Thursday, April 7, 2016


Where sewing is involved, I tend to go through "stages". Unless there is a specific event or holiday in mind, my sewing revolves around my children. So practical, easy clothing pieces that withstand daily laundry, easy care, no ironing and fun colors just spell "knits" for me.

"Knits" is a general term we use to describe fabrics that are knitted (as opposed to woven) during manufacturing: jersey, interlock, mesh, stretch lace, etc. Most of my children's everyday clothes are made with Cotton/Lycra Jersey. Lycra (spandex) adds a little stretch to the garment to help it maintain shape and durability.

But for girls' "dressy dresses" - yes, that's what we call them - as opposed to regular dresses woven fabrics are my first choice. Yes, there are plenty dressier knit fabrics, stretch lace, rayon blends, but nothing beats a beautifully made woven dress.

I have made quite a few woven dresses for my girls, mostly using "The Big 4" patterns, but recently came across some fabulous, fun dress patterns by Independent Designers.

I have discovered Candy Castle Patterns (no affiliation) - so many fun dress patterns for girls!
Thing I like the most? You can combine bodice and sleeves from one pattern with a skirt from another pattern, creating your own version. I purchased the Peppermint Swilr Dress and The Candy Castle Princess dress and planning on making both next week.

While on the lookout for more woven girls' dress patterns to try, I was lucky to test the Infinite A-line Dress Pattern by Bonnie from from Whisk 'Em Pattern. This is my go-to woven dress pattern for now. Originally made the button back, empire waist 3/4 sleeve version with an added ruffle.
I used quilting cotton fabric for the body, KAM (plastic) snaps instead of buttons, shortened the sleeves to 3/4 and my daughter loves it!

Planning on a simple a-line dress with accent pockets next. Great way to use up my quilting cotton stash, since I haven't been quilting much lately.
One advantage PDF pattern designers have over "The Big 4" are the clear photos of each step in the pattern. I find that written instructions, doesn't matter how detailed are not enough for many self-taught beginners! You, know, "a picture is worth a thousand words".

And while, at this point in my sewing, I rarely use instructions, I truly appreciate a designer who puts in time and thought into making the pattern approachable to all.

Oh, and I almost forgot! If you need cotton wovens for your dress, MODA is giving away yardage daily on Craftsy until April 9th!

This dress definitely needs a matching knot headband!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Basic T-Shirts and Tips for using a Twin Needle in your Sewing Machine

It has been a while since I posted. Not due to lack of sewing content to post, but due to lack of time. Spring is almost here, which means lot's of spring sewing. T-shirts, short-sleeve dresses, shorts and swimsuits are all on my "to-sew" list in the coming weeks.
I have also received beautiful fabrics -some I styled and had printed myself, some from custom fabric groups and some bright,beautiful solid jersey knits to complement pinted fabrics.
Some of my favorites this week:

White Stars on Charcoal Background - great neutral fabric for both boys and gilrs
Tiny Pink flowers - to be used as an accent in spring dresses
Soccer Ball print Jersey - for my boys
Lace print on lilac Jersey - custom printed for me.
More about stuff made from these fabrics later this week.

What have I been sewing / making /crafting lately?

First of all, I've been lucky to test Pickle Toes T-Shirt Pattern. What's sets this T pattern aside? Sizing! Available in regular and slim, this is definitely one of the most comprehensively sized T-shirt's I have tested. Included are sizes 2-18 in tunic or shirt length with optional hood .
One thing I was truly impressed about - is the designer's desire to get the sizing "just right". We had to give feedback on shoulder width, neck width and length, etc., etc. and quite a few adjustments were made to the pattern over the testing period. This a loose fitting T-shirt, perfect for spring and summer if made in lighter weight cotton jersey or interlock.
My teen approved (you know, as much as a teen approves of anything mommy made).

I used lightweight camo print ponte fabric for the body and Olive Cotton/Lycra jersey for the neck.

Another new to me pattern I used this week was the Pretty Panel Dress from A Sparkle Baby Designs, purchased during the last sale and never got around to using it.
While I like the ease of traditional garment construction, I am always on a lookout for something new and fund, and this dress was both!
What a great design to use those custom fabric panels I am  hoarding (admit it, I am not the only one!) For this dress, I used 2 fun cotton prints and no panel, but I already have another one cut out in size 6, ready to go.

This one is heading out to my Etsy and Zibbet Stores ;)

And this brings me to few tips on using a twin needle on your sewing machine.
All vertical seams on the dress above as well as neckline were topstitched using a twin (double needle). I used to hate using a double needle for many, many years, until, I was able to come up with combination of "tricks" which help create the best seam every time.
Top-stitching with a double needle gives you handmade garments this " finished" look.

  • Use the right needle for the job! This is the most important rule of all, in my opinion. The needles are available in ballpoint, jersey, regular and in numerous size to correspond to the type of fabric you are using. Choose the correct needle. I use ballpoint for cotton jersey, interlock and ponte and universal for cotton twill, lightweight denim and quilting cotton.

  • Thread your sewing machine using both threads as one, as you normally do, up to the thread guide immediately preceding the needle.The last guide will separate the 2 threads, preventing the twisting and tangling in the sewing needles.
  •  Use Wooly Nylon Thread in the bobbin if you are sewing stretch, jersey, lycra, interlock, etc. fabrics. This sounds odd to some, but Wooly Nylon provides great coverage on the wrong side of the seam, without compromising seam structure and stretch. To wind the bobbin, use your machine, but guide the tension with your hand and not through tensions disk, as you want to have a little slack in the thread for extra coverage.

Right Side - Contrasting Thread Top-stitching
Wrong Side - lighter color is Wooly Nylon

  • Lower top thread tension - just a notch or two - you will need to experiment here
  • Lengthen your stitch - I use 3.2-3.6 for most projects with twin (double) needle

  • If you do not have an additional thread post (the "stick" that holds the spool you can use the same one, by winding matching thread on a spare bobbin and placing both the bobbin and spool on the same post, making sure they unwind in different directions.
  • Read your sewing machine manual! This should be top tip, but I assumed that you already did this. In any case, your manual will explain in short how to use and thread your machine for double needle use.
  • For top-stitching denim - use a heavy needle, denim thread and regular thread in the bobbin. I always get a little "worming" on the wrong side due to thread weight difference, but since the stitching is purely decorative, I consider it acceptable.

 Enjoy! I hope these tips will help you in achieving this "special something" to take your garments from "homemade" to "handcrafted".
Have more tips? Please add them in comments below and I will update the post (with reference to your comment, of course)

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Camden Raglan by Hey June Handmade and books!

Adrianna of Hey June Handmade has released the Camden Raglan Pattern.  On sale now for $6.50

I was fortunate to test this pattern and we were very pleased with the fit! Finally, a well fitting, slim raglan for girls with sleeve options and a nice neckline. And while my daughters are still young, I can see this pattern becoming a staple in their tween and teen wardrobes soon, as the pattern includes sizes 6-16.

This was my first time trying a Hey June pattern and I was impressed with the layout, instructions and illustrations.

Here is our version:
I added a contrasting band to the 3/4 sleeve- perfect for spring and no hemming!

And look at this gem of a book I found while browsing C&T Publishing Sale:

Many times I feel sad when my kids outgrow that special outfit or shirt I "just made", they grow so fast and the custom print fabric is not cheap! This book is full of ideas on extending the life of these clothes and up cycling ideas. On sale for $2!

Another one I found: Sew Modern Baby - a bargain at $3 during the sale

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Last week sewing roundup: t-shirt, dress, pants and more.

It has been a busy sewing and pattern testing week for me, and that is the reason for lack of blogging on my part. I finished a dress, 3 t-shirts, 3 pants, bolero cardigan and a wristlet.

I am starting with the dress, since it was the most fun and funky (yes, I said) funky project to make.

The pattern is the Little 4 A While Penny Dress and it's so much fun!
My daughter loves it, her teaches loved it  and all the preschoolers loved it!
Just looking at these colors makes me happy!
I used cotton lycra and cotton interlock and couldn't be more pleased with the results.
The second level could definitely be made from scraps.

And of course, obligatory twirl test: PASSED!

Next up, Tshirts for the little guy, getting ready for spring and summer. The Reid from EllieDactyl is a great pattern with so many options! I like the colorblocking, since I get to use up all the cotton lycra scraps and with a little extra effort and some topstitching, the results are worthy of any children's wear boutique. Here are some I made this week:

 Yes, the monsters are upside down, but  let's face it, my kid stands on his head at least some of the time!

And some pants to go with these:Both are Chipmuk Cheeks Pants from Duck Butt Designs.

Here is the "modeling" shot me son allowed me to take.

And an action shot: Hiking! Yes, the sky was really this blue, not a cloud!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Empress Shirt, Tunic and Dress - a pattern review and "bling" transfer tutorial

My oldest daughter isn't into dresses anymore. The A-line swing dress aka Lil' LDT with cowl neck from Love Notions is the only dress she is willing to consider. She does like to jump and twirl, however as all gymnasts do.
So, what's a great alternative to a twirly dress? A great peplum top, of course! When A Sparkly Baby recently came out with the Empress Dress pattern, I admit, I said "not another twirly dress!". But after testing it, I realized I was wrong!

First of all, there are so many t-shirt top, twirly circle skirt dress patterns out there. What grabbed my attention is the empire waist a-line tunic option. My daughter, wanted a "twirly" top, however.
The end result is a shirt length, peplum top with 3/4 sleeves and petal ruffle trim - perfect for spring!

I can see myself using this pattern again and again. First of all, the sizing is very generous Preemie to Size 14! I love, love when designers include all sizes and I don't have to purchase  multiple copies for my girls.
The skirt options include circle skirt, hankie hem, a-line in tunic, shirt and dress length.
Sleeves: short, 3/4, long, hemmed, ruffle, petal ruffle (my favourite!)
And, of course the ever popular hood. Definitely worth the price!
Use coupon code "EMPRESS" to save 30% on any pattern in A Sparkly Baby pattern store (I am not an affiliate, just love these patterns!)

How to make a custom Iron On (Hot Fix) Rhinestone Transfer

I used Hot Fix Trasfer Film Roll from my favourite supplier in China, you can see it here

Step 1: Print out your desired design, letter, initials, etc. Important! If your are using letters, print "mirror reflection" or flip the design horizontally in your Photo Imaging software. (mine is not flipped or mirrored.

 Step 2: Remove, but do not discard white textured backing from your hot fix transfer film

Step 3: apply the clear film to paper, sticky side up, securing on sides with masking tape.

Step 4: Bling you design! Apply your hot fix rhinestones, glass side down and glue side up.

Step 5: Cover the design with white texture backing, adhere slightly, flip over and admire!
adjust slightly if necessary, re-position rhinestones.  Oh, look, my design is flipped! That's what happens if you print out your design incorrectly!

Step 6: prepare your garment piece. Press with hot iron, find and mark horizontal and vertical center (if you want the design centered on your piece).

Step 7: center the design  on your fabric piece, film sticky side down.
Cover with 2-3 layers of cotton woven fabric and press lightly for 10 seconds.

Step 8: Flip the part over and press for 30 seconds from the wrong side to secure the rhinestones. Let cool, remove film. You are done!

What happened with my "wrong" layout? I turned it 90 degrees and pretended it spells "e.s." which works for us!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Mackinaw Coat by Designs by Call Ajaire


I definitely sew many easy, fast, comfy pieces and outfits for my kids and myself. That's how we like it. Easy on and off, easy care, great for layering knits, tops, sweatshirts, leggings.

But once in a while I love to make a structured garment. First of all, I get to "dust off" sewing skills I haven't used in a while, think of creative solutions to sewing problems and enjoy the process.

The Mackinaw Coat allowed me to do all that. First of all, the testing was fun! I've tested a few indie patterns and this designer stood out with attention to detail. Once you see the pattern, you will understand.

It was a pleasure to sew, the instructions are fantastic, and very detailed with full color illustrations.

And best of all - my daughter is very pleased with the coat! As a matter of fact, she has requested another one, black with black fur collar of course, since black goes with everything!

I made the dramatic collar version in Painting Red Rhinos baby corduroy with a fleece collar, bound buttonholes and cotton hot pink cheetah print lining.
The fit was excellent and true to size, nice shoulder definition and roomy enough through the sleeve to add insulation, if the need arises.

An adventurous beginner/intermediate sewist  would have a great time making this coat and learning new techniques. And if you want easy? Just follow the instructions, omit bound buttonholes and replace with regular buttonholes or even KAM snaps (large plastic snaps) and you are done!

Options include: dramatic or regular shawl collar, built in loop detail, sizes 12 month to 12 years for both boys and girls, buttoned belt and bound buttonholes, front pockets with optional placket.

I would love to try out a denim version as well - it would look fantastic in dark denim with lighter fleece collar, topstitching and brass jeans buttons.

Pattern Release Promo
Currently use coupon MACK15 to receive 15% off from Designs by Call Ajaire Etsy Shop though February 21st or join Designs by Call Ajaire Facebook Group for a special 25% coupon and a sew along starting February 23rd. I am planning on joining the sew-along just for fun!

Head over to Call Ajaire's Facebook Group to see fabulous versions other testers made.