How to Tailor a Pencil Skirt

I’m trying to use sewing to create wardrobe basics that will be versatile and classy, and last a long time. Being able to tailor clothes that I already have to fit me better helps me do this with less expense and less waste. I was gifted this skirt, so I thought it would be a great basic addition to my wardrobe, and an opportunity to show you how to tailor a pencil skirt!

How to Tailor a Pencil Skirt_ Sew Your Way to a Perfectly Fitted Wardrobe at stitchesandsunflowers.com

First, try it on.

Put the skirt on and pinch the sides at the waist to figure out how much the skirt needs to be taken in. I like to do this on both sides. Use pins to hold the alterations in place.How to Tailor a Pencil Skirt_ Sew Your Way to a Perfectly Fitted Wardrobe at stitchesandsunflowers.com

Mark the alterations.

Use some kind of fabric marker (as you can see, a white crayon works fine for dark fabrics) to mark where you’ll take in the skirt.

  • On the inside, mark the spot where the pinched fabric meets.

How to Tailor a Pencil Skirt Sew Your Way to a Perfectly Fitted Wardrobe at stitchesandsunflowers.com

  • Upin the skirt.
  • Take apart the lining and waistband.

How to Tailor a Pencil Skirt Sew Your Way to a Perfectly Fitted Wardrobe at stitchesandsunflowers.com

  • Measure how much you’ve taken in the skirt, and then mark that alteration all the way down all the side seams. +Pay attention to how your skirt is sewn together, you will try to match it as best you can when sewing it back up.

How to Tailor a Pencil Skirt Sew Your Way to a Perfectly Fitted Wardrobe at stitchesandsunflowers.com

How to Tailor a Pencil Skirt Sew Your Way to a Perfectly Fitted Wardrobe at stitchesandsunflowers.com

  • Unpick the hem about four inches on each side of the side seam.

How to Tailor a Pencil Skirt Sew Your Way to a Perfectly Fitted Wardrobe at stitchesandsunflowers.com How to Tailor a Pencil Skirt Sew Your Way to a Perfectly Fitted Wardrobe at stitchesandsunflowers.com

Sew the skirt:

Step one:

Sew all the side seams. Sew down the line that you’ve marked on all the side seams.

How to Tailor a Pencil Skirt Sew Your Way to a Perfectly Fitted Wardrobe at stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step two:

Sew the waistband back together. The way that you do this exactly will depend on how your skirt was put together. Pay attention to how it used to be sewn, and copy it as best you can.

  • First, I sewed the waistband to the main piece of the skirt.
  • Then I finished the edges of the main skirt.
  • I left re-attaching the facing for my next step.

Step three:

This is where it gets a little fuzzy. Bear with me! Remember that your skirt may look different than mine. Replace any topstitching. My skirt didn’t have real topstitching, but it stitched the waistband facing to the adjoining seam allowances.

  •  I pinned the seam allowances to the facing as shown below.

How to Tailor a Pencil Skirt Sew Your Way to a Perfectly Fitted Wardrobe at stitchesandsunflowers.com    How to Tailor a Pencil Skirt Sew Your Way to a Perfectly Fitted Wardrobe at stitchesandsunflowers.com

  • I  topstitched where the stitching had been before.
How to Tailor a Pencil Skirt Sew Your Way to a Perfectly Fitted Wardrobe at stitchesandsunflowers.com
Topstitching the facing to the seam allowance. There is no stitching on the outer waistband.
  • I then tacked the waistband facing down by stitching in the ditch.

+ Stitch in the Ditch is topstitching in the middle of an existing seam to hide your stitches.

 

How to Tailor a Pencil Skirt Sew Your Way to a Perfectly Fitted Wardrobe at stitchesandsunflowers.com
Stitching in the ditch to “topstitch” the facing down. The stitches are barely visible from the right side.

The sewing on this skirt was really beautiful quality! Taking apart a skirt like this is kind of like learning about biology through dissecting something. It is so fascinating and inspiring to me! Of course, then the sewing I use needs to be closer to that standard, which helps me stretch myself. I can’t sew as well as those pros yet, but practicing is what will get me there.

Step four:

Hem the skirt again. The lining of my skirt just had a simple rolled hem, so I could just sew that up on the machine. However, the outer shell of the skirt used a tailor’s hem. I chose to do the same to keep the skirt looking professional.

  • Sew a rolled hem in the lining.

How to Tailor a Pencil Skirt Sew Your Way to a Perfectly Fitted Wardrobe at stitchesandsunflowers.comtailor skirt 26

  • Hand stitch a tailored hem for the outer fabric.

 

Handstitch a Tailor's Hem (from How to Tailor a Pencil Skirt) stitchesandsunflowers.com (1)

 

+ Tip: When it comes down to tailoring a skirt so that it still looks professional, the best way is to copy the original sewing as much as possible. I hope these steps have helped you figure out your own skirt project!

How to Tailor a Pencil Skirt Sew Your Way to a Perfectly Fitted Wardrobe at stitchesandsunflowers.com

Congratulations on your newly tailored pencil skirt! You’re sewing your way to a beautifully fitted wardrobe.

There are more tutorials and recipes to see at Made by You Monday! Check them out here.

How to Tailor a Pencil Skirt Sew Your Way to a Perfectly Fitted Wardrobe at stitchesandsunflowers.com    

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finish Seams without a Serger: Clean Finish

Welcome to my third post in the “Finish Seams without a Serger” series. In this series I’m teaching you how to make your sewing more professional even if you don’t own a Serger. So far I’ve already covered how to sew a French seam and a false French seam. Today, I’m showing you how to sew a clean finish.

How to Sew a Clean Finish: the third post in a series that teaches you how to sew professionally without a serger. stitchesandsunflowers.com

Clean Finish

I first learned to use a clean finish at the edge of a facing, but it can be used in seam allowances as well. This finishing technique is beneficial because it allows you to press the seam open, creating less bulk than sewing the seam allowance all together. It also happens to be my sewing professor’s favorite type of finish. She worked in the garment industry for thirty years before teaching university classes. I soaked everything she told me like a sponge, and the tips I didn’t follow came back to bite me later.

It is made by turning the edges of the seam allowance under, pressing them, and sewing them. It is similar to creating half a hem. Here’s how:

The Tutorial

As with all of these, if this technique is new to you I recommend practicing with two scrap rectangles first, as shown here.

Step one:

Sew a normal seam with a seam allowance of 5/8″.

How to Sew a Clean Finish: the third post in a series that teaches you how to sew professionally without a serger. stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step two:

Press the seam open.

How to Sew a Clean Finish: the third post in a series that teaches you how to sew professionally without a serger. stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step three:

Press the edges underneath so the raw edge is against the fabric of the garment.

How to Sew a Clean Finish: the third post in a series that teaches you how to sew professionally without a serger. stitchesandsunflowers.com  How to Sew a Clean Finish: the third post in a series that teaches you how to sew professionally without a serger. stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step four:

Sew along the edge to hold the fold in place.

How to Sew a Clean Finish: the third post in a series that teaches you how to sew professionally without a serger. stitchesandsunflowers.com

How to Sew a Clean Finish: the third post in a series that teaches you how to sew professionally without a serger. stitchesandsunflowers.com

This technique can also be difficult on very curved seams, but on straight seams it is so simple! If you are a beginner and find it’s hard for you to sew on such a little edge, just take your time and practice lots!

How to Sew a Clean Finish: the third post in a series that teaches you how to sew professionally without a serger. stitchesandsunflowers.com

 

Love, Jess

 

 

 

 

 

Finish Seams without a Serger: False French Seam

Hello all! Welcome to my second post in the series that teaches you how to finish seams without a serger. This series is for those of us who want to learn to sew professionally but don’t have a Serger. It is possible! View the first post in the series about French seams here.

The False French Seam

This technique is great when you can’t, for any reason, start your seam with the right sides facing out as you do in a French seam. For example, when I sewed my lace blouse I used this technique to finish the bottom of my zipper seam. I also like to use it if I forget to start the seam like a French seam, but I don’t have time (or don’t want) to un-pick the seam and start again.

It’s also said to be easier than French seams. For me, they are about the same.

The Tutorial:

If you’re sewing this technique for the first time, or just want extra practice, use two small rectangles to test it out.

Step one:

Sew a normal seam. Place your fabric right sides together and sew with a 5/8″ seam allowance.

How to Sew a False French Seam (A part of the "Finish Seams without a Serger." series) stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step two:

Press the seam open.

How to Sew a False French Seam (A part of the "Finish Seams without a Serger." series) stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step three:

Fold and press the seam allowances in half towards the center seam.

How to Sew a False French Seam (A part of the "Finish Seams without a Serger." series) stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step four:

Bring the seam allowances back together and topstitch so that both raw edges are encased in the seam allowance.

How to Sew a False French Seam (A part of the "Finish Seams without a Serger." series) stitchesandsunflowers.com

And…that’s how you sew a false French seam! It is a super simple way to add some class to your sewing. As with the French seam, I only use this on straight seams. Pressing curved edges in this way could get really tricky.

How to Sew a False French Seam (A part of the "Finish Seams without a Serger." series) stitchesandsunflowers.com

 

Check back in next Tuesday for the next post in the series! Also, you can refer to Nap-Time Creation’s Create-Link-Inspire post for lots of other lovely tutorials.

Love, Jess

 

 

 

Lace Blouse Free Pattern and Tutorial

In this blog post I’m sharing the tutorial and free pattern (yay!) for the ever-classic lace blouse. This is an exciting moment for me because it’s my first ever full size (meaning not baby clothes) pattern that I’ve created for others and digitized. That means I’m a newbie and I would love your feedback of how it worked for you and how the fit turned out!

Sew your own lace blouse with this free pattern and tutorial. stitchesandsunflowers.com

 

I used eyelet lace, which made sewing up this blouse fairly straightforward. However, if you use true lace it will be a little trickier to sew, so just be aware of that if you’re a beginner.

The pattern for this blouse is only for one size, although the techniques I show you can be used for many blouse patterns. The measurements of the finished garment are as follows:

Bust: 39 1/2

Waist: 37

Hip: 40 1/2

*When measuring yourself to see if this will fit you don’t forget to add a couple inches to account for ease (the extra room in a garment to make it comfortable to wear).

Materials

Free Blouse Pattern

2 yards Lightweight apparel fabric (I used eyelet lace)

An invisible zipper (preferably matching, but all I could find with limited resources was grey)

 

Here’s How to Sew It:

Step one:

Cut out all your pattern pieces.

*I would provide a sample pattern layout, but I actually used a really small and randomly shaped piece of fabric to make this…haha. When it comes to sewing and diy my mantra is often, “Use what you have.” Do your best to save fabric while keeping all the pattern pieces in line with the grain of the fabric as marked.

Lace Blouse Free Pattern and Tutorial: stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step two:

Sew the darts.

  • Mark the dart point and the dart ends (I do this with pins) and then pin the dart flat with the dart ends together.

Lace Blouse Free Pattern and Tutorial: stitchesandsunflowers.com Lace Blouse Free Pattern and Tutorial: stitchesandsunflowers.com

  • Sew the dart starting at the dart ends, but don’t make a straight line to the dart point. It helps the shaping of the blouse if you curve in earlier than you think and then slowly taper to the point. Pictures below.

Lace Blouse Free Pattern and Tutorial: stitchesandsunflowers.com Lace Blouse Free Pattern and Tutorial: stitchesandsunflowers.com

 

Step three:

Sew the shoulder seams, finishing them as you go. I used a French seam.

Lace Blouse Free Pattern and Tutorial: stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step four:

Prep the facing.

  • Sew the facing and interfacing together at the shoulder seams.

Lace Blouse Free Pattern and Tutorial: stitchesandsunflowers.com

  • If you are using fusible interfacing, iron it on now.
  • I used non-fusible interfacing. If you do this baste the interfacing to the facing fabric along the neck seam.

Step five:

Attach the facing.

  • Pin the facing to the neck hole of your blouse right sides together and sew the seam.

Lace Blouse Free Pattern and Tutorial: stitchesandsunflowers.com

  • Clip the seam allowance and press right side out.

Lace Blouse Free Pattern and Tutorial: stitchesandsunflowers.com

  • Now, finish the edge of your facing. I chose to turn it under and topstitch it onto the blouse and I like the results.
  • To do this, stitch along the edge of the facing with 1/4″ seam allowance. This will give a line from which to fold the fabric under and press.

Sew your own lace blouse with this free pattern and tutorial. stitchesandsunflowers.com

  • After it is pressed under, trim the interfacing to be 1/4″ smaller than the facing (if you are using non-fusible interfacing. If not, skip it).

Lace Blouse Free Pattern and Tutorial: stitchesandsunflowers.com Lace Blouse Free Pattern and Tutorial: stitchesandsunflowers.com

  • After the edges are pressed under, pin the facing in place and topstitch around the edge.

Lace Blouse Free Pattern and Tutorial: stitchesandsunflowers.com Lace Blouse Free Pattern and Tutorial: stitchesandsunflowers.com

  • Leave two-three inches on either side of the back/zipper opening.
  • You may also choose to simply serge this edge and topstitch it or leave it loose.

Step six:

Sew the side seams. I used a French seam to finish my edges here as well.

Step seven:

Sew the sleeves.

  • Sew the sleeve seam and finish it.

Lace Blouse Free Pattern and Tutorial: stitchesandsunflowers.com

  • Baste (don’t backstitch!) from notch to notch along the top of the sleeve.

Lace Blouse Free Pattern and Tutorial: stitchesandsunflowers.com

  • Pulling the bobbin thread, gather the fabric as tight as it will go.

Lace Blouse Free Pattern and Tutorial: stitchesandsunflowers.com   Lace Blouse Free Pattern and Tutorial: stitchesandsunflowers.com

  • Smooth the fabric back out. It should have a nice shoulder curve to it now.

Lace Blouse Free Pattern and Tutorial: stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step eight:

Attach the sleeves.

  • Flip the sleeves right side out and pin into the armholes right sides together.

Lace Blouse Free Pattern and Tutorial: stitchesandsunflowers.com

  • Sew around the armhole and serge or zig-zag the edges (I don’t attempt French seams here)

Lace Blouse Free Pattern and Tutorial: stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step nine:

Add the invisible zipper. Zippers are still so hard for me! I used this tutorial to help me remember the steps. Since I didn’t plan ahead enough to buy a zipper online, I bought a thrift store dress and picked out the zipper.

  • Iron out the roll in your invisible zipper. Notice how the two lines of stitching are visible in the photo because the zipper has been flattened out.

Lace Blouse Free Pattern and Tutorial: stitchesandsunflowers.com

  • Unzip and pin one side right sides together on one edge of the back opening. The edge without teeth should be lined up the raw edge of the fabric. Make sure that the top part of the zipper is going to be sewn under the facing.

Lace Blouse Free Pattern and Tutorial: stitchesandsunflowers.com Lace Blouse Free Pattern and Tutorial: stitchesandsunflowers.com

  • Use a zipper foot and sew along the teeth of the zipper, as close as you can. Stop when you get to the desired zipper length.
  • Zip up the zipper and mark where to sew on the other side. Mark any topstitching lines so that they match up.

Lace Blouse Free Pattern and Tutorial: stitchesandsunflowers.com

  • Unzip and pin the right side of the other side of the zipper to the other back edge. Check and make sure that the zipper will zip up properly.

Lace Blouse Free Pattern and Tutorial: stitchesandsunflowers.com Lace Blouse Free Pattern and Tutorial: stitchesandsunflowers.com

  • Sew this side close to the zipper teeth as well. Sew a zig-zag stitch along the edge of the zipper.

Lace Blouse Free Pattern and Tutorial: stitchesandsunflowers.com

  • Fold the loose edge of the facing under and topstitch it onto the zipper. Lace Blouse Free Pattern and Tutorial: stitchesandsunflowers.com
  • Zip up the zipper to check it all worked out.Starting about an inch above where your zipper ends, sew the rest of the seam down the back and finish it.

Lace Blouse Free Pattern and Tutorial: stitchesandsunflowers.com

  • Cut and stitch across the end of the zipper if it’s too long.

Lace Blouse Free Pattern and Tutorial: stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step ten:

Hem.

  • Press up the bottom first 1/2″, then another 1/2″. Hem.
  • Press up the sleeve hems first 1″ then another 1″. Hem.

Lace Blouse Free Pattern and Tutorial: stitchesandsunflowers.com

And that’s how you sew your own blouse! If it’s your first, congratulations on finishing. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments!

Sew your own lace blouse with this free pattern and tutorial. stitchesandsunflowers.com Sew your own lace blouse with this free pattern and tutorial. stitchesandsunflowers.com

Please also give me feedback on the success of the pattern. 🙂 I am always editing.

Love, Jess.

P.S. Go visit Made by You Monday  and Create Link Inspire to see some other fun tutorials.

 

 

Finish Seams without a Serger: How to Sew a French Seam

Hello friends! This is the first post in a series that teaches you how to finish your seams without a serger. I know most beginners and some intermediate sewers don’t own a serger. In fact, I’ve never owned a serger (lately I’ve been using my M-I-L’s), so I’ve had to come up with ways to make my sewing look professional without a serger. This means I need to finish the seams in some way so they don’t look raggedy and bleh.

In this series I’ll share with you my favorite ways I’ve learned to finish a seam. Many of them are relatively simple, they just take a little planning and ironing. Today I’m going to jump right in and teach you the first (and my favorite) one: French seams.

French Seams

The way that French seams are sewn encases the raw edge of the fabric inside the seam, making a beautifully finished little edge on the inside. This makes them perfect for sheer fabrics where you can see the seam through the outside of the shirt.

I recommend only using them on straight seams, or almost straight seams. I’m pretty sure even the best seamstress couldn’t figure out how to sew a French seam around a sleeve…or could they? I’m not sure, but I stick to the straight seams.

The Tutorial

In order to practice this you can use to scraps of fabric with straight edges. This is a really good idea if you’ve never used this method before. It will give you a chance to make mistakes without messing up your sewing project.

Step One:

Place your edges right sides out and sew your seam with 1/4″ seam allowance.

Finishing Seams without a Serger_ How to Sew a French Seam

 

Step Two:

Trim the seam allowance down to 1/8″ and fold the fabric over it, press.

Finishing Seams without a Serger_ How to Sew a French Seam

Step Three:

Using the folded seam as your edge, sew/topstitch another seam with 3/8″ seam allowance, encasing the raw edge. Your fabric will be right sides together now.

Finishing Seams without a Serger_ How to Sew a French Seam

Step Four:

Press your seam to one side and admire how beautiful and professional it looks.

Finishing Seams without a Serger_ How to Sew a French Seam

It doesn’t have to be really hard to make your sewing look more professional. It just comes down to paying attention to detail and taking the time to polish your work. Look forward to the rest of the series! I’ll be posting another seam-finishing guide every Tuesday.

Love, Jess

Check out the rest of the posts at Create Link Inspire here.

 

DIY Baby Moccasins

If you’re a mom (or even if you aren’t) I know you MUST have seen the adorable baby moccasin shoes that are trending now. Apparently made popular by one of the Kardashians? What? Oh well. They are really cute. AND we have a pair of baby moccasins passed down from L’s grandpa, so obviously moccasins aren’t a new development in baby fashion. I don’t think they are going away anytime soon, either. Which is why I’m providing a tutorial and free pattern for DIY baby moccasins today.

Leather moccasins are great for babies because they are so comfy, leaving lots of room for baby’s feet to grip the ground and grow properly. However, I guess the designer ones cost around sixty bucks! To me, that’s crazy for a baby who’s feet will grow before they wear out. You can get knock off ones too, but I think they still cost around $20. I won’t pay that much if I can DIY it for under $2!!

That’s right, and with this tutorial you too can make these cute little baby shoes on the cheap. These DIY baby moccasins are for size 3-4.

What You’ll Need:

DIY Baby Moccasins: No sewing machine or fancy tools required! Free Pattern and Tutorial | stitchesandsunflowers.com

Leather (I used a garage sale leather jacket I bought for $2)

Scrap of cushy fabric (I used a thick felted wool sweater)

Thick needle

Strong thread

An awl or leather stitch maker (optional, but very helpful)

Free Baby Moccasin Pattern

The Tutorial:

This is a hand sewing tutorial. True leatherworking requires some more complicated techniques and materials than I have or have learned yet, but I hope eventually to get into it! This tutorial is for moms like me who may not have a leather working kit, but want to try their hand at it anyway. You may want to try sewing this pattern using a sewing machine if you’re familiar with sewing with leather. That’s fine, but it can be difficult and you will need a special needle.

Step one: Cut out your pattern pieces.

Cut two pieces of leather for each pattern piece. Cut two more of the cushy fabric to pad the sole.

Step two: Make stitch holes.

Poke holes 1/4 inch apart where marked on the pattern. This is optional if you have thin leather and a very strong and sharp needle, but it makes the hand sewing process MUCH easier. So I recommend it!

DIY Baby Moccasins: No sewing machine or fancy tools required! Free Pattern and Tutorial | stitchesandsunflowers.com DIY Baby Moccasins: No sewing machine or fancy tools required! Free Pattern and Tutorial | stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step three: Sew toe piece.

Hold the cushy sole piece on top of the leather sole piece. It is nice to put the leather sole slick side in, so there is more traction on the bottom. Match the center of the toe piece to the center toe of the sole. Hold it in place using a little clamp, paper clip, or very carefully with a pin. Using the holes you made previously, stitch with a backstitch around the toe.

DIY Baby Moccasins: No sewing machine or fancy tools required! Free Pattern and Tutorial | stitchesandsunflowers.comSewing a backstitch:

1. DIY Baby Moccasins: No sewing machine or fancy tools required! Free Pattern and Tutorial | stitchesandsunflowers.com 2. DIY Baby Moccasins: No sewing machine or fancy tools required! Free Pattern and Tutorial | stitchesandsunflowers.com

3. DIY Baby Moccasins: No sewing machine or fancy tools required! Free Pattern and Tutorial | stitchesandsunflowers.com 4. DIY Baby Moccasins: No sewing machine or fancy tools required! Free Pattern and Tutorial | stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step four: Sew the heel piece.

Do the same thing with the heel piece, overlapping the edges on top of the edges of the toe piece.

DIY Baby Moccasins: No sewing machine or fancy tools required! Free Pattern and Tutorial | stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step five: Sew the casing.

Stitch the line 1/2 inch under the fold at the back of the shoe.

DIY Baby Moccasins: No sewing machine or fancy tools required! Free Pattern and Tutorial | stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step six: Cut the fringe.

Cut 1/4″ strips up to the casing stitching line to make the fringe.

DIY Baby Moccasins: No sewing machine or fancy tools required! Free Pattern and Tutorial | stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step seven: Thread the lace.

I cut about a foot of leather lace, to tie in a knot without a bow. If you want to be able to tie a bow, just make it longer. Use a safety pin or a giant yarn needle to thread the leather lace through the casing.

DIY Baby Moccasins: No sewing machine or fancy tools required! Free Pattern and Tutorial | stitchesandsunflowers.comStep eight: Waterproof (optional)

I used some waterproofing oil my husband had on hand to waterproof and strengthen the leather. You can use whatever waterproofing medium you choose, or skip it. I rub in the oil with a paper towel and rub off the excess, then let them sit for a day to soak in before  using them. It does darken the leather a bit.

DIY Baby Moccasins: No sewing machine or fancy tools required! Free Pattern and Tutorial | stitchesandsunflowers.com DIY Baby Moccasins: No sewing machine or fancy tools required! Free Pattern and Tutorial | stitchesandsunflowers.com

And now, they’re finished! I love how they turned out. These little moccasins are comfortable, durable and versatile; the perfect shoe for little ones!

When your baby wears them, triple knot the lace to make sure they don’t fall off. I’d love to see pictures of your finished product! Post them to the Stitches and Sunflowers facebook page or hashtag #stitchesandsunflowers on instagram. 🙂

See all the other great posts at Made by You Monday here.

Love, Jess

 

 

 

A Behind-the-Smile Look at Postpartum Depression

Today, let’s get real about a struggle lots of women experience alone because of a ridiculous stigma: postpartum depression.

I love to talk about the joyful and beautiful moments of motherhood, but the truth is, it’s not always rainbows and butterflies. None of us are perfect moms, but we are doing our best.

Copy of 400px x 400px – Untitled Design (3)

It’s for this reason that I’ve decided to talk about the struggles I face as a mom. I don’t want to focus on the negative, but I do want to offer support and understanding to the moms who also struggle, because all of us do.

My Postpartum Depression Story

Before I start, you need to understand that during my darkest moments I never went to the doctor or a therapist. I know now that I should have, but I was never diagnosed with postpartum depression. It wasn’t until the cloud started to lift that I felt like I’d actually had minor postpartum depression. Every mom has a different experience, and I don’t pretend to understand the heartache felt by those who suffer more extreme depression than I did. I share my experience with you so that if you have one similar to mine you know that it’s okay for you to seek help. If I had, I might have felt better months earlier.

A Behind-the-Smile Look at Postpartum Depression: Why I didn't See a Doctor, but I wish I had. stitchesandsunflowers.com

It all began with intense difficulty breastfeeding. I love nursing now, but at first it was extremely painful both physically and emotionally. I would sometimes bite my arm or hit my head on the wall because it hurt and I was so overwhelmed with anxiety surrounding nursing. As the weeks went on, I kind of sunk into a fog.

 

Happy Moments and Deep Dark Pits.

Although I had good days and fond memories, I also had dark days. When I was out and about having a good day, I’m sure no one would have noticed anything wrong. I smiled and talked like normal. But, it felt like when my day was dark I was in a pit too big to even see the top, or that I was drowning.

We lived with my parents for a few months while my husband was on vacation from school. I spent happy days with my family, but also long hours isolated in our bedroom. On bad days I would lay on the bed and look out the window. I’d get the urge to just jump out the window or I’d make a plan (one that I’d never carry out, of course) to run away. I wasn’t really suicidal, but sometimes I couldn’t stop thinking about my own death.I thought I must not have depression if I had happy days (1)

I was certain that my husband was avoiding me, or didn’t want to be with me. I agonized over this, obsessing over it. I melted down so often, paralyzed. Often simply because I couldn’t make a small decision.

I would randomly get overwhelming feelings of rage. Once, I smashed my glasses case on the side of the crib because I felt I had to outlet for these strong emotions or I would hurt Littles or myself.

At times, I thought about getting help. My dark thoughts often scared me, but the next day (if I felt good) I would feel like there was nothing wrong. I loved L, and I went and did fun things with Levi. I thought I must not have depression if I had happy days, so I didn’t need to see a doctor.

 

Then, the cloud started to lift.

I thought I must not have depression if I had happy days (2)A few weeks after we moved back to Hawaii when L was four months old, I had a feeling that I can only describe as a cloud lifting. I started feeling moments of deeper happiness than I did before. I started having more and more happy days that went uninterrupted by feelings of darkness.

I still fell into ruts and had meltdowns. I still struggled. I still fell into patterns of negative self-talk. But something was different, and I started to realize that maybe I HAD been struggling with postpartum depression.

I spoke with a therapist a few times. He helped me learn healthier ways to think and deal with the residue of emotions I had felt before, but gave me no diagnosis. It was hard to be honest about how I had felt before when I was smiling, and mostly normal now.

It took more months, but slowly I started to feel completely normal again.

 

This too, shall pass.

The scariest part of my whole journey was the hopelessness I felt. Even if the day before had been bright, sometimes it felt like I would never be my normal self again. If you remember only two things from reading this post, know that

  1. It’s okay (good, even!) to get help, even if you are unsure you “really” have postpartum depression. I wish I would have reached out for help earlier, because it might have helped me feel better and been easier on my husband.
  2. Things WILL get better. Please, seek out the help that you need and know that postpartum depression does fade.

Although it was a journey, the postpartum depression eventually left completely. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still imperfect, I still get overwhelmed, or have occasional mommy meltdowns. I also experience great joy, reach for my dreams, and I’m learning to forgive myself and let go of that critic in my head. That’s life.

If you are struggling with postpartum depression, I am sending love and hope your way. Please know that I support you.

Love, Jess

I am not a doctor or phycologist, I am only sharing my story. Please don’t substitute my words for professional help.

 

 

 

 

DIY Un-Paper Bag Tutorial (A Project for Beginners)

In a follow up to Tuesday’s post about the paper bag trick, I’m going to teach you how to make a re-useable un-paper bag. This is a great tutorial for beginners! It may look complicated, but the shape of the bag comes from folding the fabric, not from complicated sewing.

The paper bag trick helps to streamline your sewing process. It’s a tip that I’ve struggled to use in the past. The reason? I didn’t buy paper bags. In fact, I don’t like to buy disposable things like zip lock baggies or plastic wrap either. If you DO like your disposable goods, there is no judgement here! I just feel like I’m throwing money away when I use them, so I tend to use their re-useable counterparts, or do without.

 DIY Un-Paper Bag: Make your own alternative to paper bags | stitchesandsunflowers.com

Enter the Un-Paper Bag

Even though you could probably reuse a paper bag indefinitely for the paper bag trick, it’s not really worth it (for me anyway) to buy a whole pack of paper bags.

You could also use this un-paper bag for whatever you would normally use a paper bag for. It would make a great (but small) lunch sack. If you’re making it for a purpose other than the paper bag trick, you should use fusible interfacing and make your bag taller.

DIY Un-Paper Bag: Make your own alternative to paper bags | stitchesandsunflowers.com

Materials:

Quilting cotton or other stiff fabric *Note: If you use very thick fabric here, the difficulty level goes up just a tad. Check out my tips for sewing denim to help with that.

Iron and ironing board (very important)

Fusible interfacing (necessary if you’re using your paper bag for something other than the paper bag trick)

Fabric starch (optional)

 

Make it:

Step one:

Cut out a rectangle of your fabric 11″ by 19″. To do this precisely you can make a pattern and use it to cut out your rectangle, or you can tear your fabric on the grain line. I like to tear it (it’s fast and easy). Cut a slightly smaller rectangle from the interfacing (you won’t be able to tear this one).

  • To tear on the grain line: Cut a small notch in your fabric, and then rip the rest of the way.

DIY Un-Paper Bag: Make your own alternative to paper bags | stitchesandsunflowers.com DIY Un-Paper Bag: Make your own alternative to paper bags | stitchesandsunflowers.com

DIY Un-Paper Bag: Make your own alternative to paper bags | stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step two:

Cut a slightly smaller rectangle from the interfacing (you won’t be able to tear this one).

Step three:

Iron on the fusible interfacing. Make sure that you press the sticky or bumpy side onto the fabric when you iron it. If in doubt, place a thin cotton cloth on top when you are ironing.

Step four:

Sew the short ends together and finish them (you can use a serger, French seam, zig-zag stitch, or pinking shears). Use a stitch length of 2.5.

DIY Un-Paper Bag: Make your own alternative to paper bags | stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step five:

Hem both ends. You could serge them, but I know many beginners don’t own a serger. I hemmed the bottom with a teeny little hem and the top with about a half inch hem.

DIY Un-Paper Bag: Make your own alternative to paper bags | stitchesandsunflowers.com DIY Un-Paper Bag: Make your own alternative to paper bags | stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step six:

Following the picture steps, fold the bottom of the fabric into the bottom of the bag. Press the creases as you sew. If you make a mistake, spray with water and iron out the folds you made.

DIY Un-Paper Bag: Make your own alternative to paper bags | stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step seven:

With the bottom pinned together topstitch along all the edges as shown. Use a stitch length of 4.

DIY Un-Paper Bag: Make your own alternative to paper bags | stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step eight:

Fold the bag like a paper bag as shown. Press well and use fabric starch if desired.

DIY Un-Paper Bag: Make your own alternative to paper bags | stitchesandsunflowers.com DIY Un-Paper Bag: Make your own alternative to paper bags | stitchesandsunflowers.com

You’ve finished your un-paper bag!

Now you have a re-useable bag for all your sewing/carrying/lunch preparing needs. And you made it yourself! Look at you!

Love, Jess

Be sure to check out the rest of the crafty posts on Made by You Monday!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Paper Bag Trick (a Beginner’s Sewing Tip)

I realize that lots of the sewing tutorials I post might seem scary or too intense for a lot of beginners out there. I want this blog to make sewing accessible to everyone, so I’m going to start a series of posts specifically for the beginners out there. We’ll start with a trick that streamlines the sewing process, but that I forget to utilize too often! I’ll call it the paper bag trick.

 

Why use the paper bag trick?

The paper bag trick helps keep your workspace clean(er). It also encourages you to cut off strings AS you sew, instead of waiting until the end. This is important, because when you wait until then end you miss more threads, making your finished project less professional. You can use the little “blade” on the back of the presser foot on your machine to trim threads, or keep little scissors close. I sometimes prefer using scissors because I can be more precise, but it’s much more time effective to use the machine, and I know professionals who swear by it.

The Paper Bag Trick: A Beginner's Sewing Tip to Streamline your Sewing Process | stitchesandsunflowers.com

It’s as simple as this:

Take a paper bag and fold down the top a few times to make a cuff. This helps to hold the bag open

Tape one edge of the bag on the edge of the table next to your sewing machine.

Cut off strings as you sew and drop them in the bag. This keeps your sewing area clean. If you leave strings on the table around your machine, they tend to stick all over whatever you are sewing as you work.

When you clean up your workspace, dump the strings out of your bag and save the bag for the next project.

That is really all there is to it!

I was uncertain if I should share such a simple tip, but I was quite impressed when I learned it as a beginner. I also thought writing about it would maybe help me actually put it into practice (finally). 🙂 If you don’t want to buy paper bags to try this, check out my diy un-paper bag tutorial to make your own (hint: it’s beginner friendly!).

As a beginner, what sewing tips would help you improve your sewing? Is there something you’ve been dying to try, but just aren’t sure how? Let me know in the comments.

Love, Jess

 

Tips for sewing with Denim

I recently finished a fun sewing project I made for a friend using recycled jeans. Let me just say, sewing with denim can be super tough! Especially when you are using recycled denim and you may be sewing through lots of layers. During this project I was able to test out denim-sewing tips I learned in my college sewing classes, and they really worked! I was amazed at how using the right techniques can take a lot of the stress out of sewing. 🙂

Here are four tips make sewing with denim a little easier:

Four tips for Sewing with Denim | stitchesandsunflowers.com

One: Use the correct needle and thread.

I’ve known this for a while, but since I don’t like to buy a lot of extra materials and supplies I tend to not follow through. This time, however, I DID and it made ALL the difference. When sewing with denim you should be using the largest needle (the numbers will say 100/16), or use the special jean needle. This made it easier to sew through the thick parts, and they’re less likely to break. I recommend you buy multiple (especially if you’re a beginner), because I still broke quite a few needles. I also used jean thread (found here, but I think it can be found cheaper at local department stores) which made such a difference! The thread didn’t bunch up underneath the fabric at all, and it really solved a lot of the issues I usually have while sewing denim.

Four tips for Sewing with Denim | stitchesandsunflowers.com

Two: Use a hammer.

What?! That’s right, pounding down the layered spots in a denim sewing project is actually a common and accepted technique that makes them easier to sew. You can buy cute, tiny hammers made specifically for sewing. Or, you can use whatever is on hand (just make sure that if you use a big hammer you work on a sturdy surface). For my last project I used a meat tenderizer (because it was really close and handy), but a hammer would probably work better, now that I think about it.

Four tips for Sewing with Denim | stitchesandsunflowers.com

Three: Use a stitch starter.

Sewing machines are made to sew through surprisingly thick layers of fabric. However, they have a really hard time climbing onto a thick part in the fabric. You can even that plain by sticking something underneath the presser foot behind the needle. They sell stitch starters for this purpose. I have used cardboard, foam core, or even a pad of sticky notes. You could also use folded up fabric like in this post.

Four tips for Sewing with Denim | stitchesandsunflowers.com

Four: Sew things the “right way.”

I don’t ALWAYS tell you that you have to sew something using the traditional method. Sometimes recycling fabrics or upcycling old clothes require a little creativity and freedom, which is okay. However, for a more professional look it’s important to follow professional techniques.

For example, if you are taking in jeans, don’t just pinch at the side and sew over both waistbands. This will look bad, but it will also be sooo frustrating to get your machine to sew through all those layers (after all, it’s not designed to sew that way). Instead, unpick the waistband from the top of the pants. Take in the side seam first, then take in the waistband, then sew them together again copying the way it was done before. Cotton and curls has a great tutorial showing how to do this.

If it’s hard to tell what the professional way to sew something is, I like to look at how it was put together in the first place. Then I try to copy that as well as I can.

Sewing with denim will be easier with these tips. It is still a challenge, but the results are worth it.

Love, Jess