Three Things I've learned About Sewing

Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Coat's & Clark's Thread
(Photo: Coat's & Clark's Thread by Andy Melton CC)

1) The fabric you choose is important. 

A bag may not be durable enough if you don't use heavy-weight canvas or leather. A garment may not drape nicely if you use too stiff a fabric. A waistband might stretch out if it doesn't have enough stretch recovery. A summer top in synthetic fabric may be uncomfortably hot because it doesn't breathe.

2) Use the right needle for the job. 

They may all look the same, but they don't work the same. A leather needle is essential for leather or you may end up with skipped stitches. Knits require a ball point, or you may slice through your fabrics. Use a leather or jeans needle for heavy duty fabrics or you may break some.

3) If you are making your own patterns, always add more ease than you think is necessary. 

Just in case of mistakes that need adjusting. Also, there's stretch that you need to compensate for.

Don't be like me. (I've done it all wrong).

Sewn: Satin Camisole

Tuesday, October 11, 2016
Satin Cami

I hacked my Saltspring Dress pattern to make camisole this past summer and it turned out surprisingly well!

I used the lining piece, lengthened it, and added bust darts. I cut the shoulder straps to 14" so that no ties were required, but I think I might make them a little longer if I were to make another one of these, and also raise the bust darts a bit.

Satin Cami

Instead of a lining, I did a facing around the neckline. It looks a little strange because I used a cheap iron on interfacing that promptly detached, so I did a zigzag stitch to make sure it stayed in place.

Camisole Facing

New camisole! Now I'm one step closer to a handmade wardrobe. I still draw the lines at jeans and sweaters, but the rest is fair game.

Tutorial: Modified Pillowcase / Strappy Swing Top

Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Tie Back Swing Top

This is another easy breezy summertime sewing project. Here's a strappy-swing top that's really just a simple pillowcase top (sans-pillowcase) with a few modifications.

This top was made sort of free-style, but I've attempted to write down the steps for you here. I was inspired by the Majorque blouse for kids that I spotted here and the Pillowcase Dress Tutorial. I really liked the back-tie feature instead of your regular spaghetti straps.

Tie Back Swing Top
Pillowcase Top Front View

You need: 
  • Some thin fabric with good drape. I used a crepe chiffon. Check the Pillowcase Dress Tutorial for how much fabric you need. I started with two 30" width  x 22" long rectangles of chiffon. I didn't want a dress so I made it shorter. For more fullness add extra width!
  • 1 strip of the same fabric 1 3/4" wide x 18" long (for the back of the top)
  • 1 strip of the same fabric 1/3/4" wide x 60" long (for the straps). If you don't have a long enough piece, you can sew a few shorter ones together. 
Tie Back Swing Top
Pillowcase Top Back View


1) Give a slight angle to the sides of the dress: Mark 2" from the top of each piece, and cut a line straight down to the bottom of the rectangle. 

2) Fold all your pieces in half and cut arm holes. See step 2 in the Pillowcase Dress Tutorial. I made the curve a little wider: 4" from side, and 6" from the top. 

3) Sew up the sides of the dress. If you are using a woven, like crepe, French seams work really well here. 

4) Finish the arm holes. See steps 4-6 in the Pillowcase Dress Tutorial. If you are using a woven, fold the arm hole down one more time, and stitch it down to hide the raw edge. 

5) Fold the top of the front and back, and create a casing for your straps. See steps 7-8. 

6) Sew your spaghetti straps. This is the EASIEST way to make a spaghetti strap. I used a shoelace as a guide and didn't sew it down the end, because the long strap is much longer than the shoelace. Every time I got near the end of the shoelace, I pulled it through to continue using it as a guide.

7) When you're done creating your tubes do stitch another lie close tot he first for extra strength, and then turn both straps inside out with a safety pin. 

Easy peasy? Pretty much everything has been almost the same until now, right? Here we tackle the back. 

8) Take your shorter strap and fold it over at one end to make a 2" loop. Stitch it to secure it.

9) Thread the non-loopy end through the back casing. 

10) Stitch down the loop end, so that 1" is sticking out, and the raw edges are inside the casing.
11) Gather the fabric as much as you want, and make a 2" loop at the other end of your short strap. You might have to cut away any excess tube. It really depends on how wide you want the gathered section to be.
12) Pull the unsecured loop halfway into the casing, so that 1" of the loop is sticking out and stitch it down to secure it. 

13) Thread the longer strap through the front casing, and through the back loops. Tie into a bow to secure. You can knot the ends of the long strap to prevent unraveling. You might want to trim them down if they're too long. I liked the long dangling ends, so I left them.

The photo here is how the back should look when it's done: 
Tie Back Swing Top

14) Hem the bottom of your top. If it's too long, now's your chance to shorten it. you can finish it the same way you did your arm holes. 

15) Optional Tip: If you don't want the front straps to slip around, you can also stitch the front strap down at the ends of the casing. This way the neckline will always remain the same length. 

Current Mood: Satisfied. 

I used up most of the fabric leftover from the Saltspring Dress for this top. If you look carefully you can see the front piece is actually two halves sewn together, because I didn't quite have enough fabric to make a square. 

Sewn: Jersey Maxi Skirt

Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Also maxi skirt

First off, a confession. I totally messed up this skirt! I didn't add any extra ease, and then I sewed it inside out by accident. Instead of unpicking the threads, I cut off the seams and sewed them the right way a second time, so the end result was way more snug than I'd have liked.

The pattern instructions I used also didn't take into account a large hip to waist ratio, so it would have been a little tight around the bum even if I hadn't sewn it wrong. SO after snapping some photos I was pretty unhappy with, because BUNCHING, I cut off the fold over waistband and sewed a new one. Now it sits lower and looser, which helps a lot, but it's still a little snug around the bum, so pantylines do show unless I wear something more delicate.

Maxi skirt

The end result is wearable and comfortable though. I think this skirt will be in steady rotation through the fall and spring. Maxi skirts are like jogging pants that I can wear to work without feeling too dressed down in. WIN.

Sewn: Wide Leg Shorts

Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Since the last pair of shorts went so well, I decided to make another pair. I found an old skirt I sewed, but is too small for me now post baby. Man, pregnancy can shift your proportions around, but that's a rant for next time. Meanwhile, LOOK.


I ran out of elastic, and necessity is the mother of invention, as they say. Using these shorts as inspiration, instead of an elastic waist, I created four pleats in front, and two in the back. Then, I added a zipper to the back seam. You can see the back below.


I should have been smarter and added the zipper before I sewed up the crotch area of the pants, so there's a little bunching at the end of the zipper, but I think a good press will work that out. I think a good press will make them look better in general, but I was too excited to show you. Also - I hate ironing. SO here you are.


Instead of serging my seams, I did a Hong Kong finish, because I are fancy like that. I also took two inches off the bottom of this pattern. If you lengthen the pattern instead, you basically also have a pair of culottes. So many variations are possible here, plus it's so quick and easy that when baby woke up from her nap, mama was wearing new shorts. Magic.

Also, this is the third reincarnation of this duster. I love batik fabric so much I couldn't bear to give it away.

Sewn: Saltspring Maxi Dress

Wednesday, August 10, 2016
I don't often buy patterns, but I wanted a maxi dress this summer and couldn't find anything I liked in the store. This is the Saltspring dress by Sewaholic. I had this crepe fabric lying around forever, and thought it might be a good choice for a maxi dress. The end result is so breezy and twirly and comfortable.

Maxi Dress

The construction of this dress was fairly simple, and the instructions were easy to follow. I made two changes though. I omitted the back zipper, and shortened the outside bodice by 1 inch to reduce the blousiness. I also had to shorten it, because I'm short. I'd probably have to do that with a store bought dress too, mind you.

Maxi Dress

It's lined with white satin, so silky smooth on the inside. I had to also line the skirt because the crepe was too see through. As a result, it's a little heavier than I'd prefer for a summer dress, but it feels luxurious.

And it was windy when I was trying to get photos. It would have been amazing to capture the movement in it, but it's tough. I'm going to enjoy this dress though. It looks so much better in person, and I'm so happy with it.

I'm already planning future makes: a camisole? a short dress? a skirt? So many possibilities.

Tutorial: Soft Shorts

Wednesday, July 20, 2016
These shorts are pretty much all I want to wear in the summer. They're loose and airy, and soft. There's almost no worry about sizing, because this pattern is one size fits most, and elastics are my friends.

Soft Shorts

Want to make your own? Here's a quick tutorial. The dimensions for the pattern are below. (Also, save that Amazon packaging paper! It's awesome for patterns!)

Soft Shorts

The shorts require exactly 2 pieces of fabric, with identical dimensions, and enough elastic to fit around your waist.

Soft Shorts

See? Two pieces. The pattern includes seam allowances and hemlines.

  1. Draw the pattern above. Yes you need to take out your Crayolas and a ruler. If it's not perfect, don't worry! Roughly approximate curves will still work out here.
  2. Cut out two pieces of fabric based on the pattern above. Don't forget you have to fold the fabric.
  3. Take one piece, and fold it in half, right sides together, then sew the short curves together. You should now have a partial tube.
  4. Repeat for the other piece.
  5. Take both tubes, align the long curves together, right sides facing, and sew all the way along the curve. When you're done, you'll basically have a pair of shorts, just with a really big waist.
  6. Cut a piece of 1" elastic the length of your waist, wherever you want the shorts to sit.
  7. Sew the ends of the elastic together, so you have a circle.
  8. Fold the fabric at the top of the shorts over the elastic to create a tube for the elastic. Sew all the way around to encase the elastic. You might have to stretch the elastic as you go.
  9. Hem the bottom of the shorts.

Other nice options:
  • Serge or zig zag the raw edges of the inside seams. Since there are only 2 seams, it's not a lot of work. I covet finished seams. Plus your sewing will last longer.
  • Turn under the fabric that encases your elastic so that you hide the raw edge.
  • Take length off the bottom of the shorts, for something more modern looking.
  • Add length to the bottom of the shorts to make culottes.
  • Don't use elastic. Pleat the waist, and add a zipper.

Soft Shorts

The fabric I used here is yet another reincarnated duster, and I love the colors. I prefer wearing tops and shorts to sleep because shifts and night dresses always ride up during the night. Now that I've made these, I want a dozen more! Though, honestly I probably only need two to alternate.

Nest time, another variation! I DID OPTIONAL STUFF.

First Garden Harvest of the Year

Tuesday, July 5, 2016
Things are happening in the garden folks! I haven't had a chance to snap a photo, but the flowers are blooming, the beans have sprouted, and the herbs are almost all ready to use.

Garden harvest1

I couldn't resist clipping some thyme, lavender, and chives. Some of the thyme went into a pot of pasta sauce. Personally I think it tastes so much like oregano it's a perfectly good substitute. Our oregano didn't turn out well, so this will do. I also love the wee flowers on the little bushes of thyme.

Garden harvest2

The chard is already ready to pick, and it's lovely and sweet, and I love the red color. Our weird little toddler grabbed one of the leaves and started eating it raw. Oh, I'm so proud. Instilling a love of vegetables into the kiddo was the whole point of the garden! (Mind you, she just loves food - period. I don't think the girl has tastebuds.)

Garden harvest

And for us grownups, I sauteed the chard with a splash of red wine, garlic, rosemary sea salt (dried rosemary also from the garden), and topped it with some deep fried onions. Tasty. I think it tastes better because of how much work we put into the garden.

Summer Garden Update

Monday, June 27, 2016

Things are growing and in bloom! So far it's just berries, lettuce, Swiss chard and herbs that are ready for picking, but check out those tomatoes! I think we're going to be drowning in them once they're ripe. Time to check out some canning recipes maybe?


And the hydrangeas are beautiful right now. You can't even see the leaves, because there are so many flowers. I love how the flowers gradiate from purple to pink. It makes the yard so colourful! I'm glad we took down the fence at the back of the planter box too. Now the plants get light from all sides, so they're growing like crazy.


Date Night Dice

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A few months ago date nights seemed impossible with baby around, but she's sleeping better and getting bigger. Sometimes it feels like there's never any time for us adults, so we need to make time for each other.

These date night dice could be a fun valentine's or anniversary (or just because) present. We all get stuck in a rut sometimes.
Materials: wooden cubes, black paint, white pen
Time: 10 minutes plus drying time
How to: Paint the cubes black, let them dry, and then write on your date night suggestions. 

Here are some suggestions:
Picnic, Coffee , Long Walk, Drinks, Massage, Candlelight, Restaurant, Ice Cream, Dessert, Try a New Thing, Movie, Boardgames

It might be even more fun to make one cube with locations, and another cube with things to do. For example: 
Places: Park, Couch, Beach, Mall, City, Restaurant
To do: Massage, candlelight, drinks, try a new thing, long walk, good eats

Infinitely customizable. Have fun!
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