Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Freedom of a Seamstress

As many of you know, I thrift-store shop a lot. It's a hit-and-miss thing. Sometimes I find really good deals on cool stuff - sometimes I even find exactly what I was looking for! But a lot of times I don't. I used to get annoyed when I would reach the end of the 'small' section and still not have found anything. Sometimes I would look through the medium and even large sizes just in case some small things had been accidentally stuffed onto the wrong wracks. Any more, I don't even pay attention to sizes. Because I can recreate things, I can buy cute stuff no matter what the size. When I found this large shirt, that's exactly what I did.

It was so cute with its bright green polka dots and decorative lines of stitching. Size 1X? Who cares! Not a hard thing to fix. The shirt sat around in my sewing room for a while with several other projects that are part of the never-ending cycle. I don't think it's possible for me to ever really be all caught up on sewing projects.

But last week I had (or made) some free time. Fall is fast approaching, and this shirt is perfect for cooler weather, so, out it came. First, I took off the sleeves, then cut the top down a few sizes using one of my nicely-fitting tunic tops as a guide. I also cut the shoulders in a bit, because they hung an inch or so down my arm.
I had to go through the normal routine of sewing together, trying on, adjusting, trying on again... Eventually, I got it just right. Then I addressed the sleeves. I wanted to keep them loose fitting at the ends, but they definitely needed to be more narrow at the armholes. Here is a comparison of the wide one on the left and the trimmed one on the right.
The sleeves went on and the shirt was done! Before and after:

New favorite shirt!

Monday, August 21, 2017

An Annual Thing...

In the weeks leading up to my trip to Russia, I was sewing, as usual. I sewed some things for myself and did a few smaller projects, but I also designed three bridesmaid dresses. I got the job via a recommendation from a friend (thanks, Lisa!), and it was a really fun project. I got to design the dresses off of a picture, with a few added specifications and variations. Here is the picture:

The dresses were going to each be a different shade of blue and have different style sleeves. I had a chance to meet with each bridesmaid to get measurements and talk about exactly what they were wanting for their dress. Measurements are a tricky thing, and I still had to do several fittings and a lot of tweaking before they fit just right. Some fabrics and styles are just hard that way. But eventually they were all finished - before I left on my trip! Here are a few pictures they sent me from the wedding:

So pretty! I love the different shades of blue and the long, flowy style.

I realized while I was working on the dresses that it was about a year ago that I made another set of bridesmaid dresses. Maybe this will turn into an annual thing! That time, there were six of them. Some of the bridesmaids lived out of town, so they had to send me their measurements and do fittings the week of the wedding. Talk about stressful! I think I was finishing some of them up the day before the rehearsal. But they all did get finished and the wedding was beautiful!

Last year's dresses were a completely different style: knee-length satin with lace overlay on the top. It was actually a pretty simple pattern and the fabric wasn't too hard to work with. The hard part was finding out the week of that a few of the dresses were too small! There's not much you can do when a dress is too small. My advice: give yourself lots of seam allowance! Also, you can sometimes take out half the dress and re-cut and re-sew just the back pieces, or just the front. That way you don't have to ditch the whole dress and start again from scratch.

Two sets of bridesmaid dresses down! Let's see what next year brings!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Faraway Places

Just last week, I got back from an amazing trip overseas - a trip to Russia. I went with five people from my church and it was the most incredible experience I have ever had. The 13-day trip felt way too short, and I was not ready to leave. I met so many wonderful people and formed deep friendships. I learned and grew and was blessed and stretched in many ways. I know this is a sewing blog, and I will get to that (I promise!), but I want to share some pictures from the trip with you first.

Ready to leave the US for the first time! (at least for me)

Sight-seeing in St. Petersburg:

The people we got to stay with and spend time with made us feel like family!

It took a while, but I actually got the pigeons to eat out of my hand! I was so excited!!

The colorful roofs looked so pretty when we flew in

My amazing host family!

One of the things I really wanted to do while I was in Russia was go to a fabric store, of course. ;-) So one of the women there took me to one. It looked really small from the front. but opened up and just kept going with rooms and rooms full of fabric! The fabric stores are set up a little differently than here. I was so engaged in looking at all the fabric and trying to pick something to buy that I forgot to take pictures in the store! Oops! But I did get one picture just before I left, thanks to one of my friends asking if I wanted one!

They did have some sections with bolts of fabric, but mostly it was just rows of racks hung with example swatches, like you can see above. It actually made the fabric easier to see, since you weren't just looking at the thin end of a bolt. Once you picked which fabric you wanted, they would go back and find the bolt and bring it out to cut it for you. There were so many different options, but after a few minutes of looking I found the one below and it was love at first sight. I hadn't expected such an easy decision!

It was funny because the lady who was cutting it for me thought I needed more than a meter and 10 centimeters to make a dress. She couldn't believe that I could do it with that little! She didn't know English and I didn't know Russian, so she talked a lot with the Russian woman I was with, measured me, looked quite skeptical, and finally cut my requested length. Turns out it was just enough!

I am in love with my Russia dress! It is so comfortable and I just love the polka dots. It was such a fun way to commemorate my trip. I think I will have to make a tradition of buying fabric every time I go to another country. I see lots more traveling in my future!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Copycat Creations: Lengthening a Dress

I bought a really cute, stylish dress because I just couldn't pass it up. Only problem was, I wanted it to be a few inches longer!
I had pinned the picture below on Pinterest a while back thinking it was a great idea. The picture was captioned "TIP: Add length to short dress. Lengthen from middle". Brilliant!!

My dress came with a black tie. I thought if I took it apart it would work well to make a wide waistband for the dress. Of course, that meant a lot of seam ripping, because the tie was decorated with several lines of stitching. 

I was happy to find that a good ironing removed all trace of the stitched lines. Now I had a long, wide strip of black fabric. 

I then tried on the dress to determine the place I should cut it to add the black waistband. I made the cut a little above my waist since the waistband was going to be a few inches wide and I wanted to center it over the waist. 
I measured and cut the waistband to a little wider than my waist measurement. Then I gathered the top and skirt of the dress in the front and back to bring it in to match this measurement. 

I sewed the waistband to the top and skirt, trying it on and adjusting the seams a little to make sure it all looked straight and even. 

Here are before and after pictures:
I love it! Hooray for Pinterest and people with clever ideas!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Tips and Tricks: Adjusting the Fit

Ever find a pair of jeans that fit great except that they are a little too big in the waist? Or perhaps a shirt or jacket or maybe even a dress that is too tight at the armpits? Sometimes I buy things that don't quite fit me because I like them too much to pass up. Then I get home and have to figure out how to make them work. I wanted to share with you a few fixes that I came up with for items like this.

First, jeans that are too big in the waist. This seems like a frequent problem. The jeans that fit in the waist are too tight around the hips, and those that fit right in the hips are too big in the waist. Jean waistbands pretty thick, so taking tucks in them results in bulky bumps that are rather uncomfortable. I discovered a way to make the waistband smaller while still keeping it flat and smooth.

First, cut some slits in the waistband. The slits should go most of the way through the waistband but not cut through it completely.

Overlap the cut edges about 1/4" and pin in place.

Sew together with a zig-zag stitch.

And that's it! You can do this as many times as you need to in different places around the waist until the jeans fit just right. I always wear shirts untucked over my jeans, so I used a light colored thread that matched the thread on the rest of the jeans. If you want to make the stitches more invisible, use thread that matches the color of the jeans themselves.

Now for the second fix: shirts, dresses, or jackets that are too small at the armpits. This fix has some strings attached. First, it works best with knit fabrics - things that are at least a little stretchy. Secondly, the item that you are working with needs to be a little big. You have to be able to take it in a bit on the sides or take darts in the back so you have some extra fabric to work with. The idea is to take fabric from somewhere on the item of clothing and use it to create inserts for the sleeves. Let me show you how I did this on a flyaway cardigan.

I seam ripped a few inches of the sleeve just under the armpit, disconnecting it from the top. I also seam ripped a little ways down the sleeve seam.

The cardigan was a bit wide on me, so I took a couple of darts in the back and trimmed the extra fabric.

I then used that extra fabric to make triangle inserts for the sleeves. (The seams are a little hard to see in this fabric, so I outlined them to make them clearer.)

Expanding the sleeves about an inch meant that they were now too wide for the armholes. But the whole point of the project was to make the armholes wider. Remember the opening I had seam ripped in the armpit at the beginning? I cut the armholes a little deeper in that opening to make room for the wider sleeve.

Then I sewed the up the armpit seam.

It fits much better, and the insert is almost invisible. No one will ever know. Except you blog readers.

Do you have any genius alterations that you would like to share? Any tips and tricks for making clothes fit just right? Tell us about them in the comments below!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A Bright Idea

Easter was a while ago, but here I am finally getting around to posting about an Easter sewing project I did for a family in my church. A church friend asked me to make dresses for her three girls. The fabric she gave me to use was so bright and cheery, perfect for spring/summer dresses. Working with fun fabric makes projects that much more enjoyable!

There was plenty of fabric left over after the dresses were finished, and the mom came up with the wonderful idea of getting a matching jacket made for herself. She gave me a jacket of her own to use as a pattern and told me to use the colors as I thought best to create sort of a patchwork look. I was having a little trouble "seeing" it in my head, so I used a picture of the original jacket and some of my favorite photo editing programs to create a few different options.

Original jacket:

Color options for new jacket:

We decided on option #3. I drafted the pattern using tracing paper and lots of measuring. It was kind of like a puzzle the way all the pieces fit together. I enjoy projects where I have to copy something - figure out how to make it look like the original. Here is the finished jacket and the lovely woman I made it for:

Beautiful family! They even found an orange bow tie for their little boy. So cute!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Seeing Potential

I love having the ability to see potential in things - to pull out a very old-fashioned dress from a thrift store rack and know that I could make it into something stylish and pretty. Sometimes it's a little difficult. Sometimes I have to stare at the item of clothing for a while and then close my eyes and try to imagine...but with this beautifully-colored dress it was a no-brainer. I just couldn't pass up such a wonderful opportunity for a makeover!

The skirt was perfect: a lovely, flowy chiffon. I knew I didn't have to make any changes there. But the top needed some work. The skirt was sewn at the waist to the lining of the top. I sewed the chiffon and lining together just below the waist to keep them together and then cut the skirt off of the top.

That done, I completely took apart the top, removing the lining and the sleeves. Then I cut the lace down to a more fitted shape.

The lining had no stretch to it, and as I wanted to create a fitted top that didn't need a zipper, I knew I was going to need a stretchy fabric. A trip to the thrift store yielded a T-shirt that was just the right color.

I sewed the skirt and top together again, gathering the skirt a little to make it the right size.

I also shortened the sleeves a bit, sewed them in to make them smaller, and reattached them to the top. I finished off the neckline with some facing.

Makeover complete! I debuted the dress at the Metropolitan Opera in NYC. Because if you are in NYC, you might as well go see an opera at the Met, and if you go see an opera at a place as amazing as the Met, you might as well dress up for it, even if it is cold and windy and raining. At least, that's what I think.