Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals. I'm a recovering former vegan and vegetarian, now healing with a nutrient-dense mostly Paleo diet, and love at-home CrossFit and yoga workouts. I'm also the author of DIY Wardrobe Makeovers!

New mom to baby Otto born April 2018!


Sewing Circle: How to Sew on Knits

Welcome to Sewing Circle!  This time, it's a question I'm sure some of you know more about than I do, so please share your thoughts!

Here's the question, from Jess at Smart Style Tips:

Q:  I have a question for you!  I recently bought this pattern

And was wondering if you had any tips for sewing on knits vs wovens? I've only made items out of cotton woven fabrics before and I don't want this to turn out a disaster!

A: Great question, Jess!  It's always good to plan ahead for your fabric and work with it--you can't force it to act how you want, and with a knit fabric, you'll have to do what it allows.  In general, if the fabric stretches, the seams have to stretch, too, or they'll break.

You've got the right idea with the pattern and thinking about your fabric.  The basic elements for sewing knits:
  • A pattern designed for knits
  • Knit fabric (and the right kind... more on that later)
  • A ballpoint needle for knits
  • The right stitch

There are several different ways of having seams that move and flex.  Swimwear and dancewear are made with stretchy thread.  But you don't need special thread for your basic knit project, just the right stitches.  And the right pattern--mostly because knits are meant to stretch a little, and a pattern for a knit dress will allow for more give than a pattern for a woven.

The Vogue pattern you have says it's meant for double knits only--you can read about the difference between knits here.  Double knits don't curl at the edges, look the same on both sides, and are generally a little thicker than a single knit.  They shouldn't ravel, so you don't need to serge your seam allowances and can press them open if you like.

Ballpoint needles are designed for knits because they pass between the threads of the fabric, rather than penetrating them, so the fabric can still stretch as it's intended to.  Buy some before you begin sewing!

As for construction, I think everyone has a preferred method of stitch.  You can simply use a long straight stitch, but stretch as you feed through the machine so that when the tension is released, the stitches are a little longer than the total length of the seam.  Think about a writing in Sharpie on a balloon--if you stretch it as you write, when it blows up, the letters will look more normal.  Thread is not as flexible as Sharpie letters on latex, though, and it won't stretch unless you stretch the fabric while you put the seam in.

Other options for seams are the actual stretch stitch, if you have one on your machine:
Or the zigzag (use a narrow zig zag and you'll still have a straight seam that will look normal on the front):
Or a tricot stitch, which has a lot of stretch--great for swimwear.
I highly recommend playing around with some of your fabric before you start assembling the dress!  Get comfortable with which stitch you prefer, how much you need to stretch the fabric if at all, how wide your zigzag should be...

Does that help?  Readers, what advice would you give Jess?

You can read more tips for sewing on knits at this Sewing Circle for swimwear, and this great Threads article on sewing with knits, and this article.

Thanks for reading Sewing Circle!  Feel free to send me your questions!


A last-minute wedding clutch

I told you things were rushed for the wedding I helped with this weekend--here's a project I put together just for the occasion!

At around 10:30 PM Saturday, after the bridal shower we threw, all the bridesmaids were cleaning up as the bride made her packing list for the next day.  She mentioned she might need a little evening bag for her lipstick and iPhone.
Me: "Oh, yeah, I wanted to get one of those too, but never found one."
Bride: "At least you have two more weeks till your wedding!"
Me: (deliberating...) "Well, I could maaaake you one...... tonight or tomorrow morning...."

So I went home and, while I didn't have to be there till 8 the next morning, got all inspired and whipped this little bag together in half an hour.

I didn't have a red zipper so I had to use ivory at the top, like her dress.  Oh, well.  I  made it out of a scrap of leftover cotton sateen from the dress I wore to the wedding!  So it was for sure the right color.  I reinforced the whole thing with a layer of iron-on interfacing to make it a little stiffer.  I didn't line it or anything... quick 'n dirty!

For trims I re-used a ruffle from one of the bridesmaids's dresses--she didn't like how it went all the way around the neck so we trimmed it off.  I also didn't have red thread--aaack!  So I used orange, one of the other colors, for the top-stitching on the ribbons I added.  I threw on a couple bows, too, for fun.

And boy, was I glad she had this--we were able to follow her around with it!!

Now I just need to find something to use at my wedding... I used to have an off-white beaded vintage one, I wonder if I still do...

Did you use a purse at your wedding?  Any other essentials to put in it?


My wedding dress flowers tutorial

The wedding dress is done!

I showed you the first batch of flowers on my wedding dress here.  I've made some more since then, and arranged them artistically on the dress.

I've done a tutorial before for fabric flowers that uses the same method, but these look very different so I thought you might like a tutorial for these, too.
  • Cut out lots and lots of flower-shaped pieces.  I chose pointed petals that make the flowers look a little like water lilies.  In the past I've made round, scalloped petal-flowers, which look more like mums or puffs.  You can also use circles, which will make your flowers look kinda like pompoms.
  • I used a variety of silk scraps and tulle for these flowers.  Tulle in three colors, silk organza, silk taffeta, ribbon silk, china silk, a lightweight silk jacquard... use whatever scraps you have!  You can make them out of whatever--play around.
  • You'll only need eight or so petals for each flower, of different sizes, but I made a bunch of these so I cut out a bunch of petals at once.
  • Not part of my other tutorial: cut some little squares or shapes out of a sturdy fabric like this silk taffeta.  You'll use these as backs.
  • Start with the largest petals for the bottom of the flower.
  • To assemble, fold all your flowers in half, then in half again.  You'll use the point of the little triangular quarters to anchor to the base.
  • Sew through the bottom square and through the corner of your folded petal.
  • Do this four times, so you have the entire square covered.
  • Take some slightly smaller petals, and fold them into quarters as well.  Sew them down overlapping the tiny gaps between the bottom layer petals.
  • Continue with the next-smallest petal you're going to use.  Switch it up and use multiple types of fabric for each row of petals.
  • Here's one with only three rows:
  • To make it more interesting, I did a layer with just two quarter-folded tulle pieces in the center.
  • Here's what the back looks like, FYI.  The base square gives you something to anchor to if you're sewing these to pin backs or straight onto the garment or item like I am.
  • Great!  Now make tons more!!
These are beautiful sewed onto dresses, pillows, whatever... headbands or hairclips, even!  If you make them all different sizes and textures they can be really fun to decorate things with in a funkier way.  No need to worry about them all coming out exactly the same!

(If you did any DIYs for your wedding or the wedding of a friend or loved one, I'd love for you to share them in the Adventures in Dressmaking DIY Weddings Flickr group!!)


Weddings are tiring!

One of my best friends got married on Sunday, and I was a bridesmaid for the first time ever!

I wore the red dress I made and blogged about recently.  Got lots of compliments.  Here I am with the bride!

The wedding was a lot of fun, but I took on volunteer wedding coordination duties on the day of and had a very long two days.  Saturday was the rehearsal, family lunch, then her bridal shower, which I also did a lot of planning/doing for.

Then we were up early again on Sunday to make the bouquets (aaaack, I wish this had been done earlier), get everything ready and packed, and head out to the venue to get our hair and makeup done and get dressed.  I used to work catering for a summer at the lovely place where she got married (McMenamin's Cornelius Pass Roadhouse--in the octagonal barn--for you locals).

There were lots of DIYs and decorations to get ready (some of which have been and will be on this blog with tutorials!), on the tables and around the inside of the barn.  There were five bridesmaids, five groomsmen, and LOTS of helpful relatives so set-up was pretty chaotic.  I had a schedule of the whole day that I used a lot, and if I do say so myself I think I did a pretty good job of keeping everything in line.  There were no major catastrophes, and everyone had a good time!

One of the most fun elements for the guests and all was the photo booth my friend hired to come out.  We were able to use a barn door part of the barn that matched so well with the rustic theme of the wedding, and everyone had a great time playing with the goofy props!  And of course the photographer's photos aren't done yet, but we can view these online!  Here's the bride and groom...
The four female bridesmaids...
Some of us with our bouquets and seating assignment birdies...
And all the bridesmaids & bridesman with the bride!
She had a different dress for the reception!
It was a lot of fun but I am now exhausted.  Totally worn out.  I have shin splints and strained both my ankles in the shoes I was wearing, and of course didn't get enough sleep all weekend, and my neck hurts.  I'm getting too old for this!

But I did learn some lessons about what to do at my wedding, and will be glad to have my very (recently) experienced friend, the bride, in my bridal party!  My fiance was a great sport all night, too, arriving just for the wedding and then watching me run around like crazy getting the iPod, the buffet order, the toasts/cake cutting, the bouquet toss, etc. in order.  He hasn't been to many weddings so it was a good learning experience for him, too!  And of course the bride and groom are his friends, too, so he was very emotional watching the vows.  How can we possibly not cry during our ceremony if we almost cried during theirs?!?

Our wedding is in less than two weeks and it's getting down to the wire.  Any tips from experienced wedding guests, planners, or bridal party attendants is welcome--how do I avoid all this exhaustion?!


Very, very easy DIY center squares

You know how when you get something catered or use a venue they do standard square tablecloths on round tables and square contrast napkins in the center?  You choose the colors and even if you want round or long skinny tables, but that's all the decorating the venue does for you (which makes sense).

Which is fine for a corporate picnic or even high school reunion, but for our wedding I want to try a little harder.  People do all kinds of great center pieces (SO many ideas!), but we're doing white milk glass vases on the tables, two or three per, plus the table number, and I wanted something under them.  I didn't really want the polyester catering napkin to go with my simple additions.

But it is a pretty simple tablescape.  So I used some yellow seersucker and print that we had left over from other wedding projects, and made one purple one for our table.  I used the pinking blade for the rotary cutter and cut 20" squares.  No need to hem them since the edges are all pinked, and if I want to re-use the fabric in the future, I still have pretty big pieces to work with!

Here they are at the wedding!

(If you did any DIYs for your wedding or the wedding of a friend or loved one, I'd love for you to share them in the Adventures in Dressmaking DIY Weddings Flickr group!!)


Tiny flower girl dress of Ruffle Fabric: Tutorial!

You've got to check out this amazingly fun and easy project I just did for our flower girl at the wedding in a couple of weeks.  I only recently discovered Ruffle Fabric, this great site with tons of cute already-ruffled fabric in many colors and types, and it was perfect for the flower girl's dress!  So happy to have them as a sponsor!

They have all kinds of choices but I went with lavender my 2-year-old flower girl's dress.  Inspired by fancy girl's dresses on J.Crew Crewcuts and other stylish kid companies, I thought it would be fun to do a ruffled skirt and a smooth bodice of a contrast fabric.
J. Crew
It was amazing how easy this dress was to make--maybe it's because I don't often make children's clothes (pretty much never) and, um, they go together way faster than clothes for me!  Duh.  And the fit is less critical since children are little barrels with limbs and their clothes don't need to fit like a glove.

Anyway, want a tutorial for how to use this great ruffle fabric for a little girl's fancy dress?  Here goes!

  • I used a regular pattern for the bodice, Simplicity 2430.  I wanted something a little 50's vintage-ey as well as cool and classy J.Crew-ey, so I gave her puff sleeves.
  • Cut out the bodice and get your piece of ruffle fabric.  Depending on the height of the child, you'll probably only need about 1/3 of a yard!
  •  Cut the ruffle fabric to the length you want for the skirt, plus 1/2" for seam allowance at the top.  For my flower girl, I made the skirt only 13" long.  Cut all the way along the width of the fabric, and that's all you need to do.  See what I mean about not needing a lot of the ruffle fabric?  Therefore this dress is super affordable...
  •  Okay, now you have all your pieces cut out.
  •  Assemble the bodice as you would any other dress.  Leave the back open and don't install your zipper or buttons yet.
  •  Pin right sides together the selvages of the fabric, aligning your ruffles so they all lay pointing down.
  •  Starting 4-5" down, sew together.
  •  There's no real need to press that center back seam you just made open or to one side, since it's a stretch fabric and will do what it wants anyway.
  • Now, along the top edge of the skirt (the one with the 4-5" opening), run a long stitch with tight tension and gather the skirt.
  •  Right sides together, pin your gathered skirt to the bodice.  I like to try to match the center front of the skirt (as it lays flat, using the center front of the bottom of the skirt as a guide) to the center front of the dress so you know your gathering is even all around.
  • Sew it down!
  •  Again you don't really need to press since the woven nature of the bodice will dominate the loosely woven knit of the top of the ruffle fabric, so your seam allowance should point down toward the skirt.
  • Now, install your zipper or other closure as you would any dress.

Yay, so cute!

To match my silk flowers and everything, and to give it some more detail, I made a silk flower for the waist of the dress and sewed it to a pin back.  Then I pinned it to the waist of the dress--hope it's in the right place, but we can move it around or take it off and put a sash or something on it for another occasion later!  Easter, maybe?

Seriously, this took me like an hour.  So fast and easy!  And cute.  Check out Ruffle Fabric and look at all the cute colors and ideas there... great idea for a quick and simple project!

Update: Here she is in it! (More wedding pictures and DIYs here (and on Ruffled here)!)
By Studio 623 Photography

(If you did any DIYs for your wedding or the wedding of a friend or loved one, I'd love for you to share them in the Adventures in Dressmaking DIY Weddings Flickr group!!)


My wedding dress is done!

It feels so weird saying that!  My wedding dress has been a design on paper and then a semi-permanent fixture on a mannequin in my mom's sewing room for so long that it's weird that it could be real and finished!  My mom and I finished it last weekend.

Of course, it's been a magical, faceless perfect confection of beauty and romance for even longer in the depths of my brain, that it's hard to realize it's a real thing now.  I always wanted THE wedding dress, the ultimate perfect dress that expressed who I am and how cool and unique and beautiful my wedding will be.  It's hard to accept that, though I am so excited to be getting married (in just over two weeks!), finally having the day I've been waiting for means the dress isn't perfect anymore since it's no longer a fantasy.  Now it's real and as with most real things, it's not 100% perfect.

There's nothing wrong with it; that's not what I mean.  But the fun/challenge of creating it myself means that I didn't know what it was going to look like when it's done so I couldn't predict or choose the outcome completely.  And it's been 80-90% done for a while so I thought I knew about what it would look like, but always imagined that when it was DONE it would look... somehow better than the sum of its parts.

Am I making sense?  Did/do you have super high expectations for a wedding dress, too, and were yours satisfied?

I'm being too negative.  Enough with the rant.  Here's another little preview.

Dunno why the lighting is so blue.  It's all a dreamm... whooosoosshooo...woooo.... No, I dunno.

It doesn't look that impressive hanging on the hanger so you'll have to wait till you see pics of ME in it to see the full thing on a human shape.  Not for secrecy or anything, really; I mean, you'll probably be a little surprised when you see the pics even though you've seen construction up to this point.  It's hanging in our living room right now so my fiancé has seen it, although not on me all done up, and my mom would show it to anyone who came over when it was on the mannequin in her sewing room, so a fair chunk of the wedding guests know what I'll be wearing.

I guess I figure the rest of the wedding will be a surprise.  Trust me, it will.  We have all kinds of unorthodox tricks up our sleeves, Jason and I, and I hope my dress will be just one of the memorable and unique pieces of the day.  Two-and-a-little-bit weeks from now!!  Aaaah, so excited!

(If you made your dress or did any DIYs for your wedding or the wedding of a friend or loved one, I'd love for you to share them in the Adventures in Dressmaking DIY Weddings Flickr group!!)


Silk boutonnieres

I wasn't sure until just the other day what we were going to do for boutonnieres.  I helped my friend make her very cool burlap ones a few months ago, but I didn't put much thought into ours.

I loved these when I saw them on a wedding blog, and was so excited when they showed up in the Adventures in Dressmaking DIY Weddings Flickr group--one of you talented readers made them!

They gave me the idea of making something out of the fabrics I've been using for all the other DIY accessories.  My mom assumed the boutonnieres should be real flowers, but I somehow feel better about doing fabric ones.  Sounds a little easier on the day of, care etc, easier for me to make ahead of time, and goes with the DIY/homespun vibe of the wedding.

So I threw these together with some fabric scraps and a glue gun, and some sturdy cardboard for backing.  I made them up as I went along.  But I figured out a new way to make flower buds in the process, which was nice.

I had a few extra dupioni silk flower buds and put them on a slightly smaller boutonniere for our little ring bearer.

Slightly different from the other three, but all with the seersucker (with pinked edges) and ricrac-wrapped stem, purple silk, and yellow polished cotton.

The colors are so bright and saturated, at least on the white table there.  They should look a little less gaudy on the grey suits and in the natural sunlight.  But hey, they do go with the purple/yellow/grey color scheme!  The bouquets will be in similar colors but of fresh flowers, too, so hopefully they'll all go together.

And they cost me exactly $0 to make (had all the stuff already and the pin backs were like $1 for a pack of 25 or something, years ago), so I'm not too invested in them.

Here they are at the wedding!
Photo by Studio 623 Photography

(If you did any DIYs for your wedding or the wedding of a friend or loved one, I'd love for you to share them in the Adventures in Dressmaking DIY Weddings Flickr group!!)


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