Thursday, December 22, 2011

Vintage Cape Finished! Simplicity 6651

I finished this project back before Thanksgiving, and here it is blogged at last! My vintage cape from Simplicity 6651:

Voila! It's hard to get good photos lately, since the sun is around only once in a great while - so please excuse the somewhat blurry look here. I actually finished this a month ago - just in time to go see my grandparents for Thanksgiving. It's the photos that have been holding me up. I'm glad I finished it in time to see my grandma, because she was the first one to teach me to use a needle and thread, way back when I was seven. Somewhere I still have a quilt square that I hand sewed under her instruction. I'm glad I did finish the cape, because she had a few of her own to show me, made during the sixties. I really wish I had some photos - they are beautifully done. Next time I'm up there I will remember to take pictures.

This cape is the most complicated thing I've done so far, and I consider it a stepping stone to tougher projects - like a real coat! There are a few things I'm very proud of on this project:

1. Working with nubby, thick, loose-weave wool - not the worst, but not easy peasy either. I wish I had a serger for finishing the edges. I tried using bias tape, but the wool was just too thick for the narrow tape I had. I ended up zig-zagging everything, which I think will be fine. Anyone else know how to best finish the edges of such a bulky, loose material?

2. Drafting my own lining! - A cape is an easy project for doing your first self-drafted lining.

Here's some pictures of the inside:

I'm not sure whether it was necessary to draft the lining with facings all the way around, the way that I did. I've seen other capes around the web where the lining is cut the exact same as the outer fabric. But I didn't want that. Don't know why, just didn't. So I extended the center front of the pattern pieces so that they could fold back and create a facing along the opening, and then I drafted additional facings to curve around the rest of the cape. It was fairly simple, although time consuming! Also, I couldn't cut the facing as one long piece - even though it is continuous - because it would have been ridiculously long and odd shaped. So I divided it up into four pieces that were sewn together like so:

I know! It looks like a crazy mess, but it worked! Here's the facings all sewn to the lining:

After this was all done, it was just a matter of sewing the whole thing to the outer cape, right sides together. I left an opening in one shoulder seam of the lining that I used to turn the whole thing right side out. I didn't put a facing around the neck because I looked at a coat of mine for reference, and it didn't have one there. Besides, the wool would have been scratchy on my neck. The lining is just a cheap poly satin, but I think it works just fine.

3. Bound buttonholes - There several helpful blog tutorials on bound buttonholes out there. I referred to those written by two of my favorite seamstresses: Gertie and Tasia. I ended up doing something similar to Gertie's method, and I relied heavily on my Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing. They have not one, not two, but maybe five or six different methods. I won't post photos here for fear of copyright issues, but I will say their most helpful tip to me was to do your buttonholes factory-style or assembly line-style. Don't do one start to finish then start the next. Mark the placement of all of them at the same time. Then move on to the next step, and so on. It helps you maintain consistency, and it probably goes faster too.

Here's some photos of my process:

cutting out the pieces - you need two buttonhole lips per buttonhole, and one patch per buttonhole
I decided not to mess around with the nubby wool on the buttonhole lips. Instead, I used a black cotton from my stash for a little contrast. I think it would have been very difficult to use the wool, especially with how loose-woven it is. Also, while Gertie made her patches out of silk organza, I just used the same black cotton, cut on the bias so that it would stretch when I pulled it through the button window and pressed it flat. This worked fine for the thick wool, but might not work as well on other fabrics. Also, since the patches blend with the buttonhole lips, you don't have to worry if they show a tiny bit.

Interfacing the lips
Since my cotton was pretty thin, I interfaced it to add stability. I just wish I had thought to do this first before cutting them out. Oh well!

the lips are sewn right sides together with a basting stitch across the middle

and then pressed open
I measured the placement on my cape, and then put interfacing on the backside.

Then basted my patches onto the front side.

The interfacing on the back made it easy to mark the exact placement of the stitching:

I think it also helped me to get some control on this loose weave wool. So then, sewed around the rectangle and snipped out the middle:

Pulled the patch through to the wrong side and pressed flat:

the bias cut helps for getting it to lay flat here

And then sewed the lips on and all that. You know the drill, or if you don't you can consult Gertie. And then I sewed just a regular buttonhole on the facing on the backside. And I ended up with this:

A buttonhole which is highly mediocre and kinda gets lost in the thick weave of the wool. Oh well! I think two things could have made this better. 1) slip stitching around the opening like Karen recommends, which will keep the patch in place and out of site, and 2) a different fabric! I'm convinced that with a wool like this, things are only going to look so precise. The looseness of the weave just doesn't want to do better. It's not my fault, I'm pretty sure.

Okay, on to...

4. Working with faux fur - Not that hard! And I made the underside of the collar in the the same gold material as the lining, which pleases me to no end.

I followed Gertie's instructions for drafting a peter pan collar, so that my undercollar would not be exposed. Actually, I did a sped up version of Gertie's. Instead of drafting a whole separate piece for the undercollar, I just used the same pattern and then kinda trimmed off an 1/8 inch from the outside edges of the undercollar and called it good. Worked fine.

And there you have it! A finished cape.

Now I'm going to sell it. I know, how could I? But after all this effort, I look at the photos and think, "That just looks like a sack on me." I still love it. It's super comfy to wear in the car. It's warm. But it just doesn't look all that nice on me. Maybe it could be smaller. Maybe it's just not my style. But I think this one might be destined for my Etsy store. And all is not lost! I learned a lot in the process of making it. Plus, it can fund my next sewing venture. What do you think?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Makeup Bag Tutorial - Dopp Kit Tutorial

I'm not usually that excited by "crafty" sewing projects, but I'm pretty pleased with the outcome of this makeup bag I recently made for a friend.

Pretty cute, don't you think? The fabric really makes it. It's a sort of stiff, maybe upholstery-type fabric left over from one of my first sewing projects. That was back when I didn't make the brightest fabric choices. I tried to make this into a pleated skirt. You can imagine how that turned out. So it felt good finally putting the leftover pieces to good use. The lining was another poor fabric choice - quilting cotton I tried to make a shirt out of. So I guess this is the bag of redeemed fabrics!

I used this Box Cosmetic Bag Tutorial that I found through a google search. I really like this pattern for it's simplicity. You could make this bag in any size you want. All it takes is a rectangle. I made mine 12" x 14", which probably isn't big enough to hold a full size shampoo bottle, but it's definitely big enough for a lot of cosmetics, a toothbrush, a hairbrush, or maybe it could be used to store a knitting project, or pack your socks in when you are traveling or... you get the idea. The shape reminds me of a "dopp kit". Does anyone else use that term? Anyway, I didn't follow the tutorial on Skip to My Lou exactly. Over there they used oil cloth, which I didn't have, and a lot of their seams are left unfinished and exposed on the inside of the bag. That's okay for the oil cloth I suppose, but wouldn't have looked so nice with my fabric. So here's my modifications in case you want to do your own.

I followed the instructions over on Skip to My Lou for steps one and two. Cut your fabric and lining - two rectangles of the same size for each. Sew the rectangles to your zipper, first one outer piece and lining to one side, then the others to the other side. Just check out the instructions in the link above, because I didn't take my own photos for this part.

Now you're going to sew the bottom seams, separately for the outer fabric and the lining fabric, rather than together like the instructions in the other tutorial. Lay your bag out like mine below, with the outer fabric on one side, right sides together, and the lining fabric on the other side, right sides together. Sew across the bottom of each side.

Then press those seams flat. Next fold the lining and outer fabrics so that the seams you just finished lie directly over the zipper, like below.

This photo was taken after I did the next step, sewing up the sides of the bag. Make sure the zipper of your bag is open about half way! Otherwise you will have a hell of a time flipping everything right side out later. Like with the bottom seams, you will only be sewing the outer fabric to itself (right sides together) and the lining fabric to itself (right sides together) so that your seams stay hidden. Sew the side seams like in the photo below, starting at the outside edge and sewing all the way to the zipper, but not across it. LEAVE ONE LINING SEAM OPEN - DO NOT SEW SHUT. Sorry to yell like that. Again, if you don't do this, you won't be able to turn your bag right side out.

Here's another view, to show you how the outer fabric and lining fabric are sewn separately. All in all, you will be sewing four seams on the outer fabric and THREE seams on the lining, because you are leaving one side of the lining open.

 Now you can turn your bag right side out! Well, not all the way right side out. Turn it out through the opening in the lining, then stitch up that opening. Then turn it out through the zipper. It's like there;s two levels of inside out. Yeah. I'm not going to win any awards for clarity, but I trust that you can figure this one out. Here's some more photos for illustration.

In the photo above I've turn it inside out through the opening in one side seam. Then I folded the edges of that opening to the inside and top-stitched (where the arrow is pointing).

And here it is turned right side out again, now so that the outer fabric is on the outside. Isn't it pretty already? It's just a flat envelope at this point, but it makes me think this simple design could easily be modified to create a case for a laptop or Ipad. And here's the other thing I like about this design. You get to choose how tall or flat you want your end product to be, just by the amount you fold in the corners. Observe.

Fold the edges into little points.

They can be big points that overlap, making a tall, skinny bag.

Or they can be little points, making a short, wide bag. Here's mine:

I wanted to use buttons to hold my folds in place, but I didn't have any that would work. I think that could be cute though, and you could also sew buttonholes so that the buttons could be undone and the bag could be collapsed flat. But as my astute roommate pointed out, whoever uses this is probably not ever going to want to do that... why would you want to do that? I don't know, because I can? In the end, I saw her reason and just hand-sewed the folds down using embroidery thread. And I like the handmade element that adds. I can live without the collapsible feature.

Here's another picture of my sewing...

And one of the pretty bottom:

I like how the pattern on the fabric worked out. I did plan it a little, but it didn't take much effort since the pattern piece is just a simple rectangle.

And that's my bag! It took about three hours, not counting the hand stitching. I know everyone says projects like these go together really quickly, and maybe they do on the second go around. I also made two and changed the instructions, so there's that to account for. Final words on this project - make sure you use a stiff fabric if you want it to hold its shape. I used a fusible interfacing on the lining fabric to give it a little extra weight, but the bag is still kinda floppy. I'm okay with that. Maybe you could insert a plastic rectangle in the bottom between the lining and outer fabric to make it hold its shape, but I'm not sure how that would work for turning the bag inside out. It would have to be a little flexible. Okay, I think I've exhausted all there is to say about this one little bag. Next up, my finished cape!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Here come the holidays....

I've had the itch to blog for days now, but I left my camera in Wisconsin over Thanksgiving! What to do? I can't show off pictures of my recent projects, and it's driving me crazy. Grandpa is sending it in the mail though, so hopefully I will have those photos soon. And to satisfy the blogging itch, let me regale you with my sewing schemes for the holidays.

First up, Secret Santa giftee! Ah shoot. I can't post that here, since my family makes up most of my readership. All I'm gonna say is

I  hope that's cryptic enough to leave everyone guessing. And here's a link to another gift idea, but if you're family DON'T CLICK ON THAT! Oh the temptation. As the person who organizes Secret Santa in my family, I have an email in my inbox which contains the master list (sent to me by the helpful website, So far I have resisted opening the message. We'll see if I get all the way to Christmas.

I'm also hoping to knit a few things as presents this Christmas. Remember this stupid freakin project?

That's the Honey Cowl which I've been working on since last January. Okay, it's not stupid. It's really beautiful. It's just that I progress at the rate of about 0.5 cm/month, and I've had to unravel it about four times due to mistakes. I think after the last time I unraveled it, I read this post from Tasia over at What does she have to say about this pattern? "Simple." "Easy." "For knitting in front of the tv." I just about reached through the internet and throttled her. Okay, maybe that's hyperbole. She's very nice and talented and her cowl is very pretty:

Thankfully, after picking up the project once more, I finally found my rhythm and I've made steady progress since. Once I was able to decipher the pattern in the stitches, it went quite smoothly. That's the trickiest part of knitting I think. If you don't know what a knit or purl stitch looks like when it's on your needles or in the row below, how are you supposed to know what to do next? And in a pattern which depends on you staggering your stitches, like this one, just one stitch out of place will ruin the whole thing. Despite all my frustration, I think I would definitely use this pattern again. Especially since I've realized that after all this hard work, I'm not that fond of the color and I think it would look better on my roommate. She'lll probably receive it as a Christmas gift, and she better be thankful! It's only a year in the making, after all.

And since I'm a glutton for punishment, I would also like to knit something for my mother-in-law. But what can I finish in three weeks instead of 12 months? Any recommendations? Ooh! Isn't this neat?

Bandana Cowl by Purl Soho on Ravelry
But that's probably more my style than hers. How about this?

Noble Cowl by Emily Kausalik on Ravelry
So pretty. I think a cowl is best because it will be quicker (hopefully) and also because the headband option is out - someone else knit her one recently. Your ideas are welcome.

Okay, enough of that selfless stuff. Let's talk about stuff for me! As Christmas draws closer I'm drawn to all the lovely dresses out there that I probably would only wear once. Oh well! It's the holidays! Here's my inspiration...

Emma Watson from Teen Vogue photo shoot
same shoot, more photos at Diary of a Fashion Junkie
 Are you all gasping in admiration? It's okay to be jealous of someone younger than you, in the case of Emma Watson, since she's classy and all. I don't spend too much time pouring over pictures of celebrities and finding things to covet, but when the top picture was featured on Coletterie  I fell in love. It was from their fabric series, this particular one being about brocade. How hard do you think it would be to recreate that skirt in the top photo? Anyone know a good pattern to work off of? I'm loving the idea of a full skirt and a separate top. Maybe... this one from my vintage pattern collection?

I really like the top view. Maybe as separates I might get more wear out of a holiday top and skirt. I'm hooked on brocade lately, as you can tell from my other inspiration photo:

Sadly, I don't know where I found this photo. I think it must have been ModCloth, but I couldn't find it there  just now. There are other pretty examples though.

Well, that's enough from me. Anyone else want to share their holiday inspiration?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Christmas comes early!

Oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy!

I really am a spoiled child. Look what my mom sent me! I can't say what I did to deserve this... okay, well I guess I did pass my qualifying exams (!) but this is still a lot of presents - enough that I am tempted to roll around in them like Scrooge in his piles of money. I better be sending some goodies to my mom soon because this is just too generous. Let's look at what she sent, shall we?

I am so excited at these sewing tools! I've been wanting a french curve for quite a while, and I can't wait to use it. And the vintage hem marker? Too cool! I've often sighed wistfully at other people's (like Sunni's). Now I have my very own, and I didn't even tell anyone about it! How lucky. My mom also sent a package of hand needles, which I can always use because - like all good seamstresses - I regularly lose my needles in the carpet so that later on some poor soul gets one in the foot. But that's not all! She also sent some serger tweezers. I don't know what these are used for, but I'm sure I will figure it out one day and be very glad I own them. What else? I'm sure you didn't fail to notice that box of vintage patterns at the top. Some of them are truly treasures, like the Givenchy dress peeking out in the photo. Then there's the wool she found at Goodwill. It's a lighter weight... maybe for a jacket or a skirt? And the colors are very pretty - browns and grays and blues. And here's another treasure:

This may be my favorite, for sentimental reasons. It's my mom's mom's Christmas cookie recipe and a bag full of cookie cutters. I am pretty attached to my holiday traditions, and I think it's really sweet that my mom thought to send me this so that I can make our holiday cookies here in Indiana, even though I can't go home this year.

Oh geez, that's not even everything. I just got off the phone with my mom, and she told me to unroll the wool because there was another gift hidden in the middle...

My own little embroidery scissors. I know this might sound silly, but I see these as a badge of a real seamstress. I feel like I just joined a special club. A very special, very dorky club.

Well, that's enough gloating over presents. I'm sorry you all had to witness that. Let's change the subject. Check out these!

Oh yeah. Those are homemade soft pretzels, and they are freakin delicious. I made on Halloween, but we gobbled them down before I thought of taking any photos. So I made them again. They aren't necessarily hard to make, but it does take a little time and tinkering. I guess what makes these so awesomely tasty is that you have to boil them a little and bake them and paint them with egg yolk, but I would say it's definitely worth it. Here's the recipe. And while you could eat these plain or dip them in some mustard from the fridge, wouldn't you rather have them with some beer cheese sauce?

I thought so. This is not hard to make at all. You just get your double boiler going, and then throw in some finely-shredded cheddar, some goat cheese (or cream cheese), a little beer, some red pepper flakes, maybe some chopped chives and a little garlic pepper, and you have yourself a delicious dipping sauce for your amazing homemade pretzels. I am not much of a cook, but I'm proud enough of these that I will definitely be making them for some party or other in the future. Like a beer garden party in the summer? That would be amazing. Or for a Christmas party with lots of different sauce options? Oh my lucky, lucky guests.