Keep Sewing–Tips

What the Heck is a Crinoline?-September 2009

Crinoline dressHave you ever embarked on a project for yourself, a child, a friend or just to try something new? That’s what happened to me when my youngest daughter, Abby, asked for a crinoline for her 16th birthday, of course with her design! She had told my 28-year old daughter Misti that she wanted a tulle shirt (the word had been misspelled in Abby’s email) and Misti said “Mom, I’m not getting her a see-through net shirt”. I laughed and laughed and agreed that she wasn’t getting a see-through shirt. That’s when Abby informed me that she wanted a tulle SKIRT.

Anyway, back to the crinoline, Abby sketched for me what she wanted and I sketched for her what was in my head, and shock of all shock’s they were pretty close. The difference was that Abby wanted feathers on each layer and she wanted layers in the color of the rainbow. We looked for a pattern, found one that we thought would work, but it just was not what I was seeing in my head. I was frustrated because I knew what I wanted, but I just wasn’t sure how to get there. I went to bed and of course tossed and turned thinking about a way to create that skirt. Bingo! I figured a way to make it work. Of course I jumped out of bed, made my way to the basement and began gathering the tulle that I had already cut out. It seemed like I was sewing yards and yards of tulle together in large circles, color after color. Abby did come down and helped me sew the yards of tulle into the circles. Then the gathering began, it took what seemed like FOREVER! I first began gathering the circles of tulle with a gathering foot, however, using the gathering foot did not gather enough. So I used a zigzag foot to sew a gathering stitch around each circle. I used 4 yards of tulle for each circle, and 3 circles for each layer. Since she wanted rainbow colors the skirt ended up with 7 different colors and layers.

If I were ever to make a similar skirt I would make the first circle for each layer 4 yards, the 2nd circle 5 yards and the 3rd circle 6 yards to give more fullness. When each skirt color was finished it was time to sew the feather trim on the bottom layer of each skirt. When we were at Hancock Fabrics buying the tulle, Abby found feather trim in all the colors on sale. She was so excited! Some of the trims did not have enough yardage, we solved that by cutting the trim into 1/4 yard pieces and evenly spaced them on the matching skirts. I used a purple stretch satin as the waist section, making a casing on the top 4 inches larger than her waist and inserted 3/4” elastic. The waist section was approximately 10 inches long from the top of the waist to where the skirts were attached. I had previously serged all of the skirt layers together (to free up space in my sewing room), I then serged the waist piece to the skirt layers, right sides together.

I must say the skirt did look great. Abby came into my sewing room and jumped up and down saying “I love it, I love it”, words every mother wants to hear after spending so much time on a project. She went into her bedroom and tried the skirt on under a black dress with a circle skirt. She was beautiful and so happy. My older daughter Misti came to Denver to do a photo shoot for 2 different make-up companies using Abby as the model. Abby wore the skirt in some of the photos and she was beautiful, as you can see from the photo, and her tulle crinoline looked fantastic!

Keep Sewing – Janet

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Fashion Dress Out of Dress Shirts-October 2009

Dress made from dress shirtsRecently my daughter Misti asked me to make her a dress for Fashion Week in New York City. At first I declined, but then I saw some magazines on line at Taunton Press (they publish Threads magazine). The magazines are Sew Stylish and Quick Stuff to Sew and they are full of quick projects to craft, sew and redesign. One of the magazines had a very cute black halter dress with a tulle petticoat and a huge satin bow. I saw that halter dress and thought that it would be perfect for Misti. She really likes halter dresses and she wanted either a black or pink (her favorite color) dress. I sent my husband to a thrift store and asked him to get three black dress shirts so I could sew this dress before Misti came to Denver in August. An average size woman would need two men’s shirts to make this dress, but Misti is just shy of six feet and is plus size so I knew that I would need more shirts. I went back to the thrift store and purchased three more black shirts (of course none of the shirts were the same so the black’s did not match). I then went to Hancock Fabrics and purchased a roll of black satin ribbon 1 ½ inches wide. The original dress was backless to the waist, but I knew that Misti would want to wear a bra, as would most women, so I knew that I would need to adjust where I would make the first cut on the shirt for the bodice. The first cut is to cut off the sleeves by marking a line with a straight edge and chalk from underneath the sleeve at a slant up to the collar on both sides. Draw a line across the back from side seam to side seam, around the collar leaving 1 inch of fabric, do not cut off the collar. Cut along the chalk lines and remove the sleeves and the upper back of the shirt. Next serge around the edges of the shirt where you just cut, if you don’t have a serger, turn the edge under ¼” press then turn under ¼” again, then stitch. Measure the body from the side around the back to the other side, cut black elastic, 1 ½” wide, and 2-3 inches less than the back measurement. Sew one end of the elastic to the dress on one side seam. Using a zigzag stitch stretch the elastic to the other side seam, stitching as you go, securely stitch down the end to the other side seam; continue to stitch the bottom of the long edge, again stretching as you stitch. Pin bust darts while the bodice is on the body, then take the bodice to the sewing machine and stitch the darts.

To make the skirt of the dress, use the main part of the shirt (the part you cut the sleeves off), run a gathering stitch from the shirt’s front placket around to the other front placket, using a zigzag stitch over dental floss. For Misti’s dress I measured around her waist, measured the shirts circumference and knew that I needed to add more yardages to the skirt section, as well as to the length of the skirt. I used three more shirts to add to the waist measurement and to add length of the skirt part of the dress. The first shirt, using a straight edge, I cut off all of the curved edges as well as cutting the back section in half up the middle, the second shirt I cut up the middle, leaving all of the curved sections intact. The third shirt I cut off the placket and curved edge from the front section, sewed it into the back of shirt number one increasing the circumference, next I cut a section from the back keeping the curved edge intact and sewed it into shirt number two increasing the circumference and the length. I then sewed the two shirts together matching the plackets and the side seams.

To make the waistband, use leftover fabric from all of the shirts and make a strip the length of the waist measurement plus 2 inches, and 2 ½” wide. Fold both edges in ¼”; press, fold band right sides together and stitch each end ¾” in from the ends. Trim seam and cut corners to reduce the bulk then turn the waistband to the right side using a point turner. Gather the skirt by pulling the gathering stitch to fit the waistband. Pin waistband onto the skirt then attach the skirt to the bodice at the waist, using the same pins to pin the skirt and waistband to the bodice. Stitch close to the fold, then stitch again close to the bottom edge. Attach a hook and eye to the waistband. Using the satin ribbon, tie it around the collar into a large bow with very long tails.

To make the tulle petticoat cut a rectangle of tulle 4-5 inches longer than the skirt of the dress and one and a half times the waist measurement. Fold the waist opening down by ½” then attach the elastic. When the dress is worn the petticoat will extend and show by 4 inches.

Misti loved this dress and wore it to her Fashion Week party for, a website that she writes “Memoir’s of a Make-up Artist”. She looked beautiful.

Keep Sewing – Janet

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Sew Your Christmas Gift-December 2009

Christmas gift toteI have always given some gifts that I have sewn for Christmas.  It was much easier to sew for my children when they were younger.  In the past I have given a pillow in a blanket for family, this gift is great for those that spend a lot of time at Little League games, football games, watching TV, etc.  These are some of the items that I have made throughout the years for family and friends.
Pillow in a blanket (made out of fleece)
PJ pants, for little ones as well as teens and adults
Apron – make variations of an apron to fit any occasion.  Last year I made the classic apron for friends adding an embroidered design with a cooking theme.  I varied the design of the apron for grandchildren and great nieces and nephews.  Instead of 2 large pockets in the front I measured the width and length of “fat crayons” and sectioned the pocket into ten slots for the crayons.  I embroidered an artist design on the front and embroidered the child’s name on the front of the apron.  I included in the package a set of fat crayons, a coloring book and a tablet of drawing paper.  They were a hit.
Totes for carrying anything and sometimes everything.
Sweatshirts with a hood (hoody) and a zippered front or with a hood and a large pocket that slips over the head.
*Berber fleece vests – One year I made my parents Berber fleece vests with many pockets that close with a bit of Velcro.  They loved them and still wear them around the house in the winter.

This year I am making backpacks for all of my grand nephews and nieces as well as for my younger grandkids.  They are very cute and each one has an embroidered design on the front as well as their name.  This backpack can be used when sleeping at grandma’s house or a friend’s house, or if the kids need something to do while at the doctor’s office, an older siblings concert, etc.  When my 2 youngest kids were little they each had a little tote that they carried crayons, coloring books and a couple of non-messy snacks when we went to choir concerts, plays, doctor’s offices, you get the picture.  They are very easy and homemade gifts are always a hit.
Fleece hats, mittens and scarves.  One year some of my teenage students made these at the Christmas Sew Day at my house.  They are easy and fun to make.  They even had a pocket on the scarf for an IPOD or a cell phone.

I hope that many of you will sew some of your Christmas gifts this year.  Also think about donating a few fleece hats and mittens to be passed out to the homeless or those that are struggling during this time of year.  Happy Sewing and Merry Christmas

Keep Sewing – Janet

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New Year Job: Clean that sewing studio-January 2010

Messy sewing roomWe have officially begun the year 2010, and my sewing room is a mess, extra fabric, magazines, boys working out in my sewing room, etc. I opened my storage cabinet doors (I have 2 of them) and what a mess! No wonder I have a hard time finding the notions, patterns and fabric that I am sure I have. What to do, what to do…The answer is clean, clean, clean then donate, throw away, re-purpose and organize everything. Now that I have decided to do this where do I begin?

The first thing I will do is go through my magazines to make sure that I have read every article and idea, in other words the whole magazine. I always keep all of my Threads and Notions magazines, I will go through Sew News and Sewing Savvy and remove the pages that I want to keep, then donate them or give them to a friend. Since I have a sewing school, I catalog my books and magazines and allow my students to check them out for 2 weeks at a time.

The next thing I need to accomplish is to put my patterns in pocket folders. I put the pattern name (Simplicity, McCall’s, etc.) and pattern number on the tab, cut the front cover of the pattern with the pictures off and glue it to the front of the pocket folder,  then I put the pattern pieces and instruction sheet in the pocket folder. When I finish with all of my patterns it is time to file them (this is not my favorite thing) according to the type of pattern, i.e. infants, children, men, etc.

When I finish filing the patterns it is time to tackle my notion drawers; what a mess! I organize them according to what the item is and what it is used for. I put like items together and label the drawers. By this time I am tired and decide to call it a night.
It is now the next morning I’ve had my coffee and I am now ready to tackle my fabric cabinet, sigh. I know many of you keep every little piece of fabric for different projects, but I do not. I primarily make garments so I do not keep anything smaller than an 8×8 square. I use the squares for my students so they can test their machines and stitches before sewing on their project fabric. I have big cloth bins for my fabric, but now I need to separate my fabric and label the bins. I have one for fleece, one for interfacing, one for infant and children’s wear, one for ribbing and some trims and one for fashion fabric. I have smaller bins in various colors for my students to keep their unfinished projects and notions in.

I have another tall drawer cart for scissors, pattern weights, extra pin cushions, extra cone thread and my finished projects that can be used for gifts. This cart doesn’t take me too long to organize so I move on to my small colored drawer cart for my machine embroidery things like, stabilizer, spray glue and design CD’s.
It is finally time to clean my sewing machines, sergers, irons, wash my ironing board covers and clean the floor. My sewing studio/school is finally organized and ready for a new year of sewing. It feels GREAT! Keep on Sewing.

Keep Sewing – Janet

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Making Quilts-March 2010

Finished Baby QuiltI hope all of you are organized or will be soon. I think everyone who knows me, knows that I DO NOT quilt.  It’s not that I can’t quilt, I just don’t like to, however, I decided that I would try my hand at making a baby quilt for my grand niece who will be born in the Spring or early summer.
 I made her sister Masie a jean quilt when she was born and it turned out all right. I also made my granddaughter Shelby a blanket with large pastel squares that I embroidered a teddy bear on each square, which also turned out OK.  Both of those quilts were made out of 10 x 10 squares, I know, I know, all of you that make such beautiful intricate quilts are amazed that I call what I make quilts. Anyway, as I was cleaning out the fabric in my “stash” (which really is not a stash since I do not save a lot of fabric) I came across an abundant supply of fleece. I looked at several sewing books for some ideas, but found nothing in sewing books and I do not have quilting books, so I am going to “wing it.” 
I began by cutting 4 x 4 inch squares (oh no these squares are smaller, will I be able to do this?), out of the fleece that I could find in my bin. I decided that I will just lay them out in a random pattern on my cutting table and see how it looks and rearrange if need be. I will sew the squares together to make long strips, sew the strips together then measure the width and length of the quilt after the strips are sewn together. I will then cut the measured size out of 100% cotton batting, and baste it to the quilt. I will be using a super soft baby fleece for the backing of the quilt, plus ½” for the seam allowance added to the total circumference for the baby fleece. I do want to embroider the baby’s name and date of birth in the corner of the quilt before I attach it to the quilt top and batting. I will then pin the quilt top and the fleece backing, right sides together, leaving a 10” opening in one of the short ends of the quilt for turning.  Sew the topper and quilt top together using a ½”seam allowance, turn the quilt right sides out, turning in the 10” opening in, pin.  Top stitch the quilt stitching ½” from the edge of the quilt, which will close up the 10”opening. Using yarn or embroidery floss and a large eyed needle tie the quilt at each corner of each block.  Lightly press the finished quilt.

Keep sewing – Janet

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The Process of Making A Gown-April 2010

Finished GownWhen my daughter Misti was preparing to go to NYC in 2002 to compete in a Plus Size 
Modeling competition and singing competition, guess who was chosen to make her gowns, you guessed it ME! She needed a black short dress, and 3 long dresses, one that needed to be very extravagant.

I started with the very extravagant dress first. The pattern that I was using was a Butterick, #6533. I had never made a dress with a complete foundation piece inside the bodice before. At the time my younger children were 11 and 8 and I was homeschooling so my days were very busy.  Can you guess what time of day I had to do my sewing? You guessed it at night, from my previous blogs you know that I make more sewing mistakes when I am pressed for time and I have already had a full day, but oh well, I carried on.

Of course I made the dress out of muslin so that I could make a very close fit.  My friend Jan McMinn, who lived in New Mexico at the time, was in town and helped me with the pinning of the back darts and the bust darts.  Next I made the under bodice foundation piece out of muslin following the pattern. I also sewed it into the dress, but in a zipper, then I had Misti try it on.
It fit perfectly, next it was time to make the shrug out of muslin and it also fit well.

Next is the scary part, cutting the dress and shrug patterns out of the black satin. Since I could only sew
in the evening it felt like it took me forever to finish this dress. I actually did enjoy learning the technique of constructing the under bodice. It had stays; gross grain ribbon and heavy duty hook ‘n eyes to keep it closed. I had also never made a dress with a train, but this pattern had a small train on the back. It fit Misti perfectly and she looked beautiful.
   I also had to make 2 other long dresses with side slits and matching shawls using Butterick 4144.  One dress was made out of a glittery stretch fabric and the other one in a variegated grey poly/silk fabric.

Now it was time to make the short black dress. This dress was strapless and made out of a double stretch fabric. I was very proud of myself for getting this dress sewn quickly, including the zipper. I had Misti come down to try it on, but alas my great feeling of pride was shot down. I had put an invisible zipper in the dress, not even thinking how it would look. Misti and I laughed and laughed because the zipper “bowed out” creating a huge hump in the back.
Of course I had to rip that zipper out and put in a regular zipper to create a nice smooth back.

Finally all 4 dresses were finished and she looked beautiful in all of them. She took 4th place in the singing competition out of 500 women. Now it is 2010 and she has lived in NYC for 2 ½ years. My how time flies, sigh!

Keep Sewing – Janet

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Trick or Treat Costumes-July 2010

Halloween CostumesWhat was the worst sewing day that you’ve ever had?  You know we all have them, cutting, sewing, ripping out, ripping out, etc.  As I was thinking what to write about for this first entry I thought of my worst sewing day.  It was several years ago, when my daughter Abby was about 5 or 6 years old, she is now almost 16.  Anyway, I was making her a Halloween costume, a princess of course, out of this hot pink taffeta fabric, cheap Halloween fabric.  It was late at night, my only time alone during those days with young children, I was tired, but wanted to get the skirt and bodice attached before I called it a night.  The skirt had to be gathered a lot to fit the bodice so I sewed the side seams, put the2 rows of gathering stitches in the skirt (this is before I knew about using dental floss) and started gathering. It took a while to gather all of that taffeta fabric and it raveled so much that I had to keep trimming the seams. I finally got it gathered, pinned it to the bodice, and sewed it in place.  I then wheeled my chair from my sewing machine to my serger, ran the seams through the serger to stop the raveling, held it up and realized I had sewed it with the wrong side of the skirt facing out and had serged it. I was so upset all I could do was laugh or cry and I think I did both. I have always told my students if you make a mistake be sure and rip it out before you quit sewing for the day so the next time you don’t have to start with fixing a mistake.  So I sighed greatly, grabbed my ripper and started the task of ripping.  If I remember right it took me almost an hour to rip the whole thing out.  I then headed for bed. The next day, again late at night, I started the whole process over again. I sewed the side seams, gathered the skirt, attached it to the bodice, ran the seams through the serger, held it up to finally admire my work and…..I realized that I had sewn it wrong again.  I couldn’t believe it, how could I make the same mistake again.  I grabbed my ripper and began ripping it apart for the second time. When I finished I went to bed.  The next morning I got out of bed, got dressed, went down to my sewing room and did the whole process again. I actually did it right this time and from then on I, while my kids were little, I didn’t sew things that required “thinking” late at night again. Tell me about your sewing disasters, I can’t wait to read them.

Keep Sewing – Janet

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Copying a Ready Wear Garment-November 2010

T-shirt copiedHas anyone had a favorite T-shirt, dress, pants or something else that you really like, yet can’t find it at the store you bought it from anymore?  That happened to me just recently. I have a favorite T-shirt that I purchased at Kohl’s several years ago.  It is 100% cotton (no spandex) I personally do not like spandex in my T-shirts.  I had purchased 4 in different colors and they are now stained and faded and oh so comfortable.  I decided to rip that T-shirt apart and use it for a pattern. I just took the shirt apart using a ripper and small sharp scissors.  I took it totally apart, laid it on craft pattern and traced around it with a sharpie, cut out the pieces and labeled them with the shirt name (Janet), the name of each piece, grain line and how many of each piece to cut.

I went to the fabric store and purchased 1 yard of a firm knit in blue and 1 1/8 yard of another color.  I cut out each color and determined that 1 1/8 yards is just the right amount for my T-shirt.  I am sure that there are other methods to copy ready to wear, but this is easy and fast.  There is another way to copy ready to wear without taking the garment apart.

Real and copiedLast weekend my daughter Abby found a pair of jeans that she really liked.  She liked the color, the fit and the style, but they were $100.  She called me and asked if I could make a copy of them and make her a pair.  I told her she would have to buy the fabric, but that I would make a copy of those jeans.
They are a very simple pair of jeans made out of light blue stretch denim, with a wide, high waist band, 2 buttons, back pockets with tan pants over jeansembroidery and “bedazzled” flaps.  Looking at the jeans, the crotch depth just did not look right, not deep enough, but they did fit her well, so I laid them out flat on craft paper and using a dark chalk pencil began to trace the pant.  The first thing you must do is secure the pants to the paper, I use flat plumbing connectors from the hardware store as pattern weights, and I use those to hold the pants to the paper.  I then measure the pants patterns from the pantsback seam from under the back yoke to the crotch, pull the crotch seam down and put a dot on the paper to mark that crotch line, then I continue to trace the back inside seam, the back outside seam up to the back yoke.  I also mark the top of the crotch seam on the paper to use as a reference point.  Next I flip the pants over and trace around the front, again mark the center front seam.  Using my French curve I draw the crotch line.  I New jeansmeasure the back yoke depth and length and draw that out.  I use a pattern that I already have for the pockets and pocket facings, draw the fly front flaps, add 3/8” seam allowance on all of the pieces, cut out the pattern pieces and cut the pattern out of muslin, sew the pants using a basting stitch, then have Abby try them on.  They fit her well in the butt and thighs, but I need to taper the back seam including the yoke to the waist band by about 1”.  We determined that the 2nd muslin that I made will fit perfect when made out of stretch denim with lycra.  She wants the front pockets to be a little shallower and no flaps on the back pockets, so the next step is to buy cheap stretch denim with some lycra and try them out.

That’s it, my way of copying patterns.  I hope that many of you will try it.  Have questions just email me.

Keep Sewing – Janet

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Great Capes, Batman!-January 2011

Capes are BIG outer wear looks for winter and spring 2011.  There are many different styles and types to choose from and most pattern companies have a version.

Finished CapeIn early December 2010, Jan McMinn and I went to NYC on a fabric buying trip (more about that next month) and on November 28th I decided that I would make a cape to take with me.  I had a beautiful wool/cashmere fabric that I purchased the year before in NYC, but had not used any of it yet.  I took an old pattern (it is out of print), modified the width, length, sleeves style, etc.  I basically changed everything about the cape except the collar.

I knew that I wanted it to button up the front and to have a “defined sleeve” opening.  I went to the fabric and purchased metal bronze/pewter buttons.  It was a quick sew, about 1 ½ hours total sew time, including the button hole, buttons and hem.  Actually the hem took the longest because it was so wide.

The pattern instructions for the sleeve definition said to make a buttonhole then attach 2 buttons through the buttonhole; instead I just attached a button on each side.  It worked and looked fine.

I have worn it several times and have received compliments each time.
Cape Patterns:
simplicitySimplicity: #2285




McCalls2 McCalls1McCall’s:  #3448 & 6209




SilhouetteSilhouette Patterns:  #75, Phillip’s Cape



Try one or all.

Keep Sewing – Janet


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