Finished: Ladies’ Tailoring I (TL 111)!

Hi, guys! Hope you’re all having a great week! I’ve been meaning to write about last semester’s class for ages, but kept forgetting! Now that I’m nearly halfway through Ladies’ Tailoring II, I definitely need to tell you guys about Ladies’ Tailoring I!

Ladies’ Tailoring I is the first course in a four-semester credit certificate program at FIT. You don’t have to be enrolled in the certificate program to take it, and you don’t even have to take it for a grade, so don’t let that stop you from taking it! :) My class was a mix of hobby sewers, garment industry professionals, and full-time students, so there was a wide variety of skill and experience levels present.  The professor assumed we had some sewing knowledge, but we didn’t need to have previous experience with industrial sewing machines as she taught us how to thread and operate them. So if you’ve been wanting to take a class at FIT but are nervous about using an industrial, this class was a great way to get comfortable with them!

The class is focused on developing basic tailoring skills for cutting, sewing, and finishing, as well as choosing traditional materials and notions. While we used a sewing machine for construction, most of our time was spent on hand basting and sewing. While my day-to-day sewing isn’t very careful or slow, I’ve definitely found myself developing better sewing habits since I took the class- it really pays off to, say, always mark the wrong side of your pieces, or baste in zippers before stitching them. Taking time to save time, if you will!

The class is structured so that the professor demonstrates a technique, you try it out on a sample, and then you apply it to your garment. In this class, we handed in weekly samples- they accounted for a small percentage of our final grade, but more importantly, we got feedback on our technique before moving on to the final garment. It’s so much better to make mistakes on a sample rather than a garment! The final projects, two skirts, were due on the last class, so we were able to work on them throughout the semester.

In this class, the professor provided patterns for the projects (they were both simple straight skirts, one lined and one unlined), but she allowed us a bit of flexibility with the patterns so you could incorporate different elements in the skirts, as long as you included the required bits at some point (for example, you had to turn in at least one double welt pocket, but you could choose which skirt to put it on). I was happy that I was able to use odds and ends from my stash for every sample and project in this class- woohoo!

Some of the techniques we covered were: centered and lapped zippers, hong kong piping, hand overcasting, lining, applying sew-in interfacing, bar tacks and other decorative hand stitches, side seam pockets, welt pockets, 1/4 top pockets, and hand-worked buttonholes. So, nothing terribly revolutionary if you’ve been sewing for a while, but my skills definitely improved in all these areas and I found that the pocket techniques gave much nicer results than any I’ve sewn using home sewing patterns. But, like all things tailoring, they require many steps and many pattern pieces! But a faced, French seamed pocket is about a million times nicer than my usual “ehhh, just cut out a pair of pocket bags and jam them into the side seams” approach!

Bar tack in action!

Overall, I really enjoyed this class. I’m not always a fan of sewing slowly and carefully, but I really have noticed better results in my home sewing after taking this class. Of course, every class experience varies based on the instructor, but mine was kind and patient, and you could come to her with any questions and get a clear answer. And the format she preferred, doing a demonstration and then allowing us to try it right away, made it easier to learn and remember techniques, unlike my patternmaking class where we often had a lecture that lasted the length of the entire class. Like my patternmaking final project, I’ll never actually wear these garments (straight skirts don’t suit my lifestyle or taste), but they’re headed off to Dress for Success, so hopefully they’ll have a happy ending there!

Alright, friends, what are your thought on tailoring? Sound fun? Tedious? Both? Have you taken any tailoring classes, or would you, if you could?

Wool + Pleather Linden Minidress!

Hi, guys! Hope you’re all well and sewing up a storm! OK, question: do you have seasonal color palettes? I know I do! Sometimes I feel like my closet is split between two different people- winter me and summer me! In warm weather, I’m all about bright colors and fun prints, but in the winter, I wear much more subdued colors, like heathered browns, navy, or, my very favorite, greys. My cold weather clothing drawer is almost entirely grey! The unexpected benefit of this is that I have a really, really easy time getting dressed in the winter- my separates all mix and match, and for once in my life, even my boots, tights, hat, and scarf get along with the rest of what I’m wearing, yay!

Grainline Studio Linden Minidress | Ginger Makes

So, for February’s Mood Sewing Network project*, I decided to give one last hurrah to Lady Grey and choose this delicious wool blend sweater knit. Guys. It’s SO thick and warm, but it’s amazingly lightweight. It’s a nice firm knit, so I don’t have to worry about it being too sheer or bagging out, but the wrong side has tons of loft so it’s really incredibly comfortable in cold weather. I planned to look for a bit of pleather in black for a bit of contrast, but I found this beautiful grey Rag & Bone pleather in the vinyl section on the third floor and couldn’t resist it. I really like that the contrast comes from the textures rather than color- it’s subtle, but fun.

Grainline Studio Linden Minidress | Ginger Makes

The pattern I used is the Grainline Studio Linden sweatshirt. This is actually the fourth Linden I’ve made this month, but I haven’t blogged any of the others. I made one for my #LindenSwap partner, another for my bestie, then one for me. So, this pattern was on my mind and I decided to just go for it. In Grainline sizing, my hips are two sizes smaller than my bust, so I just chose the size based on my bust measurement and dropped the hem by 9″ to give me this minidress length. The extra size through the hips gives me plenty of ease to move and sit. I used the hem band piece unaltered, since I didn’t add any additional width, but I shortened the sleeves by 4.5″ and adjusted the cuffs accordingly to give me a three-quarter-length sleeve. If I’d thought this through a bit more, I would have planned for the sleeves to finish at this length without a cuff… the cuff seam allowance is a bit bulky. I thought about cutting off the cuffs and turning under a hem, but I don’t really want to lose the sleeve length, at least not while it’s this cold! Lori suggested using the pleather for the cuffs with a v-notch detail, which could be really cute and would give me more ease (since the pleather doesn’t have any stretch, which you usually want in a cuff).

Grainline Studio Linden Minidress | Ginger Makes

For the pleather details, I cut two pieces 2″ by 24″ (a little longer than my sleeve length) and lightly pressed the long edges under by 3/8″. I tested this first on scraps, but I was able to use a warm, dry iron on the wrong side without any damage to the pleather. Then, I centered the strips over the shoulder notch and the midpoint of the wrist on the flat sleeve pieces and taped them in place with light masking tape. If I’d had a fabric glue stick, I would have used that instead, but I didn’t, so I was stuck with tape. I edgestitched the pleather in place, sewing in the same direction (i.e. top to bottom) for each side to help prevent pulling and puckering. I was a bit nervous about sewing pleather to a knit, so I did a few tests before I sewed on the actual sleeves. I had success using an 80/12 universal needle and holding the fabric in place firmly in front of and behind the presser foot so it wouldn’t stretch out of shape or drag. Then I trimmed off the excess pleather and inserted the sleeves like usual. Ta-da!

Ahhhhh… look at that soothing grey-on-grey action. It’s so comforting! It makes me want to get back into my winter cocoon and stay there til spring! Now, do you have a seasonal color palette, or am I just a crazy person? Do tell!

*Once a month I receive a fabric allowance from Mood to make something fun! I blog it first on the MSN blog, then over here. If I use stash materials or things purchased from another source, I’ll let you know in my post. :)

Crazy Dog Lady Sewing Challenge!!!

Um, obviously, the second I heard about the Crazy Dog Lady Sewing Challenge, I knew I had to join in! Cause… OBVIOUSLY. Really, I’m always looking for an excuse to fly my freak crazy dog lady flag! I love love love dogs, and love sewing, and any chance to combine the two is bound to be PURE MAGIC. OK, about the challenge… it’s hosted by Tanya, Carlee, and Sophie-Lee, and really, all there is to it is to sew something dog-themed, dog-related, or for your dog before March 15th. Easy! So, fellow freaks dog ladies, there’s plenty of time for you to play along! Get stitchin’! I already had the perfect fabric in my stash, this horror show digital print from Spandex House (they have a super weird website that’s really hard to search, but there’s a very similar dog print spandex here). I’ve had this fabric for a while and was super happy to have a nudge to sew it up! [Sidebar: Spandex House is the PERFECT place to go to when you’re looking in your closet and realize you don’t have any stretchy clothes featuring French fries/clownfish/bananas/guns AND roses… you can find all those prints there, as well as many more that no one would EVER want.] I mean, theoretically, it’s possible to love something without feeling the need to plaster it on your body, but I mean, if you CAN plaster the thing you love all over your body, it would be WRONG not to! So I figured leggings would use as much of the print as possible. I used the Megan Nielsen Virginia leggings pattern… I’ve made it twice before and it’s a piece of cake to sew up. I keep forgetting that I need to go up a size, but next time I really will. They fit just fine, but when I put them on, I hear the terrifying sound of stitches popping. But realistically, even if I split the crotch of these babies midday, that still probably won’t be as embarrassing as the fact that I’ll be a 32-year-old in puppy print leggings (ESPECIALLY if I use the leftover scraps to sew a matching running top… can’t wait to terrify the neighborhood!)! I’m already pretty sure these two don’t want to be seen with me: Moms are sooooooooo embarrassing, am I right? OK, friends, will you be getting your Crazy Dog Lady on? Any pug-related projects in the pipeline? Do tell!!

Book Report + Giveaway: Girly Style Wardrobe

Hi, guys! Hope you’re all staying warm if you’re in the northeast and enjoying a lovely holiday weekend if you’re in the States!

Today, I’m sharing a review of “Girly Style Wardrobe” by Yoshiko Tsukiori. Laurence King Publishing asked if I would like a review copy of this book, and even though I don’t have kids, I wanted to check out the book because I was interested to see Tsukiori’s aesthetic applied to children’s clothing (she’s written a couple of popular women’s pattern books). I really like the flowy, fun dresses that Tsukiori designs, but feel like I would look like a little kid in them. So, unsurprisingly, her designs are really nice for kids! This is a new English translation of a book that was published in Japan in 2007, so if the cover looks familiar, you may have seen the Japanese edition somewhere!

OK, so there are 28 patterns in the book, including tops, tunics, dresses, skirts, shorts, pants, a bolero, a smock, a little parka (my favorite!), a slip, a cap, and a purse. A couple of the “patterns” use the same block, but say, shorten the length (dress to tunic) or swap out long sleeves for short, but I think I counted 24 different designs (don’t hold me to that! I’m lousy at keeping track of things!). Like other Japanese pattern books, the patterns need to be traced and the seam allowance needs to be added. The sizing is based on height and fits approximately ages 3 to 10. There are a couple of patterns that you need to draw pieces for, like a tiered skirt that’s made entirely of rectangles.

Construction of these garments seems pretty straightforward. There’s nothing very complicated, but at the same time, the styles aren’t so simple that they’re boring. They include lots of pretty details like lace, gathers, pleats, and pintucks, and are styled in soft florals and pastels (I mean, the book is called “Girly Style Wardrobe”, so it makes sense that it would be a pretty feminine aesthetic). But I think it would be fun to sew these up in mod prints and bold colors.

With the huge caveat that I’m not a parent, this seems like a good investment if you sew for kids. There’s a wide range of styles, and at a retail price of 20USD, they’re a good value (you can even get it for $15 at The Book Depository or Amazon). There are even a few patterns that would totally work for boys, too, so if the little girl in your life has a brother, you could get a little more bang for your buck!

Like you usually see in these books, the instructions are fairly minimal, but there are lots of helpful diagrams. I really like sewing with visual aids like this… it’s easy to figure out how everything goes together, and I feel like I learn a lot just looking at the diagrams!

OK, as usual, I can give away a free copy to a U.S. reader! If you’d like to be entered in the drawing, please fill out the Google form below before Monday, February 23rd at 11:59PM EST and I’ll pick a winner using! Good luck!

Ginger Made: Hestapeysa (Sweater with Horses)

Guys! Look at my ridiculous sweater!!!!!

Hestapeysa | Ginger Makes

It’s huge and puffy, it’s totally shapeless, fits kinda weird and is overall pretty ridiculous, but I love it! But wait, let me give you the back story!

Hestapeysa | Ginger Makes

This sweater’s story starts back in July, when Man Friend and I spent a week in Iceland. You guys. Iceland. It’s amazing- absolutely beautiful, unique, and just… amazing. All the people we met were warm and kind, and to top it all off, they wore incredible hand-knitted sweaters! I was sorely tempted to buy a sweater at the Handknitting Association of Iceland, and while the price was great for something handmade (about 115USD with the exchange rate while we were there), it was just a bit more than I wanted to spend. SO, I decided to take a stab at knitting one myself, even though I hadn’t been knitting much at the time and had never tried colorwork. Now, the one major downside of visiting Iceland is that it’s EXPENSIVE (to Americans, anyway… maybe costs don’t seem as high tof European visitors). Food, lodging, clothing, everything was really costly… except for yarn! I purchased the yarn and two patterns for about 30USD… cheaper than I could possibly source 100% wool yarn anywhere in the States! You can also find knitted items and yarn for sale everywhere- gift shops, drugstores, grocery stores! Crazy!

There were quite a few patterns to choose from, but I knew I wanted this one: Hestapeysa (sweater with horses). It’s available as a free download, in English, if you want one of your own! Dudes, I was one of those little kids obsessed with horses for as long as I can remember. I actually got a pony when I was maybe 7 (long story short, my dad found an ad in the paper for a $75 pony… the only catch was that it had never been touched by a human hand!) and the highlight of my childhood was pretending like I was winning the Kentucky Derby or riding for the Pony Express. So when we spent a morning riding horseback in the Icelandic hills and valleys, I was on cloud nine! I wanted to make a horse sweater to commemorate what was, honestly, one of the happiest days of my life!

Fun fact: when the folks at the horse farm found out I’d grown up riding a pony, they got really excited to find me a horse that would be “really fun”. I’m missing the fear normal people have around large animals, but even I got nervous when they told me that the horse’s name, Rody, was an old Viking word that meant “blood smear”. They insisted that the name referred to his color rather than any murderous tendencies, but still! Rody was a bit crazy, but awesome, and we had a great time together- he was a lot like a NYC driver in that he loved tailgating and wanted to pass every other horse in order to go faster!

OK, OK, I could go on about horses for hours, but I’ll get back to the sweater! The yarn is Ístex Létt-Lopi, which is aran weight, so it knits up pretty quickly. I knew I wanted to use kinda natural colors for the sweater, so I chose acorn heather and light beige heather. But I liked the idea of using an unnatural color (for horses), so I picked blue for them. The blue horses really make me smile! The yarn is really warm and is a bit itchy, so I’ll always wear this with something underneath it. There’s just one women’s size, meant to be about 43″ at the chest, but my gauge was a bit tighter, and I calculated that I would end up with about 40″, giving me 6″ of ease, which seemed right (you can see my Ravelry project here, if you like those sort of details).

Hestapeysa | Ginger Makes

I had no idea how to get started with stranded knitting, so I reached out to Sarah from Knit York City, one of the most skilled knitters that I know. She pointed me in the direction of this post from Ysolda Teague explaining color dominance. I was still confused about how to hold yarn when you have more than one color, but I found this totally helpful post from Tasha at By Gum By Golly and it gave me the confidence to dive in. I decided to hold one color in each hand, knitting continental (like I usually do) with the left-hand yarn and English-style with the right. It was a little tricky at first, but got easier quickly. This Knitty post by Theresa Vinson Stenerson really helped me sort out the floats. I definitely didn’t keep my tension even throughout the yoke- I was worried after I’d knit the horses that they were too tight, so I really loosened up my floats above them and those stitches look a bit wonky and loose. But oh well! I’ll have a better idea next time!

I started knitting this in October and was pretty slow. I picked it back up over New Year’s, joined the sleeves to the body mid-month, and then sped through the colorwork in a week. It’s just so fun to see the pattern develop- I stayed up past my bedtime nearly every night because I just wanted to do a few more rows! Colorwork looks really complicated, but once you’ve figured out how to hold the yarn, it’s easy to keep track of where you are in the chart and you’re just knitting stockinette in the round, so it’s really pretty quick compared to anything cabled.

Hestapeysa | Ginger Makes

The sweater is a little crazy, and dude, it is WARM. My face and hands were cold when I was taking these photos, but I was otherwise completely comfortable (and it was about 20F!). If you’re not familiar with this kind of knitting, the color you’re not knitting with gets carried behind your stitches, so the yoke is a double thickness of yarn. Also, the sweater is so bulky that I’m wearing a flannel buttondown underneath it in these photos and you can’t even tell! Oh, I should probably mention the hat, which is also handmade. This was a quick knit with a single skein of Cascade Eco Cloud I’ve had in my stash for a long time- I thought the color would go nicely with my furry Gerard. You guys, Eco Cloud is SO soft and nice! It’s a chainette yarn made of merino & alpaca, so it looks really cool knit up and is really springy and squishy. Plus, the colorway is named “Bunny”! I used another free download, the Mock Rib Watch Cap. It’s very, very easy and would be a great first hat project!

Hestapeysa | Ginger Makes

OK, tell me- do you knit? What’s on your needles? Any favorite patterns or recent projects? Were you a horse-crazy kid like me? Would you get on a horse named “Bloodsmear”?

Rigel Bomber January: Your Bombers!!!

Hi, guys!!!!! I’m sorry to bring you sad news, but Rigel Bomber January is over! It’s OK to cry… just let out all the bad feelings. The good news is that I think a roundup of some of the amazing bomber jackets you guys sewed will lift your spirits! What say you? Stay tuned until the end… I’ll reveal my favorite bomber, the winner of a Papercut Pattern of her choice!

OK, so I’m only featuring 1/3 of the finished jackets here… to see the rest, check out Kat‘s post and Mel’s post! Also, there are lots more cool bombers on Instagram… just search for the tag #rigelbomberjanuary and you’ll see them (I just couldn’t find a way to pull photos from IG that wasn’t super time-intensive… sorry!)!

First up, here’s Sally‘s adorable polka dot bomber:

Here’s Carlalissa’s (with a bonus doggie photobomb)!

Check out Amiria’s!

Rose Cherry made a super cute bomber inspired by Shanni’s:

Becky Jo made a beautiful version:

Here’s Eirenep’s lovely floral version:

Now, I want to show you Kat‘s version! She’s managed to fit snails, pea pods, AND leopard print in hers!

Now, here’s my favorite jacket… but guys, I had a really, REALLY hard time choosing just one! I loved seeing all your bombers and really could have picked every single one of them. But, I finally had to just choose one, so, it’s…

Oh, She Dabbles! I really like the mix of fabrics she chose!

Super cool! Girl, I’ll be in touch to hook you up with your free pattern!

Alright, that about wraps it up! Thanks so much for playing along! January was much more fun and bright this year! Now, tell me, which is your favorite jacket? And what’s on your sewing machine right now? Oh, and don’t forget to check out Kat and Mel‘s blogs to see the rest of the bombers!

How To… Sew with Faux Fur!

Sewing with Faux Fur | Ginger Makes

Hi, guys! Thank you all for your kind words about my furry Gerard! It sounds like many of you are interested in sewing with faux fur, which really makes me happy! So I wanted to be sure to get this tutorial up quickly so you can get started right away! Of course, there are always multiple ways to do things, so I’m not saying this is the right/only way to do it… it’s just how I handle faux fur!

First things first, gather your supplies!

  • faux fur (the one I used for my coat has a woven backing, but some that I’ve used at work have knit backings)
  • small scissors (larger than embroidery, but easier to control than shears)
  • awl (something like this is fine)
  • comb (this is a regular comb like my dad always used on his hair, hee)
  • spray bottle filled with water
  • snack
  • riveting audiobook (sewing with faux fur gets boring! a $2 download of The Count of Monte Cristo was a lifesaver during this project and several others… it’s 60 hours long!!!)
  • vacuum (furry bits fly everywhere and things get really messy really quick!)

sewing with faux fur | Ginger Makes

First things first, think long and hard about your nap. Faux fur is directional- take a look at it, pet it, and you’ll see what I mean! You really, really, really don’t want to end up with one piece of your coat, for example, with the nap running a different direction than the rest! Where this gets tricky is when you’re dealing with things like collars and facings. I find it really helpful to mark an arrow on the pattern pieces to help me remember which way things need to be oriented. Also, if you’re making something like a coat, it’s good to think through what actually needs to be cut out of the fur. You might want to use another fabric for some of your facings or line to the edges to cut down on bulk. Once I’ve confirmed how things need to be cut out, I lay out the pieces and trace them directly onto the backing. I use a yellow sharpie- it writes much more smoothly on the bumpy backing than chalk does, and I don’t have to worry about it being visible through the fur.

When you cut, do small snips into the backing rather than large cuts. The goal is to just be cutting the backing, not the fur itself.

Here are my two pieces, side by side. You can see the nap is going in the same direction. Pin ’em together with long pins. Sometimes I use regular wooden clothes pins (the kind you use to hang laundry on the line), too, if things are getting really thick. I always pin perpendicular and always use pins with a colored ball head… dressmaking pins will get lost in the fur!

Now, when you sew with faux fur, you want to sew in the direction of the nap. Normally when you sew garments, you sew them in a way that makes the grainline happy (usually from the bottom of the garment up, from wider to skinnier). But with fur, nap is more important! At work we aren’t using fur for garments, and the seams don’t need to be flat, so we use a zigzag stitch and sew about 1/4″ seams. But for this coat, I just did a regular straight stitch, but I lengthened it to about 3mm to get a normal-looking seam in such thick fabric. I put a lot of pressure on the two layers to help them go under the presser foot as flat as possible.  Now, hide your kids and hide your wife before I tell you this terrifying fact: I leave the pins in as I sew and just go right over them! Naughty, right?! But it helps to keep the fur from shifting. I also like to sew in little stretches rather than one long seam, so I can stop to make sure everything is still oriented correctly and the layers haven’t shifted too much.

This is what the seam looks like from the wrong side. OK, I know that some people like to trim the fur out of the seam allowance before sewing, but I don’t do that (I don’t want to accidentally trim too much and have an ugly seam!). It’s totally cool to disagree with me here… this is just how I like to do it. OK, before trimming, I use the comb to gently pull the fur out of the seam allowance by combing against the nap.

See how much fur was caught in the seam?? Then I use my small scissors to trim it close to the backing (some people shave the fur, but I don’t have an appropriate tool and I’m sure Man Friend would have a fit if I tried using any of his shaving equipment for this!). This is where your spray bottle can come in handy. I spritz it lightly so the fur bits don’t fly away as much and are more manageable. The water has never bothered any faux fur that I’ve used, but it’s probably a good idea to check on a swatch just to make sure.

OK, that’s better, but there’s still some fur caught in the seam. So I use my awl to gently pull any tricky bits out of the seam.

That’s the ticket!

OK, let’s take a look at the front!

Looks a little gross. So, let’s use the comb, against the nap, to lift the fur out of the seam allowance.

Looking better…

Let’s just use the awl to pull out a little bit more…


Looks good to me! One last thing to talk about is pressing the seams. I’ve never tried to iron faux fur, so for the coat, I just finger pressed it and then catch stitched the seams open by hand. I didn’t have one handy, but Claire Schaeffer suggested trying a clean paint roller to press your seams open, which sounds like fun! (Also, Claire Schaeffer’s Fabric Sewing Guide has lots of information about sewing with faux fur if you want some further reading… I have an older edition of this book that I bought used for just a few dollars and it’s really, really useful).

Alright, I hope this is helpful! Anyone have any other tips to add or different techniques that have worked for them? Please share! :)


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