Once upon a time there was a girl named Denver who really liked the color pink. One day, she came home to find her roommate complaining of boredom (not to mention 4 days of vacation from work). Denver knew how to solver her roommate’s boredom! Right away she ran off to the magical fabric store. She returned with Vogue 2960, fabric, and accompanying notions. She handed these to her roommate and asked her to make a pink princess dress for her birthday.
Though the fabric was slippery, Denver was patient as her roommate worked diligently through many dark winter days and nights, fabric spread over the floor of their tiny living room.
After all the cutting and fitting and sewing and ripping and re-sewing, all that was left to complete the princess dress was a prince (our Armani model friend was happy to indulge us (ok so he isn’t actually an Armani model but he certainly fits the mold)). And she lived happily ever after in her pink princess dress.
(It took us until the spring to coordinate our schedules for this fun and silly photoshoot but it was worth it!)
I moved into a new apartment a few weeks ago. It is big and airy, centrally located, and- my favorite feature- it has a balcony (all meals= eaten outside). My bedroom windows have a nice view of the street, but they are east facing and the blinds are not enough to keep out that morning light. Not good for sleeping in. So, I made curtains for those naked windows.
I used 58″ wide home dec fabric (gifted). This was wide enough to cover the width of my windows. Unless you’re planning on washing them later, you don’t need to pre-wash and dry the fabric. Many home decor fabrics are treated with scotchgard and only need to be wiped clean. Alternatively you could line quilting cotton with muslin or use sheer fabric for your curtains. The basic premise for these curtains is that you calculate the length you will need to fold back for the hem, header, and curtain rod pocket. You add this to the target length of the finished curtain (how long you want the curtain to be when it’s finished). Then you fold and sew and end up with curtains! Here are the calculations:
A couple things you need to ask yourself before you start calculating the length of fabric you will need:
where do you want your curtain to end?
do you want a header on your curtain (the frilly part at the top)? I added a 2″ header to my curtains.
distance from the top of the curtain rod to where you want the curtain to end.
height of the header x 2
4 inches for a 2 inch hem (turned under twice)
width of the curtain rod + 1″
1″ seam allowance
My curtain equation was: 66+4+4+2+1=77″
4″ = 2″ header x 2
4″ for hem
2″ = 1″ curtain rod +1″ <- value “B”
1″ seam allowance
*you will also need to remember the sum of the last two numbers (value B + seam allowance), plus the height of the header (for my curtain, this number was 1+2+2=5). This is value “A”.
Once you’ve cut or ripped your length of fabric, it’s time to sew. Turn the selvages toward the wrong side of the fabric, then pin, sew, and iron in place. Turn the hem under twice (~2″ each time), then pin, sew, and iron in place. Measure “A” inches from the top of the curtain panel and turn this to the wrong side (right side facing out). Sew a seam the height of your header from the fold (eg 2″). Measure “B” inches (eg 2″) from this seam and sew another straight seam parallel to the first. Iron in place. Then hang your curtain!
It took me a couple evenings to make these curtains. The hardest part was making sure they were exactly the same length, but this was remedied by careful measuring throughout the folding and pinning process. Good luck with your curtains.
When I first dipped my toes into making clothes, upcycling- that is turning a piece of clothing you don’t want to wear into something you do want to wear- was an easy, nonthreatening way to start. Through reading sites like New Dress A Day and Paris Ciel, and with practice, I got better at recognizing pieces with potential and transforming them. My most-worn pieces to date include this blue sundress and this red button down .
The brown maxi dress pictured here is my latest success. When I was still living in Philly, post Philly-blogger-meetup, Andrea and I went thrifting (sorry for all that name dropping). She spied this beauty at Philly AIDS Thrift, and despite my reluctance at the $15 price tag convinced me to buy it.
The first thing I focus on when choosing a piece of clothing to upcycle is the fit. If the part of the dress I want to keep fits- I keep it. It is easy to change the hem length, but can be much harder to change the shoulders or waist. On this dress the bodice fit perfectly. No changes needed there. The first thing I did was cut about 7″ off of the skirt length and used my serger to sew an easy rolled hem. Be careful while hemming knits- removing fabric (and weight that stretches the fabric out) allows the hem to spring up. The hem can end up shorter than you intend, so it’s best to cut fabric off a little at a time.
Next I had to address the matter of boobage. You can see my bra in the before picture- the neckline plunges waaay too low. I sewed the sides of the neckline together with a blind stitch to add a couple inches of coverage. You can see in the above picture what a difference a couple inches make to the neckline.
After that, I chopped the sleeves off, leaving some space below the arm. The original sleeves attached to the band at the bottom of the bodice, so I needed to leave fabric there so I could raise the armhole. I pinched the fabric together and sewed it in a straight line, creating a new side seam. You can see the line down the middle of the V under the arm hole that this created:
The last thing I needed to do was finish the straps and neckline. I used tailors chalk to draw the neckline I wanted on the front and back of the dress. Sometimes I make a paper pattern to ensure that both sides are even, but I eyeballed it on this dress since I wasn’t making a super drastic change. I widened the front neckline by about an inch, narrowed the straps, and lowered the back of the dress by 2 inches.
The neckline and straps were intimidating but not very difficult. I used bias tape to finish the edges, first pinning and stitching the bias tape along the chalk lines, then trimming off the extra fabric, and finally turning the bias tape under and topstitching it in place. The dress was originally finished with facings, and I wanted to keep this feature. I made sure to catch the facings as I sewed the bias tape.
And then I was done. Another great dress added to my closet. Have you had any upcycling successes recently? What techniques do you use to complete an upcycle?
You know how you’re working on a project, and it is going so well, rolling along smoothly like a car on a freshly paved road on a sunny day, and then you hit a really big bump. Out of nowhere. With this kimono project, that exact thing happened. I’d been lovingly poring over 4.5 yards of drapey, ivory silk replete with luscious hydrangeas, red berries and blue daisies. I took great care, from cutting in a single layer to the french seams and the burrito’d collar. I planned every detail of this project to ensure I would not have to subject this beautiful, delicate fabric to any seam ripping. And then, just before putting the finishing touches on the garment, I realized I made a big mistake at the beginning- I attached the collar of the kimono backwards. So I ripped out that beautiful burrito finish you see in the pictures. I flipped it around and am now stuck deciding between top stitching or hand stitching the collar in place.
A similar thing happened to the coat I made this winter. The muslin fit, but when I tried on the almost finished project, it turned out that I had made the shoulders waaayy too huge. And then other, smaller, more immediately satisfying projects stole me away from the coat. It is folded, unfinished, in my stash, waiting for the day when I have the energy to rip the entire coat apart, cut the pieces smaller, and then reconstruct it. A dizzying prospect. But I will not allow my kimono to meet the same end as the coat. I’m swearing a solemn vow, right here on this blog, not to start another project until my kimono is finished.
I’m getting better at working around setbacks, but they still (obviously) slow down or halt a project completely. What do you do when you realize you’ve made a mistake? Do you take a break? Abandon the project or push through?
It has been feeling like spring in Virginia lately. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and it’s been about 50 F outside. Perfect timing to have a little photoshoot with the roomie (her name is Denver). And to show you the skirt I made a season ahead of time! (just like those big fashion folks, yo).
There’s a bit of a story behind this skirt (as there is with everything I make/everything handmade). I recently discovered that Denver has a fabric stash. I, like every other sewist out there, understand the allure of the uncut bolt, just waiting for my hands to grace it with shape and form. But Denver doesn’t sew. When I inquired about the purpose of this pile of fabric and patterns, she replied that she had bought the fabric because she liked it, and “in case I ever learn to sew one day or someone wants to make something for me.” Around this same time, the coat I’ve been working on was getting me down. I needed to step away from my coat project, and Denver had already assembled all the necessary ingredients for what could be my next project. Perfect palate cleanser. Challenge accepted.
A couple evenings later, I popped out this half circle midi skirt with waistband and exposed zipper. I drafted the pattern using her measurements and the BHL Circle Skirt App. I had heard about the app before but hadn’t used it- it was helpful. One weird snafu though was that the app kept telling me the measurements I was using wouldn’t fit on 45″ fabric, but I had no problem getting the pattern to fit. I used 2.5 yds of 45″ quilting cotton and a zipper salvaged from another piece of clothing. For the exposed zipper, I followed this tutorial. I used my serger to finish the center back seam and finished the top of the skirt with a 1.5″ waistband. The hem is a simple 1/2″ hem that I turned under twice while carefully ironing and pinning.
It was indeed what I needed to get my creative mojo back in action- easy, quick, and wearable. The other thing about Denver is that this girl lives in circle skirts. She is a guitar teacher, and needs skirts with enough volume to drape across her knees while playing. I foresee that this skirt will get a lot of wear.
I like a good button down shirt. For years, I’ve struggled to find one that would button without the dreaded boob gap- occupational hazard for many possessing a bust. This fall I sat down and decided to put the time into making myself a collared shirt that would actually fit.
And here it is. Those of you who know me know it’s gotten a lot of wear. It’s high time this shirt made it to the blog.
The pattern started out as a Built by Wendy pattern from a Sew U book from my high school sewing days. I made a muslin in a medium, but it needed a lot of tweaking. So much tweaking that I eventually drafted the arms and back of the shirt myself, and then totally re-drew all the darts on the front of the shirt. I widened the collar to give it a more relaxed fit and added gathers at the top of the sleeves (one of my favorite features in a shirt). There was thought put into adding some embroidered details along the front and around the collar of the shirt, but I ended up liking how clean the shirt looks without it. I made it in a cotton chambray with 10% stretch from fabric.com. The buttons are from Joann’s.
I hadn’t appreciated till now how much work goes into all the small details of a button-down. The shirt has vertical darts in the front and back, as well as horizontal bust darts. There were some very enjoyable late nights in December where I stayed up pressing bias binding for the cuffs and researching the best way to attach a collar. LOOK NO BOOB GAP! Hallelujah.
I hope I’ll find time to make this shirt again this year. There are a few fitting tweaks I’d make, namely I’d remove some ease, bring the shoulders up (they’ve stretched out a little despite the twill tape I added, I’m not sure why), and interface the button band (which I didn’t do this time… oops). I’d also like to experiment with adding some vintage inspired details around the button band. For now, I’m really happy wearing this shirt!
Thanks to my friend Rayne for taking these pictures! You can tell how cold out it was by my clenched hands.
25 years. The time when you move on from college and start feeling truly settled in adulthood. Also the time when some of my friends decided to start having kids. Which means I get to start sewing for pregnant friends (yay new projects). This amazing photographer friend of mine (she took allthesepictures this summer) will soon join the ranks of phenom moms, so I made her some belly bands. Worn over jeans that won’t button or under a shirt that has become too short, they help extend a non-maternity wardrobe and accommodate a growing belly far into a pregnancy. They’re like wearing only the bottom portion of a long tank top.
I used 1/2 yard of a rayon/spandex blend for each band (this tutorial from ABM shows how to make a belly band). Using a fabric with good stretch and recovery is key for this project- you want a fabric that will fit snugly but expand with a growing belly. The green measures 24 inches around and is slightly larger than the white (22 inches). She texted me Friday to say they arrived in the mail and they fit- I hope she gets lots of use out of them!
Oh and here’s a picture of the white one on my (non-maternity) dress form:
Long sleeves in winter. Hanging over my hands long. For me, they make the difference between being sorta warm/sorta itchy and actually forgetting that it is freezing outside. Especially when worn under a sweater. So of course I was happy when asked to be a tester for Lindsay Woodward’s new tshirt pattern, Phlox. And I made the long sleeved version.
It’s definitely a decent pattern and well drafted. The shoulders and sleeves fit nicely, the neckline is a good depth, and the sleeves taper to your wrists. I would recommend sizing down if you want a tighter fitting tshirt. I made a size 6 in a rayon/spandex blend but ended up taking in the sides and the sleeves of the shirt by a few inches. Next time I make this tshirt, I’ll probably make a size 4 and use a less stretchy fabric. For all you petite gals, I’d recommend shortening the body by about an inch, depending on how long you want your shirt to be. The pattern is on sale now until 12/17, and it’s a great pattern for an advanced beginner. Phlox rox my sox off!
Another neat feature I added to my shirt was the thumb holes in the cuffs (tutorial here). Boy oh boy do I love how warm they make my hands.
In other news, coat fabric has been found, ordered, and arrived last night. I’m excited to get started. Thanks for all your tips on where to look! I just moved to a more permanent housing situation, and coat sewing is first on the list after I get settled in.
Winter sewing is in full swing in this part of the world. One detail I love to add to up the snuggle factor on shirts and sweatshirts I make to wear this time of year is to add thumbholes. I’m ALWAYS cold in the winter, and it’s really nice to be able to pull my sleeves over my hands. Once I need my hands back, I just slip my thumb out and push the sleeve down to my wrist. Here’s my method for adding thumbholes.
When cutting out your pattern pieces, you need to cut your sleeves about an inch longer than normal (depending on the stretch of you fabric, it could be more). If you’re petite like me, just cut your sleeves the normal pattern length (rather than shortening them). Cut out the rest of your pieces as normal, and then construct your shirt. Stop before you sew the cuffs, and follow these instructions:
1. Start with your cuff lying flat. 2. Fold it in half hotdog style. 3. Mark the seam allowance on one end. Also mark two short lines- the first is 3/4″ from the top of the cuff, the second is about 1″ lower. 4. Trace the curve of a quarter to connect the two lines. Remember to do the opposite side on the other cuff so you end up with one right and one left cuff. 5. Sew along the seam allowance line and around the outside of the curved line. If you have more substantial fabric, you might want to skip sewing the seam allowance. 6. Trim seam allowances. 7. Turn right side out. Then take the non-sewn end of the cuff and pull it over the sewn end. 8. Sew in a straight line along the matched ends, catching all 4 layers of fabric. 9. Turn right side out and sew to your shirt as normal.
As most sewists know, it is both a joy and a challenge to make things for one’s family. I find that my family doesn’t really know how long it takes me to make something, so they come up with all sorts of requests-quilts, hemming or tailoring pants, replacing zippers, curtains… it can be a bother to drop my current project in favor of a last minute request, but I love seeing how my family adores what I’ve made them. A prime example is my dad and PJ pants. Shortly after informing me that he needed new PJ pants (I last made him a pair in 2010) he called me from the fabric store to ask “where is the flannel section?”
“Ask the people who work there” I replied, laughing. “Get 3 yards.”
He showed up with this rad zebras-wearing-glasses print in a medium weight flannel. I pulled out the old pattern and whipped up a pair, complete with buttoned fly.
I remember the winter I made his last pair- they were green plaid. I had decided to make flannel PJ pants for the entire family for Hanukkah. Rounding out to 6 pairs- elephants, stripes, Navajo geometric, plaid, Matrishka dolls, and fish prints. I got so good at making them that I churned out the last three pairs in 30 minutes each (I timed it!). They were well received.
Back in the day when flannel was queen and the Hipster Olympics hit a million views, the certain mark of any hipster was a pair of big plastic frames. Those thick glasses have come back into vogue since those early 2K days, but these zebras remind me of those original hipsters.
My dad loves these new PJ pants. I know that when I call home from now on, I will be informed when he wears them and how well they fit. And I’ll grin when I hear it.
Thank you Dad for letting me talk about you on the blog.