UFO busting: When in doubt make a pillow

Pillow bias side

You may have noticed I haven’t spent much time busting UFOs these past couple of months. This doesn’t mean I don’t have any left (if only!), it means I’ve gotten rid of a bunch, which feels pretty good, and simply moved on to creating other things. The new things I made got finished and are being used so I am definitely improving in the “finish what you start” department. Well, apart from that quilt that’s been almost stationary on my design wall since January, but I promise I’ll get to that soon.

Unfinished skirt

I haven’t done much creative things during the past couple of weeks and needed to get sewing again. Preferably with a simple no fuss instant gratification project. I had looked at this unfinished skirt several times already unsure what to do with it. I think I started it over 3 years ago and at the time it seemed like a really good idea to use this fabric for a skirt. Now I think the fabric was never really meant to be used for a garment. It is quite loosely woven and frays horribly. Cutting the pieces on the bias resulted in too much stretch so it ended up way too big. I’m also not so sure anymore that the finished skirt would flatter me all that much. But, what to do with it? Turning it into another garment wasn’t going to work either. And then it hit me.

fraying fabric

Oh the fraying…

When in doubt make a pillow.

Pillows are one of my all-time favourite projects. I should really get a larger couch just so I can properly display my mishmash of pillows in all their glory (you surely must have heard stranger reasons to buy a new couch, right?).

I used the back of the skirt to cut one side of the pillow on the bias and a left over piece of fabric to cut the other side on the straight of grain. To add some stability and minimize fraying both pieces were underlined with some Kona cotton and the edges were overlocked. The bias piece definitely stretched out during this process. Luckily not really noticeable in the finished pillow.

underlined and overlocked edges

I couldn’t find my invisible zippers so decided against making a closure. Instead I sewed all around the pillow right sides together leaving a small gap for turning. Then I stuffed the pillow with the filling of another pillow that was no longer being used because it had become lumpy from being washed too often. Worked brilliantly (and no my new pillow isn’t lumpy!). Finally the gap was closed with some invisible hand stitching.

Pillow straight of grain side

I love my new pillow and don’t care that it doesn’t really match with the rest of our living room décor. It is much more useful than the skirt ever would have been.

UFO busting: It’s all about the zippers

It's all about the zippers bagThe starting point for this bag was my huge stash of zippers. I wanted to create a bag that had zippers as the main feature and all of the zippers in the bag should be functional. After much deliberating I finally came up with a combination of red zippers, black canvas and red cotton fabric that matched the zippers. I must have changed my mind at least a dozen times on the exact design of the bag and which parts should be red and which should be black. This is why it took me more than a year to complete it. My original plan featured much more red fabric on the outside but as I was constructing it I found that it detracted from the zippers. In the end I even had to buy more black fabric because I didn’t have enough left to make the strap that was originally supposed to be completely red. On the inside I added a grey zipper and some grey quilting cotton for the lining of the pockets and I also used it to cover up a stupid cutting mistake.

It's all about the zippers bag

Front (left) and back of bag.

The fashion fabric and lining are both interfaced with medium weight woven fusible interfacing. It gives the bag a lot of structure and as a result it can stand upright on its own and I quite like that.

140221_bag_topThe finished dimensions (l x w x h) are 20 x 7 x 35 cm (8” x 2 4/5” x 14”). It opens with a top zipper.

The front features 3 small zipper pockets and the back one large zipper pocket. (I love pockets!)

The lining has a zipper pocket on one side and a divided patch pocket on the other side. These are great for holding my phone, wallet and keys.

pockets in bag lining

Lining pulled to the outside.

The adjustable shoulder strap is attached asymmetrically to the front and back. I really like this detail because it is a bit quirky. The D-rings that hold the strap are attached to the bag via fabric tabs. I took some pictures during the construction of the shoulder strap so a tutorial on how to make an adjustable strap is coming soon!

Adjustable shoulder strapThis bag is very much me and I suspect that I will use it often. If I want to bring a book or a newspaper on the train I can easily fit it in this bag. In my old bag I can only fit a small paperback. During the year it took me to construct it I often thought that it would have been nice if this bag had already been finished when my other bags were too small or way too big for what I wanted to take with me. I am happy this UFO is finally busted and I call the result a great success!

it's all about the zippers

UFO Busting: Self-drafted A-line skirt

I proudly present what may very well be the best fitting skirt I have ever had. I made the pattern following (most of the) instructions from Craftsy’s “Design and sew an a-line skirt” class. The fit of this skirt is so much better than any RTW skirt I have been able to find. The main reason I hardly ever used to wear a skirt is that I simply didn’t have any good fitting ones. Usually, when I tried on a RTW skirt it was either way too large at the waist or way too tight at the hip. Now I want to make lots more!

Denim A-line skirt

This quite simple skirt turned into an UFO because I probably used inaccurate measurements when I drafted my first pattern months ago. My muslin looked hideous. I decided to toss it and start from scratch. This time, I marked the exact location of my waist, hip and desired hem line on my body so that I would be sure to measure in the right location and also have accurate waist-hip and waist-hemline measurements.

I still had to tweak the side seam between waist and hip quite a bit in my muslin because the difference between those two measurements is quite large due to my pear shape. Perhaps I could get it to fit even better in that region in a next version but for now I’m very pleased with how it looks.

A-line skirt with inset pocketInstead of making a very basic skirt I wanted something a bit more special, so I added a facing, cut up the front and back to do some colour blocking and added inset pockets. How to draft this type of pocket isn’t included in the class but I very much prefer this pocket over the options provided in the class. For example, I detest inseam pockets. Seriously, they always gape and then stand out a little bit from your body and since they’re usually located in the hip region of a skirt or dress they draw extra attention to your hips. I think it is safe to assume that over 90% of Western women does not want to draw extra attention to her hips. So, my advice is to avoid inseam pockets like the plague. It’s not difficult to add inset pockets to an existing pattern, although with hindsight I should probably have made mine a little deeper.

Facing

For the skirt fabric I used pieces of cut up old jeans. I have collected a selection of old worn jeans that I occasionally cut up into pieces and use to make stuff. When I pulled out my stash I discovered I had 14(!) pairs that I hadn’t yet cut into, which, even to me, seems like a somewhat ridiculous amount. Most worn jeans still have areas where the fabric is in very good condition, most often the back of the lower part of the leg. You want to avoid using parts that are clearly worn and the knees. Most denim nowadays contains some spandex and the knees in old jeans have usually become stretched out and baggy. For this skirt I used fabric from 5 different pairs and I really like how they work together. For the facing and pocket lining I used a floral cotton. The facing is interfaced with medium weight woven interfacing.

denim A-line skirtSome of you may have been wondering when I was ever going to post a project for which I used my new overlocker and coverstitch machine. Right now! I finished the seam allowances with a 3-thread overlock stitch and I think the inside now looks very nice and it was so much faster than what I used to do before. The hem was finished with a 2 needle coverstitch and I also really like how that turned out.

Left: details of 3-thread overlock stitch. Right: 2-needle coverstitch on hem.

Left: details of 3-thread overlock stitch. Right: 2-needle coverstitch on hem.

Largest revelations during the skirt drafting stage:

  • I do not need darts in the skirt front (which is actually a very good thing because it reduces the number of darts to sew by a whopping 50%!). Instead I lowered the top of the skirt a little bit at the centre front to ensure that the top of the whole skirt would be parallel to the floor.
  • Pinning a back dart on yourself while simultaneously trying to look in a mirror to see what you are doing puts you at serious risk of a strain injury.
  • My back darts needed to be quite a bit longer than I originally thought they should be.

140201_A-lineskirt4I did find this Craftsy class useful but I thought the teacher was a bit too happy. If you want to learn how to draft a simple skirt it is a good option though and if you start out with the right measurements you’ll most likely end up with a very nice fitting skirt. However, would I buy a skirt drafting class today I would most likely get the “Pattern making basics: The skirt sloper” class as that one seems to be much more versatile. I might still get it, I really want to learn more about pattern drafting, I thoroughly enjoy the process and dress making is even more fun when your finished garments actually fit well.

UFO busting: Knipmode dress turns into Lady Skater dress

My thinking cap has returned and I managed to finish my Lady Skater dress while busting another UFO in the process.

back facing

Ridiculous back neckline facing, it’s supposed to be on the inside of the dress…

This dress started as Knipmode dress 12 from February 2011. It only needed hems but I wasn’t happy with how it looked. It was too large and the back neck facing refused to lay flat (I’m never going to use this method for finishing a back neckline again, it just doesn’t work with knit fabrics.). I suppose I could have fixed it but I didn’t think the shape of this dress was working for me either so my motivation to get it finished had completely disappeared.

I decided to turn it into a Lady Skater dress instead. This would not have been possible if I hadn’t had about 1 meter of fabric left-over.  I was able to cut out the back skirt from the back and front skirt of the Knipmode dress, but had to add a centre back seam in the process. The front skirt, front and back bodice and one sleeve were cut from the piece of left-over fabric. That left me 1 sleeve short. There was absolutely no way I could squeeze it out of the fabric in one piece. My options were to either change to short sleeves or piece the sleeve. I think an unnecessary seam in a sleeve isn’t very desirable. It’s bad enough I had to create a centre back seam for the skirt so my solution was to turn it into an asymmetrical colour block dress! I used some olive green single jersey for the bottom part of the right sleeve. I think it adds an interesting touch. Do you like it or do you think it looks as if I didn’t have enough fabric?

I did make some changes to the pattern pieces before I cut the dress out of fabric to improve the fit even more compared to my previous version and I thought it would be nice to show you what I changed and how that affected the fit.

At the top of the front bodice there was a little bit too much fabric that created some wrinkling. I used some pins to pinch this excess fabric out on my test version dress and transferred the amount of fabric that was pinched out to the pattern piece by folding the pattern the same amount. When you look at the before and after picture below you can see that the fabric in my new dress is much smoother in this area.

At the top of the back bodice there was also some excess fabric. I solved this the same way as I did the front bodice. (I apologize for not using a picture of the same shoulder.) Since the changes I made to the front and back bodice also affected the length of the neckline I also shortened the neckband by the same amount to make sure that it would still fit correctly.

In my test version I had already slimmed down my sleeves somewhat and this had improved the fit but there were still a lot of drag lines. I suddenly realised that my arms were much skinnier than what this pattern is made for and that there was simply too much fabric in this sleeve, especially on the front of my arm. Again I used pins to pinch out the excess fabric and transferred this to my pattern piece. Additionally, I slimmed down the sides of sleeves a little bit as well (using a good fitting sleeve from another pattern as a guideline). I also made the sleeve pattern longer to get rid of the sleeve band.

I am much happier with this dress than I was with the original one and I think I’m going to wear it this Christmas. I still have quite a bit of small pieces of fabric left-over since I didn’t use the original bodice and sleeves for my new dress. Perhaps I’ll be able to turn those into a baby top to get this UFO busted even more.

UFO busting: Living room curtains

Yes, it is true, I have finally busted my most glaring UFO. After 2 years in our current home we no longer have a living room with 3 unhemmed curtains, no, we have a living room with 4 hemmed curtains! No more missing curtains, no more raw uneven edges, no more linings that peep out from under the curtain. It is a weight of my shoulders and to be honest, I’m still having some trouble believing it myself.

That curtain on the left used to live in one of my closets.

Why did it take so long? Well, I just didn’t enjoy this project at all. I wanted these curtains to add warmth to our living room since we live in a house that certainly didn’t have good insulation as a requirement when it was build so I chose a thick fabric for the curtains and added another thick layer of insulating lining. This made the curtains very heavy and a real chore to work with. On top of that, I had to clear (and clean) the living room floor each time I worked on them because I needed a very large surface to lay them out. Sewing should be fun and these curtains most definitely didn’t count as fun.

livingroomcurtains2In the end I managed to complete them because my boyfriend (who started to get somewhat annoyed at the missing 4th curtain) helped out. Having someone else carry them each time they needed to be moved from the curtain rail to the floor, to the sewing machine, back to the floor, etc. and who helped with the fabric manipulation and made sure they didn’t slip off the table while sewing made a huge difference.

Wait… is that… a hem?

Are there no positives at all to this project? Well, I really like the brown/purple colour of the curtains (the colour doesn’t show very well in these very dark pictures) and we did get to play with my skirt marker, or as we really prefer its much cooler German name, my Rockabrunder. I also think that my attempt at adding insulation through the curtains did work. Only now my boyfriend is worried that the weight of the curtains will bring the curtain rails down. We’ll see.

pasta machine

Ooooh, let’s make fresh pasta! Or, maybe not…

This project made me realise that just because you can make something yourself this doesn’t mean that you have to make it yourself. It is a bit like making fresh pasta. Sure, you can do that, and it sounds very appealing, but do you ever make fresh pasta? Like many households we own a pasta machine and like 99% of the owners of a pasta machine we’ve used it maybe twice in the 5 or 6 years that we’ve had it. The thing is, contrary to what some tv chefs want you to believe, you do not whip up a fresh pasta dish in 5 minutes. I usually use dry pasta and when I want something a little more special I’ll get the fresh pasta that they sell in the supermarket, because that already tastes pretty good, right? (Although, how fresh is something that you can store in the fridge for 2 months?) Anyway, the thing is, I don’t bother to make fresh pasta myself because I can buy a pretty decent quality and this is going to be my attitude with curtains from now on. Why bother to make them when you can buy them. My future home decorating efforts will focus on pillows and quilts (just don’t expect anything king sized..).

So, dear friends and family, if you ever need new curtains, don’t come to me. I’m not even going to offer to help you make them yourself, that’s how much I didn’t like it. Although, I suppose, if you’re nice I might let you borrow my Rockabrunder because it was pretty helpful.

UFO busting: Knipmode blouse

I could have finished this top ages ago. I’m blaming shinier projects, unclear instructions, judgement errors and stupid mistakes. I even thought I had finished it about two weeks ago and just as I was almost ready to take some pictures I noticed this:

131015_knipmodetop_cuffsmistake

Right… How did I fail to notice this while I was constructing it???

I can assure you, that was not good for my motivation… I finally unpicked it yesterday and made a new cuff today. Of course, that didn’t even take all that long so I should really learn to just fix these things immediately instead of waiting until the right mood hits me.

That’s much better!

The pattern is blouse 8 from Knipmode October 2011. I am pretty sure I started this top in the winter of 2012. This was in my pre-muslin days and as a result I find that it doesn’t fit as well as it should. For example, I could have done with some more room across my chest. I let out the side seams a little bit, but since I used 1 cm seam allowances I didn’t have a lot to play with. With all the buttons open it is wearable and I’ll probably wear it at least a couple of times. Don’t think it will become my favourite top though.

 

131015_knipmodetop_wrongbuttons

Is it just me, or does anyone else get the feeling they’re being watched?

Because I think it is quite funny I am showing you the judgement error that also stalled the sewing process for a while. I wanted to use buttons from my stash and thought some very light pinkish ones would work well. You guess right, they didn’t.  Just take a look at what it happened when I attached the pocket buttons. Uh uh, very wrong indeed… Unfortunately I had already made all the button holes and cut them open so not only did I have to find new buttons I also needed to find ones that were more or less the same size as the original ones. I was lucky to find something suitable in the second shop I went to.

Anyway, I managed to bust another UFO and it feels really good to have gotten rid of yet another plastic bag in my sewing room.

Do you often have to change your plans for a garment half-way through like I had to with this top?

UFO Busting: Alabama Chanin style cardigan

131006_cardigan3I am in love with this cardigan, it is absolutely perfect in all of its imperfections. It is also completely out of my comfort zone. Who would have thought that I was going to wear an embroidered cardigan and love it? Not me, that’s for sure. I am a no-nonsense girl, my wardrobe consists for more than 90% of solids and typically lacks frilly details. So, how did I end-up creating an all-over embroidered garment?

It all started when Craftsy launched their Hand Embellishing Knit Fabric course that is taught by Natalie Chanin from Alabama Chanin. Alabama Chanin sells completely hand-made embellished garments made from 100% organic cotton jersey. Their garments are very expensive, which is totally understandable once you realize how much work is put into creating each item. For those of us that cannot afford to spend several thousand dollars on a single piece of clothing they sell books and supplies that help you to create them yourself. I became fascinated by this process so I signed up for the Craftsy course and also bought the Alabama Stitch book.

131006_cardigan5

Would the woman who made this pattern still recognize it?

I decided against using the coat pattern supplied with the Craftsy class (it’s huge and I don’t think I’d wear it) but instead made cardigan 17 from Knipmode June 2011, that I already made once before. I did make some adaptations though. The original pattern calls for some voile being sewn in at the hems and shoulder seams, I had already discarded this detail as too frilly in my previous version and left it out here as well. I added 1 inch to both sides at centre front tapering to nothing at the shoulder. I shortened the sleeve to ¾ length because I couldn’t fit a full sleeve out of my fabric, and I usually push up my sleeves anyway. I also rounded up some corners to make it easier to install the ribbing around the edges. For the closure I used a hook and eye instead of ties.

131006_cardigan1Alabama Chanin garments typically consist of two layers of cotton jersey. For embellished versions a stencil is used to paint shapes onto the fabric. This is then embroidered, (reverse) appliqued and/or beaded.

I used 2m white 100% organic cotton jersey and dyed it with procion MX 128 warm black that turned out more grey blue than black, but I love it anyway. The inside layer is a lighter shade than the outside layer because I used a more diluted dye bath for that piece of fabric. The stencilling was done with white paint and the bloomers stencil supplied with the Alabama Stitch book. For the backstitch embroidery around the painted shapes I decided to use all the different shades of green I had in my stash which is probably close to 30 different colours. I love the effect that this creates.  It also made the embroidery part more fun because I could make some design choices along the way. The ribbing was attached with the whipstitch.

131006_cardigan4

I’m sure some of you are wondering how long it took me to complete this project. I keep a sewing logbook in which I write down what I do each day to help me keep track. I started this cardigan on March 16 of this year and worked on it during 46 days. On some days I only embroidered one shape, but I think it is safe to assume that on average I probably worked at least 2-3 hours a day, so in total it took at least 100-150 hours to complete it, but that might still be a conservative estimate. Anyway, I don’t really care how much time it took, all I know is that I ended up with one pretty amazing and unique garment that is for sure going to be a wardrobe staple!

131006_detailsI am definitely going to continue on this handsewing journey. It was a very relaxing process, I kept the project in our living room and worked on it while watching television or listening to music. It was also really nice that I could take this project with me to work on it elsewhere because it didn’t require a sewing machine. Talking about comfort zones, I now also want to try my hand at beading, yes beading.

131006_cardigan2

I just had to add this picture because my boyfriend, who took the pictures, thought it was very funny, so this one is for him!