Monday, October 31, 2011

Charm Pack Skirt

Skills acquired: hemming, installing elastic waistbands, gathers, pressing, not cursing at my sewing machine (even when it stabs me).

One of the projects in Stitch by Stitch is a girl's patchwork skirt made from charm packs. Since I was making mine for a verge of toddler, I altered the pattern some using the tutorial on One-Hip Mom. I ended up with a 5,8,12 pattern for a one-year-old.

I really learned a lot doing this project. If you're new to sewing like I am, I highly recommend making a mom's day by making one of these. You gain several skills, but mostly you gain confidence.

Here's some of what I learned and plan to do differently on future skirts.

- When pre-washing and drying a charm pack, have a method of keeping the squares together. I was fishing them out of sleeves and undies.

- Pay attention to the patterns you're making. I almost had a column of the same print.

- Pin far enough away from where you want to stitch so you don't have to take pins out as you go.

- Pay attention to how you pin. I put some in in a way that made it awkward to stitch without stabbing myself.

-Pressing makes everything beautiful. I double pressed my hem and waistband before stitching, and it turned out beautiful. My mom, who used to sew herself, was very impressed. It's so pretty, I'm posting a detail shot.

- Hem the bottom before you pull the gathers. Hemming on a curve isn't fun.

- I thought the skirt was too small, so I added another column before doing the back seam. It was more difficult to add than it was to make the skirt initially, but the experience was cool. I saw how much I had to undo to do it right.

- I used my seam gauge and seam guide on this project. Both tools were super helpful, and I can't imagine doing this without them.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Tulle Layers

Skills acquired: patience, profanity, respect for tulle

I, having all the patience of a three-year-old, did not want to develop sewing skills by making napkins, graduating to pillows, then practicing bags. Oh no. I want to work on clothes now, now, now! I've had a jersey, melon skirt for a couple years now that I never wear because it's Spanx or vpl. Sounds like the perfect thing to alter, no?

With my flair for the dramatic, I thought this would be a fine base layer for a neon yellow tutu. "Tulle will be great," I thought," because I wont' have to hem it!" Turns out I'm just the sort of naive mark shifty tulle lays in wait for.

I folded and trimmed this with only a tape measure as my guide. Remember what I said about shifty? le sigh. It was all sorts of uneven. I was so frustrated with it, I spent weeks just glaring at it on my dress form.

Eventually, I decided to just plow through it. I sewed the layers together, gathered them, sewed them to the skirt, sewed up the back (that part took at least three tries), and sewed on the ribbon that covers my terrible stitch work.

This is the finished product. (I think like look like one of Toulouse-Lautrec's cancan dancers and even topped the outfit with a hair feather.) Notice the lack of detail shots. It's puffy at the top, and the stitching is all over the place. The back is especially awful, so I spared you a photo. No doubt I'll want to redo this later, add more tulle -- cut properly -- and stitch straight. But for now I can say, "I made this!"

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The First Thing I Made!

Skill acquired: back stitching

My mom got me some shiny fuchsia polyester, and I had no idea what to do with it. Then I stumbled upon a tutorial for making flowers out of polyester. The flowers are insanely easy to make.

1. Cut circles of different sizes out of the fabric. They don't need to be perfect circles.
2. If you want a poppy, leave the circle as is. If you want more of a rose, snip some cuts into the circle.
3. Using a candle, melt the edges.
4. Pile the petals together by size.
5. Stitch together.

I made a bunch of flowers. These two were sewn onto elastic headbands and topped with skull buttons for some punker babies I know. I plan to turn the others into a bib necklace. They're super simple to make, but it felt good to both finish a project and be able to say "I made this."

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Book Review: Stitch by Stitch

Since deciding to throw myself into sewing, to follow the path of millions of women, to develop a practical skill for myself, I've been flipping through every sewing book I see. For the clueless beginning sewer like myself, I cannot recommend enough Stitch by Stitch: Learning to Sew, One Project at a Time by Deborah Moebes.

All introductory sewing books have a couple pages on tools you need. Stitch by Stitch includes 18 pages on tools. Rather than present a list of tools she always uses, Moebes lists tools you must have to sew with a machine (seam ripper, hem gauge), tools that aren't necessary but will make sewing easier (rotary cutter, ruffler foot), and tools that not everyone likes but some people find essential (pattern weight, seam roll). The author also explains why there are different pins and what they are for, types of thread, and why you should invest in scissors and an iron.

From here, the book has another 24 pages on getting to know your sewing machine (“You and Your Machine: A Love Story”). Moebes explains the feet, the needles, stitch varieties, bobbins, thread tension, and on and on. She even lists several of the book's projects that you need to do to build up certain skills. I would have no inclination to make an applique tee shirt, but doing so will give me practice with fusible interfacing and sewing curves.

But before you move on to projects, Stitch by Stitch has an additional 8 pages on fabric. When you've finished, you'll know what the common fabrics are and their uses, why you should always wash fabric before sewing, plus weave types, print terms, and fabric grains.

One of the reasons I bought this book was for the patterns (yes, you get to patterns after about 73 pages). It includes a basic button down shirt and a basic a-line skirt. I can't think of two better things that I'd like to make for myself. The patterns are sizes 4-14, and the CD format allows you to print them over and over. The book also gives clear (patternless) instructions on how to sew a basic tote bag, several basic pillowcases, a makeup roll, napkins and more.

Happily, there are pictures of failures. If your project looks like X, tighten the thread tension. If it looks like Z, you didn't feed it through the machine fast enough. Usually if books bother to mention mistakes you may make, they only describe them, but as a beginning sewer, I don't know what loose bobbin thread or improper tucks look like.

Not only have I found Stitch by Stitch indispensable for the projects I've tackled, but it's also reassuring. The overall tone is supportive and encouraging. Yes, you will mess up, Moebes reminds you over and over, but you'll also get it right eventually. Her love of sewing is so evident that you can't help but want to fall in love with the skill too.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Bunny Inspects The Dress Form

Kinkajou is convinced that this adjustable dress form is her new plaything. A lady from my church gave it to me, and while I'm not really at the making my own clothes stage yet, it's really exciting to have it waiting for me.