I Made Shoes!!

Red Sandals Finished

Sewing Bucket List

Making shoes have been on my sewing bucket list since our trip to Spain last year. I fell in love with the idea that you can make your own espadrille. I watched every youtube I could find on making the soles until I ran across the Dritz espadrille soles. They’re already made for you! At the time I had only found the flat soles in adult sizes in the store. I like a little wedge for height. You petite ladies know what I’m talking about. I tried the size 5, my RTW shoe size and it was way too big. I think it’s more like a size 6. So I mothballed that project until my Hobby Lobby started stocking the wedges. Yes, the sizing is still too big but I couldn’t resist.

**Disclaimer: I haven’t road tested these shoes more than walking around the sewing room. What I’m about to tell you is how I made mine. I make no guarantees that they’ll hold up. Don’t send me your medical bills if you sprain an ankle.**

 

 

Dritz Espadrille Soles

The soles come with the soles, a pattern for making traditional espadrilles and instructions. Tip #1: you can download the pattern online and print them out instead of tracing. The pattern is meant to print on legal size paper but you can print on letter size. You’ll cut off the top and bottom but the pattern pieces will all print. Tip #2: The regular price is $24.99 at my store. I used my 40% or 50% off coupon, I can’t remember. Hobby Lobby, JoAnn’s and Michael’s all take competitor’s coupons so use your smart phone and search for the best coupon.  All the other supplies you have to purchase separately. Tip #3: you don’t have to buy the Dritz Espadrille supplies. More on this later.

Dritz Espadrille Wedge What is Inside

 

 

Sizing

As I mentioned I think the sizing runs large. I think because there are no half sizes so they recommend 5 1/2 have to go down a size to a 5. I checked the few pattern reviews on PR and others thought the sizing was just right. Good news for you, you can take the soles out of the packaging and try them on for yourself. You can’t do that with a pattern! This is a comparison of one of my favorite RTW wedge in a similar heel height. You can see the Dritz soles is a bit longer. Wonder where I got the ankle strap detail from?

Dritz Espadrille Wedge vs RTW Sizing

Fabric

I didn’t want a traditional espadrille looking shoe. If you want to make traditional espadrilles you can use a tightly woven, medium weight cotton for your fabric. You can buy the fabrics Dritz sells pre-packaged if you’re uncomfortable picking the right types of fabric for this application. I wanted more of a leather sandal look so I went with marine vinvl from JoAnn’s. The design was inspired by a Hasbeens sandal. They don’t make shoes in my size. 🙁 So I guess I had to make them.

I’m not sure about the durability of this fabric over time since I haven’t take the shoes out for a real test spin. The marine vinyl is a thick vinyl that comes in many luscious colors. The backing has a knitted layer. The best part is that it doesn’t fray and I didn’t need to use interfacing. I drew the pattern with a pen on the back of the fabric and cut it out with an X-acto blade on a self healing mat. If you aren’t doing any cut outs you can simply use scissors. The marine vinyl is very stable in one direction and had a slight stretch in the other direction. I placed the pattern so that the stable direction went left to right on the toe piece. Placed the strap so there was a slight stretch along the length of the strap. The fabric is regularly $10.99/yd. You need very little. I bought 1/2 yard and had a lot left over. If you’re not doing the long ankle strap like I did you can get away with less.

Marine Vinyl

I had initially made this same design in duck cotton. I interfaced the duck cotton and the lining, sewed them together and attempted to do the cut outs by reinforcing the edges with a tight zig zag. This was really messy looking and I couldn’t keep the edges stable. It was an epic fail. I then tried the design with another vinyl like material and it had too much stretch. Epic fail #2.

 

 

Sewing

Again you can purchase the needle, thread and wax the Dritz sells specially for espadrille making. I didn’t purchase these. For the thread I opted for a crochet thread from JoAnn’s. It’s was $3.99 regular price for a large spool. Remember your coupons. I have a ton of it left for other purposes. I like that it was way cheaper and I like the smoother thread. Doesn’t hurt that the color was spot on.

Crochet yarn

The bee’s wax sold as espadrille supplies looks like the same thing as you find in the quilting section. The quilting one is larger and less expensive. If you already have bees wax or Thread Heaven I’d skip buying this. I used bees wax. The coating does change the color of the thread but it should go away with time. Below is a picture of the unwaxed and waxed thread.

Needle and thread

For the needle I used a sail/tent needle. In the picture above you can see that it was a flat almost blade like tip. I already had in a home dec needle set. It’s the straight needle, second from the right.

Sail Tent NeedleIt went through the sole without any issues. I pre-poked the holes on the vinyl using a push pin on a foam board. I did this mainly to help me keep the spacing even. Poking sewing holes

I then pinned the fabric onto the sole, pinning through the holes. When it’s pinned up you can sort of try them on but I found that the fabric is still too loose to get an accurate gauge.

Pin fabric to sole

Then you stitch the fabric to the sole. I used a blanket stitch but there are many others that could work. After the needle comes through the sole you can gently push it against the vinyl and you can tell if you’re in the right spot or not before you poke through the fabric. Tip #4 I used my crappy sewing table push the needle through the hole. I think that’s easier than pulling the needle through even if you have a needle puller. It’s easier on the hands too.

I removed the pin right before stitching through it. So everything else stays in pinned place.

StitchingThis is one side of the toe piece stitched up. I stopped at the edge of the fabric. I didn’t sew all the way around.

One side stitched

Ankle Strap

I copied the ankle strap from my RTW pair of shoes. I sewed them on the same way I did the toe piece but with less distance between the stitches. I tried on the shoes to determine where the buckle should go. The buckle I used was 8 mm or 5/16″.  I found them at Hobby Lobby for $1.99. I should have cut the ankle strap along the stable direction of the fabric and added a piece of elastic like my RTW pair.

RTW ankle strap with buckle

With the 1 layer of marine fabric I wasn’t sure I could attach the elastic without poking too many holes and ripping the fabric. Plus I didn’t have any red elastic on hand. Instead I cut the straps along the stretchier direction. I’m not sure if this was the right choice until I give the shoes more road testing. After I figured out the placement I punched a circle with my screw punch large enough to go around the base of the prong.

Ankle strap

I sewed it shut and glued the little tab of fabric to secure the buckle.  On the other strap I tried on the shoes and marked where how long the strap needed to be. I cut the strap to size and used my screw punch with the smallest hole and punched prong holes.

Prong holesThis is the finished ankle strap.

Finished Ankle Strap
 

Test Run

Since I went way off the reservation on this one I’m going to carry a pair of flip flops with me when I wear them. I’m crossing my fingers they aren’t a complete disaster. I am going to put some insoles in for support and to keep my feet from sliding forward because the soles are too big for me.

Here are a couple of different views of the shoes. I’ve never been so self conscious about my legs before. I swear they don’t look this bad in real life.

Sandals Side View

Sandals Front View

Sandals Toe Close Up

Happy shoe sewing,

Wedding Signature

Cross Stitch Pincushion

basset hound cross stitch pin cushion finished

I Couldn’t Resist

Remember in my last post I was planning to let the kits I purchased in Japan to age in my stash? Well that did last long. I thought the bunny cross stitch pincushion would be easy and fun. As usual, I somehow I ended up making it more complicated.

First off bunnies are on my $hit list. We have a whole family of bunnies living in our yard. I’m talking aunts, uncles, grandmas, in-laws, in-laws of in-laws. Everyone has moved in. Those adorable bastards are killing our grass by eating the grass; roots and all. Neighbors have suggested we “get a dog”. Then they remember we have Waffle, in which they change their suggestion to “get a real dog.” I’ve seen impressive Waffle’s hunting skills in action. He’s very patience and moves in very, very slowly. But alas his short legs are too slow when he takes a run at them when he’s within striking distance. The bunnies don’t even stop eating until he gets pretty close then they dash off. How dare they mock him. So instead of brown and white bunnies I changed the pattern to a brown and white basset hound. Sewing karma must be shining on me.

basset hound cross stitch pattern WIP

This is the design in progress. The pincushion is simply 2 squares. I did the pattern design in Excel and color filled the cells. I ended up scraping the magnifying glass because it didn’t leave enough space for the basset tail. I did buttons for the bottom. Lastly there seemed to be too much white space in the middle so I added a pair of scissors. The tiny buttons included in the kit was perfect for the screw.

basset hound cross stitch close up

This is the finished top. Sewing the top and bottom together is so simple. You start at the corner of one and at the halfway point of the other and stitch around. Stitch until you have about 1″ opening. I left my thread attached. Stuff it with fill. I think the kit came with cotton for the filling. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen anything but polyfil. Then you stitch up the opening. This project was simple but time consuming as most other needle crafts are. This project could have been done in 15 minutes with fabric and a sewing machine instead of 15 hours.

basset hound cross stitch construction

I’m not sure how much it’ll be used as a pincushion since I have my emery one and strawberry wrist one. And do I really want to poke a basset with a pin? Maybe I should have left it as a bunny.

basset hound cross stitch pincushion all sides

Happy pincushion sewing,

Wedding Signature

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. 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

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 to  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.  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

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. 🙁

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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