Studio Re-Vamp

I tend to work better in clean organized spaces. I’m able to focus better, and I feel more energized to work on projects. This would be great except that my studio is rarely what I would consider clean or organized. Most of the time it looks like a bomb just went off, or a tornado (known as my toddler) has just blown through. I can usually tidy up enough to work on something and ignore the rest. Because, really, when my sewing time is measured in naptime, the last thing I want to do is spend it cleaning.

Example A: Terrifying mess of a studio

Example A: Terrifying mess of a studio

But, the chaos in my studio finally expanded to the point where something had to be done. I store most of my fabric in big plastic tubs, and most of the quilt fabric in modular wire shelves against one wall. However, lots of little projects and digging around for specific pieces of fabric had left things piling up all over the place, including stacked on top of the already stacked tubs. Needless to say, it was a pain to get anything out of the tubs, particularly the one on the bottom.

Better...

Better…

Conveniently, I had an old door sitting around from a closet we removed a couple of years ago. The door was a little narrower than standard, and having seen a post a few years ago about turning a hollow-core door into a desk, I thought I’d hang onto it just in case. At some point, the idea of making a shelf out of the door popped to mind. Something high enough that I could fit some of the fabric tubs underneath it (making them more accessible), and put my wire shelving on top of the shelf (thus making better use of the vertical space). My wonderful husband cut some pieces of scrap wood for the legs and helped me assemble the shelf.

Wuhoo! Tub storage!

Wuhoo! Tub storage!

The shelf is pretty quick-and-dirty compared to the desk that inspired it, but I’m okay with that. Really, I plan to bury the shelf in so much fabric it will barely even be visible. The unstained bits on the edge of the door are where the hinges used to be. And yes, that pink area towards the back of the shelf is Hello Kitty duct tape. Did I mention this was a quick project? Anyway, I didn’t want any creepy-crawlys building webs in the hole where the doorknob used to be. With my studio being in a basement I get plenty of spiders already, no need to provide them another place to live.

Ready for fabric!

Ready for fabric!

I can’t believe what a difference it makes just re-arranging the space with the added shelf. It feels so much better working in here now. And I was able to add a couple of additional cubes to the wire shelving, which meant I could store more of my fabric in sight instead of in a tub. As an added bonus, going through most of my fabric has inspired me to sew more of it up! I pulled out a small pile of “sew up soon” fabrics and left them on my ironing board. I’ve already worked through most of the pile (although some pieces have been cut up, but not sewn up yet).

Filling up quickly...

Filling up quickly…

I should note, piling up fabric and patterns on my ironing board or cutting table is pretty much my version of a sewing plan. For anyone else who is as bad as I am about planning what to sew, might I suggest this excellent post? The first bit is pretty darn funny, and offers a good reason for a little planning. Now that I’ve got a better handle on my ridiculous fabric stash, I just might try a little better planning to sew through some of it. Once I get through the pile of fabric on my ironing board that is.

Quick Baby Quilt

I had plans to make a baby quilt for some friends who were expecting their second daughter mid-February. As it turns out, she arrived a few weeks early (healthy and happy thankfully). Since I hadn’t actually started the quilt yet, I needed to get busy! They told me the colors for her nursery are purples and whites, both of which I have a decent amount of in my quilt stash. I made a quilt for their first daughter in purples and green, and since I had some of the fabric leftover I used some of that purple in this quilt.

I cut 5.5″ blocks from all the fabrics I gathered up and decided I’d figure out the pattern based on how many blocks I had of each color. I knew I had an 8 by 8 grid to work with, since I wanted the finished quilt to be about 40″ square (no borders). After piling up all my cut blocks I discovered I really didn’t have enough of any of the colors to do any kind of pattern I could think of. My husband suggested I just do a random layout. Even though I’m not generally a fan of just laying blocks out randomly, it worked out nicely in this case. Good thing too, since it was really my only option for using the fabric I had on hand.

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Randomly laid out blocks

Apologies for the lousy photos. The light in my studio at night is sufficient for sewing, but not really for taking photographs.

The whole thing went together really quickly. I had the blocks laid out on the floor, in the random arrangement I settled on the night before, and I just picked up a row of blocks at a time and started sewing. I think I managed to piece the whole thing during one of my son’s naps and quilt it later that evening.

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Pinned and ready to quilt!

The backing is a single piece of a cute bear print (also from the stash). That’s one of the nice things about baby quilts – usually they’re small enough that the backing doesn’t have to be pieced. I machine quilted the whole thing with a basic cross-hatch design. It’s what I use for most of the baby quilts I make. I love that it’s easy, looks good, and can be done as continuous line quilting (less thread trimming for me!).

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Cross-hatch quilting

After quilting it, I serged around the edges before binding. It’s a trick I learned from a long-arm quilter a while ago. Serging the edges just helps hold everything in place and makes it easier to bind the quilt.

Quilted, but not serged yet

Quilted, but not serged yet

The binding strips were cut 2.5″ wide and folded in half before attaching. I’ve always bound my quilts this way, since I figure the two layers of binding will wear better than just one.

And then it was done. Finished in record time. Now we just need to deliver it…

All done!

All done!

Here are some finished shots taken in daylight. The colors show much better with decent lighting!

Up close...

Up close…

Bears on the back

Bears on the back

On to the next project…

Just in time for…next year

As I mentioned in my last post, I finally got around to making a Christmas tree skirt. Technically it wasn’t finished in time for Christmas, but close enough to actually use.

Missing the binding

No binding yet…

After we finally took the tree down, I actually finished the skirt, so now it’s packed up and ready to use next year. All I had left to do was add the binding, so it was an easy finish. I won’t say “quick” since binding a full circle is somewhat time consuming, but it was easy.

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Now let me back up a little bit to the construction of the tree skirt. I originally thought I’d have to re-remember geometry to figure out the pattern pieces. Lucky for me, someone already designed a specialty ruler for that. I borrowed this ruler from my Mom (she has all the fun sewing tools), and used it to cut all the wedges.

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It’s a 9 degree wedge that works out to about a 50 inch circle with forty wedges. The ruler leaves a 6 inch (I think) circle opening in the center, with the idea that for a regular quilt you put a small circular block right there. I actually enlarged the center circle a little bit to be more like 10 inches (I didn’t actually measure) so there would be plenty of room for the tree stand.

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Also, I left an opening between two of the wedges so I could put it around the tree stand after the tree was in place. Because what are the odds that I would remember to put it over the stand before adding the tree if I didn’t leave an opening.

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I wanted the tree skirt to have a scrappy look, so I raided my collection of Christmas quilt fabric for a bunch of different prints I liked together. There are forty wedges in the circle, and I found nine different pieces of fabric I like, so the four quadrants of the circle are the same. One print is used twice per quadrant. I like the scrappy look, but couldn’t bring myself to do the order randomly, so the order of the prints is the same in each repeat.

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The back is a solid piece of a pretty red plaid with just a bit of sparkle. It’s the only piece I had enough of for the backing, which was the main factor in using it.

Overall, I’m pretty delighted with how the whole thing came out. It feels great to have finally made something that’s been on my to-do list for so long. And that I was able to make the entire thing out of stash fabric! Done and done!

Let me sum up

Well, since the last time I posted in, ahem, October, I’ve been a little busy. The fall was particularly chaotic for me and I felt like I could eek out enough time to sew or blog, but not both. Guess which one I chose.

But since the whole point of starting this blog was to keep track of all my projects, I thought I should at least run around and try to get photos of everything I’ve made since last posting. In the process of doing that I realized just how much sewing I actually got done! So, yea, maybe I could have found time for a post or two. Things to improve on in the new year.

Anyway, since I did get a fair number of things accomplished, I’m pretty much just going to post photos. There’s nothing too spectacular to show, but I’m still pretty pleased with everything I got done. So this isn’t a year in review post or anything like that, just a summary of this past fall.

Here goes…

My baby bear! I know, this is a Halloween costume and it’s now January. But it’s one of the things I’m most pleased with, so there’s no way I was going to leave it out. I figure I only have so many years of getting to pick my son’s costume for him, so I’ve got to make the most of it.

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Let’s see…I made a few more Renfrew tops…

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This last one is made out of a heavier sweater knit that I didn’t have quite enough of for both cowl pieces. So I ended up using a lighter weight gray jersey for the underside of the cowl. I’m really pleased with how it turned out, and I think it drapes better that it would have with two layers of the heavier fabric.

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Underside of cowl

The background for these photos, by the way, is the quilt on my bed. I made the quilt a few years ago and a friend did the quilting on her long-arm machine. I love the fabric, and the quilting really makes the whole thing pop.

Next, I sewed some bags…

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IMG_3267The last bag was a gift for my husband. We’ve been trading cars more lately, as kiddo’s car seat only fits in one car, so whoever has kiddo for the day gets that car. The bag is for the few odds and ends that my husband used to keep in his car. Now that we’re switching cars so often, it’s nice for him to be able to just grab the bag when using the other car, instead of digging around for loose items.

I should also mention, none of these pictures are in order. With the exception of the bear costume, I can’t really recall which projects came when. So I’m just grouping things in a sort-of logical order.

That said, here are some short sleeved shirts. I made two of these late enough in the year that it’s been too cold to actually wear them yet. Oh well. I’ll have some new clothes to wear in the spring.

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IMG_3311All of them are from a basic kimono sleeve self-drafted pattern that I’ve been using for a while.

Next up, stuff for the kiddo! First, we have toddler pants.

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IMG_3316Kiddo was “helping” with the photos.

Here’s a bean bag set, with carrying bag I made for him. They’re surprisingly fun to play with and toss around. I find myself practicing juggling more these days.

IMG_3283IMG_3284The bag and bean bags were made with some very bright (these photos do not do it justice) double sided-fabric. Stripes on one side and palm trees on the other.

And then came the Christmas sewing. First off, a new shirt for my son’s teddy bear, Bernard. I’m not sure kiddo really noticed, but Bernard certainly looks pleased.

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IMG_3307I just roughly traced a pattern off the (rather sad looking) t-shirt the bear originally came in. It was an absurdly quick and easy sewing job. I foresee more bear clothing in the future.

Then there were Christmas pot-holders. I’m not sure what came over me. I’ve never made potholders before. But I had a bunch of holiday fabric scraps, and some of that heat-proof batting and suddenly potholders sounded like a genius idea. They were kind of fun to make though. And two of them were promptly given away as gifts.

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IMG_3298Next, I finally made a Christmas tree skirt. Well, mostly anyway. Technically I didn’t finish the tree skirt until after Christmas, but I did have it done enough to use for Christmas.

IMG_3280IMG_3282The quilting and binding were all I had left to do. So as a temporary finish, I just serged the edges until I had time to do the binding.

Next, I finally finished the quilting on a wall hanging that I started right after the holidays, at the beginning of 2012. I had the wall hanging nearly finished, but decided it needed some more quilting. Somehow, that turned into a monstrous task (much like this post), that didn’t get finished until nearly a year later.

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Almost there. I hemmed a couple of towels that I wove earlier in the fall. Weaving is another hobby that periodically eats into my sewing time.

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And lastly, I made a pillow cover. I know, boring. But it was a good use of some stash scrap fabric and a horrid peach invisible zipper that I didn’t see ever using for anything else.

IMG_3285IMG_3286IMG_3287For reasons I can’t recall, I have more than a few pillow forms in my stash. I finally decided that instead of saving them for the perfect project, I’d just whip up some quick covers and “store” them on my couch until I could remember whatever the perfect project was supposed to be. Much better. My couch has pillows, and my studio is ever so slightly less full. I say “pillows” because I’ve actually knocked out two more covers since taking these pictures. And used two more random zippers from my stash! Really, where do these things come from? A peach zipper?

Anyway, that about wraps up the last 4 months. On to the new year.

What I’ve been up to lately…

Almost no sewing. Sigh.

Lots of cleaning. Bigger sigh. But at least some of it’s been in my studio.

And most recently, helping my parents with flood cleanup at their house. My mom’s sewing studio is in their basement, and unfortunately everything within a few inches of the floor got wet. Including fabric and supplies that were in boxes on the floor or on any of the bottom shelves. Quite the mess. Thankfully, the water level was measured in inches and not feet, otherwise the damage would have been much worse. That said, I’ve been spending lots of time helping with cleanup at their house, and bringing home trash bags full of wet fabric to be washed.

It is however, giving my mom and I both a good look at what fabric she’s got in her stash. So I think that once her studio is put back to rights, she’ll be on a kick to sew down some of her stash. Which is good, because I’d like to sew down my stash too, and we’re both more likely to work on that with encouragement from the other.

Lots of end of summer canning and gardening have also been eating into my free time (what little of it there is with a toddler). But we had our first hard frost here a few nights ago, so the garden is mostly done. Now I just have to do something with the piles of green tomatos all over my kitchen counters. Thankfully, they’ll keep a bit better than peaches, so I can probably start getting in some more sewing time.

And, since what would a post be without at least a couple of pictures, here’s the very little bit of sewing that I did manage to squeeze into the last month or so.

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I finally finished a few unfinished items that have been hanging around the studio.

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I had cut out two t-shirts off my latest favorite self-drafted pattern. I think I have four or five shirts off this pattern now, and I’ve been wearing them to death. Literally, in one case. The fabric really isn’t holding up well. Sigh. Anyway, the first shirt was out of this really cool border print fabric. Problem was that the border print went in the opposite direction of the stretch. Who’s bright idea was that? Oh, and the fabric shrank terribly in the wash, so I had to cut creatively. I actually used a scrap of the selvedge to bind the neckline. Also, the hem band is out of a completely different fabric – I had nothing but teeny tiny scraps left after cutting out the shirt front and back. To accommodate for the lack of stretch, I added a couple inches of width to the shirt front and back, and a few tiny gathers at the front neckline to bring it back in. The fabric was light enough that I figured it would drape okay.

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This next shirt is the exact same pattern. This fabric however was much easier to work with, didn’t shrink in the wash, and has stretch going the way you’d expect it to. You can’t really see it in the photos, but the fabric is actually a burnout print (little burned out or sheer areas are scattered through the print).

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I’ll confess, I actually finished these shirts sometime in August and have been wearing them steadily in the remains of the summer heat. It just took me a while to get photos, and then even longer to upload said photos. Whoops. Better late than never I suppose.

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Please ignore the weird facial expression. My son was being very entertaining while I was trying to take these photos.

Lastly, I finally finished this dress shirt that’s been lurking on my dress form for a while. I think it may be my new go-to button down shirt pattern, after I make a few more tweaks. I’ll save writing about it for a separate post, once I work out the rest of the kinks with the pattern.

With the cooler weather these days, and my rather inadequate cooler weather wardrobe, I’m excited to get back into my studio and do some serious sewing. So much fabric to sew, so little time!

Pattern Testing – Saltspring Dress

Sewaholic has released a new pattern, and I was lucky enough to be a pattern tester again! Can I just say that I love pattern testing? It forces me to make something that I might not otherwise try, and I end up learning new techniques and sewing things outside my comfort zone. And the Saltspring dress does fall a bit outside my comfort zone. First off, it’s a dress. While I can see the appeal of a dress, I hardly ever wear them. Something about feeling too dressed up. I have issues, obviously. The other thing is the blousing – it’s not a look I would normally bother with. However, the clever construction of this dress automatically blouses the top for you, with no fiddling or adjusting. Pretty smart idea, I think.

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As to actually making the dress, in an effort to sew from my stash and find something suitably drapey, I came up with a couple fabric possibilities – georgette and silk. In hind sight, I should have picked the georgette. But, thinking how awesome a silk dress would be, I went with that fabric instead. Unfortunately, it was a nightmare to work with. The fabric is super slippery, and very challenging to cut. Plus, it starts to shred along the edges if you so much as look at it wrong. Sigh. And while it feels nice against the skin, it’s also got some incredible static cling, making a slip a necessity with the dress. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems weird to wear a slip with a sundress.

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Polka dot silk! Hard to photograph though. Much prettier up close and in person.

Fabric problems aside though, the pattern is great. The instructions are written in Tasia’s usual clear, concise style, and the dress was a breeze to put together. The zipper was the only challenging part, and I think my problems with that were entirely due to the fabric. The directions were certainly clear enough.

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Pockets! Wuhoo!

While my intent was to make the dress straight off the pattern with no changes, I did end up tweaking a few things. First, I ended up taking in the bodice side seams. I think it’s time to retake my measurements, because the size that I thought would fit my chest was clearly too big when I tried on the bodice for a fit check. Of course, my post-baby body is still changing enough that I swear my measurements shift from week to week (if not more often). I probably should have re-measured then, before going any farther with the dress, but no, I just assumed taking in the sides enough to grade the bodice down one size would be enough and I plowed on ahead. Once the dress was finished, it became apparent that I hadn’t taken in the sides quite enough (or my chest had shrunk in the intervening time, an entirely possible occurrence). So I just added three little pleats to the front neckline. It draws in the top enough that it doesn’t gap, and I actually like the way it turned out.

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Might need to try this with a belt…

The other things I changed a bit are the straps and the skirt. For the skirt, I added a center seam in the front, but only because my fabric was too narrow to cut the skirt out on the fold. Also, not being sure of how long I wanted the dress, I added 7 inches to the shorter pattern length. I think I ended up cutting off between 2 and 4 inches for the final hem length. As to the straps, well, I have a baby who loves nothing more than to grab things. Spaghetti straps tied in bows would have stayed tied for all of 5 seconds once I picked up my son. So I initially tried to do something fancy with the straps coming over the shoulder from the front, feeding through loops at the back and then tying together in a bow at the center back.

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Fancy straps

In theory I thought it sounded great, but in practice it didn’t really work. The back ended up pulling together and gaping at the center back. So, scratch that idea. Instead, since I’d already sewn the loops into the back bodice, I threaded the front straps through the back loops, then brought the straps back to the front and attached them there. Does that make any sense at all? Hopefully it’s clear in the pictures.

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One thing to note when making this dress is that until you put the elastic waist in, it doesn’t look so great on. I tried my dress on mid-construction to see how things were shaping up, and I was a little horrified at how it looked. But as soon as I put in the elastic, magic happened, and suddenly the dress looked really good. So just remember, if you try on your dress part way though construction, don’t panic, everything will be okay. And I know this isn’t just me, as I saw a similar comment over in Lauren’s post about her awesome Saltspring dress.

After looking at some of the posts by other pattern testers, and after seeing the pictures of my own dress, I’ve got some ideas of things to do differently next time. Aside from the obvious need for a different fabric choice, I really need to add a little bit of length to the bodice. I tend to forget that I have an unusually long torso, and it wasn’t until I saw the pictures of me wearing the dress that I realized the waist really isn’t sitting in the right place. It’s funny how I see things in a picture of me in the dress that I don’t see by just looking in the mirror. Also, I think I want to try making a knit Saltspring. Angela over at Sewmentalmama made two dresses for the pattern testing (both gorgeous), and the second was out of jersey. No need for a zipper thanks to the stretch fabric. And how comfortable would that be? I’m really liking that idea. I also think this pattern could be shortened to make a fun tunic length top. Lots of possibilities!

Anyway, this is a great addition to the excellent Sewaholic pattern collection. And if you’re thinking about sewing one, check out the sewalong over at Sewaholic.

Unfinished

Well, I’ve really fallen off the blogging bandwagon, haven’t I? Not much sewing going on around these parts lately, save for some mending. But hey, I did get through nearly my whole mending pile. It’s not like I have any shortage of other things to sew, either. I’ve somehow amassed a pile of unfinished projects. And at this point, I need to start finishing some of them in order to unearth my cutting table.

First off, we have the dress shirt that’s been languishing in my studio for at least three weeks at this point. All it needs is sleeves, a little top-stitching and buttons. I think I stalled originally on the hand-stitching at the collar. But that’s finally done, so really, I have no excuse for not just finishing the thing.

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Next up is the cut-out-but-not-sewn-at-all baby romper. If I don’t sew this up soon, it may be too late, given how fast kiddo seems to be growing. I cut this out from the romper pattern in Sewing For Boys. Then, before I got around to glancing at the sewing instructions, I had to return the book to the library. So, the romper has been waiting for the book to come available again for check out.

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Then there’s these two t-shirts. Because I didn’t haven enough on my plate already, I used up valuable nap time to cut out two more t-shirts. And now they’re both in half-finished states, waiting for another nap time sewing stint.

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I think maybe I’d better try to finish up all of these projects (and the rest of the mending) before I cut anything else out. Although, I’d really like to make a pair of Thurlow shorts…