Saturday, January 29, 2011

I'm still here, poking along on the sewing front

Starting over  ...

It looks like I will finish sewing one and only one garment for the month of January!   It merely awaits its hem.   Part of what took so long, is that in addition to my general slowness in sewing, I decided to completely re-do the bodice after I realized the set-in belt was too small.  I could have just picked off the belt, and cut another, but as you may recall from my last (but not particularly recent) post, I had made quite a few mistakes on the bodice already.  I was thinking of christening the poor thing the "Bonehead Dress".   But I love the fabric I'm using, and it deserved better.  And I had *just* enough to cut a new bodice.   Things came together more smoothly on the second go-round, though there are still a few things I would do differently if I make the pattern again.  

But that first attempt ... shall we count the mistakes?

1.  I lined my version, which means I cut all the relevant pattern pieces in both the main and lining fabric.  Well, I failed to notice that the sleeve piece included a fold-under facing, so I ended up with sleeves of an awkward length.  Duh.  Tried rolling that up into a cuff, but it looked stoopid.  Bah.

2. There are some challenging curves to sew in the pattern, and I clipped the wrong side when trying to put in the first sleeve, which definitely impacted how nice it installed.  The thing of it was, attaching the collar/front piece to the back was a not dissimilar sort of exercise, and I had already done that right!

3.  I decided that I'd like some top-stitching around the edge of the collar, and on the sleeve edges, and where the sleeve joined the bodice.   I didn't do a *terrible* job, but it was definitely looking a little too home-made.  Plus it didn't have the impact I was looking for anyhow -- probably would need to use heavier thread if I try this again.   For my re-done bodice, I skipped the this and am much happier.

4.  When doing the above top-stitching, I just sewed the lining and main fabric together ... and did it at a point which made it hard to join the side seams.  Had to unpick far enough to make it possible.  Uh, duh.  Since I line almost everything, I really should have been able to think that one through!

5.  I added some length to the bodice (because I wanted to be able to raise my arms while wearing the dress) but added a little too much to the back.  When removing it, I just cut straight across, instead of following the curve of the original edge, which is exactly what provides that arm raise-ability that I desired.

None of those were fatal mistakes, but they all left a noticeable mark (both on the dress and my psyche) so I'm happy that I can now trash 'em and forget 'em.  And hopefully not repeat them.   As for the set-in belt piece being too small ... I had just assumed it would fit because my waist measurement matched the stated measurement for the pattern.   Maybe that measurement was B. S. (Before Shapewear.)   Or maybe it was the other kind of BS.  But anyhow, it would have been easy enough to measure before I cut.  

In other sewing news, the same neighbors who gave me the patterns last year uncovered some sewing literature, which they also passed along to me.  Sorry, no giveaways this time!  Here's the pile:

There's a number of booklets providing mini-lessons, plus a fabric guide and a pattern drafting and grading book.   It's all stuff I can put to good use, and I'm especially excited about the pattern drafting book, as I would love to learn that stuff.   Maybe if I do, I can go back to my Pauline Trigere pattern and have better luck with it.   Those Cloth World booklets make me nostalgic too, since that's where we went for fabric when I was a kid.

In parting, here are some crappy, early-morning iPhone shots of some random pages from the pattern drafting book.  It dates from 1965 -- I love the line drawings!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

When the sewing gets tough, the tough go shopping

Sewing progress has been slow the past few weeks, though I'm hoping for a burst of productivity this weekend.  I do have a dress meandering along, but I have made so many bone-headed mistakes it'll be a miracle if the thing's wearable.  I think it's karmic punishment for saying that I hardly ever have to rip out stitches anymore a few posts back ... yep, it's "my words sandwich" time!

Anyhow, while I was busy not sewing, I did some shopping.   Quilt Home lured me in with a 25 percent off coupon for some new shirting-weight fabrics designed by Patty Young.   I love it when designers of quilting prints allow their work to grace apparel-weight fabric, and I hope it starts to happen more.

Here they be, three yard cuts straight out of the packaging.  They hardly look like fabric when they're so perfectly smooth. Putting them in the washer fixed that -- yep, they're 100 percent cotton, not that there was any doubt.

I also finally took a deep breath, gritted my teeth, and bought an iron.   I've wanted a new iron for a long time, but there is no type of appliance on earth that gets more dismal reviews.   It seems that the average lifespan of a modern iron is around two months, at which point they spit rust on fabrics, or begin shutting off on a whim.  I actually bought a Rowenta iron about two years ago, and after two months, it kacked and I went back to the no-frills Proctor Silex iron my parents sent me off to college with 20 years ago.  (Actually, it has one frill: you can attach the cord on either the left or the right, which is nice for us lefties.) That iron had a pretty cushy life up until I started sewing, but I don't think it was made for the use it sees these days.  The steam feature died over a decade ago, but the reservoir was so tiny it hardly mattered.  It's easier to use a spray bottle.  However, I've noticed that it now takes the heat setting as more of a gentle suggestion.   It's still well-versed in super hot and barely warm, but those subtle distinctions in between are lost on it.

After sighing over the reviews, I ended up buying an iron made, strangely enough, by Singer.  It was around $50, from Amazon.  The beast arrived yesterday.  I haven't had a chance to give it a whirl yet, but here's a side-by-side glamour shot:

Night shot, from the camera phone, but you get the idea.  My old iron is the little whippersnapper on the left.  Only 1000 watts -- the new guy is 1700 watts.   Now that will really be able to put the meltdown on unsuspecting synthetics!   I know, I know, with great power comes great responsibility.  And, unfortunately, the auto-off feature.

In other shopping news, I also went on what my husband termed a "shoe rampage".  No incriminating photographic evidence to share, but if you're interested, Zappo's has a bunch of Clarks (my favorite shoe brand these days -- Indigo by Clarks in particular) on sale, and I left a couple of pairs for the rest of you.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

What's red and pink and spins really fast?

My last project for 2010 was an appropriately celebratory full-skirted dress.  I used Butterick 6149, circa 1952, because I really liked that pointed collar.  Apparently I am ready for Valentine's Day, because I for darn sure made a Valentine's Day dress.   I like the holiday fine, but I have never dressed for it!   I wanted to make a fun, whimsical dress, because I'm realizing that is what I love to sew.   Which seems more important to me at the moment than whatever it is I love to wear.  
I used my 1950s sundress pattern as a sort of sloper to make bodice alterations on this dress, since the fit should be about the same.   It worked!   No muslin needed, and I'm really happy with how it came out.   There are minor adjustments that could be made, but I'm not sure I'd even bother.    The main fabric is quilting fabric by Heather Bailey that grabbed me when I was at High Fashion Fabric a few weeks ago.  I squeezed this dress out of three yards of fabric (instead of the four-and-something the pattern called for) by taking several inches off the hem when I traced off the pattern.  It ended up being the perfect length, which was pure luck.  I would have had enough to make the collar out of the same material, but I wanted to bring out the flame red, so I looked for a solid fabric to use for the collar in that color.  No luck -- all the solid reds were too blue-toned.   I did however find this tiny dot fabric that was close enough, so I went with it, and I love the way the patterns work together, much more than my other pattern-mixing attempt, even those fabrics were designed to coordinate.  To bring everything together, I added  a tie belt (maybe some day I'll try a belt with a buckle, but it's already been established that I love bows) and made one-inch bias tape to finish the hem in the dotted fabric. ( Making that bias tape really brought home just how full a hem this dress has, too.  My first guesstimate of how much I would need got me about 60 percent of the way around!)

I did a full lining in cotton batiste as per usual, but also used the included facing pieces to reinforce the area where the buttons and buttonholes would be in lieu of adding interfacing, which I kind of hate (I did use it in the collar, though).   I attached it to the lining like this:

I'm probably jinxing my next project by saying this, but this one came together like it was meant to be.  Wouldn't it be nice if they were all like that?   I don't have the perfect shoes for it, but I think I'm most likely to wear it in the house without shoes, so it doesn't really matter.

And as the title implies, this dress inspired some spinning.  Days later, my husband (who is my photographer for my finished items) mentioned that while I was twirling around out in the street, he could see London and France and probably destinations even further north.  So that exercise will not be repeated.  :)   Fortunately the worst of it was not captured on film.  It kept the dog entertained too, as you can see:

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Pendrells in action

I finally got photos of my two Pendrell blouses on.   Though I have trouble making time for it, seeing photos of my finished garments being worn helps me see them more clearly.  I'm not sure why looking in the mirror isn't good enough, but somehow it doesn't tell the whole story.  Anyhow ... Pendrells, fore and aft:

Didn't realize I hadn't gotten the tail smoothed out on the red one -- it's one of the pitfalls of a prominent booty, not a fit problem.  I don't think I'd normally wear these tops with running shoes, either.   I already posted separately about both of these, so there's not much to add.  The fit of the blue plaid one actually looks better through the back than I thought: it's a little loose, but not bad.  The red one might have been better an inch shorter.  And on both ... if the head-hole was any smaller my giant melon would not fit through!   But overall, they work, I feel like a did a decent job on the sewing, and if I was trying them on in a store, I would want to buy them.   I'm not sure I would say that about many of the things I've made up to now.   Maybe it's because it's hard to separate the process from the product, and usually there's at least one sewing goof-up that I'm aware of, even if nobody else would be.   Anyhow, I feel proud of these!  And it gets even better: I just finished a 50s dress I love.   That'll be my next post.  :)

Alas, it's back to work tomorrow morning, and all those things that could be deferred until "after the holidays" ... well, now it's time to do that stuff.   So probably not much sewing time for me in the next coupla weeks.  However, I feel I'm pausing on a high note!