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Saturday, December 20, 2008

More Christmas Projects

I'm going to split the Christmas sewing I've been doing up into a couple of different posts, because it would make one REALLY long post. I haven't had time to blog lately.

I am happy to say that I am DONE with Christmas presents. I finished what I needed to make, I bought what needed bought -- they're even almost all wrapped now.

Big Christmas Project #2 was this quilt, which is for my grandmother Crum. My sister and my mom and I split up the blocks and each did 4, then I sewed the top together and quilted it. The pattern is called ribbon star, or ribbon friendship star. The blocks are huge, 15" x 15", which helped it go fast. It came out of a book called 24 Hour Quilts, by Rita Weiss, although the ribbon star block is of course older.

I actually prefer making scrap quilts, but they are more time consuming, and it would have been a lot harder to ensure a decent looking quilt, between the three of us. Plus, my grandma likes a more pastel range of colors than I do, and we wanted to put some peach in there for her. I don't have any peach, and very few pastels. The Joann Fabric in Amarillo didn't have much peach, either. Apparently it is out of fashion at the moment. There is plenty of bubblegum pink, though.

I also finished these potholders at the same time I did the quilt. The one is from scraps of the quilt and was actually a test square for the quilting.

Monday, December 15, 2008

On the use of "Inappropriate" fabrics

And no, by "inappropriate fabrics" I do not mean those with risque prints of pinup girls. What I am referring to are those fabrics not listed in the "recommended fabrics" section of the envelope back. I follow the Dressaday blog, and in the last couple of months there have been several commenters objecting to her use of "inappropriate" fabric in her dresses. Now, the reason that these commenters have had reason to comment is that Erin has produced a couple of what are less than stellar dresses, which happen to use fabric *gasp* not recommended on the back of the envelope.

First, I applaud Erin for showing these dresses, which she knew hadn't turned out ideally, and in one case, asking for opinions of what to do. It takes self-confidence to put things out for public review and comment that you know are going to get some negative comments. But that has nothing to do with this post.

Every pattern envelope has a list of fabrics that someone at the pattern company recommends for making up the garment. I'm not sure who that someone is - whether it is the designer, or someone else. This list is a tool to help potential consumers of the pattern pick out a fabric that will work with the pattern and produce a garment like the one shown on the envelope illustrations. It can really be a help to beginning sewers (seamstresses, sewists? I'm never sure what term to use).

This list of recommended fabrics does not come from on high. It isn't written by someone who has tried every possible fabric/pattern combination known to man, or who is infallible and omnipotent. In other words, lightning will not strike you if you fail to follow this list of fabrics, and pick out something entirely different. Vogue patterns, especially, seem to have a particularly narrow view of what the patterns should be made up in.

There are great variations in weight and drape of fabrics within the same fabric type (denim, cotton, etc.) Figuring out which fabrics work with which design types takes experience. And experience, as they say, is something you don't get until just after you need it. In other words, you learn by doing.

I disregard the recommended fabrics on patterns quite often. In fact, that's just part of the envelope back that I pretty much skip, except to check if a pattern is for knits or not. In doing so, I have produced at least one dress that never made it out of the sewing room. It's still there, nearly three years later, in bits and pieces, partly assembled. This is partly because the pattern was written badly and unclearly, but also because I realized that the fabric choice was not going to work with the pattern, and it wasn't worth trying to decipher the instructions to finish it.

BUT at least two of my favorite dresses and skirts are made with fabrics not recommended by the pattern company, including the one shown above. It's made from a cotton flannel, though I think a wool flannel or other wool would have worked, as well. The list of recommended fabrics, if you are curious, reads "Laundered Cottons, Damask, Pique, Poplin, Seersucker, Sateen, Shantung, Soft Lightweight Linen and Linen Blends, Sueded Silks/Rayons, Jacquards, Crepe De Chine". I'm pretty sure "laundered cottons" doesn't refer to flannel, because flannel usually gets its own listing. All of the dresses shown on the pattern envelope were spring and summer type dresses.

To sum up: I think it's good to think outside the pattern envelope, and that sewing with non-recommended fabrics can produce surprising and beautiful results, but when you do it, you do take the risk of making something that won't ever see the light of day. And that's okay, because as long as you learn something from the experience that will help make your future work better, it hasn't been a total loss.

If you want to be safe, there is nothing wrong with adhering to the recommended fabrics. It will probably save you some time and money. But it can also keep you from having those learning experiences that help expand your sewing knowledge and abilities. If you ever aspire to making your own patterns (skirts can be quite simple to draft) a good knowledge of how different fabrics act in different designs can be quite handy, as there is no "recommended fabric" list for self-drafted patterns. There is also the fact that when using vintage patterns, we have fabrics now (for example, polar fleece) that were not available years ago, and thus won't show up on their lists.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Little Quilty Things

I have been working at a lot of little quilty things lately, test blocks and whatnot. Some of the test blocks I have turned into potholders, and some of them will become gifts at Christmas (Except the insanely bright bird potholder. That I like so much I am keeping it.). Others I am filing away in a box labeled "quilt blocks" and maybe someday I'll find something to do with them. There are more than are shown here.

I've been finding a lot of free nifty quilt patterns online. The brown birdy came from online, as well as the house block and the crow (although it was labeled as a bluebird and shown in bright spring colors). Many of the free patterns available aren't very "google-able", however. I looked for days for an applique bird block, and stumbled across this one quite by accident.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Christmas Project #1

You would think, since it is the day before Thanksgiving, my mom is coming this afternoon, and my house is still somewhat of a mess, that I would have better things to do than post a blog. You would be right, but I just finished this quilt, and want to show it off.

I am pretty pleased with the way it turned out, but I wish I had done a little more planning during its construction. I just sort of made it up as I went, making the center blocks first and proceeding outwards from the center, and it was kind of a pain to quilt because of the different sizes of blocks.

I originally started with the idea of a star theme, but then I thought airplanes would be nice, so I put some of those in, too.

I tried to use only scraps, and not purchase any more fabric for this (my stash is getting out of control) and I did manage to do that. I purchased the bias tape for the binding, but even the backing is pieced out of fabric that I had in my stash, which had already been used for other projects.

There are some wierd puckers in the quilting, but in the welter of plaid I hope they don't stand out. I really like the quilting on the center rectangle. It's the first time I've done anything other than outlining blocks by stitching in the ditch.

I keep thinking I will post pics of my sewing shack, but I haven't got the curtains done, and right now it really needs cleaned. It looks like a plaid factory explosion.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I made this bib and burp cloth set for an upcoming shower - the bib is backed in the same polka dot fabric as the burp cloth. They were extremely easy to make, and took very little fabric.

Like the slippers, I also found the patterns for these free online. The bib came from Chickpea Studios, and the burp cloth is from New Conceptions.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


This morning I realized that my old slippers, which really aren't that old, since I've only had them about a year and a half, have mooshed down in the heel so much that it turns my ankles in. This is not a desirable position for my ankles. So I thought, "I need some new slippers." I wrote it on my shopping list.

If I didn't live in the country, instant gratification would mean that I dropped by a store and bought some that day. Since I only go to Clovis once a week, though, and there are no stores in Farwell besides Family Dollar that would have slippers (and I try to avoid Family Dollar for a number of reasons), instant gratification meant that I looked online for a free slipper pattern and made them myself (in my new sewing shack, more on that some other time). Finding the pattern was surprisingly difficult; I bet it took half an hour using Yahoo, and then it turned out that the pattern I chose was on Burdastyle, where I should have looked first.

The pattern calls for 2mm thick felt. I don't have any of that, so I used some felted wool (turquoise) that I had in my stash. For the sole I used three layers: one of denim for the bottom, a middle layer of batting, and a top layer of soft fuzzy yellow flannel. To give it a bit more stiffness I quilted the three layers by machine.

This was a very very easy project, except for applying the bias binding that keeps it all together. That was only difficult because of the many thick layers. I poked myself with the pins A LOT. But I am thinking of making a couple of pairs of these as Christmas gifts. It only took about an hour, and if I hadn't quilted the soles, would have taken a good bit less than that.

I must say, I am particularly pleased with the color scheme. Very cheerful, and since I'm not a morning person, I need that when I first get up. There's a lot of talk on Burdastyle about how to attain non-slip soles, but I didn't bother with that, since I won't be moving fast enough in the morning for that to be a problem. :)

Friday, August 29, 2008

All Together Now

I'm forming a clone army to take over the world. Or, the finished mini-wardobe in all combinations. Take your pick, whichever makes you feel better.

Nichola skirt finished!

I actually finished the skirt Wednesday, but Brandon hasn't been home while it was light enough outside to take pictures until today.

I am very pleased with the way it turned out. I should get a lot of use out of this.

I expected the skirt version of Burdastyle's Nichola pattern to go faster than the pants, since I'd already done the fly once and was more familiar with the construction of skirts than pants.

I did not count on the fact that altering the pants pattern into a skirt pattern was a little more complex than I first imagined (I'll post more completely on that soon, for those who might want to do the same type of thing), and also that I added jeans-style front pockets, which I had never made before. I got the instructions out of Vogue Sewing, my trusty first resort in such matters.

Figuring out those details of this project took up a lot of my head time. Also, I had to figure out the best layout to maximize skirt length and flare, given my very limited yardage (One 60" yard). I used a contrasting striped cotton for the underside of the pocket flaps, front pockets, and waistline facing so that I would have more khaki yardage for the skirt. This is the same fabric used for the pocket flaps and waistline facing of the Nichola pants, only on the pants it was a purely aesthetic decision.

I omitted the buttons on the waist tabs of the skirt, because when I put all those big buttons on, it was too much bling for me. I love the buttons (they've got little sunburst shapes in the center), but on the pants I had two different sizes of the same grey vintage buttons with smaller ones on the tabs, and the overall effect wasn't as overwhelming.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Twin Shirts

I finished the two shirts for the mini-wardrobe. The grey one I finished Saturday afternoon, and the green one yesterday.

I like the green tee better, especially with the grey pants. The grey shirt and the grey pants together is very...monochromatic. I feel like I need an orange cardigan or a big red necklace to go with that outfit. The green knit is also a little more substantial.

This pattern is actually a pajama top pattern. I love the raglan sleeves. They're super comfortable, even for a tee shirt.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Still working on the skirt, sort of.

I haven't finished the skirt from the Nichola pants pattern yet. I altered the pattern pieces of the pants to make a skirt, and cut the skirt out, and basted it together to make sure it worked, and then I laid the skirt aside and started work on the two tee shirts.

There is a method to this madness. I have black thread in the serger now from the pants, and the skirt will need white thread, but both tees would be better with black than white. Rethreading the serger and getting the tension right is a pain, so I decided to get the shirts done now, while the black thread is on there.

I thought I'd post a blog about a technique I used to make the pocket pattern for the skirt, and to help me determine how to alter the pants pattern, though. It's called making a ruboff pattern, and you can use it to copy entire garments without unpicking the seams. I haven't been that ambitious, but I have found it useful in the limited ways I've used it.

It's similar to what you did as a kid, with paper and a crayon, to make rubbings of tombstones and stuff (Don't tell me I was the only kid wandering around making rubbings of tombstones. And less morbidly, the brass plaques on buildings.) It's also similar to how Indy made a tracing of the inscription on a tomb in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusades.

For the skirt, I wanted to add jeans-style hip pockets. My favorite khaki skirt has nice deep pockets that I wanted to copy. I turned the skirt inside out and laid it flat, then pinned an old flour-sack dish towel over the pocket and rubbed it with a black crayon over the pocket seams.

Then I cut out the rubbing and traced around it and added seam allowances to make a pattern piece. That's really all there is to it, although of course copying something that doesn't lay flat, like the crotch curve of a pair of jeans, is a little more finicky.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Nichola Pants (cue choir of angels)

I worked all day on my pants, and I got them finished. The fly was the hardest part for me to figure out - not only the Burdastyle instructions, but all of them just didn't make sense to me. I checked out Sandra Betzina's Power Sewing book from the library, since everyone says her fly instructions are great, and I couldn't get it to make sense. I think it was because I wasn't already familiar with the construction of a fly. Sometimes I'm dense about things like that, though. I can read and read and read instructions, but until I actually start to follow them and am in the middle of things, they don't make sense. My mom visited yesterday and today, and going over the instructions with her also helped.

I ended up using the Burdastyle instructions to make it (referring often to the fly of the jeans I was wearing), and the fly turned out fine, but I still think the instructions could use some work. Occasionally it was obvious a word had been left out. Luckily, aside from the fly, I didn't need the instructions very badly.

This pattern was drafted for someone a lot taller than me. I took off 5" from the legs, and they are still a little long (though it depends on the shoes I wear).
I'm very happy with the look of the pants, and the fit. I orginally shaved 1/2" off of the sides all the way down, a total of 2" off of the waist and hips. I sewed them with a 5/8" seam, and tried the pants on before I put in the waistband. They were a little tight across the hips, so I went back and sewed the hips with a 3/8" seam, tapering back to 5/8" at the waist. It worked great. I'm glad I took a lot of time to try them on during construction (6 or 7 times, at least).

I am very pleased with how these turned out. I want to make another pair sometime, in a dark denim, with front, jeans-style pockets added. And maybe without buttons on the waistband tabs.

I love the buttons, but I have a secret: they're all faux button fastenings. There isn't one buttonhole on there. Normally I am a function over form person, and I don't care for faux garment details like faux welt pockets that don't open. But in this case, I thought the buttons were better in a purely decorative capacity.

Buttons at the waist often pull a lot and the buttonhole gaps and looks unattractive, so I put a flat hook and eye fastener under there, and Velcro fastenings on the pockets. I have some pants with buttoned flaps on the pockets, and it is annoying when I want to get things in and out of them. There's no earthly reason I would want to button and unbutton the belt loop tabs, and I don't think the instructions even call for a buttonhole on them.

Now that I have a handle on how the fly works, I am ready to start adapting this pattern into a skirt. Tomorrow I hope to start that.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Most people who know Brandon would vote this the least likely vintage pattern that he would want made for him. I was totally joking when I asked him if he wanted me to make it for him. But when you look past the belts, pants tucked into boots, and the icky bare chest and chain (or turtle-neck, they're equally bad), what this is is a pair of coveralls. And he had been needing a new set of coveralls, it turned out.

So I made a few minor modifications to make it look less like an outfit from Saturday Night Fever and to make it more suitable for mechanic work: left the flaps off of the pockets, reduced the length of the collar tips and the flare of the legs, and left slits in the side seams so that my husband can reach into his pants pockets when he's wearing the coveralls. Also left the cuffs off of the sleeves, just finished them with a narrow hem.

It was a beast to make, actually. The denim was really stiff and there was lots of it, and I had quite a time getting the zipper in/front facing attached. The long straight seams and the sleeves were easy, of course. I used heavy duty thread, and was really impressed with my sewing machine, which handled the denim well.

Here is the finished product, put to use immediately:

The pattern was a size or two large, which I figured was a plus, since it doesn't look like it was originally meant to be worn over a full set of clothes. The only problem is that the torso still could use a few inches of length to allow the kind of reach that might be necessary in mechanic work. I'm foreseeing a ripped-out armpit in the future. He also wants me to retroactively put in a set of back pockets.

I worked on the pants for my mini-wardrobe today. It's going pretty good, although I had a few duh moments when reading the instructions. I think the Burdastyle instructions were translated out of another language (I think Burda is a German company) and some of the terms aren't translated exactly as I'm used to them. The back pocket pleats had me totally confused, and mine don't look like the ones on the model on the Burdastyle site. After I finished them, I looked at the instructions and their diagram made perfect sense. If I'd followed the instructions instead of trying to figure it out from the pleat arrows and lines on the pattern piece, I would have had no problem.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sewing With a Plan. A Small Plan.

I have been thinking lately that I would like to do a little SWAP-ing. I've been seeing a lot of really cool wardrobes on other people's blogs. The only thing is, I know that I would never finish such a large undertaking. But I like the idea of sewing things that go together, so that you don't end up with a skirt that matches only one or two items in your closet. I have a couple of those.

I had been idly toying around with the idea in my head for a week or so anyway, but also with the idea that really, I have way too much fabric in my stash and need to quit buying fabric. But as most of my fabric was purchased without a plan, it doesn't really go together. I'm not big on neutrals, really. When I saw that patternreview.com is running a mini-wardrobe contest, I thought, perfect. The deadline will also insure that I get to work and get the items done in a somewhat timely manner.

The rules for the contest stipulate that you sew 4 items, with a total of at least three different garment-types (In mine, pants, skirt, and tee shirt), and three different colors (In mine, grey, green, and khaki), to make a total of four separate outfits. (In my case, green shirt/grey pants, grey shirt/grey pants, green shirt/khaki skirt, grey shirt/khaki skirt.)

The two grays and the turquoise stripe are all from my stash (grey is probably my favorite neutral). I bought the khaki to make the skirt out of specially for this. Because khaki is very dull, but it does go with everything. I have a khaki skirt that is one of my most-worn skirts. I've had it for 6 or 7 years, since college, and it's starting to get stains and stuff.

I've never sewn real pants with a fly before, so this should be a learning experience. I thought about checking out Wendy Mullin's SEW U from the library and using the pants pattern out of it, but the reviews on that are less than stellar, so I went ahead and downloaded the Nichola pants from Burdastyle for free, mostly because it was more instant-gratification and I only have three weeks. About half of the pants made using that pattern have looked really good, and half look oversized and ill-fitting. Knowing the pattern runs large, I compared it to a pair of pants that fit like I want them to, and cut the pattern down a little. (about 2" off the waist, all told)

Hopefully I can get the pants to fit well. I'm very picky about pants fit. Well, if I'm buying them new, I am. If I'm taking hand-me-downs or buying cheap at a garage sale, I'm not so much, and that's why two of the pairs of pants I wear most often annoy me every time I wear them.

The shirts will go together fast.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Knit Top - It's So Easy!

This is Simplicity 3548. It was the test project for the pattern, which I bought on a whim, because I'd noticed my sister had several tops of this type (with the gathered neckline) and they were really cute. It makes a prettier change from plain tee-shirts, which I have a lot of, while still being comfortable and casual.

A very quick sew. The fabric is very soft and drapey, too.

Unfortunately, $2 a yard knit fabric from Wal-Mart isn't really high quality, no matter how attractively cheap it is (When will I learn this lesson? When?), so the first time I washed it, three holes developed on the front (which was after I took the picture). So I sewed on a little fabric embroidered applique. Like so:

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Garden Vegetable Tacos

My vegetable garden this year is pretty sparse. I planted two rows of carrots that didn't come up, I've got one cantalope vine and two squash plants, plus about five okra plants and some potatoes (We'll see how that one turns out. I just planted some little potatoes I had that were sprouting.).

Today some of my okra and squash were ready. Here's a recipe I made up for lunch. Not only does it give you a new way to use up all those yellow squash (and probably could be done with zucchini) and add vegetables to your diet, it's frugal (using less meat than regular tacos).

1 package taco seasoning mix
1/2 pound ground beef (or 1/2 the amount of beef called for on the seasoning package)
2-4 yellow squash, chopped
6-10 okra
chopped onion to taste
crispy taco shells

avocado, sliced or chopped
sour cream
grated cheese
tomato, etc, etc.

Brown ground beef and stir-fry vegetables until barely tender. Add water and seasoning mix according to package directions and simmer 5 to 10 minutes. Serve in crispy taco shells with sour cream, grated cheese, and avocado.

This recipe is very flexible. There are lots of vegetables that could be substituted for squash and okra. Bell peppers would be good, for one. Potatoes would work. I generally view recipes as just general guidelines, anyway.

Brandon really liked these, and I was sort of surprised, because he's not as fond of most vegetable-heavy recipes as I am.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

How does my garden grow?

Not very well, it turns out. It's been very dry and hot during the times it needed not to be.

But after I got back from camp, I found that some of my flowers had bloomed, and were very pretty!

The pictures don't do justice to the tiny blue flowers (anyone know what they are?), but sadly, they do justice to the rest of the flowerbed, which is basically bare dirt.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Lots of Embroidery Floss

I bought a ton of embroidery floss (a multi-pack of 36 little skeins, which, it turns out, would make somewhere in the neighborhood of eleventy-billion friendship bracelets) to take to camp. We made lots of friendship bracelets (with varying degrees of success) in my cabin, but there is still a lot left over, and having all that embroidery floss is making me want to embroider things. I like embroidery, but too much of it hurts my wrists, so I only do it sporadically.

These little cuties are going to be quilt squares:

I found them on Floresita's Vintage Transfer Finds blog. There's a lot of cool stuff on there, and on the Hoop Love photo pool on Flickr.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Bad blogger

I'm about to go to Black Mesa Bible Camp for a week as a camp counselor, so you won't be hearing anything out of me for a few days.

It should be fun, but hot. It's always hot.

I went to Black Mesa from the time I was nine until I graduated high school, and I love going back and seeing kids enjoying the same things I did.

I'm all prepared with supplies to make friendship bracelets in the not-unlikely event of a rainstorm that confines me to a small cabin with 15 hyper little girls for an hour or two.

Friday, July 11, 2008

In my absence...

I have been a bad blogger for the past couple of weeks. But this week I actually have an excuse. I was staying with my sister, watching Connor because his regular babysitter (the one who actually gets paid for it) had the week off. "Fun" is not the word I would use to describe it, exactly, because there were a lot of dirty diapers involved, and a fair amount of screaming and crying (not me, Connor), but I really enjoyed spending so much time with him. He has such a cute button nose, such cute blue eyes, etc.

I made my sister a baby sling, but I didn't get a pic taken. It wasn't really exciting to look at, anyway, just a bunch of navy blue cloth.

Stop here if you really don't want to know anything about my husband's underwear.

The other project I've been working on is boxers for Brandon (that's a nice bit of alliteration for you). There are actual boxer patterns out there, and I thought about buying one of them, but ordering a pattern over the internet would cost me $12 or $15, and wouldn't be nearly as instant-gratification as taking apart a pair of his old ones and using them for a pattern. Well, if by "instant gratification" you mean "an hour hunched over with a seam ripper, taking notes as you go". I love ordering things over the Internet, but I hate waiting for it to get here.

It worked. I had been wanting to try making a pattern from an existing garment for awhile, anyway. And this was a project of manageable size. I actually made the pattern and the muslin before I went to watch Connor, and while he was napping this week I managed to make two pairs.

The seams are flat-felled, which doesn't take long as there are only four seams, one of which is very short. I did make a casing for the elastic instead of sewing through it, because I am just not confident that I can do that without messing something up. Brandon said he couldn't tell the difference (wearing them) from store-bought, though.

And that pair on the left? The print is of corn. Perfect for a farmer. Except he doesn't grow corn. But there aren't any prints of milo out there that I've run across. Definitely not in the sale section of Joanne fabric.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Not sewing

I haven't posted anything lately because I haven't been doing any sewing since I finished the shirt dress. I wore it to the Frontiers in Writing Conference in Amarillo a couple of weeks ago, and since then I've been concentrating on my writing instead of sewing!

I found a local writer's group, which is the most exciting thing to come out of the conference. It will be so nice to be able to "talk writing" with someone again. I haven't had much of that in the last couple of years.

Brandon and I have also started putting a new roof on our house - there was a big hail storm that pretty much demolished the shingles, so we're going with a metal roof now. It's red. I'll have to repaint the shutters (the faux shutters) on the front of the house to match. Why is it that roofing and fencing always have to be done in the summer, when it is entirely too hot to be out doing things?

I did sew something yesterday. I hemmed a pair of pants, because they were about three inches too long. I used to not mind long pants, and just dragged my hems through the mud and wore them out, but now it bothers me.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Adding Side Seam Pockets to a Garment Without a Waistband

I will try to explain as clearly as I can how I put the pockets into my McCall's 2016 shirt dress. I've included some quick illustrations I worked up in Paint. They are meant to be only rough approximations of the pattern shapes.

Adult pockets are pretty much one-size-fits-all. The easiest method of getting a pocket pattern piece for your pattern that does not have one is to take one from another pattern that incorporates side seam pockets. The pockets I added to one of my husband's jackets came from a woman's robe pattern. The pockets I put onto the shirt dress came from another dress.

The pattern piece should be shaped something like this :

If it looks like the piece below, with the flattened top portion, it is meant to go into a garment with a waistband. I think you could just trace it and eliminate the top flattened portion (as the blue dotted line illustrates) with no harm done.

To determine the correct placement of the pockets in my dress, I guestimated a little. I measured from the approximate point the underarm seam was going to hit on my body to where the a pocket would be comfortable for me. Then I folded in the bust dart in on the pattern piece and measured down the same distance, making a new notch to mark the pocket placement. To make a matching notch on the back pattern piece, I measured from the notch that the pattern company put under the armscye (for matching front and back when sewing the side seam) to the new notch I'd made, and made the new notch on the back pattern piece the same distance below the existing notch on the back pattern piece.

Cut FOUR pocket pieces. Pocket pieces are sewn to dress pieces BEFORE the side/underarm seams have been sewn.

Right sides together, match the top point of the pocket pieces with the notches you made for pocket placement. Sew at the seam line (represented by blue dots). You should end up with fabric pieces that have the general shape shown in the illustration below. Press the seams flat.

When it is time to sew the side seams (which in the case of the McCall's 2016 dress is after the side seams of the raglan sleeves have been sewn), put right sides together, matching notches and seams as usual, and matching pockets pieces, and sew the side seam AROUND the pockets, illustrated by blue dots below. Backstitch for reinforcement at the top and bottom where you pivot to go around the pockets.

Turn your dress inside out and press. You have pockets!

If you have a copy of the Vogue Sewing book, it also has instructions (a little more fiddly then mine), and a pocket pattern piece drawn on a grid that can be enlarged.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Another day, another dress

Last Saturday I finished another dress. It's funny, I had very little desire to sew dresses from October on until the weather started warming up, and suddenly that's all I want to sew. It's just the weather. I don't like cold legs, so I don't like to wear dresses in the winter.

For some time, I've been searching for the mythical "instant gratification dress". I want a dress pattern that is both quick and easy to make, but which is flattering. I made a couple of dresses in high school that were "2 hour dresses" (although believe me, they took me longer than that), and the reason they were so fast is that there was NO SHAPING and no details (pockets, collars, belts, etc). So they weren't very flattering, and I didn't wear them often. Unfortunately, I've decided that I probably won't find the kind of instant gratification pattern that I am looking for, because I like details and shaping, which add time to both cutting out and sewing.

Another feature of this mythical dress is that it is something not too dressy, that I would feel comfortable wearing on everyday occasions. A day dress. Now, if you've seen the last two dresses I've made this spring, neither of them is what you'd call a day dress.

Though it falls short of my lofty ideals for an instant gratification dress, this pattern comes as close as anything I've seen (it's the only pattern I've liked enough to actually try). It went pretty fast, but I still spent between five and six hours on it, including cutting out, but not including the changes I made to the pattern itself before I actually cut the pieces out.

The changes I made were: adding side seam pockets, lengthening it by 6 inches (the previous user of the pattern had cut it to the mini-length view), and changing the collar shape. I also omitted the top button and loop, so that the collar would spread out and turn to expose the facing a little.

In the end, I only spent a total of $0.59 on this dress, since the tan fabric came from Goodwill, and the contrast collar fabric was given to me, as were the vintage buttons and the belt. Okay, and maybe a quarter's worth of interfacing on the collar and facings.

Although the dress looks okay without a belt (better on me than my dress form), the belt does improve it a bit.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Indiana Jones / Patsy Cline Dress

While I was making this dress, I happened to do a google search for images of dresses that Patsy Cline wore (The Internet is great, instant whim-gratification!) and noticed that when she wore dresses they were often the slim-skirted style, instead of full. So I began thinking of it as the "Patsy Cline dress". I usually prefer full skirts, and so this dress was sort of an experiment for me. I prefer the look of full skirts, but then you have to buy four or five yards at a time, and so slim skirts are definitely less expensive. This dress took just under three yards, and if I'd been more careful with the layout, might have taken less.

The night before I finished the dress, when it was all starting to come together, I had Brandon pin it up the back so I could try it on (before hemming and the zipper, before the belt was made). I nearly quit right then, because it looked sort of like a potato sack. A bright blue potato sack, but still. Brandon said something about Mormon religious compound ladies. I figured since I'd come that far, though, and I loved the fabric so much, I'd at least try to finish it.

Actually hemming it (it called for a 3" deep hem) to a more flattering length helped a lot. Putting in a zipper helped some too. What really makes the dress, though, is the belt, which I modified from another pattern (from the 1970's).

I think of it as the Indiana Jones dress because I finished it right before we went to see the new Indiana Jones movie, and I decided to wear it. I always have an awful itch to wear something the moment it is finished, and I was literally cutting the last loose threads off as we got into the car. I was a little over-dressed for a matinee, but the movie was set in the 1950's, so I was decade-appropriate.

Then I wore it Brandon's cousin's wedding, which was actually the reason I was making the dress now and not later. Weddings are a great excuse to start a new dress.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Baby Chicken Grab Bag!

Three weeks ago I ordered chickens. You have to order them ahead, and then basically wait for them to hatch. Then they overnight them to you, via USPS. Today the baby chicks came! They hatched Sunday. I am simply amazed that you can mail baby chickens. One did die in transit. I don't know why.

We got an assortment, basically odds and ends of whatever they had left over after filling other orders. They're cheaper that way, and I like variety. About half will be roosters, and my mom wanted some for eating. A couple may end up in our soup pot too. We will give a few of the hens to Brandon's parents, and keep a few ourselves for eggs.

There is nothing wrong with this chicken:
It is a breed characteristic. They're called Turkens, and there were some in Ecuador, or a breed that looks very similar. I have some sort of odd attachment to them because they are so ugly (the black ones look like vultures). I was very excited that there are four in our assortment. One yellow (will grow up to be white), one red, and two black.

There are also a couple that look like they will grow up to have fluffy topknots. I think those are cool, too. One has feathers on his/her feet, which means it is a Cochin. The others, who knows. I looked at the chicken catalog again, and I can narrow it down by the baby chick pictures they show with each breed, but there are several yellow chick breeds, several black, several splotchy black and white. Only time will tell.