I'm asked this question a LOT. Why bother sewing garments for yourself when ready-to-wear is so inexpensive? I'm glad you asked!
I hope this list has given you something to think about. I'm going to keep sewing my own clothes, and maybe my wardrobe will be closer to 60-75% handmade a year from now!
Why do you sew clothing? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!
We had a special request for a sports-themed birthday party. Usually I'm not a procrastinator, but this party was an exception. Two days beforehand, I had NOTHING planned. In fact, I thought we could send everyone into the backyard with all the sports equipment in our garage and say, "Have fun!" Then I saw the forecast for rain. Flooding rain. And I decided there was no way I wanted a gaggle of 8 year old boys tracking that much mud into the house.
So, two days beforehand, I scoured my studio to see what I could come up with since I'm not one to hand out plastic goodie bags of candy. All of my childrens' friends are probably tired of getting fabric bags of one kind or another as party favors, so I had an idea. Yards of white felt left over from a holiday angel wing-making marathon would make the perfect baseball pillows. I found the giant ric rac at Michael's, and thought I would take some pictures in case you'd like to make some last minute pillows too.
Trace and cut two circles of white felt however large you want your finished pillow to be. I used a pizza tray.
Cut two lengths of extra wide red ric rac and pin them to one circle of felt in a curved shape. I held up a baseball and approximated where the ric rac should be placed. Stitch the ric rac to the felt. Either use a wide zig zag stitch to make it quick (helpful when you are making 8 pillows), or carefully follow both outer edges of each piece of ric rac with a straight stitch. Use red thread and no one will notice either way!
Sew around the perimeter of the circle, attaching pillow front to back, leaving a 3" opening for stuffing. (The back of these pillows is plain white felt.)
Trim the edges to even everything up, including the ends of the ric rac.
Use fray check on the ends of the ric rac because it WILL fray. This is a handy fabric glue that dries clear and quickly.
Stuff the pillow with polyfill. Don't overstuff! The more you stuff, the more puckered the outer edges will look. The intent is to make a decorative 2-D pillow, not a firmly stuffed 3-D pillow.
Close the open seam.
Make a bunch! When it rains on the day of the party, these at least aren't as likely to break a window when the kids play with them!
Sewing this top made me realize there are so many garments I've made this past year that I've never talked about here, so I think you can expect to see some Selfish Sewing catch-up posts.
This is a brand new make, just finished this week. It's been in my to-make queue for a long time, and I shoved it into the "wait till next summer" pile just last month when the fall weather rolled in. This week we have unseasonably warm weather (75 degrees in mid-October in Rhode Island--crazytown), so I pulled it back out.
I wanted to see what all the fuss was about with Cotton and Steel fabric. Also, I have been itching to try a sewing pattern from Fancy Tiger Crafts. Both live up to the hype!
The Sailor Top is not for a beginner, but the instructions are very easy to follow if you've sewn a few garments. This version works, but I should have gone up a size. I was in between the medium and large, based on my measurements, and should have opted for the large (the shoulders are a bit tight). That just means I need to make another! It also won't stop me from wearing this to teach a sewing class this afternoon.
What have you been sewing lately?
You can now sew your own reusable produce bags using my free tutorial! With my recent change in direction with the business, focusing now on knitting and crochet accessories, I decided to pull my sewing patterns that I had listed for sale in my Etsy and Craftsy shops and turn them into free tutorials here on the blog. Here's a better explanation.
Ready to make your own reusable bags? These are great for the grocery store, farmer's market, or even for collecting shells at the beach. Let's get started!
Cutting Out the Pieces
Cut two—6” x 26” rectangles of quilting cotton (cut 13” on the fold, paying close attention to layout if using directional prints)
Cut one—6” x 26” of the mesh (cut 13” on the fold)
Cut 1 yard of the drawstring cording
Fill your bag with produce and enjoy!
Have you ever bought fabric from IKEA? Did you know they sell fabric by the yard? Did you also realize that there are many usable beautiful textiles IKEA sells in other departments that are perfect to cut up for sewing?
45-60 minutes North from Aquidneck Island, IKEA in Stoughton, MA, is well worth the drive. I took a trip last week and came home with pictures to share with you, showing you how many options you have in fabric. Most especially, inexpensive fabric.
There is a self-serve fabric cutting area. No fabric costs more than $8.99/yard. Since this is a home décor store, their fabrics are geared towards pillows and curtains. Some prints are quite large, intended to be used as a wall hanging or other statement piece. While not always suitable for clothing, I have used many of these heavier weight fabrics for bags. They also are a great weight for a spring jacket, and of course pillows and curtains.
Choose your fabric, unroll, measure and cut, then apply a sticker with the barcode number, yardage and price. The cashier will take care of it when you check out.
Note: the scissors usually are really dull from however many customers roll through this place. You're on the honor system--please don't ruin it for the rest of us by cutting more than you claim on your checkout sticker!
They have recently started carrying pre-cut lengths of fabric.
They also carry their own sewing machine and a handful of notions. I'm not sure this is any better than the toy machines you can buy for kids. I have no experience with this and do not recommend it. I still very heartily recommend buying a good used machine, or something like the Brother CS6000i or the Janome Magnolia. $64.99 seems tempting, but playing with the reverse button and dial, makes me think it's not even worth that low price tag.
The same applies for their thread and scissor quality. Use a coupon or wait for a sale to get quality thread and a workhorse like fabric shears at a craft or fabric store.
Still, this shows me that a big corporation believes sewing is a growing hobby, not something dying out. That is very encouraging!
Besides the obvious fabric available in the cutting department, this store is filled with fabric options if you change the way you think a bit.
Look at the cool graphics in a table runner, napkins and tea towels. You can use these for so many things! I've made kids art aprons from IKEA tea towels for birthday party favors. You can make a variety of zip pouches from the napkins. Use the existing hems to your advantage. Cut up with abandon for patchwork. Once you look beyond the label, and think of these as smaller cuts of fabric rather than yards on a bolt, the possibilities are endless.
What if you need a larger piece of fabric and a napkin isn't enough?
Bedspreads! Can you imagine finding fabric yardage in a twin bed size for $12.99??
Shower curtains! $4.99 for a huge panel of fabric--you really can't find that anywhere else (though I hope you'll start seeing things like the clearance rack at Marshall's as sources of inexpensive fabric too!). Keep in mind the fiber content and what project you have in mind. Personally, I wouldn't want to make a skirt out of a nylon water-resistant shower curtain, but it might be perfect for a picnic blanket. Or rough and tumble beach bag.
Last but not least, curtain panels. You can find linen curtains for far less than you would buy yardage at the fabric store, even after sales and coupons. A 2-pack of curtain panels is a huge amount of fabric.
The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. Have you ever sewn with textiles from IKEA? I would love to hear about it, and see photos of what you've made!
This is the first in a series I'm writing as a resource to my fellow creatives in Rhode Island and the surrounding region. When I teach sewing lessons, most people think the only resource for fabric is the national chain store Joann Fabrics. NOT TRUE!! While there are many places offering expensive fabric*, especially some fabulous online boutiques, there are also many local resources that are wallet-friendly. I'll share each of my favorite fabric sources in a separate post, compiling everything as a permanent resource here on my website when finished.
Let's talk about Lorraine Fabrics. The link goes to the Facebook page--they do not have a website.
Located in an old mill in Pawtucket, RI, since 1991, they carry discontinued fabric. Bolts that simply haven't sold in quilt shops, etc., and they offer it all at a huge discount. There are two floors, and you'll notice quickly--hand written signs everywhere. Word of advice: obey the signage. I find that following the rules and being extremely nice to staff who can be a bit cranky is well worth getting fabric for almost nothing.
*I'll share the online resources in an upcoming post.
If you see something you like, buy it now. Because everything has been discontinued, it may not be there the next time you go.
The first floor has trims, notions, specialty fabrics like satin and sequins, fleece, wool, linen, quilting cotton...the list goes on and on. About half of the floor is filled with upholstery and home décor fabric. They even carry some Sunbrella, but it might be a print from a year or two ago, not something in the current Sunbrella catalog.
Please excuse the slightly blurry camera photos. While there is no posted sign saying "no pictures," I wanted to be on the down-low with my reporting. I never want to be the excuse for a newly-posted sign.
Don't quote me on this because I did not look at every roll and bolt, but I didn't see anything more than $17/yard. That's pretty amazing for outdoor and upholstery fabric!
Venture to the second floor (skipping the first entirely like I do most trips) and see where sewing becomes magical and affordable again. You know how sewing your own clothes is supposed to save you so much money? And then you buy fabric, even with a coupon, and end up spending $40 on a dress for your 10 year old (not including the pattern, notions, your time, etc.?) Well, the second floor of Lorraine's is where you can really save money by sewing your own clothes.
How is this possible???
EVERYTHING is $2.99/yard. I'll give you a minute to stop jumping up and down from delight...
I'm not going to lie...sometimes what you'll find is a complete crap shoot. I've found Cloud 9 organics for $1.99/yard (before the price increase this past year). Today there was Lotta Jansdotter, Windham, and Michael Miller fabric for $2.99/yard. There is also the largest collection of ugly polyester you will ever find under one roof. There is organization by fiber type, but after that you're on your own. There are racks of pre-cuts, which are usually 1-3 yard cuts and they're rainbowtized. Word of caution: the precuts do not specify fiber type. You're on your own to figure out if it's cotton, poly, wool, etc. The more time I spend in the bargain loft, the more projects I think up.
So where is this fabric gem?
593 Mineral Spring Ave
For me, it's about a 45 minute drive. Well worth it, but also not a store I can pop over to without planning. If you go, let me know what you think!! Even better, send me a picture of something you've made with fabric you purchased there!
Like many mothers of active children, I spend a fair amount of time shuttling people to activities and then waiting. Reading at these activities doesn't work right now because I miss out on watching all the fun. Hand sewing is the perfect way to keep my hands busy, stay out of trouble, not stare at a screen, and still be able to watch the latest flying front kick or back stroke.
Until recently, I've brought my sewing to events in a drawstring project bag, which works quite well. The biggest pet peeve of mine has been thread snips. What to do with them? They either end up all over my lap or tangled at the bottom of the bag. An exterior pocket was in order. While I was at it, I prefer zip top bags, and I had been saving some selvedges that had especially interesting graphics, or meant something to me like the sheep and crabs.
The portable sewing kit was the end result.
The thread snip pocket. No more lap full of threads making me look like the crazy sewing lady! I still look crazy embroidering everywhere I go around Aquidneck Island, but the people who know me understand it's for fun and work. Those who don't? If they ask I'll gladly tell them. If they don't, well then have fun with your Candy Crush.
Some of my favorite selvedges. It's such a shame that people usually just throw these away!
Inside pockets to corral various thread skeins, marking pens, scissors, lip balm, and even my phone and keys if I'm keeping things simple.
You can see by the current contents that it holds quite a lot. This is intentional, as I am usually either stitching multiples of something and like to churn through as many as I can in one waiting period, or I have a few different projects so I don't get bored.
Portable sewing means more than just sewing while my children are doing their thing. I can take the kit almost anywhere including outside in beautiful weather, a friend's house, to the park, on vacation...you name it. TSA may not like all the sharp pointy things, so I haven't tried flying with it yet, but it goes most everywhere with me lately. How else am I going to make sure everyone has the chance to buy their own Lil Rhody bag?? See the crab mug above? I'm working on a Maryland version of the bag too!
How do you sew, knit, crochet, etc. on the go??
Honestly, I'm not sewing all that much this week. I've been in planning mode most of the week, having a "show hangover" for most of Monday after a terrific Yarn Crawl event. Ask other artisans--"show hangover" is a thing. I lost track of how much coffee I've consumed the past few days.
What have I been working on? Some side projects, plus a lot of sewing in the planning stages. Here's a peek.
The photo above is a close-up of the embroidery for my new Lil Rhody bags. I would show you a finished bag, but they are all sold out at the moment! I plan to spend part of break next week sewing more, not to worry.
Samples for a Seaside Sewing Summer Camp at the Newport Library. I'm really looking forward to teaching this camp with my pal Emma the first week in August.
Fabric shopping for Selfish Sewing happened this week. I'm planning a whole blog post about Lorraine Fabrics in Pawtucket--it's a local gem not to be missed. Lotta Jansdotter fabric for $2.99/yard? Yes please! The fabric above will become an Esme top from her book Everyday Style.
More Selfish Sewing fabric for another Washi Dress. See my last post about how terrific sewing with this pattern is.
A gift for a certain Maryland family member. I haven't completely decided what the final product will be yet, but I'm thoroughly pleased with the embroidery kit from I Heart Stitch Art.
Pillowcase kits. These are for a big donation the Sew Easy to Care Youth sewing group will make in a few weeks. All hands on deck to bust out as many finished pillowcases as possible, so I took a few home to sew up. It's hard not to smile while sewing for a charity.
Navy blue linen blend, my last piece of fabric from this week's Selfish Sewing shopping trip. These will become Owyn pants, also a pattern from the Everyday Style book. The patterns are so easy to follow, and so far the two garments I've made are quite flattering. I'm looking forward to making lightweight cropped pants for summer. We had snow last week, but I *know* summer will be here soon. Right??
This fabric is destined for a set of reusable book bags for my son's classroom. I'm very excited about this project, and will be sure to share more as I get to work.
What are you sewing and planning to sew these days?
The infamous Washi Dress. What is it? Rae Hoekstra, of Made by Rae designed a fantastic sewing pattern that has taken the sewing world by storm. If you read any sewing blogs at all, everyone seems to be making this dress! It's a digital download that you can get here. It's so popular, in fact, that she sells a separate expansion pack.
Why did I choose to sew it? Three reasons:
1) I wanted to see why it is so popular (relatively easy to sew, it flatters many different figures.)
2) To practice shirring, and to work with cotton voile.
3) I wanted a new Easter dress.
You can see the way the dress is blowing in the breeze on the mannequin that the drape of cotton voile is lovely. It's a thin, but gorgeous fabric to work with.
Cap sleeves that are quite flattering.
A new-to-me seam finishing technique: bias tape that only encases the bottom edge of the armhole. It was confusing until I sewed it, and then it's brilliance was quickly made clear. Very very clever finishing technique.
Subtle front pleats to camouflage the "mom bits."
Elastic shirring in the back to define the shape, but also provide easy on/off without any closures like a zipper or button placket. I wasn't sure how flattering this would be when all was said and done, but I love the way it fits!
I'm a fan! Will you do me a favor? Send me a picture if you sew one yourself!
Rope baskets are a thing now, and I thought I would see what all the fuss was about. They are easy, relatively inexpensive to make, and are quite meditative as you sew. They hog thread--about a spool per basket. I never got the hang of turning a corner to make a crisp base, but I also only made two baskets. They turned out larger than I intended, but my children thought my mistake meant all the more candy that the Easter bunny could leave them! Here are a few pictures of the basket in-progress and finished. The red marks near the handles were later erased with a hot iron (I use the FriXion erasable gel pens).
It shouldn't be a surprise that someone who doesn't like plastic, doesn't go for plastic Easter grass. Green fabric is fluffy, the right color, cotton, and reusable year after year. When you no longer fill baskets, you can sew something with it. Win win in my book.
I hope you had a lovely Easter, if you celebrate, and are enjoying that spring is finally here!
As co-owner of Stitchery in Portsmouth, RI, I teach sewing classes to children and adults. Welcome to my blog Dancing Threads RI.