Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Handmade Tweens

So...what to do when you want handmade for your big girl...

Tweens are so fashion conscious, you have to make sure you find something that will still fit in with what all of their friends are wearing. Let's face it...some of the clothes marketed to middle school kids are just ridiculously priced! Plus, it's just so hard to give up all those ruffles and lace we used to doll our girls in when they were smaller.

Well, denim is so in! So are flip flops, sandals, and not too many ruffles, but just enough to give it a girly touch. How about Danielle?

So cute, so sassy, so hi-low...which is so in right now! Danielle is perfect for teens and tweens with a zippered denim bodice trimmed in the fabric of the ruffled hi-low skirt. My daughter couldn't wait to get into this! I made her a matching headband for style, or just bad hair days!

Of course, with three girls, there's no way I could make only one of these. I actually made this next dress first. Michelle was a mixture of pattern and imagination...some of my favorite creations!

I really wanted the big girl look of the bodice for my big girl, but I realized the zipper I had on hand wasn't long enough. So I added the eyelets for the semi corset look. I thought this turned out really well, and my daughter was eager to wear it. I LOVE this print! The contrast ruffle and trim on the bodice totally set off the colors in the skirt.

And let's not leave out my baby girl! At eight, she could care less about style and fashion. She just wanted a new dress because her big sisters had one, and the fact that hers even resembled theirs was good enough for her.

This dress, called Danae, was a new adventure for me. I've always wanted to know how to do this square circle skirt, and once I found out how easy it was, I made this dress with a double skirt! I really think this turned out cute. I figured since I was having fun, I'd play with the lace trim. So there's one lace on the overskirt, and a different lace on the underskirt. I'm so into vintage right now, I used some simple lace with a slight vintage look. The one thing I hated about the the pattern for this bodice was that I had to add a zipper into the side, even though it ties in back. That made the circle waist kind of tricky to attach to the bodice. However, I saw the advantage when my baby slipped out of the dress with the pretty bow still in tact in back. That means I won't have to re-tie it. Yay for me!

I wish my girls could wear something everyday that I made. I'm actually working towards that. But I hate that there's so much for little girls in handmade clothing, and not much for teen girls. Of course, as a seamstress, I think handmade clothes are far superior to retail clothing, if for no other reason than they were made especially for you. All of these dresses are for sale in my Etsy shop, but I'm just so excited to show off how we're starting off our new school year in style...with clothes my big girls couldn't wait to get into!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Ultimate Blog Party 2014

Thanks to Janice and Susan of 5 Minutes for mom, I am an official participant of their ingenious idea of a blog party. As a sometimes blogger, but most of the time seamstress, this is the first time I have been a part of this block party. So cool to meet other people who have some of the same interests that I do. My name says Tailormade Girl, but most of the time I just go by Vita. No, the "i" isn't long, which seems to be a general habit. It's a Latin word, and the "i" makes a long "e" sound.

Now that that's over with, it's so great to meet everybody, and I hope to be chatting with you soon!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Finishing Seams

So I'm kind of a nerd...I like to read. So what do I do before I make a pattern? I read through the entire guide sheet. Kind of weird, I guess, except I hate surprises. Don't want to get halfway through the garment and have to do something weird I wasn't expecting. Some patterns, like Butterick, are good for that. They kind of go all around the world to get back to the simple steps the other patternmakers went straight to in the first place.

But once you've been sewing for a while--forever if you're like me--do you really even need the guide? I mean seriously, all pants are made basically the same, whether they're pants, shorts, leggings, whatever. They all have side seams, a crotch and a waist.

Anyway, people like information...free information they can actually use. I know I do. So I'm going to start adding free info and tutorials to this blog. No need for a guide sheet. Just think...all those people long ago didn't have guide sheets. (I always wondered what you did for clothes if you were no good at sewing!). Maybe instructions are like guide sheets... Just thinking out loud.

So let's start off talking about finishing seams.  In the beginning there were fig leaves... We've come a long way from Adam and Eve! We're even a long way from the invention of the first sewing machine. As sewists, we can do at home now...everything that the commercial clothiers can do. And for that, some silkworm somewhere is ecstatic that the cotton boll yielded itself in glorious abundance! So as we gather today to discuss the intricacies of the art of sewing, let's do first things first...seams! Seems weird, (forgive the pun!) but seams are one of those topics that many a seamstress has had to just agree to disagree.

To finish or not to finish--that is the question! Some seamstresses swear by the finished seam. Others not so much. It all comes down to personal preference, I guess, but maybe just for personal use.

The biggest concern with leaving seams to themselves is raveling. Without some way to secure the ends, separation is inevitable. If the edges of seams are not secured some kind of way, they will ravel up to, and eventually through the seam itself. While some fabrics may not ravel after a point, the hanging edges are numerous and unsightly. Even fabrics that do not ravel at all, like knit, make the inner look of a garment seem unfinished.

Personally, I feel that if you are sewing for profit, it's just professional to finish seams. Even if you don't personally see the point of doing so, it could be the difference in future sales, if nothing else. Even though the customer may not always be right, they do know what they want to pay for.

Like anything, there are several ways to finish a seam. Pinking shears are the easiest of all the methods. These heavy duty scissors have zigzag teeth so that they leave  triangle cuts in the edge of the seam. After sewing your seam together with a regular straight stitch, use a pair of pinking shears to trim the seam as close to the stitches as you can without cutting through them. The only downside to pinking shears is that when they get dull, and they will, they're useless until you figure out how to get them sharpened...or buy new ones.

A zigzag stitch is the second easiest method. It's the stitch I've taught my daughters, as beginners, so that they can wear their little creations for the life they can squeeze out of them. The more advanced your machine, the more zigzag stitch settings you have. I personally like a smaller zigzag to the bigger ones. Smaller stitches have a neater appearance, and tend to make the seam more durable because the stitches are closer together. A bigger, wider zigzag works best for knits and stretchy fabrics. After stitching the seam, trim it as close as possible without cutting through the stitches.

French seams are absolutely beautiful. The raw edges of the seam are enclosed, so you can't see them. To make them, you sew the seams of a garment with the wrong sides together, then fold over the garment with the right sides together and sew the seams again, enclosing the raw edge. You then stitch the seam to the garment. This method is very pretty, but also time consuming. Also, if you don't allow enough fabric, you could end up with a beautifully sewn garment that can't be worn!

Another machine method is the overedge stitch. A long time ago, before I could afford a serger, I used this stitch to make my seams neat and have a 'close to professional' look. The overedge stitch, coupled with the special overedge foot, allows you to sew a line of square stitching over the raw edge. The stitches resemble a zigzag stitch...only they're square.This stitch gives the consistency of a zigzag stitch with the mock look and durability of a serger stitch. The only downside is the amount of time it takes to completely sew over the edge of a seam you've already sewn together once. It's like sewing the same seam twice, and can really consume lots of time. Also, since you're using regular spools of thread to do the job of a serger, this method can use tons of thread. The final product is pretty neat and clean though.

Of course, the easiest, quickest method, and my personal favorite, is running your seams through the serger. A serger has three or four spools of thread that interlock over the edge of the seam. This is possible because as you sew, a moving blade cuts off the jagged edge of the seam, leaving it smooth for the machine needles and loopers to enclose them in an intricate pattern of durable thread. Sergers use a massive amount of thread, so you purchase cones of thread for this machine. Once you use a serger, there's no looking back! There have been times when I've been without my serger, and absolutely no sewing got done. I can't live without it!

As a seamstress reaching for professionalism, I believe finishing seams is paramount. It's a good habit to have, and a great finish to all your hard work. Trust me, your customers will thank you for it!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Sewing Patterns

So I love sewing patterns. No, I mean I love patterns...so I can sew! Patterns and fabric. I've been told I have an addiction. Whether it's unhealthy or not is not really known. What I do know is I just like patterns, and I don't even use them a lot of the time. But if I see one I really like, I just can't resist purchasing it!

So the new thing with patterns right now, that's not really new, is PDF patterns. These are patterns you can purchase online, and then download them onto your computer. You never have to worry about the pattern tearing up or pieces getting lost. If anything ever happens to your paper pattern, you can just print out another and tape it together. The thing I really love about PDF patterns, besides not having to wait on them in the snail mail, is that a multi-size pattern doesn't have to drive me crazy. I can cut out the size I need, and if I need that same pattern bigger or smaller, I can print it out, and cut out the new size. No more folding the pieces under on the size I don't need. No more pins in the crotch just so I can cut out the correct one.

PDF patterns add great value to the pattern world. Now, all those beautiful boutique clothes you buy in the store and online, you can make yourself. So gifted person is generous to create pieces and put them and their instructions out there into cyberspace so that you can make the exact item for a fraction of the cost of buying it! No, the patterns aren't $ .99, which is the going price for pattern buying for me, but handmade patterns are worth so much more than the price you pay for them.

Now don't be run off by "hand made" patterns. Most PDF patterns today are only hand made in creation of the completed garment. Thanks to wonderful technology, a pattern can be drawn up and printed by computer. The pieces are not actually hand drawn...not like they used to be.

With that said and done, my spotlight today will be on Mountain Ash Designs. If you have dancers like I do, or maybe a gymnast, or just a really active child, these are the patterns for you. My girls take lots of dance classes several days of the week, and one also takes gymnastics. That's a lot of dance clothes for one week! And dance clothes aint cheap! Any place that actually has variety in dance outfits is going to hit your wallet a little bit too. Being a seamstress, I realize that most of the clothes girls dance in are not even a yard of fabric! Why am I paying $30 for a pair of booty shorts?

Well, I'm not any more! I made a cute black pair the other day that looks exactly like the ones in the store! Plus, they're glittery, which is something I haven't even seen in the store. Having a pattern allows you to make things out of whatever material you want. Creativity is endless! Plus, your child will have something totally original.

Besides the different variations of a garment that Mountain Ash Designs offers, the clothes actually fit. A lot of the patterns you buy in the store don't actually look on your child like the ones on the pattern. I hate it when a leggings pattern produces a loose pair of leggings instead of the fitted ones on the pattern model. The pair of booty shorts I made fit exactly like the picture. That was enough for me! The next pattern I'm going to try is a leotard.

The absolute best thing about PDF patterns is you don't have to sit and wait for someone to check their email, and then send you a file or a link to download from. Right after your payment is received, you can download the file onto your computer. Immediate gratification! Your project can be underway in a matter of minutes.

You can visit Mountain Ash Designs here, and try your hand at all kinds of cool activewear.