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!

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.

Handkerchief Musings

When I made my linen bedsheets I cut squares out of the corners for the corner boxes. Instead of wasting the linen scraps I decided to make handkerchiefs! Handkerchiefs have been around in some way, shape, or form for as long as people have needed to wipe their hands and faces. I was surprised to learn a few years ago that mens’ and womens’ hankies are not the same size (a standard man’s handkerchief is 12″ square, while womens’ hankies vary from 8″ to 10″ square). Was this yet another subtle sexist thing? Why weren’t women allowed to have hankies as big as those men used? One of the joys of being a maker is the ability to make things just as you want them. I resolved to make myself a 12″ hanky.

I had 4 offcuts from my sheets, and they were roughly 19″ square. But they weren’t actually cut square. I didn’t draw a thread when I cut the corner boxes out, and the pieces turned out pretty ragged. To make my first hanky I drew threads to create a true 12″ square, then cut my hanky out, and hemmed around all 4 sides with whip stitches. Easy peasy. But I was annoyed with the waste cutting a 12″ square caused. The remaining pieces were 6″ wide and 12-18″ long. I could piece them to create a second 12″ hankie, but it just wouldn’t be as pretty (or fold as nicely) as a piece with no seam.

For my second offcut I cleaned up the edges, and divided the piece in 4. I followed the same finishing steps as for the larger hankie: small double-fold hem secured with whip stitches. These hankies turned out between 8-9″ and almost square. The lack of waste (other than cleaning up the ragged edges) was very satisfying.

Then I started using the linen hankies instead of my regular Kleenex. I was surprised to find that I actually preferred the smaller size hankies instead of the larger. I guess this is one of those conventions that is actually due to personal preference instead of being a result of sexism.

I love my new hankies. I’m considering embroidering initials or flowers on the corners, but that is a project for another day. I learned an important lesson, though: sometimes I make assumptions about things, but once I learn more I find that my assumptions were wrong. There are a lot of things wrong with this world, but just because something seems unfair doesn’t always mean it is, or that it was meant to be. I don’t believe that people are inherently good, but if you let yourself see things in a positive light you can be amazed by the goodness of ordinary people.

Tackling the Mending Pile

This week I am tackling my mending pile. If you, like me, have a pile of mending to do, why don’t you join me? Let’s see how much we can get done.

  • Tops
    • Bees shirt – fix gaping neckline
    • Burnt Orange shirt – sew up side slits
    • Blue Adrienne – adjust sleeve elastic (possibly replace sleeves with linen)
    • Green Adrienne – add strap guards, remove small stain
    • Edwardian Blouse – add peplum and closures
    • Bruyere Shirt – adjust waist
    • Embroidered linen top – fix loose embroidery
    • Black Long-Sleeved shirt – fix hole in front
    • Cream Lace Top – hem thread is coming out
  • Bottoms
    • Cream Shorts – finish internal seams, add waistband OR hook and eye closure
    • Herringbone pants – add waistband
    • Floral Plaid pants – adjust waistband
  • Other
    • Patch quilt

The first item I worked on was a burnt orange t-shirt. This was a recent thrift store acquisition and I fell in love with the colour and the interesting cut of the back. Unfortunately, the sides were slit all the way up to the natural waist. I’m not sure if this was where the slit was meant to be, or if it was so high because I’m long-waisted. I sewed the slits up with a whip stitch leaving just under 2″ open at the bottom. This took 10-15 minutes before I started work one morning.

Item number 2 was my Edwardian blouse. I only got to wear it once before it was shrunk in the wash. I unpicked the closures and cut off the neckband and hem. I cut out a peplum using a half-circle skirt pattern, and pleated the bodice to fit. Then I sewed the closures back on and hemmed the new neckline. I won’t say this was an easy fix, but I think it turned out quite nicely. This fix took 3-4 hours.

Item number 3 was my Plaid Floral Pants. I was a few pounds lighter when I made these pants earlier this year, and they were tight in the waist even then. I unpicked the stitching holding the waistband closed on the inside, unpicked the zig-zagging holding the elastic waistband down, then cut the waistband and inserted 2 more inches of elastic. Then I reversed the process: I zig-zagged the waistband elastic onto the waistband, then folded this down and stitched the waistband down on the inside. The pants are still fitted, but are much more comfortable to wear. Bonus: I like where the stitching holding the inside of the waistband down is located better now than where it was before. It’s less visible, and thus provides a slightly cleaner finish. This alteration took 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Item 5 was my Bruyere shirt. I meant this to be a wearable toile, so I went with the size listed on the pattern envelope and didn’t make any major alterations. The shirt turned out a bit tight at the waist. I think this is partially because the waistband sits too high on me – it sits on top of my rib cage rather than just under it at the true waist. I let the side seams out by 1/4 inch each, resulting in a gain of around an inch at the waistband. This took maybe 15 minutes.

Item 6: My black long-sleeved Alabama Chanin shirt had developed a few small holes in the front. I closed these up with a few whip stitches on the inside. I was able to sew these vertically to align with the ribs in the fabric, so the fix is nearly invisible from the front (The small mark you can see is a mending job for a horizontal hole. It’s amazing the difference in visibility!). This was a simple mending job that took 5 minutes or less.

Item 7: My green Adrienne blouse was too loose in the shoulder elastic. I could have unpicked the seam that joins the sleeve to the body and shortened the elastic, but that seemed way more complicated than it needed to be. Instead I added strap guards using twill tape and a few sew-on snaps. This was a fiddly fix that took about an hour and a half (but only 4 needles-full of thread).

Item 8 was another new (to me) top. The hemstitching on the lace shell had come loose. I did a quick running stitch to tack this back into place. This took 5 minutes or less.

I imposed a time limit of a week to work on my mending, knowing that I would not make it through my whole list. I am really happy with the 7 garments I mended or altered (or edited, as my husband termed it), though there are one or two more that I wish I had gotten to. The time limit was helpful in keeping me from obsessing over mending to the point where I lost all the joy in it, especially since I have quite a few new projects in my mental queue for this Winter. I would highly recommend tackling your mending or alterations pile. I now have 7 garments that are more wearable and that I will not pass over when getting dressed.

Ruffle Mania

I’ve written about my Bruyere shirt and how much I love it. I’ve also written about my Juliette blouse and the things I like and dislike about it. I wanted to try combining my favourite things about both patterns to create a top that was beautifully feminine and a perfect fit.

My plan was this: I wanted the Bruyere shoulders, neckline, and shaped hem, and I wanted to double the Juliette front ruffles and keep the relaxed body fit. I also wanted flutter sleeves and a slightly ruffled collar. I combined the fronts and backs of both patterns to keep the things I liked, but not the things I preferred to leave behind. I drafted the flutter sleeves using this tutorial and the circular collar based on the neckline curve of my front and back pattern pieces.

Once the drafting was done I cut all my pieces out and hemmed my front ruffles, sleeves, and collar by hand.

With all the prep work out of the way I moved to the sewing machine. I generally followed the instructions for the Juliette blouse when making this up. It was difficult to get the front ruffles to align, but the beauty of ruffles is that the overall effect hides any minor errors in sewing. Once the front was assembled I worked on the back. I don’t know where my head was, but I had to re-do every single step on the back due to simple errors. After sewing and ripping and sewing again I finally had my back assembled. Next I sewed the side seams. Before I added the sleeves and collar I did a quick fitting and adjusted the neck opening. With my neck adjustments made I sewed on the collar and flutter sleeves.

I used several different methods to finish the raw edges on this garment. As mentioned earlier, all the outer hems were done by hand for the cleanest finish possible. The front seam was felled down by machine, but I found that this was more visible than I like, so I plan to rip this out and do a mock French Seam finish instead. The side seams were meant to be French Seams, but I forgot until I had sewn the seams, so these are mock French Seams. The collar and neck V are felled down by machine (I wasn’t super precise on this, and unfortunately this seam tends to roll outward). The sleeve seams were trimmed to 1/4-3/8″ and finished using an overlock stitch on my sewing machine.

This was such a fun and interesting project! I’ve never combined patterns in this way, and I learned a lot! Every part of a pattern impacts so many other parts, so you have to be really detailed in the patterning stage to make sure nothing is missed. And just in case you do miss something, it’s important to do test fittings while the garment is being assembled to make sure everything is correct.

I love all the ruffles on this version, but it seems a little unbalanced on its own, like there is too much going on at shoulder level, and not much going on anywhere else. I combat this imbalance with a belt or a high-waisted skirt or pair of pants. I do plan to use this modified pattern again, but next time I think I will make a version without ruffles. Next time I will deepen the arm-hole just a smidge, add bust darts as seen on the original Bruyere pattern (but not on the Juliette pattern), and I will lower the neck V by about an inch.

Have you ever combined patterns before? What is your favourite pattern alteration when sewing for yourself?

Dress Like a Pirate – Part 2

Earlier this year Bernadette Banner made a Pirate Shirt. Since then there has been a tidal wave of people making similar shirts of their own. I had already thought about making myself an 18th Century Men’s shirt, but Bernadette’s video sealed my resolve to make this garment for myself. Around the same time I ordered 5 yards of handkerchief weight linen from Fabrics-Store.com. I found some inspiration photos, but my interests diverged: on the one hand I wanted to make a classic, plain shirt. On the other hand I wanted RUFFLES.

After much consideration I decided to make 2 shirts: one would be a plain 18th century shirt, the other would be a modern shirt with a neck ruffle. I made the ruffled shirt first using the Juliette Blouse pattern from Sew Over It.

Since the ruffled shirt was made with a modern pattern and a sewing machine, I decided to go full 18th century with the construction of my pirate shirt, meaning that I sewed every single stitch by hand. Sewing by hand can be extremely rewarding, but it is also quite slow when compared to machine sewing. At several points I longed to pull out my sewing machine and make some quick progress. Instead I toted my project around with me and worked on bits and pieces here and there.

I started with the sleeves: I sewed up the seams, felled down the seam allowances, seamed in the gores, gathered the sleeves down, and applied the cuffs.

Then I moved on to the body: I added in small gores at the neck, finished the front slit, gathered the neck, and applied the collar.

Finally, I gathered the sleeve heads, sewed them onto the body of the shirt, sewed the side seams, felled all the seam allowances down, and finished the hem.

The finishing touches were closures: 2 off-white buttons for the sleeve cuffs, and braided elastic closures. The sleeve closures were my one main departure from historical practice. I had cut the cuffs long enough to go around my wrists with a little ease, but not long enough to button close and still have ease. The solution was to create a thread loop for the button closure. Buttons are hard enough to wrangle when you have a decent buttonhole, so I braided some elastic thread to make dressing myself easier.

The photos speak for themselves: this shirt is marvelous!

Now that I have my authentic pirate shirt I need some pants, a vest, and a hat.

Drink up, me hearties, yo ho!

12 Months, 20 Years

20 years ago, my mom and I started small embroideries to be sewn into two quilts. The idea came from a magazine, with the goal of creating one embroidered rectangle for each month of the year. I was about to turn 9, and during that summer I embroidered 11 of the 12 months. And then summer came to an end, and the project sat in a box for a very long time. Early this year when I visited my family my mom gave me my completed blocks as well as the materials and instructions to finish the final block.

I traced and stitched the December block (in January, ironically) to finish the embroidery for the quilt.

The original quilt is designed to be an art quilt rather than a functional quilt, and it’s quite a small size. I love the idea of making items functional items, rather than just decorative, but I’m not it sure will be possible to make this quilt functional (for me) due to the embroidery and the small size. I need to evaluate my options to determine how this will be finished and with what fabrics.

How would you finish this quilt?

A Smocking Adventure

When you sew (or knit, or do any kind of craft) you inevitably accumulate some sort of a stash. Pretty and useful materials are fun to accumulate, and this has the added advantage that when inspiration strikes you can immediately make the thing. But a significant part of any maker’s stash ends up being scraps of this and bits of that – enough to do something small with, but not small enough to throw away. I had a scrap of linen just like that. I had made a bias-cut dress and my scraps were weird shapes. I rescued a rectangle about the length of my waist to knee and almost as long as my full waist measurement, and decided to make an apron. But not just any apron, oh no. I had to make it complicated interesting. I had seen several Smocking tutorials floating around Pinterest, and decided to give the honeycomb stitch a try.

I started out by hemming both sides and the bottom edge of the apron. Then I marked my smocking lines using a heat-sensitive pen and quilting ruler. You don’t have to run gathering stitches through your fabric before beginning Honeycomb stitch, so I started on the smocking immediately after this step. I used a blue ombré embroidery floss (3 strands) for the smocking, and worked both left to right and right to left. I found that it was easier to work left to right, but perfectly possible to work in both directions.

When the smocking was done I ironed the top edge flat and applied a bit of navy blue bias tape (also left over from a previous project) as a waist tie. The apron was done!

I’ve never thought about myself as an apron kind of gal, so the apron sat around for a while waiting to be used. One day I was harvesting peas from my garden and needed a receptacle. A bowl seemed annoying to wrangle, so I put on my apron and fell in love! This is the perfect use for an apron and the perfect way to harvest produce since it moves with you and keeps your hands free.

I do find that the bias ties are a bit slippery, so I might sew along the ties with some embroidery floss to add texture and hopefully a little more grab.

What is your favourite thing to make with fabric (or yarn) scraps?