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Emily

how to: add a button extension

And just like that, three weeks have gone by since my last post. June and July have been busy and full of new adventures and distractions, but I certainly didn’t think my blogging routine would fall by the wayside. And I’ve had good intentions, saying things like “coming next week” and “look for the new post in a couple days” but time and other things kept me from sticking to it. All of this to say, my apologies for getting off track. I’m excited to be back with you today, and I have tons of content planned for the rest of the summer. The funniest part about all this is that I have the pictures and ideas ready to go, it’s just a matter of editing and typing it all. Maybe I’ve stumbled into a lazy streak when it comes to computer work?

If you’re wondering about what’s been going on with us this summer, I’ll put some highlights at the end of this post. But first, let’s talk about this darling skirt. I’ve had this out-of-print pattern for ages (McCall’s 5431), and it’s one of those patterns that always gives me pause when I’m digging through my pattern stash. It’s a great little skirt for summer, and I especially love the big patch pockets. For the longest time, I thought the design was missing something, but I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was. That is, until Emily’s Summer of All the Buttons 2017 mindset kicked in and the lightbulb went off: Buttons! It needs buttons! (And I’m not kidding about my button obsession. I’ve made two new button-up blouses, and I have plans for four shirtdresses. I can’t stop with the buttons.)

My fabric is 100% linen, and I got it from Textile Fabrics in Nashville last month.

In order to have the skirt button up the front, I added a button extension. It’s an easy pattern change to make, and once you know the rules for button placement and spacing, you can apply this concept to just about anything. There’s a few different ways to execute the placket itself (a fold-over facing, a separate placket, etc.), but for this skirt I went with a separate facing piece.

The rules for button placement and spacing are pretty simple, but it all starts with the size of the button. I used 7/8″ buttons for this skirt. Usually, with button extensions (on a blouse, for instance), spacing is determined using the first and last buttons as a guide. Then you fill in the rest, making sure each one is evenly spaced. With a skirt, however, buttons don’t always go all the way to the hem, so determining placement and spacing is much easier. You can just start at the top and work your way down without having to worry about spacing the buttons in between the top and bottom buttons. So, if this is something you’d like to try on a project, I’d recommend starting with a skirt.

Here are the guidelines for adding a button extension:

  1. Length: The length of the buttonhole is equal to the size of the button plus 1/8″. My buttons are 7/8″, so my buttonholes are 1″.
  2. Placement: Buttonholes are sewn 1/8″ beyond the center front line, or wherever the garment is overlapping. So the majority of the buttonhole will be on the garment side, with just the 1/8″ extending beyond center front.
  3. Spacing: For blouses, mark for the first and last buttonhole, and then divide the remaining space among the rest of the buttonholes. For a skirt or other garment where the buttons do not cover the full distance of the placket, start at the top and work your way down. You want enough space from the top of the button so that it doesn’t touch the edge of the garment, but don’t leave too much space so that it gaps open.
  4. Extension/Facing: To accommodate the buttons, you have to add space beyond center front. This is equal to the size of the button. So, I have added 7/8″ beyond the center front line. Then, I added seam allowance (5/8″). In total, I’ve added 1.5″ to center front. (You can see that in the white paper.)

This skirt has a yoke, and only one button could fit on it, so that made this even easier. I simply centered the first button on the yoke and worked my way down.

To determine the spacing for the remaining buttons, I used a couture method I like to call “eyeballing” it. (Hey, when it works, it works!) Bigger buttons need more space between them, and then the opposite is true. Just keep an eye on proportions. My buttons are spaced 3″ apart.

 And that’s it! I’m quite happy with how this skirt turned out. I think the buttons give it a little something extra, and I know I’ll get a lot of wear out of this piece this summer. I really, really need a few garments like this (easy to sew, unlined, comfortable in the heat), so I know I’ll be making this one again.

This pattern is out-of-print, but it is still available to purchase on the McCall’s website. I’d also check eBay too, if you’re interested. I didn’t make any other changes to the pattern, but I will say that it runs a bit big. I ended up going down two sizes. The pocket flap is also a bit funky, so I ignored that pattern piece and tweaked the pocket piece so it would have the same look.

I didn’t have any ribbon on hand that I really liked, but I did have a small piece of lace to use along the bottom of the yoke lining. I think it finishes that seam nicely. It serves no practical purpose, it’s just a pretty detail for the inside.

It’s been a busy summer for us. I mentioned a few weeks ago that we were house hunting, and I’m thrilled to tell you that we found one. YAY! This is our first home purchase together, so it’s extra exciting for us. We have big renovation plans for the house, so I’m excited to share those with you soon too. We’ll be moving next month, and I’ve already started organizing and packing the house we’re in now. It’s been a few years since we last moved, so I’d forgotten (or just blocked out) what a task all that is. But I’m taking it one day and few boxes at a time.

The house we found is truly a blessing for us, and it has just about everything we’d been looking for. Ty has an office, and I lucked into a huge studio space (even bigger than what I have now!), and we have plenty of room for guests and an acre lot for the puppies to run around in. The neighborhood is charming with tons of mature trees, which takes me back to growing up in North Carolina. The house itself has quite a bit of southern charm, and I can’t wait to get some white rocking chairs for the porches and enjoy having usable outdoor spaces.  We love it.

Ty had some business to do in Alaska and California recently, and I got to tag along. His parents have a cabin in Alaska, and they happen to live 20 minutes from where Ty needed to go, so we got to visit with them for a few days. We explored and fished for salmon and had a wonderful time. This was my first trip to Alaska, and it was magnificent. Then we spent a couple days in San Francisco for the final leg of the business trip. I spent an entire afternoon at Britex Fabrics, easily one of the best fabric shops I’ve ever seen.

It’s always fun to leave for a trip, but it’s also nice to come home. I’m glad to be back, and it felt so good to sit down at my sewing machines after a few days away. You know me – always working on projects is my happy place.

Ty in his element, fishing at the Kenai River.

Walking along the beach in Homer, Alaska.

I caught a salmon. ALL BY MYSELF. It was amazing. (Also, kind of gross.)

Beautiful Alaska.

Have a great rest of the week!

star power: summer projects with the DESIGNER TOPAZ™ 50

The idea that time flies when you’re having fun could not be more true. In fact, it’s been so much fun and I’ve been so focused on my projects (“in the zone” as I like to say), that I only just realized the other day that’s it’s been two months since I got the DESIGNER TOPAZ™ 50 to use for the summer. Two months! Before you know it, we’ll be talking about fall and holiday plans. But, right now, it’s my favorite season and I’m enjoying every second of it, even if it is so hot that I can feel my face melting every time I walk out of the house.

A couple weeks ago, I highlighted some of the features and capabilities of the DESIGNER TOPAZ™ 50, and today I’m going to show you the projects I made using it. I mentioned before that this particular sewing and embroidery machine is only two models up from one of my own machines (I have a DESIGNER TOPAZ™ 25), so it was immediately familiar to me. I was able to dive right in and while I did sew a handful of garments on this machine, the focus this time was really on showcasing the embroidery this machine can do. It is spectacular.

The ladies at my local dealer (hey, Linda and Karen!) were immensely helpful in walking me through some of the basics, and I invested countless hours into various tests of thread/needle/fabric combinations, while also experimenting with the design functions on the PREMIER+™ EXTRA software I have. Just like anything else, it just takes a little time and practice to get the hang of machine embroidery, but I also found that I was unnecessarily anxious about it. It’s so easy!

There are 150 embroidery designs that come with the machine, so you’ll have plenty to choose from the moment you unpack the machine. One of the designs is for a pair of earrings, which has got to be one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. We all probably associate embroidery with some of the same things: tea towels, tote bags, t-shirts, etc., but this machine really opens up a lot of creative possibilities beyond the typical projects. Who would have thought about embroidering earrings?! The HUSQVARNA VIKING® folks, that’s who.

The earrings are made by embroidering on water soluble stabilizer and a piece of polyester organza (a tip I picked up from Linda at my dealer, and it really did make a difference). For the earrings you’ll need your choice of thread (I went with one solid color), stabilizer, earring hooks, hotfix crystals, and a hotfix applicator. I also found applique scissors to be the easiest for cutting the organza from the finished embroidery, but small, sharp scissors will work just as well.

My applique scissors. (Get a pair here.)

I used the small hoop that comes with the machine (the DESIGNER™ Splendid Square Hoop, 120 x 120), selected the design from the machine, and pressed the start button.

After you’ve embroidered the earrings and cut the organza away, soak them in warm water for about ten minutes to allow the stabilizer to dissolve, and then air dry. Once dry, apply the crystals and the earring post, and then you have yourself a brand new pair of adorable earrings. So much fun! Makes a great gift, too.

I had some intricate ideas for embroidered garments (still do, I’ll bring them to life eventually), but for this first project I decided to go with something a little more straightforward. One thing I didn’t want to do, however, was a simple, centered design. Not that there’s a thing wrong with that, but I kept going back to something with a more random, scattered placement that wasn’t a symmetrical design. I had high hopes for an embroidered wrap top, but I ended up going with an apron because it allowed me to go with a smaller design that I could embroider in sections. With the top, I kept running into overlapped embroidery or wonky placement, which was just a result of lack of practice. I didn’t want any of the embroidery to get into the seam allowances, but I also wanted it to follow the lines of the bodice. Because the front bodice piece was a little bigger than the hoop it needed to be embroidered in sections. The tricky part came in figuring out whether to do that in a top and bottom section or one big middle piece and two side areas. I tried both, but even with careful placement and measuring I couldn’t quite get the sections to work together without overlapping or creeping into the seam allowances.

Here you can see that the middle section of the embroidery has been applied, so I’m attempting to embroider the shoulder and side areas without overlapping what’s already there.

So, instead of a bigger design, I changed things up and designed a small cluster of three stars that I could embroider in various places. I will revisit the blouse idea later on, but the idea of a patriotic apron with stars on it was one I couldn’t pass up. So, I picked some denim from my fabric stash along with a red check cotton for the ties, and I got busy embroidering.

I traced the outline of the apron with tailor’s chalk, making sure to mark my seam allowances and pocket placement to avoid embroidering in those spots. I did a quick test run of the star cluster, and used that test piece to determine the placement of each little trio on the apron.

By simply rotating the design each time I embroidered it, I achieved the look I was going for: scattered placement that didn’t look repetitive or too intentional but was thoughtfully arranged. And each little cluster looks different, but it’s the exact same design. All I did was rotate it.

I thought it would be fun to embroider the pocket in a neat row of stars of the same size, so I decided how big I wanted them, designed and measured it to make sure it would fit the size of the pocket and follow its shape, and embroidered it in one go on the big hoop (the DESIGNER™ Royal Hoop, 360 x 200), and attached it to the apron. The apron is denim, and I used a size 80 titanium embroidery needle, black embroidery bobbin thread, and INSPIRA® Whisper Web Mesh Light Cut Away Stabilizer.  Sulky embroidery thread. Worked like a charm.

I’m calling this apron “The All American” because if there was ever an apron deserving of that name, it’s this one. I love it!

These projects were so much fun I kick myself a little for not getting into embroidery sooner. Think of all the things that can be made now! I have big plans for an embroidered cropped jacket to go with this dress I made recently, and I’d like to do some fun embroidery (bees, maybe? or something cute like bananas or some kind of animal?) on a dress, so I’m looking forward to doing those things later this summer.

Happy Fourth of July! For me, this holiday is up there with Christmas. I love celebrating our nation, and I love everything patriotic and American during the summer. It reminds me of the summers my brother and I had when we were growing up. Biking to our neighborhood pool, sunny afternoons in the magical treehouse in our backyard, beach trips with our grandparents, church retreats, and running around with all of our friends. Most importantly, the freedom we had to do it all.

Ty and I are in the midst of our first house hunt. It’s exciting and frustrating and tons of fun and a huge pain and everything everyone always says about buying a home, but it’s also humbling in a way. I’m so thankful to live in a country where we have the freedom and opportunity to work hard and make a life for ourselves. I have always dreamed of living the life I live now, and it’s days like today that remind to take a moment and appreciate being an American and be thankful for the freedom to make choices for myself and live as fully and as heartily as I possibly can. Because, no matter what, I love my country and I’m proud to be an American.

Now, let’s see if I can whip up an apple pie.

buttoned up: vogue 9182

A few weeks ago I set a lofty goal to make quite a few new pieces for summer. With it hovering around 100 degrees here almost daily now, I’m in desperate need of clothes to help me survive the heat. So, long gone are the projects with full linings and zippers and sleeves. In their place are all the things I not only love to make but will also get a lot of use out of this season (hello, linen and floaty dresses and swishy blouses and wide leg pants!). The two dresses in today’s post are certainly on that list.

I have a standing date with my pattern stash every couple of weeks, where I look for inspiration or pull a pattern that has been patiently waiting for its turn to be whipped into something pretty. I can’t remember when I bought Vogue 9182, but I think I’ve had it for quite some time and I stood out to me during a recent dig through the stash. I’d been hesitant to use it because it exposes a little more skin than I’m used to and for a long, long time I was averse to anything sleeveless. Well, I’ve finally kicked the “I can’t wear sleeveless things” silliness, and to get a little more skin coverage I simply raised the back pattern so it covers my back completely.

The red gingham is from Fabric.com, and the creamy white linen is from Textile Fabrics in Nashville. It’s a Ralph Lauren linen suiting, so it’s quite substantial and weighty. I have enough of it left to make an embroidered jacket later this summer. Excited about that.

I initially wanted to make the red gingham version to take to Nashville last month, but time got the best of me before I could finish it. As soon as I got home, I not only finished it but turned around and made a second version because I liked it so much. (And I got the perfect fabric for it in Nashville, so the stars aligned.) Maybe it’s the buttons or maybe the full skirt (maybe both?), but this dress is just dreamy to me. I love it.

I only made a few adjustments to the pattern for the red gingham dress: a swayback adjustment and I raised the back pattern pieces for full back coverage. I also combined the back and side back pieces so that the back bodice piece could be one single piece. Because I was short on time I skipped making a muslin which, as you well know, is not something I normally ever skip. I knew, based on the finished garment measurements, that the dress would fit nicely and any small adjustments could be made later. I was happy with the fit of the red gingham dress, but for the white linen version I raised the side seams for more coverage under the arms and shaped the front princess seams for a more flattering fit.

This is what the back pattern pieces look like after the adjustments were made. And, again, I would usually trace my tissue pattern pieces on paper and make adjustments from there (to avoid messing with the tissue), but time was not on my side.

And here’s how the back looks on me. I have the coverage I need, and it’s nice and smooth because of the swayback adjustment. You can also see the difference raising the side seams under the arms made to the white dress. I raised the side seams by 1 1/2″, and I think the additional coverage is a little more flattering.

And the front pieces:

The skirt for this pattern is a full circle, and I went with the longer length in view B, which is 31 1/2″ from the waist. Both skirts needed to be leveled (more info on that here).

Matching the pattern on the gingham dress was a task that made me go a little cross-eyed, but I’m happy with the end result. I told myself I wouldn’t be using any gingham or stripes or plaid for a while after this, but what did I do but turn around and start working on a madras plaid shirtdress. I’m a glutton for punishment, I guess.

I keep referring to this as “white” linen, but it’s really more of a creamy vanilla or eggshell white. I like that because it will transition to fall nicely, especially once I make the matching jacket to go with it. I love linen so very much, and this fabric was a dream to work with. I’ll have to get video of this dress in motion eventually, because the way it moves it just stunning. And tons of fun to wear.

I included a waist stay on both dresses, which snaps together underneath the button extension. It does its job beautifully, because there’s no pulling around the waist where the dress is buttoned. That can happen sometimes with shirtdresses or any kind of dress that buttons closed even if it’s the right size, but the waist stay eliminates that.

Anytime there’s a facing in a garment that isn’t attached to a lining, I like to not only serge it but turn it under and edgestitch it too. It hides the serged seam nicely, and makes the garment look a little more professional and high end.

Pockets.

If you’re looking for a summer dress but your version of a sundress is more like mine (I need a wee bit more coverage), I recommend this pattern. I really love making buttonholes and sewing buttons. It’s a refreshing change of pace sometimes, even though my machine really does all the work for the buttonholes.

I think both of these dresses will serve me well this summer and beyond. The white linen dress is a little more dressy, so it might become my summertime date night dress. And you know I love gingham, so the red number will be worn a lot. Sometimes I know when it’s time to walk away from a particular print or color for a while, but I think my heart is set on one or two more gingham things. Probably a blouse and a skirt. Then I’m done, I promise. Almost for sure.

Have a wonderful weekend, and I’ll be back next week with more summer projects and a new “how to” post. Lots of fun things coming up!