Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ottobre 2-2009 #1 Tank Top

I have very little to say about this pattern. Except I'm going to make a dozen or so of them before I get tired of it.

This is going to use up every useless scrap of knit fabric that I haven't been able to bring myself to throw away. Think of all the cute tops I can make to wear under jackets in the office all summer - and be able to go outside at lunch comfortably dressed!

This even convinced me to find the clear elastic I keep hiding from myself so I could reinforce the underarms.

This takes about 45 minutes from start to finish, including cutting and coverstitching the hem. If I have a bunch of them on the table that can be sewn with the same thread, it will take no time at all.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

How many is too many?

I mentioned that Kisha and I went to 4th Street on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, and I did a little restocking of the stash. A little meaning 13 yards, and now, less than a week later, only 7 yards of that is left.

How did I blow through 6 yards of fabric in 5 days? Simple. It's finally getting warm and Mario doesn't have very many short-sleeved shirts that aren't of the tee or polo variety.

Let's just say, he does now.

KwikSew to the rescue, once again. Same old pattern, just the shorter sleeve. His favorite part about these three shirts? Pockets.

When I make dress shirts, I generally "forget" to add the pocket. (Or, depending on the design, I just flat out refuse to add the pocket). This time, since these are casual shirts, he gets no argument for his burning need of pockets to cram random bits of paper into; honestly, he's as bad as a 6 year old with the stuff that ends up in there. I keep expecting to find a toad, or bits of string, or rocks, when I put a load of shirts in the washer.

He got his pockets; I got to do them my way. I added a button/buttonhole to make it vaguely more interesting. He thinks it's cool, I'm just glad he didn't object because all 3 were done before he was consulted.

The first shirt, top left, was finished in time for Sunday's family cookout. The fabric reminded me of a vintage Hawaiian shirt. The next two are more contemporary fabrics. There's also one other difference between the first shirt and the next two: for the first shirt, I cheated.

And it bothers me, even though only I will probably notice. KwikSew's shirt pattern comes equipped with two collars, the standard collar with separate stand, and a combination collar-and-stand piece. I hadn't tried that before, and I did this time, mainly to see what it was like but also thinking that I could just blow through these shirts if I could find a way to speed up the collars (without cuffs and sleeve plackets, the collar is the only time-consuming bit left).

Be warned: shortcuts don't always get you where you want to go. And the collar-to-band sewing isn't the pain in the butt; it's the band-to-shirt that's the real pain, and that still has to be done. And I swear the shortcut collar didn't fit as well. It did once I picked it loose and did it a second time, but still . . . I should have done it right the first time. I shouldn't have cheated.

The sewing gods let me know that.

It looks okay in the photograph. It actually looks a bit better than that, this was taken at the end of the day after he'd been standing at the grill, so it was a little wilted. But it doesn't have the body of a "real" collar, even with proper interfacing, and if I had enough fabric left, I would pick this non-collar off and replace it with one that didn't bother me every time I looked at it.

Good thing there's a statute of limitations on sewing mistakes. Whatever oops or shortcut or misdeed is bothering you right now, within a week you'll have done something else that will wipe it from your mind. That's pretty much guaranteed.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

One of these is next

Okay, so because of Mario's insane work schedule, I get the luxury of lots and lots of uninterrupted sewing time for the next 10 days. Which means something more involved than shirts for him (which I've been doing, just need to take photos) or something summery and stretchy for me.

That much time calls for a jacket.

But which one?

There's this moss green eyelet corduroy which I bought in March 2007 at Reine while we were in Paris. It's been wanting to be a jacket ever since I bought it, and I've changed projects about 6 times without taking scissors to it. But it may be time. I think it might want to be BWOF 4/09 #115. (I waited until Dawn sewed it up to make sure I still liked it; she also did it in cord, which was even better - thanks, Dawn!). I even have the perfect matching green dome buttons for it.

Then there's the Hotpatterns Riviera Cardigan, which I want to make in black. I need a black jacket to keep in the office to replace the ratty black sweater which I wear entirely too often because it's always entirely too cold at work. Not only does the Riviera Cardigan look like it would work with almost anything, and so should be made in black (along with other colors), but that would be the perfect opportunity to test drive it. I don't make a lot of Hotpatterns, and the black could act as a wearable muslin.

So what should I do first - use the fabric that's been waiting the longest, or make the jacket that will get worn the most?

I'm open to opinions because my brain just can't wake up and make a decision.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

What I didn't wear

to the wedding: my latest version of McCall 4444, the Laura Ashley sundress. I've made it three times now, and every time, I like it better. And somehow, even being a backless dress with a relatively distinctive neckline, it's one of those patterns that changes depending on the fabric you use.

This version was made in a cotton/lycra blend I bought from Kashi at Metro Textiles, back in 2007. I got it in my head last year, after the fabric had aged sufficiently, that I wanted to use it for this dress, but then I complicated matters by deciding that I needed contrast fabric, and that my contrast fabric had to match the aqua in the floral.

Not brown. Not gold. Not black. I had to match the aqua.

It took until the end of last summer, when I found a yard of of aqua oxford shirting at Kincus Fabrics in Philadelphia. It was the end of the bolt, it was buried on a shelf, dusty and covered in glitter from a dressy remnant on the shelf above, but even without a scrap of the floral with me, I thought it matched.

I got home, and it did. And then it got chilly, and it seemed wrong to start making another summer dress when it was September.

The idea stayed in my head all year, and surprisingly, I still liked the combination of pattern and fabrics when I pulled them out last week. I used a slightly different version this time - I put the contrast band along the top of the bodice, and also used it for the gathering tab. Since I've never, in 3 versions, used the buttons McCall recommends for the halter straps, I sewed the straps together and knotted an extra tie at the back of the neck, for a faux-halter look. I also sewed a band of contrast around the hem, which made it look more finished.

If it hadn't been 60 last Sunday, it would have gotten worn to the wedding, but I'll try to find an occasion to wear it this weekend. (And once I make a little jacket to go with it, I can wear it to work).

Thankfully, my week of no sewing is over. I took the day off yesterday and met up with Kisha and we took a little trip down to 4th Street. (For those who look at the sidebar, yes, that's 13 more yards acquired yesterday. Does it count that I know what I'm doing with at least 9 of it, immediately.

I think I needed a little infusion of fresh fabric to perk me up, because I no sooner got home than I threw all the new yardage into the washer, and by lunchtime today I had knocked out a new short sleeved shirt for Mario to wear to the cookout his sister's having tomorrow. Pictures to follow.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

More on the dress

I'm in a black hole of not sewing right now, for various reasons - I did do some prom dress alterations for a friend's daughter, but that doesn't really count as sewing; that only counts as swearing a lot as I break needles trying to sew through the beaded trim at the empire waist because I couldn't bear the idea of cutting into it and having to re-sew all those beads.

Other than that, it's just been a really busy couple of days that have prevented me from getting where I want to be, which is sitting at the machine, making something. At this point, making anything.

Sunday was the wedding. It was a simple, beautiful ceremony - they just said their vows to each other with a few of us there to witness it, and then we popped some champagne and had cake and eventually had a cookout on the back porch. I did promise more photos of the dress, though, and the bride was very cooperative because I wanted to take some shots documenting the construction of the dress. Since I got there early to help her dress, that was easy.

As you can see, I made sure to get a few shots of the jacket. I love the brilliance of putting the train on the jacket, rather than on the dress. How logical is that? There's a wrist loop on the underside of the train, so she was able to keep it up and out of her way while coming down the very twisty back stairs from her bedroom after getting ready.

I mentioned earlier that it was hard watching the dress leave the house, but it was surprisingly easy to watch her get married in it. And actually, when we got together last night so I could give her the wedding photos, I told her that she could keep it. A bride should keep her wedding dress, right? It was my heirloom; now it's hers. Having worn it, it's more valuable to her now, and I feel strangely light now that it's gone. There's no longer this 70 year old garment-of-expectations in a box in my closet, waiting for me to either (a) shrink drastically, or (b) muster up an occasion to wear it when things are just fine the way they are, thank you very much. The pressure is gone.

Before the wedding, I did get quite a bit of sewing done - I made a new version of one of my favorite summer dresses, McCall 4444, the Laura Ashley halter sundress. I wanted to wear it for the wedding, but of course the weather didn't cooperate and it was only about 60 degrees. They were actually thinking about lighting the fireplace in the house for the wedding, and sitting in front of the fire in a backless sundress just seemed silly.

So I dug out BWOF 3/08 #115, the flutter-sleeve Liberty cotton dress from last year. I figured with serious shapewear underneath, it would fit (it was a little snug when I made it, and I've always held it against the poor dress that it never fit properly), but surprisingly, I was able to wear it without. Yay! I haven't dropped a pound going to the gym, but apparently things have either tightened and/or relocated, because the dress was comfortable.

Long weekend ahead, so I'm bound to get some sewing time in. Right now I'm also working on constructing an Ikea wardrobe for my closet room, a plan that's been in progress for over 2 years but has been somewhat accelerated by the arrival in my house of Mario's entire wardrobe, which is right now hanging on the back of every door in the place. And it's not like the doors in my 100 year old house open and close properly anyway, so this isn't helping. Once the wardrobe is completed, I can spend a few hours of happy organization and neaten this rats' nest up a little.

Photos will follow of the McCall 4444 dress - right now there's so much rubble dumped in the workroom because of the closet-building project that I can't get my dress form out the door to take pictures.

So this was pretty much a non-sewing post, but I did want to put up the rest of the wedding dress photos, because I think it's a gorgeous creation, and it really really suits the bride like it was made for her.

In addition to dealing with my messy house, and my serious need for some time alone to do some sewing, I'm also having a little bit of a fabric jones. All the online fabric stores are having sales this weekend, and I've been fending off sale emails left and right.

But I don't think I can hold out much longer. I haven't bought any fabric - any - since March. I think that may be too long. If I buy just a little now, when I'm just starting to twitch, maybe I can stave off a full-blown, run-amok-can't-carry-it-all-home shopping expedition.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Vintage 1932

I got an email from a friend yesterday, inviting me to her "self-declaration" wedding on Sunday. (This is apparently quite legal in Pennsylvania, and the way the Quakers do it, with no judge / minister / other authority figure involved). As of yesterday afternoon, she still had nothing to wear. She loved the idea of a gown but since they're doing something relatively informal and at home, she couldn't justify it.

I, however, could. This is the bride-to-be in my great-aunt Violet's wedding dress, circa 1932. I turned myself inside out as a teenager to get her to promise to leave me that dress, and she eventually did. However, my teenage self was not thinking that I would actually fill out a bit between age 14 and whenever I might have an opportunity to wear it.

Hell, if we're being realistic, it didn't really fit me at 14, and now I'd need a month on a desert island, rib removal and possibly a stint on the Biggest Loser to get into it. And this is not me saying I'm overweight, this is simply reality; the dress is made for someone much more slender - and much less bodacious - than I am.

Though my great-aunt (who was much more bodacious than me) did get into it, but she said she was bound within an inch of her life and couldn't take a full breath until she got the dress off many hours later. Which perhaps explains the pained expression on her face, though if we're being truthful, that was her natural expression. Sourpuss or not, they were married for 50 years, so the dress has some luck built in.

And considering it's been packed in tissue in a cardboard box (not the nice preserving kind of box and tissue, just whatever was around at the time) the dress was in immaculate condition, other than horribly wrinkled. The lace over-jacket not so much - there was a little splitting around the fronts of the armholes, but nothing that couldn't be repaired once I saw that it fit her.

The dress itself is ivory satin, bias cut, with snaps up the left side. It's close-fitting, even on her, and she's about 2 sizes smaller than me. The over-jacket is lace, with long sleeves (I love the sleeve puffs), and diamond-shaped insets of the satin all the way down the back and making up most of the train. The train, by the way, has a ribbon underneath so you can hold up your train while waltzing. Too fabulous.

The dress wasn't pressed yet when the photos were taken because at that point she hadn't completely made up her mind, but before she went home last night we ironed it and I did the repairs to the lace. Knowing her wardrobe fairly well from doing theater costuming with her, I know she has a pair of ivory vintage ankle-strap shoes that will be beautiful with this.

It hurt like hell seeing that dress walk out of the house, but I'm happy, for her and for the dress. Dresses need to be worn and loved. My closet is not a museum.

And for what it's worth, the bedroom furniture in the photos came from the same aunt, and was purchased the same year as the wedding. So I have my vintage 1932 heirloom, well-loved and used every day.

I wish I'd taken a picture of her when she tried on the veil. It has a beaded headpiece which is still intact, but the netting, which had little tiny ivory bows sewn all over it, was shredded and hanging in strips. It looked fantastic on her, very Miss Havisham.

Then again, that's probably not the effect you want on your wedding day.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

BWOF 12/08 #114 Dress

Pattern Description: The casually-cut nightgown with short raglan sleeves is cinched with a self-fabric tie-belt to accentuate the waist. Right, it's actually supposed to be a nightgown. Except that #113, the top version, has the exact same fit and I liked all the reviews but I wanted a dress. So nightgown pattern + dress fabric = dress. A more accurate description would be raglan-sleeve dress with pleated neckline.

Pattern Sizing: BWOF sizes 36-44. I cut my standard 38, but this was generously sized so I ended up with 3/4" seam allowances on the sides.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? It no longer looks like a nightgown. It looks like the cool top version, but with short sleeves. I like BWOF's two-piece raglan sleeve, but not the open-underarm version on the nightie. Just a little too much ventilation for work.

Were the instructions easy to follow? I glanced at them - this would be a great first BWOF pattern, it's got simple lines and the pieces fit well. The only even vaguely complicated part is the pleating at the neckline, but that would work just as well (to me) as gathers.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I liked the neckline and the easy shape of the dress. I got this fabric during my last trip to NY and I wanted a simple dress which would let the fabric shine.

Fabric Used: Red/gold/black stained glass print rayon/lycra blend from Metro Textiles. I asked Kashi for 2 yards, and I got enough to make this dress, my favorite KwikSew tshirt and possibly something else.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: Not many at all. As I said above, I like BWOF's two-piece raglan sleeve, but not the open underarm of the nightgown pattern. The top version had long sleeves, so I used that pattern piece and just traced them to the length I wanted. (It's cold in my office all summer, and I wanted at least some sleeve). This pattern is generously cut - since it's either supposed to be a nightbown or an "overblouse" (tshirt as overblouse? Who is BWOF kidding?) - there was room to spare and I used pretty large seam allowances. Their description of how to sew on the neckband left a lot to be desired, so I'm glad I didn't read it until after I'd sewn the band on the way I normally would. Why do they try to confuse us on the simple stuff?

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I might sew this again sometime. It's a good pattern for when you have a fabric that doesn't need a lot of fussy details (which is good for me, because while there are a lot of solid color knits in my stash, every knit dress in my closet is more patterned than the next). I would definitely recommend it as a fast, easy pattern without a lot of detail or fitting issues. A good choice as a first knit (or first BWOF).

Conclusion: I wanted to finish this dress for our mother's day dinner out, but we had to get an early start and I hadn't done the hem yet. So instead wore it yesterday - we had tickets for Leonard Cohen at the Academy of Music and it was a comfortable dress for dinner and going to the theater and sitting for a 3 hour show.

And don't get me started on the show. That man does not look, move or sound his age, and the show was worth every penny we paid for the tickets.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Hello Again

Earlier this week, when I went digging in the bag of castoffs to find the sundress I used for the baby gift, I came up with an old favorite - this sleeveless denim blouse from Gap. This is another piece that I wore until it was seriously no longer wearable. There are spots on the front, a stain on the back and some serious discoloration around the collar. But it was always a comfortable top, and I think I threw it in the bag because I had thoughts of duplicating it someday.

I tried it on and - wonder of wonders - it still fits (even though parts of me have migrated slightly southward since its last wearing). Better yet, I still like how it fits. And I can't believe I wore it as long as I did - you can get an idea of its age by the color the dart is once I dismantled the blouse and ironed it flat to make pattern pieces from it.

This was a nice simple piece to try to duplicate - only three pieces, front, back and collar. The original, being a fairly substantial denim, had no interfacing whatsoever. I think that also explained why the button placket had to be ironed flat every single time I wore it because it never survived the dryer without wrinkling twice as much as the rest of the top.

I cut the top apart along the seams, opened the dart and pressed it, and laid it out on top of tracing paper. I traced around the garment edges, leaving a big red note to myself on each pattern piece to add seam allowances when I cut. (I have to do that with BWOF traces, too, because I've been known to forget to add the SA and then the garment goes to a smaller friend, who's always happy to take my mistakes!)

Even though I was supposed to be working on another project, this was the one that held my attention. I finished tracing, and turned to the stash to see what I had that would work as this top. I came up with a wine-themed novelty print that was supposed to be a shirt for a friend, but he has since changed his entire style and would no longer wear it (though it might do for an apron for his outdoor cooking efforts). Though this fabric was purchased with someone else in mind, the light sagey green background makes me think that I unconsciously hedged my bets and got something that would also work on me if I changed direction.

Since this is such a basic pattern, it went together in no time at all. The thing that probably took the longest was trying to find the right buttons - but isn't that almost always the hardest part of any project, finding the right notions?

I'm going to make a few more of these for summer. Maybe next time I'll lessen the curve at the bottom, or even leave it off entirely. This will be a good base for future pieces because it's basic enough that I can change it, or add or subtract collar, sleeves, etc., without the body of the blouse being too recognizable.

Monday, May 4, 2009

April: Month End Review

Not the most productive of months in terms of volume, but I'm really pleased with what I turned out in April.

Six items, 11 yards of fabric out of the stash, and no new fabric in.

The biggest challenge overall was the BWOF trench jacket in iridescent vinyl. The fabric was interesting to sew with, to say the least, but the end result was worth it - and since it's been rainy a lot lately, I've gotten a good bit of wear out of it, which is satisfying. Nothing worse than making a jacket and having it suddenly turn too hot to wear it.

I also caught the jeans-making bug from Patternreview and tried the jeans pattern from the 2/2007 issue of Ottobre. I made the first pair in a stretch plaid RPL, and was surprised how well they turned out. Well enough, in fact, that I turned around a few days later and made a pair in denim - for which I still have to post a review because I haven't had pictures taken yet.

Only one recycling project this month - I made Simplicity 2601 out of a plus size cotton skirt from my local thrift store. It wa a good test drive of a new pattern, and while the design didn't completely thrill me, it excited me enough to spend time thinking, obsessing, and finally merging it with Butterick 4985 to make an entirely new blouse. Now that was satisfying.

I also tried out the A-line skirt from the April issue of BWOF. April wasn't their interesting issue, not by a long stretch, but I thought that #101 would be a useful skirt. Made up in denim, it's great for weekend wear, but I can see it in a nicer fabric for work (though if I did that, I would also add a lining, which BWOF omitted). Bad, bad BWOF. Linings aren't that difficult, and most of the time they really can make or break a project. Again, I say, bad BWOF.

I did start a few other projects - a maternity top for a friend, a baby dress for another friend's newborn - but they'll be listed in May's totals since I haven't gotten very far on either of them.

I'm also beginning to get the shirt-making itch again. It hasn't been that long, but we went shopping the other weekend and I stopped in this high-end men's store and had to stop myself from drooling. The shirts in this store had tons of details I want to try to reproduce, and sooner or later (probably sooner), I'll be making someone a new shirt.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Terminal Cuteness

A friend (and former co-worker) of mine recently had a baby. Well, his wife had the baby but he's acting like he did! Even though he's no longer at the firm, we keep in touch and I promised him when the baby was born thatI would make her a little something. I waited until after the birth to start because even though they were expecting a girl, I wanted to be certain before I made something girly.

When I told him that something would be coming his way soon, he said that if I hadn't started yet, could I make it something in a slightly larger size because "they have about 3,000 variations of pink in infant to 3 months." Not a problem - the one baby girl pattern (Burda 9680) I have is an older Burda, with two dress variations, a long sleeve with a straight hem and a sleeveless pinafore with a scalloped hem. I loved the hem scallops and the sleeve variation would depend on how much fabric I had.

The other night I finally got around to starting. Since none of the fabrics in my stash are really baby-type fabric, I thought I was going to have to buy something, but then I started digging through my bags of thrift-store purchases and clothes that I had given up wearing and came up with something perfect. Not only is it a recycling project, but the fabric is all the softer for little Madeleine because I've washed and worn it for years.

Once upon a time it was a sundress from April Cornell, a vaguely Liberty-ish floral in lavender and pale blue. (See, Kevin, NOT pink!). It's hard to see in the photos, but the dress front was tiny pintucks. I laid out my pattern pieces and found out that I could take advantage of the pintucks for the front of the baby dress. Additionally, I could re-use the button back of the dress rather than inserting the zipper that Burda recommended. A zipper in a baby dress? Really?

There was plenty of skirt fabric to make the scalloped skirt pieces, and enough left to put aside for contrast cuffs and collar band for a shirt for Mario one of these days.

For the trim, I dug deep into the trim stash - several plastic tubs of assorted frilly that I've been accumulating for decades - and came up with the lace for the them and the cotton trim for the neckline, waist and the tops of the hem scallops.

This project literally took me 2 hours from start to finish and came completely from stash. Not only is it cute, but it's environmentally friendly.