Friday, May 1, 2015

Best Dressed Rain Barrel on the Block!

I recently participated in a rain barrel program hosted by The Galveston Bay Foundation. The goal is to reduce runoff into storm drains and collect water for use in personal gardens. I purchased two barrels for our garden and my darling hubby installed them with the included downspout diverter and barrel spout. 

My naked barrel.
These plain barrels were once used to hold syrup for the Coca Cola Company. They are a semi-transparent polypropylene plastic that if left uncovered/unpainted will allow organisms to grow in the water. In the workshop, we were advised to paint the barrels to reduce the sunlight on the water and prevent said growth. The paint process includes, cleaning, sanding, priming, painting and sealing the painted barrel. The foundation even hosts contest each year for the best barrel. 

I was initially excited about painting the barrels with the kids. I had visions of hand-print flowers and butterflies to bring whimsy to our garden. After considering the cost of supplies for two barrels, time commitment, and multiple steps, I changed my plan.  I opted instead to cover my barrels with outdoor fabric.
                                    Outdoor Fabric- Solarium Wilder Cabana, , hi-res

This fabric is Solarium brand Wilder Cabana it resists sunlight, heat, mildew, moisture and rated to withstand 500 hours direct sunlight. I drafted a simple plan and  came up with this cover.

I used spray paint for plastic to coat the barrel of the lid. I will likely cover it with plants or a fairy garden of something. The recessed areas will become a breeding ground for mosquitoes if standing water is allowed to collect there. 

For the cover, I  used 2, 1-yard cuts of fabric stitched side-by-side at one selvedge. I then made a 1.5 in a casing along the top of my fabric and inserted elastic through it to gather the cover. I adjusted the casing to fit the circumference of the barrel. I secured the ends of the elastic in place and added a button and loop of elastic to close it over the hose.  

For the non stitched selvedge side panel with the downspout, I secured it with snap tape for easy removal.

Does this make sense? One side is stitched closed and the other is closed with snap tape. I wanted the option to remove it easily to wash it and it contained 50 gallons of water.

To allow easy access to the faucet, I made a  slit in the fabric above the spout and hemmed it around the cut edge. 

This front slit will allow access to the spout while keeping the cover free when filling my watering can. 

I have no information on the success of covering a barrel instead of painting it. I hope this cover keeps organisms out and discourages algae growth. I love the burst of color it adds to our backyard. I have another barrel that I plan to cover as well. That barrel will not be attached to the house, but will have a rain saucer. When it is ready to be put out I will share what I have done. 

If you are local the Galveston Bay area,  be sure check out the foundation for future workshops. If you want to learn to sew your own barrel covers, I can teach you. Email me to be added to the waitlist for my next round of sewing lessons. 

Happy Sewing,

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Sunshine, Lollipops, Rainbows and Vogue 9112

Some clothes are fun and just make me happy. This week, for me it is Vogue 9112. This dress is a whole heap of interesting. It is strange and easy going while looking complicated.

V9112, Misses' Dress
Vogue 9112
This was so fun to make. I didn't know how this would turn out or how it would look on me. I was delightfully anxious as I was putting it together. 

Vogue 9112
I love the interesting seam lines, the asymmetrical cuts and the curve of the hem.
Detail of the seams

Based on the bust measurement, I made the size small using a bright yellow linen from my stash. I made a mistake (I was distracted while watching Nurse Jackie) and cut the top of the shoulder seam to the XS. It however, made a marginal difference to the end result. The instructions are great on this simple dress. It is super important to transfer all of your markings carefully to be certain all the seams match up.  Because of my choice of fabric, I had to take care in making sure I maintained the right and wrong side of the fabric. The difference is subtle, but I didn't want any of the many segments off.


I altered the collar slightly because of the cutting error I mentioned. The pattern suggests basting the center front together and sewing the circle of fabric to the neckline.  I instead, pinned it to the neckline in a straight line letting it overlap where it would naturally. After sewing, I hand tacked the point of the collar in place rather than letting it fall. I also chose to omit the neckline facing. All of the interior seams are edge finished on the serger and I didn't think I needed the facing.
Love this collar!

Yes, yellow works. 
I really like this dress. It is fast to sew, has tons of character and is interesting. I will be making more.  I went shoe shopping and was stopped by a sales clerk. When I told her I made it, she instructed me to go home immediately and make a rainbow wardrobe of these for myself and one more for her!

Happy Sewing,

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Hand Sewn Details on DVF Vogue 1663.

I like an underdog. I like to root for the long shot, the geek, the less than popular one. We all know the quintessential DVF wrap dress and are familiar with the popular Vogue 1549 pattern. I made the dress for myself last year. This time around, I have sewn up an underdog DVF dress pattern from my stash. 

Vogue 1663
I love a good maxi dress and even better if it has pockets. This dress is a semi-fitted and slightly flared, pullover dress. It can be worn three inches below mid-knee or evening/maxi length.  It has a pointed collar, cutaway armholes, front button and self-loop closing and pockets in side seams. It has a self-tie belt holding in fullness at waistline. The pattern calls for topstitching, but I chose to extend it with all over hand sewing. 
This is not a multi-sized pattern but lucky for me, my copy is a size 10 requiring no modifications. For fabric, I  used an interlock knit that is buttery soft. I found it at a Value Village resale store. It had been hacked up by the previous owner, but I saw the potential in what was left. 

The instructions are great on this simple dress and it came together very fast.

I love a flowy maxi dress. This dress is shapeless and drapey without the belt and fun in that "Mrs. Roper's" from "Three's Company" way. 

With the belt synched, it has less of a boho feel. 

Pockets in a knit can be tricky considering the weight of the contents. These pockets are great. The pocket extension on the pattern factors that in well. I can put my cell phone and keys in them without bulk or distortion. 

My favorite thing about the pattern are the seam lines, the collar, and front opening. They were a perfect canvas for hand-sewn topstitching. I had not done hand-sewing in a long time and I missed it (thanks Helen for reminding me)

Hand- sewn top-stitching details on dress worn by  My Custom Dress form.

Front details

Hand-sewing along side seams. 
I machine sewed the majority of the internal seams and used button and craft thread to add hand-sewn details to the seams. I stitched the approximately 20 feet of seams all down by hand. It was not as bad as it sounds and worth it. I cut the skirt at the hemline and left it with a raw edge. 

If you get your hand on this out of print pattern, I say grab it and give this unsung pattern a go. 

Happy Sewing,

Saturday, April 4, 2015

It's Spring and Time for a Tie Back Top Using Simplicity 1373

It's Spring! Yay! Here in Texas, these are our beautiful weather days. We have temps in the '70's and '80's with cool breezes and low humidity. It is the weather we wish for in July when all of that changes. I enjoyed the look of my Dutch Wax peplum top and decided to make a casual take on the style. 


For this top, I chose to sew Simplicity 1373

This misses' sportswear pattern includes slim pants and shorts plus tops with 2 different back interest styles & subtle peplum. For a great fit the top either buttons or ties at back, has front and back darts & a side zipper. I made the tie back top with subtle peplum as seen in view B. I have nothing like this in my wardrobe. I sewed it up in a cotton fabric from my stash. I bought it almost 5 (eek!) years ago.

My pattern sizing ranges from 6-12. I made the 12 as is standard for this brand. Now that is is made, I feel like I could have made a 10 for the top portion and a 12 for the peplum. I very rarely have to make pattern adjustments. This pattern had me thinking that I may need to consider a SBA. I am tumbling toward 40 and had 2 kids so the "girls" aren't what they were.
 The bust/shoulder area is too loose for me. Rather than question my body, I will chuck this sizing issue up to the pattern for now.

 I like that the sweetheart neckline is not too low. The fit of the peplum is pretty good. 
The tie back is almost wide enough to cover the width of my bra.
Tie Back
The instructions were easy to follow, but very time-consuming. The straps and upper peplum are all trimmed in bias tape before being put together. As I was working on the pieces, I had the thought “I could have made a dress by now.” It was a bit fiddly with the stitching and stitching again.

Bias Tape Finishing on inside.
Invisible Zipper
It was impossible for me to achieve the correct fit by tying it myself. I got dressed after my hubby left for work and had to ask my 6-year old to give me a hand. Her tying it was enough to get me dressed, but I felt the shoulders did not fit. I finally asked a friend at my son’s school to tie me up. When tied, I feel it is still too loose at my shoulders. It looks fine, but I feel they will fall down at any time. They are too wide and long.

I will not sew this one again. It is cute and I like this one, but given the time, I will not. I would have to spend more time shortening and narrowing the straps to get the right fit. If you like it and would not need to make these changes, I say go for it. I like the look of the pants and shorts in the pattern. I will give them a try, so stayed tuned.

Happy Sewing and Happy Easter,

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Huh?! Authentic Dutch African Wax Fabric From China?

You heard me. It was strange to me too, but it is true. You may remember that posted that I may have found a fabric goldmine  on a Chinese shopping site. I was referred there by a Pattern Review commenter who vouched for the site. I chose to buy from Swallow's Store and ordered 2, 6-yard lots of fabric and waited for delivery. I ordered during a holiday time and it took several days for the order to be processed. When it was processed it was pretty fast. The seller contacted me because one of my cuts was unavailable. She however, provided a substitution for a more expensive print at no additional cost. 
The fabric arrived sealed and with these large labels. They were a beast to remove and still it did not all come off when washed. I got 6-yards each so I am not worried about a tiny bit of fabric loss.

The arrival of my fabric coincided with the Best Patterns Contest on PR. After looking through the available patterns to choose from, I decided on Vogue 8815 with a couple of modifications.
V8815, Misses' Top
Vogue 8815
   My double peplum, bias trim top.                      

Here is my review with details of the construction.

1. Why do you think this was voted one of the Best Patterns?
This pattern is a simple way to achieve the peplum look. It sews up fast and has a few options.

2. Would you have made this pattern if it was NOT voted one of the top patterns of the year?
I think I would have. I have wanted a peplum top using African Dutch Wax fabric. I recently purchased some and this pattern fit the bill for my purposes.

3. How did you make your version of this pattern unique?
I made mine unique me by creating a double peplum with the bias tape trim.

4. What size(s) did you make? I made the 12.

5. Did you find the sizing accurate compared to the measurements listed on the pattern?
Yes, I think the sizing is accurate.

6. What fabric and trims did you use? What was the source of your fabric and trims?
I used authentic African Dutch wax fabric that I purchased online from a vendor in China (that is one of the more absurd sentences I have written in a long time). The bias tape trim is run-of-the-mill stuff from Walmart.

7. Describe how you used the pattern instructions. Did you follow the instructions literally, did you figure out how to assemble on your own, or a combination of instructions plus own experience? 
It was a combination of both. For the upper portion, I followed them. For the peplum, I figured out the construction on my own (see below). 

8. Describe any alterations you made and discuss whether alternations were for fit or for design.

I altered the pattern for design. I chose to add a second shorter peplum above the first. To do this, I simply shortened the second by one and a half inches. I used my Dritz hem gauge to maintain a consistent length on the three pieces. I then used the folded piece as my pattern for the shorter peplum.

Rather than hem them, I opted to trim them in black bias tape. I thought this would add a bit of contrast against the vibrant print. 
Hem encased in bias tape.

I hemmed them before the top was sew up and basted the two peplums together and treated them as one.

I added an invisible zipper instead of the standard one. This was done before sewing the sides and keeping the top peplum free because it is split in the back. 

9. What did you like and what did you dislike about the pattern?
I liked everything about the pattern. I have no dislikes.

10. Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I would recommend this to others, but I don't think I will make it again. It is very distinctive and I think one is enough.

Wish me Luck and Happy Sewing!