After writing this post, I realized how little documentation my sewing projects have gotten the past couple years. Every knitting project makes it to the blog, but many of my sewing (and other craft) projects go undocumented. So to appease my guilty conscience, here are three projects in one post!
The first is this green dress. I had bought the exact same dress from American Apparel during their going out of business sale this year. It’s orange, and I wear it so much that I decided another version was in order. I traced the dress, trued the pattern lines, cut and sewed the dress in under 2 hours. It’s a super simple dress but a good winter basic with leggings and a long sweater. Fabric is an olive green sweatshirt knit from Fabric.com. All inside seams are serged. I finished the neckline with a small facing and topstitched with a straight stitch. Cuffs and hem are finished with a narrow zig-zag and my walking foot.
Second project is this coat. I found it at the thrift store. It was in great shape but the sleeves were way too long (and despite what that price tag says, I didn’t pay $38 for it (I actually paid quite a bit less)).
I shortened them using the following process:
unpicked the seam between lining and cuff
cut the coat fabric approx 2.5 inches shorter (the length I wanted the cuffs to be, adding some extra to turn under to attach to the lining)
cut the lining fabric also by 2.5 inches
slipstitched the lining to the coat fabric
tacked the new cuff to the sleeve side seams to keep them in place
Since I now have exactly one brother in law, I figured I had better knit him a pair of socks to welcome him to the family. And, conveniently enough, the time that those socks got finished happened to coincide with the holidays… I figured why not kill two birds with one stone ? 😉
By now these two robes have made it to their recipients- I made them as Hanukkah gifts for my two sisters. My roommate was kind enough to model these for me before I sent them off.
The pattern is Ralph Pink’s free kimono pattern. I had previously made a full-length version with long sleeves (see it here) which they both adored. This time, I made a few pattern hacks. I have found that the extended sleeves that hang down from the elbow can get in the way. So I made straight sleeves. I also shortened the length. All seams are french-seamed and the hems are finished with bias tape.
The silky brown and black kimono has a slightly curved hem in the back. The fabric is a charmeuse from fabric.com. It’s slippery and was a bit frustrating to work with, but it was totally worth the extra care for the finished product. Because the fabric is so lightweight, I interfaced the collar with a stiff twill to add some structure.
The blue kimono is a rayon print from Firecracker Fabrics right here in Pittsburgh. It was a bit easier to work with so I added deep patch pockets. The hem is straight in the back but curved in the front. It’s also a bit longer than the brown and black one and the collar is interfaced with medium-weight fusible interfacing. I ran out of printed fabric so I used some blue satin for the inside of the collar and the ends of the waist tie.
Hope all your holiday sewing projects are wrapping up nicely- good luck and happy holidays!
A couple months ago I set myself a goal of sewing one project a week. It didn’t matter if it was as simple as hemming a pair of pants or as complicated as making a new dress. The idea was to work my way through the VERY long list of projects I wanted to do. Some projects I had planned in detail and bought supplies for, some were patterns I wanted to try, and some were only vague ideas. Many, many, many were simple alterations- I had a “to be altered/mended/finished” stack that was overflowing its box and blocking the door to my bedroom (a cry for help, perhaps?).
This weekly goal has kept me motivated to sit down and do a lot more 30-minute projects to get through the stack (a lot of things were from the thrift store and simply needed to be hemmed before I could wear them!). It also meant I got all my holiday presents finished and out ahead of time. Some weeks I’ve only done one alteration, or made a pillow. But that long list of projects is finally getting shorter. It’s very encouraging. I’ve found time by knitting on the bus and sewing on study breaks.
I’ve also started keeping a log of my projects. In my planner I have a page where I write what week of the year I finished a project. It’s remarkable to look at how prolific I have been despite how busy I was in my first semester of grad school! Most of my projects never make it to the blog. Since the beginning of October 2017 I have
hemmed and taken in the shoulders of a graduation gown
Basically I saw someone wearing a Roberts dungaree dress she had made and I became a Roberts convert. This isn’t normally a silhouette I wear (think more leggings and short dresses or sweaters and pants/long skirts), but I think I paired it with the right fabric. This is a grey wool blend from my stash, acquired years ago from a fellow crafter (my aunt). I lined the top of the dress with a pale green and yellow flannel from Firecracker Fabrics– I briefly considered doing some contrast details in this flannel but decided I would wear it more if it was all grey on the outside. Square buttons are from Creative Reuse
The whole thing is warm and cozy, and the cut is boxy in just the right way. The pockets are perfect, too. I’m not surprised at how much I love this pattern despite its new (to me) shape- the last Marilla Walker pattern I made (here) is one of my most-worn summer items. And it was quick to sew- took me 2 evenings (including printing and cutting out the pattern). If all continues to go well with my weekly project goal, I will soon start her new Isca Shirtdress pattern.
Alterations to the pattern: I removed 3 inches off the length at the lengthen/shorten line and then made the dress as-is. At the end I had to adjust the front seam between the bib and skirt- it looked like a frown though it is meant to run parallel to the hem. That meant I had to make a small adjustment to the curve at the back so that the side seams would match up, but it wasn’t too complicated. Next time I make this I will probably do a swayback adjustment and shorten it a little more. And there will be a next time…
When I moved to Pittsburgh, I didn’t expect to find such quality fabric and notions sources (it certainly doesn’t have a garment district (I miss you Philly!)), but I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that this small city has its fair share of independent and unusual fabric stores. If you don’t want to trek up to Joann’s in the north hills, here are my favorite options for shopping small and locally.
Firework fabrics has an incredible selection of garment fabrics for such a small store. They also have a large selection of indie patterns, regularly host sales and scissor sharpening, and the proprietor always offers great sewing advice. Firework is attached to Cut and Sew Studio, which holds sewing classes and camps for all ages and volunteer sewing events to make gowns for cancer patients. If you’re taking a class at Cut and Sew, Firework makes sure you have the right supplies. And if you’re just dropping in, this is a great place to get ideas and fabric.
Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse // Highland Park
214 N Lexington St http://pccr.org/
A thrift store for crafting supplies, Creative Reuse has a large fabric section in the back. Fabric is available in pre-cut sections or by the yard. Selection changes frequently, so check often! There are also tons of buttons, patterns, zippers, trim, yarn and other things you didn’t know you wanted but will give you creative inspiration. Prices are marked down compared to other stores in the area, so plan a visit if you’re sewing on a budget. While you’re there, walk around the corner to check out Construction Junction for surplus and salvaged building materials.
Loom sells high-quality apparel and upholstery fabric. This is the most pricey of the places I’ve visited in the city, but it’s worth it for the quality of their selection and the incredible eye of the owner. They have an excellent selection of special occasion fabrics. The store is spread over two floors of a brick building in the grungy-turned-trendy Strip District (where you can also buy Steeler’s gear to your heart’s content). While you’re there, stop in across the street at Penn Mac for some delicious cold salads or one of the nearby food stands for banh mi or canolis.
Any other places you like for fabric or yarn shopping in Pittsburgh? Add in the comments and I’ll link in the post (and probably plan a visit, too).
These are some basic straight slacks, modeled off my favorite pair of pants that recently bit the dust. I unpicked the seams, traced them and then made a few adjustments. These pants were originally from H&M, and fit surprisingly well for RTW clothing. But they needed a few alterations. I scooped out the front and back crotch curves about 1/4″ and shortened the legs by 3″ at the knee. I also slanted the front and back center seams forward by 1/4″ at the top, tapering to nothing at the beginning of the crotch curve. I wanted something warmer for Pittsburgh winter, so I underlined the black twill with a cotton jersey. The waistband is interfaced with fusible knit interfacing from my stash.
Black stretch twill is from Mood (link here) and underlining cotton jersey is from Joann Fabrics. As you can probably tell I wore these pants all day before taking these pictures, but they haven’t gotten too wrinkly. Zipper is repurposed from the original pants. I followed this tutorial on inserting an exposed zipper from Megan Nielsen. All inside seams are serged or flat-felled.
I’m really pleased with how these pants turned out. The length is damn near perfect. If I make these again, I will probably make them skinny instead of straight-legged. The other weird fit issue I’ve been having is around the waist. The waistband is perfect when I sit down (doesn’t dig in in or anything), but when I stand up it’s kind of loose and I have to keep pulling them up. Any suggestions?
(oh and look I’ve made everything that I’m wearing in these pictures! Except my shoes…)
Happy late Thanksgiving! I did a lot of traveling and knitting en route, thus my newly completed pair of socks.
It’s yet another pair of Hermione’s Everyday Socks! Similar to my last two pairs, they were knit toe-up (instructions here). Purple and grey striped yarn is Gothic Plum from Turtlepurl. I’ve only used yarn from Turtlepurl once before, but it has held up remarkably well. Besides yarn from Verdant Gryphon, this is my favorite brand of sock yarn. Heel yarn is leftover from the Pussy Willow stockings I knit a while back.
These are the Quarzonite socks, knit in a little over 3 weeks. My sock knitting time is getting faster! It used to be that I had to really push to finish a pair in a month. Now (maybe it’s because of all this time I spend on the bus commuting to and from school) its closer to 3 weeks at a less-than-breakneck speed. The basket-weave-like pattern was fun to knit. Each row is different than the last, but the chart repeats after 16 or so rows, so it was easy to learn the chart and knit without referring to it. Go Claire go! The yarn is Bugga! from Verdant Gryphon in a blue colorway (not sure of the name; this was stashed yarn I acquired a while ago). I used a short-row heel rather than a gusset/heel combo as the pattern suggests. I also knit the toes my usual way (with JMCO, two at a time, same as in this post) instead of the pattern’s instructions.
I’ve gotten an early start on holiday presents this year. These socks were a gift for my mom. Normally I’d refrain from posting these before Hanukkah, but mom said she was running low on socks and requested them early. Now they are in the mail on their way to keep her feet cozy.
Here’s a good picture of the basketweave in slightly lower light:
I’m glad to say that grad school is going well. Being RN felt like working from puzzle full of holes, and now nurse practitioner school is like filling in the spaces with the rest of the pieces.The information is super interesting, and hours will fly by without me noticing while I’m studying or writing papers. The new house and new roommates are treating me well, too. After turning my life upside-down last year, it’s nice that life has once again become (and continues to be) happy and peaceful.
I’ve been trying to spend less time on screens (AKA watching Netflix), so I’ve set myself a goal of sewing one thing a week. I had 3 successful weeks and then took last week off. Sewing regularly is working wonders for my skill level, concentration, and pattern drafting/altering abilities. I’m back to my weekly sewing goal this week and I’m sure I’ll have more posts soon.
I made my sister’s wedding dress this summer. Feel free to ignore the text of this post and just scroll through pictures- lots at the end. The wedding was over Labor Day weekend, and what was forecast as a warm, cloudy day at the beginning of September turned into a 50-degree and rainy day. Despite the rain, the wedding was incredibly fun (and she looked fantastic, of course). This is the sewing project I am most proud of to date. Yay DIY wedding dress!
When Jill formally got engaged she asked me to make her dress (I’ve made other things for her). I was beyond honored that she would entrust me with such a special project. I was also happy to give her exactly the gift she deserved to celebrate her marriage. We are both so pleased with how it turned out – it is very much her style – classic and streamlined.
We sat down a few times to scroll through Pinterest and some dress sites before I drew up a design. She quickly decided she wanted a two-piece ensemble, combining different fabrics and textures. We planned for the top to either be a tube top or sleeveless, tailored, boat neck top. The skirt idea started as a floor-length a-line tulle skirt and evolved to a more tailored mermaid silhouette.
I also don’t think I’ve had a project go more smoothly than this one- goes to show what planning does for the sewing process.
The top I copied from an old Gap top with built-in bra. After seam ripping it apart and using it to make a pattern, I first made a muslin in black jersey, which turned out great the first time! I ordered special 5/8″ elastic from Tailor Made shop that I sewed in two rows with a straight stitch while stretching it under my walking foot. Tricky, but after a couple tries I got the hang of it. She liked the “muslin” so we decided on the tube top with built-in bra for the wedding.
The skirt I drafted from her measurements and then made out of an old bed sheet. I did this by making a pencil skirt sloper from her measurements, then slashed and opened starting at the knees. Here’s the muslin next to the pattern:
It was a little snug, so I added some ease on the final version. I also marked where the zipper and darts would go. I started crying when she put it on – things were coming together! She laughed at me and told me to save my tears for the wedding.
After that, we took a trip to Jo Ann fabrics (they rarely have the fabric I’m looking for, but in this case, they have a gigantic selection of bridal fabrics) to compare shades of ivory, cream, blush, and eggnog until we found a fabric combination she liked. In the end we decided on ivory stretch crepe for the top and and white swiss dot lace with flowy eggnog rayon underneath. Here is a closeup of the fabrics all together:
There was about a month of procrastination before I actually sat down to make the thing. The top took a couple evenings. Then the skirt I made in almost a day (the whole day, with a break for lunch). The skirt is french-seamed and the top is sewed on the serger.
I didn’t actually finish the skirt until three hours before the wedding ceremony because we didn’t know what shoes she was going to wear! It took me an hour to hem the under layer, and then I trimmed the lace layer to match the length. Then I braided her hair and put baby’s breath flowers in it. She also wore our mom’s pearls and a vintage fur coat.
The whole wedding was a blast. Our third sister, the groom’s sister, and I were bridesmaids. We moved the festivities inside because of the rain. The living room became the dance floor and people ate at high-top tables scattered around the first floor. 100 people in my parents’ house made it a very cozy and intimate wedding. Eventually the rain stopped and many of the guests (myself included) jumped in the pool to cool off from dancing and drinking. We partied until very, very early in the morning. And the dress did what dresses do the entire night (although it did get a good soak in oxyclean the next morning to try to remove some of the mud stains).
Hello again friends! Another post, so soon after the last one, you ask? Well, when you work on 5 dresses at the same time, sometimes they all get to the finish line around the same time. Maybe that explains the last three months of me not posting. Let’s call this catching up on lost time, getting reacquainted.
…Sometimes I choose fabrics for sewing projects that I like to look at, but don’t want to wear. I have been better at this in recent years, but this project was (at first) a miss for me. It hung in my closet, never worn. It felt too mumsy, too busy and colorful. I’m a neutrals and solids kind of gal. Black, grey, tan, and occasionally some blue or green. I really do love the fabric, but felt overwhelmed in all that yellow.
Luckily, the day I recruited my sister to take pictures of it (picture above), she had the brilliant idea that I cut off the sleeves and make it a high-neck tank dress. Lightbulb! Somehow changing the silhouette makes the dress feel more modern, less twee. It is now in regular wardrobe rotation. It’s airy and nice for this hot hot Pittsburgh summer. And the yellow feels bright and summery rather than overwhelming.
Other details: Size XS with a small FBA on the side seams that I later took in when I converted it to sleeveless. I sewed and then serged all seams. Added pockets in the side seams. Bust detail fabric is a linen scrap leftover from another project. Belt is made of self-fabric and attached at side seams. I finished arm holes with bias tape. Fabric is Sleeping Porch cotton lawn from Firecracker Fabrics in Morningside.