Monday, October 31, 2011

Narrow/Wide Shoulder Pattern Adjustment

I took a college course a few years ago on flat pattern design. We learned not only how to make our own patterns, but how to adjust patterns for fit problems. I have become quite adept at the SBA (small bust adjustment), since I do it every time I cut out a bodice pattern. We also learned about LBA's (large bust adjustments) and adjustments for a sloped shoulder.

What I did not learn how to do properly was a narrow shoulder pattern adjustment. Up until now, I simply shave off a bit of the pattern on the armscye near the shoulder and taper it to the cutting line near the middle of the armscye. It's always hard to tell if I've taken off too much or how it will affect the fit of the sleeve when I sew it into the armscye. Sometimes I end up with too many gathers in the sleeve.

This video tutorial from the sewing space explains the shoulder adjustment perfectly.

Lena explains that if you alter the shoulder line by more than 2 cm then the sleeve pattern will need to be adjusted also.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Softie Whale

Here's another softie creation, Whistler the Whale

I got the free pattern for the whale at Small Dreamfactory. I was a bit puzzled by the dotted lines around the perimeter of the pattern. At first I thought it was the cutting line and the solid lines indicated the sewing line. The problem is, the dotted lines aren't an even distance all the way around the pattern. 

Eventually, I decided to treat the solid lines as sewing lines and made my own cutting line 3/8" out from that. Problem solved. You'll need to treat the angled triangles in from the tail as darts (first whale piece). Do the same for the curved triangles in from the body on the second whale piece.

I repurposed buttons from an old shirt for Whistler's eyes and stuffed him with super soft poly-fill.  I love the way his tail fin sticks up and waves!  Let me know if you decide to make one of your own whales.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Altering Jeans: To Hem or Not to Hem

Most of you shorties can share this similar experience:

Your jeans are all worn out and winter is around the corner, so you head to the store in hopes of finding some new ones to cover your legs. You walk in and pick a pair off the rack, just your size, try them on and they fit great everywhere, they even make your tush look good................except they're WAY TOO LONG!!!!!!

Disappointed for the four thousandth time you:
1. consign yourself to the fact that no pair will ever fit your legs perfectly. You buy the jeans and within a month of dragging on the ground those sloppy looking slacks are frayed and shredded.

2. buck up, buy the jeans, and cuff them. "Ha ha! These jeans don't fit but I have a solution.....I shall cuff them!" And so you walk out into the world, stopping every few hours to re-cuff your jeans so they won't drag in the dirt.

3. throw a mental temper tantrum, you know, the typical, "Woe is me! I am shortest short there ever was and therefore cannot ever have decent fitting jeans." You walk out the door empty-handed.

There is a better way, gals! Hem those suckers. Your jeans will last longer if they're not dragging on the ground and they will look much, much better when hemmed. Trust me. I went all through high school and part of college fighting with my jeans because I refused to hem them. I thought if I hemmed them, everyone would notice that they didn't have the cool washed denim jean hem look.  I would be un-cool and unloved.  

A year ago, I hemmed some Aeropostale flares with thread the same color as the jeans. Nobody asked me if they'd been hemmed; nobody stared at them. They didn't look tacky.  The only thing I noticed was that I could finally wear flats on my feet because I wasn't worried about the edges of my jeans dragging all the way up the hill to campus. It was a beautiful thing.

If you really are stuck on the gold-stitching look of ready-to-wear jeans, you have a couple of options. Cut your jeans a little above the desired length and then re-attach the original hem. Make it and Love It shows you how to do it with a great tutorial, here. This works best with boot cut jeans because the leg is the same width farther up.

Or, you can hem your jeans with gold-colored thread. Try your jeans on, mark where you want them hemmed, then add 1 1/8 inches to the length. Cut them off, fold up 1/2" then 5/8". Stitch 1/2" from the edge with a longer stitch length of 3 to 3.5. If you want the stitching to look a bit 'weathered,' rough it up with some sandpaper.

If you can't sew, have a tailor hem your jeans. It's a simple fix and shouldn't cost more than $10-15.

Here are some hemmed examples, below. I've included some khakis for comparison.

Left to right: 
Ann Taylor Signature Fit Khakis, thrifted, $6, size 2
Aeropostale 'Hailey' Skinny Flare, $16, size 1/2
Calvin Klein Low Rise Flare, thrifted, $6, size 4

These were hemmed with the stitching 1/2" from the edge, as I explained above. The pair in the middle was stitched in the same color as the jeans. The pair on the right was stitched in gold thread.

Ready-To-Wear Petite Jeans

Okay, let's say you don't want to go through the hassle of hemming your jeans. If you're not super short compared to your pants size, petite jeans might be just the ticket. Find a store you like that carries jeans in 'short' or 'petite' sizes. If you're not in the mood to pay a lot, try Target or Old Navy. If you're willing to pay a little more, Express and Ann Taylor Loft have a great petites section.

I personally love, love Ann Taylor Loft Original Bootcut Jeans. I find them to be shorter than other 'petite' sized brands. They are super comfortable and durable. (I used to buy my short jeans in the little girl's section of a department store that has since gone out of business. They were super-thin and I had to replace them often.) They run around $60 but I pay $35-40 by watching sales or getting them on Ebay.  I tried on a pair of Express's petite jeans last spring and loved them.  They were super soft...but I couldn't plunk out $90 (not on sale at the time), so I didn't take them home with me.

Here is a picture of my favorite petite jeans....LOFT original boot cut jeans:

**Remember: Bootcut styles are best for petites. A pair of jeans (or slacks) that are straight in the leg will elongate your figure. Washed out styles will make you look wider; dark-washed jeans will make you look taller and thinner.

Do you have experience hemming your slacks?  Do you have a favorite petite jean you'd like to share below?  Let me know what works for you.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Simplicity 2475: Brown Pencil Skirt

Here is my first brown pencil skirt, Simplicity 2475, view 'B'. This project took me five days to complete, the same five days I had the flu.  (Probably why it took so long.)

I love the fabric. It was very easy to sew with. I love the little bit of stretch it provides. I am a big fan of the kick back pleats in the back. Why is this not emphasized on the front of the pattern envelope??

Awesome kickback pleats - - best skirt feature

The pattern is part of Simplicity's 'Amazing Fit Collection.' It provides individual pieces for slim, average and curvy fit women. It also provides petite adjustments for women 5'4" and under. Great idea, right? The problem is, there isn't anywhere on the pattern that explains how to tell if you need slim, average or curvy pattern pieces. The measurements on the package only tell you which size to cut out: 6-8-10-12 or 14. I stared at the pattern for half an hour, read reviews on and found that other women were quite confused about the same thing.

My husband told me I am 'slim' and after examining all of the different pattern pieces near the waist, I agreed. The curvy pattern piece goes in at the waist most dramatically, average is, well, average and slim is the most straight throughout the waist and hips. Some women reported that this pattern runs a little large, so I cut out a 12 instead of a 14. The way the pattern works is that you sew the front pieces together, the back pieces together and then pin them at the sides to find the 'perfect' fit. The pattern allows 1" seam allowances on the sides so there is room for error. I ended up taking it in 1 1/4" at the waist and 1 1/2" at the hips and continuing down to the hem.

Can you see the topstitching?

I topstitched the front princess seams on both sides and on each edge of the waistband. The invisible zipper was pretty easy, thanks to a tutorial I watched here. I only wish I'd stabilized the zipper opening, as suggested, to avoid bubbling of the fabric near the zipper. It's not that bad.

This skirt doesn't come with pattern pieces for a lining, so I made them myself. Linings should be 1-2" shorter than the skirt, so I took all the skirt pattern pieces, folded them up, and cut out my lining. I attached it on the top to the back yoke facing, hand-stitched around the zipper and sha-zaam! A lined skirt was born. So comfortable I could go commando if I wanted to! Don't worry, I won't.
PETITE WARNING! If you are petite, don't just make the petite adjustments you are given on the pattern. Hold the pattern up to you to see how it will look once hemmed and decide if more length should be omitted. The pattern only takes out 1/2" in length for petites. I had to cut off an additional 1 1/4 inches off the edge just to get the hem to end at my knees. If I'd adjusted it properly before cutting out (taking out length in the middle of the skirt, not the edge), the kick back pleats would have started higher and looked more proportional. Something for next time, I guess.

The pattern was $2, the fabric around $6 and notions $2 so it cost about $10 to complete.  It fits so much better than the two skirts I bought RTW this fall.

There will definitely be another skirt from this pattern in the future.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tutorial: Appliqued Onesies

I am making baby shower gifts. All of my expectant friends are having boys, thus the boyish appliques. This is a great way to put those colorful scraps in your fabric stash to work.

I used batik prints for the giraffe and the dinosaur. So cute!

A fun polka-dot tie that will always stay in place.

A sweet little elephant.

Want to make an easy baby shower gift?


Appliqued Onesies

You will need:
4-Pack of Onesies
Fusible Webbing
Clean Cloth
Patterned Fabric
Matching Thread
Print out of Applique Templates click here for template

If you can't get it to print to letter-size, go here to Google Docs:

First, you will need to trace the image from your printout to the paper liner of the fusible webbing. (Peel back the paper liner and stick your printed image underneath, trace.) Place the paper liner back on the fusible web and cut out all three layers on the line. Move to the ironing board and turn your iron on. Peel back the top paper liner again, and place the fusible web side on the wrong side of your patterned fabric. Before you iron on the web, place a clean cloth on top of everything to avoid getting glue on your iron. Place the iron on the applique, using high heat and steam to bond the glue to the fabric. Cut the applique out and remove the back paper liner. Place the fusible side of the applique onto the front of the onesie near the top, centering it. Cover the applique again with the clean cloth and fuse the applique to the onesie.

After gluing the applique to the onesie, you will need to zig-zag the edges to prevent the applique from falling off in the wash. Set your zig-zag to 2.5 and your stitch length to 0.5. Go around the perimeter, backstitching to prevent your thread from unraveling.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Perfect Print for Simplicity 2365

I have been on the hunt for the perfect print for Simplicity 2365, Misses' Tunic.

I have my eye on view 'B', the flowery blue one in the middle.

I like lightweight blouses because they allow for easy layering for winter or summer or for when I go from a hot room to a cold one. I thought another challis print would do the trick, but I couldn't find one I liked.

Finally I scored with Anna Maria Horner's 'Coloring Garden in Dusk' cotton voile. This is my first time using voile. Wikipedia says voile is a lightweight, soft, sheer fabric. Mmm...that is partially false. Not all voiles are sheer, including the one I purchased.

This print is totally me! I purchased it at Modern Fabric Studio, my first online fabric purchase. I got this particular print for a steal of a deal: $4 per 1/2 yard. It sounds like a lot but some online stores were charging $12 for 1/2 yard of the same print. In addition to this, I googled to see if there was an online code to help me save more, and got 10% off my total purchase. Do you ever google online codes? I do it all the time but am delighted when they actually work!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Simplicity 2609: Tiered Skirt

This skirt is easy to whip up and great for beginners. The elastic waistband makes it super easy to fit and very comfortable. I found this purple cotton at Denver Fabrics in the clearance section and paid $2 a yard for it. I made view 'B' with no alterations. Yeah!! Everything about this pattern was easy, the only thing I didn't like was how time-consuming it was to get the gathers placed and pinned evenly before stitching together. It's time to learn how to use my new gathering foot!

At first, when I put this together, I was afraid that the stiff fabric would make the garment too 'child-like' but it seems to have relaxed after a few washes. I didn't have white thread at the time, so I used light pink thread to topstitch between the tiers. The the thread is so light against the bright purple fabric, it looks white. I'm pleased with the outcome and plan on making another skirt like it in the future.

My only advice is to think about the look you are going for before choosing your fabric. If you want the skirt to be flowy and less volume, choose fabric that drapes well like gauze, chiffon, or even a lightweight jersey knit. If you want the skirt to have more volume and have a stiffer look, choose fabric that holds its shape better like seersucker, linen, or corduroy.

Softie Owl

Ollie the Owl now has a face! I love the way he turned out. Wool felt lasts the longest, but I had craft felt....and in a plethora of colors, so that's what I used.

Once again, the tutorial can be found at New Green Mama's blog here. I plan on making more of these little guys, and more softies in general. There is a whale softie pattern I'm dying to whip up.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

New Fall Outfit with Petite Style Tips

I had a small breakdown recently when I realized that none of my bottoms fit ~ unless you count sweatpants...but if you do, you're delusional.

I injured my arms/shoulders/hands in May and my knees in July so I was pretty much out of commission and unable to exercise for the better part of four months. I only gained a few pounds from inactivity but it was enough to go shopping. See, that's the upside about when you're clothes don't can justify shopping for new ones! Yay!! Shopping hasn't always been a happy experience for me. I can still shop in the little girls' section...but what 25 year old wants to wear butterflies, hearts and sequins all the time?! I like more sophisticated clothing but for a good deal and a good fit. Luckily there are a few stores I love that carry small petite sizes.

Headband: Kohl's
Ruched Blouse: Ann Taylor Loft Outlet
Skirt: Ann Taylor Loft Outlet
Shoes: Dillard's

The ruched blouse is perfect for someone with my figure type which some people call 'pear-shaped'. I am not what you'd call a 'curvy woman' but I am smaller on top than on bottom. In pattern sizes, I am actually 3 sizes smaller on top in my shoulders compared to my waist.

To even out this difference, pear-shaped women can wear blouses that draw attention to their face. Both the v-neck and the ruching in this blouse accomplish this nicely. Another trick is that the blouse is brighter or lighter in color than the skirt. Bottoms should stay neutral in order to balance out the top. I love black pencil skirts and this one has a silver thread woven in through out.

Petite women generally look best in knee length skirts because showing part of the legs lengthens their figure. Unfortunately, this skirt did not come in petite, so it goes over my knees. It would look better a couple of inches shorter. But, it is already hemmed. We'll see how ambitious I get.

For more about figure types of petite women, click here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A pen exploded in the dryer!

Yesterday morning, I opened up the dryer door and began unloading the clothing inside. Suddenly, I grasped a pen. An EXPLODED pen....and we all know what that means. Well, that's those of us who have on occasion forgotten to check EVERY pants pocket before throwing in the wash. I frantically began checking every article of clothing. I was grateful a lot of it was black because pen marks don't show on black. The pen spared my new challis blouse and some of Scott's jeans but had leaked on one of his nicer shirts.

This is my second pen explosion experience. I thought we'd be lucky just to get the pen marks from off the inside of the dryer. I googled 'pen explosion' and found that nail polish remover will remove pen stains from the dryer. Scott got to work with a cloth and some elbow grease and the dryer was clean in a few minutes!

Pen stains are usually easy to get out with hairspray but after they've been 'set' in a hot dryer, they're harder to get off. This is the bottom of an Old Navy cotton shirt I love and bought Scott for his birthday. So, sad. I thought it was doomed.

Scott got to work with nail polish remover (ours has acetone) and rubbing alcohol. He found that it works best to get the article of clothing wet first and then pour the rubbing alcohol on the stain, rub it together, and rinse with water.

He used the nail polish remover with similar results.

I was shocked. The stains are completely gone and the chemicals didn't damage or discolor the shirt.

The wet spots aren't stains. I took this picture before the shirt dried.

CAUTION: ALWAYS test an inconspicuous area of clothing with chemicals before using on a stain. Certain fabrics like silk can be seriously damaged by nail polish remover. The clothing we treated was 100% cotton.

The pen stains also came out of a pair of jeans, but I'm still working on some knit shorts. They were splattered all over with ink.

It'll take some more time to work out the stains.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


I found a cool product online the other day called ‘Make-A-Zipper’ at

This 5.5 yard roll of zipper with 12 zipper pulls allows you to cut zippers to size. This is especially helpful if you are working on a project that requires a really long zipper that you can't find in a standard size at the store. Use it for your kid's tipi opening, a duvet cover or a sleeping bag.

All you have to do is measure how long you want your zipper to be, make sure ONE zipper pull is included in that section of zipper, and cut where desired. You will need to reinforce the cut ends so the zipper pulls don't fall off. The instructions on the roll explain how to do this easily.

I don’t recommend inserting the zipper horizontally and zig-zagging across the cut end (as illustrated on the roll). Your needle could insert itself into the zipper, pulling it apart. Instead, follow Ashley’s instructions reinforcing the end of the zipper. Adjust your zig zag position to be as wide as possible and your stitch length to be near zero.

This way, your needle goes across each side of the zipper and not through it and ensures your zipper pull ain’t goin’ nowhere!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sewing Gadgets: Scissors

Every seamstress needs a reliable pair of scissors, maybe two.

My mom taught me very early in life the value of sewing shears. The wonderful, orange Fiskars in her sewing box were to be respected, used with care, never dropped or pointed at an enemy and NEVER to be used for anything but fabric. Because her careful instructions were followed, the scissors served her well for many years...until the day that my brother just younger than me had a bright idea to use them on wire. Wire?? What was he thinking??!!! I don't think I'll ever understand what was going on in his teenage brain.

Anyway, by this time this terrible atrocity had occurred, I had my own pair of sewing shears.

My first pair were lightweight Fiskars with a comfort grip on both sides. This was crucial because I am left-handed and using my mom's right-handed shears always left my wrist aching. For the first time, I was in heaven. I cut fabric with ease and without turning my elbow out awkwardly.

I fell in love again in college, when I purchased a pair of Gingher shears. Gingher gives discounts to students in sewing classes so I got mine for 40-50% off the normal price. Gingher has a lot of different kinds of shears and happened to have a left-handed version of their 8" dressmaker's shears.

I absolutely love them. They stay sharper than my Fiskars, and cut through more layers of fabric with ease. Believe me, cutting through two layers of thick wool is no picnic but is SO much easier with Gingher scissors. I especially like that the edge is pointed and super sharp.

Gingher shears come with a lifetime warranty. Five or so years ago I accidentally cut over a pin while cutting out some pattern pieces, leaving an annoying nick in the blade. A few months later I dropped my beautiful shears on the floor. They were just bent enough that they wouldn't open and close. I was crushed. I decided to wait to get them fixed until it became absolutely necessary, a choice I regretted. Last summer, my Fiskars became dull from use. It was time to revive my lefties so I sent them back to the factory with $7.50, the price for repair. They came back as good as new a few weeks later and good ol' Gingher and I have been cutting fabric together ever since. I still use my Fiskars, but mainly for cutting thread, because they're lighter in my hand.

So, if you are on the hunt for some good shears here are some guidelines:

1. Choose a brand you know and trust. If you're worried about cost,
use your 40% off coupon at Joann's.
2. Make sure they do the job and fit comfortably your hand.
3. Keep them in a protective sheath when not being used.
4. Get them sharpened as needed. Don't procrastinate like I did!!

Note: If you choose cheaper shears, plan on paying to get them sharpened more often. Many fabric stores have in-store sharpening services or have someone they recommend.

Monday, October 10, 2011

New Look 6895 ~ Easy Woven Blouse

Last night and this morning, I cranked out this easy little number, New Look 6895 with a paisley rayon challis. I got it at Denver Fabrics for around $4 a yard in the clearance section. Yes, I am addicted. I rarely find myself inspired by prints at other stores in the Denver area.

I usually don't go for loose-fitting blouses because I get lost in them but I couldn't resist this pattern. I made view 'E', blouse with a crew neck, and used the sleeves from view 'C'. Thanks to all of the helpful reviews of this pattern on I had a good idea of what alterations would be necessary before I even set out.

Several people complained that the neckline was too wide and would fall off their shoulders. To fix this problem, I took the pattern in 1 1/2 inches at center front and added 1 1/4 inches width to the shoulder seam. I also took the pattern in at center back and opted to place the pattern on the fold instead of having a center back seam. I made a petite adjustment at the waist and moved everything up 1 1/2 inches. Some ladies also said that the pattern was too large at the waist so I cut out a size 8 throughout, instead of tapering to a 10 at the waist. It sounds like a lot of adjustments but when you don't have to deal with darts or button plackets or princess seams it makes everything SO much easier! The pattern was so easy that I only glanced at the instructions a couple of times.

I'm really pleased with how the neckline turned out. The binding was surprisingly easy to put in and I got it right the first try. I used my rolled hem foot to finish the edges of the sleeves and hem of the blouse. Sometimes the pattern will tell you to wait 'til the end to finish these babies off, but if you're afraid it will fray like I was, do it first thing.

Yay!! Now I have another blouse I can wear without an undershirt. I'll be able to wear it in any season. I'm thinking of upcycling a pair of brown slacks into a belt to go along with my new blouse.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Make This Look DOT com

Ever wish you could pick an outfit online that you LOVE and make that look for less...with alterations? Thanks to you can.

I mean, who's not to love ModCloth, but they usually don 't have my size, their dresses cost more than my entire monthly fun budget AND...they don't carry petite sizes. Talk about awesome: Make This Look shows the look you love, the look-a-like pattern you can buy and where to get matching fabric.

Visit their website for other clever look-a-likes and get inspired.

2011 Halloween Costume

I absolutely love dressing up for Halloween. In the past I have dressed up as The Mona Lisa, a bubble gum machine, an astronaut, a 'Who', a pumpkin, a ghost, a 50's girl with a red poodle skirt, the Angel Moroni, a fairy, poison ivy (the plant -- Scott was my infected, itching victim) and a clown (as seen on my first post).

Usually I start thinking about my costume months in advance. I was going to be Rapunzel from Tangled this year, but because my shoulder and arm are still recovering from an injury, I decided on something less ambitious. Here are my fabric finds for this year's Halloween project. The blue sequined knit and the blue tulle are from Hancock Fabrics. I also originally chose a green organza but decided it was too pricey and then I found this satin green fabric for a mere $2 a yard at Denver Fabrics. Score!!

Can you guess what I'm going to be this year? Hint: Scott will be donning his fishing gear.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Several of my friends are currently expecting, which has led me to think about shower gifts for the little people growing inside their bellies. I settled on making softies and burp cloths and found this fun owl softie tutorial here. Most everyone I know is expecting a boy, so I decided on a fall-inspired color scheme for this little hootie. I traced the pattern from my computer screen to tissue paper instead of downloading it. I cut out the pattern pieces, as seen below:
Using the instructions, I pieced the owl together and filled it using Silky Soft filling.
Warning: this stuff clings sticks to everything! I had to use a lint roller to get it off the outside of the owl. The package wasn't kidding about their child warning when it says 'the thin film may cling to nose and mouth'. You will notice the switch from the long gangly legs to nubby feet in the next photo. I re-purposed brown jeans for the legs and after I sewed them together I realized there was no way I could turn them right side out with only 1/2" wide legs to go through. Fail. However, I like the nubby feet. I think they better suit an infant.
Isn't he cute? Now I just need to get some felt for some eyes and a beak and he will be all set.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Aprons: Simplicity 3752

half apron in calico print

halter apron in batik print

Here are my last two aprons using Simplicity 3752, misses' aprons pattern. I made four of view 'C' (the half aprons) for my wedding reception in a cream and red calico print with red bias tape and red piping accenting. I didn't like the flounce (the bottom portion) on the apron. I think it was the wrong choice for a lightweight cotton fabric because the stiffness made it stick out really far. So, I scrapped it and made a panel the same height as the flounce was, and 1 1/2 times the width of the apron. I gathered the panel to make the new bottom portion of the aprons. I liked this look much better. I opted not to do the pockets. This is probably the easiest apron I've ever made. The girls we asked to serve the cheesecake looked cute and did a great job serving. The halter top apron, view 'A', was a little trickier, but luckily it's my second attempt at this pattern. The pattern calls for piping right under the bust seam. That was difficult, especially paired with matching an inside corner with an outside corner. The instructions didn't explain that you have to clip the corner in order to get it to fit around the outside corner, which is crazy because you have to do it four times! The second time I made this apron (the pink one, above) I didn't use piping and it lays a lot flatter.
I finished the side panel seams with french seams and the side edges with my first rolled hems using the Bernina rolled hem foot, #69, which is for newer 5.5mm machines. Why didn't I know about this foot before?! It actually came with my sewing machine but I never bothered to figure out how to use it until last week. I watched this cool tutorial on rolled hems and only had to unpick the beginning of my first seam. It was so much easier than folding it over twice, ironing it, and finishing the edge.