Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My Abingdon fabric finds

I'm back from my travels, and I'm happy to say that I did not return empty-handed!

My company has an office in Abingdon, a small town seven or eight miles from Oxford in England.   Most of my trip was spent there (and mostly in meetings) but I did schedule a few days for sight-seeing.  And what lover of sewing goes sight-seeing without checking out whether there's fabric to see as well?

A quick Google turned up Mason's right in Abingdon -- I was surprised, as I figured that if there was a fabric store to be found, it would be in Oxford.  Better yet, it was just around the corner from where I planned to catch the bus anyway.  Mason's actually has three storefronts:  apparel and quilting fabric is at 20 Bath Street, ribbons and trim and other crafting odds and ends are next door at 22 Bath Street, plus a nearby home decor fabric store.

The apparel fabric store is small, but jam-packed.  Reviews I found stated that it was rather disorganized, but I found the fabrics to be more or less grouped by type.  I didn't see a lot of really fancy stuff, and the prices seemed reasonable to me -- not bargain-basement cheap, but not out of sight like the fabric stores I dipped into in London a year and a half ago, either.  I went into the haberdashery annex next door briefly too, but nothing caught my eye.

I told myself when I stopped in on Friday morning, that I would just browse and that was it:  I have a ton of fabric at home and I didn't want to be lugging a heavy sack of material around Oxford with me all day.  A nice practical resolution, and I kept to it with some regret.  But when it became apparent that I would spend my second sight-seeing day in Oxford too, I figured I could manage to get back to Abingdon in time to hit Mason's before closing.  (I had hoped to find a day tour to Stonehenge that I could join, but I guess they're not so popular in January!  Plus, there were still a lot of things I wanted to do in Oxford.)

Two of the fabrics I had spotted the day before had vanished from the shelves, but I found others worthy of my love.  Here's what came home with me:  9 meters, and 48 pounds ($75) total.

Sorry for the poor-quality photo: I didn't want wait until the weekend to take a photo in daylight.   The top and bottom pieces are lawn, the dark green print on black is micro-corduroy, and the brownish gray pinstripe is a bottom-weight cotton that has little, widely-spaced flowers embroidered on it -- should be fun playing around with the stripe direction and flower placement on that one!

I really enjoyed my trip, whirlwind though it was.  If you haven't visited Oxford, I highly recommend it!   Hopefully I'll get another chance to go back someday, as there's definitely more to do and see.  I could easily spend another whole day in the Pitt Rivers museum alone.  It's good to be home, though,  and I'm looking forward to sewing this weekend.  I've had my next project planned for weeks now, which is very unlike me!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The next Butterick 6075 and a case of stegosaurus butt

I hoped I might get it together and get pictures of myself actually wearing my latest Butterick 6075, but two weeks have passed since it was completed, so I give up.  I made a few minor tweaks to this version, including narrowing the front neckline a smidge and adding small darts at the back neckline, both of which improved the fit.   It's still a little on the loose side, and I think I could narrow the front an additional smidge.  I will do that on the next version, which is definitely going to happen: I ordered fabric especially for it to match a cardigan I own.  Unfortunately, with my travel plans, I don't anticipate starting on it for another two weeks.  

So, anyhow, the completed dress -- this time I at least got a good closeup of the neckline!

This wasn't the fabric I intended to use:  after I had already cut out the lining, I realized that the print I had chosen was directional, and I didn't have enough of it to get the print running the right way on both the skirt front and back.  Ditto for my runner-up choice ... so I had to hunt up something else that went with the lining color I had chosen.  I bought this quilting fabric at JoAnn's a few months back.  It's a bit busy, and maybe a little too cute as well, but I'm a sucker for cherries!

Here's a lining shot.  It's cotton batiste, and though the green color is beautiful, it is wrinkly as heck!  The main fabric resists wrinkles pretty well though.  All quilting fabric is not created the same, and I wish I knew how to identify the less wrinkle-prone ones!  Often it's impossible to tell until they've been through the washer and dryer the first time.   It doesn't seem to be tied to whether or not they're the "designer" fabrics or not, or what their weight is.   Anyhow, I did the usual and attached the facings (which are also interfaced) to the lining.

Last weekend, I started a Colette Ginger skirt.  Unfortunately, I think this one is dead in the water, mainly due to bad fabric choice.  I did version 3, the one cut on the bias, and I guess my fabric (a cotton or cotton blend from the clearance aisle at High Fashion Fabrics) wasn't heavy enough, as even with a lining, the drape is drape-y enough to be unflattering.   I also need to do some fit adjustments, ere I attempt this pattern again.   Between the fit issues and the drab color, this skirt was clearly wandering into "dowdy prison matron" territory.   And then I did this:

Look, my butt has humps!  I'm pretty sure this happened because I pulled the bias-cut fabric too taut when inserting the zipper.   I'm not too experienced with sewing fabric cut on the bias, and so I did what I do when normally, which usually ensures I don't get any puckers when I sew in the zip.  However, in this case it gave me the dreaded "stegosaurus ass": the fabric tried to tighten back up but the zipper wasn't having it.  I picked the zipper out, but I think I'm done with this one.   I'll try Ginger again later, with a heavier fabric.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The calamity dress

Finishing this dress was a battle.  Not because it's a challenging pattern -- it's actually very straightforward.   But it seemed I just could not get into my sewing groove with this one, and kept making mistakes!   Maybe it was because I was fighting a cold, maybe it was because it was the first time I'd sewed in a month.  Maybe it was just bad luck.   By the end, I was just trying to get through it, and I figured I wouldn't want to look at this thing again once it was finished.  But surprise -- I like it a lot, mistakes and all!   It's easy to wear, and very much my style.

The pattern is Butterick 6075, from 1952.  I was planning to make the sleeved version, but that didn't pan out.  I got one sleeve in but found I could not move my arm, so it had to come out.  And unfortunately, scissors were involved in that process, as I had finished my seam with a stitch on my sewing machine that refused to be picked out.   When it comes to sleeves, think I have a fit issue I don't understand yet ... possibly I need a broad back adjustment?   The problem I often encounter in RTW is, in a garment that otherwise fits, binding across the front of my bicep if I try to raise my arms.  It's not a problem with the overall width of the sleeve (though that was an issue on this dress, too).   Aside from the sleeve drama, I also sewed stuff together wrong over and over again.  I left the skirt pieces sewed together wrong since I figured it didn't matter.  There are four pieces, and I swapped the side and center edges.  So the front sides are joined at the center, and the same for the back.  

There you can see it coming and going.  Not the best photos (the light was failing, and I have a wrinkle across my chest there ...) but I hope its awesomeness shines through!   I'm realizing that I really love pockets in a dress, and I'm glad I added some despite being unsure whether things were going to come together.    The bodice only has darts on the sides and not at the bottom.  I hadn't sewn one like that before, and was surprised that it seems to fit me better.   The bodice is a little loose, but in a comfortable sort of way. There is some gaping at the back neck, so I'll add small darts there in future versions.   I should have taken a better photo of the neckline, but I'll have another chance to show you: I'm already well into my second version of this dress!   The fabric's just quilting cotton from JoAnn's, and the lining is black poly-cotton batiste.  

I also wanted to share my big post-Christmas sale find -- a trenchcoat with a crinoline!  I spotted it when I was returning stuff at JCrew.   It's called the Encore Trench (or the Ethel Trench -- a coat so nice they named it twice?) and I paid a good bit less than half price for it.    The crinoline is attached with buttons, so you can remove it if you want a less poufy look.  I've never had (or wanted) a trenchcoat, though I had thought about looking for a longer winter coat to wear with dresses.   However, I suspect the trench is more useful in my semi-tropical climate. 

Today's my last day off before I return to work.  I had hoped to finish more sewing projects during my time off, but isn't it always that way?  

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Treasure box

A fabulous surprise arrived in the mail this week from my Aunt Dora, a fellow vintage sewing enthusiast. She's doing a bit of de-stashing, and I was the happy recipient!

Fabric, buttons, and patterns from the 50s - 70s plus a couple of modern ones.

Sewing books, and a pattern pamphlet from 1956.

What a bounty!  And all the patterns are my size!  But my favorite thing is the fabric -- it's a vintage piece, probably from the 50s.  The bird print is right up my alley.  It's 35 inches wide, and there a little more than two yards of it. There isn't enough for a dress, but it will make a fantastic skirt.

And here's a better look at the buttons, and that fabulous rick-rack.  I don't have very many vintage buttons, but I find them fascinating.  The button cards have a great vintage-y feel, and I'm sure help date the buttons too.

Happy New Year, everyone!   I didn't get my dress finished on New Year's Eve (I sew so much faster in my head ...) but hopefully today's the day.