I made super easy collapsible dice trays to prevent damaging tables and losing dice across the table or in the popcorn bowl - and you can too! There’s a no-sew version and a sewn version.Read More
I knew I had a problem when I couldn't fit any more fabric in my cupboard and literally had piles of fabric strewn around my sewing room. How's a girl to know what she has and what can be used for which projects? Something had to be done.Read More
So it's halfway through the year and I'm not nearly even halfway to my Project Frocktober goal. I got delayed procrastinating about my polka dot dress, which is ridiculous, because it's just a cheap polycotton print (literally around $5/m).Read More
In case you've seen my Instagram account and were wondering what #projectFrocktober is all about, I thought I should add a quick explanatory post.Read More
I've been trawling the interwebs looking for an existing pattern for this garment, and have learned that this lovely cardigan style is actually better known as a waterfall cardigan. What a lovely and elegant name! I've also seen them called wrap cardigans, but that's kind of boring, so let's go with waterfall, shall we?Read More
Welcome to my new series: Deconstruction. The idea is to virtually deconstruct a RTW garment and make my own version, whether that's by using a similar, existing pattern or by drafting it from scratch. Part one will be my musings on how it could be accomplished, and part two will be the actual making of the garment - and possibly parts three and four, depending on what's required!Read More
I've taken some time off work to visit my Dad and Grandpa, and now have plenty of spare time on my hands, considering I don't start my university I've just registered for BurdaStyle's Digital Pattern Drafting course, taught by Lauren Dahl of BASTE + GATHER and Pattern Workshop. I can't wait!
The only downside? It starts today and is on Illustrator.
I know, this shouldn't seem like an issue. Surely in my line of work and recreation, I have easy access to a copy of Illustrator, right? Well, yes... normally.
At home I have a lovely 27" iMac, which I obviously couldn't bring with me on the 700km+ journey, so I have my husband's 17" MacBook Pro here with me instead, fulfilling pretty much all my computing needs. Unfortunately, when I was loading up programs on the laptop to bring with me, I was half planning to bring my work laptop as well, which has the full Adobe Creative Suite on it, meaning that I wouldn't have to load it on this machine. And of course, at the very last minute, I decided that I wouldn't bring the work computer after all... leaving me stranded without a copy of Illustrator or even Photoshop!
Fortunately, the first two weeks' worth of classes seem like they'll be pretty basic - an introduction to Illustrator and how to take measurements for your basic block pieces. And when I get back home, I'll have my uni classes for stimulation and these classes for procrastination. Hooray!
Oh my goodness! I've just discovered the Perfect Pattern Parcel! It's like the MacHeist bundle, but instead of Mac software, you get patterns. What a great idea!
In their words:
The next sale starts in 23 days! I can't wait to see what's on offer.
Imagine: It's the middle of the week when suddenly you realise that you don't have a gift for the baby shower you're attending on the weekend. The prospective parents live interstate and you haven't been in touch for a few months, so you have no idea what they need for the baby/house/themselves. You've spent most of your money on plane tickets to visit your sick dad and have a budget of $30.
This happened to me this week. The baby shower is on tomorrow, but never fear, dear readers, I have made my friends and their baby an adorable, practical present - and have enough spare materials to make two more sets!
I recently had dinner with some friends, two of whom had babies, and the common theme that cropped up all night long was this: you can never have enough bibs or burp cloths. So it was a no-brainer when it came to choosing what to make for my friends.
Research, shopping and materials
I spent a few hours during the week looking up tutorials on bibs and burp cloths - it turns out burp cloths are super-simple! - and went with Heather Bailey's Slobber Monkey baby bib, although there were heaps of others that looked great (list at the end of the post). I was inspired by the Burp Cloth Gift Set tutorial by Dana at MADE, but in the end only followed the tutorial loosely, as I couldn't find a small package of cloth nappies (diapers) and grabbed a 12-pack of super-cute baby face washers instead ($6, 23cm x 23cm). The face washers are made from a really soft, lightweight french terry (Wikipedia linked for your convenience, in case you're like me and didn't know what french terry was until just now).
For my main fabric, I bought a three-pack of interlock baby wraps ($12, 80cm x 80cm - I bought the middle set in the image below). There was a sale on cotton knit pyjama pants, so I also grabbed the largest pair I could find for $3.50 - a bargain for around 1m x 1.5m of soft cotton jersey! I didn't use the pants for this project, but will for the next set of these that I make.
Since I had still had some money left over, I also bought some Disposable Change Mats ($4) and an adorable little duck wrist rattler*. The wrist rattlers were on sale for $1.50 each, and since the main fabric I'd chosen had some ducks on it, I couldn't resist. (For those who are interested, I bought all of these from Kmart.)
For this gift, I made two bibs and four square(ish) burp cloths/drool-catchers. I used one of the interlock baby wraps and four of the baby face washers, plus some white flannel, red bias tape and a spare towel from when I made the hooded towel for my niece.
* I couldn't find an image online for the duck wrist rattler because - as it turns out - they were recalled due to their care instructions tag being a choking hazard! No wonder they were on sale. I've just un-done my careful wrapping of the present to make sure this one didn't have a tag on it. It looks like they've removed the tag but left some little threads from where they'd unpicked the stitching, so I pulled those out and re-wrapped the gift. Phew!
Putting it all together
I forgot to take photos as I went (surprise, surprise) so I'll put my mini-tutorial after the pics. I say mini-tutorial, because really, there are already a bunch of great tutorials on how to construct a bib out there. This is really about my process, experience and lessons learnt.
First, I laid out the baby wrap, then traced two bibs onto it. I laid four of the face washers out on the fabric and traced them too. I was actually able to fit six washers next to the two bibs, but only used four, as I wanted to save the other washers for a different project. As you can see in the pic above, I used the solid white and yellow ones, as I thought they coordinated best with the fabric. The tutorial from MADE suggests 10"x18" (25.4cm x 45.7cm) but I'm hoping the 23cm square washers will still do the trick, as drool-catchers if nothing else. Using one of the other interlock wraps and some cloth nappies, I'll probably be able to make one bib and four burp cloths or three bibs and three burp cloths, instead of two bibs and six drool-catchers – still good value.
Once I had everything traced, I cut them out and put them to the side.
Next, I traced and cut two more of the bib from the white flannel, and another two more from the white towel.
I then matched up my pieces, right sides together. For the bibs, I put the flannel and the interlock right-sides-facing (not that there is a "right" side to white flannel) and then placed the towel layer on top of the flannel, so it was towel-flannel-interlock. This way, the towel would be encased between the flannel and the interlock when I turned it all right-side out.
After that, I sewed it all together, leaving a gap for turning. I used my overlocker (serger) but this could have easily been done on a sewing machine instead. It might have even been easier for the bibs!
I actually had so much trouble overlocking the first bib – first with the tricky curves, then turning it inside out and struggling with the little straps, then discovering that the flannel layer had escaped the overlocker around one of the corners – that I rearranged my layers on the other bib so that it was all right-sides-out (flannel-towel-interlock) and just overlocked the raw edges together.
After I turned everything right-sides-out, I pressed them flat, with the gaps turned in so they'd be nice and easy to top-stitch shut. There were two lessons learnt here: first, because overlocking leaves such a small seam allowance, it actually makes it harder to neatly turn in the gaps, because there's such little room for error and the tiny seam allowance won't stay in place on its own; second, pressing makes everything better! I will never cease to be amazed at how pressing can take a project from a disaster to something you're comfortable giving as a gift.
After pressing, I top-stitched each item 2mm (or whatever the little line on my presser foot is) from the edge. For the bib that had the raw edges showing, I edged it with some red bias tape.
I'd like to say I chose red because it coordinated with the little mushrooms, but honestly: it was the only bias tape I had in my stash. I would have preferred white, as I could have made it neater on the back without anyone noticing the stitching, but as it is, I just left the back a little bit messy. All the raw edges are enclosed, and it's the back, so I doubt anyone will really notice. Plus, I do love the 'pop' it gives the bib.
Anyway, after the top-stitching/bias-tape, it was back to the ironing board for a final press. The interlock and french terry combination stretched out a little when top-stitched on my sewing machine (I don't have a walking foot), but it was nothing a quick steam-and-press couldn't fix. Pressing also made my bias binding mess look much more acceptable. Again with the disaster-to-gift magic of the iron!
Even though it was born of my frustration, I quite like the alternate bib with the bias tape. It gives the whole package a bit more colour and makes it look more like a complete package and more fully thought-through as a gift combination. Two identical bibs might have looked like I just made two because I wasn't sure what else to include, but by giving it a different look, it nicely complements my pairing of the yellow and white drool-catchers, turning the gift into two complete sets, rather than a set plus a spare bib.
Normally when wrapping several items together, I'll just stack it all up so it's roughly square-shaped, then wrap. This time, I wanted it to look special, so that it was obviously a set, but still obviously handmade (rather than homemade) with love. I spent a while rearranging the items until they were just right, and I'm satisfied that the gift will have the ooh-factor when it's opened.
Lessons learnt summary
So, to gather them all together, here's what I learnt from this project:
Pressing will take a project from disaster to delightful! Not so much a lesson learnt, but a lesson reinforced.
Sometimes a contrast binding can take a project from cutesy to couture - just don't go overboard.
Presentation will take a handmade gift from thrown-together to thoughtful.
Overlockers and curves are not friends, and just because you can use the overlocker doesn't mean you should use the overlocker. Sometimes the sewing machine is the better tool for the job, even if it is a knit or horrible, messy towelling.
Low-end department stores are a great source for cheap knit fabric… as long as your pattern pieces are small enough to fit into a pair of size 18 pyjamas.
There are so many great and free bib patterns out there, I feel like I really should give the others on my shortlist an honourable mention.
Easy Reversible Bib Pattern by jRox Designs - this was actually my first choice, but I preferred a flat-cut pattern instead of one cut on the fold. Lazy, I know! I will probably try this one next though and just print it out twice to make it flat-cut.
The Classic Pretty Little Baby Bib Pattern by Amy at Nana Company - incredibly adorable!
Placemat Bibs by Dana at MADE - really clever, but not quite what I had in mind.
Chickpea Infant Bib by Chickpea Sewing Studio - very sweet, similar to the others but with a wider neck (or maybe just a smaller bib?)
AKA the saga of my running shorts
I've recently taken up running. And by 'recently' I mean, I've tried to 'be a runner' on and off for the past two years. When I started the first time, I bought a purple ArmPocket and it's fantastic - when the weather is under 30ºC. I live in Australia, which basically rules out all of summer for wearing my armband - it's just too hot to have anything in contact with your skin that you don't have to.
Anyway, my most recent running effort started this January, and so far I've done pretty well, only skipping a few of my RunKeeper Beginner-to-5K training sessions.
Since the training schedule expects a running session once every second day and my household is more of a do-laundry-once-a-week-if-you're-running-low-on-underwear kind of household, I found myself running out of pants in which to run. And honestly, the idea of going out and buying new shorts did not appeal. First of all, the expense - the cost of exercise gear is just ridiculous. Second, I have two pairs of shorts that, if you combined them, would be the holy grail of running shorts for my body type.
One pair is just your standard Nike tennis/running shorts, with pockets at the front for my phone. The only downside is that the designers have assumed more of an hourglass figure than mine - there's not much difference in my hip and waist measurements and I found the waist elastic would dig in and leave unsightly dents around my tummy after a long run, not to mention the embarrassing muffin-top it would cause.
The other pair lacks pockets and are a little shorter than I'm comfortable with, but is made of a heavyweight stretch fabric and has a foldover waistband, like you've find in yoga pants but firmer.
I wanted to combine the pockets, cut and fabric of the Nike shorts with the firm knit foldover waistband of the yoga/track shorts, and couldn't imagine a RTW clothing line making such a thing, or me being willing to pay for it, should it actually exist, so I was prepared to head to the fabric stores and make my own - after the obligatory Sunday morning shopping/lunch visit with my mother.
Thank goodness I waited! We went to the local outlet mall and just as we were nearing the end of our loop, we went into Cotton On Body and what did I find, but my holy grail of running shorts: the Surf Running Shorts. Better yet, they were on sale, 2 for $30. So obviously I bought two pairs.
They don't appear to be available on the website anymore, so I can't link them, but they're quite similar to the normal running shorts except with a zip pocket on the right bumcheek and a foldover lycra-like waistband with a drawstring running through it.
Later that afternoon, I'm all geared up in my new shorts, ready to tackle my treadmill. Phone fits in pocket, check. Doesn't seem to bounce around and pull my shorts down, check. Okay, let's do this run... after I remove my phone, plug it into the speakers and leave it on the desk.
The shorts were really comfy for running in, rode up a little in the crotch, but I expect that will happen with any shorts until my thighs slim down a little.
So, the next day, I wore the second pair out on my lunchtime run. Popped the phone in the pocket, ran the headphone cable up my shirt so it didn't flop around everywhere (other people do that too, right?) and set off.
Once again, the phone was fine for my brisk warm-up walk, but halfway around the lake, I realised that it had dragged my shorts down so far that you could almost see my underwear - even below the unfolded foldover waistband!
I spent the rest of my run trying to discreetly hike my shorts up, and needless to say, it was not comfortable. Rather than concentrate on how much my calves were burning (I mentioned that I was bad at this, right?), I planned how to add phone-sized patch pockets with zips to all my running tops. I tell you what, thinking about fabric choices, colour combinations, removable vs. permanent options - it can really make the time fly! Before I knew it, I was back at work and had to get on with the rest of my day.
Anyway, that was last Monday. Today, I was procrastinating, as one does on a Sunday, when I stumbled on The Sewing Rabbit's post by Erin on a Running Belt DIY! As much as I still like the idea of patch pockets for my running tops, this is a much neater solution, and far more portable. While I do have some bright/fluoro yellow lycra left over from the Fallout-themed hoodie I made last year, I think I might go out and buy something a bit less hideous to make my running belt from.
Do you have any running-pocket fixes? Post your solutions and links in the comments below!
I have a male friend who I used to be quite close to, but haven't often seen since I met my husband almost a decade ago. We actually dated for around a year when we were both barely adults, but we were also good friends before that, and have been platonic ever since.
Now that we're back in touch, we've had lunch once and chatted over Facebook here and there - nothing like when we were in high school, but still quite comfortable with each other. Our second lunch together happens to fall on his birthday - coincidence, I'm sure, but when he suggested it, I didn't even think to check what the date was, just whether or not I was free.
Anyway, a few days later, I check my calendar again and realise it will be his birthday when we have lunch. I'm faced with a dilemma: to gift or not to gift?
Obviously I could just offer to pay for lunch, but given our history, that seems kind of lame. I used to give him what I now look back on and think of as epic presents. The amount of thought and care that Past-me put into those gifts puts Present-me to shame.
When we broke up, I was saving for his 21st to get him some specialist music gear that he'd been coveting since we were teenagers. I eventually attended his birthday bash a year later as a friend, and while I didn't splash out $5000 for the sound gear as I'd originally planned, I did get him a star-gazing kit (one of his favourite past-times) and an anniversary edition boxed set of his favourite movie. It was incredibly awkward, as he seemed to really appreciate it, and it completely outshone the gift from his girlfriend at the time.
Admittedly, I later went on to make that night waaaayyy more awkward, but that's a story best left off the internet.
Back to the point of this post: his gift for this year.
He's always been a bit of a culinary artist, way before the days of reality TV cooking shows and the like. Recently, he took some time off work to complete his first manuscript - a cookbook aimed at gamers.
With this in mind, what better to make him than an apron? I'd seen this apron around in the past and for some reason, the simplicity of it reminded me of my friend. Unfortunately, the link behind the pin I found it on went nowhere, so I have no idea who to credit for this.
Anyway, I used a pattern from Japanese Sewing Books and modified the front so it had a scoop neck, like in dee*construction's version. I made mine reversible and followed Dee's instructions (except the hand-stitching part - I just topstitched the whole way around instead). As it's a gift, I even followed the advice of Maggie from Smashed Peas and Carrots and pressed my seams before I topstitched.
Yes, that's right - I pressed my seams.
It might not seem like it, but that's a pretty huge deal for me. I haven't pressed seams since I melted my fabric in the third project I'd started since high school. I've been a bit afraid of the iron since then, and have managed to avoid it altogether by purchasing strategic fabric and garments, and occasionally bribing the husband into doing it for me when it couldn't be avoided.
I've got to say, this one project has made me rethink my non-ironing/pressing stance. It really does make the world of difference to the professionalism of a garment.
I forgot to take photos until it was all neatly bundled up, but mine looks a lot like the one in the picture, except neater (I pressed it, remember?).
It's dark grey-blue cotton drill on the outside (the colour reminds me of him) and heavy-duty calico on the inside. It didn't occur to me until I was pressing it that maybe a flammable fabric like cotton wasn't the best idea for a cooking apron, but I'm sure my friend is grown up enough not to set himself on fire. The two layers are very sturdy though. I love the texture and colour of calico for projects like this. It looks great against the lines in the weave of the drill, and I think it gives it a certain coziness. I don't even mind my wobbly top-stitching in places. I like to think of the little mistakes as a way of knowing the gift was hand-made with love. Or at least, that's what I like to tell myself!
My friend rides his pushbike most places, so the less packaging I wrapped it in, the better. To that end, I went minimal: fold in the sides, roll it up and slap something around it to keep it bound. I used scraps from both of the fabrics to make the strip, added a buttonhole to one end and a star-shaped mother-of-pearl button from my stash to the other end.
Voila - instant wrapping. Sort of.
It took about five minutes of sorting through my stash to find a button that was just right. In the end I went with the star because of the star-gazing thing, but I was also tempted by an adorable navy blue enamel button with two interlocked silver anchors on it.
Overall, I'm really proud of this. Husband tried it on for me earlier and it seemed to fit as it should. Apart from relatively small items (e.g. the toddler-proof dress, the baby bib), it's been a really long time since I've worked with woven fabrics, as I've tended to favour the forgiving nature of knits. I learned a lot from this project, and am pleased that I'm finally at a point in my sewing that I'm confident enough to give my friends things I've made as presents. I'm definitely going to have to start pressing my seams more often, as the difference is immense!
What dreaded task have you avoided, only to find it's not so bad? I'd love to hear about it, so I know I'm not the only one who does it :)
I've made a few petticoats in the past year, plus a layered circle skirt with four layers, each requiring between 6-8m of ruffles along the hem (I tell you what, never again!), so I feel like I'm getting to be a bit of a pro with the old ruffle foot.
Something I've noticed with petticoat and general gathering tutorials is that they mostly deal with gathering using the bobbin-thread method and rarely discuss how to achieve a similar effect with a gathering foot.
There's nothing wrong with the bobbin-thread method, other than the fact that I lack the patience to hand-gather the amount of fabric required to make a petticoat - or the 30-odd metres of ruffling trim for that darned multi-layered skirt! It was actually halfway through the first layer of ruffles that I decided there was no way on Earth that I would be gathering the whole lot by hand, and went out and bought myself $75 worth of gathering foot. It wasn't cheap, but it was worth every cent!
(Sidenote: I could have bought an off-brand version for about half the price, but my local dealer didn't have one in stock, I really didn't want to wait for one to be delivered from an online seller. Besides, I'm a bit wary of using off-brand parts for my sewing machine anyway, in case they break my baby!)
For the first two layers, I basically hemmed enormous strips of fabric, did a test run on some calico to get the 'ruffly-ness' I wanted, then fed my super-long strips into the gathering foot until it looked like I had enough. Then I attached it to the skirt. Not the most scientific method, but it got the job done. (My method used for the other two layers is a whole other blog post, as I'm digressing enough as it is!)
For a petticoat, you'll want a more scientific method, and you're probably going to want to gather at a 2:1 ratio (original to ruffled fabric length). The question is, how do you do that?
The exact settings will depend on your ruffle foot.
On my Brother ruffle/gathering foot, I like to set the stitch length to 3, the ruffle frequency to 6 (i.e. one ruffle every 6 stitches) and the ruffle depth to 8 (the maximum). By having a nice deep ruffle depth and 6 stitches between ruffles, the ruffles are more secure because there's more fabric caught in each ruffle and more stitches holding each ruffle in place. If I wanted a really secure ruffle, I would halve my stitch length and increase the ruffle frequency to 12, but that would also take a long time, so I feel that 6 is a nice compromise.
One thing to note is that slippery fabrics will need more frequent stitches (i.e. a shorter stitch length) in order to hold the ruffles in place. The same goes for thin fabrics such as lining or tulle.
The other reason I use a stitch length of 3 is because that's what's required for my foot to produce a 2:1 ratio, but if you wanted a tighter (more ruffly ruffle) ruffle, you would decrease the stitch length. Likewise, if you wanted a softer, less frequent ruffle, you would increase the stitch length.
You can also achieve similar results by manipulating the settings on the foot itself, using the ruffle depth and frequency settings. The method you use will depend on what effect you're looking for. I recommend getting a long scrap of fabric similar to the fabric you'll be using and experimenting until you find the result you're looking for.
To confirm if your settings are correct, get two pieces of fabric, preferably in the ratio you want the end product to be (i.e. for a 2:1 ratio, have one piece twice as long as the other piece). If you can, try to use selvedge scraps, because you'll be a little bit rough with these poor fabric scraps.
Next, sew them together along the short edge. You'll notice on mine (Figure 1) that the shorter one is actually longer than half the length of the longer piece, but I've marked where it should have finished with a blue pen.
Now, insert the edge of the longer piece into your ruffle foot, after having checked the settings, and ruffle away until you get to the seam between the two pieces. (See Figure 2)
I'm not sure if all ruffle/gathering feet work like this, but with mine, you need to insert the fabric to be ruffled between the two layers of the foot. If you're not getting the results you were expecting, this might be the problem. Check the instructions for your foot to make sure you're inserting the fabric in the correct location.
Once you've ruffled your way to the seam, lift your needle up and pull the fabric out (check your ruffle foot instructions for how to do this without damaging the foot).
Fold the long, ruffled side of the fabric over so the top edge is against the top edge of the shorter piece. See how mine (Figure 3) is slightly longer? That means I need to shorten the stitch length to make the ruffles closer together, which in turn shortens the finished length. In this case, I started with a stitch length of 4 and decreased it gradually until I got the ratio I wanted (which ended up being 3).
I hope that's helped anyone who is new to using their ruffle foot and is scared to experiment. Never be scared to experiment! Keep your scraps of fabric and use them to learn new things. Just make sure to read the instructions that come with your equipment and go slowly!
Let me know if you have any tips on using a ruffle foot!