Darcy Lewis Design

Adventures in "Good Enough" Design

Archive for the tag “diy”

Baldwin Center (Act II)

You may recall the remade garments I’m patterning for the Baldwin Center, a community charity in Pontiac, MI.  This has been keeping me too busy to post as much as usual, but here are the latest two garments (which were featured on TV last week!!):

We started with a lovely sandy tan silk shirt (with a wonderful hand!).  I cut it in half from underarm to underarm.

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I liked the idea of preserving the button placket as a functional detail that could be undone all the up (Oooh!  How risque!), but obviously it need a bit of dressing up and if we were going to have the buttons open, there might as well be something to look at!  So I took black lace yardage and made a second skirt a HAIR smaller than the silk – so they laid together nicely and didn’t cramp your movements.  I also took a strip of our French black velvet burnout lace knit (which was a nice blend of a tan base with black velvet flocking), and made an elastic waist casing at the top.  I scalloped the lace and left it long enough to just show underneath, but it still needed a little more…. So I encased a 2″ strip of very narrow elastic in the side seam allowance at the hem to ruch it up a little and added cream and tan satin ribbon bows to each side.  The finished look is ideal for a day-to-evening outfit!  Simply pair with a cream blouse and black jacket!

 

The second garment started life as a lovely blue satin robe with self belt.  I really wanted to use that belt, but there wasn’t much fabric in the robe.  So I cut a whole halter top front out of it, and paired it with some blue and white lace from the shop.  The belt becomes the tie that holds the front and back together in a pretty bow, while the otherwise-plain front gets some drama with some blue-gray ombred fringe!

What do you think?  I want to make this halter top for me!

TWO T-SHIRT ALTERATIONS!

I found two adorable shirts at the store, but they were clearanced and not available in my size.  ;(  Nothing for it, I HAD to have them, so I bought with the intent to alter…

 

The red and blue shirt perfectly matches the red feathers!  So I tried on the feather shirt to see where I needed ease.  It was snug but fit ok over the bust, but the body didn’t look good – especially with those elastic-gathered sides (made me look very pregnant!)  I measured the shirt against another shirt I like the fit of (recognize my French knit shirt? 😉  ):

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So I  cut triangle wedges out of the side of the red shirt (really is pretty symmetrical, just laid out badly). Cutting them out of the sides not only saved the body of the shirt for alteration #2, but meant there was a seam down the actual side, so it looks deliberate, not like an alteration:

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And sewed them into the feather shirt.  The red shirt is not actually hemmed, so I hemmed it to match the lines on the feather shirt, and I think I need to lengthen the sleeves, which I will do by adding more mesh.  And now I have an adorable shirt that actually fits!! (Though I still suck at selfies 😉   )

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That left me with a cut-up red shirt that needed bigger sides of its own…  I have some beautiful navy cotton eyelet in my shop that I needed to make a sample with for expo anyways, and it blended perfectly with the blue on the red shirt, so… The only caveat is that it’s a woven not a knit, so I had to make sure it’s full enough to compensate.  I based the size for this shirt on a favorite sweatshirt.  Then I cut rectangles (not squares, bc I wanted the shirt to be a little longer in the back than in the front) that were 13″ x 15″.  I hemmed the 2 sides first, then sewed the insets into the shirt, making sure to match up fronts (the selvedge edges with a wider hem), and hemming the red shirt to match the insets.  And now I have a gorgeous shirt that looks like a designer original, which, of course, it is!!!

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I think I need to hire a photographer 😉

 

What do you think?  Tell me about some of your favorite alterations!

BEST CHOCOLATE MOUSSE EVER!

Our household has a bit of a problem… none of us have that much of a sweet tooth, yet over the years we have acquired a significant amount of assorted chocolate candy (much of it in the form of overly-sweet dark chocolates that Raf gave me while wooing me, that we never finished.)  We love dark chocolate mousse, though, in small portions.  So we decided to make some chocolate mousse – using up all the old candy (some of it YEARS old and stale!!) we had. As we were making it (ok, let’s be honest, RAF did all the work, I just ate it!), everything was going wrong – the eggs didn’t become silky, the gelatin didn’t thicken, and we thought we had a disaster on our hands.  HOWEVER, luck smiled at us, and the mousse came out perfectly!!  The main thing to be aware of is that the flavor will vary, depending on what candy you use (there is no way we can duplicate this batch!), however, it’s a GREAT way to use up old chocolates that are stale and inedible!! (If you’re insane like me and don’t want to just throw them out).

I didn’t manage to get any in-process photos, because we thought it was a disaster, but here’s the, er, taste-tested, results:

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This recipe is based on a chocolate mousse recipe in the Dulce cookbook by Joseluis Flores.

Dark Chocolate Mousse – Made of Old Candy!

  • 6 oz (more or less) of chocolate candy – we used assorted spiced and flavored truffles, range of dark and milk
  • 3 oz of dark chocolate (more or less) – 100% cacao (the dark bitterness will balance the sugar of the other candies)  – NOTE: You want about 9oz, total, of chocolate.
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 of a 1/4-oz envelope unflavored gelatin powder
  • 2 Tbl rum, Kahlua, or other – we used caramel sea salt-flavored vodka
  • 1 pinch powdered cinnamon

Mousse Instructions:

Sprinkle the gelatin over the rum and let sit for 5 minutes.

In the top of a double boiler over gently simmering water, melt the chocolate, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat, pour into a large bowl and let cool.

Clean the double boiler well, set it again over the simmering water, add the eggs and sugar, and whisk for about 5 minutes until the mixture has doubled in volume.  It should be pale and thick – cook to the ribbon stage: When you lift the whisk out of the batter, the batter should flow from the whisk in smooth, even, ribbons.  Add the alcohol and gelatin mixture and heat until the gelatin dissolves.  Remove from heat and gently fold the mixture into the chocolate.  The result should look smooth and shiny.

In the bowl of an electric mixture, whisk the cream until soft peaks form.  Gently fold the whipped cream into the chocolate, until well-blended.  Scrape all of it into a bowl, cover, and chill for at least 2 hours, until it sets.

Dust the top with powdered cinnamon before serving.

NOTES: Don’t panic if the eggs don’t become silky, or the gelatin doesn’t set in the 5 minutes, or the cream doesn’t whip into soft peaks…. It came out delicious, light, fluffy, and airy, anyways!!

ALTERNATIVES: This would be delicious flavored with espresso, or burnt orange, or caramel sea salt, or burnt sugar, or….  Simply use flavored chocolates, flavored alcohol, etc.

 

Sewing Room Hacks…

DIY TRACING TABLE/LIGHT BOX:

One of the sewing groups I’m in had several members asking how to see the pattern lines under thicker tracing paper we sometimes use, like medical exam paper (a popular choice) and butcher paper.  Vintage patterns are especially prone to having faint lines that can be difficult for even the most eagle-eyed of us to trace accurately.  My friend Adrianna has the best, easiest, solution for this!!

She took 2 saw horses, stuck a glass table top from IKEA across the top of it, took two clamp-on work lights and clamped them to opposite legs – pointing up at the underside of the glass.  When they are turned on, they make even the smaller notches and marks crystal clear!  Plus, the set-up can be used as a regular table, is easy to disassemble and put away, and you even easily put a little bit of storage room underneath the table!!

Bonus: Don’t forget, light boxes can be used for all kinds of crafting projects where tracing would come in handy!

 

PATTERN STORAGE AND ORGANIZATION:

I’ve also seen lots of questions about how to store and organize your patterns, so thought I’d share my method.  I use filing cabinets – I have one vertical and 1 lateral.  I divide my patterns into two main groups: New patterns, and patterns I’ve already made.  Patterns I’ve already made are put in their own drawer.  On the front of the envelope I put a post-it note that says which view I made, which garment it is, and any critical notes (doesn’t fit right, take in bust 2″, lengthen 3″, etc.). This is only a short note – I keep full notes separately (see below).

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New patterns are sorted by type of garment – jackets, skirts, dresses, pants.  On a pattern with several garment types – like the photo above, I file it under the garment type I am most interested in. I also keep a list of the patterns in an Excel spreadsheet that lists the brand, pattern number, and location (ie, filed with jackets), and any other details I care about (size, fabric type, yardage, whatever is most important to you).

In the lateral filing cabinet, I needed a way to keep the columns of patterns neat and separate so they didn’t squish into each and get untidy.  I found my local grocery store yielded two IDEAL box sizes – 1 for normal-width envelopes, 1 for wide:

The boxes are almost exactly the same length as the drawer, and they allow me to fit the pattern columns very close together!  To save on both space and the number of boxes needed, I alternate 1 column of loose (boxless) with 1 column in a box.  Here you can see all the patterns tightly wedged in together very neatly:

 

And finally, my tip on how I keep my pattern notes.  There are many different ways to do this, this is NOT the most efficient, but I like it… I buy an 8″ x 6″ spiral-bound artists pad.  I only use 1 sheet per pattern, and always leave the back of the sheet blank – so if I ever rip them out and put them in a notebook, I don’t have to choose or worry about splitting the page 😉

On the top of each page, I put a descriptive name for the garment: “Sakura”, “Gray Roses”, “Silver Rain”, “Opera Cloak”, etc. I put the date I completed the garment.  Then I list any patterns I used, their view and size.  I list the fabrics used and the price I paid for them (best guess), ditto with any trims or closures. I tape in a tiny swatch of the fabric(s), add notes about needed alterations, the amount of time it took to make, and anything else I might want to know later.

 

What kinds of tips and tricks do you use to keep your stash organized?

Bog Coat

Some years ago, I saw this stunning tutorial in Threads Magazine for a “Bog Coat” (See the Tutorials heading).  Well,  I’d been making similar jackets of sequined velvet for ages, but I fell in love with one of the particular samples they showed, which seemed only slightly more elaborate than what I’d been making:

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Much to my dismay, their tutorial didn’t really explain how to make this coat, it really just explained the coat on the right and its variances – which I didn’t like at all:

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Searching for another quick, easy, dramatic project, I stumbled on this image again, and decided to create the red coat even if I had to figure it all out from scratch myself.

I had these two beautifully complementary fabrics – both with just exactly enough yardage! A floral cotton, and a striped jacquard.

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MATERIALS:

  • You’ll need about 1 yard for the primary fabric (in this case, the floral).
  • If you plan to line it, you’ll need the same amount for the lining. (I used a deep brushed teal twill from my shop from Worth NY).
  • Trims – personal choice (I used a yard of the striped fabric to make bias strips for the cuffs).
  • Fabric for ties – I used 2 yards of gray silk charmeuse from the shop.
  • Thread to match, pins, other standard sewing supplies.

INSTRUCTIONS

It was a little complicated to figure out, and I did my best to make the directions clear and easy – please let me know if you get stuck somewhere!! On the upside, I completed this whole coat – start to finish – in half a day, and that was without having convenient instructions and having to run up and down the stairs all day because the iron and thread colors were on the second floor, and I was sewing in the basement….

Step 1: Decide on how long you want your sleeves to be – I just used the full width of the fabric, in this case about 54″, and how wide you want your sleeves to be – I made a loop with the tape measure, stuck my arm inside it and adjusted it until it felt ‘right’.  Very conveniently, this turned out to be 20″, which was so close to the length of my fabric, I just went with the fabric as is.

 

Step 2: Fold your fabric in half, selvedge to selvedge.  Fold it in half again, mark that second centerfold point and unfold that fold – leaving the first fold in place.  Draw a straight line 2 or 2.5″ (I used 2″) from the center fold to slightly below the marked center point.  Free-hand draw a graceful quarter arch from the 2″ line to the center fold – this will be the part where your neck goes.  Cut along the line – you’ve now created your center opening!

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Step 3: Unfold, and fold in half the other way – RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER.

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Step 4: Sew from the selvedge in along that bottom open edge.  It takes a little trial and error to find how much you need to sew – what is comfortable for you.  For me, a 12.5″ seam worked really well (I’m a size 18).

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Step 5: * OPTIONAL* If you are full lining the garment, duplicate all of the above steps with the lining fabric, making sure you use the same measurements you used for the primary fabric.

Step 6: With right sides together, sew around the necklines (I pinked these edges to reduce bulk and help it curve nicely), and sew the bottoms together – the parts that weren’t part of the 12.5″.  This will be a little squirrely to line up and you’ll end up with all these points converging on one spot, but take a little time to pin and sew carefully, and this is really way easier than you think.

You still need to insert the ties, which is a step that properly goes in here, but I’m putting it in later so you can try on and adjust the garment first – since really they are the next-to-last step.

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Step 7: The only parts NOT sew together should be the cuffs.  Turn the garment right-side out through the cuffs and nest them properly (lining inside fashion fabric).  Try on your jacket – this is your last chance to make any adjustments and changes. (Have I mentioned how much I suck at selfies?) If you like it, press everything.

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Step 8: TIES! Inspired by the photo of the original jacket, I wanted big full ties.  I looked at my jacket, and decided I wanted them to be no more than 3″ wide where they attached to the jacket, but then they should flare out to 6″ at the ends.  I also wanted them long enough to wrap around my body and tie in a huge bow, with plenty of trailing ends. I used the tape measure and decided that my ties should therefore be 75″ long with seam allowance.  I happened to have a piece of gray silk charmeuse that complemented this and was 77″ long – close enough.  I liked the idea of using the silk because that would drape and tie much more nicely than the cotton, twill, or stripe jacquard.  Stupidly, when I laid out my silk, I completely forgot to double it (for folding it in half and having 2 nice sides), so I cut a straight strip of 10″ wide (the math doesn’t even make sense for not folding, I have no excuse)…. and rather than waste the silk, decided to just go with that and cut a second strip, also 10″ wide. Don’t make the same mistake I did – but if you do, it came out ok, so it’s Good Enough (more on that at the end).

Folded the strip right sides together, pinned it (silk is slippery!), and straight stitch all the way down using a narrow stitch (2.5 – I usually sew everything at 3.5, so for me, this is a huge leap. But I wasn’t going to serge the interior seam, so wanted to make sure the silk didn’t start fraying.) I left one end open (to turn), and sewed the other end at an angle (just eyeballed an angle that looked nice.)  Do the second strip.  Carefully press your ties.

My ties were now 4.5″ wide (10″ fold in half with a 1/4″ seam allowance), so I gathered the open end.  I very carefully went in between the still-open cuffs and found the bottom center front corners of the jacket (be very careful you have the front edge, not the bottom edge – once you get inside, everything gets turned around! Also be careful that your ties are on the outside of the jacket, backed into the hole – not inside out 😉  ).  I wanted my ties right at the very bottom, so I measured up from the bottom stitch line 2.5″ and ripped that open.  I inserted the open end of the tie – being careful to orient the stitched seam toward the bottom – and used the gathering stitches to gather it until it fit nicely into the 2.5″ hole.  I adjusted the gathers to be even, then stitched the hole closed. Using that narrow 2.5″ stitch, I sewed up and down several times, making sure it was VERY securely attached.

Step 9: Turn everything back right-side out, and baste your cuffs together, aligning the bottom seams.  Then finish to taste.  You can fold them over and top stitch, you can bind the edge with a fancy trim, you can use a decorative serger stitch, etc.  I took a 5″ bias strip of the striped jacquard, pressed it in half, sewed it on to the outside, used a long basting stitch to sew the same seam allowance on the other side (not sewing it TO anything), pressed it in along the basting line, removed the basting stitches, carefully pinned the folded edge in place along the inside of the cuff, and did stitch-in-the-ditch on the front side (using a metallic gold top thread, and a black bobbin thread) to catch and fasten the back half of the strip.IMAG5817

(The lining is TEAL – not purple!!!  Stupid cell phone camera…)

Presenting my finished product (ignore the wrist brace):

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A final word on this tutorial, and my projects in general:  You may have noticed (ahem) that there is an awful lot of “about 10 inches”, and “roughly…” and “oops, I measured wrong…”  I advocate the philosophy of Good Enough.  Shoddy, poor-quality work is not an accepted part of Good Enough, but Good Enough is about recognizing that there some things that matter and some things that don’t really matter.  No one but me – and you because I told you – know that the ties were supposed to be a different size.  They don’t affect the finished product in any meaningful way.  All too often, we hear this chorus of perfection – from the Martha Stewarts of the world, to the super-strict sewing teacher that made you cry when your points weren’t perfectly aligned, to the endless demands from society that we somehow be Perfect Mother, Perfect Wives, Perfect Daughters, and Perfect Housekeepers (even if we have a full-time career) with Perfect Bodies.  I say ENOUGH.  It’s ok if the house is not immaculate, if your quilt points don’t perfectly match, if you never lost the pregnancy weight from the baby that’s now in college, if you fed the kids non-organic hot dogs for third dinner in a row because you’re exhausted and they’ll at least eat that without a fight.

My projects encourage you to aim for Good Enough – not perfection (highly overrated!).  For more information, please see the Good Enough tab at the top of the page.

(General rules – you may share this project and the Good Enough idea – but please be sure to properly credit me, and share it by linking back to this page – not just copying and pasting.  I know you respect the amount of effort that goes into developing interesting content for you! )

 

DIY Fabric Storage Bins for Tall Bolts

I have many tall bolts of fabric for my business, and I stick them along the walls, bracketed by bookshelves – but this is really inefficient – they slide, shift, and fall; they take up lots of space, and it’s difficult to move them.  I’ve been wanting a professional solution, but it’s been SHOCKINGLY hard to find anything, even the nicely wheely bins that JoAnn Fabrics has – even from store fitting companies!! JoAnn Fabrics is, of course, supplied by their HQ so they have no idea where it comes from or where to buy….

The one thing I could find on the market (which I can’t show you, because it seems to be discontinued), was close to $1,000…. not ideal…. Ok, let’s be real, not even remotely in my budget!

SO! My awesome husband designed and built rolling bins for me that I can also use for my booth at Sew Expo!!

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Total Cost: About $150                                                                                                                             Total Time: About 6 hours – including shopping for lumber and having it cut

I was bad and didn’t take in process photos – largely because he built it while I wasn’t around, but also because I’m bad at this blogging thing  😉  (mea culpa)

So, the big thing was that the inside of the box be smooth and safe for the fabric, and the easiest way to make sure of that was to totally line the inside of the wooden box with a cardboard box. We had some 4.5 moving boxes left over from our move, and they are about 18″ x 24″ and about 18″ tall – these were almost the same dimensions as the JoAnn Fabric bins, so they were perfect – and with the flaps up, the sides come up to the right height and the wooden boxes become totally fabric-safe!

The sides are framed in with 2x4s – Home Depot did all the cutting for us – so things are not quite perfectly aligned, but close enough.  We used corner brackets for the frame for extra stability – these were the single most expensive part of the project. We used self-drilling screws to make our life easier – you don’t have to pre-drill the holes, just sink the screws in. The sides are 1/4″ OSB (oriented strand board), and I covered the sides with a roll of heavy wallpaper I had gotten from the free bin of a design store that just wanted this partial roll leftover from a project gone.

The bottoms are 1/2″ OSB, heavily screwed together, and then there are 4 small wheels – 1 at each corner – fully swiveling, non-braking, 90lb-bearing.  These are only screwed in at 3 holes, since the forth screw would be in the middle of the floor, and thus in our way…

We will be mounting big thick handles on the sides to make it easier to move and lift.

You like my pretty shabby chic industrial-look fabric storage bins??!!

 

These instructions are a bit rough, so if you have any questions, please let me know!!

 

 

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