Sunday, December 29, 2013

The contenders

Sorry, no photos of my latest projects.  I made a plum colored brocade shrug for my mum (sleeves need to be shortened) and an Amy Butler flannel tunic (believe it or not, it works) for my sister.  Both gift recipients are happy with their gifts.

After they so graciously accepted these gifts, I dragged the two of them out to watch me try on dresses.  I turns out that there is no escaping piles of lace, sequins, beads, or at the very least a pile of crinoline or a train.  Even the shortest train seems to envelop me.  I don't want lots of glitter, and I don't want lots of seams.

Dress #1
There is one dress that I tried on that is a possibility, but I don't want the little blingy thing on the waist, the buttons down the back, and wish that the top were a little more draped.  I learned, though, in trying on this dress that even a simple looking dress like this has a substantial structure inside.  It's like a strapless dress within a dress, and I am keeping that in mind because I think it makes a big difference in the way the dress looks.  More on that later.

Behold, Casablanca Bridal 2128 from the Fall 2013 collection.

Front of dress.
 I think that this is possible to piece together.  This is a bias cut skirt with a halter top similar to Cynthia Rowley's Simplicity 2281, minus the flutter sleeves.
Halter top, with keyhole back, spot on.

The tricky thing was to find the right kind of bias skirt draft.  I won't go into details, but if the bias skirt wasn't a circle skirt, it has an elastic waistband.  While there's nothing wrong with elastic waistbands, I want to be sure that the skirt waist matches my own waist.  I spent a few hours yesterday scouring Etsy for a narrow bias skirt with fitted waistband.  I came up with McCall 4258.  I have several bias cut dress patterns with trains so figure I can combine patterns to make a small train - I wanted to be sure, though that the waist would fit.

McCall 4258.  Bias cut skirts with fitted waistband and narrow fullness options.  Harder to find than I'd have thought.
Dress #2
I found this dress during an internet search trying to figure out whether I wanted crepe back satin, 4-ply satin, or charmeuse.  It's made by a now defunct company called Alix and Kelly.  If they were still in business, I'd very likely buy this dress On The Spot.  Because that is not an option, I will probably try my hand at a draft of this with a few tweaks.

Kate by Alix and Kelly.  I love the drape and look of this dress.  I would make it with a shorter hem to avoid dress puddle, though.
This skirt is seamed at the waist to the bodice.  Through my internet stalking, I saw that there is a seam at the waist.  The bias skirt is split at the back to add a godet (I'm not sold on that, though.)  The killer part of this dress to me is the draped, double cowl bodice.  Is there or isn't there a zipper?  I can't make this dress as a pullover style because I value structure too much and don't want to run the risk of (a) showing everyone that I'm naked under my dress by leaning over too far (b) have the top slide around because it's not anchored to anything, (c) not that this is ever happened, but I don't want to run the chance of being cock-eyed or pancaked.

Not to worry though, because through my research, I've discovered that it's possible to have a blousy top WITH A ZIPPER.  Win for everyone!

There is a zipper there!  And it's blousy!
Finding this photo opened my eyes to several possibilities.  I could have a side zip and maintain the blousiness but create the fitted inside structure that I need.

I will need to figure out how to create an interior structure to these drapy dresses... a quick Google search told me the right reference would be Susan Khalje's Bridal Couture.  Talk about precious.  It's out of print and nobody's willing to sell their copy for less than $75.  I realize that's cheaper than any one of my engineering textbooks from my college days, but I've decided to check it out from the library before taking the plunge and buying my own copy.  

Monday, November 11, 2013

Regrading pattern and rejoining the world

Hello.  I've been absent for a long time, no?

I was sick for a while, and am now returning to my normal self.  Over the summer, I had an autoimmune condition that caused my body to attack its own muscle tissue.  As you can imagine, this presented a lot of problems and I couldn't do much of anything.  I don't recommend it as a way to lose weight, though it is quite effective!

Right now I am just bookmarking a note to myself on how to shrink a pattern.  I sewed up a test muslin of Vogue 2241 in size 8, which of course, is the smallest size available and too big at the same time.

Threads article on pattern grading

I would love for the dress to fit like this.
Instead it looks like this (Thanks SJP for modeling!)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Relearning pattern alterations for Simplicity 1607

Do you remember this Tracey Reese dress?  I do, and when Simplicity came out with this, I figured, close enough.  I'd change the full skirt for a straight skirt.

Simplicity 1607

Turns out that was easier said than done.

I've gotten lazy and used to how well Burda patterns fit me.  I am one of those lucky few who can just trace off a straight size and get it to work.  I know, don't feel bad for me.  So I didn't know how to make this pattern work.  The bodice is a princess seam pattern and I've done plenty of princess seam full bust adjustments in the past.  But that didn't work this time.

The first time around, I traced a size 6 and added 1 inch through slash-and-spread for a D cup adjustment.  The result (Sorry, no photos.  I threw it out in a fit of rage after cutting it off my body -- I know.  So. Frustrated.) was a floppy mess of some kind of hammock like sack on my chest.  I think it's because the bust point ended up getting shifted pretty high.

First attempt at full bust adjustment.  Bust point shifted up and out of place.  However, I liked how this adjustment tightened the armscye.  That is my ironing board in the background.  Yes, it needs a new cover.
The next attempt was making a straight size 10, which was too big all over (and again, no pictures, because there were too many undergarments showing and again thrown out in frustration.)

The last attempt, which is the closest to fitting (though I still like the armscye fit of the first adjustment) was a size 6 in the shoulders, shifting to size 10 in the bust and below.  This seems to have worked out well, because I do not have the 23 inch waist that Simplicity thinks I should have...  Again, don't feel bad for me.  I ended up borrowing the straight skirt from Vogue 9668, and in my muslin realized that my hips are not a size 10.

So all in all - size 6 in the shoulders, size 10 bust to waist, tapering to size 8 in the hips and below.  So much work.  So many muslins, so many seams to rip and re-sew.  So not surprised that people hate sewing with the big 4.  Don't even get me started on how Simplicity suggests you insert the zipper and then tack down the zipper ends to finish, so ugly and amateurish.
Size 6 in the shoulder, size 10 in the bust and waist.  I don't know how or why this worked.
After this project I'm ready for something easy.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Let's talk wedding dresses!

Enough time has passed that I think I've told all the people who need to know in real life - Lee and I got engaged.  I know this may seem strange to my blog friends, but I'm one of those weirdos who isn't on Facebook so that when Lee proposed around the winter holidays, I couldn't just post a status update (besides, who wants to find out that way?)  For the last few months, I've been catching up with friends and family.  It's been great to have happy news to share and then to learn about what's been going on in their lives.  So... if you know me in-person and this is the first you're hearing of this news, call me!  I have exciting news to share and want to know what you're up to!

All that frontspeak before we get to the good stuff.  We haven't picked a date, but of course, I am thinking of dresses.  I've been looking at ready-to-wear dresses and haven't really been all that inspired.  I guess I'm kind of boring.  I don't want a dress with a train (why would you want to drag all that expensive fabric on the ground?!) and I don't want to look like a layer cake.  Because I have ruled these two things out, I feel like there are few options to draw from. 

Sewing patterns don't offer much interest either, because I think most people either buy dresses or are pretty happy with the standard ballgown, mermaid, or full skirted silhouettes.  And then my moment of zen came to me - I remembered being at the Strand bookstore years ago and coming across a book of Vionnet designs.  That is what I want.

Vionnet on display at the Met.  They probably won't let me borrow this.
Another Vionnet with simple lines and beautiful draping - I love the ombre effect in the skirt.

I almost didn't include this one because of the photo quality, and because it's got Crazy Cape going on but it is still gorgeous and I can forgive the cape.
And so where to start for a dress like this?  After turning up my nose at all the readily available bridal and evening patterns available from Vogue and Simplicity I then remembered that the internet is a big place.  And you can find vintage 1930s patterns somewhere on the internet.  Turns out eBay isn't such a great place.  Etsy is even better.  I ordered one of these to make a muslin.  The reviews on PatternReview aren't exactly glowing but I figure this is worth a try.

OOP Vogue 2241, a reproduction of a 1934 dress. Stunning!
I did keep looking around and hit the motherlode when I found Mrs. Depew on Etsy.  All I can say is this is an Amazing Work of Love.  She is an avid pattern collector turned pattern designer who is digitizing and selling vintage patterns for download that can be graded to any size.  I am intrigued to say the least and will work up the courage to try this.  Sometime soon.  The selection is amazing and overwhelming.  I scoured the internet for that one Vogue pattern but here Mrs. Depew has 4 patterns that I want to try - FOUR! 

And just for good measure because there are other beautiful dresses from other eras:

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Know when to fold 'em (Vogue 1221 and 1304)

I'm the the rebound from a sewing failure - I tried sewing Vogue 1221 (see my first fail here) which just didn't fit although I remade it in a size 6.  It was saggy in the bust, and kind of wide in the hips and the front drape didn't work no matter how much I fiddled with it.  I think there's a reason why the envelope photo shows the model with her hands on her hips.

Maybe V1221 would have worked out OK if I could figure out a way to spend the day holding my dress in place.
Here we have my muslined bodice of the LiaLia dress (Vogue 1304) that I liked so much about a year ago.  I don't think that this is a go.  I still think this is a cute dress, and the alteration to make it work would be pretty easy.  As it is, the seam under the bust falls under my bust, but the top of the bodice... well, I'm sure you're all grateful I'm wearing a bra.  This would be a simple princess seam full bust adjustment, but I'm not sure I'm sold on making this dress.  Maybe for a winter formal event?  It's very close-fitting, boned and lined.  All I can think of if I were to go through the trouble of making it is... sticky sausage casing.  Granted, it's not hot and humid all year long.  Maybe I will adjust the pattern and test it out so that it's ready to go if I want a winter fancy-dress.

Sorry for the blurry Myspace style phone photos.  Sometimes it's not worth the trouble to get the camera out.
I think the benefit of making muslins is that it gives me a good idea of fit (even thought it doesn't always work out - as in the case of Vogue 1221) and have a better idea of what I'm getting into with the finished garment.  I didn't realize that the LiaLia dress is self lined and boned (I don't read the back of the envelope, just like I don't read the introductions in books) or that my b00bs would be hanging out until I put the muslin together.  They're kind of mashed in and up, which I guess I should have picked up on in the envelope photo.
See, it is a cute dress.  Just not what I'm looking for right now.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Separates parade

I've been sewing, and lax at blogging.  I feel like there's a tradeoff between sewing and blogging about it (I definitely enjoy seeing others posts about what they're sewing) as in, I only have so much time to sew and I'd rather sew than write about it.  The problem, though, is that I forget what I've sewn.  I need to start keeping notes on what I muslin up (and doesn't work) as well as what I've sewn that does work.  This weekend I wanted to make a second pair of cropped pants and couldn't remember what pattern I'd used.  So, here I am.

There's something in this post for everyone.  I've covered the big 3 (though McCall is new territory for me!) and Burda, all in a variety of separates.

I changed my closet over from winter to spring/summer today, so it made sense to catalog as much as I could before I put it away.  There are some things that are in the wash, so didn't make it into this blog entry.  There were also several things that I didn't blog from last summer that didn't make it into this summer's wardrobe - it's really something what you can learn about fit in one year, and I'm not going to settle for wearing pants that don't have a curved waistband anymore.

 New Favorite skinnies: Burda 02-2010-111
A few notes on these skinnies: I keep thinking they're in 05-2010, but now I should remember they're in 02-2010.  These are very sleek because they don't have a fly front.  I don't know why I was so in loved with the fly front, it's a lot of work.  These are so easy to put together!  They have a side zip, and I think I've mastered my method of inserting a lapped side zip (which was trickier than I thought it would be, as there's a curve in the side) and the top of the zip gets a little exposed by the facing.  I've become a fan of the lapped zip, which pays off because I have like a billion zippers that I bought in bulk from eBay a few years ago.

Top: Gray tropical wool top with flounce (BurdaStyle 12-2010-121), Floral non-stretch twill cropped skinnies I (BurdaStyle 02-2010-111)
A few notes on the top: I haven't worn this very much.  I thought I would like it a lot more, but I think it's telling that I haven't figured out what to wear it with.  I think part of the problem is that it's a top that should be worn alone, but it's too warm for spring or summer and doesn't suit being layered under a sweater in the winter.  The winters here don't suit going sweaterless, so I don't know that I'm going to wear this very much next year either.

Top: Peplum in floral stretch polyester of unknown origin (Vogue 8815 with bodice view B and sleeves view C), Tomato red cropped skinnies II (BurdaStyle 02-2010-111)

A few notes on the top: I graded down from size 8 to size 6.  The bust point is a little wonky with my amateur grading job, and I need to fix the loop at the back neck (hopefully you didn't notice), and I hate making repairs.  This fabric is a mystery fabric from FabricMart, and it's really grown on me.  It doesn't wrinkle and is very soft, stretchy, and comfortable.  I am not crazy about the length of these sleeves.  I think that 3/4 length sleeves would be more flattering for this style, but when I sewed this in December, I knew that I would want long sleeves to layer with.  I don't know whether I will sew view C, though I like that style on the envelope... it just turned out like a tent on me, whereas views A and B are far more wearable.  I'm not sure whether I will sew this again, I was annoyed that the pattern did not include a bias strip pattern piece to cut a facing for the neckline - I used pre-made bias from my stash, but I do like a matchy-matchy facing when possible.

Top: Poly-charmeuse abstract floral Grown-up T-shirt II (Butterick 5561 view A) and Cropped Skinnies II (BurdaStyle 02-2010-111)

A few notes about this top: First of all, I have no idea why I'm so blurry in this top.  Maybe the camera just didn't know what to do with so much shimmer?  I will try to re-take these photos because I love the fabric (you can still get some from Gorgeous Fabrics - Abstract Floral Charmeuse), and think it was a perfect match for this top, even though it was absolutely uncooperative to cut. 
You can see Grown-up T-shirt I here.

 Top: Teal wool double knit peplum (McCall 6754) and Cropped Skinnies II

About this top: I coveted a similar cut top at Anthropologie last year, so when I saw this pattern, I had to have it.  I cut a size 6 and used a remnant from this dress.  I love this top, and think that a heavy knit is key to getting a flouncy peplum, but am not sure that I will want to wear it when it's really hot and humid (it is wool, after all!)  I'm on the hunt for cotton or rayon ponte, but it seems every where I look for knits, the trend is slub or tissue weight knits.  I am also not sure what I will wear this with, it's a bit much with these red pants.

Getting out of my comfort zone: shorts.  Burda 05-2010-136

Note: I don't wear shorts.  I just don't.  I've only one other pair of shorts that aren't running shorts, and I've learned that sometimes you need a pair of shorts.  Not a skirt, not pants, but shorts.  So here we are.  They have a lapped side zip.  I'm not kidding when I say I'm on a roll with the lapped side zip!  I thought that these were pretty cute with the pleats and wide waistband. Other options in the 05-2010 issue are to make them longer, add cuffs, add side pockets or welt pockets in the back.  They used up a remnant from this skirt (stash bustin'!).  A note about the skirt: I've decided that the skirt is a little looser than I'd like and have been testing out other pencil skirt patterns... none of them I like so far.  Any suggestions?

And a bonus post, as I was trying to figure out what kind of top to wear with these shorts (the teal peplum just doesn't look right with the pleats of these shorts)  The top is Rachel Comey, Vogue 1170.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Baby elephants, Simplicity 2921

It's been stressful at work with a high maintenance client.  So much so that one of my colleagues jokes, "Melissa, I'm not going to have a cow, I'm going to have an elephant!"  Hence, the idea for baby elephants.  I figured this would be an easy gag gift, as Simplicity patterns were on sale last weekend for $0.99, and I had the gray flannel left over from pajama pants I made for Lee (sorry, I've been terrible at blogging, even something as easy as pajama pants.)

I chose this pattern because it had more than two pattern pieces.  McCall has a toy elephant pattern, and there's another Simplicity elephant pattern as well, but when I looked at them, I figured they would be hard to shape because they only have two pieces. 

When I made the first elephant, Lee said immediately snatched him away and named him Elvis.  He's on the left.  So I had to make another one for my colleague.  He's on the right.  Lee's calling him Chunk because he's so plump. 

Elvis was going to be completely scrap (he was stuffed with Thinsulate batting left over from making a winter coat for another friend a few years ago) but I had to buy new polyfill stuffing for the new elephant.  Now I have half a bag of stuffing leftover, and no one else to make elephants for!

Surprisingly, the polyfill was harder to stuff with than the batting.  The newer elephant ended up plumper than Elvis, and Lee insists I must open Elvis up to stuff him more.

L-R: Elvis, Chunk.  Note I did not fold Elvis' ears over.  This means that you can flop his ears towards his face, which Lee likes doing.  Not an intentional design decision, but one that turned out well.

Add caption

In all, this is a pretty easy pattern to make up.  Most of the work is stuffing the darned thing, and if you don't go gangbusters like I did on Chunk it shouldn't take the better part of an hour to stuff and suture one up.  Cutting and sewing took only an hour and a half, some of the seams are fiddly because the pieces are so small, but this is a satisfying thing to sew up.  I'm impressed with this design - I did not expect their little faces to fill out so cutely!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Panel print statement shirt

I've been sewing, but not blogging about it.  I'm mixing it up by sewing basics and fun stuff by trying things that I've wanted to sew for a while.  Here is one of them, Burda 03-2006-106, a blouse with knife pleats.  I wondered what the fit would be like, and as I sewed it found myself wishing the peplum were a little more pronounced.  I used a panel print from Fabric Mart (sorry, all gone!) that I bought last year when feeling DVF inspired (who uses an abstract print better than the Furstenburg?) and decided to try it out with this pattern.  About half way through I wasn't so sure I liked the result, as it seemed a little too symmetric for what I was going for, but I think I will still wear this. 

There's a lot happening here.  Pleats!  Front band!  Arm band! Buttons! Abstract print!
Burda 03-2006-106 in an abstract panel print.  The sleeves are just the right size, not too big and not too tight.

A front view, with a new pair of pants.  I sewed up Vogue 1051 again, in doubleknit from Gorgeous Fabrics (again, sold out, and rightly so... it is awesome.)

Side view Burda 03-2006-106 and Vogue 1051.

Back view, not sure what the pulling at the collar is.  There are no crimps in real life.

And, I finally figured out how to keep the hook and eyes in place.  Instead of completely trimming off the right waistband, I kept it so that I could add an internal button.  Very comfortable!
Burda 03-2006-106 line drawing.  I have been puzzling over that front piece (#1) for years!