Maternity Dress Sewing Project
Now that I am obviously pregnant (31 weeks) there is just no hiding my belly. At this point I am clearly not just bloated. I absolutely need longer shirts and fuller dresses. I am still unwilling to pay super inflated prices for maternity clothing! The quality is terrible, and its not as if the cheap fabric it is made with increases the true cost that much! I decided to sew a maternity dress because I had nothing to lose. Besides, any thoughts of circus-tent proportions were outweighed by the shining promise of comfortable, non-restrictive clothes. I chose Kwik Sew 3486 Maternity Dress because it looked reasonably cute and comfortable. I made view B, the sleeveless version.
Kwik Sew patterns are available at my local fabric store for a good discount, so I don’t feel obligated to wait for a sale. Kwik Sew 3486 Sewing Pattern requires woven (not knit) fabric. I would prefer a stretchy, casual knit for a maternity dress, but I settled on a cheap cotton/poly purple broadcloth. I am still not at the point where I can realistically make a dress or shirt that I actually can wear in public, so I cannot splurge on nicer fabrics yet.
Overall, this maternity dress is a bit too at-home-on-the-compound for my taste. It has TONS of volume in the skirt, making me look HUGE! On the other hand, this dress would be a good choice for someone who really, REALLY wants people to know without a doubt that she is pregnant. But who knows, maybe by 40 weeks this will fit like a glove?
I made the sleeveless version of this dress (View B) instead of the three-quarters sleeve version (View A). This maternity dress pattern gets good reviews on Pattern Review, so I figured that it would at least be good practice sewing. The instructions were clear and easy to follow. Kwik Sew’s thick, real-paper pattern is great to work with compared with tissue pattern paper. Kwik Sew patterns often call for a serger (apparently) as they are often made for knit fabrics, but this pattern only included instructions to overcast stitch the edge of the fabric to finish it.
I am trying to figure out the best way for me to quickly cut out my pattern pieces without cutting up and destroying the paper pattern, so I can change sizes easily if I need to. This time I traced the roughly cut out pattern piece outline onto the fabric using transfer paper. This technique may have worked for some people, but I don’t think that the tracing was quite accurate enough as the pattern paper shifted several times. It also complicated the fabric grain alignment somewhat.
The construction of the dress was a pretty smooth process. No real surprises or major mistakes to report. The bottom edge of the dress came out a little uneven and I am not sure why, but I got it straightened out by hemming it.
Understitiching the Facings
I had to understitch the neckline facing on this maternity dress. The understitching tutorial at Coletterie was super helpful, especially because I had never been able to figure this out before. Next time I need to remember not to trim the seam too much to allow room for the stitches in the understitching.
My centered back zipper looks pretty pathetic, but honestly I have to call it a success because it is actually functional. Sure, the stitching veers off to the side where the zipper stop is, but it is still the best job I have done with zipper insertion! I used the instructions from Sew Everything Workshop and the Colette Sewing Handbook to help me out.
Sewing this dress was a good experience. Since I haven’t been able to sew during my pregnancy due to back pain (which is gone now, thanks Chiropractor!) I just wanted to at minimum not regress in my skills too much. This sewing project was good practice for me in that respect. I think that a nicer fabric with better drape (less stiff) would make this dress more wearable. Unfortunately most of the cute cotton prints available at my fabric store would require me to make a lined dress as they are semi-sheer. I wish I could find a cute dress pattern designed for a jersey knit.
Easiest Quilting Pattern for a Beginner
Although my first quilting project was a disaster, I still wanted to try to make a simple and easy quilt. After all, I had all the necessary materials at hand: somewhat coordinating fabrics for the quilt front and backing, and some cheap polyester batting for the inside of the quilt. I decided to make a fairly small baby quilt to make things easier.
For this quilt, I decided to make the simplest quilt possible: a 2 color quilt in a checkered pattern. I needed the easiest quilt pattern available. It seemed like 99.9% of all quilting patterns, even ones for beginners, were too complicated for me. Through simple logic I devised my alternating squares (checked) quilting pattern.
I cut out squares that were 4.5 inches by 4.5 inches. Using a quarter inch seam allowance would make the finished squares on the quilt 4″ x 4″.
What absolutely made all the difference between my first failed quilt and this quilt is accurate measurements! I made a template for my squares, and then double checked the cut out fabric on my self healing rotary cutting mat with a clear ruler. Any extra fabric was trimmed off, and several squares that were not accurately cut were tossed out. I then used a quarter inch foot to keep my seam allowances consistent.
I sewed that squares together in strips, then sewed the strips together. I decided to make the quilt a little bigger than I had originally planned, so I just made more strips and added them on. This seemed to work fine.
To get the strips aligned as accurately as possible, I sometimes basted the strips together so I could check how the squares were matching up before sewing them together permanently. The alignment of my squares is by no means perfect, but it is passable by my standards.
Pinning the quilt front to the batting and backing was a long and drawn out process. Every time I would get one side laid out flat and pinned down, I would check the other side only to see that it was horribly puckered and wrinkled. Only through constant smoothing and repining did I get both sides satisfactorily flat. There has to be some trick I am missing!
Next time I will definitely try to spray baste the quilt layers! This technique looks so much easier. I wish there weren’t nasty fumes though!
The actual quilting process of sewing the three layers together required a quilting needle (for sewing through the three thick layers) and a walking foot sewing machine attachment. I also had to adjust the tension on my sewing machine for thicker fabrics. Without doing this, I had several long lines of stitches that had to be torn out because the bobbin thread did not end up looking like stitches, but rather was a string of knots that was not properly attached to the quilt
To finish my quilt edges I followed a quilt binding tutorial. This quilting tutorial includes instructions for clean mitered corners. My quilt edges are a little uneven, but I don’t care: my quilt is still awesome. Next time I need to be more careful with the 1/4 inch seam allowance.
I found this Simple quilt tutorial which I may use for my next quilt. I think that if you decide to use fat quarters you should probably NOT wash your fabric before sewing your quilt. Prewashing shrinkage is what derailed my plans for my first quilt (in addition to stupid human error).
Well, this isn’t an exciting post about a fabulous new project or a new technique learned, but it is exciting if practical things interest you. I’ve been pretty busy lately, so I haven’t had time to sew until last weekend. My first project: fixing a duffel bag that belongs to my boyfriend.
The duffel bag was seriously broken- one seam had burst, which is annoying but easy to fix, and most of the handle/binding straps had fallen off. The handles/straps are made out of one piece of fabric that is attached under the bag and on the sides to add structure and strength, with gaps for the handle. So, all in all a pretty standard duffel bag construction. It’s the sort of simple, utilitarian travel bag that my partner likes.
It was easy to fix- just sew up the seam and follow the stitching lines to re-attach the handle. I used the triple stitch on my machine for extra strength, did two to three lines of stitching, and added extra reinforcement to the handle attachment areas. Now we’ll see if the areas that haven’t broken yet are going to break the next time the bag gets used, since I didn’t feel like reinforcing every seam.
Looking at the bag, it was easy to see why it broke the first time it got used- The fabric itself is a cheap, thin polyester or nylon that obviously is much too weak be used for a very large duffel bag. And the stitching is terrible- there are only 5 stitches per inch in a thin, weak thread! No wonder it didn’t even last one use. How could something that is obviously shoddy NOT break almost immediately?
OK, now onto a little diatribe about false economy. Not to be a nag, but I pointed out that the bag was obviously cheap, and if if you buy cheap stuff from places like Walmart (the scourge of America and other countries) it is clearly going to break. If you spend $15 on a large duffel bag, or any piece of sizable luggage, you have to be realistic and realize that any luggage that cheap is going to break immediately. It would be faster to just go ahead and throw your money into the trash can. So, save your money for a while and buy a better quality bag that you won’t have to replace immediately. Or, buy used! I love my local Goodwill- sure, a lot of the stuff people donate is worn out and should really be in the trash. But, a lot of the stuff is in good condition! And, since its older and not the cheap made-in-China stuff we have in stores now, the quality is much, much better than new stuff. Sometimes used is just a better buy.
As a side note, my partner claims he got the bag at Academy and that it wasn’t cheap. Ha ha, I’m not buying it- Wal Mart has the bag on their website, while Academy does not. Ug. If you buy the cheapest thing you can find in a durable good, you’re just throwing money down the drain. Sure, he saved money by not having to replace the bag- but only because I was willing to spend hours fixing it!
Sometimes I look around on blogs to see if other people have the same sorts of problems I do- unsatisfactory projects, projects that I have been “working on” for a while, when really they have just been sitting there while I pretend that they are going to finish themselves. It’s nice to see that yes, these types of things do happen to other people, and no, I am not a terrible freak. Sometimes people are using acronyms or terms that I have to figure out. So, here are a few sewing terms that I’ve come across:
UFO-Unfinished Object- Something you start, but never finish, and mostly forget about. I don’t think I’ve been sewing long enough to have any of these. Maybe it’s a project that is a bit too advanced for you, maybe you just got distracted by life, or maybe its a project that you start, and then decide that you don’t like the look of.
Who knows, maybe you’ll actually finish these someday?
gm4style at sadpatterns.com could tell you a thing or two about realizing something isn’t going to look nice after you have already started it, or wondering why you ever started it at all.
PHD– Project Half Done- You haven’t forgotten about these, but you might not be progressing as quickly as you’d like. Once the energy and enthusiasm of starting a new project wane, it might be difficult to actually finish the project.
I have a couple of these- the pillow i need to hand stitch closed (ug, hand stitching = boring), the other pillow that traumatized me because of zipper problems-but I will get to them when I have time, or when I am ready to deal with my trauma.
The Domestic Diva started trying to finish her UFO’s and PHD’s over the summer- I wonder how far she’s gotten?
wadder– something you finish, but hate. Ha ha, I already have one of these, the Easy Breezy Wrap Skirt from Sew Everything Workshop. I’m going to blog about this later, but let’s just say that this skirt has already made its way to the landfill, and good riddance.
A pin on the table is a pin on the floor– Wrong told me this saying. Put your pins in the pincushion, not on the table! You know they are going to fall on the floor, and sooner or later, someone is going to find them by painfully stepping on them.
Once I had my sewing machine and Wrong and I were ready to start joint projects, I went down to the local craft shop to buy supplies. Ouch! Buying all those little items adds up. I had done a little research online to see what tools I would need. It was a little overwhelming to see all those tools and types of cloth, so the shopping trip took longer than I would have liked.
I ordered dressmaker’s shears online,
but they hadn’t arrived yet, so I tried to use household scissors to cut my cloth instead. I gave this up almost immediately- it’s just too hard to use household scissors for cloth. They seem sharp enough for normal use, but once I tried using them on cloth, it was immediately apparent that they were just too dull. I had to wait a few days for my shears to arrive. I got Mundial Classic Forged 8-inch Dressmaker’s Shears. They are not the fanciest (read: Gingher G-8 8-inch Dressmaker’s Shears), but they are very good-quality, all-metal scissors. Now, I just need keep them hidden from my boyfriend, since sewing scissors should only be used on cloth!
Since at this point Wrong and I didn’t have a book yet, and also now realized that, yes, since sewing is a craft that has been practiced for thousands of years, we should be using that accumulated knowledge instead of attempting to go it on our own and learn without books or patterns, I also got an apron pattern Simplicity 1971 reversible apron. Yay!