Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I have to share

So, this book arrived in the mail today!

So so so very excited about it - I can't wait to start trying to draft my own patterns! (But, I have to finish my next Stomp dress first....)


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Simple refashion - skivvie into a shrug.

While scouring op shops for lace to put on my next major project, I stumbled across this skivvie (I think they are referred to as turtle necks in North America).

I have a bit of a love affair with stripes, so I had to pick it up. However, it needed a bit of work. Mainly, because I don't like wearing things that are tight around my neck (even some t shirts make me feel un comfortable).

For my dance classes, I tend to wear something with long sleeves during teaching, but in freestyle, I prefer to wear singlet tops. So, cardigans and shrugs are perfect. I didn't feel like putting in any buttons today, mainly because I didn't want to do any button holes. So, instead, I decided to make a ruffled shrug. I got my inspiration from this bolero by calpatch over at craftstylish.

So, I started by cutting off the neckline, shortening it and cutting the front in half. I then curved the cut corners.

With the fabric I cut off the bottom, I used this tutorial for making bias tape at stop staring... start sewing, using the idea of offsetting the edges to make a tube then cutting it into strips. This gave me the longest possible length to ruffle. Using a single row of stitching to gather the strip, I sewed gathers around the edge.

Next I ironed the seam, so it sat flat, then top stitched using a decorative machine stitch.

And ta-da! Shrug from a skivvie.

Yoga Skirt - also known as hiking skirt or roll hem skirt

This skirt is so easy, and so comfortable. I go hiking in it - the roll top sits nicely on the hips, while not having any lumps that can dig into your hips with the waist strap. I know what you're all thinking - you hike in a skirt?! - and most of the people I hike with have expressed that same opinion. But, I'm far more comfortable in skirts, and they give me a great range of movement. The only time that they are a problem is when I go hiking in Namadgi National Park, which is just south of Canberra, Australia, and is full of tea tree. For those of you who don't know, tea tree plants are covered in thorns. For these occasions, I carry a pair of pants.

I based my original version of this skirt (now very dirty, mainly from sitting on logs that had been burnt in bushfires) on a skirt I purchased from Global Girlfriend, the Organic Super Sash Skirt. I love this skirt, it's so comfy and wonderful. But, the knot at the front makes it impractical for hiking. So, I altered the waistband into a roll top (yoga) hem, and it's perfect.

This skirt can also double as a dress, but I rarely wear it that way.

This pattern is designed for stretch fabric. I use one way stretch fabric, and cut the pieces to make sure that the stretch goes around my body. I use a piece of fabric about 1 1/2 metres long, and 150cm wide.

Okay, so down to making the skirt.

Firstly, you will need to create a pattern. Take a measurement around your waist of where you want the skirt to sit, and halve it. (My skirt sits on my hip bones, you know, the actual pointy bone bit, so I use that measurement.) This is the top of the skirt. Now, times that measurement by two and a half (2 1/2). This is the measurement of the lower hemline. Now, you will need how long you want the skirt to be. My skirt sits just below my knees.

Now, make up your pattern. The skirt is the same front and back, and is shaped like a trapezoid.

Cut two of these.

For the roll top, you need a square of your waist measurement. Cut one of these.

You should now have three pieces: Front, Back, and Waist.

Now, sew the side seams of your skirt front and back, with right sides together. You can either use an overlocker (serger), or any stretch stitch on your sewing machine.

Fold the square in half, and sew the long edge closed. The stretch should now go with the short edge, and the non stretch direction should be along the long edge.

Turn your skirt right side out, and fold your waist band in half, wrong sides together, so that you get a tube.

Pin the wrong side of the skirt to the waist band. Sew the waist together. The seam should be on the right side of your skirt, because the waist band will fold down to cover it.

You may have to stretch the waist slightly to make the two seams line up. This will make the seam slightly ripply, but that's okay.

Now, hem the skirt. I simply overlock around the bottom, although you may prefer to do a proper folded hem.

I know that the waist looks really long, but once you fold it down, it looks far more normal.

Now, your skirt is ready to wear. Yay!

My collection of roll top skirts (so far).

Happy sewing!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bucket Hat

I know that there are a decent number of bucket hat tutorials out there, but I just had to post about these hats, because they just ended up being so cute!

The group I hike with has a hat rule. Specifically, you have to hike with a hat. Which is totally sensible, especially as we live in Australia, where it's nice and sunny.

I own a bucket hat, but it is made of terry towelling, and gets really hot to wear in summer, or early spring and late autumn while you're hiking for that matter. So, I set about making some bucket hats for those warmer months out of light cottons.

To start with, I simply created a pattern. I then made the hat following the directions from violentjayne at It looked hat like, but as it turned out, the band was far too big. The stripes were cute though. It kinda looked like a strawberry shortcake bonnet.

My strawberry shortcake bonnet.

So, I tried a different approach: looking for free hat patterns. And, lo and behold, simplicity has a free bucket hat pattern, available here.

So, I printed the pattern off. I knew that the band would be the right size, but one of the reasons that I originally set about making my own pattern was that I prefer a brim that sits a bit higher than most bucket hats, actually offering sun protection for my nose and neck.

So, after putting the pattern together, I set about altering the brim. 

To do this, I firstly traced a copy of the original brim, and marked in the seam line. The seam line was the most important part of the process, because by keeping the same seam length, I knew that my altered brim pattern would fit onto the rest of the hat.

Next, I cut the brim into twelve even pieces. Depending on how much you want your brim to stand up, you could cut more or less.

In changing the brim, there were two important things I had to keep in mind: firstly, keeping an even curve for the new piece, and secondly, adding space between the top of the pieces, while keeping the seam line at the bottom of the piece together.

The closest thing with an even curve was the circle for the top of the hat. So, I traced around it, giving me an even curve. You could also use a plate, a compass, or basically anything that gives you a neat and consistent curve (you could even free hand the curve, but I never trust myself to do that).

Using the line I had drawn as my guide, I arranged the twelve pieces around it, with the seam lines touching but not overlapping. I lined the lower edge of the pieces up with the line I drew based on the top of the hat.

Next, I drew along the top edge of the pieces, took the away and connected the lines. This became my brim pattern.

The new hat brim (upper), and the original hat brim (lower).

Then, I followed the pattern directions.

Sew the brim of the hat closed.

Sew the band of the hat closed.

Sew the top of the hat to the band.

Sew the brim to the band, leaving a small opening to turn the hat right side out. I use double pins to mark where I need to start and stop sewing.

Sew the brims together, then trim the seams.

Turn right side out.

Top stitch around the brim.

Sew the opening closed.

Your hat is now ready to wear.

I made a second version of this hat for a friend, Lola. She loves rainbow stripes, so it seemed only fitting that I made her a rainbow hat. To get the full effect of the stripes, I had to alter the pattern slightly.

To do this, I cut the brim pattern in quarters, and the band in half, remembering to add 1.5 cm seam allowance at each of the cuts. I then arranged the pieces on the fabric, so that the stripes went across them.

Now, the brim of the original is fairly floppy. I like this look, but Lola likes a more solid brim.

So, for the next one, I added iron on interfacing to the brim.

the interfacing is slightly smaller than the fabric, but that's okay, because of the seam allowances.
Then, I continued as normal, until the hat was finished.

Kiwi in her version of the bucket hat. Designed to be reversible, but I love the contrast of the purple and the blue.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sewing Basket Challenge 3: Loosening the Bound Sleeves of a Knit Top

Along with the retro fabric top, I also have a top (bought at the same time, and also not tried on before I purchased it) that fits well, except it is too tight around the arms.

To fix this problem, I planned to remove the original binding, and replace it with looser binding (I assumed that the problem was that the binding was just too tight). However, when I started to take the binding off, I discovered that the problem was actually that the sleeves were gathered underneath the binding, not that the binding was too small.

Once I had dealt with this discovery (by unpicking the offending gathers), discovered that the existing binding was actually a good size, I simply pinned in back in place.

Now, all I had to do was to sew the binding in place. My sewing machine is a bit... temperamental... or old, depending on the mood I'm in, so the stretch stitch is a bit unpredictable, and often doesn't stretch. So I opted to use a narrow short zig zag stitch instead (length 1.5, width 1.5). To sew the binding onto my new and improved and bigger sleeve holes, I had to stretch the binding to match the fabric in the sleeve.

And with that completed, my top is now wearable again.

Sewing Basket Challenge 2: Shirring an Ill-fitting Knit Top

While I was in England, I bought several long tunic tops. They were cheap, so I didn't try them on. As a result several of them didn't fit quite the way I'd want.

One of them, I love the fabric, but the fit was too loose. I never wore it, because it made me look a bit pregnant. But isn't the fabric awesome and retro?

So, I have been meaning to fix the fit for a while. My sewing basket challenge seemed the perfect time.

I looked up a number of different shirring tutorials, like the ones from ~Ruffles and Stuff~, Pretty Ditty, and Your Fabric Place.

I have never shirred before. I've never really had a reason to shirr before, but the overly loose retro top seemed the perfect place to start. I read the tutorials, and started.

Now, I was going to be dedicated and draw lines on the top, but decided that it was far too much effort and work, and really just too hard to mark the top - mainly because the hemline is not straight, so I couldn't just mark the lines using a ruler.  (This is why the picture above has a ruler, tailor's wheel and tracing paper in it).

So, I decided to use the previous line of stitching as the guide. Taking the advise of the tutorials, I wound my bobbin my hand, and then loaded it in my bobbin case. At first, I threaded the elastic through the tension plates, but it got stuck. So, I loaded the bobbin without sending the elastic though the tension plates.

I began my first row of stitches by following the existing hem line. I didn't back stitch at the beginning of the seam. As I returned to the start of the seam, I angled the seam, so that I could continue in a spiral around the shirt. I left about 2 mm between the side of the presser foot and the previous line of stitching. I kept going round and round until the bobbin ran out of thread.

As I added more rows of stitching, the top became more and more gathered. Because of this, I stretched the fabric, so that it was flat.

When the bobbin ran out of thread, I simply re wound it, and kept sewing. I repeated this process until I got to my bust line. At my bust line, or the point where you would put an empire seam, I stopped sewing.

The gathers stop at the empire line, just below my bust - you can see the end of the gathers in the lighter fabric.

Because the bobbin was hand woven, the tension was not even, so the thread broke a few times while I was sewing. I threaded the loose (broken) threads, and took them to the wrong (inside) of the top. I then caught the thread with a few stitches, and wove the loose end along the line of stitching for about two (2) inches or five (5) centimetres.

Lastly, I pulled the treads at the beginning and end of each piece of elastic through to the inside of the top, and tied the two ends of the threads, and the two ends of the elastic in a knot against the fabric, and cut off the loose ends.

Because I cheated and didn't draw any guide lines onto the top, my lines of shirring weren't perfect. They weren't totally parallel, but in the end, that doesn't really matter. The top looks like it is even.

And, there, TA-DA! My non-wearable top is now wearable.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sewing Basket Challenge 1: Backing a Kilim - Polish Tapestry

In 2008, my parents visited Poland, and came home with a kilim - a polish tapestry, usually displayed as a wall hanging. This kilim, however, wasn't backed, so they couldn't hang it. The task was handed to me, and I started it - I got fabric to do he backing, and thread, and washed and overlocked the piece of fabric. I even began the process by catching the tassels at the top of the kilim, but I got stuck there. The kilim was placed in a bag with the backing fabric, and has been languishing in my sewing basket ever since.

Until now. With my sewing group resolution, I am attempting to finish everything in my sewing basket. The kilim now represents the first of my unfinished projects.

So, how did I go about backing the kilim?

Well, as I said, I had already caught the top tassels. I used a blanket stitch to do this, folding the tasel down so it sat invisibly behind the knots.
View from the front of sewed down tassels
View from the back of sewed down tassels

I left the bottom tassels hanging free.

Next, I went to the backing fabric. I had already overlocked the the edges, although this step is slightly unnecessary, as all the edges will eventually be turned to the inside.

To hang the kilim, a rod pocket is required. to do this, I firstly folded the sides in, so that they sat 1 cm narrower on each side than the kilim. The rod pocket was going to be about 5cm deep, so I sewed the side flaps down 10cm. This means that when the rod gets threaded into the pocket, it won't catch on the folded in sides. I used a small whip stitch to secure the sides. This gave me a row of tiny parallel stitches on the right side, and a row of tiny parallel angled stitches on the wrong side.

Small stitches visible on the right side of the fabric
Small whip stitches on the wrong side of the fabric

Next, I folded the rod pocket down and pinned it in place. I used a back stitch to secure this seam, with a small stitch on the right side and a longer stitch on the wrong side. To give this seam additional strength, I sewed a second seam about 8mm above the first. I should note here that I am fairly bad at sewing straight seams, so both seams were a little wonky.

Double row of stitching on the right and wrong sides of the fabric

Next, I had to secure the rod pocket to the kilim. I firstly folded the rod pocket so that the top crease sat flush with the seam. This meant that when folded down, the rod pocket would be invisible behind the kilim when it was hanging. I then pinned the rod pocket to the kilim. The top of my folded seam was flush with the top of the kilim, and the backing fabric was folded back. This allowed me to work on the back of the rod pocket, and the kilim.

I again used a whip stitch, this time slightly longer. Ensuring I didn't go through to the front of the kilim, I would catch one thread of the kilim, then  go through the rod pocket.

Ladder stitch to secure the rod pocket to the kilim
Ladder stitch to secure the rod pocket to the kilim,
The rod pocket secured, I flipped the fabric back onto the kilim, and folded the edges in, so that the backing fabric sat about 1cm from the edge of the kilim on the sides, and flush with the end of the thick wool threads at the bottom.

Pin the backing fabric to the kilim, leaving a border so the backing is not visible from the front.
I sewed the sides and bottom in place using a combination of ladder stitch on the sides, and whip stitch on the base.

And now, my parents have a backed, hangable kilim. Once it is hung, I will post a photo of it.

Friday, September 3, 2010

My Goal - to complete every unfinished project in my sewing bag

With the start of our sewing group, I have set myself a new goal:

To finish all those projects that I'm part way through.

I'm hopeless at finishing things. I have skirts with no waist bands, or things that are unhemmed, or things I always meant to alter, and just never got around to. 

For most of the last year, I've used the excuse that I was working on my thesis, and couldn't possibly take the few hours needed to finish the projects in my sewing bag. But, now that I have graduated, I no longer have that excuse.

My aim is to complete one project every week (lets see how I go!).

 I shall call it:

The Sewing Basket Challenge!

Project One: Backing my parent's Kilim.