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.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Copycat Creations: Pinterest Layered Skirt

I recently told a friend that my Pinterest clothing boards are mainly filled with pictures of things I want to make. It's kind of like those lists that you know you can never finish but you just keep adding to anyway. A few weeks ago, I found a pin of a skirt that I loved, so I decided to take action right away. Here is the picture:

Of course, even with all my drawers and shelves full of fabric, I didn't have anything that would work to make this skirt. So I went shopping. To a thrift store. And came home with this skirt:

It was made of a nice, soft, flowy material with a little bit of texture, and ended up being just enough material to get the three layers for the skirt and a top waistband piece.

I serged the top and bottom edges of each tier and attached them to a cotton lining. The lining was just a narrow A-line shape. I overlaid the top of it with a band of the blue fabric and then sewed the tiers on, overlapping them about two inches. Here is the finished product:

I have also worn it with a striped shirt sort of like the one in the original picture and it looks great. I love it! I think I am going to have to make myself another one in a different color. But then, I do have a lot more I-want-to-make-this-sometime pins...

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Spring Cramming

I just realized it has been over a month since I posted last. I promise I still exist! And I definitely haven't stopped sewing! Truth is, I have been so busy with sewing projects and many other things lately that I have had no time to post.

I took a shopping trip the other week - because some thrift stores in town were having a sale - and came home with several new sewing projects. And a few things that I didn't have to alter/change at all and could just wear as is. Like this sweater cardigan, which immediately became one of my favorite items of clothing:

My sewing room is rather crowded with projects right now. I really don't know when I will get to them all! Currently I am working on a fun, brightly colored jacket for a friend. I recently made dresses for her daughters, and she requested a jacket for herself from the same fabric. Such a neat idea! I hope to post pictures soon.

My personal sewing projects have mainly been centered around creating good outfits for swing dancing. You might say that swing dancing is bad for my closet. But my wardrobe needed a makeover anyway, and I did go through and pull out several things that I don't wear anymore. Now they are in a large bag on the floor in my sewing room. The challenge is to get them to a thrift store this week. If I put it on my list, it should happen...

Aside from sewing and swing dancing, I have been preparing my students and choirs for spring recitals and concerts, practicing violin and piano, making food (when you cook from scratch, it takes time!), and generally trying to keep my life in some semblance of order. And this morning I even found time to mow the, lawn. One of the drawbacks to living in town is that people notice and care what your lawn looks like.

I have Easter break coming up, so I am anticipating getting a lot done. Hopefully a lot more posting here in the near future! We'll see how that goes! ;-)