Monday, December 2, 2013

Fantasy to Reality: Cobalt Dress

When my "Cobalt Fantasy" started, I knew that I wanted a cobalt and black sheath dress.  I couldn't be happier with the final result.  Donna Karan cobalt wool gabardine (2 yards, Haberman Fabrics) trimmed with faux leather (Joann's), this sheath is a marriage of two patterns.  Simplicity 1802 (bodice) and Butterick 5566 (skirt).  I wore it today with my black cashmere (vintage pattern) jacket.
I love the back of the bodice, the deep-v back is so feminine, but not too revealing. No special undergarments required!  The skirt (16) and bodice (14) matched up perfectly with no special adjustment to marry the two together at the bottom of the waistband.  To get a neat finish on the sleeve, I lined it and stitched the layers together at the hem right sides together. Then I turned it right side out, understitched along the hem, and pressed it.  When I inserted the sleeve, I treated the sleeve as a single unit, and used my serger to neaten the armhole seam. Not perfect or couture, but it was less of a headache and just as sturdy with a very clean finish.
I cut the faux leather into 1.5" strips, folded them in half wrong sides together, and stitched them wrong sides together. Stitching the piping in place was easy enough, but made me nervous, as the pattern piece edges were diagonal and I didn't want to stretch it out of shape. I topstitched on the blue alongside the "piping" to help flatten and neaten the seams.  Pressing was done very carefully, as the faux leather didn't care for direct heat!
Look at the matching of the seams with that piping! The invisible zipper is hidden along that side seam, too. There's a fair amount of bumps there, but I managed to insert the zipper without drama on the first try! Please pardon the wrinkles and bumps, these pictures were taken after a full day of work!
The piping on the bodice and the skirt is positioned to point downward, but the center front strip faces left and the trim on the waistband points up on the top and down on the bottom. I can't get over how the leather trim really makes this dress look amazing, and I'm so glad that I decided to use it! I cut about 8 vertical strips, so I used less than 1/2 a yard of the faux leather.

All in all, it's a great dress with professional flair and strong design lines.  I'll be able to get continued use out of it come spring, as it's a light to mid-weight wool with short sleeves. Today a student complimented me and asked if I got my dress at Guess or BCBG. I think that equates to a sewing win!

Friday, November 29, 2013


So much to celebrate!!!  We spent yesterday with my in-laws, watching the light snow fall. Little Miss helped Grandma make the chocolate pie the other day, so she was pretty excited for dessert!  She enjoyed the last top I made her so much, that I wanted to make her another.  This time something with a little sparkle like my luxe sweatshirt, which turned out to be a winner!
It's hard to photograph, but this crochet lace does in fact "sparkle", with a silver thread running through it...
I paired it with a heathered grey lightweight knit, and used McCalls 6832. I took a yard of the lace and a yard and half of the grey, with both fabrics came from Haberman's.  The lace was on the clearance table for $7, and I used less than half of the yard I bought!

Great pattern, lots of wonderful options for a 10 year old girl!

With cousin Miss S (and Little Brother photo bomb)

Like I said, my luxe shirt ended up taking 1st place in the contest, and I was beyond thrilled!
 My shirt was on display in their gorgeous store, which you can actually tour online. Go to their website, and you can't miss the "Tour Our Store" image at the top. Click on the arrows to rotate, click on the circles on the floor to walk forward. I'm so lucky to have this amazing store just 45 minutes away. So many beautiful fabrics (fashion and home dec), trims, buttons, patterns, and the largest selection of amazing bridal fabrics and notions.  There are classes offered for all levels and ages, too. Just a treasure of a store for someone who loves to sew.

The prize package was a $100 gift card for Haberman's and a notions package! A pair of Kai dressmaker shears, pin magnet, clips, zippers, buttons, thread, needles.Thank you, Haberman Fabrics... I'm so thankful for a local store with fantastic fabrics, helpful employees, excellent service, free tutorials, and fun contests.  I really appreciate the prize package and the opportunity to challenge myself, too!
 So, you'll find me in my sewing room this "Black Friday", using these wonderful notions, planning a garment using fabric I bought with my "prize money", and finishing the memorial quilt for my dear friend.  I'll be posting the final project very soon, I'm so excited to give it to her...

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Never Too Old to Daydream...

Saturday night I was flipping channels, and I stumbled across my most favorite movie... Dirty Dancing. In 1987, I was 13 years old, and I loved everything about the movie. The soundtrack, the dancing, and the wardrobe. For me, Baby's finale dress is right up there with the iconic "Breakfast at Tiffany's" dress.
I'll let you in on a secret... When I was a pre-teen, I'd daydream of having random dance sequences happen during my normal life, like in the movies "Footloose" and "Grease". While that doesn't happen in "Dirty Dancing", I'm pretty sure that there were also a few fantasies of dancing with Johnny Castle, too. 
What girl in 1987 didn't?!
So, what does this have to do with sewing? Have you seen the newest Vogue patterns? As I was reading a blog post offering the thumbs up and thumbs down on them, this number popped up and it immediately made me think... "That's it. That's Baby's dress."
Vogue 8943

Now, hear me out.  Dropped waist. Check.  Flared circle skirt. Check.  
Scooped Neckline with tank top straps. Totally Fixable.

In this shot, you can see the back of the neckline.  I love it even more.  I can use this Cynthia Rowley Simplicity pattern (already own) for the front neckline.
Simplicity 1607
This dress is really close "as is", but the skirt yoke is actually quite loose (and long) and the gathers are all wrong...
The back zip would need to be moved to the side. No biggie. 
So... Simplicity top + Vogue bottom = "Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner"!

What would I do without "Paint"?

So, I have absolutely NOWHERE to where this, but it excites me. I wouldn't do it up in pale pink (too much like the movie dress), but a red version would be fun. Who knows... with Christmas and New Years ahead, anything is possible.  There is also a Big Birthday on the horizon for me, so perhaps this could be for that occasion?

Did you know that...The indoor scenes (Penny crying in the kitchen, and the Houseman's cabin) were set at the Mountain Lake Hotel in Mountain Lake, Virginia? Twenty-five years later, the hotel still hosts "Dirty Dancing Weekends"? How fun would that be?!

So, please do tell... if you could have any dress/outfit from a movie, what would you pick?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Sewing for Little Miss Princess

Flashback to 2007 when I started blogging, with a post called "Sewing for my Kids".  My daughter was 4, and my son was almost 2 at the time.  "Having a daughter and loving to sew seem to go together. I love choosing fabric and patterns for her to wear, and she gets pretty excited when she knows the project I'm working on is for her."

May 2008, Simplicity 2912

Well, some things don't change! "Mom, that's pretty fabric! What are you making?  Is it for you?"
This question has been asked far too often in the last year or so, and I'm ashamed to admit that I can't remember the last thing I made for my sweet girl. I think it was a skirt for Christmas last year? I'm a bad sewing mom...

My "Little Miss Princess" is now 10, and isn't nearly as excited about Princesses as she once was. We are dealing with that funny age of wanting to be a teenager and expecting trust and independence. Next year she will move onto the Middle School, and as a teacher and mom, that scares the living bejeesus out of me.

So, what a sewing mom to do? Stitch up something sweet for her (still) little girl. Something to surprise her (it was laying on her bad when she came home from school) and remind her that she's still my number one daughter and that I love sewing for her.
The fabric was purchased at Haberman's late this summer, a pretty border knit with flowers, dots, and stripes.  She picked it out, so I knew what she had in mind when I pulled the pattern Monday morning.  McCalls 6785
 There are a few different neckline options and lengths, so I'll use this again soon.  I cut the size 12, which runs very true to RTW size.
I placed the stripe near the hem, and after cutting the first piece, I realized... it's was the crossgrain and had no stretch across her body now.  Oops. Thankfully, I cut a size up (since she wasn't home for me to measure), so it fits. For now.  I got creative (and lucky with the amount of fabric remaining) and place another stripe down each sleeve.

When she came home from school, I got big hugs and tears. I left it long, unsure of the length, so we decided on a tunic to be worn with leggings, rather than a dress. Perfect for the cooler season, with bright blues & greens, flowers, polka dots, and stripes! I'm definitely planning on making a couple more of these for her, maybe in a nice sweater knit.

Sewing for my girl... makes us both smile!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

My "Luxe Sweatshirt" (semi) Winner!

McCalls 6614

A better pic of the fabric up close:
My favorite local fabric shop, Haberman Fabrics, hosted a "Luxe Sweatshirt Contest" this month, so I quickly gathered my supplies and got to work. The only requirement was that 100% of the fabric had to be purchased at Haberman's.  I found some gorgeous coordinating fabrics: a wool blend knit (like a very fine sweater knit or thick jersey in black and taupe) and a sparkly lurex tweed. 1 1/2 yd of wool + 1/2 yd of tweed = Comfort and Sparkle!
There are 2 rounds of contest voting... Round 1 was by "facebook likes" on the Haberman Fabrics page.  Then, Round 2 requires the Top 5 to bring their shirts and a panel of judges will score them based on "Creative use of unexpected fabrics, unique design and neat construction". Top 5 get $25 gift cards, and 1st place gets $100 gift card, a $70 notions package, Kai scissors and exposure to Haberman customers.

With only 8 shirts entered, the odds were in my favor, I landed in the top 5 and won a gift card!

The only trouble I had was trying to decide how to hem it.  The "woven/knit" combo was a little tricky, and I didn't want to roll it (making it fat).  I serged the bottom edge, and used "Steam a Seam" to hold it in place (I hate when knits stretch under a straight stitch), and then did a very subtle zig-zag.

It wears like a nice sweater, very soft and comfortable and the hem line says "top" instead of "sweatshirt" since it's not banded and bulky. I'm happy with the sleeve stripe and love the way it pairs with both jeans and khakis.  A definite "winner", regardless of the contest's outcome!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Deer Skin Leather Jacket

Vogue 8932 MISSES' JACKET AND VEST: Semi-fitted, unlined jacket or vest has raised neckline, seam detail and shaped hemline. A: front-button closing. A and B: two-piece sleeves. B and C: raw edge finish, seams stitched on right side of fabric, and front snap closing. I hadn't noticed on the line drawings that the back hem is much higher (just below the waist) than the front (hits below the hip), so if you a "butt-conscious" person, you may want to consider lengthening the back a little.
Thanks to my generous brother-in-law, I was able to make this amazing jacket. When he gifted me a number of leather hides, I wasn't sure what to make, but I knew that whatever I chose needed to do the gift justice.  I feel like I accomplished that.
So much leather!!!
The leather and sweater knit combo was one that I very much wanted to add to my closet. I already had this Vogue pattern in my stash (along with the lining), so I just needed to purchase the sweater knit and the chain for the closures. I was very lucky and even had some of the jewelry parts I needed in my crafting stuff!
Love the mixture of textures!
Fabric: 4 Leather Deer Skins (gifted from hunting brother in law), 1 yard of sweater knit (Haberman Fabrics), 2 yards of ivory lining (stash)
Notions: 2 feet of antique bronze chain (local bead shop, $10), topstitching thread, leather needles, rubber cement and a hammer. Yes, a hammer.

  • Added 1" of length to the bodice back.  When I muslined it, there was quite a discrepancy in the seaming details along the back, by about 1/2". 
  • The pattern is unlined, so I cut all the jacket pieces out of lining fabric as well, assembling the same as the outside.
  • I omitted the front facing piece altogether, creating the lining and attaching it to the outside all along the neck, front, and hem lines (one big circle).
  • I felt that the sleeves needed a slimmer fit, so I took them in quite a bit (it is a 2-piece sleeve, by the way).
  • Closures! I started off thinking I would do welted buttonholes, but then considered a zipper. I really wasn't sure how to do a curved zipper, so then I researched (shopped online) for different clasp closures. When I couldn't find what I wanted, I made my own! The oval pieces became my "anchor" pieces, and I doubled the chain to "beef it up".  I used the circle parts to hold the bar for the toggle, and added a few gold jump rings to balance the gold toggle bar.  They aren't any trickier to close than a button in a buttonhole, in case your were wondering.

Tips and Tricks
  • Use small squares of fusible interfacing to reinforce the "corners" on some of the pattern pieces. I used them on the leather and the lining both. Also, when I stitched into those corners, I kept the needle down, clipped the corner deeply, opened the corner, pivoted the fabric under the needle, and finished stitching.
  • Practice, practice, practice your stitch setting with the leather. My machines were super fussy about the weight of the thread and the thickness of the leather.
  • Rubber cement will help in getting your seam allowance to lay flat. Hammering before and after also helps, but watch your fingers! I only smacked mine once, but that's all it took!
  • Trim your seam allowances often and even into the areas where there will be multiple layers (like the hem).
  • Think outside the box when it comes to closures! With a unique, curved front opening, the natural closure options were snaps and buttons.  But, I felt that there was too much open "real estate" on the front, and it needed to be broken up somehow. I also wasn't crazy about the thought of stitching or welting buttonholes... so I started googling "jacket closures". 

 I knew I wanted some metal involved, but it wasn't until I stumbled across different clasp closures that I came up with the idea to use a toggle.  The antique bronze is a great compliment to the colors of the leather and the knit, but I was stuck with gold toggle bars.  So, I incorporated some extra gold jump rings (which was handy in shortening the chains to adjust the fit).
Here the chains are in the "open wide" position.
Here they are pulled closer together.
The topstitching started off great on the front, but then got fussy on the back when I had to pivot around those back of the shoulder corners.
 My machine started skipping stitches, and you know leather... a hole is forever. I switched over to my old 1925 White Rotary machine for the armhole topstitching, but experienced the same skipped stitch issues.  I sweated through the stitching of the leather tabs for the ring/toggle closures, but made it through.

All in all, I'm very happy with the final jacket.  It's a wonderful weight, cozy to wear, and was a bargain in supplies. I feel like it's on trend and fashionable, and I love that I can tell people exactly where the leather came from! The fit is great and between the top stitching detail of the front with the chain closures of the front, it's an awesome jacket from all angles!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Cobalt Continued, with Leather & Chains!

This week was a doozy between my head cold, my hubby's birthday, and Halloween, so not much sewing took place. But, tomorrow... TOMORROW!!! So, what I lacked in actual progress, I made up for in planning!  When I get an idea in my head, there's no stopping me. Just ask my poor husband!

So, last Friday I had "Cobalt on the Brain", and called Haberman Fabrics to see what they had on hand.  I was told that there were a few options, from wool knit to gabardine among others.  Saturday, I headed down to Royal Oak and sure enough, the wool gabardine was exactly what I had in mind! A nice mid-weight with enough structure to make a great sheath, it was from Donna Karan and priced at $18/yd... a little more than I wanted to spend. Especially considering that the pattern I had in mind was Simplicity 1802, this lovely Cynthia Rowley number.

Angel on Shoulder: "But, Kristine... it's not a sheath dress. You wanted a sheath dress. And, you know that a sheath dress won't require 3 yards. Right?"
Devil on Shoulder: "Who wants a boring sheath? Look at that skirt! It's going to move and sway! Imagine all the black piping in the seams! Swish... Swish... Swish!"
Angel on Shoulder: "Kristine! Dress B calls for nearly 3 yards of fabric! That's way too expensive! Not to mention that gabardine is a tad too heavy to Swish!"
Devil on Shoulder: "Angel has a point about the weight, I'll give her that.  What if we color-blocked with some black, like the Pinterest pictures?! Use this fantastic blue gabardine for the sleeve, shoulder, front bodice "triangle", waistband, and straight parts of the skirt... and find a nice and lightweight matte black (that's also cheaper) and do the skirt insets and diagonals on the bodice in black!"
Angel on Shoulder: "Well, if we're playing that game... then you could still do an amazing sheath with this dress bodice, but instead of the Swishy skirt, use Butterick 5566 for the skirt! Color-blocking would look sophisticated... but, so maybe it would be more "timeless" with black piping? Step it up a notch with black LEATHER piping!"
Skirts B,C, D or E (top 4 pictured)

So, I'm not sure who won the argument, but I brought 2 yards of cobalt blue Donna Karan gabardine home! I'm leaning toward the Angel's opinion of using piping and used "Paint" to create this line drawing of the marriage of the two patterns.
 While I know that color-blocking is another option (and the Dorothy Perkins dress from my previous post is an *amazing* dress), my fear is that it's to "trendy", while the piping has a more "classic" vibe that will work in my wardrobe a little bit longer.  Thoughts?
TOMORROW... I will finish my wonderful leather deer-skin/sweater knit jacket! I hit a bump in the road with finding the right closures, but I'm back on track now, and the light at the end of the tunnel is blinding!!! I had originally fallen for this closure at Mood Fabrics... but it's sold out at both NY and LA locations.
I thought I had found a better option at Etsy, and ordered it... only to have it arrive and be so much smaller than anticipated. So, I visited my local bead shop where I found the perfect chain, and I happened to have a toggle clasp in near matching metallic.

I'm not 100% sold on the few gold pieces mixed in with the "antique brass", and am tempted to shorten it a little more before I attach them to the jacket fronts. Maybe...

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Fantasy: Cobalt

Cobalt is a silvery, bluish-gray metal ore. But when cobalt salts and aluminum oxide are mixed you get a beautiful shade of blue.

Cobalt is soothing, peaceful, and can also suggest richness. Like azure, nature, stability, calmness are some of its qualities.
Herve Leger, Cobalt Dress Layton $2140
This color keeps catching my eye, and I keep finding myself searching online fabric stores for "cobalt" and "royal blue". There is something so luxe, sophisticated, and happy about it.  I'd definitely like to have more of it in my closet. While I know that a pretty sweater would do the trick, I'm thinking of a sheath dress, and found these images very inspirational...
 This one is a little too much for work, but would be wonderful for the next big special occasion. I think I'd omit the right short sleeve, though.
Oasis Cobalt Dress (Pinterest)
 I swear... my life does NOT match my wardrobe desires! I need a cocktail party to attend, people!

Julia Jordan Cobalt Dress (Pinterest)
 Ok, now this works for my life. I can see this with my nice black cashmere jacket over it, too!
I have a Vogue pattern (8280) very similar to this one. Classic lines, classic color... I think it's a good marraige!

For a trendier look, I could do a color-block dress. I stumbled across these images on Pinterest and was equally mesmerized...

Dorothy Perkins Cobalt and Navy Dress

What color has your creative juices flowing lately?