Friday, November 4, 2016

Triceratops Cape

My four-year-old son is in a dinosaur-loving phase and requested a triceratops costume for Halloween.  Luckily for him, I had just seen a great triceratops costume in a Young Explorers catalog and was game to grant his request!
As you can see from the picture, the inspiration costume -- was a CAPE.  How brilliant!  If I did something similar, not only would he be able to wear his regular clothes underneath, but he (or a sibling) would also be able to wear the thing for years.
Score for practicality and longevity.
Naturally, I couldn't bring myself to order the triceratops ready-made.  That'd be too easy!  And rational.  Instead, I purchased three yards of that knit crushed panne velvety stuff you can buy cheap at the fabric store and had at it.
With the "help" of our friend Evelinia...
In the spirit of "let's pray this works" I sketched out some pattern pieces, hacked away at the fabric, and hoped for the best.
And it worked.

Have you ever tried to photograph a four-year-old with candy on the brain?  Impossible.  This is what you get...
...blurry phone photos!
Maybe we'll do a little photoshoot one of these days.  Or next year.  Do you think I can convince him to wear it next year?  I'm thinking costume-making is an every-other-year thing ;o).

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Quilted Coasters

Last week I put together a set of quilted coasters as a housewarming/going away present for a friend.  I've made these same coasters for myself and they always get compliments.

I used quilting cottons and two layers of cotton batting ("warm and natural").  The edging is 1/4" double fold bias tape.

I think you get a feeling about the size a coaster should be.  An over-sized mug served as a template for mine.

I started the swirl quilting in the middle and worked my way out.  The distance between the stitch lines is about a fourth of an inch.

These six coasters used up almost three yards of binding.  I'm not sure how!  Don't look too closely at my quilting and binding work, mmmmkay?

It's definitely a good idea to choose a "top" for your coaster and sew the bias tape from that side.  Somehow the back retains a "back" look when you bind like this -- at least if you are lacking in special quilting talents, like I am!

Here is the order of construction (left to right):

 1) layer the fabrics, 2) quilt from the center out, 3) cut the final circle,
4) attach bias tape with a zigzag

I used six fabrics for this set and took care to use two different prints per coaster.

The set I made for myself had light gray stitching and light gray binding because that's what I had in my stash at the time.  It was a good look.  I also used twelve fabrics instead of six.  Never a dull moment with twelve prints to choose from ;).

A fun way to wrap these up when you are giving them away is to make a little drawstring bag out of one of the prints.  Cute presentation and practical storage for the recipient!

Ciao! ~ Liz

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Lace Chatter

I sent off another bride with her newly-altered dress this week and now I'm not quite sure what to do with myself!

Truth be told, I had a chance to pick up another wedding dress alteration gig for November but the bride called me on a particularly trying day in my world of potty training, homeschooling, and housekeeping and I told her I was taking a month or two off.  A decision I am slightly regretting now that I realize I could use a trip to the hairdresser for a highlight or two hundred and a little extra spending money would be nice.

After that other big wedding dress job in March, I received a delightfully simple wedding dress in May, so I was good and ready for another biggie in August.  That's the dress I just finished and it was a learning experience.  Aren't all sewing projects?  When friends asked what the bridal gown looked like, I explained that it was a tulle explosion.  A very pretty tulle explosion of a wedding dress.

The bride arrived with a sweetheart strapless (lace-up) bridal gown and commissioned me to make long lace sleeves.  (It also required taking in, hemming, and a six point bustle, but that was all pretty standard stuff. :o)

The original gown had corded lace so it seemed only right to match it with more of the same.  I enjoy working with Alencon lace which is probably an excellent thing since I've been spending such large quantities of time with it this year!

Photo Credit --
This pretty lace pictured is the one my bride ordered online for her sleeves.  The sleeves were off the shoulder and the plan was to use these two scalloped edges at the top and bottom of the sleeves and fill in the trunk of the sleeves with a full-floral lace.  Unfortunately, when the laces came in (a mere three weeks before the wedding day, I might add), they didn't work together and were two different shades of off white.  In fact, if I didn't know better, I would have assumed the floral lace was straight-up white.

The dangers of ordering online, right?  We formulated a Plan B that involved using the net shawl that came with the bridal gown (yay for perfectly matching bridal net!) to create a lace fabric long enough for the sleeves she wanted.

I love that you can cut this kind of lace apart and piece it together and no one is the wiser, but gosh, I wish it were a faster process.

All said and done, with two yards of the original lace, I ended up with four yards of scalloped trim and fourteen appliques to work with.  I arranged them, photographed them, and texted the bride a bunch of variations of this:

On a side note, before buying this lace, please take into account that the scallops are NOT symmetrical.  Those half circles have a long side and a short side but they do not alternate at any point to create a perfectly symmetrical pattern. They march along in one direction.  Thankfully, it is not noticeable to most people -- probably just to the person (me! me! me!) trying their darnedest to make the measurements all work ;).
Sewing the lace to the net ended up being simple enough.  Extremely, prohibitively, time consuming, but easy to do.  With the first sleeve, I carefully pinned and sewed from the top.  This gave fantastic results but I wondered if it might be even more time consuming than it needed to be.  The second time around, I pinned the lace on the front...

...and flipped the whole shebang over and sewed entirely on the backside.  While propped on the couch watching TV.

Oh bother.  Ignore the late night photo cropping problems?
Did this speed up the lace sewing?  I think so.  Maybe it was only ten minutes faster, but it did seem more efficient to stay entirely "on top" of the fabric instead of having to work front to back.  I didn't have to deal with as much thread knotting or unnecessary stitching.  It was (very, very, slightly) more pucker-y in the net around the appliques, but not enough to worry about.

I bet you wish you could see the final product!  I wish you could too.  Honestly, I forgot to take a picture of the dress when it was finished.  This is all I have:

Can you tell what's going on there?  That's the sleeve on top of the dress.  We also put a strip of the scalloped lace across the front of the dress behind the original beaded sweetheart neckline.  Maybe this will help -- this is the Vogue sewing pattern I modified:

Photo credit -- Vogue Pattern V2842
Imagine a {very pretty} tulle explosion of a dress with a beaded sweetheart and this general look of a lace bodice neckline and sleeves added on.   You totally get that from this picture, right?

Ha!  Well, you can't say I didn't try to show you ;o).

Alright kids, I have lemon bars to finish and a "good morning note" to write and a husband to wake up (he's out cold on the couch) and send to bed.  The day is done over here.

Good night!

p.s.  9/21/16  -- My bride texted a wedding day photo of her dress and she looked positively lovely.  In a world of mostly strapless dress (which I'm not knocking, btw -- I wore one!) a dress with sleeves really does make a statement. Especially as the weather begins to turn.  So pretty!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Couch Slipcover

Hello good friends!  My apologies for the lack -- Oh shameful lack! -- of content here at the Chipper.  Forgive me?  Today I have something really exciting to share.
My couch!  I finally slipcovered it.  It may or may not have taken four months from start to finish. ;)

Please excuse the photography!  Apparently it is difficult to photograph a large piece of furniture located in front of the only significant light source in a room.
That said...................where to begin?
Well, let's take a look at what I had to work with, shall we? 
Also featured is T-Rex, our anatomically-correct dino figure.  We noticed too late.
Yes, that's ballpoint pen.
This couch is the love child of two different couches.  We bought the original the month before we got married and now we have four children and are about to celebrate our eleventh anniversary.  Enough said.
Once the floral cushions entered the scene, the couch wore a ready-made hand-me-down cover.
Clearly the cover was a huge improvement over said love-child-couch, but it was more than a challenge to keep all locked and loaded.  It generally looked like it had been trampled by a small herd of elephants.  This may have drove me nuts.
BUT, I didn't want to take on a huge slipcover project.  Eeek.  How many hours would it take?  I looked for a different couch.  My wallet yelled at me.  Eventually I ended up with two options:  Buy a used couch or recover mine. Might as well stick with the dirt we know, right?

As for the design and fabric...
I chose cotton canvas because it's cheap and washable.  There aren't that many options when it comes to cheap slipcover fabric.  I had a moment of regret after I purchased it -- I wished I had sprung for bull denim like this.
What you see here is 70" wide "natural" cotton canvas from the regular old fabric store.  For my 85" long couch with five cushions, 19 yards proved to be plenty.
Would I buy it again?  Yes and no?  I probably should have gone for a heavier weight fabric.  I do like the texture and the casual look.  It washes without wrinkling like crazy and the fabric loses it's yellowish tint with washing.  Notice how the seat cushion on the right in the next picture looks darker?  It was the last one made and hasn't been washed as many times as the other covers
On a side note, I am sorely disappointed with the drop cloth canvas used on this chair.  It positively absorbs dirt and stains.
::  The Makings ::
Not being any kind of expert on this type of sewing, I'll just share various pictures of the making and throw in a few observations.
Serging appears to be essential to slipcover making.  These fabrics really do shred in the wash.  One of the reasons why I know this is because, in an epic parenthood moment, one of my children puked on the half-made cover.
This last picture is a good illustration of what I think is one of the hardest parts of slipcovering -- figuring out what to do with the seam allowances.  There are all sorts of strange angles where you can't sew down the seam allowance or it will skew the fit.
Instead of draping the fabric on the couch and then cutting it, I measured all of the major pieces and cut them out with generous seam allowances (at least 2 inches).  This enabled me to cut with the grain and work with straight edges and squared corners.
This last picture shows the spot where I put the Velcro opening on the back of the couch.  Originally I had planned for two openings but one did the trick.
Because of the very sorry state of my couch, I went ahead and cut the old cording right off of the couch arm rest.  Better fit for the new cover.
As you can see, the mesh covering the couch springs shredded a long time ago.  I used to cover the holes with thin foam and a folded flat sheet but stuff still fell into there.  G.R.O.S.S.  Thankfully that's not a problem anymore.
One of the reasons why I didn't do anything fancy with the lower portion of the front of the couch is that I felt like I didn't have the time or mental capacity to work out fancy pleats.  Plus, I wasn't sure how it would impact washing -- would I have to press out the pleats in order for it to look okay?
I wish I had sprung for a pleat or three anyway. 
Recovering the back cushions turned out to be a pleasurable experience.  The seat cushions?  Not so much. They were really hard! After the first one, it took about four months to set aside the time and energy to take on the second one. And it doesn't even match the first one in size and shape, but you didn't hear that from me.
The most satisfying part of the process was definitely ripping out the old batting and covering the foam with new batting and a nice clean inner cover (made out of cut-up mattress protectors).  The cushions are finally looking and feeling more fresh.
Notice again the color difference between the newer cushion on the right.  A few more washings and it should match.
Perhaps, on a clean day, this blog will get updated with a full-room picture :o).  For now, here is the before and after:
Oh wait!  I forgot to tell you about the "blanket" in the last picture.
It's not a blanket.
The cover is a twin quilt I bought at Meijer that I chopped up and turned into a removable, fitted seat cover.  I figured I'd end up throwing a blanket on the "nice" couch to protect it.  Might as well factor that in and eliminate the irritation of straightening a blanket.
I made the cover tight which means it's a real pain to get on and off, but it looks tidy and hopefully it will extend the life of my seat cushion fabric.  Not to mention, it eliminates that food-magnet-middle-cushion-crack.  Though I kind of miss tucking my feet between the cushions. :)