I'm Erin. I love to sew pretty things for my children. I haven't bought an actual pattern in over ten years now. Read more...

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"Your information on flat pattern drafting has been pretty much the best and most straightforward I've seen!" -Cindy J.

Friday
Mar212014

why I'm moving everything to pay-what-you-want pricing

 

This move, my friends, terrifies me.  But today I'm changing everything on my site, alteration lessons, slopers, ready-to-sew patterns, and all, to a pay-what-you-want model.  Here's why:

I want you to try pattern drafting.  I want you to enjoy it.  This, I'm telling you, is crazy fun, especially if you're a creativity-adrenaline junkie like me.  This is flying without a pattern net, seeing what we can come up with when the training wheels are taken off.

But you won't believe me until you try it. So take a set of slopers and a lesson or two home and try them out.  Work with them and decide what their value is to you.  Then come back and get another set or lesson and pay what you think they're worth.  I think you'll love it, I think you'll be able to see how much work goes into what I do here, and I think you can decide how to say thank you.  

I don't want price to keep anybody back.  I've been there--mom, bunch of little kids at home, trying to do the right thing, but in crazy need of a creative outlet.  Not a dollar to spare from the budget.  Maybe you have some ideas for some printable patterns you could sell and make a little Momma-money.  Maybe you just want to make some pretty clothes for your little crew.  Whatever your situation, you can use my patterns and lessons to help keep yourself sane.  When you're the next famous children's pattern designer, or your clothes are in glossy magazines, come back and drop me some of the dollars you'll be sweeping off all the flat surfaces in your house.  

I want you to be able to support my work if you choose.  It does take time and money to create the projects I bring you in this space, and while I'm glad to give it, I have to find it somewhere.  I know that many of you are in a similar situation, trying to make your way in the exciting/scary, encouraging/discouraging, hopeful/painful internet world, and you understand how important being supported is to your success.  Your comments, notes, likes on Facebook, pins on Pinterest, all keep me going.  I'm over the moon when I get a photo of somebody's costume or dress they made with my help.  And when someone believes in the quality of my work enough to put down money on it, I'm humbled and grateful and motivated afresh all at once.

I want you to share my work with others.  While I still ask that you not share the actual files with friends, since they can get their own for whatever price they choose, why not send them to my site?  Then we can become friends too.  

In a nutshell, I want to put my work into your hands, and I trust you to do what you can, and what you feel is right, in return.  When you create something fabulous, whether it be pattern or outfit, come and let me know and leave a picture on the Children's Fashion Workshop Facebook page, would you?  I get such a kick out of knowing where my babies have gone. 

Thank you so much for joining me on this journey.  Let's design something together, shall we?

~Erin~

Wednesday
Mar192014

men's shirt to girl's shirt refashion

 

One of my absolute favorite things to use for refashioning is men's shirts.  You can find them in such nice fabric, and if you get a biggish one there's usually more than enough for a child's garment.  I needed a shirt to go with the blue dot yoke skirt, and a crisp white shirt seemed just the thing. 

Does this shirt look familiar?

It's the one from the CFW main page, which means it's probably high time we made one, but I think instead of binding the sleeves we'll give them an elastic ruffle for easier wearing.  So it'll end up looking like this, actually:

I found this nice, large, white shirt at my thrift store:

Cast off from its original purpose, this shirt was just begging to be made into something pretty for its next life.  (When you're walking through the thrift store and you hear something speaking to you, you MUST refrain from cupping your hand to your ear and leaning over to listen.  Do not say, "Yes, thing? What is it you want me to do for you?" People will stare.  Even in the thrift store.)

It's all cotton, with a wrinkle-free finish and a pretty stripe:

Let's grant its wish, shall we?

Pattern you'll need for this project: Bodice Sloper
Lesson you'll need for this project: Drafting A-line StylesDrafting Sleeve StylesDrafting Collars

Quick Specs:

Original pattern size:  6
Roll collar
Puffed sleeve with elastic ruffle
Shaped darts at waist
Front buttonstand closure 

Drafting the Pattern:

Follow the steps in "Drafting A-line Styles" and make the following changes:

1)  Add 1/2" ease to the bodice sloper side seam, front and back.  This will give us 2" total additional ease.  Add 1/2" ease to the sleeve underarm seam.

2)  Lengthen the bodice 7".  Add 3/4" at hem, and taper side seam in to waist level.  Make a mirror image of the dart, connected to the legs of the original dart, to make a double, or shaped dart, that looks like this:

3)  Don't alter the armhole, and draft a puffed sleeve as shown in Drafting Sleeve Styles.  Or use my handy-dandy puffed sleeves pattern.  I took about an inch and a half of width out of the center of those sleeves, to decrease the puffiness, and added an inch, in order to create a ruffle. 

4)  Widen the neckline 1" at center front, 3/4" at shoulder, 1/2" at center back.  Draft a roll collar without a stand as shown in Drafting Collar Patterns.  Overlap the bodice front and back at the shoulder 1/4".

5)  There will be a front buttonstand closure, which we'll cut from the existing shirt.

6)  No additional style lines.

7)  Add seam and hem allowances.

Cutting:

We'll need the following pieces:

2 Shirt Fronts
1 Shirt Back
2 Sleeves

also a neckline binding to help attach the collar.  It needs to be four seam allowances wide, and just longer than the neckline.  Cut this on the bias. 

Of course, cutting the pieces for a refashioned shirt isn't as straightforward as laying it out on a rectangle of fabric, but that's part of the fun, isn't it?  It's a puzzle.

So first we'll cut out one of the shirt fronts.  The idea here is to make sure the buttons go where you want them to.  In this case, we'll want a button just below the collar, with enough seam allowance to actually put the collar in.  

As we'll see later, I ended up without the button after all.  "We're learning", is what we say at my house instead of "I'm so stupid".  

Now we'll use that front to cut the other front, because the buttons have to line up with the buttonholes no matter what, you know. 

That done, we can go over to the sleeves and cut out a sleeve and a collar from each one. 

I did cut out a third collar piece, from a light muslin-weight fabric, but in the end it ended up with a bit too much body for my liking, so I'm not sure I would have used a third layer had I this shirt to make over again. 

There was no way that I was getting the neckline binding out of what shirt was left after I dismembered it, so I used a bit of yellow poplin that I had lying around, and loved the contrast effect.

All of which brings us to:

Construction:

1) First, sew those shaped darts in the fronts and back:

2)  Sew shoulder seams, neck to armhole:

I finished these seams by pinking, then pressing toward the back and edgestitching along the seamline from the right side.  

3)  Create the collar.  As I mentioned earlier, I think I might just use the two layers of collar if I were to do this again, but I did use three in order to give the collar some weight.  Here the collar interfacing (just a piece of lightweight fabric cut from the collar pattern) is pinned to one of the collar pieces and will be basted to the wrong side of it:

Sew the collar pieces together, all the way around the outer edge, with right sides together. Here they are sewn, and the seam allowance pinked:

Turn that right side out, and edgestitch, if you like, all the way around the outer edge:

Pulling the under collar layer ever so slightly so that it ends up shorter than the upper collar layer, baste all the way around the neck edge of the collar like so:

That'll make the collar behave better when we've got it attached to the shirt neckline.

4)  Attach the collar.  First, staystitch the neckline of the shirt just a hair inside the seamline:

The collar neckline is exactly the same shape as the shirt neckline, right?  You will need to clip both the collar neckline to its basting, and the shirt neckline to its staystitching, in order to get the seam allowance to lie down like it's supposed to.  Whether you clip them individually, before you sew them together, or clip them together, after they're sewn, is up to you.  I clipped mine first:

Pin the collar to the neckline, matching center back and shoulder seams: (you did mark the shoulder location on the collar, didn't you?)

and sew that in place.  The best idea here is to begin at the center back and sew all the way around to the front, then go back and sew the other side, center back to center front.  Reason for this is, as you've probably found, pins or no pins, the top layer of whatever you're sewing crawls forward as you sew sometimes.  Sometimes not, of course, but it's kind of nasty to find out that this is the crawly kind of fabric when you've just put your pretty collar in and it's all a little twisted.  At least if there's any crawling going on, you've controlled it so that the collars end up at the same point at the center front.  Because you're smart like that.

Now we come to that yellow neckline binding I was telling you about.  Mine's 1" wide, because my collar seam allowances were 1/4" wide, and it needs to be four seam allowances wide.  

Pin that on top of your collar, right side to the collar, with the long raw edge matching the neckline raw edge, and the short raw edges sticking off the center front of the shirt, like so:

And sew it, right along your neckline seamline.

Sew a guideline right along the seamline on the remaining raw edge of the binding strip:

Fold the binding away from the neckline and press it.  I even pinned mine all down the seamline in order to keep it in place.  Then fold that seam allowance under and pin it to the inside of the shirt neckline, like this:

Also, see how my ends are trimmed and turned under all tidy?  Do that too. 

I'm sure you could figure out a way to machine-stitch this neckline binding down, but I just slipstitched it to the neckline edge by hand.  The collar will completely cover the stitches that will be visible from the right side.  

Even though the yellow binding is totally inside the shirt, you still see it a bit, and I like the effect quite a lot, don't you?

Shaping up nicely, yes?  

The only problem here is that in binding that neckline, I made the top front buttonhole useless:

See how that could happen?  The binding covers the buttonhole right up on the back.  So I have the choice now of cutting a hole through the binding, or cutting off the button and just leaving the neckline unbuttoned at this point.  If you look at the photo at top, you can see that leaving it unbuttoned worked out just fine.  Probably moving the pattern up a little when I cut it out, so that the button and buttonhole ended up a little lower, would have worked too.

5)  Make and attach the sleeves.  First, since the sleeve hem is curved, we'll put in a very narrow hem

Put gathering threads in the sleeve cap and then sew it in using the flat method.

The side seam and sleeve underarm seam are still open, you see.

To make the elastic ruffle, cut a piece of elastic that's the length of the child's upper arm circumference, plus maybe half an inch.  I did exactly my daughter's arm measurement, and she says the sleeves are a bit tight.  Since we aren't using this elastic to hold anything up, it doesn't really need to be tight.  Add some extra in there, for kindness. 

Mark an inch up from the sleeve hem, and pin the elastic to the sleeve at that point.  Pin it at both ends, and in the middle:

Stretching the elastic to fit the sleeve while you sew, zigzag along the elastic to create the puffed sleeve and ruffle at the same time:

Just like that.

6) Sew the side seams and sleeve underarm seams, all in one long seam, making sure that the sleeve seam matches up.

7)  Sew a double-fold hem to finish it off. 

Give it all a good pressing, and we're done:

And the men's shirt gets that new life it was after.  

~E~

Monday
Mar172014

Tilly and the Very Old Door

When I create an outfit, quite often a character shows up along with it and wants to tell his or her story.  This is Tilly's.

Tilly volunteered at the library two mornings a week.  She pushed carts full of books to be reshelved, she found books that patrons had put on hold, and she dusted the big books on the dark shelves near the back of the library.  But most of all, she loved to mend the books that had taken a little rough handling before being returned to the library.  This was when she had long conversations with Miss Melvil, who had never left town, but could tell stories as though she’d been around the world.

One Thursday morning Tilly was almost finished with the load of books she was replacing on the shelves.  Just two left, and they belonged in the children’s section.  She glanced down at the titles.  Frog and Toad are Friends.  Sarah, Plain and Tall.  Old friends, these two.  She knew just where they went on the shelves. 

She was running her fingers down the rows of book spines on the “L” shelf when a dancing spangle of light caught her eye.  Where did that come from?  She followed it to its source.  And what in the world?  There was a door in the wall of the children’s room where, she was sure, there hadn’t been one before.  Tilly had been all over the library, and knew every inch of it, even the rooms marked “employees only”.  This door wasn’t painted red, or blue, like the other doors to the children’s room.  It was a soft, weathered gray, so old that light shone through cracks in its wood.  But Tilly could see through the large glass windows into the room.  The lights in there were off.

Tilly clutched the books closer to her chest instinctively.  Doors lead somewhere, she knew, and this one was apparently only temporary.  There was no time to waste.  She reached out her fingers to touch the silvery wood.  The grain stood out in ridges.  She wouldn’t be able to feel ridges in the wood of a door she was imagining, would she?

Just a little push sent the door creaking open.  Daylight poured through the doorway, a little blinding against the fluorescent library lights.  A breeze wafted lazily through.  Tilly bent down, and went in.

She stood in a bright meadow, with a forest’s edge at her back.  On the horizon, she could see the outlines of the buildings of a city.  Something moved at the far edge of the meadow.  There were people moving among huts, and the smoke of a fire rising upward.  The huts and people must be far away, they seemed so small, so Tilly was surprised when a very short walk brought her to the edge of the village.  The huts were only as tall as she was, the people about as high as her waist.  They had all scattered when she approached, and were peeping out from behind the huts at her. 

“Come out,” she called.  “I won’t hurt you.”  Still they cowered, so she sat down on the grass so that she wouldn’t seem so big.  Finally a child scrambled out, overcome by curiosity, and ran boldly up to Tilly.

“What are you doing here?” the child yelped.  His accent was so strange it was almost impossible to understand him. 

“I don’t know,” said Tilly.  “I came through the door…” She pointed toward the trees, but no door was visible, only the gently swaying branches.  When she turned back, several more of the people had gathered around her, so suddenly that she jumped.  They stood in an awed half-circle.  But they weren’t looking at Tilly.  They were looking at the books she’d forgotten she was holding.   There was an excited chattering among them in a language Tilly didn’t understand.

“Come,” said one of the men.  He grabbed a corner of Frog and Toad and tugged.  Tilly stood up, causing the people to scatter in alarm, and stood very still until they had calmed down again.  The man who had spoken didn’t move.  He seemed very secure in his small authority, Tilly thought.

He turned away from her and went straight through the village, toward the city on the horizon.  All the little people fell in behind him as he walked, and Tilly followed too. 

Soon they came to the edge of the city.  How different it looked than it had looked from the meadow!  The buildings were crumbling and grass grew in the streets.  The grass was the only living thing in the broken, empty place.  The people paid no attention to the deserted city, but marched down the main street and up to a tumbledown building.  Great columns held up a sagging roof, and broken statues of small heroes flanked the entrance.

The line of people filed straight through the empty doorway and into the gloomy building.  Cobwebs and dust hung from the crumbling ceiling.  Tall windows full of broken bits of colored glass threw multi-hued shards of light everywhere.  More broken statues and columns stood inside.  A vine had sent a tendril in through one of the windows and was growing rampant over the floor. 

In the center of the room, a shaft of sunlight lit a pedestal with a huge open book on it.  The people gathered around it in an expectant ring.  Tilly waited too.  After a second, the leader impatiently grabbed the edge of Sarah, Plain and Tall and pulled it, and Tilly, around to the front of the pedestal.  He gave her a little shove toward the book, and said, “Read.”  Then he stood back and folded his arms.

In wonder Tilly reached out to touch the big, dusty book.  The edge of a page crumbled under her fingers.  The library needs to order a new copy, she thought automatically, but then, looking around, realized that there was no one to order a new copy of anything here.  Gingerly she hefted the book so that she could read the cover.  In dirty gold letters, barely legible, she could just make out, “Rules”.

She opened the book to the first page.  The people waited expectantly.  Tilly cleared her throat and read. 

“Number One:  Always brush your teeth before bed.”  There were murmurs and exclamations all the way around the group.  The leader nodded his head as though struck by the depth of this wisdom.

“Number Two:  Don’t hit.”  Again the nods and whispers.  One woman gasped and her hand went to her mouth.  There were chuckles among those closest to her.

“Number Three:  Clean up after yourself.”  Tilly was astonished.  This was a very thick book, was the whole thing filled with rules like these?  She made it a point never to read ahead, but in this case she just had to.  Carefully she lifted several inches of pages and looked at one of the last ones in the book.  It was covered with a blueprint of what looked like part of a building.  The facing page had a list of mathematical calculations.  So the “Rules” were progressive.  And there stood these tiny people, waiting for her to read them all to them. 

She paused and thought for a long minute, while they waited politely in the gloom of the ruined library.  Then she remembered the only things she had brought with her.  Of course. 

“Come,” she said to the people, and led them back down the steps of the building, out through the grassy, broken streets, and back to their little village on the edge of the meadow.  There she sat down on a warm boulder on the edge of the meadow and beckoned for them to sit with her.  When they had all settled, quizzical looks on their faces, she opened Frog and Toad are Friends and began. 

Tilly stayed for weeks with the little people on the edge of the meadow, tracing letters in the dust near their cooking fires, showing them how vowels behaved together.  They were slow learners at first, but soon they were reading and re-reading the books Tilly had brought.  Frog and Toad were becoming folk heroes, their gentle antics repeated with wild embellishments in the firelight after dinnertime.

One morning, Tilly realized that if they were going to learn enough to read their big book of rules right through, they would need more, and harder, books.  For the first time since she’d come, she thought of the door in the wall of her library.  Suddenly she felt a twinge of shame.  She had left without telling a soul where she was going.  Would Miss Melvil be worried sick looking for her?  Would her parents?  Her two books must have been marked “lost” by now, not to mention Tilly herself. 

After breakfast, Tilly gathered up her dirty and love-worn books and started back across the meadow.  The child who had boldly walked up to her the first day ran and caught her by the skirt.  “Where are you going?” he asked.  She turned to see several of the people in the village watching her go with astonished or worried faces. 

She held up the books.  “There are more.  I’m going to get more books.”  The people cheered, and Tilly went into the forest to find her door. 

It was there, slightly ajar, and on the other side she could see the library.  She pulled it open, went back through, and paused, holding its handle.  This door had opened for her, but what doors had she opened for her little friends on the other side?  No wonder the door was so old.  Maybe it was the oldest door of all, she thought with a little thrill.

Tilly's library cart still stood between the book stacks, exactly where she'd left it.  Had any time passed at all? 

She had to tell Miss Melvil.  She would never believe this.  Forgetting to be quiet, she raced between the shelves of books to the circulation desk calling, “Miss Melvil!  Miss Melvil!”  Miss Melvil was there, calmly stamping a stack of books.  She looked over her glasses at Tilly, a shushing finger held to her lips.

“Miss Melvil, you’ll never believe it,” Tilly gasped.  “There’s a door, right to another world, right here in the library!” 

Miss Melvil was unruffled.  She smiled.  “Yes, dear,” she said, waving an arm around at the shelves, “Several thousand, I expect."

 ---------------------------------------------------------------------

~E~ 

Tutorial for creating Tilly's blue dotted skirt here.

Tutorial for creating Tilly's white shirt here.

Thursday
Mar132014

Size 3 Bodice Sloper Muslin

This is the ninth in a series of muslins sewn from unaltered slopers.  Our bodice slopers are now available in .ai and .svg as well as in .pdf.

 

Size 3 Bodice Sloper

Model Specs:
Chest: 21"
Waist: 20"

Sloper Specs:
Chest: 21"
Waist: 20.5"

The darts in this size are hardly anything, just 1/4" or so, so there isn't a lot of difference between the shape of an undarted bodice and one with the darts sewn.  The sloper sleeves are just the right length for her.


Tuesday
Mar112014

Size 5 Bodice Sloper Muslin

This is the eighth in a series of muslins sewn from unaltered slopers.  Our bodice slopers are now available in .ai and .svg as well as in .pdf.

 

Size 5 Bodice Sloper

Model Specs:
Chest: 23"
Waist: 20.5"

Sloper Specs:

Chest: 23"
Waist: 21.5"

The size 5 is perfect for my 6-year-old.  The arms would need to be lengthened to make a shirt pattern from this sloper for him.