An Accidental Apron

After making Ginger Flufftail, I made her an apron. I put the apron on her and fell in love with it, so I decided to make myself one.

I loved the circle skirt shape of the pattern for the doll. I looked at patterns online, but nothing seemed quite right and I didn’t want to drive somewhere to print a PDF pattern (I don’t have a printer), so I decided to take the doll pattern and size it up to fit me. The Luna Lapin dolls are 18” tall, and I am 64” tall, so I did a little math and found that I could multiply the doll measurements by 3.5 to get a pattern piece that was appropriate for my height. So that’s what I did.

Once I had drafted my pattern piece, I held it up to myself and made a few adjustments. Then I was ready to go!

I found a gorgeous cotton Duck at Hobby Lobby that had Impressionist Watercolour flowers for the body of the apron, and a coordinating quilting cotton for the binding in a blue spruce colour. There was a limited quantity of fabric, so I cut the strap off my pattern and made this a separate pattern piece. I also had to fold back the edge of my main pattern piece to make it fit on the full width of the fabric, so I lost a little fullness in the skirt.

I am always amazed at how quickly construction is completed in sewing. When knitting, construction takes 95+% of the time spent, whereas in sewing construction could take as little as 5% of total time spent. In this case, construction consisted of four short seams: attaching the straps to the main body, then crossing these over themselves and seaming them onto the apron front. I put the apron on at this point, looked in the mirror, and was enchanted by what I was making!

So on I went to the finishing work. I used an overlock stitch to finish the raw edges of my seams. Then I cut a bunch of bias, ironed it into bias tape, and sewed one side down to the apron. Then I ironed it again and pinned the other edge in place and top-stitched it down. Applying bias to this style of apron is so interesting because there is only one edge, so you can apply the bias all in one pass! I guess this is one of those times when I have to admit that geometry is cool.

With that the apron was finished! I was so happy that it was every bit as swingy as the pattern promised to be! I LOVE how this came out, and I low-key want to make another version that is a standalone dress.

So there you have it – you can take doll clothes and translate them into human clothes with a little math.

Squirrel Alert!

After making Dolores de Lapin (Luna Lapin) I couldn’t stop! I had to make more! I had ordered felt for a rabbit, a squirrel, and a sheep, so I chose to make the squirrel next.

I cut the body pieces out of reddish and white felt from The Felt Pod, and the tail pieces from red faux-fur from JoAnn’s that matched my felt surprisingly well (especially since I bought the faux-fur before I received the felt in the mail!). The feet are scraps from making my plaid Bruyere top.

I learned from making my rabbit, and did as much by machine as I could. These animals take a lot of time and can be really hard on one’s hands to make, so any help I can get from the machine is appreciated.

As with my rabbit, I stuffed the squirrel with alpaca fleece seconds. My kitty enjoyed taking a nap on these while I was working.

I had a hard time with the face. There is a lot going on here, and there is not a lot of space to work in. I found it to be very important to leave the back-of-the-head seam open to sew the throat piece on so there would be room to maneuver the piece around in.

After a few days my squirrel was finished! I whipped her up a cute little cross-back apron (it’s reversible!) and giggled with glee about how cute she turned out.

My sisters helped me name her: Ginger Flufftail. The Flufftails are an ancient family of squirrels that are excessively proud of their voluminous and shapely tails, much like the Proudfoots of Hobbiton are proud of their large and hairy feet. I feel like I should write a book on the subject.

My Own Luna Lapin Doll

I first saw Luna Lapin several years ago on The Crafty Creek’s blog. At the time, I thought Luna was cute, but that stitching a doll by hand was too much effort. And what did I need a bunny doll for? Since then, and it came on gradually, I started to want my own Luna Lapin. I recently saw Sarah Peel’s third book, Luna Lapin: Making New Friends, at my local Barnes and Noble, and my sisters got it for me for Christmas. I ordered my felt from The Felt Pod, and got started.

I traced the pattern pieces for Luna and cut out my pieces. I chose a blue floral for the ears and foot-pads. This fabric was a scrap from something my mom made me as a kid.

I didn’t have any sewing thread on hand that matched my felt, so I used a single strand of embroidery floss to stitch my rabbit. I made sure to wax the thread for strength. I stuffed the rabbit with alpaca seconds from a fleece I was given several years ago.

The final touches were embroidering her face and adding her tail. I used a bit of angora fleece for the tail, which felt like a very appropriate choice.

I sewed on my bunny for four days. I would estimate she took 10-12 hours to complete, but the time was very enjoyably spent. The majority of the construction uses whip stitches, with a little back stitch and machine stitching thrown in for good measure.

With my rabbit done, I started on a simple wrap dress. I used the pattern for Luna’s Sailor Dress, but omitted the collar. I used the lace that was already on this fabric panel (another scrap from my childhood) to lengthen the dress, and closed it with a ribbon tie, rather than buttons or snaps.

I am delighted with how my dolly came out. I’m actually rather surprised by how much I enjoyed the process and how much I love the finished product. I decided to name her Dolores de Lapin (although, she goes by D. D. Hare when she’s feeling adventurous). I have felt for a squirrel and a sheep, too, so watch this space!

Draping a Denim Dress

Earlier this summer I bought two yards of embroidered denim chambray to make a pair of wide-legged pants. But things done always go to plan, and sometimes they turn out better than planned. Instead of making pants I decided to make a dress with the fabric.

I have never draped a garment before, but I have been working on padding up my dress form to my measurements, so it seemed like a good time to try something new. I should have draped on Muslin, but I was anxious to get started, so I used my fashion fabric. How daring!

I sewed up the darts, shoulder seams, and side seams, temporarily installed the zipper and tried the bodice on. I only needed to make a few adjustments before I was ready to move on. Even though the dress form is meant to mirror my body I was still surprised how close I got to a perfectly fitting bodice in just one step! I did make sure to transfer my pattern pieces to interfacing so I could re-use the pattern (I do my patterning on interfacing instead of paper. That way I never have to worry about the paper pattern tearing).

With the fitting done I used my front and back pattern pieces to draft facings. These were meant to be sewn on by machine and then turned out through the shoulders, but I sewed my side seams out of order and ended up slip-stitching the facing down around the arms. At this point the bodice was done (except for the zipper, which I couldn’t install until the skirt was attached).

The skirt would have been extremely simple, except that I wanted to add pockets. The embroidery is placed all along one selvedge, so I used the entire two-yard length of fabric for the skirt. I pleated it to the bodice on the dress form, then made slits in the pleats at each side to add the pockets. I ran out of denim at this point, and ended up using three different fabrics for the pockets!

I seamed the pocket bags on to the slits I made in the skirt, closed the slits with what is essentially a dart, and finished the raw edges. I should mention here that all the raw edges on the dress that weren’t going to be encased were overcast by machine.

With the pocket situation sorted, I finally seamed the skirt on to the bodice and got to try the dress on for the first time! I was blown away by how much I loved it and how pretty I felt in it! I inserted the zipper, sewed up the bottom of the skirt, and sewed the hem. I attempted to minimize visible machine stitching on the dress (except for the zipper), so for the hem I sewed right next to one of the lines of embroidery for an almost perfectly invisible hem (without the trouble of sewing it up by hand).

Then I added a few finishing touches: I tacked down the facings and added a waist tape using 1” cotton twill tape from my stash (this was for peace of mind that the skirt was doubly attached and hopefully for better overall shaping at the waist). And with that the dress was done!!!

I feel so pretty in this dress! I love swishing around in it! if I was being really nit-picky I would say that I wish the bodice was a little smaller at the bust/underarm to prevent gaping, but that extra room makes the dress easier to wear with a top underneath, so I really can’t complain.

I am so pleased with how beautiful this draped dress came out. I already have another dress planned with this pattern, and I will definitely try draping again!

I Made Jeans!

As Me Made May approached this year, I was reminded of the deficit of options for my lower half that I noticed last year.

I bought fabric for two pairs of jeans over a year ago, but I’ve been intimidated by the complexity of jeans design so it took me a while to find the nerve to cut my pants out. The fabric is 11.5 oz stretch denim from StyleMaker Fabrics. I (once again) riffed on the Cigarette Pants pattern from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual.

I started these jeans in December, got the fronts and backs assembled (including the zipper, which was intimidating and very puzzling), then realized that jeans need top-stitching, and put them away for a while.

A couple months later I pulled the jeans out of their hiding place and did all the top-stitching all at once, even though that was very much not the order it was supposed to be done in (and doing it out of order made it more difficult). Ideally I think you would want to sew jeans with two machines side by side: one to sew the seams with thread that matches your fabric, and one to top-stitch the seams with heavy jeans thread. That way you would save time and avoid the need to rethread your machine after every seam.

I am very pleased with the stitching on the pockets. I free-handed my design with chalk and was so pleased with the first pocket. Since it is a simple design I was able to replicate it on the second pocket pretty closely. Then I ironed the edges in and positioned them on the pants using the highly scientific method of holding the back up to myself, then putting my hand where I expected a pocket to be. I checked the position visually, made some adjustments, then did my best to mirror the position for the second pocket. I waited to sew the pockets on until I was convinced the position was correct for both.

With the fronts and backs assembled, it was time to sew the inseam. I sewed the seam and top-stitched it. Then I did a fitting to make sure the side seams fit well, and top-stitched the top 8 inches or so. This was a mostly uneventful process, but the lower leg is a little bit skewed because I needed to narrow the leg, but I didn’t want to undo my top-stitching. It is unnoticeable in the final garment unless you’re really looking for it.

Next I added the waistband. I cut a strip on the straight grain for a 1” waistband. As usual, I sewed the waistband onto the front of the pants, folded the raw edge under, and top-stitched around it with jeans thread. Then I did a machine buttonhole and added a jeans button. I accidentally snipped several of the buttonhole threads when I cut open the buttonhole, so I went over the buttonhole again by hand. I also had trouble with the jeans button and ended up needing to replace it. There is definitely some technique involved when securing a jeans buttonhole. Finally, I hemmed the pants to length, and they were done.

This was my first time making rigid pants, and the fit is very different than you get with a stretch denim or a ponte knit. But once I got past that difference, I found the pants to be pretty comfortable. I am so proud of myself for making these! There are definitely more me-made jeans in my future.

Sewing a Book Quilt – Part 2

Read Part 1 here.

The second set of blocks for my book quilt weren’t books at all, but a set of 4 gnomes for the corners. I used the Nordic Gnome pattern from the 2021 Quiltmas Spectacular. This block is traditionally pieced, rather than Foundation Paper Pieced like the book blocks. I’ve actually never done traditional piecing, so this was a bit of a learning experience for me, and some of my seams are a bit wonky.

The blocks turned out 12 1/2” square, which set the size for the rest of the blocks in the quilt. I took a minute to look up the size of a twin quilt (70” x 90”) and realized I woefully miscalculated the number of blocks I would need(6×8 instead of 4×5). This brings my total number of blocks to 24 instead of the 14 I originally planned on. Which, in turn, means that I need to add 10 weeks to my making schedule for this quilt. An additional 10 weeks is quite a setback, but my original plan only took half the year to make the top, leaving 26 weeks for basting, quilting, and binding. I have never quilted anything before, but if I pick a simple, spaced design it should be doable to baste, quilt, and bind in 16 weeks.

The colour scheme of these blocks is very personal for me. I grew up with 3 brothers in a similar age range to me (my sisters came along about 10 years after us), and my parents used colour assignments to signify whose stuff was whose. My oldest brother was yellow (tan in the quilt), my next brother was green, I was red, and my last brother was blue. Now that we’re adults we’re spread across different states, but it feels good to have the four of us together again, at least symbolically, in this quilt.

Making a Quilted Plague Doctor Mask

It all started at a Renaissance Festival. I saw a woman wearing a quilted plague doctor mask, and I immediately knew I needed one. So I googled how to make a plague doctor mask and this is what popped up.

I was ecstatic that a pattern existed and it used a technique that I was already familiar with! I traced the pattern onto some interfacing and immediately made a mock-up.

I made a few minor fit adjustments, and then got started with the piecing. I used the English Paper Piecing technique to construct each panel, but I decided to skip the papers and cut my batting to shape instead.

I used a range of blue batiks to make the mask. I had already cut about a million 2″ squares for another project in the same fabrics, and unfortunately this size was a little small for many of the pieces, so I spent some time drawing new lines to make the shapes a better size for my pre-cut squares. I traced the new pattern onto some woven fusible interfacing, fused that to some quilt batting, and cut out my pieces one by one. Then it was on to the sewing.

I basted each fabric square onto its corresponding piece, trimming the fabric to size as I did so. Then I whipped each shape to the next one to form the four main panels of the mask. When all the piecing was done I ironed the panels – it was so satisfying to see all the fabrics and seams relax and flatten. Then I ironed the lining pieces to size and pinned them to each of the coordinating outer pieces in preparation for quilting. I used my muslin as the liner, and I am really pleased with how well the colours coordinate with the outside of the mask. It’s one of those tiny details that only I will know about, and it makes me happy.

I quilted each panel by sewing close to each seamline on my machine. I was amazed how the quilting made the panels so much more stiff and stable! I added a bit of bias to the eye-holes in yet another batik, then removed the basting threads and started sewing the panels together (using whip-stitches again).

The mask was finally in one piece, but it wasn’t quite done. I tried it on, just to make sure it fit. It turns out the mask fits my dog, too (he was not happy about this)! The last steps were to make some straps and to sew them on along with the binding. The straps close with a pair of D-rings.

My mask is complete, and I love wearing it! It’s definitely different than wearing a closer-fitting mask and it gets in my way a bit, but I firmly believe that great style is worth a little inconvenience.

How to Make Simple Sewing Pattern Weights

When I was a teenager my mom taught me how to sew. I always had the hardest time getting the pattern to line up with the straight of grain. I would lay it out, pin it, measure, unpin and adjust, measure again, etc. until the pattern piece was straight. Then the whole process was repeated for the next pattern piece. I hated the cutting process because it always seemed to take so much effort to get everything laid out properly.

After college once I was out on my own I started sewing again. For a while I used the pinning method, hating every second of it, then I read something online and realized I could weight my pattern pieces down instead of pinning them. The heavens opened at that moment, and the angels sang. My life would never be the same! Since that time I have been using a random assortment of items to weight my pattern pieces: books, figurines, my phone, an extra pair of scissors … you get the idea. It was frustrating to never have quite enough weights of the right size to hand. So in true DIY fashion, I decided to fix the problem.

In researching solutions to my weighty problem I found several blogs that used small ceramic tiles to make pattern weights. I went out to Home Depot and bought a package of hexagonal tiles (I like that they almost look like EPP shapes), then I bought a few sheets of cheap felt from Walmart. Some other materials I used that I already had were a hot glue gun, hot glue sticks, scissors, and chalk to mark the felt with. All told, I spent less than $20 on my project.

Step 1: Remove the tiles from the backing. I planned to cut through the mesh holding the tiles together, but they actually peeled off pretty easily. I used a pair of scissors to clean up any glue that marred the sides.

Step 2: Trace around the tiles onto felt, then cut the pieces out.

Step 3: Adhere the felt to the tiles. I put a circle of hot glue in the center of each tile to hold the felt in place, then glued down each side as close to the edge as I could manage.

Step 4: Clean up the edges. A quick snip on all sides leaves these pattern weights looking just about perfect.

My sister helped me make a dozen weights, and we spent about 20 minutes on the project. It was fun to make, and I’ve already started using them in my sewing projects. If you’re tired of pins, give pattern weights a try. They might just change your life!

Sewing a Book Quilt – Part 1

As the title suggests, this will be a new series of posts about a quilt I started late last year. I actually bought the pattern in July of 2020, and one of my 2021 goals was to sew the quilt. That didn’t happen for a variety of reasons, but I am determined to make the quilt happen this year.

One of the biggest reasons I didn’t make progress on the quilt in 2021 is because I didn’t have a plan. So this year I started with planning. I knew I wanted to use the Taller Tales Quilt Block Collection for my quilt, but I wanted it to be more than just a collection of books. I added in the Gnome pattern from the 2021 Quiltmas Spectacular, but I still wanted something else. I hit upon the idea of adding words to my quilt, and I remembered the Thomas Jefferson quote, “I cannot live without books.” Pithy and so very true. When I mashed all these elements together this is what I came up with:

I had never done Foundation Paper Piecing before this quilt, and the first block was frustrating and took longer than I expected. Even so, it only took me about an hour, so I decided I could spare an hour a week to make a block. I calculated that if I sewed a block every weekend they would be complete in 14 weeks. I then gave myself two weeks per row of text, making 8 weeks for the center block. Then I planned 4 weeks to assemble the top, for a total of 26 weeks. My timings were meant to be generous since there will inevitably be a few weekends where I don’t make as much progress as expected. If I am able to follow my plan for the quilt top, that leaves me a full half of the year left for quilting and binding. I don’t have that part planned yet – I will figure it out when I get to it.

For the books and the gnomes I am using my scraps from garment sewing as much as possible. These are all sewn onto a plain white ground for continuity. Not all garment materials are appropriate for a quilt, but I have a fair amount of cotton scraps, and even some from my mom that she used to sew me clothes when I was a kid! I love all the memories this quilt will house once it is done! I am avoiding any fabrics that are stretchy or have significant synthetic components. I am not too worried about colours – I trust that my own sense of colour guided my choices when I bought the fabrics, and thus my stash of scraps is already curated to my personal colour palette. This is also meant to be a scrappy quilt, so as long as nothing screams that it doesn’t coordinate anything is fair game.

The last bit of planning (at least for now): I printed off all my FPP papers for the books and the gnomes. I have selected the alphabet I will be using for the center, but I haven’t ordered the book yet.

With the planning out of the way, I got to sewing! So far I have completed 4 blocks (all the same pattern). I only need 4 of this block, so I will be moving on to the next kind of book this weekend. With each rendition of the block I have gotten faster and better at it. Now I can bang out a block in half an hour – and that includes ironing between each step!

I am so excited about this quilt! The small, quick wins every week are so motivating, and I am having a lot of fun with the FPP technique! I’ll update you once I’ve finished the next round of blocks.

Read Part 2 here.

Selfless Sewing: Christmas 2021

Christmas is over, which means now I can share my Christmas makes with you! I have done completely Handmade Christmases in the past. Mostly because I didn’t have money, but I did have time and yarn. As I started to earn more over the years I also started being more strategic about which gifts to buy and which to make. Some years I didn’t make any presents at all. This year I decided to sew gifts for my two sisters.

My middle sister does the most incredible Jack Sparrow cosplay. It seemed obvious that she needed a pirate shirt in her life and repertoire. I used the same basic pattern and instructions as for my own pirate shirt, but with a few modifications. My sister’s shirt is made in a mid-weight linen, where mine is made of handkerchief linen. I also made her shirt slightly narrower – the entire shirt circumference is one Width of Fabric. I did a lapped shoulder seam on her shirt, where mine has no shoulder seam at all. And I sewed her shirt on the machine with French Seams.

Most of the visible stitching, such as at the collar, hem, and cuffs, is done by hand. The buttonholes are done by machine. Doing so much of the work by machine made this shirt MUCH faster than mine, which I sewed completely by hand. My sister was beyond thrilled, and that made me happy.

For my youngest sister I made a pair of plaid pants. Truth be told, I started these for her birthday in August, but then I got bogged down with fitting, and gave her something else for her birthday. It was nice to pull these out a few days before Christmas and have them almost done already! I based her pants off my modified pants pattern (which is based off the Cigarette Pants from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual), and then adjusted them to her measurements. The fabric is from Hobby Lobby. I really wanted to make pants from this fabric for myself, but I had already made myself a pair of grey plaid pants earlier in the year, and two pairs of plaid pants in one year seemed like overkill. The pants turned out fantastic! I accidentally cut them too short for a double-fold hem, so I finished them with black fold-over elastic instead.

Do you make Christmas gifts or do you prefer to buy presents?