Sunday, July 17, 2011

Convertible dress tutorial!

convertible dress sleeves croppedThanks so much for the great feedback on my convertible dress post. A few of you even asked for a pattern or tutorial, so I’m going to do my best to outline what I did.

I’ve included a cutting guide with some measurements on it, but in the interests of full disclosure, this is a very forgiving dress, and I didn’t bother breaking out a measuring tape when I made mine. The knit doesn’t ravel, either, so the edges of the straps are unfinished.

This dress is a bit odd in that it doesn’t have an actual top, just wide straps that you can wrap in different configurations. As far as dresses go, it looks a bit strange once sewn. See how it runs the length of my hallway!

convertible dress full shot

Here’s what you need:

* approximately 3 yards knit fabric with a bit of stretch
* thread
* 3/4” elastic the length of your waist
* safety pin
* ball point needle for your sewing machine (nice, but not necessary!)

Lay out your fabric on the floor and cut like so:

convertible dress cutting guide

Please note, this drawing is not to scale, and I used an empty spaghetti box as a straight edge! I’m a fairly chesty plus sized girl, so I made my straps about 8 inches wide and the full length of my fabric (9 feet). I wanted to make sure I had enough to get plenty of wrap coverage, but if you're thin, about 6 feet should be plenty.

Once I cut out the straps, I held up the remaining fabric to my waist and had my four year old mark where it hit the floor. I added about three inches to that mark and cut across the width. This was the front piece of the skirt. Cut another piece to the same length for the back of the skirt portion of the dress. Make sure the pieces are equal, despite what you see in my drawing! I needed the volume to accommodate my hips, but if there’s too much volume for your body shape, make the skirt pieces narrower. The remaining width of fabric just happened to work for my tastes and body.

Placing right sides together, stitch along one side of the skirt. Since this is a stretchy knit, you will want to use a stretch stitch (or use a serger). My sewing machine has a special stitch setting for knits, but a narrow zig zag stitch works just fine. Don’t forget to secure the beginning and end of all seams by going forward 3-4 stitches and then in reverse 3-4 stitches.

convertible dress waistI find it easier to fold down the waistband casing before the second side seam is sewn, so fold down the top of the skirt one inch, and then another inch. Stitch down near the lower edge of the casing. Unfortunately, I only had 1/4” elastic on hand, so had to use that, but I’d definitely use a wider bit if I make this dress again. I also added an extra row of stitching for stability.

Next up is strap placement. Brace yourself for another totally technical drawing.

convertible dress strap placement

With your sewn-on-one-side skirt pieces right side down on your work surface, find the approximate centre of the waistband of the front section. Pin one strap (also right side down) so that it is two inches to the left past this mark, and the other two inches past the right of this mark, overlapping them. Clear as mud? Hope the diagram helps. Ignore the fact that I forgot the r in straps.  (=

I once again enlisted my four year old to help with holding the straps in place while I pinned. They can be a little unwieldy. Stitch them down. I just stitched on top of the casing stitches that were already there, and then added some small hand stitches to secure the very top of the casing to the straps. You could machine stitch these or skip doing this and it will be fine.

For the hem, I serged the edge and left it as is, but I will probably go back and fold under the edge and stitch it down. Same process as the casing, except narrower. Fold the edge under 1/4 inch and then 1 inch and stitch down.

Once that’s done, fold skirt pieces right sides together and stitch the side seam as far as the casing. Add your safety pin to one end of the elastic and thread it through the casing. When the elastic is threaded, overlap it 1.5 inches and stitch it well with zig zag stitches. Adjust the gathers so they are evenly spaced around the dress and either hand or machine stitch closed the opening in the casing. You’re done!

convertible dress one shoulder          convertible dress sleeveless

Definitely let me know if you try this dress, and have fun experimenting with the different looks! There are lots of wrapping tutorials on YouTube.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Convertible dress

Have you heard of the convertible dress before? It’s not actually a dress, but rather a (circle) skirt with two long rectangular panels attached to it. I’ve seen it in quite a few magazines and on sale in online shops, but at $150+, I wasn’t going to buy it, especially since I wasn’t convinced a dress with no top would actually be wearable.
So I made one. And it is wearable!
convertible dress one shoulder
I used a thin knit fabric from my stash and made a simple rectangle skirt with elastic waist and serged hem. Then I cut and added two long (9 ft by about 8 inches) straps to the front, slightly overlapped. Done.
Wrapping the dress is a bit tricky, but according to the videos I’ve found on YouTube (check out Monif C), there are dozens of variations. Here are a couple more I tried last night. I’ll be wearing this dress around home until I’m confident it won’t unwrap during normal activities, but so far, so good!
convertible dress sleevelessconvertible dress sleeves
You can’t see the lower half of the dress, but it’s almost floor length, so (according to YouTube!), I can put it over my bust and wrap the waist for a shorter look as well. Should be fun!

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Everest knitting needle roll

My family and I have been loving the summer weather. It means we’ve been outside a lot, biking, playing with friends and hitting the local splash pads. As much as I love doing all that with hubby and our boys, it really eats into my crafting mojo. I’ve been working on a baby quilt here and there, a total wadder jacket for myself (good pattern, BAD fabric choice), and some other odds and ends, but nothing to show yet. However, I was rooting around in my sewing room last night (boy, does it need a major clean up!), and found this project that I never posted about earlier in the year: a slightly adapted version of the ‘Everest’ knitting needle roll from luvinthemommyhood.
knitting needle roll
Don’t let the cutesy rolled up photo fool you, this baby is aptly named. It’s HUGE!
knitting needle roll flaps down
There are three large sectioned pockets with flaps to hold needles of various sizes, including sets of DPNS and circulars. There are also pockets to hold a pattern, scissors, guage, etc.
knitting needle roll flaps up
I only put in a few needles for demonstration purposes, but this roll will hold a lot of needles.
The original design called for a button closure and a handle, but the friend who requested this roll gave me some old curtains to use as fabric and it just wasn’t working with the handle, so I removed it and added a tie closure.

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Mondays @ All Things Fee!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Choco-banana tea blend

Yes, another chocolate recipe. But this one is actually nutritious! Woot!
Introducing one of my favourite morning drinks, Choco-banana tea. This recipe is super simple and normally I wouldn’t post it, but since it’s Summer Drink Week over at White House, Black Shutters, I thought it might be appropriate.
banana tea blendbanana tea blend in cup
Choco-Banana Tea Blend
1/2 cup chocolate spice tea
1/2 cup milk
1/2 banana, sliced
Blend and enjoy! This drink can be enjoyed warm by using hot tea and a room-temp banana, but I like to use cold tea and a frozen banana for a cool, frothy treat. The original recipe, found at Flora’s Drink Hideout, called for black tea and offered a chocolate syrup variation (add 1 tbsp syrup), so if you don’t happen to have chocolate spice tea on hand, try that instead!
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Monday, July 4, 2011

Chocolate gelato -- at home!

In case it hasn't become blatantly apparent, I love chocolate. And frozen treats. Chocolate frozen treats, in particular. So it's no surprise that I own an ice cream maker that gets quite a bit of use each summer. This time of year is especially great, with lots of fresh berries to add to our ice cream, frozen Greek yogurt, and sorbets. But for a chocolate fix? You can't beat dark chocolate gelato.

Excuse the drip -- it's been HOT here lately!
This is my go-to recipe:

2 2/3 cups 2% milk
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 lb dark chocolate, chopped or broken up
1/4 cup cocoa (Dutch processed is best, but I didn't happen to have it this time)
2/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch

In medium pot, mix cocoa, sugar and cornstarch until blended. Add about half the milk to the pot and stir. Bring mixture to boil and remove from heat. Toss in dark chocolate pieces and stir until they melt, before adding remaining milk and cream to mixture. Blend well. Chill for half an hour.

Once mixture is chilled, add to ice cream maker and churn about half an hour (follow your machine's directions -- they're all a bit different). Pour churned gelato into a freezer-safe container and freeze for 4-5 hours (less if container is shallow) before eating. Delicious!

I've found this gelato is best after the initial freezing period. It gets quite hard in the freezer and needs to be set out in advance if you want to eat it later.

Also, for my friends without an ice cream maker, you could make a similar version by mixing and chilling the gelato and pouring it into a chilled, shallow container. Freeze until the edges start to harden (about 40 mins to an hour), and then stir well. Repeat several more times until mixture is thick and scoop-able.

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