Friday, June 29, 2012

Fabric Frustrations

 Remember the fabric that feels like corn husks? Not only does it seem like it would be very uncomfortable to wear, but it is terrible to sew with. I'm to this point in sewing the dress for Leslie:
  Because of the fabric, however, it has taken me much longer to get there than it normally would. This fabric is not washable, which makes it hard to transfer markings, is not pin-able, as the pins leave holes, and can only be ironed on very low heat, which makes smooth seams next to impossible. It was incredibly difficult to cut as well, since it is so slippery. Any kind of tape or glue leaves marks as well, so sewing is less than fun. I really should have charged more! =)
  I had to do the front bodice twice, as the first time Leslie tried it on it was quite a bit too tight. Luckily, she is not tall and there was enough fabric to cut out a second front bodice. I left the back as-is, because I'm fairly certain it will fit properly once there is enough room in the front. It's funny though, I added an extra 4 inches to the front and it doesn't look much different than the first front bodice I used. I have the sleeves sewn up and need to attach them to the dress.... the pattern suggests basting the armhole layers together and sewing the sleeve to both at once, but I am going to sew the sleeves only to the outer layer and slip-stitch the lining down to completely cover the seams.
  So what is left besides sleeves? I need to hem the lining and main fabrics, add buttonholes and buttons, sew up the sash, and slip-stitch the bodice lining down. I dread the buttonholes - my machine thinks buttonhole time is fabric-eating time. I may try tissue paper to help stabilize the fabric, I'm at least going to make several practice buttonholes first. The hand-sewing, oddly enough, is not making me nervous at all. I hand-sewed part of the sleeve bindings and I'm really pleased with the way it turned out.
  This pattern doesn't fit well in the larger sizes, as it fails to take into account that larger women are usually larger chested, and there simply isn't enough room in the pattern as a result. I don't know how the smaller sizes are, but I'm assuming they are closer to the proper proportions. If I were beginning this dress again, I would also do the skirt placket differently to avoid the large gap in the back below the buttons.
  And now you know why there isn't much to read on this blog right now... fabric frustrations.
Thanks for stopping by and listening to my woes!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Attempting Bloomers

  My little girls wear skirts and dresses all the time, and being young they like to throw their legs in the air and show off their diapers....Booper, who is 2, is learning to cover her legs with her skirt, but there isn't much you can do with a 6-month old. To help keep those little legs covered up I decided to make the little girlies some bloomers. Considering that they don't currently own any that fit, I don't have a pattern, and they don't own any pants or shorts, that turned out to be pretty complicated.

  First, I had to measure both girls, then look for a bloomer-from-scratch tutorial on the internet. Not finding one, I decided to start from a pants-from-scratch how-to, which meant I had to re-measure using the method in the how-to.
  The how-to required making a sloper for each girl, which entailed much marking, lining up, measuring, and math. 

  Once the slopers were made, I altered them into bloomer slopers by removing darts and pleats, adding to the width of the waist and legs to allow for elastic, and adding a little ease in the crotch area.

  All of that was a lot of work for something that looks so uncomplicated and easy-to fit. Since I didn't want to ruin my main fabric if they didn't work, I decided to check the fit on each daughter with a finished muslin.

  Turns out, I'm glad I did. Gaiw's bloomers were too short in the back to cover her bulky cloth diaper, and Booper's bloomers were too long in the legs.  You can see Booper's in the picture above... I want them to hit just above her knees. As you can see, I hemmed them and finished all the seams prettily, because I was hoping they would fit properly from the beginning, and I would be able to use them even in a plain fabric.

  I shirred the waist and leg openings on the bloomers because I didn't want to do casings this go-around, but my machine and shirring don't get along too well. Those bloomers didn't shrink anywhere near as much as I expected, even after steaming the thread. That is why Booper's bloomers are so loose-looking. That is also why there is only one picture of these terribly-fitting bloomers: I decided to throw them in the wash to see if it would help them shrink enough. We'll see if they are any better when they come out. If they aren't I won't be too upset since the fit was wrong.

  I altered the patterns in the areas that needed fixing, and now I'm about to embark on another trial of them... if this new pattern is right I will use it on a project I've been stewing over for a while. Hope it works!

Thanks for stopping by,

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fudge Brownies

  I know, I know, brownies aren't exactly sewing... but they are delicious. I used to make these for my dad, but since I live in a different state now, my dad is always wishing for brownies from me. So for father's day this year, I sent him a package full of these:
I didn't send any of the ice cream, I thought it might not ship well... ;-)
  Deliciously chewy, soft fudge brownies with a light crispy crust. Mmm. I started off with the fudge brownie recipe from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook but over the years I have changed them a lot. I like my brownies sweeter and actually a little less chocolate-y than theirs are. Care for the recipe? Here it is:
  Grease two 8X8 pans and heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Then pull out these ingredients:

  •  10-12 ounce bag of chocolate chips/pieces. I use milk chocolate.
  •  2 1/2 cubes salted butter. (You can use unsalted but you will want to add 1/4 tsp salt)
  •  1 cup cocoa powder
  •  6 eggs
  •  4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  •  3 cups sugar
  •  2 cups flour
  Yes, there is more sugar than flour in these. They are BROWNIES. They aren't supposed to be healthy.

    Over gentle heat melt the butter and chocolate chips together... you can also use the microwave but I happen to not own one at the moment. Let this mixture cool a bit. Meanwhile:

  Beat your eggs, sugar, cocoa powder and vanilla together. Add your melted chocolate/butter and mix well.

  Mix the flour in by hand, but don't overmix it, or the brownies won't be as soft.

  You want it to be a little bit streaky (more than my batter in this picture):

   Pour your batter into your pans

  And smooth the top (or don't, it doesn't make a lot of difference)

  Then bake in your preheated oven for 38-45 minutes, until you can stick a knife it and it isn't batter anymore. You should still get sticky crumbs, just nothing runny.

  Now eat 'em! They are good warm or cold, but they tend to get a little dried out if you leave them out, so keep them tightly sealed until they disappear. They will probably last a couple weeks on the counter (if you don't eat them first) or they freeze beautifully and will last for months. This recipe can be easily halved if two pans is too much. You can also put it all in one larger pan, but you will want to lower the heat to 325 degrees and cook it for about 10 more minutes. Here is the recipe all in one spot:
Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Circled Skirt, Part 2: Putting it all together

  Hello again! Today we are going to do the sewing on this skirt, we made the pattern HERE:

We'll start with the waistband and work our way down. First, attach a primary front and secondary front waistband piece to each back waistband piece so you have two mirrored waistbands. With the pieces wrong side up, take the one with the primary front on the right and iron up 3/8" on the lower edge so you end up with this:
  Stack these two pieces right sides together and with the edge on one still ironed up, sew from the lower left corner up, along the top edge, and down the right side. Leave the entire bottom edge open. Turn right side out and press well, set this aside for now.

  Sew all the paneled pieces together the same way you did for this skirt and finish the edges the same way.

  Finish the edges on your placket pieces, and put the smaller one in the top right corner, right sides together, and sew it down.
Fold the larger one wrong sides together the long way and put it  in the top left corner, sew down:
   You should have something like this by now:
  Fold this in half, right sides together, and sew the final seam up the placket pieces, leave the area above it unsewn. Flip the flat placket to the inside of the skirt and pin down, flip the folded placket out over the flat one and pin just the bottom edge. Your folded placket will be wider than this if you follow my directions instead of my example. ;-) Sew along the bottom edge through all layers, pull the folded placket out of the way, and sew the flat placket down along the long side.
  When you turn it right side out it should look like this, but again your placket on the right of this picture will be wider:

  Now pockets. =) Finish the edges of all your pocket pieces and draw a line an inch down from the top of your two pocket facing pieces. Mark lines 5/8 of an inch in from each side (Another thing I didn't do quite right. I marked 3/8 inch and it was much harder to sew):
 Center these pieces on your front left and front right panel pieces, at the very top. The one on the right will be right next to the placket and the left will be a panel away. Pin well and sew right on top of the lines you marked:
  Clip a half inch away on the inside of the stitching you just did through both layers, cut into the corners but not through the stitching. You'll have this:
   Flip the pocket pieces to the inside and press:
  Leaving the sides of the pieces press to the inside, flip the bottom of the piece up:
  Then back down 1/2 inch from the stitching:
  Press well and baste in place. On the inside, pin the lining and pocket facing piece right sides together, making sure not to catch the skirt:
  Sew, then flip the lining piece down and press the seam up towards the pocket facing piece.
  Put a pocket backing piece right sides together with the bottom of the lining:
  Sew, again being careful to only catch pocket and lining pieces, not the skirt. Flip the pocket backing piece you just added down and press:
  Now lift this piece and fold it up:
  And match it up with the top of the skirt and the top of the pocket facing piece:
  Pin well, but only through the pocket pieces, not through the skirt:
  Sew down each side where you pinned, and you'll have this:
   Top-stitch around the pocket opening, being careful not to catch the pocket lining. I also top-stitched the panel seams at this point.
   On to the circular ruffle! Lay it out on the floor, wrong side up:
  Starting anywhere on the outer edge, fold up 1 inch, fold the raw edge in to meet your first fold, and pin:
   Repeat opposite your first fold:
  Then at the quarter points:
  Repeat halfway between each pin until there are no more ripples:

  I used 64 pins, although it would have been even better to use double as many. Sew this hem, removing pins as you go. I used top-stitching thread. If you put the hem down against the feed dogs it will help ease the hem in so you don't end up with a bubble somewhere:
  It might look a tiny bit ripply after you are done, but it should straighten out in the wash. If it doesn't, it doesn't matter since it is a ruffle anyway. =)
  Now, back to the top of the skirt, we are going to attach the waistband. Pin the unpressed edge of the waistband to the skirt right sides together. The primary waistband piece should be over the flat placket piece:
  Sew along this edge, being careful not to catch the pocket facings as you sew. Press this seam up toward the waistband.
  Then flip the inside of the waistband down into the skirt, and pin its pressed edge just past the line of stitching you just made:
  Stitch in the ditch on the right side and you'll have this:

    Next we will attach the ruffle. I didn't finish the interior edge of the circle because it is on the bias in areas, and I wanted to handle it as little as possible to prevent stretching. Anyway, mark the quarter points of your skirt and ruffle, and fold the ruffle in half over the skirt:
  Match up the quarter points and pin them first, then pin the rest of the circle to the skirt:
  Carefully sew this seam, and press it up toward the body of the skirt. I finished the ruffle edge at this point, but not without a lot of frustration. My serger thread broke once, and I ran out of thread once... and my serger is incredibly hard to thread. Look at it, it's impossibly small:
  Your skirt should look something like this now:
 Two more things to do! I top-stitched the ruffle seam and then the waistband. The waistband was horrible. I ran out of bobbin thread three times, broke the top thread once, and broke my needle three times. I was using top-stitching needles, but I guess I should have used denim needles instead. I had just a few inches worth of thread left when I was done, I was almost sure I was going to run out:
  Finally, I added some heavy-duty snaps to the waistband and placket area. Then I put it on and tried to take some decent pictures. Want to see some out-takes?
Because skirts always look better when you are tiptoeing, right?
The wall-lean-with-a-smirk
The ceiling grab
The sweater-on-a-hot-day
  And a normal(ish) picture or two:
   Hope this tutorial made sense! If you have any questions, feel free to ask. For part 1 of this tutorial, go HERE
Thanks for stopping by,