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Sew What Skirts- Straight Skirt, originally uploaded by Indie House.

I was so excited to create this skirt, so empowered by the idea of drafting my own pattern custom fit for me and now that it’s done…. I feel slightly let down. See how the skirt flares out by the side slits? It isn’t supposed to do that! It should fall straight the way it did here.

Self Drafted Skirt Pattern

It didn’t start flaring out until I sewed the seams on the slits so that must be what is causing it except I followed the directions exactly so it shouldn’t do this. I don’t know if it’s the material or if I should draft it differently next time… The skirt fits well at the waist follows my hips but isn’t skin tight and then it flares. It’s perfect except for the flare and I don’t know how to fix it.

Flare aside the directions were concise, informative and easy to follow. I drafted my pattern using the back of christmas paper (a neat tip from the book) and didn’t have to tape copy paper together. My only “complaint” is that the book teaches you how to put in a regular zipper and attempt to disguise it instead of teaching you how to put in a hidden zipper. While hidden zippers are a bit harder, especially for beginners, they are a necessary skill and create a more polished look.

I will definitely make more skirts from this book, including straight skirts but without the side slits, and I totally recommend it if you are looking to try out pattern drafting and skirt making.

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Self Drafted Skirt Pattern, originally uploaded by Indie House.

When I reviewed Amy Butler’s Barcelona Skirt I said your money would be better spent buying Sew What! Skirts because it teaches you to make a variety of skirts including an A-line like the Barcelona. But I said that never having attempted to draft my own pattern and I will admit the idea of doing so was a bit intimidating. After all people spend whole semesters or even years learning the art of pattern drafting- how much could I learn from a book?

The answer is quite a lot. Of course it helps that skirts are relatively easy to make in their simplest form and as your skill and confidence grow you can build on the basics taught in the book. My first attempt was the “Polka Dotty,” a simple straight skirt with side zipper and two side slits. I made mine in a nice, slightly stretchy dark denim.

The glory of drafting your own skirt pattern is that you are creating a skirt that will be ideal for your body so accurate measurements are key. I suggest having a friend do the measurements.

You will need:

A tape measure
pen and paper
Marker

Step 1:

You will need to measure your “waist,” hips, and the distance from waist to hips. Where you put your waist is entirely up to you, I placed mine about an inch below my belly button. Since this is arbitrary I suggest making a small mark on your skin with the marker.

Step 2:

Measure your hips. This measurement should be taken at the fullest point of your hips, usually indicated by where your buttocks protrude the most. Again place a small mark on your skin indicating where you took this measurement directly below where you placed the mark for your waist measurement.

Step 3:

Measure the distance between your waist and hips. If you decide not to use the marks it may be hard to get an accurate measurement because you may have forgotten where exactly you defined your “waist.”

Step 4:

These measurements will become the building blocks of all you future skirt patterns so accuracy is key. To these measurement you will add your seam allowance and ease.

Most commercial patterns use a 5/8 in seam allowance but you may find it simpler to use 1/2 in. If you find the skirt is to tight you could reduce the seam allowance but be careful there is a reason most seamtresses use 1/2- 5/8 in allowance.

The amount of ease is entirely up to you, your body shape and the type of skirt you are drafting. For my straight skirt I wanted it fairly form fitting but not skin tight.

To recap:

Waist = waist measurement + seam allowance (SA)+ ease then divide by four (for fabric cut from a folded fabric)

Hip = hip measurement + SA+ ease then divide by four

Waist to Hip = waist to hip measurement + SA at waist

Length= desired length + hem + SA at waist

Step 5:

Draft pattern using these measurements.

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Burda 7834, originally uploaded by Indie House.

I love my new blouse I just wish I could take a deep breath without worrying about busting a seam! Yeah it’s a bit tight around the rib cage, I made a size six which fits most of my measurements, too bad lower rib cage isn’t a measurement I could have factored in.

That said I still planning on wearing this shirt ALOT. It’s totally whimisical with the deep purple Lecien fabric and the orange polka dots. I don’t think I’ll be blending into the crowd on this one.

By now darts are a breeze for me but lining up the points when piecing the top front and bottom front was a bit harder. If you look closely you can tell mine isn’t quite right it should look like this-



nani iro top, originally uploaded by dorathy.

There isn't a whole lot of skill involved it's a matter of playing with the placement and then pinning it when it is "just so" and possibly hand basting before you stitch it. Oh well you can't really tell on mine unless you are up close.

The skill I did need to master was sewing curves! I got stuck when it came time to put the right side of the collar against the right side of the upper front, baste, stitch and then turn. When you read it and look at the fabric you think the curve of the collar should be matched with the curve of the blouse but it's actually the opposite. You should lay them together like this-

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So that when you stitch them together and turn the collar out the curves will match.

When lining up curves I like to pin the two edges first so you don’t get overhang or not enough fabric of any one side. That seems to happen when you start from one side and pin your way around. Then I put pins in any other key places like seams.

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Then I will alternate sides placing pins to evenly distribute the fabric. As I put the fabric through my machine I let it curve until right before it goes under the needle. If you try to force the curve straight it’s going to come out all wonky. When it should look like this

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And then turned out

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All in all it’s a pretty easy pattern that can be completed in a couple hours. When using two different fabrics it calls for a yard of each but I only had a 1/2 yard of the orange dots so all my facings are white Kona Cotton. It’s a great way to save some money and stretch your favorite prints.

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canonjuly09 081, originally uploaded by Indie House.

How fabulous is this skirt?!

So easy to dress up or down, for work or for play and the perfect slate for the bright accessories I like to wear.

Want to see more pictures and find out more about making it? Check out my full pattern review at Fashioned by Meg on Monday.

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Study Hall Skirt, originally uploaded by Indie House.

It seems like some of you may be a ready to move past quilt making and back to garment making so ask and you shall receive!

This weekend I saw a posting by Meg asking for pattern review volunteers. I immediately signed up after all I already had the pattern, fabric and notions and now I would have the motivation to finally get it done. We settled on mid-July to post the review on her blog but it looks like I will be traveling fairly extensively for work starting next week so I need to get this finished before then. Once it’s done Meg can post at her leisure (don’t worry though I’ll let you know when it’s up).

If you are interesting in reviewing a pattern it looks like she is still looking for volunteers.

I can already tell you the Study Hall Skirt is going to be more involved than any skirt I’ve completed in the past. There are nine pattern pieces and almost every pattern piece corresponds to two pieces of fabric.

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Once you get it all cut out the next step is to zig zag or serge three sides of almost every piece. That step alone took 20-30 minutes!

It will be worth it the end though, how cute is this one?!



study hall skirt, originally uploaded by sofia sweetheart.

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Simplicity 3835, originally uploaded by Shear Delight.

Now this is an easy summer dress! A handful of pattern pieces, a zipper, some interfacing and you have yourself a really cute dress.

I made a size 8 and it fits really well except the lower arms. To give you an idea of sizing I generally wear a size 4 or 6 in storebought clothes. Do you think I have fat lower arms? I cut out a size 8 and could not get them up my arm so I redid the seam at a 1/4 inch and I can wear it but it’s still tight. The next time around I’m going to extend the lower arm pattern piece out by at least a 1/2 an inch.

The pattern pieces for the body and arms are the same with different cut lines for the different styles so it’s very easy to mix and match the design elements. I opted for the longest length in the arms so I could have those stylish doodads and the longest length so it could be worn for work. I’ve also noticed that many women will make the mini version and find it’s to short to be worn as a dress and end up pairing it with pants. I wanted a dress that could be worn as a dress and this fits the bill quite nicely. If it’s to long you could easily hem it but its a little harder to add length!

I made this out of Alexander Henry fabric that I bought on sales at Jo-Ann’s partly because I didn’t want to invest in expensive fabric the first time around and partly because I wanted to see if I could pull off an all over pattern like this. It turns out I really like it!

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Ever since I saw this tutorial on Sew Mama Sew I’ve been wanting to try it and I bought this fabric a couple weeks ago but never got around to making it until today.

The instructions are clear, concise and come with quite a few pictures. I skipped the arm divots and pockets as unecessary and the ruffles so that I could wear the top with a cardigan for work.

Skills needed: pleats and edge stitching

The pleats are simple but you may want to practice edge stitching pleats on a scrap piece of fabric. This design element is front and center on your top so if you mess up it will unfortunately be very obvious.

All told this took about an hour and I did get stuck once. The instructions for attaching the chest band and body of the top don’t come with accompanying pictures so here is what I did.

I lined up the raw edges of the body and the unfolded edge of the chest band (remember in step 3 you folded down one side of the chest band 1/4 inch and ironed it) and stiched a 3/8in seam.

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Press the seam towards the chest band and it will look like this.

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Now fold the chest band in half and bring the 1/4 in folded edge to the inside of the top like this.

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Sew along this edge, remember this stitch will catch both sides of the chest band, the body of the top and be visible on the outside. I used my 1/4 inch foot as a guide.

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I didn’t bother to determine where my straps were going to go until after trying the top on and ultimately decided to make the back straps come in to the center. I would recommend doing it this way so that you know how the straps will ultimately look and lie on you before sewing.

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I think it adds a little interest and helps me to remember which side is the front!

Her instructions for attaching the straps were a bit weird as well. I thought just stitching where the straps were attached to the band looked wierd so I pinned the straps on and then top stitched around the entire top of the chest band securing the straps in the process.

And the last change I made was to the straps, I omitted ruffles or bais tape so I folded the straps in half, right sides together, stitched a 1/4 in seam along the raw edges and then turned it right side out- to easy.

For not a lot of work I really like the result.

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I’m in Canda this week for work but I managed to squeeze in one more project before flying out on Monday. I rarely sit down and finish an entire project in one sitting but I imagine this would only take an hour or so if you focused on it. It took me about half a day but I also cleaned, watched TV, surfed the internet etc.

I fell in love with this fabric a couple months ago but only purchased a 1/4 yard since I didn’t know what I would actually use it for. That quarter yard was then cut up and turned into applique for my Birdie Sling and I loved it even more so I decided to order a couple yards :). I was afraid that this pattern would overwhelm me so I chose this simple halter to let the print shine but not become “too much.” The rest is going to become a sash for a yet to be made navy blue linen dress.

The directions are super simple for even the most beginner of beginners.

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The only complicated part was making the darts as this was the first time I had done so.

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I poked a hole through the paper pattern and all four pieces instead of attempting to transfer the marks to each piece individually. It was a little hard to see the poke holes on the last piece but still more accurate then the alternative.

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The top pin goes straight in but the bottom pin goes in one side and out the other and you bring the two sides together by sliding the fabric along the pin.

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Then draw a line connecting the two pin heads to form a triangle.

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Sew along this line backstitching at the beginning and end. The instructions say to pin this but I didn’t find it necessary.

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This is what they look like before pressing.

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One of the last steps is attaching the zipper and I got confused when looking at the diagram because it’s oriented as if you have the fabric right side down when in reality you want the right side up.

Amy Bulter Cabo Halter

I made a size small and didn’t need to make any adjustments to get a nice form fitted look. Please note that the top does bow away from your bust because the ties are straight. I knew this would happen and you can see it on the cover model but I didn’t feel like messing with the pattern to fix it. If you cut the inside line of the straps in a curve you would get a better fit.

I may take the straps to the back as opposed to tying it so that I get a more versatile look- I want to wear this under a cardigan and not look like I’m wearing a summer top. It may just be me but I think tied neck designs like this are very informal and summery but I want clothes that can also be dressed up to be worn either to work or at least in other seasons.

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IMG_0213, originally uploaded by Shear Delight.

Shirring, defined as two or more rows of gathers used to decorate parts of garments, usually the sleeves, bodice and yoke.

Smocking, defined as a decorative embroidery or shirring made by gathering cloth in regularly spaced round tucks.

These were from Webster’s Dictionary online other sites add the use of elastic in defining smocking versus shirring. Why do you care when it seems that smocking IS shirring and the words seem to be interchangable? Well I don’t know… I’ve googled both to help me complete this tutorial but the lady in my Janome group who’s technique I ultimately used called it “shirring” not smocking. Really she made a point of this so apparently it matters to some people…

Now that we’ve cleared that up and you’ve decided the dress is pretty cute and you’d like to give it a go you probably want to know how I did it and what patterned I used, but I’m not going to tell you! Seriously! Before you get excited about this technique, before you hunt down a pattern, spend $30 plus dollars on fabric and thread you have to do something first.

Get yourself a scrap piece of fabric, a fairly big rectangle will do nicely, that is the same type and weight of fabric that you would like to use in a dress or shirt. Now get some elastic thread, it’s better if you can just borrow some at this point as we want to invest as little as possible in this technique right now.

Loosely wind the elastic thread in your bobbin. You want as little tension as possible while still evenly winding the elastic thread on your bobbin, you will have to do this by hand. Place your wound bobbin into your machine and pull the elastic thread just as you would when sewing with regular thread. You want to place your fabric into your machine with the right side up. The regular thread in the top of your machine is what will show and the elastic thread will be on the underside of the fabric. Lengthen your stitch to 4-5 and leave your upper tension the same. Stitch a single line backstitching at the beginning and end to secure the thread.

Now go here and compare your first line of stitching with Heather Ross’. You should see definite puckering within a single line of stitches. If you don’t you can try to lengthen your stitches (assuming you didn’t max it out the first go round), you can try to loosen or tighten the elastic thread on the bobbin by rewinding it by hand, you can try to crank the tension up or down on the upper tension. If none of these work stop reading, pick a different technique and a different pattern for a cute summer dress.

Why would I steer you away from such a cute dress? The ability to shirr/smock rests on your machine so if you try this and it doesn’t work don’t blame yourself! The bobbin tension on your machine must be loose enough to stitch the elastic thread and still enable it to pull in on itself. You could manually adjust the tension on your bobbin but keep in mind that there is no set standard for how much you need to loosen it and since your bobbin tension is usually set with a small screw you may not be able to reset it when you are done smocking.

Now if your machine will shirr/smock you can find the pattern and instructions for this dress on Heather Ross’ blog here. The download is free but it will cost you about $5.00 to have the pattern printed off full size. If you want you could print it off on your home printer and simply tape the pieces together.

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Cut your fabric. I bought three yards of fabric and ultimately used over 2 1/2 for the dress, pockets and straps.

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Before I attached the pockets I pinned the dress to myself to make sure they would be in a comfortable place and I would actually use them.

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(I already own a tripod so I should probably get a little remote control and I wouldn’t have to take pictures of myself in the mirror…)

Then sew it all together and you get what looks like a slightly shaped potato sack.

Heather Ross (Unsmocked) Summer Dress

Then you want to make sure you press open your seams and serge or zig zag over the raw edges so they don’t fray. Heather doesn’t mention this step and anyone that has made a couple garments would think of it on their own but for us newbies it bears repeating.

You also want to fold over the top edge 1/4 in twice and top stitch. Once you’ve sheared it would be a real pain to do this so get it over with now.

Now comes the fun or frustrating part depending on your machine. My machine does not shirr, I tried everything I mentioned before and then some and it refused to work. I didn’t want to mess with the tension on my bobbin so I was forced to improvise.

If you can’t just shirr as described above, here is what you can do but we warned it is time and effort intensive, perhaps a bit too much for a simple sundress. If you do a straight stitch with the elastic in the bobbin and thread up top you are continually stitching the two together so it’s harder to manually pull on the thread to create the gathers, it’s impossible to do if you’ve already backstitched back and forth over the elastic. What I ultimately did was to use my cording foot to create a tube of thread if you will in which the elastic thread was wrapped. Regular thread goes in the top and bobbin in this case. The elastic thread goes through the center slot of the cording foot on top of the fabric and in this case the wrong side of the fabric is up (just as it is when sewing almost anything else) because this is the side we will attached the elastic to. Starting 1/4 in from the top seam sew your first line of stitching, making sure to back stitch at the beginning and end up each line to secure the thread. Don’t worry this won’t affect the elastic thread. You want to leave a couple inches of elastic thread at the beginning and end of each row so you have something to pull on. I stitched from side seam to side seam on the front of the dress and then on the back. I suppose you could sew a single line around the entire bodice but then you would have to hand gather around the entire circumference keeping all the gathers even and without breaking your elastic thread. So how about we don’t do it that way? I made 8 inches of rows but you can do or more or less depending on the look you are going for. Once you have sewn all your rows the center seams are going to be a mess of thread and elastic (three tails for each row)

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Now the “fun” part, you need to manually pull on each end of the elastic thread to gather the fabric. Be careful that you don’t pull to hard or the elastic thread will break. If this happens you can create all the gathers from the other end being careful not to pull the elastic all the way through and out. Also be careful not to gather the fabric too much or won’t be able to get into the dress!

Once you have gathered all of the rows (54 in my case, 27 on each side) you will need to create a line of tiny stitches to maintain the tension. Set your machine to one of the shortest stitch lengths and sew a line down the length of gathers (you can see Heather doing this at on the link at the top). This keeps everything place. For threads that have snapped and slipped further into the dress you may have to do an individual line of stitches to secure them. Don’t worry you won’t really notice these stitches with all the gathering going on. Only after doing this can you snip all of the tails of elastic and thread off. Whew that was painful!

It’s finally time to hem your dress. Usually I chop length off like no one’s business but I really like the length of this dress so I created a one inch hem and top stitched around. If you don’t want straps you are done at this point. I’ve had problems with store bought shirred tops slowly creeping down so I spend my day constantly checking and pulling it up so straps were a must for me. A bra however is not, you get quite a bit of support from all those gathers!

Overall it’s a really cute dress, and how awesome is that fabric! But ultimately all the effort it took me to get to this point was not worth the final result. So if your machine doesn’t shirr with elastic thread in the bobbin I really wouldn’t bother.

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canonjune09 058, originally uploaded by Shear Delight.

Whew! This one took awhile!

I definitely struggled on the collar and armholes/sleeves but I feel like I learned a lot in the making of this blouse. And considering the fact it’s my first ever blouse and third ever garment I think I did pretty well.

My personal construction struggles aside there are still some things I plan on reworking the next time I make this. The gathering in the bust area is to low on me. I fairly flat chested so I have this problem with store bought clothes as well. I’m going to take an inch off the top pieces to pull everything up at which point the gathers will fall under my bust as they are supposed to. I’m debating taking it in a 1/2 inch. I used the size based on my measurements with no alterations and it fits well but I like clothes to be very fitted so I’m torn…Finally I need to figure out something with these buttons. I chose rounded “pearl” buttons but as I wear this the tabs keep sliding off the buttons causing the blouse to come open! That is not going to work. Shortening the tabs would help but I have the same problem with a store bought blouse that uses tabs and buttons so I think I may use buttons and button holes the next time around so it will close securely.

I wouldn’t wear this to work, although most people wouldn’t notice my at times wobbly construction I would feel very self conscious so this will be worn around the house and for weekend errands.

Overall I think this a great pattern that gives you a couple of option to create a more professional or more fun appearance. It’s doable by a beginner but I don’t think it’s the best pattern to start out on. To complete this blouse you will need to understand how to attach piping, bias tape, and collars (depending on the variation you choose).

Last night I also finished these little dresses.

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How sweet is this button?

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Now I want a dress of my own from these fabrics :)

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