The Epic Wedding Dress Post

Wedding Dress Final

Say No to the Dress

At the end of November last year I spend a day with one of my closest friend trying on wedding dresses. I browsed through several hundred dresses and tried on a few dozen. I visited 3 American style wedding shops that sell white wedding gowns. I wasn’t in love with the styles. I wanted something very simple; no train, no excess fabrics/puffiness, minimal bling. I did want sleeves anywhere from a cap to a 3/4 length and a soft tulle skirt. Seems like that was not the “in” style at the moment. At 5 ft tall and petite proportioned the fit was so far off that I looked like human laundry clothesline as they clipped me in (left pic). The pic on the right I look like I’m kneeling down or I’m 3′ 6″. One of the salesperson suggested I would have it “cut off at the hem.” Yes. She. Said. That.

Dress Trial

Major surgery (on the dress, not on me!) could alter this dress to fit me better but at what cost? I know people who spent more on the alterations than the cost of the dress. I also visited one Chinese dress shop that would custom sew me a dress for $300-350 with 2-3 month lead time. They had me try on a sample dress in the style and fabric that I wanted and the fit was almost perfect. I don’t speak Chinese but my guess is that the ladies were discussing my fitting changes as they pinched the excess caused by my slopey shoulders. It was really a perfect dress if I was having a Vietnamese Tea Ceremony but I had decided to have an American style ceremony. Sure I would wear anything I wanted but decided to say “no” to the dress.

 

 

Sewing a Wedding Dress, How Hard Could it Be?

There are few sewing challenges I shy away from. In my mind nothing in sewing is permanent i.e. stitches can be undone, pieces can be recut and even wadders can be given a new life. So at Rimmon’s Black Friday sale I bought silk duchess satin, silk organza, french lace, silk charmeuse and tulle. I didn’t have a pattern yet so I bought reasonable yardage since some of the fabrics were quite pricey. In hindsight I should have over bought on the skirt fabrics because I eventually decided on a circle skirt which sucked up a lot of fabrics.

Materials

The Bodice: Boning Part

For the bodice I used Catina’s tutorial with significant fit and style modifications. Because I’m short and wanted a low back there was very little height/inner-structure above where the waistband will eventually go; especially in the back. To keep the structure of the dress, I had to have the inner-structure go down well below where the skirt would attach. I couldn’t go as long as I would have wanted because it started to ride up when I sat down. That would be unattractive and uncomfortable.

Bodice Satin

Inside the bodice I had a bra band like strap. I sewed in some batting bra cups. I used baby blue thread stitching for the inside boning.

Bodice inside

Much, much later I added a guide for the bra band. Because of the low back I didn’t want the bra band to peak out. I used some cheesy Valentine’s day ribbon. I love the pop of red but now I’m concerned the red dye might transfer over time onto the dress.

Bra Guide

 

 

The Bodice: Lace Overlay

The second part of the bodice is the lace overlay. I finally could have the 3/4 sleeve all the stores told me were difficult to find. 95%+ of the dresses they sold were strapless. The french silk I bought was leftovers from a Beverly Hills bridal designer that I can’t remember the name.

Lace flat

 

I’d like to think my dress could fetch the thousands of dollars that the designer dress was selling for. The fabric has an eyelash scallop along both selvedges. Coming into this I had no idea how difficult the lace would be. It didn’t occur to me what it would take to make a straight lace edge curved. I’ve sewn with lace a number of times on panties and bras but there was minimal shaping involved. To get the pieces to curve I had to cut out sections of the lace and restitch them. Yes, it was as painful as it sounds. This lace has a very delicate base fabric so there was little fabric for the stitches to hold onto. I think the professional solution is to have silk organza under the lace for support. This gave me a fake skin look like you see on figure skaters. It’s beautiful from the distance but close up I always thought it looked too fake.

I drafted the pattern pieces with a little drafting know-how and some on-the-fly fitting. On the bodice, you can see I originally planned on a v-neck. That was a complete disaster since there’s no structure with a low v-back and a v-front. After a few attempts I decided it was too much of an engineering feat to get this to work and went with a boat neck. I drafted the sleeve with one elbow dart. The sleeve cap needed a lot of work since the drafting had an almost symmetrical cap. I’m always surprised to see this on patterns because very few people are shaped this way.

Bodice Lace Patterns

Here’s a pictures of the sleeve cap post fitting. Looks pretty good, if I do say so myself. I love the scalloped edge at the hem.

Lace Sleeve

This pictures has the pattern piece I had drafted and fitted underneath as a guide. You can see where I cut the lace and reshaped the edge. It’s pretty scary cutting that expensive french lace at first until I remember that nothing was permanent. Take note the lace pattern at the center front looks like 3 oval flowers.

Lace Cutting

Then I had to sew patches of lace fabric to fill in the voids. I put an orange piece of paper underneath so I could see the lace layers better.

Lace Shaping

Remember the lace pattern at the center front with the 3 oval flowers? If not, scroll back up. The way the scallops laid the center front scallop ended up too high when I wore it. It looked fine on the table. On me it was a boat neck with a mountain peak in the middle. I ended up cutting it off and sewing on a different portion of the lace. The picture on the left was the right shape but it thought it was too obviously stitched on so I had to cut that off too and then some. See how the oval flower in the middle is now sideways? Picture on the right is what I decided on. I had to cut away the center front almost 3″. See how there’s a large leaf motif in the front now? Oh the magic of lace piecing.

Different center frontsIf you look closely you can see all the patches of lace. You can also see the minimal bling I wanted which isn’t in the vocabulary of the dress shops. More on that next.

Lace neckline

Embellishment

I used clear beads, sequins and thread to embellish the lace overlay. The clear sparkles at the right angle. It’s subtle and much more beautiful in real life. The clear nylon thread was really hard on my eyes. You have to hold it just right for the light to hit it or else it invisible. I used my black beading felt mat on a lipped surface for my working surface. The lipped surface is a top of an IKEA bin lid. I’ve used this set-up for beading for years and it’s 95% effective in keeping your beads on the tray. It’s a good idea to take off anything on your hands that will get caught on the lace or the thread.

Beading Tray

 

The beading is simple. I anchored the thread onto a more substantial part of the lace near the cording from the public side. I catch a sequin cup side up onto the needle and then a bead. Then I insert the needle back into the hole of the sequin. The bead keeps the thread from slipping through. Then I secure the thread and cut the tails short. I initially tried to jump from sequin to sequin underneath the fabric. This would have worked perfectly if I left enough slack in between. The lace has a slight stretch due to the holey-ness of the lace so you need more slack in the jumps. The upside of sewing them separately is that if the thread gets lose you only lose the one set of sequin and bead instead of the whole string of sequins. The downside is that the little thread tails can irritate the skin. It’s nylon and not particularly soft. If you have sensitive skin I would not recommend doing this.

 

 

The Skirt: Tulle Layer

For the skirt I wanted a soft, flowing, airy skirt like the 3′ 6″ me had tried on months ago. I had grabbed 9 yards of tulle from Rimmon’s during their sale. I drafted up a circle skirt which was pretty easy. Just takes some math and a lot of floor space.

Circle Skirt Drafting

The pic on the left I think was 1 full circle skirt in the front and 1 in the back. It’s a bit too flat for me. The final skirt (center pic) I ended up sewing 4 or 5 full circle skirts sewn together. The dress has been professionally cleaned and boxed so I can’t go and count the pieces. The pic on the right is the seaming of the tulle. Near my hand you can see the seam allowances. I ended up stitching several lines and trimmed as closely as I could to minimize it. Ideally I would have used 104″ wide tulle but I couldn’t find it in the right softness and color.

Skirt options

 

 

Skirt Lining

For the skirt lining I used 2 layers silk charmeuse: one for the layer that shows through the tulle and the other as the lining. I cut these as a-line skirts because I that was what fit on the 2 yards of fabric I bought. It worked out because there was less bulk. The problem I ran into with the charmeuse was it’s inherent sheerness in this light color. I could see the bodice boning that extended past the waistband layer under the charmeuse. It’s the same effect you get when you wear white bra under a white t-shirt, it was a color difference. So I had to add not 1, but 2 layers of cotton muslin in between. Now the boning bodice was put to the test with 4 layers of underskirt and a layer of tulle made of 4 circle skirts. It was something like 18 yards of fabric total. The waistband is a long gathered rectangle. Nothing much more to say about that.

Skirt attached

The zipper is not in yet so I’m holding the dress together with my hands. It’s also not yet hemmed.

 

 

The Back

For the back I wanted something with interest. I feel like people spend a lot of time looking at my back during the wedding that it shouldn’t be boring. I had initially wanted a keyhole back. Again my height and proportions foils my plans. Instead of a long tear drop shape it looked more like a frumpy egg. I used blue tape to “try on” a tear drop, oval, circle and this football-like shape.

Back keyhole fail

I ended up going with a slit with 3 buttons at the top. Simple and a little interesting.

Final Back View

The buttons I bought from International Silk and Woolens. I tried making my own satin buttons with a kit where you use your own fabric but they turned out a bit lumpy around the edges. These had lace already on them and in an ivory that matched the lace on the bodice. I used a thin corded elastic for the loops. The loops are decorative as they couldn’t hold the back in without the buttons sliding to the side of the loops. White hook and eyes underneath is what’s holding the back together. I have a soft clear elastic down the center back to prevent gaping.

 

 

50 Shades of White

I knew from house paints that there were so many shades of whites and off-whites. For some reason I thought they would just all go together as a whitish family. I didn’t pay too close attention to the shades of color and ended up paying for it. I have a lot of natural light in my sewing room. For night time I have a natural light color temperature bulbs. The whitish family of colors looked in harmony until I took the dress to sew at a friend’s house. Her lighting cast a bit more of a blue-ish color and the skirt looked way out of place. The ceremony was outdoors and the inside lighting had more of a yellow cast but I didn’t want to chance it. Finding a soft drapey tulle in the right shade of ivory was pretty challenging. A lot of the tulle I found in stores was very stiff and crunchy. I bought some at JoAnn’s and tried the suggestions online with the fabric softener and vinegar etc. Nothing helped soften the fabric enough. Then I bought dye thinking I could dye the skirt but after consulting with another sewing friend I was really worried about getting all that yardage a consistent color. Buying online was also tricky because people’s versions of “soft” was all over the board. I ended up finding the right fabric at International Silks and Woolens for something outrageous like $10/yard multiplied by 9 yards plus 3 more yards because I cut one piece terribly wrong. Don’t talk to the phone while cutting! The moral of this story is pay attention to your whites while you’re shopping for material.

 

 

Hemming

I had 5 floor length layers that needed hemming and it was a big task.Β I had 2 friends help pin up the hem of all 4 layers with me teetering on a stack of cook books. I figured once they did this I could cut and sew the hems myself. I cut and hemmed the lining first since no one would tell how badly I botched it. Then I tackled the 2 cotton muslin layer. I serged those hems. Again no one would notice how uneven it was. Then I got to the charmeuse layer under the tulle and the pinned up layer was quite uneven. With all the extra fabrics pinned up none of the layers were laying straight. I had to repin the hem in about the dumbest way ever. I must have completely lost my mind by this point of the wedding planning. I was looking at the hem and mentally noting things like “5 inches to the right of the center front I need the hem 1/2″ higher”. Then I would take off the dress, repin it, and put it back on. A wedding dress is incredibly time consuming to get on and off; especially, by yourself. I did this about 3-4 times before I realized I could just pick up the hem repin it and drop it to the floor again. ::sigh:: The tulle layer was the diciest to hem. After all the time and cost to get this skirt made, I didn’t want to screw it up by cutting it too short. You can’t patch tulle so if it was too short I would have to do something tacky like sew lace to the edge or recut a whole new skirt.Tulle hemming1

What I ended up doing is pinning up the layers with my new and improved hemming method. The pins need to go straight down on tulle or the pins fall out. I thread traced the hem edge. This way I could lay it flat and even out the edge. I used rotary cutter to trim off the excess. It was a scary couple of minutes but I went slowly and took a lot of breathing breaks. There was 15 yards of hem on this layer!

Tulle hemming 2

In the end I was constantly moving or sitting behind a table cloth covered table so who would really notice an even hem. Here I am coming down the aisle with my parents. See you don’t even notice the hem.

Final hem

Final Thoughts

I’m very happy about how the dress turned out. It’s exactly what I wanted and the fit is spot on. It was a fun puzzle to solve with lots of opportunities to use my noodle. My #1 advice to any sewist looking to tackle this type of wedding dress, start early. The first part is “start”. This is a general sewing advice. No matter how much you read and research your situation will be different from what you read. Your body is different. Your materials are different. Nothing can replace actually sewing and trying on the garment to figure out what needs to be adjusted. I muslined the bodice with the boning. I turned out to be a waste of time as my fabric behaved differently even though they had similar characteristics. On this close fitting of a garment a little difference in the fabric made a big difference in the fit. The pattern pieces took so little fabric I should have used the expensive fabric in the first place.

The second part is “early”. The finishing takes much longer than you ever think it would. The dress seemingly came together quickly. When I had the bodice and skirt sewn together I thought I was almost done. Wrong! Figuring out the zipper, buttons, sequins and hemming took probably 4 times longer. In the finishing you do a lot of work and it doesn’t seem like you’re making any progress. You will run into unexpected problems. This is Murphy’s Law. If you’re the bride sewing this, you’ll be eyeball deep with other wedding preparations that you don’t want to stress out about your dress. I kept saying to myself, I have time. I’ll do this and that now because they’re more time sensitive and kept delaying the dress because I could finish the dress the night before if I had to. I couldn’t hire a photographer or pick napkin colors the night before. I did finish my dress well ahead of my night-before deadline but I made it a priority. Congratulations on making it to the end of this long post. You’ll be reward with this video of the dress.

 

Special thanks for my beautiful group of sewing friends who encouraged and helped me along the way. I spot a few sewn dresses in this group!

The Sewing Ladies

And lastly, big hugs and kisses for my 2 favorite men who had to fend for themselves while I disappeared into the sew room.

The whole family

Happy Sewing,

Wedding Signature

28 Responses to The Epic Wedding Dress Post

  1. Gail says:

    Perfectly stunning! Beautiful, elegant, perfectly drafted. I’m so proud for you! Congratulations on your marriage!

  2. Gisa says:

    Wow! Sewing your own wedding dress is one of these holy sewing grails indeed! You look stunning!! I will marry in July, but I weazled out of this task… I will probably bake the cake πŸ˜‰ A big hug for this brave undertaking! Bisous from France, Gisa

  3. Sandra says:

    Wow, you did an amazing job. This dress is beautiful. Congruatulations on your wedding.

  4. Emily Bauer says:

    Your dress is beautiful and perfect!!! FANTASTIC JOB!!!!!

  5. Lodi says:

    BEAUTIFUL!

    You and the Dress!

    I was worried about you, but now I’m thrilled for you!

  6. Mads says:

    So THAT’S where you’ve been lately! =)

    Your dress is so beautiful, and you look radiant. I love the last photo of your family together: your men look very handsome in their formal attire, too!

    I am planning a project involving lace–my first!–this year, so thanks for sharing your experience working with it on a bodice. I am bracing myself for that, LOL!

  7. Jacqui says:

    You look so beautiful! Congratulations! Your dress is beautiful and you should be very proud of your work. Thank you for sharing how your dress came together. PS – I love that Waffle was included in your wedding.

  8. Kyle says:

    Congrats Nhi on making the dress! Hats off to you! Love love love the outfit on your dog too!

  9. Oh! It’s a lovely dress, worn by a lovely lady! Great job and CONGRATULATIONS!! πŸ™‚

  10. BeccaA says:

    Your dress is lovely and I’m impressed by your process of creating it. So wonderful to sew your own wedding dress to create exactly what you want. You are a beautiful bride!

  11. Accordion3 says:

    Beautiful dress and beautifully made. And a lovely read to start my day.

    I’m glad to see a post as I wondered where you were. Planning a wedding & sewing the dress certainly soaks up time and energy.

  12. Angela says:

    What a beautiful, beautiful dress and helpful post! Just lovely!

  13. LindaC says:

    Congratulations! You look absolutely lovely.

  14. aleah says:

    It came out so beautiful!! It has always impressed me how logical and calm you always are about sewing challenges, and this is about the epitome of that. This is a huge amount of work and you nailed it!
    I’m sorry I missed your day, it looked lovely. Congratulations!!

    • Thanks Aleah. I’m pretty sure Sandra heard me in a panic more than once. We missed you and the potentially slapped together dress you might have sewn for the wedding. We need to get together soon.

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Two Zip Hipster

Finished Two Zip Hipster

In Search of The Perfect Purse

Many decades ago my brother gave me a black cross body bag. It became my favorite everyday purse. I used it to death. Even with the raggedy, thread bare, (w)holiness I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it and yet never made the effort to draft a copy of it. In desperation I bought a similar bag last year in purple. The material was plasticy and the straps were weirdly twisted. Then I remember a purse pattern suggestion from Accordion for Dog Under My Desk. Turns out the Two Zip Hipster was the perfect starting point for creating my perfect purse.

Crossbody Purses

Alterations

One of the changes that I made was increasing the depth of the purse by 1″. Sounded simple since all of the pattern pieces were rectangles but the increases need to be changed on a gazillion pattern pieces. A gazillion as in nearly every pattern piece. Oy! I added a zipper pocket in the inside.

Inside pockets

I had 2 blue plaid zippers I had bought from Daiso that were perfect. The light blue and red matched the main purse fabric nicely. I had matching cord stops but I decided against the gathered pocket in the front because the print would have looked too skewed. Maybe for my next version.

Notions

I also put belting inside the straps for extra stability. I later regretted the extra bulk this added. But 3 needles later I’m happy with the results. The last change was that I added a second rectangle ring for the strap. This allowed me to sew the purse without having the long strap get in the way. I was able to add the long strap at the last step in the construction.

 

Geeky Sewist Fabric

I love this fabric. It’s a home dec fabric that I bought at M&L Fabrics at a pricey $20/yard. I wasn’t sure what I was going to make with it so I bought 2 yards. Good thing because that made the extra long straps and print matching much easier. The fabric has pin cushions, scissors, pattern pieces, sewing machines, ruler and rotary cutters all over it. Check out this print matching.

Print Matching

I used a red lining fabric for the lining to match the red zipper and red topstitching. Purse InsideI haven’t had a chance to try out the bag but I’m very excited that I finally have a replacement for the worn down black bag.

2 Zip Hipster

 

Happy sewing,

Signature small

4 Responses to Two Zip Hipster

  1. Kyle says:

    You’re back! Cute bag!!!

  2. Accordion says:

    I’m glad you are back too. And glad the bag worked out, your pattern matching is superb! It looks like a good size bag, I can see it getting much use.

  3. Lodi says:

    Lovely bag…and I’m very relieved to see this post! I was wondering if you were OK. I guess no news was good news!

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Arm Warmer with Thumb Hole Tutorial

Fingerless Gloves

Why Didn’t I Make One Sooner?!

I walk the dog everyday and I’ve been suffering from needlessly from cold hands syndrome. Yes, I could wear gloves but they prevent me from texting and selecting podcasts on my phone. And I feel like I need to take the gloves off while picking up after the dog, just in case. It wasn’t until I was making the thumb hole cuff for the reading blanket tutorial that it hit me. I needed a sleeve with a thumb hole. It reminds me of a leg warmer but an arm version, hence, arm warmers. I thought it was going to be easy but my first attempt was a disaster. Good news for you I’ve made the mistakes so you don’t have to. The instructions look more complicated than it really is.

Cutting Your Pattern

  • You’ll need approximately 24″ x 24″ of rib knit .
  • Fold your fabric in half with the greatest amount of stretch going along the folded edge.
  • Place your hand on the fabric with the folded edge at your finger. Determine how tall you want the sleeve to cover your finger and how far up your arm you want it. I like the sleeve to cover most of my fingers. I fold it down when I need more finger mobility. Cut the fabric to size.

Measure fabric

  • Fold the fabric over your arm and chalk your arm. Pin along your chalk line leaving the thumb area unpinned.

Rough pattern

  • Try on the arm warmer and adjust the pattern as needed. This try on is important since all knits behaves differently and everyone likes a different amount of ease.

Try on and adjust

  • Trim your pattern with a 3/8″ seam allowance. Notice how I cut a curve at the thumb hole. This curve gives you more thumb mobility.

Cut pattern

  • Trace the pattern onto a piece of paper to keep for future use and to cut your second arm warmer.

Trace Pattern

 

Sewing the Arm Warmers

  • Instead of pins make a clip at the top and bottom of the thumb hole.

Clip sewing guides

  • Open up the fabric and fold right sides together so that you have a long and skinny piece. Sew the middle section from notch to notch.

Sew center

  • Open up the ends to a “X” shape.

Open to X

  • Grab the two top flaps and put them right sides together.

Put top flaps together

  • Sew from the end of the last stitch to the next clip. I marked the end of the last stitch with blue chalk to make it easier to see.

Sew top flaps together

  • Check the underside to make sure the fabric didn’t shift and you have sewn to the end of the previous stitch.

Sew top flaps together underside

  • Repeat with the other two flaps. Again checking that your stitching meets the end of the previous stitch on both sides.
  • Open up the piece into an upside down “V” shape. Sew up one side with a 1/4″ seam allowance and the other with a 3/8″ seam allowance. The two different seam allowances is to adjust for the turn of the cloth. The layer inside needs toΒ  be smaller (larger seam allowance) so that it lays smooth.
  • Sew from the end of the previous stitch to the hem.

2 different seam allowances

  • Baste the seam allowance open. I use a glue stick. When I turned the sleeve inside out it was really difficult to keep the seam allowance open which created weird lumps and bumps in the seam. Pressing it open seemed like a dangerous undertaking.

Baste seam allowance

  • Turn the arm warmer inside out with the layer with the larger seam allowance as the inner layer.Β  Don’t worry, just turn it and look at the seam allowance. If you have the layers wrong, flip it inside out.

Open up hem

  • You’ll notice that the inner layer will be longer than the outer layer. It’s that turn of the cloth thing again. Trim the hem even to each other.

Cut bottom even

Sew the Hem

The next couple of steps are difficult to describe. The end goal is to sew the hem right side together leaving an opening to turn the arm warmer inside out. Here we go.

  • Fold over the hem seam allowance. It doesn’t matter how much seam allowance.

Hold seam allowances together

  • Grab the seam allowance from the inside.

Grab seam allowance from inside

  • Turn the seam allowance inside out. Zig zag the hem all the way around leaving a 2″ opening. When you get to the point in the sewing where the bulk of the arm warm preventing you from sewing further you’ll have to stuff the material in. I know this is confusing. You will understand when you get to this step.

Zig zig hem

  • Turn the arm warmer inside out.

Sew up opening

  • Hand stitch the opening close. I’m not sure of the name of the stitch I used. It’s like a ladder stitch where you’re stitching the edge of folds. I make almost like a back stitch in order to give the stitch some stretch so the thread doesn’t break when putting the arm warmer on and taking it off.

stitching

Congratulations

You have arm warmer with thumb hole. I hope you enjoy these as much as I have. I’ve been wearing everywhere, not just walking the dog. The grey goes with everything but I would love some colorful pairs.

Finished fingerless gloveFinished fingerless glove folded down

Happy Arm Warmer Sewing,

Signature small

2 Responses to Arm Warmer with Thumb Hole Tutorial

  1. I love this!! Nice tutorial too!! Need to make those ASAP for when it’s getting cold here πŸ˜‰ Why don’t you come over to my craft party (new every Thursday 7pm EST) and link this and future projects up! I pin every one of them!

  2. Pingback: Tutorial: Knit fingerless gloves or arm warmers – Sewing

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Reading Blanket Tutorial

How to Sew a Reading Blanket

Yeah! Counting hanging chads, I got 10 votes for a tutorial how to sew the sleeved reading blanket that I had made. The reason why I asked my readers to weight in is that I want to blog about things that my regular readers would enjoy. I know some of my free patterns and tutorial get a lot of views. It’s people who come to the site, grab the pattern and leave. That’s a great amount of traffic that will has crash my site now that I’m on a cheaper hosting and made it worse for my regular readers. Since I don’t have advertising or affiliate links on the site, extra traffic does not benefit me. And in all fairness since the blog doesn’t make money, I can’t afford to spend more on hosting for random strangers who are just looking for free stuff. Sorry that got a bit ranty. Let’s get to the tutorial…

Instructions and diagram on how to sew a reading blanket are below.

Reading Blanket Instructions

** Don’t attempt to use this diagram ** It’s just plain wrong **

What? You don’t understand that? Neither do I. Ha! I had made so many changes, especially, with the cuffs I’ll have to reverse engineer the pattern.

Supplies

  • 2.5 yards of fleece 59″ width. Solid or non-directional prints like the donut one I used is recommended.

Donut Fleece Print

  • thread
  • machine that can do a zig zag stitch.
  • armhole template

armhole template download button

 

Cut Pattern Pieces

  • Cut a 49″ x 64″ rectangle. This will be the body of the blanket.
  • Cut two rectangles 23″ x 24 5/8″. These will be the sleeve. Mark the 23″ edges with pins or tailor tacks.
  • Cut two rectangles 9″ x 24 5/8″. These will be the cuffs.

Cutting diagram

  • From the body rectangle. Cut two 7″ circles for the armholes. The holes are 17″ apart. This will leave 16.5″ from the outer edge of the hole to the edge of the fabric.

Cut Armholes

 

  • The best way to do this is to fold the body piece in half (see dotted line in diagram above). Mark the center with a pin. From the pin measure out 8.5″ and place your armhole template. Double check that your measurements match the diagram above before cutting.

Armhole Cut Out

Body Construction

  • Hem the sides of the body piece with a 1″ hem. I folded over 1″ and did a zig zag with a 4 width and 4 length.
  • Hem the top and bottom with a 3″ hem.

Hem Body

  • I hem from the wrong side so I can see that I’m catching the hem. Nothing is worse than unpicking on fleece fabric.

Hemming fleece

  • Here’s the finished hem. There are cleaner ways to finish the hem but I choose the quick and dirty method.

Hem

 

  • Sew up the sleeves. Remember the pins I had you put in? You want to sew the 2 edges with the pins together to form a tube. This tube will be your sleeves. I used the same zig zag stitch and sewed using a 1/4″ seam allowance.

Sleeve Construction

  • Set in the sleeves. You want to match the seam of the sleeve with the inside edge of the hole.

Sleeve placement

  • Sewing the cuff is a bit complicated if you haven’t done it before. I recommend looking up a few videos on YouTube for sewing a thumb hole sleeve to help make it more clear.
  • First you need fold the cuff in half (see diagram below).

Cuff 1

  • Mark the cuff edge at 1″, 2 3/4″, 1.5″, 2 3/4″ and 1″ with pins. Pin each layer separately. Do not pin them together.

Cuff 1a

  • Sew rights side together between the 1.5″ section in the middle.

Cuff 2

  • This is where thing get tricky. Rotate the cuff 90 degrees. Open up the cuff into a “X” or butterfly shape.

Cuff 3

  • Grab the top “wings” and put them right sides together.

Cuff 4

  • Sew from the end of the previous stitching to the pin.

Cuff 5

  • Repeat for bottom “wings”.
  • Next you want to open up the remaining little flaps and put right sides together. Sew from where the previous stitching stopped to the edge of the fabric.

Cuff 6

  • Repeat for the other little flap.
  • Turn the cuff inside out. You should have a cuff with a slit in the seam for your thumb.
  • Repeat for the other cuff.
  • Sew the cuff to the sleeve matching up the seams. I put right sides together and zig zagged together. There are cleaner methods of finishing this seam. I like the quick and dirty method.

Cuff 7

 

Congratulations!

You made yourself or someone you love a reading blanket. Say “good bye” to cold arms. If you spot any errors, please let me know in the comments so others can be alerted. If you made a blanket send me a pic. I love seeing that people are actually sewing my tutorials and patterns. Don’t be that random person who comes for the free stuff and leaves.

Finished Reading Blanket

 

Other Design Feature Ideas

  • I have thought about making a small pocket for a book, reader or remote control (for those who watch TV instead of reading). This would make the blanket go on in only one direction so I wasn’t sure about adding it. If you’re interested, e-mail me and I’ll attempt to describe to you my idea on how to make the pocket 2 directional. detectivehoundstooth at gmail dot com.
  • Mcathur on Pattern Review suggested adding an LED light to the collar. It’s a great idea. I just have no idea how to execute it. You’re on your own.
  • You can also make this a longer length i.e. Snuggie type of blanket for lounging on the couch or other places where you don’t have a blanket.
  • Obviously the best design feature is using all the great fleece prints available. There is a fleece for everyone, from John Deere tractors to Hello Kitty. I could see these making great holiday gifts for book worms, TV buffs, knitters, hospital patients… I spent about $20 in fabric so it’s pretty inexpensive, though time consuming so make sure the recipient is worthy of your precious sewing time.

 

Happy reading blanket sewing,

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13 Responses to Reading Blanket Tutorial

  1. Dorothy says:

    Thanks for the tutorial . I live in Florida and we do not have nearly enough cool nights to justify making this but I plan on spending late season summer nights on Long Island so I plan on making at least one for those occasions .

  2. Pingback: Arm Warmer with Thumb Hole Tutorial - Detective Houndstooth

  3. Betsy says:

    Mmm, distracted by doughnuts in my search for free stuff. Will email you later requesting lots of additional support for the free projects. Also, I have no intention of thanking you and this will certainly require multiple emails back and forth.
    Just kidding!
    This looks nice and cozy! Not sure about the LED collar. That may be a bit much. But seriously, I need a doughnut now.

  4. Pingback: Reading Blanket - Detective Houndstooth

  5. Karen Slater says:

    I will make this, and comment. But I am really writing to say that I made the flower scarf last year. I had a hand dyed wool coat that was eaten by moths, so I felted it to get rid of the moths and holes, and used that for my fabric. The artist who made the coat was surprised and delighted. Thanks for the pattern.

  6. Jane T says:

    I think I will purchase some fleece while it is on sale right now and will have an entire year to make around 10 of these for Christmas presents for year 2016! Thank you for the measurements and idea.

  7. Pingback: Tutorial: Reading blanket that keeps your arms covered – Sewing

  8. embee says:

    This is neat and it would make such a thoughtful gift to somebody who likes to read! Maybe even myself πŸ˜‰ I’ve decided this is going to be the year of reading for me, haha

    • I’ll make you a deal. Sew this up and enjoy it while reading a book. If the book thing does go well, you can use this while using your phone at night or reading a sewing magazine or eating in bed. There are many uses that doesn’t involve reading. πŸ™‚

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Reading Blanket

It’s Finally California Cold

Here’s in Southern CA it was hot through October. Hot as in shorts weather with temperatures in 80/90s in the days. Finally in November we’re getting some cooler weather. Nights have been particularly cold here, dropping into the mid-low 40s. In the day time I’m bundled up. At night I can’t sleep with long sleeves or pants because my clothes will strangle me from my constant turning. Instead I hide under 3 layers of blankets. The problem is the time that I’m reading in bed. My bare arms are totally exposed to the cold. πŸ™

Reading with Exposed Arms

The Reading Blanket is Invented

I have a sleeved blanket but the length just adds a 4th layer and I get too hot. I thought to myself if only there was a short version that only cover the exposed limbs. Yup, you guessed it. I sewed up this little idea. Couldn’t resist the donut print fleece.

Reading with Arms Covered

But wait! There’s more!! I improved on it by adding a thumb hole so that the sleeve doesn’t slide down your arm if you’re laying flat.

Reading Blanket with Thumb Hole

I tested several different methods and this one was the best. It’s secure and doesn’t add too much bulk that would make it difficult to hold a book or restrict your fingers for page turning. The problem is that the sleeves are pretty wide and lets a cold air in. I simply close up the open space and the fleece clings to itself a bit and keeps it close. Maybe on my next version I’ll taper in the sleeves at the cuff.

The last surprise benefit is that this reading blanket can be used right side up or upside down. If you can get both arms in you’re good to go. I had planned on adding a pocket in the middle for a small book or reader but that would make it one-directional. I do have a pocket design that can be used right side up or upside down but I haven’t experimented with it yet. And I’m also concerned that I’ll wash the reading blanket with a book or reader in the pocket. That would be a disaster.

Reading Blanket

Let me know in the comments if anyone is interested in a tutorial on how to make one. If I get at least 10 votes for a tutorial I’ll write it up.

Link to my Pattern Review.

Edited to add link to the tutorial.

Happy sewing reading,

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19 Responses to Reading Blanket

  1. Midge says:

    Such a clever idea! Please do the tutorial! Or maybe I can just hire you to make one as a gift for our great mail carrier! LOL! πŸ™‚

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  3. That is a clever idea!

  4. deb says:

    Yes! Would love a tutorial, this is so clever!

  5. Accordion3 says:

    Hi there – this would be good for people who are stuck in bed for long periods – like hospice’s, long term nuero rehab and nursing homes.
    I’d like a tutorial too!

  6. Caroline says:

    This seems like the ultimate holiday gift! And we will have to shoot your parody As Seen on TV ad once I get back!

  7. Junie says:

    A “yes” vote on the tutorial, please…from a fellow Southern Californian.

  8. Sew focused says:

    I would love a tutorial. I thank you in advance as I also am shivering in southern Cali. Hope you get your ten requests.

  9. Lodi Srygley says:

    As somebody said, “necessity is the mother of invention”! I’d love to see a tutorial. Did you use the burrito method for the sleeve cuffs? Do you have any tips for sewing with fleece? It’s pretty bulky.

    • Thanks Lodi. That’s vote #2.

      No I didn’t burrito the sleeve cuff. I’m not sure that it’s possible. You can sew right sides together fold the cuff in half with the seam allowance folded under and stitch in the ditch for a cleaner finish. I folded the cuff in half, sewed right sides together in a round.

  10. Karen says:

    I love the idea. I just use a fleece jacket, backwards, when reading in bed. If I get hot, it is easy to remove but your thumb hole is brilliant. I would love a tutorial.

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