Last weekend my older sister showed my blog to my Mom on an iPad. A couple days later I spoke to my Mom on the phone (she lives on the East Coast and I live in California) and she said she liked the purple trench coat featured on this page of my blog. This is the coat I made from Christine Haynes book Chic & Simple Sewing, which I reviewed here. She asked me if it was easy to make and I told her yes, she could certainly make one.
Yesterday I realized that time was running out on getting my Mom something for Mother’s Day. Then I thought – hey, I’ll get her a copy of Christine’s book! So I immediately ordered a copy on Amazon – I did check with a local independent bookstore first but they didn’t have one in stock – and I got an email today saying that it had shipped and would likely arrive on Saturday. Yay.
So if you’re racking your brain about what to get your Mom for Mother’s Day, consider a sewing book. Two lovely options:
I made my first version of this coat a couple years ago. (You can read about it in this post The Trench.”) The pattern is from Christine Haynes aptly named book Chic & Simple Sewing, which I reviewed here.
Then I had to decide what I would use for the bias tape. I found a lovely remnant of striped silk at Discount Fabrics in San Francisco. I liked the idea of having diagonally striped bias tape.
After I started sewing the coat and attached the sleeves, I wondered about using more of the silk fabric as an additional accent to the coat. Eventually, I decided to put some of the silk fabric along the bottom edge of the sleeves. These pieces would be sort of like cuffs but I would just be placing a piece of fabric over the sleeve ends.
If I had figured this out earlier, I could have sewed the silk on to the sleeve before I attached the sleeves. It would be a pain to rip out the seams so I ended up hand sewing the silk to the sleeves (see photos below).
I actually made the bias tape last year and finally got around to finishing The Trench this past weekend. The big difference between this version and my previous one, is fusible tape. When I made this coat the first time around, I hadn’t used any fusible tape for sewing seams. It would have made my seams on the bias tape look significantly better. The bias tape didn’t lay flat so I hid that unevenness by sewing rick rack on top of the seam line. You can see that version here.
For the purple trench, I used a double-sided fusible tape – Design Plus Ulta-soft Double Sided Fusible (3/8″) – which I read about in the an issue of Threads magazine. It is an excellent stabilizer for lightweight fabrics. Back in 2009, I ordered of two rolls of it from LJ Designs. At that time it was $9.99 for a 27-yard roll. (The price has gone up a dollar.) My first roll is nearly depleted but I still have one roll that’s unused.
It was a very tedious process ironing the fusible to the bias tape because I had to first iron it on one side and then the other. The good thing was that there was just a little edge of fusible at the center fold of the bias tape. So I could then put the bias tape over the unfinished coat edges and iron it in place. This meant I didn’t have to pin the bias tape. Yay.
The fabric I used was rather thick so I hand sewed the hem. Also, because this particular cotton has a tendency to unravel, I sewed bias tape over all the seams, which is a nice detail on an unlined jacket.
Below are many photos of preparing and attaching the bias tape, making the pockets and cuffs, and other details.
The first hat I made was for cold winters in upstate New York where I grew up. Using some fake sheepskin fabric, I made a hat with ear flaps. I think I was inspired by some Russian hats I’d seen. I didn’t have a pattern. I just cut and sewed. I’m not sure what happened to that hat, which I made it when I was in high school (oh so long ago).
The second hat I ever made was after I graduated from college. I was inspired by a picture in a magazine. You can read about that experience in this post, “The Red Velvet Hat.”
I took a long hiatus from making hats – until I began sewing again and I wanted to tackle making a hat from a pattern. I flipped through many pattern books at Joann Fabric and Craft before deciding on V8440, which has some great hats by Patricia Underwood.
The sample wasn’t very big, less than the yardage of the pattern. But I thought I could make it work by cutting it on the bias, which would make this rather heavy fabric a little less stiff.
Sewing the Hat
The pattern is simple – four pie-shaped pieces of fabric with four darts. You use the same pattern pieces for the main fabric and the lining. The trickiest part for me was the topstitching because there’s a lot of it and you have to go slow if you want your stitches to be equidistant and even. This pattern has topstitching along both sides of the seams of each “pie” piece and five parallel lines of topstitching along the brim (see photos below for details). I had to be really patient when I did that part.
After I finished the top stitching, I tried on the hat and realized much to my dismay that the hat was too big! I was aghast. I had just done all that beautiful topstitching! How could this be?
Well, I didn’t take into account that I was using a heavy fabric and when you make a hat, every 1/8 of an inch really counts. When I cut the fabric, I likely made each pattern piece slightly larger than it should have been. Plus the fabric had a tendency to fray so when I sewed it, I should have compensated for the fray and stitched a slightly wider seam and trimmed the seam after I was done.
After setting it aside for a day, I decided I couldn’t let all that sewing go to waste so I decided I to add two additional darts in the back, taking in about a half-inch each. I held my breath, took my scissors and sliced through the finished edge (five rows of topstitching!). Then I sewed two 3/8-inch darts and put the hat on again. It worked! Now the hat could fit on my head instead of falling over my eyebrows. (Click on the images below for larger views.)
Not long after I graduated from college, I saw a photo of an absolutely stunning red hat in a magazine. I can’t recall what magazine it was but this shaped felt hat was gorgeous (and gorgeously expensive) with many folds of felt in front. I loved everything about that hat – the perfect shade of red, the beautiful design. It was a piece of art. I wanted that hat but it was way out of my price range.
So I attempted to make my own version using red velvet. Looking back on it now, it was rather an ambitious undertaking – especially considering that I had only made one other hat before and I had no experience making patterns of any kind.
I measured the circumference of my head to determine how much fabric I’d need and then I sewed that horizontal piece of fabric to a oval of velvet that I’d made for the top of the hat.
To create the folds, I hand stitched the velvet in several areas – sometimes just a few stitches in one spot and in other places, several stitches to hold the folds in place. And I lined it with black satin. (Click on any of the photos below for a larger view.)
It didn’t look as good as the model in the magazine but it was a good effort! I did wear the hat a few times – holiday occasions mostly. I’d almost forgotten about this hat – it was stashed in the closet on a high shelf when I rediscovered it a few days ago. And who knows, maybe I’ll wear it for the office holiday party this year.
After I made my sewing machine pocket organizer, I got to work on a chair organizer – a very handy item that drapes over the seat of the chair so you have pockets on both sides of the chair (from McCalls’s pattern M4274, now discontinued). But it’s made for a traditional chair with four legs. There are two ties that hold it in place to the chair back. If you have a different chair I suppose you could leave the ties off and it could still work if you use safety pins to attach it to the seat cushion. Or if you have enough things in the pockets to weight it down, it could just stay in place by itself.
As you can see, I stuck a variety of things in it – pinking scissors (a birthday present from my older sister), extra pair of fabric-cutting scissors, boxes of pins, bobbins, and so on. It’s quite handy.
Simplicity also makes a pattern (3776) for fat quarter sewing accessories that’s still in print (at least as of this writing). It doesn’t have a chair organizer but it has a project organizer and other things you can make to hold your sewing items.
Around that time, I had some baby showers to attend and Amy’s book really came in handy. She says to use “cotton on the front and cotton flannel on the back.” I wanted to use fabric that wasn’t stereotypically “baby,” such as pastel building blocks or cutesy baby animals. So I chose bold colors or designs for the front. But I didn’t find many options for the flannel back so I went with a polka dot pastel blue. At that time I had not yet explored shopping for fabric online. I was at Joann Fabrics and limited to what was in stock.
Before sewing, I prewashed the fabric and put it through the dryer. My washing instructions to my friend Debbie were: machine wash cold, tumble dry low. Or just rinse them in the sink and let ’em dry overnight.
Once I was ready to begin, I turned to page 112 for “Simple Bib.” I had already photocopied the pattern,which was in the back of the book, and cut it out. All I had to do was trace the shape on the flannel, put that piece on top of the cotton and then sew on the marked line.
However, I had been sewing other things that month and I was on automatic pilot: cut out pattern, pin to fabric, cut fabric. So I traced out the bib on the fabric and cut along the line. Whoops, that was a mistake. If I had read all four sentences of Step 1, I would have realized that I was supposed to sew on the marked line BEFORE I cut out the shape of the bib. Then you cut the fabric 1/8″ from the seam.
So I had to start over again or the bib would have been the wrong size. Sewing along the marked outline makes for easier sewing because you can easily guide the fabric along the bib curves. Luckily, I had extra fabric and I hadn’t cut out any of the other bibs so it wasn’t a big deal.
The bibs close with snaps, which make it harder for babies to take off. Snaps are surprisingly easy to attach, just have the snap tool and a hammer handy to pound the two pieces together. (Here’s a nice description “Attaching Snaps” on the Make It and Love It blog.) I don’t recommend using velcro because you can be sure the little one will remove the bib.
Here are photos of Nate (what a cutie!) wearing the bibs and photos of the bibs before I put the snaps on. He’s now three years old and Debbie gave birth to another son earlier this year and now he’s wearing them. She tells me that she likes to use them flannel side up because food sticks to it.
Amy Karol calls it “the best bib ever” – and she’s right.
I’m cross-posting my Tumblr review of Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey here because the film is about a man who began sewing puppets as a young boy in Baltimore, Maryland. It’s a truly inspiring tale story. The perfect film for the holidays. If you want a feel-good movie, this is it!
Elmo is the adorable red furry Muppet that kids love to hug. Remember the Tickle Me Elmo doll? Well, that infectious giggle and little kid voice comes from Kevin Clash, a tall black man from Baltimore. Yep, a black man is the voice of Elmo. And the Constance Marks’s documentary Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey focuses on his fascinating story, which is now playing in Bay Area theaters and elsewhere.
As a kid growing up in Baltimore, Clash was glued to PBS’s Sesame Street and was mesmerized by the Muppets. He soon learned to keep an eye out for any TV specials by Jim Henson, the Muppets’ creator. Then one day he made his own puppet – out of his father’s trench coat. But he didn’t get in trouble for cutting up his father’s coat without permission. He was fortunate to have loving parents who recognized and nurtured his precocious talent and let him continue to sew puppets.
Fortunately, there’s plenty of footage and documentation of Clash’s early interest in puppets. He sewed many puppets as a boy and held puppets shows for the neighborhood kids. And unlike most kids, he didn’t grow out of his boyhood obsession. Instead he stuck with it through high school even when he was became known as the boy who played with dolls. As a teenager, he was invited to audition as a puppeteer for a local TV children’s program – and the film shows his audition tape. By this time in his nascent career, Clash has sewed about 85 puppets. Later on a school field trip to New York, he had the chance to tour the Muppet studio and see where the puppets were built. Through luck, talent, and persistence, he eventually got the chance to work for his idol Jim Henson. And the rest is history.
Being Elmo traces Clash’s remarkable career trajectory, from meeting Muppet builder and his eventual mentor Kermit Love, to working for Sesame Street and then creating the voice and character of the beloved puppet known today as Elmo.
It’s not just a film for Muppet and Elmo fans but an inspiring story for kids and adults alike. After all, how many people ever get to make their childhood dreams come true?
A few years ago I mentioned to my mom that it would be fun to sew again. Most of the sewing I’d done since college was by hand – reattaching buttons, repairing seams, and darning socks. I hadn’t done any serious sewing on a machine since college.
My mom was the one who taught me to sew on her Singer Golden Touch years ago when I was in grade school. And she made most of our clothes when my three sisters and I (yep, no brothers) were growing up. Mom didn’t always read the directions of the sewing patterns, partly because English is her second language, but she used the pictures in the directions as her main guide. Looking back on that now, I think it’s pretty amazing that she was able to make so many clothes that way. Go Mom!
In 2009 I got a sewing machine from my parents for Christmas, nothing fancy – a Kenmore machine from Sears. So I was excited to make something and thought I’d start with a small project. I went to my local Joann Fabrics and looked at the pattern books and saw a McCall’s pattern for sewing organizers (M4274, now out of print but you may be able to find it on eBay). All you needed were some fat quarters, interfacing, and thread. I hadn’t done any quilting before so fat quarters were new to me. Joann’s had plenty to choose from. I decided to go with a violet theme as you can see from the photo (at left).
I figured it’d be good practice sewing straight seams. Plus I’d get to organize my growing collection of sewing things. Whenever there was a notions sale, I was snapping up pins, needles, snaps, tailor’s chalk, you name it.
The first thing I made was the pocket organizer that my sewing machine sits on. I made it with two fat quarters and some bias tape, which perfectly matched the solid violet fabric I chose.
Now I have a place to stash at least two pairs of scissors – my fabric cutters and my small thread-snipping one. And I could stick my various marking pens and sewing machine needles in there too. I was ready to go!