Monday, January 30, 2012

Serger Tips & Tools: Part One

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I fell in love with my serger the first time I used it. And I’ve fallen in love with it more and more each time I’ve used it. I actually use it more than I use my standard machine these days (part of that could be due to the standard machine needing servicing though).


A serger is fantastic for sewing with knits and finishing edges on all sorts of sewing projects. It can also help you get through a project faster since it can sew more stitches per minute than a standard machine. I have the Brother 1034 D (top left corner of image above) and bought it off Amazon for just less than $200 with free shipping. I was impressed by the reviews and it serves my needs wonderfully. I’ve had it for just over a year now and can’t complain.

I frequently get comments on my clothing posts or see captions on pins of my projects that my fellow sewers wish they had a serger. It’s led me to wonder how many of you aren’t actually making clothing for yourselves purely because you don’t have a serger?

Over the next few weeks I’ll be using my Tips & Tools Tuesday posts to cover some of the ins and outs of using a serger. Granted, I consider myself a novice in this area of sewing. But while I may not be an expert seamstress, I am a confident one who isn’t afraid to go looking for the answers on how to make something work.

To start this series out, I’m going to look at whether or not you actually need a serger to be happy with the clothing you make.

standard only

All of the projects pictured above were sewn using only my standard sewing machine. All that’s just to show you can still make great clothes that are completely wearable (and washable) for yourself without needing a serger. If sewing knits with a standard machine is intimidating to you, check out THIS tutorial on sewing with knits.

serger and standard

The above pictured projects were all sewn using both my standard machine and my serger. Here’s a run down for each project what my serger was used for versus what the standard machine was for:
-Layered Strips Shell: Standard machine sewed all the strips on while the serger sewed the side and shoulder seams.
-Rounded Ruffles Shell: Standard machine sewed the ruffles on while the serger sewed the side seams, shoulder seams and attached the neck and hem trims.
-Little Boy Shorts: Standard machine sewed all the seams, hems and the elastic casing at the waistband while the serger was used to finish all seams so there were no raw edges.
-Delicately Ruffled Top: Standard machine was used to lettuce edge the ruffles and sew the ruffles to the shirt while the serger was used to assemble the top.
-Slubby Ruffles Top: Standard machine was used to ruffle the strips directly to the shirt while the serger was used to assemple the top.
-Polka Dotted Ruffle Top: Standard machine used for ruffles, attaching bias tape and top stitching. Serger was used for finishing all raw edges to prevent ripping of fabric and for side and shoulder seams.
-Knit Striped Skirt: Standard machine was used for top stitching on the seams and the hem while the serger assembled the stripes and the skirt.

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The only piece of clothing I have used only my serger for is my Softly Layered Shell. So you can see that I’ve used just my standard machine a lot more than I’ve used just the serger. (I will note, though, that I use just my serger on all the scarves you’ll find in my etsy shop.)

should i buy a serger

If you’re trying to figure out whether or not a serger is a worthwhile investment for you, here are a few questions to consider:

-How often do/will you sew? If you are regularly sewing and have the desire and time to do more, a serger could be well worth the investment. And by regularly I mean at least once a month, although I personally would want to be using it more than once a month to feel like it was worth the money. If you’re sewing less than that, you may not feel like you’re getting your money’s worth out of it.

-What do you sew? If you’re sewing a lot of clothing or using a lot of knit fabric, a serger would be a great way to go. If you’re mostly creating craft projects like sewing banners together, pillows for your couch, check book covers or small intricate crafts, your standard machine is really all you need and a serger really wouldn’t work for your projects.

-Do you like to sew quickly? A serger sews fast. Obviously, you have speed control with your pedal still, but a serger is a quick-sewing machine. If a needle flying quickly through fabric scares you, I’d say you should get more comfortable with your standard machine first. If you find yourself putting the pedal to the metal sewing style, you’ll love a serger.

-Are you dependent on pins and can’t take them out as you sew? Then you’ll need to stick with a standard machine. Pins can’t run through your serger, especially if you’re using the blade to trim the fabric as you go. If you’re comfortable removing pins as you go, or even don’t want to deal with them at all, you’ll enjoy using a serger.

-Do you have patience? A standard machine can be annoying enough to thread sometimes, but a serger is like 100 times worse. Some machines are simpler than others to thread (I chose mine because it was well reviewed for simplicity of threading), but they are time consuming no matter what.

-Are you ok with either spending a lot of money on thread or not always having the thread match your fabric perfectly? You use four spools of thread at a time with a serger. The cheap serger thread at Joann’s is $1.99/each. Because of that, I don’t change my thread for each color of fabric I use. I have cream and black. I use whichever one coordinates best with the project I’m doing.

-Do you plan to sell the items you make? I think a high quality product is a must if you’re going to sell it, and that means finishing touches. I wouldn’t feel comfortable selling shorts made from woven cotton in my children’s shop if I didn’t finish the seams with a serger. I also wouldn’t feel like my scarves were worth the price if the were just sewn together with a zig zag or knit stitch. A serger was an investment for my business. If these items were just being used within my home, such finishing touches would be nice, but not necessary.

-Do you have $200 to spend? My husband and I are committed to paying cash for what we buy (our home is the only debt we carry), so to me, a serger is not worth the credit card debt or the interest you’ll pay on it. If you do have the money to spend, go for it! But don’t feel like you’re needing to spend more than that. From what I’ve read, the machine I bought is a great deal and a great product. If you’re wanting to spend more money on a serger, you’re probably already experienced with the machine and therefore aren’t really needing to follow this tutorial (insert smiley face here).

While that list of questions certainly isn’t exhaustive, it should help you start thinking clearly through whether or not you actually need a serger to be happy with what you sew. If all this is beyond even where you’re at in the quest for understanding this complex sewing machine, and you just want to know what the point of one is or even what they are, or if you’re ready to buy and looking for more machine-based tips, I found few links I’d love for you to check out:

I’ll be back next week with part two of this serger series!

Thanks for stopping by!

Parties I like to link up at:

Saturday, January 28, 2012


I just mopped my kitchen floor and I can’t remember the last time I did. In fact, it’s quite possible my mom was the last person to mop anything in my house. Or it was Nolan. Probably not me though. But as good as it felt to make my kitchen floor look so nice (but, in all honesty, we have some pretty great flooring that looks like stone and the coloring disguises dirt really well, so the difference isn’t all that noticeable… hence such irregular mopping), I seriously wavered on whether or not I should continue and take care of the entry way and bathrooms as well. But… I finally acted like the grown up I am and cleaned all the hard surface floors.

So for those of you who have ever asked how I do it all. That’s how. While I’m busy crafting and sewing and having a blast in my [very messy] craft room, I’m neglecting other things like clean floors.


Nolan and I like to obsessively watch TV shows on Netflix. Two years ago, before Jace was born, we went through the first six seasons of LOST in just three weeks (season 7 hadn’t aired yet). Some evenings we’d stay up until 1 or 2 am because we had to watch “just one more.” It was a great way to spend Christmas Break. Only problem was that we were both working full time and not on Christmas Break. (As a side note, we watched the first episode of the last season in the labor and deliver room at the hospital. I didn’t get a lot out of it because I was in a lot of pain and irritated that the doctor on call didn’t believe me that I was in labor, but it was pretty fun to really prove our hard-core fan status in that way.)

A while back we watched all 26 episodes of Better Off Ted and LOVED it. We seriously mourned the fact that it was only two seasons long. And one of those was a short season. Right now we’re obsessing through How I Met Your Mother. It’s legendary.


It’s 10:48 pm and my mom flies in in 14.5 hours. And I still have some more cleaning to do. But what am I doing? Writing this blog post after having just watched another episode of HIMYM. I justified it by saying I needed to rest from all that mopping, and how can I continue cleaning if the floors aren’t dry?


I’m a slacker at replying to emails. You leave me some really great comments. And then I read them on my phone and tell myself I’ll reply when I get on the computer. But I’m easily sidetracked and forget. I really do appreciate your comments, read them and cherish them and then feel really bad for not responding. But some of you are “no-reply” bloggers, so I can’t really reply anyways, so at least I don’t have to feel guilty about those un-responded-to-comments.


And, I think that’s all for tonight. Back to cleaning!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Neutral Winter Decor

After Christmas I found myself craving a neutral, basic mantel that could really spread over any season. No winter snowflakes, no valentine red, and no overarching theme. Just nice, classy and neutral.

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Of course I found my d├ęcor stash to be severely lacking when I went digging. But a gift card and some after Christmas sales at the Craft Warehouse in Salem cheered me right up.

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The leafy stems are really pretty and iridescent. They’re new, but I put them in a glass pitcher filled with potpourri-like filler. The jar is filled with pin cones and cinnamon sticks, and the Scatter Joy sign has been hanging in my old office for the past six years. It was fun to incorporate it into my home.

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The green lantern and tall clock were also some after Christmas sale finds and I LOVE them. The lantern is filled with sugared fruit and berries for now. It’ll be fun to come up with different fillers as the year goes on. I loved the clock when I saw it because I knew it would balance out the space beside our TV. As I explained in THIS post, the TV is off center for now, so I’m enjoying the creative challenge in decorating to make that fact less obvious.

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On the other side of the living room, in the dining area, I added a touch of neutral with some burlap roses. I watched this tutorial from LaBelle Bride and then adapted it a bit. I felt like the burlap needed a little something to break up the brown, so I made a few from linen. All the roses are on bamboo skewers. And some pussy willow branches added the perfect touch for some height.

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Now if I could just finish decorating the buffet in my living room (which should include taking down my ric-rac Christmas trees).

Thanks for stopping by!

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

WIW: Pinterest Inspired

I have a love/hate relationship with all the outfit inspiration on Pinterest. On the one hand, it has challenged me to think through my outfits a little more and I’ve seen combinations that I would have never thought of. On the other hand, I now look at my closet with more disdain and discontentment than ever before. If only I had ___. Or a ____ shirt. Or ____ jeans. I’m guessing I’m not the only one.

pinterest inspired

So for the past few months, I’ve been pinning inspiration while figuring out how to achieve a similar look with what I already have. And when I have some money to go shopping with, I make sure and look at my pinned inspiration for some ideas of what to look for. Here are a few examples of my attempts (and I’m noticing each one involves a scarf)…

pin inspired 1

Scarf: Ruffles ‘n Such. Sweater: Old Navy. Jeans: White House Black Market. Shoes: Sketchers.
I like the sweater/scarf combo, but I definitely think it would look better with some trouser cut jeans and dressier shoes (like the inspiration).

pinned 2

Scarf: Ruffles ‘n Such. Shirt: Ann Taylor (actually came in a pajama set). Vest: Maurices. Jeans: White House Black Market.
I ended up changing into skinny jeans and wearing this with brown boots instead. I liked that look better but forgot to get a picture.

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Scarf: Ruffles ‘n Such. Shirt: Rue 21. Cami: Maurices. Skirt: Gap. Boots: Payless.
This outfit wasn’t so much a copy of the inspiration pieces as it was the color scheme. I love all the gray with just a pop of lavender.

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Scarf: Ruffles ‘n Such. Shirt: Target. Cami: Maurices. Pants: Free Culture from Olive Boutique. Shoes: Toms.
I also wore my gray asymmetrical jacket with it, and chose to use the turquoise in a scarf instead of clutch.

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Scarf: Ruffles ‘n Such (surprise, surprise). Shirt: Target. Cami: Maurices. Jeans: Free Culture from Olive Boutique. Boot Socks: Made from sleeves of a shirt. Boots: Payless.
I really like the navy and gray combo and have tried it with a few other pieces. I think I would also like this look with my Down East Basics jeans and gray flats, more like the inspiration piece.

How about you? Is Pinterest helping or hurting your satisfaction with your wardrobe?

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Fleece Pillows & Serger Questions

I’ve mentioned before that I LOVE my hairdresser and I get my hair cut in exchange for homemade items. She’s creative, artistic and a lot of fun, and enjoying decorating her family’s new house. She has used a lot of bright colors—even a dark turquoise music room. I thought her family could enjoy some comfy pillows that would also make a fun statement.

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I used fleece for both pillows.

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I followed V & Co’s Shag Pillow tutorial for the turquoise one. It would have been fairly simple and quick if my machine hadn’t kept jamming on me.

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For the red pillow I modified Living Savvy’s Textured Felt Pillow. Instead of overlapping the strips where they were sewed down after each twist, I just sewed them side by side. My hair dresser loved the pillows. And I love my hair cut. So it’s a great deal all around!


In other news… I’ve had quite a few people mention in comments that they aren’t sure where to start in looking for a serger, or that they don’t know how to use the one they have. Or even saying they wish they had a serger. If I were to do a Tips & Tools post about sergers, what information would you want me to cover?

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Knit Striped Skirt {Tutorial}

I’ve mentioned quite a few times lately how much I’ve fallen in love with Quincee’s Boutique, and I’ve never set foot in their store. They regularly post new items and outfit inspiration on their facebook page, and I recently fell in love with this ensemble.

skirt side by side

The skirt looked easy enough to remake, and I had some golden yellow knit on hand that I thought would make a great cardigan. But, two sets of too-small sleeves later and I was out of the needed fabric to finish my sweater. And, of course, my Joann’s is out of that color and won’t have more for a few weeks. And my surrounding towns are flooding, so just heading over a half hour to get more is out of the question. So what’s a girl to do?

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Use accessories to bring in the yellow! Scarf: Ruffles ‘n Such. Tank: Slubby Ruffles made by me. Cardigan: Vera Wang from Kohls. Leggings and boots: Maurices.

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The beauty of this skirt is that it took about an hour (could have been faster if my regular sewing machine wasn’t being cranky), used less than a yard of fabric and didn’t require any notions, and is super comfortable to wear. Want to make one yourself? All you’ll need is a half a yard each in contrasting fabrics. I used a Ponte Roma Solid Knit from Joann’s in dark gray and black. It has very teeny tiny ribs in it, a nice amount of stretch and is really soft. It’s normally $12.99/yard, but I had a 50% off coupon, so this skirt cost me $6.50.

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I started by cutting my material from selvedge to selvedge so that the stretch would go the width of my skirt (that way I could pull it up over my hips without needing elastic or a zipper). I made my strips 6” wide, so there were only three stripes and them my waist band on the skirt. If you wanted to do thinner stripes like the inspiration, I’d say to make them 3 or 4 inches wide. I also cut out an 8” strip for the waist band.

To sum that up: I cut out two 6” strips in the gray and one 6” and one 8” in black.

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With right sides together, sew your skirt body strips together. I just did the full length of the material and treated it like a piece of fabric later to cut the skirt pieces out of. I used my serger, but you can also use your regular machine and still have your skirt turn out nicely. If you aren’t familiar with sewing with knits, or were planning on using a straight stitch, please read THIS post about how to sew with knits. If you use a basic straight stitch you’ll risk breaking your thread when you pull your skirt on or while walking.

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I then top stitched along one side of each seam. When I looked closely at the photo of the inspiration skirt, it looked like the fabric slightly layered on the strip below it, and it was all because of top stitching. By just stitching along one side of each seam (make sure you do it along the same side on each seam), you give it that finished layered look. I used a knit stitch on my regular machine to do this.

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Using a skirt that I like the shape of as a pattern, I cut out my skirt. Keep in mind while doing this that you’ll still be adding a 3.5” waist band to your skirt.

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After cutting out one piece, I used it as the patter for the back of the skirt. Make sure that your skirt will fight you somewhat tightly at the hips at this point. If it will be large, make it smaller or else you’ll risk your skirt falling off.

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Once your skirt is sized pretty closely to what you’re wanting, fold your waistband strip in half length wise so it’s only 4” wide (or tall at this point, depending on how you’re looking at it) and line it up with the skirt, fold lining up with fold, and cut it continuing the curve you started with the skirt. Then use it as a pattern to cut another one. Unfold it and sew the pieces together, right sides together. Note, at this point you won’t be sewing a straight line—it’ll curve into the middle and then curve back out. Then sew the two end pieces together the same way you just did, so you’ll have one continuous loop. Try the waist band on. If it doesn’t have to stretch to get over your hips and sits loosely where the waist of your skirt will sit, take it in. This will be what holds your skirt up. Once you have it sized right, make sure that your skirt matches it in width. If it doesn’t trim off however much you need to.

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Sew the skirt at the side seams. Then sew your waistband on by folding it in half horizontally so the seams from sewing it together fold over themselves and you don’t see the stitching and sew it to the top edge of the skirt. Check out THIS tutorial for a more in depth tutorial of what you’re doing. Then just add a hem and you’re finished!

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(The skirt doesn’t actually pull funny to make the bunching… I just forgot to straighten it after setting up the tripod, picking up my toddler, putting him back down, getting the camera set up, and then taking pictures. Oops!)

I’m really happy with how the skirt turned out and you can’t beat the $6.50 price! I’ll have a lot of fun playing with different outfit combos for it, and once my Joann’s gets more yellow knit it, I’ll finish the cardigan and share it with you!

Thanks for stopping by!

top it off logo

This post is a part of my Top it Off series where I’m making one new piece of clothing or accessory to top off an outfit each week in 2012.

Parties I like to link up at:

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Well… it’s raining?

I haven’t had much to say in the past few days. I do have things to show you, but that’s going to require taking pictures, and it would be really helpful if the sun would come out for that. But, I live in the northwest. And if you haven’t heard, we’re in a bit of a winter storm. Scratch that. I should say almost all of the northwest is in a winter storm. I, however, live in what should be considered the hot spot in this neck of the woods. We’ve had rain. Lots of hard, heavy, cold, wet rain. And wind. But beyond a very slight dusting that was gone in a few hours, no snow. Snow makes the world bright even if the skies are fairly dark. Rain, however, does not. So, no pictures.

Want to know what I would show you? My mantel that is mostly season-neutral and makes me happy. And a pretty bouquet of burlap roses. On stems. In a white pitcher. Please imagine something pretty, because they are truly lovely.

I’m going to sew too. Want to know what I’m planning on?

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This whole outfit from Quincee’s Boutique made me smile. So I’m going to make it. But I’ll be making a yellow cardigan and match the skirt and sweater with a black top instead. It should be simple. I’ll have tutorials. Maybe I should get off the computer to go do it?

If you’re feeling in the mood to go do some clicking and voting, go check out this round of So You Think You Can Sew. This week’s theme is apparel. I think all the projects are beautiful, but Kirstin’s Ballerina Dress is my favorite.

My husband turned 30 on Monday. Wasn’t it nice of the government to give schools, banks and public employees the day off in honor of him? (It was my dad’s birthday too… so maybe the celebration of two great guys just couldn’t be passed up.) We had a reverse surprise party for him. Some of our closest friends had us over for dinner, and then at 7, more friends started showing up. It was great, because any thought of there being a surprise party left Nolan’s mind when we got to dinner and it was just the friends we expected to see. So the doorbell ringing after dinner really surprised him.


I found an Andes Mint cake recipe from Bird on a Cake through Pinterest. I may have used a bit too much green food coloring, and my ganache may have been a bit lumpy, but the cake was amazing!

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The birthday boy with his cake, wearing one of the shirts I made him for Christmas.

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And finally, in other news, Jace and I have both become HUGE fans of being home full time. He LOVES playing with his train set and I love to watch him play contentedly. Our entire downstairs has finally become clean and is staying that way! I don’t know about you, but mundane chores become a lot more interesting when you think about how you could blog about them. So I’m thinking I might tackle organizing one spot in my house each week and sharing it with you. Maybe it’ll inspire you, maybe it’ll bore you. Either way, it will probably help me get my house in order, so it’s worth it to me.


Also, this makes me really excited. Reaching 1000 followers seemed so far off and unattainable. And then all of a sudden it happened. Thank you so much for being such incredible followers. I appreciate you all so much!

Hope you’re having a great week! I’ll be back later with some tutorials for you!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Speaking of yummy recipes…

I have another recipe to add to the several I shared with you the other day that turned out to actually be good (you can check them out HERE).

(Image via Smitten Kitchen)

Just made them. Ah-mazing. That’s all I can say.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Softly Layered Shell {Tutorial}

top it off logo

As I explained in this post, I’ve set a goal for myself to sew or make a new top or accessory each week in the year of 2012. I’m giving myself permission to miss a week here or there, but wouldn’t it be cool if I really followed through on this and ended up with 40 new shirts/jackets/cardigans/vests/belts/necklaces/headbands/clips… anything that tops a look off by the end of the year?

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This top was a lot of fun to make because it only took an hour, and I didn’t have to spend time fixing it or revising my original plan.

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I bought this fabric quite a while ago on the clearance rack at Joann’s. It was during one of those 50% off already red-tagged sales. It is a soft, silky, thin, and I don’t think I’d be going too far if I called it luxurious, jersey knit fabric. I couldn’t resist it at only $2 a yard. I bought what was left on the bolt, which was about a yard and a half.

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I originally planned on making it long sleeved so I could wear it under a pretty, gray, flowy vest I bought after Christmas. But I couldn’t settle on any sleeves that I liked the idea of, and ended up making it double layered so it wouldn’t be too thin to actually keep some body heat in, and just didn’t have enough fabric for sleeves at that point.

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I like how the two angled layers gather a bit under the cardigan. Want to make one yourself?

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I started by laying out a shirt I like the fit of on my material, center folds lining up. I cut the neckline a little bit lower than my pattern shirt. I cut two of the front and two of the back in order to make it thicker and double layered.

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Then, using one of my front pieces as a guide…

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I cut around the piece and then cut it on a curve from about and inch and a half under the arm of one side to the middle of the shoulder on the other side.

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I then repeated that with another one, this time going about 5 inches below to the edge of the shoulder on the opposite side (so it was the same length as the original front shoulder).

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I felt like keeping it simple and just ran my raw edges that would stay exposed through my serger. I like the somewhat lacy affect the serging stitches gave. If you don’t have a serger, I would suggest using a rolled hem, or maybe just leaving it raw. I’m afraid a zig zag stitch just wouldn’t have the same affect.

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I then lined up/stacked all my layers. Starting with the inner front, then the outer front, the longer accent layer and then the shorter accent layer, all right sides up. I topped those with the outer back and then the inner back pieces, both right sides down. I carefully lined them up at the shoulders and then serged them all together. If you are using a regular sewing machine, I’d suggest checking out this tutorial on sewing with knits so you don’t end up frustrated, or ripping your stitches as you put your shirt on someday down the road.

At this point I stopped taking pictures because I really wanted to finish in less than an hour (for those of you who have never made a tutorial before, the time it takes to photograph along the way can seriously lengthen a project sometimes). I sewed the side seams together, again being careful to make sure everything lined up. I liked the way the serged edges looked on the layers, so I thought I’d mimic that with the neckline, hemline and arms, plus that was WAY faster than pinning and hemming. In the end, that ended up being one of my favorite features of the top. And then it was done!

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I love the way it turned out and it was so comfortable to wear today! Plus I had a lot of fun playing with one of my Christmas presents from Nolan—a wireless remote for my camera!

In case you were wondering where the pieces of my outfit are from:
Cardigan: Target . Jeans: Free Culture. Boots: Maurices. Boot Socks: made by me from a shirt. Necklace: The Bird’s Papaya.

Thanks for stopping by!

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