Month: June 2010
Weekend sewing drama (with a happy ending)
My husband was out of town this weekend at a Scrabble tournament, so I used the opportunity to start my Tara dress. The fabric arrived earlier this week, and I really love the rayon batik – it’s so drapey and lovely! I want to wear this dress for the July 4th holiday, as I figure a tropical dress made of cool rayon will work well for a holiday that mostly involves sitting outside in the heat, sipping fruity drinks, and watching the neighbors try to blow their fingers off.
I think I was cursed from the very beginning. First of all, I somehow managed to print, tape together, and cut out the wrong pattern before figuring out my mistake. Luckily, right after I took this photo I figured it out – before I could cut any of my fabric (in my defense, the Bambi nightgown, which is what I had, is a very similar style, and I just figured that I didn’t understand Burda’s directions, as per usual.)
fabric in time out for being difficult.
So I printed the correct pattern, and then proceeded to cut one of my skirt pieces with the wrong side on the fold. Oops. Lucky I bought too much fabric! I looked at the directions, found them crazy, and thought I might just try to muddle through (this was last week’s sewalong at Grosgrain, so I did have that to help me.) Then I could not figure out how I was supposed to get the 2 bodice pieces to meet in the center without an overlap. I resorted to asked non-sewing (but spatially inclined) friends to help me puzzle things out. I must have sewn the waist seam 5 times before finally deciding it was as good as it was going to get – it’s close, but the 2 sides aren’t identical.
Then I had to figure out the directions for sewing the casing, which were rather vague. The video at Grosgrain finally helped me figure it out. I’ve never used elastic before, but hopefully next time it will be easier! My bodkin didn’t fit in the 3/8″ casing, so I used a safety pin to thread it through. After that the directions decided to tell me that I should make bias tape and finish the armholes with that. Well… not really. I was sort of all about of fabric except for tiny, tiny scraps after the skirt cutting incident. I made a baby hem instead. Then I had to puzzle out the sleeves, and sewed them on backwards about 4 times before finally getting everything worked out.
And this is why I always make a muslin – to get the parts I don’t know how to do out of the way on cheap fabric! After all the drama, I went to try on the dress, convinced that it was going to be horrifying. Actually though… I rather like it.
I haven’t hemmed it yet, obviously. Then hem is uneven, and I’m going to require assistance to mark it. The empire waist is very flattering. I am considering sewing up the v-neck by an inch or so, so that I can wear a bra with it, but I’m not sure yet… I’ll see how I feel about it later, when I actually finish the dress.
Ok, so… weekend sewing drama over, and I’m going back to making muslins – it just terrifies me to cut nice fabric without knowing if it will turn out!
FO: Vintage floral sheath dress
Pattern: Vintage vogue 1137
Fabric: Cotton satin print from Elliot Berman textiles, 2 yards, gray bemberg rayon lining, 2 yards.
Notes: Making this dress was a bit of a risk for me, as I neither buy nor wear sheath dresses on a regular basis. I don’t like the feeling of tight fabric on my hips, and I’m always afraid I’ll look a little unbalanced from top to bottom. But I was really attracted to the art on the envelope, and I like the idea of these vintage sheaths. When I saw this cotton on sale I knew it would be just perfect for a summertime dress! The fabric was actually a tiny bit thin, but that was easily fixed by lining the entire thing with rayon. The pattern called for only a half lining, but I cut a skirt lining from the skirt pattern pieces. I don’t understand a bodice lining only – it just seems pointless, and it involved hand sewing down the lining at the waist – no thanks to that!
I actually did not use the instructions at all – they involved a lot of handsewing, and I while don’t mind handsewing if it has a purpose, it seemed a little much. I first shortened the dress by about 6 inches, taking half my alteration from the body of the skirt, and half from the side vents. I then turned the side vents into side slits – there was just no point that I could see to them at this length. The dress is 2 sizes larger in the waist and hips than in the bust. I actually made it one size larger in the hips, but after I tried it on I decided I needed another inch of room, so I let the side seams out.
I lined the bodice using the technique here. I love the seamless look – it gives a very professional finish. If I make the dress again I will make an alteration for my narrow back – there is a little extra room in that area. I replaced the regular zipper with an invisible zipper, which is my preference now. I love the smooth look, as well as how easy they are to insert.
Setting decorum aside for a moment, let’s talk about undergarments with vintage clothes. The bust darts on this dress are pretty high, as in all 50s era dresses – they may have been lowered a little for the reissue, but it is not like a modern dress. Now, I’ve already said I’m not wearing a girdle, thus the reason why I had to make so much extra room in the waist, but I do like to wear a bra that is similar to bras of the era. No, not a bullet bra – I do have limits! I’m wearing this bra, from Wacoal (I love Wacoal bras!) It doesn’t have any underwire, and is higher cut than other bras. It does not lift and separate like most modern bras – I tried this dress with a modern bra, and it looked a bit off to me. I also have this one, and it is nice. If you are more well endowed than I am, I understand the Playtex 18 hour bra is excellent for this purpose (it doesn’t come under a C cup.)
I actually made the self-fabric belt, but in the end I didn’t like how it looked. I prefer the gentle waist shaping of the dress, rather than cinching in tightly (which does produce the out of proportion look I was afraid of.) But at least now I know how to make my own belts! I just have belt issues… I am trying to work through them, but so far I only really like a belt at the empire waist, not the natural one.
I highly recommend this pattern – in spite of some operator error it was really simple to sew, and the silhouette is really a classic!
(I love how my legs are so white that they actually glow… yes, I am a big time avoider of the sun!)
Are you a print or a solid?
Yes, I’ve been buying fabric again. But! I found the perfect fabric for my 70s jumper, and then of course I had to order more than one fabric (not use paying shipping for just one, right?) But it did get me to thinking – it’s pretty clear from my choices that I prefer prints to solid colored fabrics by a pretty wide margin. I’m just not drawn to solids, you know? And then there’s the issue of scarcity – I know I can probably find more brown gabardine, for instance, but whatever fabulous print I’m looking at will probably never be seen again. But really I just love prints – I have mostly prints in my RTW wardrobe, except for basics like pants, so it makes sense that I would sew them.
I am super picky about the scale of prints – as a small-ish person I have to be careful with larger designs, because they can become overwhelming really quickly. I rarely buy knit prints, for instance, because all the ones I find seem to be really large. I’m drawn to unusual prints, but I do like symmetry – something too random and splotchy just doesn’t ring my bell. I also love prints that have a hand drawn or watercolor effect – one thing I don’t like about modern quilting prints is that they often look computer generated to me – he edges are too smooth, and everything is very perfect!
I bought this ITY knit print from Fashionista Fabrics today – I don’t know if you can tell from the photo, but the red print is made up of tiny exclamation points. I really like that – it’s a bit whimsical, but since the print is small it isn’t too wacky. I am not at all sure what I’m going to make out of this. A dress for sure – I have 2 yards, and I can get a knit dress out of that. Do you have a favorite knit dress pattern? I am open to suggestions (it’s the one type of pattern I don’t usually buy!)
When I buy solids I look for good colors, which on me are mostly jewel tones (surprisingly hard to find, which is another reason I don’t buy many.) Not all patterns work with a print – there’s no point in making something complicated if you can’t see the details! And then there’s the issue of matching the print (I often don’t bother – I will match at center front, but not generally at the sides, unless it’s a plaid or stripe.) I thought about being super OCD about matching, but I see an awful lot of expensive print dresses that don’t even match at center front.
So which do you prefer? Are you a print or a solid?
Oh yes, and the rest of the fabric I ordered. I decided on a fairly traditional choice for my jumper:
Yes, my polka dot obsession marches on full force! I didn’t want a real print for the jumper – I thought that with either a solid or small dot I would be able to wear it with a blouse in the fall. I also love navy and white together. It seems hard to find navy – I’ve been searching for a navy and white stripe knit (with at least 1/2″ stripes) for ages, and can’t find one anywhere!
Finally, I got 3 yards of rayon challis. I love this – it’s unusual to find rayon challis in a modern print! Challis is currently one of my favorite fabrics – it’s got a lovely drape, but it isn’t sheer! I’m making my Tara dress out of challis. I knew immediately what I wanted to make with this fabric.
I like the yellow dress with the ruffled bodice. This pattern came out this summer, and I haven’t seen anyone make it yet – I may be the first! This dress is not my usual style, but it looks comfortable. I am also in major love with this sort of ruffle. I might make it with the 3/4 length sleeves, since I doubt I will be able to wear a sweater over it (and I am always cold!)
I hope to be back soon with modeled photos of my latest dress – I just have to pin down my photographer!
After today’s post of patterns I don’t like, I thought it might be nice to show a few that I do! I’m a bit of an obsessive etsy checker – every day I search for vintage patterns, even though I rarely ever buy any. I’m feeling better lately about my chances with them, so this week I decided to treat myself to a few. I prefer patterns from the 60s and 70s – not that I don’t like the 50s, but patterns from that era require major bust adjustment for me. The 60s and 70s seem pretty true to size. Here’s what I have coming to me:
When I saw this appear I literally gasped -the back cutout reminded me of this dress that Casey just posted, which I loved! Is it totally impractical? Why yes. It’s also adorable! I can see this being made up several ways – as a cute black dress, or in a floral rayon challis, similar to the photo.
This Vogue pattern must have been popular, because I have seen it lots of times – there are 3 on ebay and 2 on Etsy right now! I actually bought it for the short version, though if it’s possible I might use the low back and make it sleeveless like the long version. I love the empire waist and the little bow!
This pattern is from 1958, according to the stamp on the cover! The dress is slightly empire waisted, according to the back of the envelope, though it doesn’t look it in the illustration. It’s a pretty basic pattern, and I was looking for a good simple dress of this era. I probably wouldn’t make the jacket.
Isn’t the illustration on this one odd? These women are oddly proportioned and slightly sinister. They also appear to lack clavicles or cleavage. This is a another cute 60s a-line, with pockets(!) and an unusual square neckline. I like a-lines, and they work for my shape with an empire waist.
And finally, I actually got around to buying this 70s jumper, which I showed a few weeks back. I was waiting on my size to appear!
It reminded me of the Colette Parfait jumper, which I also want to make someday… but I suspect that I would wear this more (less cleavage.) I actually want this to be one of my next projects, so that I can get some summer wear out of it. I have a few cotton voiles that I like the print, but I’m not sure… do you think voile might be too lightweight? I’m not actually planning to wear it as a jumper, which might make a difference, and I suppose I can underline if necessary… I’m just not sure if it would work. Perhaps I should search for a heavier cotton.
Whew – that’s a lot of patterns! Now I will be back to watching patterns (and not buying,) which is my usual MO… all of these, except the first, have been on my favorites list for literally months! I told you I have a hard time making the decision to buy something!
Seriously, McCalls? Seriously?
Ok, so the first Fall patterns have arrived. I love Autumn – it’s my favorite season, both for weather and clothing. So I was excited when the email showed up in my inbox that the Fall patterns had arrived. I went to the website to view them, and I must admit that I was speechless (not in a good way, mind.) I don’t usually like to criticize, but I think this is the 3rd McCalls collection in a row that I’ve just hated, so…
What’s up with the asymmetrical hemlines? There were 3 tops in the spring collection with the same thing. Is this going on in stores and I’m missing it? This would be all kinds of unflattering on me, or anyone who is even faintly pear shaped. Actually, I’m not sure who this would look good on, unless what they are trying to say is “Look at my hips! Yes, look at them!”
And then there is the long jacket/vest trend. I have seen this in a few stores, but it reminds me of Miami Vice in a particularly bad way. I haven’t seen anyone actually wear one, but… maybe I don’t get out much. Again, the proportions are strange (though at least this vest buttons high, rather than around the hips the way the one in the summer collection did.)
This pattern had several bad options, and I had trouble picking just one. Apparently, someone is trying to bring back leg-o-mutton sleeves, and they need to stop.
This is a bedazzled denim majorette jacket, full stop. I don’t trust any pattern where the model is making a kicky pose – I’d imagine it hangs funny if she puts down her arms.
You don’t think the basic sheath dress could be unflattering? You’d be wrong. I hate those weird sleeves, which manage to be even less flattering to arms than cap sleeves, no mean feet.
But the good news? Now you are no longer a slave to buying your dog a name brand snuggie!
The dog in yellow looks like he wants to die of humiliation. Seriously, people… dogs don’t need snuggies (I would argue that people don’t either, but I know that’s a controversial topic!)
I really wonder how the division of labor goes on over at McVoguerick (since all 3 pattern companies are now under the same umbrella.) I love Vogue, though they are sometimes wacky, and I think Butterick actually makes some nice patterns (I have several nice dresses.) So what’s with McCalls? I think perhaps they skew younger, though the Hillary Duff line is gone, because they have lots of patterns that seem very young to me – younger than my friends would wear, and they are mostly in their twenties. I’m not interested in sewing trendy stuff (or, indeed, wearing it if the trend is 80s revival) so I know I’m probably not their target demographic. Maybe this stuff sells? It puzzles me. It seems to me that they’ve gotten new designers, as this stuff is so different from the (relatively cute) patterns a season or two back.
Oh well – I am anxiously awaiting Simplicity and Vogue’s Fall patterns, as I’m sure there will be some for me there. And I’ve been on a vintage pattern hunt too, so I’ll show you what I got soon!
Tutorial: lining a sleeveless dress
We are in the throes of a southern summer here, with temperatures in the humid 90s and no relief in sight. I’ve been avoiding my sewing room because the central a/c couldn’t keep up, but finally yesterday I broke down and bought a window unit air conditioner to supplement on the 3rd floor. Last night I went to attach the lining to my current project, and realized that I hated the instructions. You’ve seen them – the sort of lining instructions that call for handsewing part of the lining to the dress. I don’t think it looks very professional to sew part by hand, part by machine, so I used this technique, which I first learned for my Rooibos dress. It’s like a magic trick – it doesn’t seem like it would work, but it does! I hope this helps someone out – lining a sleeveless dress is super easy this way (and it works with facings too!)
Begin with only the shoulder seams sewn in both the fashion and lining fabric. With right sides together, pin the layers together, and sew together at the neckline. For this pattern I made sure to pivot at each of the 4 corners. Trim and grade the seam, clipping all the way to the stitching (but not through it!) for a v-neckline. I use pinking shears here, since the seam will be hidden inside the dress.
Understitch (ie stitch the seam allowance to the lining) as far as you can. Turn seam rightside out, so that the WS are together, and press your seam.
Now comes the magic part!
Lay the bodice down flat, with the wrong sides together (the way it is sewn.) Starting at one side, begin to roll the fabric towards the opposite armhole. Now, reach underneath, and flip the fashion fabric out (towards the right in my photo.) Lay the lining fabric over the rolled fabric (again to the right.) You will now have right sides together, and the rolled up fabric will be sandwiched in the middle of the layers. Pin the armhole for sewing.
Notice that I have actually pinned the rolled fabric back at the top of the shoulder, since it’s a pretty tight fit there! Now sew your seam, being careful not to catch the rolled fabric in the needle.
Now would be a good time to trim this seam – you won’t get another chance! I actually only trimmed mine around the curves, as I wanted the extra fabric in the shoulders. Now the fun part – grab hold of the end of the rolled fabric, and pull it out through the shoulder.
Keep pulling until everything has been turned rightside out – you will now have a perfectly finished armhole! Repeat the same action for the other side. Pull gently – this design has really narrow armholes and I managed, so it will work!
Now, press, and admire your lovely lining. You’re ready to sew the skirt to your dress!
I hope this tutorial helps out a few people – I have seen a few others, but I thought I would write one for those who (like me) need photos!
I don’t have a lot of crafting friends in real life. Sure, I have friends who sew, and friends who knit, but none with quite the obsession I have. That’s one reason why I value the online crafting communities I am a part of. The great thing about the internet is that there is a little place for you, no matter what you are interested in. I would never have had any idea that there were other people who loved vintage sewing patterns, or that I am not, in fact, the only one who is appalled at the lack of quality in store-bought clothing today.
Personally, I always love a good challenge as well. Knit-alongs abound, but I haven’t seen quite as many sew-alongs. A few weeks ago, I became aware of the Grosgrain blog, and the Frock by Friday sewalong – they’ve been sewing a different dress each month! I’m sad I missed the coffee-fate dress, which is somewhere on my list, but this month the dress is an altered version of the Tara top from Burdastyle. It looks right up my alley – it has a nice empire waist, and I like the flowy skirt. It is a bit low cut, but to be honest I am not busty enough to be much bothered by that. I’m planning to use a rayon batik print that I got from Waechter’s.
I always admire the pretty saturated colors of batiks, but in general they aren’t my thing (too much like tie-dye – my parents were all about tie-dye when I was growing up, and I just can’t go there again!) I love this one though – the colors are gorgeous, and I think it will make a perfect tropical summer dress.
I’m also planning to participate in Self-Stitched-September, and here is my pledge: “‘I, Jessica, sign up as a participant of Self-Stitched-September. I endeavour to wear at least one handmade item(s) of clothing every day for the duration of September 2010.”
I’m not going to pledge that everything I wear has to be handmade – just one item each day! I’ve already taken stock of my wardrobe and am engaged in planning. I’m going to make the pants I posted earlier this week, and hopefully at least one basic skirt. I can get away with wearing my dresses most of the time, it’s the weekends that will be a challenge for me! I plan to keep on making dresses and skirts – now that I have more, I find that I had really missed wearing them. For some reason I keep imagining that it’s going to be cold here, which is ridiculous since we rarely see any cold before Halloween. I’m looking forward to the challenge, and I hope it inspires me to wear the articles of clothing that I usually avoid!
My vintage dress hit a tiny snag this week – after underlining the whole thing, I decided it just wasn’t melding well with the fashion fabric, and I ripped the underlining out. I know! It nearly killed me to undo all that work, but it’s fitting much better now! I still need to cut the lining out – I am not sewing it the way the directions instruct, so I’m taking my time. I can’t decide if the front is twisting or not – I may end up recutting that piece only. I also decided to eliminate the skirt vents (I will use a slit instead) so I had to redo that.
Today I’ve been working on plain curtains to cover the skylights in my sewing room – the a/c cannot keep up with the heat wave we are having, so they have to be covered! I hope to have plenty of time to sew this weekend – I had a busy week, and feel like I’ve been running the whole time!
I’ve been tagged for two of the memes going around the crafting community, and I am never one to avoid filling out a questionaire (is that odd? I love to answer random questions!) Tasia tagged me for the “Eight Questions” meme – here are my answers (I’ll save the other answers for later on!)
1. Which pattern/vintage style have you been thinking about lately? I’m in the midst of a Mad Men rewatch, in preparation for the new season, so I’d have to say that my obsession with the early 60s continues. I’m also desperate for some flattering black pants – I bought mine in 2002, and they aren’t looking so good!
2. What’s your sewing threshold? As in, what will you let go, what must you absolutely fix? If it looks fine on the outside, I probably won’t fix it. Slightly puckered lining? I’m not going to bother. I will fix a puckered seam on the outside, and I cannot bear if I can see the hem when it’s supposed to be invisible. I will always fix fitting problems if I can – I often have to take a dress apart and adjust the side seams a bit!
3. A designer you consistently like and why? It’s only since I started sewing that I paid much attention to designers at all, other than an unhealthy obsession with Project Runway. Flipping through my inspiration file, it seems I do like Carolina Herrera, Michael Kors, and Armani. Classic looks, which makes sense since I am far more inspired by vintage design than I am by what’s happening on the runway now!
4. What garment/accessory do you wear the most? I wear the diamond stud earrings that my grandma gave me for my 16th birthday almost every day. I am not much of one for fancy earrings or necklaces, but I do love a nice brooch!
5. What song never fails to move you? A question you should never ask a musician! I would have to say The Luckiest by Ben Folds… it was the first dance song at my wedding. Of course, when the first line said “I don’t get many things right the first time,” all our guests snickered… guess they know us well!
6. What is one place that you really want to visit that you haven’t been to before? So many places! I love to travel. Right now England is at the top of my list… I’ve been to Europe several times, but somehow I’ve never quite made it there!
7. How do you relax? I am not exactly known for being a relaxed person, but… I love to take walks around my neighborhood, looking at the lovely old houses, maybe stopping at a coffee shop. My neighborhood is not quiet at all, so I suppose many people wouldn’t consider it relaxing, but I love the feeling of being a part of everything, and the excitement that something is always going on (that I don’t have to take part in.) Since I work from home, my concept of relaxing may be different from yours! I get really stir crazy if I don’t get out of the house for a bit every day.
8. Your motto/mantra? “Music is what happens between the notes.” (Duke Ellington… I think) Although I don’t talk about it so much here, most of my life is taken up by teaching and performing. It’s easy to get caught up in the notes, in a sometimes futile attempt to achieve technical perfection. And yet… some of the singers who move us the most have imperfect voices. The most simple music can be the achingly beautiful. As an example I offer this: Metamorphosis I by Philip Glass, one of my favorite pieces to play lately. Technically demanding? Not especially, though there is an art to minimalism. But there is something there that speaks to me (so I guess this is another answer to #5 as well!)
I seem to attend a lot of weddings. Of course, in my line of work one performs at a lot of weddings… and lately it seems as though our cousins are all getting married at once! I actually love weddings, because I love any occasion that allows me to wear a nice dress. My husband’s cousin got married on Saturday in Cincinnati, and I wore the dress I made for the occasion (it was horribly humid in the Ohio valley, excuse my flat hair!)
Marc is so sweet… he spent literally all night telling people “My wife made her dress, can you believe it?” The dress was really fun to wear and dance in (the skirt is very twirly!) I did have to have my sister-in-law pin my bra straps in two places so that they wouldn’t slip out… as I said before, even with a low back bra, this dress is tough to wear with anything because of how low cut the back is.
While we were in Cincinnati we visited their independent fabric store, Banasch’s. I’d never been, but I believe I will be returning on future family visits… the selection isn’t huge, but the quality was nice… and I finally found fabric for Vogue 9668 – a lovely cotton jacquard (reversible!) from Alice and Olivia.
It’s got a nice weight, and if I line the dress I think it will span several seasons. I will be using the black side. Waechter’s silk shop has this fabric in their online shop – in fact, I noted several fabrics I saw at either Waechter’s or Sawyer Brook. I never would have ordered this fabric, since it looks rather heavy in the photo. In reality it is slightly crisp, but lighter than other jacquards I have felt – very good for this design (I am making the version with the full skirt.) Since the pattern is regular, matching shouldn’t be too hard.
I have finished underlining my vintage dress, and I’ve started construction of the shell. I’m using the same underlining method I used for the dress I’m wearing above. Hopefully I will have time to work on it this week – summer isn’t terribly busy for me, and my Mondays are especially light now!