Posted on February 20, 2014
All finished! I have been steadily working my way through my pile of incomplete projects, and wanted to get both this and the triangle quilt all done–and here it is. Jubilee!
This could very easily be my favorite quilt I have ever made. Oh, alright, it IS my favorite quilt I’ve ever made–there, I said it. How cheerful is this thing, right?!? How could you ever feel anything but joyful when this quilt is around?
I dreamed this puppy up almost two years ago, then got busy working on it when the #scrappytripalong popped up on Instagram. The fabrics are from my (alarmingly expansive) collection of yellow cottons, but also were donated by IG friends near and far–and I’m so honored and delighted that every time I see this quilt, I’ll be reminded of how amazing the online sewing community is. Who sends fabric to a near-stranger so they can fulfill a wild-eyed idea for a bed covering? Sewing folks do, that’s who. YES!
I was pretty indiscriminate with the fabrics, and put anything next to anything as I was working. I wanted it monochromatic, but scrappy, and I think the result is really amazing.
The quilting is the same as my other Scrappy Trips Around the World quilt, modeled on the design Rita used on hers: straight lines with the walking foot, through every other row of squares on the diagonal, repeated in the opposite direction to create a lattice. Simple but really perfect for this quilt.
Part of what I like about this quilting design, rather than an all-over pattern, is that it really allows some movement to the finished quilt. It washes up nice and crinkly, but not too stiff or solid. I love how fluffy and drapey it is, and have already taken it outside more than once to read on the back patio as the days warm up.
The back, like most of my quilt backs, is pieced. I used a giant chunk of Lizzy House’s Pearl Bracelet, with some contrast strips along the seamline. Rather than more yellow, I opted for a turquoise bid print, to pick up on the bits of turquoise in some of the yellow scraps on the front of the quilt. Ditto the orange, which picks up some of the warmer yellows from the quilt top.
You can really appreciate the lattice design of the quilting on the pearl bracelet, right?
The contrast strips on the quilt back are what must have inspired me to use turquoise for the binding–I don’t really know where that idea came from, but the minute it popped into my skull, I knew it was exactly the right choice.
I could have used another yellow for the binding, but I think that would have made the whole quilt wash out at the edges. What I really like about the turquoise is that it frames out the quilt and makes the yellow the star by putting it at the center of attention. Same thing with the black-and-white dots on my other scrappy trips quilt. Sigh–isn’t it just dreamy? Love, love, love.
Like with all my quilts, the binding is sewn on by machine. I know, I know: all you purists insist on finishing your binding by hand, and I get that. But I am impatient and I have yet to truly see an advantage to hand-sewing binding–other than the chunky binding on the Animal Alphabet Quilt I made for our son, which was so wide that it really had to be hand-sewn to mask the stitching on the front of the quilt. In this case, a super narrow stitch line through the binding front and back does the trick.
I have at least one more postage-stamp-style quilt going (still!), with all my FOR REAL scraps cut from my scrap basket. It won’t be strip-pieced, like this one, and it will have a really different look, but knowing how amazing a monochromatic quilt can be makes me want to play with more variegated scrappy designs.
Hello, spring. I can almost smell you. And I am so, so ready. Bring it.
Want to make your own? Download and print out the cutting list and get going! Spring is nearly here!
Posted on February 12, 2014
Need a quick idea for a gift this Valentine’s Day? This one is sweet and romantic and quick to do–inexpensive supplies, images from the printer, and about 45 minutes of your time. I think I spent less than $21 total for the whole thing. Plus! It’s a gift for him, but you’ll love hanging it in your house. Score!
Now, this is obviously one of those ideas you find on Pinterest–I’m sure I’ve seen a dozen versions, and have subconsciously channeled them into this project. I worked out the details based on what I wanted the final version to look like, and what I thought my husband would tolerate–it’s one thing to make a cute project, it’s another to make something your husband will actually let you hang in the house. I wanted this to be that, but it isn’t a complicated design by any means. So I won’t break your eyeballs with a crazy, full-on tutorial or anything. Let’s just do the highlights:
And there it is! Our daughter wants me to hang up the Valentine quilt I had up last year, but since we found our foyer art in Mexico, there isn’t enough wall space for that. I think I might be able to leave it hanging out here in the living room, where I’ll catch it as I pass through, or find a spot for it in the hallway, where we’ll see it and think about it as we go to and fro, living our lives. The lives we share with one another. Let’s hear it for love.
Posted on February 11, 2014
My margin cross stitch has long since been completed, but is not yet hanging on my wall. And I even went out and bought a frame for it. It’s just that the frame was…boring.
See what I mean? Totally dullsville. It’s a lovely deep shadow-box frame (from Ikea), but the white mat with the white frame with the white Aida cloth? Snoozertown.
The idea was, I’d cover the mat with some fabric, wrap it right around the cardstock and bring some color and depth to the whole frame. I stocked up on (read: wildly splurged while up far past my bedtime) some Liberty lawns a few months ago, and they were all washed and dried and waiting for me to turn them into dresses–but since I haven’t drafted the pattern I have in mind for those dresses just yet, now’s as good a time as any to slice into this yumminess.
I opted to use Mod Podge as my medium for anchoring the fabric to the mat. I thought about a spray adhesive, but since the mat is really just paper, I was worried it would curl from the moisture in the spray. Since the frame isn’t flat–it’s a shadow box, which leaves space between the mat and the glass–I didn’t have the advantage of pressing the mat flat later, so I wanted to be cautious in my choice of materials. I used a basic foam brush to spread the Mod Podge on the right side of the mat. I didn’t work too hard to make it even, just to make it smooth and not too thick. It’s easy to go back and add more later, but once the paper starts to buckle, it’s too late to take it back.
On the right side of the mat, all covered with adhesive, I pressed the wrong side of the fabric and smoothed it out–you have to do that pretty quickly, since the Mod Podge is super sticky and I didn’t want anything to get stuck in the wrong place, or to create any wrinkles or bubbles. With all the fabric in place and fairly taut, I trimmed the edges of the fabric to leave about 2″ or so of overhang along each of the four sides.
Flipping the mat over, I can anchor the fabric along the back side to totally wrap the mat all the way around. At the outer corners, I mitered the fabric in at a 45-degree angle. This kept it from getting too bulky when I folded the edges in, and kept it all nicely tailored for when the mat went in the frame.
Once all the corners were mitered, I folded each side down and pressed it into some Mod Podge I had spread along the edges of the mat on the wrong side. You have to pull gently on each edge as you wrap it around, keeping the edges crisp and avoiding creating lumps or bubbles along the sides of the mat.
Repeating that step along all four sides, the whole mat is wrapped on the outer edge. At the inside of the mat opening, though, I still had a bunch of fabric that’s really getting wasted–and at $34 a meter, I don’t waste Liberty fabric. To open up the center, I cut a large X shape through the middle of the fabric so that I could fold the pieces back and finish off the inner edges.
I snipped into each corner right up to the edge of the mat–leaving the snips too far away from the corners would make a bump and round out the opening, and I really like my squares crisp.
I trimmed each of the triangles along the four interior edges to limit how much fabric I was folding back–that way, I can save those scraps for alter. Score! Then I used more Mod Podge along the wrong side of the mat and pressed the interior edges in just like I did on the outer edges. My fingers were the teeniest bit sticky, but yours shouldn’t be super sticky, or you’re using too much adhesive.
Now it’s time to affix the cross stitch to the wrong side of the mat. I centered the design, which has a pretty wide border of open white Aida cloth around it–that wasn’t intentional, actually. When I designed the cross stitch, I intended that the mat of the frame would come right up to the design, but in this case, I think it’s both aesthetically and symbolically fitting that I have this white space, this margin, around the stitching.
I used cello tape to hold the Aida in place, pulling just a smidge on the cross stitch to make sure it was snug. I don’t want it drooping inside my shadow box later.
Once I flipped it over, I was STUPID happy with how it turned out. See how the cross stitching really POPS against the fabric? How it is totally set off and framed before it’s even in the frame? A zillion years better than it was before, and I haven’t even put it in the shadow box yet.
And there’s the finished product! Forgive the glare of the photo lights here–it’s tough to get a good shot of a frame with glass in it. But overall? I am really, really pleased with this piece.
I didn’t even realize that this was a shadow box frame when I bought it. Isn’t that funny? I wasn’t looking that closely. But now I love the depth and symbolism of the space between the cross stitch and the glass. More margin. Gotta love that.
It doesn’t have a spot on the wall yet. It’s resting on a stack of fabric bolts against one side of my studio. I’m in the process of moving the furniture around–margin happens in lots of ways, and I’m a big believer that the physical space where you find yourself affects how you think and feel and how productive you can be. I’m feeling hemmed in right now, and I hope that by adding a table and moving some things around, I’ll have a little better organization, more space for my feet, fewer things on the floor, and a better breeze moving through this room. Margin helps us all fight entropy, y’all. And it can all start with a brainstorm and a little fabric.
Posted on February 6, 2014
Rachel of Imagine Gnats designs super cute patterns. Let’s just start there. And she has two super darling girls to model them for her–and for us!
Rachel has been releasing her patterns as downloadable PDFs for a while now, which is such great instant gratification. For those of us who like to trace, PDF patterns are immediate and allow you to scratch your sewing itch even late at night (as I am prone to do).
Rachel is good at lots of things, though, and one of those is being really thoughtful about the designs she creates. She set a goal for herself this year to translate those PDF designs into printed paper patterns–a really big step for a pattern designer, and such an exciting move for those of us who love her patterns and sew with them! Printing on paper allows designers like Rachel to expand the reach of their reach and to share their ideas and their passion way beyond those who know them from the Interwebs–it takes the aesthetics and concepts we all love and interact with here and brings them to your local quilt shop or to sewing retreats near you. I’m so, so excited for Rachel to take this leap, and she’s given us a chance to be part of it!
This week, Rachel launched an IndieGogo campaign to help her meet her goal of printing five of her designs on paper in 2014. This is a crowd-funded campaign, meaning that each of us have the chance to chip in a smidge to help Rachel get to her goal–and we get some pretty sweet treats as a thank you. Everyone wins!
Over the summer, Rachel invited me to help pattern test one of her newer designs, the Bess Top. I loved the details of the design, the way I learned small tricks and techniques while working through her pattern, and I loved the finished product:
I’m so excited to help Rachel spread the word for the campaign–and that she has generously offered to provide PDF copies of ALL her patterns to one lucky winner!
Use the Rafflecopter below to enter to win a FULL SET of all five of Rachel’s PDF patterns. There’s the Meridian (above), a faboo cardigan for women. There’s the Bess top (above, in red), a woven pull-over top for women. There’s the Roly-Poly pinafore, the Meridian, and the Tumble Tee, too, all for girls. So many great garment patterns, and you could have them all! The giveaway here on Whipstitch runs through midnight on February 13–you could have your patterns by Valentine’s Day! That’s what love looks like, y’all.
The Imagine Gnats IndieGogo campaign runs through February 28, 2014, with early bird deals going on right now! I hope you’ll be part of it, and thanks (as always, always, always) for your support of independent design.
Posted on January 31, 2014
So, earlier this month, I chose a One Little Word for 2014. I chose MARGIN, because that’s what I sense I need most this year, a chance to make some space in my days and in my heart to have a little extra room for the unexpected and the unplanned and the hoped for and the wonderful things that come when you have a buffer around you.
I spent some time stitching up a little something to hang on the wall, a visual reminder of the space I’m craving. At first, I figured I’d just slap the word on some Aida cloth, and that would be that. But then the idea of margin called to mind the margin of a sheet of paper, and what’s more iconic than notebook paper, that signifier of every year we all spent in school? Back in the days when we had discretionary time out the wahzoo and totally didn’t appreciate what we had. Ah, youth.
And then I discovered a quote from Henry David Thoreau, who himself sought great margin, on the shores of an isolated lake, where he knew beans and studied ants.
Something about this really struck me, these words: the idea of Thoreau sitting on his doorstep, considering the hours and days stretching ahead of him, and realizing how it was that very stretch of time that he most valued. Now, I totally get that Thoreau was in a social and economic position to leave his life and head out into the woods and ruminate on ants and beans ad nauseum–the original First World Problem guy. I also get that he understood something almost 200 years ago that meets me where I am right now, and I’m grateful for the words he left behind for us to find.
Along the same lines, I thought it might help keep me focused and make the whole process of even choosing a word more meaningful and lasting to maybe check in a little bit each month, to record what I’ve noticed and remembered about these days of trying to look for margin and make room for margin and to allow my hopes that I didn’t know I was hoping to be met in the margins.
This is the first of those, right here at the end of the first month of 2014. We’re 1/12th of the way through this year, people–and ain’t much point to pacing ourselves as we move through the calendar if we aren’t going to remember it when we look back later.
What about you? Did you choose a word? What are you doing to keep it present in your mind and your days this year?
Posted on January 29, 2014
I obviously dislike being cold. Because in the past four weeks or so, I have made nearly ten long-sleeved tee shirts. I started with standard set-in sleeves, and now I’ve moved up to raglans. I might need a twelve-step program.
First it was the basic long-sleeved tee, and now it’s these raglan tees. They’re ridiculously quick and simple to sew up–just a handful of seams–and they are easy to wear. I love the chance to mix fabrics up together, and the fun of playing with color. Until my next Girl Charlee order arrives, I have a pretty limited palette, and I love the challenge of mixing up my few knits into the perfect shirt combinations.
This jersey version was not the first I made, but I think it’s my favorite. This persimmony-orangey color is so vibrant (in real life and on camera) and the heathered grey (which is the same as my grey tee with the bow–I bought, like, four yards of it, or something) pairs with it in a really fantastic juicy-plus-blah way that I love. The jersey is crazy, crazy soft, and the whole thing feels like a “real” tee shirt. I know that’s one of those goofy things that we say when we’ve sewn our own clothing, and probably reveals that many of us don’t see the clothing we’ve made as being as valuable or authentic as the clothes we bought in a store, but I’m here to tell you: this shirt feels as professionally-made as any shirt I’ve ever bought that was manufactured in Sri Lanka.
The neckline is the same on these tees as it is on all the basic tees I made–I love that it dips down a little lower and shows the collar bone, but that it still easily covers my undergarments and cleavage. I really, really dislike a tee shirt that I can’t wear when I’m cleaning the house or hanging out with my kids or doing the grocery shopping because if I bend over it shows my bosoms–that’s just ridiculous, and means I can’t function in my regular life, which makes the tee useless to me. At the same time, I don’t ever want to wear an “athletic” tee that has a higher neckline (outside of with my jammies) because I don’t feel very pretty in that neckline. This version has the advantage of meeting both my needs: I feel pretty, but modestly covered.
And speaking of athletic: hello!! Something about the baseball tee fit of these raglan sleeves, with the color blocking and the contrast cuffs, makes me feel like I am in a kickball league or something. I feel TOUGH. But, you know, pretty and with good hair.
The only issue I ran into with this version was the binding at the neckline edge. I learned, painfully, how deeply I dislike picking stitches out of jersey. Ach, what misery. I unpicked the entire neckline binding when it was unevenly distributed, leading to puckers in one area and too much stretching of the binding in another. And I got all kinds of icky tears and cuts in the fabric. I debated just cutting off the entire neckline 1/2″ down and working with new binding, but figured I could sew the original neckline back on, and if it was awful, re-bind it then–no harm, no foul. It’s finished, but it’s raggedy–so I am thinking I’ll leave it and call it “stone-washed.” Do we still stone wash things? I just know that I have seen maaaaaany tees from expensive and trendy shops at the mall with much more raggedy binding than this, and they were charging $60 a shirt. So maybe I’m not raggedy, maybe I’m ON TREND. How ya like THEM apples?
This version was fun to make because the green jersey is actually this funny bird’s eye pique knit, which was unusual enough that I bought two yards when I found it online (I think I got it from Fabric.com about two years ago). It’s veeeeery lightweight, but opaque and lofty, so it’s thin and warm. The sleeves are an interlock from an older collection of Patty Young’s for Michael Miller a few years ago.
I debated over and over whether the black should be the body or the sleeves, but since the interlock is a bit heavier than the jersey, I wanted to avoid having the sleeves seem wimpy in comparison to the body of the shirt. Plus, I have learned from sewing with these interlocks that they tend to be a bit stiffer and stand out from the body more, which isn’t the most slimming look, so I opted for vanity. I love the color combination, and think I’ll wear this a ton more than I would have a shirt with green sleeves and a black body.
I opted for a contrast stitch on the neckline, using black thread for the entire construction. Usually, the lightning stitch on my Bernina looks very much like a straight stitch when it’s done on jersey, but for some reason here–on the bird’s eye, especially–it looks a lot more like a zigzag. I still like that it stands out a bit at the collar and cuffs, but I don’t love it the way I had hoped.
Which didn’t stop me from taking you people to the Gun Show. Whazzup!
And finally there’s this cutie pie, which I love to an unnatural degree, and have worn every single time it came out of the washing machine over the last couple of weeks. Seriously, I think I’ve worn this eight times in two weeks, I love it that much. It’s the same dot as the blue and green basic tee, but here in Whipstitch yellow (thank you, Liesl Gibson!), and with this hysterical duckies print that makes me think of Johnny Dangerously every single time I put it on.
Like, for real: are these the cutest?? I think this was from the Girl Charlee clearance section? Maybe? It’s a super soft jersey, almost sheer but not quite–the kind you have to wear a flesh-colored bra under, but that is still tasteful.
Like all the rest of these tops, the seams are done with my walking foot and lightning stitch, and the hem was done with a single needle, mostly because I didn’t have a double on-hand. I chose to do contrast cuffs on the green and persimmon versions, but this one I simply hemmed the sleeves at wrist length.
I made the neckline a smidge wider on this one, and I am crazy in love with it. Those tiny polka dots!! With the duckies!! And it’s all so absurdly soft. I have been throwing this on under my around-the-house sweater (you know you have one, too–suitable with jammies or in car pool, but not nice enough for an actual outing where you will see real grown-up people, and still you favorite sweater ever) and have been snug as a bug, despite the fact that it is frigid outside and we steadfastly keep our thermostat at 65 degrees.
I like the longer length on all these tee shirts a lot. Remember a few years ago, when every tee you bought hit at the high hip, and you couldn’t have tucked one in, even if you’d really, really wanted to? Man, I am so over that. I like my shirts to have a little more length to them, and for sure was grateful when I went out to play in the snow this week: I totally tucked in my grey tee under my around-the-house sweater under my puffy jacket before heading out into the 11-degree cold, and it kept me cozy warm the whole time. I was out longer than the children! Hooray for long-sleeved shirts!
I think I might sew up a few of these as gifts, too, since I can only use so many in my real life. Or maybe I’ll make some for the kids? Oooh, matching Mommy-and-Me tee shirts!! Coming soon, mark my words.
To read more about sewing with knits and making your own tee shirts: check out Rae’s KNITerviews series on her blog, which has tons of really great links to follow to drown yourself in fabulous information about sewing with knit fabrics, and check out my Sewing Knits Without the Serger online class, where we make a tee shirt and four other awesome knit projects, with just your sewing machine. You’ll be whipping up raglan tees in no time!
Posted on January 27, 2014
All done and bound! Like a lot of us, I’ve been wanting a 60-degree triangle quilt for ages. Seems like a lot of us had the same yen around the same time, because I have seen a zillion quilts popping up all over the interwebs. But I love mine BEST. Yes, I do.
I started with a fabric bundle from Pink Castle Fabrics–the typewriters, the Architextures, and the persimmon Sketch are all from there. Then I mixed in some Robert Kaufman chambray in black, which was soft and grounding for the other prints. Finally, on a whim, I tossed in just a spare handful of pieces of Kona cotton in butter. And it was magic.
This is a standard 60-degree triangle quilt, which means that each piece is cut using a clear acrylic ruler. I cut 6″ strips from each fabric, then aligned the 60-degree line in my ruler with the cut edge, and cut a series of triangles from each strip:
It was way more therapeutic and relaxing than you might think, just cutting triangles over and over and over. Something about whipping that ruler around to alternate the angle from one cut to the next, it really made me feel like I was accomplishing something–but my brain could be pretty quiet. I was a very nice morning, let’s put it that way.
Naturally, it took waaaaay more triangles than I expected. I thought I was finished cutting, but I totally wasn’t. My sweet quilting bee ladies (hello, Bee Babes!!) came over to help me assemble the rows, and I had to stop halfway through and cut more triangles. But that’s the price we pay for wanting more than a lap quilt, am I right? Or am I right?
I’m crazy grateful for my Bee, too, for helping me put all these into rows. We started with 16 triangles per row, and built from there. I think in the end we did 14 rows–I’m not sure how many triangles that makes, but I bet you can do the math. Having said that, it was faster than you might think. And funner.
The key to sewing triangles together is getting the seams right. It can be tricky in a quilt like this, since you end up with little “ears” at the end of each seam, but I like the challenge. It keeps me focused, and then every seam is a chance to see if I can improve on the seam I just finished.
The trick is lining your edges up properly. Luckily for me, equilateral triangle pieces don’t require an offset–which is to say, I don’t have to account for the seam allowance when sewing my triangles together. I can just line the points right up and call it a day. When I sew the first two triangles together, I press the seam allowances to one side. From there, I can start matching pairs of triangles to one another, making sets of four. The points on one end will meet the un-sewn points on the matching triangle. On the other end, the pressed seam allowances will match the other point–most of the time. Sometimes, because of how the seam allowances are pressed, you’ll have to “draw them in” a bit–they won’t match, but you can use your eyes and instincts to visualize where they would be, and match the edges of your triangles that way. It’s like a fun game!
The better the seams are, the more nicely the points on all the triangles match when the quilt is finished. Which is vastly more satisfying than you might think–for reals, I felt like I was on top of the world with some of these finished seams. Good times, y’all.
I had a nice little assembly line going: our bee put together 10 rows while we were all together, so I cranked out another four. It was a nice night of Netflixing and chain piecing.
The colors are totally great, and match pretty much everything I own. Yellow? Check. Grayish-black? Check. Turquoise? Yep. Persimmon? My signature accent color. Plus: typewriters and text? Done and done.
For the backing, I dug around in my stash and landed on this amazing Violet Craft print, which (seriously, I didn’t plan this) just happened to have EVERY one of these colors in it, with a sweet little birdie design to boot. I threw in some Denyse Schmidt, a scrap of yellow left over from the All-Yellow Quilt, and a new piece of turquoise from Robert Kaufman. I used the same turquoise for the binding. The design of the backing was pretty ad hoc, improvisational–I think that little segment on the upper right looks a little like the flag of Sweden, but I might be reading something into it.
See? Flag of Sweden.
I quilted on both sides of every seam, which means six lines of quilting meeting at the intersection of each triangle. I love how clean it looks at the edges of the triangles, but how complicated it gets when it forms these little Stars of David at the intersections. Simple quilting with powerful results.
I’m thinking it will be happy this summer, out on the back patio alongside the All-Yellow Quilt. Those summer evenings aren’t always cool, but there seems to always be a need for an extra picnic blanket or fort blanket or squashy quilt to wrap around your shoulders when it suddenly starts to rain. Delicious.
While I was sewing this, I thought I could make a zillion of these. I wonder if that’s because it’s such a great design, one that would showcase nearly any set of fabrics and look great in any color, with any style. Now that it’s finished, though, I feel pretty good leaving this behind. I loooove the result, and I won’t be giving this quilt away, but I don’t feel especially burdened to make another one.
Of course: gift. That’s a pretty good idea. As one of the faster quilts I’ve made, a triangle quilt could make a good candidate for a quilt at the holidays or even for a preschool teacher–our son leaves to go to Kindergarten next year, and I think this year’s teachers could use something extra special when spring comes around.
Hmmm…. Something to think about while I’m reading library novels under my triangle quilt this summer, as the fireflies come out and I enjoy a balmy breeze. Ah, summer. Hurry up, already.
Posted on January 23, 2014
I am currently a non-stop long-sleeved tee shirt-making machine. Behold!
All these tops are sewn from the same pattern, a long-sleeved tee I drafted as I was making class samples for my Flat Patternmaking e-course. I wanted a chance to play around with sleeve length and hem finishes, and it turned into a little bit of a fixation around here for a few days. This is the first of the post-muslin versions, done in an older interlock from the Oliver + S City Weekend collection:
I love the contrasting cuff on the three-quarter-length sleeves here. That wasn’t totally intentional: I knew I wanted to use both colors of fabric, but I wasn’t completely sure how I wanted to make that happen. I actually did put on a contrasting hem band, but it made the overall length really unflattering, so it was chopped off. And once I did that, I realized I love the little pop of green just at the sleeves, and nowhere else.
This is a cotton interlock, so it has a lot of body and is super warm, and it fits in a slightly more structured way than a softer jersey with more drape would. I have piles and piles of jersey, too, so I figured: why not make more? Right? Come strong or don’t come at all, that’s our family motto.
This is version two, in a really wonderful heathered cotton jersey from Girl Charlee. As I was sewing it, I thought about what it would feel like to have an entire drawer of 65 tee shirts, all that fit perfectly but in different colors. And the answer came to me: pretty boring. Because as much as I adore having piles and piles of tees, the ones with nothing special about them get layered under other things. I don’t need more layering pieces, I need more unique pieces that are wearable and reflect my daily style.
Hence: the bow. A simple embellishment that doesn’t change the usefulness or wearability of this top at all, but sets it apart just enough from the everyday and mundane that (1) it’s a more interesting and fun piece to wear and (2) it’s worth making it myself rather than getting at the store. I used a modified version of Dana’s bow tutorial to make this one, with a slightly wider bow body and narrower center band, and I sewed it in place by hand both behind the center band and at the upper corner of the bow, to prevent it from drooping or getting too roughed up in the washing machine.
When the shirt was finished, even though I lengthened the sleeve from the blue polka dot version, they were still shorter than I wanted. I had planned to sew a banded finish, anyway, so I went ahead and cut it extra wide–a full three inch cuff here on these sleeves. It brings them to just above the wrist, and it’s sooo comfy. These cuffs are just rectangles of fabric cut to the width of the sleeve and the length of twice the desired finished length of the cuff (in this case, they were 8″ x 6″ rectangles). I folded in half and sewed the raw edges to the sleeve end, then topstitched the seam allowances in place. They’re nice and stretchy, but they’re not “quitters”–you know, when they stretch but don’t recover? I hate that. These don’t do that, and this is officially my new favorite shirt.
[Two side notes here, based on my comments about sewing staples for myself but wanting them to have a little pizazz: First, I rarely purchase tee shirts at the store any longer. I used to buy mine at Target, but the quality and durability of the tees I was getting there was, like, less than a season of wear. Which is totally uncool, even if you’re OK with them selling shirts for $5 that they paid a worker around the world only a few pennies to manufacture. I’d rather spend that $5 on fabric and sew it myself, or get a much higher quality shirt at TJMaxx for about the same cost (although that doesn’t address the issue of sweatshop labor, which I acknowledge). Second, I’ve taken to heart the really brilliant things both Sarai and Tasia have had to say about creating your own personal style (Sarai’s current Wardrobe Architect series is off-the-charts good–well-written and super thoughtful with lots of activities and chances to share your ideas; you should totally get in on that) and sewing more “cake” and less “frosting” (Tasia does such a great job of encouraging all of us to use our sewing time to make things we’ll really WEAR rather than things we like to look at but that don’t make sense given our day-to-day lives–that has surely influenced this current tee shirt craze for me).]
Once the bow happened, it was really a short walk to making more versions, which was part of the fun in this whole endeavor. I loved seeing what ideas I could come up with, and how they played out in real life, with real fabric. Like this version, with a stringy bow:
I’m not convinced this is the most successful of this batch, since it calls to mind thermal underwear just a smidge, but it’s a lovely wool blend with a narrow rib, and I like the sweater knit feel in a tee shirt–I mean, who makes a tee shirt from a mid-weight sweater knit, right? Just different enough, without trying too hard (and if I could summarize my behind-the-scenes style philosophy, that phrase would come pretty close). I added the stringy bow to make it a bit more feminine, and to call the eye away a bit from the extended cuffs, which I thought would look less like long johns when I saw them in my head.
Because this is wool, it’s a lot less clingy-drapey than the jersey on the grey version, and it does have a distinctly sweater-y feel to it, one that I really like. This works as a tee, which can be layered under a bulkier sweater in colder months, or as a mid-weight top that can be worn layered over a tank in the spring. Plus, the winter white is really easy on the eyes and goes with everything.
I didn’t find sewing with the rib knit at all different from sewing with the jersey or interlock, even though this is a looser sweater knit. I still used a stretch needle (because I didn’t have a ballpoint on hand and the stretch needle was new–newer needles always seem to do better on knits), still used my lightning stitch, and still used my walking foot. The one exception is the bow, which I cut on the length of grain and sewed with a straight stitch, because I didn’t need or want any stretch on it when I tied the bow. The tube for the bow was sewn on the machine, and the bow was stitched in place by hand.
This fourth version is superbly successful, and not just because it’s in my signature Whipstitch color. This bright yellow is a bamboo/rayon/Lycra jersey that I picked up from Fabric Mart Fabrics a while back–I bought it in four different colors, and I have no idea what I thought I would do with it, but got two yards+ in each color, so this was as good a time to sew it up as any. I adore the little jersey rosettes, which were wonderfully simple to make (I modified this tutorial and again sewed them in place by hand).
The Lycra gives it incredible recovery, so this is a hefty knit with lots of strength to it. It clings in all the right ways, but it can be cut with a little additional ease if you want it to fall away from the body. I found it especially easy to work with as I was making the little rosettes, because it behaved so nicely. I have a length of this in an apple green that I can’t wait to make into the perfect summer maxi dress (along these lines, but I haven’t settled on a pattern selection yet). The sleeves are much longer on this one, and just have a simple hem on them–like the hemming on the bottom of each of these, I turned under a 5/8″ hem allowance a single time, then used my lightning stitch to sew it in place. Usually I’d have gone for a double needle and some wooly nylon in the bobbin, but again: I didn’t have a double needle on hand, and I was IN THE ZONE. So, single row of stitches and a single-turned hem. I trimmed any excess fabric to just beyond the stitch line to avoid lumpiness.
In the photo above, right at the side seam near the hip, you can see the seam allowances, which reveal that I sewed every one of these shirts with just my sewing machine. I own a serger, but sometimes I just don’t feel like dragging it out from under the table and finding a spot for it, and with knits, you really don’t need it to finish off your seams. I used my lightning stitch and a walking foot, and that’s it–even on the hems. They all turned out beautifully, and I’m really pleased with how professional they look. I only wish I’d slowed down enough to put tags in the back neckline of each one as I was working! I love that all of these look really different, but they’re the exact same pattern with very small modifications. Having a go-to self-drafted tee shirt pattern is absurdly empowering, and really makes it easier to whisk right by the tee shirt displays in the shops.
Making the pattern is really fun and simple, but refining it was what made this project so enjoyable. Getting the sleeve cap juuuuust right and the fit of the shirt in the body–not too snug and not too loose, just enough ease for nearly any fabric–was actually more exciting than you might think (or else I’m a much bigger nerd than even I knew, which is saying something). It’s a recursive process, pattern drafting, but it is tremendously rewarding to work through how to change the lines you’ve drawn to get just the fit you want–it’s like a puzzle that comes together, and I had really way more fun than I should admit. I wanted a pattern that would be nearly universal–a Perfect Tee. It has taken me a number of iterations, but I think I nailed it here. At the absolute minimum, I’m not in any danger of running low on long-sleeve tee shirts for the remainder of the winter!
If you’re interested in drafting your own tee shirt pattern, there’s just enough time for you to join us in the Flat Patternmaking class–we’re making the tee this week! For more information on sewing with knits, Rae’s KNITerviews series is really excellent, and packed full of great links and resources and ideas. To learn more about sewing knits with just your sewing machine, you can register for my Sewing Knits without the Serger to learn more about working with knit fabrics exactly the way I did as I made all these tees!
Posted on January 16, 2014
If you’re planning to join us as a Sewing Buddy in 2014, be sure to register before the deadline THIS SUNDAY at midnight! I’ll be closing out registration at that point, and we won’t add any more Sewing Buddies this year. I have a whole year of monthly video, secret codes, meet-ups, freebies and interviews lined up for our Buddies, and I can’t wait to see what all of you will make! I’ve already gotten such great suggestions for challenges we’ll be pursuing together–which will include at least one swap, some charity sewing, and a garment sew-along, all exclusively for Sewing Buddies.
Click over to the Sewing Buddies 2014 registration page and join the fun!
The Sewing Buddy Project is open to anyone, anywhere–and if you’re local to Atlanta, you’re invited to join us for an in-person meet-up, too! Last year, I launched my monthly Sewcials, a casual meet-up of stitching folks, at a sweet little cozy coffee spot on the Chattahoochee River. I’m delighted to keep those going in the New Year, and the first is NEXT TUESDAY at 10 am! RSVP to join us, or learn more on the Sewcials page.
Posted on January 13, 2014
Starting TODAY! The Flat Patternmaking e-course is ready to roll! This class is one of my “live” online classes, which means that unlike some of my other e-courses (including Essential Sewing, Sewing Knits and Crafty Business Basics), this class meets daily for four weeks. Each day, a new lesson is revealed, we get the chance to work through and discuss it, and every student gets to share their ideas and results with me and everyone else! We have weekly class newsletters, a weekly live chat, and every student gets the opportunity to submit their “homework” for review and personal feedback from me as the course moves along.
The new e-course website allows me to include daily video, PDF downloads, and a ton of interaction in ways I couldn’t previously, and every student can not only create their own profile, but they can also archive their classes and access the content FOREVER (or at least as long as the internet lasts). That means that once the course is complete in its “live” format, students can go back to refresh, review or reference the material as often as they like–and over time, add more and more Whipstitch classes to their account and create a real sewing home for themselves.
I’m so excited about everything this class includes and how great all the projects turn out. Won’t you come join us? If you’ve ever thought about drafting your own patterns, creating your own looks, or making basic core pieces that you can return to again and again, Flat Patternmaking is a spectacular class to tackle the skills you’ll want to have. Just take a peek at some of the things we’ll be making:
From pencil skirts to A-line skirts to variations; from short sleeved tees to long sleeved tees to raglan sleeves; from summer sundresses to woven tops; we’re making a whole pile of great basics that you’ll be able to expand upon and riff on for a long while. Add to that the lists and links to resources and references and the excitement and fun of learning it all in community, and Flat Patternmaking really is a joyous class to be part of. I hope you’ll come play with us.
To register, visit the Flat Patternmaking e-course page and click through! Looking forward to “seeing” you in class!