Friday, March 30, 2012

No self control

The whole shebang (plus 3 yards of black knit)
 None whatsoever. Not where fabric is concerned, anyway.

I had a day off from work on Tuesday, and Mario and I decided to treat ourselves and take the bus up to NY for the day. We agreed that we weren't going to do our usual things - I'd stay away from the garment district and he wouldn't go near Midtown Comics or Forbidden Planet, his weaknesses.

That didn't last long. We got off the bus and went to grab breakfast, and while we're sitting there, he said, "If I just ducked down to Midtown for 45 minutes, could you find something to do?" We were at 35th and 7th at the time. What's a girl to do?

Watercolor flower knit
 Okay, I could have NOT gone to a fabric store. But trim stores are dangerous too. Or I could have gone to a fabric store where there was little likelihood of buying anything. Mood is always good for that; at their prices, I tell myself I can buy one fabric and I can never narrow it to just one and I leave empty handed. But no, I went to see Kashi. Because I had to.

And the problem with Kashi is that you can't leave his store empty-handed; he'd be hurt. And offended. And I do not want to hurt and/or offend the man who has the best fabric in NY and is so willing to sell it to me.

Gray/brown/black paisley knit
 I also didn't need to go on a complete binge, but that's a whole different story. Is it at least good that of all the fabrics I bought, only 4 of them were prints? Those other printholics out there will understand my happiness about that. But yeah, virtue, she fell by the wayside and was buried in an avalanche of fabric. Next time I saw my virtue, it was reclining on a bolt of fabric with a dopey smile and a cigarette.

It was that kind of shopping trip.

Put it this way. I keep a spreadsheet detailing my sewing projects and yardage month-by-month. As of March 27th, I had used 35 yards of fabric for the year, which I thought was pretty damn good.

Poppy print stretch woven
 The problem is, I replaced every single yard I used so far this year. In 45 minutes, while Mario was at the comic book shop.

And he bought nothing. Nothing. And when he met me, and saw my empty hands, he thought I bought nothing. Then he saw the 2 cuts of fabric in my bag, and realized that was not the case. And then I mentioned that a box would be arriving at the office on Thursday, and he knew.

And then he took me to Around the World Books and I bought a pattern drafting book and 3 back issues of La Mia Boutique. At that point, what point was there in trying to get virtue back on track? She'd been on a bender and the least I could do was let her down easy.

Ivory/gray/black silk
 We had a very nice day. We ended up doing other stuff, walked a lot, had a lovely lunch and caught the bus home again. I have to say, it was easier to walk without dragging 18 pounds of fabric (Kashi kindly weighed it for me). And I could wait until it was delivered. After all, I had those 2 cuts in my bag . . .

Thankfully, Kashi ships by UPS two day, because I'm not sure how long I could have waited for all this loveliness.  I opened the box at work, petted everything and stashed it into two Patternreview shopping bags so I could get it home on train.  Not easy, but way better than schlepping it around Manhattan.

The top photo, left to right, bottom to top:  turquoise/navy double-faced wool; appliqued net fabric (the only really pointless purchase), teal crepe, turquoise silk/cotton blend, white silk/cotton blend, tan silk charmeuse; aqua silk charmeuse; poppy print stretch woven; blue/purple/gold floral knit; gray flecked bottomweight; ivory/gray/black print silk; brown/gray/black paisley knit; medium brown flecked bottomweight.  And 3 yards of black stretch knit, not in the photo.

Phew.  It looks like a lot.  It is a lot.

And I can't wait to start sewing it up!  I've been thinking about it ever since I walked out of Metro, and waiting for the UPS guy today was a torture.  Now I just need to pick a fabric, pick up my scissors, and have fun.

I think that poppy print's days are numbered, at least as as fabric.  As a dress, now, that's a whole different thing.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Revisiting an old favorite

I first made BWOF 5/08 #104 back in July 2008, out of a green and black knit from  Here's the original pattern review.  Even though the fabric wasn't the greatest quality, I loved the dress and so I babied the fabric along until last summer,when it really started to show its age and became a weekend dress instead of something I could wear to work.

After finishing the VPLL 0191 blouse, I needed a quick knit project to clean my head, and a new version of this dress has been on my to do list for a while.  I was looking for another seam ripper (where do they go?) in a drawer and found a nice round buckle and realized that it would be perfect, so that was the inspiration to finally get on it and make this.

I love knits.  Even if it's a new pattern, it's quick to work up, and if it's something I've made before, then look out, because it'll be done in a flash.

I cut this out Friday evening, futzed with it before bed, and finished it yesterday afternoon in between gardening and more gardening.

Dresses like this are what I miss about Burda these days, and why I let my subscription lapse.  Everything in the last year or so (ever since they ruined the pattern sheets by doubling up) seems to be too blocky and simple (maybe because otherwise we'd shoot ourselves trying to trace complex patterns?) and while this is in no way complex, it also doesn't look as easy as it is.

I love the front drape - it definitely conceals a bit around the middle while also being a design feature.  You don't often get concealment and "hey, look at me!" all in the same garment.

I made changes from the original pattern, some of which I did the first time around.  It's a knit dress, yet Burda wants you to put a zipper in it.  Ummm, no.  They also included a bodice facing that extended to just above the waist drape.  Right.  We all love facings in knits, and a facing that's nearly as big as a lining?  Umm, no again.  For the original dress, I just did a neckline facing, but this time I adjusted the shape of the neck a bit and bound it before sewing the front V.  Much neater, and no facing to flip out.

The original dress was also sleeveless, which is fine for a summer dress but my office is really, really cold and even short sleeves help a bit.  I used a sleeve from another Burda dress and it worked just fine.

This dress uses a good bit of fabric.  None of it is cut on the fold, though the back could be.  I just like that it gives a bit of shaping so I left it the way it was drafted.  The front is interesting, and also cut twice - there's a short seam from the bottom of the neckline V to the mid-section seam, and a long seam from there to the hem.  In the middle is a horizontal seam (hidden behind the drape).  The excess bodice fabric is gathered to fit the lower seam, stitched, and then the drape is constructed and basted over top.  I think Burda was a bit generous on the drape, because even my first version had to be tweaked so that the drape draped instead of drooped.  But what pattern doesn't require a tweak or two?

I'm torn about what to start on next.  The calendar says it's March; however, the weather says it's nearly June (though it is chilly and a bit drizzly today).  I'm not competely over cold-weather sewing, but suddenly all the things I want to work on seem wrong because I'm going to finish them and hang them in the closet for 6 months or so. 

There's some theater sewing coming up soon - the local group is doing the Tempest in mid-April - but the patterns and fabric that were promised for Friday evening have not thus far appeared.  So I'm on my own for a project, and I'm leaning another knit.  At least that way if the costumes do show up, I can still knock out something else to wear to work this week..

Saturday, March 24, 2012

VPLL E0191 - Striped Blouse - Finished

Pattern Description: Ladies striped blouse with pleated front, contrast collar and sleeve trim. Back button closure.

Pattern Sizing: One size, to be adapted by the sewist. Approximately 36" bust, 25" waist. I kept the bust the way it was and added some width to the waist. I'd much rather take the waist out than try to do an FBA on some of these designs.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? More or less. I chose to omit the contrast collar because my original contrast fabric choice did not please me and I started over. Thus far I haven't found a contrast fabric I like that works well with the silk.

Were the instructions easy to follow? The instructions are translated from the original 1912 French instructions. They weren't bad, but I did a different order of construction and made some changes so I really just read them over for surprises and then did it my own way.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? This wasn't an assigned pattern for the 1912 Project but we are allowed to request patterns assigned to other groups if we want to make them up. I really liked the drawing for this one and was intrigued when someone mentioned that the construction meant that the vertical stripes on the front chevroned down the back. I had to have it after that.

Even though I'm not likely to get much wear out of these pieces (this blouse is actually going to a friend who has the kind of life where historic clothing actually will get worn), I'm trying to choose patterns that will show me something new that I can use in my own sewing. Being the stripe maven that I am, this was enough. I've attached a photo of the front and back pattern piece - it's cut on the fold in the front, with no shoulder seam, and the back slants outward, which causes the very cool stripe manipulation. I'm going to find a modern blouse pattern that I like and reconstruct it to do this, absolutely.

Fabric Used: Embarrassingly old ivory-and-tangerine striped silk dupioni bought possibly in the late 80s or early 90s. It was Very Deep Stash, but absolutely perfect for this project. I think I even have enough left over for another project. How much did I buy, and then keep it for almost 30 years? I originally chose an ivory poly-satin for the contrast fabric, and then decided it wasn't quite right and did a lace overlay, which I liked until I decided that it wasn't quite right, and I threw out the satin/lace collar and cut off the sleeve trim/cuffs at the seam allowance and went with striped cuffs. The collar may or may not be added later, when I find the right contrast fabric.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: A few. The pattern as designed called for a back closure. First off, how often do we have someone available to button us into our clothes when we get dressed? And more importantly, once I realized that the stripes would form a chevron down the back, no way was I interrupting that with buttons. Since my friend who is wearing this blouse likes the historic look but doesn't require accuracy, I inserted a very discreet invisible zipper down the left side seam, opening at the hem. The zipper pull sits right in the bias trim I used to edge the blouse, and it's barely noticeable. It's one of the best invisible zips I've ever done - the stripes chevron almost perfectly the entire length of the zipper.

As mentioned above, I omitted the contrast collar. There were multiple reasons for this. The neckline of the blouse as drafted is square, which I think is really pretty and flattering on most women. The collar neckline is round, which I didn't find as pretty, and no matter how I jiggered with the shape and size of the collar, I couldn't get a balance I liked - nothing quite looked like the pattern drawing. (A problem through the ages, apparently). I made a collar, decided the satin wasn't quite the right shade of ivory, layered it with a warmer ivory lace, thought it was okay, and bound the entire thing in striped silk bias tape, and then decided I hated it. I wish I'd decided that before I made 2 yards of silk bias tape. Here's the neckline as it stands now, square with bias binding (the last of that 2 yards). Unless I find a good contrast, this is the way it's going to stay.

I had also made the sleeve trim/cuffs the same way, and when I ditched the collar, the cuffs couldn't stay either. I cut them off at the seam allowance and made new cuffs from the striped silk. Since the sleeves were cut cross-grain, I cut the cuffs so that the stripes went vertical again. I backed them with muslin for a little extra body and used a very narrow seam allowance to sew them on. Even though it's a little over-stripey, I think it's a much better result.

I added almost 3" to the length of this blouse. Apparently women were either very short or very short-waisted, or both, because when I tried the muslin on as drafted, it was at least an inch above my navel. And my friend who will wear this is much longer waisted than I am, so I wanted to make sure it didn't look like a really strange cropped top on her. You can see from this side view that the blouse is also longer at the front so that when you tuck it in or put a belt around it, you get that historically accurate pouf.

The blouse also included pattern pieces for a lining, which I could see being necessary with a lighter or drapier fabric. Instead of pleats in the front, the lining has gathers which would help to puff the bottom of the blouse out in a historically-appropriate way. The dupioni silk I used (even though it's been washed) still has enough body that it poufs on its own. I decided I didn't want to add the extra layer of fabric, and besides, after the contortions with the contrast fabric, I'd decided I'd had enough.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I doubt I'll sew it again, but only because I don't have many opportunities to wear 1912-era clothing. The styles don't really fit my body type or my life. I would recommend this pattern to anyone interested in clothing from the era, or who wants to take on an interesting stripe challenge.

Conclusion: Another interesting pattern from the 1912 Project. I'm enjoying this way more than I expected to, and I can finally make something for my friend that I know she'll get some use from.

Edited on 4/24/12 to add VPLL project checklist:

  1. Pattern Name   E0191 Blouse
  2. Sewer's Skill Level: Advanced
  3. Pattern Rating: 3 - Good/Average.  I'd give it higher marks but I think it's a pattern for a very specific body type; some of the VPLL patterns I've tried are much more wearable by a wider selection of people.
  4. What skill level would someone need to sew this pattern and why? I think this pattern is fine for an intermediate sewer so long as they are patient and follow the directions, simply because some of the techniques are not familiar to a modern day sewist.
  5. Were the instructions easy to follow? If not, what needs to be changed?  I thought they were fine.  I got a little confused about the pleating at first, but I took a break, re-read them and fiddled with the fabric and it all worked out.  That's generally what I have to do when I can't get the words to make sense.  The fabric doesn't lie, and it rarely confuses.  One other note: the instructions say to gather the sleeves into the armscye, and there isn't sufficient fabric in the sleeve piece to do that; I inserted the sleeves flat and they fit without easing. 
  6. How was the fit/sizing?  Did it correspond to what you thought?  It was spot on to the measurements promised on the pattern. 
  7. Did you make any pattern alterations? If so, what alterations did you make? Were they fit or design alterations?  I made one fit alteration, which was to add an extra pleat in the front because the friend who got this blouse is a bit smaller-busted than the planned measurements.  My design alteration were the following:  I omitted the optional lining (requested and also my fabric was opaque enough) and to add an invisible zipper in the left side seam because I wanted her to be able to dress herself and I also hated the idea of interrupting that beautiful chevron of stripes with a button placket.  I also left off the collar because my fabric choice didn't work and instead I widened the square neck by about a half inch and bound it in striped bias tape.  I also bias-bound the hem to neaten the edges at the zipper insertion.
  8. Changes I'd like in this pattern:  It worked beautifully as drafted, but if it's made up with the original back closure, it should be altered to either add a button placket or note that extra fabric needs to be added to accomplish this.
  9. Changes to instructions:  The instructions were clear, if minimal.  You might want to suggest a side zip or buttons/snaps for those who aren't going for complete authenticity; it made the blouse much easier to wear.  Otherwise, my suggestion above regarding redrafting to add a button placket or a note to add enough fabric to make one. 
  10. Discussion of fabric/trim, etc.  I've had this tangerine-and-cream striped silk dupioni for at least 20 years, waiting for the right project.  The only problem was that I couldn't find a contrast fabric that I liked at all, which is why the blouse is made of one fabric only. 
  11. Description of technique - insertion, cutwork, etc. This was a pretty straightforward pattern, construction-wise.  My only real contribution to construction on this is to note the invisible zipper insertion in the left side seam.  I inserted it so that it opened at the bottom, which made it very easy to get in and out of the blouse.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

This is what you get

when your eggs no longer come from the grocery store.  The egg on the left is from Gilda, and is a normal, extra-large egg. 

The egg on the right is Bonnie's, and the egg carton will not close over it. 


Sunday, March 18, 2012

VPLL 0191 Blouse - Middles

I'm really surprised I got this much done on the blouse - sewing really goes all to hell when garden season begins.  I spent all day out there yesterday, and today until dinnertime.  But I was sewing in my head the entire time and this is the result so far.

I decided after I cut the satin trim that the color match wasn't really as good as I originally thought it was.  But I don't have anything else on hand that would work, so I made it work.  I found a chunk of lace in the remnant bin and basted it over the satin.  First off, it dulled the shine, which was a little too much, and it also added some texture and brought the color a little more in line with what I wanted it to be.  I think it's a little closer than the photos show, but I can't tweak the colors together so that they work.  But they do.  Well enough.

You can see in the one photo the invisible zipper I installed in the left side seam so that my friend can get in and out of this blouse on her own.  I think once the blouse is finished and hemmed the zip will barely be noticeable. 

Next up: making many, many yards of bias trim for around the collar and the sleeve hems.  Many, many yards.

I cut out the lining per the pattern, but I haven't decided whether or not I'm going to use it.  I could still install it just fine at this point, but I think the silk is actually heavy enough to not be transparent, and she could get away perfectly well wearing a camisole underneath. 

I think all will depend on how long it takes to make and attach the bias trim.

Friday, March 16, 2012

VPLL 0191 Blouse - Beginnings

I've been tinkering with another pattern from the 1912 Project, this one the 0191 blouse. 

I think I've got a handle on it now, and I'm looking forward to getting some work done on it this weekend. 

I'm using the striped silk I posted last week, found in the Deep Stash, and an ivory poly satin (quite drapy and not very poly-looking) for the contrast (the collar, cuffs and sleeve seam trim).  It's going to look very cream-sicle, which may or may not be historically accurate, but I'm not going for complete accuracy here.

As will be seen when I show off the immaculate invisible zipper in my blouse.  Invisible zipper . . . not very 1912, but (a) I didn't want to mess up the chevron stripes down the back with a row of buttons, and (b) we don't have ladies' maids anymore to get us in and out of our clothes. 

It's a very discreet invisible zipper, running from the left hem up under the left arm, opening at the bottom.  The stripes do a much sharper chevron down the side seams, and somehow I dumb-lucked the stripes into matching over the zipper.  You know I couldn't have managed that on a dare if I'd been trying to insert the zip in the back.

All this work and I'm not even keeping the blouse.  It's a beautiful piece, and I'm loving the fabric, but I'll never wear it.  The princess slip can be a summer dress or one hell of a nightie, but this . . . it's always going to look like I'm wearing great-grandma's clothes.  It doesn't suit my body or my life, so I found someone who it would work for.  A friend of mine is an actress, and she has the life (and social life) that requires interesting clothes.  And she's a redhead, which will look fabulous with the creamsicle silk.  She's also smaller than I am, so I didn't have to do much in the way alterations other than lengthening it by 2.5" - all these clothes seem really short-waisted, and my friend's height seems to be mostly in her waist, so I'm hoping this will be long enough for her.

All I've done at this point is press and stitch the front pleats, insert the zipper and sew the back seam.  I'll have time to work on it tomorrow and there will be proper photos then.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Archie Update

Hey, Archie here.  I took the 'puter away from mom to thank everybody for their good wishes and crossed paws for my bellyache.

I's better, but I really wish mom would stop chasing me around the house, trying to shove medicine down my throat and putting ointment on my monkey-butt.  (I haz monkey butt, it's embarrassing and it's sore and what she's doing makes it feel better but I hates it). 

She says I'll feel better soon, my insides are sparkling clean and my outsides will look better in a week or two. 

And she says I'll be smaller, too, because the doctor lady said I was fat!  Can you believes it?

I's really hungry because she's cut down my dry crunchies.  But yay, she's now giving me lots more wet food, even though I think she might be sneaking some of that medicine in there too.

That's okay.  If I eats it fast enough, I don't taste it anyway. 

Mind the signs - My Image Winter 2010/2011 #1003

Pattern Description: Long cardigan with V-neck, patch pockets and curved bands on front. Buttons are for effect only (no buttonholes).

Pattern Sizing: 36-44 (similar to Burda sizing).

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes, pretty much. Look at the line drawing to the left of the image if you want more detail; I love color and print almost as much as the people at My Image, so it may be hard to see.

Were the instructions easy to follow? My Image has instructions in 4 languages, German, Dutch, French and near-English. By that I mean they get occasional words off, like having several different words for the bands/facings (rushes, edgings and facings), but on the other hand, they number the steps in their instructions and keep them pretty brief, so it's still hard to get confused. Considering that most of the time we have to sew WITHOUT instructions if we're using Burda, this is a step up, albeit a small one. Translation has gotten better in the newer issues.

My favorite line from the instructions: Mind the signs. By which I believe they meant, match your numbers, markings and notches, or else who knows what garment you'll end up with. But "mind the signs" just sounds better.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I just thought it was a pretty, practical pattern. I had recently purchased 2 yards of this gorgeous sweater knit from Gorgeous Fabrics, and I no sooner opened the magazine than the fabric started yelling from the back room, "Me! Me! Pick me!" So I did. And it was right.

Fabric Used: Sweater knit from Gorgeous Fabrics, underlined in chocolate brown lining fabric and with 5 wooden buttons I picked up on a vacation probably 15 years ago. The knit was beautiful, and from the outside looks almost like boucle, but it's fuzzy as anything when cut, and the underside kept catching on my rings as I was handling it, so I decided the best way to make it last (and also not stretch with wearing), was to line it. I can always hand wash it. In the end, rather than lining it, I underlined, basting all the lining pieces to the wrong side of the sweater knit and neatening all the seams with zigzag stitching.

I've included photo of the inside showing the lining and the rust-colored grosgrain ribbon I used for instead of seam binding for the inside bands and the hems. Every time I thought I was done with this project I decided to add one more step.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: Just extra width to the seam allowances, in case I needed it. The pattern is recommended for stretch fabrics, and while this sweater knit has some give, I wouldn't call it stretchy. So that was my "just in case" move.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I would definitely sew this again, once I find another fabric that demands it. It's cute, it's a great base pattern for a beautiful fabric, and it didn't take that long to put together (especially if you don't go to the unnecessary work of lining it and adding a ton of hand stitching). Highly recommended, especially if you've sewn a similar garment before - their instructions might be a little rough for a beginner.

Conclusion: If you can get past the busy fabrics and rocky instructions, My Image has some great patterns. I have 4 issues now, and their instructions have gotten better. Their patterns don't need improvement.

Full patternreview with a few more photos here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

How deep is your stash?

I really need to know (with apologies to the BeeGees, I've just been hearing that song all evening as I've been up to my eyebrows in stash).

That wasn't the plan.  I've been working on a long cardigan from the first issue of My Image and I'm close to finished, so I decided to take a break and rummage around to see if I could find an appropriate fabric for the next piece of my 1912 wardrobe, the striped blouse pictured here. 

I didn't need to use a stripe, but I wanted to - I love that the stripes are vertical on the front and horizontal on the side.  And I think, though I'm not sure because I haven't muslined it yet, that because there's no shoulder seam and the piece curves, the stripes might actually go diagonal on the back.  How cool would that be?

But I digress. I had a nice pale gray shirting with narrow white stripes that would make an acceptable blouse, but I wasn't excited by it.  So I decided to dig around and see if I had anything better in the deep stash. 

Deep stash, you'll understand, is the stuff not on the shelves, it's the stuff so old, so obscure, out-of-style, or pretty but without purpose, that it lives in random containers in a wardrobe closet in my workroom.  For those who commented on my recent admirable fabric-rolling and questioned whether that was all my fabric, the answer would be, "no."

This, the fabric closet of doom, is all my fabric.  Except for the fabric that's in 3 vintage trunks also in the workroom, but I'm pretty sure I know what's in them.  This was the mystery fabric.

For those who have really large stashes, or old stashes (or both), you'll understand - digging through deep stash is like excavating your own past.  Every piece I pulled out was a memory, who and where I was when I acquired it.  In some cases it's a memory of my grandmom's or my aunt's stash.

And, no surprise, I found not one, but TWO fabrics that would be much more appropriate for my 1912 blouse than the shirting I had reserved.  They are pictured together here.  One is an ivory textured poly blend that feels like silk.  I know it isn't because I purchased that fabric in 1982 to make into a blouse to wear to my very first job, and I did not have a silk budget at that time.  And here it sits, nearly 30 years later, possibly being made into a very different blouse. 
The second fabric is a bit more recent, I'd say later 80s.  Real silk this time, dupioni without too much texture, a nice warm ivory with a light orange stripe.  I bought it because even though I had no idea what I'd use it for, I loved that it wasn't the usual jewel tones I saw in dupioni, and I thought it might have a purpose.

I haz a bellyache
And at last it might.  Both pieces are 2 yards long, and I believe both are either 54" or 60" wide. The 1912 pattern calls for more yardage than that, but it's also calculated for 45" wide fabrics, so I'm pretty sure I can make either one work.  I'm going to press them tomorrow and stare at them for a while to see if one of them speaks louder than the other.

Also - all you cat people out there, fingers, toes and claws crossed for my little fat man, Archie, who has to take a trip to the vet tomorrow.  It's probably something minor, except that he's 11 years old and 27 pounds, which will complicate anything else that might be going on.

Friday, March 2, 2012

February 2012: Month End Review

Which should be subtitled "from the sublime to the ridiculous."

And I'm not saying which of my major February projects is which.

The photo above is my friends' little girl, recipient of various cute dresses.  For Christmas, her mother asked if I could make her a Star Doll.  A what? 

Apparently there's a show on Sprout (there's a channel called Sprout?) called the Good Night Show, and there's a star-shaped pillow that sits on the couch.  I don't know if it talks; I don't know if it sings lullabies.  All I know is this cute little girl loves the Star Doll.

So I say yes, but it won't be in time for Christmas, because of craft show obligations, etc.  So I'm not sure what happened in January to make it not happen, but last weekend I realized that it was almost the end of February, the poor kid didn't have her toy yet, and I was about to step into a Titanic lifeboat with a bagload of lace, so I'd better get cracking.

It took me two hours, a yellow bath towel, some red fleece leftover from the sleep sack I made when she was much smaller, and a few other remnants.  Two hours, for two months' procrastination.  That's about right.

On the other end of the scale is the completed princess slip for the 1912 project. I can't believe I made this thing.  Even though it's ridiculously girly (and I am not), and even though it contains more pink than I've worn in the past several years, I love it.

Also produced last month were the BWOF 2/12 tunic and an undocumented BWOF 6/09 batwing top (which I stole from Elizabeth).  Both nice projects but I'm not excited about either.  There were minor issues with the batwing top that I want to fix and then I'll post photos and a review.  The tunic . . . I just feel "meh" about that.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

VPLL E0336 Princess Slip - Finished!

Pattern Description: Ladies' princess seamed slip with lace insertion and trim from the March 24, 1912 issue of La Mode Illustree (French fashion and pattern magazine).

Let me preface this review by explaining that I'm involved in the Vintage Pattern Lending Library's 1912 Project, which is an attempt to recreate an entire year (1912) of La Mode Illustree's patterns to mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. The patterns are sent in PDF format, to be printed and taped or printed at a copy shop. They are directly taken from the original patterns and any grading or modifications is up to the sewist. A lot of the people doing the 1912 Project are historical costumers, but I signed on because I thought it was interesting and I knew it would expose me to techniques that I've had no reason to learn up until now. A challenge is always a good thing.

Pattern Sizing: Basically one size, as the pattern is drafted from the original magazine pattern. Thankfully it's not too out-of-scale for the modern woman - it has a 36" bust. However, the waist is considerably smaller since these women were corseted.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Remarkably so. The envelope illustration is the only one you get, but it was very detailed and I was even able to closely replicate the trim to the extent that I wanted to.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Especially considering that the instructions were translated from the original magazine instructions. We were warned on taking on the project that the instructions might be minimal, but I found these to be very clear, especially in explaining how to do lace insertion, which I've never done before (and probably never will again, more's the pity).

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I thought it was absolutely gorgeous, and since I'm slowly coming down from a Downton Abbey binge, the idea that I was recreating clothing from that era made it even more interesting. And I've always loved Edwardian/pre-WWI era white cotton dresses; I decided that since I would never have the opportunity to wear this as a slip, I'd make it up and use it as a dress (with a more modern slip underneath). I loved all the detailing and trim, even though I tend normally toward busy prints without embellishment.

Fabric Used: Ivory cotton batiste from Gorgeous Fabrics (3 yards, used all but tiny scraps). 10 yards of 1.5" insertion lace (straight on both sides), 1 yard of vintage (and slightly discolored) threading eyelet found on Etsy, 1 yard of 3/8" pink ribbon and 6 buttons.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: Very few, all things considered. When I printed out the pattern, I noted that the bust measurement was indeed 36". The waist was more like 26", and that's only because this garment was intended to be worn over a corset, which would in turn have been worn over another undergarment. Swoon much?

I tend not to make muslins, but first off, my batiste hadn't arrived by way of the postal elves, and second, I didn't want to waste it by making something unwearable. Because the slip flares out, I knew I'd have no hip issues, so I just muslined the bodice to the marked natural waistline. When I cut the pieces, I added an extra inch outside the seam allowances for the waist, tapering up to nothing around the bust. I pin-fit it and took it in a bit from there, and also took it in at the armholes, which were a little generous, though nicely high so there will be no bra showing.

I took the muslin apart, marked my changes and cut the batiste using the muslin pieces. The additional change I made was to add 1.5" in length at the waist - the marked waistline on the pattern was just at my bottom rib, and I tend to expand outward a bit from there.

The slip made up beautifully, and very quickly. The instructions tell you to make the fronts and backs, do all the insertion work, button placket and buttons, then sew the two pieces together, add the eyelet and ribbon at the neck, the bottom ruffle and another row of lace insertion (between the slip and the ruffle).

Doing it all by machine (they did have sewing machines in 1912, after all), this probably took me about 10 hours, and a good part of that was the learning curve for the lace. The first strip probably took me an hour, but by the end I could sew the lace on, slice the fabric behind it, press the seam allowances back, fold them, press again and topstitch in about 20 minutes.

There were a few other changes, but they were in the area of trim. The pattern suggests gathered lace around the neck (in addition to the eyelet and ribbon) and around the armholes. Yikes. My lace is a cotton-poly blend, but seems to tend toward the poly when gathered and put near my underarms. Plus I thought it looked fussy. I decided to go my own way there and did a bias binding for the armholes, which looked much cleaner to me. I also didn't like the gathered lace at the neckline; I liked the idea, but the lace itself again seemed fussy. Plus I didn't think I'd have enough left for a respectable gather. I did, however, have enough scraps of batiste left to cut into 3" strips, fold in half, gather, press flat and sew on a self-fabric ruffles. It fills the space at the neckline appropriately without looking overdone.

Also, the ruffle at the bottom was supposed to be pleated.  That's fine and dandy if you have a maid around to press your pleats for you every time they get crushed, but alas, I do not.  I took a width of fabric about 3 times as wide as the hem, gathered it and attached.  Being that there was going to be a line of lace added there, I pressed the gathers flat for several inches so that the lace would attach smoothly.

Another benefit to this process was that I forced myself to slow down and sew this pattern in the way it deserved to be sewn. I did French seams, which I normally can't be bothered to do (and will line a garment to avoid doing). I was as precise as possible in my pressing so that when seam allowances showed through the slip, as they're going to do because of the sheerness of the fabric, they were even and looked intentional.

Biggest mistake I made:  Sewing while cranky and distracted.  This is like sewing under the influence or cutting after midnight.  Big mistake.  On the other hand, it resulted in a very nice design opportunity, so there.  I had finished the front of the slip and did the button placket and center back seam.  Then I added the side pieces, and very carefully and painstakingly did French seams.  I was so proud of them I didn't even look closely until I was done (other than pressing), and that's when I noticed that both my nice French seams were on the outside of the garment.  Both of them.  At least I'm consistently wrong?  I sulked for a minute, thought about it, and cut 2 more lengths of lace and ended up by trimming the back of the slip to match the front.  Better anyway, since I'm going to wear it as a dress.  That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I don't know as I'll sew it again, but that's more a reflection on how little need I have for 100 year old garments in my wardrobe than my thoughts on the pattern itself. I would highly recommend it to anyone who does historical sewing, or who wants an interesting, challenging project that results in a really pretty summer dress.

Conclusion: I'm thrilled with this. I accomplished what I set out to do with this first pattern of the project: I learned a new technique, I forced myself to slow down and give the project my full attention, and I ended up with a garment that I actually can't believe I made.
Edited on 4/17/12 to add template info for the 1912 Project:
Pattern Name: E0336 Princess Slip
Sewer's Skill Level: Advanced
Pattern Rating: 4 - better than average
What skill level would someone need to sew this pattern and why? Intermediate skill level and a comfort with learning a new technique. The pattern itself is quite uncomplicated, but someone without experience might be put off with all that lace insertion.
Were the instructions easy to follow? If not, what needs to be changed? The instructions were clear for the most part, though perhaps they could be expanded a bit for the button placket in the back. The instructions for how to do the lace insertion were very clear; I've never done it before and had no problems at all.
How was the fit/sizing? Did it correspond to what you thought? The bust sizing was spot on; I made a muslin and saw that the pattern was a bit short-waisted, so I added 2" in the waist length, and about 2" to the waist circumference.
Did you make any pattern alterations? If so, what alterations did you make? Were they fit or design alterations? My only alterations for fit were to adjust the waist length and width to fit me. My only design alterations were to omit the lace ruffles around the armholes (a matter of taste) and to add lace insertion on the back to mirror the front. Since I'm wearing it as a dress (with a slip underneath) I wanted it to be as elaborate on both sides. In addition to omitting the armhole ruffles, I changed the neckline ruffle from lace to a self-ruffle using cotton batiste.
Changes I'd like in this pattern: The pattern seems extremely short-waisted for a modern figure; I'm not sure if that's simply a change in bodies in 100 years or simply a difference in shape due to corseting. Beyond that, I thought it was well drafted and quite easy to construct.
Changes to instructions: My only suggestion would be to elaborate a bit more on the back button placket instructions; they were a bit minimal but served the purpose.
Discussion of fabric/trim, etc. I used ivory cotton batiste and a combination of new insertion lace, semi-vintage ribbon and truly vintage threading eyelet for the neckline.
Description of technique - insertion, cutwork, etc. The lace insertion was what drew me to this pattern. I always thought it was complicated and this seemed like a good opportunity to learn a new technique. It turns out that insertion wasn't really that bad at all - topstitching the lace down to the marked areas, carefully cutting the fabric behind the lace, trimming and folding it back and stitching again. It's time consuming and a little fiddly, but nothing that can't be accomplished quite easily with patience and a good iron.