Transform a Tank Top!

Summer is drawing to a close (though it's still delightfully hot here in Atlanta), and you may be wondering how to squeeze a few more weeks out of your most-loved tank tops. Or, maybe you just want to change things up, or maybe you just don't love to show your upper arms. Honey, I've got you. 

Here's a simple way to add a sleeve to a racerback tank. The cut of a racerback means you can't just fit a regular sleeve onto it, but I have a sneaky way to draft a sleeve pattern. You just need an old T-shirt you don't mind cutting apart. You'll also need about a half yard of a soft knit (prewashed) to make your sleeves.

First, put your old T-shirt on your dress form, with the tank top over it. (If you don't have a dress form, bribe a friend to either be your model or draw on the shirts while they're on you!)

Next, trace along the edge of your racerback arm opening, all the way around the back and front. 

Add a seam allowance by drawing another line about 1/2 inch outside the first line. Then cut your shirt along that line. Note: You really only have to do this on one side; you'll just cut your second sleeve as a mirror to this one. 

Once you've cut your sleeve off your T-shirt, cut it open along the underarm seam. 

You now have your basic pattern!

I wanted to add a little peekaboo detail to my sleeve, so I cut a hole in my pattern piece. When I cut my sleeves, I also flared them out a bit past where the T-shirt pattern ended, to create a little bit of a bell sleeve. 

To make a facing for my peekaboo window, I just laid a scrap of the same knit I used for my sleeves right sides together with the sleeve piece and stitched around the circle. Then I clipped it around the interior of the circle, turned it, and gave it a press.

I top stitched around the edges of my circle, then I trimmed my facing fabric close to my top stitching. (This is why you can just use a scrap and don't need to specifically cut the facing before you sew it in place. Just as long as it's big enough to span the width of your peekaboo hole, you're good!)

Once my peekaboo was done, I stitched the side seams of my sleeve closed. And then I basted it in place to the interior of the shirt. From the outside, I machine stitched the sleeve to the shirt.

And that's THAT! I added sleeves to a Tatooine shirt that I bought a couple of sizes too big for a swingy, casual top I could wear over leggings or fitted trousers.

Here's a little more detail of how the sleeves look on the finished project:

And finally, the REAL reason I wanted to add the little sleeve windows: so I can show off my Greedo tattoo. All Star Wars, all the time. :)

 

 

The New Favorite Dress

You guys, I have a new favorite dress.

You know how you have a fabric you love but you love it so much that you can't decide what to make with it?

And how you also covet an expensive pattern, and you keep the info for it on a list to wait for the day when you happen to be at the fabric store when that pattern line is on sale?

And how SOMETIMES your creative brain puts those two things together at the right time?

That's me, with this dress.

The fabric is a cool First Order print that came out a couple of months before "The Force Awakens" hit theaters.

I loved it so much when I bought it that I literally drove home with it in my lap so I could look at it when I was stopped at lights.

The pattern was Vogue 9145. I LOVED this the second I saw it. It's modern and different and SWIRLY and it has a full skirt.

Once I had the pattern in-hand, I thought about all kinds of fabrics I wanted to use for it. As you may have noticed if you've read any of my other dressmaking posts, I am a fan of knits. This dress has a LOT of pieces all stitched together, and if I were making it with wovens, the pieces would be cut on the bias. But, ever on the quest to experiment and find my own way, I started thinking about how fun it might be to make this dress with a combo of a knit and a woven.

That's when it struck me. I had that yummy directional Star Wars print, and loads of black French terry (I buy it in large quantities when I find a good deal). I decided to cut the print on the bias as called for in the pattern, and then cut the knit on the straight of grain.

I wasn't sure if I would be able to eke out all the pieces I needed from my First Order print. The pattern called for 3 yards, and I only had 2 1/2. Since I am shrimpy, I cut several inches off the bottom of each pieces at the hem, and that enabled me to get all my pieces cut from what I had on hand. While the cutting took a while, the dress actually went together rather quickly, once I had my pieces in order. (I recommend either keeping each cut piece of fabric with its corresponding pattern piece, or using stickers to label each cut piece.)

I eliminated the facing pieces, and instead used a thin strip of knit as a mini-facing to finish the neck, arm openings and hem.

The actual sewing only took about 2 hours total. No zipper, as there's plenty of stretch to pull it on.

And now, I almost feel like I should apologize to everyone for how often I'm going to wear this thing. Bear with me; I'm in a Star Wars swirl trance.

My New BB-8 Birthday Dress!

So, I turn 45 today. What better way to celebrate another loop around the sun than with a new dress? Because I share my birthday with Star Wars -- "A New Hope" debuted on May 25, 1977 -- it always seems only natural to make some Star Wars finery for the occasion.

I designed a new BB-8 damask a while back, and when Spoonflower had a 20 percent off sale recently, I jumped on it and got a couple yards of modern jersey. I have been really pleased with the detail Spoonflower manages on their jersey, and this one came out beautifully.

I decided on Simplicity 1587 for the bodice, but I chose to make it using black French terry for the front yoke, sleeves and back, and then my damask for the lower bodice and skirt. (Gotta conserve that custom printed fabric!) Since I used all knits, I skipped the zipper, as is my usual habit. Pull-on vintage style FTW! 

The skirt is a simple circle skirt -- all the better to wear with a fluffy petticoat! 

It only took a few hours to pull this one together -- one of the many reasons I love to work with knits. I look forward to wearing this dress all day, staying comfy through all the celebrating, but still vintage stylish!

A Modern Flapper Bride

My dear friend and podcast co-host Tracy got married recently, and I was honored to be entrusted with creating the bride's dress. Early on in the discussion, the 1920s was settled on as the style inspiration, and Tracy wanted her favorite color, blue.

It started with a sketch. I am NO sketch artist, as is abundantly obvious here. But fortunately, Tracy has vision that fills in the gaps where my drawing skills fail, and she approved.

We sourced a handful of blue satin fabrics for the under layer, eventually settling on a periwinkle charmeuse. I knew I wanted to use English net for the beaded outer layer, so we just had to get a swatch from a supplier to confirm that it was good stuff. The dress construction itself was really simple -- it's just a basic sleeveless shift. The charmeuse layer was cut on the bias so it would skim close to the body; the English net was cut on the straight of grain, because the weight of the beads on it would pull it down in a way that would hug Tracy's figure.

Once I had the dress sewn together, the beading marathon began. I started by running a series of bugle and seed bead lines around the armscyes and the neck edge.

Then I slowly built out the design from there. All of the beading designs I used were based on techniques I saw on garments from the 1920s.


I knew I wanted to create a basket weave effect with beaded lines to create the diamond pattern on the dress. This turned out to be a mathematical challenge! I knew the beading had to follow the lines up from the points on the hem to converge in the design points that defined the yoke area. I ran numerous basting lines, only to take them out in frustration when I realized that I had calculated the trajectories incorrectly. Eventually, I came up with a really unorthodox, but ultimately effective solution: I laid out the lines on the dress using painters tape, and THEN, when I had them right, I ran the basting along those lines. Phew. Problem solved. In the end, things lined up nicely. Here's a shot of the back of the dress with the lines of beading converging.

One of the design elements I wanted to include in the dress was a series of Minecraft diamonds rendered in beads. Tracy and her wonderful groom Patrick play Minecraft together a lot, so I wanted to give a fun, nerdy nod to that in the dress.

My test diamond turned out pretty well:

And it seemed like it would be great when I pinned it to the dress to see how it would sit. Full steam ahead.

(You can also see in this photo the inset I added to the top of the charmeuse layer -- the neckline sat too low on Tracy when we did one of her early fittings, so I added that in, knowing beading would cover the seam once the dress was embellished.)

But when I stitched the diamonds directly onto the English net, they just didn't work. The weight of the beading on the net was pulling it in a way that distorted the shape of the diamonds and made them look like odd, random bead clumps. So, off they came, and I did a little redesign.

Another change that we made along the way was the inclusion of clear, iridescent sequins. Initially, I thought that I wouldn't use sequins, but all the beading was making the dress heavier and heavier. The sequins offered a way to add embellishment with far less weight. They also brought a whole new feel to the dress with their light-catching sparkle.

The timing on this project was right down to the wire. Life kept throwing me obstacles that would rob me of beading time, which was SUPER frustrating. I finished the last bit of beading on my lunch break the DAY BEFORE THE WEDDING, just a few hours before we left to drive up to North Caroline for the event. I never like to cut sewing projects that close, particularly when I'm stitching for other people. Nerve-wracking!

But then the big day came, and Tracy's hair and makeup was phenomenal, and we slipped the dress on her, and her transformation into Phryne Fisher was complete!

You'll be happy to know the Minecraft diamonds still found a place on the dress -- I put them at the very bottom where the distortion effect was offset by the structure of the faced hem. You can also see below that I added some flouncy gores to the charmeuse layer, and then another chiffon layer under that. Plus, lots of beaded fringe!

Tracy was just lovely in her full getup -- the perfect modern flapper!

And, perhaps my proudest achievement: No beads flew off the dress when the darling newlyweds danced! (And those under layers had great movement when Tracy twirled. Huzzah!)

Congratulations to the beautiful couple on the next phase of their life together. I'm so glad I remembered to pack my hanky in my bag for the wedding, because I CRIED and CRIED. It was lovely, and I feel lucky to have gotten to contribute to their special day.

For additional photos of the fabulous Tracy and Patrick nuptials, click here.

And now, get ready, because with that project wrapped, my brain went BANANAS coming up with new things to sew!

It's a Greedo Springtime!

Winter is FINALLY taking a hike. That means swingy spring dresses are now de rigeur! Since springtime makes me think of the color green, I got to thinking about one of my favorite green things -- Greedo from "Star Wars: A New Hope." He's my fave SW character (I can't explain it; I just love him and want him to be my bestie), and I can never get enough Greedo goodies.

So, I played around in Photoshop to make a Greedo Damask pattern, and ordered a couple of yards of it printed on Spoonflower's Modern Jersey.

While I awaited my fabric, I selected a pattern. I settled on Simplicity 8015 for the bodice. I liked the colorblocking of view D, and the sleeve length of view C. Using patterns that aren't necessarily designed for knits, especially when it comes to dresses, is one of my favorite pattern hacks.

Because I had a lovely French terry for my black fabric that has an extremely smooth hand and a lot of stretch, I skipped the zipper entirely, so my dress just pulls on, easy peasy. I didn't want a gathered skirt, though, so I just cut a simple circle skirt instead. That way it has all that nice, swingy volume, but doesn't add bulk at the waist.

I also added a band around the neckline, made with a strip of the same black French terry. I don't like fussing with facings, especially when working with knits, and it ends up with a very sporty neckline this way.

So now I am ready to welcome warmer temps! I have some other custom Greedo fabric (FLORAL!!) so watch this space for more knitwear from a galaxy far, far away!

 

 

 

 

Lace Finery Fit for a Queen (or Princess)!

Lace crowns are experiencing a serious uptick in popularity right now -- and why not? They're darling! They also combine the best elements of princess style, DIY and shabby chic. Bonus appeal: you can probably find some bits of lace trim long enough to start this project already lurking in your stash.

This project is pretty easy, though there is some mess involved. First off, you have to soak your lace trim in fabric stiffener for a little while. This photo shows me dragging my lace through the stiffener to make sure it got fully coated before I mushed the whole piece into the liquid.


Once your lace is well-coated with fabric stiffener, you just need to squeezed out any excess and lay it flat. Remember to protect your work area with a non-porous covering -- I just used a trash bag.


Here is a piece of dry lace next to the wet, stiffener soaked piece, just so you get a sense of what to expect:


Unlike the photo above, you'll probably want to have multiple pieces drying at once so you can optimize your time.

Once your lace is fully dry, you can start playing! (Note: If your lace is dry but not as stiff as you'd like, you can apply another coat of fabric stiffener, I just brush it on in this case, being careful not to let the liquid collect in the gaps of the lace.)

If you're making full-circle crowns, you'll need to close them up. Some people use glue here, but I like to stitch mine. Either way works just fine. You want to overlap your ends a little, and if possible, line up the repeat design of your lace to hide the join.


Once your crown is sewn or glued into its circle shape, you can paint it any color you like! You can use spray paint or craft paint with a brush (again, be careful to keep the paint from filling in the holes in your lace and obscuring the design). Here's a mini-crown, painted purple:


The best thing about this project is how creative you can be with embellishments. For this full-size crown, I kept it simple, and just painted it silver and added a sparkly pin from my jewelry drawer:



You can also coat your crown with a thin layer of Mod Podge and apply glitter:


Only have a small amount of a lace trim, but you love it and want to make something out of it? No problem! Just make a tiara instead of a crown:

 

For the tiara, I tacked each end of my lace to a headband with a series of small stitches, and then put a daub of glue over the stitching for extra security. This can be worn tiara-style as shown above, or as a fancy headband by situating it so the lace sits flat against your head. I embellished this one with a few hot fix crystals.


And then, my favorite variation on the lace crown project -- tiny crown fascinators:



Like the tiara, these are just attached to a headband with small stitches and glue. These two are painted with pink and purple paint with a bit of glitter mixed in, and then embellished with rhinestones. (I am clearly madly in love with my hot fix applicator.)



There are so many more ways to play with this project! You could add buttons, ribbon, fabric flowers -- anything that will glue or sew on is fair game! You could make these up as amazing favors for a princess party -- or just make the basic crowns and let the princesses decorate them. It's a really inexpensive project, so you can experiment and play with a bunch of designs without worrying to much about cost or waste. That's a good thing, because I already have a bunch of ideas for my next batch ...

 

 

Cameo Silhouette Bag

Silhouettes and cameos have been enduring icons of art for as long as I can remember. And with good reason; the simplicity of such items gives them a versatility that's incredibly appealing. Any visage can be silhouetted.

I wanted to make a bag that borrows from the style of cameos and silhouettes, and give a nod to a classic Disney villain: Maleficent. After all, is there any silhouette more memorable?

This is a relatively simple project, and while I made a bag, you could just as easily use the same method to create a pillow, a patch, a detail on a skirt -- you name it.

To begin, I searched for black and white, simple art online, and then did a bit of tracing.

I actually traced the image twice -- first onto plain paper, and then a second time onto tissue paper. The tissue paper (which is recycled from a gift bag I received at some point in time) is too thin to safely trace onto with a marker for fear that the ink would bleed through to my tablet screen. Once I traced the image the second time onto the tissue, I cut an oval around the design. This became my pattern for the whole project.

 

I cut one layer of my entire oval out of sateen, two layers out of faux suede, two layers of satin for lining and a layer out of fleece. To create the front piece of the bag, I made a stack of pieces that started with the fleece layer, then the sateen layer, then a faux suede layer, and placed my pattern on top. 

 

Then I stitched over the lines of my drawing. I flipped the whole thing over so you can see what the stitching looks like on the back fleece layer.

Once the stitching was complete and I clipped all my loose threads, I tore the tissue paper away. For the little nooks and crannies, I used tweezers to help pull stray paper from the stitches.

 

Then I carefully clipped the top layer of fabric away, about 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch from the outermost stitching line. I used faux suede to avoid fraying, but something like vinyl or leather would also work -- anything that won't come apart at raw edges. 

 

To prep the back and install the zipper, I drew a line across the bag lining where I wanted the zipper to sit, then stitched a narrow box around it through the lining and my second piece of faux suede, right sides together. Because my suedey fabric is fairly stiff, I didn't bother with interfacing it, but if you use a fabric with a drapey body, you might want to add some interfacing or an interlining. I clipped the narrow box and turned my lining to the inside, pressed the folded edges, and then stitched my zipper into the opening from the outside. (Apologies for the fuzzy photos here -- they looked OK on the preview screen, but not so much at full size!)

 

Once my zipper was in place on the back of my bag, I basted the front and back together (adding in the lining layer for the front as well). So at this point along the edges, I have sateen, fleece, lining, lining, faux suede.

 

To make loops to clip a strap to, I folded a 12-inch piece of 1-inch wide ribbon in half lengthwise and stitched it closed like a tiny tube. Then I ironed it flat. I cut two pieces from it, each a little shorted than 6 inches, and I basted those at an angle to the back side of the bag.

 

Then I used bias tape to stitch eveything together and enclose all the raw edges. I wasn't especially careful here, as the tape edges would all soon be covered. 

 

The last step was to stitch a length of decorative lace all around the exterior edge, covering the bias tape and mimicking a pendant setting for a cameo or a frame for a silhouette. Then I clipped a strap I had to the ribbon loops at the back and voila! Ready to hit the town (and go to a Disney park)!


Star Wars Half Marathon 2016 Running Outfits

One of the fun things about running in big events is crafting unique outfits to wear on the course. This year, there was a little bit of a wrench thrown into the mix for many runners when runDisney announced new costumes rules just two days before marathon weekend in Orlando. That race weekend preceded the Star Wars event by a week. So, runners who like to costume got to see a sampling of what did and didn't make it through security for the Orlando weekend before we headed to Anaheim for Star Wars fun.

I usually try to pare down my outfits to make sure I'll be comfortable anyway, so I wasn't too concerned. My only real fear was that my gloves for my Ackbar 5k outfit might have to go, and I was prepared to ditch them if I needed to.

My ensemble was reviewed at security, but ultimately got the OK. This outfit was fun, and pretty easy -- I had the hat and gloves from last year, so I just used black pants and faux boots I had on hand, and bought a cream turtleneck at the thrift store. The only new piece I made was the vest, which was simple and made from gold sweatshirt fleece that I overdyed with apple green to get that unique greenish mustard tone. The admiral's insignia is an applique with satin stitched details.

My 10k outfit was put together at the VERY LAST MINUTE. I literally wrapped it up just a couple of hours before we left for the airport. (And even so, I needed to pack paint with me to finish the hat.)

I was pretty happy with how the dress turned out, especially considering its last-minute nature. It's just a basic spandex dress that I whipped together and detailed with appliques to mimic Chopper's body design. I decided to add a little back interest with some iron-on letters in Chop's actual droid letter/number name:

The hat is just poster board taped together and then covered with fleece and a final orange knit layer. Then I glued the details on. The antenna is made from a medicine syringe I had on hand from one of the cats' vet adventures. I just painted it pale silver and poked it up through the center from the inside and hot glued it in place.

Both the hat and the dress got some weathering with paint and a sponge brush.

I had a blast running in this costume, though I was surprised at how many people didn't seem to know who Chopper is! I got called C-3PO three times. Oh, well! I had fun just the same!

My outfit for the half marathon was pretty basic. I had already made my Salacious Crumb cap a while back as part of a blog project for StarWars.com. The dress started out as a pile of white Lycra which I dyed -- using just RIT dye in Tan -- to a nice golden tone. Then I whipped it into a dress, and pinned a strip of fur along the neckline. (I didn't sew it on because I knew I'd need to be able to just toss the stinky running dress in the wash.)

This was a REALLY fun outfit to wear for a race. It was comfy, and it made people laugh. A word to the wise, though: If you're not interested in talking to lots of strangers, don't wear a kooky outfit. I love meeting new people and am especially friendly when I run, so for me it's fun!

Now, it's time to turn my thoughts to princess running outfits for next month's Glass Slipper Challenge, and the Dark Side Challenge after that. Some of that may be recycled ensembles.  But for now, it's just time to launder these and rest!

Lacy Layers to Upgrade Cotton Prints

You know what makes me happy? All of the fun licensed cotton prints that are coming out these days. (I remember a time when the thought of a Star Wars or Disney print was practically unheard of.) But you know what else makes me happy? Girly, slightly froufy clothes. (I'm pretty sure I made that word up, but it makes me happy as all get-out, so it stays.) As I was thinking of creating an ensemble to celebrate the opening of "The Force Awakens" and also to wear to events like New Year's Eve soirees, I started to consider how I might upgrade those cotton prints to make them a little more appropriate for special occasions.

Then, it finally hit me that it might be fun to layer sheer or semi-sheer fabrics over some of the cotton prints I've acquired to see what I like. Here's one stage of my experimentation:

After consulting with my BFF (thanks, Dawn!), I settled on the lace over the BB-8 fabric. This also solved a problem I was having with that print. It has a typo, so this treatment obscured it just enough. Can you spot the problem?

One trick I use when layering fabrics, flatlining-style: When I have a dart or a pleat, I machine baste the layers together in the center of what will be the folded bit. When I skip this, the topmost fabric almost always wiggles out of the pleat or dart just a little, and then I end up with bubbles.

Here's my finished BB-8 dress. For the bodice, I used Butterick Retro pattern 5707. I didn't want a pencil skirt, though, so I just cut a circle skirt. I also moved the zipper from the side to the center back. I didn't hem the lower edge of the lace layer of the skirt -- in testing, it just looked too clunky for my taste.

I also found I needed to add a small pleat at the center front to make the bodice sit properly on me. Without the pleat, it bowed out in a weird and unflattering way.

Of course, I paired my dress with a quickie T-shirt cardigan! I love that this look is a little prim, but also nerdy and fun.

I also wanted a skirt, and an excuse to use some pink, rhinestone-dotted nylon net I've had on hand forever. I got it for a song years ago, and hadn't found quite the right project for it. Naturally, it seemed like it should team up with some classic trilogy Stormtroopers. ;) I also decided to make an underlayer out of organza to give the skirt some body and prevent it from clinging to tights and leggings.

This went together lickety-split. In lieu of a more traditional waistband, I used pink foldover elastic to finish the waist edge (though it also has a center back zipper). This makes the skirt SO comfy.

I can dress my girly trooper skirt up or down, depending on the top I pair it with.

I foresee many wearings of my new layered looks, and I'll almost certainly make more. I will always love the casual versatility of a good cotton-print dress, but this is a fun way to shift gears when working with cotton prints and create party clothes that are truly unique.

Make a Cardigan From a T-shirt!

Cardigans are total wardrobe workhorses. Need to ward off chill in an office that’s set to “Hoth” on the thermostat? Grab a cardigan. Want to cover up less-than-buff arms in an otherwise darling tank top? Grab a cardigan.

I’ll admit, my wardrobe has more track jackets than cardigans at the moment. But lately, I’ve been wanting more retro and girly ensembles, and a track jacket just won’t do over a floufy, froufy dress.

But, to keep up with the number of cover-ups I need to match all. the. things., I’d need a king’s ransom to buy cardigans or even fabric to make them. But then, as I was pondering this problem of never having enough cold hard cash to finance my fashion fantasies, an idea occurred to me.

T-shirts.

I mean, I am no stranger to the T-shirt makeover game. But I realized that I could find long-sleeve T-shirts for SUPER cheap at thrift stores and discount stores, and with just a little finagling, kablam! Cardigans galore!

So far, I’ve only made two, so it’s a little shy of that “galore” claim, but rest assured, there are several more in the near future. Here’s how I made mine:

First, I had to cut a little off the bottom of my shirt. It was a super-soft ladies' cut that I got two sizes up so I'd have room for seam allowances and the like, but as a consequence it was too long for me. But I kept that cut off section at the bottom!

Next, I carefully cut open the shirt along the front center fold.

Here you can see the center cut open:

Remember that piece I cut off the bottom? I cut a strip about 2 inches wide, and I used that as a facing for my front edges. I folded it in half lengthwise, and then folded in one end to have a clean finish at the top (neck) of the seam. I stitched the folded fabric to the front openings, matching up all raw edges, using a 1/4-inch seam allowance.

Then I folded the seam allowance toward the facing and understitched it.

For my bottom hem edge, I did the same thing that I did with the center front edges, except I used the hemmed edge from the original shirt, so I didn't fold it. I also understitched it.

To finish the shirt all the way around, I folded under my facing and stitched it into place. From the inside, you can see that particularly along the center front edges, you have a nice set of double stitching on the inside.

Then I marked the placement for my buttons and buttonholes. I just used a water-soluble marker and measured out the distance between the buttons based on the number I had and the length of the cardigan. You can kiiiiiinda see my blue marks in the photo below.

Then I just used my machines buttonhole setting to stitch those in place, and sewed my buttons on by hand. Ta-daaaa! Super soft and shockingly lady-like cardigan. Including buttons, it cost about $11 in materials.

I also made one using a men's XL T-shirt. For this one, I literally laid out the gray one on top of the black and cut it down to a ladies' cut, leaving the neck binding intact. (That meant I had to close up the side seams from where I cut the shirt narrower.) Then I finished it exactly as this one, though I had to hem the sleeves because I wanted them 3/4 length. To add a little nerdery, I used Heat'n Bond to make a BB-8 applique using a scrap from some licensed Star Wars fabric I had on hand. I fused it to the finished cardigan and ran a satin stitch around my applique. The shirt on this was about $5 -- I bought it for another project and never used it. And the buttons were in my button box, given to me about a decade ago by a former coworker. So it's practically a free garment, in terms of materials! (I wore this to the opening of "The Force Awakens.")

   

 

 

And that's that! I see many more of these in my future, with more nerdy appliques and maaaaybe even some color blocking.