Home Dec

Quick Fun Project: Tissue Box Covers

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Handmade tissue box covers aren’t always the decor you want. This one is kind of growing on me though.

I’m the first to admit that hand-made tissue box covers can go horribly, horribly, wrong. But stick with me – they don’t have to. In fact, they can add a little charm to just about any room.

If you are looking for an easy to make gift, or simply to brighten up one of your own spaces, you might want to give these covers a try.

I found a free tutorial for some quick tissue box covers on Blueprint. There are lots of them out there, but this one worked well for me.

Using the tutorial as a guide, I made a pattern for the cube shaped style of tissue box. You could make your cover as simple as a single layer of opaque fabric. Or you could make something padded, lined, and trimmed. It’s really up to you.

I opted for a more finished cover with bias trim and a lined inside. So for each cover, I used the pattern to cut 5 layers:

  • Outer fabric
  • Lining fabric
  • 2 Interfacing (I used a medium weight fusible)
  • Batting (I used a fusible version)

Fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of the fabric pieces. Trim the batting piece to remove the seam allowance (or just cut smaller to begin with). Then fuse it to the interfacing side of the outer fabric.

Through all layers, stitch an outline of  the top edge of the box shape. Then clip the corners to the stitching line.

Cut a hole in the center slightly smaller than the desired opening. Cut into the hole’s corners to make tabs that can be folded to the inside. Clip or pin the tabs to the inside then carefully topstitch them in place.

To trim the opening, you can simply place binding tape or trim on the inside of the box and sew in place. Or you can be fancy and apply the binding around the hole’s edge.

To get a perfect fit, pin the side seams while arranging the cover lining-side out over a tissue box. Then make a strong overcast seam on all four sides.

To finish, apply contrasting trim around the bottom edge.

TIP: Keep a covered empty tissue box at your sewing station. It’s a great place to tuck thread clippings and other small trash as you work.

SUPPLIES
  • tissue_box_cover_16Fabric: inner, outer: any woven fabric will do. I like quilting cottons just for the variety of designs available. Requirements will vary depending on the size of the tissue box. You will need a piece slightly larger than 2 x height of box side + (box length) X 2 x height of box side + (box width). Great for those scraps you can’t get rid of!
  • Bias Tape: buy the pre-packaged kind or make your own. In this case, you don’t have to cut bias strips. You can cut your strips on the grain because it won’t need to stretch around curves. So, you can use those little scraps for this too!
  • Fusible interfacing: The stiffer the interfacing, the crisper looking your cover will be. I used Pellon SF101, but you can go softer or harder if you prefer.
  • Batting: I happened to have some fusible fleece on hand, but any batting will do.

More coming soon!

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Fashion · Needlework

Embroidered Floral Sweater

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Finished!

I think this little project started because I was still working on the hand basting for my coat and wanted to make something easy that I could enjoy finishing.

Is procrasti-make a word?

I had the floral knit in my stash and a tested pattern ready to go.* Finally all of that pattern prep (and shopping) was going to pay dividends!

At the same time, my January 2019 issue of Threads Magazine arrived. I devoured the article Luscious Sweater Knits by knitwear designer Olgalyn Jolly.**

Under “Flat Hems” on page 37, she writes:

If hemming, don’t sew a knit with poor recovery directly to itself; the hem tends to flare out. Instead, apply a fine stretch mesh or lingerie elastic along the hem allowance to ensure good recovery at the hem.

What a great idea at the perfect time! I quickly added her technique to my plan.

* See Giant Stripes Two Ways

** Threads gives online access to their issues through paid subscriptions, so unfortunately, I can’t provide a link.

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Swedish pattern paper pieces on the sweater knit

The pattern is the Hallå Slim Dolman pattern for women. I chose the tunic length, long sleeve option with hems instead of bands. I had to iron my pattern pieces from last time, but other than that, I just had to take them out of the envelope. In this case, there was no need to even pin the pattern to fabric. The swedish tracing paper clung to the sweater knit, which behaved well while cutting.

Delighted with how well everything was going, I never noticed that I forgot to cut a collar band. By the time I got to it, I didn’t have any material left. We’ll get back to that issue in a minute.

I noticed right away that I would need to keep handling to a minimum, as the edges raveled very easily. Time to put my sweater-knit tricks new and old into practice!

Trick 1: Stabilize shoulder seams

This is a good idea with most knits, but especially where the fabric may not be strong enough to support the weight of the garment. The last time I used (2-way) fusible knit interfacing, I gathered up the scraps and cut them into strips. I fused them in place on all four shoulder edges.

Trick 2: Stretchy stabilized hems

Using the Threads article as a general guide, I put together some really stable and flat hems. I didn’t have lingerie elastic or lightweight mesh on hand, so I cut strips from a piece of power mesh. If you are not familiar with power mesh, you would recognize it as the mesh often used in ready-to-wear bras and shapewear. The only color I had was a hot pink, but since there was pink in the sweater, I figured any show-through would look intentional. I made a little slide show detailing how the hems came together.

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Trick 3: Baste with Wonder Tape

Remember how I forgot to cut a neckband? When I figured out what I did, I looked around for some fabric that would work as a stand-in, but nothing grabbed me. Then I tried it on without the band. The neck opening is very wide, but I kind of liked it. I figured that if I added bra-strap carriers, it would be pretty easy to wear.

I applied wash-away wonder tape to the edge of the neckband for two reasons. First, it served to stabilize the fragile curve and prevent raveling. Second, I could use it as a guide to turn a precise 1/4 in. hem.

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Neatly basted 1/4 in neck opening
Trick 4: Stabilize neckline with strong and decorative embroidered edge

At this point, I could have stitched the neck in place and called it a day. I just thought the top needed a little something extra. Why not use embroidery to highlight it? At the same time, the hand stitching would secure the hem in place.

Using some plain embroidery floss I had on hand, I stitched a simple cross stitch pattern around the entire neck. It’s now a very secure hem, but gives the neck a unique embellishment. My work is not quite as precise as I would like, but that is more than made up for by how happy I am with the color and pattern.

Even with all of the embroidery and extra steps, this was a quick project. I would definitely do another one – just maybe with a neckband next time.

Look familiar? The Super Quick Stash-Buster Scarf was actually made from the scraps left over from cutting this top.

SUPPLIES
Fashion Show

I reviewed the Slim Dolman on patternreview.com. Click here to view.

Happy sewing!

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Fashion

Super Quick Stash-Buster Scarf

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Sweater knit up close.

I had just finished cutting out a cute new top (coming soon) out of a lightweight floral sweater knit. When I was done, I still had a wide length of fabric. It wasn’t enough to use for any garments though.

Regular readers will know that I like to find ways of using every little bit of leftover fabric. Because my scrap was basically a wide rectangle, it was perfect for a scarf.

I smoothed out the piece on my large cutting mat, aligning the grain as best as I could. Like many stretch fabrics, it was somewhat pulled out of shape near the selvedge. I cut that part away. Then I used the gridlines on my cutting mat and a long ruler to cut the largest rectangle I could, resulting in a 50 x 15 inch piece.

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The scarf fully extended

The cutting doesn’t have to be perfect. This project is very forgiving of mistakes.

While still at the cutting table, I folded the rectangle lengthwise, right sides together. This sweater knit stuck to itself very well, so I didn’t bother pinning it. Then I serged the long raw edges together using a 4 thread overlock.

I turned the tube so the right side was facing out, then serged the openings to each other. I had to hand stitch the last little opening, then done!

Instant gratification projects are so fun, don’t you think? Now excuse me while I rummage through all of my sweater scraps.

SUPPLIES

I had fun trying out some styling ideas….

Lots more coming soon!

Until then, happy sewing!

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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.
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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Contest · Fashion

Fall Wardrobe: Asymmetrical Wrap Skirt

pinstripe_wrap_skirt_13Here’s the second item for the Autumn 2018 collection: an easy asymmetrical wrap skirt. If the fabric looks a little familiar, it’s because I have already used it in two other garments:

Pinstripe Pantsuit Part 1: the Pants

Pinstripe Pantsuit Part 2: the Vest

I bought five yards of it a few years ago from FabricMartFabrics.com and even after this skirt, I still have more than a yard. I don’t think you have seen the last of it yet!

This skirt is one of McCall’s 2018 early fall patterns, M7813. The pattern includes options for different hem profiles, but they all share the same basic design. I was drawn to view D, which has two curved front pieces that come together in a neat jagged line. It’s a very simple pattern. The only closure is a single snap. There are no pockets, lining, or anything tricky. It may not be obvious on first glance, but all views cinch at the natural waist, continuing anther 5 inches or so upward. The part above the waist can be turned down, sort of like a shirt collar.

pinstripe_wrap_skirt_9I like that this skirt can work with or without tights as a transitional piece. I just wore it for the first time and loved the way it looked in the mirror. But…. if you plan on wearing it on a windy day, definitely consider putting in some extra closures. While having your skirt fly up worked for Marilyn Monroe, it’s not really what I’m going for. I’m still deciding how I want to handle mine.

I did another contrast facing with the skirt. This time I chose a scrap of flannel stripe that I salvaged from a jacket that was on its way to jacket heaven. The pattern matched almost too perfectly. It might add a little more bulk than desirable, but it’s really soft and comfortable.

I don’t have too much to say about construction or techniques this time. It was so darned easy! Instead, I’ll just post the supply list and some pretty pictures.

Supplies

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I plan on entering this skirt in patternreview.com‘s 2018 Mini Wardrobe contest. It will be item 2 of 5. Don’t worry – I’ll remind you when voting opens!

Until next time, happy sewing!

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Fashion · Fitting

Getting Started on my Designer Pattern

designer_18Last week I wrote about choosing a designer pattern from Vogue. I was between a beautiful on-trend jumpsuit and a cute pull-on dress with a tie front. The winner is…  the easy one!

Although I love the jumpsuit, I just couldn’t justify making it when I don’t have any events to bring it to.

Also, I find myself drawn to Rebecca Taylor’s style aesthetic. Her collections provide me with a lot of inspiration, featuring prominently in my Fall 2018 mood board on pinterest.

I was reluctant to cut into the silk I chose for the final version (Thanks, Mom!). So, I looked for some lightweight cottons to make a (hopefully) wearable muslin. I have plenty of sundress-worthy cottons in my stash, but it was tricky to find something that would look good from either side. In the end, I went with a sort of washed denim colored solid for the dress and a fun multicolor stripe for the lining.

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Both fabrics frayed like crazy, so I overcast the edges before sewing anything together.

I wanted to make sure that the ties fell at my natural waist, so I spent a more time preparing the pattern than usual. I added my normal long waist adjustment all the way around. The back overlay piece was a little perplexing. When I added the extra length, it completely changed the shape of the ties. I improvised a new curve to smooth it out, keeping the start and end points where they were and crossed my fingers.

I cut the pieces according to the directions with one exception. I thought it would be kind of neat to have the inside back piece be the same as the skirt lining.

Once I got to the sewing machine, I was delighted with how quickly it went together. The neckline and armholes are faced, but use bias binding for the facing instead of the more common facing pieces. I have been experimenting with this technique for a while, and actually prefer it in most cases. However, until you are used to it, it can be maddeningly confusing. If you are doing this dress and have never tried the technique, find an online tutorial and practice a bit first. It may save you a lot of seam ripping! The “very narrow hem” that I was wondering about turned out to be really easy. I like the way it turned out and will use it again on projects with lightweight fabrics. I think that some fabrics might do better with a rolled hem, though. I’ll have to test that out for the final version.

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Very narrow hem (top) and bias-faced armholes

One weird thing about the pattern is that instead of using a conventional casing for the waist elastic, you make a completely inner casing using the seam allowances. Essentially you get a casing “tube” that is only attached to the dress on one side, not both.  It works out, but probably would fail with any elastic wider than 1/4 inch. It doesn’t seem to matter that the casing is kind of free-floating.

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Inside front view shows seam allowance casing

Another technique that was new to me was reinforced stress points. You are supposed to cut small pieces of fabric and sew them to the wrong side of the overlay at each point. I departed from the instructions and chose to fuse my  little patches in place rather than sew them. I think they are probably stronger and they don’t show on the front. I used heat-n-bond lite 5/8″ tape for a quick and easy patch.

I haven’t done a lined skirt in a while, but it was the last step and there wasn’t anything unusual about it. That kind of complacency is probably what led to me putting it in inside-out. Sigh. There’s a lesson in there somewhere. I’m leaving it that way. Shhh…

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Perfect! If you don’t look too close….

The finished dress fits! The ties wound up in the right place and look good. I do think it will look much better in a silkier fabric. The overlay sleeves made with semi-crisp cotton don’t drape elegantly down the shoulders like the ones on the pattern photo. I also think it would be much better with side pockets. But those are minor quibbles. It meets my test for wearability and I have a usable pattern so I’ll call it a success.

The next one in this series will be my first ever silk dress. Wish me luck!

Until then, happy sewing!

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More nuts and bolts…

And a few more pictures from my fashion shoot/dog walk…

Hey – check out my review of Vogue 1395 on patternreview.com here.

Fashion

Attempting a Vogue Designer Pattern

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You know when the patterns go on sale and you think “it’s such a bargain – I should get one or two more” (or 3, or 4… you get the idea). For years, I have purchased designer patterns from Vogue only to watch them take up space on my shelf. Granted, I do pull them out and daydream. Patterns from other companies rarely call for high-end fabrics, but these do. For instance, on one pattern the only fabric option for lining is china silk.

I think it’s time to dive in. I have narrowed my selection to two patterns, both very different.

Option 1

Rebecca Taylor V1395 Dress

Rating: Easy

V1395_05From the envelope picture, and even the line drawings, this dress looks pretty simple. It appears to be a pullover dress with a gathered skirt and front tie. The devil is in the details, though. It wasn’t until I took the instructions out and really examined what was involved before I realized the dress’s complexity.

First, the fabric. It recommends (1) Crepe de Chine, (2) Silk Broadcloth, (3) Chambray, or (4) Rayon Blends. I get 1, 2 and 4 – they are all thin, semi-fluid types of fabric. I’m a little stumped about the Chambray option. Isn’t that going to be heavier?

Here are the unexpected bits:

  • The skirt is lined. I probably skimmed over this because there is no fabric recommendation for lining.
  • The arm and neck openings are bias-faced, which means making some bias binding. Not super difficult, but might be fiddly with slippery fabrics.
  • The back has 2 layers. The inner layer is kind of a sleeveless shell. The outer layer attaches at the shoulder and waist, but extends the sleeves into a cap sleeve and the sides into long ties, which go to the front.
  • “Very narrow hems.” I’m not exactly sure what this means, but I think it’s going to involve a new technique.
  • No interfacing. There is nothing added to give any additional stability.
Option 2

Rebecca Vallance V1591 Jumpsuit

Rating: Average

V1591_01Again, the cover photo and drawings don’t really do justice to the design. I impulse-bought this one because I loved the shape of the top and I had never had a jumpsuit before. But you don’t really see that the whole outfit is two-layer: lace fabric over an underlining. I didn’t realize it was lace from the printed picture, but if you zoom way in on the one on the Vogue website, you can see that it is black lace over a dark blue underlining. It uses a grosgrain ribbon for the straps – they are not fabric. You can just barely see it in the picture, but it has an exposed back zipper as well.

Clearly the jumpsuit is more complicated. Among other things, it features:

  • Side pockets
  • Close fitting top
  • Silk (under)lining
  • Pleats
  • Interesting curved shapes at center front waist

This one does call for interfacing. Curiously, it also calls for crepe or poplin “contrast” fabric. I had to break open the envelope to find that this is just for the facings.

The recommended fabrics are lace, linen, and silk jacquard. I think it would look cool in any of those. Can you see making a big splash at a holiday party in a jacquard version?

They are both calling me, but I promised myself I would only do one at a time. It’s possible after that’s over I may decide to never do another!

Next time, my decision and getting started. Anyone up for a sew-along?

Happy sewing,

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Home Dec · Travel · Useful Thing

Travel Trays with Snaps

Let’s get started with flurry of instant-gratification craft posts! A while back, I made a few travel trays, which are just little padded rectangles that can be transformed into trays by pinching the corners together. The idea is that you can throw one in your suitcase. Then when you get to your hotel room, you have a little place to collect your glasses, jewelry, etc. on your nightstand. I thought I would give them away as gifts, but somehow they ended up becoming permanent fixtures on my work table. I guess it’s more accurate to call those stationary trays.

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I have seen variations on this idea using ties, velcro, or snaps on the corners. I prefer snaps, but didn’t have any snap setting tools when I made the first ones. I remember having struggled with using snap pliers. I think I don’t have the grip strength, or possibly the patience for it. So I used a new gadget that works with a hammer instead. It was much easier for me, but the hammering noise caused my dog undue stress. I guess I’ll have to do my hammering outside from now on.

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After assembling the padded rectangle, mark stitching lines with disappearing ink.
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Quilting with wavy decorative stitch

I quilted the base of my trays. It’s an easy way to experiment with different quilting methods. I don’t think it’s really necessary for a small size rectangle though. My favorite was the result of quilting with one of my machine’s decorative stitches. I also experimented with using multicolor thread.

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I quilted this one using variegated thread

I referred back to my original instructions, which were a free download from the Craftsy pattern library.

More crafty projects coming soon. Until then, happy sewing!

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Fashion

Easiest Skirt Ever

Screen Shot 2018-07-29 at 9.25.30 AMI know I can draft a circle skirt pattern. There is even a nifty calculator to help. I used this one from Mood Fabrics to make the Run for the Roses knit skirt. But sometimes it’s just easier to buy an inexpensive pattern and let someone else do the heavy lifting. Butterick’s See&Sew pattern B6578 is just a plain pull-on knit circle skirt in two lengths. This is the longer of the two.

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The cased waistband up close

I’m pretty sure it took longer to prepare and cut the fabric than it did to assemble. I’m kind of bummed that the knit I picked up at a certain chain store did not hold up to machine washing. It faded quite a bit and pilled. So this is a skirt just to wear around the house. It is soft and comfortable but doesn’t really hold up to close inspection.

The directions include a cased elastic waistband. It’s easy to do, but doesn’t look as sharp as other possible waistband finishes. Next time I will try a serger technique where you sew the elastic in place and fold it inside.

The seams are sewn with a four thread overcast, and the hem and casing is done with a two needle coverstitch.

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Inside skirt showing coverstitch hem

I think this is a good basic pattern. It could serve as a base for any knit circle skirt. I can see adding on pockets, embellishments, different finishes and other enhancements.

Did you know that if you buy See & Sew patterns from the Butterick website, that shipping is free? I bought several the last time they had a sale. This one was only a few dollars!

More coming soon – stay tuned!

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I reviewed this pattern on PatternReview.com. Click here to read it.