Saturday 23 August 2014

Tutorial or Two - Winter Dresses from a Raglan Top Pattern

One of the things that first drew me into reading crafty blogs was the generosity of some beautiful bloggers who not only share ideas, but also share patterns and tutorials ... FOR FREE.  This was and is so amazing to me as I work on improving my sewing skills.  I mean, the thought of spending money on a pattern if you're not sure you can pull it off just kinda freaks me out.  Well, I've now bought several online patterns ... ones that I new I'd use a tonne ... and use them, I definitely do.  But I would never have been brave enough to try this had it not been for the super-clever sewists out there who are generous enough to share their hard work.  Thanks lovely bloggy-type people out there ... a big cyber-hug to you!!

Oh, and as an aside, have you seen and "liked" my Facebook page.  In an effort to get on top of my Facebook page a little more, and make it a resource that might be helpful, I'm going to be posting regular links to cute freebie patterns and tutorials I find in the blogosphere.  Check it out for some inspiration.

Anyway, one of my favourite things to do in my effort to become more creative with my sewing is to find a good base pattern, then play around with it to make it into something else.  That's what I'd like to share today.  Here's a couple of really quick tutorials I've made, using a basic Raglan-sleeve top pattern to make 2 different style winter dresses for my girls.  I used this Ranglan top pattern that I found for free on Scattered Thoughts of A Crafty Mom.  If you haven't seen this blog, check it out.  Jamie is one of my faves!  I first used this pattern when I made this Disco Diva top for Bethany, and it's a great pattern, and the sizing is really good too.  I'm pretty sure any raglan-sleeve top pattern would be fine for this project if you already have one you like, or if you're feeling brave you could always try drafting your own.  I did it 2 winters ago when I made some Raglan-sleeve PJ's for Bethany.  I found a great tutorial on how to do this here, at another of my all-time favourite sewing blogs!

Anyway, this was my first raglan-dress attempt.  Seeing as it's winter here, I used some gorgeous printed fleece fabrics for these dresses.  This fabric caught my eye the minute I walked into my local fabric store ... it was one of those fabrics that just jumps unaided into your arms, and you can't put it down without buying it ... you know what I mean?  I'm not convinced Daddy believes this story, but I'm sticking to it! 
It uses the raglan-sleeve top pattern, lengthened to a drop-waist length, and with a gathered skirt attached.  I added the navy-blue ribbing to the sleeves and neckline because I only had navy-blue or white ribbing on hand, and the flowers in this fabric are actually a cream colour ... white clashed a bit I thought.  But pink and navy is one of those timeless colour combos, and I love this little dress.  I'll admit that I made both girl's dresses a size bigger than they really need, so they are a tad big on them just now ... well you can't blame me for trying to get at least some of next winter from these outfits too!
For Bethany's dress, I modified the raglan-sleeve top pattern to create an A-line dress, then cinched the waist.  I like it, and so does Bethany (Phew!!).  And who ever said wet-weather should stop a photo-shoot ... how good is wet-weather lighting!!! ... and add an umbrella ... whoa ... both of my girls were fighting for a turn in front of the camera!  Oh, and how adorable is this baby deer fabric.  It's another printed fleece.  I tried to get more because I loved it so much, but it was sold out when I went back ... boooo!!!

Anyway, here's a couple of super-quick tutorials in case you want to modify your favourite raglan-sleeve top pattern to make a dress too ... 

Dress 1: Raglan Dress with a Gathered Skirt

You'll need:
- About 1 metre / yard of fabric.  This would work with any fleece or knit fabric, depending on what level of warmth you want.
- A small amount of coordinating rib fabric (for the sleeves and neckline)
- Raglan-sleeve pattern (like this one)
- Sewing machine and coordinating thread.
- Overlocker / Serger (if you want to use it, though knit and fleece fabrics don't fray, so you can always leave the raw edges unfinished!)

1. Use your pattern and cut all your pieces out (ie front, back, sleeves).  You could add a couple of inches to the length of the front/back pieces if you want to make the dropped-waist a little more ... well ... dropped!
2. Assemble and sew your raglan-sleeve top together as per your pattern instructions, but leaving the bottom edge un-finished.

3. For the skirt section, measure the bottom of your top.  Hannah's was 12 inches wide.  Then multiply this number by 1 1/2.  So Hannah's skirt width was 18".
Measure your munchkin from their hip to knee (or whatever length you're after) and add 1 inch.  Hannah's was 9 inches + 1 = 10".  This is the height of your skirt section.

4.  Cut two rectangles as per the above measurements Hannah had 2 pieces measuring 18" x 10".
5. Place these pieces right sides together and sew the side seams (using 1/4 inch seam allowance).  Then turn the bottom edge up 1/2" and hem around (I find it easier to do this before attaching it to the top!)

6.  Using your sewing machine's longest stitch length (mine is number 6) sew a gathering row of stitches along the top raw edge, 1/4" from the edge, and from one side seam, all the way around and back to the same seam.  Don't backstitch at the beginning and end, and leave some threads so you have something to pull for gathering.  Then pull either the top or bottom thread to gather the skirt to fit the top like so.

7.  Insert the top section into your skirt section right sides together, match up the side seams and pin all around like so ...

... then sew all around, using a 1/2" seam allowance.

8.  Flip your dress right-side-out and sew a top-stitching row around the waist, while pushing the seam allowance on the inside up towards the top of the dress, so that it gets held in the top-stitching.  This just helps to keep it all flatter, and I love a bit of top-stitching!

And you're done!  A very simple, yet effective little dress!  And just as warm as any sweater too!

Dress 2: Raglan-Sleeve Dress with an Elastic Waist

You'll need:
- About 1 metre / yard of fabric.  This would work with any fleece or knit fabric, depending on what level of warmth you want.
- A small amount of coordinating rib fabric (for the sleeves and neckline)
- Some 1/2" wide elastic ... enough to fit around your munchkin's waist, plus 2-3 inches to make it more comfortable.
- Raglan-sleeve pattern (like this one)
- Sewing machine and coordinating thread.
- Overlocker / Serger (if you want to use it, though knit and fleece fabrics don't fray, so you can always leave the raw edges unfinished!)

1.  Measure from your munchkin's waist to her knee (or whatever length you want) and add 1/2".  Then place your pattern on your fabric as per the pattern's instructions, extending the bottom of the pattern by the above measurement to make it a dress.
2.  Draw a line from the armpit of your front pattern piece on a diagonal out from the pattern to the bottom of your fabric like so ... this is effectively making the pattern into an A-line style. I measured approximately 4" out from the edge of the pattern piece, and at the bottom of the dress, and this was a good angle for Bethany's size 7 dress.

3.  Cut along this line, and around the top sections of your pattern piece ... like so ...

4. Repeat for the back pattern piece, and also cut out your sleeve pieces as per your pattern.

5.  Assemble your dress as per your raglan-sleeve top pattern instructions, and hem the bottom.

6.  Turn your dress inside-out.  Measure down from the armpit to the approximately location of your munchkin's waist.  I estimated Bethany's waist to be approximately 7" from the arm-pit seam.  Mark this spot with a pin, and repeat on the other side.
7.  Draw a line from one pin to the other like so.  Also measure this distance.  Bethany's was 17 1/2".

8. Cut 2 strips of fabric that are 1 1/2" wide and the width you measured above (plus 1/2 " to cater for the seams) ... so Bethany's strips were 1 1/2" x 18".

9.  Sew the strips together to make a belt-shape casing like so ...

10.  Thread the dress into the casing and line up the side seams.  Then tuck the raw edges of the casing under, and pin to the dress.
 ... then sew around the top and bottom of the casing, approximately 1/8" from the edge so there's enough room for the elastic to go through.  On the bottom edge, leave a 1" gap at the beginning of your row of stitching to allow threading of the elastic.
11.  Use a safety pin to thread your elastic through the casing ...
... then join the ends of the elastic by overlapping slightly and stitching wiht a zig zag stitch.

And you're done.  

Two dresses, from 1 top pattern, which was available free online!  Yay for that!  Hope you have as much fun as I did!

Threading My Way_Featured

Saturday 16 August 2014

Free Pattern and Tutorial: Lacey-Love Sweater

Have you ever had a design in your mind  ... like forever ... and just never got round to working on it?  Well, that's what I have for you today.  I first dabbled with this design last winter when I made a cute little sweater for Hannah to match her mustard-colour Sweat-Pant Leggings It turned out to be a little big on her, so I put it away until this year, and she's worn it heaps ... here she is wearing it with her Disco Diva Pants.

In my mind, I loved this as a super-quick, very easy, two-pattern-piece type sweater, with the little bat-wing feature to just give it something different while also helping with the snuggly-warmness of it.  I envisioned it being a super-snuggly, pull-it-on-after-school-on-those-freezing-winter's-days type sweater.  And I'd also been pondering about lengthening it a bit to make it into a dress.

And a couple of weekends ago, I finally got around to it.  I stole borrowed some cute pink and blue fleece from my Mum's stash (shhh, she was away on holidays at the time ... don't tell her ... I bet she won't notice!)  She even had some matching rib for the neckline, sleeves and waist.  Seriously, my Mum's stash is SOMETHING ELSE ... 

Then I got to work ... and here's what I came up with...
A blue sweater for Bethany ... perfect for playing in the yard on those cold wintery afternoons at our place.  I like how the loose bat-wing arm-pit section and the tighter forearm features turned out.  Nice for a change from your usual fleece sweater style I reckon.
... And great for swinging too I'm told!

I added the little heart feature with some cotton lace I had lying around on the table next to my sewing machine ... it just seemed like the thing to do at the time, and I like the pretty little feature on what would otherwise be a very plain sweater...hence, the Lacey-Love Sweater.

Then I got started on a dress version for Hannah.  I left the rib off the bottom to make it look more dress-like, and basically just lengthened the pattern by about 8 inches to turn the sweater into a dress. She was stoked (any chance to wear a dress and her beloved boots is a win for Hannah this year!)
And she thinks this dress is great for balancing ...
... And even a little dance ... She is so hilarious at the moment!
We might have had just a tiny bit of fun with this shoot outside one afternoon just before the rain came.

Anyway, I snapped some tutorial pics and have finally got around to putting it together to share with you.  I've also added a VERY ... read VERY ... rough PDF pattern.  This is the first time I've done a PDF pattern.  It's nothing fancy (just hand-drawn) and only in approximate size 3 and approximate size 7 (the sizes I made for my girls), but if you happen to be sewing for a munchkin in those sizes, go ahead and take a shortcut by using the ready-made patterns.  Just remember to print them off at 100% size and check the 1-inch measurement box I added to make sure they've printed off full size before you cut.  I've totally made clothes too small because I didn't print them off at full size!

If you want a different size, don't stress, I've included steps in my tutorial below for how to make your own pattern for this little sweater.

Here's what you need:
- Patterns for Size 3 or Size 7, or some tracing paper, a top that fits and a pencil to make your own pattern
- Fleece or knit fabric (whatever weight you want!) - About 1 metre / yard was enough for these ones/
- Coordinating rib fabric for the neckline, sleeves and waist (just a small amount)
- Coordinating cotton
- A length of lace, or ribbon, or ric-rac, or other trim for the heart embellishment.  
- Your usual sewing machine, overlocker / serger (if you have one), scissors, pins

So, let's get started:
1.  If you're making size 3 or size 7 print off your pattern and piece together then cut out.  I've numbered the pages to try to make it a bit simpler to work out.  It should look something like this once it's all together:
You can then skip down to step 3 below.

2.  If you're making your own pattern .... here's how to do it.  Grab a long sleeve top that fits.  Fold it in half with the back facing out.  Lay it on a piece of tracing paper like so, and using a pencil draw along the fold, along the bottom, and about half way up the other side. 

Then arc your line out to create the bat-sleeve, and joint in to the sleeve again about half-way along.  Continue across the wrist of the sleeve.  Finally, grab a ruler and draw a straight line between the neckline and the bottom of the sleeve.  Then go around again with a marker, making sure you have left a 1/2 gap between the shirt, and your line to allow for seam allowance.  Also trace around the neckline.
 You should end up with something that looks like this ... Just draw a slight lower arc at the neckline to allow for the front neckline to be a little lower.

3.  Take your fabric and fold it in half length-ways, then place the straight edge of your pattern along that fold and pin the pattern down to the fabric to hold it still.  Carefully cut around the pattern (you'll be cutting through two layers of fabric).  This will be the back piece. 

Remove the pins and on your pattern piece, cut along the line that you drew for the front neckline, then go through the same process of folding the fabric, placing your pattern and cutting around to get your front piece.

4. I find it easier to do any embellishments like our heart, before sewing the sweater together.  So, take your front piece, and place it flat.  Grab a piece of paper and trace, freehand or (if you're lazy like me) free-cut a heart shape.  Place the heart shape on your front piece and draw around it with a pencil, chalk or even a pen (if your lace is thick enough that the pen won't show through later).
Like so ...

5.  Grab your lace / ric-rac / ribbon, and carefully sew it on top of your heart shape.  I started at the bottom point of the heart, and just folded the end of the lace under to conceal the raw edge.  Set your sewing machine to a small zig-zag, then gently "encourage" the lace to bend around the curves as you sew.
When you get back to your starting point, cut the lace off, leaving just enough to turn the raw end under and overlap your starting point slightly.

6.  Place your front and back pieces right-sides-together and sew down the arm seam, from the neckline to the end of the sleeve.  If you have an overlocker / serger you can finish off the seams.  If not, don't worry as fleece and knits don't fray much anyway!
7.  Next, go ahead and sew the sides together, starting at the bottom and sewing up and around the bat wing to the end of the sleeve.  Again finish the edges off if you have an overlocker/serger.
8.  Now for the waistband.  Measure along your waistband.  Bethany's was 16" wide.  Multiply this by 2, and add 1/2 inch.  So for Bethany, I used a length of  33".
Cut your rib this length (33") by 4".
Then fold the length in half and sew down the short side to make a tube.  Fold the tube over on itself, concealing the seam like so.
Place the tube around the waistband like so, matching the raw edge and pin to hold in place, then sew around the edge using a 1/2" seam allowance and finish the raw edges.  You shouldn't have to stretch as you sew too much, as I made the waistband about the same size as the sweater for a looser/comfier fit.

9. Measure along the back of your neckline like so.  Bethany's was 7 1/2".  Double this figure (15").
 Cut a piece of rib that is this measurement (15") by 3" ...
...then repeat the process as with the waistband above.  You will need to stretch the rib a little as you sew it to make it fit, as the rib will be slightly smaller than your neckline.  This just makes the neckline a little more fitted, but still able to get over your munchkin's head.

Once you've sewn the rib in, sew a top stitch around the neckline, which secures the seam allowance on the inside to make if face downwards.  I think the neckline just looks a little neater and feels a little comfier this way!

10.  And finally, for the sleeves ... measure the sleeve width (Bethany's was 3").  Double this (6").
Cut you rib pieces this length (6") by 4" and repeat the process as with the waist band and neckline above.  I don't bother with the top-stitching for the sleeves, as it can be mightly hard to sew around a fiddly little sleeve.

Oh, and if you want to make a dress instead, just measure your munchkin from hip to knee, and add that much to your pattern piece, adding an extra inch for hemming.
I hope you enjoyed this one.  I had so much fun finally getting to this project, and also had a ball figuring out how to do a PDF pattern.  It was fun ... I might even do more of them!!

Oh, and remember if you do make one of these sweaters, please let me know and send me a pic.  It absolutely makes my day when I see what you've made!!