Archive for the ‘Sewing for Grownups’ Category

Dirndl DIY

IMG_2201_2October began in the way I like to live life in my “pioneer spirit” daydreams: homemade baked goods, bubbly cold drink, long pretty dresses and lots of music and laughing. “Prost!” and “Cheers!” to Oktoberfest 2009! We invited people to our little house to drink Collin’s homebrew, eat our chewy homemade pretzels, and pretend to like accordion music. I could have listened to that all night, but at some point, someone changed to the Beatles, and then the party really got going with sing-alongs. You know you know at least one song by the Beatles. Who doesn’t enjoy singing “Yellow Submarine”? Most people didn’t know each other, but something about big pretzels and the Beatles puts people at ease. Or maybe it was the Oktoberfest homebrew?

IMG_2197_2IMG_2192It was a family-friendly celebration and I know we will do it every year now. Claire looked so sweet in her dirndl. Collin and I both have our costumes of lederhosen and dirndl. And who knows, we might add sausage-making to our DIY skills of homebrewing and baking. It can only get better and better. Claire will be able to help make pretzels next year. And I think I will make a little green fedora with a feather in it for Chuffy to wear. He LOVED the party and someone saw him sneaking off with a whole pretzel in his mouth.

Although Collin and I bought our outfits (off Ebay of all places!), I made Claire’s dirndl. You can easily modify any pinafore-type dress to become a dirndl. All it takes is choosing patterns and colors typically found on a dirndl and a few embellishments such as ribbon, buttons, and lace.


Here are the supplies I used:


        McCall’s pattern 3531 (sizes 1-2-3) View C & D

For the shirt and apron: 1 yard of white eyelet cotton fabric with a scalloped border on one edge

For the skirt of the dress: 1 yard of red floral patterned fabric

For the bodice of the dress: 1/2 yard of black cotton fabric

For the apron strings: 1/2 yard of green fabric

Embellishments: I used three brass buttons on the shirt back, three black plastic buttons on the bodice back, and three little round red and white rose buttons as an accent on the bodice. I highly recommend a cute floral-patterned ribbon to use as a border for the skirt if you choose a plain color or to add to the bodice. I didn’t have time to do this, but it would look great. You can buy a ruffle to add to the neckline, or cut some off the eyelet fabric to make your own. Just add a gather, press it in place and spend an hour trying to neatly fit it in place. 🙂

You will make three pieces: the undershirt, the pinafore, and the apron. You are essentially making view C, the dress bodice with puffy sleeves without the skirt for the shirt. To this you add the ruffly lace at the neckline, using the collar insertion instructions for view A, the dress with the collar. You have to finish the bottom of the shirt on your own. For this, I just sewed it up, right sides together and left a hole to turn it wrong side out. Then I made a casing for elastic, inserted elastic, sewed it down on the ends and closed up the hole with some whipstitching. That was how my dirndl shirt was finished also. One note about the sleeves: the ones for the McCall’s pattern are not your traditional dirndl sleeves. If you have sleeve expertise, then you can change them. I do not, and I have never been to a real Oktoberfest, so I will just have to plead ignorance on the matter of dirndl sleeves. They are very cute, however, so that counts for something!


After making the shirt, you will use View D to make a pinafore. This is the easy part. I used the black fabric for the bodice and the red floral-patterned fabric for the skirt. The only modification here is to cut the bodice front about two inches lower. That is how a traditional dirndl looks, and it shows off the ruffly collar better.


For the apron, just cut a length, about the amount of the skirt front’s width, and add gathers. Sew a 2-3 inch band of a contrast fabric onto to it for the strings. I found that I was constantly pulling Claire’s apron up to her waist all evening. I eventually pinned it in place. You could insert the apron directly into the bodice when you join the skirt and bodice together to avoid making apron strings and then sew a ribbon around the waistline and tie it in the back. That would look very pretty.

I made this a size larger so that it can be worn next year, too. This type of dress is easy to cinch up and still looks nice, if I may say so myself. 🙂



A Dress for Many Occasions

I just completed Simplicity 2886 (View C without the skirt band) and it was a lot of fun.   I feel like Donna Reed in it.  I feel like making a roast chicken and wearing high heels.  Or feather dusting–the easiest clean around.

S2886 - 1

In this dress, you will find gathers, pintucks, and pleats.  I really enjoyed making this because FINALLY all the pieces of a project were fitting together the right way.  And it has a lot of pieces:   20! (Counting all pieces cut out.)

S2886 - 6

It has attractive pockets, elastic on the top of the bodice back for some give, and a side zipper that was very hard to put in with all the bodice layers and the tie.  The tie is cute, but you could get away without it.  You might feel a bit less silly that way and have less to iron!

I would like to point out two problems for me with this pattern:  the sizing of the bodice and the lining.  Although I am a 36 bust, I made size 12, (which is for a 34″ bust) because these patterns are always big.  And there is no need to have this kind of bodice loose.  I tried it on while making it, and it fit like a glove.  But after wearing the finished dress, I noticed that the straps would fall down a lot.  The bodice front top is too wide for me, even though I went down a size.  And I can’t move the straps in because they must be placed exactly where they are.  AND there is no way I am tearing it apart, taking it in on the center seam and then reattaching it to the pintuck bodice strip and stitching it back up to the sides.  Egads!  That would be a lot of work.  But now I know–I probably will need to take in an inch on a lot of things like this in the future while leaving enough room lower down on a bodice for my ribcage, and breathing room. 🙂

The other problem I had with this pattern is that although it has a lined bodice, the seams are exposed.  It would have been nice to hide those, but maybe this isn’t possible because of all the layers.

A closer look at the bodice:  great fit on the bottom but the straps are about to fall off my shoulders.

A closer look at the bodice: great fit on the bottom but the straps are about to fall off my shoulders.

I think this dress could fit any occasion depending on the fabric used.  With a satin or silk pintuck bodice and tie, it’s a bridesmaid’s dress!  All in black, as a cocktail dress.  I would consider making this a halter top, too.  Then the straps wouldn’t fall down either!

One more tip:  I followed the suggestions of a reviewer on and sew the top of the bodice fronts to the contrast bands first, and then sewed the whole thing up the middle.  This made for a perfectly-lined up seam.

S2886 - 2

Make this dress and clean your house!

New Look 6889 in Double Cotton Gauze

far, far away nightgown - 1Pattern:  New Look 6889

Modifications: bias tape hem

Fabric:  Far, Far Away “Field of Flowers–Green” by Heather Ross

Purchased at Sew to Speak

Ah, I finally have a new nightgown and my own piece of clothing in double cotton gauze. I’m feeling very good about this dress, but I have a word of caution.  DO NOT set the timer for two hours and see if you can beat the clock when the front of the pattern claims to be a 2 hour project!  This was the first mistake I made, which caused one, irreparable mistake:  I cut the fabric upside!  You can’t really tell, but the orange tulips are pointing down.  D’oh!

far, far away nightgown - 2

I’m very pleased with the pattern because I measured my bust, then cut according, sewed accordingly, and miracle of miracles, it fit perfectly!  That has not happened for me yet.  So with this simple shape that fits perfectly, I can envision making my own creative modifications on future nightgowns (or dresses).  This was actually a dress pattern, not a nightgown pattern, but I really wanted pajamas made of double cotton gauze because Claire looks so comfy in hers.  Another reason this is a nightgown and not a dress can be seen below:

far, far away nightgown - 3It sticks to your underwear!  This was also lamented by Amy Karol on her blog, Angry Chicken.  She fixed the problem by wearing a slip.

A couple more details:far, far away nightgown - 5

I liked the narrow ribbon tie.

I couldn't figure out how to do the bias tape on the neckline.  The directions were not very clear.  I recommend looking for help on this.

I couldn't figure out how to do the bias tape on the neckline. The directions were not very clear. I recommend looking for help on this.

I finished the seams because the double gauze unravels A LOT.

I finished the seams because the double gauze unravels A LOT.

Boxer Shorts

boxer shorts - 2

For Father’s Day this year, The Old Man at Sea will receive two new pairs of boxers.  My brother-in-law is getting a handmade pair, too.  As TOMAS was packing, I stole a worn-out pair from his sea bag to rip apart and make a pattern from.  I don’t know how this stretched-out pair stayed up on his scrawny hips, but he said any clean pair would do.  I guess when they wash clothes on the ship, they come back even dirtier.  

These boxers have a saggy bottom, which seems very comfortable, but also meant one extra piece to sew.  The edges of each piece were pressed 1/4″ to the right side or wrong side, then matched up (a wrong-side pressed edge laid on top of a right-side pressed edge), pinned, and sewn with two parallel lines of topstitching.  I believe a welt seam is what this is, except that I didn’t follow the directions for that.  Next time, I think it would be faster without doing this (the last, fastest pair took 2 hours) but it is supposed to be a very strong seam and it looks good on the wrong side, too.  


Construction Details:
  • Sushi print and Airplanes from Whipstitch Lounge
  • Houses and flags print from The Fabric Hut
  • Pattern from old pair of The Old Man’s Old Navy boxers.
  • Interesting note:  the hip and leg opening measurements were the same on the size 32 as the size 36-38 and only the elastic was a different length.  So, I used the same pattern for both guys.  Thank goodness! 

Summer Blouse from “Weekend Sewing”

“Blouse” sounds so grownup, doesn’t it?  But I guess I am a grownup now.  I do a lot of things my mom did, like sewing almost everyday and singing commands to my child.  (Rise and Shine and Let’s Clean Up!)

Like mother, like daughter. I guess it’s time for me to wear a blouse!

summer blouse 1

This project flowed along so smoothly.  I worked a little at a time, stopping at a good point where I could pick right back up easily during the next nap time.  And no seam ripping.  Until I tried it on before hemming it.

I know I have said I should try things on as I sew them so that I can adjust along the way.  I did and it looked okay!  But it turned out to be too short, too wide, and I had messed up the bias tape neckline because the instructions were hard to wrap my mind around.

To combat the too short problem, I used a hem facing, which kept the length.  It didn’t add any either, but so far so good.  I followed this delightful tutorial at the Oliver + S blog.  I can’t wait to try it on the Oliver + S Tea Party Dress pattern I bought for Claire.  It makes a very nice hem, although I had to handstitch the hem.

One word about handstitching:  You think it is going to take forever and a day.  You look longingly at your sewing machine, knowing how fast it works.  But then you get into a rhythm and you start taking pride in your tiny stitches and then you challenge yourself to space them evenly and make each stitch the same size and you catch yourself smiling.  I know when I look down at my hem, I will love that part of my shirt the best.

That is, if I can fix the other problems!

summer blouse 2

I added darts to the back and took in the sides.  Meanwhile, I haven’t ripped any stitches out of the hem.  It’s too lovely of a hem!  So, now the bottom starts to flare out.  The front is billowy.  Not in a romantic/Wuthering Heights sort of way.   It is billowy in a hospital gown sort of way.  What to do?

How about buttons?  Buttons are a great afterthought.  But I don’t know about this time.  I might have to cut into the hem facing.

Ok, I’m back.  I cut into it, but just a little seam ripping and I took in the sides just a 1/2 inch.  The darts in the back were a half inch each and I decided to do some more darts 1/2″ in the front also.

summer blouse 3

And to top it all off–I broke another one of my new rules.  I noticed that one piece of the pattern was lighter in color than the piece sewn to it.  I literally thought, “It will all come out in the wash”.  Wrong.  As in wrong side of the fabric.  Once again, my philosophy of “it will all work out” doesn’t not compute in sewing.  Actually, it works in knitting.  You can fix sizing a bit when you get the piece wet and block it.  I am beginning to wonder if I will ever become a good seamstress.  Maybe not for grownup clothes like blouses.

Trapeze Dress

It looked really simple, just the kind of thing I would like to wear in the evening after a shower, before committing to pajamas.  I could still take a walk or talk to neighbors outside.  Plus, it had pockets to keep all my “notes to self.”

It turned out that this dress was not so simple.  AND it fit terribly.  And I made stupid mistakes on top of it all.   But maybe it was a bad week for me.

Here you can see the large amount of gaping that occurred.  To fix this, I used elastic.  Elastic to the rescue again! I put it in the back, which also made it more comfortable.

Trapeze 1

trapeze 2

The straps took quite a bit of adjusting.  They are set wide and that means they fall down a lot, unless they are angled in the back.  The instructions have you sew the straps in at a predetermined place.  But that place was not the right place on me.  It would have been helpful to have the chance to determine the front strap placement also.   It could have been sewn in as the straps were in the back, after the bodice is sewn and you can try it on.

trapeze 4

If you make this dress, before you sew the pockets on, make sure that they will match up when you sew the front and back together.  For some reason, the pattern has huge circles to note where to place the pockets.  A straight line would have been a lot more accurate.  Maybe I am missing something, but you’ll not be sorry if you match it all up before sewing the pockets on.

And now I am happy with it, for the job it will do as “dusk wear.”  I don’t think it is particularly flattering on me.  There was supposed to be a center pleat, but the pattern left that off.  I don’t know how an editor can let that happen!

trapeze 5

Seam Ripping Blues, or Ode to the Elasticized Waistband

Barcelona A-line Skirt with Many Modificationsbarcelona linen skirt

It is easy to write about the mistakes you make while sewing because seam ripping gives you plenty of time to review what just happened. 

My second time around with the Barcelona Skirts pattern by Amy Butler was supposed to be a breeze until I decided to make it shorter and cut the linen fabric on the bias.  

The bias cut skirt is another animal! 

Invisible zipper

+ bias cut

+ possibly faulty zipper foot

+ possibly cheapo machine

+ craftswoman blaming her tools

= An elasticized waistband after 4 zipper attempts

Ah, the elastic waistband!  Now I see why infants and the elderly wear them exclusively!  I wish I was an old woman now so that I could wear them all the time too.  I put elastic in the back only. Yes, it is a little like a mullet.  The front fits perfectly and lies down flat and the back waistline conforms to the small of my back without gaping.  

“Business in front and party in the back!”

(I will insert a picture of the waistband tomorrow.)

Barcelona Layered Skirt:  No Modifications–No Complaints!

barcelona skirt 1

I am very pleased with Skirt #1.  This zipper took only 2 attempts.  The khaki and pink floral print works well with the fraying.  It gives it a beach bum look.  However, I wish the hem was frayed to match, but I’m not sure how to do a “controlled” fraying and keep it stable for washing.

Lessons learned:

1.  Do not backstitch while experimenting.  Try it on and then backstitch if it works.  It’s really hard to rip out backstitching.

2.  Try on the garment at every possible chance in the process of sewing when making alterations.  Don’t just hope for the best, which works well in the rest of my life most of the time, but not always when sewing.

3.  Turn off the steam on the iron when pressing a 1/4″ hem.  Ouch!

4.   If you say to yourself, stop now or you will regret it, please listen to yourself.  I spent another 3-4 hours until I was satisfied.  But I learned a lot.  Learning takes so much time! 

Detail of intentional fraying on Barcelona Layered Skirt

barcelona skirt detail

Stay tuned for a layered baby sundress in same fabric.  And a sundress for Nunny the Bunny, too!