Friday, August 23, 2013

DIY Hanging Pattern Clips

Splendid to see you! Today I have a little tip for all you sewists out there on how to hang/display your patterns that are in use, or in the "queue". I don't know about you, but sometimes I get overwhelmed by all the potential projects in my pattern/fabric stash and I thought it would be nice to display the patterns and fabric swatches for projects I am ready to make! Originally I was just going to add this to my little mood board, but there was not enough space, and I didn't want to put little holes in my nice pattern envelopes, or holes in the wall - lol. So here is my solution to the problem: DIY clothespins as pattern hangers / clips!

1. Gather supplies: everyday scissors, plain wooden clothespins, 3M mounting strip, Scotch Expressions Magic tape
2. Tear a strip of scotch tape as long as your clothespin - cut in half lengthwise to conserve tape :) Apply to clothespins
3. Cut 3M strip in half lengthwise
4. Affix 3M strip to back of clothespin, in the middle
5. Remove "wall" side of 3M strip and firmly press clothespin on wall - hold for 30 seconds
6. WAIT 24 hours for 3M strip to really grip wall before hanging anything from clothespins

You're done! Hang your favorite patterns with a fabric swatch ideas :)

So what do you think? A useful tip? How do you display or organize your patterns that are in the queue?I have six clothespins up so far and they work great! Speaking of clothespins, I have another sewing space tip already planned, and there may or may not be a giveaway involved ;) Watch this space!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Style Arc - Ivy Knit Top

Pattern: Ivy Knit Top - Style Arc
Fabric: Reversible Jersey Knit - Purple/Heather Gray - Joann's

Ladies and Gentleman, allow me to introduce to you... the Ivy Knit Top by Style Arc! I have noticed that this pattern company, and especially this top are a little scarce across the blogosphere (at least to my knowledge) so I'm going to go ahead and assume that not many of you have made this pattern. I could only find a couple versions of it around the interwebs, including Sue at Sew, Stash, Sew (love her designer inspiration photos) and Melissa at Fehr Trade (definitely digging the mustard and gray). I chose a delightfully drapey and thick knit that is... wait for it... reversible! That's right, one side with tiny stripes and one is solid. It is seriously soft and surprisingly warm - great for my freezing classroom (I really shouldn't complain, as mine is the only classroom with AC in the building....)  Speaking of AC, mine at home has been blowing a rogue pattern piece against a chair and it keeps freaking me out! I even know that's what it is and I can't stop thinking that maybe this time its really a mouse.... shuddder...

I guess I could get off the couch and put away that pattern piece.... yeaaaaah no.

What caught my eye about this pattern is the casual feel, the high-low hem and length, and the basically endless potential for fabric combos - stripes, solids, prints - with the colorblocking!  So I was sold on the pattern! But let's talk a little bit about the company, Style Arc:

- They are based in Australia - somewhat expensive shipping and longer wait time if you're in the USA - better to order several in one go, if you can (yes I ordered five patterns and had never tried this company before - call me irresponsible)
- Very modern, ready to wear styles - they even have style boards with celebrities in similar clothing!
- One size patterns - you pick the size based on the measurement chart and you are only sent that size. At first I was concerned about this, but actually it was really nice to only have to cut out one line/size (didn't have to trace anything) and it fit beautifully :)
- Instructions - When this pattern arrived in the mail I was surprised to find that EVERYTHING except the actual pattern itself was on a single sheet of letter paper. That includes the drawing, recommended fabric swatches (awesome, right?!), size chart, cutting layout, sewing instructions, etc.... everything you would find in a normal pattern. I did okay with this format but a beginning seamstress might need a little more guidance than the instructions provide
- Seam Allowances are 1/4", designed to be done easily with a serger. Too bad mine started having threading issues almost the minute I started this (thanks for nothing, Clarence), so I just used the zigzag stitch on Archibald - good old Archibald.
- And one more thing.... FREE PATTERN every month! That's right - every month there is a featured pattern that you can receive for free with any order. I got the Elizabeth Top pattern (SO CUTE! Can't wait to try it!)

Okay so back to this pattern! Here are the details:

Pattern: Style Arc Ivy Top
It is a knit top, in the "T shape of the moment" featuring new angled design lines, dropped shoulders, curved hemline and cuffed ¾ length sleeves.
Size: 8 (based on 34" bust measurement)

My Shape: Tall (6'0), pear shape, narrow shoulders, long torso

Fabric: AMAZING reversible jersey rayon knit - purple and heather gray stripes / solid
I used the striped side for the front and sleeves and the solid side for the back, neck, and cuff - perfect color-matching ;) 
View of inside side seam, pressed open
Size Alterations: None! Length is fine, but I might go an inch or two longer next time :)

Design Changes: None! Love the style as is!

Construction Notes: Oooookay as I mentioned above, the sewing instructions are a little scarce (not that this is a super complicated pattern). Here are a couple of tips if you are making this top:
- First one is my own dumb fault - using a reversible fabric means both sides are the right side... and wrong side... my first move was to sew the normal right sides together for the front and back before realizing that it should be "wrong" side to "right" side - WHAT - lol.  Sadly, due to this error and serging off the SA before my brain came back to the party, I ended up with a slightly higher shoulder seam and smaller armhole - oh well!
- Step 6 (fold the cuffs) - you must first fold hamburger style and stitch the short edges together, then fold hot dog style and press - again, brain had to come to the party for this one
- Step 8 I pressed the hem under 1/2" and sewed with a zigzag stitch on my normal sewing machine - no "zigzag machine" required here ;)
Ooooh hem!
I can fly! But see why I might add an extra inch next time ;)
Well I am happy to say that my first experience with the StyleArc pattern line has been a whopping success! I would definitely recommend this pattern as an easy beginning knit pattern. There are so many options! I want to try a print and a solid, or maybe even mix prints - WHAAAT? Don't get too crazy ;)

So have you ever made a Style Arc pattern? Are you tempted to try it? Tell me your thoughts! :)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Lazy Girl Lunch Tote

It's back to school time! For the past four years, I have used a plethora of bags, boxes, and totes to take my lunch and snacks to work. The problem was, none of these were ever big enough to fit everything I wanted to take, so either they didn't zip and food tumbled out all over the parking lot, or I had to just eat a frozen lean cuisine :'(

So before starting another school year with an insufficient lunch carrier, I decided to take matters into my own hands and make my own lunch tote. There were some definite specifications:

- Must be BIG
- Easy to clean
- Outside pocket for water bottle / coffee / other drinkage
- Inside very spacious (not a lot of little pockets) for stuffing exorbitant amounts of food
- Cute :)

One thing I must make clear is that my new creation is called the "lazy girl lunch tote" for a reason - I never ever take the time to pack a pretty lunch. I just throw everything I need to make a lunch into the lunch box and put it all together when its time to eat. For example, I want a sandwich, so I throw in the remaining loaf of bread, a bag of meat, a bag of cheese, maybe some mayo or mustard. Do I take the time to put it all together in a nice little baggie before I leave - ha! Ain't nobody got time for that - it's the morning people! (and don't even say "just do it the night before" - that's sleep time people)

With that in mind, I took measurements of two large tupperware containers, a bottle of dressing and coffee creamer to find the ideal "finished measurement" of my lunch tote:

Width - 11", Height - 11", Depth - 7"

I based the design on this lunch box - very simple and a great size! It seemed so easy to make, why pay money for it?! (isn't that the sewists official motto? lol)

I used two fat quarters for the main body (front/back, base) and one fat quarter for the accent (sides, pockets, top).

 The tote is insulated with insul-brite and lined with waterproof PUL fabric.

There is a gathered pocket on the outside and a large side pocket on the inside for ice packs (both lined).

Inside out view
The top opens with a separating zipper.

The handles are just cotton twill ribbon I had leftover from this owl tote bag.

The edges are finished with a inverted french seam for stability AND a clean finish inside and out.

But best of all - LOOK HOW MUCH FITS IN IT! It's like the Mary Poppins bag of lunch boxes!

Yes, I promise everything in the picture above is in this bag - even the giant box of lettuce!
And it zips!
Just for comparison, here is my old lunch box:

Sorry salad, cheese, and creamer - no room for you! (And this is the most spacious of all my old lunchoxes!)
Hahahaha - its eating my old lunch box!
If you would like to MAKE THIS LUNCH TOTE, I would be more than happy to write a tutorial post to share. But of you're like - who would ever need such an enormous lunch bag - I'm responsible and fine with my current situation thank you - then I'll just keep it to myself ;)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Saucy Tribal Skirt

Pattern: Self- "drafted" (I use that term very lightly)
Fabric: Rayon Challis - Aztec Print (

Well friends, I made up a skirt! This may be one of the first times I have made a successful garment without any kind of pattern :) Granted, the fabric has enough pattern to make your head spin if you look at it too long (which I did...)

This skirt was made for the August sewcialbee challenge! If you haven't gotten in on the sewcialbee, here's the gist:

Anyone who feels so inclined may join the challenge. You have a 48 hour window in which you cannot devote MORE than seven hours of time to sewing your garment. The theme is posted at the beginning of the 48 hours. At the end of the time, you must have finished your garment and posted pics in the flickr pool! Very fun!

This month's challenge theme was "inspired by food" and so I decided to make a skirt out of this crazy "flavor-ful" fabric!

I didn't have any patterns on hand that fit what I had pictured, so I kind of made up my own! I started with the base waistband pattern from another skirt, but altered it so much to fit my curves that I think I'll call it my own ;) Other design features include:

- Gathered skirt
- Side panels with contrasting stripes
- Interfaced/Lined waistband
- Center back zipper
- Slightly dipped back hem

My only regret is that I didn't think to add POCKETS until after the fact! D'oh!

It took a lot of effort to line up the patterns on each skirt piece just like I wanted, but I'm very happy with the result! I wanted to create a "panel" effect from the horizontal and vertical stripes, similar to this Anthropologie skirt (after seeing the catalog picture, I was shocked to see the stripe actually goes down the center front!)

I also found out the hard way that the print of the fabric did not quite match the grain, after using the "tear-method" for one of my panels and finding it quite crooked and too short, I sneakily added another strip of fabric to the back skirt panel:

Do you see it?! The original panel ends at the flowers :)
I finished the skirt well within the time frame of the sewcialbee challenge - once I figured out what I was doing, it was a quick make! I can definitely see myself making this skirt again sometime :)

How about you? Did you participate in the sewcialbee?? Have you ever made up a pattern on the fly???

And one more question for all you photographers/editors out there:

My first set of pics are super over-exposed (SEE BELOW), but they had the best shots of the skirt - is there any good way to edit these, or am I stuck with the touched-by-an-angel glow? Lol ;)

It's just all that sunshine - like the beast at the end of Beauty and the Beast - lol :)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Quick Victoria Blazer Angled Lapel Tutorial

Hello friends! First off, thank you so much for all your wonderful comments on my cropped Victoria Blazer! Each one makes me smile :) And Archibald got a mention over at the By Hand London round up post - check out all the great Victoria blazers!

Today I wanted to show you a quick and easy way to change the lapels on your blazer from square to angled at the bottom - this may seem like common sense to many of you, but I figured I would share it anyways in case someone else was wanting this look and needed some guidance :) We all need guidance in some part of sewing or another!

Babette is working it!  Left side - before (square) ::  Right side - after (angled)
When I originally tried on the blazer with the square lapels pinned on, the hubs commented how it looked very "square" due to the boxy crop cut and the square lapels, emphasized by the horizontal stripe. I decided to try an angled lapel instead and we both agreed it worked better for this blazer! Here's how to do it in eight easy steps:

*These steps were taken AFTER already sewing the square lapels - this is how to adjust them from squared to angled after the fact :)

1. Fold the sewn edge (fold) of the lapel towards the unfinished edge, hot-dog style, at an angle so the corner meets the unfinished edge
2. Press lightly and turn wrong sides out
3. Trace this line with a pencil
4. Press lapel flat
5. Sew along traced line
6. Trim seam allowance
7. Clip corners
8. Turn right side out and press - TA-DA!!!!

***Make sure that you flip the second lapel for this process so you have two mirror-image lapels, not two identical direction lapels (ask me how I know :)

So there you have it! Hope it helps! If you need clarification on anything, please let me know in the comments or by e-mail, and if you try this technique, I'd love to see it! Right click on the above image and select "Open in new tab" to see a larger version of the directional photos (any photos, actually). Thanks, and happy Hump Day!!!

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Wee Bit of Embroidery

Hello friends! Just wanted to show off one of my latest projects, a little hand embroidery for a friend's baby shower :)  Ever since taking the hand embroidery class at The Needle Shop in Chicago, I have been a little obsessed with "drawing with thread" on various things! The first thing I completed was a bag that said "stitch" and featured different stitches on each letter.  For the baby shower, I had a harder task in front of me when I decided to embroider onesies.

One tricky thing about this particular shower is that the parents aren't finding out the gender of the baby, which is awesome, so I couldn't go uber girly or dapper and manly like the last two. Soooo I ended up embroidering two onesies, one at the request of the Dad, and one to practice :)

My first try! The peanut - which is what they always call the little fetus since it can't be "he" or "she" yet. As you can see, the smile got a little lopsided, so "happy" peanut might look a little like "confused" peanut or "terrified" peanut. I digress. It was funny enough to gift.

My second onesie..... I'm about to lay some major dork-ness out here.... don't judge.

You may know that I enjoy sewing, and if you follow closely you may even know that I teach music and love peanut butter. What you may not know about me is that I love, L-O-V-E, watching Japanese anime. That's right - animated cartoons in Japanese with ninjas and alchemists and pirates and space cowboys and ... well anyways, the dad of the new little baby happens to avidly watch one of our favorites, a show called NARUTO! The embroidered symbol above is the Leaf Village, which is where the hero, and basically all the most awesome characters, are from, and they're ninjas. It may sound silly, but it's good. So good that we have watched not 100, not 200, but almost FIVE HUNDRED episodes....

Rockin' a Leaf Village headband last fall.... If you thought I was cool before... sorry (lol)
Okay, I like ninjas, and here are some thoughts on EMBROIDERING KNITS!!!

- Use a cut away stabilizer, not tear away. Too risky to pull out stitches
- Cut the stabilizer area LARGER than the hoop you will be using
- Pin the stabilizer to the knit, and leave in or baste so that while embroidering, knit doesn't stretch
- Don't leave the knit in the hoop for super long periods of time or it might leave permanent stretch marks
- If embroidering a onesie, use a large safety pin to hold back all of the rest of the onesie while you stitch
- Go slow and be aware if the knit is stretching wonky - straighten it out and stitch carefully

Don't be afraid, though - you CAN embroider knits and it can make great gifts!!!

After all that knit embroidery, I was ready for something easy, so I decided to make up a card at one in the morning:

My friend Jamie, the mom, loves woodland creatures, especially squirrels. I found this little squirrel motif in the book Doodle Stitching by Aimee Ray and stitched it twice as the mom and dad squirrels. I then sketched my own little baby squirrel in the middle. If you look closely, you will see that the mom was stitched with brown thread, the dad with gray, and the baby with brown and gray... awwwww :)

The fabric on the front is also special, as it is from some couch pillows I made for Jamie (the mom) a couple of years ago. These also happen to feature a squirrel and bird... I'm telling you, woodland creature love!

I stitched the fabric right onto the card stock and even made a matching pocket inside for a gift card :)

So there you have it! A couple very fun and easy embroidery projects that I could have never found RTG (ready-to-gift.... idk just go with me here). I can't wait to do some more projects with the book I purchased from Kollabora with my Scout Tee winnings: Embroidered Effects by Jenny Hart. Loving my new craft :)

Friday, August 2, 2013

Striped BHL Victoria Blazer

Pattern: By Hand London Victoria Blazer - Cropped
Fabric: Shell - White/Navy Stripe, Lining - Coral (Not sure exact fabric as both were mystery remnants)

I knew this would be a great pattern when the hubs saw the pattern envelope laying on the table and commented, "Oh that's cool." This is a big deal, people. I mean the pattern design is one thing, but the design of the pattern packaging just takes it to a whole other level. You feel so cool when you're sewing up this blazer!

This pattern was absolutely wonderful to work with - everything matched up just perfectly, the instructions are thorough, and there are some very cool design aspects and techniques that make the finished product look very professional. For example, the front darts and collar are sewn on with on continuous line of stitching, and the cuffs are french seamed so they look good AND stay put! The lining is a cinch to put in, and I even was able to finish it all by machine! Details below:

Pattern: By Hand London Victoria Blazer - Cropped Version

Size: US 6 / UK 10

My Shape: Tall (6'0), pear shape, narrow shoulders, long torso

Shell - White w/ Navy Stripe Medium Weight Fabric (similar to denim or twill)
Lining - Pink/Coral silky soft remnant - one side is silky, the other is more textured like shaved velvet???

Size Alterations: None! I was considering adding back darts for a more fitted look but decided I liked the looser fit - also it would be hard to move the arms forward much with a more fitted back

Design Changes: 
- Angled lapel (separate blog post on this soon!)

Construction Notes: This pattern was excellently designed! Here is how I finished the blazer:

- Serge shell armhole to finish and lining armhole to finish - separately!
- Attached lining around neckline/front (not hem)
- Hand tack the lapel down (between lining and shell)
- Stitch lining to shell at hem around front pieces AND 3" in on both sides of back piece
- Turn right side out and press
- Bring remaining back piece through the open armhole and machine finish hem - press
- Stitch armhole of shell and lining together along serged seams

This last step helped significantly in keeping the lining from peeking out underneath the blazer shell - check out these pictures of one side with the armhole stitched and one without:

See the difference! In the end, I have a super neat garment inside and out:

I also took Marie's idea and top-stitched the collar and lapel seam for security :)

Who knows??
For my first pattern from BHL, I have to say that I am sold! I will definitely be getting my hands on their other patterns ASAP and can't wait to make up another full length blazer (maybe sleeveless) for the fall! Have you made the Victoria Blazer??? Be sure to check out the Sew-Along wrap up post over at By Hand London with all the great blazers made by sewists like you :) See you there!

Sorry for the weird top/cleavage thing but this was the only good pic from the straight front!