Twenty Crafteen

May’s Project: Dresses (Another Update)

Guys. This dress is proving to be pretty annoying. Bias tape can bite me, and sewing buttons is the worst. 

I might not get it completely done by the end of this month, but it’ll get done eventually. Ugh. 

The other thing I worked on this month was an adorable tiny tutu for my friend’s 3-year-old daughter. It is so itty-bitty! Working with tulle is heinous, but once I figured out that it’s a pain, it got slightly easier. Just another thing to add to my sewing resume. 

There’s another dress pattern I want to tackle… once I find it in my sewing table monstrosity. 

May’s Project: Update

I’ve been battling a spring cold, so I haven’t been super productive the past few days. Despite that, I’ve managed to put together my dress!

For my first dress, I’m making a Butterick pattern from 1952. It slips on over your head, and the back skirt pulls forward to snap at the bodice. It gives the effect of a sheath and overskirt. It’s so cute.

I had to learn how to sew darts, those lines sewn into clothes to give them shape; in this case, boob-shape and waist-shape. This tutorial was very helpful! 

The rest of the sewing has been very easy, which matches up with the “Very Easy” labeling on the pattern. Slightly curved seams and straight seams. Piece of cake.

The next thing I did was… take (nearly) the entire thing apart. I slipped the dress over my head and tried to close the front, but it wasn’t overlapping enough to add the snaps or be worn comfortably. I took the skirt off the bodice and separated the two skirt sections, then cut a small piece of fabric and added another panel to the skirt. If you’ve got a big booty and wide ribs, sometimes you need to swallow your pride and make your dress bigger. Whatever. It fits really well now!

The next step is to hem the skirt and add the bias tape. I’m holding off on this for a few days because I’m waiting on the delivery of my new narrow hem foot. It should make hemming a breeze. 

More updates soon!

May’s Project: Dresses

I thought it would take me the majority of the year to build my skills to Dressmaker Level. However, I think I found a pattern or two that I can try now (even though it’s not May yet). 

My first attempt is Butterick 4790. It’s a retro pattern from 1952! I love retro dresses, and ones from the ’50s usually have just the right shape for my curves. This dress is really neat; it goes over your head and then the back snaps at the front waist, creating a sheath and overskirt look. 

Of course, I chose bright, bold fabrics because I can’t bring myself to wear neutral colors. 
 

The feathery fabric (L) will be the back and overskirt; the floral will be the bodice and front skirt.

Yeah. I like color. 

I cut my pieces out today. There are only three pattern pieces (a total of four fabric pieces) to this dress, so they are all huge and obnoxious to cut. Tomorrow I’m going to tackle darting! Stay tuned. 

Vanity Sizing and Realism

I’m a curvy gal. My hips are 42″ and my waist is 30″–so Sir Mix-a-Lot would have a lot to say about me. Lady Bootyton, at your service. 

I own a lot of size 4 dresses from Dress Barn. They fit perfectly. I’m a big fan of The Barn, despite their weird name. Cute shit, reasonable prices, and I get to say I’m a size 4. 

That’s the problem. The fabric store had a pattern sale a few weeks ago and I got a really cute “very easy” retro pattern from 1952. I opened it up today so I could figure it out and see how much fabric I need since I have a coupon. WELL. According to the eminent minds at Butterick, I’m a size 14. Fourteen. Ten numbers bigger than my usual Barn size. I’m starting to understand that whole “Marilyn Monroe would be plus-sized now” thing, even though that’s sort of nonsense. Her waist was smaller than mine, but my hips are bigger. (That was me bragging, by the way.)

But Jeezum crow, guys, what the hell? Yes yes yes it’s just a number, but why in the fuck are these two numbers SO DIFFERENT? Oh, I know, because we (Americans/Westerners) have an obsession with thinness (or the illusion of thinness) and body control. I knew that the size 4 label at Dress Barn was vanity sizing but I was completely ignorant of just how vain their sizing is. 

Let me be clear: I’m a huge fan of my body. My curves are awesome. I’m built like a very short pinup peasant from the Old Country. Wide and short, that’s me! It’s taken me years to get comfortable with myself, and it feels wonderful. And you know what I’d love? If our culture embraced this body positivity and just put the correct damn numbers on our clothes. Or do it like the industry does for men: measurements. My husband’s jeans literally say the size of his waist on them. Why can’t we have that too? Like, oh, I wear a size 30 waist/42 hip jean. 

Basically, let’s love ourselves and be honest with ourselves. Love those inches on your hips, love the width of your ribs, love your thick thighs. (Or tiny thighs!) Don’t let yourself get bummed when you look at your pattern chart and see a double-digit number. 

Vanity sizing doesn’t accomplish anything other than very superficially making you feel better for reasons that make no sense. Our standard of beauty should not be based on a dumb clothing tag. You know what they say in Botswana as a compliment? “You’re looking very fat today!” That is lovely. 

In conclusion: you’re gorgeous and I’m a size 14. 

Curvily yours,

Amanda K. 

April’s Project: Skirts (Circle Skirt Edition)

Circle skirts are adorable. They’re those super twirly, full skirts that invoke garden parties, meatloaf, and martini lunches. Wear one with heels and you look like Donna Reed. Wear one with ballet flats and you look like Briar Rose in Sleeping Beauty. tl;dr: THESE SKIRTS ARE SUPER CUTE. 

I used this tutorial. It’s not so much a pattern as a guide. Warning: you need to dust off the geometry portion of your brain and use pi. I’m serious. But I also promise that I’m terrible at math and these still turned out great. 

You need lots of fabric for one of these. If you’re a curvy lady like me, get about three yards. Extra fabric is better than not enough. Follow the elastic sewing instructions closely. It’s another situation where everything seems like it’s going to fail but it won’t. It won’t. You will succeed, but go slowly. I hemmed the raw bottom edge by folding the fabric and slowly feeding it into my machine. Pinning a curve is a pain in the ass. 

  

The hardest part of the entire process is figuring out the measurements and cutting the fabric. Everything else goes quickly–so quickly that you could make two in an hour if you had your measurements figured out and oodles of fabric.

I want to make hundreds of these and wear nothing but circle skirts. They are so comfortable and flattering. Make one with fancy fabric and wear it to a party. Make one with gingham and wear it to a picnic. Make one with every kind of fabric you can buy. Trust me, you’ll want to. 

April’s Project: Skirts

Yes, I cheated, okay? I’ve already made (and worn) two skirts. It warmed up here in the Denver metro area this month. Last week it snowed and two days later, it was 75°. 

I’d wear a skirt every single day if I could. And I probably will, once I have a stash of them. The skirts I’ve made so far are elastic waist A-line things; super easy and comfortable. For April’s project, I plan to make some circle skirts and pencil skirts. Will May’s project be dresses? (Yeah, probably.)

Stay tuned for my struggle with geometry, pi, and hemming curved seams!

March’s Project: Aprons

Gainfully Something | March's Project: Aprons

Let’s do this, pattern.

When I was at the fabric store for the hundredth time a few weeks ago, they were having a sale on Butterick patterns. They were all $1.99–ONE DOLLAR AND NINETY NINE CENTS. For comparison, these patterns normally cost $10.99-$18.99. I did a dance.

I picked up this apron pattern (Butterick 5765, version A), because it was advertised as “Very Easy.” Okay, so that was a little bit of an overstatement on Butterick’s part, but whatever. I figured it out.

Oh god what is happening

Oh god what is happening

Here’s the thing about paper patterns: they are crinkly and fragile and somehow expand ten times their size when taken out of their envelope. My dog and cats found them tantalizing, so I yelled a bunch which added to my creative fervor.

The instructions are vague and simple at the same time.

The instructions are vague and simple at the same time.

The hardest part of the entire thing is figuring out how to fold your fabric and position the pattern pieces on there, and then determine how many of each piece you need. This is probably excruciatingly simple, and yet it took me a stupid amount of time to cut out my pieces. Even a pattern that is “Very Easy” assumes that you actually know what you’re doing, which is a silly assumption. Oh, Butterick, when will you learn?

Anyway, after you cut out your fabric, things get a LOT easier. Essentially, you’re making a 3D fabric puzzle that fits together perfectly.

This bodice is adorable.

This bodice is adorable.

Ta da! When I finished the bodice part of the apron, I was so proud. It went together really easily and it looked more professional than anything else I’ve made. The rest went together fairly easily, too. This is not to say it went together quickly. It was mostly tedious (“Sew Bodice [SEVEN] to Waistband [FOUR]”, etc.). However, I think a second go at this pattern would fly by.

Oh, you want to see the final product?

It's so cute! Don't mind my terrible mirror.

It’s so cute! Don’t mind my terrible mirror. Also, the center skirt panel was supposed to be the orange fabric, too, but I ran out. Improvisation!

I really liked the end result. It fits nicely, especially in the bodice. Aprons never fit my zaftig frame, but this has a Wonder Woman kind of feel in the bust. I think I could use the bodice pattern to make a cute swimsuit.

The verdict on paper patterns: this one turned out great, and it was relatively easy to follow. Granted, I read through it about five times before starting, and there were a few confusing parts. I remember looking at one step and saying out loud, “What the HELL am I supposed to do now? Razzenfrazzenrazzlefrazzle.” (I’m trying so hard not to curse on here but that’s going to change soon, I think.) Sewing is all about taking something 2D and making it 3D, and that involves a different part of my brain than I normally use. It’s like origami, and I’m bad at origami. Basically I’m telling you that if I can build my skills to this point, you probably can, too.

I’ve also made a few other exciting things this past week, and I’ll share those soon!

Zippers (and Santa Fe Chicken)

Yes, yes, yes, I know that March’s project is supposed to be aprons. I’ve made two, and I bought a pattern for another, but you know what I learned how to do the other day?

ZIPPERS.

I was terrified of zippers because they seemed so complicated. There are two pieces, and they have to line up and they are a functional closure. I thought so much could go wrong, and then I took a step back and said, “It’s a goddamn zipper, life will go on, just do this.” So I made this pouch. Well, to clarify, I’ve made five such pouches. Three of them turned out great, and two of them are sort of wonky. But three of them turned out great! Yay for me!

When I attempt to use a paper pattern for the first time, I will definitely provide a step-by-step illustrated guide to my confusion.

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Our awesome friends from the Midwest visited last weekend and shared this great recipe with me. It’s based on a recipe from Pinterest, but I just sort of threw it together, recipes be damned. (To be honest, when a recipe is mostly, “Open cans and dump contents out,” you don’t really need a tutorial.) Plop the chicken on top of the corn pudding, top with cheese and cilantro, and eat until you burst.

Santa Fe Chicken

  • 1 can Hatch chiles (the little can)
  • 1 can spicy corn (the little can)
  • 1 can hominy
  • 1 can black-eyed peas
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can black beans
  • cumin, to taste
  • chili powder, to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 C chicken stock or broth

Dump all the cans into the crockpot. Add spices and stir. Push the chicken down into the mixture, and pour stock over all. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, until chicken is falling apart. Shred, and serve over corn pudding.

Corn Pudding

  • 1 can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 can cream-style corn, not drained
  • 1 stick butter (I KNOW, IT’S DELICIOUS)
  • 1 C sour cream
  • 1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix

Melt butter in a casserole dish (I used an 8×8 dish). Add remaining ingredients and mix. Bake 45 minutes at 350F.

March’s Project: Aprons

Yes, it’s only February 19. And yet… I’ve already made two projects for March. March’s project is aprons! I cook and bake a lot, and as my friend Natalie reminded me, aprons are a great way to practice various techniques. Binding, ruffles, pockets, straight lines (my old nemesis), curved lines (probably my new nemesis), etc.; aprons are a more varied lot than you’d think.

My first apron is this little beauty. Instead of using a dish towel, I hemmed a piece of fabric to measure 27″x21″, the size of a typical dish towel, and went from there. I added patch pockets to my apron, too. The final product is absolutely adorable and functional, two of my favorite things.

I’m still making lined totes like crazy, and I want to make a few fun full aprons in the next month. Every project I do makes my sewing skills better, so who knows? Maybe I’ll make a skirt in April or May!

January: coasters

February: totes

March: aprons

Crayon Rolls (and Sautéed Spinach)

Do you know any kids? You probably do, because you are, presumably, a human person. If you are not a human person, I’m impressed.
Anyway, kids like crayons and stuff. And you know what crayons do? Get everywhere. And break. And get everywhere. There is a solution! A crayon roll!

I’ve made a few of these so far, and they are surprisingly easy and fun to make. They don’t take too much fabric, and the only extra things you need are a hair tie and a button. The roll holds 16 crayons. I put in a few shades of red, orange, yellow, etc., in ROYGBIV order (because, why not), and added black, gray, and pink. You can’t draw a bunny without pink.
These make great gifts. Throw it in a coordinating pocket tote with a coloring book, and there you go.

If I was slightly more awake, I’d put a segue here.

Spinach! It’s delicious when prepared correctly, by which I mean, with lots of garlic.

Sautéed Spinach

  • bag of spinach (or if you get the huge bag from Costco, a few giant handfuls)
  • olive oil
  • garlic
  • salt and pepper

Heat the oil over medium low heat in a big saucepan. Press the garlic into the oil and stir, cooking until the garlic just begins to brown, about 2-3 minutes. Stuff the spinach into the pan. It will look like you are making way too much spinach, but it’s fine. Trust me. Stuff that in there. Don’t worry about stirring just yet. Cover the pan and turn the heat to low. In about 5 minutes, uncover and start slowly turning the bottom spinach to the top. It will seem slightly impossible for a few seconds. Once it’s kind of moved around, cover again and cook 2-3 more minutes, until the spinach is mostly wilted and coated with oil and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.