Sunday, December 18, 2011

12/18/11 Checking in...

Well, I'm going to keep this brief, since it's getting late and I just finished my Heidi-isms post...
What have I been up to?  Oh, a little of this and a little of that!  Almost done with the Christmas dress for my little girl.  I debated on whether to omit the applique on the bodice but decided the skirt was so busy, the bodice needed a little "something."  Of course, the directions say I should zig-zag stitch the applique onto the bodice.  That would be an awesome idea if only I could get the dress to fit into the sewing machine!  Unfortunately with all those ruffles and gathers, it's just not going to work!  What to do?  Gotta get some embroidery floss and I will be sewing that part by hand!  It actually goes a bit faster than it sounds, of course I have to have the thread first...
The hat is finished, lining is all sewn up!  The coat?  Almost there.  Had some trouble getting my machine to agree with me about where the button-holes should go but we finally came to an understanding.  I also managed to make my own fabric covered buttons:

Here are some photos of Little wearing her coat and hat (without buttons or button-holes):

I've also been busy with a paid project!  See, I made a bag in one day!!!  Okay, so it was actually "started" a while ago, but I still "finished" it all in one day!

Finished up the weekend working on Christmas projects:

But now it's time to go to bed so I can get up early and get more things done!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gathers and Ruffles and Pleats, Oh My!

So, I really was hoping to be done with at least the Christmas dress today but I still have a few things to finish.  At least we are still a few weeks from Christmas, right?  I was just really hoping we could get a couple of wears out of the dress that has taken so long to put together...  Well, we'll figure something out!
Let me tell you though, it will be a long time (I say knowing the real truth) before I take on another task with this many gathers and ruffles!  The pleats aren't actually that bad.  I really kind of like pleats.  But those gathers and ruffles!  You'll see below in some of the pictures, and my mom even came in to look at my progress the other day and commented that I do not take on "little" projects.
Here's the lay-down of it...
The sleeves have three ruffles, each.  Each "ruffle" is cut as a strip of fabric which first has to be hemmed, a tiny 3/8" rolled hem, and then two rows of loose stitching along the top of the strip in order to gather the fabric to make it a ruffle.  Then, each ruffle has to be sewn, one-at-a-time, onto a piece of fabric that acts at the sleeve.  All the while, the ruffle has to be adjusted to fit the length of the sleeve.  First the bottom ruffle, then the middle, then the top, for each side.  Actually not so bad, except that once the fabric is gathered it is more difficult to line up and sew, but the strips are only about 8-12" long, so not a lot to work with.
Then we move onto the skirt!  Three rows of "ruffles" that have to be made.  This is the fun part!  First of all, the pattern calls for four strips of fabric to be cut, about 4" wide and 43-45" long.  Then I sew all the strips together at each end.  The hem has to be sewn in, another 3/8" rolled hem, and then two rows of loose stitching along the top to make the gathers.  I ended up using a "border" for one strip, and had enough fabric to simply make one continuous cut.  I also was able to cut another strip just below my border piece, so again, saved a little (very little) time skipping the step where I sew the strips together.  I only had to sew one set of strips.  The hems, well...  They just are what they are.  Basically for that "rolled" hem, I press the end of the fabric up 3/8" and then roll the raw edge into the fold and pin it, then sew it in.  It takes quite a bit of time but I ended up doing one strip a night while watching t.v., so not too bad all-in-all.  What took forever was getting the strips gathered and attaching them to the skirt band.  Thankfully the pattern had me cut a strip of fabric the same length as the hem of the skirt.  I just needed to attach all the ruffles and then sew the one piece to the bottom of the skirt.  Easy, right?  Uh-huh...  The first ruffle took me about two hours to gather and pin, and about 10 minutes to sew.  Anyone that tells you "sewing" is hard, it's not the "sewing", it's the prep work!  Last night the next ruffle took me almost as long, but thankfully the last ruffle I put on today might have only taken me an hour.  Got them sewn onto their strip, pinned and attached the strip to the skirt, moving along quite well!  That's when I realized how much more gathering there would be!  The skirt itself had to be gathered in order to attach it to the bodice.  Okay, done.  Then there's the petticoat on the lining!  Three strips of nylon netting, 12" wide by 72" long, sew them together to make one long strip, then fold them in half, sew two rows of stitching at the top to make the gathers and sew them onto the skirt lining in just the right spot.  I cheated with that...  Maybe?  Basically I knew no one is going to see the lining unless I show it to them, so I used a pen and marked up the "sewing line" where I needed to pin my netting.  It may have taken me 5-10 minutes of measuring and marking but I'm sure it saved me some time in the end!  So, the lining has been hemmed, the nylon netting gathered and attached, now I still need to gather the top of the lining to sew it into the dress!  I also have to install a zipper still.  I really hate it when that is the last thing to put in.  I like getting zippers done quickly and this one has "special" instructions on how it goes in.  I'm not looking forward to that.  The final thing to do will be to cut out part of the design, the Scottie dogs, in order to applique them to the front of the dress.  Oh, and I have to go over the dress to remove any noticeable basting stitches.
So, I should be done with the dress tomorrow, then I will got back to the coat to get that done.  I decided that I don't like the way the collar went in, so I'm going to adjust that before finishing the hand sewing.  Thankfully most of what's left is finish work.  Hem the coat and lining, all by hand.  Hand sew the sleeve lining and lining on the hat.  The final step will be to add the buttons and button holes!  I have not done button holes in years!  I gave away a machine, maybe 5-10 years ago, that I used for buttonholes, and my old Kenmore was missing pieces for the buttonhole foot.  Now I've got my Futura and I have to figure it all out again!  Good thing I've got lots of scrap pieces so I can practice before I ruin my project.  Oh, and I still have to find buttons I like for the silly thing!
Whatever I finish tomorrow I will stick on the kid and take some finale pictures!  Then we will finally be able to move onto some Christmas gift projects!
When I finished the top I just had to try it on her to see how it fit!

Five yards of ruffles all gathered and waiting to be sewn!

Sewing the gathered netting for the petticoat!

The applique will go on the center front of the bodice. 
The lining/petticoat have not been sewn in yet...

And still have to put in the zipper.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ruffles, ruffles and more ruffles!!!

Okay, so I haven't updated you in a while of my progress on the Christmas outfit.  No, I have not given up!  Things moved along quickly with the coat and hat, there was a reason I did those first!  Don't get me wrong, they are not finished yet...  As a matter of fact, after looking at the coat and trying it on the girl, I have decided I will need to disassemble part of it and then put it back together to make it lay properly.  Not to mention the TONS of hand sewing I have left to do!  Both the coat hem and the hem for the lining are not only done by hand, but they are done separately!!!  (Rolling my eyes)
The reason for the delay in updates is all those silly ruffles on the dress!  Basically I work on the outfit when the girl is taking naps or in bed for the night.  On the weekend I do try to sneak away a little bit at a time to get some sewing in, but I try not to do that too much because I know I should be hanging out with the girl and hubby.  Plus, as we near my due date I am also giving in to smallish naps or quiet reading time to relax.
Anyway!  I got the bodice started but I am doing things a little differently than I "normally" do.  You see, when working with a pattern, "they" give you instructions.  Each step is done in a particular order and for a particular reason.  I have been known to skip around on steps and then I have to go back and remove stitches because I got too far ahead and missed something important!  For the most part though, I do pretty well following directions, if only when it comes to sewing.
In order to not have to keep going backwards I did what my first sewing teacher taught me...  I read the pattern before I started.  The whole pattern.  Some steps didn't really make a lot of sense, but I figure that they will make more sense when I have the fabric in front of me.  This time I am doing pretty much everything "in order" I am just "combining" some steps!  Generally the pattern will tell you to put together the whole bodice first, then go back and do the bodice lining, then the skirt, then the skirt lining.  I have been doing the main piece and lining at the same time.  It saves me a bit of time when it comes to pleats and folds, but also because it is fresh in my head the way things should fit together.  You know, like when you are working on a puzzle and you look for all the similar colored pieces to fit together first?  I am so glad I did it this way!!!  The dress is very cute, I just didn't really think ahead about all those silly ruffles!  There are three ruffles on the sleeves and three ruffles along the bottom of the skirt.  AND THEY ARE ALL SEWN INDIVIDUALLY!  Each ruffle has to be hemmed first, that's a 3/8" hem that gets pressed in and then you roll the raw edge of the fabric into the fold so there is no more raw edge.  Doesn't sound fun?  That's because it's not!  The sleeve hems weren't too bad, except there were six total, three for each side, it's the hem ruffles that have me slowing down!  Not only are there three, the ruffles consist of four pieces of 45" fabric that is sewn into one long piece!  For two of the ruffles I had enough yardage, I just cut them as one running piece.  The last ruffle I did as per the instructions, so the pieces had to be sewn together first, then the hem pressed in.  It ends up being a five-yard piece of fabric!  That I have to hand roll and pin a hem into!  I knew I wouldn't be getting that part done quickly, not to mention the fact that it hurts your hands and eyes, so I decided to break it up and do one length each night.  After those hems are sewn in, I get to sew two rows of loose stitching along the tops of each five yard piece, that is how I will gather the fabric to make it fit the bottom of the skirt.
I haven't even finished cutting out the skirt lining yet!  I also have to sew together the netting and gather that for a type of petticoat that makes the lining.  At least I don't have to hem the netting!  The pattern is merciful and the netting is cut wide enough that it is folded in half and then applied to the lining.  I am hoping that once this last ruffle is hemmed tonight that things will move along faster.  Of course, I plan to use some different sewing feet on this project, so I may be slowing myself down again.
The way some of the pieces are sewn together, there is no "finishing" of the raw edges.  If you are a non-sewer, what that means is...  I will end up with edges that have no "close" to them.  Imagine if you cut the end of your jeans and then just wear them...  That is a "raw" edge.  Every time you wear them, wash them or they even rub against something, threads in the fabric will come loose and then they look tattered.  I understand this is the style for the bottom of jeans for some people, but I don't want my girl wearing her dress with random threads hanging all about!  I bought a serger years ago and could never get it to work quite right.  After taking it apart I found that it was missing a piece and I just never felt like buying the replacement, so I sold the thing on ebay.  The new owner was happy to tell me that she got it working just fine so I must have been wrong...  Anyway, my new(er) machine came with a serger foot that I have yet to try out.  Partly this is due to the crazy directions that came with it.  I understand that instructions might me created where the part is made but let me tell you, the person that wrote this out didn't even speak English as a fifth language!  Another reason I haven't used it yet is simple laziness.  Plus I just haven't had anything I really wanted to use it on.  What is a serger?  Are you wearing a tee shirt?  Sweat shirt maybe?  Check the inside of your shirt, usually the best place is around the inside of the hem.  You see the criss-cross sewing?  That is serging.  It prevents your shirt from falling to bits without having to do that silly rolled hem I am doing on those ruffles!  But it's also for places that you wouldn't hem, like it's probably around the inside armhole of your sleeve.  It keeps the fabric from pulling apart after repeated use.
So anyway, that's my story...  I'm not procrastinating like usual!  I am taking my time, and taking it slowly, but I would really like for this to turn out nicely, since it is the first piece of clothing I am making my girl.