My Orange Crush

You know how when you get a nice juicy orange, you just have to squeeze every last drop out of it?  That's kind of how I feel about some fabrics.  Sometimes, you'll get a fabric that is so nice, that you have to use up every last drop.  This orange knit was one of those fabrics.

Originally, I wanted to make a Fall "on the go" outfit with a tunic, cardigan, leggings and scarf.  I ordered 2 yards each of a black/tan striped silk/modal knit, an orange silk/modal knit, a black ponte, and a mesh from FabricMart Fabrics knit sale.  I was super curious to see what the silk/modal knits would be like; as I love silk knits for their brilliant colors and I love modal knits for their incredible softness, so the combination of the two seemed like a match made in heaven.  Plus, silk is known for providing warmth without weight, so I thought it could be a nice choice going into chilly weather.

When I got my order, I debated about whether I should wash the silk knits of not. They were GORGEOUS- silky soft and lustrous, just as I had imagined they would be.  I didn't want to lose any of the sheen. But I could just see myself spilling BBQ sauce on it the first time I wore it, so I bit the bullet and washed everything. I'm glad that I did because the silk knits did shrink about 12% in length. But the luster was still there! No harm done. 

 I was completely obsessed with the orange knit, but it was BRIGHT, and would need something that would ground it.  So, I envisioned an orange tunic, topped with a waterfall cardigan made from the stripe. 

I used Butterick 5789 for the cardigan and Vogue 1261- for the raglan tunic with a handkerchief hem.  I wanted the orange to peek out below the cardigan at the bottom for just a little pop of color.  I searched the Fabric Mart website for a fabric for the infinity scarf that would coordinate with the two fabrics, and found a wild rose/animal print mesh knit.  From it, I cut a rectangle 63" long by 18" wide.  To complete: sew long sides together, turn right side out, twist twice, then sew short ends together.  So simple!

For the leggings, I used the ponte knit with McCall's 7026.  You might wonder- "Why bother to make leggings when there are so many stores selling them?"  Well, they aren't all from this nice of a fabric. Plus, I've not found any RTW leggings that are long enough and not skin tight enough for my taste. By making them,  I get leggings that I'm comfortable wearing in a high quality fabric.

But wait- that's not the end of the story!  I had enough fabric left over for a BONUS OUTFIT!  I made a peplum top from McCalls 7021 and a basic knit skirt. 

I'd never made clothing from mesh knits before, thinking that they would be too thin, but this one was not see-through, and was easy to sew.   I'm thrilled with how completely different this outfit is from the first outfit, and I may even like it better!

But, it was the orange knit that I was obsessed with, and I couldn't let any of it go.  Actually, it was in the trash, and my husband forgot to take out the trash this week.  He never forgets to take out the trash, never!  Does that sound like a sign to you?  I was given a second chance.  I decided to sque-eeze out another top for my daughter, mixing all of the scraps together with McCalls 6992.  It's crazy, but she's quite adventurous in her clothing, and I can tell she loves it!

I still had enough pieces left to make a two sport headbands and two pairs of palm warmers for jogging.  The headband takes a piece that is 18" long by 10" wide- sewing the 10" sides together. This is the same as the Buff headbands that sell for a ridiculous $15 each. (Yes, I bought one, and guard it with my life, so now I won't feel so bad if I lose it.)

The palm warmers each take two pieces that are 7" wide by 8" high, sewing the 8" sides together, leaving a one inch opening in the center of the seam for your thumb.

By this point, my family was convinced that I'd lost my marbles; and during the palm warmer construction, the knit got stuck in my machine, which I took as a sign from the sewing gods that it was time to stop.

To recap- from my original order of 8 yards of fabric, I made 11 items- three tops, a pair of leggings, a skirt, an infinity scarf, two headbands, two pairs of handwarmers, and a cardigan!
I have virtually no scraps left of my orange knit (see above).   I got every last drop and enjoyed every minute of it. 


Seamless (almost!) Chevron Cardigan Butterick 5789

I love it when I find a pattern that is so simple, that it's genius.

That's how I feel about Butterick 5789.  You wouldn't necessarily know that it's genius from looking at the cover, and based on how few reviews of it that I've found, I'd have to say this is a sleeper.  It's been out a while, but has gone under the radar of most of us because the cover photo was in a blah beige.

But believe me, if you want instant gratification, this pattern will give you it.  Why, you say?  What is so genius about this design?  Well, take a look at the sides.  No seams!

And take a look at the back- no seams! And they did this while only using two yards of fabric.

How did they do this?  Well- the front, back and collar are all ONE PIECE!  The only piece that is separate is the sleeve, and well, you do have a few seams to sew if you want sleeves.   But, you can choose the vest version too, and avoid those pesky sleeve seams. 

This is ideal for striped fabrics that are difficult to match like this chevron sweater knit.  You can still match the sleeve stripes to the body stripes like I did if you want, but you don't have too- NO ONE WILL NOTICE BUT YOU!  (I always have to tell my perfectionist sewing students to relax, and not sweat the small stuff.)

One caveat to this design though is that the fabric needs to stretch in two directions- that means both lengthwise stretch and crosswise stretch.  The reason is that the main piece is cut going the direction of the length of the fabric.  I was lucky that my fabric's stretch was going in that direction, or else this wouldn't have worked. So, be careful of this.  I've been tripped up more than once with tricky stretch issues.  However, the toughest part of this is narrow hemming the perimeter.   But the whole thing- cutting to finish takes less than 2 hours, which makes me a very happy customer.   

Do you have a pattern that is so simple it is genius?  If so, please let me know!   I want it, preferably on sale, and now, thank you!

Halloween Costume Contest!

Halloween is approaching fast - it's time to stock your candy bowls and perfect your costumes! How many of you have tried your hand at a homemade costume? At SewBaby, we want you to show us your home-sewn costumes during our Halloween Costume Contest!

Send us a photo of your home-sewn costume(s) either via email to or by posting to our Facebook page. Make sure to include your name and state. We are collecting photo entries until November 1st, after which we will post all of the photo entries here on our blog for your family and friends to vote on! Adult and children's costumes are welcome, and multiple entries are allowed. We can't wait to see your creations!

For those of you who haven't sewn any Halloween projects, we have a great selection of adorable Halloween e-patterns. Precious Patterns designs the cutest trick-or-treat bags as well as simple-to-sew costumes, from ladybugs to witches!  We guarantee- even if this is your first time sewing, you can do these!

Give some of these fun, festive patterns a try!

Left: Simple Ladybug & Bumblebee Costume; Right: Fashionable Ladybug; Bumblebee Costume
Left: Pumpkin & Dalmatian Costumes; Right: Princess & Witch Costumes

Halloween Felt Finger Puppets E-Pattern
Halloween Felt Finger Puppets E-Pattern
Happy Sewing, and Happy Trick-or-Treating!

Ann for SewBaby

Cheap Dress Form-like Mannequins

I recently started using a dress form, and I really like it.  I used to always just keep trying on things and looking in the mirror, but the whole getting dressed, getting undressed, trying on, getting undressed, getting dressed again- well that can get exhausting!  (Actually, if no one was home, and I was at that point where I knew I would have to be trying things on a lot, I would just sew in my underwear- LOL!)  But no more, now that I have my dress form! 

BUT- they can be rather expensive though.  So, I wanted to clue you all in on a super cheap alternative.  The national women's clothing chain stores CJ Banks and Christopher and Banks are updating their mannequins, and selling off their old ones that have a definite look of a dress form.

They are selling the ones on a stand for $20, and the table top models for $10.  Each store has a lot of these to get rid of- our stores had about 20 at each store.  I understand that the whole chain is doing this, so if you have one in your region, they either have already received theirs, or will be soon.

The ones from CJ Banks have a full bust of 44, and the ones at Christopher and Banks have a full bust of 36.

They told me that they use a size 8 garment on the smaller ones and a size 1X garment on the larger ones.  They aren't adjustable.  I think that the body is some type of styrofoam and they have a muslin-shaded knit cover.   The base is solid wood and is very pretty.  The CJ ones are really tall which is nice for tall women.  I'm guessing they are set at about 6 feet tall.  The Christopher and Banks ones were considerably shorter- probably around 5 feet 4.  I know that I was looking downward at them, and I'm 5 '9",  but I didn't get one of those to take home. 

I can definitely stick pins in them, and they make that styrofoam-y scratchy sound when the pins go in.  I'm guessing that if your measurements don't match, that you could either pad it or if you are brave, do some sculpting to make one smaller.  At this price, it's worth a try!

I picked up two.  I think these will go fast, as they are very nice for display as well, so if you need a dress form for cheap, and have these stores in your area, then give them a call!

Is the Wool Blazer Dead?

The judges on the Fabricista challenge commented that my outfit was "outdated".  Actually, one of them said it a little nicer- she said it looked "vintage".  Sheeessh.....Not the look I was going for!!!

I'm guessing that it was the blazer that did me in.  As I honestly see very few people wearing blazers these days. In fact, I took some pretty new jackets that I got from the Limited to a resale shop last Spring, and they wouldn't take them- said there was no market for them.

If someone is wearing a second layer these days, it's usually either- Jean Jackets, Moto Jackets, Bomber Jackets, or Cardigans.  So, is the Blazer dead?  If so, I'm going to be so sad.  I do have a jean jacket that I love.  And I have a moto jacket that is killer.  I'm so unathletic that wearing a bomber jacket would seem to be false advertising to me.  And I do wear cardigans often. 

But to me, a wool blazer just says "sharp".  Stacey and Clinton used to recommend them on "What Not to Wear" all of the time to give shape to a waning waistline and burgeoning muffin top (which I definitely have both).  But "What Not to Wear" is no longer on the air, so I don't know if Stacey and Clinton would still say the same thing!  Would they now be trashing the blazers along with the sweatpants? 

So, I've been playing around with different combinations.  This is what I wore to work today:
And this is what I wore out to a Mexican restaurant with my family on Saturday night:

And this is what I'm wearing now, and will wear out to meet some friends for my writing group tonight:
My daughter who is 21 and a size or two smaller than me, has picked this up several times since I made it, and she said non-chalantly on Sunday "You know, Mom, if it reminds you of getting kicked off the challenge, and you have bad memories associated with it, I'll take it off your hands."

I'm not there yet.  What do you guys think?  Is it out of date?  Am I out of touch for loving this jacket to death?  I'm sewwwww confused.  Does anyone else wear blazers anymore where you live?  Have blazers gone the way of the typewriter and the land line?  I'm so damn vintage, I can't stand myself anymore!

Should I let my daughter "take it off my hands", or should I tell her she'll have to pry it out of my cold head hands?


Off the Island

Well, I got eliminated from the Fabricista challenge.  But, I'm trying to look on the bright side.  The challenge really pushed me to try new things.  There were several "firsts" for me:

Challenge 1- I made a t-shirt out of thrifted silk saris.  Which by the way, my youngest daughter has "borrowed", and I will probably not ever get it back.

Challenge 2- I learned how to fit my scoliosis, and got a very nice anniversary dress, which I wore last night, BTW. (not to McDonalds!)

Challenge 3- I copied a top from a ready to wear top- had never done that before.

Challenge 4- I sewed with velvet on the bias- I would have never attempted something so difficult without a little push.

And for Challenge 5- I dyed fabric for the first time. It wasn't so hard, and I am pretty excited about the possibilities that this opens up!

So, all in all, I feel like I've really grown quite a bit in the last few weeks.  And not just figuratively- I also took a break from exercising to make time for this, and I can feel my clothes getting tighter.  Time to get back in shape!

Also, my house is really dirty, and we haven't had any good home cooked meals cooked by me for a while.  I told my husband-  "I haven't been cooking or cleaning during this challenge."  He said "I've noticed."

Ha! Actually, my whole family has been great throughout- very supportive and encouraging while I've been sewing away.  It will be nice to get back to a more balanced life. 


Mystery Bundle Fabricista Challenge #5

For our 5th Fabricista Fabric Challenge, each contestant received a "mystery bundle".  From this bundle, we were each assigned the challenge of making a two piece outfit that included 4 of the bundle fabrics.  This was my bundle:
Getting a mystery bundle is lot like playing cards- a bit of a gamble, but lots of fun!  In my bundle for this challenge, I had one wild card- a beige wool gabardine.   One of the other fabrics in my bundle was a floral satin that I knew would make a great lining, so I decided to try to dye the wool to pick up the blue in the satin. (I got the okay from the contest director before I tried this!)
This was my first attempt at dyeing fabric, so I researched, tested different formulas, and finally came up with the perfect mix of royal blue and aquamarine dye for the weight of wool that I had. 

The vinegar is added to the dyebath to help with stabilizing the dye.  And you need to know how much your yardage weighs to know how much dye to add.  It needed to be heated at a simmer, stirring constantly for about 30 minutes.  Because wool can shrink up quite a bit if immersed into hot water, you need to add the wool to the water at room temperature and then let it heat up.  Then dilute the dye in boiling water separately, take your fabric out momentarily while you add the dye to the hot water.  

After dyeing, I had just under two yards of wool- just enough for a great short jacket.   I used McCalls pattern 6294 which had a triangular insert in the back.   My dyed wool had some parts that were more variegated than others, and I decided to feature the most variegated piece in the triangular insert.  The wool was quite fluid, so I interfaced all of the pieces to give it more body. 

For the other part of my outfit, I decided to mix two knits- a ruffly jade green knit and a large white/gray floral with plastic sequins.  My pattern was Hot Patterns 1144, Deco Vibe Sarine Dress which has a skirt overlay that tucks into the waistband.  

I only had one yard of the green knit, so it got used as the top portion.   A piece of black swimwear fabric from my stash worked as a waistband to transition into the floral knit.    Because of the plastic sequins, I chose a raw edge hem finish on the skirt sections.  Had I not been participating in this challenge, I would have never thought of putting these fabrics together.  But, I think it works!

I love blues and greens, and feel that this is a modern mix of colors that is "me".  I can wear the dress alone or with the jacket, and the jacket will be wearable with many other items in my wardrobe, as well. 

I'm excited that I branched out to try dyeing fabric, and will definitely be using this technique in the future (as well as ordering more mystery bundles)!

Check out what the other contestants made, and vote for your favorite at the FabricMart Blog!

Happy Sewing!