Wednesday, July 31, 2013

June? I Don't Think So...

When I first modeled this dress for DH, he said, "Golly gee, June. You look swell!", with a giant smirk on his face. June Cleaver? This dress? No, I don't think so.  There's no collar, no apron, and I'm most certainly not wearing my pearls!

Vogue 8810

This is one of the "Easy Options" patterns, with different sleeve and skirt options. I've never been a fan of a button front straight skirt, so I opted for the A-line skirt this time. I used a rayon challis from Mood that I purchased a while back, and the drape was perfect for the flowy-ness of the skirt. I only had 2 yards to work with though, so I had to be very frugal with my fabric, and the pattern called for more. To "make it work", I used a coordinating lining fabric scrap for the center front facing, and pieced the belt.
On the "up" side of things... it was very easy to construct and went together quickly. With the belt cinching up the waist, there are no fussy fitting issues with this dress. That being said...
On the "down" side of things... I thin, there is far too much ease built into the skirt of the dress. I graded down, using a 12 for the bodice and an 8 in the skirt. Seriously. There's still plenty of room in the waist and hips, without adding too much fullness.
This will be a great dress for the warm early months of fall, and I can add my leather boots and a jacket to carry me into the later months.  The shoulder seam is just wide enough to be mistaken for a cap sleeve, too, which is nice.
Overall, I'm really happy with this dress. 2 more yards of stash gone! I've decided to join Carolyn and go on a fabric diet for awhile. I've stitched up 6 1/2 yards of stash over the last few weeks (2 sleeveless tops and another dress, nothing really "earth shattering", so no blog posts), and have another 2 yards on the work table now! My plan is to reward myself after every 10 yards sewn, with 2 new yards that I may purchase. With just another month left before I head back to work, we'll see how it goes.  At the start of summer, I had grand plans to sew a new fall wardrobe. We'll see what I can knock out before Labor Day hits...
Thank you for the kind comments about my "The Point of Sewing" post and the new puppy. I submitted the story to Threads (at the strong urging of 2 big sisters), so we'll see. As for Murph, he's been with us a week now, and has such a nice disposition. He's grown quite fond of me (the feeling is mutual), and can be found sleeping underfoot when I'm in the kitchen, and behind my chair in the sewing studio.
Such a sweet boy!

Thursday, July 25, 2013


He is the newest member of our household, a male German Shepherd with very big paws! He's just 8 weeks old now, and sleeps a lot, but we're so excited to have another furry friend in the house again.  Our "firstborn", Riggs, was 12 when he passed on unexpectedly in March 2012, and he was also a German Shepherd.
So, I have some major clean-up to do in the sewing studio, as there are fabric scraps, thread strings, and loose pins that need to be removed from a puppy's reach!

In other news, I've managed to clear my table of all paying sewing jobs, so I can make something for fun! It's about time I started on that "New Fall Wardrobe" that was my original sewing goal when school let out! Just one more puppy pic before I go, though...
Have a great week, everyone!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Gameday Dress & GREAT News!

A colleague of mine approached me with a Pinterest picture, asking if I could turn her favorite MSU Spartans t-shirt into a cute "gameday" dress. She showed me a few examples (just go to Etsy and do a "gameday dress" search), and I thought it looked like a fun challenge, so I accepted. had the perfect coordinating knit for the skirt, with hunter green and an underlying gold metallic thread running through it. 2 yards was plenty for the skirting and a belt/sash. Addison Jersey Knit Chevron is still available, in 2 colorways (Hunter and Purple)!
I started by chalking the neckline and armholes from a tank top pattern, paying attention to the placement of "Sparty" logo. Before cutting (I didn't want the t-shirt holes to stretch any larger), I stay-stitched along my chalk lines.
 I cut 1/2" away from my stitching lines, and pressed the raw edge under, placing the stay-stitching on the edge of the fold. I used my coverstitch machine to finish the neck and armholes cleanly, pressing again afterward. That completed the top of the dress!
She lent me a favorite summer dress with a similar skirt style and length, so I knew how to correctly size the skirt pieces. I cut two pieces that were roughly 25" long, and 40" wide, stitched them together at the side seams, and hemmed the bottom using the coverstitch again. I marked the center front and back with a pin, and gathered up the top edge of the skirt, to be attached to the top.  Using a zig-zag stitch (so the pieces will still stretch around her), I attached the top to the skirt, and cleaned up the seam with my serger.
To create the braided belt, I cut 3 strips of fabric (each 3" wide), and sewed them each as a tube, right sides together. I tucked the ends inside each tube and finished the ends with a zig-zag, then braided the bands together. At the ends, I hand-stitched the 3 bands together (to hold the braid), and simply tied it around the waist to cinch in the skirt. (If I had to do over again, I would've gotten her waist measurement and constructed a casing for an elastic band. But, not knowing her preference for loose/tight fitting at the waist, I figured that this option would work either way.)
She loves it, and it was a fun little crafty project for me. Don't think I'll be setting up an Etsy shop or anything, but if asked again, I would have fun putting a new twist on it. I'd love a racerback style without the gathered skirt, for myself...

The American Sewing Expo called yesterday to let me know that I have been selected as one of the 12 competitors for the "Passion for Fashion" contest in September. I'm so excited (and nervous), but mostly just thrilled, as I've wanted to participate in this competition since first attending the show in 2007.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Point of Sewing

Gail commented in my last post, "I don't see the point of making an exact copy of a designer garment. Isn't the point of sewing to create garments that are original and perfect for us."   Naturally, this got me thinking, "What is the point of sewing?" and I know that each one of us would answer this question differently.  For me, the answer to that question has repeatedly changed throughout my life, depending on the project at hand, and as I reflected on my own reasons for sewing, my journey over the last 25 years floated through my mind...

When I was in middle school (mid-80s), I remember dragging my mother to every store in the mall looking for a skirt, a very specific skirt. Denim yoke, 3 tiers of gathered ruffles (pink, please) and ending above the knee. 25 years later, I can still see the image of that skirt in my mind's eye clearly! Well, my dear mother (God Bless her) was exhausted at the end of our fruitless search, and took me to Joann fabrics, where my sewing education began. She showed me the pattern catalogs and how to read the envelopes, and as they say, "The rest is history".  My very first sewing project's point: To make the dream reality. To have that skirt I saw in my mind's eye really happen. While I don't have a picture of that first skirt, I have a whole album of all the garments that came after it!
That Kenmore was my first, and still works great! I sewed in my bedroom...

As I sewed more, I found that I loved making formal dresses. In high school, the "red carpet event" was Homecoming/Prom. No girl ever wants to show up wearing the same dress as someone else, and sewing my own meant that I could insure my individuality. By my Senior year, my friends knew what I was up to, so I made 2 other girls' dresses as well. What was the point of that sewing? To create a unique garment, a "one of a kind".
My self-made prom dress (left). 1992!
About this time, my sister brought me one of the biggest jobs I've ever had: A Wedding. Not just a wedding dress, but all the bridesmaids, too! My sister's friend was on a very tight budget, so I was able to create her wedding dress for a mere $200. I think I only charged the bridesmaids $100 per dress. I was young, and so humbled to be creating such an important garment and had absolutely no idea what the average price of a wedding dress was in 1990! All the fabrics and materials came from Joann's, it was the only fabric store I had access to, and the "internet" wasn't in action just yet.  The point of that memorable sewing project: To stay under budget.
The bridesmaids sleeves were the same lace as the bride's!

My plans to study fashion design in college did not come to fruition. New York and L.A. seemed like a death sentence to my parents, and they refused to send their youngest off to the wolves. So, I changed plans, and teaching math became my career choice. Sewing took a back seat for a very long time, as the demands of college classes and lesson plans took over. When I was planning my wedding, the thought of making my own wedding dress was something I very much wanted (I had kept a Vogue wedding dress pattern for years and years, with that plan in mind!), I was simply too busy with my first year teaching. The only sewing I found myself doing was quilting, as it allowed me to satisfy my need to "create" in small time allowances, and I could easily walk away and pick up where I left off. These quilts became gifts for my mother, my mother-in-law, and my niece. The point of sewing these quilts: To create a memorable gift.
My first quilt, for my mom. Resides on my couch now. <3>
When I found out that I was pregnant with a little girl... Oh! My head was filled with floral cottons and ruffles, lace edging, and little matching panties! I didn't have much experience with sewing such small garments, along with the challenge of comfort and closures (buttoning the back of a wiggling baby is NOT easy). It was my first Mother's Day when DH's gift to me was my Husqavarna Viking Iris.  I was amazed by all it could do (the embroidery attachment led to a whole other sewing education) and made my little girl some really cute dresses.  I was shocked at how expensive some kids' clothes were, and could hear my mother's voice in my head, "There's less than a yard of fabric there!".  Making little dresses for my baby made me happy, like I was creating something special just for her, from her Mumma. As she's grown (10 last week!), I've saved many of those little dresses, just not able to toss aside the love that went into making them. The point of sewing them: To create sweet "heirloom" outfits for my little girl, truly made from the heart.
Made from the train of my wedding gown. 2011

Sewing cute stuff for my little girl made me want to sew cute big stuff for myself.  The lesson planning had lightened up, and I found myself sewing when the little one was napping. The internet brought a whole new level to my sewing world at this point, and my discovery of "Threads" and "PatternReview" meant that I had other people that I could talk to and learn from. My mother had taught me the basics, but I was left to my own devices with more technical challenges like zippers and pockets.  I started following blogs, and made friends around the world, like Bunny and Angie and Michelle and  Dawn.  This was the first time in my life that I felt like I was part of a community. The quality of my sewing increased exponentially because of these ladies and so many others out there blogging, sharing, teaching, explaining and laughing. My sewing had new purpose: To achieve great fit and create garments that were flattering on my frame.

All of this "learning" boosted my sewing confidence, and I found myself trying new challenges. I found myself entering contests and participating in sew-alongs, sewing sometimes just to prove that I could meet the goal.

These days when I flip through a magazine and see a beautiful garment that makes me think, "Ooh! I want that!", I look at the price tag and start thinking about fabric cost, style lines, pattern adjustments, closures... but, if it's affordable and I love it, I'll buy it. Last month I was in debate about patterns and fabrics for a dress to wear to a wedding. So, I went and tried some on, only to find the perfect dress on the rack, so I brought it home! No knock-off there, I couldn't improve on the style, the fabric, the fit, or the price.
That "Ralph Lauren" guy knows his stuff! No Knock-off here!

Beyond all of these reasons, the real bottom line for me is that sewing brings me joy.  It makes me happy to create something pretty, something that makes my child smile, something that brings comfort, something that makes me feel like a million dollars when I wear it. It gives me a sense of accomplishment, whether it's recreating a designer look or making my daughter a new dress for her doll. My math loving brain enjoys the engineering of a garment, the problem solving of construction, and the sensory stimulation of a fabric's color, drape, weight, and feel. The thought of tackling the challenges that I still want to learn (sketching, draping, and pattern drafting) makes me excited for my sewing future and my continued "sewing evolution".  I just submitted my first entry for the "Passion for Fashion" contest at the American Sewing Expo in Novi, Michigan in September. It's a contest I've always wanted to enter, but wasn't sure I was ready for. Maybe I'm still not ready, (considering the past competitors are Rhonda Buss, Angela Wolff, and Gretchen Hirsch), but I feel ready to TRY, I feel ready to put myself out there and give it a shot. I'll hear back soon, so I'll keep you posted.

Whether the "goal" image is a designer look from a glossy magazine or the front of a Vogue pattern envelope or an original from my own mind's eye, if I can match it (or improve on it) in a way that is appealing in appearance and fit... perhaps the question isn't "why sew?" but, "WHY NOT SEW?"

Gail, thank you for your question. I really enjoyed writing this post and reflecting on the past. I count you among my "worldwide sewing friends" and appreciate your kindness and support! I look forward to continuing this journey together!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Bebe Spring 2013 Knock Off

It only took me 3 1/2 months, but it's finished!  Back in March I saw this lovely "bebe" dress iin InStyle magazine and set out to make my own version. Here's that Previous Blog Post.  Fast forward through all the things that got in the way: Prom alterations, end of the school year, and life in general... and here we are to the finish line!

Inspiration Garment: Bebe Spring 2013 "Luxury Vines Printed Peplum Dress" No longer available, I have no idea what the original price was, but it is a cotton dress and just looked so fresh and springy.
When I saw it described as having a peplum, looked really closely... Yeah, not very obvious, even when you see the one from the bebe shopping website:
So, I thought the skirt was asymmetrical, with a single hip curve, but I was wrong. No biggie. Still love my dress. I do like the way the bebe version has centered that "white space" between the flowers at the center front, though...
Pattern Description: A combination of Vogue 8727 (top, view D) and Butterick 5566 (bottom,view DE)
Pattern Sizing: I made a mix of 12 and 14 based on the finished garment measurements. True to size for the most part, I could take it in a little in the waist/hips, but it feels good!

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Well, it definitely ended up looking like the "inspiration garment"!

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, but I didn't follow them much since I lined the whole dress and it changed up the order of assembly a little. Basically, I constructed the outer garment top, then the skirt portion, keeping them separate

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? The style lines were exactly what I needed to recreate the dress.

Fabric Used: Cotton Sateen from Haberman Fabrics. Since sold out, but it was the closest colorway/floral to the bebe dress that I could find. I also fully lined with white poly "posh" lining. I think the cotton was about $10/yd, so with the invisible zipper, bias tape and lining... I'd estimate it cost me about $30.
Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: Just a few changes...
1. Fully lined the garment.
2. Added Double Fold Bias Tape to the neck and armholes.
3. The pictures I was studying made the dress appear to have an asymmetrical hip curve on the skirt. (I later realized that the "peplum" was created by the two slightly pronounced hip curves, but my dress was already midway through construction.) I traced the Butterick skirt pattern using a regular darted view for the front right, and the hip curve version for the front left, and placed a "half" front underneath the hip curve side. Clear as mud, right?!
Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?  Yes, I'd make it again! In fact, I overbought on fabric, and have enough for another version! It was quite simple and I'm very happy with the outcome.
Conclusion: It took me a lot longer to complete than I planned (I've been quite busy since late March with Prom alterations, finishing the school year, and other sewing and embroidery jobs), but I love it.

I love making RTW knock-offs. I have my next one ready to go, in fact. It's a Valentino dress, and I'm really excited to get moving on that project! This time I won't let it sit for 3 months, though!