New Easy Sewing Project: Zipperific Pencil Case

sew a pouch with a zipper
my first attempt at sewing a zipper

My latest sewing project is the Zipperific Pencil Case from Sew Everything Workshop by Diana Rupp. This simple project does not have (or need) a paper pattern. This project is simple. Start out with a small amount of scrap fabric plus a zipper, and end up with a handy pencil case. My bag is a little shorter than the original design because I couldn’t find the right size zipper.

I thought that working with a zipper would be very difficult, so I was reluctant to try it. I am glad I finally did. I used some plain canvas, which was left over from my Tote-ally Awesome Tote Bag. I wanted a fabric that was stiff and sturdy enough to have some structure. In the future oilcloth would be a great choice.

Sew Everything Workshop Zipperific Pencil Case
Basting on the Zipper. So far, so good.

For this beginner-level sewing project, you simply cut out two pieces fabric, with the length of one side matching the length of your zipper. Baste the two pieces of fabric together, and press the seams open. Then, align your zipper (face down) with the center of the pressed open basted seam. Baste stitch the zipper in place. Measure a quarter of an inch in from the edge of each side of the basted seam, and use the zipper foot to permanently attach the zipper to the fabric. Open the zipper one inch (so you can open the zipper later), sew the remaining three sides of the zipperific pencil case shut, open up the zipper, then turn it right side out, and you are done!

Or so I thought! I had a problem with this project. The directions unfortunately omit at what point you are supposed to remove the basted seam that you sewed first. Or did I somehow completely miss this step?? In any case, in the future I will remove the basting for the pressed open seamafter you have used your zipper foot to permanently attach the zipper to the fabric.

Sew a Zippered Pencil Case
This zippered pencil case is extremely secure.

I was stuck with a pouch that was completely sewn shut, and there was a considerable amount of wrestling with the semi-closed zipper (because the zipper clap was unreachable). I’m getting pretty good at using the seam ripper too.

This project was a good introduction to how to sew on a zipper, but the lack of clarity for when to remove the basting so you can actually turn the pouch right side out is annoying. Where did I go wrong? Plookiss’ Threadware has a post about the zipperific pencil case that includes unpicking the basting stitches, so I will have to use this as a reference for next time. Using oilcloth, Cup and Penny made this pencil case and also had much more luck with it then I did.  Since I am just a beginner I will take it as a learning experience.

For next time it would be great to have a lining inside the bag instead of raw fabric and fraying, exposed edges. I saw a great tutorial for a lined zippered pouch on Skip to My Lou. The tutorial is pretty clear and the end product is definitely something I would use. I think I will try this version the next time I want to attempt a zipper challenge.

New Easy to Sew Patterns and Muslin Fabric

Well. I’ve been a little down about my recent sewing failures. Of course I am not giving up, and I think I found my solution.  First of all, I ordered the cheap muslin fabric I need in order to be able too feel like I can try new sewing projects without being afraid of failing. The fabric was $1.39 a yard (on sale) from Hancock Fabrics.

Cotton Muslin Fabric from Hancock Fabrics
15 Yard of Sewing Practice

Its a simple, white, 100% cotton “Classic Muslin”. I checked around at the local fabric stores, and couldn’t find anything to compare with this price.  This is my first online order of fabric… too bad it is so boring.

Using this fabric, I can try the Sew Everything Workshop projects that will help me learn the sewing skills I need to know before I can try other sewing pattens or sewing projects.  That’s the plan anyway. My resolution to make a muslin is underway.  I suppose this isn’t a technical muslin but I don’t care.

I also ordered some patterns online.  I ordered from Simplicity.  Unfortunately it seems that their website doesn’t easily accept orders from Macs.  What??? Who designed that website and who made that decision?  After a few emails back and forth from customer service, they finally deigned to take my money. You really have to be persistent if you want to place an order with them, apparently.

Anyway, this is what I ordered:

  1. Simplicity 1989 Pattern
    Simplicity 1989 Sew Simple Dress Pattern

    Simplicity 1989 Sew Simple Dress.  This dress looks like it has a ton of potential.  A straight cut dress can suit me if the hips are cut close enough.  I hope that making the muslin first will let me make the size adjustments that will make this dress flattering. Ultimately I think that a casual stretch jersey would work with this dress pattern. Or maybe a cute cotton eyelet for summer, though eyelet fabric might be better suited to something with more structure. It seems like there are many possibilities for this casual dress once I can figure out how to sew it. SewMy made Simplicity 1989 and it looks great.

  2. Simplicity 2418 Top Its So Easy Sewing Pattern
    One day I WILL sew this top!

    Simplicity 2418 Its So Easy Top.  This shirt looks super cute.  Portia of Miss P made this top, and I can only hope mine comes out half as good as hers.  It looks like there are no separate sleeves, so construction is kept simple. I don’t wear cowl necks, but the scoop and cutout neckline looks like something I would definitely buy in a store.There seems to be some gathering, so I will need to learn about sewing that. I am hoping that with a close enough cut this can actually look good enough on me for me to at least wear it around the house when no one else is home…

  3. New Look 6945 Sewing Pattern
    New Look 6945 Sewing Pattern

    New Look 6945 Easy Top.  This top has several design options, including sleeveless and with sleeves.  I admit that the construction looks a little ambitious for my level of sewing skills (i.e. none).  Also, I am not in love with the design but I still want to try it. Maybe I will get lucky, and learn something new along the way.  Pattern Review has several informative comments on this pattern. The new muslin fabric is definitely going to be used when I try to make this shirt.

  4. New Look 6032 Sewing Pattern for Easy Skirt and T-Shirt
    A future failed sewing project

    New Look 6032 Easy Skirt and T-Shirt.  This sewing pattern looks a little too complicated I suppose.  I am hoping that I can at least do the t-shirt.  As Right and I have mentioned  before, its impossible to find good t-shirts lately, because it seems like t-shirt quality is bad. The skirt looks like it could be a nice basic, but since it has a complicated waistband I may find I am in over my head. Shannon of Mushywear used this pattern to make an adorable skirt.  Let’s see how I do on my attempt…


Sewing Project: Simplicty Its So Easy 2040 Misses and Mens Pajama Pants and Blanket

Simplicity Its So Easy 2040 Misses and Mens Pajama Pants and Blanket
Simplicity 2040 Pajama Pants for the Big-Boned

As I’ve mentioned before, I decided that I wanted wanted to learn how to sew in part because of the horrible pajama pants that stores are trying to pass off as worth $20.   I bought the pattern for Simplicty Its So Simple 2040 Mens and Misses Pajama Pants and Blanket while envisioning gorgeous and well made pajama pants that fit me perfectly. I bought some nice cotton poplin from Little Lisette at 50% off to get myself motivated.  I guess the fabric is for kids, but its perfect for cute girly pajama pants. I was excited to use apparel fabric instead of quilting cotton because the texture felt so much more smooth and comfortable.  Perfect fabric for a pair of perfect pajama pants! Feeling optimistic and confident, I began to sew.

Alas, due to my lack of sewing experience it was not to be. What a fool I was to think that I could make these pants. Problems:

  1. The pattern runs big.  Really big.  Huge, in fact.  I made a size small, which should fit me decently.  Unfortunately, it seems that as this is a unisex design that the size options on the pattern don’t compensate for the need for a good fit.  I am all for loose, comfy pajamas.  Instead I made a pair of hammer pants.
  2. The waistband instructions do not make sense. They are vague and confusing. Ok, maybe to a non-beginner they might seem clear and precise. To me, a novice with no instinct, they are gibberish. The pattern instructions basically say:  make the waistband.  To which I say: how?????
  3. Urkelism: The waist is ridiculously high. Again, this seems like a symptom of the one-size fits all pattern.  The waist height is the same for all sizes, which means that its intended to fit both an extra small woman and an extra large man.  You don’t have to be a sewing genius to realize this is going to be a problem.
Simplicity Its So Easy 2040 Pajama Pants and Blanket
Will I ever make a pair of pajama pants that I like??

Ok, so I failed at this project.   I am trying to look on the bright side.  Positive points and things that I learned:

  1. I used the button hole function.  I’ve never made a button hole before, so this was a major accomplishment.  Yes, I did have to painstakingly use my seam ripper to tear out the threads from a failed buttonhole.  Twice. Its all in the name of learning.  Thank God my new sewing machine has a one step button hole feature!
  2. I was able to successfully sew the legs and crotch.  All the fabric lined up to an acceptable degree (i.e., not perfect but it’ll do). The bizarre “insert one pant leg into the other with right sides facing” to sew the crotch totally worked!  Weird sewing magic!  Up until this point I was still brimming with hope.  Then when it came time to sew the waistband I realized I was in over my head and couldn’t recover.
  3. I trimmed an inch off of the waist length when I realized how high it was.   This meant that I had to make extra button holes for the drawstring to come out of.  Hmmm, I choose to view this as an opportunity for practice.
  4. Even though the waistband is messed up and they run big, I think they will make a good present for my mom.  Not a major present like for Christmas or her birthday, ok?  I am not going to ruin a holiday with my crappy pajama pants.  Just an everyday appreciation present that she might get some use out of. She can always “accidentally” spill bleach on them and throw them away after an appropriate amount of time.

Verdict:  So they are not perfect.  There is still a lot of potential.  I am going to try again, but next time I will use the extra small size, adjust the waist height, and see if I can decipher the waistband instructions.

At least they look like a pair of pants.  That’s something.

Make a Muslin

My latest project (Simplicty 2040 Pajama Pants) is going horribly.  I am making the small size, but they are HUGE! Its too late to go back now, so I will just finish them I guess.

I have decided to start making muslins to practice on before using expensive fabric.  Sewaholic posted a muslin guide that I am going to use whenever it seems like I might mess up a sewing project horribly… so far that is every project I’ve ever tried.

I will be on the hunt for some super cheap fabric to start making muslins with…

How to Sew an Orignal Hem on Jeans

I’ve been trying to keep this a secret, but I think its time to confess: I am short. Being of the petite persuasion, I feel like I have spent a fortune getting my jeans hemmed. And the cost of getting my jeans hemmed has skyrocketed! Last time I got my jeans hemmed at the dry cleaners it was a ridiculous fourteen dollars! And that wasn’t even for keeping the original hem. Although that particular dry cleaner clearly charges an outrageous amount and is not interested in getting any repeat business, the average cost of original hem for me at more reasonable dry cleaners is a rather hefty ten dollars.

How to Hem Jeans with the Original Hem
Sew the extra length inside of the pant leg, but keep the entire factory hem unsewn

I am happy to report that I successfully hemmed my own jeans with the original hem. And it was actually pretty easy. I found a couple of blogs with tutorials to get me started: Dacia Ray and Denim Blog.

I didn’t actually follow the instructions to the letter.  The length of my jeans doesn’t need to be measured… as long as they fit its fine!

Sew Original Hem on Jeans by Sewing Next to the Factory Hem
Sew Original Hem on Jeans by Sewing Next to the Factory Hem
I simply put on the jeans (after washing and drying a few times to make sure that they won’t shrink any more), and then I folded the bottom up to the length that I wanted.

I sewed on the inside close to the factory hem but not on it at all.  This left the factory hem showing after the pants had been turned right side out, and a flap of extra fabric on the inside.

Confession:  I left the fabric flap on the jeans for a couple of wears so I would be sure I was happy with the length.

Once I was sure the length was right, I cut off most of the extra fabric.  I left enough on to keep it easy to work with on the sewing machine. This left two raw edges that I had to finish.  Using an overcast stitch, I finished the edges.  No the overcast stitch didn’t come out looking perfect… but it will hold!   And if it doesn’t I can simply try again, since I no longer have to be afraid of hemming my own pants.

Please note:  Unless you are my mother or my husband, I will not hem your pants for you.

Cut off extra fabric to hem pants and keep the original hem
Trim the extra fabric in a very straight line if you are sure of the length
Overcast Stitch Foot
Finish the fabric with an overcast stitch or similar