Beach Goddess Maxi + tutorial

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So I made myself a new maxi dress for the beach! It makes me feel super glamorous. It’s made out of flowy cotton rayon which also makes it incredibly comfortable. The other great thing about this dress is that I made it with just one 1.5-yard piece of 54″ wide fabric. AND it was super quick to make, which is just the right speed for me these days; it’s gotta be fast otherwise it just won’t happen.

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The basic idea is that you cut the fabric into two rectangles, sew the sides together, leaving the bottom 18″ unsewn for slits, sew with elastic thread in a big spiral around the top portion (shirring tutorial here), and then finish the hem and slits. The only thing that’s a bit time consuming is the shirring; you go through about four bobbins worth of elastic thread, so that requires some serious concentration because sewing around and around a tube of fabric a bajillion times is not the most mentally stimulating activity. I should have put on some TV. I just finished binge-watched all five seasons of Breaking Bad on Netflix, which is so good and awful at the same time. It was like watching a wreck happen, I just couldn’t look away. If you do not like violence do not ever watch that show. It’s downright horrifying. And addicting. But awesome. Anyhoo.

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I’ve mentioned before that this cotton rayon challis is one of my favorite fabrics of all time. Pink Castle has a few of the Free Spirit rayons in stock, including this one, and I found a few at Pink Chalk too (both of these shops sponsor my blog). In addition to being really comfortable to wear, the cotton rayons also cinch up like a dream when you do the elastic shirring.

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I sketched out some basic instructions just in case you wanted to make one yourself; I’m pretty sure that this would fit just about anyone, but if you’re pretty small (XS or S) you might want to narrow the pieces by a few inches so that it doesn’t just slide right off of you. I’m wearing a women’s size large these days and it fits perfectly.

And my handy-dandy tutorial for elastic shirring can be found here:

shirring with elastic thread

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Sewing for baby: Nursing Pillow Cover Tutorial

This nursing pillow cover is a fun and quick sewing project for one of the most useful things I ever had around when my babies were born: the nursing pillow. I kept not one but two of these pillows around because it was nice to have access to one wherever I was in the house, and they were great for propping up the baby for a moment while I folded a load of laundry or ate a bowl of cereal.

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In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to trace a nursing pillow cover you already own to make a new one, or you can download and print out my free pattern out at home and use that instead. This cover was made with a lovely cotton designed by Sarah Jane from her “Wee Wander” line for Michael Miller and it’s perfect for my spring baby! You could also try flannel or fleece for the colder months. And remember: if you make at least two, you’ll always have a backup when the other one is in the wash!

This post is part of the Wee Wander blog tour hosted by my friend Sarah Jane, the designer of the Wee Wander fabric shown in this post. For more fun tutorials using the Wee Wander fabric line, check out the rest of the tour! Just a note: I received the fabric for this pillow for free, but I did not receive any additional compensation for this post, just happy to play along!!

You will need:
1 1/2 yards of 44″ width fabric
22″ inch zipper

Step 1: Cut out the pieces
Print out my free Nursing Pillow Cover Pattern (click to download and print at 100%, then tape together and cut out the pattern pieces). Fold your fabric in half with the selvages together and cut out one of each piece on the fold: UPPER BACK, LOWER BACK. Then tape the pattern pieces together along the dashed line and cut out one FRONT on the fold.

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Don’t want to bother with the printer? Have a nursing pillow that is older or a slightly different brand or shape? Make your own pattern! Here’s how:

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Fold your nursing pillow cover in half and trace around the outside with a pen or pencil. Use a ruler to make the folded edge perfectly straight. Now add 1/2″ to the curved edges only for a seam allowance.

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Cut out the FRONT of the pillow first (top two pics). Now take a ruler and cut straight across the upper part of the pattern piece. Now cut out an UPPER BACK and LOWER BACK, but add 1/2″ to both of the cut edges of the pattern pieces for the zipper seam allowance.

Step 2: Attach two back pieces together
Pin the UPPER BACK and LOWER BACK pieces together along the straight edge with their right sides together. Place the zipper over them and mark where the zipper begins and ends (you want the metal parts of the zipper, not the ends of the zipper tape).

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SEW the two pieces together between the ends of the pillow and the zipper marks, but BASTE between the two zipper marks as shown. Be sure to stitch back and forth at the zipper marks a few times to secure the stitches. Press the seam allowances apart.

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Step 3: Attach the zipper
Place the zipper face down over the seam allowances as shown and pin in place.

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Sew the zipper to the cover using a zipper foot as shown. I like to sew right down the middle of the zipper tape (you may need to put the needle down, lift the presser foot, and move the zipper head if it gets in the way), across the ends (be careful not to sew over the metal parts of the zipper!!!!), and back up the other side.

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Use a seam ripper to pull out the basting stitches, then open the zipper a few inches (IMPORTANT! DO NOT FORGET TO OPEN THE ZIPPER!)

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Step 4: Sew FRONT and BACK together
Pin front and back together with right sides facing. Sew around the entire outside edge of the pillow with a 1/2″ seam.

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Finish the seams with a pinking shears or serger, turn right-side out through the zipper opening, and put it on your nursing pillow!

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Ta-da!! Wasn’t that fun?

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For more fun tutorials using the Wee Wander fabric line, check out the rest of the Wee Wander blog tour! You can also find more baby tutorials over on my tutorial page. Thanks for inviting me to participate, Sarah!!!

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How-To: Square Floor Cushion

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Ever wonder what to do with all the scraps you accumulate when you sew all the time? Why not make a floor cushion? Using scraps makes them heavier and more substantial than if you fill them with stuffing or poly-fill. I always feel guilty throwing fabric away, but I’m not the sort of person who saves every little scrap for a future project. As much as I would love to use all those wonderful little scraps, I have to be realistic. Is it really going to happen? And if so, WHEN? Most of the scraps I produce (especially from garment fabrics, like knits and rayon) don’t really have any potential for reuse.

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So I recently took a yard of velveteen (this one is from Anna Maria Horner’s Field Study velveteens), some piping, and a whole bunch of scraps, and made this little floor cushion for the kids. They love it!

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I should mention that the original concept for this cushion came from an adorable round floor cushion made by my friend Emily; which she made using a tutorial from Living With Punks (warning: copious amounts of pop-up ads at that link). That version also uses just a yard of fabric, and adds some cute handles on the side to boot!

Here’s a quick how-to for my (square) version:

Materials

  • 1 yard of fabric, either 44″ or 54″ wide
  • 4 yards of home decor piping (or make your own with a bag of 6/32″ piping, some 1.25″ wide bias strips, and my piping tutorial)
  • UPDATED: 1.5″ wide is better

  • Bag o’ scraps

Step 1: Take a yard of fabric and cut it into two 18″ squares for the top/bottom of the cushion, and two 12″ wide by 36″ tall strips for the sides. Note that the print of your fabric will run sideways if you use a one-directional print, so you might want to find a non-directional one.

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This diagram above shows how you would cut a yard of fabric to get the pieces you need; the part with the red X is not used.

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Step 2: Trim the corners of your squares (but NOT the side strips) so that they are curved. You might want to use a small juice glass to help you draw the curve first.

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Step 3: Sew your piping around the edges of the top and bottom squares, keeping the edges of the piping even with the edge of the squares, sewing as close to the piping cord as you possibly can (a zipper foot and adjusting needle position to the left may help), and overlapping the ends of the piping when you get back to where you started. To overlap the ends, unpick the stitches in the piping and trim away the cord for the last inch or so on one end, so that you have a little piece of fabric to fold over the other end.

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Step 4: DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. Clip into the seam allowance of your piping around the corners of the squares.

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Step 5: Sew the short ends of your two side strips together with a 3/8″ seam, leaving a 4-5″ hole in one side so you can stuff your cushion later. We’ll call this piece the “side loop” from here on out.

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Step 6: Pin the top square to the side loop with right sides and raw edges together. It helps to pin the end seams at the corners first, then find the middle of the sides and pin those at the other two corners, then ease in the rest of the edges as you pin them together. Now sew the top and side loop together, with the top square facing up, so you can use the piping stitches as your guide (just sew right over them). Then repeat this for the bottom square and the other end of the side loop.

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Step 7: Turn your cushion right side out (through the hole) and START STUFFIN BABY.

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Here’s my bag o’ scraps. I keep one trash can in my sewing room for “fabric trash.” I almost have enough already for another cushion!!!

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Step 8: Once your cushion is full, hand-stitch the opening shut with buttonhole or topstitching thread. Basically, a stronger thread will be more likely to hold up over time. You can also try doubling up machine thread, but make your stitches smaller so that your seam is extra strong.

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Voila! Beautiful cushion!!!

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Ruby Dress Yoke Lining Video Tutorials

I promised I’d show you how to line the yoke on the Ruby Dress and Top, so I made you guys another handy dandy series of video tutorials to guide you in the process (the Washi Dress also has a video series on lining the bodice that you can view right here).

I’d probably recommend if you’re new to sewing that you try the pattern the way it is first, before attempting this method. But honestly even if you’re an ambitious beginner you shouldn’t have much trouble with it. The only issue I really see here is that the dress is MUCH easier to alter, fit-wise, if you sew it together the way the instructions show. So it’s smarter to have made at least a test version or muslin first before going this route.

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READ THIS before you watch:
One thing that is not mentioned in the video but is pretty important: I really recommend that you add an extra 1/4″ to the neck and armhole edges of the yoke pieces (all of them) when you cut them out to allow for the seam allowance needed with this technique. It’s not shown in the video (and actually, it was one of those things I realized *as* I was making the video, ahem, which resulted in a finished dress that’s an eensy bit too tight), but it’s a good idea so go ahead and do that, OK?

What about a full lining?
I show how to bind the lower part of the armhole with bias tape here, but you could just as easily line the lower part of the dress as well and make it fully lined. To do this, cut an extra front/back dress (I’d cut them 1″ shorter for the linings so they won’t show at all at the bottom), add 1/4″ extra seam allowance at all of the the armhole curves, sew the side seams separately for dress and lining, then sew dress and lining together along the armhole curves with right sides facing. Then clip and turn right side out; you’ll get a very nice armhole finish and then you can gather it and attach it to the (lined) yoke. Fully lined Ruby? Hot-cha-cha!! You are on FI. YAH.

OK! Ready to watch? Here you go!

Ruby Yoke Lining – Part I (7.5 min)

Intro, sewing neck and first armhole

Ruby Yoke Lining – Part II (9.5 min)

Sewing second armhole, finishing lower armholes with bias tape

Ruby Yoke Lining – Part III (7.5 min)

Attaching the yoke to the lower part of the dress

Ruby Yoke Lining – Part IV (40 sec)

Final look after hand-sewing. Yeah, yeah…I accidentally shot that clip with the camera sideways…heh.

I hope you’ll find these useful as you sew up your very own Ruby Dresses!

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Tutorial: shirring with elastic thread

I know that a number of you out there are terrified by the concept of shirring with elastic thread. You Fear the Shirr.

Shirring is sewing with elastic thread in the bobbin of your sewing machine to create a “smocked” appearance on your fabric (it’s not actually smocking, though; true smocking is a decorative stitching technique done on pleated fabric…my grandma used to hand-smock dresses for me back in the seventies and eighties).

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I completely sympathize with those of you who are intimidated by shirring, because when the shirring trend started to get really hot a few years ago I just could NOT get it to work on my machine — and, after attempting it a few times, I just about threw my sewing machine out the window. Eventually I figured it out, and now I use it all the time! It’s great for simple sundresses, and as many of you know, the back of the Washi Dress is shirred, giving it a fantastic, comfortable fit and preempting the need for a zipper. The ability to shirr (I just had to look up that word to make sure it existed) is an excellent skill to have in your sewing arsenal, so I thought I’d put together a little tutorial for you today! Soon you’ll be shirring like a pro!!

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I use a Bernina Activa 220, which has a front-loading bobbin. I’ll address the top-loading bobbin, too, but be aware that each machine will be a little different, and you might find that you need to make an adjustment or two in order to find the perfect technique for you. I’ve included some links to other tutorials at the bottom of this post, so if you find that this method doesn’t work well on your machine, you may want to check out some of those.

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First, let’s talk about elastic thread. You can find elastic thread in the notions aisle of any sewing superstore next to the other elastics, but I’d recommend that you skip the store brand or Dritz brand elastic threads (I’ve had mediocre results with those) and look instead for the Gutermann brand, which I’ve heard has a higher quality elastic than the cheaper brands. At some point, I decided just to invest in the giant cone of elastic thread from CTS, and I’m so glad I did. Trust me, at $30 a cone, it’s definitely easier than going back and forth to the store 10 times, and you get about a million times more thread.

Okay, grab your elastic thread, and let’s get started! Slowly wind a bobbin with elastic thread by hand. You’ll want to be careful not to pull or stretch the thread as you wind.

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Now place the bobbin in the bobbin case, pulling the thread through the hole that the thread would normally go through. The key is to do everything the same as if you were threading it with regular machine thread.

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Place the bobbin case in your machine. You’ll be using regular thread in the top of your machine. Increase the stitch length so that it’s slightly longer than usual; for me that’s a length of about 3.5-4 (on a scale of 1 to 5, where 2.5 is normal stitch length). I do NOT adjust the tension on my machine at all; I’ve tried that, but I’ve never found it helpful.

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If you have a top-loading bobbin, it is really REALLY important to make sure that the thread goes through that little thread-guide notchy thing (see arrow in picture below). This is what gives the elastic thread its tension so that it doesn’t make spaghetti squiggles on the back side of your fabric.

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Now put the presser foot down, and just start sewing across your fabric. It’s a good idea to try this on a scrap of fabric before attempting shirring on a garment. You know…because it’s the responsible thing to do.

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When you get to the other side, lift up the presser foot and your needle, and sew another row, about 1/2″ away from the first line. Leave a loop of elastic thread on the edge of your fabric every time you start a new row. Note: you will eventually have to trim these loops, but to hold each line of shirring in place, stitch forward and backward over each elastic thread as you sew the side seams together. This will secure those ends so that they won’t pull out.

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Each row of shirring should seem fairly loose and stretchy, but as you add rows they will work together to gather your fabric. The elastic thread should not squiggle or bubble on the back of the fabric, and it shouldn’t be so tight that it feels like it’s going to break if you stretch the fabric to its original size.

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Once you have sewn all of your rows of shirring, use an iron to blast the stitches with lots of steam on both sides of the fabric. This will help gather your shirring even more. If you have a spray bottle, it may also help to spritz the fabric with a bit of water.

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This is what it should look like after you’ve finished steam-blasting it:

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Let me share one last thing that’s really helped me: on my Bernina (which has the front-loading bobbin), the stitches come out too tight when I’m shirring lightweight fabrics like voile or double gauze (it’s fine when I shirr cottons, though). To fix this, I loosen the bobbin screw slightly (a quarter- or half-turn is usually enough). Don’t forget how much you turned the screw though — you’ll want to turn it back when you’re ready to sew with regular thread again.

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You’ll find that the amount of stretchiness you end up with really depends on the type of fabric you use, so trying it out on a sample first is really important! Play around with ONE variable at a time (don’t change three things at once), sew a couple rows, blast it with steam, and if that doesn’t work, change something else. It may take some persistence to figure out what works best for your machine, but if you are patient and figure it out, you’ll be really glad you did!!!

Further Reading:
Jamie Christina’s Shirring Tutorial (drop-in bobbin)
Flossie Teacake’s Shirring Tutorial (front-load bobbin)
Heather Ross’ Troubleshooting with elastic thread

If you’re intrigued by shirring but don’t have a project picked out yet, here are a few easy practice shirring projects:
Rainbow Dress Tutorial
Baby Sunsuit Tutorial
Heather Ross’s Mendocino Sundress Pattern/Tutorial

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Adding Trim to the Geranium Dress

I’ve made quite a few versions of the Geranium Dress for Clementine that feature trim along the armholes and bottom of the bodice (here, here, and here), and I wanted to show you how! It’s super easy and it really looks great. My favorite trims for necklines are ricrac and pompons, and lace or piping would be really sweet as well.

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Note: This tutorial assumes you already have the Geranium Dress pattern, which you can buy here (or download the free Little Geranium pattern if you want to try it out in the 0-3 month size)!

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The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The Tree Shorts

OK, so it’s a long name, but it’s fitting: You take a bunch of shirts or boxers from dad’s closet and chop them up, then put them back together to make a great pair kid shorts. I should have posted this eons ago, but honestly I just plain forgot about it *facepalm*. Sometimes that just happens around here. You know what made me think of it? The fact that he’s wearing them, today, in Florida (we’re here on our annual family vacay). He loves these shorts, mostly because everything in them used to be his daddy’s. Plus they’re supercomfy. Double yay.

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This tutorial was published earlier this fall as part of the Fall Issue of Petit Purls, a great online kids’ knitting mag (this was their Sewing Issue) and it’s still fall, so in a sense it isn’t late at all. But in the sense that it’s just now starting to snow in the Midwest, maybe not so much. Ack. Oh well, perfect timing for those of you in Australia, who are just now starting your summer sewing, right? By the way, that will never not be weird to me.

CLICK HERE FOR THE TUTORIAL

I should also point out that if you followed the tutorial but used a pair of pants for your pattern instead, you could make a seriously cute pair of pants for winter!! Flannel plaids would be SO GREAT for this pattern. One last thought: if you’re cleaning out the husbeast’s summer clothes drawer to make room for sweaters now, start saving a few shirts for a pair of shorts next spring. OK, I’m finished trying to convince you that you need this now. If it’s snowing by you, save it for later.

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So the tutorial consists of three parts. First you trace a pattern (you could do this with shorts or pants):

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And then you make the “fabric:”

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Then you turn them into cute shorts! (or pants!)

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Did you catch the incorporation of shirt-pockets to shorts-pockets? Clever, eh?? Can I get an Upcycling high-five?

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And of course, you could use the basic instructions with any fabric, even if it’s not pieced. I think you’ll find this tutorial to be really useful!!

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For the full tutorial, head over to Petit Purls to check it out (scroll down to find it under the “Patchwork” heading). You’ll also find an awesome interview with Liesl Gibson there as well as plenty of other free tutorials and patterns for sewing and knitting. Fun!!

CLICK HERE FOR THE TUTORIAL

Tutorial + Pattern: Long Sleeve for Washi Dress

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I’m so excited to show you how to add a longer sleeve to the Washi Dress as shown in the Ruby Star Washi Dress post! I’ve made a pattern piece that you may download for free (yay!!). For your convenience, the instructions for sewing the sleeve are printed on the pattern piece in addition to this tutorial. Please note that the various sizes of this pattern are UNTESTED, so you use at your own risk. Feel free to email me if you have feedback. Thanks!

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This pattern piece is provided with the understanding that it will be used in conjunction with the Washi Dress Sewing Pattern. All files and images are protected by copyright law. You may not distribute or reproduce this file. Please link to this post and not directly to the file itself when referencing this file. Thanks!

Download, print, and tape together the sleeve pattern piece
You will first need to download the sleeve pattern piece and print it out (at 100%, remember to check your scale, people!!) and tape the three pages together.

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Adjust size of the pattern if needed
The sleeve piece is for a size Medium, but as you will see, the pattern piece is marked with a line that will allow you to size up/down the pattern piece quite easily just by sliding the two pieces apart/together.

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For the larger sizes, where you slide the pieces apart, I would redraw the curve to smooth it out:

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And for the smaller sizes, you can just slide the pieces so that the curve overlaps at top:

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(but don’t forget to add length at the bottom then!)

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It should be noted that the length of this sleeve pattern piece is long enough to come to about elbow length on me when my arms are bent. I have long monkey arms, but even so you may want to add a couple inches to the length of the sleeve if you want it to be a 3/4-length sleeve, just to be on the safe side!

Cut out sleeve pieces

Place sleeve pattern piece along the fold and cut out two sleeves. Transfer dots to fabric with a marking pen.

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Gather sleeves

Using a long stitch length and high tension on your sewing machine, stitch between the two dots along the top of the sleeve

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Pull threads to gather

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Repeat for the other sleeve

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Attach sleeve to dress

You’ll need to sew your shoulder seam (front bodice to back) before you attach your sleeve, so do that first:

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Then, with the right side of the sleeve facing the right side of the dress, pin the sleeve to the armhole curve, starting at the armpits and moving toward the center. When you get to the gathered part, adjust the gathers as needed and pin excessively to keep your gathers evenly spaced at the shoulder seam. Once you have it pinned, sew the sleeve to the armhole with a 1/2″ seam.

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HINT: I like to first machine baste (don’t forget to reset your tension) the sleeve to the armhole, check my gathering, then re-sew with a normal stitch length just to make sure my gathers look the way I want them to.

Now your sleeve should look like this:

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Now continue the dress construction by adding the neckline facings (or a lining — check out the video series I made).

THIS PART IS TOTALLY OPTIONAL:
I chose to do a lining, so the next step for me was attaching the lining to the neckline. I used an off-white voile lining and cut out an extra bodice front and bodice back. I also made this neckhole slightly larger by stitching with about a 1″ seam allowance at the base of the neck to lower and widen the neckline slightly and about 1/2″ at the shoulders instead of the normal 1/4″ neckline seam allowance called for in the pattern.

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In this version I also added an elastic casing to substitute for the shirring in the back. I cut the back lining piece 1/2″ below the lowest shirring line, then folded that extra 1/2″ under and stitched it down to make an elastic casing that ended where the lowest shirring line would have been):

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Then I did the armholes using the lining trick shown in the videos, first rolling up the sleeves and sewing very carefully to keep them out of the way.

When it’s time to sew your side seams, you’ll want to sew up the side seam of the sleeve (in the picture below you can see my finished back lining with the elastic casing; if you go with facings you would see shirring there instead):

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Once your side seams are finished, you’ll want to make a casing: fold and press under 1/4″ and then again 1/2″ at the ends of each sleeve. Stitch along the second fold, leaving 1″ open to thread the elastic through. Then cut a piece of elastic long enough to circle your forearm + 1″ and thread that through your casing. Overlap the ends of the elastic and stitch together, then stitch your casing shut.

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OK, I really hope that makes sense! ENJOY!!!

Puff-sleeve flashback tee + tutorial

Want an easy way to “girl up” your Flashback Tees? How about a puff sleeve? It’s so easy, it’s crazy. Here’s what I’m talking about:

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(she’s wearing a basic rectangle skirt that we sewed together, by the way…I put the elastic in and did all the pressing, but she sewed the side seam, the elastic casing, and the hem, with my help of course. It’s a nice quick project to sew with your kid!)

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I made this tee with my Flashback Skinny Tee pattern but you can do this with any sleeve really. Here’s a quick how-to:

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First, cut your sleeve pieces, but move the sleeve pattern piece at least 1″ away from the fold, keeping the edge parallel to the fold (this will add 2″ to your sleeve width, because the fold doubles everything).

  • If you don’t want your sleeve to have 2″ added to the entire width, tilt the pattern pieces so that the top of the sleeve is 1″ away from the fold, and keep the bottom of the sleeve right at the fold.
  • If the sleeve pattern piece is full-width rather than a half pattern piece like the one shown, just fold the sleeve pattern piece in half to create an edge to place along the fold.

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Gather the top of the sleeves. I use a long stitch length and high tension on my machine, and I sew about 1/4″ away from the edge. I usually cheat and do just one row of stitches. One other thing: you know how the top of a sleeve kind of looks like a hill? I only stitch along the “top of the hill,” not the entire curved top edge of the sleeve. If you want to get technical: I only gather the top of the sleeve where it’s convex, not where it’s concave.

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Pin and sew the sleeve to the armhole.

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Repeat for the other sleeve. Then sew the side seams and finish up the hems!

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A couple other things. First, you can do this with long sleeves too!

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Second, if you don’t like how wide the sleeve is at the bottom, you can sew an elastic casing or a line of elastic shirring at the bottom of the sleeve to gather it, like I did with this top (can’t wait to show you more of this top!!):

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Just in case you missed it, the tutorial on turning the flashback tee into a short-sleeve tee is here:

and the Flashback Tee can be found here: