Fabric: quilting cottons, flannel, fun fur
Started: March 26, 2017
Completed: April 2, 2017
I am quick to out myself as a crafter to my daughter’s teachers. I love to bring in my spinning wheel for show and tell and donate scrap yarn and fabric. When I attended my daughter’s parent-teacher conference this past February, the teacher showed up with a stack of fabric and a prototype for me – would I be able to make more of these for the classroom? So, I embarked to create a Montessori material.
3 part cards are a common Montessori material – they consist of a big card, a medium card, and a small card. The big card has a large image on top and a label on the bottom, the medium card is just the image and the small card is just the label. There are lots of ways to use the components to teach identification, literacy, etc. The holders I made consist of a large pocket in the back with a separate pocket for the small cards and a flap to cover them.
It was a fun exercise in pattern drafting. It was easy to measure the cards, but hard to predict how much ease to leave. I didn’t want the cards to be so loose they fell out, but tiny hands need a lot more leeway to get an item in a pocket. I made my own prototype to test my pattern and brought it to the teachers to test and give notes on. Then it was super quick to whip these up! Of course the fun fur required its own pattern because it isn’t double-sided like the rest. I was scared at what the fur would do to my machine, but it was much smoother than I anticipated! (And my machine got a thorough cleaning afterwards.)
My daughter will be moving to kindergarten this fall and won’t be able to use these materials anymore. I’m still glad I was volunteered for this project, though, because I know they will be used and loved for a long time. We brought a lot of Montessori into our home, and we got to leave a little bit of us in the classroom. Have you ever been volunteered for a project? How did it turn out?
Pattern: Kiomi Dress by Lotta Jansdotter (from her book Everyday Style which I talked about last year)
Fabric: Robert Kaufman Polka Dot Double Gauze in pink
I researched the heck out of our Disneyland trip this year. In part because I’m a planner and in part because it was a few days after a cancer checkup and it was a healthy outlet for my nerves. If you are into clothing and researching Disney you will come across Disney Bounding – a kind of everyday cosplay of Disney characters for grown-ups. Adults are not permitted to wear costumes in the parks, so instead you wear regular clothes that evoke a character. I was plenty busy with sewing three dresses for my daughter (Ariel, Aurora, and Alice), but I couldn’t get the idea of a low-key, modern take on Minnie Mouse out of my head. So, the night before we left I sewed this dress.
A big shout out to the awesome Disney photographer who captured the pictures of Minnie and me. He caught this great moment, and the pose below was his idea. I love that Minnie has her knitting basket right behind her.
This dress comes from Lotta Jansdotter’s Everyday Style. It is super easy – just 2 pieces plus binding. As written the dress has a symmetrical hem and a belt. I wanted the look of a breezy swing dress so instead I brought up the front hem 5-6″ and tapered out to the side seams. I also did french seams because I was feeling fancy.
This dress is going to be a summer staple for sure. The double gauze is so light and airy, the shape is easy to wear, and yet it manages to look glamorous. Have you sewn up your summer wardrobe yet?
Pattern: embellishment on purchased dress
Fabric: dress is cotton, trim is unlabeled
Started: January 29, 2017
Completed: February 5, 2017
This is the third and final costume I made for my daughter for our Disneyland trip – her Aurora Dress. This was the hardest one to interpret in a modern way, and I am most proud of how this one turned out. I was thrilled to find this dress at primary.com with the pintucks that echo the vertical detailing on the Sleeping Beauty dress in the movie. I added the white ribbon and elastic at the top in place of the dramatic collar. I made the pink belt in place of the color blocking.
It was amazing to see how fancy and magical she felt in the dress. She naturally struck this pose to match Daisy. And ever since getting home, this has been her most-worn dress – not just of her new costumes but of all the clothes she owns. Perfect, since my goal was to make these dresses she could keep wearing after our trip! Which was your favorite of the Disney dresses? Aurora? Alice? Or Ariel? Let me know in the comments!
Pattern: self-drafted apron on purchased dress
Fabric: dress and apron are cotton, trim is unlabeled
Started: January 21, 2017
Completed: January 28, 2017
Last week I shared the Ariel dress I made for my daughter for our Disneyland trip. This week I’m sharing the second of the costumes from our trip, her Alice in Wonderland dress.
Like the last dress, I wanted to focus my time on embellishment rather than construction, so the base dress is from primary.com. I also used a white tshirt from there in the same size to create the apron. I ripped out all the seams to get to the flat pieces. The front made the apron front – I bought the dress and tshirt in the same size in hopes the neckline curves would match and they did. The back became the apron skirt. The collar was made from the sleeves. I used a wide white ribbon for the tie and a bit of ruffled elastic to trim the sleeves and the bottom of the apron.
One of our most special Disney moments happened in this dress. We met the character of Alice in Wonderland in a quiet corner of the park. Nobody else was nearby waiting to see her, and based on my daughter’s outfit it was obvious she was meeting a favorite. So Alice invited my daughter to go on an adventure with her. They walked hand in hand across the park, chattering all the way, to get a helping of fairy dust. It was so magical to get that moment alone with a beloved character. I enjoyed the chance to see the outfits side by side – I think mine holds up okay!
Next week I’ll share the last of the costumes I made for my daughter for the trip. Have a great week until then!
Fabric: bodice is a cotton knit, shells are quilting cotton, skirt is a performance knit
Started: January 15, 2017
Completed: January 17, 2017
In February my family went to Disneyland. It was our first ever vacation to a non-family destination, and we had an amazing time. I wanted to go all out on magic, so I decided to make my daughter a different costume to wear each day we were in the parks. She decided on the characters, and then I designed the dresses. I wanted them to obviously read as the character, and also work as an age-appropriate play dress that would be comfortable for all day wear and that she could keep using once we got home. It was so fun to study the classic costumes and figure out how I wanted to interpret them.
I was making 3 dresses in a month, so I wanted to focus my energy on embellishment rather than construction. That’s why I decided for the bodice to order a plain purple t-shirt from primary.com. Based on the fit of her favorite dress I trimmed down the shirt, leaving a seam allowance to attach the skirt. Using the measurements from that same dress I drafted a circle skirt pattern and cut it from this amazing shimmery performance knit I found at my local big box store. I centered the print so the scales would be right side up in the front and back of the dress and then I serged the bodice and skirt together without clear elastic. So far I am pleased with how it is holding up. I skipped hemming the skirt because the fabric didn’t need it, and I love the way it looks.
Most of my time went into the shells on the bodice. I ironed interfacing onto the fabric and then did some fussy cutting to give me lots of shells to work with. Each layer was ironed on individually and then once they were all in place I stitched around the edge of the stripe. I found that didn’t give enough definition, so I went back and machine embroidered around each edge. It was very much worth the effort, as it’s my favorite part of the dress.
My little mermaid had a blast wearing her dress around the park and meeting Ariel in it. Keep an eye out the next two weeks for her other costumes – Alice in Wonderland and Sleeping Beauty.
I have never understood why knits have a reputation for being hard to work with. Maybe it’s because my first garment sewing was with knits, maybe because as a hand knitter I am intimately familiar with the characteristics of knit fabric, but I have always felt like the rumors are undeserved. This month’s crafty read is The Colette Guide to Sewing Knits by Alyson Clair, an incredibly informative book that makes knits seem just as accessible as I have always found them.
Reading the introduction made me want to throw out my woven stash. My wardrobe is overwhelmingly made up of knits, and Clair made me feel so inspired with ideas to play with. The first few chapters focus on the materials of sewing with knits – different kinds of knit fabrics, appropriate needles and thread, trims and notions. One neat concept she introduced that I hadn’t seen in those terms is mechanical stretch vs yarn stretch. Mechanical stretch comes from the structure of knit fabric, while yarn stretch comes from the yarn itself being stretchy.
The next section of the book is about machines used in sewing knits. Of course she describes sergers and cover stitch machines, but she also gives great tips on sewing knits with a regular sewing machine. I understand my serger on a whole new level after reading that chapter, and really really want a coverstitch machine! The part I know I will refer back to is a great chart with suggested stitch widths and lengths for different stitch types on a sewing machine. I have been inspecting seams on my ready-to-wear a lot more since reading this section.
The final section is techniques – for laying and cutting, for fitting, and for stitching and finishing. I had never thought of adjusting knits much beyond taking in and letting out seams, but she has great instructions on how to alter for fit at the bust, waist, hip, and shoulder. I definitely want to try the shoulder adjustment on my next Ebony Dress, as my last one sits just a little off my shoulder point. I really appreciated the focus on finishes, including how to apply different types of elastic. It looks so fancy that I had assumed it was complicated, but now I feel ready to tackle some stretch lace!
Overall this was just a fun, inspiring read. Clair has so much excitement for sewing with knits, and so much experience to share. Throughout the book she pointed out techniques that are trickier at home than with commercial machines, which is nice as I know comparing our work to ready to wear is common among sewists. Let me know below how you feel about sewing with knits – do you find it scary or exciting? If you want to read along with me next month, I’ll be tackling The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs by Sarah Anderson.
Pattern: Ebony T-Shirt & Dress by Closet Case Patterns
Fabric: ponte knit in olive (sorry y’all, I never look at the end of the bolt)
I saw a dress in a store window a few months ago, and immediately started planning my own sewn version of it. It was a sweater knit swing dress with a huge cowl neck that looked comfortable and cool. I stopped by my local fabric store and picked up a beautiful olive ponte knit to get the weight and drape I was after and started poring through my pattern collection for a match. The very next day I saw Heather Lou’s Ebony Dress on Instagram, exactly what I was looking for! I just needed to draft my own cowl.
I am pretty new to drafting anything myself, but adding a cowl to this pattern was easy. I chose the scoop neckline so the cowl would be loose, rather than a turtleneck. Once I had sewn together the shoulder seams I measured the circumference of the neck opening. I also measured the height of a favorite cowl on a ready to wear tunic. Then I cut a rectangle – the circumference wide x twice the height (with seam allowances). Then I folded the height in half, sewed it into a tube and attached the tube to my neckline.
I really love how this dress turned out – it swings wonderfully when I move and makes me feel cool. This is the sort of dress I never would have bought in a store before I started making, because it “isn’t flattering” to my figure. But my wardrobe priorities have shifted as I make my own clothes. I bought clothes based on “the rules” of to mask my flaws and highlight the parts of me that were acceptable. Now making something that I enjoy the look of, that feels good on my body, and is enjoyable to make feels more important than dressing to look as thin as possible. It does a better job of making me feel good in my clothes. Every time I wear this dress I think about Erin McKean’s well-known blog post You Don’t Have To Be Pretty, which now 10 years later I am finally starting to believe.
Do you make different clothes than you would buy? Has making changed your wardrobe priorities? Let me know in the comments below!