Wednesday, August 26, 2015

My Little Sister's Birthday Present(s)!

There's a chance I might just spoil my little sister when it comes to presents. I love making her gifts for her birthday and Christmas. For her birthday this year I had a plan, one gift that I knew she would love.

Since last Christmas I have been planning to make her a doll-sized dress form. She loves to come up with dress design ideas, and really likes American Girl Dolls, so I figured it would be the perfect gift. After reading an online tutorial or two I came up with a general idea of how I would make one.

I started with a paper towel holder, a coffee can lid, fabric, and stuffing. The body of the dress form I made by altering a doll coat pattern. I made 2 backs of the coat (so that there would be no front opening), added a high neck and sewed circles over the arm holes and neck.

To stiffen the arm holes and neck so that they would hold their shape I underlined the circles with cotton pads, the kind used for makeup and nail polish removal. They worked great! The arm holes and neck came out as perfect circles, just like they were supposed to.

Once the body was sewn it would have to be put on the paper towel stand. So, when I sewed the neck of the form, I put a grommet in the center of it. This would make attaching the body to the paper towel stand pretty easy.

Once the body was all sewn up I took apart the paper towel holder. I unscrewed the top, put the body on, the screwed the top back into place. Next, I stuffed the body till it was firm and the approximate measurements of an american girl doll. To finish the body I cut an oval out of the coffee can lid with a hole in the middle. I covered the plastic with fabric and hand sewed it in place.

Then the dress form itself was done! I just needed to put the paper towel holder back on it's base so that it would stand, however, the fully assembled paper towel holder was a bit shorter than I wanted it to be. Dress forms work better if they are the same height as the subject they represent, so this one needed to be the same height from shoulder to base as an American Girl Doll. So I found a wooden thread spool that was the perfect height.

I didn't feel like unwinding all the thread on this spool, and I have more thread the same color, so I coated the thread with clear nail polish to keep it from unwinding. Then the thread spool got screwed in place at the bottom of the dress form, and it was done.  I love the pop of color the thread adds!

I had one happy little sister when she unwrapped her present! 

But the dress form wasn't the only thing in that box. Once I finished the dress form I got a little carried away and made a couple more presents.

Like a fancy doll dress, as I remembered my little sister had asked for one recently. So I pulled out a doll clothes pattern, Butterick B6035  that I had picked up at a pattern sale a while back and never got around to using.

I found some scraps of velvet and satin in my stash, then got to work, resulting in one very fancy doll dress.
Once the doll dress was finished I decided my little sister needed one last present, so I threw together a doll sized hoop skirt to go under the dress.
This went together extremely easily, and didn't even require a pattern  To make the hoop skirt, first I made a waistband that velcroed closed, with 4 ribbons hanging off of it, equal distance apart.

Next I made 3 hoops from some polyester boning I had on hand. The nice thing about polyester boning is you can sew through it! That was great for this project as I was able to just sew the ends together.

I marked on the ribbons where I wanted the hoops to be, then sewed the hoops in place.

There we go, a doll hoop skirt, perfect to go under the fancy purple dress!

I had one very excited little sister when she unwrapped her entire box of presents! Hopefully she gets lots of enjoyment out of her new American Girl Doll accessories! 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The T-shirt quilt

I don't quilt. My quilting skills leave more than a little to be desired. So when, a few months back, a mom from my former youth group contacted me asking if I could make a t-shirt quilt I almost said no. She had collected over 10 years worth of youth group t-shirts and wanted to make a quilt out of them as a thank-you gift for my former youth pastor. Now I really wanted to help, as my former youth pastor is a great guy and this quilt seemed like the perfect thank-you for him, but I just wasn't sure I could get this t-shirt quilt to turn out as awesome as it should be. Well after discussing ideas with the youth group mom I decided to take on the project. I would make the quilt in the same way I made my brother's flannel quilt for Christmas. No actual quilting required.
First I cut all the shirts into 15 inch squares, as the largest design was about 14 inches and I needed to allow room for seam allowance. I cut a 15" square of simi-transparent material that I laid on top of each t-shirt as a template before I cut. 

This allowed me to get each design centered on the quilt square. Once a quilt square was cut out of the front of each t-shirt I cut around the designs on the back of the shirts. I had a plan for them. For the quilt backing I cut 15" squares of flannel.
Once everything was cut it was time to lay out the quilt. First I laid down a sheet. This was just to keep the quilt clean, but actually came in very handy later. Then I laid out the quilt. I had 25 squares in all, so I was able to 5 across and 5 down. 

(please excuse my messy sewing room)

After that was done it was onto sewing! Remember I cut out the designs on the backs of the shirts? Well I decided to put the backs of the shirts on the back of the quilt. First I used fusible webbing to attach each design to the flannel square that would back the front of the shirt it came from. Then I used a zig-zag stitch around the edges just to make sure the design wouldn't come off the flannel.

Finally it was time to assemble the quilt. This is where the sheet I laid everything out on came in handy. I needed to go babysit one night, and I would have a couple hours of free time once the kids went to bed, so I brought my sewing machine and the quilt pieces along with me. To keep the pieces laid out the way I wanted I rolled them all up in the sheet.

This worked amazingly well! When I unrolled the sheet there wasn't a piece out of place so I was able to get right to sewing! (If and when I make another quilt I will definitely lay it out on a sheet again!)

Just like with my brother's quilt I laid the front on top of the back of each square, then treated each square as if it were just one piece. I sewed the squares to each other, backs together so that the seams would be seen on the top of the quilt. Once the entire quilt was sewn together I clipped each seam to make it look raggedy. I made the quilt binding out of leftover flannel, folded over and sewn on with the seam on top, just like with the rest of the quilt.

And then the t-shirt quilt was done!

I am so excited about how this quilt came out! It is so fun to see all those youth group memories together! The best part? The youth pastor really liked it, and that was the goal.

I'm glad I decided to take on this project. The quilt isn't fancy, it's not perfect, but it has meaning. All these t-shirts in one place really show what an awesome, committed youth pastor the youth group has had. Thank you so much for caring about the students, their personal and spiritual lives, as much as you do!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Following Patterns

The (modern) dresses I make myself? You may have realised that they very rarely resemble the picture on the envelope of the pattern I start with. Typically I come up with a design idea, find a couple patterns to mash together, or sometimes just one to majorly alter, then I make the dress in my head rather than the one the pattern is supposed to make. However last week I actually made not only one, but two dresses that look like they came straight out of the pattern book. And I really like them!

First off this swingy, red, halter dress made from a reprint of a 1940's pattern.

Butterick B5209 to be exact. I picked it up at a pattern sale a couple weeks ago, as there was nothing 40's inspired in my wardrobe and I decided there ought to be.  

The red fabric is a very soft, lightweight, synthetic of some sort. I'm not exactly sure what the fiber content is, it feels too soft to be polyester (which often feels plasticy), but it's definitely a synthetic of some sort, as it does melt. (I learned this while pressing the hem. Thankfully the dress was actually a bit long so I was able to just cut off the melted piece and re-hem)  I picked up about 4 or 5 yards of it at Goodwill for about $1. Although I typically prefer to use cotton for sundresses, this fabric worked really well for this design.

I pretty much made the dress exactly as the pattern showed (Well I actually never looked at the pattern instructions, but the dress came out looking like the pattern envelope so I assume I did it right) I only made a couple alterations. First, I added pockets. Second, I cut up an old bra and sewed it in the front of the dress. 

This was very easy to do, and very practical too, thanks to the low back of the dress.

Thanks to my alteration, this is a very comfortable dress to wear, and I might actually use this pattern again! With some major alterations of course, as I don't need 2 of the same dress in my closet.

The other pattern I made up was this one, Butterick B6205.  I picked it up because I thought it looked cool and comfortable and quick and easy to make. And it was! No zippers, no buttons, nothing at all complicated.

Now the pattern envelope said I needed over 4 yards of fabric, well that felt a little excessive to me so I only got as much fabric as I thought I'd need, 2 yards. That was enough fabric, but I did have to make some changes once I started cutting the dress out.

The dress is basically four pieces. Skirt front, skirt back, bodice back and bodice front, all cut on the fold. Well with only 2 yards of fabric there wasn't enough "fold" for everything so I had to sew a seam down the center back of the bodice, but that was no big deal.

The bodice was also supposed to be lined with the same fabric the dress was made of. With only 2 yards of fabric I, of course, didn't have enough for the lining. No biggie, I almost never buy fabric to line anything with. I just use whatever is in my stash that some what coordinates. After all, no one ever sees the lining! Well except for with this dress. When the dress is tied at the shoulders, the unbleached muslin I used as lining definitely shows. But, when I throw on my ivory crocheted belt, the ivory lining of the shoulder straps appears to be an intentional design aspect, and the entire look is 'tied' together!

This is a great dress for a hot summer day, cool, comfortable, and yes, it has pockets ( that were actually part of the pattern rather than something I chose to add!). I can't say I regret making it exactly like the pattern showed. I might actually use the pattern again as the base for a future (self-designed) dress. I'm actually already considering how I might combine both this and the 1940's pattern into one swingy, comfortable, easy to make, awesome dress! Check back in a couple months to see if I'm successful. Mean while I've got a few birthday presents I need to make, and major goat chores I need to tackle, so back to work I go!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Accessorizing the Ball Gown

At the beginning of the month, as you may remember, I finally finished my Civil War Ball Gown! I love it and am so pleased with how it came out, but it wasn't done. Well, the gown itself was, but it takes more than just a dress to look like you stepped out of a different century. What I needed to complete the look was accessories. The Historical Sew Monthly challenge for July? Accessorizing. The perfect challenge for me this month. I actually managed to finish three items this month for this challenge! A headdress, a pair of lace mitts, and even a pair of stockings. (I have written up detailed posts about the making of each item, this is just a summary.) 

First up, the headdress.

When I started considering what accessories I wanted to make to go with my gown, my first thought was a headdress. So I looked at picture after picture of evening headdresses from the mid 19th century.

I couldn't decide on just one that I really wanted to recreate, so I decided to combine a few different ideas. Once I had a general idea in mind, I got to work. First I made a wire frame, then covered it in ribbon, lace, flowers, and netting. That's the summary, if you want to see exactly how it all went together you can read the more detailed post here.

Once I finished the headdress, gloves were next on my list, and I had enough netting left over from the headdress to make a pair of lacy looking black mitts!

When I first decided I wanted to make black mitts I was a little worried that they wouldn't be appropriate, as black signifies mourning, so I asked questions on the HSM fb page, and looked at pictures from the 1860's, and finally decided black mitts would be fine.

I used Butterick B5370, with a few slight modifications, to make these. I wound up having to hand sew them, as the sewing machine kept making them wonky, but it was worth it when I saw the finished product.

I love how elegant they turned out! To see exactly how they went together (including the wonky machine sewn mitt) you can read this post all about them.  

The last item I made to go with my gown was the easiest, and most practical, stockings!

When looking for ideas of accessories to make, I happened across a pattern for sewing stockings. As I don't really knit, I figured these were about perfect for me to make!

They went together very easily, and look amazingly historical when done! I plan on making a couple more pair soon. For those who are interested I included a link to the pattern in my post about making these. 

Now that all the accessories are done, I suppose I can consider my ball gown complete, now I just need to find an event to wear it to! Making it and the accessories, and then photographing the complete ensemble was a lot of fun. A huge thanks to my amazing and talented friend Erentry for being my photographer!

August's HSM challenge is Heirlooms and Heritage, so I guess I ought to start looking for photos of my ancestors to see if they had any clothes I want to recreate. Any suggestions on where to start? I'm definitely excited to learn more about my family's history!