Loose Threads

It’s been a while since I’ve covered a sewing project on this blog, and with good reason: it’s been a while since I did a sewing project. The last few weeks have seen me getting more comfortable with my machine, however, so here are a few projects I’ve been up to….


Queen Barnraising Log Cabin Quilt

If you ignored the chair cover (which I dyed) and the spinning wheel (which I’ll get to), you’ll notice the queen-sized quilt. It’s a log cabin quilt in the barn raising pattern from Quilt in a Day, by Eleanor Burns. It took me more than a day, but I strongly recommend her book. Super easy to follow, and if you want to get started in quilting, a log cabin is a good place to get your foot in.

Normally, this quilt is for the futon in the living room, but since Nemo is blowing fiercely at our badly insulated door, it pulled wall-hanging duty today. I must say, for $30 in materials (my mom is a fabric chipmunk with a large stash she let me raid for the front, batting was on sale, and the back I cut from a Reny’s king-sized flat sheet), I’m quite pleased.


Homemade A-line skirt

Well…not actually. I haven’t skirted a thing. But I did make this A-line skirt with a LARGE amount of help from my awesome friend who instigated the project, provided the materials, and did all the sewing. I did help, honest. I stood still while she measured me and then I even cut things out and drew a few lines where she told me too. ­čÖé

My assessment of the tutorial from The Cordelia Files is that, having done it once, it would be a snap to follow again. If you’re making it for the first time, my advice is to read the tutorial all the way through the first time. You will save yourself some wasted paper.


Black felt wall hanging to store earrings

I’m not much of a jewelry person, and since most of what I have is costume jewelry or odd pieces given to me by odder people (love you all!), taking care of it nicely has never been a top priority. Lately, however, I have been right fed up with having to dump a bowl out every time and digging for matches whenever I feel like wearing earrings.

So I improvised. I threw a zig-zag hem and a rod pocket on some black fleece leftover from a Christmas project, stuck a dowel threw the pocket, whipped up some i-cord from scrap yarn, and stuck a nail in the wall. It’s not fancy, but it’ll do.

Mission: Refashion

I used to sew, in high school. I always wanted to get into clothes, but the only thing that ever fit me properly was the aprons. I’d like to blame this on the fact that I could rarely afford the right fabric for the projects, but my poor measuring skills and inability to sew something in a straight line were not up to the ambitious challenges I set myself…like sewing a prom dress.

Don’t cringe–my mother talked me into having a good family friend sew that project for me before blood and tears were spilled over my expensive, flimsy prom dress fabrics.

My mother bought me a sewing machine for my last birthday, and I love it with a fierce, terrified love. When John left me to my own devices at the apartment for an entire weekend while he was at a game development shindig, I took advantage of the space and silence to set my machine up for the first time since we moved. My mission: to refashion two of the thrift store shirts we had acquired a few weeks before.

My first project should have been my second, because I actually followed a tutorial for the second which taught me a useful way to deal with the geometry of shirts. This was just a standard, white, men’s dress shirt: now it’s an almost manly peasant top with anachronistic buttons that I am still not quite sure how to tackle.

Maybe wooden toggles? Or ties? I was using this image as inspiration. The only real problem I had was in sewing down the neck…shirts curve a lot and have funny angles, so just folding over the fabric and sewing it to itself isn’t really an option. I knew this as I was trying to iron it down, but somehow I thought I could make it work once I got it under the needle…

Not so much. The shirt is pretty much unwearable because the leather cord and sections of raw edge rub against your neck. I’m going to have to pick out the seam and try again using the excellent string casing set-up from the tutorial I used to make the second shirt:

Nice, eh? When I tried on this shirt, I found (to my dismay) that it fit me. The project is meant to be done with an oversized t-shirt. The sleeves were quite snug, and I didn’t know if anything would hang right. Undaunted, I forged ahead, following the tutorial.┬áMay I just say: if anyone wants their old t-shirts ruffled, give me a call! It’s such a simple process, but it adds such a fun flare to the fabric.

The only real deviation I took from the instruction was with the sleeves. They would not have fit properly if I left them in a whole tube, so instead, I made parallel cuts at the top and bottom of the sleeve to open the fabric up and ruffled all of the sleeve edges. It worked like a charm, and I think the more open shoulder adds a dramatic, sexy touch to the shirt–perfect for wearing with a corset, don’t you think?

Costume Up!

Because I feel like I don’t have half enough unfinished projects clamoring for my attention, I have decided to take up costume design. My seamstressing abilities are limited to sewing crooked seams, so I’m taking the approach of buying really cheap thrift store finds and repurposing them. When I inevitably destroy a perfectly good shirt with my ineptitude, at least my bank account won’t be groaning in despair, right?


I dragged John with me to go shopping for shirts because he is my less-reluctant-than-you-might-think partner in cosplay. We’ve got two costume missions: renaissance and steampunk. I have lovely mental designs for these, but since I have the artistic skill of an untalented third grader, I will spare you from my sketches. Instead, I will invite you to comment on the Pinterest board where I keep track of pictures of pieces that come close to my mental image.

I’ve been mostly working on my steampunk costume (which involves a lovely blue corset that is way too cheap to actually wear fully cinched) and John’s renaissance costume. Now that we have his boots (and it took long enough…eBay and PayPal can be such a hassle to deal with sometimes), I only need to make a few modifications on his shirt and figure something out for his pants because his wonderful mother made us gorgeous leather vests for Christmas.

Mine is a lighter-colored leather and more corset-ish–I’ll post pictures when I’ve figured out what to wear under it to preserve my modesty.

The costume piece I’m VERY excited about working on is my next fingerless glove design. I’m thinking of upping the design challenge and actually making them “top-of-the-finger-less,” with partial finger gussets. My mom’s LYS had a nice sale on alpaca lace yarn so she picked me up enough for about eight pairs of gloves…that’s what I call margin for error.

My plan is to modify the stitch from the Curved Diamond Shawl in Victorian Lace Today to work in the round as the main glove base and play with picots for the bottom edging. The gauging and gusset design for this will be…interesting, if you’re Chinese. “Fun” if you play Dwarf Fortress (their unofficial slogan is “Losing is fun!”). It should be a wild ride, and I’ll be taking better notes this time.

In short: come hang out with me on Pinterest and keep your eyes open for my upcoming misadventures in costume design. Good times will be had by all, at my expense.

Casing the Joins

I am a cheapskate. If I can spend less money by doing something myself, I’ll waste my time before I waste my money. I do try to be realistic about the types of task I am capable of accomplishing. I also try very hard to consider the costs–if it’s cheaper to buy exactly what I want, that’s what I’m gonna do.

I recently bought myself a set of interchangeable circular knitting needles, which I’ve been wanting for a year or so. I find circular needles to be a royal pain to organize, so the concept of being able to pick my cord length and pick my needle size is just downright sexy. The set I bought comes with a plastic pouch to store everything in, but let’s get real here: I love my tools. My shiny tools deserve better than to languish in crinkly plastic pouch, no matter how well it’s constructed.

I was actually almost delighted when I opened the box and found that the zipper pull had broken in transit. What luck! The fact that I had purchased materials to make my own case was justified by the shoddy craftsmanship of the standard pouch. I whipped out my sewing machine (love that birthday present, Mom!) and went to town.

The design is my attempt to reverse engineer something like the Della Q cases, I won’t lie. I love their stuff, but again: I’m cheap. The materials for this cost me less than ten dollars, and since I had fun with the project, I consider my time and labor free. I won’t be selling these things, ever, because my ability to sew in a straight line is severely challenged, but for my personal use, I’m quite pleased.

I used broadcloth for the lining and pockets. From finished edged to finished edge, this is about 12×16 inches, the top flap being two inches shorter than the other sections to allow room for the button. Once I had ironed the hems down and pinned the top together, I sewed the pockets only to the lining by the dividing seams and the bottom seam of the top pocket.

The tie is composed of two pieces of the lining fabric, sewn up with an angled tip and reversed. I pinned them in between the outside and the lining and sewed them in as I sewed the two pieces together. Instead of turning the top upside-down over the pockets and leaving a hole to reverse it through, I laid the hemmed top and front together as they go and sewed all around the edge, using a green thread that matches the outside. The final piece was the shell button, which fit nicely in between the two pockets.

These instructions don’t quite qualify as a pattern or a tutorial, I know, but hopefully they’re useful for other fabric rookies a start on a simple project. If you want quality, I’m sure the real thing is worth the asking price, but if you’re a cheapskate who doesn’t mind a few imperfections, this project worked out pretty well.