Monthly Archives: December 2013

Sewing roundup – 2013

I’ve really been enjoying the roundups of fellow bloggers over the past few weeks.  Every December it amazes me just how many garments they make!  It’s incredible.  Sometimes I can go months without sewing anything.  All the same, I’m happy about the progress I made this year.  Here’s the wrap up:

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The Good:

  • The garments I made this year actually get worn – I was more realistic about fabrics and styles.
  • When I looked back at the year, I completed 12 projects, averaging 1 a month. That surprised me! I definitely go in spurts.  Nothing gets done in the late summer and fall due to lots of work travel.
  • I’m learning more about what fitting adjustments I normally need and how to do them.
  • I was a pattern tester for Christine Haynes’ Emery Dress.  That was fun! It also got me to try a silhouette that I normally wouldn’t. I didn’t post it here because I made it in remnant fabric and had fitting issues.  That wasn’t the pattern’s fault – her pattern and instructions are great – I was between sizes and needed bodice adjustments.  As a tester, you make one straight size to ensure the drafting is correct.
  • I found some patterns I already know I’ll make multiples of next year.
  • I embraced the muslin.  We all have fitting issues and while making muslins cuts down on the number of completed garments, it helped to make ensure those that are completed are worn.

The Bad:

  • The flip side of ‘embracing the muslin’ is that I spent a TON of time on fitting issues this year with fewer garments to show for it.  Without a finished product, it can feel like I did nothing.
    • There was a summer dress I wanted to make before vacation .  I made 2 or 3 bodice muslins before realizing I wouldn’t get the project done before leaving.  I never picked it back up upon returning.
    • I did at least 3 or 4 bodice muslins to work out my fitting issues on a “real” (non test) version of the Emery dress which took a lot of time.  The dress is done except for inserting the lining, zipper and hem.  It has been on my dress form for at least 3 months waiting to be completed.  I just have no reason to wear a dress like that in winter so it sits.  Boo, me.
  • The knit tops I made early in the year were duds.  That’s unfortunate since I wear knits in some form almost every day.
  • I bought too much fabric with grand plans for it.  Must sew from my stash in 2014!
  • Last January I made a goal to try to carve out some sewing time each week.  I didn’t even come close to that.

My favorite project(s) – This is a tie between the Saltspring Dress and my new pillows. Since one is home decor, I think I can have a tie.  I love the Saltspring dress and wish I would’ve made it earlier in the summer.  I’ll definitely make several next year.  It’s a perfect comfy and cool sundress.  I loved my Cambie dress too – I just don’t have occasion to wear it often.

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My least favorite garmentsSimplicity 1810 and Simplicity 2181 (the two polka dot tops below).   Both have fit issues and neither is flattering.  In fact, I’m not crazy about my first 4 garments of the year.  I like the floral blouse below, I’m just not in love with the fabric.  I purposely used a fabric I didn’t love for my first try at the pattern in case it bombed.  I should make a new version.

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Next year:

  • I want to improve my fitting skills so that when I do make something, I wear it.
  • Sew more knits.
  • I’d also like to make more of an effort to sew regularly, even if it’s a few minutes here and there.  I’m more likely to finish something if I break it up in bite size pieces.

Have a Happy and Healthy New Year!

This Sewing Hobby Finally Paid Off!

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Hi!  Is anyone still out there?  I know I haven’t posted in forever.  I’ve done some garment sewing (countless muslins and am almost done with an Emery dress) but haven’t completed anything.  Mostly, I’ve been busy with work and not feeling the sewing mojo.  Until the time came for new throw pillows.

Over the past few months there’s been a lot of talk on sewing blogs about whether sewing saves you money.  For garments, my opinion is mostly “no”.  There’s just too much cheap, disposable fashion out there. If your skills are such that you can sew high quality construction with good fit and nice fabrics, then it’s good value to sew your own and have it fit like a glove (compared to high end RTW).  I will take a long time to get to that level.  I have a lot of thoughts on this topic – maybe a blog post for later.

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I know this picture is odd – the sofas are so long I couldn’t get both in the same shot downstairs

Anyway, home decor is one area I’m guessing most people would save money by sewing for themselves.  I know I did.  We got two new sofas this spring.  Both are super long –102” – and a basic taupe color.  I bought them thinking how easy it would be to sew and change pillows whenever I felt like it.  Ha.  So foolish. This simple throw pillow idea turned into quite the project.  The problem is the quantity of pillows needed.  You can see in the picture that the room and sofas are big – lots of pillows and multiple fabrics needed!  I wanted at least four relatively large pillows for each sofa made from at 3-4 fabrics that complemented each other.  They had to be cool colors to match our trim/sofa/walls, the brown had to be super dark like our rug, and no gold!  (We just got rid of two gold sofas and I was sick of it!)  I also wanted bold color or graphic prints – nothing fussy or traditional.  All those requirements combined meant I couldn’t find enough coordinating options at Target or Pottery Barn or wherever.  I do have some additional pillows from Target and Home Goods – they’re just not pictured here.  Pillows everywhere!

After much frustrating fabric shopping online and an overwhelming fabric showroom, I stopped by Calico Corners to get some ideas.  Out of all their books and my ridiculous criteria, I only found a few sets of fabrics I liked together. I would find two here or two there but I needed four that worked together.  Since I love blue and green, I went that route.  We planned out a few striped, a few patterned, and a bunch of solids with trim.  The fabrics were pricey so I requested quotes for fully completed pillows covers and the fabric alone.  I already had the pillow forms.  The cost for 10 pillows with trim and welting? $1200!!!  I about died.

So, that meant I was sewing.  I ordered the striped velvet and teal Moroccan patterned yardage from them and called it a day.  I special ordered the solid colors at Joann while on sale with a friends and family coupon.  I had to live without the fringe trim and make my own welting.  All in all, I probably saved at least $800!!  Actually, I never would’ve paid that quote even if I couldn’t sew.  But, it’s pretty cool to get similar pillows for much, much, much less.  I should’ve had more savings but I ordered too much fabric.

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Figuring out the fabric needed was tough due to the welting cord.  I knew I needed to make bias strips.  But how much fabric for the dozens of yards of cord?  When the fabric is $40-$50 a yard, you want to be right!  I finally found a link on McCall’s quilting site that was wonderful.  It tells you how much fabric is needed depending on the width of the strip and the length required.  It provides directions and a video for making continuous bias strips from a piece of square fabric. Check it out – it’s very helpful: Continuous Bias

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I made several mistakes but now that I’m farther away from it, it’s not worth even writing about.  There are some tips I learned worth noting:

The construction wasn’t hard.  It was time consuming because I had to hand sew both sides of ten zippers – my sides never matched up properly using the machine and invisible zipper foot.

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When making the welt cord, cut the bias strip wider than you think you’ll need.  Most tutorials tell you to cut the width equal to the diameter of the cord plus twice the seam allowance.  That would work with thinner fabrics but not upholstery weight.  You can always trim it back but sewing along the cord with a too-small seam allowance is a PAIN. Add an extra 1/4”.

I had better luck cutting the fabric the size of my pillow form.  Some tutorials will tell you to cut it 1/2” -1” larger than the form.  I think that would be too loose, especially for down inserts. It will be even smaller once it’s sewn but that’s ok (mine was an inch smaller after 1/2 SA on each side.)  You want it to be stuffed in there.  For a couple pillows, (the ones without the welt) I went back and made them even tighter.

I bought a book which was helpful and will be even better if I try more ambitious styles.  Sew Sensational: Pillows

The first covers I sewed were made from the solid brown fabric.  I figured my mistakes wouldn’t be as visible.  It was a good move.  I learned to put the zipper and the cord join on the same side – that way you can hide them both based on how you position the pillows. Once I had a couple covers under my belt I knew the pitfalls and did the remaining sets assembly line style.

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Take time thinking about which sides you want to match and on which sides you want the zipper. If there are stripes, you’ll have to match your zipper with one color and plan your cutting around that.

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Overall, I’m happy with how they turned out. I finally have some color in the family room.   My stripe and pattern matching was so-so and really good, depending on the pillow.  I can live with that.  My corners aren’t quite sharp on the welted pillows but that won’t keep me up at night either.  I can rest easy thinking of the crazy money I didn’t spend on custom pillows and feel satisfied I at last made something for the house.