Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sewing Resources: For a certain young lady

One of my blogging friends has a daughter who is seriously interested in sewing, with a vintage flair.  I thought that a list of books and websites would be useful.


Gertie:  http://www.blogforbettersewing.com/
Not updated with as many lessons as it was before she started sewing professionally, but her archives are useful, her blog roll is terrific, and she's got a lot of eye candy.  (I check back several times a day for blog roll updates.  I guess I could subscribe for myself, but where's the fun in that?)

Steph:  http://3hourspast.com/
She's specializing in knits these days, but she's very careful about fitting her patterns to most body types, and she's extremely pleasant reading.

Leimomi:  http://thedreamstress.com/
Specializes in historical sewing, with historical accuracy.  Does a lot of historical sew-alongs.  Beautiful clothing, lovely attitude.

Tasia:  http://sewaholic.net/
Specializes in patterns for the pear-shaped figure.  Very cheery writer, cute patterns, clear explanations.

As I go along and see good instructions (or just instructions for something I've been wanting to try) I pin them to my sewing stuff pinboard.  You'll have to sift through the other things there, but there's quite a list:  http://pinterest.com/hearthrose/sewing-things/  Pinterest has a lot of tutorials, look around!

I picked up some good information from watching the Great British Sewing Bee on youtube.  :)

Surf around - most of the blogroll stuff on most sewing blogs tend to be extremely safe viewing and you'll come upon gems.

Collette patterns have good clear instructions, fwiw.  They don't fit me well, but the instructions are good.


Better Homes and Gardens Sewing Book:  If you can find a vintage copy of this book at an estate sale or thrift store - snag it!  I have two, very slightly different copies, and they're worth their weight.  Really good instructions, very clear.

I have a few fitting books, none of which make me blindingly happy... but I think "Fast Fit" by Sandra Betzina is the best of the lot.  I kind of suck at fitting.  :p

Threads Sewing Guide is a good overall guide book.  If you can't get a vintage Better Homes - or if you just want to add to your library, it's recommended.  Lurvely pictures, it has.

I rather liked Gertie's Book for Better Sewing.  Just frosting, not cake, but it's fun.

I *really* like Sewing Machine Classroom - I didn't think it would be all that helpful, since I know how to use a sewing machine, but I was very wrong.  It's one of the more useful books in my collection.  Put that with the Better Homes and get going.

Just start with a basic pattern and get going.  Everyone will tell you to start with a skirt - there are good reasons.  Make a simple skirt.  Then a skirt with some new techniques.  When you're comfortable with construction, move to a dress (and some fitting).  I'll let you know when I'm ready to move to fitted pants.... rofl.  Not yet!

Thursday, May 23, 2013


I've been velcro'd to the sewing machine for the past few days.  After finishing my blouse (I added more embroidery, which affected the fit slightly), I decided to try to trace off a shirt for my husband.  That didn't work out, so I strolled through the sash for a long-intended make.

 A vest.  I know.  But I'm making see-through shirts, so a vest is a very good addition.  I'd never, btw, wear it with the shirt I'm wearing at the moment, it's just on because I wanted to snap a quick picture.

One of the nicer bits of construction I've done, I'm pleased.  :)

I thought about getting cute with the fitting, but all I did was raise the armscye a bit and narrow the center back.  This is a much smoother fit, so I'm pleased. 

All in all, a good day's work.  Yes.  I started and finished this in one day. 

And that, that qualifies for full-out obsession... and a solid MEEP!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Mark 1

I've been hoping to find a blouse that I could really play with entredeaux, shirring, embroidery, etc etc.... and I think I just did.  /massive grin

It's a basic peasant blouse pattern.  From this I replaced the elastic with  a few rows of shirring, over which I put some machine embroidery. 

It was a bit stressful, putting it together - you can't tell how things are going to play out until the last stitch is sewn.  Will the neckline be too high?   Too low?  Too thick?  Too ruffly?  I've had all of those things happen with peasant blouses in the past.

I also had no clue where the sleeves were going to end up.  I thought the tight bit would be just over the elbow... yeah.... anyway I like where it landed.  :)
Here's a closeup of the embroidery.  I think it's disappearing - and that I need *more*.  :) I didn't want to overdo it on this one... although there's a good chance of it getting a post-bath extra row or two. 

This is the fourth shirt I've made from this fabric (I got a great deal) and I think the fabric finally found its happy place - it was certainly not too thrilled with the other, more formal, makes.  It's draping beautifully, IMO.
 The fabric is very nearly see-through, so layers are a requirement.  I will try with a bit less basic underlayer (I have a pretty edwardianish camisole) which I think will look nicer than the bright white tank I'm wearing in this picture.
I have a feeling this is going to be a long hot summer - and I think now I have a blouse to work with it! 
I'm happy and grateful.  Thanks, Lord - You totally made this happen!  (Boy howdy did He.  To the point of mild amusement).

Saturday, May 18, 2013

If you are my daughter, and today is your birthday

Then currently, you are snugged up in your flannel nightgown....

 With the blue owl print, that matches your brother's green owl pajamas.  (Which I made for him at least six months ago - you should also be a patient daughter!)

Your owl nightie has a ribbon covering the gathered seams, so that they don't rub on your tender skin, and all the other seams are frenched or fell. 

You will also be opening (in the afternoon, with your other presents) a skirt from the "easiest clothing in the world" collection.  Joanne's sells this pre-shirred fabric (pre-gathered, pre-hemmed) and I wait for it to go on sale, then snag a yard, french seam it, and voila!  My daughter has a new skirt in >10 minutes.  She's LOVED them so far, the shirring is very comfortable. 
Today my sweetie is 9 years old.  :)  And yes, she's very, very lovely.  And loved!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Tiered skirt

This skirt took a lot longer than I thought it would!

First I messed up my math, and ended up cutting more pieces than I anticipated.  Then... well, I got picky.  Picky is a good thing.  Every seam is frenched or covered, and I did a proper job on the zipper and buttons.  Okay.  The zipper and buttons didn't take long.  Assembling the tiers *did* - especially the bottom tier, which measures about 6 yards at the hem.  I always forget that even simple things, when they involve miles of fabric, take a long time!

I am particularly pleased - albeit somewhat conflicted - about my solution for seam finishing with my gathered seams.  I've tried a few methods of finishing gathered seams, and have never been satisfied.  Making french seams out of them is a nightmare.  Pinking them doesn't really help.  Hong Kong seams (covered with bias tape) well... those are okay, but they can be a bit scratchy.  They stick out, you know?

I was pawing around in my seam binding bag when I came across some hem tape - and this is a *beautiful* finish.  I sewed one side of the hemtape to the seam (on the wrong side) and the other side I handstitched to the skirt, so I have flat ribbons instead of lumpy gathers or ravelly messes. 
So I am totally psyched about the finish quality.  But the time!  It took me about four hours to do all the handsewing on this skirt. 
Other details:  It fits well, and is ridiculously comfortable.  I don't feel like I'm wearing a skirt, it's so light and holds so far out from my legs.  It's *definitely* a twirling skirt!
All in all - I'm happy.

Monday, May 13, 2013

New project. Using math

Note to self:  Double check math, particularly when sleepy.

I decided nothing would do except that I get a tiered skirt out of some fabric I bought on Mother's day (I didn't buy it for MD, I bought it because it's pretty and I have problems with self-control in the fabric store.  Hey, it was $6 yd/20% off - not like I broke the bank).  It's already starting to warm up, I have a feeling there's a hot summer ahead... and my skirts are largely lined at this time.  No one wants a lined skirt at 85 degrees.  Or, I don't. 

I have a petticoat pattern that fits well on top, so I decided to use that.  Widen the waistband a tad, put a zipper in instead of a simple button closure, and work the tiers down.  I certainly don't need it to be as fluffy as the batiste petticoat, so I did the first math at about 1.5x the tier before.  Only, I had something of an oops on my math... so I had some adjustments to make.

This is what my pattern looks like, just so you get the laugh.

Yes I'm totally comfortable working off fairly vague directions - those are the only shaped pieces to the pattern, the rest are all rectangles of one sort or another.  You just do the math.  Hopefully you remember to CHECK your math before cutting, unlike me.  :p  But it's cool.  :)  I got all the tiers out of my fabric... very *very* just barely.

This is the fabric, some ribbon for trim and lace for the hem.  Yes.  Quilting cotton.  I KNOW.  But - it's soft and has a good hand, and it matches any number of items in my casual knit top stack.  I have a short skirt that has similar qualities, that I'm wearing right now - and it misses all the usual complaints about quilting cottons - not fading enormously, not draping oddly, and not being obtrusively homemade.

I have everything cut and interfaced, so tomorrow I can do some sewing.  Brainpower sounds important... especially after today!

Clashing: Flattery and Aesthetics

Sometimes the style that makes you happy and the lines that make your figure look its best aren't really close friends - at least at first glance.

As you age, and as you get heavier, a more structured line is generally more flattering.  I am heavy and curvy and 40... I look better in structured clothing, with a very defined waist.

My personal aesthetic is romantic bohemian.  If you start looking at bohemian and ethereal clothing inspiration, you'll find lots of layers, lots of floaty things, lots of *very thin* and *very young* women doing the modelling.   If I left it at first glance, and didn't go for the make-it-work moment, I'd wander off all sad and wear rockabilly or something.  (Cute clothes.  Not me).

But if you keep looking - some of the most romantic and most boho clothing involves very tight waists, with vests, bodices, wide belts, etc.  After all, these are styles brought from the past... and women of the past didn't want to look frumpy all the time either!

So. Say, "What does my figure need to look its best" - and then reduce that to "structure, waist definition, volume control" and integrate that into your style.  What do you like to show, what do you like to hide?  (Be honest). 

And play.  Always play.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: The journey of a homemade garment

I thought that everyone did what I do with children's clothing (and usually adult clothing), but apparently this is a lost art.

I made my daughter several dresses at the beginning of this school year.  I made them out of inexpensive quilting cotton, knowing that as a small child, they would almost inevitably have "bad things" happen to them. 

So here's the row of dresses when first made:

And here is her butterfly dress as it was yesterday, when I ironed it (quilting cotton:  needs ironing).  You'll note the fading and chocolate? stains. 

She has a maximum of five more wears for this dress before the school year is over - so she can keep it in the "school" pile.  When the year is over, though... we'll do the annual clothing review. 
The "still great" clothing will stay in her closet for church, going out, generally anytime she needs to be presentable.  The clothing that is slightly (but not massively) stained or faded goes into her "around the house" clothing pile (aka play clothes).  The clothing that is too small, very stained, torn or otherwise destroyed gets moved into the rag bin (if knits) or tossed (if woven).  Anything that has miraculously not had bad things happen to it, yet has become too small, goes into the giveaway pile. 
This way we get maximum wear from everything we buy or make.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


I've been working on some projects for my church - we are building a replica of the Tabernacle for study - and I did a bit of experimentation.

And I realised that my sewing machine can make some seriously pretty designs.  Wouldn't some of that be amazing on the cuff and/or collar of a peasant blouse?

Every time you do something for God, He is *so* generous with giving back.  I feel like everything I've given to him over this process, He's been so great about giving me surprise gifts in return.

This time, it was inspiration. 

PS this is the sample sash I'm working on, for the priest's garb. 

I'm in the process of adding colored tassels to the white.  It's supposed to have red, blue and purple.  "For glory".

We'll see what they think when I turn it in!