Wednesday, April 28, 2010
That was the point I looked up from my mumbling (two here, two there...oh wait, I accidentally put down three, and this one only has one...why do both of these piles only have one?), wild-eyed, and screamed, "Stop talking to me! I won't talk back! I won't! I can't hear you! I'm working! I'm trying really hard!!" She gave me a confused look of pity, turned around, and left. Poor thing. Her mother's batty!
Once I got that part figured out, I started the sewing. Aside from one minor mishap (I made a silly error on about 7 blocks that then had to be unpicked and fixed) the sewing went smoothly! Around 10:30 tonight, I finally declared my sewing day Over. I am one strip away, on all the blocks, from completing the second ring. I might actually finish these blocks this week...instead of next month. Woot!
Clever, right? Well, I have a “Quilt in Progress”, and I came up with an awesome TIP today! So…there ya go. I could have called it A Quicker Way to Hedgerow…and it probably would have made more sense!
I am working on a quilt for my mother in law. I’m hoping to get it done by Christmas…but it’s my first queen sized quilt, so this is going to test the limits of my (limited) attention span!
Seeing as how that attention span is so *ahem* limited, I set my brain to thinking about the piecing process for the blocks. I need 56 blocks. Each one has an identical center piece. There are four rings on each block, and I have six fabrics to choose from. Right. Here goes a little math. I wanted to figure out if there was a way to streamline my process, while still keeping the blocks random looking. Then I thought…what if I just wanted to make all the blocks different. So, starting with the inner ring. If there are 56 blocks, and six fabrics, that means that there will be two fabrics that will start out on ten of the blocks, and four fabrics that will start out on nine of the blocks. Make sense? That gives me…10 blocks starting with light blue, 10 blocks starting with the plaid, 9 blocks of navy, nine blocks of stripes, nine blocks of pink floral, and nine blocks of green floral. 10+10+9+9+9+9 = 56. (Right?! Please tell me I’m right.)
So, that figured out, I wanted to see if there was a way to streamline the actual sewing process. For the first nine blocks, with the light blue inner ring, I sewed a piece, snipped, ironed, sewed the next bit, snipped, ironed…and kept on going on like that, completing each ring, until the entire block was finished. In the hour I could carve out, before the kids started falling over themselves and moaning for sustenance, I could finish two, maybe three blocks, completely.
Today, I decided to try something new, using a tip a friend taught me – linked up sewing!
So, here are all my strips, lined up and ready. I counted my centers out into appropriate piles (of either 10 or 9). Then I grabbed a strip, lined up one of the centers (right sides together, strip on the bottom) and started sewing. New the end of the square center piece, I grabbed another center, placed it about 1/4” down from the first piece, and just kept on sewing! I continued on until that pile was gone, then grabbed the next color strip and set to work on the second pile.
After that, I snipped off the pieces, flush with the right side…
…then sat down and evened out the left side. Oh, and I pressed them after this.
I made sure everything was still in its right pile, grabbed matching strips of fabric…and kept going! Today, during my hour, instead of finishing two or three complete blocks, I finished the first two sides of the first ring…on 46 blocks. Not bad! I might finish this thing before Christmas after all!
So, the tip is – make like a Ford and start an assembly line. To save thread and time, try to link up your pieces. (This works any time you have lots of straight seams to do, all in a row.)
Did anyone else notice how convoluted this whole process is, all under the guise of “easier”? Yeah…in college, my professors said my mind worked in “interesting ways”, too. Heh. Maybe that’s what they mean when they say Creative Thinker!
And now, for something completely different – the actual state of my work space right now. OY. This room is the ONE spot, in the entire house, the baby cannot get at. Thus…a lot of random things are thrown in here! That, and I always seem to have too many projects going at once!
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
I used a pair of shorts that were really too short to be decent, and a vintage bedsheet. (It was originally purchased for the quilt I made for my daughter last summer, but there was still over a yard left.)
The bottom tier is twice as big as the middle tier...which is twice as big as the circumference of the shorts. The entire length of the skirt is 11" (the bottom tier was cut 6" tall and the middle tier was cut 5" tall).
I sliced off the leg portion of the shorts just above the crotch, which took about an inch off the shorts length (seriously short shorts!) and attached the skirt to the raw edge.
In hindsight, I'd like to try this again, attaching the skirt to the waistband of the shorts and leaving the shorts intact. That way, she could flip and tumble and nary a Hanes to be soon. (Woot for that!) Maybe with a pair of jersey shorts...
(This was inspired by a post at CraftEvolution)
Monday, April 19, 2010
Look! Pants! Bet you’ll never guess what they’re made from! (Umm…or if you read the title of this post, I guess you could totally guess.)
*gasp* That’s right! How did you know?! I found this shirt for just a few dollars at a Banana Republic outlet last summer. It didn’t look like it would be particularly flattering (hello wide with horizontal hot pink stripes!) but it did look like a really fast way to get nearly a yard of decent quality patterned jersey! (It’s nearly impossible to find decent jersey in our local fabric shop.)
I took a pair of leggings that fit my daughter well, and traced them out on the shirt. They just barely fit on either side of the deep scoop neck.
To make your “pattern”, set the pants up so that the two legs are matching each other, as seen in this photo below. You’ll end up with one straight side, and one side with a cute little “nose”. If you’re not going to add a separate waistband, add two inches to the top to fold over at the end to make a casing for a drawstring or elastic. Make sure you lay the pattern down once with the nose to the left, and once with the nose to the right, cutting out two of each orientation (with your fabric wrong sides together). You’ll end up with four pieces. (That strip on the left is the bottom waistband from my shirt, which seemed like the quickest way to get a waistband onto my pants! If you are cutting your own waistband, cut a strip of jersey that is as long as your Little’s waist, and about 4” wide. This will be folded in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, when you stitch it on later.)
To stitch your pants together: grab two pieces with opposing “noses” and stick them right sides together. Stitch from the tip of the nose up to the waistband. Repeat with the other set of leg pieces.
Once that is done, open those sets up and lay them right sides together, so that they finally look like a pair of pants. Now you’re going to sew from one cuff, up that leg, through the crotch, and down the other leg to the other cuff. My fabric was this really thin, curling sort of jersey, so I pinned the snot out of it before I sewed it. (Yes, really. Just go with me on this. It was a lot of pins.) After you’ve sewn up the inseam, match up the outer seams and sew those as well. Now you really have something that looks like pants! Even up the bottoms, but don’t hem them until you’ve tried them on your Little.
Once that was all done, I slid my pants up into my waistband piece, raw edges matching, and sewed it on. (This can be a little confusing if you’ve never done it before, but picture this – your waist points north, your cuffs point south. Turn your waistband piece so that the raw edges point north and the folded edge points south. Then just slip your pants inside of it. You’ll sew in a big ring all the way around your pants.) If you added extra inches at the top of your pattern, fold your waist down once to hide the raw edge, and again to make your casing. Stitch it all the way around, and then snip two small holes in the front and use a safety pin to scootch your drawstring through. For easy easy drawstring, braid together three long strips of jersey. For more details, see here.)
To fancy them up a bit, and to firmly declare a Front and a Back, I cut a little butterfly out of a piece of cotton in my stash and used Steam a Seam to stick it to the pants leg. I didn’t even stitch around it…but I will if I see the butterfly start to flutter away!
And there you have it – pants for a little girl! These would also make great PJs.
I didn’t add a drawstring in this shot, but after seeing her wear these pants a few times, there will definitely be a drawstring added. I’m tired of seeing her little undies peeking over the back waist!
Friday, April 16, 2010
This might be one of my most requested tutorials…so I’m going to try my best to make this sound as easy as it really is, okay?
Gather your materials: You’ll need a man’s button up shirt, a sleeveless dress or top that fits your little girl (or just a t-shirt that fits if you’re good at eyeballing things), a few pins, and a sewing machine. (Plus the usual – thread for the machine, a fabric pen to trace your pattern, and scissors!)
First, make your bodice pattern. I’ve made three of these dresses so far, and each one is a little different. I think my pattern is almost there…
If you have a sleeveless dress that fits, great – trace that, and add your seam allowance (I like about 1/2”, to leave room for my rolled hems on the arms and neck). If you’re using a t-shirt, you’ll need to trace the shirt out onto a piece of paper, and then on your pattern cut off the sleeves. Take a look at the next picture of my bodice pattern, and make it look like that. Heh. This bodice only goes down a few inches past the armpits, but you can of course make yours as long as you like.
Now that you have your bodice pattern, grab your shirt and line your pattern up on the front of the shirt with the buttons in the middle of the bodice. Make sure that there’s a button about 3/4” down from the top of the bodice. This is now your Back Bodice Piece.
(See how I situated the bodice piece so that it ended up with a button near the top?)
Now, flip the shirt over, and set your bodice piece up as high as it will go, without overlapping onto the yoke of the shirt. (The yoke is that separate piece at the top. It won’t be pretty on our dress – no big ol’ seams running across the chest for us!) (You’ll want to unbutton the shirt when you trace/cut out this second piece, so you don’t have those buttons getting in your way.)
Once you’ve cut out those two pieces, cut a straight line across the remaining shirt, as high as you can, to make your skirt. (This should fall just below the armpits of the shirt.)
Your three pieces!
Keeping your back bodice piece buttoned, lay it together with your front bodice piece, right sides together, and sew the two pieces together at the sides and shoulders. Now you have a little cropped tank top looking thing!
Once you’ve done that, unbutton your back bodice piece and lay it out right side up on your work space. Unbutton your skirt piece, and lay that on top, matching the raw edges, right sides together. Next, pin it in three places – once on the button placket, once on the buttonhole placket and once matching the center of the skirt and the center of your unbuttoned bodice piece.
(It’s pictured here all opened up, so you can see where to pin it.)
Here comes the trickiest part – you need to pleat up the fabric so that the skirt will be the same width as the bodice. (Alternately, you could do a long running stitch and gather up the fabric that way.)
Here’s how I do my pleats. I think they’re called box pleats, but I just call them inside out tennis pleats…because I’m crazy like that, and I made it up one day and it looked like a tennis skirt. Anyhow…moving on.
To make a box pleat (or an inside out tennis pleat. whatever), grab a little chunk of your fabric with two hands. Pinch your fabric between both sets of thumbs/fingers, and then lay it down flat and pin it in place. (Does that make any sense?)
I can fit one pleat at the middle pin, and then three on either side of it. I like big pleats!
(In that picture, the bodice is underneath the skirt piece, raw sides matching.)
Time for the big finish! Sew along that line of pleats, removing the pins as you go. You’re done!
When you flip your dress back over, your “inside out tennis pleats” will be…inside out pleats. See?
The neck and armholes can be finished either by turning the raw edges under, and then turning again and stitching around, or you can finish them with bias tape or ribbon. I usually do the double turn and stitch method myself, because I’ve never thought far ahead enough to make up bias tape ahead of time. Heh.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
So…you want to make a matchy matchy set of outfits for your boy and girl? Or just use some shirt sleeves to make shorts for someone? Have I got a tute for you! This is totally forgiving….so just go with the flow on this one. First, make a pattern for a pair of pants. If you need help doing that, go here. Basically, trace a pair of pants that fit well onto either a piece of stiff paper, or directly onto your fabric.
This project was inspired by a tutorial over at KoJoDesigns.) Since KoJoDesign’s first pants tutorial last year, I’ve made at least half a dozen pairs of pants for various and sundry kiddies. Today, we’re taking it to the obvious next step – shorts! (The KJD tutorial will tell you to trace a pair of pants onto your fabric. I’m making so many pairs lately, I found it a lot easier to trace my pants onto a piece of postal brown paper and make a real pattern. I bought the 25’ roll for a dollar at my local discount store. You can also find it at office supply stores.)
Instead of lining your pattern up so that the entire leg will fit, I used a short sleeve from a button down shirt my husband didn’t wear anymore. Line the waist of your pattern (with casing ease already built in) with the shoulder edge of your shirt sleeve. To make things easier for myself, I lined the straight edge up with the southern edge of the sleeve. One less seam to sew! You can see that the other side of the pattern almost matched up with the northern edge of the sleeve. I fudged a little bit there, and only cut the curved section from that edge of the sleeve down the slope to the waist band. One more seam I don’t need to sew!
On my pattern, I had marked where the “top” of the pants were, so I would know how much was left over for the elastic casing. Make sure to mark this on your fabric for later.
Here are my two pants legs, all cut away from the main shirt.
Here’s where it gets a little hard to explain, but bear with me. Since three of your seams are already sewn, you’re going to need to match up the rounded parts that aren’t already sewn. I did this by turning one pant leg inside out, and leaving the other one right side out. Then, I nested them together, like so:
Make sure that your right sides are together! That would mean that your right side out leg is inside your inside out leg. You still with me? Just stick the right sides together, and you’ll get it.
Now, you’ve got all your seams matched up…just sew them up! Right sides to right sides, you’re going to sew one long curved line from one end of the rainbow to the other.
Just trust me on this! It’s like magic. As long as your right sides were together, and one leg was nested inside the other, when you turn that inside out leg back to right side out…you’ll have a pair of pants!! Neat, right?
All that’s left to do is fold over the top to make your casing, and sew it up. You can check out the KoJoDesigns tutorial above for ideas for slick drawstrings, but I used a grosgrain ribbon I had in my stash. (As it turns out, my one year old son is now fascinated by bows….and spent all morning yanking on this one, either untying it or simply pulling it out of the shorts casing. *sigh* Shortly after this picture was taken, I replaced the ribbon with a length of elastic. Yes, the elastic shows through on the front of the shorts, as it is outside of the pants in one spot, between the two holes I had cut for the drawstring, but…if it really bothers me, I’ll make a little bow and sew it onto the elastic to hide it. Luckily, I’m not really bothered by things like that!)
There you go! Shorts in a flash. I swear, once you get all your materials lined up…making a new pair of shorts for your Littles might be faster than doing the laundry.
But don’t let that give you any bad ideas…..
These shorts are, obviously, super wide. (In fact, they’re as wide as a man’s shirt sleeve!) These would probably fit my three year old daughter just fine…which means that I might be making a few pairs for her, as well, to wear underneath all of the summer dresses she loves to wear!
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
The night before Easter I made up some more matching clothes for the kids. Of course, on Sunday morning, when Ming Wai say the nearly-finished duo, she decided that those were the ones that should be for Easter. It was a bit of a scramble to finish up the last few fittings, but we got it done. I'm still fine-tuning the bodice pattern (you can see that it has a weird sort of a slope to the shoulders), but I like this one all the same. Since the pattern is as handmade as the dress, I am prodigiously proud of both. A tutorial is in the works, and should be ready next week!