Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Procrastinating . . .

Over the weekend, I got started on Hubby's special request shirt.  He had asked me for a short-sleeved mandarin collar shirt in linen.  I spent some time looking through my men's shirt patterns, but decided to go with the pattern I developed for his business shirt back in March, switching out the sleeve piece for the short sleeve from McCall's 6044.

When I went to my local fabric shop last week to look at linens, I got kind of a sticker shock.  Mind you, I went to the "expensive" shop (Fishman's) but I really wasn't expecting this fabric to be quite that expensive - it was $25 a yard!  I ended up going there twice - the first time I just took a picture of the fabric to show him.  I wasn't about to spend $50 plus on fabric without knowing if it was what he wanted!  But he liked it, so I went back the next day to get the goods.

The fabric was labeled as Irish Handkerchief Linen, and the color Burgundy - it's a great color for his skin tone.  It's incredibly soft and drapey.  Given that the fabric is so luxurious, I was expecting my sewing experience to be luxurious also.  But it's kind of giving me fits.

Sorry this picture is so bad - it's so cloudy today I couldn't get a good one.

Being fairly loosely woven, the fabric frays like crazy.  So I had all the pieces spread out on my coffee table and did not touch them until they were ready to be sewn. Things went pretty well at first - I got the buttonholes, pockets and yoke done with few problems.  And then I moved on to the band collar.

And it's a mess.

Somehow, the outer edge got totally stretched out - even though my outer collar is interfaced (with the fancy, expensive ultra-lightweight kind) and my inner collar was cut 1/4" smaller, as usual when making shirts.  So now I have to pick the whole darn thing out again - did I mention that my thread is an EXACT match, and it's been cloudy for days?  I've pulled out the big guns (my strongest reading glasses) but am still having a hard time getting going.

I spent some time today looking for advice online about sewing with handkerchief linen, especially for anything referring to stretching.  But everything I've found says, "Linen is so easy to sew with!  You can use it for anything!  It's so stable!!"

I did find one website that recommended forgoing interfacing (fusible or otherwise) in favor of self-fabric interfacing, so I'm going to give that a try.  Thankfully I had enough fabric left to cut out another 3 collar band pieces.  And I've sprayed the heck out of those with Sullivan's Spray Stabilizer - I'm hoping that will help some.

Have any of you had this problem before?  Anyone out there have any advice?  I should have known better than to congratulate myself on my sewing lately - this project has knocked me down a peg!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Copycat Experiment

Whew!  Where have I been?  Well, I've been steadily crafting as usual, but just didn't have a whole lot interesting to show for it until Thursday night, and then I didn't have time or energy to post until now!

I've been knitting away - the cool, cloudy weather we're having is perfect for that.  I finished all the pieces of my Shimmer cardigan on Monday, and they've been sitting ever since.  I just haven't summoned the will to sew those raglans together to work the neckline!  So meanwhile I finished the pair of socks I had started on our San Francisco trip.  And I started knitting an Auden sweater using the yarn from last summer's ill-fated Saffron cardigan.  I really hope this pattern ends up being "the one" for this yarn - it's my fourth try!  Nothing else really seemed to work!

On Tuesday I made 3 more feathers for my quilt, and on Wednesday I finished watching the Making Leather Bags Craftsy class for the second time and started a little leather clutch.

On Thursday I bought some lovely fabric for my weekend sewing project:  Hubby's requested shirt.  But I also made up a couple of framed clutches that have been on my list for quite a while.

Ever since I came across this post, I've been wanting the same exact purses, so a while ago I bought a little of each of the Dear Stella prints needed to make them.  I followed the linked tutorial to create my own pattern - I knew I wanted my bags to be slightly deeper and more square than the ones shown, so I adjusted my measurements accordingly, and I'm very happy with the shape my pattern produces.

I decided to make two bags and do a little experiment.  For one I used leftover quilt batting and for the other I used fusible fleece on the back of the outer pieces.  I wanted to see what the differences were in the finished product.  I was really hoping that I'd like the batting version most, because I have a LOT of leftover batting laying around!  But I ended up perferring the fusible fleece, so I'll be using that for future bags.

Here's my first bag.  This is the one made with batting.  The bag is nice, but it lacks stability - it kind of falls into itself when empty.  You can see that the sides are a little crumply.  For the outside I used Piper Stripe, and for the inside I used Patterned Dots.  Such fantastic colors and designs on these Piper prints!

For my second bag, I used Queen Anne's Lace in purple for the outside, and Sprinkles for the inside.  This is the one using fusible fleece, fused to the back of the outer fabric.  Look at those crisp, stable sides!






And here are the two of them side by side.  The difference is slight, but I think it's visible in this photo:

Both my purses were made to fit 8" x 3" frames.  I followed the sewing instructions in the Dear Stella tutorial, which was a different method than I've used in the past but which I think gives a superior result.  The stability of the bag made with fusible fleece made it possible for me to insert the purse into the frame without having any of the glue seep out - a first for me!  The glue I use is Beacon 527, which I've been able to find at JoAnn's.

I can see making lots more of these, even though I don't really have a use for them!  I just love them so, and they're very fun to make.  Perhaps I'll need to open a little shop . . . 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Fair Isle Hazel

Well, even though I had my camera with me last night, I didn't remember to take a single picture at the beautiful beach house we visited.  So it's a good thing I'd taken some "just-in-case" snaps before we left!

Here's my new dress, along with the accessories I wore with it:

I'm really happy with how the dress turned out, but it ended up being kind of a pain getting there.  My first two Hazels were underlined because of the types of fabrics I used.  This fabric was more opaque than the others, so I didn't need the underlining for modesty's sake, and decided that going without it would give me a lighter, hot-weather Hazel.  But this is quilting cotton:  its mildly stretchy nature caused my bodice to have a looser fit than my last dress (also of quilting cotton) because I didn't have the underlining to stabilize it.  I ended up having to take the back in by 1/4" at each side of the zipper to eliminate bagginess in the bust.  I had really thought that the stay-stitching would lend enough stability, but this time it ended up not being the case.

I also had a terrible time with the zipper.  I used a different brand from what I'm used to, and it just didn't want to stay pressed flat, causing me to stitch into the teeth.  I had to pick it out and redo it FOUR times!  So by the time I'd finished the dress, I was really ready to be finished!

I paid attention to the pattern and made sure the design was centered in the bodice and that the horizontal motifs lined up at the side seams.  There's a little jog at the center back seam but otherwise everything is lined up.  I'm very happy with the outcome and think this fabric works really well for this pattern.

I knew it would be cooling off in the evening, so I took along an old safari-style jacket and hat.  I really like how the outfit came together:

And here's a closer look at my accessories:

hat from Anthropologie (old), bangles from J. Crew (old) and Sam Edelman Trina sandals

I'm totally in love with these sandals.  I'd been coveting them for a while, so when they went on sale a month or so ago, I went for it.  The heel is metallic silver!  And they're actually quite comfortable.  And of course, they go with my leopard mani ;-)

I know I said this before, but I think I am actually ready to set this pattern aside for now.  Hubby has requested a summer shirt, so that's next on my list. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Because I'm a dork.

Tonight we're having dinner with some friends, and I'm planning on wearing my newest Hazel, along with some leopard print sandals.  And because I'm a dork, I did my nails to match:

The base color is China Glaze Kalahari Kiss from last year's On Safari collection.  I stamped the leopard print image from Konad plate m57 using Wet & Wild Black Creme, then filled in some of the dots with China Glaze Desert Sun, also from the On Safari collection. 

I topped the whole thing off with a coat of INM Out the Door.  Even though I got a little bit of streaking, it's really only noticeable in these macro shots.  Out the Door is quickly becoming my go-to topcoat.  It dries as quickly as Seche Vite, but without the horrible smell or more importantly, the shrinkage.  And I'm told it doesn't get goopy and thick once the bottle's half gone.  I just bought mine the other day, so that remains to be seen!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

One Trick Pony

After a lot of thought and vacillation, a decision has been made.

The Awesome Fabric is well on its way to becoming another Hazel dress, rather than a Lonsdale.

I am at peace with this decision, and have already pulled some great pieces to accessorize it.

And because I bought enough for the Lonsdale (which is twice the amount needed for a Hazel) I'm thinking the leftover can become a cropped Victoria Blazer . . .

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Lonsdale Construction Notes

Again, more for me than for you!  But maybe these notes will come in handy for someone - you never know!

I did indeed finish my dress today, but it took a lot longer than I thought it would, mostly because I decided to do a fair bit of handwork.  But as I mentioned yesterday, my Lonsdale adventure started over the weekend when I made my muslins.

I almost didn't make a muslin at all - Sewaholic's body measurements for size 6 match mine exactly, so my first tendancy was to just make up a size 6 in that Maasai Mara fabric I've been talking about (I'll show it to you soon!).  But I love the fabric so much I decided I'd better play it safe.  And wouldn't you know:  the size 6 was a bit large overall!  Whew - bullet dodged!  But not before I spent a fair bit of time pinning here and there, trying to make the size 6 work, LOL!

So on Sunday I started over with a size 4, and the fit there was much more to my liking.  I'd noticed the need for a swayback adjustment on the first muslin and was hoping that going down a size would eliminate that, but no.  So I went ahead and did the darn thing - a first for me!  Rather proud of myself actually . . .

During all this muslin-making, I started thinking it might not be a bad idea to make a test run of the dress first in a non-precious fabric.  My reasoning here was twofold:  of course I didn't want to ruin my cool Maasai Mara fabric, but I also had some doubts as to how well quilting cotton would work for this dress given that the bodice and straps are self-lined.  Then I remembered a piece of cotton lawn I'd purchased about a month ago and decided it would make a great Lonsdale:

When I started cutting out my fabric for the dress, I realized it was much more sheer than I'd originally thought, so I decided to underline the whole dress.  EXCEPT the straps - I wanted those to remain as fluid as possible.  In the top picture from yesterday's post, you can see that I extended the underlining up onto the straps only about 2", so there's a little structure where the knot is but the rest of the strap is very soft.

Because I changed my plan mid-stream, I had to run to the fabric store yesterday to pick up more batiste for underlining the skirt and the right color zipper.  I've really become a convert to underlining, so I bought 5 yards, which I washed when I got home.  And that meant that before doing anything this morning, I had to iron all five yards . . .   And then cut out the skirt and pocket pieces and baste them to the fabric pieces.

Instead of following the instructions from the pattern envelope, I followed the instructions in Tasia's Lonsdale Sew-along.  This is a very easy dress to construct and most of the information was not new to me, but I did learn about using stay tape on the top edge of the bodice to keep it from stretching - a really great trick!  The posts in Tasia's sew-along are so thorough that I think even a novice sewer could follow along and make this dress.

Before I decided to underline the dress, I'd thought I'd do a turn-and-stitch seam finish instead of serging, just for something different.  But once I had a couple layers of fabric I felt it would just be too bulky, so I went with serged seam finishes again.  I also wanted to keep as much of the length as possible on the skirt, so I serged along the bottom edge then folded it back just a little and worked a hand catch-stitch for the hem.

For some reason this fabric has a '70s vibe to me, so I thought a longer skirt would be fitting!

And finally, I did something I've been wanting to try out for a while:  a hand-picked zipper!  I really enjoyed doing this and think I'll be using the technique again in the future.  I've always preferred the look of invisible zippers, and they are the easiest to install I think.  But I've been so intrigued by the hand-picked zippers I see around the interwebs, so I'm really glad I gave it a try!

A couple other details:  it took me a while to figure out that if I was underlining the skirt, I also needed to underline the pocket piece!  I'm really happy with how the pockets came out - understitching used to be my nemesis, but I'm getting better and better at it.  And I stitched the inner waistband down by hand rather than do a stitch-in-the-ditch.  Somehow, having a fair amount of hand-stitching on a garment makes me feel like it's more special.

And here are a couple shots of the dress.  I realized once it was done that I couldn't hang it on a hanger to take a picture, so I laid it out flat on the bed.  Needless to say, I'm not ten feet tall, so I couldn't get the whole thing in the frame at once!  I will NOT be adding hanger loops - those things drive me batty!  I always cut them out of RTW dresses.  I'll have to figure out a good way to store this dress.

Now my only problem is that I can't actually put this dress on by myself to take pictures!  Well, I can put it on but I can't tie the ties in the back.  So I'll have to wait til Hubby is around to dress me, LOL!  I'm hoping to be a little analytical when I wear it, to really take note of the weight and drape of this fabric before deciding whether or not to make another with the quilting cotton.

Meanwhile, if you've made this dress, did you use quilting cotton?  And if so, was it fluid enough?  I'm worried about the bow tie being too stiff and creating a huge lump in the middle of the back that would make it very uncomfortable to sit back against anything!

Monday, July 15, 2013

"Work" in Progress

It really should be called "Fun in Progress . . ."

Here's what I've been working on for the last few days:

Anybody know what that is?  I'm sure some of you do!

I even made TWO bodice muslins AND did a swayback adjustment to get the fit right - what's come over me?!

My original plan was to use another of the lovely prints from the Dear Stella Maasai Mara collection, but reason prevailed, so my first go is being done with a pretty yet very inexpensive cotton lawn from my local fabric shop.  With any luck, I'll have a finished dress in a day or two!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Scoop Top, can't stop!

A few weeks ago, Lisa posted a super cute top she made using the Scoop Top (free downloadable) pattern.  It reminded me that I'd downloaded the pattern a while ago and even printed it out, so over the weekend I got busy making one. 

I had a cute fabric I'd purchased in a Girl Charlee sale last fall just because I liked it.  No idea what to do with it!  But when the Scoop Top pattern came out I thought they'd be a great match for each other because my fabric was also a tissue-weight burnout.

And after I finished that one, inspired by Lisa's print-mixing, I got into my box of leftovers to see if I could find two pieces to make a top like hers.  Sadly, everything I found was either too small or didn't coordinate with anything else.  But I did have a piece left over from that Sophie dress that was big enough for a whole top - so then I had two!

And I also found a large piece left from my very first Renfrew, so on Monday I used it to make up a third one, because I wanted to take pictures of how things work with the coverstitch machine  Some people had expressed an interest in how that works?

Anyhow, here's number three:

This is one of those free patterns that is only available in the size of the person who made it.  The pattern says "size S/M."  The whole time I was making the first one, it looked enormous and I was sure it would be too big, but when I put it on it was a little on the tight side!  Have I ever mentioned that I stink at spatial relationships?  For reference, I generally wear a size 4 top in RTW, so I would call this pattern a solid size Small.

The only change I made was to bring the neckline up by about a half inch.  I probably would have been fine leaving it as is though.  And because I changed it, I had to change the length of the binding piece.  I measured my new neckline (minus seam allowances) and then multiplied that number by 7/8 to get the length I needed.

Did you note the slight high/low hemline?  Hubby has dubbed this the "Butt Crack Avoider,"  LOL!  You can see why I love this man!  And he's not wrong!

Here I'm trying to show how the front and back come together at the side seam to give kind of a shirt-tail effect:

These tops were made with the serger and the coverstitch machine.  I used the coverstitch machine for all the hems and to sew down the neck binding, and the serger for the shoulder and side seams and to apply the neck binding.

The coverstitch machine does not have a free arm like the serger or the sewing machine.  I'm not great at sewing seams on small tubes to begin with, and the presser foot on the coverstitch machine is quite large.  In addition to that, you can't pivot a seam with a two-thread coverstitch the way you could on a sewing machine.  So I changed the construction to suit my needs.  Here's what I did:

1.  Sew shoulder seams with stay tape on the serger, then press open.
2.  Sew together short ends of neck binding on the serger, press open and then fold in half lengthwise with right sides out and press.
3.  Apply fusible web to sleeve, front and back hemlines:

4.  Remove backing paper, fold hem in and press:

5.  Coverstitch all four hems (sleeves, front and back):

6.   Sew the binding piece to the neck opening with the serger.
7.  Coverstitch the binding seam allowance down:

8.  Sew the side seams with the serger.

The pattern comes with a pocket piece which I left off because all my fabrics were pretty busy.  But if you were adding the pocket, you would do that any time before sewing up the side seams.

This pattern is a winner for me - I'm sure I'll be making up more of them.  And it only takes a yard of fabric!  Have any of you guys made this one?  Are you tempted?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Greek goddess? Sorry, I'm Italian.

But doesn't my new dress kind of remind you of a chiton?

{chiton image source}

Of course, my shoes are way better than anything available in ancient Greece.  Also, I have arms.  But no chariot.

{shoes by Biviel}

Anyhooo . . . This is McCall's 6744, a pattern I first saw on Kathy's blog a month or so ago.  Her version made me want the pattern - you know, like right away.  So I picked it up at the next pattern sale.  And then of course, did nothing with it until last week.

I wasn't able to find that many finished versions of this dress online, but the other one that struck me was Mimi G's.  Both Mimi and Kathy said the pattern was easy peasy and could be sewn up in a few hours.  So naturally, I found it to be a royal pain!

A big part of my frustration was that I wanted to be able to use my new coverstitch machine on it, alongside my serger.  But the way the dress is constructed, you really need to do a lot of the stitching with a regular sewing machine (especially if you don't want to draft separate elastic casings, which of course I didn't).  Somehow, having three machines out and switching between them was a deal breaker for me - just way too tedious.  So I ended up sewing the entire thing on the sewing machine except for the neckline edge.

But that's a great thing if you love this design and don't have a serger or coverstitch machine - the instructions are completely geared toward using a sewing machine.  The side seams are done as "double stitching" - two rows of stitching 1/4" apart:

There's a lot of room for variation in this pattern.  I chose to use the bodice of View C with the skirt from View A - the slight overlap provided for the wrap skirt on View C is insufficient for Chicago winds.

The reason I did so much internet searching for finished versions of this dress was that I had a hard time deciding which size to make.  If I go by the body measurements on the envelope, I'm a S at the bust, M at the waist and L at the hip.  I considered going down a size overall, but my fabric has very little stretch, so in the end I went with a straight size S.  What helped me come to that decision was measuring the skirt of this dress I made last fall.  I like the fit of that one, and I've found that going a little slimmer in a knit dress than I think I ought to actually makes it more flattering and less like it's swallowing me up.  The skirt on my Sophie dress measured 38" and it skims my hips nicely.  The finished hip measurement on the pattern tissue (and verified by my measuring tape) for the size S is 43.5" - I definitely didn't want to go any bigger than that.  Size-wise, I think I made the right decision.

I much prefer this dress belted, and I also admit that it's not the most flattering thing from the back:

But I still like it.  And since there's a deep V-neck, Hubby quite liked it!  Boys - they're so predictable!  To ensure my own comfort and modesty, I ended up sewing that faux wrap closed - wrap tops have never worked for me.  For some reason they just don't stay closed.

The fabric is an Ella Moss rayon jersey from Girl Charlee (still in stock and now on sale!).  I bought this in three colorways last fall because I really liked the print, but was very disappointed when I received it because it was so thin and had very little give.  But it works for this pattern, since it sews more like a woven and this pattern uses the sewing machine.  I like how it kind of looks like snakeskin.

Of course, I didn't remember to get a good shot of the shoulders, but the shoulder seam encases elastic which gathers it.  I used regular braided elastic, and after the fact felt I should have used clear elastic - my sleeve hem got pretty bulky:

And I hemmed the darn thing with the sewing machine (see tedious, re: three machines, above).  I didn't even use a walking foot on any of this - that's how un-stretchy this fabric is!  I think I may have used a ball-point needle though.  I don't really remember now as it's been a week since I finished it!

I was pretty grumpy about the dress after I finished it because I found it so frustrating to make.  But now that some time has passed, I think I really like it.  The fabric is very lightweight, but wearing a slip underneath takes care of any modesty issues.  I've actually started to think I'll do it again in one of my other colors of this fabric - is that too weird?  Multiples of the same dress only in different colors?

I have a belt that would look fantastic with this dress in the olive green . . .

Monday, July 8, 2013

Lookee what I got:

Thanks to a tip from Melizza!

pretty twine, a card in a sweet bag, and candy!

from Sweet Little Chickadee

pretty tape on the back!

and inside, two patterns I've been coveting for quite some time

fabric is on the way for the blazer!

A bright spot in an otherwise gloomy day!