Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sunnybrook Kelly Skirt

I finally finished up my muslin for the Megan Neilsen Kelly Skirt.  I am so in love with this pattern! There will be lots and lots of variations of this skirt in my future. 

This one is made of some vintage cotton/poly gingham that I got at a thrift store when I was making dolly clothes.  I liked it because it's sort of a micro-gingham, which was perfect for minature dresses.  It's not the finest fabric, but it was around and I had a vision of making it with these mismatched, but same-sized, vintage yellow buttons.  I think the different yellows are very cheerful and I quite like how the skirt turned out, even if the fabric leaves something to be desired, quality-wise.

Most importantly, I worked out all the details for how to make it again.  I made a few significant changes.  I did my version of an FBA - no, that's not a full bust adjustment on a skirt, it's a full butt adjustment.  I cut the skirt size for XL and I cut a waistband for medium.  I made larger box pleats in the front so it would fit into the waistband and in the back, I decided to forgo pleats for gathers.  I think that two box pleats over my haunches would not have been a good look... I am really happy with this hybrid of pleats and gathers that can feature the pocket too.
I finished after dark and my dear one was at a Mason meeting, so I just snapped these picture inside on a hanger. You'll have to take my word that it's really flattering and fun to wear.  Tomorrow, I am going to wear it to work and I"ll hopefully get some action shots. 

It's fun to sew.  I really enjoyed making the pockets & they have a lot of possibilities.  I want to try piping and also contrasting fabric.  I did French seams on the side seams.  I wasn't sure how that would work with the pocket in the side seam, but it was fine and it makes a really nice finish without a lot of fuss.

I also learned a great tip from By Gum By Golly about using a different foot with a guide to make even top stitching.  This is the second tip I have gleaned from author, Tasha - she also did an amazing ribbon placket guest post that I am almost ready to put into action with my current knitting project.
This really made the hem and the waistband topstitching a breeze.  I always learned to use the notches on a regular foot for a visual guide, which works fairly well - but this physical guide takes some of the stress and room for human error out of the process.  Excellent information passed on - her blog is one of my very favorites!

Even though it was a short week, I am so glad that it's almost Friday!  We're going to visit my father-in-law for the weekend which means lots of knitting and possibly some good finds at the thrift stores.  They sure were good to me last time we visited!  

When I was up in Portland last weekend, I didn't have much time to shop, but I did manage to stop at a Goodwill and a Vintage-by-the-Pound store where I got some great fabric scraps for doll clothes last fall.  Turns out that by-the-pound isn't the best deal for a lot of larger pieces of fabric, but one was worth it - a 2.5 yard piece of cream and dark brown wool gingham for $9.  I was almost certain it was wool in the store, so I took a gamble and sure enough, it passed the burn test when I got home.  Too bad you can't set stuff on fire in the store!

At Goodwill, I got three cute patterns and a some vintage hem binding and bias tape. All in all, a pretty good thrift-score!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

double trouble on throwback thursday

1988 pattern + similar vintage of thrifted fabric = ???

a.) "this could be heaven or this could be hell..."
b.) "two wrongs don't make a right."
c.) "let's do the time warp again."
d.) all of the above.

(Sorry for the selfies - my photographer husband wasn't available this evening and I wanted to post about this on "Throwback Thursday"  because it seemed apropos.) 

My double needle arrived in the mail today, so I was able to finish up this little dolman sleeve 1988 pattern for a pullover out of some crazy knit fabric of a similar vintage that I found at a thrift store. 

The only things about this pattern that I changed were to make the hem a high-low shape instead of straight across & shorten the sleeves by 3 inches- they tapered more & were longer so that they bloused up around the elbows and created an especially 80's shape that I wasn't that excited about. 

The fabric is really crazy! It's a wild all-over print that looks like it's from the 1980s to me - possibly the early 90s.  I think it's a cotton/poly and the back is sort of like a lightweight version of a French terry. It's kind of pretty on the back, I almost like it better that way.

It was really easy to work with because it doesn't have a lot of stretch.  It pressed well too - very good for getting my sealegs with the double needle and other tricks of working with knits. I really love the smooth and polished look of the double needle.  I am getting the hang of knits, little by little.

Despite the insanely dated fabric, I actually think this style of garment is rather trendy at the moment. Even the crazy print makes a nod to the graphic geometric prints that are currently popular & the dolman or batwing is quite common these days, as well. I saw a student on campus today wearing a very similar cut top over jean-cutoff shorts.  Hers was made of a semi-sheer slubby lightweight navy blue jersey & it looked really chic on her. I think this pattern has some good potential to make a nice yoga layering piece in a new solid color fabric.  I also think it could be potenially adorable in a simple stripe, taking care to match the stripes in the doman sleeve & that would be a fun pattern-matching practice challenge. 

RTW Dolman Sleeve Tops:  Gap,, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus.

Monday, May 19, 2014

babydoll 2.0

One of the first inspirations that got me thinking about starting to sew for myself again was a series of posts that a friend made from the designer Mod Dolly.

These smock dresses remind me of a lot of dresses that I wore in high school in the early 1990s & they are a very simple pattern. I couldn't stop thinking about one such dress... a Rampage brand gauzy peach colored rayon with a bright rose and pink overall floral - it was oversized, amorphous in shape, and looked really cute on both me and my best friend who was 10" taller and considerably bustier than I. It was also equally at home accessorized with colored Docs or chunky sandals.  I gave that dress to my friend when we graduated high school as a mark of my friendship.  The thought of it still evokes many memories - it's amazing how styles of clothing identify with significant experiences - I notice this more as years go by and I have more of a history of experiences. 

1990's revival fashions are very trendy at the moment and it's sort of weird to see a fashion that I wore un-ironically come back around both in vintage and in reinvented inspiration for current items.  Here's a quick collage of searching "90s babydoll dress" in Google Images to show the inspiration I've had in mind for the dress I've been wanting to make.

I also see traces of the same style in Mori and other Japanese fashion and sewing books like Stylish Dress Book: Wear With Freedom which is chock-full of beautiful smocks and oversized dresses.  

I noticed some great rayon challis florals on that I thought would be prefect for such a dress. I couldn't find a pattern amongst contemporary patterns for this simple oversized smock shape, so I started scouring etsy and ebay for an authentic 1990's pattern.  After a lot of browsing - I found one that I thought would work, with some modifications.
I made the short sleeves with the shape of the sleeveless neckline and omitted the buttons and the back ties.  It looked a bit more fitted than I wanted and I wasn't sure if it would work as a pull-over style without the buttons if I made it to my bust size, so I made it two sizes bigger to start.  I used the thrifted rayon challis I found on Mother's Day, which was the perfect weight to test this style.  Turns out that a lot of the shaping in this illustration is probably from the ties... so I ended up with lots of room in my wearable muslin.  Lots and lots of room!
It's ridiculously comfortable, it layers well with a cardigan, and it is a perfect dress to wear to work on days when you covertly want to feel like you are still in jammies... but it's not quite the adorable babydoll of my dreams. 

This is the pleasure of making a wearable muslin: I ended up with something to wear to work without cutting into my special fabric blindly & I learned a lot in the process. I decided to make the same dress in the size true to my measurements - here it is in some proper fashion fabric from - a rayon challis print that I've had my eye on - I love the colors and the print.  I think the print is evocative of 90s style without being dowdy or costumey.  It drapes and flows really well, as a dress of this style should.

I think the second shape is a lot more youthful and fun, while still oversized - but I might even go down one more size, if I make it again.  Another thing I was really happy about changing was the pockets.  In the first one, I placed them right where they were marked, which turned out to be a little low. I can still put my hands in them, but not quite up to the wrist. In the second one, I actually set them into the waist, so they don't flap around and they are higher. My hands are in the pockets in each of these pictures - in the second dress the pockets are just more properly functional and comfortable than the first.

It's a very simple pattern to make. It lends itself to subtle adjustments and makes a dress that is comfortable and effortless to wear.  For fall, I definitely want to make at least one more in plaid flannel.  Here's my inspiration collage from Google Image searching "plaid 90s babydoll"  I think the plain front would be cute in short and long sleeves and also one adding back in the buttons & maybe some bias-cut pockets could be cute too.
I am also really taken with the black velveteen accents too, but that would be a lot of work to add to this plain pattern - so I scouted around etsy again today and found a dress that already has a collar in the pattern that I can also play with later.   It wouldn't be too hard to lengthen the seelves to make them 3/4 and add some black velveteen details. Again, this is a pull-over style dress that is getting the fitted look from back ties, but actually has a lot of room in the cut.  I think I would omit the ties and keep it oversized and drapey.

I should get some good practice with plaid matching on these projects! 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

cardi in progress.

Despite resting all weekend, minus the mandatory Mother's Day activity, that cold virus got the best of me and I missed Monday and Tuesday at work.  In between naps and soup, I knitted.  I couldn't do much at once without resting, so I wanted to choose something mindless that was just ribbing and stockinette so I didn't get confused with any patterning.  Also, though I enjoy knitting lacework, cables, and the like - I tend to wear simple things in ribbing and stockinette much more often, so I wanted to make a basic I might use.

I'm making a variation of this Knitting Fever pattern, minus the lace front panels and a bit shorter length in the body.  I hope I have enough yarn left to make the sleeves come below the elbow. I managed to get a fair bit of knitting done in the 6 days I was ill.

This evening, I finished the last bits on the neckband and placket & the ribbon I ordered from etsy to trim the placket arrived yesterday.

This yarn is called 100% Soy Silk.  I got it for free when it first came out in 2005 and there was a giveaway on the forums. 

I've had it since then because it's not a colorway that I would ever choose for myself - but the feel of the yarn once knitted up is really soft and drapy.  I hope it will keep an airy quality and not get too bagged out of shape. It's much lighter than cotton, which is really nice.  I think it will make a comfortable summer cardigan for work.

Now that I am feeling better, I don't have much time to sew - my husband's birthday is this weekend and we will be out of town the next two weekends after that - so I will content myself with finishing the sleeves and hand stitching the ribbon on the plackets before I can really get down to sewing in June.

All my treasures from and Sewaholic arrived and I can't wait to get down to making some real clothes - not just "wearable muslins" and the equivalent in sweaters. I also ordered the Emery from Christine Haynes - it's on sale through this weekend, 30% off - I couldn't resist!  I can see myself making many of these dresses for work in all seasons.  It's a really flattering shape and it looks like it will be fun to make... but I have to be patient for a few weeks.

I am really excited to use this "wearable muslin" cardigan to test the ribbon placket, in the meantime, though.  I found an awesome tutorial by Tasha from By Gum, By Golly, writing a guest poster on Elegant Musings.  This is profoundly helpful & even includes a link to an adorable 1940's basic cardigan pattern.  It gives me a lot more confidence about the steps and her finished product looks beautiful!  I love her tip about just adding the extra number of stitches to the cardigan front body pieces and not worrying about picking up and knitting a separate button band, only to cover it with ribbon.  Too late for my test-sweater, but I think this method would make top down raglan cardigans even easier and more awesome!  

Saturday, May 10, 2014

bits and bobs.

I was planning to make a second iteration of Clyde this weekend with a button front instead of a back zip, but I discovered a really cute pattern that I decided would be easier than redesigning that 90's pattern myself - the Kelly skirt by Megan Neilsen Patterns.

This skirt looks adorable stitched up in so many different fabrics.  The variations on alone were enough to convince me that I needed this pattern. I love the front pleats and the pockets.  I do think, after all the photos and reviews I've seen, that I will omit the back pleats and just gather the back piece into the waistband instead.  Being a pear shape or swayback or [insert euphemism for having a big butt here], I really don't need two big pleats sitting right on my back side.

So why am I not posting pictures of my skirt now?  Well, because I haven't made it yet. I came down with a cold and fever and was totally worthless on the sewing front for the last couple days.

Today I rallied with the help of cold medicine and managed to go on a grand/mother's day outing with my mom and grandma. We took my grandmother to Nordstrom's Rack. I enjoyed looking at the colors and shapes of trendy clothes, but felt overwhelmingly unmoved to buy anything. It was "fast fashion" overload. It made me so happy to be sewing for myself again. I was looking at "sale" stuff and thinking - geez, I could buy 4 yards of Amy Butler voile for the price of that dress even marked down to clearance and I would make something so much prettier that would fit me perfectly.  I like how my brain is starting to work!

Speaking of Amy Butler, I am waiting on some beautiful prints from that are supposed to arrive Monday for my Cambie pattern, which is also still en route from Canada.  Shopping for sewing projects by mail is an exercise in patience.  I've become quite spoiled by amazon prime. It takes a long time to get orders from, but the free shipping for over $35 is totally worth it!   I have gotten a couple fun things in the mail recently to tide me over - first up: Ralph Lauren silk lining from Mood in a very cheerful spring green!

They even mailed it in a Mood bag!  This was my first purchase and will not be my last.  So much fun!

I also got 3 yards of navy blue cotton/lycra 4-way stretch in the mail from ebay for practicing my knit sewing skills. The seller koshtex has really good quality at great prices and ships super-fast.  I will order from them again in the future, for sure.

Today, I was also chuffed to find some really fun retro/vintage stretch fabrics (are the 1990's vintage yet?!)

My grandmother's apartment is right next to a really lovely thrift store that is run by a volunteer league of retired women.  It was my go-to place for collecting all things craft related back in the day, so I have been meaning to stop by now that I am sewing again.  Since it's all volunteers, they have limited hours - but my mom and I had just enough time to pop in for 5 minutes just before closing and that was all the time I needed for a big score!

For $20.80, I got 4 vintage zippers, a bunch of vintage buttons, and lots of fabric.  So much better than Nordstrom's Rack, let me tell you!

A rayon navy/white leafy print, navy/white cotton gingham, pale pink, grey, white, and navy rayon floral, black floral knit with minimum stretch, French terry knit with a wild retro pattern, and black rayon with a very cute little cream pattern.  The rayons are so soft and yummy, wide selvage and 2-3 yards each so I could make dresses or skirts from all of them.  I think a lot of this fabric is the from the 1990s.  I will definitely have fun with these when I am feeling better.  For now, the extent of my craftiness has been lying about and knitting.

I don't think I will ever become the compulsive knitter that I once was, but it has been really fun to think of making a few cardigans here and there.  Knitting is very soothing and well-suited to little pockets of time we all have here and there, while sewing is a bigger production - especially since I don't have a sewing room and I completely take over the living room when I am working on a project. Knitting also doesn't take as much energy or concentration once you are cast on and on a straight stretch, like I am for this sweater back.

I've had this bamboo silk yarn for a nearly decade.  It only escaped a huge yarn stash purge that I did this winter because it was in a separate plastic bag under my bed that I didn't find till recently.  I got it for free from a company that was promoting bamboo yarns on the forums in 2005.  I was excited to get free yarn, but this was so not my color that I never made anything from it.  It's still not a color that thrills me, but I was jonesing for something to do while sick and it was available. Is there a wearable muslin term for sweaters? Who knows.  Whether or not there's a name for it, that's sort of what this sweater is.

This is the back of this pattern, which I discovered on Ravelry. While I like the lace pattern for the front, I am going to skip it on this sweater because I am 80 yards shy of the suggested amount of yarn and because I think it would get more use as a simple basic piece. I'm also making it a bit shorter (modelling it after the measurements of a really yummy vintage cardigan that I love to wear with dresses because it falls right to my natural waist) and hoping there is enough yarn saved to lengthen the sleeves into 3/4 sleeves that fall just below the elbow.

I haven't knit a human-sized sweater in years!  Most of my kniting projects have been quite wee in recent memory.

While we're at it - here's another glipse at my dollies - I adore sewing and kniting doll clothes because it's a chance to go wild with print or just knit for an evening and have a finished product. Here are the other girls - all dressed in clothes of my own design/construction. Lots of fun, but it's my turn for some clothes now!
I am super-excited to finish this sweater and try a new sewing/knitting hybrid finish on the button holes.  In all my days of intense knitting, I never made a ribbon finish.  I love this for effectiveness and aesthetic reasons and I have owned lots of vintage cardigans finished with grosgrain ribbon over the years, but I had a block about sewing button holes on knits that I made myself - like that it was cheating or something .  A lot of hardcore knitters in circles that I was part of promulgated this idea, but truthfully I have never been 100% happy with knitted button holes.

I was reading lladybird's blog and saw a really great post about a cardigan that she knitted & finished with seam tape and machine stitched button holes.  This was like a lightbulb going off for me - why on earth have I never tried that?!  I freakin' love grosgrain plackets on sweaters and equally freakin' hate baggy-saggy knitted buttonholes that pop apart all the time. I am looking forward to fusing sewing and knitting techniques to make a better garment, better suited to me.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Clyde the Work Skirt.

So I 'finished' my wearable muslin of View A of Simplicity 9150 from 1994 last night.  It was fun to put together but I went to bed hating this skirt and contemplating titling my blog post about it: "The 90s called and they want their skirt back."  It just made me feel dumpy when I put it on.  Even if I got to put in this cool vintage zipper in the process of making it.

It is a strange pattern.  It looks from the drawing & the schematic like just a simple 1990's variation on a dirdl skirt, but it's actually three large gores that are pieced together and then gathered into the waistband. These big gores make the layout a very inefficient design for yardage, so I decided to trace the large gore and divide it in half, so that my skirt had 6 gores with a back zipper.  I saved about a yard of fabric this way.

Once I tried it on, I thought it needed to be shorter.  My husband throught it needed to be longer.  It clung to my hips in an unflattering way and made my waist look thicker than it is. No bueno.

After some contemplation, I realized the skirt was sitting too low on my waist and I didn't even think about this because I am so used to RTW proportions that aren't designed for pear-shapes... so I always buy bigger sizes to accomodate my hips and end up with saggy waists - and I replicated what I thought was my waist measurement in my own sewing.

For this pattern to look right, it has to sit at your natural waist. Hips and waists come in as many or more shapes as there are fruits - even within common categories like "pear" and "apple" there are a lot of nuances.  I am naturally quite high-waisted and I have wide hips in relation to my waist.

I needed to reduce the waist, so I unpicked waistband in the back around the zipper and gathered it a bit more severely then I restiched it.  I thought the problem was solved and I went to bed.  In the morning, I liked it a little better the next day, but it still wasn't exciting to me.

My husband thought it was fine.  He pointed out that it looks a lot like most skirts I wear to work, so I thought that I should try to like it.  You can see in my face, I think, that I am trying to be positive about this skirt, but not quite feeling the love.

As I wore it, I noticed that - even though I already took 2 inches out of the waist - I kept hiking it up.  I then had a major epiphany.  It will sound so silly if you have been sewing a while and are in touch with your measurements and body, but I've been out of the game a long time and I had forgotten where my natural waist truly was because nothing I buy off the rack actually lands there.  It's much higher than I first thought I wanted to make it & even higher than the first adjustment I made.

This fitting issue was why the skirt made me feel dowdy.  It was still sitting to low so it looked like my waist was bigger than it really is & it didn't have the fullness in the right place to skim over my hips.  Instead of flaring out from the slimmest point on my figure, it was poufing out with gathers at the widest part of my body.  No girl wants that.

I began contemplating how I could fix it or if I should even bother.  I decided that it was worth it for future reference to know the ideal waist measurement, so that I can fit myself with more knowledge as I move on. So, I decided to unstitch the side gores from the waistband, take the waistband in 1 inch on each side to create faux side-seams and then re-gather the skirt into the waist at each side seam.  Here is a before and after. From mock-up to truly finished product, I took the waist in 4 inches!

Not perfection... but now I have a skirt that fits and I know for future projects the best measurements to use.

The difference is subtle, but it's easy to see that I am a lot more genuinely comfortable and happy with this fit. I decided to call this work skirt Clyde, after Clydesdale workhorses. It's simple, straighforward, and well-suited to work. As the evening cooled off, it passed another litmus test - it layers well! I added knee socks and a big wool cardigan over this outfit and really liked the result.  I think it will get a lot of wear and be a good reference for future projects. 

The astute reader may notice that I changed blouses from the first to second set of photos.  I got this second blouse today at a vintage booth at the semi-annual campus Street Faire.  It's a silky power blouse by Liz Claiborne... probably 80s or 90s that unironically has birds all over it. Proto-Portlandia's "Put a Bird on It!".
Yes, this is a selfie of my boob.  But I took it so you could see the birdies.  I promise.
 I quite like it. I'm enjoying floppy, floaty shapes in clothes lately, but playing with that concept to find a way to still flatter what's good about my figure. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Book Review: Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing

In my last post, I quickly mentioned Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing by Gretchen Hirsch.

I highly recommend this book!

Thus far, in my nearly 3 decades of sewing, I've gotten by without a lot of books.  I learned many techniques from family members, my home ec teacher, the mistress of the costume department in my college's theatre. What I didn't learn from them, I filled in by reading my sewing machine manual and an old edition of the Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing.

Many sewing books that I've seen are too basic for me to learn a lot from - they are designed to teach someone to sew from scratch.  I have mostly found myself interested in sewing books that have patterns or projects in them, but I've never collected or coveted sewing books the way I once did knitting books.

I do like to look at them, though.  Especially when they cross my desk in the library where I work.  The other day, I saw that someone had ordered the Colette Sewing Handbook and I was really excited to take a peak inside.  I must say that I was a little disappointed.  I just wasn't very excited about the patterns and it was geared toward teaching someone to sew from the beginning.  It's a very good book for what it is and if the patterns strike your fancy, even better.  But I didn't feel like I couldn't live without it.

I feel differently about Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing.

I looked at it on amazon and I liked the patterns a lot better.  I didn't want to buy it without getting a closer look, though, so I ordered it through Interlibrary Loan to get a closer sneak peak.  As I read through it, it instantly became a companion that answered a lot of little questions and taught me things that could make me a better sewer.  Not just teaching from the very beginning, this is a book about refining technique and the projects are designed to incorporate vintage & couture techniques that are exciting and challenging.  They aren't just practice pieces though, they are garments that I would really want to wear.

The techniques and the information about sewing from vintage patterns is really fascinating and helpful, but this isn't just for people who are interested in vintage.  These are classic shapes that are the building blocks of most of the shapes that women want to wear today.  This book teaches you about construction and fitting, so that you can become a problem-solver, rescaling patterns, custom fitting garments to your body, and even drafting your own patterns for dirdl skirts, circle skirts, and more. I love that it shows how to change the skirt on a bodice to customize to your own preferences.  This sundress is adorable in both the full and fitted versions... just draft your own skirt from instructions earlier in the book to create your custom-fitted design.
I really want to try this pattern for summer and I am excited that it will teach smocking, which is a look I love and have never tried to me-make.

The book is so handy as a reference - from a guide to unusual types of fabrics mentioned in vintage sewing patterns to lists of tools for sewing and pressing; from an index for sourcing fabric and notions to a wonderful guide about different seam finishes - this book offers a lot of information to take your sewing to a new level.  Once I checked it out through Interlibrary Loan, I couldn't bear the thought of sending it back without ordering my own copy - so I hopped online and got myself one.
I've seen this bias finishing on seams and never knew it was called a Hong Kong Seam. Yay for learning new things!

I know I am late to the party, since this book came out in 2012... so I was excited to read that there is a new Gertie book coming out! Gertie Sews Vintage Casual.  Yes, please! You can pre-order it now. I am really looking forward to adding it to my shelves when it comes out.