Monday, September 30, 2013

Announcing the Fear Fabric Challenge!

I'm so excited to share with you today! Let's admit it: we all have fabrics that scare the blankity blank out of us. Whether it's a slippery special occasion fabric, a stretchy knit, or something that's just not our style, I'm sure you can think of one or two (or three or four...) fabrics that you avoid. October is almost here, and it's also a month full of frights. Why not combine the two? Introducing the...

This is a low-key, no pressure challenge in which I (along with some other lovely blogging ladies) will be choosing a fabric that scares us, and sewing a garment from it. We will reveal our projects at the end of October, and hopefully emerge with some tips and tricks for those of you who are curious about our journeys.

So who is playing along and what are they sewing?

Andrea from foursquarewalls will be working with lace.
Sally from the quirky peach will be sewing up silk.
Mrs. Smith from The joys and trials of my sewing and crafting! will try her hand at chiffon and charmeuse.
And I will be tackling my fear of brocade.

Want to join us? We'd love to have you! Join the Flickr group or leave me a comment letting me know you'll be sewing along at home. And if you're afraid of making a garment that you won't wear, think about how to incorporate a Fear Fabric into a Halloween costume. No pressure as you'll only wear it once!

What's your Fear Fabric?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Project Runway rehash!

I know this is a post about Project Runway, but I HAVE to you watch Breaking Bad?? Where will you be on Sunday night at 9?? If the answer is anything other than "watching AMC with a whiskey and Coke" then I don't think we can be friends anymore. And seriously, if you don't watch it, get on Netflix and start at the beginning. And then kiss the next month of your life goodbye as you binge-watch until your eyes fall out.

As for PR...WHAT just happened?!

Spoilers to follow...

Things I loved:

The color schemes of Dom and Bradon's fabrics.

Justin's cute crush on Miss America.

Things I hated:

Helen's inability to get over prints was hard to hear, even in small doses. I can't imagine how annoying it was in the workroom. While I don't agree with Alexandria that she needs to "be a man" (uhhh...she's allowed to be a woman) Helen should have known that working with prints would likely happen at some point. It's Project Runway, if you can make a dress out of wallpaper then a print shouldn't be so terrifying.

Tonight's reason why I love Tim Gunn:

Even though I'm not a Helen fan, I liked Tim's pep talk with her. He always seems to know when to be hard on someone, and when to be encouraging.

Favorite garment:

I liked Dom's dress, although I would never wear it. She definitely used the print the right way in the spirit of the challenge and deserved the win.

Least favorite garment:

Kate's was SO BAD. I wish Micheal Kors had been there. I'm not always on board with her asthetic (a bit too fairy-princess for me) but this didn't even seem like her work. Alexandria's was a hot mess and looks even worse in still photographs, I can't figure out why she was safe. 

Best line of the night:

"I'm so perplexed by this, I don't even have the words to express it." --Tim

The double elimination of Alexander and Kate was so weird. It felt very scripted, like they had decided ages ago that there would be one on this challenge, regardless of whether or not it was merited. Ken got how many passes on bad designs, Kate makes one (admittedly terrible) misstep and she's booted immediately? Kate deserved to show at Fashion Week, especially over Justin. I just don't get it.

The whole family is off to a wedding this weekend! AB gets to experience her first overnight with her grandparents, and the hubs and I get our first night away since she was born. Can't wait! Have a great weekend y'all!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Recent Refashions

Sewing something from scratch can be immensely satisfying, but sometimes a refashion can provide the same amount of happiness. Working inside a box can be challenging, but I have two examples of why it's so much fun!

Earlier in the week I talked about the book Generation T, and I did try one of the projects.

This was a super quick project. I went digging in my closet for a t-shirt I liked but didn't wear often. I picked this college T:

Three quick cuts with my scissors (maaaaaan do I love these scissors) and I was done!

To get this look, start cutting underneath the armhole seam. Angle your cut up to the neckline but do not cut through the binding. Knit t-shirts don't fray, so you can leave the new armholes raw. Then cut off the hem to complete the "I-don't-care" look.

The armhole is pretty low (as you can see in the above photo) so I wear a tank underneath most of the time. This refashioned shirt was perfect for a football game (in August, ha!) and I felt like I fit right in with the college girls and their cut-up shirts. Except that I'm 10 years older than them...moving on!

On Monday I talked about a RTW sweatshirt dress that had inspired me. Whilst digging around in my upcycle bag, looking for something else, I realized I had this old sweatshirt of my husband's:

AB doesn't have any Bengals gear, and I realized I could definitely adapt this huge sweatshirt into a sweatshirt dress for her. I started with the Hangout Hoodie pattern, and sort of cut and sewed my way to this:

I LOVE how it turned out! First, I ripped off the original hoodie pocket, and then I could cut the bodice out. I had to redraw the neckline in order to keep the logo. The sleeves, with cuffs, are from the original shirt.

The neckline binding is from an old tank top, and the middle waffle knit band is from a THIRD old shirt. It's easy to piece things together when they're all black!

The skirt part is from the sweatshirt, and the band on the hem is the same band from the original. Because I used a band on the hem, I was able to complete the entire outfit with my serger! In love.

Sometimes Dad says no and
you have to throw yourself
on the ground over it.

From finding the sweatshirt to completed outfit only took about 2 hours! Perfect afternoon project.

Have you been doing any refashioning lately? I have a ton of winter-ish clothes to upcycle now that it's getting cooler outside.

Today for Thrifty Thursday from Peek-a-Boo Pattern Shop, pick up the Classic Footed Pajamas pattern for only $4!  I've seen some great Halloween costumes adapted from this pattern!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Generation T: 108 Ways to Transform a T-Shirt

My summer wardrobe is usually tank tops and shorts (or skirts), and when fall rolls around, I have a tendency to start pulling out the t-shirts. Although a fantastic wardrobe staple, sometimes one's closet can become a bit...overwhelmed with t-shirts that all look the same. If you're like me and you have a zillion of these taking up space (and not being worn!) then try refashioning them!

The best thing about refashioning t-shirts is that there is very little risk involved. If you're unlikely to wear the shirt anyway, you won't feel too bad if something goes awry. With 108 ideas in this book, you're bound to find more than one you like.

This book is really fun and has cute illustrations, as well as photographs. Most of the ideas come with alternate ways to try it if it's not exactly your cup of tea or if your particular shirt doesn't work. 

The text is funny and written in a joking fashion, but you can tell the author loves refashioning shirts. Some ideas are great (I'll show one off on Thursday!) and some are perhaps...unrealistic (t-shirt bikini I'm looking at you!). That being said, I challenge any sewist to read this book and not come away with a handful of things that you can't wait to try immediately!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tuesday Tips: French binding

Studying RTW garments is a great way to find new tricks for your own sewing. I noticed that my knit garments are often finished with some sort of binding, not with facings, bias tape, or narrow hems as so many patterns suggest. I searched my Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing and found an explanation of this method, called French binding:

Inside view, neckline.

Outside view, neckline.

To create this finish, cut a strip of fabric (doesn't have to be coordinating, make it fun and use contrasting!) twice the desired finished width plus two seam allowances. Cut the length to match the opening you're finishing, plus 2" for maneuvering (photos below from the Reader's Digest book).

Fold the strip with WRONG sides together and then pin, RST, to the garment opening, with raw edges aligned. Sew the binding to the garment. Clip the seam allowances and use an iron to press the binding away from the garment, and then fold the whole thing over to the wrong side, wrapping around the seam you just sewed. 

You can slip stitch the binding to the inside of the garment, or sew a regular machine stitch, which will show on the outside. I LOVE this finish for knits because it's fast and easy, and all raw edges are nicely enclosed. You can use this finish on necklines and armholes.

Has you used this method before? How did you like it?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Inspiration: sweatshirts

I accepted a hard truth this weekend: summer is not coming back. Yesterday was the first day of fall, and the temperatures have been crisp for a week or two. And we all know pumpkin spice lattes are here, so that's the real clue, right? As resentful as I am of losing my favorite season (summer, in case you couldn't tell) at least fall=sweatshirts!

Last week I went to a local children's consignment store and picked up some fall/winter clothes for AB. I absolutely fell IN LOVE with this adorable sweatshirt dress:

The color, the stars, the jersey sleeves, I'm crazy about all of it. The brand is Circo if you're curious, which I think they sell at Target. I already have big plans to copy it using the Hangout Hoodie pattern from Peek-A-Boo Pattern Shop as a base.

But I can't let AB have all the fun! Last winter, I found this sweatshirt (it fits more like a top) at Goodwill:

It's from J.Crew and I think I paid about $4 for it. I seriously have to stop myself from wearing it every. day. Anybody know of a good women's sewing pattern that looks similar? It probably wouldn't be TOO hard to copy on my own.

Girl Charlee carries some cute sweatshirt knits, including this fun print. I got a swatch in one of my orders and it's crazy comfy cozy:

Nature's Fabrics also has tons of sweatshirt fleeces. How fun is this leopard print?

And for some fancy schmancy sweatshirt inspiration, check out these examples on the Mood Fabrics blog:

Are you sewing any sweatshirts now that fall is here to stay?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Project Runway rehash!

Okay. So I got a new (used) phone this week. It's exactly the same as the phone I've had for the last 4 1/2 years. Except it's in better condition. I mean, the vibrate works and all the pixels on the screen are functional, so y'know, it's an improvement. But I still drooled every time one of those iPhone 5(c) commercials came on last night. I guess I should be ashamed of my obvious materialism? Nah.

Spoilers to follow...

Things I loved:

Speaking of being jealous, I LOVED the challenge. Super fans and makeovers? How fun! No more corporate sponsorship. Two days for the challenge. Real people OMG I guess models are robots?


KEN IS GONE! Sorry, so many capital letters.

Things I hated:

Sooooooo Ken just thinks he's better than everyone else? Seriously, sharing a room with other people is pretty much a requirement on this show, so why is he too good for it?

I'm not sure if I hated it, but it was certainly awkward how the designers spoke about these "real women". Like they were all the Hunchback of Notre Dame but they were trying SO HARD to be tactful about it. Geez.

Tonight's reason why I love Tim Gunn:

Can you even imagine being one of those super fans and getting to hang out with him? I'm sure he's super nice.

Favorite garment:

I guess I liked Helen's? IDK. I'm not really feeling anybody's aesthetic this season.

Least favorite garment:

Alexandria's girl looked like she was still waiting for the clothing portion of her makeover. Too bad. 

Ken's design was fugly. Why was he so forceful with the other designers, but so meek with his client? Weird.

Best line of the night:

"Stay away. One candy bar is too much and the whole table isn't enough." --Tim

"I'm always on boob patrol." --Heidi

I think this is Kate's competition to lose. Maaaaybe Alexander can pull it off if he gets his head back into it. I'm seriously so bored by all these designs, I hope that by the time the finale rolls around, I'm rooting for SOMEONE! Anyone! Am I alone here?

Lots of cute patterns today for Craftsy's Free Pattern Friday! And don't forget the Fall Sale ending tomorrow!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Little Black Dress

Last week I worked on my first Little Black Dress. Not only is this the first one I've MADE, it's the first one I've OWNED, which seems weird! I met my husband in college shortly before my 21st birthday, so I didn't have many of those hey-let's-go-out-and-look-for-dudes nights that exist in so many single ladies' lives. At least, that's how I imagine it without any facts or data to support me.

For the dress, I used the same self-drafted pattern that I used here on my Little Red Dress. This is a great example of how fabric choice can completely change up a pattern. A while back I ordered some black cotton/modal/spandex knit, expecting a light to mid-weight jersey. When it got here, it was fairly substantial and had amazing 4-way stretch. SO SO yummy. But of course, I only had a yard. Luckily, since there was 4-way stretch, I was able to cut on the lengthwise grain (perpendicular to the selvedge instead of parallel) and made this dress from 1 yard.

The Little Red Dress had almost no stretch to it. I cut the Little Black Dress using the same pattern, but it quickly became clear that I would need to cut this down a lot to get the same body-hugging look. I think I took off nearly 2 inches from EACH side seam. This was the first time I had worked with a garment that required negative ease (i.e. the dress is smaller than my actual body). There was a LOT of trial and error, fitting and pinning and sewing and resewing.

This dress isn't as low-cut as the red version. Instead of sewing a seam behind the neck, I tied the "straps" into a knot. PLEASE don't look too closely at the's not my best work. I serged the back opening but it removed a lot of stretch, and I couldn't get it over my head without popping stitches. So, I had to cut all that off, and the back opening is raw and unfinished.

There was a cool ruffled selvedge and I originally cut with that as the hem, but my husband didn't like it and suggested I hem it (he was right, it looks better without it). I decided to just cut off the ruffled part and the hem is raw as well. I guess maybe if I had a coverstitch machine I could hem it properly, but to be honest this 4-way stretch fabric kind of stumped me! Thank goodness black covers all sewing sins.

The dress served its purpose at the bachelorette party, and now I have a passable LBD for all those fancy parties I attend (ha). Go ahead, invite me to cocktails, I dare you!

It's everyone's favorite day, Thrifty Thursday! Head over to Peek-a-Boo Pattern Shop for today's sale pattern, the Classic Ringer Tee, $4 today only!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Knot Thread Stitch

I hope you're not tired of embroidery yet! Last week I reviewed a great book that covered the basics. Since then, I've been reading Knot Thread Stitch, which takes all of the basics to new places.

The subtitle for the book is "Exploring Creativity through Embroidery and Mixed Media". The subtitle appealed to me because sometimes I have issues seeing how a new (to me) skill can be applied in different ways. The cool thing about this book is that there are a few different versions of each project. There is a basic idea (for example, tea towels) that is taken a few steps further with an "Artist's Version".

It's a bit like browsing through a Flickr pool and seeing many versions of the same pattern. It's inspiring and cool to see new interpretations.

There is a wide range of projects in this book, including embroidered buttons, finger puppets, and one of my favorites, an embroidery portrait.

If you're new to embroidery like me, you'll appreciate how this book thinks outside the box. It's also full of beautiful photos. I must be a kid at heart, because I still like looking at pictures :)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tuesday Tips: chalk

Having trouble marking on a slinky, slippery, dark-colored knit? While working on my Little Black Dress last week, I tried both of my fabric pens, wax chalk, soap slivers, and nothing worked. Every time I tried to mark, the fabric would wiggle away from me. What worked?

Plain ole chalk. I tested a mark on a scrap and found I could easily brush it away when done. For a precise line, use the edge of end of the chalk. Thank goodness I didn't have much marking to do, because my fabric was very temperamental! Try chalk next time you're dealing with one of those pesky knits!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Inspiration: Little Black Dress

Soooo I survived the bachelorette party I mentioned last Friday. Sadly, my cell phone did not. I wish I had a cool story, like "OMG I climbed on a balcony to take a picture of a bird that I was SURE was a bald eagle, but then I dropped my phone 5 stories into a pond". The buttons just stopped working. I guess that's what happens when your phone is 4 1/2 years old. Want to know the best part? I got on ebay and ordered the same phone as a replacement. Suck it Verizon!

Part of the bachelorette party involved dinner out, and our theme was "Little Black Dress". You might remember a few episodes back on Project Runway (the shoe episode) that Tim gave the designers a fashion quiz. One of the questions was about who "invented" the Little Black Dress. I felt a little like a smarty pants because I had just read the answer (Coco Chanel) in The Vintage Pattern Selector.

I found a great slideshow of the LBD through the years here on the Real Simple magazine website. Not to mention all the great examples you can see with a search on Pinterest. Here are some of my favorites:

That last one is actually a sewing pattern! If you haven't heard of Named Patterns, you should take a look. Their patterns are super unique and had me drooling over them within seconds.

Do you have a go-to LBD? On Thursday I'll reveal the one I made/wore to the party. It was pretty fun to see all the different versions of the same concept.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Project Runway reshash!

Spoilers to follow...

What a bad week in reality TV. First the KrisStef brothers get eliminated on America's Got Talent, and now my preseason pick for the winner of Runway is gone. I guess it's time to admit that I don't know everything (just don't tell my husband).

Things I loved:

I enjoyed the Ken/Heidi stare-down on the runway. And that Ken lost the staring contest. I have no doubt that Heidi could take him down in a fight.

Heidi's flight attendant impersonation. Hee.

Things I hated:

Helen's anger over being safe. Her dress was butt ugly. She has a bit of annoying entitlement about her.

And I think it goes without saying that I HATE that Ken is still there. He's been in the bottom FOUR times. I thought it was an unspoken rule that twice in the bottom means you're out. Sigh. And his conversation with his mom didn't make it any better. I wanted to believe he wasn't that explosive in real life...

Tonight's reason why I love Tim Gunn:

Tim is one of those rare people who can be completely blunt with you, even in a bad way, and you don't hate him for it. He definitely saved Alexandria from herself.

Favorite garment:

I didn't love any of them. Bradon's win (Rate the Runway photos here) was a head-scratcher to me. Most people don't put excessive pleats in plaid for a reason. But considering I've never been in a Belk store, I guess I don't know what I'm talking about! If I had to pick one, it would have been Alexander's, but I'm more in love with the fabric than his design.

Least favorite garment:

Helen's was ugly, but Dom and Ken's were beyond boring. When will the people on this show learn that if you make a silky floor-length dress in a bold color, it's automatically a bridesmaid's dress? If the dresses were short, they would have been MUCH better. Dom's second try was obviously great, but I'm disappointed in her for not using it the first time around.

Best line of the night:

"Do you need a hung?" --Tim
"I need prayers." --Alexandria

Please, PR gods, get Ken off of there next week!! By the way, I'm off to a bachelorette party this weekend, so if you don't hear from me Monday I might still be recovering!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Hangout Hoodie

This post contains affilliate links, but all over-excited opinions are my own!

A few weeks ago, Peek-A-Boo Pattern Shop had the Hangout Hoodie on sale, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it!

What's better than a hoodie? Maybe a little toddler-sized, A-line dress hoodie? 

Please ignore the crazy eyes.
She never stops moving and 
photos are always blurry.

The fabric is rib knit from Jo-Ann's, leftover from my sweatpants. I had exactly the right amount, and considering the scraps have been sitting around for close to a year, it was a great use of fabric for me. The purple is cotton velour, from Very Baby. If you're going to wear a hoodie, it might as well be ultra-luxe and be trimmed in velour, right?

I've been having such a struggle fitting AB lately, but the 18 month size worked perfectly. I can see this over leggings or Babylegs whenever it stops being 80 million degrees outside. The instructions are great, and I used my serger for every little bit of the construction (can you say QUICK?!). I went so fast that I accidentally sewed the hood with the seam outside.

Whoops. I decided to make it a feature and purposefully sewed the sleeves on the same way. Then I serged the hem to complete the "sporty" look. I'm still not great at serging in the round (instead of flat) but practice is helping. I love this little hoodie dress, although sometimes AB gets frustrated with the hood.

In the past, I've hated sewing with very stretchy knits because the seams always end up wavy. Just look at the photos of my sweatpants if you don't believe me. With my serger, it only took a bit of testing/fiddling with the differential feed, and I was golden. FYI, I had to turn up the differential feed to the highest setting (2.0 on my Brother 1034D) for the rib knit. It was CRAZY stretchy.

I liked the pattern so much that I also sewed the shirt version!

The bodice is a spandex knit from Jo-Ann's (though I bought it at a garage sale) and the trim is a rayon/spandex jersey from Girl Charlee, leftover from this shirt. These were both random pieces that might otherwise have sat around forever. Yay for scrap-busting!

If you want to buy your own copy of the Hangout Hoodie pattern, click here. The only thing I did differently from the directions was to sew the sleeve cuffs on flat with my serger (before the side seams) so that I didn't have to attach them in the round (with my sewing machine), with those tiny little openings.

Make sure to check out the Flickr group for more inspiration, including this crazy adorable fox version. Can't. Stop. Looking. At. It. And for more Peek-A-Boo fun, today's Thrifty Thursday deal is the Hang Time Basketball Shorts pattern, on sale for $4! These fun basketball shorts even have pockets!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Doodle Stitching: The Motif Collection

On Monday I mentioned the embroidery books I've been reading lately, and today I'm reviewing a great one!

My strategy for books is to look on Amazon and see what's popular, then go to the library armed with that knowledge. Doodle Stitching was #1 when I searched by "embroidery" and I can see why. It was a great introduction to the topic (for me anyway!). There is just enough how-to information to give you an idea of what embroidery is all about, and then there are pages and pages of designs to inspire you further. I was seriously drooling over the adorable mermaids, strawberries, and woodland creatures.

You can put those designs to good use on the projects featured in the book, like napkins, gift tags, and pajama pants.

There are some complaints on Amazon about the difficulty of using the images on the included CD-ROM. I imagine (without any personal experience) that most people develop their own system for transferring designs and can work around those issues. I definitely came away from this book feeling like I could do any of the designs presented.

Sometime soon I hope to purchase a hoop and some basic flosses to give embroidery a try. Since most of my sewing projects are with stretchy knits, I may start with a stable woven bag or something easy just to get my feet wet. Last week when we were on vacation, I really needed a bigger purse to carry around my normal stuff, plus toys to amuse AB when we were at restaurants. Perhaps this tote with pretty peacock feathers?

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