Monday, May 25, 2015

Quick Blue Ponte Pencil Skirt (Burdastyle Melissa Skirt) + Twin Needle Hem Troubleshooting

Burdastyle Melissa High-Waisted Blue Ponte Pencil Skirt

In the interests of blogging the unblogged, I'll keep this brief.

Burdastyle Melissa High-Waisted Blue Ponte Pencil Skirt

After all, why take longer to blog about something...

Burdastyle Melissa High-Waisted Blue Ponte Pencil Skirt

Than it took to sew it?

Burdastyle Melissa High-Waisted Blue Ponte Pencil Skirt

The details:

Pattern: Burdastyle Melissa high-waisted knit pencil skirt. It doesn't get any simpler than this dartless, three-piece (front, back, waistband) PDF pattern, a mere $3.99. I've made this before in a red knit maternity version and a sparkly spandex mermaid version, but this is my first really wearable useful version.

Fabric: Bright blue ponte doubleknit rayon/poly/lycra, I think, from Mood a long time ago. A stash-busting win! As noted above I had made this skirt five years ago in a red single jersey but it was too clingy and thin — this is a much more substantial and appropriate material for a tight-fitting skirt.

Notions: None — it's an elastic-free waistband.

Sizing: I cut a straight size 38, which corresponds to almost two sizes smaller than my actual measurements. It's slightly snug, but I'm still slowly changing size in a downward direction almost four months out from giving birth to little D, so I'm sewing at a moving target.

How I found the time: This required just one baby catnap (for cutting time) and one short late-night sewing session after baby was asleep.

Anyway, even in my sleep-deprived time-pressed state, it was a quick sew. I basted the sides to check fit (better than unpicking serger seams later!), serged it and hemmed it with a stretch twin needle. No modifications needed.

I'm trying to get back to twin needle hems after backing away from them in frustration and resorting to zig-zags for a while... this hem actually popped the first day I sewed it, but I redid it after playing with tension and putting wooly nylon in the bobbin and it's holding up much better.

I read this little twin needle hem tutorial by Maria Denmark and it gave me the confidence to get back into it, though I've generally used Steam a Seam Lite 2 or washaway stabilizer instead of the strips of knit interfacing she recommends. I even finally hemmed my Tiramisu knit dress two years after sewing it:

Me Made May 17: Red & White Stripes

Me-Made-May gave me the extra push I needed to hem this thing... but baby pooped all over it while we were taking this photo, so I'm still trying to sun the stains out.

So yes: another fitted blue skirt. Not as playground-worthy as the stretch denim trumpet skirt I just made, but I go back to work in less than two weeks and I needed some versatile basics. It also made a perfect date night skirt for when my parents watched the kids and husband and I went to see the Avengers movie (eh, it was OK... not my favorite Whedon thing).

The little wool felt rose pin was made by my awesome Aunt Becky and the belt came with a cheap ready-to-wear dress I bought ages ago — I'm trying to broaden my accessory palette beyond just simple bright shoes and necklaces, but it really doesn't come naturally to me. Hmmm...

Another thing that doesn't come naturally to me? Posing. I read recently that the thing to try is pointing your toes in, and I wanted to try something new, but... this is just kind of awkward:

Me Made May 13: new blue ponte pencil skirt

Will I make this pattern again? Probably, though I'm tempted to do something to it to keep it interesting — add some seaming or a flounce, or use a bold print.

What's your take on twin needle vs. zigzag hems? (And I don't want to hear about coverstitch machines, there is no room in my budget or apartment for such things!)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

SHB Sew-Along Baby Clothes Roundup: Sweet, Cool and Geeky

Block-printed Lego Blocks Onesie/Bodyshirt
Baby D in his way-too-big-but-he'll-grow-into-it Lego bodyshirt

Our Small Human Being Sew-Along has come to an end (OK, technically it ended two weeks ago, but since your hosts all have small babies, let's overlook that, shall we?), and it's time to round up the final projects for Category 1: Baby Clothes! Cindy of Cation Designs will be rounding up Category 2: Baby Accessories and Clio of Clio & Phineas will be featuring the Category 3: For Parents projects.

We were impressed and inspired by what our participants made — especially since some of you had multiple small children running about, were tired and pregnant, and/or were working mamas to small babies.

I know I personally was so fired up by the sew-along I've kept the momentum going, and have really learned to work in tiny baby-catnap-sized time chunks — tracing a pattern here, sewing a few seams there, doing a little handsewing.

And on to the projects, in no particular special order. I do think I've captured everyone's clothes submissions here, but please let me know if I missed you, as we'd like to feature at least one piece from everyone. (Where I have used links instead of photos, it's due to photo permission issues, not because I didn't want to feature a piece).

The sweet

Lindsay (aka lindsaystitches on Instagram) made a sweet pair of harem pants style leggings for her baby girl due in July, using heart print knit leftover from another project:

Laurel (aka Dart & Gather) made this adorable appliquƩd rabbit tee using scraps from old maternity clothes, as well as the Oliver + S layette set and coordinating hats I featured previously:

Rabbit tee 12M

Lisette of What Would Nancy Drew Wear? made this fantastic rickrack-trimmed romper from a 1950s vintage pattern, Advance 6063:

Advance 6063

Dina fought through her pregnancy nausea and exhaustion to make this adorable bear-eared jacket and pants (similar to our sew-along logo!):

Sew-Along co-hostess Clio made a sweet elephant print baby sleep gown for her little Taco baby with a convertible mitten cuff, and wrote up a tutorial for the cuff, too!

Brianne Ramirez made a little floral ruffled romper — oh goodness this is cute!

Finally, Flickr user a2assiramarah made a raglan tee with a hand drawn elephant and coordinating leggings for her second baby girl.

The cool

Which is not to say the sweet items aren't cool, but only that I needed to make some categories here, so... these are cool.

Emily Breck says she feels meh about these footed baby pants, but I think they are pretty awesome:

baby got back leggings + feet

Masha at the Itinerant Seamstress blog made some awesome outfits for her fourth (not yet arrived) baby — I love her use of stripes!

The free Brindille and Twig raglan hoodie pattern was pretty popular for the sew-along. My friend Lee made two awesome versions—the red is my favorite, I love the striped hood lining:

second hooded raglan

Laurel made one too!

Brindille & Twig Hoodie 12-18M

And I made a bicycle-print one, with matching bicycle fabric pants:

My first sewing project since D was born 9 weeks ago. Little dude doesn't mind it's two sizes too big. #SHBsewalong #brindilleandtwig #raglanhoodie #sewingforboys #bicycleprint

Elena of Randomly Happy loved her Grainline Hemlock Tee so much she made her little guy a mini version:

Ms. McCall of Brown Paper Patterns blog copied a ready-to-wear cardigan and added a hood to her cute striped version:

And Flickr user oes1 made several fantastic outfits using patterns from Ottobre magazine — I love the knee patches here especially!

The geeky

Given your hosts, how could there not be a large component of geek-tastic baby clothes made for the sew-along?

We are huge Miyazaki fans here at Polka Dot Overload headquarters, so I may actually have squealed out loud in excitement when I saw adorable Totoro costume that AJ at Confused Kitty Creations made for her 9-month-old baby (and a matching one for her 2.5-year-old) using an online tutorial. (Like me, she mostly sews late at night when the kids are in bed):

(I am definitely tempted to copy her with a set for my kids... but I know my daughter would far prefer to dress as Kiki from Kiki's Delivery Service.)

Becky of Sew and So blog guesstimated what size T-shirt her (not yet born) baby Jedi would fit into when the new Stars Wars movie comes out in December, and made this adorable colorblocked Star Wars quote top using scraps and freezer paper stencils:

Yoda shirt

Hannah of Making Rivendell in the Desert made a gorgeous LOTR-inspired baby eleven dress for her baby-to-be. Also: not only is she pregnant, she has three small children, so we were all in awe of her ability to find any time to sew at all. Here's how she did it:

With 3 kids under the age of 4, and being pretty pregnant with the baby that I'm actually making these things for (thus, needing sleep), I found with this sewalong how to get sewing time in: firstly, to sew in little chunks of time (15ish-25ish minutes) during their snack times or when they're in quiet play, the key being always being willing to walk away in a second when the kiddos were unhappy. This meant that I had less negative feelings about sewing, and the kids were happier, and I was happier (and less frustrated)... Also, exchanging my 1 hour or so after the kids go down that I used to spend on Pinterest/internet, for sewing time instead. I would have "sewing days" which were no internet days.

Baby Elven Dress with Belt

SHB Sew-Along host Cindy went into geeky baby sewing overdrive, and made her little Hobbit a ... Hobbit costume. To wear in front of a mini Bag End. While chewing on his Cindy-made teething One Ring. WOW.

In front of his hobbit hole

Not to mention a slew of geek-tastic fabric marker decorated tees, including a Firefly "Blue Sun" logo tee:

Geeky SHB shirts

Meanwhile, I made my little dude a way-too-big blockprinted Lego-inpsired onesie to coordinate with the Lego dress I made for his big sister:

Block-printed Lego Blocks Onesie/Bodyshirt

Phew, I think I got at least one baby clothes project from everybody in here? Please let me know if I missed you and I'll edit the post.

Thanks so much for joining us, whether you sewed just a little baby bib or a whole pile of elaborate baby outfits!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

SHB Giveaway winners coming soon!

Baby D dressed for Free Comic Book Day

Just a quick note to let you know we'll be announcing the winners of the five giveaways for the Small Human Being Sew-Along soon. We were so impressed by all of the awesome projects that you all made that it is taking us longer to judge the Ottobre subscription winners than we thought.

In the meantime, enjoy these photos of baby D — above in his Free Comic Book Day outfit (a hoodie I made for his sister with cartoon doodle fabric and a Doctor Who onesie I made with an iron-on transfer), and below in a bib I made him from some scraps.

Decked out in his new #memade bib. 3 months old! #scrapbusting

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Me-Made Garment Graveyard

I still miss my colorblocked wool jersey skirt (eaten by evil moths in 2013)

Baby D isn't feeling like going to sleep tonight so Mommy can sew something new for a Mother's Day outing tomorrow.

So as I sit here in the dark snuggling with him I thought I'd take a quick moment to say goodbye to some of the me-mades I used to know that aren't here for Me Made May 2015 any more because they've been lost or donated or recycled.

Some of these I am sad about, and to some I say: good riddance! My goal is to have a tightly edited closet/drawers full only of things I actually love to wear, and I can't hold onto the ill-fitting or unwearable just because I made them.

Goodbye wide-legged blue corduroy Vogue trousers (you didn't hit at the waist properly and my husband always hated you):

Trouser Triumph

Goodbye McCall's 5529 chartreuse cardigan jacket — you did not fit at all and that doubleknit from was just the WORST:

McCall's 5529 Chartreuse Cardigan Jacket Fail

Oh where are you now my beloved reversible shirred skirt in Maggy London purple geometric lawn on one side and black swiss dot lawn on the other? I lost you on vacation two years ago and I still miss you to this day. Come home to me, please!

Me Made May 23: Green and purple

Goodbye Burdastyle Melissa red pencil skirt — you wrinkled like crazy and always showed underwear lines. But I'll make you again — in ponte knit this time!

BurdaStyle "Melissa" High-Waisted Knit Skirt--Red Maternity Version Side View

Oooh, baby is sleeping now! Time to sew.

P.S. You can see all my me-made-May outfits in this Flickr gallery — I don't know that I will have time to do weekly roundups this year.

A Simple Stretch Denim Skirt (With a Secret) - Simplicity 5914 review

Simplicity 5914 gored stretch denim skirt

So: I made a plain solid-colored skirt in a neutral color with no embellishment. Somewhat out of character for me but I really needed this wardrobe staple to balance out all the wild print tops in my drawers. And, well, I love it!

Inspiration: Ten years ago I had a sudden urge to make a polka-dot skirt (as one does) and pulled Simplicity 5914 and some cheap $2/yard polyester woven from my then-small stash. The result was this simple gored skirt with petersham waist facing (a special type of flexible hat ribbon you can steam into a curve and use instead of a self-fabric facing):

Thrifty remix 8_15_06

I didn't actually adjust the pattern or check for fit, so the size 14 was way too big at the time. It was the first pattern I reviewed for Pattern Review, and I was able to wear it as recently as last Me-Made-May:

Me Made May 19: Bottom of the drawer (running out of me-mades!)

Post-baby #2, I can't squeeze into it any more, but when a thrift store denim skirt hunt turned up nothing good, I decided to turn to this well-loved TNT. When I first reviewed it in 2005 I answered the "Would you sew it again?" question with "Yes, I think I'll make again, since it's so simple. You can never have too many comfy skirts." And now I have and I'm so glad because I cannot stop wearing this thing!

Simplicity 5914 gored stretch denim skirt

This time I made View B, the flared hem trumpet version.

This is my ideal skirt. It's everything I love and need in a skirt for both my casual workplace (that I'll be returning to in less than a month) AND the playground — a spitup-proof cross between polished and casual, with the best features of a pencil and A-line skirt combined.

  1. Fitted through the hips, but loose at the hem for running around.
  2. Tight but comfortable thanks to hidden elastic waist facing.
  3. Can sit on the playground floor or grass if necessary without fear of stains or showing my underthings.
  4. Resistant to spitup.
  5. Stretch woven BUT with a "tummy tuck" or pocketless "pocket stay" style interior woven panel so I can wear my tops tucked in without fear of being thought still pregnant.

Anyway, FINALLY not looking pregnant AND having an awesome new wardrobe staple is definitely a booster on the self-image front, and I'm feeling a bit better than I did in my previous post about it all ("What to Wear and Sew When Nothing Fits"). Taking Me Made May photos helps, even if posing always makes me feel super awkward (what the heck am I supposed to do with my camera-proximate arm? why does it look weirdly distorted?).

Simplicity 5914 gored stretch denim skirt

OK, basic details:

Pattern: Simplicity 5914 (out of print, but easily available on eBay), View B. A 6-gore woven fabric trumpet skirt with side zipper that hits at the natural waist.

Fabric: Dark wash stretch denim from Mood, I think it is the Theory denim everyone raves about. When I saw Nettie of Sown Brooklyn recently she was wearing some amazing Ginger jeans in the exact same fabric. This stuff is AWESOME, the perfect medium weight with great stretch and recovery ... but I bought it in the store and have no idea which website item corresponds, sorry!

Notions: 7" invisible zipper, hook and eye, 1" waistband elastic.

Sizing: Since I can no longer squeeze into my size 14 version, I figured I would make the 16, but I forgot to factor in that I was using a stretch woven this time, so... OOPS. I basted the side seams, checked fit and wound up taking them in by at least 1.5" (so about 6" total) to get a nice snug stretch fit. I'm sure it would have been more accurate to take some of that width out of the gored seams, but I didn't feeling like it at the time—maybe I'll do that if/when I need to take the skirt in again.



  1. I used an invisible zipper instead of the lapped zipper recommended.
  2. I was going to use petersham for the waist facing (a technique covered in Sandra Betzina's wonderful Power Sewing: Step by Step book), but hated the idea of something rigid at my waist when my size continues to fluctuate... so I pretended that a piece of 1" elastic about 3" shorter than my waist circumference was the petersham and it totally works, even if it looks messy inside.
  3. I sewed in a double layer of quilting cotton as a tummy tuck panel or pocketless "pocket stay" on the skirt front (I first got this idea from Fehr Trade blog, Heather Lou discusses it in her Ginger Jeans sew-along and Jenny/Cashmerette has blogged about it as well).

Here's what the innards look like:

Simplicity 5914 gored stretch denim skirt

The skirt has already passed the spitup test several times, and I was able to clean it no problem. Phew!

Simplicity 5914 gored stretch denim skirt

(I realize that looks oddly precarious but I swear I was holding my precious little guy securely!)

Back view...

Simplicity 5914 gored stretch denim skirt

Skirt happiness... the end!

Simplicity 5914 gored stretch denim skirt

Will I make it AGAIN AGAIN? Maybe, though I'm running out of time for sewing while on maternity leave and will probably be too tired to do much once I go back to work. This stretch cotton woven from the stash might do nicely, though the pattern matching might make me cranky.

Ink paint turquoise stretch cotton

P.S. It is bizarre to think I first started sewing regularly 10 years ago. I did take a five year hiatus and didn't really pick it up again until 2010, but I still feel like somehow I should have more to show for 10+ years of owning my own sewing machine... but here I am, still making basic daywear skirts instead of, I don't know, tailored wool jackets and elaborate evening gowns. Maybe someday!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Polka-Dot Lego Dress, Onesie and Necklaces (Also: Fun with Block Printing!)

Block-printed Lego Dress + Bodyshirt

What with all the Small Human Being-focused sewing going on, I think my daughter was feeling a little left out. So I pulled out one of the unfinished (unstarted?) objects I felt most guilty about: her Lego Cityscape sundress. I sort of meant to make it for Kids Clothes Week, but baby wasn't really napping, and I fell down the crafty rabbit hole of experimenting with block printing and... well, here it is.

She loves it, if it isn't obvious. I really struggled to edit down the photos on this one!

Block-Printed Lego Cityscapes Dress (Oliver +  S Popover Sundress)

Backstory: As some of you may recall, about a year ago, I had a little "Lego Dress Showdown" to choose which blocks-themed dress idea to make for my daughter's Lego-themed fourth birthday party.

Can't Decide: Lego Dress Ideas for My Daughter's 4th Birthday Party

The cityscape design with the sun (which was partly inspired by this Oliver + S tutorial on raw edge appliquĆ©) was by far the most popular, but alas, I was so tired and nauseous from my pregnancy it never happened. And her Lego birthday party was a disaster — shortly before the other kids showed up, little Z started throwing up EVERYWHERE. It was too late to cancel the party (which was in the lobby of our building) but she was so sick she didn't even eat a single bite of the amazing allergy-free Lego cake my mom made for her (no dairy, eggs or nuts):

The #allergyfree #Lego cake awaits the birthday party guests... #dairyfree #eggfree #nutfree #sesamefree and more #foodallergy

The other kids came and played with all the Duplos and games we had set up, and we recorded a video of them singing happy birthday to her and wishing her well. She recovered by the evening but is still sad about missing her birthday party to this day.

But I digress. Back to the dress!

Block-Printed Lego Cityscapes Dress (Oliver +  S Popover Sundress)

Lego dress basics:

The pattern: The Oliver + S patterns free Popover Sundress pattern. I actually own a bunch of not-free-at-all Oliver + S dress patterns, but I went with this free shoulder-tie dress because it is so simple — the plain front makes a great blank canvas for embellishment. It was a fun and quick sew, and the directions are just as great and detailed as with their paid patterns. My only quibble is that there isn't much ease across the tummy; if I make it again, I'll add some width and gather or pleat the dress front to the yoke.

Sizing: I made the size 7 (probably about two sizes too big) as I'd like her to be able to wear it for a good long while.

Fabric: Bright blue and yellow broadcloth from Tru-Mart Discount Fabrics (a crowded little store over by FIT that has some great deals sometimes).

Notions & tools, etc: Steam-A-Seam Lite 2 (for the appliquƩ). Fabric paint (Jacquard Neopaque nontoxic paints, which I already had around because I am a craft supplies semi-hoarder), Speedball Lino Cutters, Tee Juice Classic fabric markers (for the dots), some Blick EZ Cut block printing material, a foam brayer and foam brushes.

Blockprinting references used: I already had Lotta Jansdotter's Lotta Prints: How to Print With Anything From Potatoes to Linoleum... which is very inspiring, but slightly vague on the technical info and handholding needed to get good results. Luckily my local library had a more nitty-gritty detail book available, Fabric Printing at Home by Julie Booth.

Techniques used: Mock French seams (my first time trying this), homemade bias binding (for the straps) with a Clover 1" bias tape maker.

It took a lot of experimenting to get my DIY rubber blocks to print clearly on my fabric. Deepika has a cool tutorial on the Pattern Review blog using wood blocks but I wasn't about to start wood (or lino) carving, so I used E-Z Cut Printing blocks:

Trying #blockprinting on fabric for the 1st time to make clothes for the kids for #kidsclothesweek & #SHBsewalong but it's not going well... I carved a stamp from EZ Cut & it works fine on paper, but...

After I got the impressions looking fairly good, I blockprinted the Lego towers and sun onto the yellow fabric, and the yokes. (It's all the same block, I just painted different parts of it before stamping to get some partial impressions). I heat set them (oh goodness, it takes FOREVER to heatset with an iron on so much fabric!), used fusible web to stitck them to the dress front, then stitched them down with a zig zag for extra security:

Block-Printed Lego Cityscapes Dress (Oliver +  S Popover Sundress)

For the back I decided to make it look like the blocks were tumbling down:

Block-Printed Lego Cityscapes Dress (Oliver +  S Popover Sundress)

I had a moment of panic when she tried it on and declared it resembled an IKEA apron (the yellow and blue?) but once I added the dark green polka dots with a Tee Juice marker, the resemblance faded.

Z wore the dress on a walk to our local branch of the Brooklyn Public Library (doesn't it look cute peeking out as a skirt?)...

Block-Printed Lego Cityscapes Dress (Oliver +  S Popover Sundress)

The librarians loved it and invited her to the monthly Lego Club.

Block-Printed Lego Cityscapes Dress (Oliver +  S Popover Sundress)

She had a blast building a "Flying House Pirate Ship" with some mermaids and wizards on it).

Block-Printed Lego Cityscapes Dress (Oliver +  S Popover Sundress)

While I had the paints and block out, I decided to make a blocks onesie for the little guy as well using my Kwik Sew 2433 baby layette pattern and some random knit scraps left over from other projects. I made the 9-12 month size, so it's HUGE on my 3-month old, but he's growing fast.

Block-printed Lego Blocks Onesie/Bodyshirt

Big Sis tried to give him some building tips using her old Green Toys "My First Blocks" but he was skeptical:

Block-printed Lego Blocks Onesie/Bodyshirt

So she gave up and played with the blocks herself:

Block-printed Lego Blocks Onesie/Bodyshirt

For the necklace, my husband drilled holes in some Legos and Z and I arranged them until we got something we liked. Hers:

Block-Printed Lego Cityscapes Dress (Oliver +  S Popover Sundress)

And mine (shown here on the day of her ill-fated party):

Been sick for a few weeks and didn't get to sew special #Lego dresses for Z's birthday party today but I did make matching mother/daughter Lego necklaces.

Conclusion: Neither garment is perfect (but whatever, perfect is the enemy of good, etc), but I had a lot of fun and feel like I learned a lot in my block printing experiments and am now a bit obsessed with thinking about how I can decorate my own fabrics. While at the library I also picked up A Field Guide to Fabric Design: Design, Print & Sell Your Own Fabric (Traditional & Digital Techniques) by Kim Kight (formerly of True Up blog, now a fabric designer for Cotton and Steel) and it made me want to experiment more with Spoonflower again. (We'll see if that actually happens).

In the meantime, Z is loving her Lego dress, and I am thrilled that I finally finished it.

Block-Printed Lego Cityscapes Dress (Oliver +  S Popover Sundress)

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