all well / amy bornman
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Notebook

Notes on process, on being, on feelings, on life -- honestly probably half for me and half for you. 

No Fear Zippers
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Hey team! The All Well Weekender and the Half Moon Zip are coming SOON (Tuesday, September 24th!), and we are so excited to get them out in the world! Lots of people have told us that they’ve never sewn a zipper before and the thought makes them a little nervous (super normal!!!), so we thought we’d give you all our favorite tips and tricks to make your first (or hundredth!) zipper FEARLESS!

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It’s important to be familiar with the names of the parts of a zipper because patterns often refer to the parts by name in zipper-sewing instructions. The names may vary a little bit, but once you know the gist of it you should be able to figure it out!

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There are LOTS of different kinds of zippers. There are separating zippers and non-separating zippers. There are zippers that are open at the top (standard zippers) and zippers with end-stops on both ends (bag zippers). Choosing the right kind of zipper can really help your project be successful. It will be much harder to figure out how to use your zipper if you have a separating zipper and you really need a non-separating zipper, and vice versa.

For the All Well Weekender, the best zipper to use is a Bag Zipper, or a zipper like the top one pictured above, non-separating, where both sides are closed and the pulls meet in the middle. See the parts of a Bag Zipper below. (These zippers are sometimes also called “Backpack Zippers” — the important things is the two pulls and the closed ends)

For the All Well Weekender, the ideal length of the Bag Zipper is 24” — though longer and slightly shorter zippers will also work (and you can fairly easily shorten a bag zipper if needed). Try not to go any shorter than 22”!

Your local shop may only have Standard Zippers (non-separating), and they will also work great for the All Well Weekender, just with slightly different sewing instructions! (We’ll fill you in when you’re making the bag). 22” is the ideal length for a Standard Zipper for the All Well Weekender.

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For the Half Moon Zip, you’ll be looking for a Standard Zipper — non-separating, open on one end and closed on the other, with only one pull. See some Standard zippers (and the lengths you’ll need!) below. You’re looking for an 8” zipper for the clutch version, and a 5” zipper for the coin purse.

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I’ll be honest, shopping for zippers can be really tricky! You might have to search for a little while to find exactly what you want. Traditional stores may not have a great selection, especially when there are so many different options, lengths, and colors available.

I’ve had pretty good luck with two etsy shops in particular: Zipit, and Zipper Island.
You can also buy zippers from Wawak and Zipperstop.

A few important things to note about choosing a zipper:

  • The length of a zipper that is notated in patterns and on zipper packaging or internet listings it is the length of the zipper teeth, not the zipper tape. The tape will extend approx. 3/4” on either side of the stops at the end.

  • Zipper teeth come in different sizes. The size is indicated with a # symbol. For medium to heavy-weight fabrics, #5 and up is best! You want a zipper that will be large and strong enough to hold up to the fabric it's sewn to.

  • It’s totally possible to make a zipper shorter, especially if your zipper isn’t made of metal! Here’s a tutorial for shortening both metal and non-metal zippers.

  • With zippers, going with a brand name can often pay off. Generic zippers sometimes lack in quality. We’ve had great experiences with YKK zippers, they’re the best in the biz from what we can see!

Here’s a few direct links to zippers I’ve used for the All Well Weekender before and liked:

22” bag zipper.
30” bag zipper (a little long but can be shortened!)
24” nylon zipper
22” standard metal zipper

Here are zippers I’ve used for the Half Moon Zip and liked:

5” or 8” standard metal zipper

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Sewing a zipper is easier than it looks, but it’s definitely intimidating the first few times. It’s super normal to be nervous! Here are a few of our favorite tips and tricks from sewing zippers lots of times. We’re starting to get a little less nervous about it.

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  • Using a zipper foot can really help! You sewing machine may have come with a zipper foot, or something that essentially looks like half of your normal sewing machine foot. This helps you get your needle right up against the zipper so that you can sew your zipper with the correct seam allowance. Depending on the width of your normal foot, you may be able to fudge it without, or it might be an absolutely necessary tool for you to have a successful time sewing zippers. Feel it out.

  • Often, you’ll need to sew across the zipper. This may seem ill-advised or even impossible, especially with metal zippers, but it’s actually super possible! When sewing across the zipper, nylon zippers and plastic zippers sew very easily — just use the handwheel and go slowly and you’ll be fine. Be aware, though, that sewing across a nylon or plastic zipper will almost always damage that part of the zipper, so there’s no going back! It makes a great alternative zipperstop though. To sew across a metal zipper, definitely exclusively use the hand wheel — no foot pedal here! Go super slowy with the handwheel, and when you bring the needle down toward where the teeth are, wiggle the zipper until your needle finds its way between the teeth. You can’t sew through the metal so you have to sew around it! Luckily, metal zippers are harder to damage!

  • Remember that you can pin zipper tape! Pins are your friends!

  • It really helps to move the zipper pull around as you sew. The zipper pull is wider than the teeth, so if you leave it in place and sew beside it it will skew the zipper tape a little bit and mess up your seam allowance. To move the zipper pull while sewing, simply plant your needle down, lift the presser foot, and open or close the zipper a little bit to push it back behind your presser foot (toward the part you’ve already sewn). Then lower your presser foot again and keep sewing! If the way you are sewing the zipper allows you to get the pull totally out of the way before sewing, do that! Even easier!

  • Make sure to always topstitch the zipper on both sides after you’ve sewn it — this creates a polished look and helps keep the zipper tape and seam allowance out of the way of the teeth. Without this step the zipper may work well at first, but a fraying raw edge of the fabric beneath may soon get in the way.

  • Always align your zipper with it fully zipped up — then decide whether you’d like to sew it open or closed, one will probably emerge as seeming easier. It’s important to do with aligning with it closed though. You can run into major problems if your project is fine-tuned and your zipper teeth end up misaligned. Then it won’t zip at all!

YAY! Now you’re ready to sew zips fearlessly and with ease! Try it out with the Half Moon Zip or the All Well Weekender, and if you run into problems you can always contact us or google it! So many youtube videos and blog posts out there that will show you exactly what you need to see. xoxo!

Amy BornmanComment
All Well Weekender and Half Moon Zip -- Fabric + Notions
 

The All Well Weekender and Half Moon Zip sewing patterns are almost here, and I’m so excited! Testers have tested the weekender and now we are putting the finishing touches on the pattern. These projects are really fun to make, and more simple than they seem, even with zippers and all the pockets (5 in all!) on the weekender. You’ll be weekender-ing and pouch-ing in no time! I like imagining all the different functions the weekender could serve for folks near and far. Travel bag! Diaper bag! Beach Bag! Sewing machine bag! Sweater-knitting bag! Bag to carry a dog in! Grocery bag! Who knows what else! Even more options for the Half Moon Zip! I’ve been using my samples for all sorts of things since I made them, make quite a few more to give as gifts. I can’t wait to see what you do with these patterns!

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Since the release is almost here (coming September 24th! Sign up for our newsletter to hear first!) we wanted to give a sneak peek of the Fabric + Notions list so that you can properly prepare. Here’s an overview of what you’ll need with some pictures and specifics to help you find exactly what you’re looking for!

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All Well Weekender Fabric 

We recommend cotton canvas, duck cloth, or similar, 10oz-12oz weight (339gsm - 407gsm) for best results. 

Amount of fabric recommended:
(leaving extra fabric for mistakes and wiggle room)

45” (110 cm) wide fabric

Either Pocket 2 1/2 yd (2.29 m)

60” (150 cm) wide fabric

Basic Pocket 1 1/2 yd (1.38 m)

Fancy Pocket 2 yd (1.83 m)


Amount of fabric used by pattern:

(the absolute minimum fabric needed)

45” (110 cm) wide fabric

Either Pocket 82 inches (2.10 m) / 2 1/3 yd 

60” (150 cm) wide fabric

Basic Pocket 47 inches (1.20 m) / 1 1/3 yd 

Fancy Pocket 62 inches (1.58 m) / 1 3/4 yd


Half Moon Zip Fabric 

As in the All Well Weekender, we recommend cotton canvas, duck cloth, or similar, 10oz-12oz weight (339gsm - 407gsm) for best results. 

For both sizes of the Half Moon Zip, you need less than 1/4 yd (23 cm) of fabric. It’s the perfect way to use the scraps from your All Well Weekender!

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I love using 12 oz canvas for the weekender and the half moon zip, but it’s a little bit difficult to maneuver, even for my semi-industrial machine. Almost all sewing machines can handle 10 oz canvas, but 12 oz canvas requires a pretty strong machine. Choose fabric based on what you think your machine can manage. Here’s a link to my favorite 12 oz canvas.


Notions

You’ll definitely need the standard necessities: sewing machine, steam iron, ironing board, and pins. Here’s what else you’ll need!


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22”- 24” Bag Zipper for top closure (56 cm - 61 cm)

  • Bag Zippers (sometimes also called Backpack Zippers) have two zipper pulls that move in opposite directions and meet in the middle. Both ends of the zipper are closed by a zipper stop. 

  • Here’s one that’s worked well for me! I’ll be posting a big post about zippers later this week with more info!

  • If you can’t find a bag zipper (they’re sometimes tricky to find!) you can also use a jacket zipper (open on one end, closed on the other, only one zipper pull), just with slightly different instructions. You’ll be looking for one that’s about 22” long!


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3 yards (2.75 m) of 1” (2.5 cm) wide cotton webbing (or make self-fabric straps using instructions included in the pattern)

You can also use nylon webbing, which comes in many colors. When you cut nylon straps, make sure to melt the raw ends with a flame so they don’t fray! 


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100” of 1 in. wide cotton twill tape or 1/2” wide double fold bias tape (2.54 m long, 2.5cm wide cotton twill tape or 2.54 m long, 1.3 cm wide double fold bias tape) - This is the minimum amount needed, but we recommend having extra on hand: 3 yd / 3 m!


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Chalk or an easily-removable marking tool like disappearing ink or Hera marker. I love using tailor’s chalk, though a Hera Marker is really the best when you really need the mark to disappear completely. It marks your fabric by making an indent, no ink or chalk at all! The indent it makes is surprisingly easy to see, and totally undetectable!
TIP: Always test your marking tool on your fabric first to make sure it can be removed completely!


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Zipper foot for your sewing machine.


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Optional: Heavy-Duty sewing machine needles (for 12 oz [407 gsm] canvas and up)


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For fancy pocket variation: standard 8” zipper (21 cm) (open at top, zipper stop at bottom)


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Thread (all purpose works fine, but heavy-duty thread or jeans/topstitch thread is also a great option for sewing with 12 oz. (407 gsm) canvas and above). This is what I’ve been using lately.


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Half Moon Zip Zippers:

  • For the Clutch size: standard 8” zipper (21 cm) (open at top, zipper stop at bottom) — Same size as the weekender fancy pocket! Buy a set!

  • For the Coin Purse size: standard 5” zipper (12.7 cm) (open at top, zipper stop at bottom)

hacking files: The Birthday Dress
 

On my birthday this past week, I sewed myself a dress. And not just any dress… THE BIRTHDAY DRESS. I’d had an idea in my mind for a long time of the sort of dress I’d like to make (somewhat inspired by something I saw from Rennes long ago, though I can’t find the reference image now. Their collection of garments is incredible!), and I also knew I had some fabulous secondhand pink striped cotton sateen that was calling out to me. So, on the day I turned 26, I got to work!

This dress is a hack of the All Well Box Top, our latest sewing pattern. This pattern was designed with hacking in mind, so it felt special to be hacking my own pattern on my birthday, almost like a little gift to myself! To make this dress, you’ll need to start with the box top pattern (buy it here!), and then use the Box Top Instruction Booklet and pattern pieces in addition to this guide.

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I’m so happy with how it turned out. Just the right statement piece to feel extra fancy and fun for a birthday. This dress is pretty over-the-top, and left me wishing I had some sort of over-the-top party to match my new party dress (maybe a plan for next year!). The lovely day of quiet sewing and reading I spent instead was just my cup of tea though, a birthday delight for this introvert. My favorite thing about this version of the dress is the way I got to play with stripe direction, especially given that the front panel is a continuation of the front bodice pattern piece. I’d love to make a more low-key version of the dress too, though. The next time I make the Birthday Dress, I think I’ll use a light-weight and super floaty fabric (for more of that Rennes look), maybe trying some subtle tonal colorblocking with the ruffle pieces and the bodice pieces.

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Here’s how to make it:

Start with the All Well Box Top Sewing Pattern and select your desired size. You’ll need more fabric than is listed in the instruction booklet, probably somewhere in the ballpark of 1.5 - 2 extra yards on top of what’s in the chart, depending on how long a skirt you’d like and how wide your fabric is.

For a lot of this hack, you’ll be following the normal instructions for the “Ruffle Top” variation. Go ahead and read through the instructions for the Ruffle Top now so that you know what’s going on with it.

Cut your bodice pieces. You’ll cut the back body bodice piece normally on the fold, cropping it at the ruffle cut line, but the front body bodice piece will have a narrow vertical extension the to make the front bodice the intended length of your dress.

To figure out how long you’d like your dress to be: Use a measuring tape to measure from the spot right between your collarbones all the way down to wherever you’d like your dress to hit. (right above the knee? right above your ankles? tea length at mid-calf? mini at mid thigh? Up to you!). Write down this measurement, let’s call it DRESS LENGTH.

To figure out how much longer than the front bodice piece your center panel should extend, add 1/2” to your DRESS LENGTH measurement. Let’s call that measurement DRESS LENGTH +SA. Now, when you go to cut out your front bodice pattern piece, extend the length until the length along the center fold equals your DRESS LENGTH + SA measurement from neck to hem. The center panel should be 4” wide, and the rest of the front bodice should be cropped to the ruffle top cut line. Your new front bodice pattern piece will look like the super weird shape pictured below.

Now, cut your skirt pieces. Use the Ruffle Pattern Piece to get the width for the back skirt piece. To find the length, measure how long the center panel that you added to the front bodice pattern piece extends below the normal ruffle crop line and write that measurement down. This already includes hem seam allowance. Let’s call that measurement SKIRT LENGTH.

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TIP: Make your SKIRT LENGTH longer if you’d like to make a deep hem! This length only accounts for 1/2” hem seam allowance, aka a 1/4” double turned hem. A deep hem could look really lovely on this dress, though! I ended up using a super deep hem (like 6”) because I initially made my skirt very long and shortened it after the fact (keeping some of that length intact in the deep hem in case I want to let it back down later!). For a deep hem, just choose how deep you want the hem to be, multiply that by two (since it will be folded in half!) and add 1/4” for the bit you’ll turn under on the inside (unless you’d rather serge it.). More on Deep Hems in the All Well Box Top Hacking Guide! It comes with the pattern!

Add 1/2”to SKIRT LENGTH to account for the seam allowance to connect the skirt to the bodice. Let’s call this measurement SKIRT LENGTH + SA.

For the back skirt piece, cut a rectangle that is the normal width of the pattern piece and the length of SKIRT LENGTH + SA. Make sure to cut on the fold like the pattern piece indicates!

For the front pattern pieces, fold the ruffle pattern piece roughly in half (maybe a little less than half like in the illustration below, it depends on how dramatic you want your front gathers to be. The more width, the more dramatic the gathers.). Cut TWO front skirt pieces on the fold, roughly half the width of the ruffle pattern piece and the length of SKIRT LENGTH + SA.

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Now, follow the instructions in the All Well Box Top instruction booklet “ruffle top” variation to sew the bodice of the dress. Refer back to this post once you get to the part about attaching the ruffle. Your work should look like this, like a very cropped top with a weird tail hanging down the front.

TIP: You may want to add two long ties to your dress at this point to add more shape and versatility. I used twill tape to add ties to mine and I love the way it looks! If you’re adding ties, sew them into the side seams 1/2” above the bottom edge of the bodice so that they will appear right above the ruffle line on the finished dress. They should each be the same length (start with them longer than you think you need them!) and should be sewn so they stick out away from the dress. This isn’t in the illustrations but you can see the twill tape tie in my photos above.

Now, prepare your skirt. Make sure you read the normal instructions for attaching the ruffle in the instruction booklet as we will use the same procedure and there are more details in the booklet, but make sure to follow the steps in this guide to achieve the look for the Birthday Dress. There are a few key differences!

First, sew the two front skirt pieces to either side of the back skirt piece with right sides together until they form a wide rectangle with two seams like illustrated below. (PS: this is a great time to add inseam pockets if you’d like! You can find instructions for inseam pockets in the “Box Dress” variation of the All Well Box Top pattern! Position the inseam pockets about 2.5” below the top of the skirt.) Finish seams as desired.

In the normal ruffle top variation you make just one long line of gathering stitches across the entire length of the ruffle, but here we will do things a little differently. Make a separate set of two lines of gathering stitches for each of the three pieces of the skirt so that each can be adjusted as needed to get the gathers just right. Refer to the instruction booklet for how to sew and gather gathering stitches.

Start by gathering the back piece of the skirt, matching it to the width of the back piece of the bodice. Once you match the widths, sew the gathered skirt to the back of the bodice with right sides together and a 1/2” seam allowance.

Next, gather the front skirt pieces. Gather until the front skirt widths match the widths of the front bodice between the side seams and the center panel PLUS 1/2” seam allowance left on the side of the skirt. This is how you will sew the skirt to the center panel! (Highlighted in yellow below).

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Now we are going to attach the sides of the skirt to the center panel! Snip about 3/8” into the corner of the center panel diagonally as pictured in the illustration below. This will help you sew this pivoting seam, because you will first sew the skirt to the bodice, then you will fold the skirt down and push the seam allowance through the gap made by the snip so you can sew the center panel to the side of the skirt with right sides together and no gap at the corner! It sounds tricky, but I’ll walk you through with some illustrations below!

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Sew the gathered front skirt to the bodice with right sides together and a 1/2” seam allowance all the way up until you reach the spot where you snipped the corner of the bodice. Your 1/2” seam allowance should still be free and unsewn on the side of the skirt.

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Flip the skirt down and fold the front bodice sort of in half, pushing the skirt’s seam allowance to the other side so that the right sides of the side of the skirt and the side of the center panel can meet with 1/2” seam allowance free.

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Sew the side of the front skirt and the side of the center panel with right sides together and a 1/2” seam allowance, making sure (by flipping over the top seam allowance) that the spot that you snipped has been fully caught in the seam and you’re not leaving an accidental hole in the corner. Press well. Finish all seams as desired (probably not french seams, would get quite complicated here!) and repeat on the other side.

Now all you have to do is hem the dress and add any finishing touches and you are DONE! Hooray!!!

Thanks for making the All Well Birthday Dress, and thanks for using the All Well Box Top pattern! We would love to see what you made! If you post on Instagram, use the hashtags #allwellboxtop and #allwellbirthdaydress and tag us at @allwellworkshop so we can re-share what you post!

Hooray! Happy Birthday! Happy Normal day! Happy whatever day it happens to be!

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