A Moment in Time

Sewing instruction, 1941 style

I don’t know many 12-year-old girls who would be interested in sewing clothes for dolls these days, but that’s just what these girls were doing at a junior high school in 1941. Check out the single treadle sewing machine.

Photo credit: clevelandmemory.org


Some Fleece Makes Its Way to Garment

I previously posted about fleece taking over my sewing room. Here is the finished garment.

Kwik Sew 3290

Very soft, very fluffy. This is the result of a request from my daughter. “I want a ‘fluffy’ just like yours.” I recently bought a nice fleece jacket from L.L. Bean. Never mind what I paid for mine (!), hers would have cost 39.95. Plus she didn’t really need the zipper. So for $12 I got some “Cozy” fleece from Jo-Ann Fabrics and modified Kwik Sew 3290 beyond recognition. I believe I cut out and finished in one evening. (Not counting the fuzz cleanup time, of course.) The result will carry my daughter through spring and she’ll stop bugging me about buying a “fluffy.” Also, it’s even more cozy than mine because it’s more like the bathrobe type of fleece. In future I think I will choose the anti-pill fleece instead because of the mess. Here’s what I could have bought for $39.95:

Girls' Fleece, $39.95 at L.L.Bean
Girls' Fleece, $39.95 at L.L.Bean

Fleece… Everywhere

I finally obeyed Jo-Ann Fabrics. You know, the commandment that states, “Ye Shall Buy More Fleece.” And now the fleece is all over my sewing room. All over the house. In fact, I can’t post the finished garment because I have to break out the Swiffer and get this stuff up. More later…

Tiered Skirt — A True Weekend Project

Tiered Skirt Weekend ProjectThis is truly a weekend project for a girl in your life, and with some shortcuts you’ll barely get out the scissors! The result is a tiered skirt that’s better than ready-to-wear, and fashionable with leggings or bare. One day I measured and cut out; the next day I sewed it up. I made a three-tiered skirt for my daughter, but you can make one for yourself. My daughter’s required less than a yard; I’m not sure of the requirements for an adult but I think that 2-3 yards would suffice, and of course you can combine fabrics for a bohemian look. You control the length of the skirt, and to a certain extent the fullness.

MEASURE: Determine the body waist size. Then do the math described on the Tiered Skirt Math page to determine the height and length of each strip.

CUT: Did I say I barely used the scissors? Yes! As I’ve stated elsewhere, I do not take the same care in finishing details for kids’ clothing. Kids wear clothing for a relatively short period of time, and they won’t notice the lack of finishing inside. So I snipped and ripped. After I determined the height of the strips, I cut into the selvage about an inch and I ripped the rest of the length of the strip. Ripping will stretch out the material , but it will recover somewhat when you iron various seams. For this skirt I even left in the selvages since the 1/2 inch seam allowance would encase the selvage, and leaving in the selvage minimizes finishing on the inside.

I did, of course, use the scissors to arrive at the correct length of each strip. (Since ripping against the grain is impossible.)


SEW: Beginning with the top tier, sew together short ends into a circle and finish the seam raw edges as you prefer and press open. Determine which is the top edge of your skirt and create a casing, but don’t insert the elastic yet.  To create the casing, you will fold over and press twice. The first fold will be a very small amount, just enough to enclose the raw edge. The second fold will enclose your elastic, so get out your elastic and measure its width. You want to ensure that the casing is made wide enough. Fold over and press at least 1/8 of an inch more than the elastic requires. Pin and sew the elastic casing, leaving about two inches open so that you can later insert the elastic.

Now join the strips for the second tier by sewing the short ends into a circle and finishing the seam raw edges as you prefer. Press open.

Next join the strips for the third tier using the above steps. You should now have three tiers of joined strips sewn into circles.

GATHER: Can you see how much longer around the two lower tiers are than the top tier? The longer ones need to be gathered to fit. To gather, set your machine to a long basting stitch. Stitch all the way around the top of only tier one 1/2 inch from the top. (If your fabric has a direction, make sure you are stitching at the top of the design.) Repeat this step 3/8 inch from the top. Now you will have two rows of gathering stitches, which you can pull up to match the circumference of the shortest waistband strip. Repeat for the other tier, so that you will have two circular tiers of skirt, both of which have two lines of gathering stitches at the top.

Right sides together, use a few pins to join the tier one circle (with empty waistband casing) to the tier two circle. Avoid matching up any side seams to retain a folksy character and reduce the number of layers your needle has to pierce. Pull the two rows of gathering stitches on the second tier to match the circumference of the first tier. Add pins to secure in place and wrap the long ends of your basting stitches around one pin to secure. Using a basting stitch if you’re new, place the wider of the two tiers on the bottom and sew 1/4 inch from the edge of the fabric, removing pins from the right as you go, and smoothing out along the left if you see bumps and many gathers approaching. Restitch with a normal-length stitch.

You can trim the seams with pinking shears, or if planning to topstitch, you can leave the seam allowances and press them open before topstitching.

Repeat the right-sides together gather, pin and sew steps to join the very lowest tier to the second tier. Repeat the trim or press step.

Now is a good time to hem the bottom tier of the skirt. Turn up once 1/4 inch and press, then turn up again to the desired skirt length, press again and sew all the way around. If you like, use a decorative stitch.

MAKE CASING: Locate a safety pin and clip it to the end of the waistband elastic. Use another safety pin to secure the end of the elastic to somewhere outside of the casing. There’s nothing more frustrating than losing the casing you just inserted somewhere inside the waistband! Use your thumb to guide the elastic through the casing. At seams, squeeze the casing sideways to allow as much room as possible for the elastic to pass through. This is only a problem when you are trying to pass a seam.
Try it on your victim — er, giftee — and use the first safety pin to determine the measurement around the waist. TIP: Since elastic tends to deteriorate over time, hike up the waist measurement one more inch. This will keeping it from getting too loose over time. Remove the garment.

Now go to the sewing machine and keeping the safety pin as long as possible and out of the way of the needle. Set your machine to the very widest zig-zag stitch. Remember that this won’t show, so use the same color thread and make a big square of zig-zag stitches, pivoting the fabric around the lowered needle. Once off the sewing machine, the elastic will pop into the casing, so you can now sew shut the 2 inch opening.

TOPSTITCH: If your machine has some fancy stitches, and the print is not too busy, you can press out each seam (one up, one down) and then topstitch. I got out the manual and let my daughter choose some stitches. A few of her choices wouldn’t work, but she was happy with the results and has worn the skirt several times already.

Cool Girls Pants

My sewing student Lisa and I just completed two pairs of pants for her daughters. The picture shows just one of them. We used two sizes of Simplicity 9854 in two great prints from local store Fabric Crush. This Simplicity pattern gives you an introduction to using standard patterns (reading the symbols, laying out the tissue, deciphering strange-to-you instructions). It’s a great pattern for a beginner who wants to make kids clothing. Great job, Lisa!
I’m also impressed that in between sessions, Lisa completed another project — the Julia skirt by Modkid. See pic below. Lisa says she’s currently “a little obsessed” with sewing, and I  say: “How can this possible be a problem?!” Go Lisa.

The Julia Skirt by Modkid
The Julia Skirt by Modkid

Sewing Event for Kids, or the Kid in You

SewUp Seattle has announced their latest event, and it’s great for the kid in all of us. The session is “Dolls and Doll Clothes.” Here’s what they say:

This month we’ll be making dolls and doll clothes. If you have a favorite old or new doll, stuffed animal or “action figure” who needs a spring outfit, bring it along. Or make a simple rag doll. Call 206-784-7117 or e-mail sewupseattle@yahoo.com to see if there is still space. (We are working on an idea to make room for more sewers.)

Details: February 26, 2011 11am-1pm at Goods for the Planet, 525 Dexter Ave in Seattle.

New Vest

Simplicity 2534 Vest OptionsMy husband picked out an orange dot fabric during a trip to Interquilten, an adorable quilting shop in northern Michigan. (See my Interquilten post.) Although cute, I thought, “What am I going to do with this?! And here is the result. I used Simplicity 2534 and the vest came together very quickly. I didn’t even pin the binding that goes around the entire vest and armholes. I figured by sewing slowly I could save time. This approach worked pretty well. I do not invest the same amount of effort for kids’ clothes as I do for my own.

You can read my more detailed review of Simplicity 2534 here.

Simplicity 2534 Vest
Simplicity 2534 Vest