Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Christmas Crochet

Mantilla Doily on Mom's organ

Contrary to the evidence, when I decided to learn to crochet, the goal was not to make dozens of crooked wash cloths.  While the wash cloths were good for practice and, once I could get them square, decent Christmas gifts, what I really wanted to make was cotton lace.

When I was in the 8th grade, my Mama Leah made me a purple sleeveless shift with a Peter Pan collar and added a piece of cotton lace right down the front.  I was surprised at what a difference the trim made to the garment and how much I loved the look of that lace.

Mama Leah's shift

Years later, my wedding dress would be a strapless J Crew gown in guipure lace: 

I wanted to recreate that look in a more casual dress, but sadly, nice cotton lace fabric is hard to find and very expensive.  So I decided that 'one day' I would try making crochet lace myself and moved on to a different project.

This past summer my mom gave me my great-grandmother's tiny steel hooks and, since pregnancy had me mostly confined to the couch, I decided to give it a try.  I lucked out and found a great set of tutorials on YouTube by Jeego Crochet that walks you through each stitch and round of his beautiful doilies.

After several months of naptime crochet, here is my Mantilla Doily, which became a Christmas present for my mom.

Blocking and Starching
Swollen Pregnancy Hand for Size Reference
Finally Done
I also made some little Christmas stars and attached them to a long chain as a garland for my Mama Leah.  That tutorial can be found here.

Now that I know how long it takes to make crochet lace, I may not be making dresses any time soon, but I do love the delicate look of the doilies.  I plan to follow additional tutorials by Jeego Crochet as soon as I have two hands available again.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Easter 2015 Vintage McCalls 1921 and Simplicity 4018

Since Easter is earlier this year and we have a new baby to keep us busy, I went for simple dresses this year.

The pattern for the wrap dresses for my big girls is from 1954 (Thanks, Etsy!)  It was simple to put together and required very few adjustments.  I had to take them in along the side seams for both girls and add 1.5" in length for my oldest.  I also increased the size of her pockets by .5" on all sides to maintain proportions on the larger skirt, but that was it.

My buttonhole foot does not love bumps, so I made sure to lay out my pattern pieces to keep the button tabs free from embroidery and placed my buttonholes before adding the bias tape.

I used some tear-away stabilizer when adding the buttonholes, as I was concerned that the thin fabric tabs would get caught in the feed dogs.  This worked well.

Since I was on a time crunch, I took a few shortcuts.  I pinked seams instead of finishing, omitted stay stitching :/ and applied the bias tape by simply sandwiching the fabric inside and stitching it down, instead of doing it correctly...  They may not last as long this way, but they did get done in time for Easter!

Wrong side of dress, pinked seams

I did take a minute to sew my bias tape together before starting so I'd have enough length for the whole dress.  Here's a reminder about how to do that:

Place bias tape right sides together at right angle, with a little tail hanging over each side.  Stitch on diagonal.  Open out and cut away excess.

Mercifully, last year's bloomers still fit the big girls and the baby has a store-bought eyelet pair, so no extra sewing there!

Front of larger dress, back of small.  Last year's bloomers

The pattern for the baby dress is from the early 1960's and on loan from my Mama Leah.  As a size 1, it was still too big for my 3-month-old, so I made some adjustments at the collar and armhole when laying out my pattern.  This worked fairly well and I only needed to take up an additional ~.5" at the shoulder seams for a good fit.  The length was much more than the pattern called for (since the pattern was too big to start with), but I ended up liking it, so opted not to shorten.  If I'd had more time, I might have added some bias-bound patch pockets to the front of the dress, but this will have to do for now!

Pattern adjustments at armhole and neck

One last adjustment at shoulders

Front finished

Back finished

Happy Easter!

Three kids and a bunny in one photo. Whew.


Thursday, March 19, 2015


My Mama Leah has always kept dishcloths in the car to use as lap napkins ("lapkins"). While I was working in outside sales, I spent all day (including most lunches) in my little Honda Civic. In order to keep my suits clean, I made some modifications to the lapkin and created the Neck-Kin. (I never said I was good at Marketing...). I just made a few more this winter, so I thought I'd share the technique:

The Neck-Kin is just a dishcloth turned longways with a casing sewn on one end to hold a ribbon tie. Once you have made your casing and inserted your ribbon, you can tie the Neck-Kin around your neck to protect your clothes while eating in the car. It is sort of a family joke now, but I have 5 in my van and they do get used!

I recommend a lighter-weight dishcloth so it doesn't bunch too much when gathered at the neck.

Fold over one end to make a casing.  Make sure it is wide enough for your ribbon.

Stitch along edge to form casing

Use a safety pin to insert ribbon into casing

Use a safety pin to insert ribbon into casing.


And... Enjoy!

Works great! ;)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Liebster Award

Regular readers (Hi, Mom!) will have noticed that almost a year has passed with no updates.  I am happy to announce that the project that had me tied up all last year arrived happy and healthy in December and is just starting to sleep through the night.  I'm hoping to get back to semi-regular posts soon!

Last year's project

Right before I went on hiatus, my friend Jen over at Quests of Quirkiness nominated my blog for a Liebster Award.  From what I can tell, the Liebster appears to be a way to recognize blogs that you love.  The rules are fairly simple:  Thank the party that nominated you and then pass on the award to your favorite blogs.

Jen and I began sewing at the same time and have enjoyed sharing both the fruits and frustrations of learning to sew together.  Her blog not only catalogs her awesome sewing, but also shares other craft projects as well.  Many thanks to Jen for nominating my blog for the Liebster and for being my sewing buddy these past few years!

Now for the paying-it-forward part:

Please check out these great sites, which I hereby nominate for the Liebster Award!

LIZ-O-MATIC -   Liz has just started her blog about sewing, knitting, and gardening. 

Catherine Brawner Jewelry  Cathy makes original, hand-crafted jewelry which can be viewed (and purchased) on her blog.

Sew, Jean Margaret Jean Margaret sews an astounding number of beautifully sewn and fitted clothing.

Urbane Baby Liz makes and sells precious (and affordable!) children's clothing.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Easter Dresses - Vintage Simplicity 2059 c1957

If I had known there would be ironing AND algebra in sewing, I might have chosen a different hobby.  This little pattern is adorable and should have been pretty easy, until... I decided to add sleeves and collars.  And I chose a fabric with a border print (border print addict.  cannot control myself.)  that ALSO needed to be underlined.  This added extra time during cutting to line up the design and required a separate cutting of all pattern pieces in a batiste underlining as well. There was also a piece missing from the smaller pattern, so before I could even start the cutting, there had to be Math.  Ug.

The bodice of the smaller pattern had been cut for the scoop neck style. The extra pattern piece was not present, but I really wanted those little peter pan collars and I had the larger pattern to use as a guide, so I gave it a try.  Bless the woman who used the larger pattern, as she knew what she was doing.  I could tell that she too opted for the scoop neck style by the presence of pin holes and pencil lines, but she left the pattern intact so that I could use it to trace the extra neck piece.  After tracing the missing piece, I placed the bodice front and back of the smaller pattern together, along with the new wedge to see how much too large the wedge would be. Using the back bodice piece as a guide, I marked how much too big the wedge was and calculated what percentage too large it was.  I then measured in several places along the wedge, reduced by the same percentage, marked my curve and cut. This required cross multiplication.  With fractions.  I thought I had left that behind in junior high with lots of other unpleasantness...  I am not sure if this is how one should actually go about this process, but in the end, it did seem to fit rather nicely.

Trace the neck piece of larger pattern

Mark the excess

Cut away excess

Compare to original

Once I recovered from all of the Math, I moved on to cutting, which also took a while, as I wanted to use the border print for the full skirt. Here I veered slightly from the pattern, which provided a back and front skirt piece.  However, they were both just large rectangles, so I laid them out end to end and cut one long continuous piece for each skirt, as to avoid messing up the border print.  This eliminated both side seams and a "V" that was to be cut at center back to allow for entry into the skirt.  I simply stitched up one back seam, stopping a few inches from the top and turned this section into the "V" needed to put on and take off the dress.  I also cut a few extra inches of skirt, just in case I needed to adjust for the border print.  This worked out just fine.

Cutting skirt

Matching pattern at back seam

Back seam

Bias bound "V"

While we are on skirts:  The pattern called for slip stitching the hem, but with about 24 feet of hem between both skirts and their linings, I decided it was time to christen the blind hem foot.  My manual was a little confusing on this point, but I found a great tutorial from Craftsy that you can see here.  The pressing, pinning, turning and stitching were still time consuming, but nothing like slip stitching would have been.  I did have trouble with my blind hem foot wanting to stray from the seam edge, but could find no better solution than a lot of stopping and repositioning. 

How much skirt does a 2 year old need??

Turned twice, pressed and pinned

Flipped and pinned for the blind hem foot

Blind hem foot

Using the blind hem foot

Hemmed with blind hem stitch

Blind hem stitch front and back

Batiste lining with blind hem

Batiste lining with blind hem

 As I mentioned, the material was too thin to wear without a lining, so I underlined all the bodice, sleeve and collar pieces with batiste and added a lining to the skirt as well. I also self-lined the sash as opposed to narrow hemming, as the pattern called for.  I spent an entire afternoon at my friend Jen's sewing party being anti-social and lining all the pieces for this dress. I also got my sashes and collars done.

These patterns were starting to get a little small for my girls, so there were several fittings and, after several rounds of basting and seam ripping, I ended up taking smaller darts and sewing on a 1/2" seam for my 4 year old and a 1/4" seam for my 2 year old (hers was a size 1...)

The collar attachment baffled me.  I could not understand the directions at all.  Many thanks to my Mama Leah for explaining this ultimately VERY SIMPLE process...

Baste collar to bodice (right side of bodice to wrong side collar). Stitch down bias binding

Trim bias binding.

Turn under seam allowance and bias binding, press, slip stitch into place.


Sleeves were next.  I had never attached a sleeve in this manner (combo of eased and flat?).  I was hoping it would be less annoying than the usual way, but it was still pretty much a pain.  Easing is for the birds.  It did get done though and hem was finished with bias binding and more slip stitching.

The pattern called for the sashes to be attached at the very end to the outside of the dress, but I did not care for the look of the raw edges, even though they would be hidden under the sash, so I opted to install them along the side seams when stitching down the side of the sleeves and bodice.  This worked fine and I prefer the cleaner look.  I did reinforce the seam due to anticipated tugging.

 My buttonhole foot did not like the hem at the edge of the back facing and made a giant bird's nest when I attempted my first button hole.  After spending an hour with the seam ripper, I just moved the button holes a little further from that hem, and all was well. 

Original buttonhole placement

Revised buttonhole placement

The bloomers were pretty standard, although they did require 1/16" seams around each side of each casing. I'm not sure the extra seam really made much of a difference and would probably skip that next time.

 Done!  Since we have to leave for church before 8am on Easter, we decided to take our pictures a week early :)