Tag Archives: sewing

Review: One-Yard Wonders by Rebecca Yaker

I love Storey Publishing. I really do. Their catalog is like a candy store to me.

So I was so very very excited when they sent me a copy of One-Yard Wonders by Rebecca Yaker to review for you. It’s filled with 101 projects you can make with, you guessed it, one yard of fabric.

I was even more excited (hard to believe, I know) when I got the book and was able to see all the pretty pictures and interesting projects. Sure some were slightly cheesy. But it was a fun look-through, and the book is filled with lots of things I would like to make. I think for someone who is an experienced seamster, some of the projects in this book would probably seem elementary (a tea cosy? A draw-string wine bag?) But for someone who is really a beginner, elementary is a very good thing.

I had this thrift-store vintage stretchy knit fabric that I’d been holding on to. It’s super soft and has a great print. So when I saw the Perfect-Fit Sleep Shorts I knew that was the project I wanted to try out of this book for my review.

I had visions of wearing my new vintage-y shorts in my dorm at residency in April and impressing my stranger/roommate with my skills. (Yes, I really did. Yes, I really am a complete nerd.)

This is a patternless project, which is great. The book does come with an envelope of patterns, but the clothes patterns don’t fit me as they only go up to a size 18 which is something like a modern 14 I think. The shorts required some pattern drafting. I used tissue wrapping paper and a pencil. Algebra was involved.

Here’s were I ran into my first problem.

I had to take three measurements. Hip: No problem. Waist to bottom of shorts: No problem. Total rise? Erm. I did my best, using “from front to back” as my only guide. Then you had to subtract the waist to bottom measurement from half of the total rise measurement for the length of the legs.

I ended up with a negative number.

Oh my.

I spent a frustrating 1/2 an hour trying to figure this thing out.   I don’t even remember exactly what I did, except that it involved taking just a half rise (the front half, so now in retrospect I realize that I didn’t account for my bottom.) I finally ended up with a three inch difference. Short shorts. I was so flustered by this point that I just went with it. These were sleep shorts after all, short was ok.

So I made the pattern, which actually was fun and interesting work. Then I laid it out on the fabric.

Which leads to my second problem.

I was using a fabric that was both directional AND reversible. This obviously isn’t the fault of the book. But somehow I ended up with the front and half the back being perfect. And one butt cheek being the backside of the fabric. Um. I have no clue at all how I did this, since I followed directions and folded the fabric in half fronts facing to cut. I didn’t have any more fabric, and I was going to finish these shorts, damn it, no matter what. So I just went with it. Sleep shorts, right?

Now, in reality, these shorts are three seams and three hems. My inexperience made it harder than it needed to be. Maybe if I tried these again, it would be easier and less frustrating.

The only problem is, the problem with the measuring caused me to end up with something more like a pair of boy short panties than wear-alone shorts. When I first finished the shorts, they were gigantic. like a full foot wider than I am around the waist. The pattern calls for an elastic waist, but these would have been so baggy and not flattering with that much gathering. Also the legs were at least six inches wider, measured across, than my leg. If you see the picture, the shorts are meant to be fitted. I had stretchy fabric so fitted was what I was going for.

Stretch fabric = I didn’t need elastic. So I took the shorts in to be much more fitted. I was actually very excited at this point because my shorts looked like shorts. I’d had a problem with the inside seam, because the front crotch area is 1.5″ while the back is 3″ and the book, I guess, just assumed I’d know how to handle that. I didn’t. After a lot of seam picking and resewing I managed a seam that wasn’t bubbly. Having something after all that, that actually looked like shorts was very cool.

So I ended up with a pair of very short, fitted, one-mismatched-cheek shorts.

In other words? I made myself a pair of underwear. Because when I tried them, whatever I did to have a positive leg length ended with shorts that are very definitely hip huggers.

But they fit me like a glove. (I did a good job with the taking in.)  And are super soft. And who cares if one cheek is backward, right?

And look! They really look like shorts. This is my first attempt at anything pants like, so all in all I’m not unhappy.

Back to the book. I would have been very happy if the author had told me how to measure total rise. And how to deal with the bubbly crotch seam thing. A book filled with easy, small projects markets itself to beginners. With only a few pages in front that talk about technique, this is not a beginners book. I’m assuming that having so many projects packed in meant there wasn’t room for tons of instructional material. I should have been more patient and pulled out one of my other sewing books.

So I’m going to put the short’s short-comings on seamstress inexperience. And then say that this is a fun book packed with lots of inspirational ideas, but that if you have no sewing experience you’re going to want to have a book that’s heavier on the instructions near by.

I will definitely be trying some other patterns from this book. There are some cute-as-a-button little girl twirly skirts, simple-looking aprons, and a lunch bag that are calling to me.

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Review: Sew What! Bags by Lexie Barnes

(This is my WFMW post this week as well.)

I have a giveaway going on!

What I love most about Sew What! Bags by Lexie Barnes is the tagline: 18 pattern-free projects you can customize to fit your needs.

And it’s true! See what I made without a pattern?

Know what it is? It’s cutest little green thing ever.

The main book entry is a big tall bag holder for your kitchen. Basically a long tube with elastic at each end and a ribbon loop at the top. Put your grocery bags in one end, pull them out the other. Everyone’s Nana has one of these, right?

But then there was this itty bitty picture of a lady with a little white dog and a tiny bag holder around her wrist. You know, to help her be a good neighbor.

I don’t have a dog. But I do have eleventy-billion grocery bags stored in a kitchen-sized garbage can in my pantry. I can’t bear to toss them. I haven’t gotten my act together (or my sewing skills up to par) enough to make resuable grocery bags, so I keep adding to my impressive collection.

But that little picture got me thinking. Especially since I’ve been reading all week about people using resuable bags as their small change. The biggest complaint is that they went out the door without them. My little wheels turned until I thought, how about a teeny tiny little bag holder that would fit right into a purse or diaper bag? Just a little thing that holds enough bags for one trip to the store.

Anyway, I made up two. One for grocery bags, and one for produce bags. Homemade produce bags are light weight enough that they’d fit in here, but since I already have a stock of produce bags I’ve been hording, I can use the heck out of those. I even made the ribbon long enough that the bag will sit around my wrist while I’m shopping. And they can wait for me on the hooks by my door in the meantime, if I don’t want them in my purse.

Each little bag is 6 inches long and about 3.5 inches thick when filled with 5 standard-sized plastic grocery bags. Perfect for dog walks, like the book said, wet cloth diaper bags, or little wash cloths, or (what I plan to use them for) a trip to the grocery store. They’re so stinking cute that I’ll be able to spread the word about reusing grocery bags when everyone at the store asks me about it.

Okay, okay, back to the book. It has a core of four types of bags (totes, drawstring, messenger, and organizers) each with a project for newbies, pros, and daredevils. There are also five adorable warm-up projects, of which the grocery bag tube is one.

The best part is each project lets you customize, like I did for the grocery bag tube. The instructions are written in a fun and friendly tone, with no intimidation factor at all. The instruction section in front has all kinds of details like how to measure a shoulder strap, how to make sure you’re making your bag deep enough for your needs, and how to do a test run with paper.

The book is spiral bound, so it lays flat while you’re working. The samples inside are made with inspiring fabrics that make me want to make one of each.

I won’t say the ideas inside are super unique. There are patterns all over the place for drawstring bags, or messenger bags. Even grocery bag tubes. What makes this book special is how it encourages the reader to stretch their imagination a little and not get hung up on a pattern. So I’d say for a beginning sewer like me, who needs well-written instructions but also permission to experiment, this book is a keeper.

(The publisher of Sew What! Bags sent me this book to review for you. This didn’t inform my opinion in anyway.)

More WFMW here.

Things other people love here.

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Crafty Weekend

Kevin’s taken Ruby to Las Vegas to have a Christmas visit with his parents. I have to work on Monday, so I stayed home. So…crafty weekend! Here are my plans:

1. To finish Ruby’s doll house

2. To paint peg dolls for the house

3. To make the doorway puppet theater

4. To make Adrienne and Nicholas fleece hats and scarves

I put the fabric in the wash for the theater, and then thought I’d try making my own fleece hat to see how it worked out. I’m in love with it. It fits nice and snug over my ears and will definitely keep me nice and warm this winter. I wanted to give it little ears, but it looked silly so I just gave it a round finish.

I’m wearing my new fleece cardi…but I couldn’t get a decent self-pic of it. I’ll keep trying.

I also wanted to share these little guys that I’ve already painted:

My family–peg style! How cute are we? I even made our two kitties…Charlie is the orange one, Angel is the white one. There’s Ruby in pink, Adrienne in green, Nick with blond hair, and me and Kevin in the back. Ruby is going to be so excited when she sees them. I have a bunch more pegs, so I’m going to fill out her little world with them.

Okay…last crafty note for the day. I went to the little local thrift store earlier this week and found these two ribbons. I think I may have actually squealed a little when I saw them. Total of 50 cents. The birdie one says “A little Birdie Told Me” all around it. The flower basket one is at least six inches wide. It’s more like a mini bolt of fabric. I’m thinking I might be able to make a little wallet or pouch out of it.

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Finally…a reason for algebra

One of my goals for 2010 is to learn to sew. I’ve made little things here and there, but I’m not comfortable with patterns, and my machine, and bobbins…it’s all very intimidating because I just don’t have the experience. So my plan is to sew at least one thing every month. Last night I got a jump start on my plan and made myself this:

Couple of things. First, this is obviously a picture from a book. The book is Sew Everything Workshop by Diana Rupp. It’s a great book with clear, easy directions. It comes with a stack of full-sized patterns that run S-M-L, and also has several projects with directions for making your own pattern. This ‘Cuddle-up Cardigan’ is one of those.

So the directions are for small, medium, or large. I am pleased to announce that my college algebra finally had a real-life application for me. Because I’m a bigger person than the measurements for the large. Patterns run very small by the way…modern garment makers indulge us with ‘vanity’ sizing, so a size L on a piece of pre-made clothing isn’t anything like a size L in a pattern.  You really have to get a handle on your self-esteem if you’re going to be a seamstress.

So here’s how I adjusted the pattern…I looked at the chart and saw that each size had a three inche range for each measurement. For instance the bust measurement for a small is 32-34″, a medium 35-37″, and a large 38-40″. I just followed that through until I had my size. I hope that makes sense. An XL would be 41-43″, an XXL would be 44-46″, etc.

Here’s the algebra part. The directions for this cardigan called for making a pattern. It gave the dimensions of the pattern peices for S-M-L. In order to find out how big to make my pieces I used this formula. I subtracted the medium measurement from the large and multiplied that number by how many sizes up I had to go. The formula looks like this: (L-M)X. L=large, M=medium, and X=the number of sizes up. Then you add the answer to the large measurement to get your measurement.

Let’s say one side of the sleeve pattern for medium is 18″ and for large is 20″ (I’m making this up!) and you’re a 2X. Your math would look like this:

(20-18)2….(2)2….the answer being 4. 20+4=24. Your measurement would be 24 inches.

Just do that for each measurement required on the pattern, and voila.

I wasn’t so sure it would work. But it did! Like a charm. Make sure if you’re cutting a piece on a fold, that you cut the added inches (four in my example) in half.

I made my Cuddle Up Cardi out of navy blue polar fleece. Including making the pattern, this project took about three hours. The book called for sweatshirt fleece or double knit, neither of which were available in the little fabric department of our variety store.  I used two yards, and probably should have gone with 2 1/4 because I didn’t have enough to make the belt properly. Instead of 4″ wide, mine is about half that. The thinner belt looks very bathrobe to me and I probably won’t use it. The whole thing looks semi-bathrobe to me. That could be because I’ve only seen it over my pjs. Regardless, it’s super cozy and warm. I made my own pattern, including figuring out the math for increasing the size…I’m so proud of myself!

I paid more for the fabric than I would have liked. About $15 total. I have enough left to make a hat. I can buy something similar thrifted for $8-10. A new fleece jacket would cost far more than $15.

I’ll try to get a picture of my finished project a little later, when I’m fully awake and no longer wearing pjs.

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