a sewing instructor for a beginning sewing class, this is the book that I would have students buy and choose their first projects from. It provides an easy way to draft and design a basic skirt with several variations. What a way to motivate students to sew, find their own style and understand the basic mechanics of construction. (And it only costs $16.95) It does not teach you how to use the sewing machine but pretty much everything else is there - tools needed, calculations for size, variations in fabrics, etc.
The book has a cool vintage-feel and tons of drawings or photos to help you follow the instructions. Nearly every page has color diagrams and photos, sketches or copies of tools and supplies. There's an internal spiral binding, and the book is glossy, made of sturdy stuff so it isn't likely to fall apart on any of us after just a few uses. ( I have the hardcover edition.)

This book will not make a skirt for you -you have to do that on your own. This book will give you some good, sound advice on how to go about making your own skirts from scratch, and the rest is up to you.

Each chapter gives the title for the upcoming project like "Singing the Blues" for a floral blue skirt, then a short, supportive paragraph to get you going: "This simple cotton skirt couldn't be easier to make. The drawstring waist is a cinch...," along with a facing page (the photo comes first) of an actual blue floral skirt, though blurry to represent motion, for effect, of a torso, some hands--it looks like a young woman (she is wearing killer stiletto heeled chocolate nearly knee-high boots, and is in the act of leaping which is something I sure as heck never could do in stiletto heels, and certainly wouldn't try. The skirts are made around the classic "A-frame" which the authors made clear early on, crediting Christine Dior for the original design.

There is a "Stuff You Need" in list format: fabric, thread, exact extra fraction of fabric for pockets, a package of rickrack, cord for the drawstring..., and later on, and all over the place, the authors tell you to change it, wing it, play with it, do it as you please, which is what I need to hear because I don't like rickrack, drawstrings have a way of coming undone on me, and big flowers aren't for me.

Tourist Trap Skirt

I fell in love with the skirt on page 55, called "Tourist Trap". I loved how the authors used a vintage souvenir tablecloth from Florida (palm trees, beach balls, men without shirts, blues, reds and whites)  with folded down pockets with buttons.

I feel inspired and prepared to alter, complete, wear and repeat projects with various embellishments and a maverick's attitude. As I paged through this book, I started thinking about how I'd use this waist with that bodice and those pockets with that ruffled hem and lighter cotton fabric plus fewer tiers and other colors, solid/print/solid/print... and how I thought and felt was a direct result of the inspiration, direction and confident attitude of the authors who were not afraid to say outright, "do it your way." So I know I got a bargain by buying Francesca Denhartog & Carole Ann Camp's Sew What! Skirts.

I wish the authors would make a book on blouses and dresses, too. (There is a book called Sew What! Fleece and one for bags from this series too.)

I have to admit that this book is not totally without it's flaws. One con is that it does NOT cover linings at all, and I wish that it did because I have to line most of my clothing. I sew in order to afford clothes that are lined. Linings make the garment nicer and feel sturdier -not to mention making it more opaque so that a slip is not needed.(Again, perfect for the first sewing pattern or the first time you are drafting a skirt on your own.)

More elaborate information on darts and making different kinds of pockets, would have improved the book too.

 A couple of things I've learned and would apply to the information in the book:

1. At least for the first A-line or straight skirt with a zipper, put the zipper in the back. Yeah, it's an extra seam, but it makes taking in the sides and/or adding darts if necessary easier.

2. Give a lot more ease through the hips than the book calls for. Otherwise, especially if you're working with a thin fabric, it will bunch up when you sit down and stay that way when you stand up. You can always take it in later.

3. If the skirt is a straight or A-line skirt that hits at or above the knee, you are sewing with a lightweight fabric, and you are reasonably well-proportioned, you can probably get by with a straight hem and waistline. To keep the hem from "bunching," prepare the bottom following the instructions for sewing a straight line to a curve and then hem.

4. If possible, cut out the facings so that their bottom edges run along the selvage. Nobody sees them anyway, and it saves you from having to stay-stitch them.

5. You can "line" the skirt by making longer facings and sewing them to the front and back pieces first, before stitching the side seams.

6. Consider using petersham ribbon on the hems, it will help to shape the skirt.

Friday, June 8, 2012

How Do You Pick Patterns That Will Flatter You?

I have trouble picking patterns because I don't really know what will look good on me and what will not.

For instance, I like this pattern (Butterick 5782) but with the exception of the collar, it is the same as all my dresses.
And this pattern is nice too; but, again, it is similar to what I already own(Butterick 5609)

 But what if I want to try something new?

On the Vogue Patterns website and on the pattern covers themselves, vogue has a guide to styles that flatter four different figure types.

               From the VoguePatterns Website:    

Figure Flattery

Determine your body shape from the explanations below and use our KEY TO FIGURE FLATTERY diagram to select styles that are particularly flattering to your figure. Choosing styles suited to your body shape can also eliminate the need for most pattern adjustments. Look for the figure symbol that indicates your body shape, then proceed with confidence, knowing that your pattern adjustments will be minimal and your finished garment will be pure figure flattery.
THE INVERTED TRIANGLE: Large bust and/or broad shoulders with narrow hips.

THE TRIANGLE: Small bust and/or narrow shoulders with full hips and/or thighs.

THE RECTANGLE: Balanced on top and bottom, but boxy, with little or no waist definition.

THE HOURGLASS: Equally balanced on top and bottom, with a trim waist.

I’ll be damned if I can use the figure symbols on patterns. Every time I read it, I come up with a different guess on what I am supposed to be. And the truth is, it ticks me off a little to be putting myself in any of these categories at all. I have figure flaws/assets that don’t neatly fit into one category or another. My body does not fit into the 4 "normal" body shapes. I have to look at the line drawings and visualize how it would look on me.
Vogue 8811

This pattern, Vogue 8811, claims to be suitable for all figure types. It is a radically different dress for me (and I really like it).

I also notice that Vogue only considers the width-wise measurements. What about vertical measurements?Surely, your height affects how the pattern will look?

When I compare my measurements to standard ones, I find I have narrow shoulders (triangle), a big bust (hourglass?), and only a minimally defined waist (rectangle). My hips and thighs are not particularly full (inverted triangle?) I’m also short-waisted with long legs. I don't match any of those categories.
V8648 - the pattern envelope is for triangles (both types) and hour glass. Rectangles are not encouraged.

Then I signed up for a fabulous Craftsy course by Susan Khaljie. It is called the Couture course, and I highly recommend it -even though I have only watched it (not made the garment). What I want to call your attention to is the pattern that accompanies the course. It is Vogue 8648 which has the figure flattering guide for triangles and hour glass. But Susan Khaljie says that it is a dress that flatters everyone. And it definitely works on me!

This is V1199. It doesn't look like something that would flatter me but again, the pattern says it is for all (meaning four) figure types.
So I am back to my original question (and the title of this post): How do you pick patterns that will flatter you?

Things I have learned to look for:

  • Lower necklines - cowl necks, boatnecks and scoop necks look good but generally not v-necks.Also, turtle and mock necks and shirt collars are your most flattering necklines.
  • Blouses/shirts/tops that can be worn untucked at hip length.
  • Waist shaping (even though I need to let most things out 4-5” at the waist in order to breathe!)
  • Draping fabrics
  • Skirts/dresses that end from 3” above the knee.
  • Five-pocket jeans are great! Front pockets on jeans help disguise a tummy problem, while back pockets can help define a flatter rear common to top-heavy women.
  • shorter (an inch above the knee) skirts.

    Things I avoid:

    • High necklines
    • High waists on pants and skirts
    • Boxy jackets
    • Anything boxy for that matter 
    • Double breasted coats
    • Horizontal lines at waist
    • Minimal structure knits - especially loose tops and dresses


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