Posts Tagged 'sewing'

Moving On: The Sewing World in 2010 and My Hopes for 2011

One of my favorite-est sewing websites, Sew, Mama, Sew, is inviting readers to reflect on the sewing world in 2010 and to predict where it’s going in 2011. And because, of course, I love to state my opinion, I’m joining in. Read on and share your thoughts on your own blog if you’re an outspoken, opinionated sewist, too!

Looking back on the sewing scene of 2010, what trends stand out in your mind?
I believe that the biggest trend in sewing in 2010 wasn’t confined to sewing; it’s been sweeping every part of life in the United States. Throughout this past year, there’s been an incredible emphasis on and appreciation of things “handmade.” We are learning to cast aside consumerism and value that which is personal and sustainable. People who have never sewn before are picking up needle and thread and crafting items for themselves, for their family, and for their friends, and the result has been beautiful and heartwarming.

What were some of your favorite things? (Trends, fabric collections, patterns, blogs? Whatever you really loved.)
My favorite things have been, of course, “Sew, Mama, Sew” and using knits. Knits, knits knits. I’m obsessed. My favorite source for children’s knits is Chez Ami, especially the clearance section!. Two other sewing websites that I adore are Pattern Review and Burdastyle. And then there is, of course, my blogroll, which I know you’ll want to peruse at your convenience.

What was your very favorite fabric collection or print? (If not listed above.)
Oh, Tufted Tweets, of course! I adore this fabric collection. I want to wallpaper the backs of my eyes with it. I don’t know why, but I love the graphic nature of it, the colors, and the little bit of whimsy and humor in it. It’s fantastic!

What was the best thing you made in 2010? (Be sure to share a photo!)
Well, I don’t know about my best thing, but my favorite thing was my daughter’s birthday quilt. I gave it to her the day she turned one, and it’s made up of scraps of fabric from projects I worked on from when I became pregnant with her up to that day. Oh, and it’s all polka dots, of course. Here’s a picture of the top:

And here’s a link to the final product: Birthday Blankie Complete

Although the Birthday Quilt is my favorite thing I’ve made this year, the most popular items by far on my blog have been my Summer Necessity Swimsuit Tutorial and my post, Four Kids, Four Quilts, on the meaning of quilting and its uniqueness as an art form.

What is one of the best things you saw that was made by someone else?
Oh my goodness, there are so many. I love everything that has been featured on Burdastyle. For a bunch of inspiration, visit their Albums. Some specific pieces I adores are This, This, This, and can you believe These? There is really so much that I loved. I’m awed by the amount of amazing talent that is out there!

What do you think 2011 has in store? (Again, trends, fabric, patterns, etc.)
I think 2011 will continue the anti-consumerism trend. However, I think, as far as sewing goes, we might see a return to more complicated garments; we’ve been focused on linen and cotton and clean lines and simplicity that it’s time for a bounce back to a little bit of opulence. I think we’ll see more retro sewing; the 60’s are so very hot right now! Maybe we’ll even revisit the polyester of the past. I think we’ll see much more retro/modern fabric released; we sewists are tired of endless florals. We want graphics, we want bold, interesting designs! For patterns, I hope we’ll end the glut of bag patterns that are out there and that the designers that we love will take chances and come out with more clothes. That’s just my hope, though; bags are easy, and obviously they work. I would love to see more patterns for knits out there; I think the Big 4 pattern companies are realizing that finally, even though Burda has been publishing good knit patterns for ages.

Anything you’re ready for the sewing world to get over?
Whoops, I guess I already mentioned that. Please, Amy Butler and everyone else like you, will you stop coming out with more bags? You know we love them, but once you have one pattern you like, you really don’t need another one whose only difference is a few pleats. Also, end it with the florals! Give us straight lines and angles and eye-popping, soul-stirring beauty. And all you sewists out there — simple linen is beautiful, but let’s get a little fancy! We need some details, some sparkles and ruffles and grommets and buttons and contrasting thread. We’ve been holding it in too long, and it’s time to let our creativity run wild!

What’s on your sewing agenda for 2011? What are you excited about? What would you like to learn more about?
I received a dress form for Christmas, so I’ll be working hard to learn how to really fit a garment and hopefully, to create my own. I’d love to see more focus in the internet world on making clothes. Real, usable, everyday clothes that we love and our kids love and that bring out our beauty. Fewer crayon rolls, more t-shirts and pants and dresses. Oh, and let’s focus on FABRIC, people! I hope the blogging world will leave the cotton cage it’s in right now and teach people how to work with ALL kinds of fabric. I mean, right now, working with thin knits and leather and satin increases our “tension,” if you know what I mean (ba-dum-pshhhh!). We as sewists need to know how to tackle everything that’s out there; show us a project in leather and one in canvas, etc., etc., and watch us grow.

Thanks for reading everyone! Now bring on 2011 in the sewing world!


Date Night: 2010

Okay, you all know I have four kids right? And that they’re all five and under, right? So I think you’ll understand that it’s been YEARS since my husband and I went on a date. Just try finding a babysitter that’s WILLING to sit for so many little kids and, once you do, ask them just how much they’re going to charge!

BUT, a few weeks ago a friend of ours (thanks Athena!) volunteered to watch our monsters one evening while we went to a nice dinner and then to see the Nutcracker at our local performing-arts center. It would be a sort of early Anniversary celebration (my dear hubby and I tied the knot on New Year’s Eve almost eight years ago).

Whoa. This was huge. Massive. This . . . warranted a new dress. I tried Dillard’s first, which, surprisingly enough, has a decent selection of Made-in-the-USA garments. Nothing. I wanted black, and I just couldn’t find anything that worked. Then, on a chance visit to Hobby Lobby, I discovered some ruffled black knit that was probably left over from last season (remember those big pink ruffles from last Spring?). I went home and printed out a coupon (who goes to Hobby Lobby or Jo-Ann’s without a coupon? Seriously, who???), and got two yards for $10.00. Then I went to Jo-Ann’s and picked up several yards of the $3.99 pointe roma for a lining. The next day I simply laid down a well-fitting sheath dress over the fabric and hacked out the front and back (only two pattern pieces) and, using THIS tutorial on lining a sleeveless dress, I was finished with my “date” dress in just a few hours.

I added a belt, necklace, and shoes that I had and WAH-LAH!

Please look only at the dress. I have, after all, had four children. And I have a giant head. But anyway . . .

My daughter told me, “Mommy! You look BEAUTIFUL!” (seriously, doesn’t that kind of thing make you feel GREAT?). And then she took this picture of my husband and I:

I love this picture. And I love my husband. It’s been eight years, and I still think we go so well together. And every time I wear this dress I’m going to think about what a lovely time we had on Date Night: 2010 and what a crazy, fantastic time we’ve been having together since the day we met.

My Ideal Summer Outfit

I adore sewing with knits. I really do. My serger has opened up a whole new world for me, one that is soft, colorful, and so very comfy. Yesterday, I fired up Sergio and dipped into my stash to make this outfit:

It’s made from a yard of white interlock I got half price at Joann’s a long time ago, some blue jersey I found at Walmart earlier this year, and a bit of that fantastic garage-sale fabric. I figured it all up on my way to the grocery store this morning, and all told the whole thing cost about $5. I went with white for the shirt because I’ve needed a new white tee for quite a while — you know, the kind you can throw on with just about any skirt or pair of pants? Every time I buy one, it gets stained a few days later. Which, then, makes me wonder how long this one will last. Oh well. It really only took about an hour from start to finish, so I can just make another. I love its shape; it really has some nice coverage in the front . . .

. . . and a bit of drama in the back. I drew up the pattern yesterday based on another shirt I have, and I know I must have gotten it right because my new shirt behaves exactly as my old shirt does, which is to say, it slides off my shoulders and shows my bra straps. I guess that’s the price I’ll pay for pretty. 🙂

The skirt is from the Yoga Skirt Tutorial over at Sew Mama Sew. It’s unbelievably comfortable and a really simple project. I’ll definitely be making more in a bunch of different colors.

So there it is. My ideal summer outfit (save for the bra straps thing) in breathable, stretchable, movable knit. If you haven’t tried sewing with knits, there are some great tips on sewing with them here, here, and here. My favorite place to buy knits, other than garage sales of course, is Chez Ami. Their fabrics are adorable and their prices (check out the clearance section!) are better than the big stores.

And now, it’s time to wear my new clothes while I clean my house and wrangle my little ones. Ah, the glamorous life of the stay-at-home-mom. Have a great Thursday, everyone! Thanks for stopping by!

The Summer Necessity Swimsuit Tutorial!!!

Because I had such trouble finding a tutorial on how to make a child’s swimsuit, I decided to write down the steps to make the simple swimsuit I created for my daughter. You can use these same steps to make a suit for your child or even for yourself! This method uses folded-over elastic rather than ribbing, so it really is fast and easy!

So here you go . . .


First, you’ll need a pattern for your swimsuit. I made my pattern by tracing a dance leotard and adjusting it a little by holding it against my daughter.  You could also trace out a swimsuit that fits well (this is the easiest method — seriously, just lay it down and trace it out, stretching the edges so they lay flat), or even head into your favorite store and find a suit you like and “borrow” its shape. If you have absolutely nothing you can use, you can try putting your child in a tank and underwear and tracing out the shape of those items while she’s wearing them, like this:


Only trace out one half of each pattern piece; you will place it on the fold when you’re cutting out your swimsuit. Also, be sure that the length of the sides and the width of the shoulders and crotches are the same for both the front and the back pattern pieces that you make (this width also needs to be around 1.5″ or more to accommodate the elastic when it’s folded over).  You can decide for yourself whether or not to add seam allowances; swimsuit fabric has a lot of stretch, so unless your suit pattern is very, very snug, they’re not really necessary. To be certain your suit pattern will fit well, you might want to make a “muslin” out of an old t-shirt.

Okay, now that you have your pattern, let’s get started!

Here’s what you’ll need:

Swimsuit Fabric (1/2 yard for up to size 6, bigger children will need more fabric)
Swimsuit Lining Fabric (Optional — same amount as swimsuit fabric)
Swimsuit Pattern
Ballpoint Pins (pins for knit fabric)
Elastic (I used 3/8 inch “swimsuit elastic,” and it’s fabulous, but 3/8″ knit elastic will also work)
Rotary Cutter (Optional)

*** Please note; I used a 3/8″ seam allowance for my suit unless otherwise noted, but you are welcome to use one you are more comfortable with; swimsuit material has so much stretch that small changes in seam allowances do not make a big difference. You do, however, want the shoulders and crotch of your swimsuit pattern to be at least 1.5″ wide to accommodate the elastic once it’s folded over.***
***Another quick note: I used lining in my swimsuit, but you don’t have to. If you decide not to, just skip the steps that involve sewing the crotch seam in the lining and basting the lining to the wrong side of the swimsuit fabric.***
***Okay, last note, I promise — Click on any of the pictures below to see them larger.***

1. Lay each pattern out on the fold of the fabric. Swimsuit fabric has 4-way stretch, so it doesn’t matter which orientation your fold is — horizontal or vertical — unless your fabric has a directional print, then you need to make the fold parallel to the direction of the print. I did mine this way to conserve fabric. Cut out the pieces. Because swimsuit fabric is slippery, I like to use my rotary cutter rather than scissors to cut it out because the fabric shifts less.

2. If you are using a lining, lay out your pattern and cut it out as well.

3. Now make sure you have four pieces; a swimsuit front and back and a lining front and back.

4. Sew crotch of swimsuit together, right sides together. Do the same with the lining.

5. Now you have two pieces instead of four. Lay the lining over the suit, matching crotch seams and with wrong sides together.

6. Match the edges all along the suit and lining.

7. Starting at the crotch seam, baste with 1/4″ seam allowance all the way around the whole front and back of the suit and lining. To baste, you turn your stitch length up as high as you can and sew without backstitching. The swimsuit lining will stretch and shift slightly as you baste, but don’t worry; it has a lot of stretch, so feel free to shift and stretch it to match the edge of the swimsuit fabric when you need to. This is a very important step; it will make the rest of your sewing on this project much, much easier.

8. Your suit should now look like this:

9. Now measure around your child’s thigh along her panty line. I just hold the elastic up against her leg rather than using a tape measure. Cut two of these lengths.

10. Stretch each length of elastic across the leg holes against the wrong side (lining side) of the suit, matching sides and centers of elastic strip and leg hole. Pin.

11. Back stitch (sew forward and back a few times) at the beginning of the elastic and leghole. Then strrrreeeeetch the elastic as you sew it just inside the edge of the material using a zigzag stitch (that is no wider than the elastic) or a serger. Be careful to stay inside the edge of the leg hole; you don’t want to miss any of the swimsuit material as you’re stretching and sewing the elastic. Zig zag or serge all the way to the end of the leg hole, stretching and sewing as you go, and back stitch when you reach the end. Do this on both legholes.

12. Your suit’s legholes now look like this:

13. Sew your suit’s shoulders together, right sides together.

14. Measure armhole elastic against your child (place it along where you’d like the armhole to fall) and cut two of these lengths.

15. Pin elastic along armholes as with legholes, matching sides and centers. Sew as before — backstitch, stretch, and sew using a zigzag stitch.

16. Your armholes now look like this:

17. At edge of one armhole, fold elastic over once on wrong side of fabric and pin.

18. Topstitch on right side of fabric using a longer stitch (3+) or a zigzag stitch that’s no larger than the width of the elastic. Stretch the elastic as you sew, just like before. Do this on both armholes and leg holes.

19. Your suit now looks like this:

20. Cut elastic about 1/2″-1″ shorter than the neck opening and stitch it together into a circle.

21. Match centers and sides of elastic circle with centers and sides of neck hole on wrong side (lining side) of suit. I like to put the elastic’s seam at the back of the suit. Sew, as before, by backstitching and stretching as you sew using a zigzag stitch or a serger.

22. Your suit now looks like this:

23. Fold over and topstitch the neck elastic just as you did with the armhole and leghole elastic.

24. Your suit now looks like this:

25. Pin side seams together, right sides together, and stitch.

26. Once side seams are stitched, fold their seam allowances to one side along each seam and pin.

27. Tack these seam allowances down using a few stitches forward and back.

28. It’s helpful to remove the basting around the neckhole (and the armhole and legholes, although this isn’t totally necessary) to allow the material there to fully stretch. If you try to pull the suit on and the openings won’t stretch enough, this is why.


Your finished suit should look something like this:

and this:

Hurray for you! You just made a swimsuit! Now go try it out in the pool!!!

Why Buy Fabric When It’s Made Outside of the U.S., Too?

A few commenters brought up some great points in response to my last post. Choosing to make clothes rather than buy those made outside of the United States is all well and good, and it’s definitely cheaper than buying American-made, but what about fabric that was made outside of the U.S.?

The main difference between supporting foreign fabric production and supporting foreign garment production lies in the methods used. First, fabric manufacture, unlike garment manufacture, is highly mechanized with specialized equipment, and very few workers can produce a huge amount of fabric. So, simply because it employs less people, a fabric production facility outside of the United States has less opportunity to exploit workers. Second, because they are required to use complex, computer-guided machines, employees in fabric-production facilities need to be familiar with the operation of the equipment, which usually requires on the job training. In short, workers must be better trained, which usually means that a) employees make a higher wage, even in third-world countries, and b) employers, who often provide training to their new hires, are motivated to protect that investment by retaining their workers. They spend time and money training their employees, then must keep them satisfied enough that the those workers don’t leave and force the employer to spend more time and more money training another new hire. In addition, workers who are already trained and make the decision to move to another facility are more in demand and can thus expect higher pay.

Contrast this system with garment production, which uses a large number of relatively unskilled laborers who are fairly easily replaced. Owners and managers in this industry have little or no motivation to care for their workers’ health or job satisfaction, and often (usually?) don’t. When a garment production company outside of the United States needs to increase profits and/or lessen costs, the workers are often the first to feel the effects.

Now, all that said, I am not saying that fabric production conducted outside of the United States does not exploit its workers ever or at all. Foreign textile producers are not subject to the same workers’ rights laws and safety regulations to which American producers must conform. Workers can still be underpaid, work longer hours, and be exposed to toxic chemicals. Also, machinery itself can be very dangerous. And because the process of fabric production is so automized, hiring fewer workers is possible, but hiring fewer workers means less jobs are available over all.

Some also maintain that when we boycott non-U.S-made garments and the companies that sell them, we are actually hurting the depressed economies that often breed sweatshops. Sure, workers are paid pennies per pair of jeans, but if you don’t buy those jeans, you are, after all, depriving workers of those pennies. And by buying only fabric, we are supporting an industry that seeks to eliminate as many jobs as possible in order to manage costs. And it’s true that not buying a pair of Old Navy jeans keeps a few cents out of the pockets of sweatshop employees. However, the amount it keeps out of Old Navy’s coffers is much, much higher. We’re telling Old Navy to change the way it does business and we’re supporting companies that do business in a way that doesn’t build profits on the backs of exploited workers.

In the end, we really need to ask ourselves what we hope to achieve by boycotting non-American-made clothing. On a surface level, we are avoiding contributing personally to immoral business practices. On a slightly deeper level, we are trying to force companies to limit production to the U.S. because this is the best way to ensure that workers aren’t exploited somewhere in the process. Ultimately, though, it would be wonderful if Walmart, etc. paid even their international manufacturers a fair price for their garments. Then workers outside of the U.S. could benefit from plenty of jobs and better pay. It would also allow U.S. manufacturers to compete in an international market. This kind of thing, though, would mean higher prices in both our department and discount stores, at least until everyone got on board. However, we are willing to pay a little more to ensure that men, women, and children outside of the United States are not suffering so that we can save a few dollars or own ten pairs of jeans. And that is the real strength of this movement; we need to prove to ourselves and to large corporations that we are willing to change our American, sale-oriented mindset. In short, we must be willing to pay more for U.S.-made products. And we need to be willing to make what we cannot find or simply cannot afford.

As far as buying fabric made outside of the United States, it’s no question that there is likely some exploitation inherent in foreign fabric production as well as foreign garment production. However, the fabric production industry’s transgressions are not nearly as egregious or as commonplace as that of the garment industry. By buying fabric, ideally domestic but often necessarily foreign, we still ensure that we don’t support sweatshop-made clothing and we do this in a way that is personally achievable. If you live in an area where domestic clothing is available or find a reputable company that sells domestic clothing over the internet, and you have the funds to pay for it, by all means, please buy it. Support those companies (but do a little googling first to make sure those companies aren’t exploiting immigrants to the United States). However, if you don’t have access to these kind of items or don’t have the cash to cover their cost, you shouldn’t feel guilty about grabbing some fabric and spending a few hours crafting. Foreign fabric production does have the potential to exploit its employees, but you can feel confident that, because of the way fabric is made, you are not contributing to the sweatshop and child labor inherent in the garment industry.

Sulking and Sewing

I wanted to go to the quilt store today, but my husband got home too late for me to go.  Like a mature adult, I holed up in my “office” for a few hours in protest.  Out came this:

I bought the material from Joann’s on Sunday, and honestly it was hard to wait even this long to make something out of it.

I just made a simple peasant top.  No pattern or instructions really.  I simply laid one of my daughter’s tops down over the material and started cutting.

I didn’t even change the color of thread already on my machine.  It almost matches the blue in the material.  Almost.

It was quick and spontaneous, a very different kind of sewing than my usual method.  But I enjoyed it, and I think the top — surprisingly enough — turned out okay.

I’m still going to the quilt store tomorrow, though.

Mother’s Day is Coming . . .

. . . And the first of my gifts is finished.

It’s a Buttercup Bag, made from a free pattern featured on one of my favorite blogs, Made By Rae.  It only uses two fat quarters and sews up fairly quickly, so check it out if you still need to throw something together for your mom, mother-in-law, Grandma, sister, friend, or yourself for Mother’s Day!

I’d love to hear about what YOU are doing for Mother’s Day. What are you giving, and what are you (hopefully) getting?  I’m making some gifts for my mother, mother-in-law, and step-mother-in-law that I’ll post here when I can, and I’ve strongly hinted to Mr. Chaos that I want some 30’s and 40’s reproduction prints (hear that, honey?  Now everyone who reads this knows you’re on the hook).  We’ll see how it goes. 😉

Chaos. Everyday.

Four kids. Two parents. Everyday life. Stop in often for new updates, crafts we've been working on, and a journal of life with four kids age five and under.

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