Do you ever make samples before starting on your actual garment?

I know, you’re probably thinking “Really, Casey?! Not another thing I’m supposed to do before I start the fun sewing!” I get it, I really do! (Especially now that I have a wiggly baby who vies for my sewing time.) I promise this kind of sample making isn’t like making a muslin (though those are still a good idea for certain designs). But these quick little trial-run pieces might just save you a headache further down the road and can really help improve your technique and accuracy as each fabric behaves differently. After years of sewing samples, it has become second nature and in some ways a lot of fun!

Case in point: this dress I made last summer which featured bound buttonholes. While I usually just pull out my Dritz Bound Buttonhole Tool, the fabric was linen and a loose enough weave that it shifted around easily–making using the Dritz jig a little too indefinite for me. I decided to go ahead and make the buttonholes the old fashioned way, which I hadn’t done in awhile and needed a refresher. I tried a couple different methods (including Gertie’s–which I love, but produced a buttohole that was just a tiny bit bulkier than worked with the linen) and also used the method that the vintage pattern I was working with outlined (worked, but I could improve it!). I used scraps of fabrics for making the test buttonholes–which proved just as well because I managed to mess up one of the samples. Like sewing the buttonhole lips on the wrong way messed up. But imagine if I hadn’t taken the time to make up those buttonhole samples and instead sewn, cut and then discovered my backwards buttonhole on the fashion fabric! I don’t even want to think about how heartbroken I would have been.

Samples can be useful for so much more than just a reminder on working bound buttonholes:

  • Help determine the correct tension, stitch length and needle size for your fabric.
  • Make sure the tension is balanced for your serger and is correctly forming along the edge of your fabric.
  • Double check the correctness of the interfacing weight you’re using: is it too heavy or too light for the application?
  • Work out a new (or not often used!) technique like bound or corded buttonholes, eyelets, etc.
  • Assist in choosing the correct seam finishing technique for your garment by testing the compatibility with the fabric weight and whether it prevents raveling.

So before you toss that pile of odd scraps after you cut out your next project, remember to keep a few for working a sample or two!

July 19, 2013 · 48 lovely thoughts
posted in sewing · tags: ,

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Circle skirts seem to be following me home lately! I found a modern taken on a 50s style circle skirt at Goodwill last week, and another in the treasure trove of vintage and antique goodies at my grandfather’s (he and my grandmother were antiques dealers for a number of years). Coupled with the three I already own, it seems like my closet has a little trend going on… I’m finding they are perfect for pairing with tank tops as well, making them mom-friendly (for me at least!) and great statement pieces (without being fussy) for the sticky, hot weather we’re having. Of course this means my thoughts have also been turning to sewing another (make it an even half-dozen to populate my closet!), especially as they are quite easy to whip up!

I’d been going back through the Circle Skirt Sew Along I hosted here a couple years ago to refresh my memory, and in the process found some new inspiration I thought I’d share with you! I have several yards of a gorgeous, textured black cotton I think I’m going to use to make myself a circle skirt. But of course I’m itching to fancy it up a bit with some sort of embellishment! The question is: what sort? There is applique, ric rac, lace, embroidery, palettes… So many possibilities!

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June 28, 2013 · 27 lovely thoughts
posted in sewing,vintage inspiration · tags: , , ,

Sewing. That activity I have had precious little time for in the past two months; aside from a few things I’ve whipped up for Audrey and lots of clothing alterations for me. But this hasn’t stopped me from dreaming a bit about what I could sew (if only the house would clean itself and maybe I could get an extra hour or two of sleep! lol.). I took advantage of morning naptime last week to dig through my vintage pattern stash and pick out a few patterns that caught my eye. I dare say these are entirely overambitious, considering everything else vying for my attention these days, but a girl can dream!

Who doesn’t love a good circle skirt? Did you know you can also make variations of fullness; a 3/4 or 1/2 circle skirt are popular (though I’ve seen 1/4 in some of my pattern drafting books). Simple–and super easy to make! | I’m also loving button front dresses, for the obvious reason that nursing Miss A. makes it necessary to wear things that can open (or easily be pulled down). I love the idea of contrasting yoke and hem sections on this Advance pattern!

I adore this blouse–it looks like a halter neckline but isn’t! The pattern is going to need some serious grading (it’s a tiny 32″ bust, I believe), but this style looks like it might be a good wardrobe staple. | I need to make the tiered view of this Simplicity pattern! Preferably in red with black trim, because I’m susceptible to color scheme suggestions.

I’m slowly wiggling back into my pre-pregnancy shorts, but the ol’ waist still isn’t there. I’d love to make the pleated view up in a soft cotton/linen blend (perhaps in Kelly green?). | This later McCalls pattern caught my eye because again it sports a front opening. I love the playsuit view! Maybe made in a matching fabric to go with that 1/2 circle skirt for a complete ensemble?

I also have a little sewing tip for you! I’ve used large, flat metal washers from the hardware store for years as pattern weights. But have found with some fabrics (like knits or tissue weight silks) that they are just too lightweight to really hold the pattern paper in place. I recently picked up a handful of 3/4″ hex nuts at the hardware store, and have found those to be far more useful (and heavy) than the flat washers. These are a great alternative to the more expensive weights marketed specifically as “pattern weights” from sewing suppliers; I think each hex nut cost $0.50. So for about $6 you could have a dozen pattern weights–which are extremely handy to have in your sewing toolbox!

I hope y’all have a lovely weekend–and maybe have some time to sew! (I know I’m hoping I will!)

June 14, 2013 · 25 lovely thoughts
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I think it’s my childhood adoration of the Little House on the Prairie books, and my interest in pioneers and the westward expansion. (One of our favorite games as children was to “hitch” our bicycles [aka "horses"] to the back of a neighbor’s pickup truck and play “covered wagon”. Sometimes our pioneer sagas would last for days!) Even as an adult, I still love the old-fashioned look of sunbonnets. (Though I haven’t worn one in many, many years…) A few months ago Christy from Little Betty Designs sweetly sent her baby sunbonnet pattern for me to sew up for Audrey Leigh. It’s taken me a bit, but I finally got it finished recently (thank goodness for morning naps!)–and just in time for the sunshine and hot weather we’ve been having!

This bonnet pattern is in .pdf form to allow you to print at home, which I love for little projects like this. I picked out a medium weight quilting cotton in two prints for my version, and used a stiff sew-in interfacing for the brim. This pattern is made up of just three pattern pieces and goes together seamlessly. Even in my slightly sleep-deprived state, I didn’t manage to mess anything up and was delighted with how well the pieces fit together. The only change I made was to make narrow “spaghetti” tubes for the bonnet ties, rather than use ribbon as suggested in the pattern. I made the smallest size which is approximately 0-6 months, and it fit Audrey (who is 2 months) well, with enough room to grow and fit her the rest of the summer! (There are three sizes included in the pattern, ranging from 0-6 months to 12-24 months.)

If you’ve got a little girl of your own–or one you can sew for–I’d highly recommend taking a look at the Little Bonnet pattern. You can visit Christy’s Etsy shop here, and her blog here.

Note: This pattern was sent to me free of charge, but the opinions expressed are my own.

May 29, 2013 · 29 lovely thoughts
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Hello, friends! My apologies for lack of posting again this week, but I sliced my hand open the other day and ended up at the doctor’s for half of one day, and it’s just been awkward to work with a “wounded” hand. Thankfully, it wasn’t as bad as I had thought initially, but still needs time to mend so computer use has been restricted. Thanks for understanding!

Remember the little pattern swap that Gina and I did about a month ago? We finally finished both the outfits we decided to sew! (Be sure to scroll down to see Gina’s outfit and visit her blog.) I have a rather large backlog of summer sewing to photograph and share with y’all, but I was so excited about how this dress turned out, I couldn’t wait to show it off!

Here’s a refresher of the pattern and fabric. The pattern is a vintage early 1960s design, and I loved the “double breasted” back closure, and the low back neckline. The fabric was a linen that I purchased online several years ago and had been holding on to for just the right project. As the pattern was a bit large for me, I graded down a couple sizes. I had just enough fabric to cut the full skirt view out of my fabric, though in the end I had to cut the waistline piping on the straight of grain instead of bias as the pattern indicated.

Construction was fairly straight forward–sleeveless bodices don’t vary too much in making up. I did sew two bound buttonholes at the back, topstitching around the neckline and armholes, and added piping to the waistline. The latter is a detail I have always adored on many of my vintage dresses from the same era, but don’t use it a lot on my own sewing. It just looks so neat and tidy at the bodice and skirt seam–I need to incorporate this more into my future sewing!

I’ve worn this dress a number of times since I finished it nearly two weeks ago–it’s fast become a favorite! We took pictures when we went on a little day trip recently (Yorktown National Battlefield), so please excuse the wrinkles (though it is linen after all) and slightly sweaty Casey look–it was nearly 100°F that day! I really love the silhouette and the red buttons that I used. Although the print itself doesn’t have the same vivid red, I think the fabric and bright buttons work beautifully together.

  • Pattern: Vintage McCalls #7248 (view B).
  • Fabric: Mid-weight printed linen, purchased online a few years ago (sadly, not available any longer!).
  • Alterations: Graded the pattern down to fit.
  • Techniques: Bound buttonholes, piped waistline, and topstitching (I used a lightweight crochet thread wound onto a bobbin and thread through the top thread of my machine. I used regular weight thread in the bobbin, and the stitch length set to 3.5.).
  • Make Again? I would love to! Perhaps in a solid color–light pique would be my dream fabric.

Here’s a peek at Gina’s lovely creation! She chose a two-piece outfit pattern I sent her, and I just love the fabric she used–so cheery! The style seems perfect for summer too. Be sure to stop by her blog to read about her project and the pattern she used!

July 13, 2012 · 60 lovely thoughts
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