So far the Sew Everything Workshop sewing book (by Diana Rupp) has been a great resource for learning how to sew. It outlines sewing techniques in the nitty gritty detail that I (as a complete novice) need. Since I have a few sewing projects under my belt, I decided to try one of the daunting three-spools-of-thread rated projects: the Sew Everything Workshop Hobo Bag.
The Hobo Bag project uses a self-drafted sewing pattern rather than a pre-made sewing pattern printed on tissue paper. As noted by the Colette Sewing Handbook you can use freezer paper to draft patterns. I used freezer paper to make the hobo bag pattern, and it worked like a charm.
Keep in mind, this is a somewhat big bag. As a hobo bag, it folds in on itself along the vertical center, making its size less overwhelming. It is big enough to accommodate a laptop. You will need 3/4 of a yard each lining and main fabric. Of course my fabric had some fraying issues, so I had to use a different cutting layout than suggested. It still worked fine, I would be careful with directional fabric..
The great thing about this pattern is that even though I was unsure about several construction details (and made poor material choices), the bag turned out better than I expected. I was expecting for this to be a failed sewing project, but I can happily keep and use this bag!
- For this bag pattern, you are instructed to make various marks on the fabric and on the zipper, and to line them up in such a way that the zipper hangs off the fabric in a specific way. Lining up the zipper with the marks made on the pattern did not make sense to me. Maybe my zipper size was off: I bought a 20″ zipper as instructed, but it had one extra inch of material on it. Never having examined a zipper before, I didn’t know how to make the adjustments correctly. I just sewed it in and I am happy with the result.
- Why do you need to have the end part of your zipper unsewn and unattached to the bag?
- I was a little fuzzy on what to do with the unsewn end of the zipper when attaching the lining to the main body of the bag. I ended up just trying to make the lining, main fabric and zipper lie smooth while I sewed everything in place.
To help visualize some of these problems, I tried looking up this bag to see how more experienced sewers dealt with my questions. Think Liz made the Sew Everything workshop hobo bag. I am not sure but it looks like she made the bag a little bit smaller, and it looks super cute. (EDIT:her bag is the regular size– my mistake!) Plookiss’ Threadware made this bag and included some great step-by-step pictures to help you along in making this bag. Stitching Sewlo made the hobo bag in a cute black and white print.
And in conclusion…
I am very glad I made this bag! I even added patch pockets to the inside for extra organization. As with all larger bags,you can lose your stuff in a seemingly bottomless pit if you are not careful.
The Meringue Skirt (in the Colette Sewing Handbook) is a zip-up A-line skirt with a twist: it features a cute scalloped hem. I was excited to make this skirt because in my opinion it is closer to a real world, actually wearable design. I learned a lot sewing this skirt!
One note: I saved yardage by cutting out the facings next to the main parts of the skirt, not below them. The fabric on the facings is cut the wrong way but I don’t see how it matters this time around.
The fabric I selected to sew with was a fake silk dupioni from the upholstery clearance section of my fabric store. This particular fabric is much too shiny to wear, at least during daylight hours. I knew that ahead of time going into this sewing project, which took the pressure off. I looked at this project as a learning experience, and planned to never wear this version of this skirt.
Of course, I had some challenges with the Meringue Skirt. First and foremost was sewing the invisible zipper in. Initially sewing in the zipper on either side of the side waist slit (using the invisible zipper foot) took a couple of tries, but was ultimately straightforward. The difficult part came when trying to complete the installation. Since the lower part of the zipper can’t be sewn in initially, it is not fully attached to the skirt. You have to switch to a regular zipper foot to complete the invisible zipper. I found the Coletterie invisible zipper tutorial to be helpful. The instructions in the Sew Everything Workshop were also good, as was this YouTube video.
Overall, I am horrified that the invisible zipper is considered the easiest zipper to install. It was very hard!
Problems I had:
- The scallops do not hold their shape well. I thought I had selected a crisp enough fabric, but I guess not! A different fabric (or spray starch?) would be the way to go next time.
- The zipper placement was challenging. The top of the zipper was aligned with the top of the fabric, which meant that when I sewed the waist facing to the waist, the top of the zipper was very close to the top edge of the skirt. There is no room for a hook and eye. I think next time I need to place the zipper a little bit below the edge of the fabric.
- I shortened the skirt by quite a lot so it would hit at the knees. Since I removed quite a bit of length, the skirt hem facing did not properly fit the skirt hem. I solved this by recutting the skirt hem facing by cutting an identical outline of the skirt hem (and including seam allowances).
- The skirt as I made it is too short, and is inappropriately reminiscent of Tinkerbell, if she had a corporate job. I think with tights this length would be more appropriate. Obviously I need to develop my adjusting patterns/hem length skills. The actual pattern is longer, so this is my fault.
- My scallops are uneven. Again, my fault.
Very Purple Person made this skirt and paired it with the Taffy top (also in The Colette Sewing Handbook). This combination is suggested by Colette Patterns themselves. Her outfit looks great: its both cute and comfortable… hmm, maybe one day… I also loved the meringue skirt made by Motivation is Overrated.
With the right (crisp and structured) fabric, this skirt can be either casual or more work appropriate. I think I will make this skirt one day in a fun wool fabric, like LLadybird’s lovely version. She also followed the tutorial on Coletterie for how to attach a wasitband to the Meringue Skirt. I think a waistband looks great and I hope when I am ready to make a real version of this skirt I will be able to do this.
I have worked long and hard on my latest project: Very Easy Vogue 8631, a pleated wrap dress. This dress pattern offers two versions: long sleeved and short sleeved. I decided to make the short sleeved version.
I have read quite a bit of the Colette Sewing Handbook. In particular, I read about altering patterns before making this vogue wrap dress. I am so glad that I got this book because it really shows how if you learn how to sew you can customize the fit of your clothes. In fact, there are standard alterations that many home seamstresses find that they routinely make on the clothes that they sew. Simple pattern alterations will make a huge difference on fit!
I had read that this dress pattern sizing runs very big! I decided to cut a smaller size for my first muslin. This size clearly did not fit me at all. It was too tight around the waist but had a ton of extra fabric on my upper back. It looked like I stuck a balloon between my shoulder blades. Hmm, giant hunchback? Not a great look on me.
I made a second muslin, armed with the pattern alteration tips from the Colette Sewing Handbook. I made the waist bigger, cut off about 4 inches from the length, and shortened the bodice. The resulting dress fit a lot better!
Because I was feeling ambitious, I also cut back on the three pleats on the side of the dress that is closest to the body. I made the dress so that the bottom layer of the wrap has only one pleat on the bodice and on the skirt. This side of the dress is covered by the second wrap part of the dress. The top layer has plenty of pleating in my opinion. I don’t need two full layers of puffy pleating on my stomach. My stomach is puffy enough and I don’t need to add more.
I decided to go ahead and make the dress using the fabric I bought. Unfortunately, the seams for the bodice and the skirt part do not line up correctly as a result of my pattern alterations. Adjusting the waist and length changed where the pleats and darts occur on the dress, something I should have paid more attention to on the muslin. I hand sewed on the hook and eye closures for the waist over and over again until I finally attached them where they wouldn’t show.
Despite my mistakes, I was happy to rush off to try on the dress. “Great”, I thought. “Its not perfect but I made a dress!” Then I started to wonder why the dress looked so familiar. “Do I already own something like this? No, I don’t think so…” Looking at myself in the mirror, under the harsh florescent lights, I looked tired and haggard. I looked sick. The pale blue green dress and my unhealthy appearance looked terrible. Then it occurred to me: I had sewn myself a fancy hospital gown.
The lesson here: Get new lighting. Also, if I have to go to the hospital I will be the most stylish patient around. Thankfully, the fabric color looks much better under different lighting conditions.
Luckily, I knew that I would likely mess up this sewing project, so I had used clearance fabric. No big loss, and lots of useful experience. I will make this dress again, but I will redraft the pattern so the pleats and darts match, and so that the bodice is longer (my fault for cutting it). I will need to experiment with my pattern alterations for a better fit. I traced the pattern instead of cutting into the tissue paper, so its no problem to try again.
Ultimately, I think this dress could work for me. Green Apples made an absolutely gorgeous version. She paired it with a matching belt, something that I will consider. Also, Lazy Stitching made a beautiful version of this dress. The dress looks great on her: its quite figure-flattering, in my opinion.
For Christmas I was lucky to get a gift certificate to a book store. This was perfect since I had my eye on a new sewing book: The Colette Sewing Handbook: Inspired Styles and Classic Techniques for the New Seamstress.
This book, by Colette Patterns, is designed to progressively provide an overall introduction to garment sewing. It starts with a cute scalloped skirt and culminates in a vintage-inspired dress.
The Colette Sewing Handbook looks great because it seems to provide a good introduction to basic techniques for altering sewing patterns. I am trying not to develop too many bad habits right from the start, so learning more about sewing and fitting techniques is the way to go. Once I have a few more simple projects under my belt, I will start off with the first clothing project in the book, the meringue skirt.
I noticed that Colette Patterns has a great blog at coletterie.com. The blog has a lot of tutorials that look very promising, including guides to sewing some of their patterns. The blog also has guides for customizing the Colette patterns (such as adding a waistband to the Meringue Skirt). I am going to check the Colette Blog for tips before beginning their sewing projects.
My latest sewing project has been yet another pair of pajama pants. I used my pink cotton Little Lisette “watercolor” fabric, a soft and comfortable cotton that will be perfect for pajama pants.I decided to switch to a new pattern because I don’t think that unisex pajama pants pattern (Simplicity 2040) fits a petite woman. I selected a woman’s pattern this time, Kwik Sew 3602.
This is my first Kwik Sew pattern, and I was pleasantly surprised. I had read that Kwik Sew includes clear and precise pattern instructions (as well as high quality, thick pattern paper), and I was not disappointed. The patterns themselves are a little expensive, but my local fabric store (Yardage Town) sells them at 40% off. I will definitely be trying more of these sewing patterns!
The pattern pieces were easy to cut and the instructions were simple to follow.
I loved that they told you when to overlock the edges. And I successfully sewed the elastic waistband and was happy with the result.I used a little more elastic in the waist then they suggested because it felt more comfortable.
I saw that things be made a pair of pajama pants using this pattern, and they turned out great. I am pretty jealous of her french seams and serged edges.
I will definitely be sewing more pajama pants for myself in the future. Kwik Sew 3602 includes measurements for pajama shorts, which I will wear for the summer. The pants are a little baggy, so I will perhaps switch to the extra small size while allowing more elastic in the waistband for comfort. Very soon I will make a trip to the fabric store for more of these great priced sewing patterns and some more nice cotton fabric for more pajama pants.