Looking back…

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As I look back on my finished project, I do have to admit I am bit shocked it came together so well. And really, it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. I was able to figure out the pattern lines before cutting, and the internet really did offer a lot of invaluable tips and ideas for sewing.

Here are a few of the highlights of this learning project.

  1. Learning that weights instead of or in addition to pins is an effective way to cut the pattern out. I can use this tip for future sewing projects. Win!
  2. It was also good for me to learn that it is important to check more than just one website or blog post when trying to learn more information about something. As I discovered in this post, certain things are more important than others when it comes to sewing (and I’m sure everything)-  you begin to find a common thread (haha pun!) among different bloggers.
  3. Taking my time and having patience is definitely not overrated.
  4. This is one of the most valuable things I learned: social media sites such as Instagram can be a huge help when you are uncertain about something specific and have exhausted all other options. And really why not share our knowledge with each other and use what others have given? I love you hashtags!
  5. I learned how to make my own GIF! This one is cool- mostly because I just love them and it really wasn’t that hard. And although mine are not riveting in any way, I can see how they add more interest and pizzaz to a blog post.
  6. It was also really rewarding to figure out how to embed tweets and YouTube videos. Partly what made it so satisfying is that I figured most of it out on my own through either playing around with WordPress or Google searches. (I know Alec showed us a lot of during class, I just couldn’t remember from Tuesday night to the weekend or whenever I wrote my post how to actually do it)
  7. I really enjoyed reading up on other people’s learning projects and it was nice that they also took the time to read and comment on my own. I’m realizing that you can create a supportive community online.

One thing I wished I could have figured out was how to format my blog a bit more uniquely, I used a basic format when I created it and then I tried to play around with it a bit throughout the term but somehow I just couldn’t get it fancy like some other people’s.

 but  for another time

Courtesy of Giphy 1, 2, 3

To wrap up, it was really good for me to try and attempt a project like this. As I mentioned in my previous post, I know my end result was not perfect, but I learned a lot in terms of using the internet for help and pushing myself to figure out internet skills (way better than a basic Word document that I’m used to). If it ever came up, I would definitely vouch for using the internet when learning a new skill- even for one that feels as daunting as sewing a rayon challis dress.



When I last left off with my dress, I just had to do the hemming. I always seem to have trouble anytime I hem. One of the reasons I stopped wearing pants at work is that they are always too long and I can never get the length right when I do it myself.

Courtesy of Giphy.

One thing I never thought of was how wide you should be making the hem. This blog showed a few examples of how different weighted fabrics need different widths. I always just hemmed however much I needed to.


This video also offered a lot of good tips for me to consider before taking the plunge, such as measuring all along the hem (not eyeballing it), using chalk to mark and pinning.


IMG_3242Because the fabric I was working with was lightweight I decided to do a double hem.

One of the tricky parts was making sure I did the sleeves the exact same hem length, since I had never sew anything that had two sides (pant legs or sleeves) this was a bit tricky, but I think I got it.

Here is the final product!



I really enjoyed this project. It was a bit frustrating and tedious at times, making sure I had everything just so with the pattern, but in the end I’m glad I did. I know it isn’t perfect, but to be honest I am just shocked and pleased with myself that it came together in some semblance of a dress. I am also pleasantly surprised how helpful all of the online resources I came across were. I really don’t think I could have done it without them (definitely not as successfully). I wonder what I’ll get up to next…

Pocket those tips for later!

Pockets are a wonderful thing with any article of clothing so I was particularly pleased when this dress pattern included pockets. That being said, I was also a little flustered because any rectangle skirt I made I made without pockets because I just couldn’t figure out how you put them in. But alas, here I found myself: a dress with pockets. So I lined up the pockets on the dress and thought to myself, okay this can’t be that hard. Here is the seam I was going to make. Just one straight seam down the side.

But then good thing I thought about it a bit more because then I obviously would have sewn the pockets shut. I read the pattern a couple more times and tried to visualize it in my head, I was pretty sure I had everything lined up but I wanted to double check, so I visited this blog, it was AWESOME. Step by step and it reaffirmed what I thought I was supposed to do. I had to actually sew two seams down the front and back of the dress instead of just one down the side. Here is a GIF I made to try and show you what I mean.

Not sure if you can tell but I have the pockets pinned onto the other sides from where I am pointing my finger. I had to first sew the pockets down first and then sew the front and back together.



Here is the finished dress with the pockets sewn and pressed down. As you can see I also sewed the pocket halves together so they can actually hold something.




Now I have all of the parts assembled together. As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, I learned it is important to let rayon challis hang for at least 24 hours before hemming to let it adjust to the new shape.

On a roll with my dress

I decided that while I was on a sewing roll I would keep going. I was still on the trickiest bit of sewing, but when I was reading the instructions, I was just so confused. This was a problem, I had no one to ask about reading a sewing pattern. Then I had the clever idea of looking different versions of the dress that people had made on instagram, so I searched #charliecaftan (the name of the dress).

This saved me, what I was thinking in my head was correct. Here are two pictures of what I was working on. Before and after.

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What I was looking up on Instagram was what that middle panel was supposed to look like. As you can see, it was indeed supposed to be sewn in as a window.

However I tried once, and like we saw last time, the fabric is easily damaged so I altered it myself and just tried to do a really neat stitch to seal it down. The instructions from the pattern online said to be very careful to not let it pucker…I was so close! But I figure with the tulip fabric and flowiness of the dress, it will be okay.



Next I had to work on the neckline. I had to start with something called a staystitch. I was figuring it was just a stitch to kind of lay down the fabric, I was right. Here is the end result of the while neckline. I was SO. Proud. of my straight stitching, I am learning it really pays off to listen to what the online experts have to say in terms of ironing, pinning and letting the fabric sew smoothly and easily.


Here I go!

It was a big day for me today. I began sewing. It was a bit delayed as I didn’t realize I needed to use interfacing. But off I traipsed to fabricland, I had to ask for some help, but that’s okay! I learned another new thing- how to iron on fusible interfacing.

I was really trying to read the pattern carefully. In fact, I often read most steps two or three times then practiced it in my head. It was actually really good mindfulness training since I was concentrating so hard.



Like I mentioned I was going to go crazy pinning. At one point in the pattern it said use as many pins as you need, no problem. It also said that this point was the trickiest bit of sewing- at least I got to get it over with on the first day!


Nice, straight seam Marley.

As you can see from the picture the pattern wasn’t lying, even with my pinning, I didn’t get it straight. So I took a deep breath and carefully took out the seam. Fine. Did it again but then I realized, while I sewed it perfectly straight, it was way bigger than the recommended 5/8”.


[Brownie break taken at this point.]

After a delightful treat and some self-talk, I took out the seam a third time, re-reading the pattern instructions and explaining to myself what I was going to do, double checking the seams.





As you can see from the other side, I did a right-sized and also straight seam. BUT this was what I was a bit worried about, damaging the fabric. I am not going to fret about it though, perhaps with some wear and even a quick dry in the dryer might work them out. Also the aim of this project isn’t perfection so it will fine!

Next, I will keep going with the trickiest bit of sewing for this pattern.

If you happen to have any tips for erasing fabric nicks or sewing with rayon, I’d be happy to hear!


Do your research Marley

Now that I had all of my pattern cut and ready, it was time to start sewing! That being said, I was a bit apprehensive about sewing a non-cotton fabric, and the fabric I chose was rayon challis after all. I’ll admit, I never heard of that exact type before purchasing but how hard can it be? Anyway, I decided to do a bit of research in the hopes of finding some tips for handling and sewing this type of fabric.

This was the first website which happened to also be a blog. I started reading… “it tends to be a bit more difficult to sew with than a cotton voile…Rayon challis is a great fabric for the advanced beginner, intermediate, or advanced sewist.”

giphy5Courtesy of Giphy.

There were a few good tips, such as how to carry the fabric from sewing machine to iron while working with it. Since it is such a lightweight and flimsy fabric, it shifts quite easily.

I visited a second blog, and one of this bloggist’s tips was to make sure to wash the fabric twice. Now, growing up it was common knowledge to wash fabric twice to ensure any kinks or shrinking possibilities were out of the way before sewing. However, in the past couple of years, I have worked on some quilts, so have chatted with a few sewing experts in those fields, they say that is a myth, that washing it is unnecessary. Companies now pre-wash fabrics and it just adds an extra step to the sewing process. So I didn’t wash my rayon challis, and besides, it is a flowy, patterned-fabric dress, so should hide any shrinkage that happens. Another tip this same blogger gave was to use a smaller stitch- I even know how to do this on my machine. Woohoo!

The third blog I checked out actually answered one of the questions I had. It said to use a lot of pins when sewing the fabric. Since rayon challis is so flimsy and light, I wasn’t sure if pins would make permanent holes in the fabric or not, so I only used one or two for each pattern piece (thanks to my trusty chickpea weights). Now that I know I can pin away I will be using a lot. A.lot.

Lastly, all three blog posts stated these same tips:
-be very careful not to stretch or pull the fabric when stitching, let it flow naturally and sit flat
-after you finish the whole garment but BEFORE hemming, put it on a hanger and let it just hang for a few days, this will prevent a wonky hem. I guess the fabric then gets time to sit and adjust to all the seams.

I guess rayon challis really is delicate.

giphy6Image courtesy of Giphy.

One thing that was missing however were some inspirational quotes to encourage me to keep trying even when I inevitably get confused or have to rip out some stitches. I like things to go the way I have it planned in my head and when they don’t, with sewing anyway, I can get quite discouraged.

I guess this could apply to my sewing too?

I feel like I’m writing an online serial. On the next instalment, maybe I’ll actually use my trusty Brother.

Cut that fabric, just do it!

When I completed the mid-term self-assessment and got to the question about what Alec could do to support me, I realized why I feel like I’ve been slacking on my Digital Learning Project- I am afraid to make a mistake. With the stage I am at (cutting the fabric), making a mistake could mean the end of the project or you know, the project as I know it, so I have been putting it off. I’m not sure why since there isn’t going to be any sewing epiphany in the next couple weeks so here I go with cutting.

I knew I had to lay out the pattern pieces on the fabric and the pattern guide even showed how to do it. BINGO. SEW SIMPLE. But one thing I wasn’t sure was if the fabric had to be layed inside or not, or if that even made a difference. However as we know, I am leery of making a permanent mistake so I turned to the internet for help. There was no statement that I could find explaining how to lay out the fabric so I turned to my sister for help:


Thank you to my sister. Who, yes, also loves cats as much as me. Our childhood cat used to run in our mom’s patterns messing them up while she tried to lay them down. Guess I should have been helping her instead of being entertained by the cat.

While the internet was no help for figuring out how to lay out the fabric, I did find some other tips when cutting out fabric.

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Via The McCall Pattern Blog.

I guess pattern cutting could be tedious. One of the suggested ways to make it less tedious was to use a high table, well I don’t have a table that’s 3 meters long so that one was out. It also said to cut at a “cheerful time of day…” so I chose right after lunch on Sunday?

On this post (and a couple others) it says to use sewing weights instead of pins to secure the pattern but all I have are dumbbells and I didn’t know if the uneven weight distribution would mess it up so I thought I would stick with pins.

I also watched this youtube video for additional tips on proper pinning. Thank goodness I did, I wouldn’t have really thought about aligning it straight and possibly leaving room for seam allowance.


Once I felt like I did all of the research I could, I started cutting but saw what the websites meant by the pins making the fabric uneven, however I didn’t want to put the dumbells on to lump the paper and fabric up. So I thought of an alternative. It actually worked pretty great!


I used pins to make sure the pattern wouldn’t move around and then just slid the cans around to the area I was cutting. Here are my fabric pieces.