Monday, May 31, 2010

Wrapping up Memorial Day weekend

First off, I rolled my trusty purple 10-sided die to pick a winner for my skirt give-away:

With only two entrants, I assigned all odd numbers on the die to the first, and all evens to the second.  It came up an even, which means the skirt goes to Sophie Miriam!   The elephant is included to add photographic interest -- it's a brooch I "won" on eBay not long ago.   At some point I'll post the results of last month's brooch-buying spree: I've never really worn them before, and now that I have them, I am uncertain exactly how to go about it.  (I know, I know, just pin it on your shirt, stupid!)

I finished my first version of Butterick 6574 yesterday, and could have photographed it today but I am celebrating the long weekend by being as sloppy as possible, and can't be bothered to get myself photo-ready.  I've also worn my glasses ALL DAY today, which hasn't happened since I got contacts 25 years ago.   Until recently, I didn't wear my glasses at all, but I was cautioned about this at my last eye exam, and I am trying to do better.   I still don't feel like "me" with glasses on, even though I do like the pair I have.

Anyhow, the second version of Butterick 6574 is coming along -- I just got the bodice sewed together and the seams graded and clipped.  I don't think I can finish tonight, but hopefully it'll be done before next weekend.   I won't know if my fitting tweaks hit the mark until I'm done -- for some reason I have to have the thing completely finished to really assess these things.  

Here's the fabric I'm using.  I've had it for ages -- I think I got it from High Fashion Fabric a few years ago.   It was only 2.5 yards, and the pattern calls for 3 yards, so I had to do some careful laying-out to get all the pieces in there.  I have some peach poly/cotton batiste to line it with.  I wanted to use green, but the piece I had wasn't big enough!

One last sewing-related note:  I picked up Sandra Betzina's Fast Fit: Easy Pattern Alterations for Every Figure from Borders this afternoon.   I think this one may be more helpful for my particular fitting issues.  Now that I've fumbled around with alterations on my own, books on the subject seem a bit more accessible, so I'm ready to actually learn something.  :)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Bodice re-drafting for Butterick 6574

I'm almost done with Butterick 6574 -- just need to hem it.  While the fit is okay, it's still loose through the bodice area, even after taking out quite a bit.   I've decided that I can do better (or at least want to try), so my next project will be another version of it with a few more tweaks to the fit.   I don't have any formal knowledge of pattern alterations, other than flipping through Fit for Real People.   But I'm encouraged by how much my changes for the first version helped.

My re-drafted bodice pieces are pictured here.   For the first version, the one I'm almost finished with, I added some darts to the back bodice, but didn't actually redraft the pattern piece.  While the darts help a lot, I still have some extra fabric in the back, and the set of the straps is still too wide.  I'm thinking right now that one source of my perennial gappy back problem could be my shoulder blades, which jut out rather than being on the same plane with the rest of my back when I'm standing at ease.   The rest of the problem is just having a narrow upper body, I think.   Anyhow, I took out a wedge from the upper back by rotating the pattern piece.  This should bring the straps in a little closer, which I also need.  I also made the dart I added at the neckline a little straighter and deeper.

I did alter the bodice piece for the first version, but I decided that I should tweak it a little more:  on the the almost-complete v1 of the dress, the shoulder straps look fine when I'm standing still, but  because the straps fall too close to my arm sockets, they get wrinkled when I move my arms.   So I moved them in about a half-inch more.  Looking at the second picture here, you can see how much the strap position has changed from the out-of-the-envelope version!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Fabric gloating

I went to High Fashion Fabrics this morning to get buttons for Butterick 6574, the 50s dress that's my current project.   I was actually a little disappointed in the button selections that worked with my dress: why is it the buttons I love never go with anything I've ever sewn?   Someday I'm going to have to choose buttons first and figure out the fabric and pattern later.  But anyhow, for this dress, I narrowed it down to two options, one red and one black, but couldn't decide which I preferred in the store. I had a fabric scrap with me, but it took seeing the buttons in approximately the right place on the dress to decide that the red one was better.  

As you probably guessed from the post title, buttons were not all I bought!  I also trawled the 50 percent off aisle and came up with some goodies.  I was actually over there because my favorite Liberty prints, which I visit every time I go to High Fashion, were not in their place, and I had some vain hope that they might have been marked down.  (Yeah, as if!)   But I found more cool stuff than I usually see, so my search was not for nothing.  Here's what I took home:

From left to right, they are:

1.  A cotton with possibly some linen in it.  Only 1 and 1/3 yard, but that's enough to squeeze a skirt or blouse out of.
2.  A cotton silk -- it feels awesome!  It was the most expensive at $6.50 a yard.  I got 4 yards -- I want to try and do a dress with the chevron-ing stripes like I've seen others do.  Maybe I sew well enough now to match my stripes up?
3.  Cotton lawn, 5 yards.
4.  More cotton lawn, 5 yards, and the cheapest of the bunch at $2.50 a yard.
5.  Cotton shirting, 2 and 5/8 yards, which was all that was on the bolt.  But I think it's wider than 44 inches, so maybe I can get a dress out of it nonetheless.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Oh yeah, that give-away I mentioned ...

Here it is!

It's a skirt I made with McCalls 5431 that came out too big for me.  I haven't posted it sooner because I kept forgetting to measure the waist!   It's about 15 1/4" at the waistband, lying flat, and about 24" in length.  This style is supposed to sit an inch or two below your natural waist.   It's made of a quilting cotton I purchased from JoAnn's, and is unlined.   It closes with a back zip, and has VERY big pockets.

If you're interested, just leave a comment so indicating, and a way to contract you if you're the randomly chosen winner.  Given that I'm pretty sure my blog gets light traffic at best, I'm not anticipating many takers, and thus a pretty good chance of winning if you do respond!   I'll do the random winner choosing on Monday, Memorial Day.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

There's no place like home!

I got home last night from my trip to the Boston area.   As much as I would like to be the intrepid traveller type, I am a homebody at heart, and it's a relief to be back.   Hey, home is where I keep all my cool stuff!   Not to mention, my awesome husband and charmingly goofy dog.  I missed both of them terribly while I was away.

The closest I got to sewing was spotting this vintage Singer in the window of a wedding dress boutique on Tremont Street.  I was going to go check out Winmil Fabrics, but the timing just didn't work out, and I had no room in my luggage for fabric anyhow!   Had I gone, it's certain that I would have seen some fabulous fabric that I'd be pining for at this very moment, so perhaps I can count not going in the "win" column?

One thing I wanted to do that I did accomplish was visiting H&M.  I see so many references to them on the 'net, so I was eager to check out their wares in person.   I went to the store on Washington Street (near Boston Commons and the mysterious shrouded building pictured here).   It was a ginormous store, but I couldn't find a thing there I liked!  A lot of it was simply too young for me, or obviously cut for someone with different proportions.  But I also hated the feel of most of the fabrics used.  Cottons felt stiff, and synthetics felt ... well, synthetic.   I left the store without even trying anything on -- never thought that would happen!  I didn't come home from Boston entirely empty-handed, though: my hotel in the suburbs was across the street from a small shopping mall, and I acquired a nice Jones New York dress from the TJ Maxx there, as well as two pairs of shoes from DSW.   Not very exotic, since we have both stores in Houston.

Ah, one other sewing-related thing I did on my trip was start to add dates (using to my vintage pattern photo set on Flickr.   I'm less than halfway through, but going through the images one by one has reminded me of many great patterns I own but hadn't thought about.  If only I could sew faster -- there are so many things I want to make this very instant!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Burda 7741 in all its wonderful strangeness

I made a skirt using Burda 7741 -- twice -- last year, and then forgot all about them when Winter came.  It's actually a really awesome skirt, and I'll get to that, but first let's take a look at the pattern envelope illustration, shall we?   What exactly is going on here?  The world's most boring disco party?  An exorcism featuring identical cousins?   Whatever it may be, these are not outfits that most of us would covet.  Especially if we happen to be over the age of eight.   Am I out of touch, and this what passes for teen fashion these days?   Or hm, is it what the teen's sewist mom is supposed to want for her precious daughter.  That seems more plausible.

Honestly, I don't know what made me look at my vast pattern inventory and decide that this was the thing I needed to sew.  Maybe it was its minimal fabric requirement.  Actually, I'm almost certain that's what it was.   Most of my skirt patterns are for fuller designs, and I had a remnant I wanted to use.   I hate high-waisted anything so the view on the left was out.  The view on the right looks like overalls and lederhosen had a baby, but take away that weird bib thing, and the skirt part's not bad.  I added two inches to the length, since I left my teens behind half a lifetime ago.  (And I wanted to be able to wear this to work.  Or even out of the house.)

This is a very straightforward skirt to make -- it's got a yoke, a side-zip, and two patch pockets.  The skirt part's gathered into the yoke.  I made the first version out of a seersucker plaid remnant from the Jo Anns clearance section.  I painstakingly lined up the plaid on the pockets, only to sew one on with the wrong side facing out -- the front and back of the fabric are indistinguishable, at least when you're not trying to match plaids.   Easy to see once you know to look for it, but I'm thinking most people won't notice.

The second version was made from quilting cotton (also from Jo Anns) and lined with cotton batiste.  If I walk really fast (lengthening my stride) the lining wants to peek out a little in the front, but it's almost the same color as the skirt, so it's no big deal.  I don't know if I needed to make the lining a little shorter (it's an inch shorter than the fashion fabric -- that's what I typically do) or if it's just gonna happen with this shape of skirt.

I wore the second version on an outing to the Gap a few weeks ago, and amazingly, TWO employees complimented me on it.  I've never received compliments on something I've sewn from a stranger.  I've certainly gotten the standard "oh, did you sew that, how nice!" comments from co-workers, but it's hard to know how much of this sort of compliment stems from politeness.  Anyhow, I was psyched to receive praise for something I made -- it seems like some sort of sewing milestone.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A whole lotta not sewing going on

I started a new project last weekend, but have only made a few hours' progress thanks to an extra-crazy week last week. The pattern I'm using is a vintage Butterick sundress, pictured at right: dates it to 1953.   It's cut out, marked, and the bodice darts are basted.  And let me say based on all the great feedback I got on my post at ... I  added nothing to the bodice length.  I'm not sure whether I'll be totally comfortable with the result, so I am depending on more great feedback from my fellow sewists on the finished product!  Not that it'll be finished anytime soon.  I can already see that I'm going to need to add some darts at the neckline to keep the straps on my shoulders, so my next step will be to baste it together and see how much excess I need to pinch out.  Alas, I am currently 1000+ miles from my sewing machine and will remain so all week, so I'm not sure when this will happen.

The fabric I'm using is also pictured.  The green is more vibrant and Spring-y than the photo shows.  I've had it for eons, and no longer know its provenance.  It's cotton, but it's a little lighter and has a nicer drape than your typical quilting cotton does.

Though I will not be sewing this week, perhaps I can finally write the last two pattern reviews for stuff I made in 2009: the Advance 3025 fail that I already chronicled here, plus a Burda skirt pattern that was a winner for me, despite the bizarre styling on the pattern envelope.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Advance 3025 ... we have a winner!

We have a winner -- Jenny of!  Check out her blog -- did you know she's the creator of the infamous Tetris fabric?  How cool is that?

I know most folks use an online randomizer app to get their random number when they do a giveaway.  But there were only nine of you, so I decided to kick it old skool and used this handy 10-sided die.  (Yes there might be geeks living at my address.)  If I'd rolled the 10, it would have been a do-over, but that didn't happen.   Photographic evidence -- of the die roll and my crappy handwriting -- above.   I plan to offer up a few more things, but I'll wait until after my upcoming trip to Boston, to ensure I can both give folks time to respond and promptly get the goods in the mail.

Quick fixes

I finished my blouse last night, and I'll get my husband to take pictures of it on me soon.  But for now, I thought I'd share my quickie alterations.   And just to warn you ... if are sensitive to sloppy sewing, you might want to avert your eyes.  Just this once, I reminded myself that this is a wearable muslin and there's no point in trying to make it perfect.  It won't be.   I didn't even bother to match thread in some areas, because I was too lazy to wind a new bobbin!   Which was liberating, in a way, but also sad because winding a bobbin with my Janome is quite easy.

The blouse is New Look 6678, view E-ish.  And as is the norm for me in both patterns and store-bought tops,  the underarm area was all gape-y.  Naturally, I couldn't tell how much until I got the bias tape finish on the underarm.   If I had thought for myself instead of blindly following the pattern instructions, I might have avoided this.  I ended up having to pick it back off and re-do, which wasn't as bad as I feared, but I must say that I sewed it better the first time!  I ended up pinching out an extra half-inch under each arm, and as you can see in the top picture, I just put in my new seam and ironed the excess to the side.  When I make this again, I'll remove the extra from the pattern pieces.

My other problem area was another typical one for me: the back neckline.  It stuck waaay out.  And naturally, I already had the top edge finished -- you can't really tell a thing about how this will fit until you're pretty far along.   My solution here was to make a big ol' pleat, and I actually like it.   I'll keep it on future versions, rather than try to redraft the back bodice, but I'll shorten the neck band so that it won't have to be pleated as well.  Which will allow me to avoid sewing a sloppy rectangle to keep the folds in place.  I realize that there were probably nicer-looking ways to do this,  Hand-stitching (yuck!) comes to mind.   But ... wearable muslin.  This particular fix took no time at all.    I was ready to wrap this up and jump into the next project, which will be a vintage dress.  I think I have settled on which pattern to use, and I'm hoping to get started today.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Road Trip to Texas Point and the end of State Road 87

Yesterday was our 16th wedding anniversary, so my husband and I took the day off work for a little road trip to commemorate the occasion.  We chose to visit the coast at the Texas-Louisiana border, an area whose future is uncertain due to the giant oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.    It was a wonderful relaxing trip -- we wanted to get away from the teeming masses of Houston, and that we certainly did!  We visited two spots: the Texas Point National Wildlife Refuge, and the beach at the closure point of State road 87.

Our destination was really not what most people would think of as a romantic getaway locale, and we knew that when we set out.  Port Arthur, the nearest city, is an economically depressed area, and signs of that were abundant when we drove through.   Abandoned buildings outnumber the inhabited ones, and both looked weathered and hurricane-damaged.  Only the major chains (the ones that were still operating, at least) looked untouched by misfortune.   And as you approach the Gulf, the oil refineries appear, and the coast is dotted with oil rigs, tankers and storage tanks.

We spent most of our time at the beach, entering it at the place were State Road 87 is barricaded because parts of the road have washed out.  (And indeed, if you follow this road with Google Maps, you can see in places where the overlay of the road is in the Gulf, rather than on land.  I'm not sure this is a mistake: the remains of the road we saw are shockingly close to the water.)   Driving on the beach was the norm here, and we took advantage of it to get far away from the handful of fisherman and partiers near the entry point.  I've never driven on a beach before, and it seems so wrong ... but it's so much fun!   Portugese Man-o-war and seaweed clumps were everywhere, and you could also spot the occasional dead fish, old shoe, or other detritus.   But these items are easy to ignore (or in my case, easy to photograph and then ignore) and we enjoyed the peacefulness of having a little spot on Earth entirely to ourselves, for the first time in I don't know how long.

And now I have a whole weekend ahead of me, and I am ready to do some sewing.  I have a blouse that I need to finish: I started it before I found about the vintage pattern contest.   I don't really "do" UFOs  (unfinished objects) -- I either get it done or let it go, so this half-finished top ain't sitting well with me!  I also want to sort my patterns by era: I started storing them that way, but at some point as the boxes filled things got kind of random, and now I don't know where to look for anything.

 I hope all of you have relaxing weekends to look forward to as well, with time to pursue the hobby of your choice!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Advance 3025 ... it's not love (and a pattern giveaway)

I was super excited about this pattern when I got it.  I loved every detail of this early 60s design: the diagonal bodice seams, and the simple neckline.  I loved the shape of the 3/4 sleeves and the pleated skirt of version 1.   I loved the button details at the waist on version 2.  I loved the flippy hairdos of the  imaginary women modeling the dress on the pattern envelope.   In short, I was really psyched to make this dress.

Last Fall, I figured the weather would be perfect for the 3/4 sleeve version, and I started sewing it up with high hopes.  Alas, there was to be no fairytale ending.  On me, the dress looks nothing like it does in the illustrations.   As my husband put it, it looks like "something a nun would wear".  ("But I like it!" he was quick to add.  Smart man.)    But he's right:  even after extensive alterations to remove gobs of fabric from the sides and underarms, this dress still looks like something I bought at the thrift store but probably shouldn't've.  

The dress ended up in the back of my closet until last week, when I pulled it out along with some other items from Fall that I had forgotten to photograph for pattern reviews.  It wasn't as bad as I remembered.  But it's still not good.   Even after tons of reductive surgery, the bodice is still too loose to be flattering.  And I should have realized that the loose 3/4 length sleeves would do nothing for my skinny wrists.

And yet.  When I look back at the illustration on the pattern envelope, I fall back in love with it a little.  It's foolish, I know.   But maybe ... maybe I'll try it again.  With different fabric.   A solid color perhaps, with topstitching to show off the bodice seaming better, as in version 1. And definitely with a complete muslin of the bodice first.

As luck would have it, I ended up with two copies of this pattern -- a size 12/bust 32  I am (perhaps foolishly) going to hold on to, and a size 14/bust 34 that I have no need for.  So if you too feel the strange and perhaps sinister allure of Advance 3025, add a comment to this post with your email address.   I'd love to find a loving home for my size 14 pattern.    I'll  (randomly) choose a winner Sunday evening.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Pink pinking shears and other exploits of a non-sewing Saturday

Having finished my vintage dress for the contest, I decided to focus on other pursuits for the weekend, including hanging out with my husband and napping.  And shopping, apparently.   Saturday, my husband and I spent the entire afternoon running "errands": one thing we had to do, and the rest fun stuff.   We saw a movie.  We stopped by Rice University briefly to see the James Surls sculptures that are currently on display there.   We walked to five of them, and glimpsed the other two from a distance.    (The weird metal things pictured here are two of the sculptures, rendered extra arty by the Hipstamatic iPhone app.  The bottom one features needles, which is fabulous, but also makes me feel like I'm seeing sewing everywhere I go, which cannot be healthy.)  

I also bought cupcakes, cardigans, more cupcakes and more cardigans.   The cupcakes came from two different shops -- I had already purchased some from the tried-and-true Sugarbabys when we heard about a new place called Celebrity Cupcakes.  So what the heck, I acquired a few more.    I've had one from each source already, but can't decide which is best. I'll need to eat a few more and get back to you on that!

The cardigans all came from the Gap -- I wear a cardigan or a hoodie pretty much every day, year round, so when I find one I like I usually buy in bulk!    My latest find was this lightweight one with 3/4 sleeves -- prefect for summer.  I got kelly green,  dark purple, black, pale pink, and a golden orange not pictured online.   In fact, between the two Gaps I visited I saw several colors that are not pictured on the site.  Lest you think five cardigans is not a show of restraint, let me assure you it is: remove said restraint and navy, true orange, turquoise, and a lighter shade of green would have come with me too.  And I would not have said no to gray, deep garnet, light brown, the brighter shade of purple, medium blue, or light blue either.   It seems that the more colors a thing comes in, the more of them I need.   Which is probably why so much of my wardrobe comes from the Gap in the first place.    And why I need to stop thinking about this.   The Gap's open until 6pm on Sundays, right?   So help me, I love to have a cardigan that perfectly matches my outfit.  Or something in my fabric pile that I can imagine being an outfit some day!

I also saw this dress, which I love because it looks so comfortable, and because it's very much the same shape as another dress my mom made me in 1991 that I love and still wear.   But I got the pattern for that dress from my mom last year, and instead of buying Gap's version that almost certainly won't fit me right (sour grapes here -- didn't actually try it on!)  I should just make another like my favorite.  Incidentally, it's most like view 5 pictured on the pattern, but more knee-length.   It looks cuter than the pattern picture, I swear.

Fortunately, our meandering path took us near JoAnns,  and we did not pass it by.  My husband cheerfully parked himself at the pattern book station and read a book on his iPhone while I wandered JoAnns with my little green basket.  I got the last of some very nice cotton batiste (Or is it voile?  It's very lightweight.) embroidered with large pink and purple hibiscus -- three yards, and it's 56 inches wide.  That's certainly enough to make a nice full skirt, but also enough for some dress patterns, which is the way I'm leaning at the moment.   The fabric is pictured beneath my fabulous new pink scissors, another acquisition from this trip.   I needed new small snips, since mine are getting a little dull.  Pink coordinates with my pink sewing chair and is my preferred sewing room accent color so that was a no-brainer.  I wasn't looking for pinking shears, but I didn't have any, and I've always seen them listed a basic sewing supply. And these are PINK PINKing shears.  Must. Have.

I also got some other odds and ends -- a few colors of thread, and some stain-remover products because my last sewing project is a chalk-mark mess, and I want to see if I can get that stuff off without putting it through the washer.   And three New Look patterns -- maybe I'll post them later?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Vintage pattern contest challenge: complete!

Hooray, contest submission complete!  I finished my review (which you can see here ) less than an hour before the deadline, and the sewing was complete only the night before.  But last year, even with a month for the contest, I didn't even come close to finishing on time, in part because life was busy that month, and in part due to my penchant for linings and nicely finished seams.    Generally speaking, I'm not much of a competitor, and don't like my hobby activities to have deadlines: life's full of those already, and I don't need them to motivate me when it comes to stuff I love doing.    But the contest is a nice way to support sewing with vintage patterns, so I want to be a part of it.   There are some really fabulous entries!  Go look at the gallery if you haven't already.

I'm fairly happy with how the dress came out, and will probably be happier still when some time has passed.  I find I need to let items I've sewn "rest" a bit before I can really like them.  Right after they're done, I'm too aware of all the technical oopsies and fitting conundrums embodied in the garment.  After a few weeks or months, they start looking better to me.  It's not necessarily that I forget that they're there, but rather that they no longer feel like problems I should have solved and thus need to continue to mull over.    So, for this dress, I am going to move the button at the waistband over a smidge, and I need to catch under the edge of the lining at the armhole seams in a couple of places.   Then it will probably rest for a spell.

Here it is in all its completedness:  Anne Adams 4872 from the 1940s.   Could the sun have possibly come out yesterday for the photos?  No it could not. Not once all day.

And for what it's worth, here's last year's would-have-been entry, Advance 7850.   It came out a little on the loose side, but that just makes it super comfortable, and it's still probably my favorite thing I've made.  I should make more 50s dresses.   I lined it with a watermelon red cotton batiste, which of course you can't see unless I'm doing something unladylike, but I love that sort of detail.