Friday, May 24, 2013

Little Birdy skirt

I love skirts.  Other than the logistics of sitting on the ground, I so much prefer them to shorts.  And just when my thoughts swing toward sewing up some leg-baring options, Crafterhours announces their annual Skirt Week.  How fortuitous! 
This lovely Echino linen blend fabric was purchased for another purpose (an apron), but I kept coming back to it with a skirt in mind.  Rifling through my pattern drawer revealed nothing that I was excited about, particularly for a single yard of fabric.  So I drafted my own pattern!

Using this wonderful book and my own measurements, I drew up a basic A-line skirt pattern.  Then, using the lines created by the darts, made a simple 6 gore skirt.  Since all skirts need pockets, I cut the side pieces, added pocket bags and trimmed them with piping.
The skirt is completely lined in white muslin, since the linen is actually a little itchy.  Besides, I like a few more layers to hide any lumps and bumps.
I did have to make some slight fit adjustments, but no more than I would have had to make with a commercial pattern.  Maybe even fewer!
This is a little dressier than I need for my current role as stay-at-home mom, but I guess it just means I'll have to plan more lunch dates! 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Scoop neck tee from Skirt as Top

The garment factory accidents in Bangladesh have really opened my eyes to just how our clothing is made.  This article, which I heard on our local NPR station, painted a very vivid picture of the awful working conditions.  (The article is short, please read it.)  As seamstresses, we have a unique opportunity to do something small to help this terrible situation: to make at least some of our own clothing.  Even when my sewing room is sweltering hot, I know that my homemade clothing is not actually made in a sweatshop.  I can't make items like jeans, and I still do love shopping for and buying pretty things, so I don't think I'll be going fully homemade anytime soon, but I truly believe that even a little helps.  
In the past, I haven't wanted to make things like t-shirts because, well, they are so cheap to buy.  But they are cheap for a reason.  As I've gained confidence in my serging abilities, though, t-shirts have become much more quick and easy to make, and might even approach cost-effectiveness, which means one less item of clothing to buy. Fellow Britex blogger, Kristin from Skirt as Top has generously provided a lovely, simple and free t-shirt pattern, and after seeing it here, here, and here, I finally gave in.  Plus, I had a yard of some beautiful chevron fabric that had been waiting for a good pattern.
The pattern comes only in a smallish-medium size, so I took the sides in quite a bit and shortened it by about 2-3 inches.  I also redrew the neckline to be less scoopish (for modesty while bending over at the park, you know) and made the armholes smaller.  I love the resulting fit! 
I couldn't help myself and made a second one, immediately!  No lie, it took me 40 minutes.  The black and white looks a bit like prison gear, but it's super comfortable.  Despite using the exact same pattern, the black and white striped top is slightly roomier.
My littlest was helping work the camera timer today, wearing his mom-made top!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Menswear: a sorta-Negroni

With a whole week devoted to my two little boys recently, I thought I should turn my attention to my well-deserving biggest guy.  Apart from a quilt many (many) years ago, he has only ever received a pair of linen shorts from my sewing room.  Not sure why I've taken so long...perhaps it has to do with the ridiculous lack of men's clothing patterns (that don't involve vests).  If I thought little boy's had it rough in the pattern department, men have it far worse!  Enter Colette Patterns.  With their Negroni camp shirt pattern, there was some salvation that a person could make something fairly stylish for their guy (or for themselves).  
Unfortunately, I'm not even sure I can say I used the Negroni pattern, with the number of alterations and changes I made!  Using the tutorial here, I opted for a real button placket instead of a facing and followed instructions here for a collar stand and collar.  Very simple changes, actually, and both turned out lovely!
With the shirt becoming less "campy", the width of the sleeves felt huge, especially on my guy.  So I slashed and reduced the sleeve pattern, and shorted it by about 2".  It not only reduced the size of the sleeve, but also angled them down more, which improved the fit under the arm. 
For the back yoke, I cut the fabric on the diagonal for a little visual interest.   I'm definitely loving that feature.  Even though this was technically a wearable muslin, I matched all the plaids and made flat-felled seams on the inside, even the armholes (though I think finishing the armhole with French seams using the tutorial by fellow Britex guess blogger, Jen, and then sewing them down might be better).  I need the practice for the special fabric coming up! 
I snapped these photos before he biked off to work, and before I could put a pocket on there!

By the way, did everyone catch "The Great British Sewing Bee"?  I can't believe I almost missed such a sweet and wonderful 4 episode series.  Impressive that they made their men's shirts in under 4 hours! 

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Miter-cornered napkins, two ways

If you're coming from Britex Fabrics, welcome! 

At our house, we've been exclusively using cloth napkins for a while now.  I typically use quilting cotton for our "regular" napkins, so when I received the cotton and linen yardage from Britex, I almost felt guilty for using such incredible, beautiful fabric essentially for wiping dirty hands and mouths.  But as I worked with the linen in particular, I came to the realization that I wasn't making a throw-away, disposable item; well-made table linens, from high-quality fabrics are the type of item one might inherit.  That thought made me especially happy since I chose the linen fabric to coordinate with a set of German breakfast dishes handed down to me from my grandmother.  How fitting!

Napkins come in all shapes and sizes, for all occasions.  For more "casual" napkins, I sew a narrow hem and little miter corners.  For formal, special occasion linen napkins, I use a wider hem and the traditional sewn miter corner.  This tutorial shows you how to make both!
For either type of napkin, you will need some supplies:
  • rotary cutter, straight edge, and self-healing mat
  • scissors
  • clear quilter's ruler
  • fabric marking pencil
  • seam gauge
  • tiny crochet hook or point turner
  • spray starch
Casual Cotton Napkins
Formal Linen Napkins
Casual miter-corner napkins
First up, the casual napkin.  I usually make these out of medium-weight cottons, that can be happily machine washed and dried.  For these napkins, I used cherry red oxford shirting from Britex.  The size of the napkins you want obviously determines how much fabric to buy, but to maximize the fabric usage, I typically make my dinner napkins around 17" square.  This way, I can get 4 napkins out of a single yard of fabric.  Fat quarter bundles work great for this size.  For today's tutorial, I made cocktail-size napkins at 9" square, and could cut 8 napkins out of 3/4 yard (58" width). 

For the casual napkin, if you want it X inch square, you must cut your fabric X+1 inch square to allow for 1/2" hem allowances on all sides.  Iron the fabric carefully and cut the fabric precisely square.
Using steam, press 1/4" around all four sizes of your fabric square.  I often eyeball this, but use the seam gauge to be more accurate.  If your fabric does not press well, try using spray starch.

Next, fold over and press 1/4" again around all sides.

I need a manicure.  Then, open out the corner.  You should have some nicely pressed crease lines to guide the next few steps.  (I'm using the seam gauge just to hold down the corner; it's not measuring anything!)
To reduce the bulk and get rid of the unwanted point, cut from corner to corner as created by the second crease lines, as shown.  You may want to mark the line (in blue, below), but I usually don't bother!

 Next, fold the fabric at the first pressed crease line on both sides.
Then, fold the tip of the triangle down to the intersection of the second pressed crease line. 
The creases on the folded-down tip should line up to the second crease lines.  Then, fold each side along the second crease line to create the miter.  In the image, below, only the right side has been folded.

Press carefully, and pin if needed.  Then, repeat on the other three corners!  Press again, using starch if needed.
Stitch around the very edge of your hemmed sides.  Be creative with your thread color and stitch selection! At the corners, pivot in the ditch created by the miter.
After stitching, press again.

 Voila!  Beautiful and functional napkins, with a cute miter corner.

 Formal miter-corner napkins
Next up, the formal miter-cornered napkin.  Linen is usually the fabric of choice for formal table linens, so I went with this lovely pale wheat-colored fabric.  For the size of square to cut, there are a couple of decisions to make: the size of your final napkin and the desired width of the edge hem.  For my napkin, the final size is 15" (luncheon size) and the edge width is 1".  So, add 15" + 2" + 1/2" (for 1/4" double hem on both sides) and the final length of each side should be 17 1/2".  Measure and cut carefully.

As with the casual napkin, start off by pressing 1/4" around all four sides of the square.  With linen, which has a more open weave, I found that spray starch is a necessity for keeping the fabric from distorting.  Use liberally, following the directions, of course!
 Then, fold and press the width of your edge hem around all sides (1" here).

 Open up the corner to reveal the fold lines.  Do not unfold the 1/4" crease line.
Next, fold the square in half, diagonally.
Match up the crease lines created from the second pressing and the edges of the napkin.  Pin in place, if needed, but do not press.

Line up the edge of your ruler and the edge of the diagonal fold, positioning the corner of the ruler at the intersection of the crease lines (see below). 
 Draw in the 45 degree diagonal line.  This is your sewing line.

 Sew along your marked line.
 Trim the corner as shown below, which reduces the bulk right in the tip of the corner.
 Turn right side out and use your point turner to make a nice sharp corner.
Open up the seam allowance inside the corner to press.  This will help the corner lie very flat.

Repeat for the other three corners!  Then, topstitch close to the edge, pivoting in the ditch at the corners.

 So pretty! I hope my grandkids appreciate these :)
Much thanks to Britex Fabrics for supplying the lovely cotton and linen fabrics!