Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pleated Neckline Top

dressin up week

This top took some work.

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Well, actually, it was really pretty simple to make. Making it look good on, that’s what took the work.

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In fact, it took so much work to make it look decent on (notice the ribbon belt as a last ditch effort to give it some shape), I’m not going to share a tutorial with you. I will tell you what I did, and if you find a way to improve on it, go for it!

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I cut two wide sections of fabric and left them folded the way it was on the bolt (this way I didn’t have to finish the neckline). Then I just pleated the entire width of the sections with 1 inch pleats. I sewed up the side seams and sewed the tops together to make 1.5” wide shoulder straps, thus making a boat neck style. I love this part of the top. I finished off the arm holes and then discovered how shapeless, billowy and non-attractive the top ended up (once you got below the neckline). I tried taking it in on the sides and the front and back were still just as ugly. So I did a somewhat bubble style hemline with and added elastic so it would bunch. Folding the elastic under made it wearable around the hips. So I had a great top at the neck and a great top at the hips. Everything else in between was just ugly. So a thick band of grosgrain ribbon around the ribs added just the right definition in shape.

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Since I want what I’m making to be wearable into the fall, I tried it out with a jacket, skinny jeans and some paten-gray-peep0toe-sling-back heels (which I LOVE but have yet to wear beyond pictures for this blog). All in all, it’s a shirt I’m sure I’ll wear often, and in reality, it only took an hour to make. Now if one of you finds a way to actually make it attractive on its own, I’d love to see it!

Parties I might link up with:

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Dress That Tried Not To Be

dressin up week

***Don’t forget about the Shabby Apple dress giveaway! Wednesday is the last day to enter!***
Wow. Today’s post has taken a lot of work to get here. First, I decided to try and knock off this jacket that I saw in a boutique in Delaware back in April.

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But my attempt didn’t turn out too well. I think I’ll let it sit for a few months and see what I can do with it.

Then, I tried to make this dress from JCrew.


I just couldn’t get the gathers to sit right, and after looking at other pictures of the listing, I realized I don’t think I could have ever made it look like it does on this mannequin. If I’d just seen the pictures of it on the model, I probably would have never pinned it.

So after ripping out stitches twice (and serger stitches at that!), I went back to my clothing pins and remembered this dress from Anthropologie.


Anthro no longer carries this dress, but thanks to this post from Effortless Anthropologie I know that it cost $118. (WOW!) But switching the styles this late in the game couldn’t be easy, of course. I couldn’t get the drape to sit right, but I liked the addition of the knots at the shoulders. With a few tucks, I finally reached the point where I liked this dress.

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This dress it different from my usual style, so it took a while to figure out a few ways to wear it.

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I liked the addition of a belt. And since fall is approaching and we’ve had a couple of gray mornings, I thought I’d give a cooler weather option a try.

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Adding the belt, a denim jacket and my boots turned it into a look I really like. Still a departure from my norm, but something I would probably admire on someone else and think was too “cool” of a look for me to pull off. Funny how we tell ourselves things like that, isn’t it?

At the point of attaching the top to the skirt was when I started having problems, so I don’t have pictures from that point on. But I can show you up until then and walk you through how I finished.

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I started by cutting the front of the bodice. I used a tank I like the fit of as my guide, but added several extra inches to the middle. Then I cut the back the same as the tank’s back.

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The back is on top of the front here. You can see how much wider the front is. For the skirt, cut two panels to the length you want, plus an extra inch for the hem and an extra inch for the waist band. Make them 1 1/3 of your width (that way you’ll have enough to gather for some flow but not so much it gets bulky).

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Sew the side seams of your skirt together (right sides together). I used my serger, but you can easily just use the knit stitch on your regular machine. Check out this post for tips on sewing with knits.

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Fold the waist band over an inch and sew it about 1/8 inch in (I used the knit stitch on my machine at this point). Leave about a 1 inch opening for you to feed the elastic in.

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Sew around the top of the band, this time not leaving an opening. Make sure the space between the two seams is wide enough to fit your elastic through. I used 1/4” elastic. I also didn’t need much space above the top seam since I would be using my serger. If you’re using your machine, just make sure you leave enough room to sew the skirt to the top without having to sew over the elastic. Using a safety pin, run the elastic through the casing. Then sew the two ends of the elastic together. Make sure that it will fit snuggly at your natural waist since you’ll need the elastic to add shape to a dress that can potentially make you look very shapeless. Close up the casing by sewing the 1 inch opening closed.

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Sew your top pieces together at the shoulders and side seams. To attach your bodice to the skirt, turn your bodice right side out and your skirt inside out. Line up the bottom edge of the bodice with the top of the waist band of the skirt, so they are right sides together. Pin together at the side seams first. For the back of the dress, you’ll be pinning it directly over all the gathers from the elastic. I didn’t pin the front since I knew I’d be stretching the skirt as I went. Sew it together, starting with sewing the back (because it will be easier). When you get to sewing the front, pull the skirt so it stretches to the length of your top. If the top is still wider than the skirt, just gather it a little bit as you go while you sew.
Finish off your neckline and sleeves. I just serged around the edges because I liked the idea of a more raw look. For the hem, I folded the hem up on the outside of the skirt (I liked the idea of it looking like a raw edged strip sewn around the hemline) and serged it.

For the knots, make two tubes of fabric, tie them in a knot, and wrap around the straps, and sew the ends together. My knots are not sewn in place because I like the idea of being able to change their positions.

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It was at this point that I realized the neckline just wasn’t working for me, so I folded it over and sewed two darts in it and then finally liked the way it draped.

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Then play around with it, find a look you like, and send me pictures so I can see it too!

Thanks for stopping by!

Parties I’ll be linking up with:

Tips & Tools: Self Portraits

Let’s pause Dressin’ Up Week for just a moment…

t and t tuesday

I have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with self portraits. I like them because I can control the shot—the angle, where the focus is, how much of me is actually in the picture, etc. I hate them because I feel so awkward taking them. But when 90% (rough estimate here) of the sewing and crafting projects are meant to be worn by me, they have become a must.

I feel like I’ve kind of gotten a formula down for taking a good picture of myself—one where I don’t look too angry or physically awkward. That doesn’t mean I don’t delete plenty. But at least now I only need to take 5 pictures to get a decent shot rather than the 20-30 of the past.

So here you go: my tips for taking a better picture of yourself. Keep in mind, my camera is typically balanced on top of a plastic tub sitting on my step ladder. I just move which step it sits on for which part of me needs to be highlighted.

1. Lean against a wall.

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Use that wall to create a solid back drop behind you. If you have both your butt and shoulder blades touching the wall, your posture is more likely to look good. When you use the wall, you aren’t left trying to awkwardly find a way to stand attractively.

2. Turn the hips and pop a knee.

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Just standing straight up and down, straight at the camera is going to make you look wide and flat or wide and curvy in the wrong places. Turning slightly slims your line and makes you look more appealing. Play with different positions for your legs. I find that one knee turned inward in front of the other can be a great way to improve any pose.

3. Do something with your hands.

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My hands and arms are my biggest causes of bad photos. Put them on your hips, stick them in your pockets, press your palms against the wall you’re leaning against. Just don’t let them hang there. If you do put them on your hips, try doing a softer elbow (note in the left picture, my hands are actually on the lower end of my hips, that way the angle of my elbow doesn’t have to be too severe) and a harder angled elbow (where you place your hands a little higher up). See which one looks better on you.

4. Don’t always look at the camera.

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Since what I’m really wanting to show you isn’t my face, I don’t need to be smiling for every picture. When I do look away, though, I have to work hard not to end up looking angry. Serious takes some work! I intentionally soften my eyes, stare off at nothing in particular, and make myself smile just enough so my lips just barely come up and my cheeks shift a little. Looking downward can be an easy look.

5. Crop yourself out.

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Remember that if the real purpose of your pictures is to show something you made, your face really doesn’t have to be in the picture (or at least it doesn’t need to be in all of the pictures). Use yourself as a mannequin an pose so your project is shown. In all of the pictures above, the original photo had more of me in it. Then I just cropped it down to highlight what I thought was the most important part of the picture.

6. Look at the lens.

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When intentionally looking at the camera, look right at the lens. You want the person viewing the photo to think you’re looking directly at them. This is done by looking at the lens—the eye of your camera. People will notice if you’re looking just above, below or beside it (they may not be able to say what they notice, but they’ll feel less connected to your picture). And if someone else is taking the picture for you, look at the lens. It’s tempting to look at their face. But these days, so few people put a camera to their eye that you’ll be looking a the wrong place.

7. Use the timer.

Set your camera to timer mode. Put the camera in its place and make sure you know exactly where to stand, then hold the button half way so it focuses on that spot. Press it the rest of the way so the timer starts, then get in position. Typically cameras beep at once pace while it’s counting down and then the beep speeds up or a light blinks faster right before the picture is taken. Get familiar with the cues your camera gives you so you know how quickly to move. Have an idea of your pose before you start the timer, that way you’re not frantically trying to figure out what to do before time runs out.

8. When doing a mirror shot—look at the lens in the mirror.

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This one took me a while to figure out what I was doing wrong. It made more sense to just look at myself, but the same principle as in point 6: look at the lens. Even if it’s in the mirror.

9. Look at the viewfinder.

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If you feel awkward looking at the lens all the time, just look at the view finder. Then your doing something completely acceptable—making sure your camera is pointing to the correct spot. Just be sure and have at least a little smile—otherwise you might look angry.

10. Have fun with it!

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You may feel like an idiot. Your neighbors who drive by may think you’re an idiot. But if you don’t take yourself too seriously and have fun trying different things, you’ll find some great poses along the way. And then you’ll get more comfortable taking the pictures. And then your readers will love seeing what you’ve made even more. And they’ll comment telling you how much they love it. And you’ll love them even more. Can you feel the love?

Just because you take a good self portrait doesn’t mean your self absorbed or egotistical. And you don’t have to be a supermodel with the perfect figure to look good in a photo. Pay attention to what other bloggers do for their pictures. Try some of their looks and poses, but find yourself along the way. Some of my favorite self portrait ladies in blog land are Nina, Ashley, and Cori.

I know this was a whole lot of me, but hey, since we’re talking about self portraits, that’s what it had to be right? How about you? Are you afraid of photos? Feel like you’re awkward and uncomfortable looking in front of the lens? Or do you have some tricks you’ve mastered as well?

Parties I’ll be linking up with:

Monday, August 29, 2011


dressin up week

My project for this week’s Make it by Monday Challenge is also a part of Dressin’ Up Week.

make it by monday

Our theme this week is red. Red is my favorite color. My living room furniture is red. My kitchen is accented with red. If my husband let me, every room in our house would incorporate red in some way. A while back I bought some heavier weight French red and white ticking to make some bags to sell. But then, as we’re starting to see a trend here, I loved it so much I wanted to make a skirt with it.

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I followed THIS tutorial from Growing Home and found it easy to follow. I may have spent just over an hour on making this skirt.

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Instead of using hook and eyes on the back closure above the zipper I thought it would be fun to use a big button.

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I like how it’s causal and comfortable and think it would look really cute with my boots this fall.

Now how about you? What was your interpretation of red? Go ahead and link up. All I ask is that you help get the word out about this challenge and either link back using a text link, or the button (in my right side bar) somewhere on your blog, as well as be a Made it on Monday follower!
Thanks for joining in on the fun! 
(Wanting to think ahead to next week’s challenge? Our theme is non-clothing upcycle.)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Ruffled Polka-Dotted Top

dressin up week

If you’re just joining me for Dressin’ Up Week, I showed you a shirt on Friday and a dress on Saturday. For today, I made another shirt. And I gotta be honest here: I love this shirt.

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I think I’m going to want to wear it every day.


I fashioned it after this top that I bought a while back. I loved the sheer, ruffled neckline, stretchy waist banded, flowy, sheer, black and white goodness of it. But then, the last time I washed it, all the elastic thread in the waist band started coming out and it’s now worthless to wear. So sad.

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I bought this silky white with black pin dots fabric at Joann’s a while back with a coupon. I didn’t really have a plan for it except a top. After buying a few other supplies for this top, it probably cost $10 or less.

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I think this top is now the piece of clothing I’m most proud of having made myself. It definitely took more attention to detail and careful crafting. The ruffles, arm holes and waistline (not shown. I like the way it looks tucked in better) are trimmed in black bias tape. Top stitching took it from nice to had to squeal inside my head with delight (Jace was sleeping and keeping him that way was worth more than expressing my absolute joy).

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The back is just all one panel with the thin collar that wraps around from the front.

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I took pictures along the way to be able to make a full tutorial. If you’d like to know how to make this, let me know and I’ll post one. It’s just more intensive than my usual tops and being able to lay out the shirt it was fashioned after helped me with sizing. But I’m sure a somewhat experienced seamstress could easily make sense of a tutorial.

*****UPDATE: I have created a tutorial for this top! You can see it HERE*****

Thanks for stopping by and don’t forget about tomorrow's Make it by Monday challenge where our theme is RED.

Parties I’ll be linking up with: