Monday, May 30, 2011

Butterflies and Honey Bees

I got this fabric last Fall thinking she would like the butterflies and honey bees.  The second fabric I thought to use as contrasting pieces.  Little did I know how difficult it would be to put together.  

I had in mind using this pattern that I had made into a top she LOVED last summer.  The pattern uses contrasting pieces as I have done in part, but putting these two designs together was not sufficient a contrast, so I experimented with pink and red--neither was enough contrast, so I switched to the turquoise (which she will like much better anyway).  I did not put turquoise in a few more places (like around the sleeves) which would have broken it up more, but then it would have looked really like pieces put together in a very '50-'60's way.

I did not estimate the length exactly right with all the pieces and inserts, so the end result had to be about 3/4" too long or the bottom contrast strip would have disappeared all together.

Even with the turquoise strips, it still sort of makes one's eyes feel like they doing spirals in opposite directions.  I suspect her parents won't like it all that much, but I think she will--we'll have to see.

Back view

Front with darted pockets

Strangely this looks almost better in a photo than in real life I think; unusual--it's usually the other way around.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sweet and VERY Soft

A couple of years ago I bought a really soft little knit dress for her at Costco.  It had cherries on it and little pockets and she fell in love with it--using it for a nightie.  I could never find another one.  This year I happened on a remnant of a rather similar piece that may be even lighter weight; again very soft.  I knew when I picked it up it would be a TOTAL pig to work with, and I was correct, so I hope it's worth it.

It would not uncurl, lay straight, stay in place, and it stretched like crazy.

I put ruffles at the neck because she is really into ruffles at the moment, but I'm not sure how comfortable it will be.  The neck stretched out so badly that I ended up having to draw a very thin elastic through the neck binding after it was complete.  I considered the idea of using some stay tape or something to hold the size, but I actually don't think that would have worked either--it just grows and grows every time you touch it.

I did not put any pockets because it was clear that attaching anything would cause the fabric to just tear up.  Iinstead of any other decorations I used a red triple cover stitch to hem the sleeves and the nightie.  

Finished:  you can see how the neck ruckles up with the elastic in there, but I'm hopeful that it will be right when she puts it on.  (You can see that it is impossible to make it all nice and flat and straight; it was knitted all wonky, or possibly rolled on the bolt that way and I gave up trying to make it straight, although I did manage to make the apples rows fairly horizontal.)

I do think it will be light and comfy for summer (if it ever arrives).

"Jammers" and Bathing Suits

He has a pair of "Jammers" and likes them.  I found some lycra and I wanted to experiment with serging and sewing with lycra, so I tried to copy them.

This is the store-bought pair
The "jammers" I was trying to copy

They had used a triple cover stitch for the center front and back seams, as well as as the inseam.  They used a 3-thread flatlock stitch for the side seams, and cover stitches for the elastics.

Here is my not-so-nicely trimmed triple cover stitch.  The machine wanted to eat it UP, so I broke the rules and used a little square (maybe 1-1/4") of stabalizer on the serger to get the seam started--worked like a charm!  

(I'm pretty sure they told us we could NOT use stabalizer in a serger...  I won't push my luck, but it worked and I think it would have been ruined without it--it was just stitching in place a bazillion stitches--trust me, that's NO fun to get out!)

Triple cover stitch (just like the store-bought ones)

Inside - button holes and tie cord, liner

Comfort panel like the store-bought pair had  (Narrow 3-thread cover stitch around the panel and also for the side seams)
Trying to copy his "jammers" - liner

I used a 4-thread overlock stitch and the elastic foot for all elastic and it was hard to getting it properly adjusted for inserting just the right amount of elastic, but the tie can be used if they are not snug enough.  (Yes, I made two button holes and pushed the strap through...)

I did not do the hem and the elastic in one step with a cover stitch.  I just used a knit stitch on the sewing machine and turned them up after applying the elastic.


His sister LOVES to wear his, so I will make her a pair as well.  On hers I will insert the elastic in the normal way and save myself at least a couple of hours of changing the feet and thread set-up on the serger every five minutes to do each different part!

I did do the triple cover stitch as I did on his--front and back seams and in-seam.  It helped when I tried to carefully straighten the jagged cuts on the seams before sewing--it looks good now.  It went pretty fast when I decided to insert the elastic in the normal manner, plus it is adjustable!  

I lined both the back and the front of Little Miss Sensitive Skin's Jammers.
Lined Jammers

I stitched both sides to the bathing suit at the crotch using the "lightening stitch"--should hold in place nicely.

Then I decided to make her a top (and I truly hope it fits!).  I used the shirred elastic belt loop maker foot for the shoulder straps and I can't wait to fit them.

Back of top

Then I decided to copy her Speedo's so she'd have options (and I had enough fabric to do it for both of them).

Fully lined


Here's the outfit with Jammers

And with Speedos

I will make his Speedos as soon as I can get my hands on his real ones to get the size right.

One of my reasons for persisting with these articles is to get in some real practice in changing the feet and thread path to keep going back and forth between the 3-thread flatlock, triple cover, and elastic inserting foot, plus the lightening stitch on my sewing machine.  It slows one down, but does create a nice end result and the more I practice the better I get at it.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ice Cream Cones -- she says it is her new "Party Dress"!

I have never used lace like this on anything for her because I can't stand the way it crunches up in the laundry and we do not have time to iron anything, so this time I decided to nail it down so it won't move in the laundry.  

I can't do anything about the sleeves and I'm sure it will drive me crazy when it's all wadded up, but the pockets and the neck have been hand-stitched at the outer points all the way around to keep them from moving (I hope).

Back zipper
Back zipper

And of course, the shorts to match

One day we'll actually have summer!

(You can't tell it from the color in the photo in the post below, those pants and shorts match this dress, too.)

Basic Bottoms for the Summer

Last year she practically LIVED in two pairs of pants made from this plisse.  They went with SO many of her tops and dresses, but she outgrew them.  I had made them ankle length instead of full-length, thinking they would make nice capris this summer, but her pants are 5-in. longer than last summer!  

This time I made them full length--they will be ankle length before the summer is over I'm sure.

I made shorts as well this time.

The color is NOT true (again...)  The pink is a rosy, dusty pink, and the turquoise is not faded out.

Tea Cosy

Some people like a proper "tea cozy" for the their tea pot, but I did not want to make anything which could be left on the pot while making OR pouring the tea because they get all messy and look disgusting.

At our house we have a proper English tea pot (after all, my husband IS from England!)
Regular teapot

Also, I have a tiny pot for my Genmaicha
Genmaicha teapot

My daughter kept wrapping up the proper tea pot in a hand towel to keep it warm, and now that I'm drinking this little pot of Genmaicha--which makes two tea cups full--was also having to re-heat the second cup.  I decided to do something about that.  (Seriously, I am supposed to be making pants and shorts for a 5-year old!)

I have no detailed in-progress photos, but basically I measured the diameter of the larger pot and cut a 7-in. (finished size) circle with my clever ruler.  Then I cut a strip approximately the length of the circumference plus a seam allowance.  It was about 6-in. wide by 21-1/2 in. long.

I cut a contrasting fabric for the inside so I could make it reversible and not get bored looking at it!

Also a piece of Warm and Natural batting of each size.

I steamed Fusible Fleece to each piece (both the "inside" and the "outside" pieces). 

Then I quilted 5 or 6 rows down the vertical side pieces.

I stitched a loop of grosgrain ribbon in the center of each "top" (for something to grab it with).

I then stitched each top to each side and sewed them together, leaving maybe 4 inches of the seam open.  I pulled it inside-out, pinned the opening and top-stitched all the way around the bottom edge.

Wha-Lah!   A Tea Cozy!

My favorite side  (I have a Japanese Woodblock print in the kitchen with these colors.)

The other side

Loops on each side
Cosy for two teapots!  (it will keep my second cup of genmaicha warm, plus regular tea in the big pot)

Cosy for two teapots!  (it will keep my second cup of genmaicha warm, plus regular tea in the big pot)

It works really well.  Two layers of Fusible Fleece, plus one layer of Warm & Natural batting make it stand up on it's own and insulate pretty well.

Having Fun with Stripes and Things

I started out to make her a pair of pants in plisse'.  

Hem detail
Pants hem detail

Full length pants (she grew SO much that last year's just don't fit any more)

I just wasn't happy that these pants would go with several other things, so I made a little top to wear with them.

Back top - with buttons for the straps so they can be adjusted

Complete outfit

And then I went a little crazy.  I had wanted to make a flippy skirt with a pieced tier, so I cut 4-in. squares of several of the pieces of plisse' I had already used and one that I will not use until next year.

It would have been better if I had had a bit more of the striped fabric so I could gather that tier, but it was nearly gone.  


June 11, 2011
For the tale of the final skirt (this one did not work), please see:

Understated Fan Attire -- or Evolution of a Design

(could be a number of different teams with these colors)

My daughter wanted me to make her a simple little A-Line dress from some cute fabric for a game she was attending (so working to a deadline...)  

First of all, she went on a massive pattern hunt.  She did not find anything online that was exactly what she wanted.  She kept describing it to me, and what she really wanted was a late '60's or early '70's dress.  None of the patterns we found were compatible with the fabric, or exactly what she wanted.  I began designing it in my mind and trying to formulate exactly what was required to make it come out the way she wanted--knowing all the while that the final result would not be EXACTLY what she had in mind.

We had a stroke of luck (I thought) when I asked where the pattern had gone for a favorite dress I made her in the '90's from some lovely "koi" fabric she found.  It was not as curvaceous as she had in mind, and she wanted a square neck as well.  With the pattern in hand, I started looking at how to make a new one that would do the job.

I told her she should go to my "stash" and find a piece of fabric to make a "test" case in.  Keeping in mind that the dress is made from cotton, you may be as amazed as I was when she picked velveteen for the "test" case!  

After measuring, changing, and fiddling, I cut the dress and basted in the darts.  (Her pattern only had side bust darts, but I needed to make back darts at least, to achieve some of the curves.)  You can see where I adjusted the angle of the darts to make the placement accurate for her shape.  Also my initial attempt at the square neck she described.  (It wasn't right--she wanted it MORE square--no angle to the shoulders.)

I tried it on her and and saw that we needed not only the back darts, but diagonal (in this case "curved") darts from the hip to the bust, and also needed to move the change the side bust darts to accommodate the new darts.  You can see the new darts here:

Then it was back to the drawing board to create a pattern.  In order to get the new darts and changed side bust darts cut accurately, I marked it all on muslin and did not cut the sides until I stitched it up following the correct lines.  Here is the way it looked at this point.  As you can tell, I did not curve the darts for this fabric.  (She may have been happier if I had, but I was rather overwhelmed at this point and decided she would have to live with straight-line darts.)

I basted in the darts and cut the side.  Then I removed the basting and used the muslin as my pattern.

I thought I was ready to begin, but she got up the next morning and told me she had decided she wanted the dress to be lined, so we had another delay while getting the lining, then washing and drying it.  Finally I could cut everything out.  The last seams were the side seams so I could adjust the fit.  (As I mentioned, she is not entirely happy with the final fit.)

I'm pretty happy with the pattern matching at the back zipper.

The side seams are not absolutely perfect, but that's not so very surprising.  Of course with a tapered seam, they won't look like the center back.
Side matching is slightly less perfect than the center back seam - it is A-line, so a little distortion creeps in.

This one shows how I stitched down the seam allowance and lining across the front of the square neck to prevent the lining from rolling to the outside.
Stitching the seam allowance and lining down across the square neck to hold it in place; otherwise it would roll outwards

This view includes the squared front neck and the lining hand stitched down the sides of the zipper.

Front darts from the inside

Back darts - lining; showing 1-1/2" opening in the lining below the bottom of the zipper to allow lining to drape well at the hips.

I used 3-thread serging to make the strings to hold the lining in place at the hem without attaching it to the dress.

The final outcome just looks like a big rectangle without her in it.  It's pretty neat, but still does not fit just as she wants.  Perhaps next time...

Perhaps one day I will get to take a photo of her wearing the dress.  (My attempt to steal one of her mobile ones failed.

Another One I Cut Out LAST Summer

Getting into my unfinished projects...

A sweet little eyelet top for hot summer days

Then Of Course, There are Days When Insanity is Not in Question--'cause it's for sure!

In class, I have learned some heirloom serging techniques and I wanted to make my granddaughter something and utilize some of what I had learned.

When I was in Tennessee last summer I picked up some beautiful voiles done by a local designer.  I chose this one for my heirloom "practice".  

I started with a "Project Runway" pattern that I could tell was not going to be exactly what I wanted, but it gave me some lines for tucks, so that's where I started.  I have probably NEVER been so topsy turvy while trying to work my way through a project.  I thought I would make a dress and repeat the effects around the hem, but it turned into a top as I bowed not-so-gracefully out of the bigger project.

I decided to run the lace and tucks all the way across one piece of fabric and put in the tucks as well before cutting--knowing that one panel was not sufficient for the entire project, so I would have to match what I had done on some more fabric.

I had to figure out which end would be the "top" and which the "bottom" so I could place my lace and tucks. I finally decided where to begin and then life got REALLY crazy.  

After stitching the tiny insertion strip to the lace on each side I then attached the lace to the fabric using a TINY zig zag stitch so it would not overwhelm the delicate lace.  (I could not find any "insertion" lace, to I could not serge the lace to the fabric, but I did serge the lace to the tiny insertion strip.)  I pressed the tiny seams aside and then attached it to the fabric.  

I then took it to my cutting table to begin the next phase and in the better light discovered the the tiny seams were on the OUTSIDE of the fabric!

I then spent about 5 hours removing two 45-in. wide rows of teeny tiny zig zag stitches.  (I estimated I had removed about 2,250 stitches!)  It has to be done stitch by stitch and VERY carefully or the lace would have been mutiliated. 

I then re-attached the strip to the fabric, marked the tucks, and stitched them using embroidery thread to emphasize the unavoidable row of stitches.  It looked really nice.  I had also discovered that the tucks should not be symmetrically spaced with the lace.  One side had to be deeper than the other so that when the tucks were in place they would be spaced properly with the lace strip.

About this time I abandoned the idea of making a dress, partly because I thought she would get more wear out of a top than a delicate dress that could not go to the playground, and partly because I decided it would take way too long to figure out where to place the bottom strip and tucks.  This caused me to "turn around" where I was going to begin cutting.  The result of that was that both rows of tucks had to be re-done so they would be running the opposite direction from where I had placed them.  Fortunately the straight row of 2.5 stitches was fairly quickly removed, then I worked out where each tuck had to move to and re-stitched them!

NOW I was ready to place the pattern pieces on the fabric and work on the second section of insertion and tucks.

This is a section of the heirloom detail with everything in the right place and going the correct direction at long last!

Bodice close-up
Bodice close-up

I forced myself to use the hemming foot on my sewing machine for the hem, as my regular method simply wasn't going to "fly" on an heirloom project.  I could have hand stitched it and it would have been less obvious, but I decided I simply MUST master the hemming foot.
Close-up of the machine hem on the heirloom top - just for fun

Finished top (and it may be the first AND the last such project I ever do....)

When she first tried it on, she touched the lace and said, "I can see my SKIN!"  (I think she was asking if that was ok. :-)  She and her mommie love it.