Are you back??? Ooooh, you came back! I am so happy! This means we are officially on our second date. I HAD planned to pull out all of the stops today. I made not just one garment, but two! I really want you wow you over and convince you to come back for our third “seal the deal” date. However, as I worked on the blog, I learned something important. I have too much stuff.
When I was a teacher I could NEVER finish everything on my lesson plans. I would cram too many activities, details and information into them. It was too much stuff. The bell would ring, class would be over and I would think, “Wait, I’m not finished! I have a lot more to go over!!” Turns out you are just like my sixth grade social studies class. What I planned to cover with you is WAAAAAAYY more than we have time for. So just like my teaching days I have to cut and revise. Only this made me sad, because, I really REALLY, wanted to share two projects with you!!! Luckily I came up with a plan. This second-date blog is still a two-for-one special. It is just now a “two-blogs-for-one” special. I will write the first blog today and cover the Comfy-Cozy Sweater Dress Make. Then in a day or two (after you have had a chance to recover) I will post the second blog that covers the Silk-and-Velvet Transformer Remake. It’s not two separate posts, more like a part A and part B. Sound good? Great!!!
Starting to Write. When I got up this morning I had the butterflies. You know that mixture of excitement and dread you get climbing up the high dive? You aren’t sure whether it will be wonderful or terrible when you jump, and you are waaaaaay out of your comfort zone. That is what starting this blog feels like. Knowing you are on the other side of the internet reading this helps me settle down a little.
I am thinking many of you have had that butterfly feeling too. Like when you signed up for the quilt show; wore an outfit you made to Someplace Special; decided to market your creations to the public; or posted a picture of your work to your friends on social media. It’s disconcerting and more than a titch uncomfortable, isn’t it? That feeling is also called growth. Here is my stand: God plants dreams and desires inside each of us. Then they push and squirm around until we give them a chance to grow. We can ignore them, but they don’t go away. After all, the One who made us is called “The Creator”. He creates and is creative. We are too. It’s in our DNA. So, in this blog we get to acknowledge the push. Maybe step out of our comfort zone. For sure we can take another step on the high dive. Jumping off will be a blast.
Enough chitter-chatter. Let’s talk about the sewing. First up we have the Cozy-Comfy Sweater Dress. I made it using Butterick B6388 and a gorgeous (!) sweater knit from Marcy Tilton Fabrics. (Just so you know, I plan to tell you the names of things I get or use because I hope it will be helpful. I don’t have connections to anyone I tell you about other than I like them and use them). Didn’t the dress turn out cute! I am super happy with it and will break the making down for you based on each days progress.
Day 1: Cut the dress out out using pattern weights instead of pins. I’ll save a longer discussion about pattern weights for a future blog. Today I just want to let you know there is something called pattern weights for sewing. Don’t roll your eyes if you are a pattern weight expert. Some of us grew up old-school only using pins. Pattern weights are a relatively new concept for me and I was pretty excited that I used them. I did this because the sweater knit fabric was really stretchy and I thought the weights would help everything stay in place better when I cut. They were great.
Day 2: Figured out how to work with the fabric and pattern. Put together the back. The good news was, I have used this pattern a Bah-Zillion times. It is easy, comfortable, and fun to wear. I’ve made it in ponte (double-knit), suba knit, sweatshirt fleece and terry knit. I even made a jacket of stretch velvet with it, but I will save that piece for a later post. All in all, I was pretty confident using this pattern for our first garment together. That is, except for the pockets. The pattern has inset pockets and the first time I made them they were too bulky. So I took the pockets out, stitched up the side seams and replaced them with patch pockets that sit on the outside of the dress. After that, every version had either no pockets or patch pockets. For this make I wanted to go back to the inset pockets and I was a little nervous about it.
As I said earlier the fabric is stretchy and I spent a little bit of time figuring out how to work with it. First, I Googled “What size needle to use with a sweater knit”. I did this because Google is my friend and she knows everything. Google told me to use a ball point needle for medium to lighter weights. I did what Google told me.
Your needle makes a difference. Let me take just a minute to talk to you about needles and sewing. Sewing machine needles come in different sizes and styles. And, believe it or not, they make a difference. Especially when you work with knits. If you have ever had the experience of having your thread jam and knot up on the back side of your fabric the problem is very likely Not you and Not your machine. It could be your needle. When you sew with knits it can be helpful to use a special needle called “ball point”. The ball point needle treats your fabric all special like and your thread and fabric work together joyously rather than fighting against one another. Now if your regular needle (usually called “universal needle”) works just fine then stay with what you have. But if you are ready to tear your hair out, try the ballpoint. My picture has a certain brand of needle, but that is just because it was in my needle drawer. There are lots of good needles out there and I have used a bunch of them. Okay, back to the make.
I made a mistake right off the bat (of course I did) and discovered that this fabric was not going to be generous or forgiving when it came to errors. Here is what happend, because the fabric was soft and stretchy it flipped around on the underside. When I stitched the back yoke to the back piece I accidentally caught some unwanted fabric in the stitching and had to rip it out. It was awful! The stitches melded into the fabric like tiny invisible ninjas, the fabric smooshed around and I ended up tearing a tiny hole in my fabric….Ahhhg!
I immediately classified this fabric difficulty as a “Bear” (a Bear is easier than a Beast but much harder than a Dream ). Working with “Bear” classified fabric means I would have to have to up my game and be careful. So for the rest of the make I went slow, kept an eye on the underside and used a lot more pins than I usually do. (I spaced about 1 pin every 3-4 inches)
There is one thing I noticed at this stage that kind of bugs me. I didn’t pay attention to the back layout when I cut out the pattern. I just folded my fabric, laid out the piece and cut. Once I stitched the back together I thought the design of the fabric was Ohhh-kaaay. However, if I had considered how the pieces would fit together before I cut them, I might have arranged the design to be a little cuter. It’s definitely not a deal-breaker, just something to think about next time.
Day 3: A day of making pockets and putting the rest of the dress together. I gave you a hint that the pockets were going to feature prominently in this post, and they do. Here is what happened. First, I discovered that I only cut 2 pocket pieces instead of 4. That would have been no big deal, just cut 2 more pieces and be on my way. But the pockets had been on my mind. One the one hand, because the fabric was stretchy and light I knew that the pockets would lie smooth under the dress. On the other hand, because the fabric was stretchy I wondered if the pockets would stretch out over time and get kind of lumpy. I have enough of my own lumps and I didn’t need any extra in the dress! So when I realized I needed to cut two more pieces I thought about using a different fabric. Something with a tiny bit more structure that would help the pockets hold up over time.
I looked around the sewing room and had two thoughts. The first was a black stretch velvet that was really similar to the knit but had just a touch less stretch. (Spoiler alert: this would have been the most logical choice). My other consideration was a basket of ties. Yes, you did hear me right; a basket of ties. And of course, I went with the ties. Here is why. I have been collecting silk ties from thrift shops. They are cheap, beautiful and they intrigue me. Also, I want to get better at sewing with silk. So, I figured the ties would be a good way to “sneak up” on learning to sew with silk. My stated objective has been to make silk bias tape out of them. But that requires focus and time and I have not yet dedicated myself to the task. This means the ties are sitting in a basket waiting for me to do something with them and calling my name (I swear sometimes I hear them in my dreams. “Kristi, don’t forget us…..”).
A pocket out of a silk tie. I stared at the ties and thought, “Hmmmmm.” On the one hand, it was a terrible choice. Silk is a woven and I was working with a super stretchy knit. “People who sew” know you are supposed to work with like fabrics. I was pretty sure this choice would earn me a C- on the fabric choice grade in my imaginary Home-Ec class. However, on the other hand there was a chance it could work. Ties are cut on the bias (diagonally) so they have some natural stretch. It would definitely provide the structure I was looking for. The tie I picked out was beautiful and I kept thinking how awesome it would be to put my hand in the pocket and have it caressed by sweater knit and silk. I decided to go for it.
Now, at this point I want to stress that I am telling you what I did, not telling you to do it. I am not going to lie, I ended up fussing A LOT more by using the silk and it took me For-Ev-Er to finish the darn pockets. However, at the end I scored the experiment a win. Not a huge 47-0 win. It was more like an Oregon Ducks VS Wisconsin at the Rose Bowl win. A little hairy but a win none-the-less.
Where was I? Oh yes, fussing the silk-and-knit pockets to death and putting the rest of the dress together. I did a couple of things while putting the dress together that worked out slick. Both techniques are things I learned from a Nancy Zieman’s McCall’s pattern (M7331). I consider Nancy Zieman the patron saint of all home sewing and I am a little shocked that she hasn’t been canonized yet. She taught sewers, sewists, and seamstress-es/ors before sewing was deemed a luxury market (did you know we were a luxury market?) AND when a “Vlog” was called “Public Television”. She was nice, sweet, humble, and extremely helpful. She sadly passed away in 2017 from breast cancer but you can still catch episodes of “Sewing with Nancy” on PBS and YouTube. She also wrote a ton of books and her website “Nancy’s Notions” still operates.
In the McCall’s pattern Nancy taught me two cool techniques for knits. One is the “wobble stitch” and the other is to attach strips of interfacing to stablize shoulder seams and hems. Both techniques are super easy. A wobble stitch is a narrow zig-zag. You use it to give your stitches extra stretch. I normally set my wobble stitch at a .5 length, but this time I lengthened it to 1.0. I stitched every seam with the wobble stitch and it worked perfectly. To stabilize edges with interfacing you just cut a strip of iron-on interfacing (I had knit interfacing but you can cut any kind on the bias, or diagonal, and it will have plenty of stretch) and apply it to the edge of your fabric. It keeps the fabric from stretching out of shape when you sew and when you wash and wear it over time. I did these extra steps AND I stay-stitched my neckline to keep the fabric steady when attaching the napped collar. I don’t always stay-stitch but I had recently watched a video from Mimi G where she was both adorable and stern about the need for stay stitching. I decided to be good and do it. I figured the extra effort in technique would help raise the overall grade in my imaginary Home Ec class after my C- in fabric selection.
Day 4: Write about the dress and finish hemming it. I am going to be transparent here. I thought long and hard about posting the dress without hemming it. I mean, would you really know the difference? No, you would not!!! I could have totally gotten away with it. However, what would that do to our burgeoning relationship? If I will lie about hems what else will I lie about? I want you to trust me, to know you can count on me when your seams are awry and you need guidance. So am going to take the time to finish hemming the sleeves and bottom edge before I actually WRITE about hemming the sleeves and bottom edge. That’s how important you are to me. Kind of special, huh?
But first, meet the Blog Dogs.
These are the “Blog Dogs” Mocha and Dunkin. Mocha is the big dog, Dunkin is the smaller one (only in stature not in heart). They are happy now because I took them on a car ride and a run. I drive and walk, they ride and run. In a later post I will take you to their running spot. After all, we are the Sewingjourney and believe it or not, their running spot will tie in to our sewing. But that is for a later time. Right now I thought you would want to meet them. Yes, they ARE spoiled (as indicated by their comfort and ease on my couch). However, they entertain me every day and that is worth a lot. Now I need to run off and finish hemming the dress. I probably will also eat something. Take a break, put up your feet, have a snack and enjoy yourself. I will see you soon.
I’m baaaack! Not too much to report on the hemming. Except, I had a lot more fabric on the bottom and on the sleeves than I am used to. I was pretty sure I would have to trim off the excess but then I got confused how long to make the hem allowance (length that you turn up the hem). I Googled “How long should the hem allowance be on a knit dress” but received either vague or overly-complicated answers (it was such a disappointment). Then I found an article that almost made me almost quit sewing–though not really. It was one of those super bossy pieces that use the words “Always” and “Never” in bullet-pointed lists of rules and then italicize, bold, and underline the words just in case your are not paying attention. It also told me, “Now is no time to get sloppy”. “What if you are always a little bit sloppy!” I wanted to wail. Stuff like this makes me twitchy. I end up feeling like a 4 year old who is failing Tricycle Riding 101. I need gentle sewing instructions.
However, the trauma of the article jolted me into remembering that hem allowances are listed on your patterns. Oh yeah!! I forgot. I pulled out the pattern and read “hem allowance 1 and 1/4 inches”. This width is marked on the stitching plate of my sewing machine so I knew I was good to go. I trimmed about 1 and 1/2 inches off of the extra length, applied my Nancy Z inspired interfacing strips and stitched happily away. I did the same thing for each sleeve. Then I shook the dress out and said “VIOLA!!! A creation has been made!” The dogs were pretty impressed that I spoke French. After that, I tried the dress on, double stitched all of the hems because I like that look, and set it on the mannequin for pictures. Here are a couple of last shots of the details……
That is it dear friends. Time to say goodbye. Before I leave let’s do a little recap to remember what we did and what we saw. First, I introduced you to a comfortable and fun pattern, Butterick B6388. I didn’t go step by step through the directions because it is pretty straightforward and rated “Easy”. (Yayyy for Easy!!!!) I did spend time talking about how to work with a stretchy knit and you learned a few tricks and techniques that will make that process easier. You learned about ball point needles, stabilizing with interfacing and how to do a “wobble stitch”. You also took a risk with me and used a “non-traditional fabric” (I am talking about you silk ties!) to make an inset pocket. This will allow you to stretch your recycling muscles and take future risks in your sewing. Finally, you were introduced to one of the icons of home sewing, Nancy Zieman, and you met the Blog Dogs. In a couple of days you have a Part B blog to look forward to. All in all it was an eventful and productive day. Don’t you think? It was a perfect first half to date number two.
I am signing off. See you soon and remember, “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.” Bye!!!!