Sewing Darts

Readers, this post is overdue. So overdue, in fact, that I wishfully included it in the updated cabin instructions before it was posted 😬. Needless to say, life got in the way. But here it is at long last! And I’m so sorry for the wait! 


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Darts are used to form a piece of 2D fabric (your pattern piece) to a 3D shape (your body). Darts help shape the fabric around our curvy parts (breasts, butt, shoulders, stomach, and more) and they do this by closing a wedge of fabric following the shape of your body.

Here are some tips for marking, sewing and pressing darts, as well as tips for handling darts on a curvy figure, including contouring.

Dart Anatomy

A dart, before being sewn, is a big triangle. The tip of the triangle is often called the dart point. The sides are called the dart legs.

Before sewing, you want to clearly mark your dart onto the wrong side of your fabric. An easy way to do this is by sticking pins through your tissue at the dart point and the end of the dart legs at the seam allowance, then folding back the tissue to mark the point on the fabric.

Marking Darts

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Some patterns will include a circle at the end of the dart that you can use to easily mark your dart point. Occasionally, patterns will have additional circles along the legs of the dart at various spots. This is often done for darts who’s legs aren’t in a perfectly straight line, like a contoured dart or a dart that is at the end of a seam. Mark these circles in the same way you mark the ends and point of the dart.

Once you’ve marked the key points of your dart, use a ruler to draw the entire dart shape on your fabric.

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Drawing the whole dart onto the fabric makes it easier to pin the dart accurately. I like to fold the dart legs together and pin along the dart leg marking, flipping my fabric over to be sure that the pin crosses through the dart line on the opposite side as well.

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I also like to place one pin horizontally through the dart point, to make it easier to spot while I’m sewing the dart on the machine.

Sewing Darts

When it’s time to sew your darts, start from the edge of the fabric and sew towards the dart point along the dart line, pulling out the pins as you go.

When you reach the end of the dart point, try to skim the edge of the fabric with the needle before stitching off the edge completely. This helps to achieve a smooth dart point that doesn’t pucker.

While you’ll start your dart with a backstitch to secure, backstitching isn’t always the best way to secure a dart point. It can often make the dart pucker or bunch at the point. Here are three other ways to secure your dart point:

Leave long tails and tie a knot at the end of your dart.

Switch to a short stitch length 1/4” from the dart point and gradually decrease it to nearly zero at the end.

Sew to the end of the dart, then turn your fabric around and stitch along the fold within the dart.

Pressing Darts

Always press darts on a rounded or pointed surface to get a smooth point that doesn’t pucker. I like to use a tailors ham, but you can also use a tennis ball or place the point of your dart at the end of your ironing board, with the dart lying flat.

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You have a few options when it comes to pressing darts as well!

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From L - R:

Pressing open - stick your finger into a the dart and flatten it out on either side of the seam. This helps the dart appear more balanced from the outside and is good for darts with large intake.

Pressing to one side - this is usually how darts are pressed. As a rule, always press horizontal darts down and vertical darts to either the Center Front or Center Back.

Clipping and pressing open - On thick, bulky fabrics or fabrics that show pressing marks from the outside, clipping the dart open helps it to lie flatter and disappear into the fabric. You’ll also often need to do this on darts that are at the end of a seam. If going this route, be sure to reinforce the raw edges of the dart seam once it’s cut. This method is not recommended for sheer fabrics.

Contour Darts

One thing that is important to note about darts: They add shaping to a body with a straight seam. Do those curvy parts of your body happen in a straight line? Usually not. Most of the time, darts cinch in fabric to fit your shape, but the length of the dart still stands away from the curves of your body. In most cases, this is perfectly sufficient. When you get into more fitted silhouettes where the more curvy areas aren’t covered with fabric OR your curves are very prominent, this theory doesn’t always work out.

This, my friends, is where contouring comes in handy.  In pattern making, contouring is the process by which the sections of your garment that don’t lie flat against the body are altered to do so, usually because the part that did lie next to the body is removed. For example, a deeply cut neckline or armhole, where the ease from the original garment may leave the neckline or armhole to gape.

In the case of those who are simply curvier, in such a way that the size and straightness of the dart doesn’t quite fit right on the body, contouring can be used to create a dart with a better fit. The main thing this technique accomplishes is to make the angle at which the dart meets the edge of the fabric less severe, resulting in a smoother dart point.

You’ll contour by sewing along a slightly different line than what you drew. Start by measure about 2.5” from the end of your dart along the dart legs. Mark this point. Then, redraw the dart line so that it curves away from the dart line as it approaches the dart point. (Pictured below, the red seam is the original dart, while the blue line represents the contour.)

This makes it so that the dart point contours to the bust curve, rather than just a straight line. It also keeps darts from appearing too pointy. The larger your bust or dart, the more you might want to contour it.

Contour darts will often need to be clipped in order to lie properly as they have become more of a seam than a proper dart. I often slice the dart open and clip while pressing, to see how much is necessary. 

Do you have any tried and true dart sewing methods? Any pressing questions about dart sewing?

Adding a zipper front to Moderne

Now that spring is on the horizon I've been thinking about transitional wardrobe pieces. The Moderne Coat is a fantastic light coat and a perfect piece to add to your spring wardrobe. I've decided to share a blog series this month I'm calling Moderne March (clever, right?) that will include suggestions and tips for sewing the Moderne coat as well as some great pattern hacks! I'll be sharing these all month long, so stay tuned!


A Zipper Placket for Moderne

Don’t get me wrong, I love buttons as much as the next gal. In New England, however, there’s at least a few months out of the year where cold wind sneaks right into your coat between the buttons and a zipper is absolutely necessary.

I went back and forth about including a zipper placket option in the pattern but decided ultimately to include it as an extra. There’s only so many pattern pieces and so many instructions before a pattern gets too crazy. This seemed like an easy addition (plus, there’s just something nice about a free pattern bonus, isn’t there?)

This zipper is actually sewn into the placket for a nice clean finish. It also leaves space if you want to add additional snaps to the placket, like you see on your favorite RTW jackets.

To start, print off the Zipper Placket Addition PDF (download it here!)* Be sure 'scaling' is turned off or set to 100%. Print page one and measure the rectangle to ensure it has printed at the correct size.

*If you downloaded the zipper placket addition before 3/10/18 please note that there was a small error in the seam allowance which has now been fixed. For more info and how to fix this if you've already cut your fabric, visit our errata page.

You'll need a 22-24" zipper. If you're the kind of person who likes having a bit of room to kick at the front of their coat, I'd got for the 22".

Cutting & Marking

The new placket is made up of two pieces and they should fit in the same amount of space on your cutting layout. However, instead of cutting on the fold, each piece must be cut (especially if you’re making V2) from the right side of the fabric with the pattern piece facing up.

You should end up with two of the exact same pieces, rather than mirrored pieces as in the original pattern. If using fusible interfacing, be sure to cut in the same fashion, with the glue side (bumpy side) up. This doesn't matter so much for version 1, as the pieces are rectangular, but is crucial for V2. The pieces below are cut for V1, but the dashed line represents what it would look like for v2.

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Be sure to mark your notches and the small circle markings (choose the correct circle based on version and bust size).

Instructions for attaching the zipper

Interface your placket pieces as usual. If using a stiff fabric or sew in interfacing, you may want to trim down the interfacing seam allowances to 1/8" to reduce bulk.

With your zipper facing up, mark the left and right side at the top of the tape (with chalk or removable pen). This will also indicate the right side of the zipper.

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Lay out your wider placket pieces side by side. Separate the zipper and turn the left zipper piece over so the wrong side is facing up and the teeth are on the left. The right side of the zipper with remain with the right side facing up, teeth also on the left.

Pin each zipper to the right side of the wider placket piece, positioning the top of the zipper teeth with the circle marking.

The teeth of the zipper should be 5/8” from the edge of the placket pieces. Fold the extra zipper tape towards the fabric edge at a 45 degree angle.

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Baste each zipper in place by hand or machine at 3/8" seam allowance. At this point, zip your zipper together to check the that two placket pieces align correctly at the top and bottom.

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Place each narrow placket piece on top of the wide placket piece with right sides together and with the zipper sandwiched between, matching the notch.

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Using a zipper foot, sew together at a 1/2” seam allowance. Repeat for the 2nd placket.
Press the seam allowance on both plackets towards the narrower piece. If using a plastic zipper, avoid ironing over the zipper teeth, they can melt!

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Edge stitch along the right side of the each zipper, catching the seam allowance underneath. Be sure to pull the fabric away from the zipper as you sew. It's easy for this seam to want to fold back closer to the zipper, especially if the fabric is thick. You want at least 1/8" space between the zipper teeth and fabric to allow the zipper to open and close without getting caught.

If you like, you can fold over the placket, matching the notches on each side and press. Your finished placket pieces should look like this:

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Both zippers facing left, the wrong side of the zipper showing on the left placket.
It’s important not to get these two plackets mixed up in the sewing phase or your zipper will be upside down. Before sewing them to the coat, mark the left and right plackets. Then, sew your coat as directed, substituting the altered plackets for the originals.

I added a zipper haphazardly to my sample V2 Moderne when I needed a quick fix for super cold weather, but I may eventually go back and re-sew the placket.

The version of Moderne I'm working on in this post will debut in its finished state in a few weeks, as I've used it to demonstrate several different pattern hacks! Next up, adding a lining to V1 (with some bonus pattern pieces!)

 

Make your own clothing labels using stamps

One of my favorite finishing touches to a handmade garment is a personalized tag. I've seen all kinds of beautiful DIY versions, like overstitched fabric scraps, screenprinted bits, and even just special ribbon loops. I've also recently come across lots of label producers who are offering small minimum orders for professional looking woven labels.

Since I love a good DIY fix (and find most woven labels very itchy) I thought I would share my favorite tag making method, using ribbon or fabric and stamps!

The process is very straightforward. Get stamps, stamp on ribbon or fabric. Set with iron and sew in!

Here's what you'll need:

Something to stamp on

1. Use a flat, plain weave ribbon. The smoother, the better. This helps get a nice, clean stamp. Any ribbon that is tightly woven and made from natural fiber should work well.

My favorite ribbon for tags (pictured above) is a chambray ribbon made in France, which I buy locally. Your local fabric shop might carry something similar. I had a bit of a hard time tracking down an online source for it, but came across this Etsy seller that offers the same ribbon.

2. If you can't track down the right ribbon (or you just want to start your project right away) the selvedge from your favorite light hued fabric works well in a pinch! You can also use bias tape.

3. You can also use any plain woven fabric. Light colors and tight weaves (like poplin, voile, or shirting) work best. Trim the edges with pinking shears, cut on the grain and pull away some threads to create a fringe, or finish the edges with a serger. Press your fabric to get it nice and smooth before stamping.

2. Twill tape, which is a bit easier to find in shops, works okay but the texture prevents you from getting a really clean, clear line. Pressing it with a hot iron first will help smooth the texture a bit. This guy should be a last resort.

Stamps

Text

My favorite way to get clear, consistent text on tags is to use alphabet stamps or kits that include stamps and letters. Kits are great because they include multiples of each letter, upper and lower case, and symbols. You can arrange the type and stamp them over and over.

Each type has their pros and cons. I have a few vintage kits I've collected over the years and I love them. Kits make stamping easier, but leave you a bit limited in terms of font. Loose letter sets come in a wider variety of size and font, but you have to stamp each letter individually and line them up.

Your local craft store will have a variety of alphabet stamp sets and Etsy is a great place to track down old stamp kits. You can also find new stamp kits at office supply stores. Martha Stewart makes a kit that comes with round pieces to set letters in a circle. If you know of any other brands that make these stamp kits, please share!

Images & Decorative elements

Your local craft or stationary store will likely have a nice variety of fun stamps. Keep in mind the size if you want it to fit on ribbon of a certain width. Sets of small stamps are a great way to add decorative elements to your text.

You can also create your own stamps! I wrote a holiday tutorial a few years back that covers the basics. Remember, your image will stamp in reverse, so be sure to draw it backwards.

Ink

You can use any stamp pad that is formulated to work on fabric. Be sure to check, because many of them are not. My favorites are Yellow Owl Workshop's large stamp pads (note that their smaller ink pads are not formulated for fabric!). Tags I've made using this ink have withstood years of machine washing with little to no fading or bleeding. They'll also last at least a couple years without drying out (as long as you keep the lid shut). Mine are about 5 years old and still work brilliantly.

Remember, most fabric stamping inks must be heat set using your iron! Be sure to review the instructions for heat setting that come with your ink.

You may also want to run a stamped piece of fabric through the wash if testing out a new ink to make sure it doesn't run or fade.

Tips

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+ Test your design on paper first! I can't tell you how many times I've flipped something upside down printed the wrong thing. Do a test first.

+ Plan your spacing. To keep stamps in an even line, use masking tape to create a guideline on your fabric or ribbon.

+ Ink evenly and press firmly on your stamp!

+ Mind your P's and Q's! Remember, certain letters look the same backwards and forwards. Always do a test print to make sure you've got the right letters.

+ Heat set your tags! Iron on the cotton setting for 5-10 seconds and let cool.

+ If you want to print only part of a stamp, or break up lines of text, use a piece of scrap paper to catch the ink and only stamp the part of the text or image you want on your fabric.

Do you have a favorite technique for making your own tags? Please share!

Pattern Renovation: Saltbox Sundress

I've been thinking a lot about Saltbox this week, after receiving a beautiful book full of old New England houses from a friend. I love looking at photographs of old houses and seeing how much charm and character exists even in the most modest house.

It's hard to say the same about the majority of housing built today. Where I live, the new homes being built - often in big developments - are a hot topic. Last night I went to a workshop to help create an affordable housing plan for the town. Though they sometimes lack in amenities, small towns make for easier access to the decision making process that shapes the outcome of local projects. Whether town politics are your thing or not, the spirit of collaborating with your neighbors for the greater good is exciting!

This is a strange lead-in to a post about pattern hacking, but I promise there's a bit of a connection! One parallel I see between these two issues is the idea of building new constructions with new materials vs. renovating old buildings. Now, don't get me wrong, I love a fresh bundle of fabric and a new project as much as the next sewist (I also see the benefits of buying a brand new house!) But there's also something that feels really good about reworking something you already have, that already exists.

So, to bring the conversation back to sewing: Today I was craving a quick, summery project. Instead of whipping up a new design, I came up with a simple renovation using things I already had: A Saltbox dress!

Update: This idea had been floating around in my head since I saw @weboughtamanor's super cute version on Instagram a few years ago. I couldn't find her original picture when this post was first published.

View through the pear tree.

View through the pear tree.

I'd been contemplating a Saltbox dress after seeing one somebody made up on Instagram. I decided to use some vintage Marimekko fabric (from 1979) in my stash, thrifted a few years ago and waiting for a project. When I couldn't decide on a contrast, I went with an old standby trick: use the wrong side of the fabric!

And of course, since I was using the wrong side, I thought, "why not make the whole thing reversible?" I love setting myself up with epic challenges when a simple trek will do. I stopped short of trying to devise a reversible pocket. At 87 degrees and 60% humidity, it's way too hot for that much thinking. So no pockets...already regretting it ;)

I made it reversible by finishing each seam with a flat felled seam. I pressed the seams up towards the shoulder pieces so that the stitching was on the white of the fabric, but you could also press them down as instructed by the pattern. I made bias binding from the same fabric and sewed it on so that it would match the inside shoulder pieces. I lost the point of the Saltbox, but I think the bias facing in reverse has a nice effect. You could also do bias binding instead and press the seams down, which would give you with nice points on both sides.

Altering the Pattern

To create the Saltbox dress, first go ahead and cut out your pattern in the size you want, completing any necessary alterations. Slide a sheet of paper underneath your pinned together pattern.

Overlap your pattern pieces and pin them together to form the bodice front. They should overlap by 1" total (1/2" per each seam allowance.)

Measure 1" out from each hip and mark with a short line. Measure from the bottom edge the amount you would like to lengthen the pattern. Check the measurement on the pattern envelope to see how much you want to add. I added 12".

L: For a straight shape like the one in my version, connect the underarm to the line you drew, then draw a light straight down and connect it to the hem line at the bottom. Use a hip curve to smooth out the point where the two lines meet.

R: For a more a-line shape, align a ruler with the underarm and the line at the hip, then draw a straight line down to the hem guideline.

Trace just the bodice front (lower section) onto the paper below. Then, lay some tracing paper over each shoulder piece and trace around them, using the new side line.

Repeat with the back pieces (you'll be able to omit the back right shoulder, since it doesn't touch the side seam). Unpin, cut out your pieces and lay out on your fabric.

I didn't keep the side vents because of the flat felled seams, but you could easily recreate the vents at the bottom of the hem and/or add in-seam or patch pockets. I did turn up the hem with a double fold and got a bit of contrast on the hem that I really love.

Have you ever made anything reversible? Do you wear one side more than the other?

Geodesic Addition: Solid Back Piece & Cuffed Short Sleeves

One of the suggestions from my intrepid Geodesic pattern testers was the option for a solid back piece, as an alternative to having both a pieced back and front. So I decided to make one! To be honest, it's been drafted for quite a bit, but I've been reformatting Geodesic for print and decided to update the PDF version and tidy up the back piece pattern in the process.

So, at long last, here it is! **Updated 1/6 to fix error**

Geodesic Back Piece
 

Today, in honor of this pattern addition, I thought it would be fun to make another Geodesic using the solid back piece and a bunch of knit scraps that were taking up real estate in my stash. Geodesic is an awesome scrap buster and gives you an opportunity to get a little wild and wacky with color & fabric combos. I've seen some amazing scrappy Geodesics popping up on the #blueprintsgeodesic hashtag on Instagram. Be sure to check them out if you need some inspiration!

When I finished it, snow was falling. So I ventured outside in the flurry to get a few pictures for y'all. Hopefully the charm of these snowy pics will make up for the fact that they're a little slapdash and underexposed.

Here's the solid back piece in action!

After taking these shots, I promptly ran back upstairs to sit in front of the fire. Though being out in the snow in short sleeves was a bit refreshing, my hands were freezing! Any other sewists have constantly cold hands? My hands are icy even when it's mild out.

This is the 3rd Geodesic top I've made with short, cuffed sleeves, a look I really dig. Each time, I've experimented with a different method of cuffing the sleeves. While I'm not sure this one is my favorite, I think it does the job well and is a bit fancier than simply turning up the hem. This method also allows you to do a contrast cuff. For this version, I thought I'd include some pictures of what I did in case you'd like the do the same!

First, shorten your sleeve to however short you want the final sleeve to be. Cut a piece of contrasting fabric that is as wide as the hem pattern piece and as long as your armhole opening. Sew one side closed.

Fold the cuff over along the edge so the raw edges meet. Press lightly, but avoid creating a major crease.

Put the cuff inside the sleeve, raw edges together. We're going to attach it in the opposite way of the pattern instructions, so that the serged seam is on the outside. Sew and press the seam up towards the sleeve.

Fold the cuff up along the seam line.

Here's the tricky part: roll down the cuff slightly, so that the seam attaching the cuff to the sleeve is about 1/2" from the bottom edge of the cuff. Then, from the inside where seam is, pull out the excess fabric, creating a new fold for the top of the cuff.

In the picture below, you can see how the cuff has been shifted up by looking for the shadow of the original seam. This is right after pressing...when worn, the shadow/outline is not very visible. Part of the lumpiness of the seam is from the serger. If working with a thick knit, you could probably avoid this by straight stitching and trimming down to 1/8" or pressing the seam open.

I decided to do a small tack at the top of the sleeve as well, to keep it from unrolling. You could also do a second tack at the underarm.

I'm pretty excited about how this guy turned out! Looking forward to wearing it this week.

I hope you enjoy these additional options for Geodesic. If you ever have an idea for a pattern renovation or addition, please feel free to share!

Geodesic Renovation: Woven Geodesic Top

Though the seam lines look quite nice on a solid fabric or with one or two pops of contrast thrown in, I also envisioned Geodesic as a great pattern for using up scraps. I'm glad to say I finally made just that! I also used wovens, a super easy substitution with Geodesic (and paired it with a really wrinkly skirt... forgive me, it's nearly 100 degrees and humid today!)

 

While I don't have tons of large, coordinating jersey scraps, I do have lots of woven scraps just sitting in boxes languishing and waiting for their day to shine. As I've become more and more interested in quilting, these scraps which had previously been out of sight and out of mind have come to the forefront of my consciousness.

What can I use the scraps from this project for? Do these scraps work together? I've even started bundling like scraps together for future projects, quilting or otherwise. I may have a quilt all in earthone linen scraps next up in the queue.

I have a box labeled 'Large Special Scraps' on my shelf, which includes mostly the substantial side part of many cut-on-the-fold sewing projects. Cutting pattern pieces out on the grain is important, but certainly not the most economical in terms of cutting. With the goal of making a woven geodesic from scraps only, I dug into this box of goodies and pulled together a palette of lovely scraps.

I chose 4 fabrics that went together: An old nani iro print, a stripe/solid double cloth, some essex linen, and some vintage mauve percale. I cut a few triangles of each and started playing around with them on my 'design wall' (which is a felt back vinyl table cloth clamped onto a folded up ping pong table) I did this for the front and back, playing around with color and pattern placement.

While this isn't in my usual color palette (quite the opposite) I LOVE it. I also feel like it goes with things that are 'my colors' quite well! It has a bit of a Miami beach 1991 vibe.

In the original pattern, I wanted to include instructions for using wovens, but I decided to nix them to keep things nice and concise and consistent. The good news is that the process is actually quite simple and straightforward! Here is what you need to know when making Geodesic from wovens:

  • Size: Geodesic is pretty roomy, but if your jersey version is snug in the chest, you might want to go up a size or do an FBA (instructions for this are provided in the pattern!)
  • Cutting: While it can be tempting to cut triangles willy nilly out of scrap fabric, trying to cut them on grain is fairly important. You can cheat a bit if you're using stable fabrics, as I did for one of the stripes. Just something to be aware of, but not a 100% must if you're feeling experimental and extra recycle-y :)
  • Fabric: If you're using multiple fabrics, try to keep them in the same family in terms of weight and drape. I cheated a little as the nani iro and essex are on the stiffer side and the double gauze is a little drapier. For the most part, it's okay, but I can also see it starting to sag a bit as the day goes by.
  • Construction: Geodesic uses 1/4" seams and you can keep this for the woven version. I assembled my top entirely on my serger, but you can also finish your edges with a zigzag or over edge stitch. Since there's so many seams, I wouldn't leave them raw or you'll have a tangly mess inside your top in no time.
  • Neckline: I cut the neck band using the same pattern piece, but cut on the bias. I made this neckband slightly narrower than the original. My fabric was a very loosely woven chambray and stretched well on the bias. I folded the strip in half and attached just like the knit band is attached in the pattern.
  • Hem: You can do the hem in the same way as in the pattern, though you may want to add a bit of extra fabric since the knit hem band is slightly smaller than the shirt hem. I decided to serge and turn under 3/8" and do a blind hem, but I may go back and add a band of the essex. I like the look, but it's definitely very cropped.
  • Pressing & point matching: So much easier than with knits! Hurrah!

I also changed the sleeve length to short sleeves (easy, just crop the sleeve pattern piece wherever you desire and cuff, or not.) which has been one of my favorite Geodesic mods to date! Plus, it's been a million degrees lately.

While this may not be an everyday piece, I do really love it! It makes me happy. I hope if you try it, that it will make you happy too :)

I love it when my shirt matches my beverage! We just started getting this La Croix things here in MA and I <3 them.

Do you like sewing with scraps? Are you always searching for the perfect way to use them up? Any favorite patterns that are scrap busters?

Sewing a Lapped Zipper

As I find myself in the throws of working on a new pattern, I am brimming with excitement and anticipation. However, at this stage, that means lots of days on the computer. Unfortunately, the blog and instagram have been feeling a bit empty and that excitement doesn't really show. I didn't want to leave you hanging in February, so I thought a nice tutorial might be in order.

Last night, I taught a zipper & buttonhole class and while preparing some web resources for my students today, I was unable to find a tutorial that uses the zipper insertion method I teach. I thought, why not put together a lapped zipper tutorial? The lapped zipper is used on my A-Frame pattern and is my go-to zipper finish. I love its ease of insertion and vintage look. I took lots of photographs during A-Frame sample construction to aid in illustrating, but I know that some folks do better with photo tutorials. So without further ado...


To start, press the seam where your zipper will go open. Press the open end of the seam as well, folding back the seam allowance.

With the zipper partially unzipped, align the left side of your zipper teeth with the folded edge of the fabric. There should be a small gap between the zipper teeth and the fabric edge. This will help keep the zipper from getting caught on the fabric. Pin or baste the zipper to the fabric along this edge.

Ever wonder why your zip has extra, toothless tape at the top? This is to give you a bit of room for seam allowance, if your zippers end is being sewn into something else. That way, you don't have to sew over teeth. Align the edge of this tape with the edge of your fabric, or align it so that the zipper head is 1/2" or 5/8" (or whatever your seam allowance is) from the edge of the fabric.

The other side of the opening will become the 'lap'. It often helps to mark this stitching line with chalk. For most zippers, you'll want the stitching to be 3/8"-1/2" away from the opening. You want to be sure that wherever your stitching line is, it must catch both the seam allowance and the zipper tape. Since those two factors are variable, try pinning or basting along this guideline, then checking the back to be sure you've gone through all layers.

Basting is a fantastic technique to have in your arsenal. If you have the patience for it, baste your zipper onto the fabric by hand, instead of using pins. This will help keep things aligned and predictable during each step of the process.

Set up your zipper foot with the needle coming down on the right side of the foot. Starting at the top of your zipper, sew along the folded fabric edge. Try to keep your fabric aligned with the side of the foot, making sure your stitching catches this fold. It's better to be a little further from the fabric edge than miss it entirely while sewing (which results in a zipper that is not attached)

When you've sewn about halfway down your zipper, sink the needle into the fabric and lift the presser foot.

Zip your zipper back up to the top, past the presser foot. You'll almost always have to have the presser foot up in order to squeeze the zipper past it. Before you continue sewing, lower the presser foot.

Continue sewing until you reach the end of the left side of the zipper opening. You'll want to stop sewing just at the end or a little bit past the end of the zipper opening (I'm stopped a bit short in the picture). If your zipper stopper- the metal bit at the end of the zipper - is in the way of where you're about to sew, you can sew a few stitches past it. Since we'll be sewing over the zipper next, you want to make sure the stopper is out of the way.

In this picture, I've attached a ribbon to my zipper seam allowance to give me both a clean finish inside and to add extra width to my seam allowance to be sure that I catch it while sewing the lapped part of the zipper. You can also cut your seam allowance at the zipper a bit wider, a technique included in the A-Frame pattern.

In this picture, I've attached a ribbon to my zipper seam allowance to give me both a clean finish inside and to add extra width to my seam allowance to be sure that I catch it while sewing the lapped part of the zipper. You can also cut your seam allowance at the zipper a bit wider, a technique included in the A-Frame pattern.

With the needle in the fabric, lift the presser foot, turn your fabric 90* clockwise, then lower the presser foot. We'll now be sewing across the bottom of your zipper. Most often, the best way to do this is by advancing the machine by hand. This way, you have more control.

Once you've sewn across the zipper 3/8"-1/2" from the opening, with the needle in the fabric, lift your presser foot, turn the fabric 90* once more, and lower the presser foot.

Now, without tugging on the fabric, align your 2nd fabric edge with the opening, covering the zipper teeth. If you like, you can even overlap your first line of stitching slightly. You can pin your fabric in place if you like.

Sew along your guideline, until you are about an inch or two from the end of your zipper.

With the fabric overlapping the zipper head, pin the end of the zipper tape in place (if you've basted your zipper in, no need to pin). We'll want to zip the zipper head out of the way, like we did in the beginning. Make sure you lift the presser foot only with the needle in the fabric.

Finally, sew until you reach the end of your zipper opening.

When you're finished, give your zipper a light press (no hot iron on the teeth, they might melt!)

Cabin Renovation: Henley Placket

One of my favorite things about designing patterns is the dialogue it creates between myself and sewists all over the world. I love hearing from you all!

One of my friends and former students got in touch recently about an idea she had for a pattern hack. She's made a few Cabins and loves them, but foresees some problems with functionality in her post pregnancy wardrobe: AKA needing better access for breastfeeding.

I'm a big fan of a henley shirt placket. I have quite a few in my wardrobe and while I don't need them for the aforementioned reason, I fully appreciate their functionality. So this pattern renovation is for everyone, but hopefully will be extra useful for new mamas.

I've created instructions and an extra pattern piece for this purpose!

Download the pattern hack instructions and pieces here!

First, a bit about my henley placket Cabin. I used a lovely silk I picked up at a discount fabric store I visited in Western Mass. You know, the kind with the bolts of fabric stacked to the ceiling on wooden shelves in a large industrial building, full of buried treasure to be discovered.

It was labeled as denim, but I suspected by the look and texture (and later confirmed with a burn test) that it was actually raw silk. The fabric itself has a wonderful drape but is quite dense. My seams proved extra bulky, so while I used the reverse of the fabric for a contrast placket and pockets, I opted for some quilting cotton to use for the neck and sleeve binding. I also finished the pockets with a serger, rather than creating the french seams that the pocket calls for.

I decided to use the selvedge of this fabric as a design detail, both on the placket and the hem of the dress.

Sometimes I like to wear a belt with Cabins for a more cinched waist, but a belt would get in the way with the placket alteration. I decided to add ribbon ties at the back waist. I had originally planned to make the ties from the silk fabric, but the bias tubes I made turned out too thick and stiff to use. Instead, I used 1/2" natural twill tape.  I still feel like a matching tie would look a bit better, but I'll sit on this one for a while before swapping it out. From the back, it kind of looks like I'm wearing a kitchen apron (not necessarily a bad thing). If you'd like to add ribbon or self fabric ties to your Cabin: Cut 2 ribbons/ties equal to your waist measurement (this is an estimation...you might want shorter ties and can adjust as necessary). When sewing your side seams, sandwich the end of each ribbon between your front and back pieces at the waistline notches.

For the placket itself, I went back and forth between what kind of closure I would use. Buttons seemed too busy, so I decided to keep it low profile and sew on some large snaps. I love snaps and feel like they never get to shine. In this case, I used bright red thread so they would pop when visible. I also considered adding the kind of snaps that you hammer in. I love those and have quite a few in my stash. I'll be thinking about them for future projects.

I also decided to use the selvedge as a detail. The hack instructions don't describe how to do this, but all you have to do is skip folding under the long edge of the left side of the placket piece while sewing.

You can add buttons to the placket instead of snaps and I've given a template for each in the pattern. For buttons, it shows the placement of three and for snaps, it shows the placement for two. You can add more snaps as desired, but two seemed to do it for me.

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As evidenced by the leaves, fall is most definitely in full swing. While I was able to take these pictures sweater-less in relatively minor discomfort (it was nice and sunny!) I definitely threw on a cardigan after pictures were done.

I hope you all enjoy this Cabin renovation and that it gives your pattern a little more mileage. If you ever have suggestions for pattern renovations, send them my way!

A-Frame Renovation: Flex-fit waistband for A-Frame

Want a comfier high waisted skirt? Add an elastic waist to your A-Frame!

A-Frame skirt Version 2 here in a fine pinstripe linen from my stash, nice and drapey.&nbsp;Shown with an  Aster blouse by Colette Patterns  in some Anna Maria Horner "Loominous"

A-Frame skirt Version 2 here in a fine pinstripe linen from my stash, nice and drapey. Shown with an Aster blouse by Colette Patterns in some Anna Maria Horner "Loominous"

I love a high-waisted skirt. There was a time in my life where the more fitted at the waist something was, the more I liked it. I liked being squeezed a bit around the natural waist. (This was, not coincidentally, the time in my life where I wore the most vintage clothing, which is notorious for waist-squeezing)

There came a point where this changed, perhaps when I re-discovered pants and wore them a lot for the first time since I was 13. Or maybe when I started to move away from vintage and towards more abstract and "body unconscious"* silhouettes. I think this time had reached its pinacle when I released Cabin, and A-Frame is definitely a swing in the opposite direction in terms of waistlines. And who doesn't like being comfortable?

*this term came from a great interview with Sonya Philip on the While She Naps Podcast, which I highly recommend

Something I often do with my high-waisted, waistband having skirts is to add a bit of elastic. Not enough to created a pronounced gather at the waistline, but just enough to give you that extra inch you might need while sitting for long periods of time or after an awesome meal.

The nice thing about this technique is it also adds some structure to the waistband without using interfacing.

Start with a slightly larger pattern size

If you're making A-Frame V1 (the pencil skirt), you'll want to follow the instructions for blending between two sizes and go one size up at the waistline only. If you like a more relaxed, less wiggly pencil skirt, you could go one straight size up. If your measurements are different than the pattern (aka, your waist is smaller than the pattern for the size that fits your hips) then lucky you, you don't have to do a thing. In fact, this alteration came about as a way for me to work with patterns & even RTW skirts where I had this same problem.

If you're making A-Frame V2 (the a-line), simply go a size up. Already cut out your size and don't fancy tracing/printing/cutting again? Just add 1/4" to the waistband and skirt side seams as you cut your fabric. Definitely works in a pinch.

Gather Supplies

The waistband itself is 1 1/8" tall. For this tutorial, you'll want to use 3/4" non-roll waistband elastic. This gives the elastic a bit of breathing room in your waistband. Some of the difference is eaten up by the thickness of the elastic as well. And it makes it easier to sew down your waistband without elastic  getting in the way (and for this tutorial, you don't want to sew down your elastic as you sew the waistband).

Skip the interfacing. Since there will be a nice piece of elastic in that waistband, it wont collapse. You may want to fuse a small square of interfacing under the spot where your buttonhole goes if your fabric is thin or loosely woven.

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Assemble your skirt

Sew your skirt following the pattern direction until you reach the waistband steps. Sew on the first part of your waistband and press, but leave the 2nd part unsewn.

1. Cut a piece of elastic equal to your waist measurement - 2". I like my waist elastic to be essentially unstretched until I need it to stretch, but if you like your waistband a bit more snug all the time, subtract 3".

2. Pin one end of the elastic into your waistband, lining up the top of the elastic right below the fold on the waistline piece and 1" away from your center back seam (where the circle mark on your waistband pattern piece is).

  

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3. Wrap the elastic around the waistband to the other side. It should be smaller than the waistband itself. Be sure not to twist the elastic! Pin the opposite side in place as you did for the first.

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4. About 1/4" in from the edge of the elastic, sew it to the waistband. I started at one end, sewed to the other end and reversed stitched back to my starting point. The elastic should be positioned close to the waistband fold, not where the waistband is sewn on.

Repeat this step for the other side of the elastic.

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5. Sew your waistband closed as shown in the instructions. Slide the elastic up against the waistband fold so that you don't sew through it.

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When you approach the end of your waistband seam, give the elastic a bit of a tug, scrunching up the fabric past the sewing machine foot, so that you can lay the waistband flat to sew.

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Once you'd sewn your waistband shut, you can redistribute those gathers around the waistline. Since you're only really reducing the waistline by 1-2", you might not even see an obvious scrunch. When the skirt is on, it is barely noticeable...very different looking than an actual elastic waist skirt (which is why you still need the zipper!

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Be careful when you sew your buttonhole. The extra raised elastic might throw off your groove. It certainly did for me. Check out the first time I did the buttonhole. Yikes! I'll give myself a little credit...I was definitely rushing. The 2nd time, the buttonhole was great (see the image on the right for evidence!)

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If you're somebody who likes being comfy, but it looking for a "gateway" high waisted skirt, this could be a very nice option.

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How do you all feel about elastic waists? Do they remind you of toddler clothes, 7th grade math teacher pants, or bad 80's dresses? Or do you relish in the opportunity for something cute that fits without cutting off your circulation?

More Cutting Layouts for A-Frame

One of my favorite things about the A-Frame skirt is the many opportunities for color blocking, print mixing and other ways of playing with fabric. I've provided some ideas and additional cutting layouts below, including some fabric suggestions from some awesome independent fabric retailers!

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There are many variations on A-frame that call for the same yardage and layout given in the pattern, but create visual interest by using both sides of the fabric. The sample version of the pencil skirt shown on the shop page uses an amazing double sided cotton. Since each skirt section is cut in pairs, you can simply flip over any pair of pieces to create contrast. Many double sided fabrics are available as lightweight upholstery fabric, which would work great for the pencil skirt. You could also use both right and wrong side of a fabric for a little interest. Fabrics like satin & sateen often have a crepe or plain weave back, allowing you to mix and match shiny & matte panels.

Here are some additional ideas that require special cutting layouts:

Version 1 - The Pencil Skirt

One way to play with the A-frame panels is to use both directions of a directional fabric, like stripes.

You can use striped fabric in coordinating colors, or simply re-orient your pattern pieces to create interest with horizontal & vertical stripes.

I love this woven stripe viscose silk from  Blackbird Fabrics . It comes in two colors ways and would be perfect for an A-frame pencil skirt.

I love this woven stripe viscose silk from Blackbird Fabrics. It comes in two colors ways and would be perfect for an A-frame pencil skirt.

This Cotton + Steel cotton linen canvas from  Grey's Fabrics  is another great choice for playing with directional print.

This Cotton + Steel cotton linen canvas from Grey's Fabrics is another great choice for playing with directional print.

You can also play with coordinating colors in either solid or print fabrics to get some awesome results.

Essex Yarn Dye in  Chambray  and  Indigo  from Fiddlehead Artisan Supply

Essex Yarn Dye in Chambray and Indigo from Fiddlehead Artisan Supply

Here's another variation where the whole side panel is a contrast color

Neon Clouds by Hokkoh from  Miss Matatabi

Neon Clouds by Hokkoh from Miss Matatabi

Pair with a complementary plain linen/cotton solid like Robert Kaufman Essex from  Purl Soho

Pair with a complementary plain linen/cotton solid like Robert Kaufman Essex from Purl Soho

Version 2 - The A-line Skirt

Using the original cutting layout from the pattern can produce some cool results when using fabrics with symmetrical geometric prints like checks or plaids. Be sure to use plaids that are balanced, so that the bias cut front panel will look balanced too. Check out this video from A Fashionable Stitch about balanced vs. unbalanced plaids.

A bold ikat grid cotton from  Stonemountain &amp; Daughter Fabrics

A bold ikat grid cotton from Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics

Anna Maria Horner 'Loominous' check from  Fancy Tiger Crafts

Anna Maria Horner 'Loominous' check from Fancy Tiger Crafts

Here's a way to combine fabrics in Version 2.

Try combining colors in dreamy Bespoke double gauze by Cotton + Steel (In Aqua &amp; Natural) from  Sew Biased Fabrics

Try combining colors in dreamy Bespoke double gauze by Cotton + Steel (In Aqua & Natural) from Sew Biased Fabrics

For a variation with the top half of the side panel is the same color as the main skirt, the pieces can fit into the same layout as above.

Above all, have fun! You could even go patchwork style and make every panel a different print in the same color.

Cabin Renovation: Long Sleeve Cabin

It's time for another Cabin Renovation!

Click here to download the renovation plans!

You know something turned out well when you haven't stopped wearing it since it came off the ironing board. This dress has proven itself as that kind of make. I'd been sitting on the idea of a long sleeve, longer cabin for a while. I thought it would be a nice way to play with contrasting fabrics. I used a Robert Kaufman double cloth (I think they no longer make this, but it's very similar to a double gauze in feel and drape.) The coolest part is that I used the same fabric for the whole thing...the solid chambray is simply the back of the check. This allowed for a lot of fun mix and match, but the idea would also work great with two coordinating fabrics.

This was above all an experiment and a sort of wearable muslin. It definitely has its share of issues, most unnoticeable from afar (see the Three Foot Rule here). I was excited about this project and rushed a bit in the cutting stage, so while the face up check was aligned, the grain was just so slightly askew on the half of the piece that was face down. Not a huge deal, but the check is a little slanted where the hem band is attached.

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But I love the way it turned out! I like the look of it belted as well as loose. The double cloth is very soft and incredible comfortable. I can already think of a few more of these I'd like to make in some Nani Iro double gauze I've been hoarding. I may omit the back pleat for the next one to get a more fitted silhouette.

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I used the opposite side of the fabric for the neckline bias binding. To achieve this affect, I sewed binding onto the front and back separately, then sewed both shoulder seams as shown in the instructions. The binding was then folded inward. I opted for a hong-kong finish - where the non-showing bias is left flat instead of folded under - to reduce bulk and avoid battling against the super ravely double cloth.

This dress has such a 1920's feel to it, with a hint of Scandinavian milkmaid. The renovation itself was fairly simple.

  1. Cut all Cabin pieces for shift length. The yoke piece was lengthened by 1/2", both to add more room in the shoulders (an alteration I often need) and to allow for a wider sleeve. Cut the hems on both front and back pieces straight across, rather than along the original curve of the hem.
  2. Once you've sewn as far as the step where you attach binding to the sleeves, trim 1/2" off the sleeve to get a little more room at the bicep. Measure the sleeve hem and cut two sleeves equal to that measurement x 14". Attach these sleeves to the original sleeve hem.
  3. Cut two hem bands that are 10.5" by the measurement of your pattern piece hems. Attach these two bands at the hem of front and back.
  4. Check to see that the hem bands align when the side seams are pinned or basted together and adjust if necessary.
  5. To finish, hem sleeves with a 1/2" double fold. Hem dress with a 1" double fold.

Interested in a more in depth/photo tutorial on this Cabin Renovation? Ask and you shall receive! If you've done your own renovation, tag it and share! #blueprintsmakes **UPDATE: Working on a little tutorial as we speak**

 

 

My Top 5 Sewing Tips

I'm very excited to say that I'm hard at work on the next Blueprints pattern, set for release in Spring 2015. I'm hoping it will be a great spring & summer wardrobe addition.
Keep an eye out for sneak peaks by signing up for our newsletter (on the right) or following us on Instagram.

In the mean time, as I get my studio into working order now that it's a habitable temperature, I'd love to share a small collection of sewing tips with you all. These are things many often overlook, but I find that they're key to happy, successful sewing.

1. Get a new seam ripper and learn how to use it.

Do you sharpen your kitchen knives? Do you replace the blade on your razor (semi) frequently? We know in other areas of life that implements for cutting work best when they're sharp. You know that seam ripper from your grandmother's sewing kit you've been using? It's likely as effective as using a dull knife from 1979.

Do yourself a favor and buy a handful of little seam rippers, or if you prefer the fancy kind, find one with replaceable blades. If you can figure out a way to sharpen them, more power to you! When you use a new seam ripper, you'll notice a difference instantly if you've otherwise been using one that may be older than you. Ripping seams will go more quickly and smoothly. Just be careful, cutting tight seams with tiny stitches can cut into your fabric if you're not careful!

Here's a tip for ripping seams quickly. Using the pointy end of your ripper, break a stitch every 1/2" or so along one side of the seam. Then, flip your fabric over and pull on the thread. The whole line of stitches should pop out quickly and easily. I learned this from a 1950's sewing text book.

2. Mark everything and embrace the notch

"Little triangle notches? Whatever! I'll just match up the sides of my pieces, " you say, defiantly. Now, I'm not one to observe convention or follow rules in many other areas of my life. But notches...they're important. So are the other markings you often find on patterns. Here's why:

Notches

Notches are clues the pattern maker has given you about how to put everything together. Ever noticed how an armhole & sleeve have a single notch on one side and a double on the other? This is to indicate the front and back of the armhole and help you get your sleeve into the right place. Sometimes there will be a notch at the top of the sleeve to help you match sleeve cap to shoulder seam. Sometimes a panelled garment will have single, double, or triple notches to aid in sewing the right pieces together.

Notches also help you correct your sewing or cutting errors. Ever sewn a seam together only to find one piece extended longer than the other? Trim it even it out, right? Well, perhaps the opposite end of the seam is where the error is. Now you've got problems at both ends! If you match your notches, you'll know where the discrepancy comes from and you can trim or re-sew accordingly. Perhaps one of the fabric pieces has stretched or bunched or your seam allowance was off

Center Front(CF) / Center Back (CB) lines

When making a garment with a closure like a jacket, shirt or wrap dress, the CF and CB lines help you overlap (and in the case of a shirt/jacket, add buttons and buttonholes) and see how the garment will fit once closed. Without those lines, our tendency is to close it so it fits, which is not always on this line. This can cause fit problems in other areas too. It also helps a lot in preventing wavy button plackets.

Other Markings

If you notice a variety of circle marking around the perimeter of your pattern, these might be points to indicate your seam allowance. Often found at corners, they'll tell you where to turn when you're stitching, as with a collar. This is especially helpful with unusual construction.

Sometimes these circles indicate pleat placement or the end of a zipper or where a pocket gets sewn on. Missing these points is a typical source of confusion for the new sewist. When in doubt, your pattern should give you the information you need to decipher these marks.

My suggestions? Mark everything you think you might need. More questions about marking? Check out my tutorial on Marking & Cutting

3. Develop a good work flow

Set up your sewing space so that you can keep it tidy, find all your tools, and practice good habits. On of my favorite things to keep my space tidy is to have little tin thread 'trashcans' around the workspace. This encourages me to trim my threads and put them somewhere. In the past, they've wound up stuck to my pants or in the cat's grip (thread can be dangerous to animals if they ingest it!)

I keep a small pair of scissors at the sewing machine, ironing board, and cutting table so I don't keep looking for the same pair of scissors that have migrated.

I sew all seams that don't have another seam intersect. Then I trim threads on all pieces and press them. Then repeat with each 'group' of seams.

I try to take stretch breaks (super important) and drink lots of water (something I always forget to do)

If you work in a shared space, try keeping all of your essentials in a tackle box, an old silverware tray or a cool caddy.

4. Use pins sparingly

I'm a minimal pinner. On any given straight seam, I don't even use pins. I think to be a confident sewist, you need to develop a real tactile relationship to the fabric and feel comfortable guiding it.

Additionally, so much time is spent pinning, only to take all those pins out as the seam is sewn (and often find that you've pinned unevenly and the seam doesn't line up!)

Not pinning at all may sound crazy to some, so I suggest following these guidlines:

  • On all seams, pin only at the beginning, end, and any notches.
  • Use less pins for stable fabrics, but feel free to use more pins to help keep slippery fabrics that are hard to align by hand at bay.
  • Pin at key points where you're matching an intersecting seam - like waistlines or panels.
  • At places where you require a lot of pins to keep difficult sewing steps aligned (waistbands, zippers, etc) try thread or glue basting instead, which will prove much more effective.

One thing to note is that if you don't use many pins (or any at all) you much take care to match your seam allowances carefully. Since you don't have pins in place, you are responsible for keeping your seam allowance in check! This is a totally worthwhile skill to hone.

One area where you might think pins are essential is the area where I find pins to be the most hindering...curves! Any time you sew a curved seam, pinning this seam will often feel awkward and yield less than ideal results. Try pining beginning, end, and any notches for the sake of alignment, then work slowly, matching the seam allowances a few inches at a time. I like to keep one curve flat (in its natural curved position) and align the other curved piece to it (as in the case of the bias binding, pictured above)

The main reason I champion less pinning is that it encourages the sewist to have a more hands on relationship with the fabric. The more you can feel the seams and know how to make your hands do what your brain wants, the more you'll be able to sew with ease and make your fabric behave.

5. Steer your fabric, don't drive it

I often tell students that the way you should hold your fabric when sewing is like the way you use a Ouiji board. Rest your hands on it and let the sewing machine do the work.

The Ouiji analogy falls a bit short because you do need to 'steer' your fabric, but the point is to do it with a gentle hand: don't push or pull (except in rare circumstances).

Sewing machines are designed to move the fabric for you and to guide it straight. Often, the trick to keeping an even seam allowance is taking an almost 'hands off' approach. Many folks grab the fabric in front and back of the machine, which probably does more to throw the fabric off than to guide it.

Try keeping your hands in front of the needle, holding the fabric lightly, and guiding it when necessary, such as around curves or to correct a narrowing seam allowance. Sometimes, when working on a large object, the weight of the fabric will throw off the alignment on the machine. This is a bit like driving a car who's tires are out of alignment. A slight pull in one direction or the other tends to do the trick.

Do you have any sewing tips that you think are key to easy, accurate, or fun sewing?

A last minute gift DIY: Stamp Kit & gift tags

It's no secret...I love stamps. As a bit of a paper-media champion, stamps are such an awesome way to personalize stationary, decorate fabric, or create art.

I mentioned I'd create a DIY gift tutorial and this is what I came up with. I'm surprised I didn't think of this earlier...I make stamps for myself all the time!

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Materials

  • A speedy cut stamp block, available at most art/craft stores. Usually about $5.
  • A linoleum cutting tool. Mine are on extended loan from the woodshop where I did my undergrad, but you can pick one up ( made by Speedball ) from your local art store or online. They usually come with a set of tips...the one you'll mostly use is the V-gouge or U-gouge
  • Scrap paper
  • A pencil and marker (sharpie works fine)
  • An ink pad of your choice. I like the ink from Yellow Owl Workshop, since you can use it on fabric. (They also have lots of awesome DIY kits, though I have never used them)
  • A box to put the final stamps in

First, decide how many stamps you would like to carve, and what size. I chose to create a group of stamps that would fit, along with an ink pad, into a box.

Look for inspiration! Creating groups of themed stamps are nice, and you can theme them for whomever is set to receive them. I chose to create stamps of architectural details pulled from one of my favorite books.

Once you've decided on your designs, draw them onto your block in pencil first, then copy in pen. *You'll want to draw your designs on the stamp in reverse, so they will print the correct way, especially text!*  Most of my designs were symmetrical, so it wasn't necessary to reverse the image. If you need to do this, draw your design on tracing paper, then flip the paper over and copy the design onto the block.

When making stamps, simple shape with thick lines are easiest to cut. Drawing your design in pen will help to create thicker lines. You'll be cutting away the negative space.

After drawing in your designs with marker, you will want to cut apart your stamps if you have not already. An exacto knife (or sharp kitchen knife) works best for this purpose. Be careful and place some cardboard or a cutting mat underneath while you work!

Once your blocks are ready, begin cutting away the negative space with your cutting tool. If you have scrap cutting block, try some practice cuts until you get the hang of it. Luckily, with stamps, the more 'hand-cut' they look the better. Don't get hung up on nicks or small mistakes.

Once you've carved your design, ink it and stamp onto scrap paper. You'll be able to see any parts that you've missed cutting out or negative space that aren't cut deep enough. Go back and fix these spots and test print again.

**A note: If you've drawn your designs in sharpie, you'll want to take a swab with alcohol and remove the sharpie before printing using lighter color ink, otherwise you'll get black sharpie ink in your print and possibly on your stamp pad. You can see this in the picture below where the black sharpie shows through the blue ink.**

Once all of your stamps are complete, cut a sheet of paper that fits in the inside of your box. Layout your stamps where they will sit in the box, then stamp each one in its place, so they can be put back nicely after use.

Add a stamp pad and any other drawing accessories to the box and you're ready to go!

Once you've created your stamp kit, wrap up your box with some ribbon and a gift tag!

When writing up this tutorial, I felt compelled to make some Cabin inspired gift tags for you all to use and enjoy, especially if you plan on giving Cabin as a gift!

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I printed my tags on kraft paper card stock, which looks particularly nice. Keep in mind, if you have a laser printer, sometimes the toner doesn't stick well to heavier paper, so be sure to test first. The printout includes a few different sizes and a few blank tags for you to draw your own cabins if you like!

You can download the Cabin inspired gift tags here!

 

Cabin Renovation: The Coat Dress

Introducing: Blueprints Renovations!

If you take a look around your neighborhood, you'll see all sorts of interesting renovations: additions, improvements, facades, details, and more. Customizing our houses is one of the ways we present our identity, from the most conspicuous Tuscan styled McMansions, to ultra-efficient and adorably decked out tiny houses on trailers. As an inherently creative species with a predominantly non-nomadic culture, cultivating living spaces (like adorning our bodies) comes naturally.

It is in this spirit that I'd like to introduce you all to a new feature on the website I like to call Renovations. Renovations are pattern alteration tutorials, designed to stretch each Blueprints pattern and inspire your own DIY spirit! I've re-imagined and altered clothing as long as I've been sewing and BOY is it fun! I hope these renovations with inspire you and encourage you to create and share your own renovations as well! The DIY spirit is contagious!

Cabin Renovation #1: The Cabin Coat Dress

This 'renovation' is inspired by one of the owners of JP Knit & Stitch in Boston, the always stylish Genevieve Day. She came to an event one night in an adorable vintage coat dress: simple blue corduroy with big, round brass buttons.

I love pieces that walk the fine line between garment types and this way a prime example. Quirky and sweet...just fitted enough to be flattering but trapeze-y enough to be comfortable and effortless.

I especially love corduroy. Often banished to the realm of musty college professors, hacky-sacking stoners, and elastic waist toddler pants, corduroy is a fabric with great warmth and lots of character! I decided to create a Cabin coat dress based loosely on Genevieve's vintage find, using Robert Kaufman's awesome 14 Wale Corduroy. (A wale, by the way, is the unit of measurement for corduroy's stripes). I figured I'd stick with the vintage vibe and use a 60's looking cotton print for the pockets and binding

I took these photos as the sun was setting and upping the exposure made the photos looks grainy and more vintage. This is what we call a "Happy Accident" and they're my favorite kind.

In keeping with the original inspiration, I decided to use big vintage brass buttons. It has a decidedly 'pretty smock' look because of the body of the corduroy, and I like it.

To make your very own Cabin Coat Dress, follow these instructions:

Decide whether you would like to finish your Coat Dress with bias facing or bias binding. You'll want to align your top button with this in mind. I did mine with bias binding, and decided to use 1/2" double fold binding, instead of the 1/2" single fold that the pattern calls for.

1. Trace a copy of the cabin front bodice. Mark the fold line as the center front(CF).

Here I used alphanumeric pattern paper to trace my pattern. This paper is slightly transparent, a bit heavier than tracing paper, and has letters, numbers, and crosses at 1" intervals. Here I've lined my fold line (now CF) with these markings.

Here I used alphanumeric pattern paper to trace my pattern. This paper is slightly transparent, a bit heavier than tracing paper, and has letters, numbers, and crosses at 1" intervals. Here I've lined my fold line (now CF) with these markings.

2. Choose your buttons. Go with 5 - 7 large statement buttons for maximum impact. Those among you with masochistic tendencies may want to choose 30 tiny shell buttons ;)

3. Lay out your buttons along the center front line of your pattern, spacing them evenly. Usually, one goes slightly below the neckline, then they are placed an even distance apart, with the final button having one last equal 'space' after it.

I opted to go with the original inspiration and use vintage brass buttons!

I opted to go with the original inspiration and use vintage brass buttons!

A note on top button placement: If you plan on finishing your coat dress with bias binding, you'll want to place your button further from the neckline, to give some 'breathing room' between the top button and the binding.

4. Once you are satisfied, trace around your buttons on the pattern then remove the buttons. Now you are left with button markings.

If you're using shank buttons like these, flip them over so they are easier to trace. Trace your buttons in pencil first, then go over with pen so you don't get pen marks on your buttons.

If you're using shank buttons like these, flip them over so they are easier to trace. Trace your buttons in pencil first, then go over with pen so you don't get pen marks on your buttons.

5. Next, extend out from the CF to create the button placket. A good rule of thumb for larger buttons is to make the extension width equal to 1/2" the width of the button. First, square out this distance from the CF, then use a clear ruler to draw a new edge parallel to the CF.

coatdress4.jpg

6. Add to this edge extension 1/4" seam allowance for bias facing or 1/4"-1/2" for bias binding. In this version, I'm using a wider 1/2" double fold bias binding (to make your own, press a 1" wide strip of bias, then fold in half) so I'm adding 1/2" seam allowance on the edge.

7. Mark your buttonholes.

If you want vertical buttonholes, use these marks as a guide, drawing a buttonhole along the CF that extends just beyond the button marking.

For horizontal buttonholes, make a point at the center of each button, then draw a horizontal line, perpendicular to the CF equal to the width of the button + the height of the button.

Sewing Steps

This new pattern piece will serve as both the right and left side of your dress front. On one piece, mark the buttons and on the other, mark buttonholes. Cut your pieces as instructed. You can still place the front near the fold, but cut all the way around it.

Sew as instructed until you reach the step when neckline binding is sewn on. Do not sew the neckline binding. Instead, proceed to the 2nd shoulder. Continue following the instructions until you reach the step where the hem bias tape is applied.

Shoulder seams and one side seam sewn and bias tape is attached to the sleeves.

Shoulder seams and one side seam sewn and bias tape is attached to the sleeves.

Staring from one side seam, apply bias tape as instructed around the hem, up the coat front, around the neckline, down the opposite side, then back around to the side seam opening.

When you approach the corner, stop with the needle in the fabric a seam allowance's distance from the fabric's edge.

With the needle still sunk in the fabric, pivot around the corner. Fold the bias tape at a 90 degree angle as pictured.

Continue sewing along the edge. Repeat this process for the other 3 corners.

After attaching binding around the neckline, fronts, and hem, sew up your second side seam as instructed and finish the seam allowance.

Finally, finish your bias facing or binding as instructed. At the corners, fold in the bias as pictured to curve it around the corner. I wanted a rounder looking corner, but you can also create a very crisp mitered corner (perhaps a tutorial for another time!).

If you have a great idea for a Cabin renovation, please share it! Tag us on instagram or email links to your personal blog!