The Lure of Pink

January 5, 2012

Earlier this week we made a baby gift for one of Rachel’s coworkers.So we decided we would try a couple of baby patterns that we had from the book “Weekend Sewing” by Heather Ross and John Greun. The coworker had a girl, and even though I went into the fabric store DETERMINED that I was not going to buy something pink (I like to think I’m more creative and original than that), I came across a patterned corduroy with pink flowers, and I got suckered. Of course, once I’d found something that I was in love with, I could find almost nothing that matched with the slightly unusual color palette. Except more pink.

Once I got home, I got to take on problem two with this project. All of the patterns from the book are on two pull-out sheets. I had no idea where the pattern sheets for the book were. I’m sure I put them somewhere that I wouldn’t lose them. However, the book does have sketches of what the patterns looked like, so between the sketches and my sewing experience, I decided to just wing it, and drew the pattern pieces on tracing paper with a ruler.

The two pieces we were making were a kimono-wrap top, and a pair of corduroy pants. Rachel did most of the construction on the top, and I did the pants. Image

This picture shows the top with one side crossed over, and the other side open. The sewing on this is actually very basic, it is essentially attaching a series of rectangles. The slightly tricky things on this top were attaching the bias tape, and the ribbon that you see at the side. Bias tape either requires you to sew two seams, or hope you have everything lined up an pinned really well, and your seam is straight, so you catch all of the appropriate layers. The other thing is the ribbon in the side seam. It needs to be on the outside when you are finished, so when you’re sewing, the raw end of the ribbon sticks out towards you, and all of the rest of the ribbon is inside the shirt. I think it just seems so wrong, even though it’s totally logical when you think about it, that people are always tempted to put in in the wrong place.

The other piece we made was a pair of corduroy pants. This was the original fabric that I fell in love with, but ultimately the pattern I was much more nervous about. I’ve made pants before, so I understand the basic shapes, but I wanted to make sure I left enough room for diaper-butt, and still made pants that pulled up appropriately.

Once I made the pattern, the pants were assembled like any other pair of pants, which leads me to the other thing we learned from this project. Babies are tiny. This may seem obvious, but when you’re sewing for them, it means if you can hem small spaces like cuffs and sleeves before you finish construction, do it, because otherwise it will be litt anImage

This picture shows a close up of the fabric, along with the button I chose to decorate the front. I picked a fairly plain button, because we already had a lot of pattern going on. If you look closely at this picture, you can also see one of the best tips I’ve learned about making pants. There is a small seam perpendicular to the elastic. There is one in front, and one in back. By putting in these seams, you can keep the gathering spread relatively equally around a waistband. Also, if your casing is slightly larger than your elastic, it keeps the elastic from getting twisted in the wash.

In the end, the final product looks like this:


This weekend I popped out a quick project that is cute, functional, and cute. I guess I said that already. A friend of mine got married this weekend, and I decided she’d love nothing better than to get some hand-made placemats with matching coasters and napkins, held together of course, with napkin rings. The project cost was a little higher since I went for cute oil cloth, which runs about $17/yard. I think I got a half yard of everything, and a yard of the napkin fabric.

Here were my two choices. I went for a double-sided placemat set so that either side could be used. A set of four would be ideal but I didn’t quite have enough fabric, so I did two double-sided.

I went with oil cloth because it resists water, liquid, and yuckies. One side is green with a yellow and blue motif (even though it looks aqua) and the other a natural color with purple, blue, and orange. They totally didn’t go! I love it.

Decide how big you want your placemats to be, cut them out, and then pin right sides together.

I did the same for the coasters, making them 5×5″


You have a couple options for how you put these together. One option is to surge the edges together, in which case you’ll want to put wrong sides together. I went with a turned set, so I sewed wrong sides together on three and a half sides, then pulled it inside out. To get a nice edge, I pinned the open section and sewed a second seam around the edge to finish it off. You can’t even tell where the turn was.

For the napkins, I went with two double-sided lunch-sized napkins, so with wrong sides together, we surged the edges, so they looked like this:

The result is a nice clean edge.

Of course I forgot to take pictures of the final set before it was packed off to my friend. Oh well.

The napkin rings I did similarly to those in a previous post:

I picked felts to go with my placemats, embroidered the yellow, sewed on the button, glued it all together and hand stitched them up.

The entire project took two to three hours start to finish, and cost about $40.


So riddle me this.

French knots are a key point (ha) in embroidery. They represent dots, eyes, anything small and round. I cheat and just make small * shapes because I can’t, for the life of me, tie a french knot.

It’s supposed to look like

However, a quick search reveals these instructions:


Books, the Google, everywhere has this same illustration. And I still have the same problem that I. Don’t. Get. It. Every time I make one, it pulls through. I wrap more times, no change. I use tighter-weave cloth, it still pulls through. How do you make a bloody French knot?

Here is the gist of how to make one.

  1. Pull your thread through and toward you with one hand, needle in the other.
  2. Using your non-needle hand, wrap the thread twice or so around the needle.
  3. Using your non-needle hand, hold tension against the thread so it does not unwind from the needle. If you pull too tight, you will make it hard to pass the needle through the knot, too loose and it won’t be a nice knot.
  4. Use one finger to hold the thread and pass the needle down next to where the thread comes up. This was key for me- when I say next to, I mean one space/square/thread away. You want to have that thread between the two needle passes so that the knot doesn’t fall through.
  5. Hold the tension as you bring the needle through and let go as it gets close to the fabric and (allegedly) voila!

I’ll have to try this when I get home, but here is a video tutorial.

Until then, keep calm and french knot on.


Okay okay so Katie and I have been really remiss. I mean, October 16? So unacceptable. The thing is, we’ve started a million things and not managed to finish any of them. I’m in full blown Christmas mode (since September) so I’ve been cranking out a lot of new projects that are small.


Mostly I’ve been working on one of two things: embroidery, and felt. I’ll catch you up on both so that when I post pictures later, it will all make sense.


Basically, embroidery is the process of making decorative stitches.

Embroidery can be machine done, which is very clean and crisp, or by hand, which is more genuine. Embroidery dates way back and was used to decorate clothing, tapestry, and other fabric goods.

I learned to embroider basically on my own, trial by fire. There are a lot of good websites out there that demonstrate the different types of stitching, as well as books. Here are the basic stitches:


All you need to get started is a hoop, needle, some thread, and a pencil or transfer.

1. Decide on your pattern – you can find free ones here.

2. Once you have your pattern, trace it using graphite paper, make an iron transfer, or free draw it with a soft pencil.

3. Consider your colors, stitches, and design aesthetic. For example, I almost always fill things in rather than doing an outline. As you can see in the above picture, it’s possible to do color blending for nice shading.

4. Begin!

Some of the things that I have picked up along the way include a few of the following:

  • Use a tight-weave fabric: Fabrics with a loose weave tend to pull through and not hold well. A tighter weave will give you a clean, sharp look.
  • Don’t be afraid to mix mediums: I frequently mix fabric, felt, stitching- it depends on the look you’re going for. For example, I have some projects with small hoops, a natural canvas background, and then different fabrics to represent snow and trees. Cutting out and applying these shapes gives me a background to embroider in decorations, words and anything else I want!
  • Don’t pull on your fabric too much: I like having a tight embroidery plane to work on,  but if you pull too much you can actually stretch out your fabric.
  • Keep it clean! Wrap your project in a bag or fabric to keep your work nice and clean.
My new favorite project is applying these embroidering skills to make felt Christmas ornaments. They are a quick and easy gift.

As you can see, simple felt, a few stitches and you have a wonderful, vintage-style ornament. SO CUTE! Again it’s easy to mix and match different fabrics to create different looks.

I’ll post pictures of my projects a little later on.

Vintage? And Recycled!

June 14, 2011

So this week, I attempted my first complete from the thrift store sewing project. One of us missed out by not being  born in the 70’s, and so the love of vintage flourished. Conveniently, many of the sewing and craft projects that you see at thrift stores are from approximately that era. So, this project was a match made in heaven. I started with this pattern:

The best thing about thrift store patterns-the price. They range from about .29 cents to about .59 cents at most of the thrift stores around here. The worst thing about thrift store patterns-there is no organization, so they are kind of the epitome of thrift store shopping. You have to be willing to sit there and look at every one of them, to see if any of them are worth your time. And many, many of them will be from the 80s, and remind you of fashions you hoped never to see again.

This particular pattern straddles the line between awesome and horrible (check out the cool smock in the upper right corner). However, sometimes all it takes to break into awesome is a little conviction. So we paired this pattern with a fabric we also found at the thrift store:

Pretty much the epitome of vintage. The nice thing about fabric from the thrift store-again the price. This was about two yards of fabric, and it cost $1.99. However, you have to have a good eye for estimating how much yardage you have. Thrift stores frequently roll their fabric yardage, so it’s not always possible to see exactly how much there is. Also, it’s like mis-tinted paint-if you don’t have enough there’s no going back for more. So have a contingency plan in mind.

The apron I had in mind from this fabric is the center-top version. It’s a fairly simple bib apron, and in the fabric they used bias tape to encase almost all of the edges, for decorative appeal and to save you from the boredom of hemming.

I decided right away to toss the bias tape out the window, because I usually think it’s ugly and find it even more irritating than hemming. I also wanted to bring in a little more flair, just because I could. I started with the pockets, and a little bit of ruffly trim, that I just had hanging around. You’ll notice I used a solid color for the ruffles and for the ribbons because the pattern on the fabric is so exciting.

Then I cut and hemmed the skirt part of the apron, and placed the pockets where I wanted them. Then I put a two rows of basting along the top, so I could gather the skirt. 

After that I turned my attention to the bib. This is also just hemming straight lines around all of your edges. I then attached the ribbons that I had chosen for the strings. It’s possible to sew your own strings, but I find turning them a bit tedious. The pattern in the case actually called for ribbon or something similar, so I took them up on their suggestion. After the bib was done, then I did the waist band. This was probably the trickiest part of the whole thing, although nothing too complicated. You sewed the ribbons for the waist to the waistband, and then folded it in half so you end up with a shape like an extremely long narrow man’s wallet.

Then you attach the waistband, open side down, to the bib.

This leaves you with a nice open space to hide the raw, gathered edge of your skirt. I gathered the skirt, working the material until the gathers were even, and it was the right width for the waist band, pinned it in place, and sewed the whole thing together.

I think the finished project came out well, and it ended up being vintage, but not terrible with the modern touches I added. I think the teal ribbons really help it look more modern, and they help play up some of the blue/teal color in the fabric, rather than the oranges and yellows that were so popular in the 70s.