Saturday, October 31, 2009

Yabba Dabba... Happy Halloween!

Project Runway: The Halloween Challenge
Heidi Klum: "Tonite you and your hubby will be attending a costume party. You have 1 hour and only the supplies you can find in your sewing space to complete coordinating outfits."

Tim Gunn: "There will be no sketching time or trip to Mood, and if you don't complete the challenge within the time allowed, you'll either attend the party in a lame "student work" costume or go without, and be eliminated from future Halloween party guest lists."

Me (from the depths of the closet): "Red Wings fan? Baseball Player?"
DH: "No. Don't have the pants."
Me: "Tourist? Cowboy?"
DH: "Boring. Even more boring."
Me: "Well, you're up a creek. I'm gonna use my cavegirl fur dress..."
DH: "SoAndSo said if you wear that, I should be Barney Rubble."
Me: (Lightbulb) "Ok, Barney. I can do that. I've got brown fabric downstairs..."

(15 minutes later)

DH: "Well, this looks good, I'm definitely Barney. But Betty didn't wear leopard print, she wore a blue dress."
Me: "Hmph. Ok, I'm headed back downstairs..."

(45 minutes later)

Little Miss Princess: "So... your a cave girl in a blue dress?
Me: "There was a cartoon... called the Flintstones... oh, never mind..."
Well, I don't have a full-length shot of us, but you don't need one. At the knees, we just took turns cutting triangles from each others hem lines. I made a big bow for my head from the triangles, and we wore sandals. Here's a different shot, you can see my bow.
You can also see that I am having way too much fun (fun = drinks), and will strongly regret my actions in the morning! But, I "Made it Work" and our friends loved our costumes! We are now headed out to take Spiderman and a Princess trick or treating, so hope you all get more treats than tricks!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wool: The Official Fabric of Fall!

Vogue 8603 is finished, and I'm really happy with the final product. Please excuse the wrinkles, the photo was taken after a long day in the [math] trenches!

It's just your basic pencil skirt. I moved the invisible zipper to the left side and lined it (omitting the facings). It did not fit me according to the pattern measurements, I had to take the center back seam in an additional inch from waist to hem. So, take the time to make a muslin! I also eliminated the center back slit, but will include it in the next version. I can move, but not as easily as I had hoped.

I will be making the version with the gathers using a fabulous silk tweed from my trip to NYC. In a of couple weeks...

In other news, the vest fabric has arrived!!! Gorgeous Fabrics had the perfect black amicale (thank you Ann!), and it's exactly what I was hoping it would be! Solid black, and so very soft. It will be an interesting contrast to the texture of the leather... The muslin I whipped up fits perfectly, it included B-C-D cup pattern pieces, so that always helps! I've ripped the muslin apart, so I should be able to start working {cutting} tomorrow.
I was busy this weekend editing an embroidery design for my husband. In the last couple months he's made a couple dreams come true: he's now a paramedic and a union firefighter! I'm so very, very proud of him and was happy to work up a design that he's been admiring. In the process, I've gotten much more familiar with my embroidery editing software, so that's an added bonus. I've never done a varsity jacket before, so I'm pretty happy with the outcome!

Time to retire for the night. Next couple days are busy (math tests and Halloween parties), so I'll check back in after the weekend! Hope you all enjoy the Halloween festivities, and if you should happen to get too many Reese's Peanut Butter Cups in your treat bag, send them to me!!!!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I'm trying to be productive...

Sunday was spent doing embroidery business (10 shirts for a local daycare) and grading papers. I debated my next project (started and ended a wadder quickly), and went through my patterns looking for something fun and not too time consuming. I couldn't decide between the Vogue skirt (simple straight version above), using some brown tweed wool... (I could really use a nice brown skirt for work! I also like the side gathered version, but have some really nice herringbone from NYC that is a better weight for the gathers than this nubby, stiff wool. The Ambiance lining is all cut out (from my wadder project this weekend), too. )

Or this Simplicity vest pattern (stupid Simplicity website won't let me copy the envelope picture), using a leather skin I've had from Ressy's co-op for months. I like the one pictured center and right...
Now that Martha is up and running (video to come soon), I'm thinking I'm ready to try my hand at leather! It's just over 7 sq. ft, so I have enough for the back yoke and the collar. How do I get the fold creases out???

Tonite I had 3 more embriodery jobs (after running the kids to karate, cleaning the kitchen, and throwing in a load of laundry), so I only had time to cut the tweed for the skirt. I'm looking for the perfect black wool suiting for the vest, and should probably muslin it to perfect the fit and check the reviews at PR while I'm preparing. I'd like to use Sommerset's "30 min. per day" strategy, so maybe by the weekend I'll have the skirt done... One can only hope!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Fun for Fall: Sweater Knit Vest

Vogue 1124
I've had this pattern since the summer, looking for the perfect striped sweaterknit everywhere. I fell in love with the sweater vest shown on the pattern envelope, and really wanted to make one just like it. Even the fabric stores in NYC didn't have what I needed: a lightweight somewhat drapey striped sweaterknit. I even checked online and nothing grabbed my attention, so imagine my great pleasure when I found this fantastic knit at the American Sewing Expo a few weeks ago! I had the pleasure of sitting in on Sandra Betzina's class/presentation, watching her model numerous samples of her patterns including this one. I even asked where she got the fabric from, but was told, "There are great vendors here, I'm sure you can find something here at the show." While I wasn't thrilled with her response, I'll be darned if she wasn't right. I found this fabulous knit with the ladies at Fabric Gallery. They are near East Lansing, and had some really nice fabrics, for any of you "Michigan Readers". The threads are khaki, moss green, brown, black... lots of different shades of green and brown! I didn't have the pattern with me, but figured that 2 yds of 45" wide would be enough... oops. The pattern calls for almost 2 yards of 60" wide "2 or 4 way stretch drapey knits only". Well, in the words of Tim Gunn, I would just have to "make it work"! And I did!!!
The pattern includes all sized in one envelope, and is sized like all Betzina patterns with letters A through J. The vest is just 3 pieces, and is a big rectangle with 2 armholes. There are 2 bias cut strips to finish the armholes with, and a piece to add on if you want it longer (I didn't). Construction (for me) went like this:
1. Finish armholes with bias strips.
2. Attach the crosswise stripey band to each side of the front.
I really liked the fringe on the selvedge edge, so I attached the band wrong sides together and left the raw edge out. I think it adds some texture and interest to the shiny knit...
3. Hemmed the top and bottom edges using lots and lots of Steam a Seam (according to the pattern instructions).
I needed a quick and easy project after the Homecoming dress and the Chanel jacket, so this was perfect! Cut the fabric after the kids went to bed, and put it together the next morning. I think I'll get a lot of use out of it, dressing it up for work, and throwing it on with jeans. I did just notice that it is much, much longer on me than the model (model: thigh length, me: knee length), but I don't care, I actually really like the look of it, longer on the sides than the front and back. Thankfully, we aren't experiencing the snow that some of you are (sorry Ann, Joanne, and Lindsay T), so our photo session outside today was fun. I love the autumn colors...
The vintage electric is back from the shop, and running! No major repairs, just a tune up, so now it's time for me to learn how to use all those magnificent attachments! Between the antique machine and the old thread chests, my sewing corner is looking a little funny...

The thread chest next to the embroidery machine has 3 drawers filled with thread (you can see in the picture), and the other drawers house bobbins, tape measures, needles, zippers... lots of stuff!!! Last weekend as I was cleaning one of them out, I found a high school football program from 1948 tucked behind the bottom drawer. It's from a nearby community, so I might try to put it in the hands of someone actually related to one of the players listed.

Looking at the vast differences of old and new in my sewing space makes me happy. Each machine has it's own speciality and strength, and I feel very fortunate to have a dedicated space for my hobby. Now, if there was only a machine that could read pattern and fabric to predict the occurence of "wadders"... Had me one of those today, so the glory streak is over!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Chanel Jacket: Done!!!

I have to keep this short (time to tuck in the rugrats and embroidery work to do afterward), but it's done!

I never thought I could do so much hand-stitching on a garment, and have it not only stay together, but look half decent! I wore it to work today (DH snapped this pic on my way out this morning), and received many compliments, so it's a keeper. I have a long list of what I'll do different next time, but I'll save that for a future post.

The antique machine is up and running, and I'll have a video of that soon, too!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Treasure (??) Hunt

Our neighbors held an estate sale this weekend, and I picked up a few cool sewing finds.

Two "Star Thread" 5-drawer Thread Chests
When I spotted these, I immediately wanted them bad (even though they were all grimy from being used as a tool chest in a garage). But, she had them priced very high. I have absolutely no clue how old they are, but were used back in the old days by stores to display and sell thread spools. I have lots and lots of thread (thank you, embroidery business), not to mention that I could store all sorts of notions in these nice big drawers (17.5" wide, 15.5" tall, 15.5" deep). My super sweet super awesome husband pulled the lady aside, worked his bartering magic, and... Happy 10th Anniversary, they were mine!!! What a great guy to go out of his way to get me more sewing stuff! Gotta love it.

In the back corner of the garage, I found this lovely. Under an inch thick layer of dust.
Price tag: $50 Hmm... pretty cool, but nothing I need. Then I spied the buttonholer and the box of attachments. How can sewing machine feet stir up feelings in me that make me crazy in a good way? Shiny and numerous, I suddenly felt like I might need this machine. I went home, and did some research, finding this quote online (at the TreadleOn website)...

"The White Family Rotary, or FR, is one of my three favoritest machines. It was much ahead of it's time when first brought out. They are really well made and a pleasure to use, also very attractive. There are a lot of them, and parts are generally not a problem to find. They use standard needles but use the older style top clamping feet, so you can't fit piecing, walking or darning feet. Grandma couldn't either, and she still did all of her sewing and quilting on these things, so that isn't the end of the world. I have and use two lovely White FR's regularly. They are one of the strongest of the old treadles. If you find one, give it very serious consideration… you won't be sorry."

I grabbed a fabric scrap and headed back next door for a test drive. After swearing to me that she knew it worked because she just sewed on it last summer, imagine our surprise when the light worked but the machine didn't budge. No hum of motor. No buzz of electricity. Nothing. Nada. Nil. Thanks, but no thanks... and I headed back home.
But now, it was bugging me. Those shiny attachments still wanted to come home with me, so I jumped back on the internet and made some phone calls. Take the risk and hope it can be fixed, or say good-bye? I offered $25, she countered with $40, and we agreed to meet in the middle at $32.50
So... if any of you know anything about what I should do next, please drop me a message! I've read about cleaning the machine, and will start calling around tomorrow for a repair man who is familiar with antique machines. If the estimate is too high, I'll sell off what I can and hopefully get my money back. Hopefully, it can be repaired for a decent price (I've set a budget already), and I'll end up with a real piece of sewing history. The serial number on the machine's base dates it's manufacture at 1926, and seems to have been one of the first popular electric machines. I think it's Model 12, but I have no owner's manual, so I'm not definite. I do know that there is a wealth of information on the internet for anyone who owns or wants to own an old machine, and that without current technology, I probably wouldn't be brave enough to start this voyage. Keep your fingers crossed for me and Martha (this is known as the Martha Washington cabinet), and I will keep you posted! There are more pictures coming, too...

My Chanel jacket is a few hours from the finish line. Hems are all done and pockets are made, so I'm just attaching them and then the chain! It would be finished and you'd be looking at it now if it wasn't for that darn garage sale... I'll have it posted here by the end of the week, promise!!!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Homecoming '09: Lady in Red

Last spring, Miss M asked to be placed on the "waiting list" to have me make her Homecoming dress for this fall. I laughed, (what waiting list???) and happily obliged, as she is a wonderful young lady (charismatic, smart, witty, hard-working, mature, responsible, and beautiful, are just a few of the words that come to mind). A month ago, she handed me a sketch she drew, and together we worked out the details. Today, she modeled this in front of the entire student body and staff (and audience of about 1,800)! (I do have her and her parents full permission to post these pictures.) the sketch
I love how it's on lined notebook paper!!! Isn't she an amazing artist? You'll notice that we switched shoulders and eliminated the drapey thing. She wanted a smooth, close fit, so we also eliminated the ruching (sp?).

the fabric
Duchesse Satin from, in Valentine Red. We had to go with the poly (not the silk) to keep costs down (and splurge on the trim). This was my first time working with this fabric, and I absolutely love the weight and drape. I wanted the dress to have an elegant flow, and not be clingy, and I feel like I achieved that. It was also very easy to work with (no fraying, took heat well) and not too expensive. I used almost every inch of the 4 yards (60" wide) that I ordered, because of the fullness and length of the skirt.

the trim
Thank goodness for M&J Trims in NYC! I knew they would have something to fit the bill, but when I saw the prices, I checked out other options. I couldn't find anything as wide as the waistband I wanted, so I bit the bullet, called the store, and they were willing to sell me 1.5 yards (only full yards on the website, so I called to check). When I tried it against the red, it made me think of spiderwebs, and I knew she wanted it all black, so I sandwiched a double layer of black tulle between the beaded trim and the solid black backing. This was recommended by one of my instructors at the Sewing Expo last week, to hide the fraying threads of the cut-away parts and help the trim blend into the backing. It gives it more of a beaded lace look, and I'm really happy with the result. My sequence here was to stitch the waistband front and back together, lay the tulle over it, then pin the trim down, and trim the tulle. I basted all 3 layers together by hand (the most time consuming step of construction) to secure all the cut away parts. Then I grabbed the hammer. You read that correctly, I grabbed the hammer. To insert an invisible zipper along that beaded waistband, I had to eliminate the beads along the seam line, so I carefully taped about 1/2" away, and used the hammer to break any beads close to the zipper stitching line. An instructor at the Sewing Expo said this method gets rid of the "problem beads" without cutting the stitching and loosening any others. Genius, if you ask me! I was rather nervous about taking the hammer to the beads, but it was fast, it was easy, and it was a little fun. After cleaning up the pieces, I then stitched the waistband to the bodice, then the bodice to the skirt, and was able to easily insert an invisible zipper that glided up and down the waistband seamlessly! But, if I had to do over again, I would've stitched closer to the border beads to the red satin butted right up against them (too short on time, though)!
the pattern
Simplicity 2692 was what I used for the bodice top and waistband. I eliminated the bust gathers, and replaced them with simple darts (but should've done a better fitting). For the skirt, we wanted more of an a-line, so I dug into my stash and found a pattern for a skirt with a waistband yoke very similar to this dress. I added lots of length (via newspaper), and adjusted the top to match the circumference of the waistband. Miss M is fairly tall, so I had to add another 4" to the muslin to make it hit the floor! The end result was a beautiful floor length skirt with great flow. Many people who saw the dress on her today said how well the style suited her frame, cinching her at the high waist and flowing out from there. Drawing the eye there (the beading and color blocking helped a lot) made her look thinner and longer... very, very elegant, too!
She accidentally bought the wrong size pattern, so I had to add some onto a few pieces. The muslin was cut and constructed in 1 night, and fit her perfectly (I think I learned more in NY than I realized!), aside from a 1" adjustment in at the top of the zipper. Putting it all together was actually pretty simple, and the only time consuming part was hand basting the beaded trim layers. The lines were clean, and there weren't any crazy angles or straps to deal with, so I really liked making this dress. I used 1/4" twill tape along the bodice top front and back curves to prevent the bias from stretching out the neck. No interfacing anywhere (the multiple layers in the waistband took care of that structure), and I used an invisible zipper in the side. From muslin to final hem, I worked on this for about 2 weeks, off and on, after school and when the kids went to bed. Not too bad, compared to the prom dress last May that took multiple muslins and fittings!
what i learned
A great trim can take a simple dress from good to great, and is worth the money! This dress is a success because of the perfect marraige of fabric, trim, and style. I am proud to say that I made it, and I had many colleagues and students complimenting me on it today. I also learned that I am better at adjusting patterns and putting different pieces together than I thought, and this project improved my sewing confidence quite a bit! Between my Top Ten Contest dress and this one, I'm starting to think I have a thing for beads! If I had to do over, I would've started earlier, and worked on a better fit in the bodice. Now that I think about it, it was perfect at the last fitting for the hem, so I wonder if it's her choice of undergarment that is producing all those pull lines. Hmmm....
The American Sewing Expo was this past weekend, and was fun, as usual. I attended 3 classes: Islander Industrial Shortcuts, The Best of Sandra Betzina, and Working with Formalwear Fabrics. The were all interesting, but the Betzina one was rather disappointing. Rather than talk about sewing techniques, she went through a rack of samples for her Vogue pattern collection, so it was like an hour long sales pitch. She's a funny lady and I'm a huge fan (she signed my "Power Sewing" book!), so I enjoyed the hour, but it could've been better spent...
The Top Ten Contest by PatternReview was fun, but stressful. I was nervous about modeling, and when I saw all the skinny young models, I thought, "This is not going to end well..." I met some PR members and made new sewing friends, so I really liked that part. I really didn't like the part when I didn't get called back on stage for a prize, but I have to say that the pictures Deepika posted of the entries do not do them justice. There was some really great garments backstage, so I knew right away, I would probably be going home empty handed. Well, not really... I took home a great bamboo knit dress with some amazing hand beading!!! Here is a pic of the 4 winning garments: the $1000 grand prize was won by the 3rd in line (black/white suit with ruffled skirt).
The sales floor was filled with the usual vendors, so I brought home a pair of Kai pinking shears, a book to help me make better use of my embroidery software (PE Design 8.0 by Brother), and Islander men's shirt pattern and Industrial Shortcuts video, and 1 piece of fabric. Yes, I only bought 1 fabric at the show, a really great striped sweater knit for the Betzina sweater-vest I was shopping for in NYC. This should be a quick project, so I hope to knock it out in the next week or so! Hope you are all being productive as the weather officially switches from summer to fall here. It's been cold and blustery here the last few days, definitely time to pack away the short sleeves and find the turtlenecks!