Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday's Best: Week 6

"but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength......."
                                                                                     Isaiah 40:31

Hola Readers!

I am enjoying a much needed rest in the Wisconsin Dells this Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

I hope that you all are enjoying your Turkey Day weekend festivities.   The temptation to not post this week was heavy on me.  Especially since my kids were off of school beginning on Wednesday and we were leaving for our mini-vacation weekend Friday afternoon. But i'm so glad that my desire to write outweighed my temptation to bail. 

Its very pretty and peaceful in the Wisconsin Dells this time of year.  Its also cold!  Walking to the resort indoor waterpark pool in a swimsuit, cover-up and flip flops has been a chilly trip.  But the heated salt water wave pool, family time and good food has been giving me a warming feeling inside.

Besides cold weather isn't all that bad if your properly dressed so I decided to take myself back to my crochet roots and work up a sweater for this week's challenge.  I started Virtuous By Design crocheting hats and scarves back in 2013.  It wasn't until last spring when I applied for a business loan to purchase sewing equipment that I began to focus growing the sewing side of my business.  So I thought the short week and cold weather was a great excuse to crochet.

This weeks garment is what I call my sport poncho.  Its like a hybrid between a sweater and a poncho.  It's crop length is not quite long enough to call a poncho and its extra wide, 3/4 length sleeves doesn't fully qualify it to be called a sweater in my opinion.  I like it because its a nice layering piece that keeps you warm but the extra wide sleeves gives your arms ease of movement.  I find that it looks best with a long sleeve henley t-shirt or a crisp button down shirt underneath as I have pictured looks good too.

I used basic crochet stitches to come up with a simple stitch pattern that would make a fabric that was both warm and sturdy but also fluid enough that the big dramatic sleeves would drape nicely.  In the end I was quite happy with the result. Here's a nice shot of the back.  You can see the sleeve detail a bit better.  

I originally wanted to wear this sweater on the return trip but forgot to pack it.  What I didn't forget to do was keep warm and have plenty of fun with my family!

In closing,  this weekend's getaway was a much needed act of rejuvenation and  i'm rebooted and ready sew through the coming Christmas Holiday Season!  Be Blessed!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

6 Holiday Sewing Crafts for Kids (Round-Up)

Hello Readers!

The Thanksgiving Holiday is upon us and this week I wanted to share simple hand sewing or no sew holiday crafts that children and/or families could do together.  Being a single parent I know that children can sometimes get bored when they are off from school for the holiday break.  And between spending for the Thanksgiving feast and the upcoming Christmas season budgets can be tight.

I did a search of various craft and sewing blog sites and rounded up a series of inexpensive activities that even your 3 year old could do with a little help of course! These are mostly winter or Christmas themed activities but can easily be adapted to any holiday you are celebrating.

I love this leaf garland made with felt and yarn from the blog "A Beautiful Mess"  I know that fall is pretty much over but you could easily Change out the leaves for snow flakes, angels, or christmas trees even hearts for Valentine's Day would be cute.


The sewing teacher in me absolutely loves these sewing cards.  There is no tutorial with this site but if you scroll down below you'll see a very similar project posted in Parents Magazine with instructions.  This project is an easy way to introduce very young children to sewing while working on developing their fine motor skills.  These could easily be turned into Christmas tree ornaments or if you use a larger sheet of paper it could be a holiday card or thank you card.  This is the one I think I am going to choose to do with my children.

What holiday sewing craft round up would be complete without the famous no sew fleece project.  No sew has taken American crafting by storm.  From scarves, to blankets and now we have the heart pillow.  Seriously though....  I think this is a great and inexpensive way to spend time to together as a family.  You could even have a conversation with your kids about being thankful or about love and how we express love or receive love as it relates other people in our lives.

This is similar to the snowflake sewing cards.  This post actually has instructions on how to do the craft.  I love the idea of taking simple shapes and turning them into handmade ornaments.  You could even turn it into a learning lesson for your pre-schooler. I also think that as simple as it is its still something that I think older children and adults can enjoy as well.

I have had this project on my Pinterest board for quite sometime and stumbled upon it while I was preparing this post.  This is another no sew option and another tree ornament using yarn and cardboard.  I like the idea of making the star bigger and turning it into a window or door ornament.

Last but not least.  I couldn't pass up the sock snowman.  Isn't she cute!  Easy project using left over socks.  Some simple hand sewing is involved but the rest is hot glue.  I've seen the "Olof" version of this on pinterest and I was sooooo tempted to please the "Frozen" fans out there but in the end her pink hat and rosy cheeks stole my heart!!

And that's it! I hope that you all have a Happy Thanksgiving and that these crafts help to get you in the mood for the upcoming Christmas season!!!! Be blessed!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday's Best: Week 5

 "......except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land he set his feet on, because he followed the Lord wholeheartedly.” Deuteronomy 1:36

I am completely overjoyed over this week's garment.  Using the same purple dress pattern I made a crop top and pencil skirt set.  It is a personal testimony of what perseverance and self-discipline will yield.  I mentioned last week that I have been sewing with knit fabrics at the studio and I can't begin to explain to you the things that I conquered. 

Sewing with knit fabric isn't hard but finishing your garments can be tricky especially if you want your garments to look professionally made.  I am especially proud of the top that I made to go with this skirt. I altered the bodice pattern in order to add a yoke using some left over stretch vegan leather fabric. I also opted to not finish the neckline with a raised neckband collar in favor of finishing the neckline in the same black fabric.

This is the first time that I allowed myself to experiment with altering the style of an existing pattern and although I have used a band or bias tape to finish a neckline before I used a different technique that allowed me to use my serger to finish the edges.  Even the inside of the neck area looks clean and professionally finished.

For a long time I struggled to believe that I could excel at sewing. That the passion and love for the craft didn't match my ability.  However, what I am learning is that while some gifts that we have come naturally, others have to be developed.  This requires a level patience, self-discipline and a willingness to persevere.  This week's photo shoot is an example of perseverance.  

Every week I wonder where am I going to take my photo's for this post and between making the garment, other business and family responsibilities it always ends up being where I feel the most comfortable.  In my home.  However, the lighting  inside of our house sucks and I had no other choice than to go outside. As you can see from my face in this picture I was cold.  I don't know how models do it.

Truly though, I am a city girl with country girl tendencies.  I love nature and feel most comfortable when I am surrounded by it.

I am overjoyed not only because of my dressmaking triumphs but as I am writing this post I am being reminded of the many other areas of my life where I exercised self-discipline and persevered.  That's one of the things that I am coming to enjoy about Sunday's Best is that it has been giving me the opportunity to reflect on my week and share it with others.

In closing, I want to thank my lovely daughter Asabea for graciously agreeing to be my photographer again this week.  I also want wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving Holiday! I pray that you all eat a lot and have loving people to share it with!  Be Blessed! xoxo

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Teach Me Tuesday: How to add a yoke to a bodice

Hello Fellow Sewists! I am so excited for today's post.  I have been wanting to flex my dress designing muscle lately.  I usually have a dress design in mind and I look for a pattern that most resembles what I envision.  But buying patterns all the time and having to constantly adjust the fit on them is time consuming.  I am also finding that it isn't always necessary.  Especially if you have taken the time to work out some pattern slopers.

Which leads me to today's post.  I am looking to do a variation of the purple dress I wore for this past "Sunday's Best" post.  However,  I want to add a front yoke in a contrasting fabric to the bodice.  After doing a little research and using some common sense I came up with a pretty straight forward way to adjust my pattern.

So here we go....


Butcher Paper
Measuring Tape
L-Ruler or yard stick
A bodice pattern that has already been adjusted to fit your body
Fashion fabric of choice and a contrasting fabric ( I used stretch knit for both)  You can also use this technique on a woven fabric.

1) Measure the front length from the highest point of your shoulder which is right at the based of your neck straight down the side front of your body to right above your bust line.  Its usually right where the front crease of your armpit is.  For me this is 8"

2) To preserve your existing pattern trace your bodice on to a clean piece of paper.

3) Take your measurement to your pattern piece. line up your measuring tape or ruler with the  shoulder point that is closest to your neckline. Now measure straight down
and mark your top bust point.  For me this was 8".

4) Using your high bust point as your starting point, take a straight edge and draw a horizontal line across the top of the high bust area of your bodice.  It should intersect with your 8" marking point.

5) Cut your pattern including across the line you drew to separate your lower and upper bodice piece.

Seam Allowances

6) Now here is the tricky part. in order to keep the measurements of your bodice and armhole you have to add a seam allowance to the bottom of the yoke area and the top of the lower bodice piece that you just created.

7) To do this mark your desired seam allowance. Because I am working with knit fabric and plan on using my serger to sew this dress I only added a 3/8 inch seam allowance.  You can use 5/8 of an inch if you want.

8) Place your lower bodice piece on yet another clean piece of paper ( you can do the draft of this on newsprint first and then if you want to preserve this pattern retrace it to nicer paper).  Mark up from the upper edge corners 3/8 inch.  Connect your points with a straight line using your measuring stick and carefully connect your new line with existing pattern.

9) Trace the rest of the pattern with your new seam allowance added.

10) Do the same to the bottom of your yoke piece.

11) Cut your new pattern pieces.

12) Cut your fabric using the lower bodice pattern for your main fashion fabric and cut the yoke with the contrasting fabric.  Sew the two pieces together. Your finished bodice should look like this.

Voila! That's it.  A brand new bodice!

Enjoy! Be Blessed and as always comments, questions and prayers are welcome!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sunday's Best: Week 4

 "........she is clothed in fine linen and purple."  
                                                          Proverbs 31:22

Its week 4 of Sunday's Best and I'm proud of myself for consistency and this purple dress.  It has me feeling myself! feeling myself! feeling myself!  I think like many women, I absolutely love the color purple.  So when I found this purple stretch knit fabric on my fabric trip to Chicago last month I couldn't resist it.  Especially at $3.99 a yard!  When it comes to selecting fabric my eyes are immediately attracted to color, my hands to the weight and feel of the fabric and my wallet to the price tag.  All in that exact order and then comes the vision for what I will make with it.  I am praying and faithfully waiting for the day that my wallet can afford luxury fabric but thankfully, gone are the days where I use cheap fabric to sew my garments with. 

Immediately I knew what I wanted to make. I have been dreaming of making a simple bodycon dress for a long time.  One that is form fitting and flattering but isn't too tight. I've been working on how to sew with knits for the last couple of weeks. Starting with a couple of fitted knit skirts and a crop top which ended with the idea for this dress. The fabric is soft. It almost has the feel of a pajama knit fabric.  I plan on being able to wear it to work with tights throughout the rest of the fall and winter season.

Now I need to say this before I go on.  This is the first week since starting Sunday's Best that i'm feeling myself.  I mean like i'm feeling more confident in who I am in Christ Jesus.  Maybe its because I am wearing the color purple or maybe because despite how I feel on the inside I keep stretching myself to keep moving forward with what God has placed on my heart to do.  I just know that the more I keep reaching forward the more I find myself releasing a piece of my past. As a matter of fact as I am writing this I am feeling a sigh of relief and release in my spirit.  I'm feeling freer and bolder.

The whole modeling thing is getting a little bit easier as well.  Especially when your photographer is your 10 year old daughter.  Not only does she have the gift of dance but photography is also something that she has been flirting with and I think she's pretty good at it. 

As you can see from the pictures I was having a lot of fun with it!!!!

My kids even got in on the posing fun for this post! They wanted me to take action shots of them jumping off the top of the deck stairs. 

So I think this week I want to close this post with a question. Is there something that is keeping you from chasing after your dreams or stopping you from living your life the way you dream about it?  If so I want to invite you to be a part of the challenge this week and think about what it is and start figuring out what are the obstacles that keep you from moving forward.  

As always Be blessed and comments, questions and prayers are always welcome!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Teach Me Tuesday: How to resize a pencil skirt pattern

Hello Readers! Today I am in the midst of fulfilling a skirt order and my customer is a friend of mine who lives in Baltimore and wears a shapely size 12.  Usually I have clients come in for a more custom fit but because of the distance I decided to try my hand at ready to wear sizing!  How exciting! which also means I have to work on my pattern grading skills.

For those of you new to sewing, pattern grading is a technique of taking an existing pattern and making it larger or smaller.  In this case I am using my existing pencil skirt pattern that I used to make myself a dashiki pencil skirt and my black pencil skirt that I just featured on Sunday's Best.  If you missed that post you can read about it here:

I am in between a size 12 or 14 right now leaning more toward a ready to wear size 14  and I need a size 12 so after taking my measurements and referring to a couple of ready to wear size charts from a couple of mall brand stores websites and simple math I figured out that I need to reduce the size by about 2 inches in the waist and the hip.  I also decided to lengthen the hem by about 1-2 inches in case its too short for her, she can always take it to a tailor in her area and have the hem let out to her desired length.

Pattern Grading Methods

Now there are 2 commonly used methods of pattern grading
Method 1: Slash and Spread
Method 2: Shift Method

Today I am going to use the shift method for my pencil skirt.  If you want to read up more about pattern grading, Craftsy has a great short article about it here:

OK so are you ready...?! here we go.


Pattern paper, butcher paper or newsprint big enough to trace a pencil skirt pattern
L ruler or yard stick, hip curve
existing skirt pencil pattern preferably one that you like to fit of.
Writing utensil
Desired measurements

1) Trace your pattern onto your butcher paper

2) Mark the amount you need to either decrease of increase.  

My pattern is measured at 1/4 the total measurement which means I have to divide the total decrease needed by 4.  i.e. I need to decrease my pattern by 2 inches in both the hip and waist. So 2 divided by 4 yields me .50.  So I need to decrease in the hip by 1/2 inch.

I am going to mark 1/2 inch from outer corner of the waist point and 1/2 inch from the hip point on my pencil skirt.

3) Using your hip curve connect your new waist point to your new hip point. 

4)Place your original pattern on top of the new pattern. Lining up the new hip line with the original side seam and hem line.  Trace the rest of your new side seam.

5) Cut your new pattern piece.

6) Repeat Steps 1-5 for your back pattern piece.

There you have it.  A new skirt pattern in a size 12.  I hope you enjoyed this Teach Me Tuesday as much as I enjoyed sharing it with you.  As always questions, comments and prayers welcome!

Have a Blessed Day!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Sunday's Best: Week 3

"Moving Forward"

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,
 I know that full well."

This blog and Sunday's Best in and of itself has been a challenge to me.  Not because of anything other than the fact that one of my biggest challenges has been overcoming my issues with low self-esteem. Knowing and valuing my worth as a woman is a huge part of my testimony of how Jesus has changed my life over the course of the last 10years.

When I share this with others they are often shocked that I struggle to see how awesome God has made me from feelings of being unattractive, to being a good mom or even when it comes to sewing. It is a daily battle and for the past 3 weeks I have been fighting every Sunday just to stay focused and take a simple picture of what I made for myself to wear to church. For no other reason then the fact that God placed it on my heart to share it with all of you.

Having to be this exposed in front of others is one of the biggest challenges that this makeover has been helping me to overcome. It stems from a long story filled with situations of rejection and racism starting from a very early age in my life.  You'll have to read about that when God opens the door for me to share it. For now, however,  what you need to know is that it caused me to want to fly under the radar.  Not to be too big for fear of being criticized or experiencing any rejection.

It is also the reason behind a lot of the poor choices that I made throughout my life from friendships to romantic relationships, and even how I prioritize and set standards in my professional life. I often allowed people to do and say things to me because I was afraid that they would stop being a part of my life or I would sacrifice my goals and stop doing things that were in my best interest for fear of disappointing them.  Now I am not looking for a pity party, perhaps this level of transparency is a bit much for some of you.

However, God placed Sunday's Best and this makeover challenge on my heart for the following reasons:

1) To help me overcome  and 2) to share my story and what i've overcome with others so that they too can overcome.

A makeover starts from the inside.  Losing weight and buying a new wardrobe will serve you no purpose if you don't take the time to let God examine your heart and show some stuff that he wants to makeover.

This past week I made a decision to let God continue to show me who myself is and to just praise him for making me myself.  I also made a decision that I wasn't going to care who was watching!

So if your watching and reading this week I decided to go back to basics. I made a black pencil skirt. I needed one for my closet.  One that could take me from work to church.  What I love most about this skirt has been the process of perfecting the pattern for it.  I started with a commercial pattern and used it to make a couple of skirts and after each skirt that i have made i've worked out some of the fit issues.  This is how I feel about my life these days.  I'm a work in progress and each day God is perfecting me and bringing me closer to who I am in him.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Teach Me Tuesday: How to Alter a Sewing Pattern: Shoulders

So its Teach Me Tuesday on a Wednesday here at the Virtuous Designer.  I had a series of attempts on what to share yesterday with you all and settled with a quick video tutorial on how to select your proper sewing pattern size.  I was quite excited about posting it!  

Then I went to post it on the blog only to find out that there is a size max on video footage.  The video was too long..... Bummer....  However, I was not discouraged I thought about trying to trim it down, only to find out that I really needed all 6 minutes of the footage that I had.  

Then I realized I could upload my video to YouTube and upload the video to the blog that way.  But I'm not quite sure what happened but YouTube posted that it would take about an hour to upload a 6 minute video!  I was like what.....!?  Facebook is faster than that.  I'm not even sure if I did it right.  What I did realize is that I need some lessons from a tech savvy professional or not so professional on how to navigate in the world of video tutorials.  So if you or anyone you know is down to give a sister some lessons I am so willing to learn.

None the less.  This morning I woke up still determined to figure out how to post this video or possibly re-video taping it in two shorter sessions.  Feeling hopeful with a twinge of inadequacy I decided to work on something I know I can do decently well and that is sew!! I pulled out a pattern I have been working on for Sunday's Best and the lightbulb went off!  

As I was doing some research on how to make a shoulder adjustment I came across a great article on Nancy Zieman's blog with step by step instructions on how to make adjustments to the shoulders of a sewing pattern. My classic pear shape means that I come with narrower shoulders than most commercial sewing patterns.  

So here I am working out the step by step instructions and the solution to my blog dilemma was solved along with an aha! moment. 

My intention for this blog has been about documenting and sharing what I have learned on my own sewing journey.  Sometimes I put so much pressure on myself to deliver that I forget that I don't have to write every single tutorial. 

Hence the conclusion of the Teach Me Tuesday on a Wednesday dilemma is to share with you what I leaned today and the link to the tutorial on Nancy Zieman's blog.  If you've never heard of her she is a sewing teacher legend.  She has published a lot of sewing books and has had her own sewing show on PBS for a long time. She's well respected in the sewing community and has very sound teaching.  I hope it teaches you as much as it has taught me this week.

Here's the link and as always comments, questions and prayers are always welcome!

Be Blessed!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Sunday's Best: Week 2

Letting Go....

"Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13-14

Letting go of my past by far has been one of the hardest things that I have had to learn how to do in this process of transformation.  Letting go of bad habits, letting go of people that no longer serve their purpose in my life, letting go of how I think about things. old hurts from past situations, and I could go on.  However, the first choice that I made was to make the decision that I wanted to change.  Many things have changed in my life over the course of the past 7 years and somethings are still a work in progress.

When God put this topic of letting go in my heart this week in prayer to share on the blog I sensed that there was a deeper issue that he wanted to address in me.  As I was waking up Tuesday morning I heard the still small voice of the holy spirit say "don't let doubt slow your progress."  See fear and doubt have been the biggest peace and progress robbers of my life.  I get a rhythm going and then I get to a certain level in my business, with my weight loss goals, or whatever and I begin to doubt myself or I begin to fear that I won't be able to handle the success so I start self-sabotaging.  Making excuses, talking myself out of things, allowing myself to become distracted or my favorite weapon of self-destruction procrastination as a result of doubting my ability to get the job done.

This week alone I received multiple new sewing job opportunities but I was feeling run down because of a cold. I am the biggest baby when I get a cold.  I prefer to lock down, douse myself with water, tylenol and sleep it out.  However, doors were opening and I couldn't afford to do it that way.  So I made the decision to keep myself focused despite how I felt physically.  Can I tell you that the enemy of my soul and my old self were at war with the God in me.  Bad habits wanted to take over, Negative thoughts bombarded my mind and wanted to take over.  My emotions wanted to kick into autopilot and begin to navigate this ship but I had stay focused on what the word of God says for my life and stretch myself with the fruit of self-discipline in order to get things done.

That is what Paul was talking about in this scripture.  He said its going to be a press in order to get to the goal of winning the prize for which God called him "heavenward in Christ Jesus"  Living a transformed life in Christ isn't a cake walk.

With that said..... There have been some nuggets of knowledge and wisdom that I have gleaned as a result of all this pressing that I have been doing that I wanted to share.

10 Steps to Letting Go

1) Letting go is a process that happens over time.

2) Letting go requires that you allow yourself to be vulnerable.

3) Letting go requires that you not be afraid to confront what you have been holding on to.

4) Letting go requires that you acknowledge and receive that God's love is more powerful than 
the hurt of your past.

5) Letting go requires a willingness to forgive. Both yourself and others.

6) Letting go requires that you let go of old habits that no longer serve their purpose in your life.

7) Everyday offers new opportunities to let go.

8) Letting go starts by embracing your purpose and true identity in Christ.

9)) Expect a confrontation with your past to come in the process of embracing your future.

10) You have to strive in order to stride.

Week 2: Wardrobe Challenge

Ironically enough this weeks wardrobe challenge was a blazer project that I started 2 years ago when I first moved back to Milwaukee after living in Baltimore but didn't finish and just couldn't part with it even though it was a little bit big on me now.  The khaki green and black fabric was something I had in my stash dating back almost 10 years ago when I first started sewing. The rest of the fabric is a combination of old denim jeans that I outgrew after losing the weight and the plaid on the lapel is vintage fabric that I recently purchased specifically to use on this project.  

Which leads me to my final point about letting go.  Sometimes there are things or people from your past that no matter how much you would like to be rid of it you can't. Instead, God offers us an exchange.  He asks us to give him the hurt and the pain and in exchange he heals us and extends his  grace so that we can apply the wisdom and knowledge from the past experience in order to create a completely new situation or relationship with those that hurt us. While this is hard it is a true act of freedom.  

I want to give a special thanks to my friend and sewing student Johanna Duckworth of Creative Images for styling my outfit and taking my photos for this post.  In addition to my jacket the grey knit skirt and pink crochet rope scarf were also made by me.