Friday, February 22, 2013

sewing plans - late winter/early spring 2013

One of my favorite sewing blogs is The Diary of a Sewing Fanatic. Carolyn is just awesome and can take these awesome designer looks and recreate them to fit into her own style! One thing she does is will post her sewing plans for a few months at a time, and I think that might be a good idea for me to try. Now I'm not saying that I may not break from this plan if I'm temped by an irresistible project, but it'll be helpful to have written down some sewing goals for the next few weeks to keep me focused, and keep me from buying MORE patters and fabrics that I'm not going to use yet!

So right now I'm working on a muslin for PANTS! I've got a medium-weight black woven with a little bit of stretch and will be using McCalls 6707:

I chose this pattern because the pants are designed to fit lower (I hate pants at the waist!) and a slim-but-not-too-slim leg. I think the side panels will be a a nice detail, even in black-on-black. So far, the muslin is proving to be less tricky than I feared in fitting and construction. 

Afterwards but in no particular order:

I'd like to try to make a black jacket out of the same material as the pants. My first thought was Simplicity 2446, but then I stumbled upon (and really, I had written down the wrong number when looking for a different pattern in the store and found this instead!) New Look 6035 and I like the easiness of the style, a little more casual.

I got this great purple lace last weekend in Boston at Winmil Fabrics, which if you've never been is totally worth a visit next time you are in Boston! I'd like to make a simple a-line skirt, probably using New Look 6053, which I used in making my lace-print slim skirt last week. Do I need that many lace skirts? Hey, lace is so on trend right now, so why not?

I've also got a nice little selection of knits to work with. I've been enjoying making camis and fold-over jersey skirts, both staples in my wardrobe. I'm also trying out a video class on called Sewing With Knits, which includes patterns and institutions for two types of t-shirts, pullover hoodie, yoga pants and shorts, a-line skirt, and a dress. So far it's been very interesting and I've already picked up some great tips! More on that later.

I'd also like to make a cool, casual summer dress for the soft $1/yard grey ribbed jersey. I'm leaning towards the maxi, because they are just so cool and it's a style I'm just finding my way into. 

I've got a bunch of other great fabric finds, like this lightweight purple stripe, perfect for a top or summer dress.

And I know I'll find a pattern for it in my stash:
(Did I mention I have a little problem with buying patterns?)

We'll see how well I stick to my plans or if I get distracted by other projects!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

sew many skirts!

I have been sewing up a storm lately and need to keep you up to date! I've been making a lot of skirts because they don't take too long to make and I actually really enjoy wearing skirts! I wish I had a job where I could wear them more often, but I am doing Made-by-Me Tuesdays since I don't lead exercise class on Tuesdays. Today I wore:

Yuck, horrible picture! But you get the idea. Think the fabric looks familiar?  It's the same fabric I used to make a full skirt here. I loved this silky, matte, lace-print! After finishing the full skirt, I found I was still really pining after a slim one, but I only had a little over a 1/2 yard! I tried to get some more, but my habit of buying from the clearance rack meant that was not longer an option. So I had to think a little outside the box. I used New Look 6053, because view B only took 7/8 yard.

Mind you I didn't HAVE 7/8 yard. Thankfully, I'm short so I knew I could take a few inches off at the hem. I did the same at the waist and added a waistband using the lining pattern piece of the original design. I just cut two instead of one and sewed it up similar to the waistband in Gertie's Full Gathered Skirt Tutorial.  I did the waistband in black, because I didn't even have enough scrap to do the waistband in the the lace print! Came out great. Looks way better on me than on the dress form, especially when paired with black boots, a black v-neck t-shirt and charcoal-grey boyfriend cardigan. 

I also made this super cute teal denim skirt with pockets:

Obviously this was taken before my new "model" arrived, so please forgive the bad mirror picture and t-shirt. I used Simplicity 2258, and would totally use that pattern again!

After a MUCH overdue sewing machine tune-up (my mother sewed on this for YEARS and never had it cleaned or tuned) with the tension tip-top I decided to try some knit fabric. I bought this pretty red ribbed knit for $1/yard in the clearance bin at a large box store that I am ashamed to have bought fabric in when we were also buying windshield wipers and pet prescriptions. ANYWAY, I wanted to make a simple maxi-skirt. I cut a piece a little longer than the skirt I wanted (to have some room for error, which I needed) a sewed a tube. Then a took the remainder and cut a piece that made a nice, snug waistband when stretched and sewed it into a tube; folded it over to make a double-thick waistband; gathered the skirt, sewed all three edges together to attach the waistband to the skirt, easy right? Every seam I made I had to take out and re-do! I would cut the waistband too big. Then I would catch the skirt into the seam. Then I sniped the knit fabric trying to take out the stitching and had to darn the hole. Finally when I thought I had it, I had sewed the waistband so the seam was on the outside of the skirt...

so I had a hissy-fit and threw the skirt on the ground and stormed off.

Then I came back and realized that I could just fold over the waistband to cover the exposed seam. Problem solved. Oh well. Sometimes you just need to have a good hissy. And after all that I feel like I'll wear this skirt a ton this summer.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

nemo sewing & frustrations with finding style

So up here in Portland, Maine we've broken the all time snow fall record in this last 48 hours with 31+ inches. Add in high winds, white-out conditions, and snow drifts completely cover my car, it means a couple days inside to sew!

I had been working on a slouchy day dress in a large brown and white floral, a really pretty print, but in the horrible thin, silky, super-synthetic fabric. The construction, while a pain in the but, was actually coming out really well, but once I was able to try it on I decided the style didn't look good on me and have set it aside. Maybe I'll revisit it at a later date and find a way to make it work for me.

That is one frustrating part about sewing right now; I've had a little bit or recent weight gain that's not going away (and on a 5' frame it doesn't take much to change size and shape!), and I just don't know what looks good right now! Styles that use to look good before now don't. And I may look at the picture on the patter and think it would look good, but can't try it on until I've already put so much work into it! Do others have this issue? I need to find some TNT patters and stick to them, but it's just going to be a process until I find them.

Anyway, after that disappointment needed a quick and easy project and decided to try out the free cami & underwear pattern at "So Zo... What do you know?". Love it! Super easy and cute, and easy to fit to my shrimp-y torso! Know I need to find a good source for lingerie elastic so I can make tons of them! Will be even easier if I make them at my Mom's with her serger.

I found this great fabric in the clearance section of Joann Fabric. It's thick and silky, shiny on the inside and matte on the outside with a great black lace pattern print. I wish I had bought more! I had narrowed it down to a few options from my pattern stash:

Yeah, I've recently developed a pattern stash problem... that's another blog post. The shirt pattern is Simplicity, found at Marden's Surplus and Salvage. I couldn't find a pattern number, or any reference to this pattern on the web. Looking at these patterns I realized that they all are designed to be worn at the waist. As mentioned before, I WISH I could rock that look, but I can't. The solution: cut the pattern a size bigger so it sits lower, except I was already cutting the largest size in the envelope for some of these. I bought the size I measure at, especially since I tend to size down because of extra ease built into the pattern. Not going to work in this case, and I didn't buy the next size up. Maybe someday I'll embrace the high waist and can make these patterns.

I only had enough fabric for one garment  and decided on a skirt. That narrowed me down to Simplicity 2003 and New Look 6969, because they had the larger sizes in the same envelope. After draping the fabric a little decided that the print was too busy with the extra pleating of the New Look pattern, which I will so make at some point in another fabric! Plus, I remember seeing an fuller A-line skirt on the subway in New York in a similar lace pattern and thinking it was awesome.
my red cami a lace-print skirt

I still need to hem, but other than that here it is! I got to practice my favorite french seams for a neat finish.  I wish I had enough fabric to make a slim skirt, too. And it I want to, there is enough fabric hear to cut it down to a slim skirt later if I change my mind about this silhouette! 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

thank you, gertie! an awesome gathered skirt

After my red flannel dress I wanted to make a project that would be a little quicker and allow me to practice some french seams. I decided to go sans-pattern and to make a full gathered skirt using Gertie's Full Gathered Skirt Tutorial (a great blog that I'm sure you have already discovered, and if not, go there now and check her out). I found this great quilting cotton with a graphic, old fashion scissor patter on it for about $4/yard. I know there is a lot of debate on using quilting cotton for garments, but for this skirt it worked great. It had a great weight for the gathers, was easy to sew, and the pattern of the scissors made it super easy to ensure my lines were straight, perfect for Gertie's Full Gathered Skirt with is literally two rectangles with right angles! When determining the hem instead of 27 inches it was "seven rows of scissors." How easy!

a peek inside: nice enclosed seams and a purple hem tape finish!

Now I don't wear my skirts right at my waist. At 5 feet tall, it's assumed that a higher-waist skirt would elongate my legs and make me appear long, but instead I ends up looking like I'm sitting on the floor! So measured the spot where I like to wear my skirts and used that instead. In hindsight, it came out a little too loose, so I will use a smaller measurement next time. And the waistband doesn't contour to my shape as well as it could, but with my nice grey sweater it doesn't show so it's ok! Plus, the waistband is so nicely finished using Gertie's tutorial! I've already worn it twice and will wear it again!

I did have trouble putting in the zipper. The tutorial didn't seem to leave me much room, as the raw edge of the skirt fabric comes right up to the finished edge, so I hand stitched it in and it looked just fine.  Gertie says to insert and invisible zipper using your favorite method. I've NEVER used an invisible zipper and decided to just us a regular zipper that was the same color. Next time I'll make sure to give myself some extra fabric to put the zipper in.
who needs and invisible zipper when you can hand sew a regular zipper in this nice?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

finished projects and a new dressform!

I have been busy sewing, I promise! But first let me introduce my new sewing buddy who arrived in the mail this week:

She's a Dritz Sew You dress form from I picked her because:
  1. Through reviews it seems the Dritz was the best company for inexpensive adjustable dress forms.
  2. Unlike some other models in this price range, the Sew You has and adjustable torso length. I can keep her at the smallest setting and that seems to work perfect for my 5ft tall but proportional frame. 
  3. This model was less than $100 dollars on where I get free two-day shipping! I know, you often get what you paid for, but I've had her a week and the dials and height adjustments have all stayed put. I figure for a first dress form, that perfect.
I like that there are four places for adjustment for each measurement (bust, waist, hip) so I could get pretty close to my shape. I dialed in all my measurements and put on a dress I already owned to check the fit... and the bust was SOOO not right! Lucky, I had read some other people solutions for the bust fit and new just what to do. I dialed her bust back down, stuck on a old bra and stuffed until the measurements and shape were good! And, now I have a new model for the blog, since taking pictures in the mirror just doesn't quite work.

So what have I been working on? 3 finished garments and one nearly done! My first piece was a red flannel dress, inspired by one I saw in a pricey boutique in town. I used Butterick 5781, which in retrospect was an odd choice. Just look at that styling? What made me think I could make that chic? And the pattern wasn't even on sale... I paid full price!

And why am I drawn to princess seams? Darts would have been so much easier to alter and fit! This dress was made pre-dress form, so I found it hard to judge the fit until the zipper was in, and at that point it was clear that the bust point was too low and the bust and shoulders were too big.  I either needed to I take the whole thing apart and try and redraw the princess seams and take in four inches in the bust and shoulders (which I wouldn't even know where to begin to do that, especially pre-dress form!), or just take in 3 inches at the center back. I went the the latter, giving it kind of a weird racer-back look that show my bra, AND the bust is still too big with low bust points! 

The camera shows every wrinkle! Sorry!

Oh well. The positives:
  1. I loved the flannel. It was east to work with, pleated really well, the dress did end up cozy to wear, and was on sale for $2.50/yard. 
  2. If I wear it with a cardigan it hides the back and bust issues, so I can still wear it an look ok. Wore it to work the other day with a black cardigan and actually got lots of compliments! 
  3. It was a good get-back-into-sewing project  because I was able to practice and learn best-practices for many techniques; curved seams, zippers, lining, hem tape, pleats, etc. (Although I learned even more tricks for the lining in my next dress which is even better!)
  4. The pleats and pockets both came out great! The skirt is one I may use again, but maybe with a bodice with darts.
So want to see what else I've made? You'll have to wait until my next post, because I'm pooped!