Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween Week Costume Series: Candyman Vest, Bow Tie and Sleeve Garters

Continuing this week's Halloween costume series, today I present the candyman to my candy corn: my husband, Greg. 

I had in my head that I wanted to make a candy corn dress, and I needed a costume for Greg that coordinated. So what did I do?

Subjected myself to another vest and tie set!

At this point, after making six sets of vests and ties, plus a sample, for my friend Ashley's wedding, I am basically vest expert. Or at least as much of a vest expert as I care to be. :-P

This is Simplicity 4762, inspired by the candyman in the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (coincidentally one of my absolute favorite movies growing up.)

I definitely wanted to do a striped fabric and black bow tie. After some intense searching, I found lots of theatrical productions of Willy Wonka that included sleeve garters, so I decided to work up a set of those, too.

The pattern includes a simple four-button vest. I lost the pattern piece for the back waist adjuster, so I eyeballed it. (That is going to be a theme for this costume.)

I didn't bother to match the pattern at the back since the stripe was so small, but this did result in a larger-than-normal white stripe at the center back.

For the buttons, I used some of the cover buttons left over from the vests I did for the wedding. I love the clean, well-matched look of cover buttons.

As for the fabric, I used quilting cotton for the striped fabric and a heavier quilting cotton for the black accessories. 

The lining is a lining sample I bought for Ashley's wedding from It was one of those times where a swatch cost 75 cents and a yard cost under $2, so I just bought the yard. 

The black sleeve garters are made the same way I made scrunchies as a kid -- a small loop of elastic in a fabric tube.

The bow tie is essentially a tiny bow belt (it's a fake tie) with a button at the back of the neck.

I'm definitely pleased with the way this came out -- it's much more comfortable than a jacket would have been (and a lot less work!) Perfect for dancing!

What do you think? Are matching costumes too cute or too insipid for words? :-P

Monday, October 27, 2014

Halloween Week Costume Series: Candy Corn Dress

This year, I've really gotten excited about making costumes, and, since it's Halloween week, I thought I'd post a miniseries of three posts on my recent costume makes. 

First up? This year's Halloween costume. Greg and I dressed up as a vintagey candy corn and candyman.

I'll post about Greg's candyman costume on Wednesday and my costume from this year's Renaissance Festival on Friday, all in time for Halloween. Sound good?

But today, my vintagey candy corn dress!

Surprise, surprise. This is yet another version of Butterick B5748. I seriously cannot quit this pattern.

I've worn versions of this dress in two weddings (including my own!) and made a general version from bedsheets -- and I wore it frequently this summer.

At this point, I can make this pattern in my sleep.

For this version, I took one of the skirt pattern pieces -- since it's a circle skirt, the two pieces are the same, I felt I could sacrifice one of them -- and measured to find it was 25 inches. At 13 inches, I made a mark on each side and the center and eyeballed a curve between them.

Since the skirt is on the long side, I slashed at the curve I drew and didn't add seam allowance, just used the new pieces and sewed them together with a 3/8-inch seam allowance.

For fabric, I used plain old quilting cotton from JoAnn. Total, for both my costume and Greg's, plus some thread I needed, I came in under $30, despite the fact that I used the nicer, more drapey quilting cotton.

I lined the bodice in self fabric, but didn't bother to line the skirt since I knew I'd be wearing a petticoat. The seam allowances are all serged.

 After making Greg's bow tie, I decided to make myself a little bow belt so we'd match a bit better. This is a simple bow, belt and button assembly.

To give myself some floof, I wore one of the petticoat crinolines from my wedding. This is the Modcloth Va Va Voluminous short petticoat in white. The net is soft and it provides a lot of lightweight floof.

Plus, it gave me a more triangular, candy-corn-type shape.

Looking a little wrinkled from the back -- we tried really hard to get good jumping and spinning shots, but it didn't work out, which is why I'm a bit wrinkled in this picture,

We wore these costumes to the Halloween dance at the local arts center, which is where we take ballroom classes. Not to brag, but we were totally one of the three couples who won the costume contest. ;) We had so much fun! We're new to ballroom, but I am loving the classes. Our teacher is a hoot!

What's your Halloween costume for this year? Got any exciting costume projects coming up? 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Simple Sewing: Grainline Scout in Japanese Double Gauze

After the epic projects I've done lately, I needed a major break. (I also made a bridesmaid dress that has gone unblogged -- and several other projects that will be coming soon to an RSS feed near you.)

Enter the Grainline Scout Tee.

This pattern is an absolute breeze. It's loose and comfy and required no fitting.

I bought it as a PDF on a whim when I was buying the Archer shirt last year and until now, I hadn't made it up.

Since it's such a simple pattern, I figured it would be a good time to experiment with a new-to-me fabric. 

(Oh! By the way! I cut off all my hair. Ha!)

This is a Japanese double gauze purchased from the Miss Matatabi Etsy shop.

I've admired Nani Iro prints for a while now, but I'd never worked with double gauze before. I decided to order some (cheaper) plain double gauze so I could experiment before trying to work with the good stuff.

Double gauze is a really neat fabric -- it consists of two layers that are some how bound together. It reminds me of a soft, loosely woven version of surgical gauze pads.

It wrinkles like mad, but luckily it irons well. You should see this shirt when it comes out of the wash, though. It's wrinkle city!

The fabric takes stitches very well -- they sink in and are nearly invisible, which is cool.

See? Can you even tell that that sleeve is hemmed? Cool, right?

This is just a natural cotton color. What better to go with jeans? I managed to squeeze this top out of a single yard, though I did have to really work to make the neckline binding work. Luckily this fabric is pretty stretchy whether it's on the bias or not.

I finished all the insides with my serger -- white thread was a close-enough match for me!

All in all, this project was exactly what I needed for my mental health.

Up next, I'm working on a trench coat and I've got some other super cool projects to share (including a corset, some pants and a suede jacket.)

Not going to lie, though, sometimes simple projects feel so good! It was such a relief to make this easy, instant-gratification top after all the tough projects I've been working on lately.

How about you? Do you sew the simple stuff? Or do you just go balls to the wall every time? :-P

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sewing Formalwear: Vests and Ties for a Friend's Wedding

Recently, my sewing time has been consumed with an epic wedding project for one of my good friends. 

I made vests and ties for all the men in the bridal party -- six vests, five neckties and one bow tie.

Ashley, the bride, has been a good friend of mine (and sorority sister!) since college. She was a bridesmaid in my wedding and made the most beautiful guest book tree for our guests to sign. Not only that, she helped do the dishes after my wedding. Now that's a friend right there!

When her husband-to-be told me that she wanted vests for the wedding to match the bridesmaid dresses, but that the shop was trying to charge an obscene amount for them, I, of course, said I would make them.

I apologize for the quality of the photos -- they were taken in the wedding tent, late at night, when we were several hours into the reception. And I took them with my cellphone. But I just couldn't resist sharing this project!

This was one of the most thoughtful, beautiful weddings I've ever been to and it was done at the home of the parents of the bride. Ashley planned out the most lovely minute details, from the table dressing, to the flowers, to these vests.

For most of these, I used Simplicity 4762. The tall guy on the right got Simplicity 1506 (basically the same pattern but in big and tall sizes).

The patterns actually worked out well for sizing. I made a muslin for the fellow in the bow tie (he was a bridesperson, which is why his tie is different) since he lives close to me and would be available for fitting, but, happily, the envelope size for his suit size was a great fit. For the rest of them, I just went with their straight suit sizes and the vests all fit well (especially when they don't have their arms up -- I promise they were all long enough!)

Since I knew I'd need multiple sizes, I traced off the pattern in each size and ended up making two smalls, a medium, two larges and a 1XL. The ties were all identical, so I was able to batch cut them and sew them up in a couple nights. The bow tie (it's actually a fake bow tie and is held on with hand-sewn plastic snaps) was super quick to sew up, too. The ties are all a bit flimsier than normal store-bought ties, but they were fine for the one night.

As far as fabric goes, the bride requested some shiny, textured fabric, so I ordered a large amount of swatches from When she came to visit, we could not believe how exactly this fabric matched the bridesmaid dresses (plum Alexia Bridal dresses). It looks like the exact same fabric (and maybe it is!) I ordered 15 yards while the fabric was on sale -- I knew I'd need around 12 yards and I wanted a little wiggle room just in case I made a mistake! The fabric came in a giant bolt. It was a pretty intense mail day, let me tell you. 

For lining, I used black pongee lining, also from, since it was only $3 a yard. Not the best stuff on the planet, but cheap and it got the job done. 

The entire front of each vest is interfaced with medium weight interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply. (The only real "splurge" of this project at $6 a yard -- I was worried the cheap stuff would cause massive wrinkles in the poly shantung and I'm really glad I went this route.)

The buttons are cover buttons purchased from Etsy. On the backs of the vests, which I didn't get pictures of, there are gold vest buckles from JoAnn. 

All in all, I think they turned out well! And I managed to keep them cheap -- around $35 per vest/tie set. Which is at least cheaper than the $90 the shop wanted to charge -- and I think that was for vests alone! It was a tough project, just because of the scale of it, but with a little bit of wine and a lot of movies, I made it through.

The groom looks happy with them, right? It must be the vest he's happy about. Or I guess it could be the whole wedding thing. ;)

Now the only question is what  to do with all that leftover purple poly shantung!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Birthday Suit for My Favorite 4-Year-Old (New Look 6257 and New Look 6576)

When I received the birthday wishlist for one of my favorite little friends, I was tickled to see that he had requested not only clothes, but "a birthday suit."

The list also included such gems as "a gold-colored bike that moves" and "a balloon that has a string." But of course I fixated on that birthday suit. 

The Birthday Boy's current Favorite Thing is, of course, balloons, which served as the party's loose theme. 

You know where this is going, right? 


And, of course, a matching dress for his 7-month-old sister, my Goddaughter, who is much adored by her older brother. So much adored, in fact, that he included presents for her on his birthday list. What a generous guy!

I wasted no time in ordering a pair of Michael Miller balloon fabrics from These are quilting cottons, which mean they are easily washable (always a relief, I imagine, for parents.)

I also got some turquoise rayon Bemberg from Hart's Fabric. The buttons were a guessed match at, but I think they turned out to be fairly close to the turquoise balloons on the fabric.

The pattern I used was New Look 6257, which includes pants, a mandarin collar jacket, a vest and a dress pattern.

Yes, this outfit is possibly a bit clownish and maybe even a bit girly. But Birthday Boy's parents are about as interested in gender norms as vegetarians are in meat -- and if you can't wear crazy clothes when you're 4, when can you wear them?

One of BB's grandmas was kind enough to measure him for me. He's a bit small for the size 3 (which was the smallest one in the pattern), but I needed to cut an extra inch or so to account for his height.

The pants have an elastic waist. I cut the elastic exactly to his waist measurement in the hope that even if the pants were big on the leg, they'd fit in the waist.

It turned out I didn't need to worry -- the pants fit fairly well!

The jacket was pretty easy to assemble -- more so because it had only a mandarin collar and didn't require a full on collar or lapel scheme. I used cuff and collar interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply to interface the collar. The button edge is interfaced with light fusible, also from FSS. 

The pattern was fairly difficult to match because of the scale of the repeat, but I managed to get some climbing balloons onto the button area.

I also got to work on my technique for bagging linings, which was nice. I have a new winter coat planned and, silly as it may sound, I feel much more confident about the lining now that I've accomplished it on the small scale.

I love rayon Bemberg for lining -- it feels so luxurious!

At the last minute, I decided to make another pair of pants from a slightly stretchy khaki I have in my stash. These pants use so little fabric that I think I can still get a skirt out of the yard-plus of khaki I have left.

You can't really see it in these pictures, but I realized as I was pressing everything that I could not tell the back from the front of these, so I sewed a small grosgrain ribbon tag into the back of both pairs of pants. It's hard enough to dress a preschooler -- who would want to do it twice because the pants went on backward the first time?

All in all, I'd say the balloon suit was a hit. BB wasn't too impressed at first, but then his mom asked him what was on the pants and you could see his eyes light up when he took a look and proclaimed them to be "BLOONS!"

And so he put it on, in the middle of the living room, right then and there, in front of all the guests. (Who were mostly all family, but it was still amusing.)

Of course, it's difficult to resist making little girl clothes, so I made a matching dress for BB's sister.

This is New Look 6576, made up in size small. It's got shoulder buttons to make it easy to take on and off. I imagined it would be cute for the end of summer -- it's finally getting hot where I live -- just to wear over her diaper. Probably a shirt and tights could go under it, too, though its a very summery fabric.

I broke the first button I tried to sew on -- hit it with the needle and snapped it in half, so she got some random buttons I found in my stash that were the same size since I had exactly six of the turquoise buttons. I'd already made the buttonholes, so we were pretty much stuck with these, but I do think the purple looks nice.

I never got measurements for this, so I just eyeballed based on the pattern paper -- a dangerous proposition -- but it worked out and fit perfectly.

I've been absent from the blog a bit lately because I've been tackling a huge project for a dear friend's wedding, so it was nice to take a little break and do some fun kid sewing. Both of these projects were easy to turn out and very very quick. The pants each took about 45 minutes from cutting to finishing, as did the dress. The jacket took a bit longer, maybe a couple of hours. 

Do you all sew for others? I enjoy it -- as long as the expectations aren't too high. This was a nice, low-stress project. Like a little sewing vacation!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Things I've Sewn Lately: Deer and Doe Robe Belladone

Bonjour, Robe Belladone!

Believe it or not, one of my undergraduate degrees (yes, I'm insane and I have two) is in French. So of course I love Deer and Doe patterns. They have instruction books in French and English and it's really neat to look through the French ones.

This dress is an unlined sundress with a cutout back detail and was a lot of fun to sew up!

I will say, though, that fun does not always equal perfection. If I make this dress a second time there are several things I'd change.

For one, the dress is SHORT. Really short. This is the absolute longest skirt for the largest size done with a very narrow hem and while it's not indecent, let's just say that I am constantly worried about bending over, if you know what I mean.

Also, the back opening gapped horribly on me. Luckily, I was able to unpick, cut out some of the fabric (I just eyeballed it after I made Greg pin it) and made it work. I added a small loop of fabric to the center back there to hide the unsightly join in the bias tape that appeared.

Similarly, the waist is very high. Now, I love a good high waist, it's true. But this one has slash pockets that are pretty much unusable. I'd definitely lower it and/or omit the pockets.

The pleats I made were supposed to be going the other direction, but I thought they'd look better this way on me. (They do.)

Also, there is no way I could think of to line this dress. I know some folks have managed it, and I bow down to them. But I could not figure out a way that didn't make me want to tear my hair out. So this pattern sat on the shelf for a while as I pondered my options, since most of my sundress fabric requires lining.

Happily, I managed to find the perfect fabric for an unlined sundress. This is a quilting cotton I bought when Charlotte was destashing. It's a bit stiff, but I like the way it holds its shape.

I did a double line of top stitching everywhere just 'cause. This was the first dress I sewed on my new machine (I know, blogging out of order!) and I wanted an excuse to show off the lovely top-stitching. And that zipper! Can we all take a minute to just enjoy that super invisible invisible zipper? The Pfaff zipper foot is the best tool in my sewing room at the moment.

I also flipped all the bias tape to the inside, rather than leaving it exposed. I made matching bias tape, but I nearly always prefer the look of having it flipped to the inside when I use it for bindings.

While there are lots of things I'd change about this dress, I definitely wear it a ton. It looks nice with my chocolate brown hand-knit sweater, which is a bonus for sure. Not a high recommendation, but if you like the detail at the back, then it's definitely worth a try!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Things I've Sewn Lately: Seersucker New Look 6266

I love sleeveless button-up blouses. It's easy to wear them with a cardigan (no need to worry about stuffing your sleeves into your sweater) and they look nice and summery. 

And you can never go wrong with seersucker -- just ask the U.S. Congress.

The pattern for this blouse is New Look 6266. 

I tend to sew New Look more than any other major pattern brand. The looks are pretty simple, the patterns are cheap even if they aren't on sale and the block fits me fairly well. 

For this one, I cut my standard 8 at the top graded to a 10 at the bottom. 

The construction was very easy -- though I have some experience making button-up shirts, which is always helpful. After making three Archers this past winter, I can do a collar and collar stand in my sleep.

The armholes are bound with bias tape I made from some soft white quilting cotton.

The stripe is super small, so I didn't work too hard at matching, though I did match up the shoulder panel just for fun (I'm such a nerd.)

The pattern features a nice slit up the side for wearing ease, which makes it very comfortable to sit down in.

I serged all the exposed seams with white thread and for the hem, I just did a simple turned-under narrow hem.

The fabric for this shirt was a remnant AK Fabrics that I picked up at Male Pattern Boldness Day last August. There was about a yard and a half left, which they gave me for the price of half a yard.

I am really happy with this shirt and I'm sure I'll make the pattern again. It's a great staple. I wore it to work last week with my navy circle skirt and my Myrna sweater -- I love it when my handmades mix and match easily!