Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Vogue Patterns

Another successful sewing lesson with Kaitlyn yesterday. We fell a little behind with the holidays, so we're in overdrive now to complete her senior project in time! Only 5 weeks and about 9 outfits to complete. She's having a fashion show of repurposed clothing and I'm mentoring her.
Instead of repurposing an old garment this week, we started from scratch and used a Vogue pattern. We still stuck with her recycled theme and used all second hand fabric; she'd found some huge hideous clothes at Goodwill to cut up.
We started by cutting up the pattern in my living room. Stella kept jumping on the tissue paper, causing trouble. It's unfortunate my cat's favorite thing in the entire world is something I use while working, especially since I work at home. But we had a little fun with my tripod and remote.
It was a hat day for me. Too much work to do all day; no time to actually do my hair. I made the hat the past few slow days at work and while doing laundry the other day at the laundromat. I tried to make it a beret but it was a lot harder than I had anticipated. But it's great to hide my crazy hair beneath.
This pattern was labeled difficult but Kaitlyn felt confident taking it on. It was fully lined, had a peplum on the back, a side invisible zipper, darts, and had a ton of circular seams to sew. Kaitlyn impressed me with her work this week. She was very determined.
She learned to cut slits in the seam where the front bodice meets the front skirt so the fabric would lie flatter.
 Trying it on before adding lining and the zipper.
As she went to sew the sleeves, she removed the front piece of the machine to allow for more room to sew the sleeve! She's so smart! Kaitlyn's navigating her new sewing machine so well.
We still needed to finish the hem but it's 99% finished! Using different colors and fabrics for the skirt and bodice was a great idea on Kaitlyn's part. It really made the dress unique to her personality. She added her signature turquoise along the peplum and at the front where the bodice was gathered.
She was considering taking the sleeves up a tad but we'll wait until we fit all the individual models in the clothes. Everything is sewn to Kaitlyn approximate size since all of her friends that will be her models are around her size. The few weeks before the show she'll learn some useful tailoring techniques I utilize at David's Bridal. 

Next week, we'll be sewing another dress from a pattern. I can't wait!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

How to cut down an XL t-shirt

Do you have any t-shirts lying around that have an amazing design but the fit is terrible and it feels like something you would sleep in? You can transform this t-shirt into a fitted shirt suitable for everyday wear. Super casual, and very comfortable. This is a very simple DIY project for the most inexperienced sewer.


I've had this t-shirt in my fabrics piles for years. It's vintage, I purchased it at a thrift store in Michigan; I believe it was $.99 at Hope's Outlet, a Christian run thrift store that supports the local homeless shelter. I originally planned on cutting up the t-shirt, backing it with interfacing, and making a tote out of it. But the screenprint on the shirt is so large, making it a more difficult project, so I never did. 
Made in the 80s, this shirt's screen printed design is of Rainbow Bridge at Lake Powell, a reservoir on the Colorado River. My favorite part is all the stars that look like spackling all across the sleeves.

You will need:
  • scissors
  • tailors chalk or a marker of some sort
  • pins (optional)
  • thread
  • sewing machine
  • seam gauge or small ruler

There are only two seams that will be sewn in this project, the side seams. There probably isn't an existing seam in the t-shirt because of the way the fabric in most t-shirts is woven. If this is the case, you will need to be sure that you are going by the exact point at which the shirt meets your sides. If you do not, you will end up with crooked seams that aren't even. 
Start by putting on the shirt. You can pinch, pin, or measure, but find the exact amount you will be taking the shirt in. Measure at your hips, waist, underarm, and at the sleeve. Take off the shirt and turn it inside out. Mark the shirt from the sleeves and down along the sides where it will be taken in. You can always start by taking it in a little bit, try it on again, then take it in more.

Because of the screen print on this shirt, I am not moving the sleeves to make the shoulders fit perfectly. I'm creating a "batwing" sleeve, so to speak. Sew along your chalk or pin line. Be sure to back stitch every few inches since the fabric is a knit and you are only using a straight stitch.

Trim excess fabric.

To change the neckline, you can simply cut off the 1" wide trim. I chose to create more of a scoop look to the shirt. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT cut the neckline any wider than the original seam! You will end up with a Flashdance style, boatneck shirt that falls off your shoulders.

 Now to make the sleeves a little shorter. Mark with tailors chalk where you want the new sleeve to start. Cut fabric. Be sure to back stitch the seam along the bottom of the sleeve so it does not come undone.

A little trick to be sure your sleeves are exactly symetrical, take the fabric you just cut from the first sleeve, and place it on top of the uncut sleeve. Use this scrap fabric as your guideline for where to cut. This way, you are cutting the exact same amount from each sleeve!


Total time on this shirt: only 20 minutes!

I am very pleased with the end result. It's a shirt I can wear with skinny jeans and Keds. Even throw a cardigan over it with a scarf, and that's a winter outfit here in Georgia. I love that it's nice and long since I didn't cut the bottom hem.

Question? Comments!
Feel free to comment and tell me what you think, or suggestions for my next tutorial.

Stay tuned. In two more entries, I'll be hosting a giveaway for my 100th blog entry! Not sure what the prize will be yet, but it will be something amazing!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I had originally planned on spending Thanksgiving by myself this year with all my family being so far away, I didn't want to impose on friend's families, and my boyfriend is out of town. I planned a huge meal for myself and was going to stay in my apartment with my cats.
My friend, Sarah, convinced me late Wednesday night over Strongbows at Firehouse, a local bar, to go to Glennville, Georgia with her and her family for the day. We left around 10:30 A.M., and it was only a two hour drive with her lead foot. Her three kids were already there visiting with everyone. We had a nice drive listening to the Cranberries, Radiohead, Camera Obscura, and Broken Social Scene. My genuis playlist on my iPod touch was pretty fantastic.
Her granddad and grandmom have lived on this family farm for over five generations. They have farmed cotton, tobacco, pecans, pigs, sweet potatoes, and more. It reminded me of the farm my mother grew up on in Ithaca, Michigan. The old tobacco house is still standing where her mother would hang tobacco to dry as a kid, as is the small two room house her granddad's family grew up in, back by the pecan grove. It's such a peaceful little farm. It makes me wants to live on a huge farm someday.
I made an "organic" pumpkin pie as my dish to pass. It was my first pumpkin pie I had ever made! I didn't realize how soupy it is when you first put it in the oven! I almost had a major disaster in my kitchen Wednesday night when I was baking. I also used organic eggs with it. It smelt great and looked good, but unfortunately it was terrible. The recipe on the "organic pumpkin" can didn't call for sugar, so I didn't use any, but I guess most pumpkin pie recipes do call for sugar. Sarah's son, Finlay, tried a small piece and said, "Ummm, Miss Sally, this is kinda bad." It was funny.
I picked cotton for the first time! The majority of the cotton fields throughout Georgia have been picked already, but this nearby crop hadn't yet been harvested. After a huge dinner, a nice long nap, and then coffee with dessert, we went outside to take a few pictures and enjoy the setting sun.
The I ♥ NY shirt I'm wearing, my friend Reuben brought me from his recent trip to New York. It was a size medium, typical t-shirt. I didn't have anything to wear when I woke up in the morning, and the shirt was still in the plastic sack when he gave it to me on Tuesday. I took in both sides about 2 1/2 inches starting at the bottom hem and going up into the sleeves. I cut the collar off, and gave it a slight scoop neck. I also made the sleeves into cap sleeves, which you can't quite see since I'm wearing a cardigan. In less than 5 minutes I had a new shirt to wear! Tutorial coming soon.
Sarah's boys, Aiden and Finlay, getting lost in the cotton.
Sarah's son, Finlay and I walking back to the house. He's such a sweet boy. I'm so lucky to have such a great friend to take care of me on Thanksgiving! I'm currently eating her leftover sweet potato souffle. It's heaven! And of course I got the recipe. I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving with your families and friends!
Time to finish curtains I'm making for Americana, a local tattoo parlor. And it's laundry day. I hate laundry day. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Cranberry Cherry Pie

With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, I thought it would be nice to share one of my recipes with you all. Cranberry-cherry pie! It not too sweet, slightly tart, perfect for someone who isn't a big fan of sweet fruit filled pies. Forget about opening a can of cranberry sauce, take an hour or two and make a pie!
My favorite part of baking in my kitchen is putting on a cute vintage apron and using my crazy lady oven mit! I hope you all enjoy this tutorial/recipe. I love baking!
  • 2 bags of fresh cranberries
  • 1 can of cherry pie filling
  • pie crust
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 2 cups of water
Start by bringing two cups of water and two cups of sugar to a boil. Add cranberries.
At about meduim heat, allow the cranberries to simmer for about 10 minutes. They will pop and the skins will split (above). After about ten minutes the wter will start to bubble and the cranberries will become a little mushy. Turn off burner or remove from heat.
Open the can of cherries and place in mixing bowl. Using a spoon, preferably with holes to allow juice to drain, scoop only the cranberries in with the cherries. Stir cherries and cranberries.
Pour cranberries and cherries into deep dish pie pan on top of crust.
Using the other roll of crust, cover the cranberries and cherries, crimp edges to seal the pie. I like to cut hearts in the top of my pies for ventilation. Slits will do, or you can use cookies cutters for fun designs. I have a mitten cookie cutter I like to pretend is Michigan. I think I'll use it for my next apple pie.
Place pie in over at 425 degrees for 15 minutes to brown edges of crust. Turn heat down to 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. When you hear the pie bubbling it is done. Remove from over and place on cookie sheet in case it is overflowing.
I had a little mess in my oven and cran-cherry overflow but it happens. This beautiful, delicious pie is sure to win people's hearts!
This year is going to be a difficult Thanksgiving for me. I have always, last year and this year being the only exception, spent Thanksgiving at home, with my family. My stepfather passed away earlier this year, and with him being a master cook, I have a difficult time wanting to have Thanksgiving at all. With my family still in Michigan, and my sisters in Hawaii and Florida, it's impossible to travel to spend it with any of them.
So this year I'll be spending it alone.  I have decided I'm cooking dinner for myself at home. Just me, Clementine, and Stella. Me and my cats. And a box of wine. That doesn't crazy or anything does it?
I bought a three pound boneless turkey, a few sweet potatoes, a spaghetti squash, and ingredients to make an organic pumpkin pie, and red skin potatoes and onions to cook with the baby turkey. I still need to get buttermilk for homemade biscuits and fresh vegetables. 
I think I'm actually kind of excited about it though. Thanksgiving by myself. This will probably, and hopefully, be my only year that I spend this holiday alone. I'd like to think Tom would be proud of me taking on all this cooking. I think it will be a great learning experience. And I will enjoy my solitude. 
Maybe I'll even get some sewing done. Who knows. I hope you all have a lovely Thanksgiving with your loved ones!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Giving up retail shopping

Hello readers! I can't believe Thanksgiving is this week! That means it's almost December, which means it's almost 2011! Crazy how fast this year has flown by. 
Lately, I've had a difficult time adjusting my wardrobe to "winter" here in the south. In Georgia that translates to jeans and long sleeves, versus my native Michigan where winter means layers upon layers, gloves, coats, scarves, snow boots. Very, very, very cold snowy winters that I rarely miss.
My amazing friend Sarah brought me a box and a rubbermaid container of clothing last night. FULL of vintage clothes, things she hadn't wore in years; it was full of so many goodies! This dress was one of the best pieces! It fits me perfectly
And! I wore it with a bright yellow berret and my grey cardigan earlier. It was so warm outside, about 70 degrees, and I was able to walk around without my cardigan! Soaking up the sunshine. I love living in Georgia. Days like today make it so worthwhile. 
For those of you that are new to reading my blog, I have spent all of 2010 wearing only second hand clothing. No retail shopping, no malls, no clothing stores. Only thrift stores, resale shops, or clothing already in my closet. 2010 meant taking a stand and changing the way I wore clothing entirely. 
I wanted to bring attention to the alternative to retail shopping. Used doesn't always mean trash. So many people dismiss thrift stores and second-hand clothing, which is very unfortunate. I also wanted to inspire people to change the way they view their clothing. With simple sewing skills, the possibilities are endless! Thrifting is so much more enjoyable when you see the clothing for it's potential, and what you can do to bring that item new life, versus seeing something someone discarded.
It's been great. Not buying new clothing (underwear and shoes were my only exception) was difficult at first, but once I didn't have a choice, and avoided the mall and clothing stores, I didn't miss it for a long time.
With this yearlong oath I know I also saved a lot of money. I think I'm quite the compulsive shopper, my dad calls me a "compulsive spender". So buying 8 pairs of different colors high waisted denim shorts, which are justifiable since they're different colors ha, at Goodwill for $3 a piece is a whole lot better than buying them for $20 each retail price. I can never leave the thrift store without spending at least $20. But lately I've been disciplining myself, saying no to certain pieces, putting things back, etc. 
I haven't yet decided if I'm going to carry this into 2011. Sometimes I really miss shopping shopping. Plato's Closet, a resale shop that carries only clothing in perfect condition, has helped with my needs for certain items in my wardrobe, such as white t-shirts, tank tops, and things that never really make it to the thrift store. 
On top of giving up retail shopping for recycling purposes, I do not agree with clothing stores that make complete crap manufactured clothing. Things are not made with longevity in mind anymore. These companies like Forever 21 and Charlotte Russe, for example, just want to sell sell sell. I'm sorry, but a brand new t-shirt for $2.50 is not a deal. It's made by a child or person getting paid $.50 a day, and doesn't last more than a few months of normal wear and tear. 
Ever notice how the side seams on that $2.50 shirt don't seem so straight after a few washes? It's made with complete disregard for proper garment construction and it's not even cut from the fabric properly. 
My mind is wandering and I'm babbling, but in conclusion, this year has been so rewarding. I love how I've grown from this experience and I encourage you all to consider the challenge of a year without "new" clothing.

More tutorials this week as I'm spending Thanksgiving alone with my amazing cats. I'm thinking about sharing my amazing cranberry-cherry pie recipe with you all for a great Thanksgiving dish to share with your loved ones!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Kaitlyn's first sewing machine

After months of patiently waiting, Kaitlyn has her very own sewing machine. For those of you that don't already know, Kaitlyn is a high school senior I'm mentoring. I'm teaching her how to sew along with basic garment construction. For her senior project, she chose to create a line of 12-15 outfits, made by her, using only recycled materials, and by repurposing old, discarded, thrifted clothing.
She could barely sit still! She waited to take it out of the box until she came over to my house.

Kaitlyn and I met in August. Started sewing in September. In only a few months she has gone from barely able to sew a straight stitch to putting in zippers, interfacing, pleats, and all kinds of hems. I'm so proud! And now that she has her very own machine, we can sit and sew side by side, and I'll be able to work on my own projects, and simply advise her on her sewing questions. 

Last week we started on this new piece. An old skirt, about a size 10, with front pockets, fully lined. She wanted to turn it into a strapless dress. This meant making the waist the top of the bodice, and the hip area would become the new waist. 
First, she removed the original zipper that was in the center back. Skirt zippers are maybe 7-8 inches, not long enough for a dress. She sewed in a bright yellow, exposed zipper, about 15 inches long.
We then fitted the dress at the front, back and side seams. Because the old hips became the waist, there was a lot of fitting to do. Before we pinned these seams, Kaitlyn sewed the pockets closed. The detail still remained, giving the dress extra character. How fun, when someone wears this dress and says, "Look, these were once pockets!"
At the end of the first day of working on it. All the fitting is complete, interfacing roughly sewn in. And time for me to head to work meant time to be done for the day. It was only an hour into the dress so far. Kaitlyn was flying through this reconstruction.
AND NOW WITH HER NEW MACHINE! We set it up on top of my Kenmore sewing machine cabinet that I don't use (still have to get it properly serviced). She started by "stitching in the ditch" on the princess, side, and back seams to keep the interfacing in place.
The new set up in my sewing room. Kaitlyn between the windows, and my two machines on the right. She was joking about us sitting there, both sewing, in silence for hours and how silly it was. Reminds me of work at David's Bridal on sewing days. Hours and hours of sewing. I seriously have the best jobs ever!
After some funny mistakes with the hem, Kaitlyn had a white bobbin and didn't realize until she finished the hem, ripped it out and redid it, she finished the dress. Where the one pleat was in the original skirt, she sewed in her signature fabric to tie this dress in with her collection, a little peak of brown.
She's so cute with her little sewing machine case. My little protege!

For more on projects with Kaitlyn, click here.