Tuesday, December 31, 2013

This is not the end, simply time to begin again ...

It seems a little silly to do a 2013 wrap-up when I was MIA for a big chunk of the year, but I was curious, so I did a quick tally:

Dresses:   2   Both from the same vintage pattern. (Really 1.9, since one of them ain't hemmed yet ... )  As I recall, I chose this pattern because it was a bit different from the other 1950s dresses I'd tried.  I also sewed the dresses in drape-y rayon fabrics, and while I love rayon for skirts and blouses, for some reason I don't seem to like it as much in a dress.  Not sure why ... something to ponder.

Looks like it was made from bed linens ... but isn't.

Blouses:  1  The pale pink Sewaholic Alma from the beginning of the year.  It's okay, but the first version was better.  Both are rayon challis, but the darker challis I used for my first Alma looks and feels nicer, even though both fabrics were the same (dirt cheap) price, and bought from Fabric Mart at the same time.   I also need something better to pair this blouse with -- I didn't really like it with the jeans I modeled it with.   (I also decided I hated the jeans and they are at Goodwill now ... may they go forth and share their misery with some other unsuspecting fool.)

Well at least the dog is cute.

Knit tops:  2   Really?  That's it??  I must do better this year.  The two I made are Renfrews, so obviously winners.  Since they're striped, double winners.

Stripes FTW.

Skirts: 11  Thaaats more like it.  Though the "miss" ratio was higher than it seems it should have been (and only about half have made it onto the blog).  I wear skirts to work quite a lot, so they're the most useful item I can sew for myself.  However, I also seem to be a bit picky about them, and perhaps unintentionally have embarked on a journey in search of my "perfect skirt".  I think I am getting close ... and on that note I have a new skirt I'll try to photograph and share tomorrow.

More real-world compliments than anything else I've sewn ever (total compliments:  2).

Pacific Moons:  5  (aka, skirts for schmeebot)  Only half as many as last year!  2014 will bring more, I am sure of it.

This is what sewing Zen looks like.

So, I made 21 items this year (as opposed to 34 last year).   Not so bad really.  I wouldn't say that I learned any new skills, but I did use my vintage sewing machines quite a lot!  

I also got back into drawing, a long-neglected hobby I'd been struggling to re-engage with for the past few years.   That's a big deal for me.   But my biggest accomplishments of the year were at work (and I worked darn hard for them too, hence the long hiatus).  

And 2014?  I have more dreams than I'll have time for.  (Some are on their way here par avion from Deer & Doe.)    So I guess my biggest wish for the new year is to make the most of my time, so I can do as much as I can.  The rest ... we can talk about it next year, I suppose!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The prodigal blogger returns

As you might have guessed (if you wondered at all) these past few months have been busy ones for me.  Life's been all about the day job, but productively so!  Sewing ground to a complete halt sometime in August, and what little "hobby time" I had thereafter went to ATCs, because they were easier to dip in and out of.  Looking back at my Flickr archive, I see that I did two ATC themed swaps in August, and one each in September, November, and December.

I did do some sewing before that, though, in July and early August, but none of that stuff got photographed.   I made a second version of vintage Butterick 6520 but was annoyed with it and to this day it hangs on my dress form, un-hemmed.   Layered over it is a rather crazy-looking Pavlova skirt, made from Ikea fabric that schmeebot sent me.  I like the skirt, but it's a bit much for the office, I think ...  


Two other skirts were made as well, one that didn't work due to fabric choice (more of the stiff Ikea sheeting), and one that gets worn regularly (made of my favorite, rayon challis).  I have photos of neither, of course.  (Should work on that.)

ATCs so far ... I have a strict daily production target.

December finds me with some time off, and I have been re-discovering this whole hobby thing.   ATCs take first priority (more on that later, in another post, another day)  but I have done some sewing too, making one skirt for schmeebot (which came out awesome if I do say so myself) and two skirts for me, both of which are a bit too loose in the waist, not because I have changed size but because I have forgotten all those little undocumented adjustments I apparently always made ... so I am out to capture, on paper, exactly how my ideal skirt waistband should fit.  If I can nail that, wide vistas of possibility open up before me ...

Schmeeskirt #?? ... it's corduroy!
Ladybugs from one of my early dress projects.

After such a long absence, I thought about dumping blogging altogether.  Who cares about faithful updates on my sewing progress?   Well, the answer is ... me!   Otherwise I'd really have no idea what I made this year, and which scrap fabrics I've already used for pocket and yoke facings for schmeebot's skirts. I'm also not going to worry so much about restricting myself to "only" sewing prattle.  Other stuff may appear here, if I find it useful .... cathartic .... whatever.    If you're still following along after a six-month absence presumably you'll tolerate anything I throw up here!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Birthday Pacific Moons

Guess what?  Today is schmeebot's birthday!  It's not hard to guess what I gave her ...

She had asked (a looong time ago) for some skirts with yellow in them.  75 percent of these skirts comply with this request.  Schmeebot chose the two fabrics on the right, and I chose the ones on the left. (But I choose which turn into skirts when!)    All four fabrics are from Ikea.  No mysteries remain when it comes to Pacific Moon-making, so let's jump to views of the finished products.

First up, my favorite of the bunch:  the Applebees skirt!  Here's the apple:

... and here are the bees!  I found them in Hobby Lobby before I had the Ikea fabric on hand.  I just knew they'd be perfect for something.

And here is the back.  Just a leaf ... but Applebeeleaf is a dumb name for a skirt.  I did (mostly) match the pattern across the back seam though.

Next up ... BUTTS.  Schmee sent me this fabric months ago, and when we talk about it in chat (Don't you instant message about fabrics?  Doesn't everyone?)  We always call it BUTTS.  Here's why:

More butts on back.  Again, (almost) pattern-matched across the center back seam.  Also on one side seam, but not on the other.

Inside BUTTS are dots.  Also from Hobby Lobby I think.

Now ... TexMex.  I was struggling for a name for this one, and so schmeebot did the naming, in honor of the color palette.  It was not the fabric we wanted, which was  this one with amorous moose on it.  I went to Ikea in Houston no less than three times over the course of a month for this fabric (OK, and maybe for some bookshelves and other stuff too.)  Every time, the website said it was in stock.  Every time, nada.  I finally gave up and bought something else, and made ...

Unfortunately this one has a slight quality control issue:  the waist came out half an inch too big.   I measure (and re-measure) very carefully during the skirt-making process, so I am not sure what went wrong.  There will be a thorough investigation, I assure you.   We take quality very seriously here at Invisible Flower Industries.

Anyhow, here's the back.  Didn't even try to match the pattern -- for shame.

And finally, the yoke fabric, which I have used before, in this dress and inside this skirt.  But it was too nice a match not to use again.

Last one ... Melty Trees!  Or should we call it Melty Trees the Second, since I already made one for myself?  I actually prefer the design placement on this one to my own.

Pattern matching(ish) in back, woo hoo!  Well not really, but I did match the yellow line and tried not to chop any major design elements in half.

Inside we have some ancient orange fabric, from when I first tried to sew in my 20s (but ended up fighting a constant battle with my crap sewing machine and eventually gave up).  And I did hand-sew the edges of the yoke to the zipper before I mailed the skirts.  It was late in the afternoon when I reached that point and I realized the light would be too dim by the time the hand-sewing was finished if I did it first.

So there you have it -- birthday skirts.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY schmeebot, I hope you had a great day!!!!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

First vintage of 2013: Butterick 6520

Hard to believe that half the year is almost gone and I am only just now dipping into the ol' vintage pattern collection.   Well, for the sake of full disclosure, I must admit that I dipped into the vintage pattern collection that is Etsy for this one, rather than my rather plentiful existing stores.  But it's part of my collection now, that's what's important, right?

Anyhow, thar she blows.   Butterick 6520.  1950s Buttericks are my favorite!  And this one did not disappoint.  This time around I tackled the dress, but I'd love to get the jacket a try someday.   I made a "muslin" to test fit, after applying some best-guess alterations based on comparison to bodice pieces from another pattern that I knew fit well.   I added about two inches total width at the waist (too much, as it turns out), narrowed the front neckline a bit, and added darts at the back neckline.

This pattern's front pieces are cut on the bias, and it relies on gathering at the wide neckline rather than darts for bust accommodations, making it significantly different than my comparison pattern,  So I didn't figure the fit would be spot on with the very first attempt, and indeed it was not -- but it's not bad.  I'm actually pretty happy with it, enough that I wouldn't consider going back and trying to do alterations (bleh).  I'll just fix it next time.

The fabric I used is some rayon challis that was cheap ... I think from the High Fashion Fabrics clearance section.  I was a little eh on the overly washed out pastel-ness of it all, so it was a good compromise choice for this project.  However, it's not so great to photograph, especially in bright sunlight.

It's not super apparent, but the bodice is a bit loose.  I think I'll narrow it from the center front and center back seams, and add some length to the front of the bodice,which had a curved bottom that I thought was to balance out the gathering/bias cut, but instead just hiked the skirt up in front in an odd way.  I adjusted the hem accordingly, but I'd rather have a straighter waist seam.  I ended up letting the shoulder seams out to balance the bodice shortness, but obviously adjusting the pattern piece is the better way to go.

Here's a better shot of the fabric.  I used the lavender poly/cotton lawn I lined with (also from High Fashion) to make bias tape finishings for the neckline and armholes (as instructed) and hem (for the hell of it).

I fully lined the dress (yes, this dork even puts full linings in muslins -- I hate slips!) but took a few short-cuts that make the lining more of a lining-underlining hybrid.  Rather than gathering the lining and main fabric separately and attaching them, I gathered and attached the layers as one.  (Win!  I haaate gathering.)   This meant that when putting in the zipper it was easier to treat the layers as one there as well.  Minus one for the zip showing inside, but plus one apiece for the lining adding stability to the main fabric (resulting in a better zipper insertion), and for not having to do the hand-sewing of lining to zipper,  So also a net win.

I haven't shown any "dress guts" in a while -- do y'all find this kind of shot useful?  Hopefully this better illustrates the description above.

Hopefully this week I'll build my brand new Expedit to house my fabric collection, which has been packed away since we moved last year.  Whoopeeeeeee!  Only I think the fabric collection may have expanded while it was in the closet and may no longer fit on a single Expedit.  Yep, that's my story and I'm sticking with it ... 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A few more skirts

I've finished up a few skirts ... I'm gonna be lazy and just post pictures of them on hangers.

Skirt #1 is another Hollyburn.  Again, I went with the fullness of the shortest skirt in the pattern, but lengthened to the middle of the three lengths.  I made the waistband narrower, too.  Since I'm not wearing this at my true waist it just works better that way.   The fabric is a JoAnns find: some sort of cotton (a poplin, maybe?)  with soutache sewn on it.  I tried a closeup to show the soutache better, but there's too much contrast between the navy and white.  Naturally the skirt's lined too, with a navy poly-cotton lawn that is not really the same navy as the skirt (much greener in tone) but hey who's lookin'.

I finished this like two months ago, yet have not worn it yet -- it just feels so ... nautical.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.   I guess I just haven't been in a seafaring mood.   But now that Summer seems to be on our doorstep it has a bit more appeal for some reason.

Skirt #2 uses the skirt pieces from a 1950s Butterick dress (Butterick 6075) paired with a self-drafted waistband and in-seam pockets stolen from I forget which pattern.   I used silk dupioni which I machine washed to make a bit less shiny and crispy.

I lined it with a hot pink cotton batiste, and used a quilting cotton with white dots on hot pink to face the waistband.  All my pictures of that came out super blurry so just use your imagination.

I really liked the texture of the silk dupioni after it was washed.  YMMV.  It still feels a bit dressy but it's not quite as fancy-pants as it was before.

So OK, enough skirts already.  On to dresses.  Here's the project I'm currently working on:

It's another 1950s Butterick pattern ... I love these things.  I took my draft of  Butterick 6075 as a starting point and did some seat-of-the-pants re-drafting to get to what is hopefully a wearable starting point.  The making is currently in progress, using a rayon challis that was cheap and that I don't totally love, with the expectation that I will still need to tweak some stuff because the bodice shapes of the two dresses are not the same.

Besides sewing, I have also been working on our backyard a bit.  Among other things, we're adding fruit trees!  I'm kind of excited about them.  We have a satsuma (a small orange-like fruit), sweet kumquat, peach, and key lime (even though we a tad north of their ideal climate).   I'm hoping they survive and that a combination of the brutal Texas summer heat and my gardening ineptitude don't kill them.

My gardening assistant with the satsuma.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Let the Hollyburns begin!

I finally cracked open my Sewaholic Hollyburn pattern, and it is another winner.  I think it has kind of a 40s-meets-70s vibe, while being a classic shape that can be transformed by fabric choice and the little details you choose to add.

For my first version, I used the fullest, shortest style, but lengthened it by several inches to something closer to the middle-length style.  The fabric's cotton sateen from JoAnn's.  I was stuck for something to wear with it, but then schmeebot coincidentally thrifted me a lovely cardigan that works nicely.  Isn't it great when things work out?    It's amazing that I did not already have a matching cardigan given just how many cardigans I have ... but let's not go there!

The skirt is drafted to sit at the waist, but that fit bugs me: I find it more comfortable to have the waistband sit a few inches lower.  I realized this after having already cut out everything, so I just re-cut the waistband two inches longer (it's just a straight strip).  And somehow, miraculously, the skirt fit the new band just fine.

Now the second Hollyburn is the one I really love, because I used a very special fabric my aunt sent me.   It's vintage -- not sure how old, but only 35 inches wide.  Unfortunately there is a permanent fade line where it was folded in half, but I made sure to match up the marks so that they make an upside down 'V' on the front and back of the skirt, and I really don't think it's that noticeable.  I love the bird print (of course ... my love for bird prints is well documented) and the color palette as well.  It's cotton, but somehow does not wrinkle.  It's practically magic fabric, I'm telling you.

I went with the original width of the middle-length Hollyburn version from the package, and narrowed my lengthened waistband for a better fit.  Both skirts are lined with cotton/poly lawn.

I'm working on yet another Hollyburn now ... should have it finished up and photographed before the end of Q2 with any luck.  :)   I really love wearing skirts in the summer, and though they may not make for the most exciting blog fodder, they see more wear than the other types of stuff I sew.  Thus, I plan to eke out a few more before moving on to the next thing.   After the Hollyburn-in-progress, I have some lovely plaid silk dupioni queued ... no pattern chosen yet, but perhaps a trapezoid dirndl would work best.   I never really liked silk dupioni until I threw some in the washing machine and ran it through the dryer.  The resulting fabric is far less precious-looking and thus more useful in my non-fussy everyday wardrobe.  

Saturday, April 20, 2013

San Francisco

Last month I traveled to San Francisco, and had a chance to do some shopping.   Happily, our hotel was quite close to Britex, and it did not disappoint!  It is a big narrow store, spread over four or five stories connected by a narrow staircase, and I was up and down quite a bit as I thought of things I wanted to see.  Cut fabrics are sent to the first floor to await you at the register, so that you don't have to lug them about, which makes it easier to navigate the many narrow spaces in the store.

I have been thinking about dolling up some of my plain cardigans a bit, so I found Britex's trims department a delight.  They had lots of paired beaded appliques, nicely displayed in the sort of moveable frames I've seen used for posters or artwork.   Happily, trims are easy to cart home on a plane, so I scooped up a bunch -- four sets of beaded appliques, plus a simpler pair, and some vintage deadstock lace.  Have I done anything with them yet?  Nope, but I will, I swear.

I had heard that Britex was pricy, and it was -- due to the quality of their merchandise.   I wasn't sure if I'd buy fabric, but I did end up with a two-yard remnant of green cotton with pink and yellow woven through it, and could not resist some divine green floral Italian lawn (think Liberty sort of quality, as well as price!) that I will probably be afraid to ever cut into. But hey, I can pull it out and pet it from time to time.

I don't have much sewing time these days, and that will continue in the coming months.   I have (part of) one day a week at most, so I'm continuing to focus on separates because they're usually shorter projects.  (I will have to make some dresses come summer, though!)  I've made a few more short-sleeve Renfrews that I'm quite happy with, and am working on my third Hollyburn skirt now.  I finally got pictures of my first two Hollyburns and I'll post those soon.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Oops (again)

So like two and a half months ago I said I'd be back soon with a post about the  Sewaholic Alma blouses I'd finished over the Winter holidays.   Oops.  What can I say, life has been busy!  I have been squeezing in some sewing here and there, but progress is slow.   I do have a couple more finished garments queued up though.

But first, those Almas.   I am not a huge blouse-wearer.  I usually choose knits: camisoles or tank tops with a cardigan or hoodie is pretty much my above-the-waist uniform.  But I do like these.  I added 3 inches to be bottoms of mine to achieve a more tunic-y length that I can wear with jeans that have a lower rise.

Blouse number one is a black rayon with little purple flowers from Fabric Mart.  As I was finishing it, I realized it would be shorter than I wanted.  I decided to add an extra strip of fabric at the bottom, but didn't have enough left to even piece a band together.  Fortunately Fabric Mart had four more yards in stock, so I ordered two and figured I'd finish my blouse the following weekend.

However, disaster struck: FedEx lost track of my order!   It was discovered and delivered a few days later, but in the meantime I went back online and grabbed the final two yards of the fabric.  So obviously you can expect to see more of this ditzy floral from me in the future -- fortunately it's nice quality and I really like the print.  

You can't even make out the band at the bottom -- even up close -- unless you're hunting for it.  I just measured the circumference of the bottom of the shirt and cut a six-inch wide strip that length.  I attached it so that it's folded double (almost like bias tape).  The extra weight of the doubled fabric makes the shirt hang more nicely.

Here's shirt number two.  On this one I just lengthened the pattern by three inches, and skipped the zipper because it's really not necessary.   However, think the first one is nicer, because of the bottom band and just because the quality of the rayon I used was a bit better.  FWIW, this second fabric was from Fabric Mart too, and the same price as the first one.

Like all Sewaholic patterns, Alma was excellently drafted and a pleasure to sew.  I can definitely see making more of these in the future.  Possibly I'd try a collared version, but I think I'll stick to cap sleeves or no sleeves for layering friendliness.

One final shot -- chosen solely for the cuteness of the dog. BTW these pictures were taken back in January, and it was colder than it looks!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

That other hobby that has been stealing my sewing time ...

I've alluded to my new hobby a few times, which in a way, it's not a new hobby at all.   Probably y'all don't remember, but back in 2010 I shared the markers I got for Christmas, and mentioned that I wanted to get back into drawing.  Well, I did some drawing, but it still felt like a struggle and it was soon abandoned.  I tried and gave up a few more times.   I didn't know what I wanted to draw, in part because I didn't know what I could draw.  My ideas just weren't coming out onto the paper right.

A Luscious Lotus.

In November, I stumbled across ATCsForAll.  ATCs is short for "Artist Trading Cards", little baseball-card-sized (2.5 inch by 3.5 inch) artworks that are traded amongst artists.  At ATCsForAll there are a number of ways to trade, but the one that caught my eye was the themed swaps.  A swap host announces their theme in the swap forum on the site, along with the rules for play and the submission deadline.  Typically a swap participant submits 3 or 6 cards, with an optional extra card for the host.    When all the cards are in, the host will return a matching number of cards made by other artists to each participant.

My first ATC from my first swap.

Now this was something I could do.  The theme gave me some focus, plus a deadline (though there is no penalty for dropping out of a swap as long as you inform the host).   The small size of an ATC also helped -- I can still spend hours making one, but it definitely scopes the the undertaking a bit!

One of the cards I'm mailing out tomorrow.

Anyhow, long story short, I joined up and have now participated in a half-dozen swaps, with themes ranging from parakeets to animals wearing winter gear to pink things that are not pink in real life.   And those markers pictured in my post from 2010 are finally getting a workout!  I am not 100 percent happy with every card I make (and sometimes re-do them several times before I'm willing to send them out) but I am making drawings I am proud of, which didn't seem possible just a few months ago.   I think the habit will stick.

Yak rocking some warm woolies.

Since I know my audience here are primarily sewists, I'll not share about drawing and ATCs here regularly unless for some reason this post garners a strong response.  If you want to see more, you can check out my ATC set on Flickr.  And if you want to play too, join ATCsForAll -- as the name suggests, it's for everyone, of all levels of artistic experience, and all mediums (even sewing ... I'm not sure I could sew up anything ATC-sized worth having, though).   I've found it to be a talented, positive, and welcoming group.  If you join or are already a member, look for me there: my username is Lost Cities.

A Vulture does Violence to the letter V --
for the "V, W, X" swap.