Since I started sewing, I had a couple of requests for aprons as Christmas presents. I will again be using the Sew Simple Simplicity 1971 Reversible Apron Pattern. Since I have made this pattern before, I feel comfortable giving it as a gift. I have managed to successfully sew the neck ties, side ties and pockets, so I have definitely made some progress in sewing. But to my horror, one of these requests was for a black and white checkered apron, which means… GEOMETRIC FABRIC! Thus far, my entire sewing repertoire has revolved around abstract, non-directional fabrics which don’t show errors in cutting and placement. Cutting accuracy is not one of my strong points. I can’t seem to fold selvage to selvage properly, which puts me at a frustrating disadvantage.
Since I am an extremely slow sewer, I had to get started on these aprons right away! For my first apron, I started straightaway with the only checkered fabric I could find. Its a basic quilting cotton. I am a little worried about the stark black and white showing every little bit of cooking mess, but oh well. I tried to stay true to the checkered fabric request on the front side of the reversible apron. I bought plenty of fabric so I had enough fabric to recut the contrast sections to help get a better alignment.
I rotated the fabric 90 degrees for the contrast trim on the pocket and the contrast trim on the apron band. I tried to align the pocket print with the main fabric,and I am pretty pleased with the result. Yes, if you are looking for errors in the fabric alignment you will find plenty. I am hoping that the hypnotic quality of the checkered print will lull viewers into a state of mute compliance, so they won’t criticize the quality of the construction.
My second apron was also intended as a gift… unfortunately I was not happy with how it turned out so I will be keeping it. I accidentally twisted the neck strap, so it does not lie flat. The fabric is a fun bright pink, but I think that other people might prefer a more traditional apron. The size is a bit big for me, but I am happy to keep it and wear it to clean and do dishes.
I was still determined to make one more apron as a gift. After what seemed like hours of wandering the fabric store, I finally found some apron-appropriate fabric that coordinates. If the fabric store stocks mainly quilting cotton, then why does none of it coordinate?
A major benefit to my checkered apron was that it introduced me to geometric fabric. Although that apron didn’t turn out perfect, it wasn’t the huge disaster that I had been expecting. This gave me the confidence to consider buying another linear fabric pattern for the next apron, thus expanding my fabric choices by a lot! I settled on a blue/red/orange fruit pattern with a coordinating blue rectangle pattern. I am happy to say that though going slow and careful measurements, this apron turned out to be acceptable for a gift!
In anticipation sewing of sewing the Sew Simple Simplicity 1989 Dress again (this time as a full dress) and sewing the Simplicity 2418 Its So Easy shirt, I bought some new fabric. The main thing about these fabrics is that they are thin and not natural, which is a departure from my regular quilting cotton. I believe these are both rayon (or polyester?), although they have different textures. The bright blue is smooth, rather like a fake silk crepe (I guess?). The light blue is semi sheer and has a nubby texture.
I bought new sewing needles in a smaller size so I can deal with these thinner fabrics. In any case, at least these were on clearance in case my projects get horribly mangled. They were $3 a yard from the local fabric store. I like this fabric store because they carry lots of apparel fabric, including cottons and silks. Of course I am sure I will use lots of synthetic fabric, but I think it will be good to have some natural fiber fashion fabric when the time comes that I am more confident in sewing clothes. Here’s hoping…
Since I am petite, I often find that many clothes don’t quite hang right. Of course I find that regular-length pants are much too long and always need to be hemmed. Thankfully I have started to become comfortable with the idea of hemming my own jeans.
On some tops and shirts, the shoulder straps are simply too long. This means that the cut on the front of a shirt is sometimes much too low. Its not just a matter of too much cleavage- its really a matter of avoiding an unflattering fit. I ran into this problem when trying on a dress for an upcoming wedding. The dress (Donna Ricco ‘flourishing floral’) fit well everywhere except my chest. Because the straps were too long, the top portion of the dress just looked weird.
I decided to alter the dress myself. But to be honest, the thought of cutting the shoulder straps is too much of a commitment for my novice sewing skills. I was afraid of ruining the dress just through my inexperience. I decided to alter the shoulder straps in a way that would at least be salvageable if I made a terrible mistake.
So instead of cutting and resewing the shoulder straps, I simply pinned the center of the straps right side together and baste stitched it in about half an inch, resulting in shoulder straps that were shortened by about an inch or so each.
There is an extra flap of strap fabric inside of the dress on my shoulders, but it lies securely flat when I am wearing the dress. I used baste stitches so I could check to make sure that the altered length of the straps would be okay. Once I tried the dress on to make sure that it fit better, I stitched the length permanently. Since the dress is a satin polyester, I used a thinner needle than for my regular cotton sewing projects.
I bet that any experienced sewer would be horrified at my shoddy workmanship. But the dress fits better and I feel good knowing that once I am a more experienced sewer I can fix it permanently, and actually alter it the right way.
Of course, eventually I will need a better way to alter shoulder straps. This complete guide to altering ready to wear clothes by Craftsy shows how to get professional quality results when you want to shorten a shoulder strap, even if the dress or top has a lining.
Sewing success at last!
I am basically overjoyed to say that my most ambitious sewing project to date was not an abject failure! My Simplicity Sew Simple 1989 dress pattern took many long hours, and yes I did bleed at one point, but I now have a piece of clothing that I made myself! Instead of a shift dress, I shortened the pattern to a long top. I saw this dress on Sew My and since it looked great and featured a simple design I wanted to try to make it. I decided to make a shirt instead of a dress because I don’t wear dresses too often. For a top, I needed 2 yards of fabric. I used my new brown floral Lisette cotton sateen fabric. I had just enough… If you are tall or are making a larger size, buy more fabric.
I did make a practice version/ muslin before making this shift dress using better fabric. I used some quilting cotton fabric I had to test out the construction process and the new techniques. Because this dress pattern features an extremely simple skirt and waist (with nothing to do but straightforward sewing and hemming), I only used the muslin to practice on the top half of the dress. My muslin sewing practice was to try out three different sewing techniques I had never tried before. I learned how to sew bias tape for the neckline, how to make bust darts, and how to sew sleeves. I am super glad I made the muslin, because it helped me work out the kinks on the difficult parts (especially attaching the sleeves) and let me see that my chosen size would fit just fine. I did not slipstich anything because I don’t know how to do that and I was feeling overwhelmed.
How to Sew Bias Tape
Using bias tape for the dress neckline definitely had me confused. The purpose of the bias tape on the neckline is to create a simple neckline hem that is not bulky or awkward. The single-fold bias tape also gives the neckline substance and structure so it stays up and in place when you are wearing it. This would be especially important for slippery or flimsy fabrics such as satin or polyester. As it is, the neck is quite wide so I am glad for this extra structure.
The tutorial on how to sew bias tape (single fold) by craftstylish.com really helped me. I basically had no idea what bias tape was or how to sew it, and the Simplicity pattern instructions do not say. Thanks to this sewing project, I now feel pretty comfortable sewing on single-fold bias tape. I even added extra bias tape to the project, as I sewed it on the sleeves too.
Easing in the Shirt Sleeves
I can’t lie. Attaching the sleeves to the shirt was a horrible horrible process. Because the sleeves on this shirt have a wider circumference than the armhole opening (apparently those in the know call this the armscye) you have to slide the fabric of the arm along baste stitching in order to evenly distribute the extra length along the shoulder portion of the arm fabric. In this way you are supposed to shorten the circumference of the sleeve where it attaches to the body (especially the shoulder), without creating puckers and tucks. Once you have created evenly distributed tension, and you can’t see any weird tucks, you are ready to sew. This is called easing in sleeves. It is not easy at all. It should be called difficulting in the sleeves. (Ok, yes I know what ease means).
My sleeves didn’t turn out perfect, despite my best efforts. Oh well. At least I jumped right in to a project that has sleeves, so I don’t have to be afraid to try it again. I wish I had seen this tutorial on setting in sleeves on Amanda’s Adventures in Sewing… next time I have to try easing in sleeves I will check here for tips.
Sewing Bust Darts
The bust seems didn’t come out perfectly even, but they are fine. I don’t look misshapen or anything. I think the large scale print of the fabric will hide a slight imperfection in this case.
And of course this dress (shirt) is quite loose fitting, so the bust darts aren’t on display. They do give the dress some much needed shape though. Sewing a straight dart is straightforward, though my accuracy can’t be counted on at this point. Coletterie.com has a dart tutorial that was clear and helpful.
And in conclusion…
I would definitely make this pattern again. I like the Simplicity Sew Simple pattern line, and I am going to look for an actual blouse pattern. Using this pattern to make a casual summer shirt would be perfect. I would love to sew the actual 1989 shift dress some time, but for now I will concentrate on shirts. I saw this dress on Sew Much Style, and I love the idea of using this dress pattern to make a little black dress– always a good standby.
In anticipation of successfully sewing a shortened shirt version of Simplicity 1989 Pull-Over dress and a smaller pair of Simplicity 1971 Pajama Pants, I bought some new apparel fabric from JoAnn.
I wanted to get soft, comfortable, natural fabrics… I am not sure why all the fashion fabric has to be made of polyester? I am sure polyester can be good for some projects, but on the whole I prefer fabrics that can actually breathe. Oh well I am sure my stubborn opinion will change as I learn to sew different projects. You can’t make everything out of silk.
Nevertheless, I was lucky enough today to find two 100% cotton fabric prints that will be good for pajamas and a casual shirt. JoAnnshas a large selection of quilting cottons to choose from, but many of them seemed a bit stiff and scratchy for what I was looking for.
I got a nice pink floral for my pajama pants.
The “Little Lisette Watercolor” is a cotton poplin. It’s actually the same print as my previous attempt to make pajama pants, except in a different color.
I also got a turquoise on brown/olive-y brown contrast floral print in cotton sateen for my Simplicity 1989 dress/shirt. It is not listed anymore on the Joann website, but it is still shown for information on the Lisette Fabric website. No matter what my shirt looks like, I will definitely wear it around the house. Even if I have to tape it to my body in bits and pieces, this will be a successful project.
Both of these fabrics were on sale at 50% off. I hope it’s not a complete waste of money. I will never know unless I try.