Tender is the Nightie from Sew Everything Workshop

Front bodice, sewn on tissue paper to avoid fabric puckering  
Front bodice, sewn on tissue paper to avoid fabric puckering

Once I had recovered from my previous mistakes in starting Tender is the Nightie from Sew Everything Workshop, I was ready to sew!  I re-cut the front and back parts of the bodice, and made sure to use leftover tissue paper under the zig-zag stitching to avoid puckering.

This project requires you to make your own pattern following instructions in the book.  I made some changes to this pattern.  The most important change I made was to the length- I shortened it quite a bit!  Diana Rupp has probably made a strategic choice in making this nightie so long- it hits several inches below the knee- so that mothers will still be able to buy this book for their young daughters without encouraging overexposure.  She wants this book to be PG, to appeal to a wide audience.  But, I feel that mid-thigh is a much better look for a grown woman.  So, I cut off about 10 inches from the length.

I was so happy to put this together, because it resembles a real dress! I can’t wait to be able to make cute dresses!  There are only 4 pieces- 2 bodice pieces and 2 skirt pieces.  The nightie is made with an empire waist.  The skirt is slightly more narrow at the top than at the bottom, to add shape.

In addition to being the first time I got to construct and attach a bodice and skirt, Diane Rupp also teaches you how to use a loop turner, make spaghetti straps and how to do slide-slit openings on the skirt.  I used lace for my straps instead

Tender is the Nightie
Tender is the Nightie, without lace trim

Like Jessica from Green Apples, I am not going to model the nightgown– this is not that sort of site!

While I loved making this project and feel I learned a lot, it’s just too big for me.  Once I was done constructing it, pinned on some lace for the straps to try it on.  I could see that it was quite a bit bigger than my other nightgowns, but I was hopping that it might end up being bigger in a still-flattering sort of way, but no.  It’s just too big.  So, I didn’t do any of the finishing touches (sewing on lace trim, finishing the side slits), because I knew I could never wear it.

Oh well, I still learned a lot!  I ended up buying The Perfect Fit: The Classic Guide to Altering PatternsThe Perfect Fit: The Classic Guide to Altering Patterns and then find out!

Grade: A-. I learned a lot, and it would probably fit a non-petite person better.



Elementary Sewing Mistakes, or Have Some Coffee Before Starting to Sew

Sometimes I like to sew first thing is the morning, because that is when I am most optimistic.  Too bad this does not necessarily mean I am also clear-headed!  I cut out the fabric for “Tender is the Nightie” from  Sew Everything Workshop the day before, and was excited to start a new project.  Also, I am on board with Diana Rupp in terms of wearing nightgowns- every women ought to have at least two. Why be frumpy in flannel pajamas and old tee shirts all the time? Class it up a bit!

If you remember, I am making a pink and black satin nightgown with fabric that I got on sale.  I am glad that I got sale fabric, because right away this project turned into a disaster.  Knowing that everything needs to be wrinkle-free, I diligently started ironing.  Without letting the coffee have time to get into my system, and without checking the heat setting on my iron. Yikes.  Right away, my satin turned into a melted mess.  Opps! 

Always check your iron settings!

I know I am not the only one to let carelessness get in the way of good sewing- the hapless seamstress had a similar experience, only on a finished dress!

Still buoyed by my early-morning optimism, and happy that I could replace the ruined piece of fabric with some of the abundant leftovers I had, I continued sewing- without considering the thinness of my fabric, and without doing a tension test on it.  One of the first things you do in this project is a zig-zag along the upper edges of the bodice to prevent fraying.  Too bad all I got was a lot of puckering!

See how much less the tissue paper side puckers?


I must have had a bunch of anti-stress endorphins running through me at this point, because I  calmly remembered that you can sew over tissue paper along with your fabric to reduce puckering, then remove the tissue paper when you are done.  I turned this into an experiment with tension and tissue paper.

The fabric with the tissue paper really did pucker a lot less.  I had to be careful removing the tissue paper though!  I guess these mistakes/lessons were also caused by using cheap fabric.

I’m done with the nightgown now- more about it next time!



I Made Something with Sleeves! Cuddle Up Cardigan from Sew Everything Workshop

Finally, I felt ready to make something with sleeves. Yay making an actual garment! Time for the Cuddle Up Cardigan from Sew Everything Workshop.

For some reason, I felt like I could ignore the author’s suggestions and get moleskin fabric instead of fleece or wool, since moleskin was on super-sale. The fleece just looked too bulky to me, and of course the wool fabric I liked was $25 a yard (why do I only like expensive fabric?), which I will not pay until I know what I am doing. I have to admit, the pattern looked a little big- the shoulder seams are halfway down the model’s shoulders, and wow, those sleeves look wide.

Cardigan before being hemmed
Cardigan before being hemmed

But, the author is trying to make this easy to make, and she is attempting to design something that will fit a variety of body types, which are both goals I can respect, considering that this is one of the first garment patterns in the book.

Layout and cutting the Cuddle Up Cardigan was pretty straightforward. Again, I just drew directly on the wrong side of the fabric, since I don’t need a bunch of paper rectangles taking up space in my apartment, and it will be pretty easy to re-do the pattern if I make it again. (Hopefully, I will move on to more advanced, fitted clothes, so I won’t need to make it again.) I used overcast stitch on some of the inside seams, since my fabric frays like crazy. Thanks, Wrong, for telling me about overcast stitch!

MerKnits! made the Cuddle Up Cardigan for her mom, and she seems pretty happy with it. She gives good critiques of her sewing projects, and has comments about several other Sew Everything Workshop projects, if you are following along in the book.

My problems were:

1) I think the instructions for and illustration of applying bias tape are a little unclear. I watched a youtube video for help, and practiced on some scrap fabric before working on the real thing.

2) I think the instructions for the tie strap are either incorrect or very unclear. I pretty much had to ignore them and just try to use logically determine how to make the tie strap.  It’s not very good.

3) I still get confused about when to stop sewing near the edges- if a seam allowance is 5/8”, do I stop 5/8” from the edge? I think the answer is generally no, but am not quite sure.

4) I had some problems with overlapping seams on the armpits, from not knowing where to stop sewing. But, this is my first sewing project with arms! Good for me! I really can understand why the author wanted to make a loose-fitting cardigan- it’s nice and big, so I won’t be able to feel the weird armpits at all.

Cardigan arm pit, right side of fabric
Weirdly overlapping fabric on armpit. At least the cardigan is roomy enough so that I can't notice it!
Cardigan armpit, wrong side of fabric
So many overlapping layers of fabric

5) Ha, ha, I should have listened to the author and used the suggested fabric (Wool or cotton double knits, or sweatshirt fleece). I wish mine was fleece, but what I have now will work as a robe. My boyfriend thinks it looks like a Jedi robe, or an artist’s smock.

Grade: B. The project loses points for the tie strap snafu. The project runs big and the fit is a little big, but looking back, I can really understand and appreciate the author’s reasoning with this. She is helping you to learn and make something you can wear, even if it isn’t the most chic cardigan ever.

Cuddle Up Cardigan from Sew Everything Workshop
My Cuddle Up Cardigan/jedi robe/artist's smock from Sew Everything Workshop. The color is washed out in this picture, sorry.


Sewing Machine Cozy from Sew Everything Workshop

After the disaster of trying to install a zipper, I was a little wary about trying the sewing machine cozy from Sew Everything Workshop, because it’s so three-dimensional. But, for a variety of reasons, I do not have a sewing machine cover, and I know that its very important to keep your machine covered to keep dust out. I was also unsure if I wanted to spend $15 on a Teflon presser foot that I might never use again. Also, oilcloth (AKA laminate) is a far cry from the discount fabrics I have been using so far pricewise! But, in the end, reason and responsibility won out, and I got the appropriate presser foot from Amazon. I was also surprised at the selection of oilcloth and laminate available in stores! Someday I will make a raincoat, now that I have the appropriate presser foot.

The pattern was a little tricky, but not that hard. The directions were clear, I just had to stick to what the author said, be logical, and focus on making a box without a bottom. Pinning it was a little awkward, but it was satisfying when I finished it successfully.

1) I measured my machine incorrectly, by including the area where the cords stick out stiffly. Gah, of course the author has included a hole for the cords- it is clearly described in the instructions and illustrated, I just didn’t have the sense to trust that she knows what she is doing. I was also afraid of making the cozy too small, so I added a little extra to the dimensions. This resulted in my sewing machine cozy being way big. Oh well, I don’t care. It is functional, and the fabric is fun.

Sewing Machine Cozy
Fun and bright oilcloth!

Since my cozy ended up being large, I didn’t cut any holes for cords. My sewing machine does not have a handle on top, so I of course skipped the part where you make a hole in the top.

Amy at Sewing by the Book had some some the same problems-the cover seems a little large. She thinks the bias tape cord hole is tricky, and that the instructions for it could be better- but is also happy with her cover.

2) To cut down on the size a bit, I played around with the decorative stitches while hemming the cozy. Fun! I didn’t try particularly hard to make my stiches straight (which I’m not very good at anyway, at least not yet), so my lines of stiches undulate irregularly, which I think goes well with my fabric. One thing I’m not at all happy about is that some of the stitches didn’t come out correctly. Instead of a six-pointed start, some of the stars are split in half lengthwise, with three upward pointing lines next to three downward facing lines.

Decorative stitches on oilcloth sewing machine cozy
hmm, these decorative stitches aren't quite right...

The satin stitch on some of the decorative ovals is too widely spaced. Maybe this is because I was sewing with laminate, or because I did not use an embroidery needle? Or, maybe I did not feed the fabric correctly? Oh well. If I was doing an heirloom style shirt or skirt, I would be upset, but for this project I do not mind.

Grade: A+. So great. Useful, and I learned a lot.

Zip-o-riffic Pillow, or Zipper Hell

I went into this project so bright-eyed and hopeful; yes, other people complained about zippers, and some people build their project repertoires around projects without zippers. But, surely things would be different for me!  I would just follow directions and be careful, and surely everything would turn out all right! Zippers could not be that hard; other people must not be persistent or brave enough!

I was flushed with my successes so far- no, my work was not perfect, and my last pillow was a lot smaller than  the book said it should be.  But, I do not expect perfection, at least not right away, and was thrilled with my work so far. I was  looking forward to learning a new, useful skill (zipper installation) that would open up a wider variety of projects, likes skirts, dresses, and pants.

I bravely changed the presser foot- I think this was the first time I had done this, and it was a lot easier than I had expected- and got started. True, I was unable to find a diagram about how exactly the zipper is positioned in relation to the zipper foot, but I just tried to figure it out.  It was immediately apparent that my machine does not like sewing anything remotely thick, such as fabric next to a zipper.  OK, I reasoned, nothing is perfect, just coax the machine into doing what is was designed to do. But, I ended up breaking two needles!

Zippered throw pillow
Zip-o-riffic pillow with the Zipper from Hell

As far as I can tell, I followed the zipper directions. I managed to baste the zipper on and get one side of the zipper fully sewn on before slinking away in horror.

After this project, I looked askance at my sewing machine for a week, and was wary of starting a too-hard project, or any project at all. I’m going to come back to learning how to sew zippers after doing the rest of the two-spool projects. I don’t know what I am doing wrong- I might have to put out a craigslist ad asking for help, or find a class on zippers.  For my next project, I am going to make a sewing machine cozy from  Sew Everything Workshop. I am fully committed to learning zippers- they make so many more types of projects possible- but am taking a break from them right now.

Grade: Incomplete