Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Your Sewing Questions Answered

Thanks for the great questions everyone! Sorry it took so long to answer them. Not having a laptop anymore has made my late night, tv watching, internet surfing, a lot less productive or should I say non-existent. hehe

1. What kind of sewing machine do I use and do I like it? Does it have an embroidery attachment?

The first Christmas after we were married, my sweet husband bought me a sewing machine. I had asked for one of course, he didn't just think "hmmm...think I'll get her a sewing machine." We went to a local whole in the wall dealer that sold Singers. My mom had a Singer so I thought that was way to go. We bought a Singer 4616 for about $160. It's got some fancy stitches which I've honestly used maybe once. It's been a pretty trusty machine. My biggest complaint is how loud it is. But my husband can sleep through it even at 4am. It's easy to use and gets the job done. There are of course a ton of better machines out there. I just haven't had the luxury of shopping for my next one yet. I hear that Bernina is the best brand as far as machines and Babylock for sergers. If you are wanting to buy your first machine, look for one that comes with a button-hole attachment, has a built in light (I'm sure that's standard) and is simple to thread. There should be guides printed on the machine to show you how to thread it.

I personally do not have an embroidery machine. Any applique work I've done has all been by hand. Meaning I use a tight zig-zag stitch on my machine and maneuver the fabric under the presser foot to sew around the appliques I've cut out. See a quick tutorial on how I do it here. But...my friend and business partner, Amy, has a computerized sewing/embroidery machine and it's really fun. She's got a Babylock Ellegante2 machine and a Babylock Imagine serger. With that said, the machines don't make the seamstress, it's practice and technique that are most important. My machines are both entry level and have served me just fine. Amy's are top-of-the-line and have features that are more fun to use and the self tension and auto-threading can keep you from pulling your hair out, but she'd be just as excellent a seamstress on my machines.

2. When you make ruffles, do you use a ruffler attachment on your machine?

I do own a ruffler attachment but I have yet to work it successfully. I do all of my ruffles by hand. Here is a good tutorial for how to make ruffles. This is what I do and it's super easy. I just enjoy doing things by hand (hence my love of hand embroidery). It's the same with cooking, I'd much rather cook from scratch. I have a lot of friends that use their rufflers and swear by them, which is why I bought one.

3. I have an unhealthy fear of zippers. Seriously, I break out in a cold sweat at the thought of putting in a zipper. Any advice?

Hahaha...love it! Ok, being completely honest here (as always), I have not put in a zipper either. I have that same unhealthy fear. But it's on my list of things to tackle in 2010. Zippers and knits both terrify me. But, I just found some good tutorials on YouTube. I like this lady and the fact that her words are also typed at the bottom in case you miss something. Looks like there are a bunch in this series so look for more videos by her. And here is another tutorial that looks good. What do you say we give it a try?

4. What was your experience as an Ebay seller of boutique clothes? When/if you go back to it, will you do anything different this time around?

My experience was great! I had no idea that the Custom Boutique world on eBay even existed until my girls were almost one. I happened upon it and one of the first custom listings I noticed was by my soon-to-be-friend Jenn. It was love at first site, total design crush on her! If you have no idea what I'm talking about, go to eBay and search "Custom Boutique" then sort highest to lowest (I also choose auction only) to see all the loveliness. The talent out there is pretty inspiring. I started sewing my little heart out until I got the hang of it and figured I could hold my own with the big girls. And the rest is history.

I had/have THE best customers a gal could want. But I think that's also pretty typical of the custom buyer. They truly appreciate all that goes into a handmade piece. My most faithful customer, turned friend, is coming to visit me in a couple of weeks. How fun is that?

I was in a couple of design groups over the 3 years I sold (XOXO and IvyLane) and I think this time around I'll stay solo. I loved the friendships I made and having others to ask my silly questions of. But the monthly launch requirements won't fit into how Amy and I want to work this time around. Some people really like having a planned launch date and theme to motivate them to create something different but I find that sometimes it keeps me from doing what I really want to do. My next idea might not fit nicely into a theme or my schedule may not allow me to meet the launch date, which isn't fair to the group. It will just be easier to be on our own, I think. As far as fees go, Etsy takes a lot less of your money than eBay does. We plan on selling through both sites though.

If you have more specific questions about selling your creations and the business side, feel free to e-mail me at tadacreations(at)gmail.com.

5. What brand of fusible web do you use with your applique? What kind of stabilizer do you use? Do you use different kinds of stabilizer with different kinds of fabrics? I think I'm the biggest sewing nerd ever!

I use Heat 'n Bond Lite to fuse appliques. You can find it at JoAnn hanging in the notions isle. Don't forget to use your 50% off coupons! For stabilizer I use a tear away stabilizer by Sulky that you iron on. When working with knits, I iron on two layers and after the applique is done I remove it one layer at a time so as to not put too much stress on the stitches. I'm not a fan of the cut-away stabilizers since you can't get close enough to the stitching. And I'd rather not monkey with the dissolvable ones. And since I'm not using a hoop for an embroidery machine I need it to stick to the fabric so I always use the iron on kind.

p.s. I love sewing nerds! ;)

6. I SO want to learn to SEW...but it's completely overwhelming to me. Where do I start???

My first piece of advice is to get a basic machine, you don't need any bells and whistles and $150 should be enough. Then start with a pattern from You Can Make This. All of the patterns on this site are designed for beginner sewers. Growing up, my mom taught me how to sew. But I always let her do the tough parts like reading the patterns. I left home knowing how to straight stitch, do a zig zag, wind a bobbin, thread a machine and start and stop sewing. Pretty basic, but invaluable none-the-less. Thanks Mom! It was enough to be able to sew my own curtains when we bought a house, making it up as I went along (no pattern needed, they're just rectangles). But it wasn't until I bought my first pattern from YCMT that I realized just how easy clothing creation was. The confidence and tips I gained from the first two pieces I ever made were priceless. I was eager to learn more and shortly after, bought my first store-bought pattern. Granted I've never sewn for myself and fitting little girls is so much easier without darts and such (ahem *zippers*), but I'm sure I could handle that too.

*Don't be alarmed about how long some of these patterns are, they are similar to the tutorials I have done for you here on my blog (see sidebar). They are full of pictures and explain each step in detail. You can also e-mail the authors with questions.

Here are some patterns I would recommend starting with:

Twirl Skirt by Pouty Princess
The basis of all twirl skirts.


Evelyn Apron Skirt by Jona
I have not bought this one, but it's adorable.

Pillowcase Dress (for dolly too)
I have not bought this one but it's got to be easy. They also have a Mommy top version.

Flouncy Tiered Sundress

I have not bought this one, but it looks super easy.

Patterns to try after you've mastered button holes:

Round Neck Sundress/Top

I just made these for the girls' Easter dresses and it was a snap.

Emily's Camisole
Looks easy and making the button placket will help you sew other patterns later.

Emma Swing Top
Super popular right now. I've bought it and it looks very easy.

I hope that helps!

7. How can I be sure to find out about your class?

I'll have the date on my blog as soon as it's scheduled (probably not until August). It will be at Eagle Creek Quilt Shop in Shakopee, MN this fall. We'll have a lot of resources for you as well as a show-and-tell of our work. I'm excited you want to come!

8. Have you ever made piping and if yes then how do I do it???? I'm just learning to sew and I love it!

Another confession...I have not made piping. I'm starting to feel like I haven't done anything! I just searched "piping sewing tutorial" on YouTube and found this. It's only one part of a series and it looks like it's for a pillow or couch. There are also these tutes that look easy to follow too, here and here.

9. Tags for clothing.

I bought my TaDa! Creations labels from fancyweaver on eBay. They are made in Hong Kong and they are very easy to work with. You get 200 labels for $45 and they carry size tags too. I know you can also use an embroidery machine and stitch labels onto grossgrain ribbon, but I haven't tried that.

10.How to make your appliques look professional.

Good question! Start by working s l o w l y. It's not a race! And when you come to a corner, keep moving the fabric so your needle comes back to the inside of the corner and slowly fans it's way around the corner. I usually hand-crank each stitch and reposition the fabric before putting the needle down every time. Don't sew to the end of the line and butt the next line (perpendicular to it) right up to it. You need to pivot your fabric around the corner for a professional look.

*Sorry for the not-so-good drawing. I had a very interested 4 year old at my elbow.

Also, if you are laying a lighter color on top of a darker color, I double up on the light fabric. For instance if I have a piece of white that overlaps red and denim, I cut out two of those white pieces and fuse them one on top of the other. That way the fabric from underneath doesn't' show through. One of the things I don't like to see is someone who took a lot of time and care to applique something cute on to a dress made out of polka dots and you can still see those polka dots through the applique. Not very professional in my opinion and I try hard never to let that happen.

Thanks for all the questions and the super sweet comments! Feel free to ask more and I'll do a part 2.

Room to Live

I don't watch the local news anymore. Since having kids I just can't listen to all the horrible stuff that goes on in the world. I rely heavily on David to filter things for me. He's getting better at I. I rarely have to say "Now, why on earth did you tell me that?" Some of the stories are just too heartbreaking.

So that's why I hadn't noticed that in the past four days, 15 people have died in car accidents simply because they weren't wearing their seat belt. Most of them were teens. They were all in rural areas where the seat belt compliance is only 25%, not the 90% in the metro. You can read more about it here on Trish Van Pilsum's blog. Caution there is some swearing, which is totally uncharacteristic for Trish, but she's super upset about it. Especially because of all the stories on safety she is done. She has asked us to get this video out there. It's the best impactful story on traffic safety she's done. I just watched it and it's very powerful. She actually sits in countless cars that were totaled and shows us that if the people inside had only been buckled in there was plenty of "room to live." It's a must see for every driver, young and old. But especially watch it with your teens. They need to see that being cool, isn't cool in an accident.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

On Praise


This morning Emily hung out with Daddy while he was getting ready for work. Their conversation went like this...

D: "Emily, I am so proud of you. I love having you as my daughter and I love you very much."
E: "Yeah."
D: "Honey, the polite response when someone praises you is "Thank you.""
E: "Da-aaaaaad. We only praise GOD, not little girls, silly."

Oh what a sweet girl she is and she is right on the money.
(We'll use the word "compliment" next time.)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sewing Q and A

Have any burning questions about sewing? Leave a comment on this post or e-mail me at tadacreations@gmail.com. I'll compile them later in the week and answer in a separate post, as best I can. I'm no sewing expert by any means, but I'll do my best to help you out. I had a request from one of my sweet readers just last week (though it could have been longer, the days are just zooming by) to do this. And, just telling you now, I know nothing about sewing with knits. But anything else is fair game. And no question is too dumb to ask! Seriously!

And here's a little info for anyone local. Just yesterday I signed Amy (you'll get a formal introduction very soon) and myself up to give a class on sewing little girls' boutique clothing, at our favorite quilt shop in the fall. It's fun to think that two years ago, Amy was sitting in the audience listening to me wander all over the topic of sewing, just embarking on her own sewing journey from quilts to clothes for her own daughter. I couldn't have done too bad a job, since she still wants to be my friend and now partner in crime. This time we'll have our daughters with us, sporting some of their outfits for an even better look at our samples (not just the clothesline display). So, if you are in the area and would like to attend, I'll be sure to let you know here, when the date is set.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Guess who's coming to dinner?

I'll give you a hint.


Ok, that was a pretty BIG hint (especially if you remember that apron I made). But I couldn't help myself, she has had some fantastic blog posts lately.

And LOOK, she sews too!


You have to check out her tutorial for this.


It's rare when long distance friends get to meet in person, isn't it?

I first met Jessica about 3 years ago when she chose one of my Boutique designs for her Little Pumpkin's Christmas dress. Three years later, many customs and tons more e-mails, a genuine friendship was born. Jessica is one of the sweetest and most thoughtful people you could ever know. She's a fantastic Mama to two adorable littles and I'm so excited to see our 5 kids (between us), aged 4 and under, playing together. We are going to have a great time exploring this city (with camera in tow of course). And I'm excited to meet her Mom too. Thanks ladies for choosing MN for your Mother-Daughter-Grandkids week-end together. I couldn't be more thrilled!

Now go check out the Cinderalla Transformation she did to her $5 cardi. I'm making mine tonight so we can be twins. *giggle*

Friday, April 16, 2010

Shirred Top {Tutorial}

Want to make a shirred top or dress?

Let's get started!


I picked some of my favorite fabrics from my stash. Heather's Freshcut and some of the Penelope sheeting from Pottery Barn Kids. These were all a part of my Sweet Tweet collection.


You'll need:

  1. Two coordinating prints. One for the body, and one for the straps and ruffle. Of course you could choose more or just use one. And patchwork or strips of fabric would be fun too.
  2. Coordinating thread and ric rac if desired. I need to go back and add ric rac above my ruffles.
  3. Measurements: Chest, length from underarm to hem (for top or dress length) and from underarm over the shoulder for strap length.
  4. Rotary cutter, mat and ruler really make this project fast, but you can certainly do it without them.
  5. Elastic thread to hand wind on to your bobbin. Found in the notions isle.
Step 1 {Cut your pieces}


If her chest measurement is 22" around then you would just need to cut two pieces of fabric that are 22" wide + 1" for a 1/2" seam allowance (SA) on each side. Since you are cutting two separate pieces, and the seams will be on the sides, you are making it twice as wide as her chest measurement. This is because shirring basically shrinks the fabric in half.

The length of the fabric will be the measurement from her underarm to the desired hem length minus the ruffle. I added a 2" ruffle and wanted the blouse to be 12" long from underarm. So I cut the length, 12" (overall length) - 2" (ruffle) + 1" (SA). I cut two rectangles that were 23" wide x 11" long. Make sure you have the pattern of your fabric in the correct direction.

*You should add about 1 extra inch in the length to account for the bodice shrinking up a little due to the shirring. I forgot to do that this time.

To cut out the ruffle pieces, my general rule of thumb is to make the ruffle twice as full as the garment. So if my front piece is 22" wide (finished), my ruffle will be 44" wide in just the front. I cut two strips that are 44" + 1" (SA) by 2" + 1" (SA), or 45" x 3". Remember to cut two of these.

* What if her chest measurement is more than half the width of your fabric? Most fabric is manufactured to be about 45" wide. But what if you needed to cut 2 strips that are 50" wide? You can either divide your 100 total inches by three and cut 3 strips...or...you could just ruffle it a little less full and get away with 2 strips.

And last, you'll need to cut two shoulder straps. I got a measurement of 9" from underarm, over her shoulder and back again. Again, because shirring shrinks the fabric by half, I doubled that measurement and got 18". Then I added 2" to allow for some overlap for where they are attached. No seam allowance here, the ends will just be serged. But if you don't' have a serger, add another 1" for a fold-over hem. I wanted my straps to be 3" wide so I cut them 4" to allow for a 1/2" hem on both edges. I cut my straps 20" x 4".

*But, if you are nervous about getting the strap length correct, just make them a good 6" longer than you think you need, you can always attach them lower into the bodice, or make a longer hem at the bottom of them or secure the shirring with a super tiny stitch along the bottom and tem cut them shorter. Or if you get them wrong, just make new ones. We often learn by making mistakes, right?

Step 2 {Sew the side Seams}

Lay your body pieces right side together and sew a 1/2" seam allowance up the sides. Serge or use a zig zag stitch to finish the seam. Do the same with your ruffle pieces (you'll be sewing the 3" side together).


Step 3 {Hem Those Ruffles}

I only allowed for a 1/2" seam allowance on these so I sewed a narrow hem. Just fold it over 1/4", iron flat all the way around and then fold up another 1/4". You could also use a narrow hem foot on your machine or you could substitute a rolled hem on your serger.


Step 4 {Attach the Ruffles}

Pin your ruffles, right sides together, to the body. Make sure you have the ruffle fabric in the correct direction, with the hem not getting caught in the seam you are about to sew. If you've never gathered a ruffle, Sandi has a great tutorial here.



Sew/serge the ruffle on and then flip it down, iron flat and top-stitch.

I love ruffles that are ironed down! Is that weird?


Step 5 {Hem the Straps}

Sew narrow hems on both long sides of the straps. You could again use a rolled hem instead. I actually prefer this, but my serger won't do that anymore.


Step 6 {Shirring}

Sandi has a great tutorial on How to Shir, it's really easy-peasy, so I'll let her show you how. I was able to start shirring without changing any of the regular settings on my machine. Just hand-wind your bobbin with the elastic thread and try it on a test piece. Always, ALWAYS test it first before starting on your garment.

As I was sewing, my pieces started to shrink up, but the final shrinking comes when you blast it with steam from your iron. If you've never done it, it's really fun!

I just used the side of my presser foot to determine the width of each line. I started on the outside, flipping my fabric to the other end each pass, then just sewed the final line down the middle, pulling the fabric a bit taught as I went.



You really need to pull on the strap or you will have a bunched up HOT mess if you don't.


Here they are before I tied off all the ends. You can see why a rolled hem is prettier, mine curl and you can see the underside of the narrow hem.


Now do the same thing with the top of the body. I shirred 3 rows at the top and then left about 1.5" of space before the next series of 3 started. You can use an erasable marking pen or chalk to mark your next starting line (do this before you start any shirring), but I've got a screw hole on my machine that I just held my fabric up to, giving me the desired width.

You can also shir the entire bodice section, without any space. It just depends on the look you want.

I just had to lay them out to take a look at all the prettiness awaiting my girls' wardrobe. This is FUN!


Step 7 {Attach the Straps}

Serge along the unfinished, short, edges. You could also sew a tight (close together) stitch to secure the ends and then zig zag them so they don't unravel, or you could fold them over twice and hem them but that adds a bit of bulk.


Pin them on to see where you like the placement best. One thing you also need to keep in mind is how heavy the body of the top/dress is. If you made this dress length, the body will be heavier and stretch the shirred straps more than you might think they would. So you would need to adjust for that when you pin the straps on. This is a hard thing to get perfect if you are doing it without the one who will wear it by your side. But you can. Just hang it on a hanger and pull on it yourself until you think it feels right. Sorry that's pretty vague but it's a trial and error kind of thing.

I made these blouses because so often store bought clothing is too short on my long-waisted girls. Either that or their pants are too low in the rise. We see a little to much in the backside when that happens. But I found when she was playing on the swing-set later, it's still not quite long enough to cover her when bending over. She needs an extra inch of coverage. I'm going to just add a second ruffle under the first one and then it should be perfect. It's a good thing I hadn't already added that ric rac!



I ended up placing my straps 3" out from the side seams. That means I stretched the bodice flat and then measured 3" and put a pin there to mark it. Then I pinned the strap so that it starts a bit below that first section of shirring.


I sewed from the backside, between those bottom 2 rows of shirring (in the top section). I used a thread color that would match the fabric in that spot (white instead of pink).


Oh and look at what I get to stare at every time I sew. That is, when my eyes aren't on the task at hand. Have you made these yet? No? Add it to your list right now!


Here is what that line of stitching looks like from the top.


Then flip it over and, pulling the strap a little bit taught (not too much or it will make the blouse cinch up there), sew below the top hem and the first line of shirring.


Trim your threads and you are done!

Now, before I show you my finished blouses, I will dissect for you a few of my past creations. Because I'm never fully happy with how things turn out, there is always something I wish I would have changed.

I made this dress last summer. I shirred 2 rows on the outer edges of the straps and that ended up not being quite enough support for the weight of the dress. I should have either made the straps wider or shirred the whole width of them. I'm actually not digging the fully shirred strap shown in this tutorial, so I think I should have made them about 2" wider and had a couple more rows of shirring (maybe closer together). If she tugs on the dress, as kids are prone to do, she gets a little too exposed because it's so stretchy. More shirring would have made them stay in place a little better. But you can see that the length of the straps is good.


Here is the first shirred blouse I ever made. I really LOVED this one, even though it's not quite perfect. The straps are proportioned correctly, but a bit too short. You can see the side of the bodice folding over a little bit. I also started the first row of shirring a little too low. It ruffles out a bit too much for my taste. So, again, not perfect.




This one turned out pretty cute. I made the straps wider and set them about 1-2" away from the side seam so they would look more like a little cap sleeve. What I don't like about this one is the fully shirred bodice. Especially when you get to the bigger sizes (5T and up) it just looks cuter with the little bubble between the top and bottom rows. More blousey.


That was such a FUN dress! The first thing I ever made without a pattern (and with my old point-and-shoot...Eeeek!).


Now for the finished blouses...




And off to what they really wanted to be doing...


So, looking at these photos, I realize that I should have doubled the open space between the shirring and not fully shirred the straps. You know what they say about hindsight. I just wish I had thought of all this before I decided to give you a tutorial. Geesh! But they still make some pretty cute play clothes.





Make a Shirred Top is linked up over at


Join us Saturdays at tatertotsandjello.com for the weekend wrap up party!








Check these sites out for more fun projects.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Skirty Skirt Skirts

I wanted to get some fun pics of the girls wearing their new skirts. Allison's was made by my friend Jenn and I made the tanks and the second skirt to go with it. If you haven't yet, stop by Jenn's shop and buy something to help them bring their baby home from Ethiopia. I'm lovin' her Mariposa Tank and the Mariposa Colette skirt.

My favorite photo of the day. Print worthy for sure.


I've been having trouble getting the girls to just look at the camera and smile. So this time I had them make fun faces.

Ok girls, show me surprise.


Great, now pretend you are a scary monster.


Great! Now smile for Mommy.


Hmm...that one needs a little work.

I love this type of photo so much more though. It really shows their personality. And that they are such good friends.


Here's my little Shower Bandit. She decided to make bubbles in the sink, put them on her face and use Mommy's razor to shave them off. *gasp* She's lucky she still has lips. And I get the Bad Mommy Award for not putting the razor up high enough out of reach. I walked in and Sam was playing with the bubbles in the sink, razor sitting in the bottom of the sink with the cap off too. Nice! It still didn't occur to me that that was why her lip was bleeding until Daddy got the story out of her at bedtime.




I hope you've had time to stop and smell the flowers today.