9.17.2018

Make your own custom dog collar for your pup in less than 30 minutes

For those who own a canine companion..... have you ever considered making your own custom dog collar for your sweet pup?  With the right hardware and knowhow, you can knock one out in less than 30 minutes.
I've been sewing for many years making all sorts of handmade items from home dec, reupholstering furniture, quilts, craft items, not to mention making all my clothes for the past 6 years..... but it n.e.v.e.r occurred to me to make my sweet pup's dog collar.
I'd recently found a perfect-to-me aqua/turqoise rope leash and the colors clashed with Suzi's rtw pink collar that got me thinking it might be nice to have more choices with Suzi's 'jewelry'.  I looked all over in stores for a pretty turquoise collar and could find none.  The photo below was taken a few weeks ago at one of the trailheads of our local rails-to-trails trail we like to walk showing her bright pink collar with her new leash.
Our area has recently taken an unused railroad-bed and converted it to trails for walkers, runners and bicyclists.  No motorized vehicles allowed.  This is what most of the trail looks like, below.  We are very lucky to have this safe place to enjoy.  The rails-to-trails trail is quite popular with bicyclists, so I like to not have to deal with a lot of leash.  Whenever I am aware that a bicyclist is coming from behind, I like to bring her to the side of the trail for a sit/stay for safety for all and one of the things I like most about this rope leash is that it's only 48" long and much more manageable for me than a traditional 6' long leash.  I do not use a retractable leash.  Suzi is well-trained and well-behaved.... most of the time!..... so the 48" gives her room to stride out, yet easy to come back to me for instruction if needed. 
Got off on a little rabbit trail there so-to-speak, so let's get back to her new collar!  By now I was beginning to think I could sort of wing it and make my own......
..... so I spent an enormous amount of time trying to resource the hardware locally to find nothing was available.  These D-rings used in dog collars are quite heavy duty and not even my local hardware store like Lowe's carried them. 
A contoured side release buckle was completely nonexistent to purchase locally.
With mounting frustration, I finally set aside a chunk of time to research all the supplies I needed online and was thrilled to find quality hardware sets available at Country Brook Designs for $12.99 for a set of 10 with free shipping.  AND I received my package within 2 days of placing the order!!  Sooooo happy!  The contoured side release buckles and the triglide buckles are both YKK brand and this D-ring is exactly what you would find on a rtw dog collar.  Heavy duty and well made.
The blue 1" nylon webbing was already in the stash so figured I could use that as my base and found this pretty ribbon in the perfect shade of turquoise at my local only-open-once-a-month textile outlet center All About Fabrics.  The ribbon's design is a 3-D effect..... sort of a rubberized type of application of the leaf motif on a grosgrain ribbon.  If you notice closely you can see the print is printed off center.  All About Fabrics buys 'seconds' and this was probably why.  Doesn't bother me a bit.
By now I'd found the perfect "How to make an easy quick-release dog collar" tutorial on YouTube and within 30 minutes, or less, Suzi's new collar was made.  These are super easy and quick!  Even adding the ribbon like I did here.  Suzi is a medium size dog, but I really like the 1" collars on her, so after measuring her neck, cut my webbing 29" and it was perfect.  These type of collars are humane for dogs as they do not tighten if the dog should pull on the leash.  And with the contoured side-release buckle it seems it would be much more comfortable fit on the dog's neck than the ordinary straight buckle.  I also like the D-ring off to side, on its own like this, below..... not sewn in with the buckle as all her rtw collars were made.
It took me a while to find a new hook for her dog tags to enable me to move her tags from collar to collar easily and finally found these at Lowe's for $5.18 for a set of 2.
So this collar cost @$2.00 to make..... $1.30 for the hardware, $.70 for the ribbon and I had the webbing in the stash and can't remember what it cost.  This type of collar is on the market for anywhere from $15.00 - $25.00.  But more importantly Suzi and I can 'match' well now!  :) 
She wanted to be sure and check out all the gear before heading out on our morning walk.
The collar was easily sewn on my domestic Bernina 1230.  The only tricky part was sewing so close to the buckles..... the buckles sort of got in the way.  I found it easier to move the handwheel by hand for a few of those stitches...... otherwise.... no problem.

Happy Sewing Everyone!  :)

9.07.2018

The beginning of a mini-capsule wardrobe | McCall's M5890

With all good intentions of posting my self-imposed mini-capsule wardrobe plans, I got so caught up in the planning and prep work that I ended up simply jumping right on in and made my first two items.  We'll talk about about this cute top today..... out-of-print McCall's M5890..... then (hopefully!) I'll be posting my overall plans shortly.
See, I had even begun taking planning pictures for you!
Having had McCall's M5890 for years, this is the first garment I've made from this pattern.  It is a Nancy Zieman ten/twenty/thirty minutes to sew publication.  I miss Nancy Zieman a lot.  Anyway, one could make a capsule wardrobe out of these garments.  I made the top, view C.
Princess seams front and back, cut on cap sleeves with a slight flare from the waist down, I just knew this would.... should..... be a flattering fit on my body type.  We are still super hot and humid here in South Carolina with temps hovering around 90* F, so this is a perfect top to transition to Fall.  I built my mini-capsule wardrobe around the colors in this fabric.  Fabric came from All About Fabrics, my local textile outlet center.  Love that place!!
Having made so many Burda and Ottobre patterns lately with lots of tracing, I was super excited to use an already printed pattern..... and still ended up tracing!!!  Fitting is one of my goals for this year so after lots of measuring the flat pattern, I realized it needed modifications and I felt more confident building those alterations off a traced pattern than on the original pattern.  Basically I cut a size 8 and graded to size 10 at hips.  Sewed 5/8" seams.  Lengthened 2".  This top is very short!!
I expected this to be a quick and easy jumpstart to my mini-capsule wardrobe and this simple top turned into one big headscratcher and seam unpicker.  I unpicked at least 5-6 seams before I got the finish I wanted.  Below you can see a little of what I'm talking about.  The pattern surprisingly has you simply turn both the neckline and armhole edges under 3/8", then another 3/8" and top-stitch/edge-stitch.  I could not bring myself to even think about that sort of finish as I like things finished with bindings and facings.  Once I got to the neckline application point, I also realized this neckline was perfect for me as it was.  If I turned under the 3/8" + 3/8" I would lose @3/4" total and was concerned that would be too low.  A sweet elderly lady at church recently gave me all her buttons, threads and misc. notions from when she used to sew..... and in that bag was a package of black woven pre-made bias binding.  Perfect for my neckline as you only lose 1/4" in depth.  So that's what I did.  At first I wasn't sure I liked it as the neckline had a tendency to not lay flat, but let it be and I'm okay with that.  A lot of how it lays has to do with how the shoulder seams sit on my shoulders in the proper place.  This is really quite an elegant neckline design.  Also below you can see the utterly pitiful job I did on the right armhole to you..... turning the 3/8" + 3/8" and top-stitching.  It made me sick to look at that..... so I applied the black woven bias binding to the (left to you) armhole and found that though it looks nice in photos.... it sat awful on the body.  All those seams were unpicked and I gave up and turned in the 3/8" + 3/8" and was super careful and top-stitching and....
.....LOVE my armhole after all.  Unpicked the other one and with a better attitude (ahem!!) took my time turning the 3/8" + 3/8" and though it looks poorly in photos, it lays on the body very nicely.  Added clear elastic to the shoulder seams as per pattern instructions.  Top-stitched all the princess seams so they would lay nice and flat.  Did not serge them as I did not want seams possibly showing through my pretty fabric.  Side seams and shoulder seams are serged. 
Very happy with this fit.  I wanted a close fitting top that would not be confining nor constraining and that is what I got. 
Hemmed a 1 1/4" hem and top-stitched with double needle.  It channeled a little but I'm so over that problem it doesn't bother me much anymore.
Lovely fit.
Took all sorts  of photos in the early morning light before heading out to the only-open-once-a-month fabric outlet store to come back and find only a few shots were in focus.  This was one, below.  All others were re-taken trying to find relief from the strong afternoon light.... and all were in focus.  Go figure.  *sigh*  Have not unlocked the secret to taking focused photos using the remote.
Here's the last photo from this morning with a thrifted cardi finishing everything off nicely.  This look below, is the core of 'my style'.  Wearing the white Burda shorts.
Sarah Liz must be on the same wavelength as I, as it was quite a nice surprise to see the Make a Garment a Month theme for the next few months! 
And because I was trying to pull my plans together to show you, I had taken this photo of the skirt pattern chosen to combine with this charcoal gray knit fabric planned to go with this top.  NewLook 6164 is a pattern for knits with an elastic waist.  This is already made and hope to show it to you soon.  Along with the rest of my plans.  ;)
Plans include Burda, Ottobre, Itch to Stitch and really wanting to fit in the Jalie Eleanore Jeans skinny version this month too.  All will go with each other and I should have a nice jumpstart to Fall/Winter.  I've never done anything like this and have been pleasantly surprised at how much I am enjoying the creative process.

Happy Sewing All!  :)

8.23.2018

Stitch Sisters Kaftan | a free patternless pattern

When you hear the word 'caftan' (or kaftan), what vision comes to mine?  A loose, formless fitting sort of dress snugged in at the waist with a belt?  Lots of voluminous fabric floating about?  That was my first thought, until I saw the new patternless pattern by Stitch Sisters and was pleasantly surprised at the nice 'fit' achieved simply by sewing a bunch of rectangles together.  No muu-muu look here!
This pattern was brought to my attention when 3 of my Instagram friends sent out an invitation to join in on their 'sewingsansfrontieres' challenge to be completed 9.4.2018.  Sewing without borders is the loose translation and I loved everything about the thought behind this challenge immediately.  Suzy sews in Spain, Helene sews in Canada and Sue sews in Australia..... around the globe holding hands in friendship..... that's what the sewing community is all about, isn't it?!  So definitely I was in.  So then..... what was this Stitch Sisters Kaftan patternless pattern......?
When you go to their patternless pattern link you will see a couple of charts...... a sizing chart and a fabric measurement chart.  No pattern.  All rectangles.  Completely out of my comfort zone!!!!!  I do not like cutting rectangles out of fabric like this.  Nope, not at all.  You even follow their instructions for cutting out your neckline... no template.  Noooooooooo!!!!!  Too easy for something to be out of whack resulting in a less than par garment.  I began to question this whole project, but ever up for a challenge and a learning experience.... onward I plunged. 
Wanting this to be a quick project, so I could continue sewing the ever-growing-sewing-queue, a few fabrics from the stash were auditioned with this animal print rayon challis chosen.  Purchased from the last trip to my only-open-once-a-month textile outlet center All About Fabrics, it cost all of maybe $5.00.  And it was a huge pain to cut out rectangles as it slipped all over the place.  Using my rotary cutter and straight edge accompanying ruler helped.
This print is different than what I usually choose to wear, and with the softness and floatiness of the challis thought it'd make a great caftan to sashay about in.  Though in reality there is not a lot of sashaying ability in this pattern as it is quite close to the body for a more flattering fit....and that is exactly what I like best about it!
Knowing I'm not too keen on other garments I've made in the past that have a voluminous amount of gathered fabric, I paid close attention to the sizing chart and the fabric widths, so I made the smallest size on their chart.  Perfect for me.  Great 'fit'. 
Raised the neckline 1".  Perfect.
Their blog post shows step-by-step instructions throughout the process.  They have you use bias binding to finish off the neckline installed in a little different way than I've done before.  It's applied and top-stitched all before you stitch the middle seam...... and at this point my attitude wasn't the greatest, so I simply pinned that middle seam at the neckline the best I could and stitched.  And be still my heart, the top-stitching lined up pretty near perfect!
Dealing with severe fabric limitations.... I'd only purchased a little over a yard of this print, I modified my caftan to only 40 5/8" long front and back pieces using the short sleeve measurements they provided.  Didn't like where the sleeves were hitting my arms, so lengthened them by adding a 2 1/2" black knit folded in half (that added 1 1/4" length and finished the edges off at the same time) that lengthened the sleeves fine and added a cool black accent that I really like.
At this point I was completely out of the animal print fabric and used the same black knit, cut 2" against the grain (so maybe 2" x 55"?), selvedges cut off, then stretched and stretched until it sort of coils in on itself.  Cut that in the middle, knowing I would still have some stretch when tying even though it did not add up to the measurements suggested..... knotted the ends and have ties I really like.
They provide 5/8" seam allowances in all the measurements, so after I'd sewn the side seams, went back in, unpicked and re-stitched from about 2" below the ties the 5/8" seam grading out to 1/4" seam allowance from above the hips on down.  Not a big difference, but enough.
With the 40 5/8" length, I sewed a 2" blind-stitched hem on my machine.  Not sure I'm thrilled with this length..... it's a little long feeling on me..... but wanted it more on the longer, lounging-ish side of dress.
Originally planned this to only be an about the house, comfy dress.... but am so pleased with the results it may be worn out and about sometimes too.  Not sure if this is advertised as a 1-hour make..... but I would plan on it taking more around an afternoon or so.  This was a busy week for me, so after the bulk of the work was done one afternoon, the rest was completed in snippets of time.  It was fun to see it all come together this way!  This was a good project and I am very pleased. 
I noticed while wearing the dress this day, as well as in some of the photos above, that it looks like the front is shorter than the back.... it is not.  I've measured and re-measured and all is equal and correct.  I think the dress is pulling back at the neckline, pulling the neckline and front of the dress up a bit.  Doesn't bother me at all.  Just thought I'd mention it in case it was noticed in the photos here.  Now where's that sewing queue?!!

Happy Sewing All!  :)

8.16.2018

Ode to Frida Kahlo | The Story In Dress

You've probably heard of Frida Kahlo, the artist, before.  I  had not, as I am weak in the humanities and the arts...... but I love to learn.  This is my 'Ode to Frida Kahlo | The Story in Dress'.
A Mexican surrealist painter who was known for her self-portraits, Frida Kahlo born in 1907 and died in 1954, lived a most enigmatic life.  Married to the artist, Diego Rivera, her marriage was fraught with affairs on both sides and much sadness yet she maintained loyalty to Rivera her entire life. She was stricken with polio in childhood that left one leg shorter than the other with the greatest tragedy happening in her teen years, when a bus she was riding in, was in a terrible accident injuring her by completely impaling her body by a metal rod.  Incredible that she could survive such an event in those times, she endured many operations and much pain her entire life.  Yet interesting to me, I rarely found her defined as 'disabled' or 'handicapped' in my readings.  During the years when women's dress hems were rising, Frida embraced the traditional Tehuana Dress that originated in the Oaxaca, a southeastern region of Mexico, dressing in the native traditional way that became her 'signature' look.  Her way of dress  'defined' her and in a few rare photos showing her in pants, it actually looks odd to me.  The long skirts and boxy tops probably provided more comfortable wear considering her constant physical pain, casts and limitations.   But this is a sewing blog and we need to get on with the rest of the story......
My Frida story began on June 9, 2018 when the beautiful Elpida posted her gorgeous hand-painted 'Frida' skirt in her Burda Studio account.  The skirt is not only hand-painted, but includes crochet flowers in Frida's hair and a real earring, below, and to say it caught my eye does not do this piece of work justice.  It is stunning!  At this point I'd never heard of a woman named Frida before and if you were to scroll down and read the comments at Elpida's post, mine responded that 'I was not familiar with Frida and had enjoyed learning more about her after a quick Google search'.  But who can forget this sort of image!! It was stuck in my mind.... the strong eyebrows, cheekbones and red lips with flowers in her hair.  Elpida has graciously given me permission to post her beautiful photo and I want to thank her again.  And if you are not familiar with Elpida's work, please check out her Burda Studio as well as her Instagram account.  She is an artist!  She also has another photo posted in her Burda Studio you may want to see of her Frida skirt.
Not too long after this exposure to Frida Kahlo, my family was watching the movie 'Coco' for one of our traditional Friday homemade pizza and family movie nights, when the 'Frida' scene appeared..... and suddenly I realized I 'knew' who this character represented.  This link held an interesting article to read about the scene as it is quite funny, complete with the character painting self-portraits holding the monkey that Frida was known to enjoy.....
Photo Credit
..... duplicating Frida's dress and hair well.  Have to tell you I felt quite 'smart' as I shared what little I knew about Frida with my family as the lightbulb went off in my head with this connection.  Btw, 'Coco' is a great movie we all enjoyed.
On July 17, 2018 Kate from the wonderful blog Fabrickated began a 'Dress Like Frida Sewalong' , so by now at least knowing who Frida was, sort of!, I enjoyed reading Kate's blog post and clicked on the resources she linked and posted there.  But I was not interested in participating in the Sewalong at the time, because my time is limited, my handmade wardrobe is still limited and I.need.wearable.clothes!  To be perfectly honest..... Frida's style of dress is not my style at all.  But I continued reading Kate's posts and her 2nd post defined and featured the making of a huipil, (pronounced 'wee-peel'), Frida's traditional top of choice.  One of her commenters mentioned this video  of the making of a traditional huipil that I watched and found most interesting.  But I knew I could not do this..... as a huipil is adorned with beading and trims and again.... is simply not my style.

By then the curiosity spirit had been aroused and I came upon the most fascinating documentary of anything I've found on Frida called 'My Dress Hangs There:  Frida Kahlo as Fashion Icon' done by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.  Highly recommend taking the time to watch this little over 1 hour video, if you don't read or watch anything else about Frida as it covers, not only her fashion, but her life in a biographical way.  Scholarly and very well done.  Still felt there was no way I wanted to sew any clothing remotely anything like what she wore.

Then a few of my IG friends were posting some of their works in progress, Sue who blogs over at fadanista was one.... and they all looked like they were having such fun pulling together prints, beads, trims and even creative textiles for their hair.  I thought how nice but I did not have time as I needed wearable clothes in 'my style'.

It's still hot and humid here and recently I'd picked up a small piece of crepe fabric wanting another summer top.  As I was fingering the fabric, wondering what pattern I should choose, I found myself thinking..... this looks like fabric Frida might've worn.  Bright colors, symmetrical design.  Hmmmm.  As I thumbed through my pattern stash and came upon Simplicity 2188 I realized this is a top made from a modified rectangular piece of fabric with a pleated neckline...... a huipil...... in a nutshell.  At that point I knew this little top had to be made.  As I laid out the fabric for pattern placement, it was chosen deliberately for the flowers and leaves to lay this way with the thought of Frida and what she might have worn.  From what I can tell, some of the tops she wore were plain, though honestly most were embellished with trims, embroidery and beading.  I've already blogged all the details of this top here and disregard that red arrow, below, as this is the photo I used on the construction blog post to point out a sewing detail.  You can see from the pattern, that from the shoulder seam to the hem it is pretty straight, particularly after the pleats from the neckline would pull it in more at the upper side seams.
After making the top I realized then I could create my own modern, completely wearable version of an outfit paying homage to Frida, but still be in 'my style'.  That's when the Burda skirt pattern was picked up and completed.  You can read all the details here, but that goldenrod yellow top-stitching thread was deliberately chosen to coordinate with this yellow top with this full ensemble in mind.  By now I was SO excited about this outfit!!!  There might have even been a few dreams about how to pull it all together by now.  ;)
So, with great joy and excitement.... I want to present my 'Ode to Frida' ensemble.  My version of a huipil and my version of a long skirt.  This is very much a wearable outfit for me.  For this blog post I added a colorful scarf at the waist for a belt, but will probably wear the top tucked in, with a jacket or cardi, as this heavy suede skirt is meant more for a Fall/Winter season.
There's more jewelry on today, more blush on the cheeks and the reddest lipstick I own to sort of recreate, in great respect, Frida's 'look'.  The hair is up and french braided and I have to tell you I have not spent that much time on my hair since probably going on a date back in high school!  I completely fail in the 'Frida look'..... but you get the idea.... there was great effort to pull together this blog post for today.
An old period chair was even lugged outside as a prop.  No cigarette though.  ;)
Channeling Frida.
Now this is the real me with my sweet pup and I cannot tell you how much I have enjoyed this process.  I hope Kate is okay with my interpretation of her sewalong..... as isn't that really what this is all about.... creating our own clothes, in our own fashion sense and individuality.  That's what Frida certainly did!
A few more resources I'd like to share with you.....
......I found this Harper's Bazaar article interesting, as well as The New York Times. 

......Kate has published a 3rd week and a 4th week on the Sewalong and I think she's got a few more upcoming posts on Frida planned.    And a big Thank You to Kate for triggering this interest in Frida for me.

My chapter and journey on Frida Kahlo is complete now and I hope you might have enjoyed learning a little more about her.  May we all never lose our 'love of learning'!!

Happy Sewing All!  :)
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