Some Tips for Making Halloween Costumes

In our family Halloween costumes usually hit the dress up clothes for play after the holiday is over so I usually sew them with that in mind. There’s always at least one party where they get worn as well as trick or treating. Our town has a downtown Halloween Parade when the kids get to dress up, parade down the main streets, and get “treated” by the local merchants. The costume needs to be designed for wear and most if not all of the pieces need to be reusable.

Max

Max pjs

This year Davis Farmland, a local attraction, is having a Pirates and Princesses Day. Elsa and Anna will be joining the fun. My grandkids have a family membership to the park so this party is on the agenda. While my granddaughter has a princess dress, she doesn’t have a princess pirate dress, and my grandson has agreed to wear a pirate costume for Halloween as long as it’s “cool” and not little kid. So we were able to bypass a lot of the what do you want to be for Halloween discussion.

 

 

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Buttons and Buttonholes Part One- Choosing the Right Style

Buttons

Buttons

There are a couple of walls beginning seamstresses run into when they’re trying to advance their sewing skills, and one of them is buttonholes. Eventually, they want to make something that doesn’t rely on stretch to be able to get a garment on and off. Or their daughters would prefer a prom gown that isn’t closed with Kam snaps. (Sandya was sent home last week on Project Runway for using snaps.  I feel exonerated. lol) Whether she’s competing on Project Runway or not, the day will come for every seamstress when it’s time to attack the dreaded buttonhole. Sooner for some, later for others, but the day of reckoning will come.

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You Asked for It – Understanding “Ease”

What if patterns had different kinds of flowers as their sizes? Maybe you’d be a daisy size or a rose. Would you be OK with it if you were an iris instead? We’ve become so hung up on numbers picking a pattern size is a traumatic experience for too many women. Here’s the unvarnished truth. No matter what the number says on the pattern, it takes the same amount of fabric and the same size pattern pieces to cover your body and give you room to breathe, walk, sit, and bend over in the style you’ve chosen. If one company says that’s a size 12 and another a size 14, you aren’t smaller in the size 12 pattern. It hurts, I know. It gets a little easier if you start thinking, “I am 38″ around my full bustline.” At least that number has some basis in reality.

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Sewing Sheers

My dog, Ellie, has been sick since Saturday night. She’s on the mend, but being sick to Ellie means you never leave Mom’s side – ever.  So today’s sewing lesson will be about something I’m sewing rather than something one or more of you has asked for. I don’t have the energy to sift through the list of requests and start something new today. But I haven’t forgotten the things you want to learn to do. 🙂

I’m getting ready to go on a seven day cruise from Boston to Bermuda. It’s a cruise we’ve taken before so I have a pretty good idea of what to expect. The cruise is mid-scale. Not casual enough to be able to go to the dining rooms in shorts, but there’s only one night when anyone gets dressed up formally, and that’s limited to just one of the dining rooms. Last year I took a suitcase filled with pretty summer dresses, and that worked really well for 5 of the 7 nights, but it was a little chilly the two evenings when we were off the New England coast. Our days are still pretty warm in mid-October, but the frost is on the pumpkins at night.

For one of those two nights I’m making an outfit that’s pants, a sleeveless tank, and a sheer top. After I go out for an elegant dinner, I can exchange the sheer top for a comfortable hoodie and spend the evening poolside listening to the band and begging my husband to dance. If the barmaid cooperates, he should give in around 11 pm. If she doesn’t, I’ll still get to enjoy good music under the stars without freezing.

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You Asked for It – Pressing Tools

When we first begin to sew, we spend all of efforts looking for the best sewing machine for us that’s in our budget. It’s a good thing to do. But a sewing machine is just the first step in getting good results. Equally important is our ability to press our sewing well. While that starts with a good sewing iron, that’s only the beginning, too.

Choosing an iron

iron

iron

Any iron that produces lots and lots of steam, holds its temperature consistently and accurately, and heats up quickly if it has an auto-shutoff feature is a good iron for sewing. I have two irons, one in my sewing room and one in the laundry. I originally bought the one that’s in the laundry room for sewing, but it has a really short idle time before it shuts itself off. I found myself standing around a lot waiting for it to heat up. It’s fine for ironing the wash. I’m either only ironing one thing or I’m ironing continuously enough it stays on. An iron that makes you wait too much offers too much incentive to skip the pressing part, and that’s not good. While I would prefer an iron that stays on until I turn it off, companies are reluctant, or maybe even prohibited from making them that way anymore. I was able to find an iron with an external water tank. It keeps the water hot until I turn it off, but the iron shuts off by itself. That makes for a very quick reheat. So if your iron turns off too quickly and doesn’t recover fast enough, can’t be trusted to be at the temperature you set it at, or sputters and spits water at you instead of steam, drop it a few times so you can buy yourself a new one. But if it meets the criteria, you have a “good sewing iron”.

A press cloth

pressing cloths

pressing cloths

There are a lot of good reasons to use a press cloth. Some fabrics get a “shine” when a hot iron hits them. It looks ugly. Some fabrics can’t handle even the lowest setting on your iron. You might accidentally hit the plastic teeth of your zipper. You might make a mistake about which is the fusible side of the interfacing. If you have a press cloth, it will fuse to it instead of the bottom of your iron. A press cloth can be cut from any white or unbleached fabric that can withstand high heat. Cotton and silk organza are frequent choices. Silk organza is a good choice because it’s sheer, and you can see what you’re ironing through it. Don’t make the mistake of substituting polyester organza for the silk. The polyester variety needs a press cloth.

A point turner

point turner

point turner

Raise your hand if you’ve used your scissors to turn a point and poked a hole in your sewing. Raise both hands if you’ve done it more than once. There’s an inexpensive tool you can buy that it is pointy enough to give you a nice, clean turn, but isn’t sharp enough to put holes in your sewing. My favorite one is made from bamboo, but Ellie  stole it and hid it somewhere. The one I’m using now is plastic. It’s fine. I just like the feel of the bamboo one better. Maybe she’ll steal the plastic one while I’m watching, and I can see if she tries to hide it in the same place.

A tailor’s ham

tailor's ham

tailor’s ham

It’s called a “ham” because of its shape. It usually has one side covered in unbleached muslin and the other side in wool. The commercially available ones are filled with sawdust to make them really firm. You can find tutorials for making your own. Some of them tell you to stuff the ham with polyfil. If you do that, stuff it until you can’t get another smidgen of polyfil in it because you want the ham to have a hard surface. You use a ham to press parts of your garment that don’t lay flat. A princess seam, the sleeve cap, the roll of your collar. Because of its shape, there’s someplace on the ham where its curve matches the curve of your seam. You choose the side of the ham to use to based on what temperature you have the iron set. While a good ham can be a little pricey, it’s a one time investment. My ham is 40 years old. You will be surprised what a difference this tool makes in your sewing.

A seam roll

seam roll

seam roll

There are times when you press a seam open, and you don’t want the pressed seam to touch the outside of the garment because it will leave marks. Then you use a seam roll. It’s constructed like the tailor’s ham, but it’s shaped like a hot dog.

 

 

Point presser and clapper

point presser and clapper

point presser and clapper

A point presser and a clapper are often built in one piece. The point presser part is used to press the seams open in pointed pieces like collars, lapels, and pointed sashes. The clapper part is to press the seams open in difficult fabrics like heavy denims and wool coatings. You use your iron to give them a heavy dose of steam, and then you pound them open with the clapper side of the tool. You can buy them separately, but the combination usually costs a lot less than buying each one individually.

A sleeve board

sleeve board

sleeve board

A sleeve board looks like a miniature ironing board. You use it to press sleeves, pant legs, and anything else that won’t fit over the end of an ironing board. It keeps you from pressing creases in where you don’t want them. It’s also great for keeping a little one occupied “ironing” along with you.

 

 

I’ve listed the most popular pressing tools in the order I would buy them if I had none of them. The press cloth and point turner are small items and don’t require much investment. You can sew and make nice things without the other things, but as you add each one, you’ll see the look and quality of your garments improve. An easy way to take it up a notch.

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Zippers – The Fly

There are a lot of patterns for pants and skirts that say they have a “fly front”.  A true fly front has a facing that covers the zipper and a fly shield that blocks the view of your underwear should your fly be flying at less than full mast. It’s every teacher’s nightmare to be standing in front of the class unzipped, but if your fly has a fly shield, you really aren’t showing anything but your zipper. Then there was the time I escaped from a store with the security tag still attached to my jacket. The kids spied it and wanted to know where I had “lifted it”. I taught in a school where that would make me a hero.

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You Asked For It – Piping Part 2

Now that you have your piping made and sewn on, what do you do when need to join piping to itself? The primary concern if you’d like your piping to look neat, tidy, and professionally done is to choose a method that eliminates as much bulk from the seam allowances as you can.

When the piping meets at a seam line-

One of the situations where this happens is when you’re using piping between two pieces of fabric that will be joined in a circle. You could just sew across the piping when you sew the seam. The problem is a lot of sewing machines will push one piece of piping to the side, and when you look at the seam from the outside, your piping won’t line up.

Piping won't line up

Piping won’t line up

 

 

 

 

 

 

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