Wednesday, April 30, 2014

me-made-may eve

Last year was my first Me-Made May, and I was so proud of myself! I well exceed my goal of at least 2 handmade items per week, and that's after only a few months sewing. This year, I'm upping my game:

'I, Rachel of, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '14. I endeavor to wear at least one handmade item each day for the duration of May 2014'

Woo hoo! Getting ready for wearing handmade everyday I've been repairing and altering a couple of items, including taking a wedge out for the back waist of my Grainline Moss Mini, and have been thinking about what are my needs and wants in my wardrobe that can be filled. Sure, I'd love to spend all mt time whipping up another batch of floral Cambies, but what is really going to be practical day to day? Where do you find that sewing balance of pretty once-in-a-while dresses, and practical basics and separates? Not to mention, I'm now heading back into the art studio full-time... not exactly a place to wear precious, handmade beauties. So here's my plan (after my black, silk/cotton maxidress, of course... which is both a practical wardrobe staple AND luxurious sewing!):


  • More pants. I have the fabric to attempt another grey pair of StyleARC Elle Pants, but also should look for some other comfortable, casual, easy pants.
  • A spring jacket. Yes, many of you thought my last polar fleece attempt looked nice... but it just doesn't fit they way I want and therefore uncomfortable to wear. Any good spring jacket ideas? 
  • Knit dresses. I have lots of casual knits and dress patterns ready to go... just need to get on 'em!
  • Maxiskirts and dresses. I wore these all the time last year! 
  • Casual tops that go with everything. Why are these so hard to sew? Or at least so hard to want to sew?  Maybe a Grainline Hemlock tee, and some Sewaholic Renfrews.
  • Studio clothing. Something quick and easy to sew, inexpensive, and comfortable. Maybe I can start making muslins into wearable studio clothing, or take a trip to the thrift store for some re-fashioning. 
  • Swimsuit. You may remember this was one of my 5 goals for 2014, and while I don't NEED a swimsuit (I have a boring black one that works just fine...), I am so making this. I already have everything I need for this project, too.
  • Shorts. I haven't bought shorts in years, but would love a really nice fitting tan pair, and maybe a cool, printed pair in something like an ikat. Pattern options include Grainline Maritime Shorts or Sewaholic Thurkow Trousers
  • Circle Skirt Cambies! Including one for my 2-year wedding anniversary. 
  • An amazing red day dress. I've always wanted one and should make that happen.
  • A Patterns by Gertie slip. I even ordered her slip kit, and she's currently hosting a sew-along.
  • Some pretty pajamas. Not a need, but a very much would-like.
  • A casual By Hand London Georgia Dress. This is where I could use some help. What fabric could I use to make this dress a more casual summer option? I love the fit, but remember I live in Maine... not exactly the fashion capital of the world. I'd love to make a version of this dress that can be worn to a casual BBQ, or just out for coffee, etc.
  • Make a button-up shirt for Mr. Sew Rachel. Maybe I can make him one for our anniversary? That would be a great goal... although I've never made a real button-up shirt before... or menswear!
Wow... that's a lot. While I most likely will not accomplish everything, participating in Me-Made-May will help me to prioritize what to make and maybe keep me focused enough to get a fair number checked off this list in the next few months.

You can learn more about MMM'14 and sign up at "So Zo, What Do You Know" by clicking on the image below:

Sunday, April 27, 2014

work in progress: a black, silk copy-cat maxi-dress

When I stumbled upon this amazing silk, black, Sewaholic Saltspring maxi-dress by Kim at Reves Mecanique, it was lust-at-first-sight! It's a perfect summer staple yet luxurious in silk, stylish yet comfortable, casual yet sophisticated, wear it dressed it up or down... I MUST MAKE ONE!! But me? Sew with silk? That thought was terrifying.
That was six months ago. Now I'm feeling a lot more confident in my abilities, enough to risk using nicer fabrics and try new materials. So while in Boston a few weeks ago I visited this a great locally-owned shop called Grey's Fabric and Notions ("Where sewing is foxy!") and picked up some black, silk/cotton blend with just a little bit of sheen. That last part, the cotton, makes the fabric just that much less intimidating than 100% silk would be.  They also carried lots of great indie sewing patterns, and after my Cambie success, I was very tempted to pick up a copy of the Saltspring pattern for a true copy-cat, but decided instead to try a Very Easy Vogue pattern already in my stash.

I've extend the skirt pattern to maxi-length, and have sewn up a test of the bodice in a synthetic fabric from my stash. I LOVE the print of this fabric, but absolutely hate the feel of it so I was not making this as a wearable muslin.... but once I got it together it just looks so awesome! While this test isn't going to be salvageable as a wearable item of clothing (and it turns out is a size too small), I think I'm going to have to try to make something out of the remaining fabric. Maybe I can line it with a fabric that will feel much nicer against my skin.

I also plan on turning the v-neck into a scoop like my inspiration dress.  And though I'd really love to splurge on another one of Sewaholic's amazing pattern, I think this pattern-hack may work out nicely after all!

Friday, April 25, 2014

steppin' out in my cambie dress

While still not feeling great, I felt well enough to dig out some cute pick flats, throw my hair up (literally), and take a few photos of my Cambie dress outside on my deck. As you can see, the trees are still just brown sticks up here, but at least the temperatures have been in the 50's during the day! Even 60's a couple days!

See? The fit is not so bad! There is just the right amount of ease to be comfortable, yet still fits close to the body.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I shortened the bodice at the waistband, shoulder seam, and then another inch when attaching the front of the sleeve to the bodice after everything else was constructed.  I think the waist sits at just the right spot, as does the shoulder seam, but the bodice comes up pretty high under my armpit. Not unwearably high, but it would be more comfortable a little lower, and probably wear better without that friction and deodorant rubbing it. So next time around I will either just cut the arm opening a little bit lower, or shorten the bodice some just above the bustline. Then I may not need to take any in when attaching the sleeves to the front.

I also noticed some wrinkles on the back, running from the center zip down to the sides. Could this also be corrected by shortening the back bodice? Or is it a result of the fabric sitting too high in the armpit? I'd love your thoughts on how to best correct these fit issues for the next version.... which I think needs to have a big circle skirt! I think with just a few adjustments, I might actually have a PERFECT fitting dress!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

finished floral cambie

I wanted to go all out with fun heels and photos outside to show off my finished Sewaholic Cambie, especially since today is the day last day for Sew Dolly Clackett sew-along, but instead....

As soon as I was home from work... straight to the couch with a baggy sweatshirt and a box of popsicles. Yup, a springtime cold. No dolling up for this chick today. I still wanted to show you my finished Cambie, so here are some less-than-awesome, indoor, nighttime iPad pics... but I promise for modeled photos soon so we can talk fit!

Over all, I really enjoyed every part of making this dress. Floral cotton and pretty purple lining helps! But also Tasia drafted a very nice pattern. The bodice was easy to fit, and for me it was very helpful to attached the straps/sleeve to the bodice front last, as I often (and did here) need to take out extra at the shoulders. I opted for view A, with the A-line skirt and slash from pockets. I love slash pockets! I love how they sew together, and how they look on a garment, and I think they feel sturdier than other pocket constructions. Sewaholic patterns are drafted for a pear-shaped figure, which I am definitely not, so I could have graded down a couple of sizes at the hips if I wanted a more figure fitting skirt, but I didn't mind the extra volume in the skirt for this version.

That silk-like lining from my stash is very lightweight, and feels nice against the skin. I think this will make it very comfortable to wear. I'm pretty pleased with my matching at the waist when I installed my invisible zipper. I got it in on the first attempt! And without an invisible zipper foot for my sewing machine! The lining was then hand stitched to the zipper with a slip-stitch.

Can you see those teeny, tiny pricks along the hem? I didn't want to loose much length, so I serged my raw edge, folding up once and hand-stitching.

Sorry for the badly chipped nail polish...

I decided to try the rolled hem foot that came with my Bernina on the lining fabric. While not perfect here (and it's lining... so no one will see it....) I was pretty pleased! With a little practice that is going to be a very useful feature for fine fabrics!

Before I sign off, take some cold medicine and hit the sack for the night, I wanted to update you on my art studio's Kickstarter campaign.... and we did it!!! Thank you so much to those who helped with that! You have no idea how amazing this is... and how amazing it will be to be working in our new screen printing room. I've got some ideas for printing on fabric in the future... but that's another post for another time. :)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

a little scissor talk...

Hey all! I don't do this often, but today I'm going to use my blog to promote something near and dear to my heart. So for those just interested in sewing, don't worry, my finished Cambie Dress will be posted soon! But for today...

As some of you may already know, aside from creating with my sewing machine and thread, I am also a visual artist, painting and printmaking at an amazing artist collective in Portland, Maine called Running With Scissors. We have over 50 artists from all different mediums under one roof, sharing resources, equitment and knowledge. Why I'm talking about this today is that Running with Scissors is doing a to raise the money needed to finish referbishing and updating out new building. With less than 48 hours to go we need to raise $3,665 to reach our goal of $25,000, and if we don't make it we don't get any of the money raised. So I invite you to check out the link below, which has a ton of information about our studio, an awesome video, and a list of amazing "thank you" gifts (including t-shirts like the one above screen printed by yours truly).

Thank you for checking it out, and back to sewing next post!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

what's rachel sewing today? a sewaholic cambie dress!

I'm finally feeling like sewing for spring! We've had, like, 4 above-freezeing days in a row! Some even with sunshine!!  So what's my first frock of spring (a term shamelessly stolen from Scruffy Badger)?  I've seen so many great Sewaholic Cambie Dresses around the web, and and for a long time now I've just have a hunch that it would be a great fitting pattern for me... so I've finally mustered up the courage to give it a try!

Oooo, floral cotton! I bought this fabric specifically with this dress in mind after seeing one of Tasia's versions here and her McCalls 7743 here.  The bodice came together very easily, and with very few adjustments. What a great patterns! I took it up at the shoulder seam by 5/8", and then shortened the bodice 1/2" before attaching the waistband. The cap sleeve is attached to the back bodice, then sewn into the front bodice once everything in constructed and fitting. I often have to short the shoulders once I have a dress fitted, so this is perfect for me! I can wait until the very last step with the zipper installed and all to fit my sleeves!

The pattern is completely lined. In the instructions it calls for you sew the entire dress and lining seperatly, then after the zipper is installed attached them at the top, right sides together then turning inside out for a clean finished. I've altered that construction just slightly so that the waistband and  lining would be stitched together for a little more stability.  I hope it doesn't mess me up down the line.

You can see how I have sewn all layers of bodice, lining and waistbands into the waistband.

But I didn't sew them together all the way to the back seam to allow me in install the invisible zipper later, after the skirt is attached. Then I will hand sew any remaining lining closed to cover all the yucky seams.
Now I need to decided on the skirt. The pattern includes a full gathered skirt (which doesn't always look flattering over my abdomen, but looks so cute with this bodice on Tasia!) and a narrow, classic A-line (more practical for day-to day maybe? But will that style look good on my figure?). Another option would be to draft a circle skirt, which I know looks great on me, but would be a lot more work, and I hate hemming a circle skirt!

Hmmmmm, what will look best... and what will work best in my wardrobe?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

new finished garments! and a marie jacket update

Good news! I have two finished garments to share today! First up... New Look 6251 in black polar fleece. This was made on my Singer and was almost finished when the foot lifter broke. I was able to finish with a little extra effort getting the fabric under the foot.

Exposed pocket zippers.
Not too bad on the zipper installation!

Doesn't look too bad... but again, the fit is not amazing. I should have shortened the pattern before I began, because there was not a lot of room alter at the hemline once the zippers were in. I did take in where the sleeve meets the shoulders by a good inch, and the side seams another 1/2 inch.

See what I mean? By no means terrible... but still not quite right. The proportions feel a little too top heavy. But it's a fairly quick and easy pattern, so I think I may be able do some easy alterations (shorten, take in the shoulders/upper back,  add an elastic or pull cord at the waist...) and whip up a take-2 pretty easily. That's what I should do... or I might try Kwik Sew 3813 :) Any thoughts?

Oh, and you notice the grey corduroy mini? It's a Grainline Moss Skirt! And this was my first make on my new Bernina. I sewed a size 8, and the only alteration was lengthening it a bit at the hem. It sits pretty low on the hips (which I don't have much of to being with!), so next time I'll take in the waistband just a smidge to feel a little more secure. Otherwise, a great pattern!

You can really see the extra fabric in the back and shoulders of the jacket in this picture. And there is a fold under the waistband on the hips.... maybe bring in the waistband?
I needed a little dose of spring, so I lined the pockets with a pretty spring floral cotton! And check out that beautiful understitching when putting the pockets together!

Notice the tuck under the waistband... is that because the waistband is a little to big and not staying up?

It was also only my second fly zipper installation, and if you think that it would be difficult to do... you'd be right. But after three tries I got it! I used a combination of the pattern instructions included, the Grainline Fly Insertion Tutorial, and I made-up my own methods at times when I was still scratching my head after reading both sets of instructions.

I also added a little extra topstiching here and there, like the back yoke, the waistband, and pockets.

And I almost forgot! You wanted to know what I did with the StyleARC Marie Jacket! Well, I got this pictures on my phone the other day:

My sister told me she loves it and it fits her even better than the jacket I was inspired by.  Funny how that extra 7 inches tall can make such a big difference...

Oh well, I'm getting closer to a perfect fitting mid-weight jacket!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

meet miss bernina

You may remember that my serger was not working, well I have good news! Mr. Sew Rachel was able to fix it! It seems that the throat plate had shifted and was blocking the needle entry, thus causing the terrifying breaking and flying needles. Yay!

But then.... my Singer broke. Boo! The part that lifts the foot was no longer lifting. Mr. Sew Rachel was not able to diagnose that one, so off to the sewing machine shop I went. And that's when I met Miss Bernina...

Some little old lady had just traded her in for a new, fancier model, but had obviously taken very good care of it. Even without any cleaning or tune up she sewed so straight and smooth and quiet! I had an impulsive moment.... and I bought it.

The following day, after a cleaning and tune-up,  here is how she came home to me in her case Not that I plan on taking her places... she's pretty much all metal, inside and out, and wicked heavy!

The previous owner kept in her beautiful shape, with all the original parts and then some. I wonder if I'll ever use a knee-operated foot-lifter...

She is a model 930, probably a brand new equivalent would be the Bernina 1008. The folks at the store (South Portland Sewing Centre - a nice family run business that services all machines in house!) stayed with me a 1/2 hour after closing to go over all her features and dials.

And did I mention her feet? They included all the feet the original owner had, which is a lot! I didn't know that Bernina feet were all labeled with a number, so I can look up exactly what every foot is for.

Look at all those bobbins!

I've already finished one garment on her and will post soon, along with an update on my StyleARC Marie Jacket. In the meantime, who wants to guess how old she is?