Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Book Review

No matter if you've been sewing for 2 days or 20 years, it's always handy to have a reference book...or two...or five. It's virtually impossible to remember every sewing technique known to man. One of my favorite go-to books is Reader's Digest New Complete Guide to Sewing. I used it as a textbook in college, but it is so easy to read that I peruse it occasionally. Other than showing how-to's for techniques such as inserting zippers, marking darts, and finishing raw edges, it is a great resource for fit problems. It shows you how to make adjustments to fit your body so that you can make your clothing garment truly YOURS. This book has tons of diagrams which are critical to visual learners like myself. There are also step-by-step projects included from Simplicity to help you fine tune your skills. You can buy it at the link above for around $20.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sliced Nine-Patch Quilt

I enjoy quilting. However, I must confess, I am a very simple quilter. I don't enjoy elaborate designs that required overtime just to cut out especially when I can find something simpler that is pleasing to look at. Such is the case with the quilt I made for our wedding. It was my mom's idea, really. She told me to pick a design. She'd provide the fabric, I'd piece it together, and she'd have it professionally quilted. And so my journey began. Luckily, I had about 5 months before the wedding to put it all together. I was inspired by a sliced nine-patch quilt on my friend, Jenny's bed. She then told me how ridiculously easy this design is and I knew I had to have it. This design meshes the best if you choose a monochromatic color scheme, say green, and choose nine fabrics in the same color family. Here are some examples from other blogs I found:
Above is a Disappearing Nine-Patch Quilt. All of the blocks are butted up against each other with a border around the edges. Notice how everything is monochromatic except for the bright, tiny red squares. It really makes the design pop. This link shows what it looks like when you don't keep to a monochromatic scheme. However, notice how the smallest squares are all made out of the same yellow fabric. You might choose to go a little crazy with your fabric colors if you had a bunch of remnants to get rid of.
Above is my version. I decided not to torture my husband with a pink or purple color scheme. But it's just as well because I sure do love earthy colors. This design mainly sticks with green fabrics, but you will also notice a lot of brown, and a hint of blue. You start out with nine squares, I did each with a different fabric. Valentine Quiltworker shows how to go from nine separate blocks to a sliced nine-patch block. Notice how she put the boldest block in the center. For example, I put my darkest block (dark brown) in the center so it could be sliced into four small blocks and be distributed all over the quilt, as seen below.
I chose to put white borders around my blocks. I like how giving the blocks white space gives the quilt some breathing room, and some order.
You can see, above, that we chose to go with a vines quilted design. We backed the quilt with a simple, green cotton. This was much cheaper than a print and just as good. Think you'd like to try your hand at this sliced nine-patch quilt? Here is a PDF with step-by-step instructions. Good luck! ...And let me know how it turns out :)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fabric Stash

Below is my fabric stash for the month. Starting on the left is a pretty pink floral cotton, which I plan on making a skirt out of. Originally, I bought 4 yards thinking I'd make a dress but now I don't think I could handle wearing ALL pink. It makes me think of Grandma Grow and her obsession with pink and pink lipstick and pink bathroom and kitchen walls. If she were here, I'd make HER a dress out of pink.
I chose a brown pinstripe suiting fabric for a fall/winter dress. It's really lightweight. It was only $4 a yard in the wool section of Denver Fabrics. I love their clearance section. It is HUGE and fabrics are organized by color. Somehow, it makes it much easier for me to make up my mind that way. Anyway, I had my doubts about this fabric being wool so I set a little piece of it on fire and smelled the charred remains. An organic fiber from an animal like wool or silk will smell like burning human hair. This fabric, burned, melted like plastic so I suspect that it has a lot of polyester in it. I'm thinking it's a poly/wool blend. It's usually not a good idea to put wool in the wash and a big no-no to dry it in the dryer. I took my chances (suspecting that polyester is a main component in the blend) and put the fabric in the wash to preshrink it...and voila! It came out looking just fine. Few! The last addition to my stash is another Denver Fabrics find. I think I paid $3 a yard for this paisley/floral print. Since it was a remnant, the fabric content isn't listed but I think it's a rayon challis. I really like it but my husband, Scott, thinks it looks like drape fabric. What do you think: should I take a chance and make a flowy blouse out of it? Or is it only worthy to become a summer skirt?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Gathered Skirt

I drafted and cut out this skirt whilst (ha ha...like that word) watching coverage of Kate & William's Royal Wedding. So maybe it should be called my 'royal skirt.'

On second thought it reminds me more of an American barbershop quartet, so maybe not.

Anyway, I got the idea from Gertie's blog for the skirt. My skirt didn't turn out to look nearly as full because I didn't use stiff fabric like taffeta, but I still love it. I decided to add pockets, so instead of using one long rectangle for the skirt portion, I used a bigger rectangle for the front piece and two smaller rectangles for the back. This way I could have seams down the sides for the pockets and a center back seam for an invisible zipper. My waistband was also in three pieces. The front piece ended up being more gathered in the front because I had to squish all the gatheriness (uh...yeah, it's a word!) between the pockets. The pockets were worth the extra trouble.

It's so nice to be able to have somewhere to stash my lip gloss and keys when I'm at church. Overall, I'm very pleased with the outcome. I did cut out the skirt a few inches too short, so I came back a few weeks later and added extra length on the edge. But, I bet you didn't even notice because I covered up the seam with super fun vintage lace!! It's probably not THAT vintage...I think it came from my mom's 90's stash of lace. However, it was the perfect finishing touch to a comfortable summer skirt.

Petite Raincoat

For those of us who are petite, it can be very difficult to find good fitting outerwear. When I needed a full-length raincoat a few years ago I thought it would be impossible to find something that wouldn't drown my figure....until I found this:
This L.L.Bean raincoat comes in petite AND extra small!!...the perfect blend for my short arms and legs. It has a removable wool lining for colder days that aren't quite cold enough for a winter coat. When I walk around in this coat I am covered from head to toe. I can walk anywhere and stay warm and dry (even if I'm somewhere other than my native Utah where a rainstorm can last an entire day, and not just 5 minutes ;) ). The pockets are one of my favorite parts because they keep my hands toasty warm. I absolutely love this coat. Once, a 3-legged dog peed on me in this coat and since the fabric repels water it didn't soak through. (Don't worry - I put it in the wash. And I never pet that dog again.) It comes in petite, regular and womens, from XS to XL so it's something for everyone. The updated version on L.L.Bean's website looks something like this:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Retro Shirt Dress ~ Small Bust Alterations

The first of the projects I am showcasing is Butterick 5315, a cute retro shirt dress. I absolutely love it!

My fabric choice was genius. I love how the lightweight cotton breathes, making it perfect for hot summer days. For cotton, it really doesn't wrinkle so badly and I even got it on sale at Joann's.

I did the regular adjustments to the pattern before cutting out to the bodice front. To accommodate my small bust I narrowed the bust darts and moved the horizontal dart up almost an inch. I took out about 1/2" (on each side) between the apex of the bust and the center front. Although I cut out a 12 for this pattern, I have teeny tiny shoulders so I cut out just smaller than an 8 for my shoulders at the top of the shoulder and tapered it out to a 12 at the waist. Since the armholes were smaller, this affected the sleeves and so I gathered them at the armhole and around the edge with binding to finish them off. This was much easier than trying to re-configure the sleeve.

I used an invisible zipper on the side and finished off the collar with some cute vintage lace from my dearly-departed grandma's stash of lace. Thanks Grandma!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Welcome to my sewing blog! I am Stephanie. I am petite, 5'2", a more conservative dresser and I love good deals. When it comes to clothing, these three things are extremely hard to find. That is why, most times, if I really want something to fit ME, I have to make it myself. I am very fortunate to have grown up with the sewing machine. I love Elias Howe for making such a fantastic invention, and for making it left-handed! He knew what he was doing, for sure. I started sewing when I was ten. My first project was a gathered sunflower skirt and I have not stopped since then. This is thanks to my mom, who first taught me to sew and her mom who taught her how to sew...and on and on, I'm sure. Before my time it was significantly cheaper to do it yourself, and in a family full of mouths to feed sewing was a no-brainer. Times have changed but I still find myself addicted to the art. I took virtually every sewing class available to me in junior high, high school and then college. I enjoy a good challenge, and I love persevering until the project is finished and ready to wear. My family has seen me stay up 'til all hours of the night just to get the satisfaction of clipping off the stray thread of that last row of stitches of my latest garment.
Some of my favorite projects include a long, wool coat, my wedding quilt, my endless summer skirts, halloween costumes, and dresses. I alter a lot of the clothes I buy in the store ~ either taking off length, altering low necklines or sewing up the sides of t-shirts to fit my shape better. I will highlight some of these projects, too. I also plan to highlight petite clothing I LOVE...specifically Ann Taylor, The Loft and Banana Republic. If it weren't for these peeps I would loathe shopping and only come out when my clothes turned to rags. ----The picture to the left is of me and my brother, probably age 3 & 4. Costumes were made by my mom and grandma (dad's mom).