Category Archives: sewing

Sewing pioneer clothing

The Author is currently on a three-day handcart trek.  One of the requirements for the trek is to dress in period clothing.  While some sources recommend just shopping your local thrift store and finding clothing to modify, I’ve never had great luck shopping thrift stores and I knew I could come up with what we needed through sewing.

Here is our pioneer ready to hit the trail:

Some of my inspiration for this outfit came from a pattern: McCall’s 9424.  The bonnet is directly from the pattern.  I used a stiff craft interfacing on the brim since previous bonnets I’ve made have been a bit on the floppy side.  This one was going to be used on the trail, I wanted something sturdy enough to provide good sun protection. 

The blouse is modified from the pattern.  I shortened the dress pieces to a blouse length and cut two inches off the width of the front and back pieces, so they’re a little less gathered when attached to the yoke.  I also added a couple inches to the length of the sleeves.  I found this allowed for a little bit deeper casing than the pattern calls for and a bit less stress on my part when threading the elastic through.  I hope the unbleached muslin looks period enough.

I also used the pattern to make a dress, but it was packed away before I thought to get photos.  I’ll have to grab an after photo for that one and explain my modifications.  The apron was an old one I made years ago for a pioneer-themed activity day.  It still fit and The Author decided that would be one piece I wouldn’t have to sew this time around.  It was a bit shorter than I would have liked, but I’m just glad I had the foresight to add a nice deep pocket the first time around.

The skirt was made from a couple yards of excess fabric I had on hand.  I just cut it to length and used the selvage edge instead of a bottom hem.  I cut a waistband slightly larger than her waist (about 1 1/4 times her waist measurement) and gathered the skirt onto one edge.  The other edge of the waistband was folded over and sewed down over the gathered waistband seam to create an elastic casing.  Yes, an elastic-waist may not be true period, but I try to avoid buttons and buttonholes whenever possible, even with my one-touch buttonhole setting on my sewing machine.

You can’t see it, but under the skirt is a petticoat of unbleached muslin.  For this I cut two panels from 45″ wide fabric in my desired length.  Sew the selvage edges together for side seams.  Cut a piece of 1-inch wide elastic to the waist measurement plus 1/2″.  Overlap elastic ends and stitch to secure.  Divide elastic into quarters and mark with pins.  Secure elastic to top edge of petticoat at side seams and center front and back.  Sew elastic to skirt with a zigzag stitch, stretching elastic between pins and pleating excess fabric to fit as needed.  We found it is most comfortable to wear with the elastic on the right side of the petticoat.

Any questions, please ask.  Hopefully someone else can find these ideas helpful in preparing for a trek.

Sewing lesson: Drawstring gift bag tutorial

For today’s lesson, I thought I’d share one of our latest sewing projects.  The Artist has been trying to earn money to finance her big school trip to France next summer.  She was hired to do some custom sewing for a local shop.  We made drawstring bags to be used as take-home bags for some beautiful beaded purses.  Making the bag part was pretty easy.  But, in my prototype, we hit a brick wall when it came to making the casing for the drawstring.  How to get the cording in and out of the casing?  The solution (I thought) was to leave an opening at the bottom edge of the casing, but this turned the top of the bag inside out to get to the drawstring.
My prototype also utilized French seams to encase all the raw edges since the fabric the shop owner chose frayed very easily.  Yeah, that worked, but was pretty time consuming and made the bag a little too narrow.  So, we settled for simply overlocking the seam and went from there.  That made the casing issue an easy fix by just leaving an opening at the seam to thread the cording through.  But, that left a nice frayed out hole.  I finally came up with a workable solution.  Hopefully I’m not the only dunce out there that couldn’t make a simple drawstring bag, so I’ve created a tutorial.  Hope it helps someone.

Supplies needed:
Desired fabric
Thread to match
Cording to use for drawstring

I started by cutting my fabric.  For these particular bags, I wanted the finished product to be 12″ x 12″, so I cut with one edge on the fold and cut a 12.5″ by 13″ piece on my high-tech self-healing mat with my low-tech shears.  (A rotary cutter is next on my sewing wishlist.)  Cut with right sides together.

That fabric looks way wrinkly in the photo.

 The trusty overlock setting on my machine.  (Use a serger if you’re lucky enough to own one.)

 I left a 1/2″ side seam allowance, so I stitched . . .

. . . then trimmed the seam for a nice clean look.

Overlock the bottom seam with a narrow (1/4″) seam.
Finish top edge  by overlocking (ends up about 1/8″ wide.

I love the rich fabric choice!

At this point you should probably press all your seams to one side.  Since I skipped this, pretend the seam pictured below lays nice and flat.
Now, to solve the problem of how to get the drawstring in the casing, I basically made a buttonhole about 5/8″ from the edge as close to the seam as I could.  I tried the buttonhole foot, but got better results with a freehand straight stitch.  This is about 1/2″-5/8″ long.  Use a seam ripper to carefully slit the buttonhole, trimming away any loose threads.

Here you can turn the bag right-side out, making sure to get the corners squared out.  Or, you can wait until after you stitch the casing down.  It would depend on whether you prefer to work from the outer layer or inside layer as you stitch.
Turn about 5/8″ to the inside of the bag and stitch following your overlocked stitch line.

Cut cording to desired length.   Push one end through buttonhole opening and thread through casing around to buttonhole opening again.  Tie ends in an overhand knot to secure.  Turn right-side out if you haven’t already done so.

And there is your beautiful bag, all ready for packing cute shop goodies for customers or for gift giving or whatever.

We’re now pros at making drawstring bags.  Let me know if this tutorial helps you. 🙂

Sewing lesson: Kindergarten rest-time mat

Princess is starting kindergarten.  They are supposed to bring a beach towel to lay on for rest time.  I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t think just a towel on the hard floor would be all that comfy.  But, the commercially available mats are too big to fit in their cubbies.  So, I decided to make her a padded rest-time mat.  My first idea was to get two beach towels and sandwich a thin batting between them before sewing the edges.  Great idea, but she didn’t want a beach towel.  She fell in love with a princess fleece because it had “Tangled” on it.  I figured fleece would stay nice and soft and could be padded just as easily.  This is really my first attempt at machine quilting, but I don’t think it turned out too badly.

Here’s what I did:
You will need 1 to 1 1/2 yards of 60″ wide fleece and a crib-size package of low-loft batting. (Also, matching thread.)

(Note:  You may or may not need to include all steps, especially if you are more organized that I seem to be.)
* Pre-shrink fleece.
* Trim the edges of the fleece to remove any printing or funky edging.
* Fold the fleece in half, matching selvage edges.
* Cut a piece of batting to the same size as the fleece.
* Sandwich batting between fleece layers.
* Pin in place, taking care to match edges.
* Search for the bag containing matching thread that you know was right there yesterday.
* Look again since the thread must be hiding.  It was right there yesterday, you KNOW it was.
* Give up searching for the elusive thread and check thread stash for a close color.
* Find old spool of thread that will work.
* Wind new bobbin, stopping when bobbin is half-way full because you can start to see the spool beneath the layer of thread.
* Sew around, stitching one inch from all edges.
* Check amount of thread and mentally calculate how far it will last. (Wonder if you should have put less on the bobbin.)
* Decide three quilting lines across should probably work.
* Eyeball 1/4 of way down length and position for first quilting line.
* Sew all the way across the width.
* Repeat quilting at midpoint and other 1/4 point.
* Take a deep breath and pat yourself on the back for finishing before you run out of thread (barely).

Voila, here is the finished product.

How does it work, you ask?  Princess gave her approval, although it took some convincing that her semi-wet hair wouldn’t ruin anything. (Maybe I really didn’t need that extra 1/2 yard.  One yard probably would have done it.)

So, there you go, if you ever need to make a rest-time mat, you have an idea to start with.  The nice part was that this was a quick project (if you don’t include the time spent trying to find that thread).