Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Month End Review - December 2010

Busy, busy, busy.

December was eaten up by 2 types of sewing: holiday (to be expected) and our seat of the pants decision to get married in January, bringing about some hasty wedding-type sewing.

All in all, I made 14 pieces in December, but only used up something in the area of 17 yards of fabric (craft show items and gifts are pretty small).

The small ticket items: 6 beaded velvet scarves for the craft show, and 3 turtlenecks from the BWOF September issue, one for me, one for Mario's sister, and one for my housemate. One was navy, one was gray and one was purple, but they were all sewn with black thread, so I could knock them out in an evening.

One of my favorites was the dress I made for a friend to give as a baby gift - I'm really enjoying making the small stuff, and it fits in with my thrift store / recycling ethic. And it's cute!

The Lazy Girl Gracie handbag for my soon-to-be mom-in-law was made from remnants of several previous projects, including her 2006 Christmas bag. (She liked it it and wore it out; why re-invent the wheel?)

And drumroll, . . . the Tiffany blue french-cuffed wedding shirt for him, and the dress and jacket for me, which is as yet only being seen in pieces. I promise, I promise, there will be real photos of both pieces soon.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Muslin Hell

The jacket was supposed to be the easy part.

It's only meant to coordinate with the dress, not show it up. It's meant to be a simple style, a solid color.

A non-challenging project.


Four patterns and three muslins later, I was no closer to a wearable idea of a jacket than when I was sitting surrounded by patterns and magazines and a few yards of intact muslin.

The first muslin, not pictured, was a jacket I'd made before, just in a larger size to accommodate my apparently larger person. I wasn't head over heels about the jacket before, but it was the right general style and the right length, and I figured I could play around with it.

But it didn't look right, either on me, or over the dress, so out it went.

Muslin 2 was too boxy. I looked like a cube. Hell, even Evelyn looked like a cube in it.

And so it's gone.

I had great hopes for Muslin 3. First off, it was a BWOF pattern, and they generally fit me pretty well. They also seem to think (at least sometimes) in style lines that I find attractive.

Or not. This is the bolero #101 from BWOF 1/2008. I've seen it made up, and while it didn't wow me, I thought I could work with it. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

From the back and side, it's not too bad. From the front . . . let's say it covers even less of my boobage than it does on Evelyn, and that's not a good look on anyone.

If I wanted to spill out of my dress, I'd have cut a deeper neckline.

As my trash can filled with muslin, I began to despair. Maybe I'd just go without a jacket. I could; there was no rule saying I had to have a jacket. But I wanted one. And I had 2.5 yards of that taupe fabric, so whatever cute little jacket I came up with, there'd be enough for an eventual cute little matching pencil skirt.

I just had to find a jacket pattern.

Then I got an idea. An awful idea. The Grinch got a terrible, awful idea. (Sorry, holiday hangover). But you get the idea.

Back in the spring I bought a jacket at a yard sale. It was grubby and not much to look at, but it started out life as an Ann Taylor Loft piece, and I was inrigued by the embellishment, which is nothing more than a 70s clunky necklace cut up and sewn on. Digging it out of the thrifting pile, I tried it on for the first time.

It fit. It has a nice basic shape - princess seamed front and back, with small bust darts in the front as well. The neckline is good. The sleeve fit is good (though of course they're short and I want longer sleevse). The jacket itself was longer than I wanted, but that's also easily remedied. After a few photos, I carefully ripped the jacket apart at the seams, cutting away only the seam allowances at the hem and neckline, where it was just too fussy to remove the facings.

After that, I presed the pieces and redrew the seam allowances on them, and pinned the fabric pieces on top of my jacket fabric and went at it with the rotary cutter. I'm taking this one on faith; I'll know soon whether or not I've got a jacket or another muslin on my hands.

I didn't ask the sewing gods for anything for Christmas - is it too late to ask them that this please, please not be Muslin 4?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

This is what happens

when I spend too much time in the sewing room.

In case it's not obvious,

underneath the blanket,
underneath the pillow,
underneath the cat,
there is a man.

Who is asleep.

At least he's wearing one of my shirts.

There is progress on the dress. I should be done by the end of the weekend, unless that pesky Christmas thing gets in my way.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Changing Horses Mid-Stream

No new photos in this post because the camera battery died, but then again there's nothing much to show.

Last night I got the sleeves sewn onto the dress. I removed almost all the ease and managed to get the little remaining ease in without problems. That hardly ever happens on both sleeves Then I tried the dress on and looked in the mirror.

And I didn't like what I saw. I still loved the fabric, and the general idea of the dress. I just didn't like where that idea had taken me.

I thought about what I didn't like, and it came down to this: I liked the raised waist seam, but my seam wasn't raised enough. It landed about an inch below the bra line and it needed to be almost even. Also, the piping. I copied that detail from a dearly departed vintage dress, and I'm sure I'll try it again at some point, but it wasn't working for me here. Also, I think the piping was a smidge too big, and because of that, I couldn't get it to be completely flat.

Looking in the mirror, I felt vaguely . . . upholstered. Not a look you want on your wedding day - or any day, for that matter.

So, what to do? If it had been earlier in the evening, I would have spent more time thinking. Seeing that it was after 11:00p .m., I took my sharpest scissors to that pesky waist seam, and cut the dress apart on either side of the piping, ditched the piping and pinned it back together, giving myself a 1/2" seam allowance on the bodice and less on the skirt.

Tonight I sewed, pressed and tried it on, with fingers crossed.

Much better. I do need to re-fit the skirt slightly since my butchery raised the hip curve a bit, but that's not a big deal.

The lines on my previous photo show the new seamline, and how it will (hopefully) fit once I'm finished.

I also had a really good idea about the back of the dress, inspired by a skirt in the January issue of Burda, which of course seems really promising, and which of course I did not get, since my subscription ended in December.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What a difference 4 years makes

Nothing like a project you really want to sew to get those other pesky projects out of the way, right?

Christmas is done. It's toast. You can stick a fork in it. The last gift, a Lazy Girl Gracie handbag, was finished earlier this evening. It's a much better version than the ones I made for his mom in 2006, and she liked the first one enough that she literally wore it to pieces. I had some of the same paisley home dec fabric left over, so I used that, since I knew she'd liked it, and this time I found the coordinating fabric that had gone missing last time.

This bag will hold up a lot longer. I added a reinforced bottom so that it doesn't tip over as easily, I used a magnetic closure instead of the recommended Velcro, and I used some big fat upholstery piping that I had (why? why did I have that?) and inserted it into the straps to keep them firm.

There's supposed to be a layer of batting in between the exterior and lining layers, but I didn't have any batting, and this was supposed to be Christmas sewing without having to buy more stuff, so I used several layers of that almost batting-like interfacing for men's jackets, and a layer of old felt that I had around. Basted together, it felt fine, and a little less squashy than batting. I like a bit more structure in a bag.

Even though this bag isn't really my style, there are things I do like about it. Six interior pockets - what's not to like there? They're a little too evenly spaced for my liking, but that's because their seams form part of the bag's construction, and shifting the pockets wouldn't work since all the layers are sewn at the same time.

I like how quickly the pattern goes together, and the fact that there are no pattern pieces, just measurements included on the instruction sheet. If you were feeling adventurous, there's no reason why you couldn't change the size of the bag - so long as you keep a few basic measurements in mind, it's all adjustable. The instructions are really clear, and even in black and white, the photos are clear enough to see what you're supposed to do.

In other words, it makes a great gift. I got it done in 2 nights, taking last night off because it was just painfully cold in the workroom. Tonight I got the temperature up to 65 in there, so I hunkered down and sewed like the wind that whistles in through the ancient bricks on my back wall. (Next year's home improvement project: brick pointing.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


I'm further along than this on the dress, but I haven't had anyone available to take photos, and it's just not the same on skinny Evelyn.

Hopefully I'll get a photographer this weekend. Either that or I'll have to blindfold Mario and just tell him to aim the camera toward the white wall.

After tweaking the second muslin of the bodice, I felt confident enough about the fit to cut into my silk. The silk has a tiny bit of lycra, which will make it even more forgiving; if I got a decent fit in muslin, the real fabric should actually work better.

The changes to the bodice again were to morph it with the Burdastyle Fatina, so that I have bust darts on the side and then minor fitting ones underneath the bust that line up with the darts in the skirt. It makes for a nice close fitted bodice that doesn't look too tight.

Because the fabric struck me as so vintage, and because I just let go of a dress on Etsy that had this detail, I decided to put self-piping on the seam between the bodice and the skirt. I waffled a little bit, thinking it might add bulk, but I decided to go with it anyway. I like it, and now that I have my new/old machine where I can swap out for my adjustable zipper foot, there was absolutely no space between the piping and the seam line. Love it.

The bodice of the dress is completely sewn in these photos, but the skirt is only pinned at the seams, and the joining seam between the skirt and bodice is also pinned, which accounts for the lumpiness. Or at least some of it. My housemate took these photos, but she was seated at the time and apparently being right in line with my thighs is NOT my most flattering angle. Duh.

Looking at the dress in the mirror before going upstairs with my camera, I thought it looked pretty good. Looking at the pictures, I felt like a bag of potatoes, but I think a lot of that is the unfortunate angle, and what isn't is probably the fact that the dress is pinned and none of the lines are smooth.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Housemate didn't think this was the most flattering shape for me, but I absolutely love the version of this dress I made earlier in the year, and besides, it's my wedding, I'm wearing what makes me happy.

There was a back view of me in the pinned dress, but it was just so egregious that I can't post it. Suffice to say that it let me know there was a little pulling up near the joining seam in the back, which I fixed, but the rest was comfortable, so I wiggled my way out of my pin-filled dress and sewed up the seams. The invisible zipper went in with no problem.

Right now, that's the status of things. The sleeves are cut out, but not sewn. Since they're from a vintage pattern, they have a little gathering at the elbow on the back of the sleeve, which I think is a nice detail and makes for a better fit. I got some nice ivory stretch lining, though I think I'm still going to use the original facings (a little overkill, maybe) because IF there's any gapping - not that there would be - I'd rather see floral than lining fabric.

I got a little distracted by Christmas sewing - 3 assembly line BWOF turtlenecks and a new Lazy Girl Gracie bag for Mario's mom, who wore out her old one, and a few more scarves for the craft show because the beaded velvet stuff is going like hotcakes. Go figure. It's always what I think will sell more slowly that people want.

Once the holiday sewing is done with (by the end of the weekend, if not sooner), I'll get back to the dress. Stay tuned.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Stealth Shopping

Today was my last vacation day for 2010, and I spent some of it in NY. Very little of it, actually - my trip resembled most of my visits to my aunt in that the trip itself took longer than the actual visit.

I caught the 9:00 a.m. Bolt bus, got to NY at 11:15, grabbed a quick breakfast and then hit the stores.

There was a specific purpose for my visit - I'm almost finished my dress for the wedding (it still needs sleeves and a lining, but the fit is good) and I decided that it needed a coordinating jacket. I had two store options for the jacket, Paron's and Mood. Paron's has wonderful quality fabrics and better pricing, but Mood just has EVERYTHING.

I started with Paron's, and though there was lots of lovely aqua on the shelves, nothing grabbed me. A female employee, sensing that I was floundering, took my swatch and sent me off to the annex to look at sale fabrics. When she came to get me, there were 5 bolts of fabric on the table.

Only one of them was aqua. WTF? Instead, she had chosen to match the taupe color that I had barely paid attention to, and she made some very nice matches indeed. So much so that I bought 2.5 yards of a jacket-weight cotton twill with a lovely sheen to it. I'll line it in the leftover silk and that will tie everything right up.

So, that problem solved, I went on my merry way with clear conscience and no shopping list. I went in and out of a few random stores without purchasing, and even survived Pacific Trim to emerge empty-handed. When was the last time that happened?

Mood is always iffy with me. Either they have stuff I love but can't afford, or nothing grabs me at all. Today was a good day. I left with 2 yards of lovely boucle. I hardly ever let myself go near those, but this just reached out and smacked me to get my attention. Other than the pink, which isn't a color I wear often, the green, light gold and browns in this fabric work with most of my existing wardrobe. The photo is blurry but best represents the colors; you all know what boucle looks like anyway.

Best part of the visit to Mood? Catching Swatch on a good day when he obviously hadn't been bombarded with enough attention and petting. He got a good ear-scratching and I got my face washed. I debated heading over to Elliott Berman for competing puppy kisses, but there wasn't time.

My bus was due to leave at 2:30 p.m., so I had a little more than half hour left to spend with Kashi. Not enough, but then again, there are enough goodies in his store that you can power-shop and be in and out quickly.

30 minutes, 4 fabrics. Left to right: charcoal gray ribbed sweater knit (poly blend so it's washable, but it doesn't feel like poly); the last 1.5 yards of one of those cotton patchwork fabrics, in my colors; a toasty golden tan wool remnant; and my personal favorite, this beautiful multi-colored floral on a black background. It's not quite vintage, not quite Liberty, but whatever it is, I had to have it.

And there you have it, the Garment District in just over 3 hours. One of these days I really do need to get beyond 40th Street and see what else is out there.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Mighty Morphin' Pattern Drafting

I love a good frankenpattern. The wedding dress definitely qualifies as a frankenpattern, or possibly something more mutant if anyone can think of a name for it.

I knew when I bought my fabric that I wanted to at least use BWOF 2/2009 #124 as the basis for my dress. I made it this summer, and I loved it, but it wasn't dressy enough, and it needed sleeves.

But it was a good starting point.

I looked through my pattern stash for a dress with a similar waist seam but a different fit; I wanted bust darts and an armole that I could set a sleeve into. Nothing in the stash jumped out at me, and then I remembered Burdastyle's Fatina, which I've made 3 times, twice with a separate bodice and skirt, and for which I even drafted a sleeve (though I can't find it; go figure).

I dug out Fatina and saw that the length of the bodice piece was the same. I laid the BWOF pattern piece over top of the Fatina piece, matching the shoulder seams, and traced a third piece from the combination, keeping the original neckline but incorporating the structure of the Fatina bodice, with substantial bust darts. The BWOF pattern had small fitting darts below the bust, which lined up with the darts in the skirt front.

Oddly enough, it was the same location where I added fitting darts to Fatina, so I kept those.

For the sleeve, I wanted a fitted 3/4 length sleeve, and I scavenged that from one of my vintage reprinted patterns (pretty sure it was a Vogue, but the envelope has disappeared into the whirlpool, so pattern information will be supplied).

I did the same thing for the back, which was less effort - there's not much to the back, other than the really pretty deep V. No darts, no nothing. I adjusted the shoulder width, and let it be.

My first muslin (not pictured, and not worthy of picture) was actually the original BWOF pattern, which I tried tinkering with to change the shape to accommodate a sleeve. No such luck. The "sleeve" of the original dress is cut on, and doesn't lend itself to reshaping.

Muslin #1 hit the can.

Muslin #2 (pictured above) is better. Evelyn lost some weight recently and no longer fits my clothes the way she used to. In particular, she's gotten very narrow across the back and things have to be pinned.

Bad Evelyn! How uncooperative!

She's not invited to the wedding.

I removed some ease from the sleeve and inserted it with only minor swearing. You can see from the photo that there's still a little bit of puckering in the front, but I adjusted that on the pattern piece. There's also a significant difference between muslin and the silk/cotton/lycra blend that I'm working with. I know which one will be more forgiving.

Last night I got the dress fabric cut out, and tonight I started putting it together. I made a strip of piping and that's getting inserted in the waist seam. I think it'll add to the vintage appeal of the fabric, and hopefully of the dress.

It's coming together, both in my head and on the work table. Fingers crossed.

Recycled Baby Dress

The other day, a friend saw the dress I made for my co-worker's imminent baby, and said, "It's a shame you're so busy with craft show sewing and the wedding; I'd love for you to make a dress for my friend's daughter who's turning one later this month."

I emailed her today to ask if she'd gotten her gift yet, and when she said no, I told her I'd meet her after work with a surprise.

This is yet another variation on the Burda baby pinafore, 1 year size this time, with added collar and pocket.

The dress began life as a skirt. I'm not even sure what to call the style, but I regret to say I wore it, and often. It looks much better as a baby dress. The uneven ruffle always bothered me (I didn't make it or I would have probably picked it off), but it looks interesting on something that small.

The collar is made from the original pocket flaps from the skirt, and the pocket was part of the pocket. I used the existing hemline and just tweaked the shape of the skirt pieces to accommodate it. I didnt' mind taking apart the skirt but I didn't see the point in picking off the rayon seam binding used as trim (no way that would have survived) and trying to reinvent the wheel when it was a perfectly good wheel to begin with.

Best of all, my friend loved it. She thinks it looks like something a little girl would have worn in a British children's book from the 1930s, and I take that as a compliment.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Something Blue

First, thank you ALL for the congratulations and good wishes (and sympathy with regard to difficult relatives). It means a lot that so many of you - most of whom I've never met - have left comments.

I didn't get very far on the dress this weekend, other than making a few yards of piping. The ideas for the dress are still percolating, so instead I got busy on what I knew I could get done.

Mario, as always, was into the idea of a new shirt, and he didn't mind having one that would coordinate with my dress, so I picked up a few yards of aqua shirting. His only request was that since this was a shirt for a special occasion, could it please have French cuffs?

I've never made French cuffs before, so I was happy to acquiesce; at least I got to learn something new while making yet another shirt. I copied the cuff from one of the shirts he brought back from Italy last year - the same shirt that supplied the reshaped shirt collar I use now. I hadn't actually thought about it, but it makes sense that there would be a wider measurement on the outer edge of the cuff, so that when it folds back it lines up properly.

Other than that, there were no problems or issues, except to say that there were no problems or issues. My new sewing machine showed up its predecessor nicely in that it managed to make buttonholes in both the collar band and the cuffs, through TWO layers of Pamela Erny's best shirt interfacing, which occasionally made the old machine wheeze and/or give me threadballs on the underside. Maybe there's something to be said for this new machine; I think in addition to its other problems the old machine was just tired.

I cut out and got the bones of the shirt done Thursday night. Friday I did sleeve plackets, constructed the cuffs and attached the collar, and Saturday I did finish work, made buttonholes, sewed on the buttons. Today I merely scrounged up his cufflinks for picture taking.

Besides that, I managed to put price tags on all the craft show items, write out my inventory for submission on Thursday, and realize that I need to make just one more piece - I said I was going to have 60 pieces, and somehow or other, I've only got 59. I think by Thursday I can add one more to the pile.

Parting shot: I figured a few of you might want to see the ring. It's actually my great-aunt's; when we decided to get married, we talked briefly about getting a ring, and then I got up, went in to my jewelry box and pulled out this one and my mom's engagement ring, and said I'd be happy to wear either one, since I had been wearing them both on and off for years. We decided on my aunt's ring, since it has a less recent history. It's a nicer ring, as well, and works well with the wedding bands we chose yesterday.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Story Behind the Dress

So . . .

I've shown you the fabric. I've mentioned the muslins. I've mentioned everything but the event for which the dress is intended, and a few people in the know have asked when I'm going to spill it.

So I'm spilling.

Get ready for another sew blog wedding, folks, albeit a non-traditional, somewhat abbreviated, very under-budget, non-bridesmaid-y kind of sew blog wedding.

After 6 years, it occurred to us that it was time. Once that decision was made, the thought, "Why wait?" followed right behind. Obviously we're not going to do it before the holidays - Mario wondered if we could, but I can't imagine adding another layer of stress (and sewing) to the already hellish holiday season.

And while I fully admit to having the organizational skills to execute a military campaign with one hand behind my back, I'm not going to try to schedule something as personal as a wedding in under a month, all the while rounding up our nearest and dearest who have already double-booked themselves to begin with. Thanks, but no thanks.

January is fine. We don't have a firm date yet because we're still trying to figure out a location ("venue" just sounds too damn bridal). We debated getting married and then telling people, but decided against it in light of the shitstorm that would inevitably follow. (Sorry, that's the only word I can think of to describe it). I suddenly understand how weddings get out of control - way too many people think they have the right to an opinion (and an invitation) to something that really only concerns 2 people when you get right down to it.

We told the families over Thanksgiving, and thankfully there aren't too many opinions from that quarter. His mom and sister are happy; my aunt less so, but isn't she always? She's not coming because (a) she's old, (b) she can't buy us an extravagant gift, (c) she can't afford something to wear, (d) she doesn't want to leave her safe neighborhood and come into the big bad city, and (e) did she mention, she's old?

Can anybody disappoint you the way your family can? Except possibly your best girlfriends? They're the only people with enough information to really get the knife in there where it's most painful. Yes, she's old. She's not poor, but we're not in it for the gifts, and I don't care what she wears; her sense of style hasn't advanced beyond 1960 or so anyway. She needs to leave her neighborhood once every 50 years or so, and YES, she's old. Big freaking deal. She's the only blood relative I've got left, and she doesn't feel like leaving the house for an occasion never likely to be repeated.

It didn't help her case when she told Mario that by my age, my mother was on her third husband. Yeesh, thanks a lot, auntie! With relatives like this, who needs in-laws?

I'm actually very happy - just needed to get the aunt-rant off my chest. The dress muslin will be on display shortly, along with a new shirt for Mario. (I can't be the only one with something new, right?)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Month End Review - November 2010

November was productive, though I don't have many things to show you here.

November marked my victory over the dreaded welt pocket, a foe who has skulked in the corners of my workroom for years, striking fear into my heart and sewing machine. Take that, welt pockets. You are history.

My plaid jacket, BWOF 1/2008 #127, is definitely one of my favorite pieces for the year, mostly because of the pockets and bound buttonholes, but also because I love the combination of the plaid with the leather and the red lining. It makes me happy just looking at it.

My most recent project is the BWOF baby dress for my co-worker's soon-to-be-baby. Quick, cute and just what I wanted to give.

I also filled a hole in the wardrobe this month by making myself a black 10-gore skirt from an old Ottobre issue (can't find it now to figure out which one it was). I needed a longer, fuller black skirt, and that fit the bill.

Craft show sewing is also history - I finished 11 more pieces in November. Glad to be done with sewing for the show, but looking forward to the proceeds which can be invested in new fabric in 2011.

Last but not least, I made 2 partial muslins for my soon-to-be-dress. I've got the bodice where I want it now, so maybe next up I'll explain what I started with and where it ended up.