Renaissance Chemise

Here’s a tutorial on how I made my chemise for the renaissance costume I am sewing.  I had a lot of fun working on this project! 
Renaissance Chemise Tutorial|Designers Sweet Spot|
Featuring Simplicity Pattern # 3809
This is part two of a four part post on how to make an entire Renaissance Costume. For info on what pattern I am using and a few costume tips, check out yesterday’s post. The skirt and corset are yet to come, so be sure and stop back cause you won’t want to miss them!

At this point you should have your chemise cut out. Let me tell you that this is not a real fitted pattern which makes it rather easy to work with. On the down side, the sleeve is just GARGANTUAN! I ended up tapering my sleeve at the wrist because it was way too large for me. I will explain more on this later in this tutorial.
The pattern has only three pieces, front, back and sleeves. I will show you how to make this garment in less than two hours with a few minor adjustments to how it is sewn. I do not use the pattern instructions.
Why does this matter? Well, it’s like driving a stick shift car. If you learn to drive on a stick shift with a clutch, you think that’s how all cars are made. Until, one day, someone comes along and says “Why don’t you drive an automatic? It’s so much easier?” Then you drive the automatic without the stick shift and you wonder why no one ever told you how much easier it was. That’s how I feel about pattern directions. They are not helpful, but make each project longer and more complicated than it needs to be in my professional opinion.
My methods are professional, simple and quick. You decide what kind of car you want to drive.
I recommend this method of construction:

Step one:
Begin with the sleeves. Make a rolled hem 1/4″ wide at the bottom of the sleeve. Use the width of your presser foot as a guide. Turn the fabric over 1/4″ one time, stitch. Then turn it again, 1/4″ and stitch on top of your first row of stitching. You will have a beautiful flat, even seam. No one will know that you stitched it twice. Also, do not be tempted to use pins to hold the fabric in place. Pins slow you down and break needles. You will be a better sewer without them. Trust me on this.
Step Two:
Mark the placement of the elastic on the sleeves by notching the sleeve on either side where it is marked on the pattern. Cut 1/8″ elastic according to your upper arm measurement plus 1″. Place the end of the elastic on the notch, directly under your sewing needle. Back tack in place with a single needle stitch.

Pull the elastic taught all the way over to the other side of the sleeve. Using a zig zag stitch, or decorative stretch stitch, stitch on top of the elastic while pulling it taught. Ease the extra fabric evenly under the needle as you go. It will naturally create perfectly spaced gathers.
This is how it looks when you have done all the rows of stitching. One word of caution, my sleeve was far wider than the elastic was capable of stretching. Most elastics can stretch a maximum of about a 2:1 ratio. If your sleeve is 24″ wide, you may use 12″ of elastic and this method will still work. I ended up tapering the sleeve so it was narrower at the wrist. According to my pattern, I would have had 36″ of fabric gathered up at my wrist which only measures 8″. This is a ridiculous 4:1 ratio, so I altered my pattern to be a 2:1 ratio at the wrist.
Step Three:
Attach the sleeves to the garment front and back at the armhole seam. Do not sew the under sleeve seam, leave it open as well as the garment side seams.
At this point I suggest trying on your garment, make sure it fits through the upper arm, elbow and wrist areas. Also check the fit across the bust. Don’t worry about the large neckline, we will get to that next!
Step Four:
Now for the neck. Open 1/2″ single fold bias tape. With right sides together, sew a single needle stitch in the narrow fold closest to the raw edge of the neck. When finished, turn the tape to the inside of the garment.
Make a single needle topstitch catching the seam allowance underneath to the body of the chemise. Sew as close to the seam as you can. This is called under-stitching. It will keep your tape from twisting and showing on the front of your finished garment. It also makes a professional looking, flat seam. It will not be visible on the finished garment.

Fold the tape over to the back of the garment, completely encasing the raw edges. Top stitch the other edge of the bias tape, 1/8″ from the edge. This stitching will be visible on the outside of the garment. It should be easy to sew if you have already under- stitched the tape. The fabric will remain flat and even, giving you a smooth surface to stitch upon. When you get to the point where the ends over lap, tuck the top one under and tack in place. Be sure to leave a slight opening for your elastic. Using a safety pin, insert the elastic that you have cut to size according to the pattern directions. Then hand sew the casing closed, and arrange the gathers evenly around the neckline.

Step Five:
Sew one sleeve and side seam closed. Generally, it should be the left side of the garment. Over cast the seam if desired. Then make another rolled hem at the bottom of the entire chemise (hemming back, and front) as in step one.
Step Six:
Close the remaining sleeve and side seam making sure all elastic ends and rolled hems properly line up. Overcast if you choose. You are now done sewing the garment. You may press the hems and side seams at this point if you have not already done so. A well constructed garment should require very little pressing, and only at the end of the construction.
How does that feel? Pretty easy, huh?
On to the trims!
Step Seven:
The pattern calls for bows where the gathering is on the sleeve. I made my own decorative trim by layering two ribbons on top of each other and stitching them together with a decorative vine topstitch. (I am playing with my new sewing machine, LOVE it!) This is optional of course, but it has a very rich look to it and it didn’t take me long to do. Then I tied the ribbon into bows and pinned them in place for effect before I hand stitched them.
Here are some other tips on sewing the chemise. I chose to keep mine rather short, some patterns have a long chemise that is as long as the over skirt. I wanted mine short for comfort, however if you want a long style it’s easy to just continue the side seams to the desired length (you may need to add a bit more room for walking at the side seams, about 2″ on each side should do the trick).

I really like how this turned out. I may even wear it with a pair of jeans and cowboy boots around town! Thanks for stopping by! Let me know if you have any questions!
Tomorrow, it’s on to the skirt!
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Renaissance Chemise Tutorial|Designers Sweet Spot|

Need to Laugh?

I need to laugh.   In the past week,  I have fallen down the icy stairs behind our house, not once but twice. I have bruises on top of bruises. Then yesterday,  I cut off the tip of my thumb by accident. Now, I also have a bandaged hand to go along with the rest of my ailments. I need a few more days to get back on my feet, so I am post-phoning this week’s give away until next week. I am re-posting an article I wrote on hair color, no one really read it back then. If you really need to laugh, here it is!
Clairol Nice 'n Easy Color Blend Foam

There are two schools of thought on hair color: either you dye or you don’t. I personally have chosen the dye route in recent years. When I was younger, I used to wonder why women dyed their hair. Now I know.

As a child I used bottled lemon juice on my hair during the summer. I would pour it on and sit outside in the sun waiting for auburn highlights to magically appear under the crust of dried lemon juice.

As a teen, playing with dye was fun, although back then I don’t really think it was very popular. I had a friend who wanted to be a beautician, and at her slumber parties we would frost each other’s hair by pulling the strands with a crochet hook through what looked like a plastic swimming cap. I went from brunette to blond, presto! Just like Duran Duran. Remember them? The essence of cool.

Then I remember pouring hydrogen peroxide on my hair. The bleached Madonna blond look was all the rage. Or maybe it was Annie Lennox. I can’t remember.

In my 20’s I had burgundy highlights for a while. It made me look like I got mugged by Cindy Lauper. Not a good look at all.

So now that I am “that age” (the age of grey), dying has a new purpose and has become a regular event. Well, okay, it’s probably bordering on an obsession, but only a tiny bit. Everyone does it, right?

Being a super thrifty home school mom means having my hair dyed in a salon is out of the question. Why would I spend $80.00 when I can buy a box of dye for only $8.00? That’s crazy!

The only thing is, I seem to have a little issue with remembering to dye every 6 weeks. I put it off more and more until my greys are frighteningly obvious, and my last color has faded everywhere but the ends of my hair. When I look like a sundae with white ice cream poking out from layers of chocolate sauce, I know it’s time to dye.

I also have a problem remembering which dye I bought the last time. All those little boxes of color look alike on the shelf. Did I get soft black, dark chestnut brown, or light chestnut brown? Was it Clairol or L’Oreal?  At last I think I recognize the girl on the package of darkest chocolate brown, so I purchase that one. Then again, maybe she looked like someone I saw at the mall recently……..

My brainstorm has been to save the empty dye boxes so I can remember which one I bought last. But now, my shelf is full of empty boxes and I can’t remember which ones I liked and didn’t like, and I absolutely never remember to take any of them with me to the store. So much for the brainstorm.

I also tried the natural henna route. No go. I neglected to read the entire package before smearing the greenish, gritty, manure like substance on my hair until it was too late. Apparently you can’t use metal spoons when mixing your henna, who knew? I was only green for a couple of weeks……….

So today, I attempted once again to master the grey streaks. I purchased the chic foam style dye on the recommendation of a co-worker who said it worked great. What can I say, but the wench LIED. This stuff might work for someone with short non-grey hair, but let me tell you it was not pretty for me.

I was under the impression that the “foam” was like the foaming hand soap that you can pump out of a bottle with one hand. Not so, of course they don’t tell you that on the package. After mixing this stuff, the bottle has to be SQUEEZED out of the bottle at a precise angle. Then you are supposed to squirt it into the palms of both your hands and “shampoo” it into your hair. What they don’t tell you is that it takes 3 squeezes of the bottle to get a small handful of the stuff. I have long, shoulder length hair. When applying dye, I have to hold the hair on top of my head or it falls down splattering dye all over me and everything in the vicinity.  How the heck am I supposed to squeeze the bottle, catch the foam, hold up the hair and smear it on the grey all at once? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

I decided to pick the bottle up off the counter and deposit it on the top of my head for easier access. However, the bottle has to be squeezed at a PRECISE upright angle or it doesn’t work. I spent such a long time squeezing, foaming, and shampooing, my arms went numb from lack of blood flow. Several times I squeezed and moved by accident shooting dye down my face, back and chest. How am I going to explain these large black age spots to my family? To make matters worse,  I dropped a lock of dyed hair into my eyes which made me look like I have gone completely Goth. When the deed was done, I sighed with relief.

I efficiently covered my hair with a plastic grocery sack and tie the ends together on my forehead to keep the hair from escaping again. Didn’t dye used to come with a little shower cap thingy for this very purpose? How cheap can you get? I put on my robe to wait. Our youngest son James knocked and came into the bedroom sniffing the air, wrinkling up his nose. “Your doing that thing again Mom, aren’t you? It stinks!” He looks at me in disgust and runs from the room. I slammed the door behind him and got back to business.

I realized it took me so long to put the dye on that I forgot to check the clock to see what time I started fermenting. Dang. I wasn’t sure what the directions said because I couldn’t quite read them with out my glasses on, but I think it was 15-20 minutes without grey, 30-35 minutes with. I wondered if I should count what was probably a good 20 minutes of squeezing, foaming and shampooing? Or not? I decided to go middle of the road and opt for 27 minutes.

I worked on today’s blog post for a bit, and then checked the clock. It sits across the room, and I can’t quite see it without my glasses. I got up and to my HORROR it has been a whopping 45 minutes! Way past time to rinse! Double Dang!

I rinsed and rinsed and rinsed. I cringed at the blackish muck discoloring the tub and the piles of my fried locks that began to clog the drain. My hands turned brown from touching my hair which suddenly felt rather like straw. I tried to wash away as many of the grungy black stains from my skin as possible, but some still remained. I squeezed the condiment size package of conditioner onto a minuscule amount of hair and silently curse the CEO of Clairol for being so cheap. He must be bald.

After the water FINALLY runs clear, it’s time for the big reveal. The roots, what’s left of them, are somewhat orange, the ends are dark and frizzy, but to my relief the grey is gone. Whew! That was really worth it, wasn’t it?

The dye cost me $7.95, the extra large bottle of Scrubbing Bubbles to clean the muck out of the tub was $5.00, the large bottle of Draino $6.49, the new towels and bathmat I had to buy because I dripped dye on the old ones cost me $10.00. Then, the supplies to sand and refinish the dye stain out of the bathroom cabinets were $20.00. Replacing the tooth brushes wasn’t too bad, they were only $2.00, and the box of Oxy-clean I needed to bleach the brown halo out of my white pillowcases that I slept on after dying was only $10.00. But the good news is that the hat I bought to cover my orange roots was only $5.00 at the thrift store.

The next time I am in the store staring at a bottle of $7.95 dye, with a pretty model on it who has never experienced a grey hair in her entire life, I will remember that it actually cost me nearly $100 to dye my own hair, and I think I will book a salon appointment instead.

Designer Mom

How to Hem Dress Pants

 Learning how to hem dress pants is not difficult. All you need is a tape measure, tailors chalk, scissors, thread and a sewing machine.
 How to Hem Dress Pants|Designers Sweet Spot|
Do you ever avoid doing things that you know aren’t that hard, and really aren’t that time consuming, but you avoid them anyway? Why do we do things like this?  I have been avoiding sewing lately. Why, I do not know. I blame it on our cold Wisconsin weather. I am restless. As much as I like living here, spring is a difficult season for me. In Wisconsin, you just never know what you are going to get. Sometimes it’s warm and beautiful by Easter, and sometimes we still have snow. This uncertainty is upsetting to me.

I don’t seem to have much patience right now. It’s the spring fever I’ve got. I can’t wait to get outside and do things in the garden, or see the flowers, or welcome the humming birds back. I am currently overwhelmingly disturbed by the constant snow we are getting. I am DYING for spring. I am housebound with lots of pent up energy. I need something to take my mind off the world, and for today, it is sewing. Sigh.Hemming Dress Pants materials

I recently scored these Lands End dress pants for my husband at a thrift store for only $2.00. Finding his waist size is not difficult, but they always need to be shorted in the length. Remember when I hemmed my sons jeans? It runs in the family.

I am focusing on cotton dress slacks in this post. This information is applicable to both misses and menswear. I have another post coming soon that will deal especially with wool trousers, so be sure to subscribe to my feed so you don’t miss anything!

First step in the process is launder the pants according to manufacturers directions.
Second step, is to try them on and determine how much they need to be hemmed. Misses garments are all different inseams so you really need to try them on with the shoes you will be wearing with them. Pin them in place, then take them off and measure the inseam. Menswear garments should be consistent, if you know you are a 32″ inseam you can just measure along the inside leg seam from the crotch 32″ and mark it with tailors chalk.
Don’t forget to add the hem allowance. Check the width of the hem currently on the pants, most are 1 1/4″, then add another 1/4″ for the seam at the top edge. Then add these amounts together.
inseam of 32″ + 1 1/2″ seam allowance = 33 1/2″ total measurement from the crotch seam
Mark both leg edges, and use a straight edge ruler to make a straight line with the tailors chalk. Cut.
Select a straight stitch on your machine, use a fairly short stitch length for extra durability.  Mine machine is set at 2.5 stitch length.
Hemming Dress Pants
Sew a narrow 1/4″ seam along the raw edge. Use the inside of the presser foot as a guide for an even 1/4″ without needing to use pins or measuring. These things slow you down and damage your machine. Learn to sew without them.
This is what it will look like so far.
Then fold the hem over again to 1 1/4″. You can put one pin in to hold it in place until you get it under your presser foot, no more pins are needed.
Stitch again, this time on top of your original stitching for a perfect hem.
Remove from the machine and spritz with water before pressing for a nice crease.
How to Hem Dress Pants finished
No one will ever know they were hemmed!
To properly hang, drape them over a thick plastic or wooden hanger. Be sure and line up pant seams to keep any wrinkles from developing.
You did it! You are amazing! I knew you could do it!
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How to Hem Dress Pants|Desigers Sweet Spot|