In All Its Long-Awaited Splendor…

Photo Apr 25, 11 10 53 AM

The long-anticipated shoe dress!

I could apologize for my long absence, but I recently joined a softball team and learned that softball means never having to say you’re sorry – so there you go! I also completely uprooted my life to move to New York City in the interim, so I’ve decided to cut myself a little slack and focus instead on the positives, namely: I’m back! I’m going to try to make blogging a larger part of my life, largely because I’m so madly in love with the sewing blog community and want to be a part of it, but also because there are only so many times I can shove my me-mades in my friends’ faces and demand they tell me how clever I am. The goal is to post a minimum of once every two weeks, as I’m hoping low expectations will easily help me to meet them, but in honesty I’m hoping to post much more often than that. Especially in the beginning, because I have some fun projects that have gone unblogged for too long!

This dress, of course, tops the list. This is my take on Simplicity 1196, a pretty little fit and flare dress with bracelet-length sleeves, double bodice darts, and a three-panel gathered skirt. The fabric is a patterned flannel from Joann’s (they may no longer carry the exact pattern, but this is similar). I no longer remember exactly which size I made, and am too lazy to dig through my patterns to see which it was, but the fit was spot-on – except for the sleeves! As you see above, I chopped them off above the elbow, which unfortunately meant I didn’t get to include the very pretty button detail at the cuffs. The sleeves were waaaaay too narrow through the elbow and forearm, even for my skinny arms, and if I make the dress again I plan to grade the sleeves up a size or two starting from the armpit.

Photo Apr 25, 11 13 46 AM (1)

The impromptu lopping of sleeves left me in a bit of a pickle, since they wound up exactly the length I wanted – so I zigzagged the edge and called it a day. Not the most permanent solution, but I never have gotten around to binding them with bias as I probably should. C’est la vie.

One of the major changes I made to the pattern was to the neckline. I decided I wanted a v-neck, front and back, so I basically just folded both pattern pieces to create a slant instead of a curve at the neck. I adjusted the neckline facing accordingly, and then gave the whole a double line of topstitching to hold down the facing and give the neckline a little more definition.

Photo Apr 25, 11 11 09 AM

After wearing the dress, I discovered my v-neck alteration may have made the neckline a bit too wide, with so much missing fabric at the back neck, so if I make the pattern again I may take an inch or two out of the center back to reduce the width across the shoulders. However, as you can see in the picture above, I also didn’t insert a hook and eye at the top of the zipper, which leads to some noticeable gapping – I’ll be testing how much that helps before I make any major pattern changes!

You can also just see, in the picture above, the extra inch I added to the waist – when I first tried the dress on, I didn’t like where the waistline fell on my long torso, but I didn’t have enough fabric to cut an entirely new bodice. Instead, I rather clumsily inserted a strip of fabric between skirt and bodice as a sort of waistband – I don’t love how it looks, and the pattern matching is non-existent, but the bodice is the perfect length now and I know how much I need to add to any future iterations of this dress.

All in all, this turned out to be a bit of a wearable muslin, but that’s all right – the fabric was cheap and pretty, and it gave me a chance to test out a pattern I wound up liking quite a bit. With my knowledge of the alterations required, I fully intend to make this dress again.

Plus, shoes. Who doesn’t love shoes?

On A Roll

I felt like blogging today, so I decided not to fight the impulse! Part of the drive comes from having worn my new shirt last night and the fact that I am now in possession of a crappy iPhone mirror selfie of me actually wearing it.

Excuse the quality, focus on the pretty!

Excuse the quality, focus on the pretty!

I’m so proud of and in love with this shirt! I even made a headband/sash out of the same fabric, because who doesn’t love matching accessories? Especially when the fabric is such glorious shades of golden yellow and bright red with little ladybugs sprinkled in among the flowers. Cherry on top? The boyfriend loves it almost as much as I do. The cuddles were pretty much a constant flow at dinner last night, and his only defense was, “It’s a really pretty shirt!”

And now on to one of the promised dresses! On another 99-cent Joann’s pattern binge (that time it was Simplicity), I ran across Simplicity 1080, a sweet smock dress and tunic pattern designed by Dottie Angel (who has stopped actively blogging, but has left her blog intact). I was looking for some more casual things to sew for the summer, and I loved the shape of the dress, so I scooped it up and made my plans. However, I decided I wasn’t going to stick to the demurely rustic look of the packet picture – I wanted color! Pizzazz! Something bright and cheerful, with notes of a preschool teacher on an adventure. I picked up some cheap quilting cotton in colors I loved, contrasting single-fold bias tape, and went to town.

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Please excuse the wrinkles, it was hanging over the car seat for a while and *may* have ended up under some things.

For the most part, I followed the pattern straight out of the envelope, although I decided against all the exquisite finishing of seams with bias tape that was detailed in the pattern instructions. The few things I tweaked were: Moving the shaping darts down an inch and a half to accommodate my elongated torso, omitting the pocket bands, binding the neck and sleeve edges with bias tape instead of using the bias tape as facing, cutting away part of the sleeve edge that was meant to be turned under with the bias tape facing, and replacing the self-fabric waist ties with longer ties I made by folding the bias tape in half and topstitching along its length. The last was a variation I based mostly on the fabric I was using – the ties are used to give waist definition, but I didn’t want an expanse of quilting cotton pulled tight across my midsection without so much as a bow to break the monotony. Being able to wrap the ties all the way around give me the defined waist I thought such an otherwise smocky dress needed.

Altogether, it’s a sweet little casual dress that I’ve worn several times with a great deal of enjoyment. The pattern is simple and the shape is flattering, although I actually may have moved the darts down a little farther than I needed to. I love the deep pockets at hand level, and I was very pleased with how my color choices came together in the final product. Half the fun of wearing this dress in public is seeing people react to a 5’11” woman wearing a dress that looks like it could have been made by Crayola! I’d like to make another in a less stiff, wrinkly fabric eventually, just to see how it changes the shape, but for now I’m content with my crayon-colored smock and cosplaying as a runaway kindergarten teacher.

Coming soon: a shoe dress!

A Sheepish Return

Well… my adventure into blogging didn’t have much staying power, huh? I feel bad about the hiatus, but I didn’t want to post again without pictures to make things pretty, and I kept not getting pictures of me in things! So I’ve finally given up and photographed things on a hanger. Sigh. You win some, you lose some.

Anyway! Here’s the long-promised pictures of that shift dress!

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Here’s that pesky but oh-so-cute organza collar:

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And the lovely lime green zipper:

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You can also juuuust see the messy extra stitching from where I machine-stitched the facing along the zipper instead of hand-stitching it invisibly like a good sewer – but I like to think the lime green distracts from that. I do love a good colorful zipper. Altogether, I like to think this is something Oonaballoona would wear if she were in a 60s mood. I pretty much want to be Oona, y’all, it’s becoming a little bit of a problem and has resulted in some seriously colorful sewing projects this summer!

I’ll be getting my rear in gear soon to put up some of the other dresses I’ve made during my haitus (at least one reaching even greater levels of high-intensity color!), but to tide people over I’m going to post – this!

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Two things:

  1. I love this fabric so much it hurts (red tag sale at Joann Fabrics, and you bet your ass I bought all they had)
  2. I may have found a favorite blouse pattern.

This is McCall’s M7127, view A. I scooped it up during a 99-cent McCall’s sale at Joann’s, and at the rate I’m going I think I would have gotten my money’s worth even if I’d paid full price. I’ve already made two, with plans for as many more as it takes to allow me to wear one every day. (I’m only kind of kidding.) I made my first one up out of a remnant I had lying around, a scant 7/8 yard of a stable knit, which is the kind of fabric the pattern is designed for. I was planning it as a wearable muslin, just to see if I liked the fit and the pattern in general, so I didn’t do any hemming – which meant that from cutting to the final finishing, it took me maybe an hour and fifteen minutes. Instant gratification is my jam! I slipped it on and fell in love. It’s a simple silhouette that I’d been worried would be too loose, but the fit was just right at a straight size 16, and as I expected the low back was exactly where I wanted it. It hung well, but there was still a decent amount of ease, and I got to wondering: would it work with a drapey woven fabric?

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A shot of the back – I promise it looks better on!

The answer is yes. This is what I think would be classified as a voile, very drapey and thin but not too slippery, and with absolutely no stretch whatsoever. I stuck with the size 16 and crossed my fingers, and luckily I was right – there’s enough ease built into the pattern to allow a comfortable fit without stretch fabric. The fit once it’s on is closer than with the knit, which I actually like for a slightly more dressy look.

The construction was slower with this one than my knit version (I promise I’ll put pics of that up later (we’ve heard THAT song before…)) because I actually had to follow the pattern and hem the whole thing. Holy rolled hems, Batman! Even so, I think in total I only spent about two and a half hours from cutting to finishing, and I used a bright turquoise blue thread for contrast to keep myself interested and provide that pop of color I like to put into my projects. A very fun, simple make, and a finished product I know I will wear the bejeezus out of – I already have plans to wear it to a casual dinner party tonight! As for the future, I know I will be making more of these, probably to the detriment of my wallet. I made the mistake of clicking a link in one of Closet Case Files‘ posts, and it led me to Art Gallery Fabrics. Y’all. Their fabrics are SO PRETTY! And they have an amazing selection of patterned knits (I am in particular danger of succumbing to this one and this one). They don’t sell directly from their website, but they do have a locator for stores and online retailers that carry their fabrics – the best price I found online was at Hawthorne Threads, who have all their Art Gallery stock arranged by designer and collection, which I thought was a nice touch.

Coming next time: dresses!

Note to self: camera and tripod should be budgeted for…

So, update on my Shift Dress! It’s done, finished, signed, sealed, delivered – and I have not yet been able to get anything but a really crappy selfie in the way of pictures. This is the problem with being a poor college graduate with no camera but an iPhone 5. Sigh. If I’m going to make this blogging thing a regular venture, I might have to shell out some cash for a real camera and a remote.

I promise pictures soon! I’m visiting friends tonight who I may be able to scam into taking a few snaps of me in the dress – still with the iPhone, but at least they’ll be from a decent angle where you can actually, y’know, see the dress.

I will say one thing, to my shame – remember all that talk about hand-stitching the back facings to the zipper? Yeah… wellllll… I realized I’d been putting it off specifically because I didn’t feel like hand sewing (remember also when I said I’d put pictures up yesterday?) but I did want desperately to finish this dress. SOOOOO I cheated. I turned under the seam allowances, like I should, but then I just used my zipper foot to put a row of machine stitching down each facing about 1/8″ from the fabric edge, which was butted up right next to the zipper teeth. And it looks lovely from the inside! On the outside, it’s another row of stitching that runs sometimes-next-to-sometimes-over the stitching that was already there from putting in the zipper, so it looks a little hand-made and amateurish. But I finished it! And it’s in a light grey thread that gets almost completely lost in the bright magenta and green and such of the fabric, so I’m not terribly worried about it.

The hem went in fairly easily after that, just turned under twice and top-stitched, resulting in about a 2″ detraction from the length as cut. I’m glad I decided to up the length when I traced my pattern, as on this long-torsoed, long-legged girl, the length as planned and with the depth of hem I wanted would have ended only about an inch south of my hoo-hah. I’m as progressive as the next liberal 20-something, but when I wear a dress I like to keep the basics covered!

This dress turned out very cute, and exceedingly bright, which is a combination I absolutely love having in my summer wardrobe. I can’t wait to get some good pictures!

New Venture – Away!

It has been an exceedingly long time since I had a blog (other than on tumblr, which isn’t really blogging the way I use it), and since that long time encompasses the serious beginnings of my life as a seamstress, this is basically a new venture for me. Hurrah for trying new things!

I’ll leave the details about myself for the “About Me” page that I’ll be writing shortly, and jump right in with what people might actually want to read about: a project! A few days ago, my belated birthday gift to myself arrived in the mail – a lovely, shiny copy of Gertie Sews Vintage Casual that I bought to accompany my mother’s gift of Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing. Considering that I recently quit my day job so I could take the summer off before moving to NYC in the fall, I was itching to pick one of the many fabulous patterns and get sewing. I ran into a snag, however, in that both books come with double-sided pattern sheets on sturdy white paper, with the intention that you’ll trace just your size onto pattern paper. Having no quick, easy, or cheap access to pattern tissue or tracing paper, I was at a loss until I remembered:

Light table!

I have a glass kitchen table! A quick trip to Walmart later for paper (wound up with packing paper from the office supplies department), a last skim through GSVC to finalize my pattern choice, and some monkey business with an end table and a decorative lamp, and I was all set to trace my pattern pieces.

I decided I wanted to make the Shift Dress – usually my vintage leanings are more 1950s than 1960s (beanpoles need that waist definition, y’all), but the clean lines promised a simple and relatively quick build (semi-instant gratification will always win me over). Plus, I have had three-ish yards of a really fun cotton print languishing in my stash for months now in wait of a project that would actually A) show it off properly, and B) not require more than three-ish yards, and this seemed like a perfect fit.

The pattern tracing went easily (except for that moment when I almost forgot to include the back darts – oops…), and the beginning of the sewing was pretty standard. I decided that as much as possible I would make the dress as written – the only major modification I made was adding about three inches to the bottom so the length jived with my excessive height – although I gave in to temptation and got a little crazy with the collar.

As shown in the book, the Shift Dress has a simple white Peter Pan collar. Cute, right? It was one of the design details that made me decide on that pattern in the first place. However, once I pulled out my fabric, the grand ideas started coming. The print is on a white ground, but the print itself is majority pink-and-orange flame-flower-shapes, with a scattering of the same shapes in green. The white collar would technically go with the fabric, but – wouldn’t a pink collar be cuter?

Pink Print

Tell me I’m wrong! Of course, by this time I had already started sewing the rest of the dress (what can I say? I hate cutting pattern pieces; I have to reward myself every few by beginning the fun part!) and although it was late enough that going out to buy pink fabric was out of the question, I was on a roll and didn’t want to stop. A rummage through the stash followed, and I found a forgotten remnant of very pretty magenta-peach-purple organza that, when doubled up and backed with white interfacing, gave me a pink that nicely complemented the print. Unfortunately, that meant dealing with double layers of organza – I swear, this stuff shifts off-grain if you so much as look at it funny! The first layer I could fuse onto my interfacing, which involved a lot of dabbing at it with my iron to fuse only small bits at a time as I painstakingly shifted it back into the shape it had been when I cut it out, but the second layer had to be flat-lined over that. After spending a good hour altogether on just the two small crescent shapes that were the upper collar, I finally called it a night.

That was last night, and today started with cutting out the under collar pieces (plain white cotton – I may be crazy, but I’m not stupid) and finishing up the collar so I could baste it to the neckline. As written, the pattern calls for careful grading and notching of the curved edges, and since I was trying to make the pattern as written I did as Gertie said. Y’all. Why have I never graded my seam allowances before. Somehow that has never entered into my experience, and it makes such a difference! Gertie also details the difference between notching and clipping curves, which again, I used for the first time. I’ve always known you need to clip or notch curved seams, but I thought they were interchangeable. Not so! Notching is used to actually remove fabric on outside curves, to reduce bulk and make it lay flat when turned, and clipping is used on inside curves because once turned those slits will open out into notches all on their own. Altogether, this new knowledge resulted in the nicest curves I’ve ever sewn. Converted, I also made sure to follow her instructions for grading and clipping the neck and armscye seam allowances once I’d attached the collar pieces and the facing.

Grading and clipping

See?

Grading and clipping closeup

See how nice? How professional?

Other than those epiphanies, the build was a fairly simple one – I used Gertie’s instructions for putting in a centered zipper, which made a lot more sense than the half-remembered instructions from my college costume construction class that I’ve been using for four years, and I actually pressed all my seams when she told me to instead of finger-pressing the parts I’d need to include in other seams and calling it good – and as of this writing, all I have left to do is hand-stitch the back facing edges to either side of the zipper and hem the whole shebang. Then I’ll be done! A dress, with actual finishing work put in to make sure it looks good, and finished in just three days! It could be two, but I’m tired and don’t feel like hand-stitching that lining tonight. Besides, aren’t you supposed to let hems hang before setting them? This hem has barely any bias to it, but I’m going to give the hanging thing as my real reason for not finishing it entirely tonight. Can’t do the hem until tomorrow, and there’s no point slaving over those facings if I can’t even finish it tonight. Yeah. Going with that.

I’ll try to take some good pictures of the finished product tomorrow – until then, goodnight, blog. I leave you with a gratuitous shot from the midst of the sewing earlier today. The pile of fabric is the dress itself, I believe while I was sewing the facing in, and the machine is my beloved Joni (a Husqvarna Viking that once belonged to my grandmother – more about her another time).

Joni in action

And so goodnight!