80s Prom Dress Hack

80s Prom Dress Hack

For the most part, I use my sewing skills for myself, and my immediate family. Sometimes, however, I get to help friends out. As was the case this week when my friend, Tania, asked if I could help her with a costume for a party this weekend. The theme was 80s Night and she had found an authentic 80s Prom Dress that ALMOST fit her. She just needed the dress to work for that one night. I was game to help her make it happen.

Verdict

When she brought over the dress I assessed three main issues:

  1. The zipper was broken on the left side of the plaque.
  2. There were two rips to the right of the right-side zipper.
  3. Her rib cage was wider than the fit of the dress. We would need to somehow expand the torso piece of the dress to get it to fit her for an evening.
I decided to extend the circumference of the dress by creating a fabric plaque that would be sewn onto the left side of the zipper opening.

I decided to extend the circumference of the dress by creating a fabric plaque that would be sewn onto the left side of the zipper opening.

The good news is that these were all problems I could tackle. I decided to extend the circumference of the dress by creating a fabric plaque that would be sewn onto the left side of the zipper opening (I cut off the broken zipper) and would attach via Velcro to the right side of the zipper opening.

The good news is that these were all problems I could tackle.

The good news is that these were all problems I could tackle.

Resourceful fabric recycling

Tania brought two gift bags with her that we planned to use as extra fabric. They were glittery and shiny and would match the dress and the theme of the party. From the red bag I cut out the larger plaque.

 

I sewed it directly onto where the zipper would have zipped up on the left side of the dress opening.

I sewed it directly onto where the zipper would have zipped up on the left side of the dress opening.

I sewed it directly onto where the zipper would have zipped up on the left side of the dress opening.

Patches?! We don’t need no stinking patches

Then I tackled the holes. I used the gray gift bag fabric to support the fabric under where the rips were and then zig zag stitched several lines of stitching to patch the rips (Remember this just needed to work for one night).

 

Here you can see the gray gift bag fabric on the underside of the dress. I sewed Velcro to the right side of the dress opening, sewing right over the invisible zipper.

Here you can see the gray gift bag fabric on the underside of the dress.

Here you can see the gray gift bag fabric on the underside of the dress.

Measure twice – cut once

For this part, I had her put the dress on and then we fit the dress to exactly the width she felt comfortable in. I used my Clover Chaco-liner Pen to draw a line where the other side of the Velcro needed to be sewn on. The curve at the end is where the lower portion of the still working zipper zipped up to meet the straight line of the back piece.

The curve at the end is where the lower portion of the still working zipper zipped up to meet the straight line of the back piece.

The curve at the end is where the lower portion of the still working zipper zipped up to meet the straight line of the back piece.

Ta da!!! The red fabric + Velcro expanded the corset piece perfectly. On the right you can see her in the dress after we’d finished. The dress is a little roomy in the bust, but she will be wearing a strapless bra to fill that in.

I’m so glad I could help my friend out with my sewing skills.

I’m so glad I could help my friend out with my sewing skills.

I’m so glad I could help my friend out with my sewing skills.

Have you ever helped someone DIY a costume?

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Charlotte Kaufman is a writer and sewist in Mammoth Lakes, California. She specializes in marine and home interiors and continues to fall more and more in love with quilting. You can follow her at charlottekaufman.com.
Crazy Patch Butterfly Applique Blocks

Crazy Patch Butterfly Applique Blocks

These crazy patch butterfly blocks happened by accident.

These crazy patch butterfly blocks happened by accident.

These crazy patch butterfly blocks happened by accident.

The last time I made a crazy patch quilt, I wound up with two extra blocks. I have no intention of collecting UFO blocks, but I’m not inclined to throw my handiwork away. So I stared at them a while, trying to think of something to make from these extra blocks.

Something told me to cut them into triangles, so I did, still not knowing what I’d do with them. I played with the triangle pieces for a few minutes, and this design idea came to me. I think it’s a good one.

You could make a bunch of these for a quilt, a few for a table or bed runner, feature one in a sampler quilt, or just make one for a small project.

I plan to use one of these to make an oversized pocket on a skirt. And I’ll show you what I’m going to do with the other one next week, so stay tuned.

Here are the steps to make these:

Crazy Patch Butterfly Blocks

For each block, you will need:

  • Background rectangle or square
  • Muslin square
  • Assorted small scraps

Step one: make the crazy patchwork

You could make these crazy patch butterfly blocks any size, but my examples started with a six inch square. Take your muslin square and arrange a several sided scrap somewhere near the middle of the square.  Choose another scrap with one side at least as long as one side of the first fabric, and place it right side down atop the first.  Sew along this seam, flip the second fabric down where the right side faces up, then press.  Repeat this process, gradually adding scraps, until the square is fully covered by your assorted scraps.

Then, place the block right side down on your cutting mat and use your rotary cutter and ruler to trim the fabric scrap from the edges of the muslin square.

I made one on video so you can see exactly how to do this step:

I should mention that traditional crazy patchwork also incorporates embroidery stitches over the seam lines. If you have a machine that does decorative stitching, then you can sew a line of decorative stitches along the seam after you add each new scrap to your crazy square. You don’t want to wait until the end, since these scraps go every which way.

Step two: cut triangles

Now lay the crazy patchwork square right side up on your cutting board. Use your ruler and rotary cutter to cut it in half diagonally, then move your ruler and cut diagonally the other way, to end up with four quarter square triangles. You could use scissors if you don’t have a rotary cutter, but if you want to make patchwork, you really want to get a rotary cutter and cutting mat.

Step three: appliqué

Here’s how to arrange the triangles to construct these crazy patch butterfly blocks. Place the top pair of wings with points together and the ninety degree angles at the outside bottom corners. Then angle the bottom wing pieces with the longest edges on the inside and the ninety degree angles pointing out.

Crazy patch butterfly block.

Crazy patch butterfly block.

Pin these to your backing square and appliqué using a satin stitch. I made these using a rectangular backing cut at nine and a quarter by eleven and a half inches.

If you will be using these for a small project rather than a quilt, there is an alternative way to hold your pieces in place rather than using pins. You could use double-sided fusible web. You would affix this to the back of your appliqué pieces and then remove the paper backing and affix the other side to the backing rectangle.

This makes appliqué really easy, but I don’t recommend using it for quilts, because it will be crinkly inside the appliqué. If you are making a wall quilt or other small decorative project, it is an easy choice.

Bust out the scraps

After you appliqué the crazy patch butterfly wings, then use corduroy or another scrap fabric to cut a long, tapered oval for the caterpillar body. Applique this in the middle, to cover the intersecting wings.

My son just pointed out that I forgot to add antennae to mine. If you’d like to add antennae, you can do this using hand or machine embroidery. Or you can use Debbie Mumm’s easy idea that she calls pen-stitch embroidery. That is, you can draw them with a fine tipped Sharpie or other permanent pen.

Here is one that I quilted the background using using tight free-motion quilting.

Crazy patch butterfly block quilted.

Crazy patch butterfly block quilted.

As you can see, these crazy patch butterfly blocks are super easy to make. They’d be cute on a baby, wall, or bed quilt. Or you could feature just one on an apron or skirt.

What will you make with these crazy patch butterfly blocks?

Scrap-Fabric Keychain!

Scrap-Fabric Keychain!

If there’s one thing I’m interested in regarding sewing, it’s finding new ways to use my leftover fabric. In fact, if you’ve been keeping up with my posts (I won’t hate you forever because you haven’t! Honest!), it’s a concept that’s been explored already. But I still have fabric at my disposal, so the idea of how to use those pieces continues as a subject worth looking into.

So, for today’s post, I’m going to give you yet another way to use your leftover fabric — even if that leftover fabric is fairly small! Need proof? The project I’ll use for an example was made out of ONE fabric block that was less than ten inches in either direction. Sound good? Then let’s dive into this project, which for the record, is a keychain!

What you’ll need:

  • One fabric block. The size varies depending on what shape you want to make your keychain — and what size you want your keychain to be — but you don’t need anything over 10″ x 10″. Also, remember that flimsy fabric might not keep your keychain shape too well, so try something that’s sturdy — maybe even felt.
  • Key ring. It isn’t really a keychain if you can’t hang a key on it!
  • Sewing essentials like needle, thread, and straight pins, as usual!

What you’ll do:

Step One:  Choose your fabric, keeping in mind the guidelines about size and texture. You should also note that your shapes for your keychain will only be so big, so you should consider that size. If your final goal is a one-inch shape, for instance, you should pick a fabric that’ll look good when cut down to that size. I changed my fabric choice on this detail because with my initial decision, I would’ve potentially had part of a flower, a whole lot of plain color, or scattered bits that didn’t really look that fantastic to me. It might be something you want to consider as well!

I changed my fabric choice on this detail because with my initial decision, I would’ve potentially had part of a flower, a whole lot of plain color, or scattered bits that didn’t really look that fantastic to me.

I changed my fabric choice on this detail because with my initial decision, I would’ve potentially had part of a flower, a whole lot of plain color, or scattered bits that didn’t really look that fantastic to me.

Also, decide what shape you want your keychain to be. For me, I went with a heart because it was simple and traditional, but there are plenty of other options. Once you know your shape, you can create a stencil, or use an existing stencil, to make sure your fabric is going to be cut in the right way.

Cut it out

Step Two: Cut out your shapes! This was a perk to choosing a heart because you can make one by only cutting one side of the heart, as many of us might have learned in childhood. I don’t need to cut both sides if I fold the fabric in half, and I ended up only having to make that folded cut once for both sides of my keychain by folding the fabric into fourths. That way, with one swooping I-want-a-heart-shape cut, I got two bits of fabric that admittedly needed a bit of tailoring, but were good starting places for my heart.

With 1 swooping I-want-a-heart-shape cut, I got 2 bits of fabric that admittedly needed a bit of tailoring, but were good starting places for my heart.

With 1 swooping I-want-a-heart-shape cut, I got 2 bits of fabric that admittedly needed a bit of tailoring, but were good starting places for my heart.

Whether you find a simple method to make both pieces at once or use a stencil, cut two shapes out of the block of fabric — one for the keychain’s front side and one for the back. Make sure they’re even enough so that too much excess material doesn’t show on either side and that you’ve accomplished cutting the shape you wanted — or at least one you can live with! Also, remember to cut a line of fabric that is a couple of inches long and wide enough to suit your purpose (maybe ¼”). This will be your loop to put the keyring through. NOTE: These numbers can vary depending on what size you want your keychain to be!

Step Three: Once your shapes are cut and trimmed, it’s time to start planning your sewing. Even though this is a small project, it could still pay to have straight pins keeping your work in place, so you might want to break out a couple! Be sure before you pin or sew that your main fabric pieces are together with their patterned sides facing outward, and don’t forget to fold that additional line of fabric and place the tips of both ends between the two shapes.

Be sure before you pin or sew that your main fabric pieces are together with their patterned sides facing outward.

Be sure before you pin or sew that your main fabric pieces are together with their patterned sides facing outward.

Put a ring on it

You might think about going ahead and adding your keyring here as well so that you don’t have to put your fabric through the stress of being twisted through the keyring. To do that, you’d just need to loop the line of fabric through the ring before you pin it between the shaped fabric pieces for sewing.

Step Four: Sew! Since this is a keychain, the process won’t take long! And be sure to cut off the excess thread when you finish!

Sew! Since this is a keychain, the process won’t take long!

Sew! Since this is a keychain, the process won’t take long!

Step Five: Hang a key on it and enjoy!

How to Store Your Fabric Scraps

How to Store Your Fabric Scraps

It only took me six months, but I finally organized my fabric scraps after our move.

It only took me six months, but I finally organized my fabric scraps after our move.

It only took me six months, but I finally organized my fabric scraps after our move to this new town and new house. When we made the move, I dumped my two huge bins of scraps into a few shopping bags and tucked them away until this glorious moment when they would not only be sorted, but have a place to reside.

Bits and pieces

Why should one keep & organize fabric scraps?

Why should one keep & organize fabric scraps?

Why should one keep and organize fabric scraps? Here are some reasons to consider.

  1. Fabric is expensive. Long sized strips, and smaller pieces can be reused for a vast amount of projects. The internet is a trove of fabric scrap project ideas.
  2. Out of sight, out of mind. The reverse of this is true as well. When you have your scraps visible, you are much more likely to use them and be aware of what you have available.
  3. Have a favorite color? It probably shows in the types of fabric you buy. Take a look at your pile of scraps and try to use up more of that color before you buy a few more yards.
  4. Many people cut their scraps to standard sizes. If you have a size of fabric you constantly seem to go to, make your life easier by making your own pre-cuts out of scraps.

Scrap bags

I ultimately made 9 bags of folded scraps.

I ultimately made 9 bags of folded scraps.

I ultimately made 9 bags of folded scraps. They included the following (from left to right):

  1. All of my precut Layer Cakes (10” x 10” squares)
  2. All of my other-sized precuts
  3. Pinks
  4. Whites
  5. Yellows, tans and oranges
  6. Greens, teals and aquas
  7. Blues and purples
  8. Heavy duty fabric scraps (canvas, Sunbrella, etc)
  9. Utility fabric scraps (batting, white out fabric, mesh, etc.)

One of these things is not like the others…

Bag #10 holds all of my selvage edges & very thin strips of fabric.

Bag #10 holds all of my selvage edges & very thin strips of fabric.

There is also a 10th bag (but it didn’t fit well in the group photo above). This holds all of my selvage edges and very thin strips of fabric. I have a huge wish list of projects to make from selvage edges. Perhaps I’ll write a post soon showing you the world of possibility with saving those thin strips!

A place of and for my own making

Welcome to my fabric corner.

Welcome to my fabric corner.

This is my fabric corner. The upper shelves hold my larger stash of fabrics, so pieces that are a fat quarter size or larger. The lower shelves hold my iron on top, and my fabric scraps in the bins below.

Dirty little secret: I just tuck larger pieces in wherever I find room.

Dirty little secret: I just tuck larger pieces in wherever I find room.

I’d love to tell you that I have my larger pieces organized in some kind of fancy way, but I really don’t. I just tuck them in wherever I find room.

Behold! A place for everything & everything in its place.

Behold! A place for everything & everything in its place.

Can you see how lovely the organization of these scraps is? The easy access and keeping them visible by my work space means I’m often including them in my daydreaming when it comes to new sewing projects.

Do you store your fabric scraps? If so, tell us where or how you do!

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Charlotte Kaufman is a writer and sewist in Mammoth Lakes, California. She specializes in marine and home interiors and continues to fall more and more in love with quilting. You can follow her at charlottekaufman.com.
New Year Resolutions

New Year Resolutions

New Year Resolutions

Where has the time gone? This year is almost over, and has gone by so fast. The last week of the year is my time to regroup, reduce (stuff) and reorganize for the coming year. A fresh start, another chance, a new agenda and personal growth. What a great idea! Moving forward in positive movement to find ways I can inspire people to continue their love of sewing by finding interesting facts and ideas to share. I am EXCITED!!

Take scraps and make a woven rag rug with a wonderful and colorful texture!

Take scraps and make a woven rag rug with a wonderful and colorful texture!

My Plan is the following:

  1. Research textiles and discover ways they are used in various applications in sewing and other art forms. My favorite is mixed media using sewing, quilting, tie dying plain fabric and other ways to create 3D artwork.
  2. Make new curtains for my sewing studio using drapery fabric. Choosing one is the hardest task!
  3. Experiment with different types of sewing feet like the Narrow Hem Foot to make professionally stitched napkins, table cloths and handmade scarves that will make people think you bought them from expensive designers! And some are very expensive!
  4. Use the wide variety of stitches on my machine to create interesting embroidery on quilt squares to piece together to create a scene or story. It is amazing how many things you can do. It may be a great time to upgrade your sewing machine to a designer model next year! Check this website for your choices! Sewingmachinesplus.com is the best place to buy. They offer many great choices!!
  5. Reduce scraps, and pieces of fabric that can be made into a crazy quilt, or used for small projects for a children’s class project. (This is difficult for me because I always think of something I can make from them.
  6. Design fresh ideas for NaturaDomani, my online Etsy Store. I hope to make a difference in the interest of organic fabrics, bamboo, hemp, and other eco-friendly textiles to save trees, water conservation and hazardous working conditions and to preserve beautiful things of Nature.
  7. Find outlets for charitable giving to pay forward Etsy sales and products.
  8. MOST IMPORTANT! Inspire my readers to use your creativity in sewing, and in life, to find happiness in yourself by learning new things and enjoying your achievements. Also, to embrace love and the love of others so that 2017 will become one of your very BEST YEARS!
I find it fun to share my sewing experiences with you as I am building an online presence at Etsy.com. While I sew, I realize that as careful as I stitch, handmade things are never perfect. It’s the challenge and effort that counts.

I find it fun to share my sewing experiences with you as I am building an online presence at Etsy.com. While I sew, I realize that as careful as I stitch, handmade things are never perfect. It’s the challenge and effort that counts.

HAPPY NEW YEAR AND BEST WISHES FOR 2017

The Scraps of Christmas

The Scraps of Christmas

It’s officially Christmas week, guys! The day is just around the corner, and soon we’ll be heading into a less twinkle-lit world. Until then though, there’s still time to revel in the holiday for one more blog post! For this particular one, how about we go with a nice wrap-up idea?

You see, I’ve covered a tree skirt, ornaments, and homemade gifts, but if you chose to go all of those routes, you potentially would have collected a series of Christmas fabrics. Each project could have its own material, so there might be quite the variety. Another decent assumption would be that you didn’t have just enough material for all projects, so you could easily have scraps of Christmas fabric left over from your handmade-Christmas-extravaganza.

The Scraps of Christmas

Sure, you could stash it away for future use, but if you keep every scrap of material you ever come across, you’re treading on fabric-hoarder territory! There’s nothing wrong with keeping the pieces that would reasonably be user-friendly in the future, but I’m talking about the small bits that won’t be much use without other smaller parts to make something happen, or for a small enough project.

So, maybe this post will help keep that fabric stash a little smaller and farther from hoarder territory by answering one simple question: What projects can you do with those small parts of leftover Christmas fabric?

Answer: Plenty, and I plan to take you through a number of those options!

Possibility #1: Make a banner

This is such a simple option, but it can add a classy touch to your Christmas decorations. All you need to do is pick a shape for your fabric, cut the scraps in that shape, make sure those hems are smooth, and link them together—maybe with some ribbon or yarn. If you’re feeling particular, you can make sure that each of those shapes is two-sided by sewing two pieces together—maybe spice things up by using more than one fabric for the cause. With that method, you could have (as an example) a bell-shaped addition to your banner that has Rudolph on one side and Frosty on the other! If you’re good at embroidery, use enough shapes to embroider a message across. You could even do this laundry-line idea if you had the right fabric! The options on this idea alone are numerous!

The options on this idea alone are numerous!

The options on this idea alone are numerous!

Possibility #2: Make fabric garland

This is like the banner, but requires strips of fabric tied instead of differently shaped pieces embellished and sewn. I mean, sure, you could add gems and such, but the draping quality of the fabric is kind of its distinctive factor, which doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for the Merry Christmas message! Still, this is a simple, elegant idea that could add a touch of holiday cheer to your house by hanging from your mantel. And, as is the main idea of the post, it’s a great way to use that extra Christmas fabric you might have once you finish your holiday sewing projects!

This is like the banner, but requires strips of fabric tied instead of differently shaped pieces embellished and sewn.

This is like the banner, but requires strips of fabric tied instead of differently shaped pieces embellished and sewn.

Possibility #3: Make a Christmas tote

While you might not have enough material to make the entire tote in one style (then again, maybe you will!), you could create a patchwork look for a homemade Christmas tote! You can find patterns for totes here, and Sewing Machines Plus offers free patterns for bags as well. Can you imagine a patched-up Christmas tote in this design! I would definitely carry one of those!

I would definitely carry one of those!

I would definitely carry one of those!

Possibility #4: Make fabric bookmarks

Call me a literature nerd, but how awesome would it be to give someone a copy of A Christmas Carol with a hand-sewn bookmark to go along with it? In fact, this could be a thing you do next year — give out holiday classics with hand-sewn bookmarks in Christmas fabrics! These projects are small, and who knows how many you could make in one day? And they require little fabric, which is the theme of this post! Whether it’s to hold your place for your own holiday reading or for small gift-gestures to let someone know you’re thinking of them, these creations could bring a festive touch to a book-and-hot-chocolate December time!

Call me a literature nerd, but how awesome would it be to give someone a copy of A Christmas Carol with a hand-sewn bookmark to go along with it?

Call me a literature nerd, but how awesome would it be to give someone a copy of A Christmas Carol with a hand-sewn bookmark to go along with it?

Possibility #5: Make a keychain

Since childhood, I’ve had an interest in keychains. I don’t know why, but it’s true just the same. So, why not take a bit of that excess material and make a one-of-a-kind keychain? Keyrings don’t have to be expensive, and it’s possible that everything else you’d need you could find around your house—maybe even down to buttons like what you see in the picture. Given the teeny-tiny-ness of keychains, this craft would be a good way to use some of that excess fabric! You can find this possibility (and #5) here!

Given the teeny-tiny-ness of keychains, this craft would be a good way to use some of that excess fabric!

Given the teeny-tiny-ness of keychains, this craft would be a good way to use some of that excess fabric!

So, the moral of the story is that you don’t have to be a Christmas-fabric hoarder after your holiday sewing! There are plenty of avenues to expend some of that scrap material!

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

LET ME SEW!! LET ME SEW! LET ME SEW!!

LET ME SEW!! LET ME SEW! LET ME SEW!!

The Holiday Season is here. Traffic is fearful! The malls are busy. The wine I just drank is making me dizzy. I’m stressing about the time, it is getting too near. What on earth can I give to my “people” this year?

The house is a mess with all the sewing I’ve done, scraps and pins on the floor, dozens of threads on the chairs. It is too overwhelming, sometimes I want to run!

The tree is not up, the cookies not done. I’m afraid this Christmas will not be any FUN!

The “walking” foot broke, and I cried, “OH GREAT”! Now, I have to be careful to sew these dang top-stitches super, super straight. It HAD to break now, it was truly my fate!

A little more Vin Brulee, and I start reviewing my stash. I got to find some things I can take to this family Christmas bash!

Gina wants napkins, roosters and hens, I have to make 4 more, and I’ll be finished with them.

Gina wants napkins, Roosters and hens, I have to make 4 more, And I’ll be finished with them.

UNPAPER TOWELS SEEM TO BE A BIG HIT!

These Cotton Organic Tiny Towels would be a great fit, for the all the girls in the family, for make up and noses, especially for Robyn, when her man proposes!

These Cotton Organic Tiny Towels would be a great fit, for the all the girls in the family, for make up and noses, especially for Robyn, when her man proposes!

Now, I hear a baby crying. I think its next door. This young girl had twins, I hope there won’t be more.

Great! I found some wipes for the GUYS. Soft Organic cotton jersey as well, so very well made, for noses, and devices, I’ll give them a pair, to carry in their pocket for even their sunwear!

Great! I found some wipes for the GUYS. Soft Organic cotton jersey as well, so very well made, for noses, and devices, I’ll give them a pair, to carry in their pocket for even their sunwear!

I am sure by now, she is needing a break. So what do I have here that she would gladly take? Not just a blanket, or a quilt that she would put away. Something useful, and helpful and durable too.

Cute little gingerbread wipes for  tiny, tiny fingers, and nice thirsty burp cloths to pat out the bubbles, if the milk still lingers!

I still have more presents to make, so, let me bid you adieu.

My very best wishes and the Merriest of Holidays from my house to you!