Wednesday, January 29, 2014

PDF pattern buying guide

Did you know that if you google how to buy a pdf pattern or pdf pattern buying guide, you get not much?  With the explosion in popular of pdf patterns, I am sure I am not alone in using a guide to help me choose.  So, google, here you go!!  A guide to buying pdf sewing patterns.

So, let me explain. First of all, pdf was invented by Adobe Systems and stands for Portable Document Format (PDF).  It is open standard for electronic document exchange.  It is a way of sharing files online.  Adobe makes Acrobat Reader, the free software product most of us use to read these documents. If you want to edit one or make your own, you will need to purchase other software to do so. 

Secondly, pdf patterns used to be called e-files, or electronic files, but now seem to mostly be referred as simply pdfs.  When you purchase a pdf pattern, the designers sends to you the file necessary for making the pattern. It will include directions and pattern pieces, if necessary, and also should (in my opinion) also include a lot of pictures. The great benefit of pdf patterns, the thing that makes them so much better (for the most part) than paper patterns is the photos! Pdf patterns are tutorials!  The photos help you understand the directions. 

When you buy a pdf pattern, and after you download and open the file, you will have the option of printing the pattern pieces at home or, occasionally, at a print shop.  You need to read the directions and stick to them.  The pattern is copyrighted, so be sure to read my blog about how to follow copyright.  You may be able to print your pattern pieces at a print shop but you should not be emailing it anywhere to do so.  If you have any questions, email the designer. She should gladly help you! And remember! - no sharing of pdf files with friends or family!!

So, now that you know what a pdf pattern is, how do you choose one? There are hundreds! Perhaps thousands!  If you search google, you will find so many it is mind-boggling. Even going to craftsy or etsy or or other pattern stores, there are often dozens of choices for any particular style.  How do you choose which one to buy?  That is where the pdf pattern buying guide comes in handy!

1. Stick to designers you know and love

If you have a designer you love, you can be sure her new patterns will also be the high quality you expect. I know, when I buy a Brownie-Goose pattern or a Millie-Rose pattern that their directions will be clear and fun to read and their photos will be excellent and helpful.  Amy, of BG, and Melissa of MR, are my friends, though, so trying their patterns out was a no-brainer. Of course, I wanted to support my friends' businesses.  Now I know their patterns are as excellent as these ladies are sweet. But, I had to start somewhere in choosing a pattern when I was first starting to use pdf patterns.

2. Check out photos

When I first started using pdf patterns, the first place I looked was Etsy. The very first pdf pattern I ever bought was on February 6, 2010 and it was Monkeybug's Easy Twirled Skirt. I had seen pictures in a sewing group of skirts made by others, using that pattern and thought it would be a very useful pattern for someone with two girls. And it has been a great pattern!!  I have sewn it many times. Sewing forums are a great place to find pictures of what real people do with a pattern. I highly recommend you look past the pictures in the designer's pattern store and look at the tester photos, flickr photos, sewing group photos, and any other photos you can find. When you look at how others made the garment, how does it look? Do the seams look straight, is the collar even, do the cuffs seem to fit, is the length good for the model? Use a discriminating eye. If the collar looks wonky or the sleeves too long or the seams not straight, in every picture, something is probably wrong with the pattern.  Don't waste your $5-12 on a pattern that repeatedly produces a garment that does not look very nice.  And trust me, they are out there. There are patterns like this. The finished garments should look good! Consistently.

3. Ask friends for recommendations

There are a variety of places you can talk to actual people about sewing patterns. On Facebook, if you search for sewing groups, you will find at least a dozen. Sew, Mama, Sew has a community you can join.  Sewing Mamas has a chat forum.  There are plenty of places to talk to people about patterns. Not everyone is going to be unique in their impressions of a pattern. Ask questions.   Is the pattern worth $12? Maybe not but maybe it is worth $5. What makes it worth more? The point is to spend your money wisely.  Be sure to ask specific questions. Some people are better at sewing and some need beginner options. What do you need? Do you like a lot of options or do you want a simple pattern that has very clear directions? And what do you want to do with it? What have friends done with it?

4. Look for deals or bundles

Many pattern designers offer bundles. Tie Dye Diva, for example, offers you 25% off if you buy 3 or more patterns, with code BUNDLE.  Create Kids Couture has a pattern of the month club.  Southern Institute has the occasional Sew Fab deal.  Watch for them!  They can be a great way to get more patterns for your buck.

5. Read reviews

There are a number of places to find pdf pattern reviews. When you go to, you can search patterns by ratings. This means number of stars. But, you can also look at reviews for patterns. For example, this Violette Field Threads pattern gets 5 stars but also has several very nice reviews you can read. These rankings are done by users, of their own volition, and they are not edited, so they are a good measure of what the pattern is going to be like.  At the pattern review website, you can not only find and write reviews of patterns, but you will also find a free forum you can join where you can chat about patterns and machines with members.  These reviews are also written by members and not edited, so they are also a good measure of what the pattern is really going to be like.  For example, this Scientific Seamstress pattern got a very good review!  The third place I know of to read reviews for pdf patterns is the Pattern Revolution blog. These reviews are written by request from the website and they do not publish reviews with anything negative in them, so they are not exactly a true review. They are fun to read, though, and you can definitely judge the pictures a bit for how well the pattern is written. Interestingly, there is a wide variety of garment quality in these reviews, which you can tell by examining the photos.  Judge them wisely! 

I hope this guide helps you buy patterns more wisely!   If you have any other buying ideas, please let me know!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Sewing for the tween

Today, I am starting a new series called Sewing for the Tween.  If you have one of these tweens in your house or family, you will know that they are notoriously picky and clothing in the mall is not always appropriate for their age.  Sewing for your tween is the answer, but how do you go about doing this? Which patterns come in tween sizes? How do you choose what to sew? What about fabric? Where do you find fabrics that will sew nicely AND please your tween? How do you, personally, survive the decision-making process?  I am here to answer these, and other questions!  And I will add more posts to this series as I navigate these potentially stressful waters with my nearly 11 year old tween daughter. 

So, first of all, if you don't drink alcohol, I suggest you find some sort of tea or bubble bath to help you relax because sewing for a tween can be stressful. They change their minds a lot! They are picky and sometimes unbending.  They might know what they want, in their head, but they will have a hard time explaining it to you. Be patient. Guide your tween gently because too much will push him or her away. 

Next up, to figure out what to sew, look for clues!  I looked around and realized that this is my daughter's favorite skirt, something made by Fresh Produce several years back. It is getting a bit short so I asked her if she would like me to try her one in another color and she agreed!   Now, of course, I cannot find a pattern anywhere that matches this skirt, but it doesn't look hard so I decide to wing it!  More on that later.  We went through my fabric stash and, surprisingly, she picked out some navy blue cotton lycra fabric to use for her skirt.

My next clue about what to sew is this drawing my daughter made.  When she drew this I remembered that I had some knit fabric similar to the top.  I showed it to her and she agreed, it would make a great top.

My third recommendation is to stick to tried and true patterns but, of course, you have to start somewhere with new patterns. However, I had tested the Birdsong Patterns Tshirt pattern and knew it would work well with this child. So, that is the top pattern I chose.  If you have to start from scratch with a pattern, be sure to include your tween in the process of choosing the pattern. This can be a challenge but I highly recommend Etsy or Ebay for finding vintage patterns or pdf patterns that suit her look. 

Now, through this all, you have to walk a fine line between letting your tween choose what you will make and you letting her know what you can make! And what you will allow her to wear. Luckily for me, my tween is modest and prefers simple styles.  But don't be afraid to set limits as to styles and fabrics. You can give choices from a limited range so you will both be happy.

Now, about that skirt. Well, here is what I did. I traced the old skirt and added two inches all around.  This gave me added room for growth.  The original is a tad fitted so I knew two inches would be fine.  A half an inch or so for seam allowance gave me an extra 1.5 inches for width plus room to hem it to fit.  The original had two tiers on top of it, both laying flat, but I could not figure out how to do that by winging it. I was worried it would be too heavy for the fabric. So, I talked my tween in to letting me ruffle them the way you see here.  I also finished the hem with my rolled hem foot for the sewing machine which gave it a ruffly look.  I finished the waist last so I could measure it for length first. Now, this method won't work for a fitted skirt but for this loose skirt it worked great!


And it fit and she loved it. Wore it all weekend long!!  Success!!

Next up, the top.  We know this Birdsong Top Pattern fits well so she was in agreement with me making another one. The pattern comes with options and my daughter said she wanted sleeves just below her elbows.  So, this is what you see!  She tried it on and it fits perfectly and this knit is very soft and smooth. The Birdsong Pattern is very well done and guaranteed (by me) to produce a lovely tee!! You must get it!! Directions are excellent and it is practically a how-to guide for those knew to sewing knits. 

This lovely knit fabric came from Banberry Place Fabrics.  Corie has an excellent selection of fabrics and she will send you samples, for a small fee, so you can have your tween touch and feel them to make the perfect choice.

When this grey weather passes, I will get a modelled photo and share!

 Meantime, stay tuned for more sewing for the tween as I navigate this uncharted territory and attempt to sew a spring wardrobe for my soon-to-be eleven year old!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Organizing the sewing space - Phase 1

Do you thrive in clutter or do you need a neat space to work? I need a neat space.  I can handle a bit of clutter but when things get too disorganized and I cannot find tools or fabric or I find cats in odd places, then I know it is time to clean up!  This week, I decided not only to clean up but also to cute up my space.  More is coming!  But, for now, take a look what I have done. I am very pleased with it!

First up, some bad pics of what it used to look like.  This is chaos, in my mind.  When it looks like this, I have so man things piled up I cannot find my tools. Sometimes, there is a cat in the corner. Sleeping. On my fabric. Bins are disorganized. Fabric is missing. It is not fun. The bad lighting is the result of the sun setting at the 49th parallel in January. This is what it looks like every afternoon that the sky is not grey!  I can't work in this light! I have awful, rouge-colored metal blinds, bent in places where the cats have walked through them repeatedly, but they make the room too dark. It is a daylight basement and lighting is an issue.

So, I cleaned up, organized and made it look cuter! Check it out. This is Phase 1.

First of all, I found this adorable Robert Kaufman fabric in my stash and had the perfect amount to make a curtain. Because my sewing area is in the basement family room,  I want my decor to be cute and family friend. My 6 and 10 year old daughters love this fabric! And it goes well with the colors of the wall. Behind the curtain, my bins of scraps and thread and my filing cabinet of patterns are hidden away.

I also made a dust cover for my serger. I winged it on pattern. To do that I just looked online and got an idea of how to trace the shape and create a pattern. It was not hard. I didn't line it or anything so it is just a soft cover to keep dust off my serger. Did you know you need to do that? Dust is harmful to machines! I have a dust cover for mine, a vinyl one, but I have not been able to find it in about six months!! Uhoh!!

Above the sewing area are cupboards where I am starting to organize fabric, ribbons, and Ottobre magazines and notions.  No, that one fabric does not represent my entire stash.  Teehee.

Phase two will begin soon. I got peg board from the hardware store, the kind you use in the garage to hang your tools on pegs.  I am going to paint it bright red and mount it on the wall between the cupboards and the cutting table.  The pegs will hold my scissors and other large tools and I have a collection of small, metal pails to use for smaller tools. That should free up more space for cutting and pinning!!

My sewing machine is currently on a rather unattractive old sewing desk I inherited. It is functional, but not my style. Hence, it is not included in this photo session!!  Phase 3, which will come later in spring, will be getting new shades for the large windows and either painting the old sewing desk or getting something "new."

More pictures will come!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tie Dye Diva Sewing patterns affiliate program!

I'm now a Tie Dye Diva sewing patterns affiliate! What does that mean? It means, when you click on the TDD button on my side bar (it looks like this)

And you purchase a TDD pattern, I get a small portion of the sale. So, you benefit by getting easy access to the best patterns around. Tie Dye Diva earns some new fans. And I get a little bit of the sale for helping! Woohoo!  

And what can you make with a Tie Dye Diva pattern? Take a look!


And a lot more!  Jen has great patterns. Go buy some now. You won't be disappointed. 

Valentine's Day flutter dresses on Etsy

I am venturing slowly back into selling my sewing wares and am pleased to offer this cute Valentine's Day dress, made using Tie Dye Diva's Butterfly dress pattern, in my Etsy store.

You can order it in sizes three months thru girl's size 8! Sizes 3 mos thru 24 mos will come with a diaper cover in the pink gingham.

Please take a look!!  I can also take custom orders, if you have an idea.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Betsy Button selling page is live today!

I am so excited to share with you all that the Betsy Button group selling page is live today. This is a venture between myself and a great group of ladies. We will use this page to sell, via auction, items we have made. Today, at 5pm EST, bidding will begin on all items posted in our selling album. Bidding will be allowed in $2 increments and will end at 10:15 EST today.  Each designer will then contact the winner and send you an invoice!  It's that simple!  So, check out SOME of the amazing offerings. 

And here are my offerings!  A size 18 mos to 24 mos dress:

 A size 6 dress and matching 18" doll dress:

Happy Shopping!!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Meet my new friend, Betsy Button

Have you met my new friend, Betsy? Betsy Button?  Betsy's a fab girl, so cool. She's having a pre-Valentine's day party, on her Facebook page, and I am invited!  So are a bunch of my designer friends!  And so are you! You are invited to join the party, beginning Monday, January 20th. It is going to be so fun!

So, who and whats is Betsy Button? Betsy is the logo and mascot for a new selling page on Facebook, run by my friends Kristi and Nanda.  They have invited some designers, like me, to join them in launching the page. Betsy Button page will be a page for live auctions for such items as children's clothing, jewelry, and more. Items handmade by us, a group of dedicated mothers who also enjoy making things. January 20th will be the first day for the first auctions. I will have a couple of dresses and there will be dresses, boy's clothing, skirts, tops, jewelry, and more, all handmade by us!   If you want the item, you post how much you want to pay (we provide starting bid amount) and then check back to see if you have been outbid. When the auction closes, the highest bid wins! 

Auction guidelines will come soon, on BB's page. Stay tuned for more!

Here is a sneak peak of what I will be offering at the party!  I have decided to re-open my little business, Delphinium Designs!  I will be making pretty dresses.

Check back for more information. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Mack-a-Do 18in Doll Dress PDF sewing pattern

And she's listed!  

Charliemackadoodle dolly version, the Mack-a-Do 18in Doll Dress PDF sewing pattern, is up for sale!!  Head over to Etsy and get yours now. It is the perfect way to use up those knit fabric scraps.

Happy Sewing!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Charliemackadoodle dolly dress

I love the Burlap Button Charlimackadoodle pattern.  In case you wonder about the name, some of us on Facebook had the privilege of knowing the late Carole Barkan. Her nickname was "Charliemack," for her grandkids.  After she died, Kristi, of Burlap Button, named her dress pattern in honor of Carole.  The Charliemackadoodle is a great pattern and Carole, looking down from heaven, is proud of Kristi. Combine the pattern with the BB Tummy Topper, and you have infinite variety for tops, tunics, and dresses.

Coming soon, there will be a dolly version!  At our house, this is great news because, well, dressing dolls is fun! I say our because, yes, I do participate!  Here are some sneak peaks of my version of the Charliemackadoodle Dolly dress.  I will let you know when it goes up for sale!!

This is My American Girl Amy.  She is one of the AG dolls you pick to look like your daughter.  As you can see, this pattern is adorable! It comes together easily. It took me about an hour from cutting to finish.  I used all scraps, so that was awesome. The only problem I had was with the rolly polly stripe lycra knit. Boy, did that neck binding roll like crazy.  Even starch did nothing. So, I had to pin and pin and pin, to get it to look nice. But it looks nice!! AG Amy is an 18" doll. We also have Madame Alexander 18" dolls and the dress also fits them. So, this should work great for all your 18" dolls!

I paired this dress with a pair of Jocole Basic Knit Leggings, which come with the 18" doll version. All Jocole patterns come with the 18" doll version!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Sewing reflections 2013

I have been reading at Sew Mama Sew and particularly enjoyed the Sewing Reflections from Anna of Noodlehead
So, here are mine:
1.  Looking back on 2013, what trends stand out?  
Sewing from knits stood out to me.  For me, 2013 was the year of knits, both in my own sewing and from what I saw with others. I saw much more in the way of fabric choices and availability and pattern options and more ladies I know gave knits a try.  I know it is not a new trend but with the death of our dear friend Carole, who was known as charlie mack online, and the creation of the Charliemackadoodle dress pattern by our other dear friend Kristi (of Burlap Button), this became a focal point of my sewing and was something I saw in other's sewing as well. It is just a great pattern, especially combined with the Burlap Button Tummy Topper pattern. 

2.  Was there a personal or an industry high point?
I feel like I finally mastered the sewing of knit binding, thanks to Deanna of Birdsong Patterns. Her knit top pattern really helped me learn to do a great job with my bindings.  Look at the fit of these two tops. It is perfect. Deanna did an amazing job with her pattern and enabled me to do an amazing job with these tops.  That was a personal high point.

3.  What did you make that you’re most proud of?
I am most proud of the amazing friends I have made in the online sewing world and how they all support and encourage each other. The highlight of my year was having my dress featured on Jennifer Paganelli's blog. That still makes me a tad weepy with pride and humility, a combination of both.  It was amazing. 

4.  Whose work inspired or awed you?
My dear friend Melissa of Millie Rose inspires me by her lovely, sweet attitude and the pure joy her sewing and patterns bring to others. And my sweet friend Jenny inspires me by her faith and the happiness she brings to all her projects and her relationships (at least with me). 

5.  What was your favorite fabric collection or print?
I discovered Lillestoff this year and will never look at fabric the same way again. These amazing knit fabrics and ribbons from Germany as of such high quality it is hard not to sew something beautiful.  The stars and elephants, in the Charliemackadoodles up top, are from Lillestoff. And I am hoarding more. Because I can. Someday, I will sew with them.

6. Do you have a book, pattern or class from the past year to recommend?
 I've already mentioned two great patterns, above, but I highly recommend you give Abacadabra patterns a try.  I made this lovely outfit from Abacadabra 91, which is hard to find in the USA, but Banberry Place is a great source of these fab patterns.

7.  What are your thoughts about social media? How is it going for you? What do you love or hate?
 Sometimes I feel I am in the minority, but I really love Facebook. It helps me connect with so many wonderful people. Mostly, I meet them in my sewing group (which you are welcome to join, just pm me here so I know you are not a spambot).  Handmade Dress Haven has been around for about 4 years now and I have made some incredible connections. Thru this group, I am now a pattern tester for a variety of amazing women. I am in a bunch of spinoff sewing groups. I have made some good friends. I wish I could get in a Winnebago and go on a HDH tour of the world. Some of my friends are in other countries, like Australia, the Netherlands, even Malaysia!! It has enriched my life immeasurably.  I hate that the games tempt me away from sewing but that is my own person issue. Ha! 

8.  What do you predict for 2014? (It could be related to style, social media, manufacturing, etc.)

 I have a hunch that Instagram is going to get bigger this year. More and more bloggers are moving only to IG or mostly to IG and I see that increasing. Facebook is just HUGE so IG feels a tad more personal.
9.  Who do you think will be a rising star of 2014?

 Kristi of Burlap Button!  She's amazing! That girl can do anything she sets her mind to. You watch out!!

10.  Can you tell us anything about what to expect from you in 2014? Any projects or life-changing goals you can share?
 I am going to blog and sew more and perhaps even explore making my own patterns, although they would be just for me, not for sale. I entertain the idea of learning more about design but only for my own educational purposes. I also plan to sew more for me!!

11.  Is there anything else about the sewing industry or community that you’d like to talk about? (It could be good or bad, but hopefully constructive.)

The sewing industry seems very cliquey to me, almost like being in high school. There are so many patterns out there that all look very similar. It is like everyone is trying to race to the top of the popularity pile and they aren't paying attention to what everyone else is doing. The clothing sewing industry is exploding. There are more and more pattern designers and fabric designers every year. I predict that the Big Four pattern companies (McCalls, Butterick, Simplicity, and Vogue) will catch on to the pdf pattern trend and start reaching out to pdf pattern designers to buy their designs to offer on their websites. The pattern world will get smaller, in a way, as more people start to realize who is here to say (Tie Dye Diva, Scientific Seamstress, Jocole) and who is a flash in the pan (no comment).  Longevity will happen to those who are truly great designers as well as business women.  More and more fabric companies will make knits and voiles and other types of fabric than just quilting cotton. There will be less of a divide between apparel fabric and quilting fabric as more and more of us sew for both the home and for humans. It will be a great year for sewing!!!