Sunday, July 10, 2016

Final Washi Dress Sew-a-long post!

Hey Peeps!

So here we are at the Washi Dress (from Made by Rae) final post. I hope at least a few of you successfully made a dress. 

Even more I hope that all of you learned at least something. I know I did! 

Once you have your muslin all marked up, you take it apart and use it as your new pattern pieces. That is unless you are one of those lucky people who are pattern sized. I had to make several changes to the bodice of mine. See the last few posts for more specifics on my changes and how to make changes in general.

This is the unicorn houndstooth that I used for my final "real deal" Washi Dress.

This is the back and as you can see I drew on my shirring lines with regular old pencil. After trying several different ways of marking I have officially decided that plain old pencil is my marking tool of choice.

 I did my shirring on my good old reliable machine. She really needs a name but I have not come up with one for her.

I knew she would do a great job and I just didn't feel like messing with it on my new machine.

I did the pleats and the darts on the front pieces.

Luckily I did not need to make any changes to the skirt. However this fabric was not as wide as other fabrics I have used.

I had to do the pocket pieces as separate pieces. I actually like this better. I was able to top stitch down my pockets and they really sit much nicer.

I decided that this would be too childish looking with the combination of this fabric and the little cap sleeve. So another sleeveless one it is.

I was too lazy to make bias tape so I dug through my stash and found this goodie.

There were a few spots where it had yellowed. But I decided to make it a bias tape facing and it will not show plus I think it will not be as yellow after I wash it a few times.

Here you can see the bias tape from the back and how lovely and smooth the front looks. This is one of my favorite techniques for finishing edges. However I do have to admit is was way easier and came out way smoother on my new sewing machine.

I used to say that the type of machine you sewed on did not matter. I said that because I sewed on old crappy machines for years! And well yes I did sew a lot of stuff with them. But I spent A LOT of time fighting with my machines. And while it did teach me how to fix them, I would have rather spent that time making more stuff.


 I busted out the good old Easy Hem and did a wide two inch hem. I think it adds a little something to the finish to have a wide hem.
My 8 (soon to be 9) year old photographer just shoots and shoots. I am not sure she looks at me at all, she just presses the button.

 Me and my tiny dog in the sun.
The back sides of me and tiny dog.

Given the challenges I have with my shape, I think this is an all together comfortable and fairly flattering little summer dress.

I have already worn it and will happily wear it many times this summer I am sure.

I would love to see any Washi's you made. Did anyone make the tunic length? I may have to try that next.

I am not sure if it was the Sew-A-Long or my AMAZING vacation or life in general but I had a few BIG realizations the last few weeks.  So keep your eyes out in the next few days for a post about that.

In the mean time, Go Make Something!!

Peace Out - Chrissy  

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Sew A Long - Post 5 - Starting on the "real deal"

Thanks for hanging while I went on vacation. It was AMAZING!! We had so much fun it is crazy. And for the first time in a long time I feel ready to tackle my life rather than just slug through it. 

I am going to be honest. I have a dress all cut out and ready to sew. But have not managed to sew a stitch. Why, livin my life people! livin my life! 

But I am not going to let life get in the way of sewing forever. I am working on balance. 

And today for me balance was going to work out while kid played with a friend and writing you this somewhat abbreviated post. 

So here is he fabric I chose. Yes that is Unicorn Houndstooth by Michael Miller, in pink. Very grown up, I know. I bought it for a steal $6 a yard at the Gail K out in Norcross or wherever the hell I was out there. 

So how are you doing on making your changes to the fit of your Washi? Any progress you feel ready to share? Any problems you need help with?

I promise more tomorrow on my actual making on my Unicorn Washi. But for now, know that I am thinking of you guys! And hoping you feel inspired to find balance in your life too. 

Peace Out - C 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Sew A Long, Post 4 - Fitting

The bodice of this dress fits perfectly and I wear it all the time! 
Getting clothes to fit properly is a problem for EVERYONE. No matter the size of the person, it is the number one thing I get questions about.

Over the years I have realized two things.

1. Most people have had very few things that fit them perfectly ever in their lives.

2. Most people do not know how things should fit.

Think about the clothes you buy. Most of us are super casual these days and do not wear anything too close fitting.

This is partly social norm and partly the clothes that are sold. Also most people do not spend much on their clothes. Unless you are going to an office where you have to wear business attire, you probably almost never wear "real" clothes. Honestly I do not often wear "real" clothes either but I really like for my clothes no matter how casual, to really fit.

I am a big believer in "you get what you pay for". If you shop at Old Navy, you will get a low level of quality in both materials and tailoring. If you shop at Nordstrom's the cost goes up typically relative to the quality and complexity of the garment. And at Nordstrom's alterations are included in the cost of purchasing garments there. Not a service even offered by Old Navy. All of my store bought "real" clothes are from Nordstrom or Talbots. I very rarely by anything but t-shirts or workout clothes from places like Target, Old Navy or Kohl's. And increasingly I rarely buy clothes for myself. I am heading towards a totally me made wardrobe.

I challenge you to really think about how your clothes fit you and how you feel about your wardrobe. I also challenge you to accept yourself as you are. Anyone can look great in clothes that truly fit and flatter them. Additionally take a look at your undergarments. Bras in particular. This is one area where I do spend a fair bit of money. I buy really good bras. They make me look and feel great, and make my clothes look better as well as making me look slimmer. You should do the same!! Start with one really great bra, it may change your whole view of yourself and your body! I want to get into bra making.... but that is a whole other thing. For now, GO BUY A GOOD BRA!

When you buy store bought clothes, what problems do you usually have? Is there only a brand or two that fit well enough for you to even buy anything? Do you have to try on a million things to find anything worth buying?

I will walk you through the issues I have with finding store bought clothes.
- shoulders are always too big
- if the shoulders fit the chest and arms are too tight
- as I have gotten fluffier, sleeves fitting have become and issue
- darts are almost never in the right place
- on sleeveless things the arm holes are way too big
- the back neck gapes
- if the waist fits the legs are too tight, but
- if the legs fit the waist is too big

I could go on and on. In making my own clothes I have learned what adjustments I need to make. I warn you this is something that takes practice.

You are going to hate that I am saying this. You want a super easy solution. You want me to tell you there is an easy solution and exactly what that solution is. Well, there is not just one simple solution and there are many things that may need to be changed.

So lets look at our muslins. Put it on, look in the mirror and with a really critical eye decide what are the fit issues?

Here is my muslin. I am fitting it on my dress form with my measurements. First problem I see is that the neck line is gapping. Also the darts are too low, and I know that when I put it on the neckline is too low and shoulders are too big.

That sounds like a lot of stuff wrong right off the bat. Well it is and it isn't.

Let's adjust from the top down. Have you ever had a shoulder strap that you keep pinching up and thinking if this strap was just this much shorter this would fit perfect? Well for this particular top, that instinct might be right.

Look what happens when you pull the shoulders up. And it makes sense. If I was the weight that damn chart at the Dr. says I should be, I would wear an XS. My shoulders have not gained any weight and I have not gotten taller. I have a pretty small frame. And when I pinch this up it makes the shoulders about line up with the XS on the pattern.

Once the shoulders are in the right place, the darts are magically up at the right place, and the neckline is no longer too revealing. So three adjustments off the list already.

** Many pro sewers will say I do this wrong. The accepted wisdom is choose your pattern size based on your shoulder and upper bust and then do a full bust adjustment. Well honestly I have tried their way and it is a pain in the pants! I personally prefer my method. BUT keep in mind that my shoulder is an XS and EVERYTHING else on me is am XL or XXL. That would be a lot of adjusting to the rest of the garment. If you were going from an XS up to aS or M, I would say try their way if you like. But ....... I am here to tell you what has worked best for me. **

Last adjustment left on the front is the gap in the neckline. I took a pinch out of the muslin to correct that as well. Look how much better this bodice fits already.

One more change that the dress form is not really showing is that the waist hits me kind of mid - low boob. My chest is fuller than the form. So to adjust for this I am going to add length the the bodice so I have more room for my chest, the fabric fully covering the "girls" and then synching in at the waist is going to be way more flattering than a mid boob line. IF YOU ADD LENGTH TO THE FRONT DON'T FORGET TO ADD LENGTH TO THE BACK.  I put that in all caps because I have made that mistake enough times to choke a chicken. I am trying to save you some irritation and struggle.
In the photo on the right you will see where I taped in a piece the same width as the amount of length I added to the front bodice. Add length right above the top line of shirring. You want your front waist and your top line of shirring to match.

Now let's look at the back bodice. Because of my small shoulder issue we have a similar gapping issue with the back neckline that we had at the front.

Again we are going to pinch out the problem areas.

Once you have your spots pinched and pinned. You want to draw lines where you want to make changes.

Be careful, you don't want to take out all the fullness. You want to make sure that you will still be able to move in the garment.

When you unpin your garment you will have lines where you want to make your adjustments.

You will take you garment off your form (or yourself) and take the garment apart. Yes you will need to seam rip it apart. Then you can lay the muslin pieces out on your pattern and make changes or trace a new pattern piece from your adjusted muslin piece.

I was a bit lazy and did not take my muslin apart. I simply folded and taped my pattern piece in the places where I pinched my muslin. For example, I pinched out a bunch of extra fullness in the back bodice. So I simply folded the pattern the amount of that pinch and taped it down.

So now when I go to cut the new back piece, I will use the new line I have created as my center back line.

This is part of why some feel that starting with the shoulder size that fits and adjusting the bust and the waist is easier. Again I think that would be true if you were only changing a size or two.

Look how smooth that back lays on this version. I hate a gapping neckline, you really want to make sure that your neckline lays flat. Focus on this part of the fitting.

I wore this dress yesterday and got tons of compliments. I am not a tiny person, but I look great in clothes that fit!

One of our fellow sew-a-longers, Sherry, sent me a picture of her muslin asking for advice. The one on the bottom right is her first draft. She also let me know her measurements and what size she had cut. Based on that I suggested that she go down a size and lengthen the bodice.

If you look at the original bodice, there is not a lot of fabric there. Once she sewed on her skirt, she would have had the same problem I was having which is that the waist line would hit her in the boob.

The light green bodice is after she made the adjustments I suggested, which were not drastic or difficult. And she looks amazing! Much more flattering! And the new waist will accentuate the smallest part of her. Which is always what you want to do. It is super flattering.

What I think is not emphasized enough in sewing your own clothes or buying them is really look at the fit. Is it overall too big? Is it too short? Are the darts in a weird place? Play around with these changes. And see which is the most flattering on you!

I could go on and on forever about making changes. But that is something that lots of other people have already done.

Here are some resources for how to make muslins and adjustments to fit.
Made By Rae - Lessons Learned
Oliver & S, Tips for fitting a muslin 
Full Bust Adjustment aka FBA, Curvy Sewing Collective
Small Bust Adjustment aka, SBA, Colette Patterns

There are tons of great resources out there. Keep in mind the Washi is a simple and easy pattern that gives you a chance to focus on one area (the bodice) with only a few pattern pieces. This is dipping your toe into the waters of sewing for yourself. Take your time. Do it right. And then when you are ready dive into the deep end.

That is a lot of information to digest! Feel free to send me pics if you need an opinion.
email: c at

I will be on Vacay next week! And am not taking my computer with me. So do not fret if I do not get back to you immediately. But take the next two weeks to test and try and make changes. Also if you are in the slack group post pics for the other group members to look at and ask for advice there. We are in this together people!

Peace Out - Go get some sun!!!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Sew a long post 3 Putting together your "muslin"

My muslin, out for some sun, enjoying the breeze! 
Yes the word muslin has two meanings. It is a type of fabric AND it is a "practice garment".

No you do not have to use muslin for your "muslin", but it is a good thing to use. I used quilting cotton, but it was cheaper than muslin and I thought it would photograph better. Sorry if the term caused confusion. I am also going to do one straight up muslin to show you some things next week for the fitting post.

I often do use actual muslin. It is easy to work with and not expensive. One important aspect is that muslin is easy to make marks on that are easy to see. You do not want to use a fabric that is hard to see marks on because you are going to want to make marks to make changes.

For the purposes of encouraging you to sew your own clothes I made a muslin and while making my muslin I learned several interesting things.

First, you really should just make it out of muslin. You do not want to fall in love with the garment in the process of making it and be sad that it does not fit.

Making it out of muslin ensures that this will not happen. I tell my students this all the time. I broke my own guideline. I wanted my muslin to magically work and be a finished garment, fight that feeling! It is a first pancake, an experiment, a first draft. Make yourself treat it as such. I know it's hard.

I will tell you more lessons I learned as we put this "muslin" together.  Let's get out your directions and go through them.

See it says right on the directions, step 3. "make a muslin". She suggests just the front bodice piece. I suggest the whole thing and that that is what I am going to do. I know it's a lot of fabric, but I already warned you I don't do things the cheap way. But I am cool if you want to just do the bodice. However I suggest you do enough of the back piece to include the shirring. You can practice your shirring and you can see how it will really fit.

Then she talks about bust adjustments. We will talk more abut those next week after we see how your muslin fits.

Lets take a look at the bodice first.

Here is your bodice piece. All cut out and marked. Fold your fabric, right sides together and sew the dart.

If you do this method the lines you drew on will be your seam allowance.

Read the "Dart Hints" in the pattern directions. She is right this is how you should sew it.

I personally prefer to leave the fabric in the dart. I also made a muslin of the tunic version. This one is made of muslin.

To add back in the fabric on this dart, I pinned the pattern piece to the fabric, then I folded the pattern and the fabric so I could draw a line

When you unfold it you will have something like this.

At this point make sure you mark your dart points through the hole at the apex of the dart.

See those little black marks near my pencil point? Those are your seam line for the dart. Go ahead and mark those as well.

Then you will connect your dart apex and the seam line marks that you made. So you will have a triangle marked on your fabric.

Doing it this way actually moves your dart apex up 1/4 of an inch. So check it against yourself to make sure that still works for you. It works better for me, but you know I a rather busty person.

Then you will fold your dart. Lining up the seam line marks.

That is my somewhat silly ironing board cover you are seeing there.

You then sew your dart. Again follow the instructions in the Washi directions for this. Here is a picture of how I press my dart over an ironing ham.

Don't have a ham? Well they are not all that expensive, they are about $10 at Joanne's. If you are going to be doing lots of garment making they are a great investment.

Once you have your darts sewn on both sides, you are done with the bodice for now.

Next you will want to go ahead and do the shirring on the back.

It will give you a chance to practice without risking messing up your for real fabric.

You should have your marks all ready to go on your muslin. Your fabric should look something like the picture to the left.

If not go back to the last post and read about marking your fabric.

Rae, the designer of this pattern, has already written a lovely tutorial on shirring, that I suggest you take a look at.

She came to the same conclusion that I eventually did, you do not need to adjust the tension on your bobbin case. So those of you who were worried about messing up your bobbin tension, there you go problem solved!

But this is why it is good you test it. You and your machine may not come to the same conclusion. You may need to buy an extra bobbin case, which is cheap for most machines.

Here are some more tips about shirring from Craftsy.

To get started you need to wind your bobbin with the elastic thread. You wind by hand, don't pull it and stretch it, just wind it. Then you use it just like any old bobbin.

I tried this in both my drop in bobbin and front loading bobbin machines. Both turned out about the same.
Here is why you need your marks on the right side of your fabric. 

You want to be able to sew along your lines.

My tip is I do back tack at the beginning and ending of each row.

Your elastic just sits at the back of the fabric, and does not pull through like thread. So if you don't back tack you risk pulling your elastic out. And that would suck. But you would learn.
 Here it is two rows in. Starts to look like it might actually turn out to be something!

But it also starts to get weird, but just smooth it out and keep going.
It sort of sucks when you run out of bobbin elastic mid way through. Sigh.........

I just re-loaded and kept going. You may be more of a perfectionist and may want to pick out that row and do it again. Your call.

I used blue thread so you could see it. You may want to use something that better matches your fabric. But on the muslin go wild.

This is the shirring I did on the drop in bobbin machine, looks remarkably similar. It really is easy. Don't psych yourself out. Just try it.

If you are just doing a bodice you would now sew your shoulder and side seams and try it on an check it out.

If you are making an entire test garment you next you make your pleats in the front skirt.

You pin them and them press them in place. Page 7 of your instructions has very clear and easy illustrations of this step and the next one. You simply sew the bodice front to the skirt front.

Easy peasy.

Then you sew the shoulder seams and the side seams. You sew around the pockets.

After that you get into finishing details. Which I did on my muslin dress to test them out. So it is up to you if you want to test how your finishing will look. I was skeptical of the U in the front neckline. I think it is very cute on smaller people. On myself however, not so much.

But I am happy I tried it.

As the directions indicated I interfaced my facing, then sewed it is and under stitched it before I cut out the notch. This is a wise way to do this and works great, so follow the directions if you are finishing your dress in this manor and want to test it before you cut into your real deal fabric.

Then if you are adding a sleeve that is your last step. Again the pattern directions are great! So use them for this step. I am here to guide and encourage, not re-invent the wheel.

I am not a huge fan of facings typically. They tend to flip out and bunch and do other annoying things. But this one looks nice if you sew it down. I tried it so I could see if I like it. And I do. I think it looks pretty as well as being functional.

Since this was an experiment I used teal thread and tried a bunch of fun stitches for top stitching. I had just told my pal Ella that I really wanted to get into more embellishment and boho type embroidery on cloths and this managed to be the perfect place for trying it.

Sadly my fun teal thread ran in the wash. You can't see it so much in this picture but it looks like there is a fuzzy marker line where ever the thread is.

This is what I get for buying thread with no label from someone who does not really speak English. But it is such a beautiful color! However I have learned my lesson and will buy thread with labels. So I know what it is made of. But really who has ever heard of thread color running before?!?!??

 Here you can see the running and the embellishment a little more.

I have learned a lot and done some fun experimenting. Which I would not have done if it were not for you! This is the aspect of sewing I love. The social, community aspect.

I would love to see pictures of your progress. If you feel comfortable with the other sewers seeing them please post in slack. That way everyone working on it can see your issues and see if anyone else has suggestions on how to fix it.

Next post will be all about fit. What changes should you make, if any, and how to make them.

Or are you the rare magical unicorn who can wear things straight from the pattern?

Just because I can!! 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Washi Sew A Long Post 2

First I am going to admit that I got this post all done and scheduled to go out and then accidentally deleted it. I thought I was deleting something else. And just was not paying enough attention .......sigh..... oh it goes ....again.

One more of my sewing philosophies that I feel I need to share is ......

Sewing is not really just sewing. Sewing is........
80% planning and cutting
10% sewing and
10% cussing and starting over.
I think I need a t-shirt that says it, so I don't have to keep saying it all day to my poor students.

Now you should have the pattern. Either you downloaded it or bought it in the envelope. And you should have already put it together.

Next we need to decide which size to cut out. In researching this topic there are more theories on this than I would have imagined.

Some say choose your shoulder size and adjust everything from there. Some say choose your widest part and adjust from there. I tend to agree with the latter.

Here are some great resources on measuring:
Sew Mama Sew - How to take measurement
And if you are plus sized I suggest The Curvy Sewing Collective Beginners guide to how to measure yourself. 

I will walk you through my process. First take your measurements. I measure every time I make something. If you are one of those people whose measurements are always the same, great tell me how you do that. Mine go up and down all the time.

Upper Bust: 39"  (XL)
Bust: 44" (XXL)
Waist 39 (larger than XXL)
Hip 47 (larger than XXL)

This particular pattern is very forgiving at the bottom so the fact that I am slightly larger than the measurements that they give does not really matter. If you are more than a couple of inches larger than than the pattern measurements you will need to make some adjustments.

 If you want more advice on choosing size here are some great resources:
Workroom Social 
Threads Magazine

If you are really struggling with what size to cut, you should send me an email ( with your measurements and we can discuss.

Before you cut, READ THE DIRECTIONS. Ok so I say that like I actually do that. I do it sometimes. But I read these directions and they are good and clear. Page 13 has a really great summary of the instructions and a cutting layout. So at a minimum read page 13! It is really handy.

Now Let's Cut!

This is my muslin fabric. It is a white on white print from Jo Anne's. It was $2.99 a yard.

It worked out ok but I can be honest and admit I did not wash it.

I deeply regret not washing it. 

But I will tell you why next week when we talk about sewing our muslin together.

My current preferred method of cutting is pattern weights and a rotary cutter.

Especially for patterns like this where it is big pieces that are fairly easy to cut.

I do not love that the pocket is cut out like this and is not a separate piece you attach, but I am coming around to the fact that it is much easier.

I have discovered that with lots of pressing and a little top stitching it can look like a more tradition pocket.

 The hardest part of the back piece is marking the lines for the shirring.

Mark your lines on the right side of your fabric. 

You want to sew them so that the elastic is on the inside of your dress. The elastic goes in the bobbin only.
I make little tick marks at the sides and in the center of the piece.

Then I use a long ruler to connect them. I used an erasable fabric marker here.

You can also use chalk or a pencil. What ever you use, make sure that it will wash out.

So maybe no Sharpie.

This is the front skirt piece.

I had to flip the pattern piece because I wanted the little arrows all going the same direction.

It is also cut on the fold.

Keep in mind which way your fabric is going when you cut. You want to make sure your front and back will match.

Mark your pleats.

Don't forget to mark both sides. If you just mark one side you will open your fabric up and know what I mean.

Leave your fabric folded and pinned to your pattern. Simply fold down the pattern and mark.

Again there are other ways to do this. So you could google pattern marking and see if you find a technique you like.

But it is not rocket science, don't over think it. Just make sure that they are evenly spaced.

If it makes you feel better, my friend Ella and I were working on samples together and we both some how messed up this step and had to re do it.

Just be patient with yourself. It will all work out.

I pinned the bodice pattern piece, it is smaller and has more cuts. I still used the rotary but I wanted it to be more stable.

Or my hands just grabbed pins without me thinking. Who knows. I sew in a trance sometimes so you people are lucky I remembered to stop and take pictures.

The one thing I do not like about this pattern is the dart cut out on this bodice piece.

1. It leaves you with another raw edge to deal with. In a spot that is not ideal.

2. If you have a large bust it does not leave you any room for adjustments and it takes out all the extra fabric that would absorb some of the tension on this particular spot.

For the sake of the muslin I tried it. But I am not going to cut out my real deal Washi this way.

Leave your pattern pinned to your fabric and make a hole where the dart point it.

I used the point of my scissors. A pin will work too.

It does not have to be huge.
Just big enough to get your marking tool in there.

I used chalk, but use whatever you like. Just make sure it is enough so you can see it.
Now unpin your fabric. Leave it folded and flip it over. You need to mark the dart point on the other side as well.

Make sure you line up all your sides and edges. You want the points to be evenly spaced.

OR you can put a pin through your first mark and use it to make your 2nd mark. Again do what makes more sense to you. Depends on the day as to what I do, has something to do with the barometric pressure I think. My creative process it deeply impacted by the weather.

Then you will take a ruler and draw on your stitch line.

The pattern only give you a 1/4" seam allowance here, make sure you mark it. All the other seam allowances are 1/2".

You do this from the edge of your bodice, to the point that you marked.

I will show you pictures of what I mean when we are cutting the real deal, but I am going to leave that fabric in there.

 If you are going to try the little U cut out in the neck line you can go ahead and mark it now, but don't cut it yet.
You will cut it out after you sew it. to the facing.

Apparently there are marks on the bodice that you need to mark on your fabric so that you can position your sleeve correctly on your bodice.

Well.....if you are one of those directions followers sort of people maybe you should do that too.

Speaking of the facing you need to go ahead and cut that out too. I was going to try the muslin without it but I realized that you don't really get an idea of how it will lay without it. Same as the bodice, don't cut out the U yet.

You will also need to cut out interfacing for the facing. There is a front facing and a back facing. Make sure you cut and interface both pieces. I like a woven fusible interfacing for apparel. It costs a little more but works better.  If your fabric is black or dark you should try and use black or gray interfacing.

Last cut out your sleeve. Cut two on the fold. There are no markings but you will line up the edges of the finished sleeve with the marks you made on the bodice. If you are planning to go sleeveless, skip this step.

Whoo! Did it, twice. And honestly I think this 2nd one was better. Everything happens for a reason!

It is not too late to join our Slack discussion group. All you need to do is send me an email with your name and where you are from.

Happy Cutting! Next week we sew!!!!

- C