Tuesday, November 17, 2015

My Elsa

I can't decide if I am ashamed or proud to confess that this is the first year my 8-year-old has hit the pavement sporting a home-made Halloween costume.

It's not that I have anything against costume making, it's just that the kids always seemed to be happy to pull something out of the dress-up bin and call it good.  And, you have to admit, you run the risk of completely wasting your time.  There's nothing quite as disheartening as making a costume only to end up sending your kid out in a snowsuit because of inclement weather!  However, this year my blondie requested an Elsa and who was I to turn her down?  We even had a hand-me-down dance costume thing that had the makings of a snow queen written all over it...

Those sequins and that subtle heart-shaped neckline?  Totally Elsa!  So I lopped off some stuff and attached some stuff and eventually it came together.

She really loved her dress -- so much so that I had to wash it twice between the time I finished it on Monday and Halloween rolled around on Saturday!

Here's a picture of my whole motley crew before they commenced their candy begging:

(Nope, they aren't all looking at the camera!)

I told them that the kids who wear the warmest clothes get the most treats and they happily donned fleece pajama's under their costumes and had a blast.

What a great day.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Off In Alterations Land {And A Monarch Costume}

I've missed this place!  Oh my word, I have been so very busy.

I've started doing alterations again and my hands have been full.  The old machine is humming through chiffon and lace like nobody's business.

Kids, I have put in roughly five million narrow hems in the last two months. I seriously don't know what I would have done if I hadn't learned how to hem sheers from a professional seamstress.  If you haven't seen How to Hem Chiffon the Easy Way yet, do click on over and give this method a shot.  I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

With all of this sewing, I feel like I have burned through packs of sewing machine needles and I am getting a little concerned about the number of times I have layered different colors on my bobbins *gasp*.  It's time for a major notions restock over here!  And I need a replacement light bulb for my machine.  Do you have to special order Bernina light bulbs?  I'm sort of afraid to find out.

Alterations aside, September is birthday month in my house because my two oldest children, both girls, have birthdays eight days apart.  One of my daughters had a Minecraft birthday theme which didn't inspire any sewing, but my six year old chose a butterfly theme this year and requested a Monarch costume.

I ordered a pair of wings off of Amazon and then made a two piece costume to go with them -- a dress and an overskirt.  Orange fabric was surprisingly hard to come by and I couldn't find a perfect match though I think the camera highlights the difference in shades.

  The bodice is out of swimsuit/dance knit, and the skirts are out of satin and organza.

The birthday girl generally evades photos, but she did wear the costume in one form or another all day long and I managed to snap a couple, sans overskirt.

The skirt was cut from a costume pattern I found with a handkerchief hem and the bodice was cut from the pattern in the T-Shirt Dress post.  (I've definitely learned a bit more about sewing on knits since that post, but gosh, when to write about it?  Not today.)

For the butterfly birthday, I also made a few plain butterfly wings out of yard pieces of organza.

But that's another post too.

Well friends, it's midnight here and my brain is mush. mush. mush. If I don't post now without editing, I'll probably never get back to this thing!  Hope you don't mind.  I'll try write again soon!  I have a peculiar hem I'm having a hard time finding a time-friendly solution for and a wedding dress hanging in my sewing area waiting for a lace over-bodice.  Is "over-bodice" a thing?  It is now :o).

Friday, August 21, 2015

Got Chain?


If you find yourself working on a lot of clothing, especially doing hemming and the like, hanging a chain next to your sewing machine and/or ironing board is a great idea.

I first saw this done in a bridal store alterations area.  They had chains to the left of each of the machines and next to the ironing board.  Obviously, the idea is to use the chain to bear the weight of the garment so that you can work with more agility.  It helps to minimize wrinkles and confusion and if you are hand sewing, hanging the garment at eye-height can save you from ruining your neck by looking down at your lap.  Though it will not save your arms :).

It just so happens that the former owners of my house had a fabulous swag lamp in the living room which required two ceiling hooks.  I confess to have thrown the thing away (later learning that I should have kept the fixture portion -- have you seen the price of swag lamps?  Wowsers!), but anyway, those hooks do come in handy when I get the itch to hem chiffon upstairs.  My chain is too short and I extend it with a ribbon.  Works great.

I get excited when I find a really practical, simple, and inexpensive way to take some of the fuss out of sewing.  If you have any game changers to share, please do.  The combox is all yours!


In other news I foolishly took apart my sofa slipcover with the intention of reworking it to make it fit my sofa better.  This is a picture of it before:

All things considered, it fit the couch fairly well but it doesn't look like it was intended to cover a "t-cushion" couch and it pulls in the corners in such a way that it gets disheveled quickly.

I turned it inside out and started slashing and basting in crazy woman fashion.

Maybe I bit off more than I can chew?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Another Chair, Another Slipcover? -- Drop Cloth Edition

You can rest easy, friends.  My living room seating crisis has been resolved by the addition of this little lady:

Not the child, silly.  The chair.

Apparently, it is a maple "rocker" though it doesn't rock in the least.

While scouting out the local furniture consignment store and bemoaning the number of ugly overpriced armchairs that populate the market, I came across this maple piece hanging out with a bunch of dining chairs and had an *aha!* moment:  What could be better in a crazy household like mine than a sturdy chair with nice clean-able wooden arms and only two cushion covers to throw into the washer?

Practicality incarnate.

It needed some updating though. The cushions were in perfect condition but the fabric would never do for my living room.

Enter the painter's drop cloth:

I'd heard about using drop cloths for all sorts of home decorating purposes and thought it would be fun to give the product a whirl on this very low risk project.  I chose the "heavy duty" 10 ounce, 6x9 foot version from Lowes for $13.95.

I honestly had no idea that painter's drop cloth is VERY soft and supple and loosely woven.  I always figured it would be thick, scratchy canvas.

Nope.  It's so nice on the skin, you could happily spend the afternoon jumping onto it wearing nothing but your diaper.

Or so I've heard. ;)

Do all drop cloths have a thick seam running right down the middle?  Mine certainly did and it took a bit of effort to figure out how to cut everything without crossing the seam.

Those angled strips you see in the last picture are for the piping.  I used 5/32" cotton piping cord from Hancock.  I have heard polyester piping cord is better because it doesn't shrink but it wasn't available in the store so I pre-washed my cotton cord to be safe.  (Note -- notions coupons DO NOT work on the piping.  I found that out the hard way.)

I am not a fan of sewing piping.  It is far too labor intensive for impatient people like me!  That being said, I recently discovered a sewing machine foot with a big groove in the bottom that fits nicely over the cording and makes the process a little less painful.

The girls were playing with fabric while I sewed and before I knew it, I was sharing space with a bunch of animals.

Anyway, have you ever used the method of sewing a zipper where you baste a seam, sew the zipper, and then rip out the seam stitches?

It works pretty well for those of us who don't want to pull out the iron for stuff like this :).

Overall the sewing went smoothly; however, I did make one big seam-ripper worthy mistake when I forgot to attach the zipper portion to the back side of the cushion top where the seam in the cording was located.

Probably an inconsequential mishap but I fixed it because I knew I'd think about it every single time I looked at the cushion.

Here is the finished bottom cushion cover:

For this project I decided to size the covers to go right over the original upholstery instead of replacing it.  That way I'd have double protection on the inner cushion and a usable chair when washing the new covers.

I am notorious for making things too snug and made a very conscious effort this time around to make the covers roomy enough to account for possible future shrinkage.

To create a better sense of proportion between this chair and my big gray armchair, I needed this chair to look bigger.  I decided the best way to do that was to add height and made the top cushion cover large enough to fit a 3" block of craft foam.

May I spare you pictures of constructing the top cushion and skip right to the finished chair?

(Oh bother.  I'm sorry for the crummy photography!)

I had a get-together today that require me to drag the recliner into the living room and I grabbed the opportunity to snap a picture of all three of the slipcovered chairs together.

Find out more about the recliner here. And the gray armchair in the last post, or here.

You know, I had this crazy idea for the drop cloth covers.  Wouldn't it look cool to dip them in dye to create an ombre effect with the deepest color in the back of the seat and the lightest portions in the front (by the knees) and the top (by the head)?  I don't have the guts to try it.  The drop cloth is unbleached so the look would be sort of earthy and organic and most likely amazing.

Somebody go try that and report back, 'kay?


P.s.  I love to preach the good news of sewing AND saving money -- let me share with you the total cost of slipcovering those three chairs:

Gray armchair $60, recliner $85, wooden chair $30 = $175

Oh, and the original wooden chair was $59.99. = Final cost $90.

Like. new.

P.s.s.  Check out the dye job on this slipcover two years later.