Crochet Kittens

Crochet Kittens

Every fall, my husband and our friends raise money for charity by playing video games for 24 hours through ExtraLife. I’ve joined in the fun for the past couple years (though I’m never able to stay awake) by contributing whatever I can to the fundraising effort. In the past, it’s been buying doughnuts and coffee for the sleepy gamers, but this year I decided to sell my skills for the cause. I offered to crochet an animal (or amigurumi) for people that donated more than $50 to our cause. I ended up with a long list of people that wanted me to crochet their cats, a task which I was a big fan of.

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I have never purchased a crochet pattern before, but because people were paying for it (how crazy is that?!) I dished out a whole $5 for the AmiCat pattern from PlanetJune. I can honestly say this is the best crochet pattern I’ve ever read! The pattern itself is well written and easy to understand, but there are loads of pictures and clarifications on confusing techniques to help the crocheter understand. It also helps with sewing the pieces together in the appropriate positions, which is always a huge concern of mine. You never want your animal lovingly made and have crooked eyes or uneven feet.

Since making the three four ExtraLife, I’ve also made two more for other friends that wanted cats for their kiddos. The pattern is a breeze to stitch together, and being a cat person I love to see these little critters come together. If you need a fun, satisfying toy to crochet, I highly recommend this pattern!

 

Tutorial: Small Crossbody Bag

Tutorial: Small Crossbody Bag

DSC05030.jpgApparently, my purses are a measure of extremes. I have a super large purse that could fit a few small dogs inside of it, and this little crossbody bag. It holds my phone,  wallet, keys and a tube of lipstick but that’s about it. And honestly, that’s all I need 90% of the time! It’s lightweight, and because it’s crossbody it stays out of the way without having to readjust all the time.

I made this pattern based on a crossbody purse that I had already owned which had seen better days. About 4 years of use will do that to a bag. I took my measurements from it, and made my own pattern.

This pattern is best done with heavy weight fabrics to provide the structure and support to the bag. Anything from home decor fabric, to denim, and vinyl will work. My first purse used a heavyweight velveteen twill, but this one is made out of a Goodwilled wool skirt! Be creative with your fabric selections. And if you do end up falling in love with a quilting cotton (I know, I’ve been there) be sure to use a heavyweight interfacing on it, or use WunderUnder to fuse it to a second quilting cotton, so that it has more support.

Supplies for this project include:

  • heavy weight fabric
  • safety pin or loop turner.
  • Scraps of interfacing and magnetic clasp (if you want the purse to securely close)

You will need to draft one pattern piece for this project, everything else  is just rectangles. Let’s get to work!

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The pattern piece drafted will be 9″x7″, with the corners of one of the long edges curved to give your purse a curved bottom.

Pieces you need:

  • Body of purse: Cut 2 of the pattern peice and cut 1 long rectangle 2″x25″
  • Flap of purse: Cut 2 of the pattern piece with 2 inches added to the flat edge
  • Strap of purse: Cut 1 long rectangle 2″x54″. If your fabric isn’t long enough, a bit of piecework will need to be done to make sure that it’s not a baby sized strap.
  • Support: 2 squares of interfacing 1″x1″

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Start by pinning one of the pieces of the body of the purse to the smaller strap (2″x25″) with right sides together. I always cut this rectangle too long, so if it’s too long for your bag don’t worry about it and just cut off the extra later. It will be a challenge to ease it in around the rounded edges, so use as many pins as you feel necessary. Then, sew with a 3/8″ seam allowance. Repeat with the other piece of the body. At this point, I serge this edge but you may also use fray check or pinking shears. Depending on the fabric you use, give these seams a bit of a steam and press so they lay nicer. The curved bottom generally benefits from this. Boom, you have the beginning of a bag!

We’re now going to finish the top edge of this bag. Finish the raw edge the same as before (serge, fray check, pinking shears) then turn it over 1/2 inch and sew it down so you have a nice folded edge at the top. The bag photographed for this tutorial was a skirt so my edges were already finished, and I just needed to top stitch the rectangle down.

Take the two flap pieces and pin around the edges with right sides together, leaving the flat edge open. Sew together with a 3/8″seam allowance, then trim. Turn right sides out, and iron flat.

At this point, make a decision if you want to use the magnetic clasp or not. If so, lay the flap on the front of the bag so the curved edges line up, an assess where you want the clasp to lay. I have mine about 1 1/2 in from the bottom of the flap in the center. Mark this point with a pin, and turn the flap inside out again. Iron on one of the small 1″x1″ squares of interfacing over this point on the wrong side of the fabric. Attach the magnetic clasp to this point. We will put the other one on after the flap has been sewn on.

Take the sewn flap pieces ironed flat right side out, and turn the raw edges within by about 1/2″. Pin, and machine baste. Lay the flap over the purse so that the magnetic clasp is against the body of the purse and the curved edges of the flap and bag line up with each other. Fold the flat edge of the flap to the back of the purse, pin in place, then sew down.

Look at where the magnetic clasp lays on the bag, mark that point. Apply the other square of interfacing to the wrong side of the fabric at this point, and attach the second magnetic clasp. You now have a clutch! If you wish to stop here without adding a strap, you may. But I personally love a crossbody bag, so…

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Fold over the long 2″x54″ inch strap right sides together, and sew with a 3/8″ seam allowance. Trim the seam allowance to reduce bulk, then turn the strap right side out. You can do this with a loop turner, or if you don’t have one a safety pin works as well. Iron flat, top stitch on each side of the strap 1/8″ from the edge.

You will be folding over the last 1″ of each end of the strap. Pin this to the sides of the purse to see if the length is right for what you want, because once it’s on there’s no adjusting! If not, cut off excess length to make it right for your body. Once it’s fit to you, pin the folded over straps to the side and sew. I sew in a square around the edge of the folded over section, then make an X in the middle to secure it. If you’re concerned about it, back stitch a LOT and it won’t go anywhere. Tada! You’re done! You’ve made your very own cross body bag, for all your minimal bag needs.

This is my first written sewing tutorial, so if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask and leave feedback.

Summery Linen M6696

Summery Linen M6696

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Out of all of my dresses, my olive green M6696 has the most wear. It’s versatile to wear through multiple seasons, looks put together without being stuffy, and it’s super comfortable from the full skirt and pockets.

I wanted another version of it with a more breathable summer fabric. I found this beautiful textured black-and-white linen on Fabric.com, and bought enough of it to make myself this dress and my husband a shirt out of it. It is truly a lovely fabric, has a good weight, and takes to the iron very well.

I decided to add a full collar onto this one (my prior had only the collar band), and the collar feels a bit large. However, I’ll never wear it fully buttoned so this doesn’t bother me. It does make me wonder why the neckline is so large compared to the rest of the garment?

I’ve run into an issue with easing the pleats into the waist band on both my renditions of this dress. It makes me wonder if I traced my pattern pieces poorly, or if it was an error in the drafting. Considering other bloggers haven’t commented about this, I assume it’s a personal problem. I resolved this by adding a slight extra pleat over each of the side seams, where the extra fabric is easily concealed.

I can see myself getting a lot of wear out of this piece this summer. The linen is soft, breathable, and the fit allows for me to not feel like I’m drowning in the Iowa heat and humidity.

Conquering Men’s Shirts – Vogue 9220

Conquering Men’s Shirts – Vogue 9220

I’ve had a mad hankering to sew up some clothes that require detailed work, like sleeve plackets and collars. My husband was willing to let me fiddle with numerous long sleeved shirt patterns and use him as a mannequin, for the greater good of well made men’s shirts.

Luckily, right when I was looking into sewing men’s shirts, Vogue released a new line with Vogue 9220. It includes 3 different button up variations, including a slim fit (version C). I initially made up version C as a working muslin, but didn’t like how it fit on him. So it went into the WIP bucket, and I started on version A in a nice, scarecrow-looking flannel I picked up at S.R. Harris in Minneapolis.

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Don’t mind his squinty eyes or crazy hair, it was a windy day!

This version sewed up with ease, and I was proud of my pattern matching and placket construction. And, it fits him wonderful! He’s on the short side, so I shortened the sleeves and torso by 2 inches and that corrected the length issue I saw from the version A muslin. I also added 1.5 inches to the back of the shirt, so that I could do the center box pleat and make it look more RTW. I enjoy the small details in this shirt, like the triangles that insert between the curved hem, and the two sets of buttons on the cuffs.

I followed the directions and did fully flat-felled seams throughout the garment, but in the future will likely just serge the seams together and sew them down, as a pseudo-flat-felling finish. When flat-felling the whole garment, intersection of seams under the armpit becomes bulky and difficult to evenly stitch through. To manage this, I used a Jean-a-ma-jig to evenly feed the fabric through and it worked like a charm! Definitely an improvement from my jagged, skipped stitches when I previously had tried to force it through the machine.

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I’m very happy with this shirt, and so is Ian. It’s in his regular button up rotation now, has been asking me to make more in various novelty fabrics (he really wants a Cthulhu shirt), which I plan on! There’s something therapeutic about diving into a detailed pattern and having all the hard work pay off in the end, by having a well-made garment that will last longer than most RTW.

Miss Frizzle Costume

Miss Frizzle Costume

In this family, Halloween is a big deal. There’s always a big party and we stay up into the wee hours of the night drinking beer and chatting around a bon fire. Being in Minnesota, it’s generally pretty cold at night and I keep this in mind when choosing my costume for the year. This year, my husband and I decided to be TV scientists. I fulfilled my childhood dream of being a bad ass magical scientist, and he went with Rick Sanchez from Rick and Morty.

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I had been planning out this costume for a long time, because a Miss Frizzle costume had been a dream of mine for years. When we settled on this for our costumes, I was pumped and went straight to looking for the perfect microbiology fabric. Alas, the best microbiology fabrics were on Spoonflower and that’s simply outside my budget. So I settled for this amazing geology themed fabric from Fabric.com.

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In order to fulfill my Miss Frizzle dreams, the pattern was heavily altered, with a base of McCalls 6696 changed to be a half shirt dress, hacked together with the sleeves from McCalls 6989. I added the sleeves by tracing the sleeve cap from the three quarter sleeve view of 6696, slicing it to be the two piece sleeve like 6989, then tracing the sleeve portion from 6989.

Using stills from the Magic School Bus TV show as reference, I saw that a feature of all of her wild dresses include the contrasting white collar, placket, and cuffs. For the placket, I went for a close second, by making it  a contrasting half shirt dress. I followed these instructions for converting it to a half shirt dress, which worked quite well. I selectively chose the sleeve pattern for 6989 because they included cuffs, so this was simple to do.

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I removed a total of 6″ from the skirt front and back due to the width of my fabric, and attached them with gathers rather than pleats as is used in the original 6696 pattern. The amount of extra fabric in the back was also reduced by 4 inches, though it could have used further adjustment as it still felt poofy.  In order to be able to carry my phone throughout the Halloween party, I added a pocket on the side without the zipper. I followed this tutorial on a Male Pattern Boldness’s method of attaching a collar, which worked absolutely beautifully. I had never used this method before, and frankly I’m glad I didn’t start with it because it makes me appreciate the ease and simplicity so much more.

All in all, I love the dress and am so happy that I fulfilled my scientist teacher dreams this Halloween!

My Sewing Method

When I first started sewing apparel, I had a “go for it” kind of attitude. My mother had given me the foundations of sewing throughout my childhood, including knowing how to operate a sewing machine, serger, and rotary cutter. But she had never taught me how to make apparel. To get started, I found a vintage sewing pattern that was in my grandmother’s stash, a polyester from my mom’s stash, and just went at it. It was a simple trapeze dress, and I’m not sure that I even followed all the directions. I still have that pattern, and really wish that I had traced the pattern rather than cutting it out because now, I’m stuck with one size and one to two versions of the dress.

Choose the fabric and/or pattern

Starting with fabric: I know how it is at the fabric store. You fall in love with a fabric and you have nothing in mind for what to make with it. Soon you’ll accumulate a stash and months later come back to the fabric and ask, what was I thinking? This is when you assess the fabric. What is the drape and thickness good for? If it’s a thick twill, it might be best off for bottoms (skirts, pants, shorts), structured dresses, or accessories (purses). If it’s a lightweight fluid fabric, you’re likely looking at blouses or dresses with a lot of give. Dig into the patterns you own, the patterns available through the Big 4, and the indie patterns throughout the world. Find something that speaks to both you, and the fabric. Because if there is one thing to learn from this, is that it’s difficult to force a fabric onto a pattern.

Starting with a pattern: This is a bit easier to manage, as the pattern gives you general guidelines on what fabric to be on the lookout for and a vision in mind. Again, the fabric recommendations should be taken with a grain of salt, but do not force a fabric onto a pattern. If it calls for a woven and you want to use a knit, there are tutorials online for how to do that conversion. If you’re making a blouse and it calls for a lightweight woven, do not use a super heavyweight fabric because it will not have enough give. Keep in mind the work that will go into matching patterns, plaids, and stripes when buying fabric, and the laundering requirements for the fabric. I try to take a picture of the end bolt when I buy it so I know the fiber content and the laundry instructions for later on.

Size yourself

This took the longest for me to understand and accept. You are your own size, and the patterns aren’t always going to fit you right out of the envelope. I trusted the recommended sizes for a lot of patterns, and often it works out. But when it doesn’t, it’s incredibly disappointing. BE SKEPTICAL OF THE SIZING. If you want it fitted, take the pattern pieces out, measure the width or length, do some math calculating in seam allowances, and calculate how much ease there is. If there’s 3 inches of ease around the bodice that is supposed to be fitted, make adjustments or select a different size. If your hips are a size 12 and your bodice a size 10, grade the sizes together. It’ll make for a much better fitted garment and a happier seamstress. There’s tons of tutorials online to do this, give it a try and you’ll be much more satisfied with what you make.

Trace pattern onto tracing paper

Once you’ve chosen your fabric and have your pattern size determined, I trace my pattern. This is so that I can make adjustments to the pattern for sizing such as a full bust adjustment, hacks to the design, or simply to keep the paper pattern intact to use a different size or version in the future. Pellon sells tracing pattern which is wonderful for this, but there are others you can use and even directly sew up and make adjustments to. Once my patterns are traced, I simply keep them in a gallon sized bag labeled with the pattern enclosed.

Organize which are interfaced, interface yardage first

I find block interfacing helpful in maintaining the integrity of the cut, interfaced pattern pieces. If I don’t block interface, I end up with either the fabric or interfacing too large and it affects the piece. To do this, organize which pattern pieces need interfacing. Lay them over the fashion fabric, and decide how much yardage needs to be interfaced for these pieces. Interface the whole piece, then cut out the individual pieces. The exception to this is collars, where the collar seam allowance is left uninterfaced to reduce bulk.

Lay, cut, mark

Finally, you can lay out your pattern pieces on the fashion fabric and cut them out. I use a rotary cutter for a majority of my cutting, and mark darts and pleats with a combination of chalk and tailor’s tacks. To make with chalk, I insert a pin into the point of the pattern piece and rub my chalk along the point of the pin on the fashion fabric. Then, follow your pattern directions and sew to your heart’s content!

Moneta Frenzy

Moneta Frenzy

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Before I started consistently sewing for myself, my wardrobe of dresses was largely composed of knit dresses. They’re easy to throw on, comfortable, and have ease in the fabric for when you eat too much at the summer BBQ. Not to mention they wash up super easily and there’s so many different design directions you can go with them.

After a few years of dabbling with the big four patterns, I fell in love with indie sewing pattern companies. One of my favorite companies is Colette, who not only produce wonderful sewing patterns but also release tutorials, sew alongs, and one of my favorite things ever, Seamwork Magazine. The Moneta pattern was released with Seamwork Magazine, and has since become a standby for many seamstresses. It is a beautiful knit dress with a fitted top and gathered skirt at the natural waist. It even has pockets! The dress comes with three sleeve length variations and a free kit with a variety of necklines. It’s an all around winner. 

I had a lovely time sewing up my first Moneta. I used a purple, floral knit from the Joann Fabrics red tag clearance section. I used size S on the top, and size M on the bottom, grading between the sizes for the bodice. The instructions were very clear, and there’s even a sew along online if you have any questions about the construction! The neckline, armband, and hem were all finished with a twin needle. I had some issues of it not laying flat, despite lowering the bobbin tension. I thought that a steamy ironing would fix it but after it went through the wash, it bubbled up again. I eventually fixed this on my next Moneta, by decreasing the bobbin tension all the way down to 1. It might have also been a fabric issue.

Sewing the clear elastic in the waist can be a challenge. My machine is pretty strong and can handle the tension needed to stretch the elastic while feeding it into the machine, but I pined it twice as much as the pattern recommends (1/8ths rather than 1/4ths) which definitely helped the even gathering.

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My second Moneta was made up with a rayon blend from Joanns, with the three quarter sleeve and tie neck variations. I found this fabric to be a challenge because despite being so thin, it has a heavy drape. Also it didn’t take ironing the knit interfacing very well and has some iron marks on the neckline now (noo!). Because of the thinness of the fabric, I’ll likely wear a slip or shapewear underneath to cover all my lovely lumps and bumps.

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I really like this version for fall, and can see it being worn with a variety of tights and boots already in my closet. I have fabric in my stash for one more Moneta, this time it’ll have a peter pan collar though. So look forward to more variations of this pattern!