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Showing posts with label Handmade - Sewing and Mending. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Handmade - Sewing and Mending. Show all posts

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Upcycling Pillow Slips

by Amanda of Live Life Simply

I made a couple of grocery totes from vintage pillow slips during the week. They were quick to sew up, use an entire pillow slip (no waste), are durable being double layered and roomy enough to fit plenty of farmers market goodies inside!



The pdf pattern for this tote can be found at Spiderwomanknits .It is a free tutorial and is very easy to follow. I did however make a small change to mine and I top stitched the edges of the handles.


I like that these bags are super simple, thrifty and green. I'm making more of these this week!


There are many more ways to upcycle pillow slips. I designed a pre-fold nappy last year from a flannel pillow slip and it is still going strong. I have also cut embroidered pillow slips down into a square shape and made them into simple cushion covers


Here are some more ideas for pillow slip upcycling that I am adding to my list!

Pillow slip into a:

Pretty top
Apron
Little Dress

There are plenty more ideas out there and I would love to hear if you have made something out of a vintage pillow slip too. I have a collection of slips waiting to be transformed into useful things!

Amanda x

Friday, January 6, 2012

Chicken Scratch Embroidery

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
An elderly friend, knowing I do hand-sewing and embroidery, asked me if I knew anything about Chicken Scratch embroidery. She'd inherited a half-finished set of quilt blocks, with the patterns, but couldn't figure out how to read them. I had to admit I'd never heard of Chicken Scratch, but told her I'd go online for her and see what I could find out.

I was fascinated. It's a very simple embroidery technique - composed of double-cross stitches (an "x" worked on top of a "+", making a little 8-pointed star), horizontal and vertical running stitches (called bars), plus circles and ovals formed by weaving the thread under the bar stitches - worked on the grid created by the base material, any color gingham (aka checkerboard plaid). Stitched with white thread - the stars on the darkest squares, the bars on the medium colored ones, and the circles around the white squares - it makes ordinary old picnic cloth look like it's been covered over with lace (hence another name for Chicken Scratch: Depression Lace, as in the Depression era).

I found and printed out this informational downloadable PDF file for my friend. It explains how to do it, how to read a pattern, and includes a free pattern. If you Google the term, you can find images of other chicken scratch handwork. It would be easy to design your own shapes, too, using graph paper. 

In a nice little bit of serendipity, not long after I'd done all this I came across a couple of chicken scratch pillowcases in my favorite thrift store. After New Year's, I like to change my decor over to a red and white theme. It makes my home feel bright and cheery, warm and cozy during these short and cold winter days. Now that I've got some indoor craft time available, I'm going to cut those two pillowcases apart, duplicate the stitchery pattern on the two back pieces, and make a set of four placemats for my kitchen. The center diamonds are worked in a combination of dark red and white threads. Although I prefer the look of the all-white ones, I'll go ahead and match what's there. It would look better, though, if the dark double-x's were worked on the white squares. And I'm already thinking about playing around some more with the technique - maybe a white heart worked on the bib of a yellow (light blue? hmmm) gingham apron, just in time for Spring?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

How to replace trouser or jeans zippers

by Eilleen

Currently, I have a small pile of clothes that require mending. Its funny, a few years ago, a "mending pile" would've been quite foreign to me. Whenever I lost a button or a catch came loose, I threw that item of clothing away....such waste is quite embarrassing to me now.

Now when I see my mending pile, I feel quite proud. That mending pile is a sign of how far I've come in learning how to sew.

Recently, I tackled something I have not done before. Replacing trouser or jeans zippers. It turned out quite well, so I thought I'd share how I did it here:

1. Carefully unpick the busted zipper with a seam ripper. Note how the whole thing is stitched. This will help you later on when you are sewing its replacement back in.



2. Position your new zipper (make sure its the same length!), using the old stitching holes as a guide. Use lots of pins to hold it in place!



3. On the flap that has the button closing at the top, sew the zipper down one side. Now I found it easier to do this by keeping the zip closed.

4. The other flap, you will need to hand sew so the stitches can't be seen on the outside. There's no getting around that one unless if you want to unpick the construction of the pants entirely so you can sew the flaps with a sewing machine and then sew the flaps back into the jeans/trousers! It really is easier just to hand sew the thing making sure that you are going through the zipper and the flap but NOT the outer part of the jeans.



And that's it! Sorry I didn't take a photo of the final product and I've now given the pants back to its owner.

Hopefully what I said makes sense. If you have any mending tips or tutorials you would like to share, please post it here!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cloth baby wipes and cleaning solution

by Amanda of Amanda Brooke

It has been 10 months since our youngest was born and I am still dedicated to using re-usable wipes and my own cleanser at change times. It may sound strange to some, but I really enjoy nappy change times, using handmade products that I have blended and experimenting with materials for wipes.


The recipe I love most for cleansing bottoms is:

1tsp natural/organic SLS FREE baby bath wash (I use the Little Innoscents body wash)
1tsp almond oil
250ml cooled boiled water
Mix in a spray bottle and shake before each use.

I spray the cloth wipes and then use, but you can spray directly onto an older baby's bottom. This mix needs replacing regularly, but I like that it is fresh each time I make a batch. You can also make up tubs of cleanser and soak your cloth wipes in the solution, but I would recommend that you replace the solution daily for this method.

Some other ingredients that can be used in this recipe in small quantities are:
  • Manuka honey (1/2 tb in the above recipe)
  • Vitamin E capsules (1/2 capsule - not synthetic E)
  • Essential oils (only oils that are safe for infants and use only as directed at the right ratio babies and the solution base)
  • Pure Aloe Vera gel (1 tb)
Or you can just use plain water without any additives!


My favourite wipes are ones made from upcycled flannel baby blankets and bamboo velour. I just throw the soiled ones in with the nappies and the wet ones go in with the baby's clothes. Wipes are really fast and simple to make and don't need to be any special. Just a square cloth that has been over locked around the edges is fine but I make mine double sided with top stitched edges to make them last. I also use terry cloths, but I much prefer the softness of the flannel and bamboo velour variety. You will need at least 24 to 36 wipes for your baby.

Some of the reasons you might like to consider using cloth wipes are:
  • Your baby has sensitive skin
  • You wish to avoid the chemicals found in most commercial baby wipes
  • You wish to save money
If you don't want to make your own wipes there are plenty of online shops that stock cloth wipes. You will find wipes made in gorgeous rainbows of colours, bamboo, organic cotton and more! Often the hand crafted websites Etsy and Madeit have WAHM's who make wipes too.

BABY WIPES TIPS
  • You can re-use some of the stronger varieties of disposable wipes by throwing them in the wash. They will last around two to three washes before starting to fall apart and this makes your dollars stretch a bit further if you use these full or part time.
  • You might like to consider some of the more natural varieties of disposable wipes. They are generally dearer but your baby will be exposed to less chemicals and this has to be a good thing. Combining the use of these or the non-natural variety with cloth wipes will save you money too.
  • For short trips travelling with cloth wipes use a good quality wet bag to store and pre-soak your wipes.
  • Cloth wipes also make great face and hand cleaners at meal times and you can upcycle them to the rag bag when you no longer require them to be used as baby wipes.
  • Hand made wipes make a lovely gift for a new mum. Make a stack and tie them with hemp string for a thoughtful, eco-friendly gift.
What are your experiences with cloth wipes and solution?

Amanda x

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Appreciating Homemade Handmade

by Eilleen

Hello everyone,

I wrote this blog post some time ago in my personal blog and thought I'd share here...

----------

Sometime ago on the net, I remember reading in a crafting/sewing site someone saying "there's a huge difference between a handmade and a homemade quilt!" The inference being that handmade was better and homemade was inferior.

You know, I sort of get that comment. After all, there are so many gorgeous quilts out there. I went to my local sewing shop a few months ago and asked for general advice on how to make a patchwork quilt and was shown kits of brand new fabrics already cut out for me. A search on the net pretty much revealed an overwhelming number of sites advocating the use of brand new fabrics to create particular types of patchwork quilt.

It was for this reason that I too, a newbie sewer, took on the attitude that "homemade patchwork" - ie one that uses real scraps from old clothes and other craft projects - should be limited to small applique type work or for things that are not to be displayed (eg - sew scraps together to make a decent sized rag).

So it was a huge eye opener for me last week when I found this at St Vinnies:


It is a single-bed size quilt that was celebrating "homemade handmade" instead of handmade!! ...and I thought it was just gorgeous (and promptly bought it). The stitching at the back reveals it to be truly homemade. Its not truly perfect like many handmade quilts. The person who made this used different types of fabrics too - from synthetics, to t-shirt fabrics, to "normal" cotton (smooth cotton fabric).

But there's something endearing about this quilt. Its...warm and homey.. and not warm and homey in an artist/designer sort of way - its warm and homey.

So, today, in honour of appreciating the "homemade handmade", I made this patchwork pillowcase.


Like the person who made the quilt, I used a combination of t-shirt fabric and "smooth" cotton (is that cotton percale?). The fabrics used were real scraps that I had at home.

And this one, I'll definitely be displaying.

I hope you all had a good day.

P.S. This is not to say I don't appreciate the many beautiful and artistic handmade patchwork stuff out there. I guess what I'm trying to say is that there is room for both.

-----------------


Do you have any homemade handmade crafts? Would you like to share?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Top Travel Worry

By Eilleen
Consumption Rebellion

Hey everyone!

I hope you are all well and having a good weekend. I have just finished a major deadline at work and as I sit back now planning out my work year, I have realised that I will need to, once again, travel for work at the end of the year. This put me in mind of an older post that I wrote in my personal blog and I thought I'd share here. Note that this post was written during an intense period of work travel....

During my travels, it occurred to me that I had a particular worry that many other travellers don't have and thought I'd share:

Number 1 Worry: that my home crafted stuff will somehow have traces of bomb-making ingredients...

[Regular readers of my personal blog] would know that almost all of my crafting uses 2nd-hand materials. In fact, I can't remember the last time I used brand new materials to make something. Normally, this is not a problem for me. In fact, I really enjoy making stuff out of old stuff.

Unfortunately, when you're travelling and working a lot, crazy thoughts start spinning in your head arising from the fact that:

a. my materials have passed through many many hands before coming to me; and
b. it seems I come across too many articles citing how "easy" it is to make a bomb out of household materials.

So a few days ago, I get stopped at the airport for the random search of all my stuff. I was fine with this until the man said something along the lines of: "...traces of explosive materials...".

And that's when my confident smile slipped and quickly turned to "uncomfortable".

They scanned my handbag...
Made from an old book bought at a second-hand shop. Fabric and thread are also sourced second-hand.


They scanned my shoes....

Op-shopped shoes recovered in second-hand fabric.

They scanned my luggage...

My home crafted luggage using second hand curtains, an op shopped lawn bowls bag, and op shopped thread.


Hell, even the clothes inside my luggage were second-hand!! And as I smiled my uncomfortable smile I kept worrying that "uncomfortable" was coming across as "shifty".

It was with great relief when they finally let me go and I could rejoin my workmates.

I was not alone in my worries though! As I approached my workmates at the airport lounge, I was greeted with: "Oh thank god there were no bomb traces in your stuff!!"

...yep they all know that I made my own stuff using second hand...

At least now I know that some of my home crafted stuff is safe to travel with.

I might stick with the same travel luggage and wardrobe for next few times - I don't think I can handle the worry of my other stuff coming up with traces of something that might end up deporting me... :P

I hope you are all well.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Greening a textile habit

By Aurora @ Island Dreaming

Learning to make for yourself the everyday objects that you need is liberating in a world where few people are engaged in any form of manual labour. There is something therapeutic about being able to craft something useful and beautiful. My go-to craft is crochet, but I am capable enough across a range of other needle crafts too. I know that in the past my stash building habits haven't been particularly green or frugal and I am working on changing that by using up the yarns I already have before buying any more.

Yarn crafts don't readily lend themselves to the reduce-reuse-recycle mantra. If you have the patience, old knitted items made from good quality yarns can be carefully unwound and the yarn washed and reused (a detailed set of instructions can be found here). The yarn from old cotton sweaters is particularly good for knitting and crocheting dishcloths. One of the projects I am currently working on is a rag rug, using inch wide strips of fabric cut from old sheets and crocheted with a large hook. This is a fairly fabric intensive technique, but the result is a hard wearing rug; thinner strips would lend themselves to pot holders, shopping bags and cushion covers.


Something else I have been experimenting with is felting (by experimenting, I mean that I accidentally shrank a jumper in the wash and then decided to go the whole hog)  - garments with a minimum 80% wool content are washed on a hot cycle with detergent or soap, which causes the fibers to shrink and mat together. It isn't an exact science - it may take several hot washes to fully felt a garment, colours may run and seams may mat together, but the result is usually a durable, insulating, non fraying fabric.


I am fully aware that a skilled sewer could have got a lot more mileage from those old sheets than my fabric strips; and that I need to get over my sewing phobia. Most of the raw materials that surround me lend themselves to cutting and stitching more than any other technique.  The world is awash with cheap, disposable fashion - an awful lot of fabric waiting to be taken out of the waste stream and turned into something useful. I am starting small - a drawstring bread bag made from an old tea towel and a felt pincushion are all I have managed so far, but now that I have a little confidence in my ability to (crudely) stitch two bits of fabric together, I am saving the old jeans and shirts that were previously destined for the textile recycling bank for some bigger patchwork projects.

By making things ourselves of course, we reduce the length of the supply chains that furnish us with goods and we have greater control over the ethical impacts of the objects we own. We also get to express our creativity; and the process of making things in itself can be a form of relaxation. One of the greatest advantages of making things yourself is that you can utilize a vast array of valuable resources that would otherwise go to landfill.

So, how does recycling and reusing fit into the crafts that you do?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

My 8 year old's first sewing project

by Eilleen
Consumption Rebellion

Hello everyone!

This is just a short blog post from me. I've finished the $2 a day Live Below the Line challenge only yesterday and we've been very busy celebrating (and eating :P).

My daughter got her first sewing machine a few weeks ago. We found a small but a real one that suits her small hands. Its great! I've tried to teach her how to use a sewing machine before this but she found my big machine too intimidating. This one suits her just fine.

For now we are sticking to sewing simple rectangular draw string bags. These bags are great as they have so many uses! And they're easy to sew.

Steps are:

1. Get a big rectangle piece of fabric and fold in half lengthwise - right sides facing together.

2. Sew each of the long sides.

3. Fold the top half down on the outside. Sew almost all the way round, making sure you leave a gap to put the string through.

4. Attach a paper clip or safety pin on one end of the string, feed it through the gap and all the way round. Tie a knot once the string comes out through the gap again.

The finished products. (Readers of my personal blog may also recognise that she's also still using the egg carton sewing box I made for her 18 months ago.)

She has been using her drawstring bags for toys, to hold her sewing gear, and as her library bag.

We may try some simple applique next using polyester fleece (so no hemming required) for her next draw string bag.

Anyway, I am off to eat out with my family. I hope you are all having a great weekend!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Managing the Wardrobes of Growing Children

Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

I recently tidied the boys’ wardrobes and found that Bryce had outgrown most of his clothes, some hardly worn! So onto eBay this week to buy some bulk lots of clothes for him… Each year, I have bought bundles of up to 20 items for under $50, a lot of them quality brand names, all clean, as-new and perfect for a growing child!

I normally have a small notebook in my handbag. I record in it items of clothing the children need, or will need next season. Each child (I have six) has a page, and on their page I'll have notes like "size 2 gumboots", "size 10 tshirts" etc. This way, when I spot a sale or I'm at an op shop, I can check if items are on the list and double-check sizes.

We are blessed to have several family friends with children older than ours. They send big bags of hand-me-downs our way and we go through them and pass some on to other families. Within our homeschooling network in particular, there are often bags of clothes being passed back and forth. At some of our homeschooling Mum's meetings we have a swap table where everyone dumps some clothing, books or other items which are free for others to take and keep. Because we live on a farm, it's great to have pre-worn clothes for the kids to wear outside in the mud - no fuss or bother about dirty or ripped clothing.

The quality of clothing on eBay, in op shops and hand-me-down bags is so high that you'd never know it isn't new. Our children are clean, neat and tidy, reasonably fashionable and happy with their eclectically-sourced wardrobes.

Sometimes I also alter the children's last-season winter clothes so they fit for one more year. With fleecy clothes and flannel pyjamas, I sew a band of contrasting fleece onto each sleeve, and the bottom hem of the top, and either onto the knee section, or the bottom hems of the pants. Skirts can also have a contrasting band sewn onto their hems, for extra length. This is great for clothing which will only be worn at home, and for toddlers who don't mind!

I very rarely need to buy new items of clothing for our children - some underwear, swimwear, something nice for a special occasion and sports shoes are the items I buy new (hopefully at the end-of-season sales, at heavily discounted prices). Shopping like this for kids' clothes is great for the budget, and the environment!

Do (or did) you have children to clothe? What are your tips? What about school and sport uniforms for growing bodies?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Family napkins

by Francesca

family napkins 7

In my family we use cloth napkins at meals. I grew up using cloth napkins, and having my parents remind me and my siblings, to fold and put away our napkins at the end of each meal, each inside its own little "napkin case" - which were envelopes crocheted by my grandmother. My parents still use those crocheted cases, and neatly fold and stow away their napkins after at each meal. My mother even irons them, as she always has. How did my mother find the time to raise four children, have a part-time job and iron napkins? I honestly don't know, and in my own family, we skip several steps when it comes to napkins: no ironing, and no napkin cases. Instead, we simply use cloth napkins of different colors.



However, recently I made a batch of new ones, using a piece of old sheet which was white. So color-coding was impossible and I didn't want to make crochet cases either (which I really don't have any room for). Instead, I decided to personalize the napkins with some simple free hand embroidery. My kids loved this idea, and each came up with grand plans for their own napkin, some of which I promptly scaled back to realm of reality - embroidering on a napkin "Viva Roger Federer!", for instance, was not on the cards.


family napkins 1


Once I embroidered the decorations, I used this excellent tutorial published last week by Design Sponge, to make nice metered corners. So easy to do, once you know how! The tutorial also explains that - unlike what I did - you first make the hems, and then you embroider, which makes total sense. Ahem!


family napkins 4


And the best part? My daughter embroidered her own napkin. I was a little skeptical at first, I'd pictured a very simple and quick napkin project, and having already managed to escape embroidering "Viva Roger Federer!", I wasn't too sure I wanted to teach my not-quite-4-year-old the art of embroidery. But she amazed me, and with very little guidance she embroidered a flower (you can see the napkins I embroidered here).


family napkins 2

Watching her confidently holding the embroidery hoop with her little hands, and stitch through the fabric, I realized that she knew already the basics from watching me embroider - just as I learned from watching my own mother. She's very proud of her embroidered napkin these days, and whereas I don't know whether she and her brothers will skip some steps in their own families when it comes to using napkins at meals, I believe they'll continue the fundamentals: they've watched us.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Crinkle Skirt Care

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
The crinkle skirt, sometimes called a broomstick skirt, is a staple in many women's wardrobes. And for good reason - the full, but pleated, skirt flatters almost any figure, the cotton fabric is cool and breezy in summer but wears just as well in winter with sweaters, tights and boots, and the lightweight cotton fabric is easy to wash and dries quickly. But once washed, how to get, and keep, those nice, vertical crinkles?

I've seen posts that suggest wringing and twisting the damp skirt, but that leaves crinkles that look more wadded than vertical. Other posts say to tie the skirt with lengths of string, then cut them once dry. Besides being time-consuming, this can leave the crinkles uneven, and I'd be afraid of possibly snipping fabric instead of string. Some wrap the skirt around a broomstick before tying, hence the now-common broomstick name for such skirts. But I prefer the old-fashioned method.

I learned the secret of perfect crinkles when I inherited a 1950's Albuquerque fiesta dress - the original crinkle skirt fashion. Its solid-color red cotton fabric is heavier than today's lightweight skirts, to hold up to the rows of rick rack and ribbon. When I ended up with my aunt's blouse and skirt combo, she had kept the skirt encased in a nylon stocking with the toe snipped off, the crinkles perfectly formed and maintained. Eureka!

Of course, nylon stockings are a bit harder to come by now, so I reuse snipped-off legs from tights or pantyhose. After hand-washing your skirt, holding the skirt by the waistband rolled together, squeeze out (don't wring or twist) as much water as possible, down the length of the skirt. Since the fiesta dress is such heavy material, I'll hang it up by the waistband to drip-dry a just a bit - you want the skirt to still be damp to dry crinkled. Stretch the pantyhose leg down the length of the damp skirt, pulling the hem down equally, and hang or lay out your skirt "sausage" to dry. It will dry that way without any further fuss, but I usually take the skirt out, shake it, and re-encase the skirt a time or two to make sure it gets completely dry. The clean skirts then stay in their stocking cases in my closet, either hanging or laid out horizontally, to keep their pleats from flattening. Easy-peasy perfect pleats, every time.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Thrifty Fabric Finds in Buying Sheets

By Abby of Love Made the Radish Grow

I love sheets for material use. Big pieces of fabric most folks throw out when they no longer match the bedroom, and I pick up cheap for sewing! These two are some most recent creations. Super Boy is modeling the skirt, because he insisted, but it is for Pony Gal. I found this number at a Goodwill in the Big City and also ended up making myself a skirt with it. The dress on Pony Gal is from an old sheet of my grandmother. She had to move to an assisted living facility a few months back and I grabbed some sheets from the stuff that she had to part with. I love that I can keep a part of her with us in odd ways. Pony Gal has clothes made from Dad's grandma's stash as well.
(Sorry about the fuzzy pictures-apparently I couldn't stand still that day ;)  )

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Make a Jeans Skirt

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
The heat of summer has finally arrived. I needed a casual alternative to pants, a bit more appropriate than shorts, to wear. Making a denim skirt is an easy afternoon project. I've been turning old blue jeans into skirts for decades, a fashion that never seems to go out of style. It's easy enough for a beginning sewer too, involving only a bit of cutting, pinning, and straight, flat sewing.

Start with a pair of blue jeans that fit your waist and/or hips. Making a skirt is a great refashion for a pair of pants where the inseam is beginning to wear or fray. The cut-off legs are what make the gores of the skirt, and have to be long enough to reach from skirt hem to within an inch or two of both the bottom of the zipper fly and the back yoke of the pants to look best. A jeans skirt, therefore, can't be much longer than knee length, unless you want to piece together two pairs to make one skirt.

Either mark where you want the hem while wearing the pants, or better, with the pants lying flat, flip the legs up to the bottom of the back yoke and cut across where the fold is. I used an old pair of my husband's pants, now too small for him in the waist. He'd ripped a hole in the knee, but since he wears a 36" inseam I knew I could cut away that ripped bit and still have enough length left.

Laying the pants flat, cut away the inseam just inside the stitching and discard.

Cut the seams and hems from the pant legs. When finished, you should have four long rectangular pieces. Pressing them flat will make it easier to put the skirt together.

Match the side seams of the pants together and lay it out flat, front to one side, back to the other. Pull the curved crotch out front and back, smoothing everything so it all lies flat and equal. Cut the curved crotch away, making a straight cut from bottom hem to an inch or two from the bottom of the fly. Do the same on the back, making a straight cut from back hem to a couple of inches below the yoke. Use the leg pieces as a rough measure, since they will be filling in the area you're cutting away, to make sure they'll reach from hem to the top of your cut, especially in the back. After the photo above, I ended up making the back cut reach up even higher, after laying out the pant leg to make sure I'd have enough.

Rip the seam, front and back, another inch beyond where you've cut. Then press about 1/2 inch of the cut edges to the inside, overlapping one side of the ripped part of the seam over the other on the outside. Laying the skirt down flat, position one rectangular leg piece underneath, smoothing it flat, and pin into place.

On this skirt, I used golden thread that would match the top-stitching of the blue jeans. Top-stitch the front gore into place. I turn the skirt inside-out, to make sure I won't catch any other part of the skirt in my stitching. Then, making sure the leg part lies smooth and flat on the bottom, I stitch right next to the pressed edge from hem up to the top, across the top of the gore, and then down next to the edge on the other side. To match the jeans stitching, I top-stitched another row of stitching 1/4" from the first row on all pieces, and went back and forth at the top of each gore for extra reinforcement.

Trim away the excess pant leg material from the inside of the skirt. Do the same for a gore on the back of the skirt: rip the seam another inch (I think it looks best when the gore reaches all the way to the bottom point of the back yoke, if you have enough pant leg material to reach that far), press the cut edges to the inside, lay flat to get pant leg into position, pin, top-stitch, and then cut away the excess inside. The photo above shows a closeup of the reinforcing cross-stitching at the top of the gore.

If you want a straight skirt, you can proceed from here to finishing the hem. But I wanted more of an A-line skirt, so using the remaining two leg pieces I added gores to the side seams as well. Instead of cutting the side seams away, I just ripped them open up to where the front pocket was attached inside. After picking away torn bits of thread, I pressed both edges to the inside, laid the skirt flat, positioned, pinned, and top-stitched a gore into each side. To make sure I wouldn't catch any part of the front pocket in my stitching, I pulled each one up and inside-out the top before sewing. To make a nice point or corners at the top of the gores, leaving your needle down in the material, lift up the presser foot, and spin the material around the needle. Put the presser foot back down to stitch in the new direction. Stitching backwards and then forwards at the very top makes a nice bit of reinforcement over the seam. Cut away the excess bits inside.

Try the skirt on to decide where you want the hem. Lay the skirt out flat, front to one side, back to the other. Trim away the uneven bottom edges, making a nice, slightly curved, bottom edge. If you want a finished hem, leave an extra inch, press to the inside and top-stitch down all around.

For this skirt, I want the bottom edge to fray naturally. After trimming to the length I wanted, I made little bar tacks, stitching forwards then backwards, about half an inch from the bottom of each seam to keep them from ripping upwards. After a couple of times through the wash, and some thread-picking, I'll have a nice soft fringe along the bottom edge.

This is just a basic skirt. But jeans skirts make great bases for customization too. Add a cotton ruffle (or three), or maybe practice your embroidery stitches. Ready to start sewing?

Edit added later: Since my sister, Annodear, asked for a photo of the finished skirt - here ya go, such as it is. My only full-length mirror is old and spotty, and having to use a flash doesn't make it any easier. This pose, you can see both the front and a side gore.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sew Your Own Christmas Wrapping

From Amy at ProgressivePioneer.com


Here's a repost from my blog, but perfect for the season, I think! You could start making a few of these this year, adding some each year and eventually phasing out disposable, expensive paper wrapping altogether! It's an easy, satisfying project; have fun!

Christmasbags1

I'd been meaning to make reusable cloth bags to put Christmas presents in, but it took a girlfriend showing up with piles of fabric and initiative to finally get the project off the ground!

Christmasbags2

Luckily we have two sewing machines, so Rachel and I were able to work side by side making tons of little cloth bags to hold Christmas presents. She chose a variety of Christmas-y prints, while I limited my palette to red and white.

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I used French seams on mine to make them a bit more durable and also to give the insides a nice finished look. Once I got into a groove I was able to crank out quite a few!

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There were huge quilted ones, tiny striped ones and plenty of plain red ones made of sturdy duck cloth. I opted not to do a drawstring or anything, for simplicity's sake. I'm a ribbon hoarder, so we have plenty of lovely ribbons to tie the tops. I can't wait to see them all stuffed and under the tree!

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Make a Pillowcase Apron

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
Once you start getting into the simple lifestyle, sooner or later you're going to want an apron. So make one - they're a perfect project for beginning sewers. I have a favorite granny bib-style, H-back, one that I usually wear. But I like having a couple extra aprons around too - guest aprons, you might say. My sister and her family usually visit for Thanksgiving. She loves it when I offer her an apron to wear too. It just makes her feel more "in the spirit", she says.

As well as for yourself, and maybe your guests, consider making an extra apron or two for Tie One On Day. Started by EllynAnne Geisel, it's a way to put the "give" back in Thanksgiving: "Participation is simple. On the day before Thanksgiving, November 25th this year, pause in the preparation of your own meal, wrap a loaf of bread or other baked good in an apron, tuck a prayer or note of encouragement in the pocket, and deliver the wrapped bundle to someone without your bounty - a neighbor, friend or family member in need of physical or spiritual sustenance, a bit of recognition, or just a kind word."

A quick and easy way to make a cute half-apron is to start with a pillowcase. Nice ones can usually be found at your local thrift store for $1 or less. I look for ones with some kind of different print or decoration around the opening end. That end makes the skirt of your apron - cut it between 16 and 20 inches long for a nice length. I measure where I want to make my cuts, making little snips in the edge. Then I fold and smooth the pillowcase over at a snipped place, slipping my scissors inside the fold and cutting across to make straight cuts. The middle cross-cuts make the waistband and ties. Cut two equally sized strips 3-4 inches wide (I'm using a King case here, so I had enough material to cut three. I used one as a center piece and then trimmed half off the other two. Using all three would make ties long enough to wrap around and tie in front - would be cute too). Cut the sewn side seam off the skirt and waistband/tie pieces, and open them up at the fold. The closed end will make the two pockets, so don't cut the pillowcase seams on that piece.

Fold the raw side edges of the skirt over twice to the wrong side, press, and sew down.

Make the pockets by cutting the top corner parts of the case into two equal squares or rectangles (discard the center piece). Turn the corner inside-out, flatten, and stitch down the remaining two open sides, leaving a couple of inches left unstitched to be able to turn right-side out. Clip off the tip of your corner, just beyond your stitches, turn right-side out, (then use a crochet hook or unclicked click pen to push the corners out to a nice point) and press flat, tucking the unsewn part evenly to the inside. Repeat for the other pocket.

Lay the skirt out flat and position the pockets an inch or two on either side of the center, 4-6 inches down from the top. Try different positions until you have something you like best - maybe with the pattern running perpendicular to the skirt's or putting the pockets on an angle. Just make sure that the unstitched part of the pocket edge isn't part of the top edge (top-stitch it to close it up if you just have to have it on the top part). Pin in place, then sew down three sides close to the edge of the pocket, leaving the top open. I like to spin the pocket around and run a second line of stitching just inside the first (reinforcement - don't want to be losing anything through a hole in your pocket). You might like the look of using a contrasting color of thread too.

Join the ends of the waistband/ties, sewing with right sides together. Press the seam edges open, and then fold one long side over towards the wrong side, and press. Find the center of the long piece, then lay the long piece right-side UP on your work surface with the folded side farther away from you.

Lay the skirt, also right-side UP, on top of the long piece, matching centers of both pieces and the raw edges closest to you, and put a pin in the center through both pieces. You can just pin the pieces together flat, but I like to gather or pleat the skirt a bit. If you want to gather yours, measure out equal distances either side of your center pin on the long narrow piece, and pin the outside edges of the skirt there (4-8 inches closer to center is usually good). Keeping the narrow piece laid down straight and flat, then make the skirt part lay flat by making up the slack pinning down pleats or gathers, keeping the raw edge of both pieces even. Mirror what you do to one side of center on the other side too. Sew skirt to band (I find it easiest to have the skirt part up when sewing too, so that I can do any final adjustments to my pleats or gathers - just keep the band part underneath lying flat).

Fold the bottom edge of the waist ties up and press. Fold the top edge down, matching the folded edges together on the ties, and covering the line of stitching on the front of the skirt, and pin. Tuck the raw ends of the ties to the inside and pin them too, making a nice corner.

Top stitch the end of a tie, along the folded edges, across the top front of the skirt, along the folded edge of the other tie and across the end. A final quick pressing and you're done!