Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Lydia's Dress - Hallowedding!

Congrats again to Alison and Justin!!!

This project was really fun - but I had a lot of difficulty with fitting because the woman I was making the dress for was in Philadelphia and I was 5 hours west - so as a side-note, when you make a dress for someone or any article that needs to be fitted, DO SO IN PERSON.

We used Skype, my friend's fiance safety pinned things and then my poor sister had to make sense of the mess we made. Though it worked out in the end, and my sister did a lovely job, I was unhappy with my final result because the areas that we had to take in at the end should have been altered before the bodice was put together.

This was the pattern I altered and used.

Let's face it, hoop skirt dresses are not flattering on anyone. I would wear the crap out of one though, for the record. Since this was a Hallowedding, the bride needed to be hot, not frumpy. So this is the pattern we found and I made some alterations to make it more Lydia-like.

We ditched the sleeves and decided she could find long gloves. Then I made some decisions so that the dress could be worn again and not look like a Halloween costume. I made the train detachable and I made a ruffled collar that was also detachable.

I overlayed aspirin dot lace with a shiny, satin-like bridal fabric for the bodice and skirt.

I took Alison's measurements and altered the bodice and skirt pieces as needed.

I really need to replace my sweet vintage mannequin with a new one that isn't so broken. I set my mannequin to Al's measurements as best as I could and fit the bodice pattern pieces to the mannequin as closely as possible. THIS IS THE WRONG WAY TO DO THIS! Normally, you would fit the paper pieces to the person, pinning with appropriate seam allowance.

Then I cut the pieces, enforcing the high tension areas as described in the directions. I used my rotary cutter with a pinking edge. So awesome.

I applied boning where necessary. Haha, boning. The kind I used can be sewn through! This means I didn't have to make casings, which saved a lot of time.

These are the lining bodice pieces with boning in place. Haha, boning.

Then I overlayed the lace on the shiny fabric and sewed it in place around the edges with a loose straight stitch so that it could be removed later. This helps keep the lace in place without using pins and keeps wrinkles out of the lace.

Here are the overlaid bodice pieces. Haha, laid.

Here is the bodice pieced together. I wish I could have fit this to her before I sewed these pieces together. *Sigh*

After putting together the bodice, I switched to the collar. I used the collar pieces from the pattern as a guide. I overlaid the collar pieces with lace and created my own design for the ruffle.

I used two layers of ruffled lace and finished the edges with ribbon. (Like I did for my living room curtains!)

I created loops with cording for the button fasteners and purchased satin covered, shank buttons.

Next I attached the lace to the top of the bodice. This was tricky since the lace was pretty delicate. The pattern for this left the back open above the zipper with a clasp at the neck. I carefully handsewed the lining in place around the armholes and along all upper edges of the bodice. I finished all raw lace edges with the same ribbon from the collar.

After this, I made the skirt and attached the skirt to the bodice. I put the zipper in, hemmed the bottom of the skirt and added a clasp at the top of the zipper. Then I carefully hand sewed the lining from the bodice to cover the raw edges where the skirt and bodice meet and around the zipper. The final part of construction was the train.

I cut the pieces and sewed them together, leaving a thumb hole in the back. Then I gathered the top as instructed but instead of sewing this to the bottom of the skirt as instructed, I used a ribbon to cover the raw edge. Once this was sewn in place I used small metal snaps to attach it to the bottom of the skirt. This took forever.

I finished the bottom of the train with the thin ribbon.

And it was done! Or so I thought....

I mailed it to Alison at this point and we found that it was much too big. (Thank god it wasn't too small...) This was when we Skyped so I could try and see how much I needed to take it in, and where.


Because of time restraints before the wedding, the physical distance between us and the fact that we were both taking midterms in graduate school - this was the best we could do. I put some darts in the back of the skirt and took in the back panels of the bodice - which was not the correct way to fix the problem. I should have taken the bodice apart and taken in even amounts from each piece's width, doing the same for the skirt. I didn't have the time.

My sister fixed my crappy darts and made the fabric lay properly - she was able to meet with Alison and see her in the dress. Then she took in the train and had to re-sew the freaking snaps in place. Wow.

I will post pictures of Al in the dress when I can get my hands on some!

More soon!!



When I moved out of Philadelphia to western Pennsylvania, my first house project was curtains. I re-purposed some fabric that I had used as a canopy over my bed and fashioned some bathroom and living room curtains. I waited to do this until my mom came to visit because she is a curtain-genious.

We set up dueling sewing machines!

First we measured the windows and came up with a plan for the living room. Then my mom did math. This lacey fabric rules because it doesnt fray so there was no hemming involved apart from the top. We had limited fabric for these two windows so we had to be pretty exact. We decided on two long panels per window and then figured we could wing something as valences out of the remaining scraps.

Here we cut the 4 panels quickly by folding the fabric in half lengthwise and then cutting the fold. This made it easy to measure the appropriate length for the window height and visualize what we had left for the valences since the fabric was one long piece.

This is one panel. My mom is gesticulating about the hem at the top from where they hang. This hem was about 3 inches.

Each panel was slightly wider than the window, creating a generous gather. For the valences, we cut two squares in half diagonally as seen here. This allowed us to keep the direction of the fabric pattern on the valences consistent with the panels. The hems for the triangular valences were a bit different. Since the valence covers the panels, the panels have simple hems and will not be seen. For the valences we created some decoration at the top by folding over the hem and sewing a tight fitting, one inch space for the hanger to slide through about one inch from the top of the fold. The inch or so at the top created a bit of a ruffle.

Here are two panels hanging for one window. Then we hung two valence pieces for each window where the right angles of the triangles were in the upper corners of the window and the points met at the top center of each window.

Here you see the ruffled top of the valence above the hanger. Again, this was done by sewing the hem a short distance below the top fold of the hem. The hem was folded and the first seam was sewn one inch below the fold. Then a second seam was sewn one inch below that. Then the hanger was inserted into the second one-inch space.

As a finshing touch, I used a thin ribbon to accentuate the bottom edges of each piece of lace. I used a long, straight stitch right in the center of the ribbon, making sure the ribbon just covered the bottom edge of the material. This slight added weight made the ripples in the fabric stand out a bit more.

When making curtains with valences you need double curtain hangers. The inside hangers need to have a shorter width than the outside hangers. Don't get the same width hangers for both the panels and the valences or you will be going back to the store. Save yourself the headache.

For the bathroom curtain, I decided to use this fabric. I originally planned to use this fabric as triangular flags around a canopy piece for my bed, but I never finished that project. I had several triangles made so we decided to make a curtain for the once bathroom window and use the already-made triangles as a shower curtain decoration.

Here is my mom using using genious math skills again, cutting several layers at once to create even triangles... She took over this window project so I just kept refilling her wine glass and focused on the shower curtain triangles.

I used my overlock machine to sew my triangles and then flipped them to the right side and sewed the tops closed.

I ended up with 2 different sizes of triangles because I am no good with math and I couldn't properly copy my already made triangles. Mom's came out perfect.

The triangles on the edges were perfect halves. This piece was also double sided so she turned this inside out and sewed in a hem at the top for the hanger, creating a ruffle at the top. Then with some extra fabric from the living room curtains, she fashioned a cute ruffled backdrop with triangle cutouts in the bottom. Super-genious.

I used my Singer button-holer machine to create two holes at the top of each triangle. This machine only fits on certain, older Singer machines. I use a 99K with this attachment. Someday I will make a post about my machinery. I've been saying that for a while...

From here I overlapped the edges of each triangle and arranged them so the larger triangles were on the ends.

I went back later and added pom-poms, cause duh.

Thanks Mom!


Pillow Shams - Wedding Gifts

Grad school has slowed down my blogging but I am still sewing away! This project was completed in early September. These are pillow shams with embroidery. The center pillow is just a small pillow and the ones with names are cases.


The first step was deciding how large I wanted to make the throw pillows. ALWAYS USE STANDARD MEASUREMENTS FOR CASES IF YOU PLAN TO USE INSERTS!!! Otherwise you will be making your own inserts. Look in craft stores to find out what size inserts are available and make your finished cases 2 inches SMALLER than the inserts you will use. I recommend buying the inserts when you buy your fabric.

I used a linen fabric as the main material because a large weave makes embroidery a bit easier. I initially wanted to cross stitch the names but after playing around with it, I decided simple embroidery would look nicer and be more visible.

I cut one large square for each front of the two larger pillows and then cut two pieces for the back of each sham. The idea is that the two pieces in the back will overlap by 3 inches, which is enough to stuff a pillow insert into the sham. The fabric for the borders overlaps with the large linen square making the whole pillow case more sturdy overall.

Linen frays easily because it has a large weave so I used an overlock stitch on all edges of the linen pieces before sewing any pieces together. I measured the decorative fabric and then pressed the raw edges over about a quarter inch along all of the edges framing the area where I would be embroidering and then sewed them in place.

At this stage, I began the embroidery. I wanted to mimic the striped pattern in the lettering so once i figured out a plan on paper, I penciled in my letters and began stitching.

I used a cheap plastic embroidery hoop to keep my fabric taut while stitching. I used a thickness of 3 strands of embroidery thread for this project. I recommend not tightening the hoop too tight, it should allow some movement in the fabric.

The hoop is tight enough to make it easy to work with but not tight enough to distort the fabric or be able to play it like a drum.

At the end, I added some stripes in the enclosed spaces of the letters with tiny cross stitches.

After the embroidery, the shams needed to be pressed. I used a steam setting - which was a little dangerous to do on the embroidery thread since the color can run. Pressing from the back or using a towel inbetween the iron and the work is a safer way to press with steam if you are worried about color bleeding.

For the center pillow, the front sides of the fabric were sandwiched together and stitched all the way around, leaving a few inches open at the bottom center of the pillow. I used a quarter inch seam in all stitching. Then I turned the work inside out and stuffed the pillow with polyester stuffing - as full as i could stuff it - and hand stitched the opening closed with a hoop stitch.

For the shams, I made a one-inch hem on each of the two back pieces for each pillow. Then, with right sides together I placed the two back pieces overlapping at the middle of the pillow and lined up with the outside edges. I sewed this in place with a quarter inch seam ALL THE WAY AROUND. There was no break in the stitch since the work could be flipped inside out at the opening of the sham. I used a shorter stitch length for this stitch. After the straight stitch, I used an overlock stitch on the raw edges to minimize fraying since these pillow cases will eventually be stuffed and unstuffed with inserts and washed or drycleaned.

After turning out the pillow cases, I stuffed them with inserts. The general rule for inserts is to use an insert that is about 2 inches larger than the measurement of the pillow case. I think my measurement for each sham was 14 inches along each side so I used 16 inch inserts. ALWAYS USE STANDARD MEASUREMENTS IF YOU ARE GOING TO USE INSERTS!!! Otherwise you will be making your own inserts.

I recommeded that these pillow cases be spot cleaned with cold water when necessary or dry cleaned. Since the embroidery thread is dark there is a good chance that the color will run in a regular washer so I would not recommend letting these soak.

These make great wedding gifts!

Congrats to Phil and Sheena!!!


Monday, July 22, 2013

Reupholstery: Final Reconstruction!

On the previous reupholstery post, I had finished sewing the new cover. Now I needed to attach the cover to the frame.

The first step was attaching some padding around the rim of the chair. If you remember from the beginning posts, I removed padding that had been stapled around the metal ring:

So I went out and bought a cheap, second hand quilt to use as the new padding.

I pulled the stuffing out of the quilt and stapled this around the metal ring.

Voila! Next, I added another layer of the old quilt to the seat of the chair and put padding over that last part of the metal you see in the front.

Then I started attaching the cover to the frame. First, I needed to cut some holes in the back of the burlap seat for the ties to reach through. This anchored the whole seat cover into place. Then I tied and stapled the rest of the ties in place.

After that, I had a friend help me to stretch the fabric over the padding and secured the seat cover in place with my staple gun.

Then I slowly went around the rim of the chair and lined the edge of the cover with staples.

I actually removed the first round of staples and replaced them with a neater row because I needed the space behind them to attach the last piece of the cover.

After the cover was in place I added the last backing piece.

Now only the staples from attaching this piece were visible. Then I put the legs back on, and the chair was finished!!!



Up next, I will be making a wedding dress for a friend - it's a Halloween wedding and they will be dressing as Beetlejuice and Lydia!!! Stay tuned!