Make a Skirt a Day: Book Review

draft a wrap skirt like this one with a little help from "Skirt a Day" by Nicole Smith

Pattern drafting is something I have enjoyed playing around with since I was a teenager. Many, many months ago – right when we first got to California – I was sent a review copy of Nicole Smith’s delightful pattern drafting book, Skirt a Day (affiliate link – items purchased through this link may earn this blog a small commission. Thank you!) I read through the book and decided to try drafting a wrap skirt. I took measurements and cut out pattern pieces. Then the pattern pieces sat on my bedroom floor/sewing table (they were supposed to be on the table, but somehow they would drift down to the floor every few days. Little hands helping maybe? Then I took an old sheet and cut out all the pieces, which also sat on my sewing table for weeks. I would sew one seam, them it would be days before I would get the next seam done. But, finally, the skirt is finished – and, miraculously, it no longer makes Anna cry (see the instagram story here). Hooray!!!

wrap skirt designed using Nicole Smith's "Skirt a Day" book

I am incapable of following a pattern – or even pattern drafting instructions – perfectly. I like to cut corners, and that’s what I did here. Sometimes I regret the corner cutting, but for this project it worked fine. I serged the edges of all the pieces and then stitched them together – no hemming required. I also added a horizontal half pleat on one end of the skirt (left in the photo above), just because I liked the look better. My ruffles are less angled than those in the pattern, just because it’s easier to not angle ruffles and it’s a small miracle to sew a skirt with ruffles at all when you have small children “helping”. I also made the front panels a little wider to prevent the skirt blowing open or being ripped open by small hands, but I think I would like it more if I had added even more width to these front panels so that there was even more overlap. I want to make some way to “catch” the skirt if it starts to blow open – any suggestions? This makes a nice, cool skirt, perfect for the hot weather we are already seeing in California!

I really liked this book, and definitely recommend it if you want to give pattern drafting a try. The techniques are pretty basic, and you could get a better fit by following a more detail-oriented tutorial, but the simplicity of these patterns and designs makes the book approachable even if you have never tried pattern drafting before, and you will come out of the book understanding a lot more about how skirts are designed and made.

Have you ever tried pattern drafting?

How to Make a King Costume

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I made four Halloween costumes yesterday! It’s amazing what can happen when Dad is around to hang out with the littles and take the kids on school runs! His new job doesn’t start until Friday, and we are all making the most of our days off with him!

Johnny and I had a LOT of discussions about what he wanted his Halloween costume to look like, and we finally settled on this king costume. I’m thrilled to say that he loves it! He wore it all afternoon yesterday, and had it on first thing this morning!

King Costume Tutorial

I am all about simplicity and comfort when it comes to dress-up costumes for kids – and I want my Halloween costumes to double as play costumes all year round. You don’t want scratchy materials distracting them from their pretend play! Fleece is super comfy, and – bonus – nice and warm for Halloween trick or treating. Even in California, it gets a little chilly by October 31st!

This tutorial doesn’t have as many photos as it should, but hopefully it will help if you are curious – it’s really very easy to make!

MATERIALS:

  • Fleece
  • Felt (for the dragon and crown – go here for the felt crown tutorial)
  • Scissors
  • Thread
  • T-shirt (for sizing)
  • Sewing machine (you CAN make this entirely by hand, but it will take a while!)

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Use a t-shirt as your sizing template. I cute Johnny’s top large, because I want him to be able to wear it over anything, plus it looks a little more armor-ish that way. Be sure to allow for seam allowances!

Cut your cape to start off as wide as the top at the shoulders, and then widen out slowly. Johnny wanted a LONG cape, so that’s what we went with.

Cut out your dragon or whatever embellishment you want out of felt. I free-handed mine (and was shocked when it turned out this well!) by looking at a few images of dragons from Google image search. The design of this particular top is such that you could put one design on one side and another on the other, making two outfits in one – the cape reverses so that it will cover up the other design. I haven’t done that yet, but might.

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Sewing steps:

  1. Stitch dragon (or other embellishment) onto front of shirt.
  2. Stitch the side seams, right sides together.
  3. Hem the arm holes and bottom of the shirt.
  4. Stitch the neckline hem
  5. With shirt wrong side out, insert cape – so it is between the two shirt layers. Stitch shoulder seams, including top sides of cape.
  6. Turn right side out and enjoy!

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We have a galaxy-traveling king who has somehow acquired a light saber!

What are your kids dressing up as for Halloween? Are you making costumes?

What Sewing Really Looks Like with Four Young Children

And, if you want to know what sewing really looks like in my house:

  1. Start sewing the bag.
  2. Instantly run out of bobbin thread.
  3. Re-thread the bobbin, then put back in the machine backwards. Discover this because your threads are all tangled on one side.
  4. Fix the bobbin
  5. Re-stitch
  6. Run out of bobbin thread
  7. Repeat 3-5
  8. Children are hungry. Stop and feed them. No craft project is worth the wrath of unfed little people
  9. Discover that you sewed the shoulder strap together wrong (padding will be on the outside when turned right side out). Cut out a new strap, because it’s not worth unstitching the old one. Stitch the ends of the old one shut (so small toys cannot get lost inside) and give to children to play with.
  10. Start turning the strap right side out.
  11. Put Lego Darth Vader’s arm back on.
  12. Extract a Lego piece from the Lego boat it is stuck in.
  13. Stop to pack two boxes because you are moving VERY soon. Enjoy cardboard crafting as you make custom cases for your violin and guitar. Cushion both instruments with fabric from your stash.
  14. Feed children
  15. Pack more
  16. Make Dinner
  17. Clean up dinner
  18. Put kids to bed
  19. Pack
  20. Sleep
  21. Make breakfast
  22. Send kids off to library with dad
  23. Finish bag
  24. Pack some more boxes
  25. Kids return
  26. One-year-old steals bag for toys

What does sewing look like in your house? What would you use a bag like this for? I was planning to use it as a camera bag, but it’s been storing toys on our cross-country trip…

Easy to Sew Messenger Bag Sewing Tutorial

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Sometimes I use my blog to motivate me to try something I’ve been wanting to do, but haven’t actually gotten to. This easy-to-sew messenger bag is exactly one of those instances! Jo-Ann sent me two yards of Waverly fabric to make something with to help spread the word about the Jo-Ann and Waverly Facebook contest!  I decided to conquer my fear of bag-making with this gorgeous Waverly print and ikat bag’s Make a Bag series

If you have been looking for an easy to sew messenger bag tutorial, you’ve come to the right place! This messenger bag has two pockets, but requires no sewing skills beyond sewing a straight and slightly curved line! I made it in between feeding and caring for four children and packing for a cross country move (come back tomorrow if you want more details on what THAT looks like!)

Materials:

  • Fabric – I used Waverly décor-weight fabric (love their prints, and I was sent 2 yards to use to make whatever I wanted!) and duck cloth for the green fabric.
  • Quilt batting – this will help the bag hold its shape.
  • Sewing machine, thread, scissors

Pattern pieces:

  • Pockets: cut 4, 2 in each fabric. Size is flexible; mine were 8 inches wide by 6.5 inches tall, plus seam allowances. Remember that pocket sides and bottoms need double the seam allowance of the bag sides. So with a 1/4″ seam allowance, you would need 9 inches wide by 7 1/4 inches tall.
  • Bag sides: cut 6, 2 in each fabric, plus 2 from quilt batting. Mine were 8 inches by 8 inches. 8.5×8.5 inches with a quarter inch seam allowance.
  • Bag body: cut 3, 1 in each fabric, plus 1 from quilt batting My bag was 15 inches wide by 31 inches long; 15.5 inches wide by 31.5 inches long with a 1/4″ seam allowance.
  • Strap: cut 3, 1 in each fabric, plus 1 from quilt batting I cut my straps 3 inches wide and about 40 inches long; the length of the strap will vary based on your height and how you want the bag to sit. Remember when cutting the strap to add about 4 inches to accommodate the reinforcing on the sides of the bag (see instructions below.

Note: It is generally advisable to iron fabric. I didn’t, because we’re moving and my iron was packed. The bag still works; it just has some wrinkles (like any bag would get after being used for a while).

Baste quilt batting to the wrong sides of whatever fabric you plan to have on the outside of the bag at the end. This holds it in place and keeps you from making silly placement mistakes while sewing the bag together (speaking from experience).

Sew pockets, right sides together. Leave an opening at the top to turn right side out.

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Trim seams and turn right side out. Top stitch across the top – this will close the opening you used to turn the pocket right side out.

Baste pockets to the sides

Stitch sides, right sides together, to the center of the bag. Sew the outside bag and inside bag separately – you are making two bags that will be sewn together to become a single reversible bag.

Sew strap pieces together, right sides together. Stitch with the same side of the fabric facing up on both sides – this will help keep the strap nice and smooth.

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Turn strap right side out and top stitch edges.

Attach straps to one of the bags. There should be a couple inches overlap with the bag so that you have room for reinforcement stitching.

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Pin bags together, right sides together. Stitch, leaving an opening for turning right side out.

Turn right side out and topstitch. You have a beautiful new bag!

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What will you Waverize?

I was sent two yards of the Waverly print used for this project. I received no other compensation for this post. All ideas and opinions are my own.

Easy DIY Patchwork Doll Quilt Tutorial

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Our Prism Light Center light table was the perfect creative tool for Emma to work out the perfect design for a patchwork quilt for her doll! The squares are from a charm pack I won ages ago from Small Town Stitcher. Emma loved all the choices, and having the pre-cut squares made this project even easier.

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She swapped squares in an out and moved them around until she got this design, which I love. Somehow a few of the pieces got swapped around during the sewing process (hazards of sewing with small children helping), but it is still cute.2013_01_27_9999

First we stitched the squares into rows. You need to make sure you get the seam allowances the same, or they won’t match up when you want to sew together the rows.

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Then we stitched the rows together. I should have ironed them first, but I didn’t.

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If you look super closely, you can tell that we didn’t line up the row on the far right quite perfectly. You definitely need to press all the seams after this step, and we did, but I apparently didn’t take a picture.

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Next, we added a layer of white fleece and the backing fabric (a fat quarter Emma picked out for the quilt). Fleece is easier to work with than real quilt batting, and it works perfectly for a doll quilt. We stitched the three layers together with diagonal lines, and bound it with ribbon:

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It has plenty of imperfections, but it still looks very nice, and is ready for hours of play with a doll!

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I’m getting better at quilt piecing, but my quilt binding leaves a lot to be desired. If you have a tutorial you like, or any advice, I would love for you to share!

Do you make quilts? Or other doll accessories? Do you use a light table for crafting?

We received the light table featured in this post from ALEX Toys. All opinions and ideas are my own.