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!

Spinning Sunshine

I have been in a yellow mood this summer. I see it in my spinning and my sewing (but not so much in my knitting). It started last year with this incredible batt made by my very skilled friend Dia of Twisted Urban. I began the spinning not long after (I use a short draw when spinning woolen), but I mostly spun at our group gatherings, so my progress was slow. As I spun I formulated a plan to stretch this sunshiny perfection as far as possible: I would combine it with more yellow.

This is a braid of Targhee top by Deep Dyed Yarns in the colour way: 5 Golden Rings. I bought it a few Christmases below when it was grey and cold out and I needed a dose of sunshine. I fluffed and then split the top into nests. This fiber will be spun worsted, but I will try to incorporate as much loft as I can for a semi-worsted singles.

All this yellow needed something to mellow it, so I dug around in my stash and found a bag of Southdown rolags that I had processed from Top a few years ago. The fiber is from Beesybee on Etsy. This will be spun woolen with a short draw like the yellow Batt.

I am enjoying taking this project slow. The yarn will be incredible when it is finished!

I Knit a Bracelet

I bought Laura Nelkin’s Ribband pattern some time ago. I started a project following the pattern, but found the knitting to be quite fiddly, so I frogged it and set it aside.

As I looked through the Ribband projects on Ravelry I saw one that appeared to be done in Stockinette that I liked the look of. So I knit my bracelet in Stockinette, and I love how it came out.

Sometimes you need to work smarter, not harder.

Finishing the Two-Year Baby Blanket

Two years ago I started knitting a blanket for my niece. I fell in love with the Vivid blanket by Tin Can Knits, knit 9 of 20 squares, then got bored and wandered off to sew something instead. The thing about baby blankets is that if you wait too long they’re not baby blankets anymore. They’re just really small.

Earlier this year I decided I was going to finally learn to crochet properly. I watched a few classes on CreativeBug and learned a lot. One of the classes was on the classic granny square, and my passionate and unreasonable love for this simple square was rekindled. I say passionate and unreasonable because at an earlier time in my life when I disliked all crochet, I somehow still thought the classic granny was beautiful and interesting. Granny squares are my bridge into the world of crochet.

After completing a test square I didn’t want to stop, but I also didn’t want to start a whole new project, so I hatched a plan to knit half the squares for the blanket and crochet the other half. The knitted squares resemble flowers to my eyes, and I wanted the crochet squares to echo the floral design. Where the knitted design uses texture (lace) to create a flower, I needed to use colour the make flowers on the crochet squares. Each granny square consists of 8 rounds: the center in one colour, the following 5 rounds in another to make the petals of the flower, and 2 rounds of border in a third colour.

It only took me a few weeks to crochet my 10 squares. Then I knit the last square, and the quilt was ready for assembly!

Before sewing everything together I had to decide on a layout. This may have been the toughest part of the blanket, but I finally settled on a design I was happy with.

Once I had decided on a layout I sewed the squares together in strips, then sewed the strips together to form the blanket, using whip stitches throughout. The knit and crochet squares had very nearly the same number of stitches per side even though the granny squares appeared smaller. I clipped each pair of squares together in the middle and at the end, and sewed one stitch to one stitch as much as possible, skipping a stitch here and there as needed.

With the blanket in one piece I had to decide on a border. I swatched a few knit and crochet borders as you can see above. I was specifically looking for a chevron shape to echo the knitted lace. I decided on the crochet lace on the left. I liked it best, and I’m in a crochet mood right now, so it’s more likely to get done than knittted lace is at the moment.

I worked a round of single crochet around the blanket in preparation for the fancy border.

Then I worked the border in white. The border is worked in two steps: crochet shells, then single crochet over top of the shells to make them pointy rather than rounded. I used the border instructions from this blog post by Crochet 365, Knit too.

I love how the border and the blanket as a whole turned out! It took me much longer than I wanted, but the recipient is two, so she won’t know the difference.

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.

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?

Circle Skirt, Meet Petticoat

I have been obsessing over the Coquelicot Skirt by Wildflower designs since before the pattern was available. I waited for months as they posted teaser images. I knew this was the perfect garment for me. The pattern was published several months ago, but for some reason it’s taken me quite a while to get around to making it. But at long last the time has come. The Coquelicot skirt will be mine!

Each sewing project starts with pattern and fabric choices. The pattern suggests using very drapey fabrics for maximum swish factor, but I decided to go in a different direction: I wanted a quilted skirt. Last winter (Winter of 2020/2021) I saw the most beautiful quilted floral fabric at JoAnn’s. I kept convincing myself not to buy it because I didn’t have a project for it, and then when warmer weather came back it was taken off the shelves. I thought it was gone forever, and I was very sad. Then early this winter I saw it again! This time I wouldn’t let it pass me by. I bought 1 1/2 yards (I think?) along with a similar amount of a coordinating quilting cotton and started planning my garment.

I cut the main skirt panels out of the quilted fabric, and everything else out of the plain cotton. You can see in the photo above that I had several options for my seam finishes. I started by binding the pocket slit with 1″ bias made from a light batiste (it’s the same batiste I used for my 1920s slip). I then used the same batiste to finish the edges of the quilted panels using a Hong Kong finish. Then I seamed up the back panels (the front was cut on the fold). You’re supposed to sew the seams and then apply the Hong Kong binding, but these quilted pieces were heavy, and I didn’t want to wrangle them any more than I had to.

With the pocket slits finished I sewed the pockets onto the back skirt panel with the raw edges facing in, then overcast the raw edges. I should have bound this edge with batiste, but I forgot until the pocket was already sewn up. The pocket itself is bound with a remnant of tan bias I had from another project.

I then created the front and back waistbands and the lacing panel. I didn’t interface any of these pieces, since the quilting cotton is stiff enough on its own. I let the garment hang overnight just in case it decided to stretch out (it didn’t).

with all the pre-construction work out of the way, all that was left was to sew up the side seams and do the finishing. The hem is bound with bias made from the same fabric used for the waistband and pockets to provide additional continuity to the skirt.

With that the skirt was done! Hooray!

It is a lot of fun to wear, even though the heavy fabric made it a bit of a pain to make. It is quite warm when sitting down, although it stands out from the body when standing up, so it’s not especially warm when I am upright.

I made View A (half-circle skirt) with the waistband from View B. I do not recommend this, and especially not with heavy fabrics. The waist lines are drafted on very different curves, and that made it rather difficult to get the back waistband onto the skirt. But that is a problem stemming from my decisions, not from the pattern itself.

One change I would make (because there’s always at least one change I would make): I find that the internal lacing panel folds up on the right side when tension is put on it. This makes total sense since there is nothing keeping it flat. I would fix this by inserting a small bone just inside the lacing tape on just the right side.

Have you ever worked with quilted fabric? What is your favourite kind of garment to make?

2017 in Review

Every year December comes and suddenly none of us can believe how quickly time has gone. Isn’t it funny that we have this same conversation every year when nothing and everything has changed?

In 2017 I finished 21 knitted projects, plus several additional small projects.

 

I have 9 Works in Progress at this point…one or two of them were started in 2015! Yikes!

I learned a little bit about crochet and finished 2 projects, with one more in progress (the pattern for the shawl on the right will end up being released in Knotions Magazine in March).

I also learned to weave and finished 2 projects with another currently in progress.

This was a good year for spinning – I finished 9 spinning projects in several different weights. Most of my handspun is from combed wool top, but this year I spun my first batts and my first silk. I am so proud of my Rumpelstiltskin yarn. And, yes, I have some spinning in progress as well.

I sewed quite a few garments this year, mostly tops, but the crown of my handsewn garment collection is actually a pair of undergarments – my Watson Bra and Bikini.

Lastly, but certainly not least, this year I launched my own line of knitting patterns. I have published 4 patterns this year: two I published myself, and two were published in Knotions Magazine.

And we can’t forget the gnomes…but they have a whole page all to themselves here.

During the year it is very easy to get bogged down by the details, and it can seem like I’m not accomplishing anything. I think taking a little time for us each to focus on our achievements is healthy and uplifting. So now it’s your turn: What did you do this year?

Post Christmas and a Giveaway Winner

Well, friends, I hope you had a delightful yesterday. My husband and I spent Christmas day with his family, talking and knitting (for me) and eating too much. My advent garland did not get finished in time for Christmas, but I have reconciled myself to that. It is quite lovely, though, to see 9 knitted ornaments on my tree.

knitted ornaments on a christmas tree

Today I am resting and getting ready to go back to work. I’m planning to do some crafting prep work while I’m off, since I tend to only work on things throughout the week that I have already started. I will be warping my loom and cutting some fabric, cuddling my kitty, and drinking a fair amount of tea, all while watching something delightful in the background.

At some point I will also need to make a Post Office run, because Heather from The Knitting Nurse has won this hand-felted gnome ornament!

christmas ornaments

Heather, email me with your address at dramaticlyricATgmailDOTcom so I can get your prize to you. And congratulations. I hope your gnome makes you smile for many Christmases to come.