A Fine Line-ing

28 Feb

When we last left off I was panicking because the front of the jacket didn’t fit right.  My initial reaction was to whine about it and say “dammit, something always goes wrong!”  What I should have done before that was look in my stack of fabric because it turns out I just forgot to add the front left part of the jacket.  Silly.  In a random stroke of good luck, I could actually add this piece many steps later without taking apart the coat.  PHEW!

Once that was fixed it was on to the lining.  I started by attaching the lining to the front closure parts of the jacket, where the buttons will go.  The white part on the fabric is the interfacing which will keep the fabric stiff since we don’t want it to droop with the weight of the buttons now, do we? Drooping fabric is so not in this season.



Let’s take a second to look at something not so cool, stains.

While I was ironing the lining, the iron leaked water onto the fabric.  I thought nothing of it because this has happen a million times before and the fabric always dries with no harm done.  Not this time.  A big honking stain, that goes through to both sides of the fabric so there’s no hiding that bad boy.  At least it’s on the inside of the jacket, right?

Next step was to sew the rest of the lining together so it mimics the outside of the jacket.  Sew the two back pieces together then sew those back pieces to the front.  Here’s how it looks put together, like it’s own little jacket.


Since I focused more on getting the plaids to match, rather that matching the raw edges, I had a bunch of trimming to do to even things out.  This hopefully shouldn’t make much of a difference except maybe the sleeves or hem are a little shorter…I think?


The fun part comes now!  Pin the lining to the outside of the coat, right sides together, making sure to keep the collar free, and stitch away!  By keeping the right sides together the seam will be hidden, so that once you flip it right-side out, it will look all snazzy and professional.  Wanna see?


Cool right?!

To summarize the next few steps: A whole crap-load of hand-stitching.  To the couch I go with my needle and thread…


4 P’s

28 Jan

P #1 – Pockets


It could have been that I got a little overzealous with my pocket skills.  It could have been the drinks I was having while sewing.  It could have been that I was watching Downton Abbey at the same time.  Whatever excuse I choose to use this time, the simple answer is I that simply wasn’t paying enough attention and put one of the pockets on backwards.  Whoops!

This lead me to discover the answer to a problem I had in the last post – the thread being so damn hard to remove.  Turns out it wasn’t my eyesight failing me, but rather that the fabric frays like crazy!!  The minute I try to remove a stitch the fabric starts ripping.  Eeek…


I worked VERY carefully and slowly – paying close attention – and got the stitches out without too much damage.  I moved the seam in about an 1/8″ when re-sewing just to be safe, which seems to have solved any problems my seam ripper may have caused.


P #2 – Putting it together

Finally we’re to the point where it will start looking like a jacket.  Stitch front to back at sides and shoulders.


P #3 – Plaid matching

Here’s the moment of truth…how good did I do with the plaid matching?

Not bad!
Ohhh, matching on diagonals, cool!

Notice how the sleeve is very uneven at the bottom?  Right now I’m more concerned with getting the plaids to match, rather than length, so I will even everything out once I get to the finishing touches.


Hmmmm….now that doesn’t look right?!?  P #4 – Panic.

Matching Plaids…Almost.

7 Jan

Life got a little hectic over the last year, mostly due to a 3 hour daily commute, but here we are in a new year and I’m in a new apartment…which includes a hobby room!  I’m living with the bf and share joint custody of the hobby room – half sewing, half beer brewing (common, right?).  Now I have a full cutting table PLUS a desk for my sewing machine, making things much easier than working off the kitchen table in my old place.  And the best part…a door, to keep the beast cat out! My 3 hour commute is now 25 mins each way which leaves me a lot more free time and allows me to begin the….

First project of 2013 – a jacket!  Very Easy Vogue V8861

This pattern calls for tweed, but to be honest, I had wasn’t exactly sure what tweed was so I just went to the “Tweed” section at Mood Fabrics and got this bad boy:

Turns out – according to the cutting guy – this is plaid, not tweed.  Whoops, lol.  Either way it’s pretty so I went with it and away from my addiction to black.  Brown…I’m going to wear brown.  Keep repeating.

Step 1 – Find out how the hell to work with plaids.
After googling ‘how to match plaids’ I found this little gem that saved the day.
Cliff notes: basically using 1,000 pins, line up every box of the plaid and pin each corner.  Then cut one piece at a time, marking the lines of the plaid on the tissue paper and matching it to the next pattern piece you are going to cut.  Tedious, yes, but better than mismatched plaid.

Step 2 – Cut out pattern pieces
6 pieces = 1 coat.

Step 3 – Cut fabric
Here’s where all the tracing of the lines from the tutorial come in.

Step 5 – Start sewing and cross fingers.
So did the tutorial help?  Yes, definitely.  Am I a master at matching plaids.  No.  I came pretty damn close but lines are off jussssttt a little bit.  I thought about taking the seam out and getting the lines to match perfectly, but then I realized my thread was too closely matched to the fabric and I couldn’t really see it (old people problems starting at 30).  So it stays off a little.  I’m fine with that and I doubt anyone will really notice in the end.

The front pieces I tried even harder to match, but ended up with the same issue, off by just a little bit.  So it goes…

This past Saturday I spent the afternoon in Manhattan getting the remaining lining and notions that I had yet to buy so that I could actually finish a coat before the winter is over.

Next up, interfacing and lining….

L is for Lion

25 Mar

I have this good friend, who is a really artsy, crafty, Martha-Stewart-as-an-idol kind of person.  Well, her husband knocked her up (against all of my requests for none of my friends to have babies until we are least 50) and she promptly delivered their baby…almost three weeks late. Terrible for her, good for me because it gave me more time to work on the project she asked me to have completed by the time the baby was born.  In fact, 26 of us were given this project.

Here’s the deal: each of the 26 of us were assigned a letter, A-Z, and we had to create it, anyway we wanted.  The only rules were that it had to be under 14 inches and have something in it that referenced the letter (ex. B would have to have a bunny, or bear, or Bob Harper from the biggest loser, whatever your choice) Besides that anything goes: painting, cut up crayons, photograph, or in my case…of course, sewing. Once the baby is born these letters will decorate the room. Fun!

I chose my favorite letter L. Since I text with her about 12 hours a day, I got prime letter picking…sorry to Liz who got X 😉  At first I thought of making a stuffed L and then a little stuffed heart to hang off the bottom for Love, but this might have been too girly and we didn’t know the sex yet so I needed to think of something else.  I finally decided on Lion and found this cute fabric:

I ordered it online and had the fabric a month before she was due.  Guess when I started working on it? A week after she was due.

Step 1: I found a nice L online and printed it as large as I could

Step 2: Trace it onto a pizza box to cut out a nice, sturdy, cardboard stencil.  I made the L a little bigger then I had printed it out because the lions on the fabric were too big to fit in the shape.

Step 3: Figure out how the hell to get a bunch of these lions to fit on the friggin thing.  Cutting out random shapes (with a 5/8″ inch seam allowance around everything) and sewing them together worked – almost like a quilt.

Step 4: Cut out back piece in shape of L.  Thank god I picked up another safari style fabric and didn’t have to piece together another side

Step 5: Put right sides together, sew a 5/8″ seam and leave a two inch opening to stuff.

Step 6: Procrastinate getting stuffing and stop at CVS for cotton balls the day after baby is born.

Step 7: Stuff, stitch close opening and add thread loop for hanging.


I forgot to take a picture of it finished so here are some baby toes for you instead 🙂

Well, that just sucks.

2 Feb

Alright, so, where did I leave off with the lace skirt?? Pretty close to the start – pieces cut out and the interfacing attached to the waist band.

First step was basting the lace to the shiny fabric. Get this…I actually prefer to baste by hand now.  Thank you FIT class.  I find it easier to remove when it’s not machine “loose” stitches, which are, in reality, pretty tight stitches.

Making a pencil skirt is pretty straight forward, nothing too fancy. The extent of fanciness on this one (besides the lace of course) is some darting. The front and back of the skirt each got 4 darts put in.

Next was some hemming on the slit in the back of the skirt. This step, I honestly have NO idea if I did right, the instructions were very confusing. Perhaps I should ask one of the ladies in the pattern making department…oh did I mention I work at McCalls now?!? 🙂

Next up was stitching the two back panels together above the slit. Quick, done, nice.

Another easy step next, stitch the sides together. Now its looking like a skirt! A really really tiny waisted skirt…crap, I’ll check that later.

The invisible zipper went on next. I like doing zippers because they’ve always been one of the few things I find easy to work with. Great, looks purdddyyy.

Waistband on next -right sides together, stitch, fold over. Ok, now Ill try it on to see if it really is too small annnnddd…..well, that just sucks. Too damn tight! This is the first piece of clothing I have made that wasn’t huge on me. Instead of crying, I put it away, then whined to Chris the next day. He said, well can’t you just take out the seams? He’s right. And that folks is my next mission – take out the stitching from the waistband, the stitching from the sides, stitch the skirt back together all over again so its wider and I’m back to where I am now. In the words of Stimpy, “oh, joy.”

Maybe I’ll do that this weekend or more realistically when I’m done procrastinating, because honestly taking out a million really tiny stitches without ripping lace is not the most exciting thing in the world. Until then…

FIT Class #2

15 Dec

After I finished my last class at FIT I knew I’d be coming back for the second one on my list, a hand sewing class.  As I have made blatantly clear in almost all of my posts, I HATE hand sewing, but it’s something I need to learn how to do, so I took this class as a challenge.  And boy did it almost win.

Here’s a rundown of what we did in 4, four-hour long classes.

Class 1

Got to the train station super early only to find out train was cancelled.  Jumped into car, raced to Manhattan, no parking!  Pay for parking garage, SPRINT 4 blocks, get into class 20 minutes late and get reamed by the professor.  Awesome start.
For this first class we learned a bunch of hand stitching techniques, which you can see in the picture below.

So what does each one do you ask??  Well..Blanket stitch is for, you guessed it, blankets.  Basting stitch is used to hold pieces of fabric together (you take it out at the end).  No Knot is a way to make a starting knot look nice.  Running stitch is used for a decorative, top stitch.  Backstitch and half-backstitch are used for seams.  Prick stitches are for zippers.  Whip stitch and blind stitch are for hems.  And oh look!  Its the slip stitch I always talk about how much I hate!!  That one’s used for hems and linings and ruining my day.

Class 2

I have to drive into Manhattan again, but at least this time it was planned.  I left myself plenty of time to find parking, wrong.  I got to a parking garage 15 mins before class – no sprinting this time!  Wrong again.  The lovely guys at the parking garage blocked about 8 of us in, refused to give us tickets for our cars until they parked the other cars, and after about 25 mins of people screaming at them, I was sprinting to class again.  Greeeeaaaattttt.  Luckily today was a different teacher, so I did not get yelled at.
Onto the class….Buttons.  Lots and lots of buttons!  2 hole, 4 hole, shank, big, small, pink, black, yellow and a few snaps for good measure.  Buttons aren’t too difficult, in one hole and out another, but they’re tedious.  Especially when your teacher wants you to make it look professional.  Here’s the one good thing I picked up from this class, for every hole on the button you only need go to in and out three times, then when you’ve finished all the holes, wrap the tread around the bottom of the button three times.  I like this because I used to always just stitch a button a million times to make it secure…apparently 3 is good enough.

Class 3

NO MORE DRIVING!  Took the subway, got a coffee, relaxed, much better.
Today’s lesson – zippers!  I already know how to sew zippers using the machine so I had a pretty solid grasp on how to line up the fabric correctly for zippers  What type of stitch do you think I used for the zipper?? (hint – go back up to class 1) That’s right!  Prick stitch.

A hidden zipper using overlapping fabric.

Lining added to the back of the zipper using a slip stitch – which at this point I’m actually getting good at!  Its a Holiday Miracle!!!!

At the end of class, the nice teacher took us to the Goodwill Store to get a jacket with a mitered sleeve for the final class.  By the way, Manhattan thrift stores are AWESOME!  Holy crap, they have designer clothes in there.  Thank you rich people of Manhattan.

Class 4

Here is the jacket I picked up form Goodwill.

See how the sleeve to the left is about 1-2″ shorter than the one of the right?  That’s what we did in the last class, learned how to shorten mitered sleeves.  I should probably explain what a mitered sleeve is.  Basically, instead of having a sleeve cuff that goes straight around, there is a split – one edge is straight, the other has a diagonal triangle stitch.

Here is the original, professionally done, mitered sleeve:

And here is mine:

Not too shabby, huh?

Since we took the whole sleeve apart, I had to reattach the lining using a slip stitch:

And put the button back on:

In the first class I was late, stressed and hating hand stitching.  By this last class I was flying through the project and finished a half hour before everyone.  I’d say that’s a success.

Final Project

My teacher sent us an email a week before the last class, while we were on Thanksgiving break, that said we needed to make an entire piece of “anything” by hand.  So I went for the easiest thing I could think of, a make up bag!  I found this great tutorial online and just swapped in hand sewing for all the machine stitches.  If you want to read all about how to sew it, click here.  If you want to see pictures of what I made with short captions, scroll down.

Final piece made with leftover fabric from my blouse and the red/black dress from Diana’s wedding.

Fancy lining, no stitches to be seen!  I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I actually like the slip stitch now.

Sebastian – Tiny Cajun crab, best friend to Ariel.

1 Dec

I could have gone sexy for my Sebastian the crab costume, but that’s too cliche for Halloween nowadays. Instead I made my costume big, goofy and from a toddlers monkey costume. Allow me to explain…

Since Chris was Ariel, I took the role of Sebastian – Tiny Cajun crab, best friend to Ariel

At first I thought of making a jumper type outfit, but then remembered that wearing a one piece outfit with several arms attached to it could making going to the bathroom a little difficult. Instead, I started looking at patterns for other styles, but apparently an adult size crab costume pattern is not common. Go figure.  So I decided to make something similar to this pattern:

The fabric cutting lady at Joanns thought it was the cutest outfit until I told her it was for me. Creeping out the employees…check! I estimated and bought two yards of a bright red fabric for the body, head and legs and 1 1/2 yards of a darker, more textured fabric for the shell. Before leaving I grabbed two Styrofoam egg shaped balls for the eyes.

I am terrrrrrible at math so the measuring aspect of sewing is always a challenge for me. To avoid making the middle too short, I based the length of a sweater dress I have.

For the remainder of the body section I simply added a few (too many) inches to every side of the pattern. It certainly wasn’t the best fit, but it did the trick.

The pattern was simple – including only a mid-section, sleeves and elastic at the bottom to pull it all in, sort of like a bubble skirt.  The only part I wasn’t too happy with was the collar which ended up way too big, but hey it’s a DIY costume that I had a week to make and oh yeah, we didn’t have any plans yet, so I wasn’t too worried.



Neck too wide

Next up the was the head. I used the pattern for the hood and again added a few inches. Since the collar was too big I wasn’t going to be able to attach the hood – solution: drawstring!

The eyes were a little shoddily made but they ended up looking awesome. I cut the bottoms off the styrofoam eggs off so they were flatter and easier to attach to the hood. There was no neat way to place them on the top so I simply stitched some white and red fabric together, pulled that over the eggs and top stitched the fabric to the hood by hand. The pièce de résistance…pupils. Black magic marker can make such a big difference sometimes.

Before I forget, there were two other pieces to the costume – the claws and the shell.  The claws I sketched by hand onto cardboard, then traced them onto the fabric, cut out two pieces of the darker fabric and sewed the together to make claw mittens.  They were a little loose on the wrist so I tacked some elastic to the inside and done.  Nice and quick.

I found a pattern for the shell online from a tutorial showing how to make a stuffed animal turtle.  I printed it on regular 8″x11.5″ paper and blew it up to be 4 quadrants on 11″x17″ each.  I taped those together and had my pattern.

I used the dark fabric again and cut out two pieces.  On one side a drew some shell markings then sewed both sides together, leaving a small opening so that I could stuff it.  I must be getting either lazier or cheaper, but either way I didn’t feel like going to back to store for stuffing, so I used old fabric I had from past projects.  Go back to that last sentence and change lazy/cheap to Eco-friendly; yeah that sounds better 🙂  Since the shell was a little heavy with all the “stuffing” I fashioned it in a back-pack type way, using a few long pieces of fabric to make shoulder straps .  It worked out great, I must say.

I had visions of grandeur for the arms, they were going to be stuffed, have joints, and all move together. Well, I got as far as getting them stuffed and sewn together. But they ended up too heavy and small giving the resemblance of tick legs. No bueno.

I packed up everything and headed to Brooklyn to finish there.

Chris became the problem solver by coming up with the idea of using hangers inside the legs. Lightweight, flexible, perfect! The only problem was I ran out of bright red fabric and didn’t have time to go buy more. Target to the rescue! I knew I could find something cheapy in Target that could double for legs while I was doing my weekly shopping. I was thinking maybe socks, but the solution came in a pack of “fancy” $3 holiday cloth napkins.

I spent the Saturday afternoon before Halloween sewing the legs to the costume (while watching the last of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movies – So. Good.) and was finally done with everything about an hour before we were going out.  Nothing like cutting it close….again. Maybe I should just accept that’s how I sew?

The finishing piece was a pair of red stockings – the only thing I didn’t make between the two costumes.  We met up with a few of Ariel’s land friends and headed off to Jeremy’s apartment to begin the night.  1 house party, 2 bars and way too many renditions of Under the Sea later, Williamsburg did not disappoint.

Uncanny resemblance

9 Nov

Two costumes in 3 weeks seemed like a good time frame, until I started sewing.  Needless to say I finished the costumes on Halloween about 2 hours before we were heading out, but they got done and they were fantastic.  The next day I immediately ordered myself to take a week off from sewing and sleep…a lot.  New bedtime is now 11pm (note: I’m writing this at 11:14pm).

So let’s pick up where I left off, Ariel’s beautiful purple top was done and next up was the tail.  I didn’t want to buy a pattern for the tail, because I’m cheap, so I looked at the envelopes of patterns to figure out how I was going to do this.  I found and based my tail off pattern M5498 from McCalls:

I picked up a stretch jersey material for the main part of the tail because Chris requested that he be able to walk in the skirt (picky, picky).  The fins and top were a sequined, darker green fabric.

My next thought was how is this going to stay up on him?  I went back to my handy-dandy notes from my FIT class and decided to follow the steps for the elastic waist we used on our pajama pants.  Elastic bought, plan is ready, lets go!

I cut two rectangle pieces of the stretchy green fabric, the length of Chris’s legs and a LOT wider than his waist so that there was gathering room for the elastic.

The front piece I kept whole like in the above picture.  The back piece I cut in half, so that I could create a slit, making it easier for Chris to walk.  After stitching the back pieces together and making the slit, I stitched the sides of the front to the back pieces; creating a skirt.

Next was adding the elastic.  Same steps as with the pajama pants – on the top fold over 1/4″ of fabric and edge stitch, then fold over another 1″ and top stitch that, make sure to leave a 2″ opening to insert the elastic.  I did not remember to leave the opening because, honestly, I just zoned out.  After removing 2 inches of stitches (and calling myself an idiot) I pulled the elastic through.  This part was a little irritating since the fabric was so stretchy that it kept getting stuck on the elastic, but eventually I prevailed and the waist was done.

Its shiny sequin fabric time!!  *Drag queen alert*  I was completely guessing how to make the fins since I didn’t buy the pattern.  First I cut a long strip of fabric, about 2 feet by 6″, to keep aside for the waist sparkles.  After that was removed, I cut the rest of the sequin fabric in half – one half for each fin.  On the sides of the skirt, I cut two triangles out of fabric.  On the sequin fabric, I ran a loose thread across the top to gather the fabric, then simply matched it up to the triangle sections I cut out of the skirt.  Hey, guess what!?  It worked!  Seriously, look:

I thought since the first side worked so easy, surely (don’t call me Shirley) something would go wrong on the second side.  Much to my pleasure, things worked out just as smoothly.

The finishing piece to Ariel’s outfit was adding the sequin fabric to the top of the tail which was simple.  Nice way to end a project with an easy step!  And now the masterpiece…

Oh you want to see it on Chris??  OK!

I know what you’re thinking, “Come on Karen, that is just a real picture of Ariel!”  I swear, really it is Chris.  Uncanny resemblance, right?!

Ariel and the Inappropriate Priest.

14 Oct

Staying awake is not my strong point – I get that from my dad.  In reality, I have been sewing a lot, it’s just that every time I go to blog about what I’ve done for the day I fall asleep and wake up with my laptop half hanging off my bed.  This time I finally got something in writing, so here’s what I’ve accomplished so far on Chris’s Halloween costume, which if you haven’t guessed from the last post is Ariel aka the Little Mermaid.  (Ahhhhh, he’s going to be so pretty!!)

I had this grand idea to make the top actually look like seashells.  What I would do was simple: trace a seashell shape on the fabric, cut that out and fold darts all around it to add texture.  Simple right?  I bet you know where this is heading…

Started with the shape, which I folded it in half and cut out:

Drew lines on the fabric to follow for folds:

Folding did NOT go smoothly.  In fact it was a pain in the ass.  But after about 4 hours I ended up with this:

Ok, not terrible, until you realize that the edges are all uneven and fraying, oh and there’s that whole “it got a LOT smaller from the folding and ended up the size of a pasty instead of a bra” issue.  Either way I decided to try the other one and gave up real quick

The seashell bra that I had such high hopes for is now a toy for Mila.  Recycling, yeah!  To save time and frustration I decided to go with a simple triangle top instead.  I tried cutting it freehand but that didn’t work so I grabbed a pattern off the internet.

Trace, cut, fold and…much better!  I folded the sides in ¼” to give it a nice finish and the bottom came up 1” to leave space for a string to go through.

Next I ripped a piece of fabric, folded it in half, stitched and pulled it through with a pin to make the string.  I repeated with smaller pieces for the neck straps.

The bottom string slips right through.

For the neck straps, I sewed them onto the tops of the triangles about a ¼”-1/2” down.  And the top is complete!!

I already started working on the tail, but I’ll save that for another post.  This weekend I’m subjecting poor Chris to a fitting, I think I’ll owe him lots of beer for that.  By the way, did you know the Little Mermaid came out in 1989!  Crazy, right?.  Almost as crazy as the inappropriate scene with the priest in that movie – if you catch my drift…

Guess what I’m starting today…

4 Oct

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