Handbags Galore!

As you know, I love making handbags.  In fact, I’m in the beginning stages of getting an Etsy storefront up so that I can begin selling my handbags and angora creations.  (So, if you like any of the bags below and want one of your own, let me know.  They make great gifts!  Wink, wink.)  Anyhoo, I’m constantly looking for reasons to craft a handbag.  Luckily, my friend Gwen just recently celebrated her birthday.  Unfortunately, she’s had quite a trying summer dealing with dental visits and a sprained ankle.  Therefore, I really wanted to make her something special.  I decided to whip her up a cute Buttercup Bag (Made by Rae) in a gray IKEA fabric that I think has a cool, urban feel with a muted, lavender lining.

Gwen’s Birthday Bag!

One of the things I’ve changed from the original pattern, is to add a much larger, divided pocket to the lining.  I’m a BIG fan of organization in handbags.  I need a lot of pockets and dividers to keep everything straight.

In addition to the bag, I also surprised Gwen with her finished skirt, made from a Simplicity pattern.  Isn’t she cute?  I just love sewing for friends.

Gwen, in her new duds.

I also needed to make a “thank you” present for my friend, Jill’s, mom who helped us out tremendously by driving our sick lab back and forth from our vet to the emergency vet while we were frantically trying to get home from the beach.  Needless to say, she was a lifesaver!  Jill mentioned that one of her favorite colors is blue.  So, I used a beautiful, royal blue IKEA fabric paired with a bright red lining fabric for her Buttercup Bag.  I decided not to do the button flab embellishment on her bag, and instead, added a line of white bias binding.  I think it turned out really well.

Carol’s Bag

Buttercaup bag….now with more pockets!

Last but not least, I decided I needed a new overnight bag for my trip up to D.C. to visit my friend, Alia.  (See….any excuse to make a bag and I’ll take it.)  I had really been wanting to make the Amy Butler Cosmo Bag from her book Style Stitches – check!  Here are the fabrics I picked out:

My favorite fabric for this bag, though, was a blue and white houndstooth that I decided to use as the inner part of the pockets.  Who doesn’t love a pop of houndstooth?

Pop of houndstooth in the pockets

I love the way this bag turned out and the fabric colors just scream summer to me.  Overall, I’m fairly happy with the bag, though, if I made it again I would give it a bit more structure and some more internal organization.  But, it served it’s purpose well and a good time was had by all in D.C.!

Amy Butler Cosmo Bag

Side pocket


Of course, I couldn’t have done it without the careful oversight of my OCD border collie, Sadie.  Doesn’t she look crazy?  Yup, that’s my girl.  Stay tuned for my next post — summer skirts!

Crazy Sadie





The Knit Diaries: My Striped Maxi

The quest to become up close and personal with my serger continues, in the next installment of The Knit Diaries – a maxi skirt.  So, I’m not going to lie, when I realized that the maxi skirt was “in” this spring, I had to actually look up what a maxi skirt was.  Let me just say, wikipedia totally schooled me on my skirt lore.  Who knew there was so much I didn’t know abut skirts?  Dirndl, and Prairie and Scooter skirts, oh my!  I know, I know…..for a sewer, I’m terribly fashion illiterate.  What I quickly realized was that a maxi skirt is just a fancy way of saying a long, A-line skirt.  And since, A-line skirts are about the only type of skirt that looks good on me, I was psyched.  So, after hunting around on Pinterest for awhile for some inspiration (see the lovely skirt below), I knew that a striped maxi was exactly how I wanted to delve into this wild and wonderful world of long hemlines.

Striped Maxi inspiration

I have a maxi dress from last season, which I used (sort of) as a template to get that nice A-line shape for my front and back panel.  When cutting, I made sure to leave a lot of fabric (without the A-line slant) at the top so that I could figure out a waistline for my skirt.

Cutting a front and back panel

Once I had my two panels cut, I serged down both side seams.  Then, I thought more about the waistband.  I decided to try a shirred waistband for my maxi.  Why shirring, you may ask?   Well, I wanted to learn the technique, it’s a pretty easy way of creating a waistband, and I like the look.  What’s even better?  All you need to have to ‘get your shirr on’ is some elastic thread, which I happened to have scored a lot of in a flea market find, and a sewing machine.

Elastic thread

I put the elastic thread in the bobbin and regular thread up top in my machine.  I adjusted the stitch length to a basting stitch and I was ready to go.  I folded the top of my skirt in on itself to the inside to create 4-inch waistband – which at this point just looked like a double layer of fabric at the top.  I pinned around the circumference to hold that slippery knit fabric in place.


I began stitching at the edge of the waistband and continued all the way around the top.  As I stitched, I began to see the elastic bobbin thread cause the fabric feeding out to begin to slightly gather. (See below.)

First row of shirring

After finishing the first row, I quickly realized that I’d better take care of securing the open edge of the waistband (on the inside of my skirt) before the waistband got too gathered.  So, I set up my serger to do a coverstitch and did a wide coverstitch at the very bottom edge of the waistband.  Then, I continued to stitch shirring rows (spaced about every 1/2 inch from one another) down my waistband.  I had to be careful to stretch out my fabric as I was shirring it just enough so that it would lay flat as it went under the presser foot, but not enough so that the elastic only brought the knit  fabric back to neutral and didn’t really gather it after it was stitched.

Rows of shirring

When I was finished with the waistband, I had 8 shirred rows.  My waistband now has great stretch and is super comfy! The only thing left to do to finish my skirt was hem it. So, I put it on and made a note of where I wanted to hem it.  Then, using the stripes as a guide, I used a wide coverstitch to put in the hem.  My maxi skirt was ready to wear out on the town…..or at least to my side yard for some pictures until later tonight!  🙂

My striped maxi, and Sadie peeking around the corner to oversee.

My striped maxi

The Knit Diaries, Part I: A Summer Hoodie Tutorial

As you remember from my last post, I’m beginning a small, summer series called “The Knit Diaries” to chronicle my exploration into sewing with knitted fabric.  Why knits?  I love knit fabric because it has low bulk, great drape and a wonderful feel.  (No joke, after a recent purchase of several incredibly soft yards of black jersey from JoAnn’s, I just wrapped myself in it while watching TV for the evening.  So cozy!)  The other really awesome factor in sewing with knits is that they are sooooo forgiving!  Having a little bit of added stretch means that your pattern can be a little off here and there, and, no worries!  I will now get off of my knit soapbox and get crackin’ on the Sumer Hoodie Tutorial.

Recently my friend, Gwen, added a lot of fun, new knit clothes to her wardrobe from Old Navy.  I love all of them.  But, the one that really caught my eye, was a super fun, black, knit hoodie.

Inspiration:  Knit cardigan from Old Navy

As soon as I saw her wear it for the first time, I began coveting it and plotting how I could “borrow” it from her for a day to draft a pattern from it.  Why did I want it so badly, you may ask?  I’m sure many of you have this problem, but I am a rather cold-natured person.  It can be 90 degrees outside, but if I’m in an air conditioned building, every draft seems to find me.  So, I usually never leave home without something long-sleeved.  Last summer, while in France, I bought a knit cardigan from H&M that I love.  As soon as I put it on, I knew I never wanted to take it off.  It afforded me the perfect ‘climate control’ for summer.

Knowing my innermost knit desires, paired with the fact that I now own a serger, meant I was ready for knit action!  After several bottles of wine one night (yes, that was intentional), I very easily (see?) persuaded Gwen to part with her dear hoodie for a day.  I brought the prized article home and immediately (at 12 a.m.) got to work on drafting a pattern from it.

What would you need if you wanted to steal your friend’s hoodie and also make a pattern, you ask?

Drafting tools (minus the weights, as I just used heavy things)

1)  First, drafting paper.  I like to use brown paper for drafting patterns.  It’s super cheap and very easy to find.  I buy it from Lowe’s for about $7/roll.  It goes a long way and it has a decent amount of ‘stiffness’ (I said, stiffness) and longevity — if you want to make more than one.

2)  Measuring apparati:  I used a meter stick and a see-through ruler.

3)  Pins, and lots of them.

4)  Marking apparati:  I used a pencil for my marking on the brown paper so that I could erase as needed.  I also used washable fabric markers for any marks I needed to make on the fabric.

5)  Fabric weights, or as I used, heavy objects:  Knit fabrics love to roll up on themselves, so weights placed here and there help prevent said rolling accompanied by mild swearing.

6)  Scissors – both paper and fabric.

After assembling my tools, it was time to begin.  First, a word of caution:  When using an article of clothing (especially a knit) as a template, you really have to be careful not to stretch it too much as you lay it out on the paper.  If you do that, you’re going to add a few sizes to your pattern.  I also like to pin the article of clothing to the paper in a few spots to prevent it from sliding around while I’m trying to trace it.

Gwen’s hoodie is fairly simply constructed.  Great for my first knit project!  The pieces I needed to trace were:  a back (1), the hood (x2), the front panels (x2), the sleeves (x2) and the band around the edge of the entire garment.  For this prototype, I looked to my mountain of jersey, and chose the navy/white striped.  It has a lovely nautical feel and I’ll enjoy wearing it at the beach.

My mountain of jersey

The Pattern Pieces:

So, I laid Gwen’s hoodie on the paper and started by tracing the front panels.  This is what they ended up looking like.  I included the measurements so that if you’d like to make one of these (in a large — or other sizes by decreasing measurements) you can use my template pieces as a rough guide.

Front panel pattern pieces

Next, I sketched out the back.   You’d place it on the fold of fabric to cut it.

Back patter piece

Here is the sleeve piece, which is also cut on the fold.

Sleeve pattern piece

Lastly, I traced the hood.   The hood is seamed down the back.

Hood pattern piece

Then, it was on to cutting out the fabric.  My fabric is nicely basted down the open side of the fabric.  This prevented a lot of rolling while cutting.  Thank you, factory!  If you are experiencing a lot of roll, just use more weights!  You can also use those lovely, little binder clips from the office.  They add weight and also keep the edges of the fabric lined up.  I didn’t use a pattern piece for the band.  I just cut out two strips of fabric two stripes in width, which translates to roughly 3.5″ and stitched them together at their short ends to make a very long piece.  You can really make the band any diameter you want.  Also, if you are using a striped fabric, you want to make sure that you cut your sleeve pieces so that the stripes will match up with the body.  (I learned this the hard way — one side matches, one side doesn’t.  Lesson learned.)

Next, it was on to the sewing.  I used my Juki 735 serger for this project. (You don’t have to have a serger to sew knit fabric, which is awesome.  However, I’ve never tried sewing knits on my sewing machine using a stretch/knit stitch.  I’ll have to explore that soon!)  I learned a lot of things while undertaking this project that I’m going to share in the hopes of saving you some frustration.  This project, was truly a humbling experience.  If you’re a pro, you can just skip down to “construction.”

Serger Tips & Tricks, thus far:

1)  Use ballpoint needles for knits!  They are specifically designed to go through knit fabric without tearing or ripping it.  Before I bought these, I accidentally ended up with a small hole in my project.  😦  The needles come in different sizes.  Look at the packaging to determine which size is best for your particular project.  I used size 90 ballpoint needles for this project.

2)  Use those thread nets!  Yes, they look like old lady salon hair nets, but they really do help with the thread tension.  Before I put them on, I was getting some skipped stitches on the underside of my coverstitch.

Thread nets – a necessity!

3)  Use serger thread!  When I first got my serger, we took it to the beach.  I wanted to use it, so we went to Walmart to find thread.  They didn’t have any of the “cones” that I’d seen on serger videos.  So, we just bought some larger spools of cotton.  I quickly realized that cotton 3-ply thread is not serger friendly.  Serger thread, which often comes on cones (see above) is 2-ply and lighter, which helps it go through all those loopers.

4)  Thread your serger correctly!  I had a lot of trouble with this one, at first.  Sergers are a beast when it comes to threading.  I felt like I was diffusing a nuclear bomb….one wrong move, and, destruction.  All I can tell you is, go slowly and really use your owner’s manual.  Chances are if your stitch isn’t working, you’ve threaded something incorrectly.  Also, there is a specific order to threading — upper looper, lower looper, left needle, right needle.  Order matters.

5)  Check your settings! (tension, stitch width, cutting distance & differential feed) before starting!  Sergers have a lot of dials and knobs.  So, getting things set up the way you want them is imperative.  For tension, start out in the middle of your tension range and then play with it — small increments at a time.  Chances are, you won’t have to go very far (in either direction) from the mid-range for a knit.  Also, check that your differential feed, which controls the feed dogs, is where you want it.  For knits that have a lot of stretch, you’ll probably want the two sets of feed dogs to be set to take in fabric differently.  Thankfully, I didn’t need to change mine for this project.  You may also have to play around with your cutting distance.  My fabric really like to roll, so I had to set my cutting distance larger that I would normally have liked, to make sure I got a clean cut and that my stitches were perfectly at the edge of my fabric and not hanging off the edge.  I definitely had to play around on extra fabric for A WHILE to make sure I was getting the stitch I wanted.  So, buy a little extra fabric if you’re a newbie, like me!

For the seams, I used a 4-thread overlock (with safety) stitch.  Here is what that stitch looks like on the reverse:

4 thread overlock with safety stitch

For the hems, I changed the threading of my serger to produce a two-needle, wide coverstitch.  Here is what that looks like from the front and back:

Cover stitch, reverse

Coverstitch, front

The Construction:

I constructed the whole garment using a 5/8″ seam allowance and a 1/2″ hem allowance. First,  I placed the sleeve and front panel, right sides together, and starting at the neck and working towards the armpit, serged the sleeve shoulder seam (See Pic, Seam #1).  Then, I placed the other side of the sleeve and the back panel right sides together, and serged the other shoulder seam working from neck to armpit.  I repeated this on the other side (See Pic, Seam #2).

Seam #1 and Seam #2

Doing that first, will allow you to stitch the side seams and the seam along the underside of the arm/sleeve as one long seam. (I actually didn’t do this are realized later that it would have been easier!) It also means that long seam will lay better under the arm.  So, do that next — place the front and back panels with the right sides together and starting at the end of the sleeve, stitch the side seams to the armpit and then keep going from the armpit to the bottom hem (See Pic, Seam #3).  Ta-da! At this point, my hoodie was really taking shape.

Seam #3

Next, place the two halves of the hood, with the right sides together, and stitch the entire length of the back, from head to neck (See Pic, Seam #4).

With the hood finished, place the neck edge of the hoody onto your hoodie, with the right sides together, and stitch the entire length of the hood along the neck (See Pic, Seam #5).  Almost done!

Seam #5

Then, take the band, fold it in half and press it.  Then, pin the open edge of the band along the entire left, front panel vertical edge, around the edge of the hoodie, and then down along the right, front vertical edge of the other front panel.   Serge along the edge, securing the band in place (See Pic, Seam #6).

Seam #6

Now, all that was left to do was to hem it.  I switched my machine over to coverstitch, pressed my hem allowance up and pinned it at 1/2″ and then stitched all the way around the bottom edge.  Then, I turned the vertical edges of the front panels under by 1/2″, pressed them, and stitched them, too.  Lastly, I pressed down all of the serged and coverstitched seams so that they would lay nice and flat.  Voila!  My hoodie was finished!

My summer hoodie!

Hoodie, displaying hood.

I thoroughly enjoyed my first foray into sewing a knit garment.  I hope that this tutorial has inspired you to give knits a try, too!  If I can do it, anyone can.  So, you deserve a summer hoodie.  Go ahead, treat yourself!  Up next, is the Knit Diaries, Part 2:  a striped maxi skirt.  I am also taking ANY suggestions you have for what else I can make with my mountain of jersey.  What other striped wonders can you think of?

Sergers and Stripes – The Knit Diaries, an Introduction

As I have probably mentioned in a previous post, I am a stripe addict.  Give me striped fabric over polka dots or floral any day.  Stripes are fierce, bold and ever so clean.  I love ’em.  This year, it seems that cute striped things are everywhere.  First, it was striped spring scarves.  So, of course, I had to make one, which was a great introduction to my serger.

Striped, spring scarf

But, the stripes just kept on coming.  Next, I saw this cute, Ice Cream Social Skirt, from iCandy Handmade.

Ice Cream Social Skirt by iCandy homemade

And now, it’s the striped/chevron maxis.

Chevron Maxi from Piperlime

Clearly, this is the year of the knit stripe.  I am in fashion nirvana.  So, I knew that I needed to get my hands on lots of striped jersey.  That sounds really easy, right?  Well, it’s not.  When, I first started searching all of my usual haunts — JoAnn’s, Fabric.com, Etsy– there was simply no reasonably priced striped knit to be had.  They were all playing hard to get at $12/yard.

It’s not often that I think that the Universe actually hears my pleas.  Even less that it actually answers them.  But, in this case, I don’t see how there could be any doubt that the Universe gave me a shout out.  Todd and I went antiquing in Strasburg, VA on our way home from a weekend with the fam.  We stopped at the local antique mall, where I thought I’d hit the jackpot with 4 yards of chambray for $7 and 4 1/2 yards of gingham for $8.  Not even close.  At checkout, the woman behind the counter suggested we should check out the flea market behind their store.  So we did.  Oh. My.  Goodness.  Sitting at the back of the store, covered in some really old, nasty yellow velour, I hit the mother load.  There, in this dingy, seedy flea market, I found three whole bolts of striped jersey.  There was a black/white, navy/white, and turquoise/white.  Universe, I owe you one.  When we got it home, we counted it up — almost 30 yards!  The best part?  Guess how much I paid.  Just guess.   Ok, you won’t believe this — $7.  That’s right.  SEVEN DOLLARS!!

Piles an piles of striped jersey!

So now you see, dear readers, why I had to begin the Knit Diaries.  1) I have knit fabric coming out of my eyeballs; and 2) that brand new serger was not earning it’s keep.  So, the Knit Diaries, otherwise known as my next several entries, will entail me figuring out how to use up all that striped jersey while learning how to really use my serger.

I’ve already figured out my first few projects:

1) A breezy summer hoodie (inspired by Old Navy)

Old Navy Jersey Lounge Cardigan

2) A flowy, striped maxi skirt (inspired by Make it and Love it)

Striped Maxi by Make It and Love It

3) A beachy cover-up (with added pockets) (inspired by H&M)

H M cardigan

4)  A full maxi dress with shirring/smocking (inspired by Old Navy)

Old Navy Maxi Dress

Spoiler Alert!  I’ve actually already made a few of these.  Hee hee.  I’ve been having so much fun!  So, stay tuned for the first Knit Diary project.  Let summer begin!

A Striped, Chambray Wiksten

It’s not long after you get really into sewing that you realize just how many patterns there are available online now.  Of course, there are the larger pattern suppliers, such as Burdastyle.com, but there are also a lot of individuals throwing their hats into the pattern ring.  While reading Made by Rae’s blog, I stumbled upon just such a pattern – the Wiksten Tank.

The Wiksten Tank - oh so cute and hipsterish (yes, that's a word).

It immediately captured my attention.  It had that hipster feel to it with it’s scoop neckline, small bust pocket, and curved hem.  I fell in love with it instantly.  And like a good, little ADDer, immediately moved it to the front of my queue.  And there it sat for a week while I did my research.  I have found, through knitting, that I save myself a lot of time and hardship if I read about others’  experiences with a particular pattern before attempting it myself.  Since this is a fairly popular pattern, there are lots and lots of cute Wiksten’s out there, let me tell you.  I didnt find out anything life-altering about the pattern.  Most people were really happy with it and had made very few changes.  I did, however, during this search find my heart captured by a new (to me) fabric I saw on the Make Something blog.

Paris Map Wiksten by MakeSomething

Oh, I just yearn for this.....Isn't it amazing? by MakeSomething

I LOVE this paris map fabric.  However, my love will most likely remain an unrequited one.  This gorgeous fabric has been discontinued.  WHY, cruel world!?!  If any of you know how to make a miracle happen…that would allow me to get my hands on two yards of this textile delight, do not pass go, do not collect $200…..just message me immediately!

So, the search continued.  The weekend before Easter, DH and I were doing a little antiquing in Woodstock, VA and we stumbled upon a fantastic antique mall/flea market.  There, I not only found 28 yards of varying striped jersey fabric for $0.30/yard (more on that soon!), but I also found some absolutely fabulous striped chambray for $4.  Can’t beat that.  I knew from the moment I saw it, that it would be my Wiksten fabric.

Striped Chambray - in two variations

So, the first step was to cut out all of the pieces.

Pattern pieces

From my measurements, I had determined that I was an extra large.  However, in retrospect, I think I was a large.  I had to do a lot of tailoring before it fit perfectly.  There must be an incredible amount of ease built into this pattern?  I also added two inches to the length, as I have a long torso and like shirts on the longish side.  After making this once, I think I would only add an inch.  I might go back and re-hem my tank.

I love the finished project!  It’s the perfect summer tank.

My striped, chambray Wiksten

Now, I just need to make a cute, red skirt to go with it to complete my spring/summer nautical look!  🙂  Now, accepting pattern suggestions!

Chambray Love

Ever since I noticed that Chambray is way in this Spring (thanks Elle Apparel!), I had been looking for that perfect pattern to use to make one.

Chambray at JCrew

Chambray at Old Navy

I knew that it needed to be button down.  And, I really wanted tabs on the sleeves so that they would look cute when rolled up.  I tried to find a “cowboy inspired” shirt, but didn’t see one that didn’t also scream “I used to be on Dynasty.”  So finally after much hemming and hawing, I decided on using Simplicity 2255.  It has the cute tabs, some flattering darts, an interesting collar, and comes in several variations.  I chose to make the one that the model is wearing, minus the tabs that pull up the hemline (at least for now).

Simplicity 2255

Once I knew which pattern I was using, I got to work immediately.  Hooray for Spring Breaks!

Cutting out the pattern pieces

In terms of changes to the pattern, as I said previously, I cut my pieces to a length in between that of the longest version and the shortest version.  Hello my name is Jen and I have a long torso.  The other thing I modified, was that the pattern has you sew sleeve tabs onto the sleeve without covering the stitching.  So you’re left with a pretty unsightly, unfinished looking area on the outside of your sleeve.  Booo!

Unsightly sleeve tab

So, I sewed little tabs to place over that area and then sewed the button on to that.  I think it looks much nicer.  You?

My modified sleeve tabs

This was, by far, the most difficult thing I’ve sewed to date.  I nearly hyperventilated while sewing the buttonholes.  I was so nervous that I would screw it up.  Thankfully, my Kenmore’s buttonholer, does all the heavy lifting after I get it to the right starting point.  But, I am so happy with how it turned out!  I has become an absolute staple of my spring wardrobe.  It is so versatile and just the right weight — not too hot and not too cold.  I highly recommend adding a chambray shirt to your sewing to-do.  I haven’t had a chance to actually take a picture of me in the shirt.  I’ll post some soon!

I'm in love with my Chambray!

Bling Your Sling!

My friend, and fellow Beefy Broad, recently injured her shoulder.  Much to her dismay, her physician told her that she must wear a sling for the next two weeks.  This made Deb feel like this:

Not only is it a royal pain in the a*se to not be able to use your dominant hand, but the sling was also chafing Deb’s delicate neck.  So, she politely asked (read:  begged) for me to make her a ‘sling cozy.’  Claiming that she didn’t want to be a burden, she told me to just use whatever fabric scrap I had that I would never use in a project.  No, no friend.  Injury trumps fabric hoarding.  After seeing how her eyes lit up when she saw this cute retro, red fabric with kids skateboarding on it, I knew we had a winner.

The offending sling and the fantastic fabric.

I quickly got to sewing the cozy.  A little padding and a few seams and we were done!

Then, all we had left to do was feed the strap of the sling through the cozy.  Ummm….WAY harder than it sounds.  Deb had to channel her inner Korean Chopstick Master to use two of my knitting needles to grab the strap and pull it through one end.

Ugh. Oooff. $%*#$.

Sling + sling cozy = Deb now feeling like this:

But, dear readers, you know Deb and I.  We dream big.  We just couldn’t stop there.  After all, when facing a possible rotator cuff injury, the fun needs to be worn on your sleeve (get it?!?).  We needed MORE sling bling.  That could only mean one thing — breaking out the googly eyes.  As you may have seen in the infamous Christopher Walken SNL skit, googly eyes make everything better.

Thankfully, my dear friend SHS had given me a deluxe, three-pack of googly eyes for my birthday this year.  I had been saving them up — waiting for just the right project.  It was destiny.  We had plain googly eyes, lashed googly eyes, colored googly eyes, and pupil-colored googly eyes.  Ummm,yes please.  A little of everything.  And in the process of digging through my craft stuff, I also found a box of plastic insects.  Our inner-biologists rejoiced.  So, we christened the hot glue gun with some light ladybugging, first.

A little ladybug action first

Then the floodgates were opened.  Let the googly eyeing commence!!

Deb, laying out her eyes

Hot glue guns are AMAZING.

Googly Eyes -- the ultimate sling bling!

So, the moral of this story is:  if you are feeling a little under the weather and your doctor tells you that you have to wear a sling, fear not!  With a little sling bling, you’ll be holding your head up high….Proud that you are the owner of that fine sling.  Now, I ask you….invalid or fashionista?

Sling Bling Pride!

A Satisfying Sorbetto

Colette patterns have intrigued me for a while now.  They are drafted for a C-cup, rather than the typical B-cup of bigger pattern making companies.  That should mean that they are made for curvier women, right?  So, I have the Colette Sewing Handbook sitting in my Amazon cart.  My dilemma is that while the finished items have potential,  they don’t look very flattering on the models the chose.  They also don’t even look pressed.  So, jury is still out on the book.  I did, however, find a Colette pattern on the internet that is free.  It is for the Sorbetto top.

The nice thing about the Sorbetto is that it is easily customizable because it is such a simple pattern!  You can add lace or piping, buttons, get rid of the pleat, etc.  I decided that before I used any expensive fabric on Colette, I’d need to know what the end result would be.  My first Sorbetto was going to be some cheap IKEA fabric that I had on hand.

The pattern comes as a .pdf.  So, I printed it, cut it, and then taped it together.  (Note:  Before you print, you really want to make sure that it is going to print at actual size.  To do this, make sure that in the print dialog box you don’t have “Scale” checked.  And after you print, you really want to measure the test box to make sure that it is 4″ x 4″.  I learned this the hard way once!)

Printing the pattern

The pattern coming together

Finished pattern pieces

Once I had everything taped together, I could begin cutting the fabric.  This top doesn’t really use that much fabric, so it’s a great stash buster.  It only has two pieces – a front and a back, which are cut on the fold.

Pieces cut, ready to sew!

Before I put away the pattern, I used some old Singer tracing paper that I found in my grandmother’s old sewing stuff to tansfer the lines for the pleat onto the fabric.

Transferring the pattern markings

The first thing the pattern tells you to sew is stay stitching around the neckline on both pieces.  This is just to prevent stretching on the neckline.  Just be careful to get it as close to the edge of your fabric as possible, as there isn’t but a 1/4″ seam allowance there because it is finished with bias.

Stay stitching the neckline

One of the best aspects of this top is that while it is extremely easy to make, it still has some shape to it through bustline darts.  The pattern does a good job of walking you through sewing the darts.  It was my first time sewing darts and I learned something!  When you finish, you don’t backstitch.  Instead, you sew as close to the edge as possible and then tie the two threads together.

Sewing the darts

After the two darts are sewn, it was time for the big, front box pleat.  I folded the front piece with the wrong sides together, matching the lines for the pleat that I transferred, and stitched down the length of the line.  Then, I took the top over to my trusty ironing board and pressed it down into the pleat evenly over the stitch line I had created.

Pressing the box pleat

At this point, I decided to try on the top and discovered that while it fits very nicely above my waist, it really isn’t long enough for me.  The length isn’t bad enough to stop me from wearing it, but it will mean that I make the next one longer.  (Mental note:  add 2″ to the next one.)  Because the top has a fairly big pattern, I felt that the pleat was getting a little lost.  So, I decided to add darker gray piping to the pleat to help it stand out more.  Because I couldn’t sew the piping in the traditional way (no open seam), I serged one side of the piping (to ensure no raveling) and then hand stitched it to the back of the pleat — only going through one layer of the pleat fabric so that you cannot see the seam from the right side.

Adding the piping....

Then, it was time to finish the neck line.  The bias trim is a really cute touch and a nice, clean finish.

Applying the bias tape

Finished neckline

After, finishing the bias binding on the neck and sleeves, the last thing I added was two decorative buttons on the pleat.  While they aren’t functional, I think they add a nice touch.

Some decorative buttons

Overall, I really love the way it turned out.  The Sorbetto pattern is extremeley well written.  The top is super cute and it does, in fact, fit very well.  I will most definitely be making another one!  I’m thinking a color block with cap sleeves for round two……Have any of you used this pattern?  Did you love it as much as me?  Do you have suggestions for other cute, free patterns?

A satisfying Sorbetto

The Blossom Bag and My Obsession With Sewn Handbags

I don’t know what it is, but I LOVE sewing handbags.  This is weird, because I’ve never been a purse or accessory girl.  I only own two purses myself and they certainly wouldn’t be considered “fashionable.”  It all started with me sewing some Amy Butler diaper bags.  They were the hardest thing I’d ever sewn to that point and they just turned out so cute.  I was hooked.  Now, I troll the internet looking for cute bag patterns (man oh man, there are lots of them!) and have begun hording home dec fabric.  It’s really not healthy.  But, my friends and family get to reap the benefits so no one is complaining.

The next up in a long queue of bag patterns is the Amy Butler Blossom Bag from her book “Style Stitches.  The pattern is a free download from the Sew Mama Sew website.  Isn’t it amazing?  Look at the detailing on the handles?  Doesn’t it just pull at your heartstrings?

Blossom Bag Pic from Sew Mama Sew

My mom’s birthday is coming up very quickly.  I thought this would be the perfect present for a trendy lady like herself.  I decided to use the same fabrics that I used for my sister’s bag.  I just love the combo.

The fabrics

The pattern is a .pdf.  (If you print it, make sure that your printing is to actual size.  To do this, ensure that “scale” box is not checked in your print screen.  Unfortunately, Amy did not include a test square to measure to double check.  Maybe next time, Amy?) After printing, began the laborious process of cutting out all of the pieces.

Blossom Bag Pattern pieces

Cutting out all of the pieces

Next, comes fusing the interfacing and/or stabilizer onto the pieces.   Mind numbingly boring, I tell you!  The pattern calls for Peltex 70 for the stabilizer, which isn’t fusible.  To ensure that it stays where it is supposed to, you fuse the interfacing over it and to the edges of the piece.

Fusing the interfacing with the Peltex inside.

Finished exterior piece with interfacing and Peltex.

When I made the Amy Butler diaper bag, I used fusible Peltex.  It might have been a smidge heavier that the Peltex 70, but I think that I prefer it.  Using unfusible stabilizer, the exterior piece and the Peltex are still able to move away from one another, which can cause wrinkling and an unfinished look.  If I make this bag again, I plan to use fusible Peltex and interfacing.  The fabric cutting and the fusing took the longest – several hours.  I’m glad that I decided to do those on a different day.  Whew!

Next, I added the magnetic snaps.  The pattern doesn’t call for a reinforcement of the snap.  But, I highly recommend that you slap a piece of the peltex or a piece of fusible fleece back there.  It’s a high wear & tear area, better to have some reinforcement!

Reinforcement for the magnetic strap

Magnetic straps, done!

After adding the snaps, it is time to get started on those fantastic looking “faux buckle” details.  The are actually quite simple.  First, you I sewed on a rectangular-ish piece of fabric in such a say that it left a small tube at the top.

Bottom part of faux-buckle

Then, I made the straps by folding a long, rectangular piece of fabric in half and pressing a center crease.  Then, I opened the strap back up and folded each side to the center crease and pressed again.  Lastly, I folded the strap at the center crease again — inserted the Peltex for stability – and sewed the perimeter.

First, fold the strap piece in half and press.

Then, open up the strap that you just pressed and fold each side into the center crease and press again.

Before you stitch the strap, you add a piece of the peltex to add stability.

Finished straps!

After the straps were finished, I made the ties and tabs (in the same fashion as above – they are just smaller).

Making the ties

Here is where the fun part started and the bag started to come to life!  Next, I fed one tie through each of the tubes on the bag.

Ties inserted through tubes.

Then, I bent the ties to form the triangular shapes and sewed the ends of the ties into the ends of each strap.   Once the ties were secured to the straps, I covered each join with one of the tabs.  It was rather difficult to sew the tabs, as my machine doesn’t like really bulky sewing.  But, I took it slow and did a lot of turning the wheel by hand and managed to get through it.

Fabric buckles done!

Next, I sewed the two exterior sides to the bottom exterior panel.  Pretty straightforward.  Lastly, to finish the exterior, I pinned and sewed the two side panels to the bottom and front/back.  It was a bit tricky to get the side panel to sit perfectly in the u-shape that the bottom and front/back make.  But, going slowly and using a lot of pins, I think I got a pretty good fit.

Bag exterior

The last part of the exterior was finishing the flap.  I pinned the flap with interfacing to the flap without (right sides together) and stitched around the edge, leaving enough room in which to turn it inside out.  Whew!  Then, the exterior of the bag was finished.

Finished flap

Next, it was time to work on the lining.  The lining perimeter is pretty easy.  It is put together just like the sides of the bag.  Once it was finished, I turned it inside out and slipped it over the entire bag exterior and topstitched around the top edge, leaving enough room to turn it right-side out.

Sewing the lining to the exterior

Finished bag lining

Next, I sewed the flap to the bag by measuring 3/8″ down from the top of the back bag panel and making a line.  I lined the bottom, straight line of the flap up with this line and pinned it.  Then, I stitched three rows of stitches.  the first lined up with the topstitching of the edge of the flap.  The second, was 3/8″ from that and the last was 3/8″ from the middle.

The dividers were the last big part of the bag.  One of the dividers has a zipper and the other one does not.  I started with the one sans zipper, as I’m new to zippers.  Baby steps.  First, I placed one of the dividers with the interfacing and one without right sides together and stitched around the edge (leaving enough of an opening to turn it right side out).  I did the same thing with another set of divider pieces.  (NOTE:  I found my IKEA iron-on hem tape to be a lifesaver for making sure the openings that I had to leave to turn the pieces right side out stayed together and even until I stitched the two finished dividers together. )  Next, you sew the two finished dividers together.  This will close the two small openings that you had to leave to turn the dividers right side out.

For the zippered divider, I started by placing the zipper and the divider with the interfacing right sides together and stitching the zipper (1/8″ away from the coils), centered,  1/4″ from the top of the divider.  Then, I placed a divider panel without interfacing onto the zippered divider panel, right sides together and stitched around the edge, leaving enough space to turn, and pulling the zipper through.

1/2 of zippered divider panel

I did the same thing with the other side of the zipper – sewed it 1/4″ down onto the last, interfaced divider panel.  Then, I placed the last non-interfaced divider panel onto this one, right sides together (the other finished panel and the zipper will be between the two – AWKWARD!) and stitched (as best I could with the bulk in the middle) them together, leaving enough space to turn it right side out.  Once it was turned, I used my IKEA hem tape again and then stitched the sides and bottom of each panel together, with the zipper sandwiched in between.

Finished zipper panel

The last step is to insert each divider panel (zippered towards the back) into the bag and tack them in place.  I measured 1 and 1/2 ” from each side seam and made a mark.  Then, lined up each divider panel with the mark and tacked them into place 1/2″ down and 1/2″ in.  I had ready on someone else’s blog that they had real trouble during this step because of the bulk of many layers of fabric.  The woman took the entire pressor foot off of her machine to do the job.  I tried this, but the fabric was so bulky that the top thread and bobbin thread weren’t even catching one another.  Enter, hand sewing.  And then, TA DA…..I hope my mom likes it.  She deserves about a million of these bags for all the crap she put up with from me when I was a teenager.  🙂

Finished bag!

Bag interior

Bag interior, close-up


Springing Forward into Fashion with a new Spring Scarf!

This Spring, I’ve been seeing a lot of stripes.  This makes me very happy.  I love stripes.  Last summer, when in France, I stocked up on striped things.  It was very easy to do because, as a people, the French love stripes.  You can find any textile item with stripes in France.  Striped shirt?  Mais, oui!  Striped pants?  Pas de probleme!  Striped underwear?  Absolutement.  Nice really corners the stripes market in France.  Beautiful, no?

Nice is very stripey.

The other textile item that the French won’t leave home without is the scarf.  While there, me and my friend Jill decided that before leaving we should probably purchase a scarf………..for, oh, every day of the week.  I think the French might have considered putting an embargo on scarves while we were there, we bought so many!  Yet, I have no buyers remorse.  On the contrary, I wish that I had bought one more scarf.  I wish that I had solidified my love of stripes and scarves and found one that perfectly married the two.  Alas, I didn’t.  To make it worse, I keep seeing photos like these all over pinterest:

Striped scarf from Athleta.com

J Crew scarve

Unfortunately you have to be rolling in the drachmas or married to a manna-daddy to afford these scarves.  As a teacher of public education, I am neither.   In these instances, I try DIY.  Thankfully, our Jo-Ann Fabric store is moving.  And instead of doing what “real” stores do and move the merchandise, they are liquidating all of their old inventory.  We are in the last month now, and things are HEAVILY discounted.  For instance, I have a “friend” who went this weekend and purchased many, many yards of fabric, ~20 patterns, lots of serger and regular thread, zippers, bias, etc.   It would have normally cost her $600.  She got it for a mere $100!   How do I know all of these particulars you ask?  Ok….that person was me.  It was amazing!!  The woman behind the counter told me that a woman had bought enough patterns the day before to normally total $1800.  In the end, she paid $30.  Thirty dollars!!!  Unbelievable.

But, I digress.  One of the lovely fabrics I found (deeply discounted) was a nice pink and white striped jersey.  So, I snapped it up and it came home to become my scarf.

Pink striped jersey

Because I wanted the stripes to run horizontally, I was going to need to make a center seam.  So, I took a yard and cut it down the folded side.  Then, I used some iron on hem tape from IKEA and tacked the two panels one on top of the other and serged them.  The hem tape was really helpful to ensure that I lined the stripes up properly before I serged any seam.

Using hem tape to line up the stripes.

Now, you don’t have to have a serger to sew knits (although I think mine does a better job than my sewing machine).  If you use your sewing machine, you want to make sure that you use your “knit stitch” (this will usually look akin to your zigzag stitch).  It’s also helpful to have a “knit” sewing machine needle.

Once I had my two panels sewn together, the fabric was long enough to be a good, long scarf.  Then, I turned it right sides together and served down the long, open end, fully across one end and 2/3 of the way across the second end.  Then, I turned it right side out and hand stitched the small opening left in the final end.  Voila!  My very frenchy spring scarf!  This is super easy and very (instantly) gratifying.  I highly recommend making one and then living in it (like me) this spring.

My frenchy, striped spring scarf