Friday, October 30, 2009

Throwing in the Towel(s)

Today I finished the four tea towels that I've been working on for shop owner M.  I really do like doing all the hand stitching, but I found each one took longer than I estimated it would.

Two Christmas-themed:
2009-10-30 tea towels 002

Two for any season:
2009-10-30 tea towels 017

Now I'm working on some Christmas stockings, as requested by shop owner S. M and S are having an open house event next Friday evening - open late, hot cider, $10 off of a $50 purchase, prize draws, etc.  So, my goal is to have the stockings done before then.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Predestined for Millinery? I think not...

The church I'm a member of belongs in the Calvinist tradition.  If John Calvin were still alive today, he would be 500 years old.  Our church is having a "birthday party" for him this week.  His birthday was actually in July, but when it's been 500 years, what's a month here or there?  The Preacher tells me that it is the year that is the significant part.  As part of this celebration, one of the church members is playing the role of John Calvin and he asked me to make a hat as part of his costume.

You can think what you want about John Calvin, but you've got to admit that the man had a pretty cool hat.  Even as cool as it is, it isn't a popular style today (surprising, isn't it?!) so I was on my own for making/adapting a pattern.  I started with Vogue 8528, View C (top left).

I added a brim and the (very strange) earflap piece and (after two muslins) ended up with this:

2009-10-28 Calvin hat 007

2009-10-28 Calvin hat 006

2009-10-28 Calvin hat 004

The hat is velvet and I was nervous about sewing with it and getting a good press.  The sewing turned out to be not so difficult, other than it "walking away" when sewing two velvet pieces RST.  I added the piping to get around the pressing issue.  I thought it would help define the edges/seams if I couldn't get it pressed well.

2009-10-28 Calvin hat 009

The piping is made from the same fabric as the lining - a very cheap polyester "Halloween" satin.  It was just a step up from sewing with a big black garbage bag.  Very lousy choice on my part, but since it's just a costume, it'll be okay.  The quality of my work reflects that thought - "it's just a costume."  There are a couple of tucks that I didn't bother to rip out, some less-than-careful basting on the velvet left stitch marks, the brim waves and ripples when it should be flat, etc.  Still, I think it will do the job.

I'll try to get a shot of it "in action" later this week.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wine Sleeves Ready to Go

I dropped off these two wine sleeves at the shop today, along with the first one I made.

2009-10-27 wine sleeves 006

2009-10-27 wine sleeves 010

Now I'm working on a hat fit for John Calvin.  (I'll explain when it's finished).

photo from
It's been an interesting project...

I'm also still stitching away on tea towels.  I'm hoping to have those finished in the next couple of days.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ready to Go

Fifteen terry cloth bags for bar soap or soap slivers, ready for the shelves....

For the first time, I used my 1/2" bias tape maker for the casings.  I was pretty impressed with how well it worked.  I love a good sewing tool.

I think it will take me as long to clean up all the lint, fuzz and snippets from this project as it did to make them all.  Terry cloth is a messy fabric.

Work in progress:

Back to work...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Kwik Sew 3126 - Race Car Pajamas

A couple of nights ago my son came over to me on his way down to bed and with a very sad look, said, "Mom, can you please make my race car pajamas while I'm sleeping tonight?"  Awwww.  Unfortunately, I couldn't that night, but I did get to it last night.  I cut them out at the same time I cut out the soccer pajamas and they've just been sitting there ever since.  They got pushed aside with the daughter's clothing projects and then my samples for sale.  Once I got started on them, they went together really quickly.

He's pretty excited about them.  I'm hoping to capitalize on that and move out the beloved Thomas The Tank Engine pajamas that he's been wearing for nearly two years.  I expect to hear a big rrrriiiiiiiiiip everytime he wriggles into them.

I had just enough fabric for these, since it is a one-way print and I wanted to match the pattern at center front.  The black-and-white checkered background isn't printed on-grain which was a little annoying while cutting and sewing.  Even though I'm not a racing fan, I find this little guy pretty hard to resist in these snuggly flannel pj's.


The wine sleeve turned out pretty well, I think.

Thoughts about how to do this have been rolling around in my head for a couple of weeks and in the end, I was pretty pleased with how it came together.  The "suit sleeve" is repurposed: I cut it off the jacket and took in the underarm seam so it was a snug fit on the bottle.  The "shirt sleeve" is made for the bottle.  I did look at dress shirts in second-hand stores, but the cuffs show wear and dirt and it would be hard to alter it to be the right size and still look good.  You can't really see the cuff very well in the photo because of the sun - oops.

The bottom of the suit sleeve is wider than the top and it is longer than the shirt sleeve.  To get the slouchy look at the bottom, I gathered the bottom of the suit sleeve and sewed it to a circle the same size as the shirt sleeve bottom.  I sewed the two bottoms together in the seam allowances.

This project was requested by the shop owner (I think I'll call her "S" from now on) that I sew some other things for.  I showed it to her yesterday and she was really excited about it and wants a few more (and some Christmas stockings, but we'll save that for another time).  I'll write up better instructions with construction photos when I do the next one - as much for my own reference as anyone else's.  (But feel free to use them if you want).  I've been surprised how often I look things up on my own blog.  It's been helpful when I can't remember how I did something - which is much too often.

I also brought my other samples to the second shop owner (she'll be known as "M" from now on).  She liked the tea towels, but didn't know how many would sell as the final price would be $18.00.  But, she would like me to make four (two with a Christmas theme and two other) and see how it goes.  That sounded good to me.  The terry cloth soap bag seemed like a better option to her, but she said she would be willing to have some of the knitted ones out if I would like her to.  I think I'll just do the terry ones.  She seems like another great person to work with and I'm pretty excited about these possibilities.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Finish Line

This tunic and leggings is the last of the things I'm sewing for my older daughter's fall wardrobe.  I actually finished it a couple of weeks ago and my daughter has worn it twice, but each time I asked her if I could take a picture and she said, "Yes, but only one and you have to do it fast."  Well, okay then.  The odds of one quick picture turning out well weren't so good.  So, I photographed them without the daughter.

Generally, I consider this top unsuccessful.  Let's start with the fabric.  The white print is pretty lightweight interlock.  Someone gave this to me awhile back (I think the same time as this fabric).  I made pajamas out of it for my daughter a couple of years ago and had about a yard left.  I pulled it out of the stash to match some hand-me-down red leggings.  I was having a really hard time getting past the idea that it was pajama-ish, and knew that it would need to be made into more than a plain T-shirt, so I tried to copy a top that I had seen on another girl.  I didn't really hit the mark.  The blue fabric is a stretch jersey that I purchased to go with the print - very nice, but it was expensive.  The red fabric is a rib that I found way on the bottom of the clearance table for $1.50 (CND)/meter.  I was doing my best to match the red leggings I already had, but after seeing this red, I decided to just make new red leggings and send the already-made ones to school to stay as the just-in-case-of-accident pants.  At the cutting counter the clerk was surprised that it was $1.50 and commented that it probably wasn't really supposed to be that, but she happily gave me a generous cut at that price.

Now the bands on the top.  The blue parts are both too wide.  The horizontal one is too low.  The red trim is too wide - I wanted it to look more like piping, but the rib didn't want to cooperate.  The seams are bulky - thanks to the rib and don't want to stay turned the right way.  I don't really like the neckband, but by the time I got to that part, I knew I wasn't very excited about the top and didn't want to mess with it more than I had to.  I do like the buttons.

And even with all that, I think it looks like it should be pajamas.  The top is based on Kwik Sew 2918 and the leggings (which I do like and consider a success) are Burda 9615.

So, this is the way the fall wardrobe project ends - not with a bang, but a whimper.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I picked up a men's sport coat yesterday at a second-hand store.  Even though I found this inside:

I'm still going to cut it apart in an attempt to make this:

(better picture here)

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Soap Bag Prototype #2

Today I picked up an inexpensive washcloth to try out the soap bag in terry cloth.  I don't think there is much difference in the cost of materials between this one and the knitted one, but the amount of time it takes me to make one is pretty different.  This was a very quick project, yet I prefer the knitted one.

I used purchased bias tape on the outside of the bag to make the casing.  This could certainly be done with a more decorative fabric or coordinating tape, but this happened to match so well I thought I would use it.  It was hard for me to decide about putting the casing on the inside or the outside, but in the end I thought the outside could use a little "something" and didn't really know what else to do with it.

A plain white satin ribbon serves as the drawstring.  Again, could be more decorative, but I was working with what I had.  For the drawstring opening, I turned under the ends of the tape and then stitched it down before sewing the side seam.  The other side is cut on the fold.  As you can see in the picture, the ends don't line up exactly.  More precise measuring next time....

I was hoping to bring my samples to the shop tomorrow and talk about them, but it doesn't look like it's going to work out.  But, soon it will.  I have one more new thing to work on for shop owner #1.  Hopefully I can get started on that tomorrow.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Soap Bag Prototype

The second item that the shop owner wanted is a little bag to hold a bar of soap or soap slivers that is also used like a washcloth.  She mentioned maybe doing them out of terry cloth, but I couldn't find that in the fabric store here.  I thought knitting one would work just as well and maybe better as it could stretch to fit different size bars of soap.

The yarn is 100% cotton - not my favorite to knit with, but likely the best for this purpose.  It is worsted weight and I knit it on size 3 needles as I wanted it to start out firm with just a little stretch.  When it is wet, it will stretch more.  I don't get so excited about seaming knits, so this is knit in the round from the top down and the bottom is closed with a three-needle bind off. 

I love the way seed stitch looks and thought the texture would be a good thing for this, so that's what I did for the whole bag, except for three rounds.  One round of knit above an eyelet row, then the eyelet row and then another round of knit below it.  I thought a little less bulk where it needs to be cinched would be good.

I know already that I will do more eyelets in the next one.  There might be more changes as I'm still in the testing phase.  I used this one in the shower this morning and really liked it.

Since terry cloth was suggested, I think I'll buy a washcloth and make a little bag out of it and see what she thinks.  It would likely be faster to produce, depending on how I do the casing and drawstring.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Tea Towels

 It's been awhile since I've posted anything.  Life has been busy here.  But, now I have something to show you, so I'm back.

When I dropped off the wine bags, the shopkeeper told me that the woman who owned the shop next door was interested in having me sew some things for her to sell.  The things she wanted aren't really things I've done before, but I was interested, so I've found myself in a bit of a product development project.

One of the things she wanted was tea towels.  She had a favorite type that she carried, but can't get them anymore and hasn't found a good replacement.  I did a little research about tea towels and found out that linen is the fabric of choice for good tea towels.  I didn't know this - I assumed it would be cotton.  I guess fine china and crystal should only be dried with a linen tea towel.  Perhaps the absence of fine china and crystal in my life (I'm really at more of a Tupperware kind of a place right now) kept me from knowing this. 
As it turns out, I have a big (4 yd) piece of linen that I bought a few years ago at a going-out-of-business sale.  But, because of the color, I'm not sure it's really tea towel-worthy.

I don't have an embroidery machine and I'm not an artist, so after thinking about it, I decided that I could offer hand embroidered tea towels or machine appliqued ones.  So, I made up a sample of each and I'll see what she thinks.  I'm not sure I can make these for as cheap as she would like - how much would someone pay for a tea towel?  But, again, these are just samples and we'll see what she thinks.

The color of the linen is much better suited for the "Coffee" towel, but I'm still not sure it looks good. The towels are folded in thirds. They are approximately 20" x 30".

I used the blanket stitch on my machine for the applique and then did the lettering and steam with hand embroidery.  The design is my own, loosely based on a clip art graphic I saw awhile back.

Most of this apple design is done in split stitch with four strands of floss.  The design is available for free here.  I really like a classic embroidered tea towel, but I'm not liking the colors on the natural colored linen here.

Now for a couple of trips through the washer and dryer and a couple of uses and we'll see how they look.  I'm really not interested in selling something that won't hold up.