Category Archives: Sewing

The Two and a Half Year Dress

Oh man, I am excited. I had been working on a couple of form-fitting dresses when I found out I was pregnant with Ken. Those dresses quickly got put on the back-burner due to my increasing belly. And due to the copious amounts of pizza I consumed during pregnancy, I wasn’t in a hurry to finish the dresses.

So they sat in a bag in my sewing room for about two and a half years. Scared, I opened the bag in March, just to assess the situation. How much had I gotten done? Are they even worth finishing?

The dress(es) in question were from this pattern – Simplicity 3835.

You might remember I already made this dress in purple in August of 2009 and entered it into the Iowa State Fair. 

I had plans to make three more dresses – the long version – because I loved it SO MUCH. So, two of the dresses were 90% and 60% done. Two really good things happened, 1. I had already installed both of the zippers (hard part over!) and 2. THE DRESS FIT!!!

I finally finished one of them last night, here are the results:


So excited. I found this fabric in my mom’s quilt stash. And there wasn’t enough, so the next time she saw the fabric dealer at a quilt show, she got more. Did I mention that my mom has fantastic taste in fabrics? If you’re wondering, the fabric is by Stephanie Brandenburg and you can buy her other designs here (or at Fern Hill in the beautiful Amana Colonies in Iowa).

Hopefully I’ll get the other one finished next week and get some photos up. OWLS 🙂

Dresses, boots and peas

I promised myself I wouldn’t buy any new clothes until at least Jan 1, 2011. I failed. But how could I not when Walmart was clearancing this Miley Cyrus dress?! FOR $1. ONE DOLLER.

I know this is a creative arts and blog, so I have a point. This has a racer back (photo), elastic waist, stripes, ruffles and denim. Not sure what else this girl could ask for. 

Before I found this dress on Sunday, I had just (and I mean, that morning) finished the adult version:

This is Simplicity 2375 – I did the unthinkable. I used similar (as close as I could get) fabrics to the ones on the pattern. I know, I’m a traitor to pattern sewers everywhere. But I couldn’t help it, I really loved it! So, black and white stripeys on top, denim on bottom. This pattern was super easy – not only is the zipper a lie, but so is the skirt placket. I can’t wait to pair this with tights, boots and a turtleneck. 

Boots. It’s *almost* boot season. I needed wanted a new pair, so, I made my own. 

Sweater boots! I picked up this kids large sweater for a quarter at a garage sale last weekend (garage sales didn’t count in the no-clothes-buying promise), loosely followed this tutorial, and this is the outcome. I’m pretty jazzed. 

I say I loosely followed the tutorial, because its pretty basic. The photos will explain HOW to glue the sweater to the shoe – use plenty of glue. The last thing you want is your boot falling apart in the middle of the grocery store. I skipped the part about embroidering on the cuff, I chose a kick ass sweater instead. 

One issue I had was trying to figure out which sides to sew together to get the cuff to turn out correctly (as in, right side out). Oh, and before you get to the cuff, you have to turn the boot right side out (after gluing) – this was tough also. So although I recommend using a thicker sweater so the boots stand, a heavier sweater would be harder to turn right side out.

I’ve also been spending the last few weeks working on some recycled plastic bags and purses (entry for later). ALSO, been mass producing baby food – peas, squash, sweet potatoes. Ken has loved every food he has tried (knock on wood).

"More peas, please!"

T-Shirts = Wedding Gifts

To begin, I must make a post-congratulatory statement to Katie and Jason on their nuptials. Congrats kids! Welcome to The Marriage Club! 

First project: The Wedding Shower Gift.

Every invitation included a letter. My letter was L. Lamp? No. Laughter? A little too “Uppercase Living” for me. Leftovers? Yes. Legos. YES. Legos won. So I ordered these little guys on e-bay, got them just in time to make their present… WTF am I going to do with a Lego bride and groom?!?! 

Make a Christmas ornament.

Unfortunately I couldn't custom order a Lego Cop and Bride. Had to settle for Bride and Groom.


The bride and groom are glued to the paper mache box. I had some other pretties to glue on, but they just didn’t look right. Something about Legos and rhinestones don’t mix. And yes, Katie and Jason looked just as smashing as their plastic counterparts.

Next Up: The Wedding Gift

So Katie, if you’re reading this, feel free to stop by anytime and pick up your gifts 🙂 

Katie willingly provided shirts from her and Jason’s closets. I had to pry some of them out of my husband’s hands because they were awesome shirts. The newlyweds are getting a slew of projects Generation T Beyond Fashion

Project 1: A Time and Place Mat (Project 31)

The book rates each of these a Level 3, of 5. That’s totally correct. These were harder than they looked. The idea of “quilting” on knits is tough because the fabric stretches.

I changed up the pattern a little – instead of layers of t-shirt/knit in the middle I used leftover flannel.

Project 2: Coast to Coasters (Project 33)

These were fun too! These were actually easier than the place mats. It wasn’t until after all four place mats, and all eight coasters that I decided to Google and find out why my thread kept breaking. I thought it was the crap thread, but the good stuff was doing it too. Turns out you need a big needle for knits. Well. Now I know!

Project 3: Running with Scissors (Project 36)

 I LOVE THIS!!! This is a table runner. To be put on a table… or end table… or anywhere you see fit. 
I tried to switch up the directions – but also had to make sure I wasn’t covering anything important (such as the “Cops Love Me” graphic).

And last, Project 4: Stocked Up

Wine bottle holder . Awesome and fun. Go team! These are great, I want to make a bunch just to have on hand in case we need a gift.


T-Shirt Extravaganza 2010

The T-Shirt Extravaganza 2010 has begun. Obsessed might be an understatement. 

As I’ve mentioned, I love every project in Generation T: Beyond Fashion.

Brian and I were trying to come up with a fun, creative house-warming gift for some friends. We decided that we would make something out of t-shirts, so we dug through Brian’s extensive t-shirt collection and found some goodies. Brown and pink tees for an oven mit, and an extra special white t-shirt about balls, and a green tee to match for the apron. 

The apron is a variation of Central Cooking, project 41 in Generation T: Beyond Fashion. The pattern is one-sided, but I opted to make it reversible. I sewed the ruffles on one side, ruffles pointing to the middle, then attached the “back” (front sides facing together). Turn inside out and perfection ensues. 


Side A


Side B


Glad I consulted my mom before starting the oven mit. The recipe calls for regular batting, but my mom told me to get the good insulated stuff specifically designed for oven mits and likewise items. This is Up in My Grill, project 40 in Generation T. I made a second one for Brian. 

All the mits, strategically placed on one t-shirt.


This is the brown side.


The pink side. As you can see, this side is argyle. On the first one (not shown), I tried to "quilt" on the argyle lines... but knit is tricky. It didn't turn out well. So on the gifted mit, I made swirly lines. These are totally sporadic.


Close up of band around wrist.


Brian and I were very pleased how these turned out, it was tough gifting them! But I think recipients Joe and Betsy really enjoy them, so it really all works out. I need to tweak the pattern a little, make the hand a little bigger and make the arm a little shorter. There are two layers of t-shirt on each side. I haven’t used the oven yet to try the mit out, but I may consider taking a layer of t-shirt out to cut down on some of the bulk. 

I also made a quick, new-sew halter top for myself!

New Sew Halter


This is Pinup Girl, project 1 in Generation-T. This consists of cutting off one sleeve, then cutting the neck hole and other sleeve in a / line. Put the shirt on, putting your head through the arm hole. Should be extra fabric in the back, so pill that forward and pin it. This would make a GREAT maternity shirt, if it were like 7 inches longer. The trick to this pattern is to find a t-shirt with a full design on the front, and possibly the back. If you choose something with a small design, it might not show.

And last, but never least, my little Kenny bear, 2 months old 🙂

I'm cute!



The Coolest Tote Bag You’ll Ever See

Happy Independence Day Weekend! Today is Monday, July 5th and I am proud to say that I have not left my house today. I got some major sewing done this weekend, so I’m really not complaining. Plus it’s super humid out and my knee hurts, so I didn’t get to run over the holiday (the only bonus to injuries is more time in front of the sewing machine).

First up, a second dress from McCalls 5659.

This one is a little different than first one (see previous post). I skipped the visual pockets and put side pockets in. Also a band at the bottom. I love this! The fabric is a little out there for me – there are Hawaiian looking flowers in pink and teal – I just don’t know about them. But overall it’s great. And my husband really likes it!

A few months ago I mentioned that I bought the book Generation T Beyond Fashion by Megan Nicolay. I’m a long time Tote Bag fanatic. And now this reusable grocery bag trend – I’m in love. So I’m always looking for new tote bags. Why use the same one twice? Kidding (Sorta). So, let me introduce you to the Tote Bag T-shirt! Easy and genius. I made three today. Here are two of them:

Tote, artwork on the front

Manne modeling


 The blue one is from a long-sleeved t-shirt my brother gave me about 13 years ago. It’s stretched and worn, and totally soft now. I haven’t worn it in years, and didn’t have any plans to add it to my rotation. But now it’s back.

However, the next one trumps the old favorite t-shirt because its a flipping HYPERCOLOR T-SHIRT TOTE BAG. Seriously. I went from being cool, to ultra cool. And I’m using this as my new purse. 

Up close and personal. See, it's the real thing.

You can see in this photo that there is no stitching around the handles. Awesome. Knits don’t ravel. I love them. 

Manne modeling. This is the coolest tote bag/purse in the whole world.

Go. Make your t-shirt tote bag now, you don’t even have to buy the book – instructions are here! Also, this project takes like 20 minutes!

One-hour Dress

Another pattern from CraftStylish/SewStylish! This dress was in the spring SewStylish magazine – very cute and very easy!

Magazine dress, so cute!


The final product!


I followed the instructions as close as I could. You can follow along here.

Took my measurements and inserted them into my diagram (yeah, you’ll want to check out the link above). Couple of issues:

1. A 3-inch and 12-inch shoulder wasn’t enough for me. With my measurements, that made my neck hole HUGE – half falling off the shoulders and whatnot. That wouldn’t be a problem if I wasn’t making this dress for work. So I think I did like 5 inches on one side, and 12+ on the other (I don’t remember exactly). 

2. The pattern calls for a 7 inch arm hole – from the top of the dress. That comes out to be LESS than 7 inches because you aren’t counting in the seam allowance. Seven inches doesn’t sound likc much, so I half-ass measured from the top of my shoulder to my armpit, and I was right – seven wasn’t enough. So I added two inches. I should have added four, and made a total of 11 inches from the top of the dress to the armpit. So if you’re making this, measure the top of your shoulder to your armpit for that number.

One-hour is pushing it – it probly took me a total of two. But I was doing lots of math trying to get my measurements right. I’m sure the next one will go even faster.

Ummm… Other than that, the directions were right-on. I was kinda dreading the pleat/gathers on the arm, but that took like 2 minutes. I just folded and pinned, then sewed it over a couple of times. 

Shoulder pleats


As you can see, the background is cream (almost white, but not quite), and the polka dots are navy, blue, yellow and rust/maroon. No black. I have a black belt, but none of my other belts fit yet, so I thought I’d make a belt. I cut a strip of fabric and decided to dye it. First, I put it in some black coffee – grinds and everything, left it overnight. Nothing, the fabric didn’t take ANY of the color. I was hoping to turn the strip a light brown. So then I decided to try food coloring. I put some black and red Wilton paste coloring in a glass jar with the fabric, left it overnight again. I couldn’t believe the coffee didn’t do anything, and then I just wanted the fabric to absorb any color. The water was black looking, you couldn’t tell there was any red in it. So what color did the strip turn? Pink of course. The one color I do not wear anymore (burnt out on it in college). 

The pink belt up close.


With the pink belt. Veto.


I think my favorite part about this dress is that my husband loves it too!

Look Mom, no hands!

I was too tired and swollen during my pregnancy to get some good sewing in – so as soon as I got Kenny home, I went on a sewing binge (ok, a few weeks later). Here’s what went down (so far):

Simplicity 2449

This skirt belongs to my friend Michelle. It’s pretty kick ass. It’s Simplicity 2449, just a basic elastic skirt, six panels. Went together fast, and looks great! I think it looks so fantastic because of the fabric, she did a great job picking it out!

McCalls 5659

Ok, I’m starting with the pattern on this one. I shouldn’t admit this (Mom, please don’t be upset!!!) but… I fell in love with this pattern because of the black and white dress. Ahhhh! I know better than to pick a pattern because of the fabric they chose, mainly because they pick ugly ones. If I could have found that exact fabric, I would have an identical dress – minus the things on the yellow band. 

The title of my blog, “Look Mom, no hands!” is based on this dress. Here’s why:

1. I am borrowing my mom’s serger. That means I brought it to my house and used it without her supervision. She has always changed the thread for me. I’ve used it while she was in another room, but it was a big deal for me to bring the machine 20 minutes away. I insisted on watching her change threads before I left with it. Thank goodness I did. She also mentioned that once I got it threaded, to pull up on the thread to make sure the tension was tight.

Now, in all of the times I’ve used it, I have NEVER had thread break, I have NEVER had to have her rethread anything. So, of course as soon as I get it set up and about 3 inches in, I realize that one of the threads isn’t moving because it’s tangled with another. Rethread. Thread ran out. Had to go buy new. Thread broke, rethread. Machine is threaded, but threads are not tight on fabric… pull on tension, thread breaks, rethread. I was determined NOT to have to call my mom and make her drive 20 minutes to help me, or to pack ALL of my stuff and head back to her house. I’m so glad I listened to all of her advice. Eventually, I got the serger working, and all of my projects done. 

2. The top band of the dress is tricky – sew here, here and here, turn right-side out, pin to dress, turn inside out, clap three times. Tricky for me anyways, these collar things always confuse me. However, I took my time – read the directions, sewed, seam ripped, and sewed again. I ironed too (I never iron). It worked, I should take my time more often. 

So here you go mom, I did it! All by myself! I troubleshot the serger, and read a pattern. It was like riding a bike no handed – you don’t really have to learn, but you should, and when you do, you’re pretty proud 🙂

McCalls 5659


McCalls 5659 - belted

I was soooo proud when I finished the dress, I rushed upstairs and put it on to show my husband, who proceeded to tell me it looks like a mu-mu. Well, his initial reaction was much nicer, he knew I was excited about it. He doesn’t like many of my big dresses. I said that I could belt it, he really liked that idea. So now I wear it with a belt 🙂 I think I like it better too – except the pockets AND belt make it look funky. I bought fabric to make another, so I think I will omit the pockets but add the border at the bottom of the dress (see the pattern photo).