Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Me-Made May 2015 Part 1

It's Me-Made May! The glorious time of year where your feeds are flooded with selfies and we get to find out what people really wear of what they sew. I quite enjoy it, mostly because I get to see so many faces I love from the sewing community every day. It's like you're there with me as I head off to work! Plus, it's a chance to see what Oxford will do when the camera is on.

Let's begin! Here's May 1 -15.

Laverne-Style Coco
Plaid Advance 6426
Bumblebee Dirndl
Floral Simplicity 3833
Black Eyelet New Look 6587
Feedsack Floral Cambie
Airplane Advance 6426 and Self-Drafted Cigarette Pants
Striped Coco and Black Cotton Dirndl
Gingham Sleeveless Emery 
Polka Dot Colette Moneta
Hawaiian Floral Gertie Shirtwaist
Tulip Emery
Simplicity 2195 with a Peter Pan Collar
Red Simplicity 3833
Self-Drafted Peplum

And a bonus me-made for my nephew! He's a year and a half now, and finally fitting into the Elephant Romper that I made him when he was born. These little rompers work so well that my brother and sister-in-law asked me to make him a few more, so I stitched up these two for him. 

The pattern is Kwik Sew 3730, and it also comes in a shirt variation. It's quite a workhorse pattern - Lukas has 2 shirts and 3 rompers from it now!
Stay tuned for the second half of the month, and you can also follow me on Instagram to see it live!  

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The "Sultry" Sundress

Well, that title will turn a few heads. My latest sewing project is a variation on the Sultry Sheath from Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing. Except instead of a fitted pencil skirt, it has a nice, full dirndl. Excellent for brunching on warm days when you want to eat copious amounts of french toast and scrambled eggs without anyone being the wiser. Or for frolicking about forests just before a thunderstorm.
I am quite fond of this one. The neckline has a really great shape to it that makes it interesting and worth sewing to me. Although, I can't seem to remember where I got this fabric. I think I might have purchased it on a trip, maybe in New Orleans? At any rate, I got more than enough, and had some leftover to make a matching belt. 
I started with my sloper to get the fit right, and I keep forgetting to lower those darned darts on my sloper, so these are a little high. It's actually a double dart, making four total at the bust, which is a nice design and fitting feature, but hard to discern on these stripes. 

Construction overall was pretty straightforward. I did a lapped zipper  and serged the seams. I wanted a chunkier hem on this one, so I did a 2" hem, handstitched. I also did tucks rather than darts on my lining, which I find makes fitted dresses more movable and comfortable.  

Owing to all my extra fabric, I decided to use it as a lining on the bodice as well. I've done that once before, and I found it worked all right as long as your fabric is pretty lightweight. It can cause you to get all turned around, so I just stick a little painters tape on my lining side to keep me straight as I'm sewing (that way I don't do something silly like understitch the outside!). 

Since the lining and my fashion fabric are the same, you'll have to look closely at the guts pictures this time!

Happy sewing (and brunching)!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cotton + Steel Border Print Shirtwaist

This dress combines my favorite shirtwaist pattern with the rarest of fabric finds - a border print. It's Melody Miller's Mustang Rose Border Cotton in Aqua, part of the Cotton + Steel collection, combined with the shirtwaist pattern from Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing.
A border print, if you aren't familiar with it, has a decorative border that goes along the selvedges. Sometimes just one, or sometimes on both sides. It usually has a more subdued print in the middle. I've seen it a lot in 1950s garments, and it tends to pair well with the novelty print addiction of that time. The wonderful thing about a border print is that you have so many options to play with to position it. I spent a good while before I cut it out playing with possibilities, and it was supremely fun. The teal border down the front is my favorite positioning. 
Now, I said this was my favorite shirtwaist pattern, and that's true, but it's not my favorite to sew. I love wearing it because it's beautiful and practical. The shirring at the back is extremely comfortable, and the pockets are superb, as pockets always are. I have two others (bumblebee and Hawaiian floral), and I take one with me on every trip. 
The sewing is a different story, though. The first time I ever made this pattern was at a sewing retreat in California. It was my first ever to attend, and to this day is still one of the best vacations I have ever had. I think I was caught up in some sort of retreat magical haze, because every time I've made this pattern since then, it's been a real bear. 

For starters, I had a few sleeve fit problems I never noticed. The first time I made this dress was the first time I remember feeling I'd be proud for someone to examine my construction, which created a  whole other sort of magical haze. Last time I made this, I thought it was the rayon giving me grief, because oh boy did it. It's certainly worse in the rayon, but you can see it in the cotton, still. Here's mid-way through, when I realized I needed to take in a bit on the shoulders and cut the edge of the sleeve so they sat more evenly across my arm. 
I'm also not a huge fan of the method of collar insertion for this pattern. You cut an extra yoke, baste in the collar, and then sew in the facing with the collar in one go. It is extremely difficult to do without puckers, and creates a lot of extra bulk. Once you've got that trimmed down and understitched, you hand sew down the yoke on the inside. I've found that there's too much wear at the arm seam for that handstitching to stay overtime, so it requires mending. 

The instructions also recommend that you keep the elastic thread from your shirring in your bobbin to do the gathers at the yoke. I don't care for the look of those gathers as much as when I use a simple basting stitch, although it's a neat trick. If I make this pattern again, I'll definitely be making a few construction tweaks. 
The shirring is extremely easy, though, so no worry on tackling it. You just draw one line as your starting point, and keep moving up from there. It only requires hand-winding your bobbin with elastic thread, and then you just sew a straight line! Very simple, and oh so comfy! 

Despite the hiccups in construction, I am completely obsessed with this dress. I finished it Friday evening, and wore it for the next four days every time I left the house. It's will be well loved!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Bombshell Dress

The triumphant traveler returns! I am home from Costa Rica, refreshed and eager to share my Bombshell Dress with you. I was practically sewing up until the flight, handstitching the hem a few hours before we left. It certainly adds to the excitement of the trip, working on a special project up until the last minute. For this one, I feel like a 1950s Alfred Shaheen model!
Isn't the setting just beautiful? And if you will allow me to compliment myself for a moment, isn't the dress just beautiful?! I am so pleased with how this one turned out. In between this dress and my Brocade Wiggle Dress, I am ready for some fancy dates. Perhaps I should add this photo to my online dating profile. Kapow!
Or maybe this one? The caption can read "lounging on a tree in Costa Rica, in my handmade masterpiece." The men will love it.
I just couldn't help getting caught up in the moment of the scenery and the dress! It was the perfect combination.

Back to the sewing, though. We talked a lot about construction details in my last post, but there were just a few things I hadn't yet gotten to. Namely, the waist stay and the zipper guard. 

The waist stay is a ribbon at your waist, just a little smaller than the dress itself, connecting at the back with a hook and eye. It helps to keep the dress in place, so it stays up, despite being strapless. It's also extremely useful to get into, because you can hook the waist stay before zipping it up. 

The zipper guard is another ribbon, placed between the lining and the zipper teeth to keep your zipper from catching when you zip it up. It's an ingenious little detail, and creates a really lovely inside finish. 
I find now I am quite keen on "destination sewing" (is that a thing?). The fabric for this project came from a family vacation from Hawaii a few years back, and now with my first outing in the finished garment in Costa Rica, I have such magical memories that I will think of every time I put it on. 

As they say in Costa Rica, "Pura Vida"! 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Bombshell Dress: Construction Details

I'm headed to Costa Rica for a tropical vacation with my family! Always looking for an excuse to sew something fancy, this seemed like the perfect time to finally tackle the Bombshell Dress. I have been sewing the dress through the Craftsy class (now retired), but the pattern is a BurdaStyle and still available. I actually took the muslin for the Bombshell with me to Gertie's Sewing retreat last year.
I had originally planned to sew a bustier out of an eyeglasses print, but my plans were thwarted when I discovered the print was off grain. There are so many seam lines on the bodice of this pattern, I just couldn't bring myself to use it! I let the project sit on the shelf for awhile, and am now sewing it using a lovely cotton fabric I got in Hawaii a few years ago (aren't I exotic?). Here's the shell of the Bombshell on my dressform, Dolly, before any of the guts or zipper were put in. 

All Those Little Details

It's been a real joy and challenge working on it so far, and I'm eager to see the finished result. There are so many interesting construction details for this pattern when making it through the Craftsy class. For starters, each bodice piece is underlined, and handbasted to the fashion fabric. This is great, because it allows you to mark up your pattern pieces with no fear of ruining your fashion fabric, and you've got something to anchor hand stitches to. 
All that marking up is very necessary on this pattern. It's hard to tell up from down! I accidentally marked the arrows wrong on my bottom bust pieces, and ended up spending a whole day just trying to figure out why I couldn't get my bust cups to fit! Here we are, half way through with one cup properly installed. 
Once I assembled the bodice with the fashion fabric, I sewed a set of cups out of cotton batting to act as a layer of support. Those are then handstitched into the cup. I also added a 1/4" piece of twill tape at the top of the cup, which when eased, gets it to curve more to your body. 
Next, I handstitched a piece of selvedge into the sweatheart neckline for stability, and then catchstitched down the facing of the bodice. I'll be doing the same to the lining when it's all done, and then hand stitching it into the dress. 
To provide extra support, I'm also using boning in the lining. The class walks you through the placement of all the channels, which you can see in progress here. 
That boning was serious business. I first tried using a pair of regular wire cutters, and those literally broke in half after a few attempts. I ended up using bolt cutters, and that worked like a charm to cut the boning to the right length. Then I took a pair of pliers and squeezed on these little caps to keep it from poking you, before inserting the boning into channels I'd stitched into place. It looks absolutely lovely. I almost wish it was showing on the outside! 
The skirt is fairly straightforward. The sarong part is gathered up before you attach it to the bodice. I finished the seams by turning under and stitching, which was the recommended method in the class. I don't think I've ever made a dress with so many finishing touches!
Whew! This is some dress, huh? Looking at it laid out like this, I can hardly believe all I've done! I can't wait romp about the beaches of Costa Rica in it!