What I have learned...

Aaah, I took a nice little week-long vacation from being chained to the sewing machine, and it feels so good. But the gears have been a-turning and I am back with a crazy new idea I will detail in the next post.

Anywho, Me-Made-May is over, and it feels weird to be sitting here in something I did not make with my own two hands (although I did wear the sweater today). I feel like this month-long challenge has taught me an awful lot about myself, my style, and my ability to complete challenges. For one, I went into this not knowing anything about clothing construction, and now I have the confidence to sew anything I need to. I learned how to sew with knits and even shared what I learned in a tutorial, and I am now a master of the buttonhole setting on my machine as well. Granted I did not finish every project I set out to, but I am so happy with the way everything turned out that I am not going to stop making clothes any time soon.

The sweater was my biggest challenge, and my biggest accomplishment, and I honestly cannot believe I finished it on time. I thought I was going along at a good pace until it came down to the end of the month, and then I had to stay up until 3 a.m. two nights in a row to finish it. I usually get bored with big knitting or crochet projects and give up too soon, but since I was working under a tight schedule, I finished it before I could get bored! Lol. It was hard work, but so worth it - the sense of accomplishment, not to mention the sweater, feels great! And now that it is finished I can get my dressmaker's dummy!

Hopefully once she is in my possession I will get over my fear of sewing dresses and be able to better hone my seamstress skills. I also want to learn more about my personal style, since making your own clothing, in my eyes anyhow, is one of the purest expressions of who you are, taken with you all day for all the world to see. I have always had such eclectic tastes that I have a hard time pinning down exactly what my style is. One minute it is retro, the next Japanese, steampunk, pastoral, who knows. I want to.

Victory... is mine!

I wove in the ends last night...



Slow going.

Wondering what is going on with my Me-Made-May progress? Well, that makes two of us. I cannot believe it is almost the end of the month! The first week just went so slowly and then everything went into hyper drive. I have been wearing the same few outfits almost every day except laundry day. I find that the jeans, sweater, car shirt, and first shirt do not get as much wear as everything else, and no, the cape and bag remain in their unfinished state even as I use them every day. Yes, I am still staying committed to my challenge, but progress on new items has slowed on making new pieces mostly because of this:

I am attempting to make a fitted button down shirt... Oy Vay. I am using Butterick pattern number 6085 and this is the first thing I have sewn from a pattern in who knows how long, and I think I am a bit rusty. Not to mention the fact that I HATE sewing patterns. They take so long, and I am much more of an instant-gratification kind of person, obviously. First you have to cut the pattern out, then trace the pattern, then adjust the fit (had to go up one size for the bust and lengthen it a bit), then retrace the pattern, then cut that out and trace it onto fabric, then there are sort of well illustrated but slightly inane instructions to follow. Ugh. But, I must say this may turn out to be a successful attempt, and I am almost finished except for the sleeves (which turned out waaay too big), hemming, and buttons. The fabric is a slightly stretchy, heavier poly blend that I got for $1.50 a yard at the dreaded Wal-Mart. I know, I know, but look at what else I got for the same price per yard:

I couldnt help myself! Dennis was going there for cheap shoes, and the shoe section was right next to the craft section, and one thing led to another. Luckily he was there to stop me before I got any more. These are all going to be dresses, and I got a lot of the grey to make muslins. The top one is navy and off white jersey knit, but not very stretchy. And the bottom one is a bit darker blue than the picture came out. It looks very vintage, but is probably just low quality, but I think it will make a fabulous kimono dress.

So yes, I am going to start making dresses, which is the most intimidating thing in the world to me, which is why I saved it for last. I think it worries me just because it is a lot of fabric and time to waste if I screw it up. Also, fitting is an issue for me having a 45, 37, 45 figure. No patterns are made like that it seems. I bought the Built By Wendy book on dresses and I absolutely love it except for the fact that the pattern sizes only go up to 40, and I am a 45. It seems to be much this way with every book and I am not confident in my ability to expand them to fit me, but darn it I am going to try.

For the last few days of the month I am going to focus on finishing my sweater on time so I can complete my challenge and buy my dressmakers dummy. Then I will have a much easier time making pretty dresses when I can fit them on a form instead of stabbing myself with pins. I have been knitting every second I can and I have one ball of yarn left to knit up. It will be so nice to be able to do other things when I am done. I am not going to stop making clothes any time soon, but I may take a little time to finish up a quilt or two whilst waiting for my dummy.


A Strange Turn of Events... Day Sixteen.

Alrighty, so here is my picture for today, but I must confess I did not make any of it:

Bum bum bum!!! But I have a very valid excuse for this behavior:

Confused yet?

Don't worry, nothing bad has happened to me! Quite to the contrary actually...
At the beginning of the week Dennis sent me an e-mail about a call for people in the bay area to come to San Francisco and be background zombies in a trailer for a new, unnamed, video game. I decided to submit my photo and a bit of info like height and age just for fun to see if I would be picked.

Now, for those of you who don't know, I am kind of obsessed with zombies. I have seen nearly every zombie movie ever made, and I just plain cannot get enough of the stuff. Resident Evil was the first PlayStation game I bought and I am playing number five and the Umbrella Chronicles simultaneously with Dennis at the moment. On the top of my list of reasons to go to the gym and get in shape is to be able to outrun zombies when the apocalypse happens. And one of the top items on my list of things to do before I die is to be an extra in a zombie movie. So, as you can imagine, I about peed my pants when I got a call from PlayStation asking me if I could come and be a zombie for them.

Yup, that really is my excuse. I had to wear clothes that I could get dirty, covered in fake blood, and possibly ruined. They also asked me to bring a set of fancier looking clothes just in case they needed some people to switch it up a bit and look like upscale zombies. So I wore some non-handmade stuff that I did not care about, and also that would keep me warm since I would be out in the San Francisco cold until two in the morning. But I did wear my handmade stuff to work on Saturday, then changed into the costume stuff for the bus ride there. So, I consider that a costume and therefore it was perfectly within my MMM boundaries.

Aubrey ended up going with me, at first just to watch and give moral support, but then she decided to get in on the zombie action as well. Her makeup was understated and therefore unnervingly realistic. Mine, on the other hand, looked like I had died in an explosion in a hair salon in New Jersey. But I like the giant hole in my face, which I got to keep and have wrapped up in a "bloody" paper towel to show my friends, lol. The makeup artist was generous to a fault with the fake blood, squirting it all over my face, including in my nostrils and the sides of my mouth and eyes. It tasted sweet but burned like hell in my eyes. But it eventually my tears washed it away, thank goodness.

We sat around, talked, and ate free food for many hours until we finally got to go down the block to a wide street surrounded by vacant lots and run-down warehouses. And until two in the morning we basically did the usual zombie stuff like running after a delicious live human, shuffling about, and causing mayhem. It was SO MUCH FUN! Better still is the fact that when we got back to the staging area to gather our things, the rep from PlayStation told us that the trailer we just filmed is for Dead Nation, a new co-op zombie game! And not only will we be in the trailer (which will be shown at E3), but the footage will also be used in the intro of the actual video game! Holy crap, I am going to be in a video game!!!

So, long story short, I crashed at Aubrey's house in the Haight and in the morning I realized I had put my sugary, blood covered clothes in with my handmade stuff instead of the fancy extra clothes and got them all gross and sticky. So I had to wear the non-me-made clothing on the bus on the way home to avoid alarming people. But rest assured, I changed as soon as I took the picture when I got home. What an adventure!

Days Thirteen, Fourteen, and Fifteen.

Well, I wore the exact same outfits as days eleven and twelve for days thirteen and fourteen, and then I wore the same outfit from day seven for day fifteen. So instead of boring you with more of the same, I thought this would be a good time for a sweater update!

I am making really good progress on my sweater, and as you can see I have finished increasing for the shoulders and am now working on the sleeves. I mostly only work on it during my commute and at S&B. With the amount of knitting I have done right now, I think it is very possible I will meet my goal of finishing it by the end of the month.

The color is weird in these pictures, but I really am loving the way this yarn looks knit up. I hope this will fit the way I envision so I will wear it a lot. I dig the diagonal raglan shoulder seams, which appeared magically as I knitted along. I also love my funny stitch - a lot of people tell me I knit differently than most, and my stitches get an interesting twist because of the way I wrap my yarn. Whatever works is good enough for me at this point, and I like that my sweater will have a unique texture. Now I just have to keep my fingers crossed that the darn thing will fit when I am done!


Days Eleven and Twelve, and some new stuff!

Ta da! Check out my awesome new creation:

Lol, just kidding. This is just the crappy tank top I made out of one of Dennis' old shirts, this being the back, which I wore with my weird sweater in homage to the eighties. I like it but it is not what I came here to show off today. I have some truly neat things to show off:

I call this skirt the "Victorian Cupcake". I am in love with this skirt, it is so flirty and feminine! I adore this fabric, which I got at the CVS Pharmacy by my house a while back. I love toille but it is always too busy for me to buy much of it, but the understated pink bows and scalloped ribbons are just enough for me. I made it using the same method as the Twirly Turnip skirt, but since I only had one yard of the bow fabric I cut it longways into thirds and then joined the panels for a very full and short version. I was thinking about edging it in some giant rickrack in a pink similar to the bows but Dennis kind of vetoed the idea. Plus the skirt was a bit on the short side, good for only my most confident of days, so I used almost all of the Victorian lace I had left to extend the hem. It worked perfectly and I have another amazing skirt that I just want to wear all the time!

Day Eleven

So there is another cute outfit, but it gets better! While sissy was visiting she found me an amazing thermal stretch material at Stonemountain & Daughter on clearance. I love the colors and the little apple trees:

I really wanted this shirt to be a long-sleeve but I just did not have enough fabric so I made it 3/4 length. I had a bit of trouble with the fit on this one because it is much stretchier than anything I have previously worked with, so the first try came out way too baggy. But I took the sides in a little and added a box pleat at the center of the back neckline and now I am very happy with it. I wasn't sure how much this kind of material would fray so instead of leaving the edges raw I did a zigzag stitch over the very edge, kind of like an overlock, and then I did another zigzag a bit further in just to make sure the hems kept their shape and to add a bit of interest.

Day Twelve

And lastly, a while ago I received a box with a huge length of wide black silk ribbon which I folded into a one-inch strip of bias tape and sewed up the side to make my hair ribbon:

It is pretty much the only hair accessory I consistently wear and I just adore it. Recently I found out that the Paper Source near me has a huge selection of the same ribbon in bright hand-painted colors and I want to make some more of these for me and some to sell, but I wonder if anyone would buy a hair ribbon like this? Is it silly to put something like that in my etsy store?


A new week and a winner!

Alrighty! Since no one has guessed it spot-on yet, I will tell you...
I was looking for the words "sun hat" but I suppose "hat" will have to do, but mom said she did not think she would need the fabric to sew a t-shirt. I will send her a runner-up prize that she will like instead *wink*.

So the pretty blue and green leafy fabric will go to
See Jane Sew, who got as close as anyone could with her answer of "My guess? Sunbonnet/hat of some sort..."!

And for her enthusiasm and for also guessing rightish, I will send some jersey fabric of a different kind to
Mama G so she can make a shirt too! Everyone wins!!! Lol. Thanks to everyone who played, and I will keep you informed as to the progress of the sun hat.

Anywho... Sorry for the little hiatus, but we had a big event at work that has kept me pretty well tied up lately. But to play catchup, here is:

Day Seven

My new favorite skirt makes yet another appearance. I think I need to sew a few more of these in other fabrics, especially since laundry day is approaching. The striped shirt has also been seen before, and I will talk about the little vest-thingy very soon.

Day Eight

My favorite outfit again, and to keep it interesting I thought I would use this pic of me and Mrs. Fisher Cat from Calico Critter Day at work. It was a great little event with pictures, prizes, and lots of laughs.

Day Nine

I stayed in my pj's pretty much all day since today was laundry day. I spent a bit of time working on some new pieces that I will show off soon. But at the end of the day I had to run errands so I cobbled together a tank top using one of Dennis' cast-off t-shirts from Wonder Con. It has "A Nightmare on Elm Street" on the back, which is fun. The sweater is one that I made years ago and has not been worn for a year or two. It used to stay on my shoulders but since it was hanging in the closet for so long they have stretched out and now it is a super-funky off the shoulder number. I look like I am from the eighties, which is in style these days so I just went with it. I think I will make a different tank top to wear underneath it and weave a ribbon around the collar so I can gather it back to its original shape.

Day Ten

Same outfit as I wore on day one, with the addition of cute new shoes. They were the one thing I bought from the used clothing store I went to with my sister since shoes are allowed this month. They are second-hand so I feel alright about it. I am still looking into my options to make my own though. I feel like I will want to keep this going even after may is over if I do not have time to make everything!


Day Six - Giveaway!

Whew! I was just about to change into my pj's when I realized that I forgot to take a picture of my outfit today! So, sorry for the bad pic, but this is me in poor lighting after a long day of work and then a few hours digging in the garden, which is now finally finished!

The mushroom skirt and the first shirt I ever sewed. See how the collar kind of sticks up? Oh yeah, I totally meant to do that... Riiiight... Anywho, I am really enjoying this whole challenge and I cannot wait till Sunday so I can spend the entire day sewing more clothes! Woot!

Now for the giveaway: I have a big piece of jersey knit fabric in a fun blue and green leafy stripe that I have no idea what to do with, it is just not fitting in with my current wardrobe plans. In celebration of the new t-shirt tutorial, I will gladly send it to the first person who can guess what this is going to eventually become:

Be sure to leave me some way to contact you! Good luck and see you tomorrow!

Day Five; A T-Shirt Tutorial!

I wore the exact same outfit for today as I did yesterday because I loved it so darn much. I wore it with my unfinished cape to work in the morning and everyone seemed to notice me, which was actually kind of nice since most days I feel like I am invisible. So instead of boring you with another picture of the same outfit, I will give you my method for making t-shirts instead!

Since I posted about the three slap-dash t-shirts I have had a lot of people ask me how I make them because they all seem to think you need an overlock or surger to make it work. No sir - all you need is a regular old sewing machine and a little confidence. I just dove into making shirts with no idea what I was doing, except for the fact that I read somewhere online years ago that all you had to do was trace the shirt and sew it. But there are a couple little tips that make the process go much smoother and give you a nicer finished product that I learned from trial-and-error on my first three shirts. This is a tutorial for a very basic shirt with 3/4 length sleeves and raw edges with no hems, so here we go...

Materials Needed:

*Jersey Knit Fabric: I wear an extra large t-shirt and I can get away with about 1/2 a yard of knit fabric for a basic cap-sleeved t-shirt. If you want to make a long-sleeve or extend the hemline to tunic length I would go for 3/4 of a yard. It is always best to buy too much than too little, because you can use the scraps as sleeves for another top, or even make some undies or accessories with them. So go for 3/4 of a yard if you are not sure.

*Coordinating Thread: Regular cotton or polyester thread will work just fine. Though I recently heard that there is a stretchy thread out there that sounds like it would be great to use for hemming these kinds of things. Do not get elastic thread though, since that is a totally different ball game.

*A Properly Calibrated Sewing Machine: Make sure that your thread tension is on the lowest setting and that your stitch length is set to the longest setting. A lot of my friends say that their feed dog sucks the fabric down when they try to sew knits and I suspect that bobbin tension is to blame. I did not even know that you could adjust bobbin tension until I made the pillowcase top from Betz White. There is a tiny screw near the opening on most bobbin cases and if you find the fabric is getting eaten, just turn the screw a 1/4 to 1/2 of a turn to the left and try it again. (I find it also helps to keep a little bit of tension on the fabric, with one hand firmly guiding it as it goes in and comes out from under the needle.) The only stitches you will need to use are the zigzag and straight.

*Invisible Ink Fabric Pen: I used to think to myself, I do not need a special pen like that, and I used to just use a sharpie. But recently, since I have been stepping up my game, I decided to get one of the ones from Clover that fades after 48 hours or when you wash it. And it was a good thing I did too, since while I was making this tutorial I drew the middle line on the sleeve on the right side of the fabric. Oops... Thank goodness it washed right out; a sharpie line would have been there forever.

*Sharp Scissors: Since this shirt has no hems, use your sharpest scissors and make the cuts around the sleeves, necklines, and bottom hems as neatly as possible, but do not worry too much if they are not perfect - the hem rolls over itself and you will not be able to see tiny wiggles or sharp edges along your cut.

Alrighty. Step one is to find out which shirt you want to copy. Bust out your comfiest, most well-fitting t-shirt. Consider for a moment if there is a big difference in the stretchiness of the t-shirt versus the fabric you will be re-creating it in. This will affect the size of the seam allowance you want to leave yourself. If your new shirt will be made from a fabric that is less stretchy than the original shirt, then I would suggest increasing the seam allowance by at least 1/4 inch, maybe even a half if there is a big difference.

So take your new fabric and fold it in half with right sides facing. Jersey knit has a right side and a wrong side just like any other fabric, but it is sometimes hard to tell the difference. Look at the weave of the fabric closely. The right side will be made of little V's of thread, while the wrong side will be made of little U's. Lay the fabric on a flat surface and smooth it out as much as possible.

It is also important to determine which way the fabric stretches the most so you can lay the shirt the correct direction. Give the fabric a tug from right to left, then from top to bottom. See how one direction had a lot more give when you tried to stretch it? You need to make sure that you lay the fabric out with the stretchy direction and the sides of the t-shirt facing the same direction so the finished shirt will stretch width-wise. Otherwise you will end up with a shirt that will not stretch across to fit your chest and back.

Now take your t-shirt and turn it inside out, then lay it face-down on your fabric and smooth it out, making sure all the seams are spread flat.

Grab your fabric marker and start tracing your t-shirt, leaving at least 1/2 inch of space around the shirt. If the new fabric has less stretch thank the original shirt, increase this to 3/4 or even an inch. Remember, if it comes out a bit too big you can always make it smaller, but if you make it too small there is not much you can do. But not to worry, sewing with such stretchy fabric is very forgiving. Begin tracing at the bottom and work up to the arm holes.

When you reach the arm holes, you need to fold the sleeve back as you go so that you can trace the nice concave shape of the arm hole. Be sure to leave seam allowance as you trace:

Trace up over the shoulders and around the neckline. Now, I knew that I wanted to make this shirt into a boat-neck, so I did not trace as much seam allowance around the neckline so I would have a bigger opening. If you want a plain crew neck just trace with the same amount of room as you have been.

Okay, now take the shirt off the fabric and you should have what looks like an outline of a tank top. Cut along the outline you drew through both pieces of fabric at once. You will then need to draw a lower front neckline on the top layer of fabric so it does not choke you, and cut it out from only the top layer. I love the way jersey sticks to itself so nicely. Since these pieces already have the right sides facing you can fold them neatly and take them right over to the sewing machine. I usually do not even bother pinning the pieces together with the exception of attaching the sleeves, though feel free to pin them if you are scared of, well, whatever you might be scared of.

Now for the sleeves. On my first few shirts I had a problem with the sleeves turning out too tight even though I did the same amount of seam allowance as the body of the shirt. So I suggest you add an extra 1/2 inch of space between the line you will draw and the sleeve template on top of whatever space you left while tracing the body of the shirt. Again, if it turns out too big you can always make it smaller. Also, do not leave any seam allowance when you trace the top of the arm hole. Just trace right along the edge of the shirt, trust me on this.

Find a nice wide area on the fabric you have left and lay your shirt sleeve out flat as you can. You want to have the armpit seam pointing away from you with the top edge of the sleeve making a nice flat line. If there is a pattern on your fabric, the fold of the sleeve should lay perpendicular to it.

Trace the arm hole seam close to the shirt, then trace the rest of the sleeve with the extra wide seam allowance. I decided to make my shirt with 3/4 length sleeves, and if you have enough fabric left to do this all you need is to take your measurement from shoulder to elbow, and then extend the sleeve. Also take your elbow measurement while your arm is bent all the way, divide it by two, and make sure that the cuff of the sleeve you just traced and extended is at least that wide. But if you want to keep it simple just trace your existing sleeve.

Pull the shirt off the fabric and you will have half a sleeve drawn. Now you have to fold the fabric in half along the straight line you traced at the fold of the sleeve.

Be sure both layers of fabric are folded, then cut along the lines you drew through all four layers of fabric, and voila! In order to sew these two pieces into sleeves, fold them longways with right sides facing, making sure the edges all line up nicely. Pin them if you need to.

Now comes the part that people seem to fear the most, even though it is really easy. Do not fear grasshopper. You can start sewing the sleeves or the body first, whichever you like. Line the edge of the fabric up with the edge of your presser foot and put your machine on the zigzag stitch setting. Something to remember when sewing these shirts so you do not accidentally close off an armhole or something of the like is that you should never have to sew around a corner. If you feel the need to turn the fabric around a sharp bend or lift the foot to turn a corner, stop! Every line you sew should be a straight or very gently curved one.

So with the zigzag stitch, sew up the long seam of the sleeves and the sides of the body, and the tops of the shoulders. You do not need to trim the seams at all.

Now go back and switch your machine to straight stitch mode and line the edge of your seams up with the 10mm mark (the one closest to the presser foot) and sew a straight stitch over all the seams you just sewed a zigzag on.

Now you just need to attach the sleeves. Pinning the sleeves right is important if you want it to look professional, because if you just start pinning from the armpit and go around you will end up with a pucker of fabric at the end. The sleeve is usually a bit bigger than the hole you are fitting it into, so to start, pin the bottom seam of the sleeve to the armpit seam of the body, making sure the seams are folded over the same direction.

Then pin the top point of the sleeve to the shoulder seam of the body. You want to place the rest of the pins at the middle points between the other pins, stretching the fabric of the armhole to be even with the sleeve:

This way the puckers will smooth out and the fabric will be even all the way around. Now all you have to do is sew the arm holes just like the rest of the shirt, with a zigzag first at the edge of the foot and then a straight stitch a little further in. Now turn your shirt out and enjoy it!

Once you have mastered this kind of shirt, go ahead and play around with different sleeves, necklines, hemlines, etc. You will be amazed at the possibilities for different shirts.

Oh, and someone asked me the other day what I do if I run out of bobbin thread in the middle of a row of stitching, which happened to me during this tutorial. First I snip the thread coming off the needle, leaving a long tail, then I use the seam ripper to pull a few stitches out until there is enough thread to tie a knot with. You need to pull the bobbin thread through the top of the material so both threads are on the same side, then just knot them a few times and trim the ends. When you start the new stitching after rewinding the bobbin, be sure to back-stitch over the little knot to secure it.