Friday, July 30, 2010

Rip, Rip, Rip...

I can't stand it.
It's driving me crazy.
What was I thinking?

I ripped the skirt off of my silk dress.  Yes, the silk dress I just finished and posted the other day.  I love the top, but hate the bottom.  I thought it would look better on, but I was wrong.  I should know better, I'm really not happy about wearing gathers above my waist, and I know that.  I keep hearing Heidi Klum's voice in my head saying, "It looks like there is a big butt hiding under there..."  I thought on it all week, as we were camping and relaxing away from home.  I even brought it along, hoping it would grow on me, and I'd have DH do the photo shoot at the campsite, along the lake.  But, I couldn't bring myself to do it.  DH agrees, the top is fantastic, the skirt, not so much.  I can do better, dammit!  Especially for a contest entry!

So, I thought and thought and thought.  How do you retain a border print at the hem, but have a fitted waist? Since I didn't like the gathers, I knew that pleats would also be a no-no.  I just happened to have a few patterns with me I was hoping to cut, and when I looked to them for inspiration, it nearly slapped me in the face.  I have my answer, and I have the skirt removed from the dress, and I now know what to do.

I will report back tomorrow with the new and improved version!  Keep your fingers crossed for me girls, I'm goin' in...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Silk Border Print Dress

Burda, June 2010, #106/107
At first glance, I really didn't think very highly of this pattern.  But, when the Vogue I was planning on using ended up being too big, the line drawing on this dress is what sold me.  The two patterns have many similarities (deep v-neck, gathered knee-length skirt, short sleeves), and this pattern allowed me to use the border print the way I wanted to.
Fabric:  100% Silk Habotai from Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak.  I purchased it in the spring and it was on sale!  The pattern calls for roughly 3 yards, and even though I laid the pattern on the cross-grain to use the border at the hem, I still used about the same amount.
Alterations:  There was just one review on PR for this pattern, and the reviewer said it ran big (pattern includes sizes 36 - 44).  I noticed the back view of the pattern included tie backs, which sometimes indicates a looser fit.  I checked the waistband measurements (front only) and the back waist measurement, and decided to cut a 40 for a closer fit.  Close fit indeed!  While I made no other fitting alterations, I did make a few design adjustments.  I placed the skirt hem and the waistband on the fabric border, and also omitted the back ties.  I shortened the sleeves quite a bit, placing the piping at the uppermost "placement line" on the pattern for the ribbons on view #106.
Necessary NotionsInvisible zipper... a pretty short one, since it only goes from the armpit to just past the waistband.  Bias tape... no facings, no linings, so you need the bias tape to finish the neckline edge.   Twill tape... This notion is a must any time you have a deep v-neck, since it prevents the gapping caused by cutting the neckline along the bias.  I usually use the selvedge of the fabric, but this selvedge was a little weird (stretchy?), so I used the 1/4" twill tape instead.  Piping... not necessary, but I used it to edge the neckline and the sleeve hems.  The Vogue called for it, so I purchased it, and am really glad I had it to use.  However, if I had to do over again, I would've made my own out of a coordinating silk.
Skill Level:  Intermediate.  I made this project three times harder by using piping and the placement of the fabric border, but even without those changes, the waistband point (I could not achieve a true "point") and the neckline bias would be a little challenging for a beginner.  Oh, and the side zip between the sleeve and the skirt hem?  Not as hard as I thought!  Below you can see how I used my serger to finish the seam edges prior to gathering.  The silk kept a wonderful edge and did very little fraying.
Below is the inside of the sleeve hem.  I placed the piping about 2" above the raw edge, then folded the fabric over the piping to close the seam.  (The 2 pics below more closely capture the true color of the fabric, a burgundy, rather than a pink.  That's what I get for shooting in the early morning sunshine!)
Then, when the seam is pressed upward, you can see the piping.  I removed the cording from the sleeve sections of piping to get the hem to lay flatter, otherwise it was causing it to stand away from my arm.
Warnings: The skirt (and gathers) attach about 3" above the natural waist, so if you don't like extra volume there, watch out.  It's very light gathering though (not full at all), just be forwarned.  And if you're bigger than a C-cup, you might want to make a muslin or do a FBA.  The "V" goes all the way to the waistband, so plan on adding a modesty panel, or wearing a cami. (Below is the inside view of the neckline with piping and bias tape to finish the seam.)
Future Plans:  Other than entering this beauty in the Pattern Review Natural Fibers Contest, I have none.  If I were to make it again, I would make the waistband wider so the gathers sit at my waistline, not above it.  I'm hoping to squeeze some extra use out of it when the weather turns, and wear a long sleeve top underneath it, with tights, and my brown leather boots.  For now, I'll use my strappy wedges and enjoy what's left of summer! (Picks of me wearing it coming this weekend!)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Little "Pretty"

My daughter loves headbands.  Any color, any style... it's her "accessory" of choice! I can't blame her, she has the most beautiful hair, and wherever we go people compliment her on how pretty it is.  She was shopping with Grandma last week (during my fabric fun day with Beth), and spied a headband decorated with a flower.  Grandma told her, "I bet your Mom could make that!", so Little Miss Princess decided that would be best.  I had a return at Joann's the next day, so we headed to the bead section of the store, where we found a few different colors of satin covered headbands.  She picked out a purple one, then said she wanted a pink flower made of "ballerina fabric".  Hmmm.... now think, fellow fabric fanatics.  What exactly does a 7-year-old mean when she asks for "ballerina fabric"?

Did you say "tulle" or "chiffon"? If so, then congratulations, and thanks for playing, "I Can Think Like a 2nd Grader!"  We headed to the ribbon section of the store, and found a roll of pink chiffon ribbon (1.5" wide) that she loved.  She told me she wanted a flower just like the one on her pink Daddy-Daughter dress, complete with sparkles in the center.  Thankfully I included a link to the flower instructions on that blog post, because my brain had already deleted that tidbit.  We got out the button box, and she found a sufficiently sparkly one, and I was finally all set to start.  Luckily, this also coincided with bedtime, so I was able to put it together quietly (and quickly), and she'll have a nice little treasure awaiting her when she wakes up tomorrow morning. 

I cut 6 pieces of ribbon (approx. 3 1/2" long", and did a running stitch along the edge of the width, turned the corner and along the edge of the length, turned the corner and along the opposite width.  Pull the thread tight, and the ungathered edge rounds into a petal. Anchor and knot your thread, and repeat with each petal.  Then stitch the petal centers together, stitch the button in the middle, and stitch the flower onto the headband.  Done, and it was easy!

My silk dress (using the habotai I bought at Haberman's in the spring) is halfway done.  The bodice needs sleeves, and the skirt is simply gathered and attached.  I'm loving it BIG TIME, and can't wait to try it on with my leather strappy cork heeled wedges, or my brown boots...  The piping was an adventure, but totally worth all the time.  Pictures? Yeah, yeah, yeah... tomorrow.  I need my beauty sleep!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Gut Instinct

Have you ever laid out your pattern on a beautiful piece of fabric and had a small nagging thought that it just wasn't exactly what you wanted for it?  Made a muslin and put it on thinking, "It fits, but it's still not perfect"?  Why not move forward and cut the fabric, or make the real version?  It will be a very nice garment, but it would only be doing it for the sake of sewing, and not for achieving the exact look that I want.  Sometimes it makes me think I'm a little obsessive, but most of the time my gut instinct is right, and I've learned to trust it. 
Thursday, I wore my "muslin" of the sundress I was planning on using for my silk entry for the Natural Fibers contest.  It's a nice dress, and I got many compliments on it, but it's just not exactly what I want.  It's Vogue 8380, and I limited the gathering to the CF/CB (less bulk), but it doesn't make me excited to cut into my silk.  It makes me hesitate.  I really don't like the look of the gathering across the bust, I always end up with a big "valley" in the center (if you know what I mean...).  The gathering at the waist is okay, but after losing 20 pounds, I'm not crazy about the "poofiness" there (even though I know I'm really using chiffon, so the "poof" will be minimal).  I feel like I'm being a little too picky, and with a Aug. 10 deadline, I should just get going already!  But, in the end, I will have a nice dress in my closet that my not get worn all that often, and that really seems like the biggest wrong of all.  (Didn't Beth's See & Sew turn out great? I have that pattern now, too...)

Same thing with another cut of silk (a possible 2nd entry, but not at this rate!), I even started pinning the pattern to the fabric (made it before, no muslin needed), but stopped and removed them all.  My original plan was to make it up with Vogue 1152, but I bought that pattern back in Feb (too big, my new size is not in this particular envelope). 
I just couldn't bring myself to get excited about cutting it into the other pattern that would be "okay".  Again, it would work, it would look nice, but it doesn't exactly match the vision in my head.  I grabbed my "Burda Binder" of all the technical pictures of all my issues and found 2 dresses that I will be much, much happier to use for these particular fabrics.
This first one is a pretty close match to the Vogue, ironically enough!

I checked the review on PR to get an idea of the feedback, and  I am now excited to do some tracing off today, so that's a really good sign!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fantastic Fabric Shopping with a Friend!

Today Beth and I met up again, headed south to Royal Oak to drool all over Haberman's, have lunch, and then dig through the bargains at the Fabric Warehouse in Warren.  It was so. much. fun!!! (I forgot my camera, but she remembered hers.  Check her blog for a great pic of us in our "new dresses"!)

Haberman's is having a sale now, so most of the floor is marked down.  Cottons, silks, jerseys... not the $99/yd Valentino wool/cashmere we petted, but most everything else was reasonably priced.  Here are my favorites picks...

My plan for this cotton print is a dress like this one that Michelle Obama wore.  If anyone knows the best pattern for this, let me know! (ETA: Simplicity 2473 or Butterick 5350? They are both already in my pattern stash! Woo hoo!)
This Tahari 100% silk chiffon was my first find, and is my favorite.  So feminine (but so sheer!) I'm thinking a tunic/blouse to wear over a cami...
I kept getting a vintage vibe from this silk blend floral.  I already have this Retro Butterick pattern, so I think I'm heading in that direction!
Beth and I both took some of this silky print home.  Definitely a dress, maybe my own version of Beth's See & Sew that she wore today.
First of all, it is so much more fun to fabric shop with someone else.  Preferable someone female, over the age of 7, and a fellow seamstress!  We found ourselves fighting over admiring the same fabrics, so don't be surprised to see us stitching up the same stuff soon!  I also like shopping with someone who hands me their valuable discount punchcard as we walk out the door, too.  Since she won't likely be back in the area for a long time, she passed the savings on to me.  Love her!

We stopped for lunch around the corner (where the waiter complimented our "summery dresses"), then headed a few miles east to Warren where we'd heard there are great bargains to be had at the Fabric Warehouse.  No kidding, nothing over $7.98/yd.  Lots of home dec stuff to weed through, but we found some nice shirtings ($5/yd) and linings ($4/yd).  There were some trims (Beth picked up a couple of those), and a huge bucket of buttons ($1/bag).  A little warm in there today, but I'd definitely go back again when in the mood to dig for treasure.  I can't show you the shirtings I bought, they are already in the wash!!!

All in all, it was a really, really fun day.  Beth, thank you for joining me, it was so much fun to talk vintage machines and fondle fabrics with you.  I'm pretty sure we didn't destroy the racks at Haberman's too badly, and it was nice to chat with Peggy while she cut through our pile and kept our sales papers straight!  Now you know you can trust me to pick you up a few yards of something drool-worthy!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Preparing for the Expo

I know that the American Sewing Expo (in Novi, MI) is not until the end of September, but the activities surrounding it have all called for my immediate attention.  This will be my 3rd year attending the expo, and it's so much fun to be surrounded by people who also love to sew.

Registration for classes opened this morning, so I quickly snagged the computer back from the kids and got the 2 classes that I wanted.  I'll be spending 3 hours in a "Make Pants That Fit!" class with Judy Kessinger and a 1-hour class later in the afternoon doing "Serger 911" with Kathy Ruddy.  Here are the blurbs from the brochure:

Take the smiles out of your pants - they belong on your beautiful face! Learn how to measure and draw a pattern that only fits you by making any necessary adjustments on the finished garment, then transferring them back to your pattern. Discover all the sewing and fitting tricks to make pants look and feel perfect.

All serger owners and prospective owners need to know how the serger operates from the inside out. Learn about burrs, how width is used to improve stitches and how to create a perfect balanced-tension control strip. Discover a sequential tension formula that works on any serger and all thread types. A five-minute serger pocket that can be added to any pattern plus some fun projects using a balanced stitch will be demonstrated.

Pants never quite turn out the way I like, there are so many places where fit can go wrong.  It's the only garment that still makes me nervous to sew! As for my serger, I know that I am not taking full advantage of it's capabilities, and really want some clear direction on how to properly use wooly nylon and make a rolled hem.  Maybe it'll even shed some light on my coverstitch, who knows...

Those two classes will leave me plenty of time to shop the vendor floor and check out other demonstrations.  Vogue Fabrics have been there the last 2 years, along with the Fabric Gallery (from near E. Lansing), and my favorite, Fine European Textiles, which is owned by a very nice man from Toronto.  He always has the most luxurious suitings and shirtings, so I look forward to visiting his booth! 

Then there is the Pattern Review Natural Fibers Contest & Fashion Show.  Last year I made a dress for the Top Ten Contest and Show, and had so much fun meeting other PR members.  I finished my muslin for my first entry today, and the fit is good, so just the slightest tweaking to that pattern, and I'll cut into my silk habotai and chiffon.  I have another cut of silk habotai from Habermans (a border print) that I'm dying to make up too, so we'll see if I have enough time before the entry deadline (Aug. 10).  I'm pretty sure I can pull both off.  If they both are selected for the fashion show... I'll cross that bridge when I come to it!

If you're planning on attending the show, let me know.  I'd love to meet you and chat!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pool Table to Sewing Table!!!

1st stop: Joann's for 5 yards of 2" thick foam.  Luckily, they come in 2.5 yd sheets, so I only needed to trim 4" from the length of one piece to fill the table between the rails.  I had a 50% coupon, so the foam came out to about $70.  I also grabbed 3 yards of clearance vinyl to protect the existing cover, for a whopping$9.  I inserted the foam over the vinyl cover, between the rails.
2nd stop: Lumberyard(s).  There were 3 stops made to ask questions and find the best option.  I told them what I was doing with it, and that I needed it to be lightweight, smooth, and not too flexible.  Home Depot showed me plywood and a huge sheet of dry erase board, but I didn't have the truck, so I couldn't buy anything.  My 2nd stop recommended boards of masonite (good call, Lurking Reader!), but didn't carry any, and referred me to a nearby lumber yard.  I traded vehicles with DH, and picked up 2 boards of masonite for $45.  They were nice enough to cut it down to the size I needed ( 2 pieces of 4' x 5'), and I kept the scraps.  Very smooth, very thin (1/4"), and not too heavy.  Think of old fashioned clipboards, that's the stuff!
When we got home, I had it all assembled and put together within 15 minutes, all by myself.  I'm one of those people that when I get an idea in my head, I can't stop thinking about it.  So, of course, I had to do it, and do it now!
I added a strip of clear shipping tape to join the sheets of masonite.  If we ever need to remove it, the two pieces will just fold together.  I'm going to wait on making it higher, I want to see if it's actually uncomfortable at this height (32"), or livable.  I'm thoroughly thrilled with my new gigantic workspace, and am headed back down there now.... see ya!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Random Projects...

I've been working on random stuff over the last week, nothing special in particular, just a bunch of little projects that kept me busy everyday!  Thought you might like to see what's been keeping me occupied...

Those near-100 degree days last weeks found us swimming early or late, and hiding out inside, enjoying the a/c during the hottest times.  We found this really cool tie-dye kit at the local art store, and had never done it before, so we gave it a shot.  It came with an instructional DVD which was invaluable to learn all the different ways to fold/bind/band/wrap the shirts to get a particular design.  We tried a bulls-eye, a scrunch, stripes, and a spiral.  They all turned out great (I'm wore my striped tank out to dinner tonite with my denim skirt), and we'll definitely be doing it again!  Here are some pics of our results:

Sunday was "Pajama Day", and found me making pj's for myself, my daughter, and my son.  I used New Look 6980 for my nightgown, which was very simple, requiring only elastic in 2 places and is very comfortable.  I specifically wanted a design with a band at (or above) the waist to act like a shelf bra.  I used some poly silk print from Joann's since it needed to be machine washable.  I plan on doing more of these, they are fast and easy, and give great results.  I will go into greater detail next time I make another one.  Little Miss Princess also got a pj set that day, but I screwed up.  Instead of using regular bias tape to finish the neckline, I used a strip of the knit itself, but the neckline ended up getting all stretched out.  I've promised her another version, using the right notions!  Little Man got a pair of cotton boxers to sleep in, but they just need an elastic waistband before I can call that one "done"!
Someone out there in blogland has been reorganizing their sewing room, which lit a fire under my butt, and I dove in there yesterday and finished this morning.  Mind you, we have a lot of outgrown toys and items to get rid of still, but at least we regained some floor space and I've found my sewing table again. 
Above you can see the White Rotary (in her cabinet) and a really great wooden step and platform.  DH had that made for me so I don't have to lay on the floor to pin or hem pants or a gown. A little cumbersome, but a great benefit!
Below you'll see a giant, well lit workspace... our pool table!  It never gets played on and ends up covered in all my sewing projects.  (Pardon the clutter, I'm still working on finding a home for everything!)
We were tossing around the idea of selling the pool table, but realized that for what we'll get for it, we'll probably spend more on a sewing table for me.  So I've come up with a way to safely protect it (keywords: foam by the roll), make it counter height (some boards laid across it, on top of the foam, to support a hard flat surface), and make it smooth enough to never snag a fabric (anyone out there ever glue down a sheet of formica or laminate?).  Ideally, it would also be great if I did it in 2 pieces, that way if the urge to shoot a game of pool should strike, we can easily move 2 pieces of plywood, rather than 1 gigantic piece.  The wheels are really turning in my head on this idea, but I am hesitant to move forward too quickly, as I don't want to damage the slate or the table.  I'll keep you posted on this one...

Yesterday I had coffee with BeeBee, another sewing blogger that I've only ever known through the internet.  What sweet lady!  It's so nice to be able to put a face to a name and chat about sewing and fabric!  She's in town for a few more weeks, so we might make a trip down to Haberman's together. I'm usually left to my own when fabric shopping, so having a sewing friend to fondle the fabrics with me sounds like fun!

So, the 2 next projects on the list are a pair of simple valances (for a friend whom I owe a gigantic favor to) and to start my entry for the "Natural Fibers" contest at PR.  I've got the pattern and all my supplies, and am so excited to get to work on it.  Hmmm... should I leak some details, or keep it Top Secret?  How about a hint?  Of the categories to choose from (linen, cotton, wool, silk), I'm making mine in silk.  I'll reveal another clue next time...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Comfy Cool Knit Dress

Simplicity 3506 was made previously here, for myself.  I wore it to work, and immediately had a coworker ask me to make her one.  So, here it is, in a different knit border print (from FabricMart).
Fabric:  I really like this fabric, and am so glad I bought a couple extra yards.  It's an ivory background with a tan/purple print.  Either I'll make myself one, or wait to see if anyone else offers me money to sew for them!  This was a really easy job, I have to say.  Just 4 pieces, and no fitting issues (gotta love knits).
Alterations:  Since this pattern is intended for wovens, I eliminated the zipper, and used the pattern measurements at bust, waist, and hips to decide what size to use.  I also made ties and inserted them into the side seams.  I got creative, and figured that you can add a waistline lots of ways...
Necessary Notions:  My serger was a big deal on this project.  You have to press the side seams open to form the armholes, so I serged the side edge of the front and back separately, then used my regular machine to close that seam. Steam-a-Seam was very handy on my last version (at the hem), but this one I left unhemmed.  Gasp! Un-hemmed?  You can't do that, can you???  Yes, I most certainly did.  I really wanted to keep a little purple at the edge, and if I hemmed it, good-bye purple.  It's such a nice stable knit, there will be no unraveling or fraying, so why not?  I can always add a hem if it proves to be a problem, but I really like the look.
Skill Level:  Beginner, Beginner, Beginner!  Easy peazy, lemon squeezy!  Just a few little gathers at the shoulder, but anyone can handle this pattern.  And don't forget... you can always shorten it and wear it as a top!

Warnings:  V-neck facings can be a pain, but don't let them scare you off.  I got smart, and used the blindstitch on my machine to anchor them at CF/CB this time!  I just did a few stitches, anchoring 1 into the dress itself, then knotted the threads to keep them anchored.  If you choose to go the "knit route", don't forget to cut the back neck facing on the fold and eliminate the seam allowance.  I also cut the back of the dress that way, too.

Future Plans/Recommendations:  I love this pattern.  It's easy to make and easy to wear.  So comfy, like spending the day in a big t-shirt.  I also love knit border prints, and this pattern dresses them up and showcases them so well.  I have 2 more yards of this fabric for another version: either for myself, or someone else who makes me an offer.  "Will Sew for CASH!!!" used to be the idea bubble over my head, but now it reads more like, "Will Pay to Have Time to Sew for MYSELF!!!"  Speaking of which, time to go...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Dress Fit for a Queen!

Simplicity 2692 is made of purple taffeta, and was made for Miss M, a former student and the same girl that ordered up the red Homecoming dress in the fall.  Same pattern as the homecoming dress, but view D this time.  Just a few little hiccups, but it's done now and ready for her to wear at a local carnival this weekend.  I think I mentioned in an earlier post that Miss M is the 2010 Queen of the Highlands for the Scottish American Society here in our area.  She chose this color to match her tartan plaid sash.
Fabric: "Purple Party Taffeta" from Joann's.  I bought the end of the bolt, which was about 4 yards.  Good thing, too... I ended up needing to recut the bodice and waistband.  The lining was free, as it was mistakenly sent from in a previous order.  Perfect color match, so that was pretty awesome.  With the fabric being so lightweight, the entire dress is lined.  I used some black organza from the scrap bin to interface the waistband pieces.  Didn't want to fuss with a fusible, so the organza was a great sew-in substitution.
Alterations: Back in the fall, Miss M bought the wrong size pattern, but I just added on to get to the next size up.  Well, after 10 months, I forgot that very important fact, and didn't realize my mistake until the dress was nearly finished.  I put it up to myself and knew immediately that it was too small.  Miss M is about my size, and it had a 2" gap at the zipper opening! Like I said, I had enough fabric left over to recut the bodice and waistband, and just released some of the skirt gathers to fill the gaps.
Necessary Notions: Pinking shears! Boy, does this fabric fray! I used my pinkers to cut all the pieces, and I'm so glad that I did!  Fabric Selvedges! Any neckline that has a diagonal cut line is prone to stretch and lose it's shape as you sew.  As I cut my pattern, I preserved the selvedge edge (didn't cut across it), and used it to stabilize the front and back neckline edge.  It worked the same as twill tape, and is free.  I cut the length the same as the pattern paper shows, and baste it on with a long machine stitch. This time I used the lining selvedge on the taffeta (just the front and back bodice pieces), and the lighter weight really made a nice, clean (non-gapping) neckline edge.  I also used some selvedge to lock down the shoulder pleats, too.  Invisible Zipper, 16" long.
Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate, depending on your fabric choice.  In a cotton, this would make a super summer sundress.  Fancier fabrics are fussier, and require a few extra tricks, but nothing crazy here.  Just some gathers and a zipper. 

Warnings:  The most important thing to focus on with the pattern is the stabilization of the neckline.  Whether you use twill tape or a strip of selvedge edge, it an absolute must for good fit on this dress.  This particular fabric was a little bit of a nightmare, but beggars can't be choosers.  It had to be this exact shade of purple, and I didn't have enough time to collect swatches of higher quality fabrics.  Acetate means low heat, and low heat means wrinkles/creases are not easy to remove.  It also picked up and showed the smallest specks of moisture, so I needed to make sure my workspace (kitchen counter) was always clean and dry. If you have the time and money, high quality fabric is worth the price (and your sanity!)
Future Plans/Recommendations: This is a great pattern. Easy to make, with a dress shape that works on all figures.  For my next version, I'm going to do it up with a border print and use view B.  I have some wonderful ombred silk floral print that goes from light pink to coral and coordinating coral silk to go underneath it...