Seamwork Akita

I’ve barely sewn anything in 2015, and I recently decided that the Akita blouse, from Seamwork, Colette’s online magazine, would be a good project to try and kickstart my sewing mojo. It’s a one-hour project that takes about a yard of fabric, and has very simple construction. I decided to make up a wearable muslin in some quilting cotton and see what I thought. (Spoiler: WTF?.)

According to the pattern, I’m just shy of a size 12 for the bust, and between a 12 and 14 for the waist and hip. Based on my experience with Colette’s Crepe dress — I have a muslin of the bodice that’s been languishing for quite a while, because it’s at least one size too big, despite careful measuring on my part — I decided to go for a 12, rather than a 14.  Continue reading

Tote bags into floor pillows

I recently turned two giant tote bags a friend got at a con into floor pillows!

Giant pillows

The bags are large (24″ wide) but only about 3″ deep. The project turned out to be extremely easy. We found a foam cushion roll that was the exact width of the bags, and the same size fabric was used for the handle and all the way around the sides and bottom, making it a snap to create a closed side that doesn’t look weird.

Per our measurements, it seemed like the cushion wouldn’t be quick thick enough, but it was, and it actually turned out that the extra length could fit inside the whole shebang with no problem.

I stitched one side of the handle to one side of the bag opening, unpicked the hem on the other side of the opening, and applied velcro to seal up the whole thing.This way she can easily unseal them to throw them in the wash if needed. Here’s a look at that side:

Giant pillow close up

This was a super fast project and also pretty satisfying to MacGuyver together. However, between the foam rolls and the velcro, total cost was probably close to $60, including shipping and taxes. So, not really a cheap hack, more a cool way to create a neat decorative element for her new apartment.

Stripey Jersey Skirt

Zigzag skirtEarlier this summer, I got it into my head that I wanted a striped jersey skirt – a version of Kwik Sew 3513, which I’ve successfully made up previously, that is not relegated to “house clothes” status as my other two are. As you can see it turned out really well, and it’s very soft and comfortable to wear – perfect for summer in Maryland.

The fabric is from Jo Ann Fabrics, and is a knit called “Famous Maker Fabric Knits.” It’s very thin, so I dithered around a bit before I finally decided to buy twice as much as the pattern called for, and make a double layered skirt. Initially I’d thought that I would finagle things so that the stripes overlapped on the bottom and the overlay, but when I finally set about trying to do this, I decided that was not worth the time. Jersey is finicky enough to smooth out and cut, and ultimately I like that it’s not all matchy-matchy perfect.

I decreased the width of the waistband, which is designed to be folded over. On my other two versions of this skirt, it tends to hit right at my thickest point, and the folding adds a lot of bulk, which is not particularly flattering.

I do wish that I’d thought to cut the overlay pieces so that they were wider than the underskirt, so that it’d have a bit more swirl and flow. But that said, it’s obviously still a really great skirt! For others who might want to modify this pattern similarly, here’s what I did:

Continue reading

Snow Day Sewing: Easy Zippy Pouch

Thanks to yet another snowstorm, my office was closed on Monday, and I was able to spend the entire day sewing. I made three different things, and discovered that I don’t have enough fabric for two other major projects. Oops. Anyway, you’re here for the finished stuff. Here’s one project, you’ll hear about the other two soon. (Or you can click through this one and look at photos of them on Flickr.)

March 17: Easy Zippy Pouch

Continue reading

Sewing Machine Cozy

Sewing Machine Cover

This project was one of those things that just kept getting put aside, in favor of more exciting things. I followed this tutorial on Make/Craft, which I had bookmarked a long time ago. I don’t have a dedicated space for sewing, so I liked the idea of a cover that would still let me access the handle. This has the added bonus of turning the machine – which tends to hang out on the corner of my desk when not into use – into something more aesthetically pleasing. I find that the very basic machine covers, which don’t have a stiff lining to them, look sloppy to me.

The tutorial was very easy to follow – basically you make a sandwich with your exterior and interior fabrics and a bit of quilt batting, quilt it however you like (I just did a few vertical lines, and I let the fabric pattern be my guide as to where I put them), put some bias binding on the edges and then add ties.

The exterior fabric is something I picked up at Stitch Lab in Austin in October of 2011. I have no idea what it is. The interior fabric is leftover Kona cotton from a quilt project, and the bias binding is a 1/4″ green, chosen because it didn’t clash horribly and I had a ton of it. The ribbon is ribbon I bought for some project that I never made.  The batting I also had on hand from the quilt project. So that means this was one of those fabulous fast and easy projects that was basically free, because everything was either leftover from another project, or purchased so long ago as to not count.

As I tend to do when following these type of design-your-own tutorials, I messed up the measurements somehow and it isn’t quite as long as I had wanted. If you try making this I would suggest that you cut it longer and wider than your measurements indicate you need – both to incorporate seam allowance (which I did try to do) and to allow for easier adjustments before you bind the edges. If I had this to do again, I would cut it larger, quilt it, see how it fit before I bound it, and then trim it as needed. This will also allow you some wiggle room should things shift around while you quilt, which will inevitably happen.

I’d also recommend that you don’t use 1/4″ binding. I did as that’s what I had hanging around in enough quantity to bind this, and as a result I have several spots where the fabric didn’t get caught in the binding. I tried to go in and fix this but it was too fiddly to do without ripping the entire thing apart, which I had no desire to do. So I hit the raw edges with some Fray Check and called it a day. I also didn’t bother to try to hide the edges of my ties under the  bias binding, though that would have been a nice touch.

Toddler Art Smock

This was one of those projects that didn’t take much time at all when I was actually working on it, but there was a long stretch where I wasn’t working on it. Anyway, it’s done and I’m very happy with how it turned out. I haven’t heard the recipient’s opinion yet but he’s very well-mannered so I’m sure I’ll get a thank you when I see him this weekend.

Feb. 18: Toddler Art Smock

This is from One Yard Wonders. it’s very easy and doesn’t take much fabric at all – you could certainly put this together from large scraps and perhaps even fat quarters. I picked up the fabric a couple of summers ago at Jo Ann Fabrics, with a different project in mind, but it turned out to be too stiff for a blouse or skirt. Perfect for a smock though! Continue reading

Piano Keys Quilt

Piano Keys Quilt

It’s finally finished! This project typifies what happens to me when I work on something that I can’t finish in one or two sittings at the machine – it takes much, much longer than it should to complete. I have a tendency to pick things up and put them down, and rather than pick them back up I move on to other projects that were planned more recently. Which is a shame, because look at how lovely this quilt is! A few more pictures are here, with more to come once the sun returns.

The fabric for this, and the pattern – Piano Keys – were purchased at Spool Sewing in Philadelphia in April 2011. (Spool has since closed as a retail outlet, though they do still offer classes through their sister store, Loop.)

As is typical for me, I did not immediately begin sewing this quilt. I cut the pieces in August 2011, and began sewing it in November. I do know, thanks to a photo, that I finished the quilt top in January 2012.

As I hadn’t yet purchased batting, or fabric to back and bind it with, the quilt got set aside. In April 2012 I picked it back up again and started working on the quilt sandwich, which I finished in May 2012.

That was the most challenging part – getting the backing, batting, and top pinned together so I could quilt it. It took a lot of space, time and patience, and I did actually wish for the curved pins recommended in a quilting book I was gifted when I started the project. I lucked out and the dimensions of the top and backing fabric were such that I only had to cut the correct length of backing fabric.

For the actual quilting, I just did parallel lines, roughly an inch apart. The width varies, and they aren’t perfectly straight, as I did it freehand. Overall I’m pleased with the look, though I think next time I might try doing the lines diagonally. I did find that this size quilt (I did the smaller lap size) was about the largest my machine can accomodate for the actual quilting part, so if I want to do something larger in the future, I’ll have to find a longarm sewing machine to rent or borrow time on. I will also need to get a walking foot for my machine – while I made it work, it wasn’t ideal.

Once it was quilted, I had to cut things down a bit to line them all up properly for binding. At this point I do recall that I had to trim off some parts of the quilt top as things had shifted during sewing. I made a mental note at that point to start with a backing larger than the quilt next time around.

I started working on the binding in October 2012. I was originally going to do a hand-sewn binding, and started that – you machine sew the binding to the front, fold it over so the seam is hidden, and use some sort of quilting voodoo to hand sew the binding down on the back invisibly.  I got a little more than one side done using that method, which I simply found too time consuming. It was also a slow enough process that I had to spend time looking at every stitch that was slightly too long, which was driving me crazy. I decided to machine bind it, and finally actually did that yesterday afternoon.

I looked at several tutorials, and liked how the finish looked on the backside using this method, but as I am having some sort of tension problems that prevent me from doing lots of zigzagging all at once, I had to pass that up for now. In the end I just did a straight stitch, through to the front of the quilt, right at the edge of the binding on the backside. Looks just fine. This was stupidly fast once I sat down and did it.

Overall, this was an easy pattern to make, and I’ll probably do it again. The various pieces of the top came together quickly. You will want to label the different sections as you make them – they don’t fit together interchangeably, and I had to rip some seams out when I put them together wrong.

I also found that I wound up with extra rectangles cut. I had purchased 1/4 yards of fabric, so I’m not sure if this happens if you work with fat quarters instead. But you might want to count as you cut if you don’t often find a use for smallish pieces of fabric.

This is not a blue ribbon quilt where everything is perfectly straight and aligned – but I knew if I went for that, I would drive myself crazy. It is a quilt full of beautiful colors and patterns, and I learned that I can make a quilt without too much fuss, which was the entire point. I can see myself making this for a gift (a gift which I start very, very far ahead of time, but still.)

Easy Jersey Skirt

Kwik Sew 3513 - Jersey Skirt

This was an insanely fast project – even if you don’t think you’re a quick sewer, this is definitely something you can do in an afternoon. There are four pieces (five if you cut the view with the flounce), and it’s very easy to zigzag them all together with your regular old sewing machine. I made it even easier by deciding not to hem the skirt. After it was assembled I just cleaned up up the raw edge and then zigzagged it, but I could have stopped at the clean edge, as jersey doesn’t really fray the way woven fabrics do.

Now, the thing with jersey is that typically you need a serger, which is a special type of sewing machine that most hobby home sewers do not own. I don’t have one, and my friend who is a freelance costumer and seamstress doesn’t have one. They’re expensive. Anyway, you can sew jersey with a regular machine, you just need to use some particular techniques. The pattern I used, Kwik Sew 3513, is part of a special line of patterns for serging. It also includes tips and instructions for making this with a regular machine, which made me feel more confident in proceeding. I also really like Kwik Sew patterns as they tend to have well-written directions and straightforward construction techniques. Continue reading