Tissue Should Be For Noses

Modern patterns (in an envelope) come invariably printed on the finest of tissue papers.  Finest in sturdiness, not quality.  Look at that tissue paper wrong, and you may well be making another trip to the fabric store to pick up a replacement.  When I was first learning to sew a few years back, I thought this was the only way you could go.  And it was one of the main reasons I hated making new things.  Cutting out the tissue paper pieces and then trying to cut around them was incredibly challenging.  Especially before I had a work surface to lay everything out on.  And what if you cut out your size, and then, heaven forbid, you want to make a different size later?  Again, off to your LFS you go.  Very frustrating and a definite impediment to actually sewing a garment.  I don’t think tissue paper is going away.  The Big 4 (McCalls’ Butterick, Vogue, and Simplicty) as well boutique designers like Colette and Sewaholic likely will never be able to afford to print their patterns on muslin or card stock or even printer paper.  (Well, the home sewer probably couldn’t afford it if they did.)  But that shouldn’t stop us from doing so!  Here are some ways I have dealt with the hated tissue issue:

Avoidance aka Print-at-home Patterns

Everyone has been raving about Colette’s printed patterns and the finished pieces I see all over the blogosphere are simply gorgeous.  But, at ~$18 a pattern, I decided to test the waters first with their free Sorbetto pattern.  Y’know, can I follow their instructions and make a decent garment?

It was my first time printing a pattern on a printer, cutting it out, and taping it together.  I really thought it would be impossible to do, but it worked just fine.  And guess what? It was also infinitely easier to cut out the pattern, because it was printed on regular printer paper.  Not the flimsy tissue paper I was used to.  Not many of my go to designers offer print-at-home options across the board, but I think this is the future of patterns.  Colette added this option to their summer collection, and the waist cincher I am making came as a PDF!  When it is an option, I will probably opt for this.

Tracing via Carbon Transfer

If you don’t like taping a pattern together, don’t have a printer, or just prefer traditional tissue paper, there is another way to preserve your full pattern.  I’d tried tracing patterns before using carbon paper made specifically for sewing.  I think it was Clover brand.  Let’s just say, it was a disaster, and I quickly returned to my cut and trace with pencil method.  Then I bought Sewaholic’s Cambie dress pattern, and I quickly realized this was not going to work.  For one thing, the pattern was on the spendy side.  So the alterations I planned to make needed to be spot on right out of the envelope, or I was going to have to shell out more money to re-buy it.  Not practical.  I went to an art store and bought some Saral transfer paper.  It comes in 5 colors and the roll is large enough that you should be able to trace a few garments (at least) before replacing the roll.  I roughly cut around the pattern pieces, and then used the Saral to trace it onto the fabric.  It worked like magic!  As I gazed down and saw those little grey lines on my black fabric, and did a happy dance of joy.  I will be using this method to transfer markings to fabric when tissue is involved.  Caveat: they say the grey is the most versatile color for transfer.  If you tend to sew grey things, get a second color.  I was quite sad last night squinting at my grey lining fabric trying to make out grey pattern lines.  I actually cut the hem wrong because of it.  Sadface.  Luckily it’s just a lining.  I picked up a roll of the yellow, and I am glad I did!

Reinforced Patterns

After my first Sorbetto, I knew I would be making a few of these tops.  They’re so easy to make, flattering, and amenable to nearly any woven fabric.  After making several alterations to the pattern, I decided it was time to immortalize it.  I happened to find poster board at Walgreen’s for 99c a sheet, and the sheets were large enough to accommodate the pattern.  It took a little effort to transfer the markings, but it was a great choice.  (Probably could have used the Saral if I’d known it existed.)  I can easily run a pencil along the thicker edges without the pattern moving.  My favorite immortalization method.  Here is the technique applied to the Sewaholic Cambie!

Now, I should say that I have been entertaining the idea for a while of transferring one pattern in particular to interfacing.  I bought a very thick piece from Joann’s to trace Butterick’s OOP 6884.  I’ve made 5 pairs of bloomers, so it was time to preserve the pattern before it disintegrated.  I had no desire to troll the web (again!) to find the pattern in my size.  The interfacing was quite a bit pricier than the poster board, but it worked.  It also can be rolled up for storage.  It’s a little awkward, however, to trace the pattern pieces because the interfacing is pretty thick.  It should be my preferred method, but I can’t imagine spending so much money for each pattern I’d want to trace.  That money will be going to actual fabric, thank you very much.  If you have the money, though, I would recommend at least trying it out.

I have also heard talk of ironing interfacing to the back of patterns.  I’ve never tried this, as I am staunchly opposed to iron-on interfacing.  It’s not that it’s a poor choice.  I just can’t seem to get good results using it.  Always buckles, bunches, or folds on me at the worst time.  So, if you have interfacing pressing skills, this may be an option for you.


I am by no means an expert, but these are some shortcuts I have discovered through trial and error that help you get to the fun part of sewing faster and with less effort.  There’s an initial time suck, but then you’ll be cranking out item after item in no time!  If you have other tips for dealing with flimsy tissue paper, I would love to hear them!


Home Improvements

In the midst of class prep, 5k training, and summer cleaning, I have also been embarking on a redesign of my bedroom.  I haven’t lived in my apartment for nearly a year (except for a day or two a week), and I wanted a new look for the coming school year.  I have named the redesign “Operation Stormy Seas.”  Now, I realize that sounds ominous, but the name comes from my obsession with stormy days at the beach.  I have always preferred the beach on overcast days, so I decided to make that my theme.  I’m using blues and greys to tie it all together.  I’m really excited for the big reveal.

For now, here is a picture of one mini dresser I painted last month and a dresser runner I made for each of the three dressers.  You can see the horribly stained and disgusting ironing board cover underneath the lovely vintage boats fabric.  I will have an update on that in a few days!

The Fabric

The Pre-miter and Mitered Corner

The Runner In-Situ (lamp in limbo)

Happy Tuesday!

It’s a…Corset (sort of)!

The idea of wearing a corset has always fascinated me.  If I could manage wearing a Victorian frock on a daily basis with a lovely shape-enhancing , I would.  Unfortunately, I don’t own a Victorian frock, and have you seen what passes for a corset these days?

Umm, no thank you.  If you’re into burlesque, that’s cool, but corsets are strictly underwear for me.  I much prefer the look of this little number.

It’s not a full corset, just a waist cincher type deal, but it’s so cute. If you’ve ever wanted to know the difference between various waist cinching objects, check out this article.  Of course, if you can’t be bothered to don a corset, there’s a new craze that should make you leap with joy 🙂

But let’s get back to the waist-cincher, shall we?  The pattern is from Mrs. Depew Vintage.  It’s a relatively pricey pattern for print-at-home.  It is also pretty severely lacking in the instructions department.  If you’ve made corsets before, or can ask people who have made corsets before tons of questions, I have no doubt the instructions are sufficient.  I, however, had a bear of a time today trying to put this together.

Let’s start with the printing.  I printed out the pattern on regular printer paper and laid them out in order.  The first thing I noticed was that the size 33″ had some wonky lines.  It’s a hand-drawn  (or something) pattern, which doesn’t bother me, but the lines didn’t quite line up for the biggest size.  I will give her the benefit of the doubt because a ton of other people seemed to have no issues.  I’ll be making a different size, so maybe it’ll work better next go-round.

Then there was the actual muslin making.  First things first. You have to add your own seam allowances.  There is NO guidance within the pattern instructions themselves.  I mean, seriously?  This alone took me a good 30 minutes to figure out.  I did consult the blog posts from the pattern-maker and her sew-a-long partner, but shouldn’t the pattern have everything you need to make it up?  I think there should definitely be a disclaimer in her Etsy shop listing.  Since there are a ton of pages between them, I was unable to locate the info before I nearly went insane.  So, in spite of the fact that I knew there was an ideal number, I arbitraily picked 1/2″.  Of course, this evening, after scouring both blogs numerous times, I found that both ladies had chosen 5/8″.  Yay.

I did trace all the pieces, transfer all markings, and add my seam allowances after a few botched attempts.  I sewed all the pieces together using a plain straight seam.  This was the easiest part of construction.  It looked like this.  (Pardon the chaos.  I have more furniture to put together.)

I was feeling pretty awesome after the sewing and pressing.  And then I read the blog post for adding eyelets.  I originally planned to add grommets to the muslin, but then I read that you don’t need to.  Just make some boning channels, add some buttonholes, and lace that baby up!  Hmm, boning channels…  The instructions for this crucial step were so incomplete, so frustratingly incomplete, that it took me HOURS to puzzle through the pictures and written online tips.  HOURS!  Ugh.  I read through the pattern-makers blog entries, and although the pictures looked easy, the fabric widths listed were vastly different from my muslin pieces.  I kept thinking I had missed something.  I decided to wing it, and just sewed a channel on both sides of the back opening.   I I folded each half over, being careful to avoid the  bone casings, and snipped the fabric horizontally in lieu of button holes.  There may have been some aggressive seam ripper action too.  (Oh and it turned out that the “good” instructions were on the sew-along partner’s blog…grrr.) It didn’t end up too poorly!

I put it on, though, and meh.  It did smooth my problem areas, but it fit a little loosely.  (Can’t put the actual pics here, cuz I was skantily clad, ahem.)  Actually, I felt very little support at all until I sat down.  Again, directions, I curse you!  I’m going to assume that when you pick your waist size, you should not pick the size closest to your actual measurements.  After making the muslin, it seems logical, but again, I’ve never made a corset.  It would have been lovely to find that out hours earlier when I was tracing my pattern pieces.  Here’s Maggy looking svelte.

So, I am happy with the height of the front pieces, the fit of the back pieces, and my MacGuyvered lacing.  What I’d like to improve is the height of the back pieces, the looseness of the waist and underbust areas, and the stiffness of the bones.  I’m wondering if it will feel more snug once I remove a few inches, but I’m seriously considering upgrading from the plastic boning recommended on both blogs to steel boning.  The plastic bones bent in weird way that I don’t think should happen.  I don’t want to impale myself on steel boning, though.

So there you have it.  My first corset muslin.  I’m afraid of what the actual version will bring.  I haven’t tried flat-felled seams, eyelet punching, grommet installation, binding or lining the thing.  I also have to retrace the pattern pieces for a 31″ waist, add the new seam allowance, and deal with sewing satin.  Sigh.  If you’ve made a corset before, I may be calling you for help!


New Tools!

I promise to have a more lengthy blog post in a few days.  I’ve been quilting like a mad woman, prepping for classes, and in the next 2 hours, I need to make a skirt to wear TODAY.  So, yeah, not much time to blog.  But, I leave with this picture.  Guess what I’m making!

Enjoy the weekend!

Two Rectangles?

Since seeing this skirt about 2 weeks ago, I knew I needed to make one of my own.  I went to my local fabric store (LFS), and looked in vain for gingham taffeta.  I seriously wanted to make the EXACT same skirt.  Sigh.  It was not meant to be.  I got a grip and started trolling the available heavier weighted fabrics.  This jumped out at me:

Huge polka dots?  Yes, please!  I bought all of it.  (Only 3 yds.)  I then drafted my very complex pattern of two rectangles, cut it out, and sewed it together.  For the waistband, I used something I had never heard of before, Ban Roll.  I’ll talk about this more in a later post.  While I love the stiffness of the waistband, somewhere along the way I subtracted an inch.  You wouldn’t think an inch would be that important, but in a waistband, it is vital.  I can’t zip up the skirt!  Well, I can get it to the bottom of the waistband, and then I start swearing and sweating.  Rather than take the waistband off, make a longer one, and sew it back on, I’m opting to make a corset.  I’m a very practical girl, you see.  Actually I normally am, but this fabric shows every little hole, and I can’t bear the possibility of ruining this skirt.  Thus, the more labor intensive solution.  Take a look at the finished skirt, and I think you’ll see why I’m being so crazy!

To finish the skirt, I decided to hem it by hand.  I used a catch stitch, and it’s only slightly visible on the right side.  It was hard to pick up only a strand or two because the skirt has some stretch that I didn’t observe in the store.  Oh well.  It took me 3 days to hem the whole thing.

I plan to make a few more of these skirts in solids for the coming school year.  I think they are just darling.  Do you have a favorite skirt pattern?

Confessions of a Craft Hoarder

I’m a craft hoarder. It’s true. I collect spindles, fabrics, yarns, needles, fiber…you name it, and I probably have a collection of it. I’ve been trying really hard to curb my hoarding tendencies but honestly, it’s not working. So, I thought I would share them instead.  That makes it more acceptable, right?  Look!  I ordered some new patterns!

First up – shirts! I don’t sew many shirts, but I’m not too fond of most of the shirts I buy, so I figured a few patterns were in order.

Then I thought I should make a jacket or two.  Again, not thrilled with the jackets I own.  Either too tight in the arms or in a material I no longer want to wear.  These could look very conservative so I’ll need to be careful with fabrics and detailing.

And Oh My!  a fitting shell.  My Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing suggests it, but I haven’t been able to find one for sale for the past year.  I bought one in a 14 for my torso and a 22 for my lower body.  Should be very illuminating and help with fitted dresses!

In anticipation for all the perfect fitting I would now be cranking out, I figured I’d need some more fitted dresses.  You know, cuz I have no fitted patterns already.  Sigh.  The starburst dress is at least for knits, so that’s a little different.

And then I bought some frou-frou patterns.  I have no idea where I’ll wear these dresses, but I really want to make them, so maybe I’ll go grocery shopping in them or translate Latin in them.  You know, glamorous stuff.

And no pattern purchase would be complete without vintage numbers!  These were too gorgeous not to buy.  And now that I have an idea of how to make a circular, dirndl skirt, I don’t even really have to bother with the lower portion of the first of these.  Only the bodice.  Woohoo!

And this one I bought for the shirt in the bottom corner.  I mean, look at it!

So there you are.  I’m now up to 60 sewing patterns.  I’ll gradually reveal all my collections and additions to them.  Hope this made you feel a little better about whatever hoarding you do 🙂