Thursday, October 31, 2013

happy halloween!

My Halloween costumes for me and  Mr. Sew Rachel are yet to be worn (party is actually tomorrow night) but here's a Halloween treat for you! I made a little outfit from my costume scraps, modeled by Maggie May and Filbert. Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 28, 2013

new pants

OK... so I didn't actually make the pants. (You may remember that I tried to make pants this spring but got so discouraged that they are balled up in my sewing drawer with the pins still in them and everything!)  But what I did do was make them work.

Picture yourself browsing you local Goodwill or thrift store, in my case looking for crummy jeans to paint in, and what do you find hanging on the end of the rack but a pair of like-new mustard yellow jeans (and I am SOOO into mustard yellow right now!). You try them on and they fit perfect! Except....

I'm 5" tall. So I'm pretty used to finding long pants in stores. I bought them anyway. The only issue with shortening this particular pair is that they had zippers at the ankle. "That will be a pain," I thought! That is , until I realized I could hem them completely above the zipper!

I carefully took out the zippers (Mustard yellow metal zippers... I'm holding on to these for a future project!), then finished the raw edge on my serger and folded up once for the new hem, using perfectly matching thread leftover from my picnic blanket skirt.

I'm saving those for later!

Thrift store shopping is one of the ways you can make some sewing skills really pay off! Now I have a pair of perfect length, on trend, nearly brand new, mustard yellow skinny jeans for less that $5!

orange with sparkle toenail polish for Halloween! so hot!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

a present from my sister!

I promised that I'd show you the awesome infini-scarf my sister in Philadelphia crocheted for me, and here it is! It's really long, and so soft because it's made of BABY ALPACA FUR!

a decorative edge

and of course, a grainy selfy :)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

fast sewing & slow sewing

First off... NO ONE ENTERED MY GIVEAWAY!  :(  A friend mentioned that maybe all of you readers were sewing admirers, but not sewists yourself. That got me wondering... how many of my readers sew? Let me know below if you'd care to share. And now... on to the sewing!

First: fast sewing!

This week I was making a costume for a friend that was totally kicking my butt! It was an easy design, but I was going without a pattern and using these awful-to-sew-with costume fabrics; slippery metallics and inexpensive sheers. I needed a quick sewing pick-me-up after that!

Enter the slouchy, lacy t-shirt! Kimono sleeves, simple banded cuff and neck binding, 4 pattern pieces and 11 total lines of stitching, mostly done on my serger. It took me about a hour from start to finish, a perfect palette cleanser after the gold and sheer orange monstrosity! (Which actually came out just fine and my friend was super pleased....)

I used New Look 6216, view B with the cuffed sleeve for a little extra length. I forget how much I like New Look patterns. They always seem to have simple, stylish designs that are easy to make your own, and are always affordable. 

This was my first time installing a narrow band for the neckline on the serger (and probably only my 2nd or 3rd time doing this finish on any machine!). I didn't do a great job. The band width ended up very uneven, but It was a good learning experience and doesn't bother me enough to not wear the shirt. I also made the pattern size I measure at, which is actually a size or two bigger than what I usually make, so it's nice and slouchy! For solid, everyday t-shirts I'd make a smaller size. 

Now the slow sewing...

Inspired by a pin on, I'm making McCalls 6503, view D in a woven, grey, linen-like fabric (not sure the fabric content, probably a synthetic or synthetic blend) that I picked up for free from my mom's stash! I got the pattern on sale at Joann Fabrics and only had to buy thread, buttons, and a zipper, so the whole dress is costing me under $6! On this project I'm really taking my time to practice good technique; hand basting the placket, pressing each step, finishing every seam. So far I have most of the bodice constructed and it's looking very nice! Setting sleeves will take a little time because I have very narrow shoulders, but I'm giving myself that time to pay close attention, working on it a hour or two at a time.

AND let myself take a break from this dress to whip out a fast project whenever I have the need to make something quick!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

a three-hour dress

I had originally bought this mid-weight sweater knit fabric for... well exactly that; a sweater! But as I've been discovering more and more about my own personal style through sewing, I realized that a blue and while heart print cardigan just didn't fit into my wardrobe. When I found this image on, I knew exactly what that fabric needed to be:
Fall love
image from
I started with this Simplicity Sew Simple pattern I picked up for $.97, and I say started with because the end result was much different!

I made a wearable-muslin-of-sorts of this pattern straight from the envelope for my Halloween bee costume, since a costume doesn't have to bee a perfect fit. (Get it? I'm so funny!) It's a simple pullover dress, front piece cut on the fold with bust darts, back piece has two pieces with a slight flare on the back center seam. Trying that on I was able to figure out what kind of alterations I wanted to do to my paper pattern for the blue and white heart dress:

I folded up an inch between the bust and arm opening (and the same to the back pattern piece), taking care of my petite bodice and high bust-point in one swoop! Then I threw (swung? whatever the term is...) the bust dart so that in angled towards my waist for a little more waist definition. 

The original pattern came with little short sleeves, so I lengthened them to hit just as my elbow and added and little cuff/slit/I don't quite know what you call it. 

You can't quite see it, but there are two perfect back darts!
I took in a little more than an inch from the center back, which also straightened the center seam so I could cut the back on the fold and eliminate the back center seam. After stitching up the side seams I decided to add some back darts, too, for just a little more shape. I just stole those right off another dress pattern in my stash! And to finish it all off, I made facings for the neckline instead of a narrow hem or band.

It felt so good to put into practice these flat pattern altering techniques I'd picked up in places like the Sew the Perfect Fit with Lynda Maynard class I took on, and the A Perfect Fit book!  I'm pretty pleased with myself! I feel a little like Carolyn from Diary of a Sewing Fanatic, who can slash and alter her TNT dress pattern into pretty much anything she can think of!

I used my sewing machine with a slight zig-zag stitch for darts, sleeve construction and setting, sewing in the neckline facings, and top-stitching on the neckline and hem, then used my serger for the side seams, finishing the armhole seams and neckline facing, and finishing the raw edge on the bottom hem so that I only had to fold up and stitch once, reducing bulk. The coolest part? From the time I started pattern alterations to finished garment took only about three hours! I got to wear it out that evening with leggings and boots... super cute. There may be more of these dresses in my future!

Monday, October 14, 2013

i won a book + giveaway!

I won a giveaway! Thanks to the lovely Philippa from Gloria & Me I received this in the mail this week:

This book has got a lot of great information for any beginner sewest.

The part I'm excited about is how to easily drape your own custom pattern block, and transfer that to a paper pattern. Then about half the book shows you all kinds of ways to alter that basic block to get different variations (which is also a great reference when altering a commercial pattern!). Everything is very clearly illustrated and concisely explained.

I will say that I didn't agree with the fabric choices on of the example garments, because they were too dark or the pattern was too busy to be able to see the design element they were trying to example.

Anyway, I'm so happy about my giveaway win that I've decided to host my own giveaway! I'm giving away three patterns from my stash to three sew rachel! readers:

#1) McCalls M6173 - Leggings season is here! And I accidentally bought two of this pattern (oops!), so you get to benefit! This pattern includes size XS, S, M.

#2) Simplicity 2703 - I bought this pattern for that jacket (now out of print), but when I opened it up realized that I had grabbed the wrong size. I hope someone else can make a fabulous version of it! The pattern pieces are all uncut and included, but I did have to refold them to get them back into the envelope (as you know, nearly impossible!) so they are not quite as neat and crisp as a brand new pattern. This pattern includes size 16 though 24.

#3) Butterick B5750 - You may remember this pattern from my failed bridesmaid's dress. I still believe it can make a beautiful dress. I had bought this pattern once, lost it in our move, had to buy another copy, than promptly found this first copy (isn't that always how those things work?)! This pattern includes size 6 through 14.

I know you want one... so comment below with which one(s) you would like to win and what your rendition would look like. You can choose just one, or two, or all three! Comment by October 20th to be eligible, and international readers are included! Don't forget to check back next week to see if you've won, or subscribe to get all my updates. I know you readers are out there... so comment! 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

what do you do with your scraps?

Something that bugs me about the sewing process is the amount of trash it makes. My rabbit likes to play with cut up pieces of pattern tissue, and I try to save larger pieces of fabric scraps that can be used for other projects, but what about the teeny weeny fabric pieces?

Awww, Maggie May! What a good girl!

A few months ago I splurged on myself a purchased a book to help address that issue: How to Make Stuffed Animals by Sian Keegan. (And if you don't want to make one yourself, she sells wicked cute pre-made stuffed animals from her book!)

So I thought I'd give it a try! The book comes with all the patterns in the back, all you need to do is photocopy them at 200%. Well, I didn't have a photocopier handy so I just traced them out of the book and made a hand-stitched TEENY WEENY bunny!

The stitching isn't great on this prototype little guy, but I still think he's pretty cute! I'll for sure be making more, and probably finding the time to source out a photocopier so the tiny pieces are easier to work with. 

So, what do you do with your scraps?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

a music-themed thank you gift

Once I got my new serger up and running I thought, "why not use it to make my mom a thank you gift?" She gave me some of this very cool music-themed tapestry fabric that just needed to be a fold-over tote bag.

I used a tutorial by Make It Handmade, the same one that I used for my pleather purse, this time making the size closer to the original tutorial and adding the tote handles. One modification I did, which I learned from my pleather purse project, was to measure and cut the top taper before sewing up any of the seams. This time I also stopped the taper two inches from the top of the bag, so that the top hem would lay smoothly and not pucker or require any easing. My pattern piece looked something like this:
Tapestry fabric is thick, and can fray easily, so my new serger really shined on this project! I did all my seams on it, so I didn't have to have any bulky french seams or add lining, and serged the raw edge on the top of the bag, allowing me to just fold over once to hem, reducing bulk there. I top-stitched with my regular machine, as well as constructed the handles and strap on my regular machine with a black, bottom-wight cotton/poly fabric, because again, the tapestry would have been too bulky. I also think the sleek, black trim is a better design choice than using just the tapestry fabric, and looks pretty sharp! 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

look what i got!

There has been a lot of stash-busting and purging on the sewing blog-o-sphere lately. And for my part, I've been doing really well at only buying new fabric for a specific project that I am at that very moment working on, and then only buying exactly what I need, instead of purchasing yards of fabric because it's on sale or pretty or I might use it for x project down the line. I even now have all my fabric in my sewing room displayed on open shelves, so I can see what I have and use that fabric first.

...and then this happened:

You can't tell by the picture, but that bag is pretty huge (and there is another 1/2 full box). But this time IT WAS FREE. I couldn't resist.

In the same week I had a friend who was moving and downsizing AND my mother was culling her stash. They invited me to come look and take what I wanted. To be fair, I really was selective on my choices, and already have two projects in the works from some of that haul. Yeah, I have a fabric problem... but looking at how much fabric I left behind at my parent's house... we know where I get it from.

But that's not even the exciting part! I also came home with this:

A serger (over-locker)! My mom upgraded hers and offered me this one a number of months back, but with all the moving and my level of sewing ability, I just wasn't ready for it yet. Now I've got it up and running in my new sewing room and I think it's going to be a really helpful tool for times when I want a finished seam but don't want to or I am not able to go through the process of a french seam or binding. Expect some new serged projects soon!

Monday, October 7, 2013

a quick knit

No, no, you haven't stumbled onto a different blog! I occasionally knit, and not terribly well. The most complicated thing I ever knitted was a mitten. That's right, ONE mitten. But knit 1, purl 1, yeah I can do that. Especially when using a quick-to-knit chunky yarn!

As you might remember, I'm really into mustard yellow for fall. I love how the introduction of just one new piece in a new color can transform all your basic outfits into a whole different season. Recently I've  pinned a lot of looks with cozy infinity scarves. They are kinda trendy right now, but also kinda ingenious as you don't have to keep fiddling with you scarf to keep it wrapped up right.  I picked up one ball (skein? package? what's the technical word for it?) of chunky Lion Brand Yarn (I've used them before and are always pleased with my results) and set of large size 13 knitting needles at the Joann Fabrics. I think the all together the cost was under $6. Not a bad investment to try out a trend.

I did a rib knit (k1 p1), 12 stitches wide. After I got going on it I realizes that 1.) it was too wide and would be way too chunky to wrap around the neck twice and 2.) I wouldn't have enough yarn to make it long enough to wrap around twice anyway. So I knitted until it was long enough to wrap loosely once around, then finished the edges and whip-stitched the ends together to close the loop. I finished the whole thing in one lazy Sunday morning watching t.v. on the couch with Mr. Sew Rachel, and eating way too many popovers (Mmm). That's my kind of knitting project. 

So it's really more of a cowl, but a slouchy cowl that gives the illusion of an infinity scarf. Next time I'll only do 8 stitches wide so I can actually wrap it around a couple times, and there will so be a next time! I already love this thing and was a red one and a black one, AND my sister in Philadelphia totally crocheted me a super nice grey one! It's in the mail as we speak and I promise to show you all when it gets here!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

problems with pleather...

 ...kinda like trouble with tribbles.
image from
But seriously, my last purse project involved a little bit of a learning curve with working with pleather. I thought I would share some of my findings in that they might be helpful for you.

1.) The top thread kept breaking as I was sewing along. My first thought was to change the thread. I was using a brand I don't usually use in my sewing machine, and I know she can be fussy about thread brands. BUT after I switched to gutermann thread it was still breaking. So I loosened up the thread tension on the machine and that helped some. I also decided the switch to a larger needle.

2.) When top-stitching, the pleather would stick to the foot and not move along. Big gobs of thread, so frustrating! I had read that you can reduce the friction by sandwiching tissue paper between the pleather and the sewing foot, and also between the pleather and the feed dogs. It was amazing the immediate difference the tissue paper made! I'd read that this trick works with slippery fabrics, too, but this was the first time I'd tried this trick. One tip I'd add is to use a thicker tissue paper is possible, as it tore away from the stitching cleaner. (With some of my cheaper tissue I had to pull all these little specks out form the stitching with tweezers... no fun!) One downside is that it made it harder to see the material to sew my top-stitching perfectly straight and lined up. But slightly less straight top-stitching is better than no top-stitching at all!

3.) And I didn't come to this conclusion until after I'd finished my project, but next time I'll use a longer stitch length.  I normally just toot right along at the 2 setting on my machine for most sewing needs. I noticed some of the plastic coating on the pleather was "flecking" off in between the stitching so that tiny spots of the fabric underside showed through. It's quite tiny, and probably I'm the only one who'll notice so I'm not going to remake the whole thing... but I suspect a longer stitch length would minimize that "flecking." 

4.) Speaking of stitching, don't forget to sew carefully, because unpicking wrong seams will still leave visible little holes in the pleather! 

I certainly learned a lot about working with this material. I hope this was helpful, so that when you pick up a pleather project your learning curve isn't quite so steep!