Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas Corduroys Continued - Back Pockets and Top-Stitching Tips

Typical instructions for pant/jean construction have you start with pockets.  These tend for me to be some of the trickiest - especially when doing clever and interesting pockets with lots of top stitching.  They really show off your sewing skills (or lack thereof).

These back pockets took a bit of patience.  The top of the pattern piece is a curved line which becomes (when sewn and folded down) the guide mark to stitch the wavy/curved top stitching that goes diagonally across the pocket.

The top of the pocket is edge stitched (stitched very close to the edge) prior to attaching it to the pants back.  This can be tricking as some machines like to grab and pull the fabric down in the feed dogs.

To help make this go more smoothly, I use a "hump-jumper" which is simply a piece of fabric of like-thickness that I place under my machine foot and behind the starting point of where I want to stitch.  This keeps the foot level and keeps the fabric from getting pulled down into the bobbin and jammed.  You can see the strip of fabric I used in the picture below.

My next top-stitching best friend is my bi-level top stitch foot.  It has a groove underneath the foot that fits the edge of the fabric and guides it for a nice straight line.  I move my needle position to place the stitching exactly where I want it.  This is great for double stitching.  I set my first row of stitching needle position at 2mm and my second at 6mm.  A picture of the bi-level top stitch foot is below.

The folded corners will have a jean stud inserted - I'll put that process in the post when I do the fly and the jean button.

Also, I have a bar-tack stitch on my machine which I used to make the bar-tacks on either side of the folded corner.  You could easily do this adjusting the zig stitch on your machine.

Next up - front pockets.

Make something beautiful!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Christmas Corduroys

After being a stay at home mom for 7 years, I am back to work full time - and have been for the last six months.  I love this new phase of my life, but it has left little time for sewing.  I have some New Year Resolutions regarding that, but that is for another post.

I usually have a plethora of Christmas projects and gifts to sew, but this year I simply do not have time.  I am, however, sewing one Christmas gift (well, two actually - it is an outfit) for my son - who, alas, is growing at an alarming rate and will soon be too large to sew the cute clothes in my favorite children's sewing magazine - Ottobre Design.

Ottobre hit it out of the park with cute boy designs in their latest issue.

 I am making my son the red corduroy jeans and chevron style multi-colored sweatshirt on pages 18-19.

The whole outfit is darling, but I especially love the corduroys.  The have a curved leg seam and some completely awesome back pockets - not to mention fabulous top stitching.  Ottobre designers are so very clever and creative.

I'm taking this project in steps - doing a little each night - so I don't end up in a panic on Christmas Eve.  I'm also taking notes and developing a plan to make me a more organized and effective sewer along the way.

Here's the pre-work that's been done:

  • Pre-washed and ironed fabric
  • traced pattern and added seam allowances
  • cut pattern out of fabric and added all markings
  • Threaded up serger and tested on fabric
  • threaded up sewing machine and wound bobbins of sewing thread and top stitching thread
  • Tested top stitch length setting (both cross-wise and length-wise as it will look different on the corduroy because of the nap)

I've noticed on ready-to-wear jeans that the top stitching is a much longer stitch length than the standard 2.5mm length that my home-ec teacher drilled into my head.  I decided that my favorite look is the 4.0mm length

Threads and bobbins ready to go! (This is a first for me).

 Serger threaded and tested! (I love this machine - it stitches perfectly all the time - she is also newly back from a tune up at the sewing store and in tip-top shape).  It is an oldie but goodie - a Viking Huskylock 1002LCD (it does the coverstitch too!). 

My sewing machine.  My previous machine I named Christine because it was possessed.  This one is my precious.  This is a Pfaff 2170.  It's also an oldie but goodie.  Not only does it sew beautifully and have 300+ decorative stitches, it also embroiders beautifully too.  I have reviewed this machine on patternreview.com in detail.  Click here

A view of my sewing area (so you cannot see the mess behind the camera).  Also that corner next to the sewing machine is where I take almost all the pictures for my blog :)

Tomorrow I start on the back pockets.

Make something beautiful.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Pretty Summer Sun Dress

I don't wear a lot of dresses.  I like the freedom of pants - wearing a skirt or a dress means I have to concentrate a lot harder on being lady-like.  However, I am drawn to pretty dresses and I'd really like to incorporate them into my wardrobe - and be more comfortable wearing them.

I thought this Burda dress (from the April 2014 magazine, pattern 120) was particularly pretty.  I love the pleating details and little button loop front closure.  It's not a dress style I would normally choose, but I hoped it would end up looking as flattering on me as it did on the model, even though I am not tall and thin but actually really short and sturdy.


That being said, my initial impression after finishing and trying it on was that it looked like a maternity dress.  I'm not used to having all this flowing, floaty fabric, so I was considering wadding it up and throwing it my "learning experience" trash can.

I decided, though, to have my husband take a couple of photos of me in the dress so I could get a better perspective on how it looked.  I think I like it.

(my eyes are closed, but this was the best picture of the dress )

Cute back view

Lots of room for putting away some serious barbecue

Pregnant or Burrito Grande?  Burrito Grande.

Anyhow, I'm so glad to be done with this project.  I'm sure I'll wear this at least a few time this summer (and mom, I've got a slip on underneath :)).

Pattern / Sewing Details:

  • Intermediate level sewing.  Button loops, pleats, lined bodice, princess and curved seams, elasticized waist - some of these details are quite tedious
  • The pattern is drafted beautifully - everything lines up - even with all the alterations I made to take from a "Tall" to a "Petite" size
  • I know generally people get frustrated with Burda instructions but I found them to be more than adequate with no really confusing directions.
  • Interface the tie bands unless you want them to twist and wrinkle and look cheap and home made. 

I've got a couple of gorgeous blouses up next from this so-stylish pattern from Hotpatterns and the fabric is this amazing Roberto Cavelli silk-like cotton print that my mom brought me back from Cyprus.


Make something beautiful!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Summer Patriotic Dress

I've been working on a pretty summer dress (in a patriotic red and blue floral cotton voile) off and on for the last 4 or 5 weeks.  Normally a project like this wouldn't take quite so long, but this pattern has set me back a few times and I had to walk away for a bit and start fresh.

  • I saw this dress in the April 2014 issue of Burda Style Magazine (British version) and immediately went and bought fabric and supplies
  • When I went to trace the pattern I realized with horror that it was in tall sizes.  I am petite (5'2").
  • Not to be defeated, I began complex pattern alterations to shorten the bodice.  This bodice is made up of many, many pieces and this took some time to get right.

Now I am finished sewing the bodice and I'm so pleased I wanted to share a "progress report."

One of the things I love about Burda patterns is the detail.  Initially the garment may look simple, but once you get in sewing it the intricacies become more apparent.

Here's some of the details I love in this dress:

Seam lines.  Beautiful princess seam shaping in the bodice and a unique bib front construction.  Also pretty little cap sleeves.

Button loops.  Let me tell you that sewing a 1/8" wide tube of fabric and turning it inside out takes some patience but it is such a couture sort of touch.  I LOVE them.

Pleats.  Lest you think Burda ignored the back look at these beautiful pleats!

Here is a photo from the magazine of the finished dress (on a really tall girl).


Make something beautiful! (and challenging!)

Saturday, June 7, 2014

French Market Earrings

Have I mentioned that I dabble in jewelry making on occasion?  I just do simple wire-wrapped designs.  Here's a pair of earrings that I purchased as a kit from Beadaholique.  I love their old-world vintage look.  They look like little miniature lanterns you might find lining a street in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

They are simple to put together and Beadaholique includes instructions in their kit.
I used three jewelry making tools:  chain nose pliers, round nose pliers, and flush cutters.  If you have these, you can do basic wire wrapping.

For a great tutorial on making a wire-loop watch this video from Beadholique:

I put these earrings together in about 15 minutes.  Jewelry making can be a wonderful, quick creative fix.  Give it a try.
Make something beautiful!


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Sweetly Scented Gift

 Sachets are a lovely (and sweet smelling) gift.  They can be made quickly and simply, or you can spend time making them more elaborate.  For the ADD crafter, they appeal on a few levels:  you can mix and match scents to appeal to your inner perfumer, you could call on your inner gardener/herb cultivator and dry and mix your own potpourri, and it appeals to quilting, fashion, hand embroiderers, and home dec sewers.

Here is an original design I came up with as gifts for some very special ladies in my bible study group.  We studied 1st and 2nd Peter. One of Peter's purposes in his letters was to remind of us of who we are in Christ and God's promises for us.  Since our sense of smell is a powerful memory trigger, I thought it would be fitting to make sachets for them.


  • I cut 5" x 5" squares from linen fabric
  • I cut the layered flowers from some beautiful merino wool felt (purchased from Gingermelon's beautiful Etsy shop) using the Stampin' Up! Floral Framelits dies and Big Shot die cutter.
  • I grouped the cut flower pieces together and machine stitched them in the center to one linen square using a stitch length of 1.5
  • I then hand embroidered the flower centers making french knots with golden-yellow embroidery floss to hide the machine stitching
  • I sewed another linen square to the linen square with the flower, right sides together, with an 8" piece of satin cord folded in half at the corner (I double stitched the corner with the the cord), leaving a small (1.5" - 2") opening to turn it.
  • I stuffed it lightly and added scented aroma beads* and then stitched it closed using a ladder stitch

*Aroma Beads are amazing little plastic beads that absorb fragrance oils and smell good for months and months (some have lasted years).  I get them from Natures Garden Wholesale Candle and Soap Supplies as well as the fragrance and essential oils that I use to make the various scents.

The scents I used for these sachets were Gingered Bergamot (this smells heavenly) and Lemon Neroli (a blend of Juicy Lemon fragrance oil and Neroli essential oil).

Make something beautiful!

Friday, April 25, 2014

More Doll Making - Rosebud

I finished my lavender-haired cutie doll for my one year old niece.  I call her Rosebud for obvious reasons, but my sweet niece may call her whatever she likes.

She is toddler friendly - some of this is inherent in the pattern design from the Storybook Toys book:
  • embroidered face - no buttons to choke on, no paint to fade.  If the stitching comes out it can easily be re-done.
  • no buttons or clasps on her clothing that could be choking hazards
  • stuffing is non-allergenic
  • clothes are made with velcro closures or pull-on elastic to make it easy to dress and undress her.
  • If her hair comes undone, it can also easily be re-done.
  • she is about the size of an American Girl doll, so it will be easy to buy (or make) her more clothes.

Here's a little detail picture of the kitty embroidered on her shirt:

  • I sketched a cat (because little girls need to have cute kitty cats on their shirts)
  • Then I traced it with water soluble marker onto the shirt front
  • I used a back stitch with 2 strands of embroidery floss to out line the design and to do the nose, mouth, and whiskers (this type of hand embroidery is EASY - there are many books on this subject)
  • I made french knots for the eyes
  • The purple coloring is done with a crayon and a blender pen and then heat set with my iron (with a piece of paper over the design to protect the iron and fabric).
I am ready to switch gears in my sewing (I've got several summer dresses planned), but I cannot recommend this Storybook Toys book highly enough.  If you are at all interested in doll or toy making this is a valuable resource and worth its price many times over.

Make something beautiful!

PS - here's a sneak peak at the dress I'm working on:


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Easy, Quick, and Adorable Kitty Pillow

Here's a lovely, nearly instant gratification project that would make an excellent gift for a young child.  It's a kitty pillow - done in super cute Japanese Hello Kitty style.  It's incredibly simple to make.  The longest amount of time is spent with hand embroidering the mouth and whiskers - which you could easily do with your sewing machine if you did not have patience for hand work.

I got this adorable pattern from my current favorite sewing book, Storybook Toys by Jill Hamor.  She includes a pattern for a 10" pillow and a 14" pillow.  I did the 10" pillow because it is for my niece who is one - little pillow for a little girl.  Just in case you were wondering...10" pillow forms are a little bit difficult to locate, which is something I didn't realize until after I had sewn this cute pillow case.  I ended up finding them on Etsy here, but you might be lucky and find them at your local craft store.  The 14" seems to be more common.

  • The eyes and nose are cut from felt.  I machine stitched them in place
  • The whiskers and mouth are hand embroidered with an outline stitch, but you could do it with a machine stitch too
  • The back is two overlapping pieces that create an opening for a pillow insert

This makes such a sweet child's pillow.  It would be great fun to try other animal faces.

Make something beautiful!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

More Doll Making Adventures

I am so inspired by the projects in the book, Storybook Toys by Jill Hamor.  I'm planning all sorts of dolls and other toys from this amazing book.
I am working on a few things to send to my niece, Anastasia, who just turned one.  She's my only niece on my side, so that makes her extremely special.

Here is the doll I am working on for her.  I went for a more Japanese cuteness style - which I love.  The pinky-lavender hair is soooo pretty and sweet.  I did a low bun hair style - reminiscent of Princess Leia (a special sci-fi detail my brother will appreciate).  The eyes are solid black instead of colored irises for a more stylized, cartoonish look. 

Once the head/body is sewn and stuffed, face embroidered, and hair completed the doll is really about 80 percent complete.  Of all these steps the hair takes me the longest (4-6 hours) and hurts my fingers the most.  I have some excellent callouses building up on the tips of my pointer and middle finger in my right hand (I prefer the callous to thimbles - I hate thimbles:  fumbling awkward horrible things).

 I love working with yarn for hair.  I can't knit or crochet so this fulfills my desire to play with beautiful yarns and squish those pretty soft yarn balls.  This yarn is Rowan Creative Focus Worsted, 75% wool, 25% alpaca.  The color is called "soft pink."

Make something beautiful!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sewing Doll Clothes Part I

I think it's strange that I haven't enjoyed sewing doll clothes as much as I thought I might.  I love to sew clothes, I loved sewing this doll.  I will chalk this up, as I always do with sewing, to experience and try to forget the things I've spent hours on that ended up in the trash.

Frustrations aside, I think I've come up with a reasonable first outfit.  I didn't match plaids.  Oops.  I joined two pieces of fabric for the skirt instead of doing the better and more symmetrical three - so there is an ugly seam right in the front, of course.

I did dust the cobwebs from the section of my brain that knows how to do heirloom sewing, though!  I am so happy with the pintucks* and embroidery on the slip (which I made because I cut the dress too short).

I'm hoping the next outfit will be a more peaceful and rewarding sewing experience.

*pintucks are so easy to do!  You need a double needle and a ruler or a pintuck foot (the foot keeps each tuck evenly spaced, the twin needle makes the "tuck").

  • Thread your machine per your instructions for a twin needle
  • Use a ruler to mark your pintuck lines (or mark the first one and use a pintuck foot)
  • Sew!
  • Press.  Having a wooden clapper helps make the tucks even crisper.

Make something beautiful (time learning is beautiful, too)!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Doll Making: Arms, Legs, and Undercloths

I'm finished with Claire!  She's turned out so lovely I'm amazed.  I know there are many little flaws - seams I didn't sew quite straight, embroidered features that aren't quite symmetrical...but I guess they add to her charm.

I couldn't bring myself to post her naked, so I had to make her some underthings.  I may have made doll clothes as a girl, but it's been long enough that it's like I'd never done it before.

I checked out a book from the library The Doll's Dressmaker by Venus Page. 

This book has a plethora of patterns for dolls of all sizes and it shows ways to modify the basic pattern pieces to create many different styles of clothing.  The problem is, it's not very logically organized and the sewing instructions are pretty much non-existent.  I purchased a Butterick pattern that looked to have similar basic clothing styles so I could use the instructions from that pattern to help me with the construction of the patterns from the book.

The Butterick pattern I used is 6001 - it's sized for 18 inch dolls.

 I used the bodice pattern from it and changed it to a front closure instead of a back closure.  I had to take it in at the sides and sew a little pleat in the back to help it fit my doll (she only stands about 16 inches).

 Here's a shot of her next to my quilting ruler so you can get an idea of her size.  Just about 16" high.

Her pants are made from a pattern from the Doll's Dressmaker book.  Pants are really easy, so instructions weren't necessary.

I have some beautiful dresses in the works - I can't wait to show them to you!

Make something beautiful!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Doll Making Continued - Doll Hair

I've finished the embroidery and hair on Claire.  The work is slow and particular, but I really enjoy it.  It's rewarding to see her take shape.

I chose a more elaborate hair style than maybe I should have for my first doll-hair application experience.  I wanted this style because I love little ringlets - it reminds me of the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace that I read as a little girl.  I was enchanted by the description of Tacy's bright red ringlets.  How I wished I had those instead of my plain brown ordinary hair!
 These two photos are the "in process" shots:
  • The yarn I used is Berroco Lustra - a blend of 50% Peruvian wool and 50% Tencel.  It's very soft and has a lovely sheen.  The color is Rodin Bronze.  
  • There is a dowel rod secured around her torso with a rubber band - this is so the hair loops all end up roughly the same length.  
  • I put pins down the edge of her part line spaced about 1/4" apart and loop the the thread around the pin and then around the dowel and back up again.  
  • Then I sewed each loop securely to her head with matching heavy duty thread.

Jill Hamor, author of Storybook Toys and my resource for this doll, has an excellent tutorial on her website as well as in her book.

Once I had the loops attached I took sections and sewed them to her head and then twisted the ends, folding them up to double them and then sewed it to her head again.  It took a really, really long time.

Here is her hair completed from all angles.  If I do this hair style again, I will make it longer - it's a bit shorted than I wanted.

Next up arms and legs.  I think I said that last post.  The hair took longer than I thought.

Make something beautiful!