Monday, January 27, 2014

georgia sewalong fabric

I'm getting excited to join in the By Hand London Georgia Dress Sewalong, but am having a hard time choosing a fabric for this form-fitting dress. I could go LBD with black sateen, or a solid red or fuchsia, or will an amazing dress really shine with an amazing print? So hard to choose! I made a board here ( with some of my favorites. What are your thoughts?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

not-a-christmas-party dress

My MIL every year hosts a big annual Christmas party. It's a perfect excuse to get dressed up on a small island in Maine, and each year there are about 70 guests eating and enjoying each other's company in her home. Last year due to some kitchen construction, her Christmas party was postponed until January... and everyone loved it so much more after the holidays that now it's the annual Not-A-Christmas Party! Of course after this past year of sewing and blogging... I had to make a fabulous party dress.

The pictures were taken at the end of the party after the quests had all left, so it's probably a smidge wrinkled. I used some very cool, large scale "Yokohama Forest" quilting cotton  by Alexander Henry. The fabric was nice and thick, and both washed and pressed beautifully. Isn't is sometimes nice to sew with plain, old, cotton? Because of the large scale of the print, I spent a lot of time decided what would be the best placement of said print on my body. That also meant very careful cutting to get the pattern to line up perfectly across the seams. I ended up having to fussy-cut the sleeves from single layer from the scraps left after cutting the bodice, and was just able to lay them out so they would also match up. Totally worth it!

I used an out-of-print Butterick pattern (the number escapes me currently so I will find out when I'm back home, but something along the lines of this McCalls pattern), for a simple shift dress with back darts, french bust darts, and scoop neckline. Only three pattern pieces! Perfect for highlighting my fabric!

For adjustments I shortened the pieces just below the bust line, between the waist and hips, and then a few inches more when I did the hem. Even though I measure at a pattern size 14, I looked at the finished garment measurements and decided to cut a 10 for the shoulders, bust and waist, then grade out to a 14 in the hips (which seemed a little odd as I don't really consider myself pear shaped). By cutting the 10, the shoulders fit perfectly with no further alterations, a rare occurrence! I had to fuss with the shape of the side seams in the hips a few times to get that to lay right. It's still not quite perfect, but very close. I ended up re-drafting the whole sleeve to a straighter line for a looser fit.

On the back, I decided to try a trend and put in a gold exposed zipper! (Can you believe the retail price on that thing was almost $20! Good thing I had a nice coupon.... it was worth it.) The zipper was originally about 8" longer and ended below my bum... not cute. Traditionally I would shorten it from the bottom, but I wanted to preserve that neat finish that already came with the zipper. So I shortened from the top, tucking the end in between the lining fabric and creating a zipper-stop with superglue! (Probably not the approved technique in Vogue's New Book for Better Sewing...)

I didn't quite get the zipper perfectly straight with the neckline... but it's barely noticeable.

Notice the flecks of metallic gold and splashes of vibrant purple in the fabric!

I lined the bodice with some vibrant purple fabric from my stash that matched the purple in the cotton print. It's probably a synthetic, but has a matte sheen and weight similar to a silk blouse I own and love. Made a lovely lining! I finished the hem by hand. The sleeves were unlined and finished on the serger. Speaking of sleeves, they took forever to set in! I've been spoiled by knits that can be stretched into place. It's probably good for me to be forced to re-learn to set sleeves in woven fabric, as I'll need to know that later this year when I make my coat!

The verdict? The dress was very comfortable all evening! Even after lots of food and dessert! I also wore my Ginger high-waist panties for the first time, and they were also very comfortable! So far all my 2014 garments have been great successes and additions to my wardrobe. As an artist, this is a perfect cocktail dress for any functions or events I would be attending, and it will get a lot of use!

Friday, January 17, 2014

another indie pattern

Look what came in the mail today from my favorite indie pattern seller, Sweet Little Chickadee!

Don't you just love her packaging? Who doesn't want candy with their patterns? Sweet Little Chickadee is a great US source for all those overseas pattern designers, which means access to all those fabulous patterns without international shipping costs! So what's in my package?

It's the By Hand London Georgia Dress Pattern! I've decided to join their sewalong, in part so I can learn some much needed fitting skills. And what better to learn on than a fitted little black dress! This is my first By Hand London patter, so let's open it up a take a peek inside.

The card-stock sleeve is very sturdy. Inside there is the printed pattern tissue and a instruction booklet, which looks to have very clear and through instructions. 

The sewalong begins January 27th, so you still have time to get your pattern and join me! Check out the sewalong schedule here, grab a badge for your blog, and make sure to show me your Georgia Dress when it's finished! 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

top 5 of 2013 - part 4: inspirations

Top 5 of 2013 - An Annual Blog Series

1.) Sewing Bloggers

Before starting this sewing blog in the dawn for 2013, I had been discovering and reading sewing blogs from all over the world. They were what inspired me to start this blog about my sewing adventures. Since then I've discovered even more fabulous bloggers, and even gotten to correspond with some through blog comments! Could even image my excitement the first time I had an established sewing blogger comment on MY blog?!?! That means she READ MY BLOG!

I'm especially inspired by bloggers who demonstrate amazing construction, fitting and tailoring techniques, like Diary of a Sewing Fanatic, Sew Me Loveand Male Pattern Boldness. I aspire one day to have that level of skill and sewing patience.  I also love see bloggers who are so confident in their personal style, like Tilly and the Buttons, Oonaballona, and Scruffy Badger Time. 2013 has been for me not only about developing as a sewist, but also developing my personal style. 

This is only a handful of the bloggers who've inspired me this year, and that list is growing all the time!

2.) Readers 

That's YOU! In 2013 I went from 0 to 7966 page views! HOW COOL IS THAT!?!? Every time I get a new comment, or 25 views on my latest post, I am more inspired to create and share. And I love seeing my little blogger map light up with readers from all different countries. It's so cool to be part of this bigger web for sewists from all over the world!

3.) My Mom (awwww....)

No really. She sewed all our clothes when we were little, even bathing suits! And she's the one who taught me to sew, and saved my butt every time I bit off a bigger project that I could chew.  This year I've realized just how much I still had to learn, and have strived to learn how to not only make clothes but really well constructed garments. It's made me realize exactly where my skill level is and how to chose project that are appropriate for it, as she's not always here to fill in those gaps. (Although I have taken a project to her, or called for an over-the-phone-how-to, and she gave me her sewing machine and old serger....) I think I've come pretty far and am totally gonna make her proud in 2014!

4.) My Sister (this is really getting mushy now!)

As I've mentioned before, she and I have the same measurements, only her's are on a 5'7" frame! That means when something doesn't fit me right... I know it'll look stunning on her. Looking ahead to 2014 I've got some pretty fabulous projects planned for her. She has a style and lifestyle very different than mine and it's really fun being able to sew for her things that wouldn't work for me. Add in my sister-in-law and I've got three totally different styles to inspire me and to play with, and that's pretty cool!

While this one fit me OK, can your guess who it looked killer on?
I'm so proud of this top I made from my sister-in-law.
5.) Me (bear with me for a minute because this isn't some narcissistic thing...)

There have been a lot of changes for me this past year, and some have been harder internally than others. Sewing you own clothing is a really beautiful form of self-love. (First of all, you have no choice but to come to terms with that fact that your waist measurement is in fact now that much bigger.) But seriously, why spend all that time on one garment unless you think you are worth it? And spending all this time and creativity in crafting your own style and how you present yourself to the world, sometimes that's therapy right there. There have been times this year I really needed that. And it's going to make me that much of a better person in  2014.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

ginger high-waist panties - a 2014 goal completed!

To quote Gertie of Gertie's Blog for Better Sewing:
"...what's not easy about sewing undies is photographing them. Unless they're the tiniest of knickers, they look weird and huge in pictures. And then you go into this shame spiral of wondering why you're showing your underwear on the internet anyway."

She's totally right! But, here I am anyway, posting my weird, huge undies on the web... because the truth is I'm actually pretty proud of myself for making functional panties!  And I completed a 2014 goal!

I used the Ginger Bodysuit & Separates PDF pattern by Ohhh Lulu. (You can also buy her designs RTW here. They are gorgeous!) She includes some tutorials on her website which is helpful. I did have a hard time getting all the lines to line up when assembling the PDF pattern pages together. In fact, I never quite got it and had to re-draw a few spots, but the fit didn't seem to be altered by it.

Ohhh Lulu The Ginger Body Suit and Separates PDF Sewing Pattern

I used some leftover cranberry jersey from Mr. Sew Rachel's Christmas pajamas (it's really soft and thick!) and a thin, very stretchy white knit with a little heart pattern. All the seams were constructed on the serger, with the lingerie elastic sewn on with a zig-zag stitch on my regular sewing machine. I found out that you need to use a fairly wide zig-zag, as I only used a narrow one at first and totally ripped the stitching getting them over my hips, thus having to unpick and resew it.

Are they perfect? No. But they fit! And hold together! And They will be very comfortable under dresses, higher-waist skirts and leggings, which is exactly why I wanted to make them in the first place! And I can use what I learned on this pair to make the next even better! Speaking of that, next time I may try making the center panel out of a woven fabric cut on the bias. Maybe something silky and floral. But that's for another day...

Thursday, January 9, 2014

thoughts on sew-a-longs?

Hey readers! So I've seen a few of my favorite bloggers post that they will be participating in the By Hand London Georgia Dress Sew-a-long, and I'm thinking about doing the same. I've had challenges with fitted woven dresses, particularly in fitting woven dresses. Maybe it would be super helpful to have the pattern designer step-by-step me (and many others) through every step of the process, from fabric selections to alterations and finishing touches. And it would also force me to slow down in my construction.

Georgia Dress Sewalong - <strong>By Hand London</strong>

So what are your thoughts on sew-alongs? Have you ever done one? Will you be doing this one?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

first make of 2014 - lola dress by victory patterns

I know I haven't finished my Top 5's of 2013... but didn't want to wait to show you my first sewing project of the new year, Victory Patterns Lola dress!

I had picked up some medium-weight, heather grey sweatshirt fabric at a surplus/salvage store for something around $3/yard. Looking at the opposite side, I suspect it's some kind of performance fabric. It washed great, and I still have 1 1/2 or so for another project! I also had plenty of matching grey ribbing in my stash from a sale.

The Lola pattern is a casual sweatshirt dress, with princess seaming, raglan sleeves and a hi-lo waistline that's actually quite flattering. Makes for a dress that's super cozy without being frumpy. I purchased the PDF version, which meant taping all those pages together before cutting the pattern out. That part took more time that the whole dress construction! (Or at least it seemed like it!) I made a size 8 with no alterations and it fit great, although I did accidentally loose some length at the waist because I sewed the skirt on backwards and had to cut and re-sew.... oops! 

Everything was constructed on the serger, aside from the little triangle at the neckline and the top hem of the pockets. My seams came out a little wobbly as I'm still learning my serger, but for a sweatshirt dress like this no one will notice! The pattern includes notches to line up along the princess seams and other curved seams, which I thought was a great benefit for easing those curves.

I love the raglan sleeves and princess seaming... so flattering!

I would totally recommend this pattern, and hope to make it again. And looking ahead to my  new year sewing plans, it seems that 2014 is going to be the year of the indie patterns!

How about a iPad selfie to end the post? Until later!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

top 5 of 2013 - part 3: goals for the new year

Top 5 of 2013 - An Annual Blog Series 

Today's Top 5 of 2013 is Goals for the New Year, and what would be a more appropriate day to post it than today?  I've come so far in my sewing skills in 2013, but still have more I can learn!

#1 - Pants

This means real, wearable-outside-of-the-house pants. Not pajama pants. Leggings would be great to make, but the goal is actual pants. I attempted McCalls 6707 last February.... which ended in a ball of fabric and pins in my sewing drawer.  Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow suggested I try pants from the Austrailian pattern company styleARC. Gillian has made a lot of great versions of the Elle pant (check her makes out!), so I'm leaning towards that pattern for my 2014 pants goal, and may even splurge for the shipping on the suggested Stretch Bengaline fabric.

Stylish slim line stretch woven pant elastic waist pant
stretch bengaline fabric in black
#2 - Swimsuit

I've made a bikini a number of years ago using Kwik Sew 3330. I love the flirty mid-rise bottoms... but alas, I'm not quite comfortable in a bikini at the moment. 
I loved seeing everyone's Bombshell Swimsuit by Closet Case Files, but prefer a more traditional bottom so I'm making a Bombshell-inspired tankini! I'd planned on making this last summer, and already have the fabric and made a mock-up of the top using Kwik Sew 3761. This year, it's so happening!

#3 - Underwear

I've attempted the free pattern from So Zo.. What do you know?, with not yet great success. But what I really want to make are The Ginger Body Suit and Separates by Ohhh Lulu. I need some fabulous foundations for my 2014 makes!

Ohhh Lulu The Ginger Body Suit and Separates PDF Sewing Pattern

#4 - Coat/Jacket

I have yet to decided what pattern to make, but I WILL be making a coat or jack for Winter 2014/2015. (Want some inspiration? Check out this awesome tailored coat by Male Pattern Boldness.)

#5 - While I'd love to use my last goal for making an amazing Sewaholic Cambie Dress (which I WILL make, and I have a feeling will become my new go-to dress pattern), I instead want to use this spot to make a goal to teach. I have had a few folks that have expressed interest in learning, and I know I am a great teacher, so in 2014 I'm going to be offering some informal 1-on-1 sewing lessons. I'm really excited about this possibility (and at the very least it will encourage me to keep my sewing room fairly neat)!

So.. what are some of your 2014 goals?