How to: Deal with PDF patterns

When they first really hit the market a half dozen years ago, PDF patterns were new and exciting and usually fit on just a couple pages. Today there are hundreds of patterns available in PDF format for everything from tops to wallets to coats to quilts. Smaller patterns, like the Necessary Clutch Wallet, are easy. You simply print and cut out the pattern pieces.  For apparel patterns, it takes a little more effort.

For the first few years of using PDF patterns, I would tape together the entire thing and then cut out the pattern pieces. I decided a while ago that that wasn’t the best way to do it. It made me frustrated and took up a ton of space that I didn’t have. While using one of Liesl + Co.‘s patterns, I noticed that Liesl designed all the patterns so that the pieces didn’t overlap pages and I could just tape together the pages printed with the sleeve pattern or the bodice front pattern or whatever. It was great and I love this aspect of her patterns (as well as the fact that hers are hands-down the best written patterns out there).

But most patterns aren’t printed that way. They overlap pieces on pages to save space, so I had to figure out another way.  So here’s my technique to taping/ cutting patterns that saves my floor space, sanity and frustration.

First I print all the pattern pages out. Make sure you do it single-sided (you can guess how I figured that one out…)

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Some pattern companies will number the pages (Colette’s Seamwork patterns do this and it’s helpful), but this one is not. Either way, I simply mark the pages I will need to cut out. You can see here that on a couple of the pages there are parts for both pattern pieces. This is where you can get confused, so go ahead and mark the pages any way that works for you.

One Hour Top PDF layout

Then I figure out what size I am for the pattern and start on page one, cutting out the piece on the cutting line, if it’s there. I also cut off the margin on top and right on all the pieces. This helps in taping them together consistently. Cutting out PDF patternsI cut out the pieces from page one and page two, then tape them together with washi tape. There are a couple reasons I prefer washi. One, because it’s cute. Two, because it’s not permanent. When I need to re-tape and move pieces, I can without tearing the paper.

taping together PDF

After taping a full row together, I add the next row one page at a time, taping the top and sides so they match as well as possible. Suddenly I have a complete pattern piece! Yay! I set that aside and tackle the remaining pieces the same way.

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I use the taped together pattern piece to cut out my first try. This time I used some gorgeous knit from Alexander Henry Fabrics with these great bats and roses and spiderwebs all over it.  If I really like the finished piece, then I will transfer the pattern to Swedish Tracing Paper for easier storage. You can find it fabric stores and online.

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I whipped this One Hour Top up in just over a half-hour. Super quick, easy and cute (even though I cut the front piece upside–oops!)

Finished one hour top

Always Learning a Little More

Truth is when I interviewed for my current job at Shannon Fabrics, I’d avoided using the fabrics that they sell. Cuddle is a lovely feeling minky fabric that I only knew about from the complaining others had done in the past. I’d heard sewists and quilters gripe about its slippery nature, the preponderance to stretch and had stayed away except when I absolutely had to tackle it in a sewing class or private lesson.  Double gauze had seemed unwieldy and I had no idea what to do with it anyway.

Then I got a job at Shannon Fabrics and knew it was time to tackle this fear of the unknown. I take pride in my adventurous spirit; it was time to put my suppositions and assumptions to the side and give this stuff a try.

My first was a Little Pilot kit, a Wee One quilt that would be perfect as an oversized pillow, I thought. I got cocky, sewed the strips together –wham, bam, thank you, ma’am–and suddenly I realized I wasn’t even close to infallible. It turned out all cock-eyed and more like a parallelogram than a square. I threw it in the WIP pile with a heavy heart.  (Since then I’ve learned what I did wrong and I’ll share that soon!)

But since I’m not one to really give up, I picked up the next project: a Honey Bun Patty Cakes kit that combines the two fabrics in case the fear of one wasn’t enough. This time I decided to actually read all the instructions, too. This might be a first in the last decade…. I pretty universally refuse to read the primer, but this time I figured why the hell not. And I’m so glad I did.

I marked all the edges just like the pattern said to do and brought each of the four corners together and pinned, then stitched them. I chain-piece as much as possible, so my apologies that it looks more confusing that it is.

I trimmed the seam allowances then flipped the corner in, tucking the Embrace double gauze in and pinning just before I flipped.

I didn’t pin it exactly as directed, I’ll admit it. The pattern suggests you pin before doing the corners, but I didn’t want to deal with all those extra stabby points so I did it after finishing the corners. And then on the third side I realized that I could actually just glue-baste it and it would work perfectly well. 

Once I brought the yellow Rose Cuddle over the bee Embrace fabric, I simply pinned it well and zig-zagged the edges down. Easy as pie. The other parts of the kit include a smaller little “lovey” that’s made similarly and a swaddle.

I made all three and still had some of the Embrace double gauze left over, so I whipped myself up a little scarf. The trick, just as I’d done with the other projects, was the starch. It kept it in check and I was easily able to fold over the seam. I had trimmed it along the gridlines of the gauze, then folded that down to match the next gridline. Then I went back and folded that raw edge and pressed again. That gave it a nice even scant 1/2″ hem which I really liked and it was much easier than fidgeting with a tiny quarter-inch seam.

So there you have it. When i need to to, I will actually read the instructions (then change them) and learn something new. It was easier than expected (way easier, actually) and I was able to not only make some samples to show off when I visit stores, but also make a scarf for myself in the process.  A win-win!

Pattern Review: Butterick 6168

[This is part of the Dress Up Party, hosted by Sara at Sew Sweetness. Check it out for lots of pattern reviews and giveaways!]

I’ve long been a fan of Liesl Gibson’s designs (Oliver+S, Straight Stitch Society and Lisette), so when I heard she was partnering up with Butterick to release more Lisette patterns, I was all over that one. Yes, please, where do I sign up?

20150319-145751-53871876.jpgLuckily for me I stumbled onto them back at Sew Expo this spring and bought the Butterick 6168 right away. I made it up using Sara’s new Fantasia voile, which was gorgeous, but I messed up the front somehow and was left with quite the plunging neckline (photos and dress are NSFW!).

Continue reading “Pattern Review: Butterick 6168”

Running in Circles with Gardenvale

Curved piecing has been a bit of an obsession for me lately. Blame it on finding a little template for little Drunkard’s Path blocks while I was at Sew Expo. I also just happened to have a charm pack of Gardenvale from Moda at last Quilt Market. I figured they should meet.

I sewed all the pieces together, in totally random fashion, as leaders and enders, so it hardly felt like I’d done any actual sewing at all. Then all the sudden the blocks were all sewn together. I gave them all a quick press and squared them up a tad smaller than the template (a scant 3-7/8″), then arranged and re-arranged some more until I got something I was okay with.

We just got the collection in at the shop, which was the perfect impetus to actually finish it up (so we could use it as a display). I  did a little unevenly spaced straight line quilting on the front.

Then made a super simple envelope pillow back and voila a new pillow for the sofa! I love it even more than I thought I would.

I tend to stay within the neutral palette for quilts, home decor and clothing, rarely feel confident enough to start prints.  I love the scrappy look, but dear god, it scares me to death to mix fabrics (I know, it’s weird). That’s what makes Gardenvale a favorite for me. It doesn’t look like a collection. It’s crazy mixed-up colors and prints and scale and I would never in a million years feel like I could mix three different circles with two different florals and stripes.  But Jen Kingwell did and it’s gorgeous.

If you’re familiar with her patterns, you know this is totally her style and I find it entrancing (though, the quilts can slightly overwhelm me if I stare too long). There’s a skill to this mixing and matching that I will never have. And that’s okay, she’s doing it for me now.

Check out #gardenvale and #gardenvalefabric on IG for lots of other projects that people are making, especially the PJ pants by @tinkerfrog. They might just be the  favorite. Next to my pillow, of course.

Sometimes you just want pretty colors

A few weeks ago I saw this great tutorial from My Poppet on making fabric twine and got busy right away with some scraps from work.  I was happy twisting away, but before I could finish, it was stolen in the Great Mother’s Day Car Break-In of 2014. It and the Super Tote that carried it are gone forever.

So I got some new scraps and started over, making nearly 15 yards of fabric twine while reminiscing over the Hercules movie with my daughter.

Let’s just say that 15 yards is a lot and in the Summer ’13 palette of Kona colors, it’s absolutely beautiful.

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I tried stitching it together by hand, working on it a little at a time, but it was cumbersome and slow-going. Too much work for too little enjoyment and I was taking time away from paid work to do this…forget it; I’m taking this baby to the machine. IMG_8135

And so I did, twisting it around and around and around, zigzagging along the way until suddenly, I had a bowl of fabric. IMG_8138

It’s not perfect. There are places where the zig zag missed and little gaps are visible. The bottom doesn’t sit flat. And I don’t quite know what to do with that tail yet.

But it’s pretty and bright and already sitting on the table, waiting to be filled with something, anything. Sitting there, just adding a little color to my day.

Cooling Down

I have lived most of my life in the Pacific Northwest where autumn rolls in dramatically with heavy rains and a sudden drop in temperatures. I’ve wrapped my annual body clock around that change, but here we are in October in SoCal and still wearing tank tops and getting sunburnt on the weekends. My body can’t seem to figure out that it actually is fall. But where’s the cold? the rain?

For example, this was last Sunday, October 6. High of 90°F at Disneyland. Seriously? This is fall?

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Of course, if you ask my fellow Californians, the ones who lived most of their lives here, they’ll tell you it is definitely fall. The temperatures are cooling down (into the 70s? oh brr!), the morning marine layer is more common, the leaves are beginning to drop. So I guess this is how fall rolls in down here, gently and with sunshine. I like it.

Quilt Market is just around the corner, though, along with both of my children’s birthdays, and into the holiday madness of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. I needed something to convince me of these changing seasons, so I decided to make myself a scarf. Robert Kaufman Fabrics has these lovely new Mammoth Flannels which are soft and warm and, if you ask me, they are the perfect colors to get me in the mood for fall.

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I was able to get my hands on a small swatch of Carolyn Friedlander‘s new Botanics collection, a fabric  that just was calling out to be tagged up with the flannel. The color is Curry and it makes me want Indian food every time I look at it.  But I digress, back to making scarves…. I simply cut a couple of width of fabric strips (about 8″ wide), sewed them together, flipped it and topstitched. Bam! A scarf!

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Now I don’t really have an excuse to complain about the A/C being on high everywhere I go.  I don’t have to be cold in the grocery store anymore because I have a lovely new cotton flannel scarf.

It’s like having autumn wrapped snugly around my neck.

Thank you, Thomas.

peartreeI first heard of Thomas Knauer back in 2011 when he was releasing his first line with Andover. It was a lovely collection called “Pear Tree” and I remember seeing him in Houston at Quilt Market carrying a bag he had made out of this lovely large-scale partridge-in-a-pear-tree print. I was too shy to say anything, but seeing the fabric in-person sealed the deal.

I was sold on his designs.

The colors are what really get me and I wish I had the art background to explain what it is that makes them so appealing to me. The yellows aren’t bright yellow, the oranges are just slightly different than one would expect and the greens make me swoon. I adore his use of simplicity and repetition while not making the fabrics basic and boring. I bought bits of Pear Tree and Savanna Bop, and Thesaurus has been on my t0-buy list since he posted that he was doing a word-themed fabric.

Not only is Thomas a wonderful fabric designer, he also does quilt patterns and does an astounding job at it. And not only that, he is one of the most honest people you’ll meet. So when he promised he’d send me fabric to make clothes for the Tam Ky orphans, I knew he would.

And on Monday, he did.

20130501-071806.jpgStacked on my couch it measured 39 inches high, more fabric than I could have imagined he would send. I was, and am still, awed.

So now I am planning a sewing day at Modern Domestic and hopefully one or two more. There’s no way I can do this alone, I need my sewing and quilting friends more than ever. [Portland peeps–I’m looking at you!] But I cannot wait. I am already planning which fabric for shorts, which for dresses and pulling others to make coverlets for the beds.

Thank you, Thomas, for your support and generosity. I owe you one.

Starry, starry PJs

I spent the weekend doing a little sewing, a rare treat for me. Thanks to the Worldwide Quilting Day giveaway, I need to check the website frequently to approve comments which means I don’t get to really do anything that requires me leaving the house for the day. So despite the rare treat of sunshine, I spent the weekend inside–sewing!

I managed to sew these PJ bottoms and pillowcase (as well as a Tova top I’ll have to talk about when I’m not sad about it being ugly on me–sigh) before my back forced me to call it quits and swallow some meds.

PJs and pillow

I decided to use Lizzy House’s Constellation collection for both (perfect for sleepovers, right?!) and love them. They have a great hand and are nice and soft and make me want to make some for myself in a big grown-up Mom size. I bought the fabrics over at Modern Domestic (where I’ll be teaching kids how to sew these) and Lupine helped pair up a Kona solid that’s the perfect purple. Almost a periwinkle, but not blue enough. Is that a violet? I really should learn my shades of purple.

The pillowcase turned out well for being made without any sort of guide. It turned out a little smaller than I would’ve liked, but worked okay. I should do a tutorial on it because it was really easy, looks super nice with the french seams and is a nice little treat for yourself.

For the pants I used the Little Sleep Well pattern, which I’d definitely recommend. The primer is slightly confusing  with its “optional” instructions and could see a beginner getting a tad irritated by it, but overall it was great. No separate facings to deal with and easy-peasy construction.

When I finished I asked my friend’s daughter to model  them for me, which she was, of course, quite happy to do. She grabbed one of her Pop’s tees and a stuffie to complete the ensemble. Adorable, really.
Maya_PJs and PillowShe was a total ham for it, setting up the lights, laying out the quilts. So sweet of her! I wish my camera would have gotten a clearer shot of her, but I didn’t realize it was so grainy until too late. Bummer. Miss M makes up for it with her cuteness, though, right?

 

Now that I’ve got it, what to do with it?

I’ve been ogling Carolyn Friedlander‘s work since I saw her at Fall Quilt Market in 2011. It’s been a while. First the amazing paper-pieced patterns, then her architecture-inspired fabric with Robert Kaufman Fabrics called, appropriately, Architextures.  I fell in love with it months ago. 20130305-212130.jpg

Carolyn was nice enough to send me a little candy pack of the fabrics from Fall Quilt Market 2012 and I’ve lovingly petted them since.  (I’m not the only one who fondles fabric, right?!)

I was at Modern Domestic tonight picking up a pattern and some fabric from Lizzy House’s new Constellation line (from Andover Fabrics) and just couldn’t resist the fat quarter stack of Architexture. I swear it was actually calling my name.

So now I have it and I love it and I have absolutely no idea what I’ll do with it besides pet it occasionally. -shrug-

Coming up

WoodlandCapeLieslpattern
A few weeks ago, I was on Facebook and saw this awesome pattern from Liesl + Co. I’m kinda of a sucker for capes and anything with a vintage feel and immediately fell for this one.

I bought it within a few minutes (it’s a downloadable!), but it has taken a while for me to get the fabric. I thought I had some that would work until I went and dug through the stash. Come to find out I had lots of small bit and nothing more than a yard long. -sigh-

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When there was a big sale at FabricMart, I decided to give them a try and bought this wool/polyester blend to give the cape a try. The fabric is certainly not the best quality, but I’m really just using it to try out the pattern. If I like it as much as I think I will, I’ll buy some better quality fabric and make it again. I’ve learned the hard way not to try out a pattern with spendy fabric!

I’m thinking about drafting a collar or hood to go along with it, but we’ll see. I’m hoping to get back into the studio this weekend and get some actual sewing done (rather than talking and dreaming about it) .

Have you used Liesl + Co. patterns before? They also make patterns under the Oliver + S, Lisette and Straight Stitch Society monikers and so far, I love them all. She has a real knack for clear pattern instructions and I learn something new every time.