crafts · Life · Sewing

Distraction required

First of all, thanks for all the wonderful responses to my last post – it was so interesting to read how you all deal with mistakes!  I really think that dealing with mistakes is something you have to learn.  You may know that I teach piano for a living, and often a large part of my job is teaching how to deal with mistakes.  For almost every child there will be a point in the first few months when they reach their first wall – the thing they find hard to do.  Many of them are horrified at the thought of making mistakes, and we work hard on how to practice effectively.  Mostly I try to impart that mistakes are normal and fine – a part of learning.  It always surprises me how many of them are really afraid to fail (at first.)  Oddly, teaching them how to deal with mistakes has helped me to become more patient with myself!

The blue dress is very nearly finished – I still need to sew the buttonholes and the hem.  I hope to wear it for Easter.  I found a new technique for narrow hemming, which I practiced and quite like.  You serge the edge of the hem without cutting (I use a 3 thread setup.)  Then you fold up the hem on the serging line, which is very easy to do, fold over again to enclose the stitching, and sew your hem.  It’s very easy, and saves most of the finger burning I always get from ironing hems.

However, I very much doubt the dress is finished before this weekend.  Early tomorrow morning I have a dentist appointment which I am not at all looking forward to.  I’ve talked about my dental troubles before – I have this disorder, which causes abnormally thin and weak enamel (although no, my teeth do not look like that photo)- my family is from Sweden, where the incidence of the disorder is 1 in 700, so it is much more common than in the US.  My Mom also has this.  I seem to be constantly at the dentist having terrible things done – all my front teeth are capped now, and we are beginning on the back teeth.  Tomorrow I need root canals, and yes I do mean multiple ones.  Dental insurance does not cover this, since in their opinion it would be cheaper for me to get dentures (never mind that I won’t need them with this care, and that with my career dentures are not an option.)  I try not to think about how much I have spent, and how much I will spend on my teeth.  I am being sedated, which I have never had before, so hopefully everything will go smoothly!

Anyway, I was planning to buy myself some shoes as a reward for going through with things, but I’m having an awfully hard time finding shoes I actually like this year.  I’m pretty picky about shoes – I stand up a lot, and in the summertime we walk nearly everywhere.  But I don’t like ugly shoes, and I don’t particularly like clunky shoes.  Luckily, I do like retro styles, as those styles are often more foot friendly.

I’m considering these styles, for a low heeled sandal:

1. Clarks Carrie May  2. Sofft Andrea

I generally have great luck with these brands.  Sofft makes great comfortable, vintage inspired heels, but I haven’t had their sandals before.  Clarks have a lot more nice styles than they used to.  I’d like to order from Zappos, because my best friend works there, and I can use the friends/family discount.

I’m also definitely getting these, in black, for a summer dress sandal:

Seychelles Trip the Light Fantastic

I love t-straps  and mary janes right now.  The heel isn’t too high. I wear a heel nearly every day, and  the way I get away with that is by never wearing insane heels.

I’m about to head off to Macys to try on the ones they have in stock… I have to go to the drugstore anyway, where I will be buying some nailpolish – the other thing, besides shoes, that I buy when I’m worried.  I suppose there could be worse habits.

crafts · Sewing

What’s your philosophy on mistakes?

When taking up any new hobby it’s important to consider your philosophy on mistakes.  Because trust me, you will be making them.  Will you cry and throw the item across the room? (Ok, everyone does this one sometimes!) Or will you make the best of your error, learn from it, and move on?

One comment I see a lot from beginners in any craft is that they are afraid to try new techniques lest they make mistakes.  But making mistakes is part of the process of learning!  I really hate to see that comment, because I believe that you can learn to do just about anything if you break it down into manageable steps, and accept that there will be mistakes.  I make them all the time.  For instance:  I’m working on Vogue 8577, a 50s style dress with a big circle skirt.  Here is the dress (sans lining) on the dressform:

Notice anything off?  How about in the back view?

Doesn’t look much like a circle skirt does it?  That’s because I somehow managed to not put in the side  panels when I sewed the skirt together.  When I went to sew the skirt to the bodice I thought:  “Hmm, strange that it tells me to gather the skirt when I don’t need any gathers!”  I thought I had found a misprint.  Ha!  But here’s the thing:  I tried on the dress before I noticed the mistake, and I love it.  Not having those panels makes it look more 40s than 50s, which is fine by me.  The hemline hangs fine.  The seams all line up.  So I’m not going back and adding those panels (I already trimmed my seams anyway) and I’m not sewing them in the lining.  It won’t look like the pattern envelope, but it will be fabulous nonetheless!  It doesn’t fit my dressform, which is about 1.5″ bigger than I in the bust, but it fits me great!

So back to the topic of the day: handling mistakes.  Sometimes you get lucky, like I did here, and your mistake turns out well.  Other times not so much, but as long as you’re learning that’s ok.  When I pick a new sewing project here’s what I do: I try to find a pattern that has one or two things I don’t know how to do, and I learn how to do them.  In this case it’s making a full lining and hemming a full skirt (not as full as I intended, but still a challenge!)  Don’t choose something too hard – you want to avoid frustration!  Just pick something that is a little challenging, enough to push your skill set forward.  And I always make a muslin if I can, so that I get practice before doing the actual garment (I made the lining, in this case, and practiced hemming that.  I didn’t need to practice the lining, since it’s basically just making the dress twice, albeit out of bemberg rayon, the most difficult fabric in the world.)

Don’t let fear hold you back – what’s the worst that can happen?  Do you have a good philosophy on mistakes?

crafts · patterns · Sewing

Summer Vogues

I love Vogue patterns.  They seem to fit me much better than any other brand that I’ve tried, though I confess I haven’t made any McCalls or Butterick patterns yet.  Fit For Real People claims that they are similar, and that simplicity is different through the shoulders and armholes, something I can attest to – I have to adjust that part of Simplicities.  In Vogue I am finding that I am usually a 10 on the bottom and an 8 on the top.  I appreciate the consistency, as it seems that it’s impossible to know sometimes what size I might make.   So a day with new patterns is exciting for me!  Here are my picks:

1174 is a strapless dress by Cynthia Steffe.  I love this!  I have avoided strapless like the plague my whole life, fearing a major wardrobe malfunction.  But – if I’m making it for myself, I can actually adjust the bodice to be small enough for my ribcage – yay!  I love the print too… I am crazy for roses on fabric.

1182 is the first of two designs by Kay Unger, who is new to Vogue.  This is such a classic and flattering style.  I love the version in red shantung – I have a lovely green shantung that I have been looking for a pattern for, and this is a contender!

1183 is the second Kay Unger design.  It’s rated easy, and I can see this being a popular style.

1176 is a Michael Kors design – I love his designs (and love him as a judge on Project Runway!)  This dress is beautiful – love the bow, the shape, and the polka dots – a definate “do” for me!

Finally there are two new Vintage Vogues.  1172 is my pick – a classic full skirted number from the 50s.  I am so appreciate of Vogue for re-releasing these patterns, while some of the other companies seem to have stopped.  This dress is lovely and classic.  The other vintage Vogue is 1171.

I don’t think the collar is for me – it would be overwhelming.  But it’s lovely as well, and a pretty good pick (though I sometimes wish the vintage issues were more adventurous, I understand that they go for wide appeal.)

There are, as usual, a fair number of “what were they thinking” patterns as well, including an epic satin caftan and a terrible jumpsuit that looks like something Clarissa would have worn while explaining it all.  I also don’t care for the two Anna Sui dresses – I feel as though all her designs are very similar, with lots of lace and frills and not enough length for my taste.  The Very Easy Vogue dresses this time are a little boring, but they do look like good basics.  And there are a few tops that I can’t tell about – I hate the drawings they use for their top models, which appear incredibly broad shouldered.

crafts · Sewing

Still watching for spring

Spring is still coming on slowly here, though today it is pretty rainy and awful.  I’m trying to get my wardrobe planning for warm weather completed, but I keep finding more holes to fill!

For instance, I don’t have a spring coat.  I’d like a nice 3/4 length coat with a retro collar, like Mccall’s 5525 (below.)  I’d make mine with full length sleeves (an option on the other views.)  I don’t understand shorter sleeves on a coat!  I’m thinking of a floral print, which seems to be a trend in spring coats right now.

I’ve also been searching, without success, for a spring purse.  I feel like purses and shoes (especially shoes!) are going through a major ugly period right now, and I can’t find anything that I like.  I’ve decided, in a fit of overconfidence, to make my own.  I like the Sophia Carryall by Amy Butler.

I’m not decided on a print yet, but I love the shape – so much nicer than the slouchy bags that seem to be prevalent in my price range!  I’m not sure if I’m crazy to make this or not, considering I haven’t made anything similar.  The reviews are pretty good, and the instructions are supposed to be good!

Finally, I’ve developed an obsession with full-skirted sundresses.  I have no fewer than 4 of them on my “to sew” list for sometime this year.

These patterns are both Vintage Vogue reissues, to made out of the pretty sateen I just got from FabricMart and this great brushed cotton with roses.  I have some afternoon summer weddings to attend, and I think either of these dresses would be lovely.

I’d like a fun 50s style halter, though I am not sold on the print (to be clear – I really love the print, and I will certainly use it for something else, but I may want more of a tropical fabric for the halter.

The project on the right above (Vogue 8577) is my current WIP.  The fabric is a linen-look 100% cotton in a gorgeous royal blue.  I’m making the view above, which is shorter than the other 2 and has no sleeves or collar.  I made a muslin of the bodice last night, and decided to go down to a size 8 for the top, and a 10 for the skirt.  The dress is supposed to be fully lined (and the fabric needs a lining) but I can’t decide what to use for lining.  I usually go with Bemberg rayon, so I could do that.  I also like cotton batiste, but I think it would bunch up with the cotton fabric and not hang well – so bemberg it is!

I’m glad today is the last of my workweek – here’s hoping for actual sewing time this weekend (and I hope to hit some estate and yard sales!)

finished objects · Sewing

FO: Tulip skirt

Pattern: Simplicity 2413, View A

Fabric: Stretch cotton sateen from Joanns (the Riviera collection,) about 2.5 yards

Notes: Obviously I made a fabric change.  Spring weather has arrived here, and I was anxious to make a spring skirt!  I didn’t have anything suitable, so I bought this stretch sateen at Joanns for 40% off.  It was really nice to work with, except for being slightly difficult to cut.  I used my walking foot and a stretch needle to get the most even results on the stretchy fabric.

I was really curious to make a tulip skirt – I like the slightly retro shape, and it’s easier to wear that its cousin the bubble skirt.  This version has what’s called a “paper bag waist” – thanks to Amanda for reminding me what that was called, and reminding me that I loved this style when I saw it on Project Runway.  It’s easy to wear because it softens the waistline – it is somewhat high waisted, but you are belting a bit lower.

I thought the skirt was well drafted, and I had no issues with it other than the usual sizing down from the crazy ease in Simplicity patterns.  My measurements make me a size 12 from the waist down, but I made an 8.  I could have gotten away with a 6 I think, because of the stretch fabric.  So my advice is to pin the pleats on the tissue and measure before deciding on a size (the pattern does not include any useful finished measurements, such as the waist.)  I have a pet peeve about this – I understand that different people want differing amounts of ease, but it does stand to reason that they bought the pattern because of the envelope photo, and want a size that will give them that effect.  So why list a size that will give you a huge skirt?  Won’t that just make people say “Simplicity patterns don’t fit me?”

The instructions were ok I guess, but I did follow a different order.  The pattern called for installing the zipper first, and doing the pleats nearly last.  I reversed that, and was able to construct 90% of the skirt, including the bottom band, flat.  I think it was easier that way.  I also did my pockets differently, and in the end only installed the one on the side without the zipper.   It looks fine that way.

I did make the bottom band, which is optional.  Without the band, the skirt is quite a bit shorter, as it tends to poof out more without the weight.  It was too short for my taste, and I want to be able to wear this to work.  Overall I am very pleased with the skirt – it was dead simple to make, and surprisingly grown-up, even in the crazy print.  I think it could look quite dressy in a more sedate fabric.  It’s trendy, but not too much for me (and you know I am not about trends, so that’s good!)

crafts · patterns · Sewing

Trendwatch Tuesday: Tulip skirts

(note: not necessarily a new blog feature, I just love me some alliteration!)

I’ve mentioned before here that I’m slowly going through my late Grandma’s belongings.   She was of the generation that saved everything, so there is quite a bit of accumulation.  I had not realized, however, that she was also saving my old things.  This weekend I opened a hidden closet to find a time capsule of my high school fashions – clothes that I had assumed were long since given away or turned to dust rags.   I didn’t exactly have what you would call great 90s style – I loved long skirts, ditsy floral dresses, and a large accumulations of suits that can only be termed “80s power woman.”   At one point my Mom told me “Jessica, what you have to do is set your own trends… don’t be a follower!”  I took that advice to heart, and have spent a great deal of my life wearing whatever the heck I want, with little consideration of whether it is in style or not.  Perhaps I was not so much a trendsetter, but I will tell you that I’m glad  that I escaped the 80s and 90s with almost a total lack of flannel skirts, neon, or giant Blossom inspired hats.  Except for one thing… the bubble dress I found in the back of the closet.  I think I wore it to a homecoming dance in 1994?  It was not in style at the time, and maybe I thought I was setting a trend or what have you (note: I was kind of a dork.)  When bubble skirts came back a few years ago I laughed myself silly – who wants a skirt that looks like some sort of curtain valance?  Well, apparently I did.

Now?  Not so much.  I don’t see the bubble skirt entering my wardrobe, but there is another vaguely bubble-like skirt that I’m itching to try… the tulip skirt!

It’s a more classic style I think.  I’m planning to make the skirt on the right from Simplicity 2413.  I have this pale peachy-pink light wool crepe that I bought online, apparently forgetting that peach near my face causes me to look like some sort of jaundiced vampire.   But it’s lovely (the same crepe I made the Rooibos dress out of) and I am so ready to use it.  I can’t explain my obsession with this color – perhaps it was the peach suit that my Mom wore in the 80s, which I thought was so classy and awesome.  Or maybe it was my #1 Barbie of all time, Peaches and Cream Barbie!

I have to say, I still think her dress is all kinds of awesome!  And she had a stole… so romantic, and so impractical in real life!

Anyway, I think the skirt will look nice in the crepe – and I think I can get away with wearing the color on my lower half!  I’m planning to quickline the skirt using the tutorial here.  I bought some bemberg lining today for that purpose.  I have a nasty sinus infection right now (I get them like clockwork whenever the weather starts to change) so hopefully I feel up to doing some sewing in the next day or two – I usually go out for pub quiz Tuesday nights, but I may be skipping it this week in order to rest up!

Feeling sorry for myself over being sick, I bought this fabric from FabricMart – a cotton sateen that is so me I don’t know where to start.

I’m thinking of using a late 50s  early 1960s sundress pattern for this – how lovely will it be with all the bubbles rising from the hem!  Now I just have to decide which pattern – a full skirt for certain.  Perhaps I will go vintage pattern shopping again, though that is dangerous for me!

Hope you are all having a lovely week – thanks for all the comments on the Kate jeans – I just love them, and I encourage anyone interested to try a pair of their own!

finished objects · Sewing

FO: The Kate jeans

Pattern: Vogue 8604

Fabric: Lightweight denim (not stretch) from Joanns

Notes: I have a lot of pictures of these because I love them so much!  I can’t believe how easy it was to make these pants.  I really thought that making pants was horribly hard and that they would never fit – but these pretty much fit me right out of the envelope!  Total construction time was maybe 4 hours?  And that’s with hand hemming.  Not bad at all.

I made a few small alterations from the pattern.  I used a layer of self-fabric as a sew-in interfacing on the waist.  This is not a thick denim at all, and it didn’t add too much thickness – just made the waist much more sturdy.  I also added boning to the side seams on the facing, as well as 2 pieces in the front between the darts.  I used Rigeline – it’s a thin flexible plastic, flat rather than round like I expect boning to be.  You can sew right through it.  I sewed it to the inside of the facing with a wide zig-zag, and it is invisible from the outside, as well as hidden from scratching me on the inside.  It is not bothersome when I sit either – this style of pants is designed to ride up when you sit, thus the long crotch, and it works out fine.

I can see from these photos that I need to take the hem up even more on the left side – darned uneven legs!  It doesn’t help that I’m standing with my weight on my right, but since I always stand that way I need to fix it.  You can see where the facing ends a bit – I might like to lengthen it in another pair (and I am planning to make these again!)

The other (tiny) issue is that you can see the pocket lining a bit.  I used a poly charmeuse from the remnant table, but when I make them again I will either rectify this issue or use a matching material.  It doesn’t bother me here, and they are so soft on the inside!

I cannot recommend this pattern enough – it was terribly easy, and I think these pants pass for 1930s/40s.  They are far more flattering than I thought, and I think they make my waist look smaller than it is, since they emphasize the difference from my hips to waist, which is larger than my bust to waist ration.  This is a great style for the curvy!  The key with a waist this high is to go retro – a lot of modern high waist pants have tighter legs, and they just look horribly wrong.  I plan to make these again in black and in a subtle brown plaid.  They are easily more flattering than other pants that I own.  I am now thinking of other pants to make – I’m considering a pair of black ones, and a pair of brown ones with a subtle check.  If you are considering these, go for it!  The pattern photo looks like nothing, but they are great!

crafts · Sewing


Last night I cut the pattern and muslin for Vogue 8604.  I decided to cut a straight size 10, which seems to be the size I use most often in Vogue, and make adjustments from there.  Sewing the muslin was an adventure, as I’ve never before sewn a pair of pants.  Let’s just say that at one point I constructed one very large pant leg.  But I got that worked out, sewed an ugly spare zipper in, and went downstairs to try them on.

Sorry for the awful photos, but it’s dark outside and I still have cleaning products everywhere!  Wow, the floor there is even more worn than I realized…  Anyway, I am so thrilled with the fit of these – perhaps there is something to the idea that low-rise pants aren’t a good look for me?  These are really, really high, but I love them – it’s exactly the retro look I was going for!

It helps to picture them not in white, but hey – if I think they look good in white, they’ll look great in a darker color!  One of my legs is longer than the other by an inch or so, I found when having my measurements taken.  This explains why I am literally the least athletic person in the world, and that’s also why I always have one pant leg that is the right length, and one that is too long or short.  Here you can see that effect.  You know what’s great?  I can hem these to even that out!  Ok, technically I could hem any of my pants, but what’s the fun of that?

The side view is very slimming:

The wrinkling at the waist is caused by this fabric – I did not interface it.  I will use a nice sturdy interfacing for the actual pants.  I will spare you the rear view – this fabric is sheer, and the internet does not need to see that much of me!  You can see that I have literally no rear end, and amazingly it looks fine from the back.   I was expecting them to look deflated the way most of my pants do.  The crotch on these is a bit lower than most pants, which is pretty normal for this style, and it doesn’t look strange like I expected.  I am really pleased with the pattern so far – it looks just like the drawing, and the “very easy very Vogue” instructions were indeed very easy and great!  I think I’m becoming a pretty big fan of Vogue patterns – all the ones I’ve tried have been just great, which is more than I can say for some others.

Now I just have to get my interfacing, figure out what I’m using for pockets, and get started – wish me luck that I don’t have some sort of awful pants disaster!

crafts · Sewing

Plugging the holes in my wardrobe

Well, I suppose there’s one thing to say for having to wash every single thing that you own… it becomes quickly apparent where the holes in your wardrobe are.  I mentioned before needing dresses, and that is true… but even more than that I desperately need some pants.  Being rather short legged and high waisted, I have a hard time finding pants that fit me.  Like, I don’t even want to count the number of shopping trips that have ended in tears and a pair that was “good enough.”  Most of my pants are too big and too long.  Sewing has made me realize that I do not, in fact, have to put up with lousy fitting clothes.  And so… I’m planning to attempt some (easy) pants.  I chose this pattern, Vogue 8604:

They’re made up in the new Vogue Patterns magazine, and they are super cute!  I have a theory that I should try the high waisted pants.  When low waists came into vogue, I had to be dragged kicking and screaming in that direction… and truth be told, I am tired of trying to find shirts that will cover my long torso with low pants… the proportions are off somehow.  I bought this very lightweight denim fabric (it almost has a chambray feeling) to make them out of… in real life it is much darker.

They won’t be jeans exactly- this fabric, as I said, is very drapey and light.  Maybe kind of like trouser jeans, but this is nothing like the kind of denim that frightens me.  This is one of the fabrics recommended on the envelope (and has anyone noticed how Vogue is very specific in their recommendations, while other companies like Simplicity seem to just list every one they can think of?)

I will make a muslin, and I hope to get started on that today!

I’m also planning to make a pair of shorts (yes, shorts!)  Look, I don’t wear shorts.  I am not a sporty person, and I have skinny legs.  But… sometimes you need shorts, and I don’t own a single pair.  I’m going to use Simplicity 2654 (another “easy” pattern.)

I like the cute shaped waistband, and again they have a higher waist (I did try some high waists on in the store, and the result was positive!  I like how they lengthen my legs.)

I’m going to make them in navy, and add buttons for a cute sailor style effect.

So… wish me luck!  Pants do scare me a bit, but I’m certain there is nothing here I won’t be able to figure out… these patterns are not complicated, and I am good at working my way through problems.

More later on the rest of my spring wardrobe plans… I am so excited about warmer weather!

crafts · finished objects · Sewing

FO: The Mary Dress

Pattern: Vogue 1219, a Christian Dior designer pattern from 1975

Fabric: Red linen-look suiting, Light pink cotton/poly blend batiste for underlining

First of all, thanks so much for the overwhelmingly supportive response to my last post.  You guys are so great – I even got offers to mend my holey sweaters (sadly, I got rid of them right away, but the offers are so generous and wonderful!) My yarn seems safe, but it is locked in the deep freeze for awhile to be certain.  The damage seems limited to one basket of sweaters, but I washed everything I owned to be sure (yeah, a lot of laundry!)  I was sad, but I’m feeling better now .

To cheer myself up I finished this dress!  It is made of 100% polyester (chew on that, stupid beetles!)  I am not a fan of polyester, but I had this fabric, bought on clearance at Joanns, that was too pretty for a muslin I thought.  And honestly, I figured that if anything should be made of polyester, it’s a pattern from the 1970s!  As a funny aside, have you noticed how every pattern from the 70s has to tack on polyester doubleknit as a fabric choice?  This pattern called for crisp fabrics (linen etc) and… doubleknit.  Because they are so similar.  This is a suiting with a linen-link weave.  It holds a crease pretty well, which is more than I can say for some poly suiting I have used for muslins!  However, it was pretty nightmarish to work with.  I serged most of the edges before sewing, because it was unraveling at an alarming rate.  It even tried to unravel through the serging.  And then the stuff wants to wrinkle like mad, even with an underlining.  But that’s ok – it looks nice on the outside!

This was my first time underlining anything, and I won’t lie – it took way more time than I expected.  It was pretty straightforward, just time consuming.  I like how it gives the a-line body.  I did reduce the size of the top half of this pattern a bit – first in a narrow back reduction, and then again after a tragic zipper accident (the zipper caught the fabric and ripped… did I mention how easily this stuff picks and snags?)  That turned out to be ok, since I needed the reduction.

I had a little trouble with the neckline, which was sort of poorly explained.  In the end I made up my own directions, and it seems to have worked.  I set in the sleeves in the round using ease stitches.  I had a really hard time with it again – I get the concept, and I can get it in without puckers, but I still am not happy with the way it looks.  I plan to try other methods of easing in the sleeve.  I shortened the dress by an inch.

I also made my scarf!  The pattern called for pockets, and I bought the zebra for the lining, but I didn’t like the way the pockets looked on the dress – it put the emphasis too much on the lower half, which is already taking over this look!  So I left them off, and turned my pretty fabric into a simple neck scarf.

I’m calling it “The Mary dress” because it reminds me of Mary Tyler Moore.  It’s a classic style that doesn’t necessarily scream 70s, though it certainly is retro – you just don’t see dresses like this anymore.

I’m still not sure an A-line is for me – it fits, but I would prefer a more defined waist.  Even so, this dress is work appropriate, comfortable, and far nicer than I thought it would be – I nearly gave up in a huff about five times while making it!  I’m pleased to have completed my first vintage pattern (though I still have trouble with the 70s as vintage, it is from the year my husband was born.)