crafts · Sewing

FO: Rooibos dress

Pattern: Rooibos from Colette Patterns

Size: 2 for the bodice, 0 for the skirt

Fabric used: Wool crepe from Gorgeous Fabrics for the dress, black rayon crepe for the facings

Notes: Love how this dress came out!  The color is still not right – it’s emerald green, you’ll just have to trust me on that one.  This is the first dress I have made, and the second pattern from Colette patterns.  I would completely recommend this pattern, it turned out adorable.  This is not necessarily a style that I wear easily, but as it turned out the slightly empire waist made it flattering!   There were a few minor errors in my copy of the pattern.  The pattern itself was fine, but there were several places in the instructions where pieces are misidentified in the text.  The diagrams are all correct, and they were easy to spot.  I did do a small bust adjustment, as the cups on the bodice were too large for me (I am a B cup.)   I lapped the pattern 1/2″, and that made it fit perfectly.  I also did an alteration to the back for upright posture.  The idea (as I understand it) is that most patterns assume a slightly rounded back, whereas I stand all the time like I’m balancing a book on my head.  This effectively removed 1/2″ in the back, making it even with the front.

(Sorry for the wrinkles… I was sitting today!) I think my back is somewhat narrow as well, though my shoulders are not.   The shoulders are quite wide on this pattern – I sewed snaps into them to attach my bra straps to, because otherwise they do show, and I think on the second try of this pattern I will narrow them a bit.

If I make this dress again (and I plan to, after all that work on the fit – I can imagine it several ways!)  I will do a full lining.  The pattern calls for facings that extend partway down the bodice.  The facing shows through slightly – you can see the ghost of it in the first photo above.  The wool crepe is thick, so I’d imagine under a thin fabric it would show even more.  It’s also a little uncomfortable to me to have the facing end where it does.  The rayon crepe that I used for the facing ravels like crazy – I had to be very careful with my seam finishes, and even so there are a few places that I’m worried about.  The wool also ravels a bit.  This dress made me decide I needed a serger, so I am purchasing one off of Craigslist – I got a good deal!

I am still searching for a better way to preshrink wool fabric (without drycleaning… it’s bad enough I’m planning to dryclean this dress!)  I was not thrilled with the results of the dryer method – while it did shrink, it also fulled slightly around the edges of the fabric, and there are a few pulled threads.  No one but me would notice though!

I think this dress has a bit of a 60s vibe, so I paired it with a vintage broach (my Grandma’s) which matches it exactly!  My grandma had a ton of Sarah Coventry jewelry, and I’ve inherited the lot.  I love pins and broaches, the bigger the better!

We had what is (for us) an epic snow last night – six inches!  I tried for photos anyway…

This is closer to the color of the dress.

I learned several new skills with this pattern.  I learned to apply piping and an invisible zipper (both not hard, but I did get the special feet for my machine.)  I am so thrilled with my dress, and can’t wait to make more!

books · crafts · Sewing

Books for sewing beginners

There’s one question I’ve been getting repeatedly since I’ve started sewing – “What books are you using to teach yourself?”  I thought it was worthy of a blog post, so that I have somewhere to send those questions!  These books are mostly for garment sewing – for quilting I’ve been using the instructions in “Last minute Quilted and Patchwork gifts.”

For the absolute beginner, there are two books I own and love, both recommended to me by fabulous blogging friends.

Sew U, by Wendy Mullins, is probably the more popular of the two.  It contains excellent directions on everything from threading your needle to sewing a pair of pants.  I made the skirt, and it turned out pretty cute.  I really appreciate her “make it your own” attitude – the patterns included, for pants, a skirt, and a blouse, are basic, but she encourages you to think outside the box and improvise on a basic design, an attitude that I’m trying to keep in mind!  She also has a book for knits, which I own, and which I am awaiting my serger for, and she has a new book on dresses coming out this week(you had best believe I will be buying that one.)

SEW: The Sew Everything Workshop by Diana Rupp is actually my favorite of these two beginner books.  I don’t know why – something about her tone just speaks to me more, I feel like she’s the one I would rather take a class from, and if I lived in NYC you’d better believe that I would (our local sewing classes are almost entirely quilting or heirloom sewing.)  This book has a bunch of projects, and mostly they are super cute (a plus!)  Some of them are included on paper, and others teach you to draft your own pattern.  I haven’t made any of them, but I do have plans to make “Tender is the nightie,” a draft your own nightgown pattern (note: I will not be modeling that one for the blog!)

Moving past the beginner books, you need a basic all-in-one reference book.  I like Vogue sewing.  This is the edition I have – it’s pretty clear, and I like the vintage style graphics and design.  I hear that some of the tailoring techniques are not in this newer book, but I have Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire Schaeffer to explain many of the more “high end” touches.  I love this book, even if I don’t understand it all yet – it’s worth it for the look inside couture design studios, and the beautiful photos of the insides of classic designer garments.  I got them on a “buy both, get a tiny discount” deal from Amazon.

I also have 2 editions of the simplicity sewing guide.  The one I have has hilariously outdated fashions – you too can learn how to finish your 80s style track suit on the serger!  You can “fix” your lopsided shoulders by giving yourself 3 shoulder pads on one side (hello linebacker…) But the info is great, and sometimes it is more clear than the Vogue book.  The edition I have is still for sale at my Hancock’s, so I assume it is the current one.  I have one from the late 60s also, which is fabulously mod, and which takes you chapter by chapter through making different garments (similar to the “Vogue New Book of Better sewing” that the fabulous Gertie is working her way through on her blog.)  It offers recommendations for simplicity patterns of the time.  The late 60s aren’t my favorite, so I won’t be making my own project, but it is fun.  I’m looking to get some older (1940s or so) sewing books as well, for reference with my vintage patterns.

Finally, as far as sewing garments go, the next big challenge is fit – learning to fit your clothes is hard!  I just got 2 fitting books.

These two books have different approaches, and are both nice to have.  I like Fast Fit the most – Sandra Betzina recommends making a muslin, which I always do.  The illustrations are cute, and the amount of information isn’t overwhelming.  Fit for Real People is also excellent, despite my dislike of the term “real people.”  I used the tissue fitting technique on my plaid Simplicity blouse and found it helpful in choosing a size, though I confess that I still made a muslin.  If I had to make a criticism of both books, it’s that the styles being fitted are pretty outdated, and not always so flattering.  Fit for Real people seems to really love shoulder pads too.  But of course, it was written awhile ago, and styles do change.  I appreciate the positive message of the book.

So there you go… a selection of books that are good (in my beginner’s opinion) for a sewing library.  I hope you find it helpful!