WIP Wednesday: Starting the “U is for Unicorn” Quilt Top

20130826-190735.jpgAfter my mom sent me the last of the quilt blocks, I was able to make more progress on the quilt top. Every time I finished a row, I was squealing with delight and saying, “So pretty!”. The next blocks I needed in arranging the quilt top still had a fair amount of stabilizer attached to the back, so I needed to work on those.

This is the total length of the quilt, minus the border. Since it’s so big, it’ll be interesting to figure out where I’m going to hang this when I’m done.

 

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Made It Monday: Sequin Dress

Sequin dress

I’ve never thought of myself as a “sequin girl”. My aesthetic is more girly-girl-froufrou, so thinking of sewing with sequins didn’t happen… often. However, I was browsing around some online fabric stores and found some 8mm sequin fabric that I kind of fell in love with. It was a bit outside my price range for what I’d pay for a fabric I had never worked with, so I only toyed with the idea of it. Soon after, while discussing the possibility of sewing with the sequin fabric, a gal in one of the sewing Facebook groups I’m in offered me 2-yards of pink sequin fabric. I pored over my stash of patterns and wasn’t happy with any of them: I didn’t want to deal with darts, needed something that accommodated for stretchy fabric, and had minimal amount of seams.

Here’s the thing about sewing with sequin fabrics (the right way): it takes a lot of time. If you’re willing to invest the time into it, you’ll end up with a beautiful, couture garment. When you sew with sequins, expect to have shreds of sequins all over your sewing space after cutting out your pattern pieces. Then, you’ll need to trim away the sequins from the seam allowances: trimming sequins caught in seams, whether serged or straight stitched, it about as fun as… something that’s not so fun. Really, it’s worth it to take the time to clean up your seams and then take care of the few stray sequins that got caught in your seams. And, of course that means you’ll need to follow it up with filling in the voids in the fabric with the sequins you cleared away. Totally worth the time.

Preparing fabric for sewing

One thing I did that this pattern didn’t call for was lining. I tried the dress on after I sewed up the four seams (two shoulders, two sides), and the inside was so scratchy! So I found some pink tricot to match the dress and used that for lining.

Now, there’s a really awesome trick for lining a sleeveless dress that I used when I made the Downton Abbey dress, unfortunately, it requires that your side seams be open. Mine weren’t. So I went the hand-sewing route. And actually, I found an article in a past edition of Threads that showed how to add a lining to a garment. I sewed the necklines together, understitched, discovered that the neckline was still rolling out despite the understitching, thus I had to hand-tack it down. Then I hand-sewed both of the armholes and finished by filling in the sequins voids around the neckline and armholes.

Even though this dress took a lot more extra effort than needed with its pattern counterpart, I’m still very happy with how it turned out. It’ll be the perfect outfit to wear in Vegas when we go in September.

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WIP Wednesday: 4 Skeins into the Tappan Zee Cardigan

4 Skeins into Tappan Zee Cardigan

4 Skeins into Tappan Zee Cardigan

WIP (or Work in Progress) Wednesday is another scheduled feature post I’m going to try out. I have a lot of WIPs, so I can definitely spread them out over a few weeks, and eventually, one-by-one, they should make it to Made it Monday.

Immediately after I finished the socks, I made a swatch of fabric from this yarn (Sublime Cashmere Merino Silk DK) . I couldn’t use it for the first couple of projects I thought of using it for (wrong weight, or not enough yarn based on my swatch gauge), but I did find this free pattern on Knitty.com for a short sleeve cardigan call Tappan Zee cardigan. I really like the lace pattern on the cardigan. As you can see, I’ve already bound off the sleeves (which feel a little tight so far, but I’ve been gingerly trying the cardigan on so I don’t slide the yarn off the circulars), so I’m now working on 11″ of stockinette stitch… yikes! I have three balls of yarn left, so I think that should be JUST enough to finish the cardigan.

11″ of stockinette stitch is good for sitting-in-front-of-the-TV-knitting.

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Made It Monday: Cold Shoulder Shirt

Cold Shoulder shirt

Cold Shoulder shirt

I decided that it would try to give this weekly feature thing a try (check out my blog this Wednesday too!) to see if I could publish posts more regularly (or at least, when I’ve made something… by Monday). Anyhow, after I made the Cowl’d Maxi Dress, I had about a yard and a half of that chevron jersey left over, so just about enough to make a shirt. Yay!

I dug around in my hoard collection of patterns to find something that would work with the print. I found Simplicity 1805, which is a pretty loose fitting top pattern, and one of them has cold shoulders, which I guess is kind of on trend right now… maybe?

Simplicity 1805 - Style F

Simplicity 1805 – Style F

Pattern Description

Super loose fitting pullover knit top with cold shoulders.

Pattern Sizing

Based on my bust measurement and considering that this top has so much ease, I made a small. Yep, a small. And it’s pretty dang loose.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?

Ehhhh, kind of. The picture on the pattern envelope makes the sleeves look a lot looser than they actually are, at least, on the small. Maybe my biceps are getting beefy from all the bicep curls, or something. (No, not really).

Were the instructions easy to follow?

For the most part, I kind of did a couple things my own way, to give parts a better finish.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?

There were only four pattern pieces, so that was pretty nice. There was a collar band, so that was pretty awesome. Didn’t like the flappiness of the cold shoulder fold-over, and didn’t like the instructions for finishing the collar band.

Fabric Used

Remaining chevron fabric that I used with the Cowl’d Maxi Dress.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made

So, just like with the cold shoulder dress I made for Maranda, Simplicity had this flap that would fold over and flap around if not tacked down in some way. Not really a design change, just a slight deviation from the pattern instructions where I used some Steam-a-seam to keep the cold shoulder flap down. Also, I didn’t like the instructions for attaching the collar band. Would have been pretty easy if I had a cover stitch machine (or a magical serger with cover stitch), but alas, I don’t. So I folded under the collar band on the inside, and stitched through. Also, finished the hem of the shirt with a double needle (because it looks as fancy as cover stitch).

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?

Yeah, it’s a good pattern, and there’s a couple other styles that would work well for other closet staples. If someone wanted to do the cold shoulder style, I’d suggest to them to make sure to finish the shoulder flap on the sleeve.

Conclusion

It was a quick sew (took me a couple hours on a Sunday to make from cut to finish), and I like that I now have a cold shoulder shirt and was able to use up the rest of my fabric. Patterns provide a good guide for a style, but it’s up to you to use your own techniques to sew your garment to your liking, and that’s what I’ve been doing more of these days, so I’m happier with the garments I make.

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Last of the “U is for Unicorn” Quilt Blocks

My personal goal was to finish appliquing the remaining “U is for Unicorn” quilt blocks before my parents moved, and I managed to get them all done. But mom had already pack up all her embroidery stuff she’d need to satin stitch the blocks, so I’d have to wait until she got all moved and settled in before she would have time to work on them again. Four months after they moved, she finished them all and sent them to me. I’m so excited to finally have all the quilt blocks, although, it means now I have to spend a lot of time removing the tear-away stabilizer from the back of the blocks before I can stitch them into the quilt top.

Click on the thumbnail to view the quilt block:

Block M Block 37 Block 33 Block 34 Block 16
Block 21 Block Y Block W Block 18 Block H
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Make Your Muslin Work for You

A few weeks ago, I signed up to join some other local sewing bloggers to try out the fitting techniques presented by Lynda Maynard in her Craftsy class: Sew the Perfect Fit. If you’ve sewn garments, you know that fit can be a tricky beast to deal with. No one, not even a super model, will fit a pattern right out of the envelope, and that’s not the fault of our bodies. But it takes technique and skill to modify a pattern to fit your body. There are many, many, MANY books, videos, and classes that all cover this topic. Nearly all sewing instructors cover the topic too. So you can imagine that there’s plenty of different techniques on how to achieve the “perfect fit”. Some classes I’ve taken have suggested not even bothering with a muslin, but just measuring yourself and make changes straight on the pattern according to your measurements. Given that I’m an engineer (okay, sure, there’s some argument about whether software developers are truly engineers), I like to think in measurements. Taking a measurement and changing a paper pattern based on that makes a lot of sense to me. So when I purchased Lynda’s course on Craftsy, I wasn’t sure if I would really like the way she does her fitting.

A long time ago, one of the first things I learned about fitting was to make a muslin if you’re unsure how something will fit on you. I’ve done that a couple times for some special occasion dresses just to make sure they were going to fit me. I’d make the appropriate changes to the muslin garment to get it to fit, and then take apart the muslin and that would be my new pattern using the actual fabric. But that can be so daunting to do that for EVERY garment you make. Most of the time, I don’t bother to make one, and just use the pattern out of the envelope, using the size that best fits my bust and waist measurements and then grade it out to a size or two larger, depending on where my hip measurement lies. I don’t worry about waist length (because I’m only 3/4″ difference between the pattern size and my actual waist length) and I don’t do any bust adjustments.

So on to Lynda’s class. It starts out pretty typically: take your measurements, and then pick your pattern size based on your bust measurement (or high bust, if you’re bigger than a B-cup). Then make the muslin in that size, all the way through. Wait, what? I can’t grade out to make sure my pear-shaped hips will fit in it? No? Okay… Then she goes on to show the muslin on the models and how it will pull in certain areas. After a few snips and moving the muslin pieces out to where it will want to hang naturally, you can see how she’s actually putting the muslin to work. She fills in any gaps she creates with some scrap fabric, and works to do this in all areas of the muslin, starting at the shoulders and working down to the skirt and out to the sleeves. Eventually, she’ll have carefully turned the ill-fitting muslin into a well-fitting muslin that can be used to alter the pattern.

Here’s where I used to deviate how Lynda does her fitting. Lynda will take those changes make on the muslin and apply them directly to the pattern. The point of doing this is so that you’ll have a hard copy of the changes you made and then be able to apply those EXACT same changes to other patterns from the same pattern line (or maybe more, since the Big4 pattern companies tend to have similar pattern standards). This means not having to make a muslin for each and every garment you sew, once you figure out the areas you need to adjust to make your garments fit from a pattern.  I think that’s the most exciting thing to learn from this class.

So how did I do? Well, based on the measurements I took 35-(34 high bust)-28-41, I went with a size 14. The dress she has us make for the muslin is style E from Vogue 8766. I had already made this dress before, so nothing was new to me. In fact, the dress is pretty basic: bodice with darts, straight skirt with darts, and sleeves. I made up my muslin about a week ago based on my measurements then, and set it aside for our meet-up today. When it was my turn to try on my muslin to do the fitting, apparently I had lost enough inches in the past week to greatly affect my muslin. The other gals said I must have cut the wrong size (although, it fit fine after I was done making it). I had lost an inch off my waist and an inch off my hips, so that was enough to affect the fit of the garment. I’ll actually have to be taking in some on the skirt than adding more to it! The shoulder seams were a little off center of my shoulder, so we had to reposition those, which caused the back to slide up and the front to slide down (that’s a good thing).

Modified Muslin Front

Modified Muslin Front

The darts crept over my bust line and were positioned a little off center from my bust point, so first, we dropped the bust line down, and then repositioned (with Sharpie, because we were lazy) the dart lines.

Modified Muslin Side - No "rudders" here!

Modified Muslin Side – No “rudders” here! But apparently I have terrible posture

Next, we had to raise the waistline of the front and the back, so fabric was folded up on both parts until the waistline matched that of the piece of elastic that was tied around my waist.

Modified Muslin Back

Modified Muslin Back – Oops, looks like my sleeve’s falling off

After all these changes were made to the muslin, I’ll transfer the changes to my pattern, and then recreate the muslin to make sure all the changes we made make for a well-fitting garment. So far, I have to say, I definitely would recommend Lynda’s class on Craftsy. Yes, it definitely helps to have another sewing buddy (or five, in my case) to help out, but I think a reliable dress form (so, not the one I have) would work just as well to make your own adjustments.

Special thanks to Amy from Sew Well for organizing the meet-up, and to Denise for the use of her home!

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Cowl’d Maxi Dress

Cowl'd Maxi Dress

A while ago, I mentioned that I was going to stop sewing for myself until I managed to reach certain weight loss goals. Recently, I finally met my first one! Hooray! I ended up deciding against the Simplicity pattern I originally chosen to go with the chevron  jersey I picked up from Pacific Fabrics back in March during their Sew Expo sale. It was kind of a silly choice, because it would require a lot of pattern matching to make it look good, so I choose a simple McCall’s dress (McCall’s 6612).

I originally bought the pattern to make a pink sequin cocktail dress, but this pattern also included a maxi dress with a cowl. I’m not sure what season it’s for, but this jersey is pretty lightweight, that even with the cowl, I’m pretty sure it passes for summer wear. The only pattern matching I had to do was matching at the side seams. I got pretty close, so that’s all I cared about.

It’s a super simple dress: three pieces! It took me less than four hours to make, from cutting out to finishing the hem. Granted, having a serger made it go a LOT faster. I single stitched the hem on the armhole and twin needle stitched the hem on the skirt; that almost made me wish I had a cover stitch machine.

20130806-131603.jpg

On to my review!

Pattern Description

Jersey maxi dress with cowl. Pattern envelope describes it as close fitting, which I would say is pretty accurate.

Pattern Sizing

I made a size 14, but graded out to a size 16 in the hips. Easier to take in than to let out! I feel like I have just enough room to move around in, while the design still retains a good shape.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?

Very much so!

Were the instructions easy to follow?

Honestly, I didn’t really follow the instructions, except for sewing and attaching the cowl. But those were pretty easy to follow.  Otherwise, only checked to make sure that I was hemming the suggested amount.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?

Super easy. This style was only three pieces, other styles are equally simple in the amount of pieces to use.

Fabric Used

Lightweight jersey with a chevron print.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made

None.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?

Maybe not this style again, but I’m currently making a cocktail dress from another style from the same pattern. The shirt with the rouched sides also looks appealing, so we’ll see!

Conclusion

If you need a pattern for a quick and easy knit dress, this is it!

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