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.

Sewaholic Saltspring

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The days are shorter, the evenings are cooler, school has started and Saturdays are for football.  Fall is definitely here.  So what do I do?  Sew my first sundress of the summer.  What?  Well, I’m glad I did.  I love it.  I wore it today, probably the last hot day of the year, and it has all the elements of something to wear everyday in the summer.  It’s adjustable with the straps, has pockets, and is comfortable and cool.  I just wish I had the pattern before I went on vacation – I would have made a bunch!

I picked up the Sewaholic Saltspring at a cute shop in Columbus, Sew to Speak.  They’re my local source for Sewaholic patterns especially when I get an idea in my head and just have to start that day –no waiting for shipping from Canada.

This is my third Sewaholic pattern and like the others (Renfrew and Cambie) it didn’t disappoint.  Pretty yet wearable style with good instructions.  They posted a sewalong and I sewed with my ipad right next to my sewing machine.  It was such a great way to go through the project. 

There are things I really like about the dress and some I would change next time (and I anticipate making several versions next summer.)IMG_3505_edited-1web

The blousy bodice is not something you have to fiddle with all day.  It is cleverly designed – the outer layer is longer than the lining so when you sew the edges together the blousiness (made up word, I know) doesn’t move or require a belt.IMG_5703_edited-1web

I’m not crazy about the split in the back.  Even if I had put in a zipper and the sizing was good for me (more on that later) it looks unfinished.  The picture above is just pinned together where the zipper should be but you can get the idea.  The elastic at the waist would pull the sides closer and the top couple inches are stitched down but it would show your lining as you moved.  I didn’t realize it was like that until construction.

It was at this stage I could finally try on the bodice.  It was way too big.  By this time, I couldn’t take it in on the sides without taking apart all my work; the only place I could adjust was the center back. So, I sewed the center back together but in order to catch both sides (the outer flappy parts) I had to take it in quite a bit –at least an inch.  It fits fine but the back doesn’t lie well.  IMG_3592_edited-1web

I also wish the pattern included directions for a skirt lining.  This dress is perfect for light airy fabric. But, if the fabric is like my voile, it’s too sheer to wear in bright sunlight without a lining.  Sewaholic was smart, though, and posted a work-around on their blog.  The straps almost sent me over the edge.  I ended up cutting new straps after some mishaps turning the first two right side out.  With this fabric I needed more room when turning so I would recommend smaller seam allowances.  In fact, I think I’ll try non-tie straps next time.

Sizing – I fell between sizes for the bodice so I cut the 10 thinking I could take it in later.  I didn’t think through the order of construction  – it doesn’t allow for that.   It was huge! After taking in the back I ended up right about the size 8. Next time I’ll cut the smaller size.  That way, rather than the dress only being reduced in back, it’ll be more proportional.  I also don’t see the need for a zipper so I’ll just cut front and back on the fold.  The dress is somewhat short.  I wasn’t able to get the 1” hem.  I just serged the bottom and folded it up.IMG_3571_edited-1web

Even with those tweaks, I really like the dress and will definitely make more for next summer.  I would love to try the maxi version.

Summer Berry Pie

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Don’t you just love all the berries that are in season during the summer?

This pie is great because the fresh berries are truly the star, not a sickeningly sweet glaze or fruit baked down to nothing.  Of course it comes from my favorite cookbook, America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.  I found the recipe already published online.  You can find it here: Summer Berry Pie.

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You have to really love berries to enjoy this – the most dominant flavor is the fresh, raw berries.  The sweetness comes from a filling made of a berry puree combined with sugar and cornstarch which is reduced and thickened on the stove. Another neat touch is coating the berries with melted currant jelly so they stay glossy.

You can see the delicious filling in the photo below. The filling is spread over the crust and berries are (gently) pressed into it.

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A couple notes:

– My berries were a bit tart so I added extra sugar to the filling. It’s worth tasting them first.

– This takes a lot of berries – 6 Cups – so it’s ideal for summer when it won’t cost a fortune to make just one pie.

– My cooking time for the puree was at least double, maybe more.

– I’m sure the recipe for the graham cracker crust is fine.  Mine tasted good but was a little hard in areas and crumbly in others.  Likely user error – I had the same problem with my key lime pie.

-The recipe online calls for apple jelly.  The cookbook says either apple or red currant.  I used red currant and it was tasty.

There’s not much else to say except it is delicious and fresh tasting and you should try it!

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Carrot Cake

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Let me just say that I love carrot cake.  I’ll admit the cream cheese icing is most of the reason I order it but am always bummed when the cake itself is bland or dry. This recipe will certainly not disappoint. I needed a dessert to take to dinner with friends last night so I thought I’d give it a try since I’ve never made a carrot cake from scratch.  It was good timing – my husband who is not a fan was out of town so I would hear no grumbling about making a dessert he didn’t like!

You all know this is certainly not a food blog (what kind is it really?) but I do like to share recipes I stumble across that are easy and delicious.  I struggle, though, because I do a lot of my cooking out of cookbooks. It feels wrong to just reprint someone’s recipe unless I adapt it in some way (and would note that) which is infrequent. This recipe is from my go-to cookbook, The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.   This cookbook is my first stop for any recipe and is pretty much foolproof.

Sometimes, however, recipes are posted on line which is the best because then I feel better about sharing with you and can just link to it and save typing! So, here’s the link:

Carrot Cake

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Couple notes:

-The color in real life is deeper and more orange – the photos are a bit overexposed.

– I grated my carrots more thinly than probably necessary (oh, my arms!) because I don’t like chunky pieces.

– Cooking time – The picture above is a piece from the dead center of the cake.  You can see it may be a smidge undercooked in that spot.  The texture was fine -I didn’t notice when I ate it and only saw it on my computer screen. I checked the cake at 3o and 35 minutes and removed it at 40 minutes when an inserted toothpick still had a couple crumbs.  Any longer would have made the rest of the cake dry.

– The icing is delicious but just barely enough to cover the 13×9 cake if you ice the sides.  I’ll probably increase the amount by a quarter or half next time.  It’s very soft so wouldn’t be suitable for a layer cake.

– Nuts would be a great here.  I wanted to try out the basic cake first and then play with the spices (might need some more nutmeg and cinnamon) and other additions in the future.

Give it a try!

Sadie was a fan of the icing.  When I got home last night I found the spatula from sink in the middle of my rug.  That’ll teach me not to fill the dishwasher before I leave.  Here she wants some of my piece too!IMG_3413_edited-1web

Good To Be Back!

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Hi everyone!  It’s been a while since I’ve posted.  It’s not because nothing’s going on – in fact just the opposite.  I got back last night after three weeks away from home.  I have never loved my sofa so much.

On the sewing front I haven’t finished anything but have made muslins for a couple dresses.  Unfortunately I didn’t get any dresses actually completed.  And here I had grand plans to make tons of casual sundresses this summer.  How many did I get done? None! I did learn through the process though. I know I am high waisted but I also learned I’m short between the shoulder and bust point.   Both of the dresses I tried had a mock wrap v-neck.  The only way to make the top fit was to pinch out excess fabric between the shoulder and bust point.  Makes sense – straps are always too long on RTW garments I buy.  The dresses were sleeveless so I was able to ‘scoop out’ the armsyce at the bottom to add back the fullness I removed.  Anyone know how to adjust when there are sleeves? I can’t find anything in any of my fitting books or online.

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July is always the start to a busy few months in my job – lots of work and travel.  I had trips for work to Portland, OR and Burlington, VT.  Then my husband and I went on a two week vacation.  Two weeks!  I haven’t taken two weeks off since high school!  It was wonderful.

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We went to Captiva Island where I’ve been vacationing for over 30 years and Matt has been coming the last 10 years.  Thankfully, he loves it as much as I do. The empty beaches, refreshing pools and gorgeous wildlife make for a wonderful change of pace. We got to see old friends, visit favorite spots, and eat out every night. The scale will not be my friend; I’m kinda scared to even check.

Sea Turtle nests are scattered along the beach.  They are protected and monitored.turtle patrol

An osprey that hung out in the tree outside the condo. He (She?) chirped all day long.SONY DSC

The view  from the condo screened porch in the sun and the rain.  I could sit out there for hours.SONY DSC

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While I didn’t want to leave, I was happy to come home to see Sadie and the cats.  No travel for a couple weeks and I am going to be a complete homebody!

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Infinity Scarf

IMG_3200_edited-1webThere are approximately 10,000 infinity scarf tutorials in the internet.  Now there’s 10,001!  There’s a good reason.  It’s the easiest project ever.  If you have a sewing machine, you can make one.  Two yards of fabric makes two scarves which can be worn doubled or tripled. It could make three scarves if you like them more narrow.  I may try that next.

I was procrastinating starting a knit dress and wanted to make something quick and easy.  When I realized a girlfriend’s birthday party was Saturday, I figured it would be a cute handmade addition to her gift.

Fabric choice is important.  I used cotton voile for all the examples below and it works well.  A gauze would be pretty.  A printed or striped knit would be great too.  I just didn’t have either of those in my stash and once I got the idea in my head I wanted to try it right then.  The curse of the impatient, I guess.  Any woven thicker than a voile would look a little too chunky.  It’s a great way to use fabrics you love but wouldn’t wear as a garment.  The scarves look more bulky here than when they’re actually worn.

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A cool alternative would be to make it out of two coordinating fabrics – it would look very cool once twisted around your neck.  I didn’t have that so below is a simple version.

Wanna learn how?  Here goes:

IMG_3203_edited-1webCut the fabric width in half (cut parallel to the selvage).  You could even cut it in thirds.  Your scarf will be half the width of each cut piece.  In my example, my fabric is 54” wide.  I cut one piece 23” x wide since that was the easiest way to mark the fabric with my ruler.  The remainder was 31”.  Whatever the width you choose, make sure that measurement is uniform the entire length.  That will be important later.  Just trim it up if not.  Square off the ends.

 

IMG_3205_edited-1webTake one of your strips and fold it in half right sides together.  Pin along the edge.  If you have a visible selvage, pin so that side is on top.

 

IMG_3210_edited-1webStitch the entire length of the piece.  I use the selvage as a guide to ensure it doesn’t show through.  Otherwise, I would use about 1/2” or 3/8” seam. (Can you tell this doesn’t have to be exact?)

 

IMG_3215_edited-1webPress the seam flat and then press the seam allowance open.

Turn the “tube” you just created right side out.

Fold that tube in half with the seam lines together.

 

IMG_3217_edited-1webPin the sides with the seam right sides together.  Only pin the inner layers.  Leave the other sides free. 

 

 

IMG_3221_edited-1webKeep pinning with the raw edges lined up as far as you can.  You won’t be able to pin the whole way around.

 

 

IMG_3225_edited-1webStitch along the edge as far as you can.  You’re sewing the loop closed so you won’t be able to stitch this all the way around. 

 

IMG_3229_edited-1webTurn the loop right side out.

 

 

IMG_3230_edited-1webLine up the remaining opening. Press a fold along the seam line to guide your hand stitches (I just finger press. Lazy.)

Stitch closed. I’m not showing that – my hand stitching is atrocious!

Press along the hand stitching.

Admire your new scarf! 

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Burda 7198

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So, what do you do when you have a rare 4-day weekend but your highly anticipated pool time gets rained out? Sew a shirt, I guess!  This pattern seemed to be a pretty versatile, casual style that could work well with various prints.  Also, in the summer I like to have the option of layers without resorting to a coat.

The pattern is Burda 7198 and made from a cotton voile which is perfect. The fabric is from Amy Butler’s Soul Blossoms line. What wonderful fabric! It made the cheap voile I used for my muslin feel like burlap! Granted, it was 3 times the cost on sale but it was so comfortable I bought more prints when my local shop had it 50% off (!)yesterday.

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My first run was made from bright pink cotton voile I ordered on sale.  It was a great deal at 50% off (only $2.50/yard!) so I figured if it didn’t work, it was no more expensive than muslin and if it did work, I would have a second blouse.  I’m so glad I did a muslin – I made a few changes based on it and it helped me figure out how to do the placket.  I seem to have issues with plackets!

Changes I made:

  • I didn’t add the horizontal dart in the back.  It’s so strange.  It was across the upper back of the shirt and served no purpose except a weird design feature.  I didn’t know it was there until I looked at the pattern piece since it’s not on the line drawing.  Ignored on both the muslin and blouse.IMG_3022_edited-1web
  • Sizing – I fell between the pattern sizes 12 and 14 for the bust and 14 and 16 for waist and hip.  I made a 12 throughout.  It would have been huge if I followed their sizing!
  • Removed the center back seam on the final blouse.  It probably would be useful for fitting if you need it but since it was a straight line I just subtracted the seam allowance and cut it on the fold – no need to match the print that way!  Also, with the relatively sheer fabrics I was using, the seam was very obvious.  So much so that even though my pink version fits, I don’t know that I’ll wear it.
  • Shortened the upper portion of the blouse 1.5”.  This pattern has an upper and lower shorten/lengthen line which was so helpful.  My measurements indicated 2” but I thought that was too much.  In hindsight I should have only raised it about 3/4”. I think the top’s proportions look a bit off.
  • I debated whether to add the godets on the side for the 2nd version.  I ended up keeping them because they give some shape even if they do stick out a bit.

The neckline finish is a bit odd but looks nice from the outside (especially on solid colors).  The bias piece isn’t a binding in the traditional sense.  Rather, it basically covers the folded down raw edges of the neck on the bottom and adds a design feature at the top.  You’re covering the seam more than enclosing it.  That’s assuming I did it correctly. I wonder if I did it wrong because I don’t see how this little strip of fabric will prevent the neckline from fraying – it’s still somewhat exposed underneath. I wonder if I was supposed to put it under the folded neckline. Even if not, I think I’ll try that next time.

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All in all, I like it and may make another version down the road since it’s such a versatile style.  My only issue besides raising the waist too much are the seven buttonholes.  My machine does a crap job.  I did multiple practice button holes but on the first ‘real’ one the machine got stuck and sewed a huge knot/ball of thread and pulled a hole in the fabric.  It was impossible to remove the thread without making the hole bigger. As it is, I’m hoping some fray check with prevent the hole from getting worse.  The rest went in fine but look lame –the second side is half as dense as the first.  It’s so bad that in the future I’ll probably find a local tailor and see if they can sew my buttonholes.  You can see below the one on the right where there’s a hole over a big thread knot and the normal buttonhole on the left where one side is good and the other is no more than a zig zag stitch.

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Next time I may narrow the sleeves a bit.  IMG_3016_edited-1web

Looks like today may be rained out again. What’s next? I made a bodice muslin for a maxi dress last week but have been hesitant to start the project since the challis I’m using needs a lining.  I have no clue how to insert one with a side zipper and tank style.  Maybe I’ll try a little knit dress.  I need some of those and no lining needed.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!