Adventures in Dressmaking

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Little Denim Dress, for a dude ranch party and bridal shower - How to Wear DIY

The winning dress of the summer so far. Seriously, I wouldn't have believed what this dress could do till I saw it! (slash did it!)

I made The Little Denim Dress kind of on a whim since I had some extra fabric and love my versatile strapless dress pattern. But good thing, since I've already worn it to three different events!

My office's annual summer company picnic is a big event, and this year it was a "dude ranch" theme. And, of course I'm on the planning committee, so I figured I had to dress the part!

It was 95 degrees the day of the picnic, so a classic dude ranch-ey outfit of jeans, boots, and a plaid shirt was not an option. I thought about something else kind of western, like white cotton eyelet or a jean skirt, but I don't have anything in those categories. So rather than jeans, I wore the denim dress!

Cowboy boots would have been perfect with it, right? But also too hot, and I don't own any. Instead I opted for these neutral sandals I've been living in this summer. Seriously, they go with everything!

Ha! Me in a floppy cowboy hat!

As summer scheduling would have it, immediately after the picnic I had a friend's bachelorette party/bridal shower to attend. I probably could have brought something to change into, but I didn't have the planning capacity. So, I wore the dress and left the hat in the car!

Surprisingly, the dress was totally appropriate for the relaxed bachelorette party, too! I fit right in with everyone else in their summer dresses. Seriously, what a versatile dress!
Hat: J.Crew via Goodwill. Belt: Vintage, Goodwill. Sandals: Old Navy. Dress: DIY, here!


I'm never letting you go, Little Denim Dress. How many summer dresses are fun & easy to wear all day, plus receive compliments at both a work function and a girly bridal shower? Win win win!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Pretty home books, and 5 tips for small space gardening

I love getting inspired for making my home comfortable and beautiful. The inside and outside of my home.

So I got a chance to review Kelly Edwards's new book, The Design Cookbook: Recipes for a Stylish Home. Kelly is great with decor tips for small spaces and budget-friendly decorating. She wanted to offer up summer decorating DIYs, budget tips, indoor/outdoor space ideas, and easy gardening suggestions. I thought, yes, I could seriously use some easy gardening ideas!

This is our "garden" this year. It's gotten a little out of hand, as you can see by the climbing cucumber on the patio chair.

We're growing a few more plants than last year, and some new ones (we got starters from a coworker's garden), and they're definitely bigger than the few tomatoes and lettuces we had last year.

Gardening is not my strong suit. So I thought some of Kelly's tips on summer gardening for small spaces would be great for me and any readers with porch gardens!

Here are my five questions for Kelly, plus some of my fave plant-related images from her new book!

1) Favorite projects for beginning gardeners? 
a. If you’ve never gardened before start small with herbs in terra cotta flowerpots. They are so easy to grow. Just add water and follow the directions on the sun exposure. Or...if you’re lucky and have a friend with a green thumb have him/her help you out and plant a few things. We had our gardener start tomato plants in our backyard. A few months later we had enough for the neighborhood! Also, when starting out plant things that are easy to grow. Think salad...lettuce, tomatoes, spring onions, cucumbers, and bell peppers. You can’t go wrong there. 

2) What tips do you have for small space gardens or porch gardens? 
a. If you live in a small space and your only outdoor area is a porch or balcony, a garden can still be possible. The only difference is that you need to think mobile or vertical. Planting a mobile garden keeps your garden close and accessible. My favorite is the Food Map Container. Made with food grade plastic, it’s a perfect vessel on wheels to have on a porch or balcony that makes it so easy to grow in small spaces. Another option is going vertical with your garden. If you have a blank wall on a patio or deck it can provide for a great place to plant the vegetables or plants of the season. You can purchase pockets that hang, trays that mimic the look like a garden wall, or planting towers online. 

3) What outdoor projects do you find have the biggest impact without blowing your budget? 
a. If you have a deck re-staining it should be a definite summer project. Completed in a weekend or two it can do wonders for your back yard! With so many colors to choose from, it can turn a dull, cracked, worn out deck into a gorgeous entertaining space. However, if your budget is smaller add patio and backyard lighting. I always preach that lighting can make or break a design indoors. The same goes for the outdoors. Hang sting lights, install garden lighting or invest in lanterns for extra illumination. At night your place will glow. It’s my number one suggestion when entertaining. Make the lighting right! Lastly, planting new flowers and plants. A small bit of landscaping can go a long way. 

4) What are your favorite resources for DIY supplies for outdoor projects? 
a. While I’m a sucker for all home improvement stores I’ve found that Home Depot is great for tools, lumber and general construction supplies. Lowes is great for lighting, plants and decorative materials. A mix of the two always works for me. 

5) Any suggestions for keeping the outdoor space looking attractive even after summer plants have come and gone? 
a. I love planting herbs: thyme, mint, rosemary, and basil. These are all good choices that constantly give you plenty of love. I especially like that when the spring and summer months are over, I can bring them in and they are the gifts that keep on giving. We cook with them every night. Also, change out the décor with the season. Adding some blankets to each of the chairs outdoors or a great fire pit in the fall will keep your space looking like it well designed even when you get into the colder months.

She makes it sound easy.

The Design Cookbook has 335 pages and more than 1,000 contributors. I recognized several of my favorite home tours and projects from around the blog world.

I also love that one of the first pages proudly displays this great William Morris quote: "Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."

Great message for happy home decor, and goes well with all the inspiring images!

Thanks for the garden tips, Kelly!

Check out The Design Cookbook for lots more home dec ideas and projects!

Waterpik partnered with Kelly Edwards to share her tips and book with bloggers like me. Thanks to them!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Wash/Wear delicates travel bag tutorial

If I may say so myself... this project rocks!!

My dear friend is getting married, and I've been checking her Pinterest board for gift ideas as the date approaches - and I went to her bachelorette lingerie party the other weekend. Rather than get her lingerie, since I knew she'd be getting a lot of that from everyone else, I wanted to make her the perfect accessory that she'd pinned an example of!

She had pinned this delicates clean/dirty laundry bag, from Gap Outlet a while back, although there are similar ones online (like this and this). She's spending two weeks in Italy for their honeymoon - lovely, right?! - and wanted this for traveling.
Source

But it's not sold online, and I figured I could make one for her!! This is my friend Alyssa, who I've talked about before in Sewing with Friends, and who is very sweet and knows how to sew herself - so if I was going to make her something, it had to be really cool!

So I did a little thinking and designing, and pulled out my Silhouette machine and heat transfer material, and created something just for her!

I made another one for myself, too, for you to see in this tutorial!



DIY Wash/Wear Delicates Laundry Bag Tutorial


This tutorial will help you create a 20" x 12" double-zipper laundry sorter bag.

You will need:


  • 1/2 yard sturdy fabric, such as cotton denim or other bottomweight (I recommend 100% cotton for breathability)
  • 2 zippers, 12-14" (I recommend conventional poly zippers, although I used invisible ones (just a little bulky.) I have a great zipper shop sponsor on my sidebar right now - amazing prices and selection, I'm never buying zippers from the fabric store again!!)
  • Silhouette machine
  • Heat transfer material (Silhouette is offering my readers 30% off on it through TODAY, July 24! Use code DRESS at SilhouetteAmerica.com)

1. Pre-wash the fabric. This is super important if you're using 100% cotton, since it will probably shrink the first time you wash it and you definitely want the bag to be washable without changing size or straining the letters.

Cut front and back pieces. Mine were 13"x23", allowing for 1/2" seam allowances.

2. Design text! I used a Twentieth Century MT in the Silhouette Design Studio. You can adjust widths, spacing, etc. - it probably would have looked cool to space the letters out on mine.. oh, well!

Make sure you flip the design so it will print backwards and transfer correctly. Load the heat transfer material and hit "Cut"!


Peel the negative space out of the design.

3. Find the center of the bag pieces, as well as the left and right side centers. To find the true center, fold pieces in half. To find the left and right side centers, fold the sides back toward the true center but overlap them 1/2" because there will be a 1/2" side seam.

4. Line up your text using a big quilting ruler or other large straightedge. I centered mine on the center lines of each side. The plastic side of the heat transfer material is light a heavy sticker, so it will stay in place once you line it up.

5. At the ironing board, with a press cloth, iron the letters down hard and for a long time. Let the plastic cool a tiny bit and slowly peel off the backing. I ironed even a little more after peeling off the plastic, still with the press cloth, to make sure the letters fully merged with the fabric!

6. Assemble the bag. Install the zipper. (If using an invisible zipper, check out my "no tears, no pulling out invisible zipper method tutorial"!) Leave about a 3/4" gap at the very center where the zipper ends will meet.

At the center, carefully cut the zippers so they meet but don't overlap and create extra bulk. Press.

With a zipper foot, sew the 3/4" gap at the center and between the zipper seams closed.

7. Finish assembling the bag. Sew the side seams and bottom seam and trim the bottom corners. Press seams open.

8. Sew the center (dividing) seam. Turn the bag right side out and carefully mark (with pins, fabric pen, or chalk) the center line from top edge to bottom edge so you know where to sew to make a straight line.

I also topstitched the zipper ends flat on either side to keep them from flipping out. Optional!

That's it!

 Here's the one I made for my friend!

If you want to try it at home, check out the heat transfer material here and use your 30% off reader discount on it at SilhouetteAmerica.com until TODAY, July 24! Use code DRESS at checkout!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sewing Circle question: Drafting a crossback open back dress

It's been a while, but I got a great Sewing Circle question that I wanted to share with you, and get your tips for! Danielle wrote to me about another kind of backless dress (see this Sewing Circle about how to modify patterns for backless dress varieties and this tutorial on how to make an open back shape) - I had to think about this one for a while! But I think I've got it down and here are some tips on how to make this kind of summery dress yourself. (See also tips for sewing on knits!)

Q: Your blog has inspired me to better my sewing skills and start making more of my own clothing. One thing I've been dying to make is a crossback/open back dress. I loved your tutorial on how to alter any dress pattern to have a cutout back, but the style dress I'm going for is more like this Forever 21 dress:

Or this AE dress:


Where the cutout is right above the waistband. Do you know of any pattern that I could use to recreate this? Or any tips on how to alter a pattern for this? 

My biggest problem is how to finish the waistband in the back. I've only ever made dresses where the skirt attaches to the bodice all the way around so the raw edge of the skirt is all inside (attached to the bodice obviously). I just don't understand how to attach the front part of the bodice to the skirt and then finish off the rest of the raw edge of the skirt in back so it looks nice. Do I just fold over the raw edge on the backside and stitch it down? What if I'm adding elastic to the back like this dress?


A: Cute dresses! Unfortunately I haven't seen the perfect pattern, and I think mainly because those are made of unlined lightweight cotton knit, and most sewing patterns are for lined, structured dresses. But, you can definitely make one with a basic knit dress pattern (like The Out and About Dress) and some pattern-drafting. Picture this simple bodice (any sleeve length you like, or leave off the sleeves), plus a circle skirt or simple flared skirt, and the crisscross back drafted how you want it.

The most similar pattern I found for the open back and skirt treatment was actually for kids (this one), although it may shed some light on the construction. I think the key for your dress, where the crisscross starts at the side seams, is finishing the back of the skirt like an actual separate skirt - so yes, fold it back on itself and add the elastic, or add elastic in a casing. Zoom in on the AE dress in the solid red color to really see how it's made!

As for the crisscross straps, I think you'll have to play around with those and cut two of the back piece (rather than cutting on the fold, as your pattern would probably have you do), and you can finish the edges with either self-fabric bias binding (like the Forever 21 dress) or by turning under twice, maybe with some elastic to keep the fabric from stretching (like the AE one).

You can probably play around with your fabric and look at a few simple patterns that you like to see how you could modify them! And, if you're not confident in drafting or want a more structured dress, luckily there are lots of semi-backless dress patterns out there nowadays. Like this one.


Readers, have you seen a pattern for this kind of dress before? How would you modify a basic dress pattern to make this kind of comfy knit? I'm sure Danielle would love to hear your ideas, too!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A pillow after my own heart

Obviously I love home decor. I have pages and pages of posts about home decor projects I've done, plus a home tour I'm very proud of, full of DIY projects and things I love.

Big reason for this? Not only do I love creating things and surrounding myself with pretty things that allow me to express myself, but also - I love being at home!

I always have, although I spent plenty of time away from my tiny college and post-grad school apartments and rentals. But now, we have a home we love and a great space we've made our own, and I love being here! I'm not ashamed.

I'm so content with this personality trait of mine, in fact, that I decided to make a big banner advertising it to myself and whoever else sees my living room. I've been having so much fun with my Silhouette machine already and have done several heat transfer material projects (can't wait to show you a tutorial for an amazing one next week!!), so simple white text in heat transfer material was perfect for this pillow. (Also, SilhouetteAmerica.com is offering my readers 30% off heat transfer material until July 24! Use code DRESS at checkout!)

So, wanna see what I made my pillow say?


Yep, that's me! A happy homebody!

Urban Dictionary says that means, "A person who enjoys the warmth and simple pleasures of being at home." Sounds good to me.

Further proof that I love home decor and being at home? I played around with the pillow in different places, but it's always surrounded by other things I've made. Like this black vintage wingback chair slipcover....

Or some homemade stripey pillows and my big zigzag ikat-ey painting.

It is so great to have the freedom to make my own text transfers! Want to make your own? It can say anything you want! What defines you at home?!

DIY Lettering Pillow


You will need:


  • Pillow form
  • Yardage for pillow cover (I recommend a heavier/home dec weight cotton)
  • Zipper
  • Silhouette machine
  • Heat transfer material (Silhouette is offering my readers 30% off on it through July 24! Use code DRESS at SilhouetteAmerica.com)
  • Or, buy the pre-cut letters in the appliqué section of the craft store

Instructions:

(Very similar process to the one I used last week in my DIY text tote bag! Check it out for photos!)

1. Design text! I used a basic font in the Silhouette Design Studio and played around with size and spacing.
2. Flip design so it will print backwards and transfer correctly. Load the heat transfer material and hit "Cut"!
3. Peel the negative space out of the design.
4. Center the text on the pillow front fabric.
5. With a press cloth, Iron the letters down through the plastic backing for several minutes. Let the plastic cool a tiny bit and slowly peel off the backing.
6. Install zipper to front and back pieces.
7. Sew pillow front and back together.

That's it!

So fun!!

Check out the heat transfer material here and use your 30% discount on it at SilhouetteAmerica.com until July 24! Use code DRESS at checkout!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Little denim dress, where have you been all my life?

Is the "Little Denim Dress" a thing? I think maybe it should be.

I bought extra of this denim when I made this dress, because I loved it so much and it was 50% off the clearance price, and boy, am I glad I did! I realized I've been needing a strappy dress that's playful and not at all dressy, to wear on hot days when I want something super easy to throw on but don't want to look dressed up in a dress.

I used my old standby strapless dress pattern, McCalls M5849, which is out of print, but is a very basic princess seam pattern. I use it a lot. I added medium-width straps, and I thought a pleated skirt sounded good. Something a little different. I also added some pleats down the center front, since I liked them so much on my first denim dress!



One big difference between this and my other dresses with my fave strapless pattern is I did this one unlined. The denim is lightweight, but still sturdy enough to keep most of its shape in the bodice.

To keep the raw edges from fraying, I pinked the edges. I used a bias binding at the top edge rather than a facing or lining to keep it in place. It worked out great! Here's an inside view.


It's like playclothes! I know we'll have much more hot weather, so many more chances to wear this new dress! The Little Denim Dress - I highly recommend it!

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