General · Needlework · Useful Thing

Sewing Gift Guide 2: Stocking Stuffers and Nifty Little Tools

Here are my picks for inexpensive little things every person who sews will enjoy. All of these gifts are under $25, and most of them are small enough to fit in a stocking. Just sayin’.

Key (USD):
  • $ Under 10
  • $$ Between 10-25
Stocking Stuffers
Hand embroidery pocket reference can accompany projects on the go. At Amazon $

Seam ripper with magnifying glass and LED light. How many times have you wanted this when you were trying to see those black stitches in black fabric? From Amazon $

So much better than using tape to mark seam widths on your sewing machine(s). Comes with a little booklet. From Amazon $

Set of 100 little clips in a tin container. Every home sewing area needs these. They make it so easy to attach binding, work with small fiddly seams and more. From Amazon $




There are a lot of cute pincushions out there, but this is my current favorite. Pincushion hedgehog from AsNiceAsMice on Etsy. $$
Keep your fingers safe from burns when you iron with silicone finger guards. These are great because they your fingernails free. Perfect for people with long nails! Amazon $.
This flexible strip of LED lights can be stuck onto any machine that needs more light. From Amazon $$.
I have both the 5/8 and the 3/8 version of this ruler and I use them on almost every clothing sewing project. They make adjusting patterns so easy! This is the 5/8 inch pattern drafter ruler from SA Curve on Amazon. $$


Missed my first gift guide? Find it here: Sewing Gift Guide 1: Handmade and Made to Make.

I’ll be back soon with an update on the winter coat project. Until then, happy shopping!

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Fashion · Knitting

Red Garter Stitch Scarf

redgarterscarf_2redgarterscarf_3I made another scarf! This one was a special request. The assignment: use a specific yarn to make a simple, long, lightweight scarf. No embellishments or fancy stitching desired.

I think the finished object fit the brief. With one skein of Cascade Heritage Quatro (400 meters), I went back and forth in garter stitch, slipping one stitch at the beginning of each row. The quatro is a sock weight yarn, so the entire project was done on tiny size 2 needles. It’s a very nice merino/nylon blend yarn made from plies of four different colors twisted together. When knitted together, they make a nice blended effect. Unfotunately, I think I may have bought the last one in existence, because I can’t find any more anywhere. I think you could approximate the effect by holding four different strands of a laceweight yarn together though.

That’s the last bit of knitting for a little while.

More sewing coming soon!

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Scarf as work in progress. You can clearly see the twisted strands in the sock yarn.
General · Needlework · Useful Thing · Whimsy

Sewing Gift Guide 1: Handmade and Made to Make

This is the time of year that people start casting around for what to give for the holidays. If you are shopping for the person in your life who sews, or just for yourself, keep reading.

Key (USD):
  • $ Under 10
  • $$ Between 10-25
  • $$$ Between 25-50
  • $$$$ Over 50

When you make things for other people, you really appreciate how much effort and thought goes into handmade gifts. Maybe you don’t have the time or inclination to make a handmade gift this year. But you can purchase items that someone else has crafted, and support small businesses at the same time. With that in mind, I’ve pulled together some of my favorite handmade gift ideas from people who sell on Etsy.com.

Made to Make

Here are several ideas for complete pre-packaged projects. It’s always fun to have a new toy to play with after all the gifts are opened, isn’t it?

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Complete empbroidery kit from HoffeltandHooperCo. Multiple colors, sizes and designs. $$$+
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Learn how to needle felt by making a tiny cactus. Kits from BenzieDesign. $$
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Felted pompom garland kit – pick colors, how many and what size felt ball. From BenzieDesign. $-$$$

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Complete beginner starter kit for sashiko embroidery from MikkeJapan $$
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Scrappy rope rug kit from SewHungryHippie. $$
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Peace dove hand stitching kit from CynthiaTreenStudio $$$

Little Luxuries

Now I know that you would never take the pleasure of buying fabric away from your favorite person who sews. But there are lots of other sewing goodies that they would love to own but wouldn’t buy for themselves. Here are a few of my favorites.

Pattern weights

Pattern weights can be just about anything (I have been known to use soup cans). But it’s much more fun to have a set that makes you smile. Here are some great handmade options.

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3D printed pattern weight set from thegigglingriz. $$

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Realistic donuts! from SewCuteNQuirky $$$

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Marble pattern weights from SewStitchinSouthern. $$$ Customizing available.

Design Tools

Design and sewing go hand in hand. How about a few items that help to collect and plan those creative ideas?

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Sewing Theme Vision Board from LuckyJo11 $$$ Customizable

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Hardcover fashion designer’s notebook includes 140 women’s figure templates and more from EnchantedFabric. $$

Pressing Tools

I found some tools for the ironing station that many people who sew do without – but they shouldn’t! Here are some beautiful additions to anyone’s work space.

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Ham holder and clapper from JacksonsWoordworksLLC. $$$

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Custom tailor’s ham and sleeve roll set from StitchNerd. $$$$

Thread

Opening a package with a rainbow of color never fails to please. How about giving some high-end thread? It’s a little luxury your sewing friend will enjoy whether undertaking elaborate embellishment, basting or just mending a tear.

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Sashiko Thread Set – 15 skeins from SnugglyMonkey $$$
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Japanese cotton basting thread (multiple colors available) from AliceInStitchesArts $

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Embroidery Floss: Sublime Stitching Mingles Set from SnugglyMonkey $
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Valdani Wool Thread Collection from AliceinStitchesArts $$$

Finishing Touch

I like it when people put labels in their handmade items. Show them that you value their unique craftsmanship by giving them custom labels. Here are a few options to get started.

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Spool of 1/2 inch printed twill tape from InkedPapers $$

 

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Custom printed satin labels from NinaTags $$

I’m pulling together another guide, which will focus on gadgets and stocking stuffers. Oh – and I’m still working on the winter coat. Updates soon!

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Fashion

Winter Coat Part 1: The Plan

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I’ll be making View A

I’m making my own winter coat. Here’s why:

Cost – I checked out several retailers looking at basic, lined, medium length wool or wool blend coats. The coats I found all had front pockets and polyester lining. Prices ranged from $150-$400 for mid-range brands. I made a mental note that I did not want the materials for my coat to exceed $150.

Fit – Although fit is less crucial in a roomy garment like a coat, it still matters. Obviously, sewing your own leaves fit in your own hands.

Quality – I don’t think I have ever had any problems with the construction of store-bought coats. Materials are another story. I’m hoping that I can avoid torn linings, pilling and other wear and tear by using better quality fabrics.

Style and Details – I like pockets. I love when I am able to go for a walk without having to carry a bag because my pockets do the job alone. While most coats typically have some kind of front pockets, that’s where it stops. I think I can do better. I also don’t want to have the same thing as everyone else.

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Silk twill lining fabric

I mentioned in a previous post that I purchased a coat-making course from Craftsy*. The interactive, online video lessons also come with a pattern, Vogue V9040, which the instructor, Steffani Lincecum, uses as her example throughout. Before buying anything else, I went through the course. I confirmed that I still wanted to do it, and noted all the ways the course instructions deviate from the pattern. For example, the pattern calls for sew-in interfacing while the course uses fusible knit interfacing.

*Craftsy and Bluprint both offer this course. If you are a Bluprint customer, you will need to purchase the pattern separately.

With pattern and notes in hand, I started hunting for materials. It took over a month. I am glad that I started looking when I did, because it took a while to wait for swatches and make final decisions.

Supplies

I think I’m ready to begin. Here’s the result of my shopping spree (includes shipping):

TOTAL $210

I’m already over budget by $60. Oops. I chose to use silk for the lining, and that was really expensive. My rationale was that silk is warm and hard wearing. It’s also something that will bring me joy whenever I put on my coat. New budget rationalized!

Next time – Preparing the pieces

Until then, stay warm and happy sewing!

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Fashion · Knitting

Cozy Striped Alpaca Scarf

 

I made a scarf!

I wish I could say where the yarn came from. I only know that I have had it for a long time and that I was saving it because it was too good to use. I have revised my thinking and now more often consider materials not good enough to use. 😉

I do remember that both colors are undyed 100% alpaca yarn. They are so soft, warm and light.

This is a very very easy scarf to make. It only uses one stitch, so it can be done almost mindlessly. I finished it in 4 nights while binge-watching TV. If you are interested, I have a few more details on Ravelry.

More sewing coming soon. Until then, happy making!

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Fashion · General · Vintage

October Highlights at Seasonal Change-Over Time

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Hats are cool

Last weekend daylight savings time began. For those of you not in the USA, it’s a charming custom whereby we set our clocks back one hour until spring. (Not everyone does this – it’s a whole big thing…)

For me, this is when autumn starts to feel real. Here in Rhode Island, the sun is now setting at 4:30PM! I think at a subconscious level, I knew I had to prepare. October found me as busy as a squirrel collecting acorns and about as focused. Unfortunately, that meant that many projects have gone unblogged.

Rather than go into a lot of detail (for a change), I’m just going to share some October highlights.

Fall Wardrobe Sewing

tan_floral_skirt_3I didn’t do a lot of ambitious sewing in October. I finished a few projects I started earlier in the year though.

I made another pull-on knit circle skirt from the Butterick B6578 pattern. The skirt was part of my original Fall 2018 sewing plan and coordinates nicely with the rest of the collection. I made View A. The fabric is a nice brushed poly from Sincerely Rylee.

Also for Fall, I made a neat cloche hat with leftover green twill. More on that below.

I also finished another fit and flare top using McCall’s M7356. This top was actually constructed from my original muslin. The fabric is way too thin, but I never intended to use it for real. I just really liked how the muslin looked. So I took out all of the basting and put it together properly. There are a few imperfections, but I think with a camisole I will wear it a lot. I go into more detail on my pattern review here.

Above: Fall cloche and fit and flare top

Vintage Handkerchiefs
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Some of my nifty new old things – oh, the possibilities!

My Mom has saved all kinds of interesting things, including a number of old handkerchiefs from the 1930s to the 1960s. I took some back to Providence after my last visit to incorporate into my fabric stash. After a bit of effort, I now have 34 clean, ironed bits of old-fashioned charm. The collection is a veritable needlecraft sampler, with hemstitching, tatted lace, appliqué, embroidery, and crocheted edges. I can’t wait to start playing around with them! I have already started a board on Pinterest to collect ideas.

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I blocked some of the lacier handkerchiefs

Halloween

suffragist_1Spoiler: I did not sew my costume. But I will take credit for making the accessories that pulled it together. This year I dressed as a suffragist. I can well imagine that this might have been me in reality if I have been alive 100 years ago.

The dress I found in my Mom’s closet – she wore it in the 1970s. Since we have an election around the corner, I thought a suffragist would be fun.

I found a free downloadable cloche pattern which I used to throw together a vintage style hat. I’ve never made a hat before. It was much easier than I thought. Since the individual pieces are so small, I was able to use scraps alone. The ribbon is even saved from a Christmas package. I wound up making two hats because I misread the instructions the first time and sewed the seams with too narrow of an allowance. This led to a large and loose hat, which someone else might enjoy some day. I cut out another hat, following the directions the second time. The fabric is scavenged from the scraps of my fall 2018 collection, so it coordinates with everything. It’s already found it’s way into my closet. I reviewed the pattern on patternreview.com here. The pattern itself was from the website sewmamasew.com. There are gorgeous versions of this cloche and other styles for sale on Etsy at the Etsy store Elsewhen Millenery.

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The sash came out again on election day. It felt pretty good to wear it at the polling place.

I made the sash using some plain unbleached muslin. The lettering was really easy. I found a font that was close to the one used by the marchers in historical photos. I typed the words, scaled them to the size needed for the sash, then flipped them to be mirror image. Then I used my inkjet printer to print it on an Avery light fabric transfer sheet. I followed the instructions on the box to iron the lettering onto my sash. I think it looks great.

Knitting

hat-2As if that were not enough, I somehow found myself in a yarn store early in the month. I am constitutionally incapable of leaving a yarn shop without buying anything. This time was no exception. I have been knitting my way through my purchases. So far, I have finished two winter hats, both with the same yarn. I’m keeping one for me and the other for donating. I have a bunch of other works in progress, which I will add to the blog as I finish. For other knitters (and curious onlookers), you can find my work going back to 2004 on Ravelry.com here.

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Winding yarn for the next project
Embroidery

I finished a couple of embroidered day-of-the-week dishtowels recently. Aren’t they adorable? They are made in the same way as the ones in this post from earlier this year, only with a different iron-on design. You can find the puppy design here.

 

Mending and Editing

I have been making my way through the work basket as well lately. In the past month, I have mended or altered at least 6 items from my work pile. They have all been there so long that it seems like I just went shopping and came home with 6 new things. I haven’t seen the bottom of the pile yet, but I think there might be a light at the end of the tunnel. I’ll feature some of the more interesting upcycles in the coming months.

Coming in November:

  • I make a winter coat
  • Craft and gift projects
  • Holiday gift guide

Whew!

Until then, happy sewing!

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Contest · Fashion

Fall Wardrobe: Stretch Velvet Cami

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Inspiration: Velvet Camisole from Rebecca Taylor Winter 2018

Remember when camisoles with built-in shelf bras were popular? It was a great idea, but rarely worked well. The problem was that the bra was usually just an extra layer of stretch jersey with an elastic band around the ribcage. It didn’t provide much support or coverage.

Since I learned how to make supportive linings for athletic wear, I vowed never to make an unlined camisole again. Since the bra does not show, there is no need for fancy embellishments or time consuming finishing techniques. I didn’t time myself, but I think it only added about an extra hour to the project.

I had a piece of stretch velvet ready to go, having already used it in my recent princess seam top. Since it is a metallic, it goes with just about any color. But it looks especially good with the pinstripe I used in the wrap skirt that is also part of my fall mini-wardrobe. I think it increases the dressiness of the outfit while also being very comfortable.

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I used my favorite camisole as a template for my new one.

I really liked the V-Neck shape of my inspiration piece from Rebecca Taylor. I didn’t have any patterns that would work, but I did have a favorite camisole of my own with the same V-Neck profile. So I took a chance and used it as a template for my new top.

Here’s my process:

  1. Lay out velvet in a single layer, smooth side up.
  2. Carefully lay camisole on top.
  3. Using 5/8″ ruler and a disappearing marker, mark a cutting line one seam allowance width away from the camisole directly on the velvet.
  4. Cut on cutting lines – this is the front piece.
  5. Use the front piece as a pattern for the back, changing the upper edge using the camisole as a guide.
  6. Cut back piece.
  7. Use the velvet pieces as pattern for power mesh front and back, making power mesh pieces bra length.
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Testing the fit before sewing straps in place

Using the techniques from Craftsy‘s Sewing Swimsuits: The Supportive One-Piece, I sewed foam cups into the power mesh front. (I explain the process here).

Another somewhat unusual feature is the contrasting straps. I got the idea from Vogue 1591, which uses grosgrain ribbon for shoulder straps. I thought that stretchy straps would be more in keeping with a stretchy top, so I was really happy to find foldover elastic in a grosgrain texture. I like a wider strap, so I left it unfolded.

I had fun positioning the straps into a V in the back. With a built-in bra, the straps can go anywhere. There are no worries about having to cover up the straps from the bra you wear underneath.

And that’s it!

The gold camisole is the final garment in my Fall 2018 Mini-Wardrobe. Voting at patternreview.com is open until October 10. If you like what you see, I would love it if you would give me your vote.

Supplies

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I reviewed this pattern on patternreview.com here.

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Contest · Fashion

Fall Wardrobe: Reversible Green Sweater Coat

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View A from the Vogue Website

As I was planning my Fall wardrobe, my Oct./Nov. 2018 issue of Threads Magazine arrived.

I soaked up Becky Fulgoni’s article “Single Layer and Reversible.” There were so many great ideas for making garments from double-faced fabrics (or just fabrics with an equally interesting wrong side). I already knew I had the perfect fabric to make the loose casual jacket in Vogue Patterns’ V9275.  The jacket (View A) is intended to be lined, but I thought a reversible version would be even better.

The fabric is a sweater knit with a squishy olive green boucle on the right side. I think the wrong side is just as interesting: a smooth black with olive flecks. It’s lighter than it looks, so it would be for outside on crisp days or wearing indoors.

Planning

I did several tests before I started. I needed to find seam, hem and closure treatments that would work with my sweater knit and also look good from both sides. Once I figured out which worked best, I started planning in earnest.

Above: I tested binding and seam techniques using swatches like this.

I have found that sketching projects helps me plan. When I work through details on paper, I find I almost always need to make changes. This time, I had to do double the sketches, because I needed to visualize how it would look from either side. Sure enough, I realized that I had to account for the knit collar and cuffs in my plan.

Above: Puzzling it out

I used most of the pattern pieces for the jacket. But to make it reversible, I omitted the side seam pockets and back shoulder darts.

Editing for Reversibility

look5editMy version differs from the original in many ways:

  • Two sided pocket: patch pocket on green side; slot pocket on black side (details below)
  • Flat-felled seams
  • Instead of hemming, bind the lower edge
  • Use a reversible separating zipper for the opening
  • Trim and bind front opening before zipper application
  • Zipper tape exposed on black side; hidden on green side (see below)
  • Slip-stitch cuffs and collar on black side to give them a finished look
  • Decorative, error-hiding buttons
Two-Sided Pocket

The Threads article described a technique for making a pocket accessible from either side. From one side, it is a patch pocket. From the other, it is a slot seam pocket. I love this idea! Here is my slightly different method:

  1. Make the slot seam. I was using bound raw edges as a design element throughout the garment, so it made sense to use them for the pocket slot as well.
  2. Cut the front pieces along what will be the new seam line. Because I was binding the edges, I did not need to add seam allowances.
  3. Apply binding to slot seam raw edges. To keep the seam from stretching, I set my machine to use the longest straight stitch. I didn’t use a stretch stitch because I wanted the slot seam to be stable. Some machines have an option to reduce presser foot pressure. If you have it, this is why. It really helps with lofty stretch fabrics.
  4. Join the top and bottom of each front piece. I chose to apply strips of grosgrain ribbon to the green side. They will not show, since the slot is only visible from the black side.
  5. Draft a patch pocket piece to have an ample side opening, making sure it is placed where your hands go. Mine covers the entire width of the jacket, ending at the same place as the jacket bottom. Ensure that the pockets completely cover the slot opening.
  6. Cut two patch pockets and two lining pieces. I made my lining from the same quilting cotton I used for my princess seamed top.
  7. Sew the right side of the lining to the green side of the pocket piece for each side. Only the upper edge and pocket opening need to be sewn. Trim, turn, press.
  8. Topstitch pockets to front pieces. Again, only the upper edge and pocket opening need to be sewn.

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Two Sided Zipper

This is my first separating zipper, exposed zipper application, and reversible zipper. I think it’s the first time I have tried putting one in a sweater knit. So I am going to forgive myself for putting it in a little too low. I think it looks nice from the green side, where the zipper tape is hidden. The exposed tape on the black side looks… just ok. I would like to find a nice trim to cover it with, but I don’t have anything on hand right now. The main problem is that by putting it in too low, there is a janky looking gap between where the tape ends and the collar.

The only thing I could think of was to sew buttons at the neckline to hide the tape end. I didn’t have anything that I liked, so I made a couple of cover buttons. I think it looks pretty good.

Above: The exposed zipper tape didn’t line up the first time. Then it didn’t quite reach the top of the jacket. I made a couple of cover buttons to conceal the ends.

Non-bias bias

Making the large amount of binding was really simple. Since the material was already stretchy and shapable, there was no need to cut bias strips. All I had to do was cut parallel strips across the grain.

Stability without interfacing

Stability was an unexpected factor in planning for reversibility. The sweater knit was fairly loose and floppy, so it had to have something otherwise I’m sure it would begin to grow with use. Interfacing was out, of course. The seams, pockets, and zippers serve that function.

I was pleased that even though there was some loft to the knit, it could be compressed enough to make flat felled seams. The traditional method results in two parallel lines of straight stitches. I did it that way for the shoulder seams, and quickly realized that keeping the green fluff from escaping the seam was going to be a problem. So I used a zigzag stitch for the final step instead of a straight stitch for the remaining seams. The zigzag pinned everything down, kept it controlled, and was much easier to sew.

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Above: Some of the jacket’s design features

Supplies

I think this is my favorite thing in my Fall wardrobe so far. It’s so versatile. And how about those set-in sleeves? 😉

Coming soon: a bra-top camisole. Until then, happy sewing!

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Reference

Threads Magazine: Reversible Garment Inspiration

This is my fourth garment in patternreview.com‘s 2018 Mini Wardrobe Contest

I reviewed the pattern here.

reversable sweater coat 20

Contest · Fashion

Fall Wardrobe: Floral Princess Seam Top

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Mine is View A

Fall wardrobe item number three is hot off the ironing board! For those who are new, I have been making a five piece coordinating mini-wardrobe to enter in patternreview.com‘s 2018 mini wardrobe contest.

My new top is a take off on McCall’s M7356 pattern. View A has short sleeves, no sash, no godets and no hi-low hem. I do like the frillier versions, I just wanted something a little more serious for Fall.

Since I hadn’t made anything with princess seams in a while, I started by making a muslin. I lengthened the waist as usual before cutting anything, but otherwise made no changes. Even though the thin white cotton woven was only for practice, it frayed so easily that I went ahead and overcast all of the edges. Then I basted the whole thing together using my new favorite trick, the double-eye machine needle (if you missed it, I talk about it in my last post here).

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My muslin (View D with sleeve)

I was delighted to find that the only change I needed was to raise the shoulders by 3/8 inch. It’s a good thing I remembered that that also meant changing the sleeves and facings before I cut into the good fabric!

I thought it would be neat to change the center panel to a contrasting pattern. I selected gold stretch velvet, because it coordinated with the floral pattern and I also planned on using it in another wardrobe item. The gold by itself looked terrible. It had way too much shine to go with the flat cotton. I found some black crochet lace in my stash and tested a layered look. Bingo!

I again prepared the panels, facings and sleeves by overcasting the edges. For the layered panel, I pinned the top and bottom together carefully then headed to the serger. Both of the layers stretched like crazy, and not in the same way, either! It was ok, but far from perfect. After some consideration, I forged ahead anyway.

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Layered center panel, piping and main fabric

I had recently purchased a cording foot and used that to insert the black piping. What a difference! The neat piping also stabilized and straightened the center panel quite a bit.

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I again used the cording foot to insert a invisible zipper in the center back. It’s definitely better than using a plain zipper foot, but I suspect a purpose made invisible zipper foot would be even better.

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Velvet and lace before sewing

The only other construction detail that gave me pause was sewing the v-shaped neckline facing. I’m not a big fan of facings. Even when I catch-stitch them perfectly, they have a tendency to flip to the outside. I followed the instructions, but also understitched the whole neckline. I think it will be fine when I am wearing it, but because the front panel is so bulky, the centermost part does not want to lie flat. We’ll just keep that between us, right?

Scroll down to see the finished top. It looks a little more medieval princess costume than I intended, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I will add more pictures of me wearing it once it stops raining long enough to take them.

Supplies:

Cording feet are available in various styles. Mine is similar to this one. You can see that one side is higher than the other to allow the foot to contact both the cord and the fabric at the same time. If you are shopping, make sure the foot you purchase is compatible with your machine.

The last two projects for the contest are nearing completion, so I’ll be back soon.

Until then, happy sewing!

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I reviewed this pattern on patternreview.com here.