Somebody Wrote a Book for ME

A while back I purchased Carla Crimm’s pattern book for sewing children’s clothes, and since then I haven’t bought very many children’s patterns, and I’ve been whining about not having a similar book for women’s clothes. A book that would give me basic designs I could use as a jumping off point to make whatever I want. If I took the time to fit the basic pieces, I would have all of the alterations done forever, and I could just design and sew.  I can draft my own patterns, and sometimes I do. When I want the pleasure of having something I designed and drafted myself, it can be fun. But when I just want something to wear, starting from scratch is time consuming so I have been on the lookout for a springboard sewing book for me.

61C-DBGefHL._SX403_BO1,204,203,200_Tanya Whelan’s Sew Many Dresses, Sew Little Time has fulfilled my request at least for dresses and skirts. She has created a catalogue of the basic parts of a dress -bodices, skirts, sleeves, and necklines. We can mix and match them to create hundreds of different looks. Everything from the little cotton dress that goes to the grocery store to a long, strapless evening gown with a slinky, sexy skirt. Once you muslin the basic dress, you can make the same changes to the other pattern options and off you go. If you aren’t comfortable doing that, you still only have a few more muslins to make, and you can make anything.

The basic sewing instructions are grouped together in the front of the book. The terminology is explained well, and it’s “industry standard”. On its own it this part of the book would make a good sewing manual.  Then the book goes through the additional things you might need to know as Tanya chooses different bodices, skirts, and sleeves as examples for things you can do with her book. If you need jumping off points to feel comfortable designing your own dresses, you’d be sure to find one here. Also in the book are instructions for turning the skirts into separates. I don’t think she misses any of the basic skirts we all wear. Some of the bodices can be converted to blouses, and Tanya covers that, too.

I bought what’s called the paperback version of the book. It’s actually a spiral bound book with a cardboard cover. The patterns are in a cardboard envelope in a closed pocket in the back of the book.    DSCN0111

There are 3 large sheets printed on both sides. If you’re used to BurdaStyle magazine or Ottobre patterns, you’ll be comfortable with how they’re printed over one another. If you’re not, it might take some getting used to. There are 12 sizes to the patterns. The sizes aren’t marked on the pattern lines, but there are 3 shades of grayscale, and the pattern sizes are grouped that way.


Once you know which “gray” your size falls in, it’s not hard to keep track of which lines you should be tracing. I did find I needed a good light to be able to see the lightest gray through my tracing paper at night, but in the daylight it was not a problem. I do like the nested patterns. It makes it much easier to choose different sizes for my bust, waist, and hips, and to swap armhole and sleeve sizes. While the size range of the patterns goes into the measurements of plus-sized patterns, they aren’t drafted for a plus-sized bodies. The nesting makes it easier to choose smaller shoulder widths with larger busts and waists. The smallest size is 32/24/34 and the largest 50 1/2//42 1/2//52 1/2 all in inches. So a lot of us fit in that range.

The pattern size numbers do not correspond to RTW sizes. The 1-12 sizing makes us look at the measurements to pick a size. There’s no temptation to just choose our “usual size” and go with it. I like that. I don’t like that there are no finished garment measurements in the book. It makes it hard to match the size to the fabric you’re using. For example, if you choose to make one of the dresses out of a knit, you will probably want to size down. Without finished garment measurements that becomes a “guess until you get it right”. One day when I have the time,  I will get out my tape measure and create my own finished measurement chart for the sizes around my body measurement sizes, but it’s a step I wish the author had done for me.

First I muslined the basic bodice in the size that corresponded to my body size. As I usually have to do with a pattern, I needed to change the slope of the shoulder and add to the bodice length. Although the patterns are drafted for a “B” cup, and I’m a “D”, I didn’t have to do a full bust adjustment. DSCN0113That surprised me, but also let me know there’s considerable ease in the basic bodice pattern. Since the dress I wanted to make has princess seams, I made the same changes to that bodice pattern and made a second muslin. I needed to add a bit more length, but other than that I had a good fit.

So I moved onto the dress fabric. This time I did the design change I wanted, which was to add a pleat down the front. I didn’t cut the skirt yet because I wanted to make sure I had a bodice I liked first. I went down one size because I was using a knit, but the end result was much too big for the fabric. So I took it apart and went down 2   sizes. The dress top is still loose-fitting, but I like the way it looks so I stuck with that.


My original plan was to make a circle skirt, but with the top more loose-fitting than I had seen in my eye, I opted for a six panel skirt instead. The issue with that change is there’s no seam down the middle of the back panel. So I basted the back center seam closed to see if I could get the dress on without a zipper, and it slid on easily. Because I knew an unnecessary seam up the back would bother me, I took the bodice apart and cut a center back piece on the fold and then reassembled the bodice.

I measured the finished width of the center front bodice piece and chose the skirt size based on that. I measured the length of the skirt pieces and shortened them two inches just below the hipline. When I attached the skirt to the bodice, all of the skirt seams lined up perfectly with the princess seams in the bodice. This means it would be simple to line skirt pieces up with bodice pieces, overlap the seam allowances, and eliminate the waist seam. Tanya doesn’t give instructions for doing that, but it’s not hard to figure out how to do it.

The book gives instructions for either lining or doing facings for the bodice, but since I was using a knit, I finished the neck and sleeve edges with FOE.  I added some buttons down the fold, made a coordinating belt, and I’m good to go. DSCN0114 When I wear it, I’ll get someone to snap a pic, but in the meantime, Marie is loving her new dress.

While I had some fits and starts with the dress, for a first pass at using the book, I’m pleased with the results. I need to do some experimenting with the pattern sizing, but given how many different garments I can make once I have that worked out, it will be worth my time. The patterns are well-drafted, and the instructions are clear and complete.  The last sections of the book show you how to do basic pattern alterations.

I haven’t seen the eBook version to make a comparison, but I am more than pleased with the print version. The book is sturdy, lies flat when open, and the master pattern sheets are sturdy.

DSCN0105            I expect the print version will hold up well over time. Whether you buy the print version or the eBook, I recommend buying a dressmaker’s French curve to accompany it. It makes tracing the patterns faster and more accurate and is essential for making your own design changes. If you enjoy “pattern hacking”, this is the right book for you. If you enjoy pattern hoarding, this may not be. But the book is worth the money just as a sewing manual.

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May 2015 Mystery Challenge – The Victorian Age

queen victoria   When Sandy chose Queen Victoria for me, I knew I had to do something unexpected. I’m well-known for being allergic to ruffles, but I do love lace and embroidery.  I live in a house built shortly after Victoria died. It’s part of the Arts and Crafts movement which began in the late Victorian era.  While I’m not into elaborate or ornate clothing the era was known for, I do embrace the idea of public and private spaces in a home. My dining room chairs have striped silk seats and needlepoint backs. I have drawers filled with crochet pieces my grandmother made when she was a young bride, and a bedspread she crocheted for my first “big girl bed”.

My Victorian grandmother lived with us when I was growing up, and one of the things she loved was making crazy quilts. While I’ve done some quilting, I’ve never made a crazy quilt. A Victorian craft I like to do is embroider with silk ribbon. I decided to combine the two to make something that would join us. After doing this challenge I think I might enjoy doing a full quilt, but I didn’t want to take on more than I could accomplish in the timeframe I had so I settled on a knitting bag.

My Favorite Knitting Spot

My Favorite Knitting Spot

I wanted the bag to have some modern panache so I checked out my stash.  Since during Victoria’s reign “the sun never set on the British Empire”, I could choose my fabrics from just about anywhere in the world. I chose some Caribbean style batiks I had.  In good Victorian tradition I went hunting for scraps of ribbons and trims. Because this was my first foray into crazy quilting, I kept the design simple. I started with an irregular 5-sided polygon. I tore the fabric into strips of different widths and started from the polygon and worked my way out to the edge.


Along the way I added some ribbons and trims. When I had my square constructed, I used one of the quilting stitches on my sewing machine to outline the piecing.

Then I hooped the piece and embellished it with silk ribbon embroidery.

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Unlike standard embroidery, silk ribbon embroidery isn’t particularly time consuming, although it looks like it is. While a flower might take hundreds of stitches in standard embroidery, in silk ribbon embroidery, most petals are done in one stitch. To get the most realistic looking flowers, you use white ribbon and then dye it after you’ve stitched it. You can use pre-dyed ribbon, but your flowers come out looking flat. I only use pre-dyed ribbon in something that is going to get a lot of washing like on a baby dress.

Because my blog is a sewing lesson blog, I’m going to get you started doing your own silk ribbon embroidery. For details about how to make individual flowers, I highly recommend going to Crafty Attic.

Materials you need:

White silk ribbon in various widths – 2mm, 4mm, 7mm and 13mm are the sizes most used. You have to use silk ribbon for most of the embroidery because it’s the only fiber that will go through the fabric easily. You can use other fibers for embroidery stitches that remain on top of the fabric like spider roses.

Embroidery floss or Pearl cotton

White cotton sewing thread – Cotton thread will take the dye better than polyester

Either permanent pens or silk dyes for coloring the ribbon. I use Promarkers.

Chenille needles in various sizes. They have big eyes and sharp points.

Embroidery needles

Regular sewing needles

A pair of small pliers for pulling your needle through the fabric when it gets difficult

An embroidery hoop- Any style will do. I like the snap on PVC rectangular hoops. They leave less of a mark on your fabric, and the sides are interchangeable. If you buy a couple of different sizes, you can mix and match them and expand the possibilities. But a standard WalMart wooden hoop will work just fine

An erasable marker for planning out your design

If you can do traditional embroidery, you ca do this.

While an open weave fabric is the easiest fabric to embroider on, you can do silk embroidery on just about anything.

This is the back of my bag.

This is the back of my bag.

One of my favorite ways to use silk ribbon embroidery is to embroider on top of the flowers in a print. This is a work in progress.

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This project was a lot of fun. I’m thinking of other things I’d like to crazy quilt. Maybe a jacket?

Would like to see the rest of the Mystery Challenge Blog Tour?

5/26 │ Create 3.5 – George Sand │ HaCunha Matata – Jane Austin

5/27│ Zoe and TedSuffragetes

6/3│ Mae & KTeslaPretty Little BlogMoon LandingKnot Sew Normal – Lutie Eugenia Sterns

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Sewing Cake is a Piece of Cake

If I can, I always like to try out a new designer by making one of her free patterns. I was intrigued by the patterns at Sewing Cakes. The styles are fun, but I was more interested in how the patterns are drafted. She gives you some of the lines, but then the rest of the pattern is like a game of connect the dots, which makes it really easy to custom fit the pattern. The free pattern is for a tee shirt with a dolman cap sleeve, either a round neck or a Vee, and a banded hem. DSC_0045 (3)There’s a cute designer touch for a pair of micro-pockets. The pattern is supposed to extend to a 59″ full bust, but the dots in the pattern don’t go that far.  I was fine because they did extend as far as I needed them. I will be buying  more patterns from her, and I will report back whether this is ” a bug or a feature”.

When I’m making a muslin, I don’t usually take it to completion. I stop when I have all of the information I need for a fitting. But this was just a simple sew, and I did want to know things like where the pockets would land on my chest and how the neckband would lie so I finished it.

The sewing is super simple. There’s a pocket template piece to help you get a nice, clean edge to them. I added some tricot interfacing to the back of the pocket pieces using the pressing template as a cutting guide. One of my knits is sort of flimsy, and the interfacing gives it some body.

When I got to the neckline, I tried using the same flimsy knit for the neckband, but it didn’t work very well. The neckband of the tee shirt is narrow, and the roll on the fabric edges of the knit was extreme. Even after steaming it, it wouldn’t lie flat so I switched to the other color.

I like the fit of the shirt through the bust, waist, and hips. How could I not? It matches me every place. I don’t like the way the neckline is, though. I think the sewing term for it is “wonky”. I’m going to try taking off the neckband and sewing a shorter one to see if just pulling the neckline in a little will be enough. If it’s not, well, this is just a muslin, right? Then the next thing to do would be to size down through the neck and the shoulders, but use the same dots for my full bust, waist, and hips.

If you have a coverstitch machine and a serger, you don’t a sewing machine involved in making the shirt. Without the coverstitch, you would need to use a sewing machine on the pockets and to stitch down the waistband and neckband seam allowances. I was binge watching “Game of Thrones” so I did the whole thing on my mini-sewing machine.

The shirt has a lot of possibilities. You can mix and match fabrics or add some embroidery to the cute little pockets. If you like striped fabrics, it’s easy to match them. I chose the polka dots because they are a more subtle stripe if I hadn’t been able to get a good match, but it was a piece of cake.

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Sewing the Ironing Board Caddy

When I started this, I wasn’t sure I would use this one much, but it’s turned out to be my favorite of the two.



Things tend to collect on my ironing board, and I let it build up until the area I have to press gets too small to work. This caddy makes me think about what I really need to have close at hand to iron and what is just clutter.

For this caddy you need:

The long strips you cut

The two pocket pieces

The four thread catcher bag pieces

The interfacing you cut for the bag

The strip of batting

The piece of gripper fabric


Sewing tools

Center the gripper fabric on the right side of one of the long strips. I just folded the strip in half to find the center. You can be more precise and measure it if you like.


Zigzag stitch around the outside of the gripper fabric. I’ve been snowed in for awhile so I just grabbed some leftover shelf liner I had. My sewing machine balked at sewing it so I laid some strips of washaway stablizer between the gripper fabric and the presser foot, and the sewing machine glided right over it. Wax paper or tissue paper will work, too.







The next step is to quit the top side of the caddy. From a practical sense, this is to hold the batting in place so it won’t shift, and to turn this into one long pin cushion. If you just want the bare essentials, three rows of straight stitching down the length of the caddy will do quite nicely. I have this thing about things lining up so I did one stitch down the center and one 1 1/2″ on either side of that.  DSC_0378When you add the pockets, the pocket stitching will look like one continuous line with the quilt lines. But this is also a place for some personal creativity. You can quilt this any way you like. You could outline some of the design in your fabric with stitching. If your machine does free-motion quilting, and you’ve always wanted to try it, then this is a perfect opportunity. The piece is large enough to give you some space to play in, but small enough to fit easily in your machine. There are a lot of good online tutorials, and your sewing machine manual is the first place to start. So machine baste the batting to the wrong side of the remaining long strip and quilt away! I used a washable marker to make it easy to sew the straight lines. DSC_0377











Now we need to construct the tool caddy pocket. Sew two of the 7″x 7″ pieces, wrong sides together on just one edge with a 1/4″ seam. Press the seam open, and then fold them wrong sides together on the seamline and press again. Using an erasable marker, draw a line from the seam to the opposite edge in the center and 1 1/2″ on either side. You can do this before you sew the two pocket pieces together, but not if you’re using a marker that disappears with heat or steam. Next pin the pocket to one end of the quilted side of the caddy and sew down the pocket lines. DSC_0384This should give you one wide pocket and two slender ones. I like to give it a good press at this point.





Next put the two long strips wrong sides together, and using 1/4″ seam sew around three sides of the caddy, leaving the short end of the caddy open at the end.






Clip the corners, turn the caddy right side out, use a point turner or a chopstick to push out the corners, and press the caddy well. Turn under 1/4″ on the open end of the caddy and press. DSC_0390








Now we’re ready to make the thread catcher. You should have 4 pockets pieces and two interfacing pieces left in your pile. Fuse the interfacing to back of two of the pocket pieces. Sew the two interfaced pieces, right sides together on the 7″ sides using a 1/4″ seam. Press the seams open. Repeat with the two non-interfaced pieces.


Next we’re going to turn this into a box. Using a clear plastic ruler, cut away a 1″ square from the bottom two corners of each of the pieces.









Next sew across the bottom 9″ seams on both pieces and press open.







In each corner bring the two seam lines, one from the bottom seam and one from the side seam together and pin them so they match up perfectly.


Pull out the outside edge to flatten them and stitch across the corner using 1/4″ seam.  Push out the corners so it makes a box. Do it with both boxes.




Now put one box inside the other right sides together. Stitch around the top edge of the box leaving a small opening in the back of the box to turn it right side out. Turn it and press it pressing the opening under as well.DSC_0409





Line the back of the box up over the edge of the caddy you haven’t sewn yet. Pin in place and sew two rows of stitches 1/4″ apart, closing up both the end of the caddy and the opening in the top of the box as you do it.







Put your scissors, a marking pen, and a hem gauge (or whatever tools work for you) in the pockets and drape the caddy over the end of your ironing board.



Happy Sewing!





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The Fabric Cobbler Sewalong- Sewing the machine caddy


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It’s time to start constructing our caddies. The sewing machine one is the simpler one so we’ll start there. For this caddy you’ll need

The two pieces you cut out and rounded for the back and the front. One should already be fused with interfacing.

The pocket piece you cut

Double fold bias tape, either purchased or that you’ve made yourself


A marking tool that will wash out

A ruler

Fold the pocket in half “hot dog” (lengthwise) wrong sides together and press it.


With your washable marker, draw the lines that will separate the pocket into slots for your tools. The pocket is wider than the caddy to allow for one or two of the slots to be pleated so they can hold bulkier items or become a thread catcher. The best way to do this is to lay your tools on the pocket and draw the lines around them. I choose my pocket widths based on a pleated pocket for a pair of shears, another pleated pocket for catching threads, and slim pockets for my seam ripper, my long tweezers, and my thread snips. This is a place to really customize your caddy for your needs.


Pin the pocket to the sides only of the interfaced caddy piece. Then put some pins in along the lines you drew for your pockets. The pocket will not lie flat where the pleated pockets are.

Stitch down the lines you drew.

Now pick the pocket along the bottom of the caddy making the pleats at the sewing lines so the bottom of the pocket matches the bottom of the caddy.

Machine baste the edge of the pocket in place.

Now place the front of the caddy on top of the back of the caddy wrong sides together.

Open up your double fold bias tape and pin it around the outside edge of the caddy. If you look closely, one side of tape is wider than the other. You want the shorter side of the tape on the front of the caddy, and the wider on the back so when you stitch from the front,  you’ll also catch the back.



Start pinning at the part of the caddy that will be underneath your sewing machine. Fold one edge under and lap it over the other.

Sew around the outside of the caddy along the edge of the tape. This is a fun place to use a decorative stitch.


Alternately, you can place the front and back of the caddy wrong sides together. Stitch around the outside. Turn, press, and topstitch.




Slide your caddy under your machine, and you’re ready to fill it with your favorite tools!

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Cutting Out Your Sewing Caddies



Now that you have your fabric and other notions collected up, it’s time to get our caddies cut out.  How you mix and match your fabrics is up to you. The sewing machine caddy can be customized to fit your machine. The ironing board caddy is a standard size so lets start there.


The Ironing Board Caddy Pieces


This caddy is a long strip that lies across the wide end of your ironing board. It has pockets at both ends. One end holds the tools you like to have handy, and the other end has a small bag for collecting threads and scraps. The center of the strip is quilted and functions as a pin cushion. The underside has a piece that grips the ironing board cover underneath so the caddy doesn’t slide off of your board since one end will be heavier than the other when it’s filled with tools.



Cut two long strips 7″ X 27″ for the center of your caddy using your ruler and either a rotary cutter or your shears.

Cut two squares 7″ X 7″ for the tool pocket.

Cut four rectangles 7″ X 9″ for the thread and scrap catcher. If you have a directional print, the print should run horizontally across the 9″ width.

Cut 1 strip of fleece or batting 7″ X 27″

DSC_0372Cut one piece of gripper fabric 4 1/2″ wide X 14″. I used shelf liner I had left over.

Cut two pieces of medium weight fusible interfacing 7″ X 9″




For the sewing machine caddy

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The sewing machine caddy can be customized to fit your sewing machine. I made mine the width of my larger machine.  If you use my measurements, you’ll end up with a caddy that’s 16 1/2″ inches wide and 18 1/2″ long. It’s the 16 1/2″ width across the sewing machine you might want to change.  My pocket is 8″ deep. Collect up a few of the things you’d like to store in the pocket and measure them to see how deep you want your pocket to be.



Cut two pieces of fabric 18 1/2″ by your width. If you have a directional print, the 18 1/2″ is the vertical direction. My pieces were 16 1/2″ X 18 1/2″

Cut one piece of fusible interfacing the same size.

Cut one piece of fabric two inches wider than the backing for your caddy and twice the depth of your pocket. It needs to be wider so you’ll have some width to pleat the big pockets. I cut my pocket 18 1/2″ X 16″.

Fuse one side of the caddy with the interfacing.



Lay the front and and back of the caddy on top of each other. Fold the pocket in half “hot dog”. (lengthwise)







Line one edge of the pocket up with a corner of the caddy. Using a round object or a compass, either draw a line and use scissors or use your rotary cutter to cut through the layers to round the corners.

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Repeat with the other bottom corner. Then round off the top two corners, and you’re done cutting!




Come back in a few days, and we’ll start sewing!



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Welcome to the Fabric Cobbler February SewAlong!

Welcome to the Fabric Cobbler February SewAlong!

PicMonkey sewalong

I’m Roberta Burkey from Taking It Up A Notch, and I’ll be your hostess this month.

I usually sew clothing for myself, my daughter, and my granddaughter with something for the boys thrown in every now and then. I recently bought a pocket organizer for the door of my sewing closet, and I like knowing where all of my sewing tools are. But it’s not close enough to my sewing machine or my ironing board to reach what I need. So I decided to make myself some pocket organizers for them.

The sewing machine organizer can be adjusted in size to match your machine. It’s pictured here with my traveling machine, but I made it the width of my bigger Janome. The ironing board organizer will accommodate most standard ironing boards. The sewing machine organizer is my own design, but the ironing board one was inspired by one designed by Moda fabrics, although I have modified it some. There are lots of ways to customize them for your needs, and I’ll include instructions for how to do that along the way.

So collect up your fabric and notions and meet me back here in a few days to get started. Any coordinating fabrics will do.

If you’d like to be eligible for prizes, 50% of your fabric must come from the Fabric Cobbler.

Their FB group-


2 yards of fabric (I used 1 yard each of two)
1 yard medium weight interfacing
1 7”x 27” piece of quilt batting or fleece
1 14” x 4” piece gripper fabric (I used shelf liner)
1 package double fold bias tape or fabric to make your own
marking tool
clear ruler
scissors or rotary cutter

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