Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Post Christmas Post

I had a white Christmas! In all my 28 years I've never had a white Christmas. The news reported that this was the first snow on Christmas day since 1963. I know you Northerners (or Southerners in the other hemisphere) are looking at my photo and laughing. It was about 2 inches. But still, it was pretty.

I'm going to have to reevaluate my Christmas craftiness next year. I had dreams of grandeur of making all sorts of lovely handmade things for everyone (in keeping with my pledge). It didn't quite happen the way I'd anticipated. I knew, being a teacher, that I'd have a full week off of work to sew before Christmas. So, I pretty much procrastinated and did nothing beforehand. Then, when the time came to sew--- there was the plumbing emergency. Yep, plumbing. I can't even explain how not fun it was. There were several times I cried when awful plumbing things kept happening and I could only see dollar signs flashing before my eyes. I spent two full 12 hour days being my Dad's plumbing assistant (thank you, Dad!). Anyway, long story short it ended up turning out okay, but the time was already spent.

I did manage to crank out a few gifts just in the nick of time. I made several flax seed eye pillows. I used some rayon challis I had because I thought it should have a slippery, slinky feeling. I made one for myself, too, and it is fabulous. I popped in the microwave for about 20 seconds and wrapped it around my sore neck- reusable heat pack!

My brother the chef received a lovely pair of onion pants. I made them as pajama pants, but I think he may actually be able to wear them to work.

I used some leftover onion fabric scraps to make my grandmother a reusable shopping bag based on Ikat Bag's Strawberry Bag Tutorial. I didn't have any red polka dot material and couldn't figure out how to make it look like an onion, so I made it in to a turnip.

I'm actually still sewing Christmas gifts as we speak. I gave my other brother and sister-in-law an IOU (so lame!). There were other things I wanted to make, but not enough time. Next year I will start earlier.

In other news, I must have been pretty good this year! I had a seamstress' Christmas. I'm going to shamelessly brag now and tell you what I got. I got several sewing books, The Perfect Fit, Fit for Real People and Pants for Real People. I'm excited about the last one as I think I'm going to follow along with The Cupcake Goddess' Trouser Sew Along, though I'm going to use a different pattern. I also got a subscription to Burda magazine. And, as a proud member of the L(G)IRC I'm happy to report that I received 3 yards of a beautiful red linen from my aunt and uncle. But, my most spectacular gift is this:


A dress form! I haven't named her yet, but I will. I thought about dialing her back in for the photo so you'd think I was really tiny-- too much trouble, though :) She has already come in handy. I printed a Burda pattern today, cut the pieces and held them up to her and I could see where I needed adjustments. Just like that! I've already learned that my torso needs about an inch or so more length (according to the few big 4 patterns I compared my measurement to) and that my neck circumference is much smaller than my usual pattern size (weird, I know). Do you remember the trouble I've had fitting things around my neck, especially at the back? I think the dress form will bring me one step closer to finding a solution. I want to sew a cover for her to cover those gaps, though. Does anyone have this sort of dress form? It's a Dritz. I've read that you can use a Spanx-type tank top or sew your own somehow. I've also heard that its beneficial to dial it down and then pad it up to your measurements. Anyway, I'm totally psyched. Way to go, Mom and Dad.
Wishing you all a happy New Year!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Hey Lady

I came. I tailored. I conquered.

Weelll......sort of. If you consider conquering to mean completing, then yes- I did :)
I finished my Lady Grey this week. I put the last finishing touches on her as I was going out the door to a Christmas party Saturday night. Nothing like a chance to show off your work to make you finish it up quick, right? I was frantically stitching on belt loops and slip stitching the lining to the shell just minutes before we had to leave.

All in all, I am so pleased with the final product. It is far from perfect but I learned so much during the process that I can't help but be proud. My only major complaint is that it ended up too big (so strange!). See how it bunches up around the waist with the belt tied? I am almost positive that the reason behind this is that the wool stretched while I was applying it to the hair canvas. I think I picked the most difficult wool for this type of project. It is a wool flannel twill, very lightweight and thin. The twill weave is loose which is what allowed the stretching, I believe. So, as far as this being a tailored jacket, as in tailored to me and my measurements-- it's not a perfect fit. Ah well.

But I am in love with the color! I can't describe it as anything other than red. Bright red. It's lovely. The minty green lining was also an intentional choice. I have been drawn to complementary colors in all sorts of design lately. Complementary colors are colors that are directly opposite each other on the color wheel, like red and green, orange and blue.... They have the most contrast. I've been gravitating towards complements but with a little variation, like this bright red shell with the tinted blue green. They are a perfect pair. And perfect for Christmas, too! Though that was unintentional since I thought I'd be finished long ago.

I had some major issues getting my lining to sit right in the coat. This was a time that I really needed a dress form. I think my silk twill was a bit too heavy for a lining. It also frayed like nothing I had ever seen before, but only on the cross grain. I used a little fray check around places where I didn't want to lose too much fabric, like the top of the sleeve heads. I had a hard time getting the lining to sit right, especially where I slip stitched it to the shell. I ended up stitching it to the shell three different times before I got it to lay properly. It is a little off in places so I attached a lace hem tape to cover some of the unevenness.

I can't believe it's finally done. I didn't really know what I was getting in to but I am so glad I followed through and finished. I learned so much during the process. I learned new and advanced techniques but I also learned how to do some basic things better. I added some incredibly useful tools to my sewing arsenal. I learned that I love catch stitching and slip stitching, or anything to hand finish a garment. Tailoring is interesting. It's not something I'm going to try again anytime soon, but after I have some more sewing experience under my belt I look forward to revisiting this sewing adventure.
to top it all off, I ended up with a fabulous new coat!

I love how the sleeve lining peeks out a little.


If you are interested, here are links to my other Lady Grey posts: making my muslin, bound buttonholes, assembling the coat and also a link to the Lady Grey flickr pool. Thanks Gertie, for a fascinating sew along!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Fabric Origami Box Tutorial

These little origami boxes make me think of Christmas. My mom taught me to make these when I was little. We always made them over the holiday using last years Christmas cards. Now, I teach my students to make origami boxes the last week of school before the break. We use scrapbook paper, construction paper, wallpaper, anything really. I was making a few examples the other day and thought, I wonder if this would work with fabric? Well, yes it does my friends! Inspired by Sew Mama Sew!'s Green Grocery Bag Challenge , I made several little fabric boxes to house various small gifts (not exactly a reusable bag, but reusable nonetheless). I'm making mulling spice sachets for coworkers to put inside. I thought you, my lovely crafty sewing blogger friends, might enjoy making some, too. The teacher side of me hopes I have explained this perfectly, but seeing as this is my first tutorial... I hope it makes sense. You may want to try it with paper first.

1. Start with a square. I've always made them smaller, but you can start with any size square. I cut two 9" x 9" squares from two different fabrics and fused the fabric squares to some heavy duty craft or home decor bond. I used Pellon Craft Fuse. You need some sort of interfacing that will hold a crease. I've heard about fabric stiffeners but haven't tried any- that would probably work, too.

2. Fold your square in half vertically and horizontally and press folds. I press every fold with my iron, but only the crease. You want every crease you make to be seen in the end when you are assembling your box. Open up your square. You will see a cross- where the lines cross marks the center of your square.

3. Fold each corner in to the center, pressing folds as you go.

4. Fold each side in to the center, matching up opposite sides like a double door. You will have to do this step twice to do all four sides. Do the first two sides, press, then open out and do the other two sides, press.

5. Now open out the whole thing back to the original square of fabric. You should be able to see all of your creases. In the center there should be a square with an X in it. That is the top of your box. You will cut along the fold lines to each corner of the center square (from opposite sides). I've marked the square with the X on my fabric and marked the cutting lines with a dotted line.

6. Assembling the box: The longer, skinny triangles are the last thing folded ( the flap that folds over and holds everything together), so start with one of the larger triangle sides.You are just refolding where you already have a crease. You are not making any new folds. Fold in the outer little triangles. Fold in the top triangle. Fold up the side of the box. Repeat on the other side.

See the little box forming?

7. If you cut perfectly, the long flaps should hold everything together and you shouldn't need any glue, but..... I needed glue. I put a smattering of fabric glue all over the strip of fabric left unfolded, even in the center. Then I folded the remaining flaps over the sides to form the box. I pressed the edges of the box once more to make a nice crease.

8. Now repeat the above to make a bottom box. If you want, you can cut your bottom square of fabric an 1/8" smaller so it fits together better but it's not necessary. You can pinch the corners to make it fit.

I sewed a button on the top of these, but I'm partial to the gold and silver ones I made later with the fabric flowers on top. Tuck a little present inside and you are finished!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Stockings

Plain old white Christmas lights are *yawn* bor-ring. I need color. And shiny things. Silver tinsel and mismatched ornaments that all have a story. Things that flash on and off and those vintage colorful tree lights that have the potential to burn your house down. You know, the ones that have a bubbler every so often. That is what I remember as a child. That is what makes me think of Christmas.

I made some stockings this week. J and I technically had our first Christmas as a married couple last year, but we were honeymooning in Puerto Rico at the time (I know, poor us). This is the first year that we are decorating our house and I realized that it is time for us to start collecting ornaments and decorations of our own. These stockings are the first installment. I drew a stocking shape on a piece of paper for a pattern and used it to cut from two different fabrics. One side is green and red, the other side and cuff are a shiny metallic red. I had to add some pom pom trim to finish them off. So much better than store bought stockings, don't you think?
Wishing you all a very shiny, flashy, mismatched and colorful Christmas!

My cat has decided that all Christmas decorations need to be shredded and destroyed.