Wednesday, January 30, 2019

PR Challenge #2: Zippers!!!

"Sew an article of clothing with the zipper(s) being the primary focus. Show us how you incorporate them not only for function but also as a creative element in any garment you create for this challenge."

Say, what? ZIPPERS???  I was stumped. I had to walk away for a bit after the Sewing Bee Round 2 challenge was announced. As I muttered to myself, "Zippers?! Seriously? Zippers...", I thought of zippered cargo joggers, a dress, a jacket... and I remembered. About 5 years ago at the American Sewing Expo, I purchased all the fabric and supplies to make a many zippered Islander "Motor City Express" jacket. After printing the pattern, I lost interest as I taped all the pages together. It was set aside, and never resumed. Flash forward to last week, when this Round 2 Challenge was issued. I fished it out (all the fabrics, zippers, and even thread was with it) and started taping again. But, wait... it's the WRONG SIZE now. Dang. I hate "growing" in my 40s... Off to the pattern cabinet! I pulled a few different jacket patterns that might work, but my trusty 15 yr old fashionista pointed at Simplicity 1324 and said, "This one, Mom. This one."
Just one issue... This pattern doesn't call for a single zipper. Hmm...
I immediately knew I could add half a zipper as trim around the should yokes, but the challenge requires at least one "functioning zipper". I could add some wrist zippers, like the kind you see on motor cycle jackets. But, I just knew that jingling pulls would bug me as I wrote on the board or under the document camera as I teach. What about some zippered pockets? Pockets in a jacket are necessary and helpful (and quiet). Ok, got the plan!

I have more than enough gunmetal gray faux leather, and just enough tweed boucle, with 7 matching metal zippers and 3 yards of coordinating charmeuse lining, I was set for supplies. Even found the matching spool of thread I bought for the project! Woohoo!!! With a snow day to get started, I was feeling pretty great, and got everything cut out on day 1.

The next morning, we got another "snow day", so construction began. It was impossible to mark the darts on the boucle, but since the front pieces are all interfaced, I transferred the dart marking to the white fusible interfacing, and continued on my merry way. Stitched the zipper tape to the round edge of the shoulder yoke, turned it under, trimmed the extra, and attached the faux leather yoke to the fronts. Now, I have to tell you... I got pretty good at removing the extra metal teeth from the seam allowances where the zipper was used as trim. both shoulder yokes, both lower front pieces... small sharp wire cutters and needle nose pliers are a necessity for this job!

When it came time to mark and create the "windows" for the zippered pockets, I dug into the scraps for some organza, using a method I learned from Kenneth King in a class about welted pockets. I didn't want to mark on the leather, so I did everything on the wrong side, marking the rectangle, putting the large piece of organza underneath (on the right side), stitching the rectangle of the opening. I carefully cut down the center and opened the window, pulling the organza through to the wrong side. I pressed the rectangle flat, careful with the heat on the faux leather. Trimmed away the extra zipper and extra organza, using my serger to prevent the fabric from fraying, and carefully basted the zipper into place. I topstitched around the rectangle, securing the zipper at the same time, and lastly, placed a large piece of black lining fabric under the entire lower leather front portion of the jacket to create the pocket space. I basted these layers together around the edge, and continued construction. Phew! I spent most of that sewing day creating those zippered pockets, happy dancing around the sewing room as I finished! My machine didn't really care for topstitching that texture though, so another caution... keep your scraps and do a trial run first!!! 

The remainder of the jacket went together pretty easily. I missed a step that told me to trim the bottom 1.5" off the lining, but I knew the edges wouldn't line up otherwise. I also recut the fabric for the opening edge. The tweed boucle just looked to "dowdy", so I had enough faux leather to recut and it was a HUGE improvement. 

Monday, 6" of snow fell. Tuesday, roads still weren't safe for school. Wednesday, wind chills of -30F. Thursday, predicted wind chills of -40F. I'm so glad I was gifted all this extra time, as I severely underestimated how long it would take me to do the required hand stitching with so much leather, tacking the layers together with invisible stitches in the seam. Pressing carefully using a piece of muslin to protect the faux leather surface. The sleeves needed to be taken in a little and I didn't make the hem as deep as it called for. I hate sitting at my desk typing with my wrists hanging out... so the sleeves look a little long, but that's the way I like it! 

Nothing special in the back, no leather, no zippers. It's a very comfy jacket, it wears more like a sweater! The crazy low temps today made an outdoor photo session impossible, so my apologies for the dark pictures. We tried everything to brighten it up, but dark gray is hard to shoot!

So, the contest deadline is tomorrow (Thursday) at midnight, and I'm very, very, very proud of my jacket. Working with the metal zippers this way was a new experience for me, and creating the pockets in faux leather was not simple. I don't think that anyone would ever guess that this jacket was "homemade" by me, and I've got a new item in my closet that I'm excited to wear. These challenges are tricky... I want to be "original and creative", but I need to end up with garment that I'll actually WEAR. It's a little about winning, but it's more about making something that I'm proud of. In those terms, I've already won. I'll keep you posted how judging goes next week!

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Living Coral Cardigan (Part 2)

Can I tell you... if I had another day (and a much less demanding week at work), this cardigan would've been absolutely phenomenal! So, I'll just have to settle for "pretty darn cute"!

The pattern is a definite winner: McCalls 7254. I will be pulling out this "5 piece wonder" again, as it went together so very quickly! My only wish: pockets. Isn't that always our wish in garments? LOL...
Anyhow, it was looking rather plain (aka "boring"), and that picture of Kacey Musgraves in a jacket with decorated lapels kept bugging me. I had the inner argument with myself for a few days as I played with embellishing the lapels... Too much? Not enough? Too weird? Not "living coral" enough?
After playing with multiple coral scrap fabrics, I settled on an ombre coral chiffon I bought a LONG time ago. I figured that the ombre would be perfect for a flower, making some "petals" darker and others lighter. But, what kind of flower do I make? How do I make a fabric flower? Should it be flat or 3D?
Dark basement, sorry... but, YIKES! Too big.
My first attempt looked too much like a flower brooch... so, back to the drawing board. I got out some gold embroidery thread I had, threaded a needle and started placing running stitches in the curly "wave" pattern in the fabric. Oooh, I like that!
Ok, how about the other side, too? This is actually working! A lapel embellishment that ties into the fabric... a harmonious design detail! I tried another flower design (smaller and no raw edge), and stitched a few pearls inside it. Pin it on the lapel, and...
Happy Dance! This is working!!! Still looks a little flat, it needs more dimension. What if I add a few of the same pearl beads into the curly-wave stitching...

Yeah, that's cool. I like it!!!  Oh, and... WAVES + PEARLS + CORAL... I'm just nailing this competition thing, right?! LOL... Now, if I had more time (and a less demanding week at the "full time job", I would've continued the stitching and pearls a little further down the lapel and also done some on the sleeves. But, the contest deadline was looming and I needed to do the photo shoot!
 So, in the end... I have a blue cardigan that is inspired by "Living Coral" (and Kacey Musgraves)! I think it works, not only as a "color story", but considering the descriptions of the "Golden Hour" album and the "Living Coral" color, too. "Energizes and enlivens with a softer edge" accurately describes my cardigan, the music, and the color "living coral", so I'm pretty proud of myself and my new garment. I will wear it happily, with pride that I was given a challenge which I met in a very creative and honest way, using materials and supplies that I already had on hand. Not bad, if I do say so myself! I'll find out Jan. 23 if the judges agree with me! Fingers crossed... but, I'll be happy to just make it to the next round of the contest! I've really enjoyed reading different people's inspiration explanations, and am amazed by how differently everyone reacts to the color, the coral, and the description.
*Disclaimer: Sorry about the dark basement pictures. It's so difficult to capture colors accurately in my sewing cave. The outdoor pics capture the colors accurately!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

PR Sewing Bee Challenge 1: Living Coral Cardigan (Part 1)

Round 1: Sew a Knit Cardigan Inspired by the Pantone Color of the Year, "Living Coral"

"An animating and life-affirming coral hue with a golden undertone that energizes and enlivens with a softer edgeVibrant, yet mellow Living Coral embraces us with warmth and nourishment to provide comfort and buoyancy in our continually shifting environment..."

I'll be honest... The first thing I did was google it! And I saw this:

Coral isn't a color I wear often, and I know there isn't a coral knit in my fabric stash (which needs to be depleted before I make any new yardage purchases). Two things came to mind... a teal blue knit in my stash and the Kacey Musgraves "Golden Hour" album cover.

If you're not familiar with Ms. Musgraves, you should check this country music "yeehaw queen" out. She's sassy and sweet, has a little country twang to her sound, but this album is different from her previous releases. Aside from the cover art coordinating with "living coral", this album was described in the following way:

 Throughout the songs on Golden Hour, the East Texas singer-songwriter is radiant, awestruck, taking the scenic route to the bar just for the hell of it.On Golden Hour, everything sprawls and swells and gushes, a gaping sky that makes the sonic landscapes of her previous albums feel like mere set dressing. 

You have to listen to the album to understand how it captures the "living coral" description of being life affirming and vibrant... the songs are soft and give me great comfort. So, that's it... my cardigan will have to encompass those traits, as well!

This McCalls pattern 7254 has been in my pattern drawer for while now, I just love the curve and depth of the collar and how it "swoops" around to the hemline. I like the extra length, so I've chosen view E.
The fabric is a double knit that I've had for 10 years! I got it from a fabric co-op I was in, and initially bought 3 yards with the hopes of making my mother-in-law a jacket or sweatshirt. Time passed and it was shelved... until now! Speaking of "living coral", this fabric has a tonal curled pattern to it, which resemble OCEAN WAVES. I took it as a "sign", and that pretty much sealed the deal for moving forward with this project! 
But, I don't just want to make a blue cardigan with a wave pattern on it. I want to incorporate the "living coral" color, as well as invoke a little "Kacey Musgraves" vibe while I'm at it. I did a few more Google searches and this image spoke to me... the flowers decorating the lapels of her jacket. 
Maybe that's how I can include the coral color, in a nod to the "country western jacket" style? I dug through ALL my bins: the scrap bins, the stash shelves, the trims bin, and the sparkles bin. Here's what I found:
Pretty crazy, right? The good news is, I know EXACTLY what I'm going to do next!

Monday, January 7, 2019

Do You Like to Read (Almost as Much as You Like to Sew)?

Hello, again.
I'm shaking my head at myself... I've disappeared from blogging before, only to return with lame excuses and apologies. Again.  Sorry, it's just that sometimes it feels like I failed, but if I'm being honest, I really needed to lighten my load and remove a few things from my "plate".  I could tell you the whole story, but it wouldn't make for a "fun and enjoyable" read, so I'll skip it and just hit the ground running.

Today was my first day back at work after a 2-week winter break. It was lovely. It was restful. It was relaxing. I read THREE books. I sewed TWO garments... FOR MYSELF (more on that in the next post).  I returned to work today not with an ounce of dread or regret, just a promise to myself to make time for the things I WANT to do, and not make excuses for leaving myself for last.

I stumbled across this book, "The Gown" by Jennifer Robson at Costco during break, and the back cover synopsis had me captivated!

London, 1947: Besieged by the harshest winter in living memory, burdened by onerous shortages and rationing, the people of postwar Britain are enduring lives of quiet desperation despite their nation’s recent victory. Among them are Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin, embroiderers at the famed Mayfair fashion house of Norman Hartnell. Together they forge an unlikely friendship, but their nascent hopes for a brighter future are tested when they are chosen for a once-in-a-lifetime honor: taking part in the creation of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown.

Toronto, 2016: More than half a century later, Heather Mackenzie seeks to unravel the mystery of a set of embroidered flowers, a legacy from her late grandmother. How did her beloved Nan, a woman who never spoke of her old life in Britain, come to possess the priceless embroideries that so closely resemble the motifs on the stunning gown worn by Queen Elizabeth II at her wedding almost seventy years before? And what was her Nan’s connection to the celebrated textile artist and holocaust survivor Miriam Dassin?  
With The Gown, Jennifer Robson takes us inside the workrooms where one of the most famous wedding gowns in history was created. Balancing behind-the-scenes details with a sweeping portrait of a society left reeling by the calamitous costs of victory, she introduces readers to three unforgettable heroines, their points of view alternating and intersecting throughout its pages, whose lives are woven together by the pain of survival, the bonds of friendship, and the redemptive power of love.

After dinner tonight, I threw on my comfy-cozies and my favorite blanket, thinking I'd just read for a little while. One chapter lead to two... lead to three...

Did you know that Christian Dior's sister, Catherine, spent time in the concentration camp Ravensbruck? Details here, but... I love historical fiction, it makes history so much more fascinating! I'm on page 24 and had to stop to tell you about it because I'm already convinced it's going to be a great read!  I also grabbed another title that day, "The Paris Seamstress" by Natasha Lester. That book will be next after this one, probably... Thanks, Costco!!!

Have you read these? Hear anything about them? Have other similar titles you'd like to share?
One more thing... If I fall off the face of the planet again, you can always find me in Instagram @couturebykristine  Fingers crossed, I come back and post again within the week!?

Monday, May 14, 2018

Riverdale Skater Dress

This plaid skater dress reminded us us something that Betty Cooper would wear at Pop's to share a milkshake with Jughead, so I'm calling it the Riverdale Skater Dress! It was inspired by the gray plaid dress shown, which she spotted on the Forever 21 website. I wasn't sure I could beat the $19 price tag, but since I was able to use everything I already owned, that makes my version FREE, right?! ;)

I was pretty surprised to find ZERO skater dress patterns in my cabinet, but I managed through the challenge... I used the top of Vogue 8949 and the bottom of Butterick 6019. I had to make some minor sizing adjustments (she's a petite 5'1") and of course, pockets had to be added!

I was a little concerned about marrying the top to the bottom, but simply removing an inch from the top of the circle skirt gave me the matching measurement to the waistband. I also removed the back darts to give her some more wearing ease... you'd never know!
The fabric is lovely linen that I bought years ago when I belonged to an online fabric co-op. I had about 3 yards of it, which was more than enough. It was very easy to work with, and I lined just the bodice so give a clean finish to the armholes and neckline.

It's got that "twirl factor", too! We were going to go to the malt shop for the photo shoot, but the weekend ended up being jam-packed and by Saturday afternoon I was too exhausted (party pooper).

I really hope that she wears it and enjoys it... it's so sweet and simple and feminine!
We have a funny coincidental tradition of me making her a blue and white dress in the spring... Every time she is a little bit older, a little more beautiful, and fills my heart a little bit more than before! I'll have to find the old pics to share next time.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Copying: Crime or Compliment?

Isn't this Alexander McQueeen dress lovely? I love the way the two patterns of fabric are positioned vertically (with no seam at the waist) and although I have NOWHERE to wear it, I've always been a sucker for an off-the-shoulder dress!

It appeared in my Instagram feed quite some time ago and I just love it. I'm not crazy about the $700 price tag  though! So, I searched online and did some thinking, dug through my patterns and found some lace online that might work for it. I can remember where I bought it from, it's been that long!

But, I'm really perplexed... I'm feeling some guilt every time I try to get started on the pattern work. I'm a teacher, so there is no debating with me... copying is wrong! But, if I'm not trying to pass it off as my design, is it ok to knock off a designer? Perhaps I should make a dress that's "inspired by" this look, rather than a replica? On one hand, I really like the challenge of adjusting a pattern to create an exact "knock off". It would be time consuming, but gratifying (if it's successful). But, it would be faster and easier to just use an existing pattern with a similar "vibe". I'm not in a great place with my body these days, so investing a lot of time and trouble into a garment that I might not be wearing for a long time seems like a negative (IF I shrink soon).

So, if I were to take the "easy" way out, these are the patterns under consideration...
This one (McCalls 7466) is my daughter's pick. Very wearable, very similar. I could use the chevron lace and place it diagonal, like the stripes on the illustration. 
McCalls 4510 (OOP) came from a swap, I think. The wavy color blocking lines are fun, but would the linear stripes "clash" with the curves?

McCalls 7538 could be interesting, with the diagonals at the waist being a contrast. This pattern also has a scoop neckline (which I prefer), and the stripes of the chevron lace would make the "X" of the waistline even more defined.

So, what's your opinion... Is copying directly in bad taste or a form of flattery? If I use one of these pattern instead, which one do you favor?

p.s. The dress for my daughter is in the final stages and if the weather cooperates, I should be able to photograph it this weekend and post it in a few days! It SO super cute!!! We have a fun plan for the photo shoot, too!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Ok! Take Two!

Wow! I wasn't expecting the response I saw, and it made me SO happy! You like me... you really like me?! :)

So, let me explain. I left blogging when I decided to put my energy into growing my sewing business.  It didn’t take much to go from occasionally doing alterations and creating a couple dresses a year to a calendar full of appointments. Spring formals led into bridal season led into Homecoming season led into the holiday season... Add in a few stage costumes for fitness competitors and before I knew it, I’d been going nonstop for over a year without any breaks.

I’ve missed sewing for myself and my family. So, I flipped the “Gone Fishing” sign, and closed my doors... until August 1. I’m thirsty for something fun, so my daughter and I have a game plan!

She likes to shop, but that’s no fun with a mom like me. She’s grown up hearing me say, “I can make that!”   so, we’re going to make a game of it. She chooses a “look” she’d like to own, and I will create a similar version using only patterns and fabrics I have on hand!  May sound crazy, but it will be a great way for me to reduce my fabric inventory, and having her help tracing, pinning, and cutting will help the projects go faster (not to mention having good company in my sewing room)!

Our first project is already well underway, so my next post will have all the details! Here's a sneak peek... See you again soon!