Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Merry Main Street Dress

Happy Holidays, my sewing friends! I've been doing so much fancy sewing lately, I thought it was high time I made a really fun novelty print dress. This fabric is called "Merry Main Street" by Alexander Henry, and I searched for ages to get enough yardage for a dress. It's so perfectly retro and Christmas-y.
The pattern is vintage Simplicity 4565 with two adjustments. The first was that I lowered the neckline. I've realized with my full bust and short waist, a lower neckline is better on me. The second is the width of the pleats. Mine are about 1" wider than the pattern calls for, so I also have slightly less of them. I just didn't have wide enough fabric. I'll have to make this one again in a fancier fabric with those narrow pleats, because I am quite taken with the pattern envelope illustration. 
Source
This pattern called for a nifty little technique for the skirt opening, which saved me having to put in an invisible zipper as I've done for other half-shirtwaist dresses. You cut a dart, which is concealed in a pleat. The pattern recommended finishing with bias tape, but I decided I'd rather use my fabric. This is similar to what I did on my Dapper Day dress (vintage Butterick 8404), which had you put in a dart for the zipper. 
I wore this dress out for the first time to see a live radio broadcast of "Miracle on 34th Street," and I felt so wonderfully festive. Doesn't my house look festive, too?! I love to decorate for Christmas, and this year I managed three trees in my little house. My dear Papa made the Christmas dollhouse, and also collected the Kiddie Kars. My grandma also made the Christmas tree skirt that's beneath my big tree. Lots of makers in my family, and lots of wonderful memories with these decorations. I just love this time of the year, and it was such fun to sew up a dress just for the season.
Oxford and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas! 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Red Wool Pants

Happy December! I thought I'd start off the month right with a festive pair of trousers. I am bound and determined to perfect the fit on a pair of pants, and I am getting closer. This set is made of a red wool remnant from Britex, and my tailoring teacher drafted them for me.
On previous pants patterns, I've never got the crotch quite right. I've got a "J-shape" crotch that causes a bit of excess fabric at the front. As an aside, it astounds me the things I'm willing to confess due to sewing. The shape of my crotch is not something I expected to one day be writing on the internet about, for one. But it does create interesting fit challenges in making pants, so I mentioned this to my tailoring teacher and brought in some pants I had made to show her examples of what was happening. We ended up using one of those flexible curve rulers that holds it's shape to get it right, and that finally did the trick!

We went through several fit iterations, and in the last version we made two tweaks that I think are actually working against me in the finished pant. The first was that we took the darts in a little bit, and the second was that we raised up the back a bit. Just under the waistband, there is a simdge of fabric curling up. I think it's because they're a little snug, and a little too long, especially in the back. So a reason to make another pair to perfect it!
Wool is itchy, so I decided to fully line these. I used rayon bemberg, yet again. It's just so soft and light! I haven't done a fly front with a lining before, so I looked it up on "Threads" and found a good article in #158. It seems a bit odd, so I'm still not sure I've done it right. It's functional, though. The idea is that you hand stitch down the lining to the underlap, and as you near the end of the zipper, you leave a little gap and then handstitch the lining to the overlap. 
Oh, pants. What's funny is that on the first pair of pants I sewed (that didn't contain an elastic waist at least), I thought, "Pants aren't hard! People are nutty. These are good, maybe just a few tweaks." Well, I have to admit that those few tweaks have been hard! This pair is a big step forward, though, and I really enjoy the bright red fabric. If you've got any suggestions for me on the fit, fire away!  

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Brocade Wiggle Dress

Ring a ding ding! This is the Wiggle Dress from Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing. I made it to wear to a rehearsal dinner for a dear friend's wedding in New Orleans, and I have never felt so va-va voom in my life. And look at this fabric! It's a silk brocade from Britex in San Fransisco.
I've sewn two dresses from Gertie's first book, and both required substantial fit adjustments. I was shocked when I did a muslin for this one, and discovered that the changes were minimal. I sewed a size 10, and only had to make four changes: 
  1. Shorten the waist by 3/4". 
  2. Remove 1/2" to the underarm at the sleeve. 
  3. Add 1/2" to the upperarm at the sleeve. 
  4. Took in the hips, 1" to start and tapering down to nothing.
Below was my one and only muslin, before any fit changes were pinned in place. You can see I'm already pleased as punch.
The dress has a kimono sleeve, so the underarms have gussets to allow for mobility. I hadn't sewn a gusset before this, and I found I really liked both the construction and the way it moves while wearing it. I did make one change to the instructions - I added a small square of interfacing at the point of the gusset for extra durability. 
The pattern originally calls for facings, but I decided I wanted to do a full lining instead. It looks so much nicer, and is much more comfortable. I used a rayon bemberg, and it's so soft! 
For the slit, I followed the pattern in the book, but I think I much prefer the method I used on my suit pencil skirt. It's more of a fan than separate pieces, and it's much less bulky when you have a lining. You can see the two vent variations in this tutorial from Tuppence Ha'Penny. 
I did have one calamity with this dress at the 11th hour, and it had to do with hemming. I somehow managed to stitch the underarm sleeve seam of the lining to the upperarm seam of the fashion fabric. The result was a twisted mess. I realized it when I put on the finished dress, and couldn't get my arm in! Thankfully it was easily fixed, although tedious to rip and redo a lot of hand stitching. Minus that one hiccup, this dress was an absolute dream to sew and wear! 

I predict there will be more of this silhouette in my future. I found my wiggle! 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Blog Hopping

My pal Dixie of Dixie DIY nominated me for the blog hop, so let's get leaping!

How does my blog differ from others in its genre? 
It's written by me! That sounds quite silly, but I really think it's true. Before I started Rosie Wednesday, I had a good friend that had been pushing me to start a blog for a long time, and I kept telling her I didn't think I had anything new to add. She argued back that since no one else was me, of course my perspective on sewing would be unique. As Oscar Wilde said, "Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."

That being said, I don't blog for me, so I did set out with a couple of things I wanted to do. For example, I knew I wanted to be honest about my mistakes in sewing and not be shy about sharing them with you. We all make mistakes, and figuring out what to do to fix them or not make them again is how we learn. I thought it would be a shame to make it seem like all my projects turn out perfect, but I do love them anyway!

And I wanted to tell stories, because it's how I talk, and I think that's more engaging to read. Almost every project has a story behind it, and I like rooting that out of all that happened in making it and assembling it back together again for you in a post.

How does my creative process work? 

I love studying creativity, and it's been fun to read everyone's answers on this one during the blog hop. John Cleese has an excellent talk on creativity, where he explains "open mode" and "closed mode." When we're in open mode, we're just that, open. We're more playful, willing to explore the wackiest of ideas, more relaxed. When we're in closed mode, we're focused, executing. Lots of factors can go into why you're in one or the other, or how you could move from one to the other, but my creative process will depend on what mode I'm in at the time.

In an open mode, I'll seek out inspiration from grandmother's outfits, old Hollywood, architecture, anywhere. In closed mode, I find a pattern I like and I sew it up. While I'm sewing in open mode, I'll explore new techniques or details I could add. In closed mode, I'll stick to the instructions and techniques I know. One isn't better than the other, but it's a different kind of work and finished project.

What are you working on now? 
A coat! I am using the Ninot Jacket pattern, and turning it into a swing coat. Pauline Alice did this variation, and I thought it was lovely. I've got the muslin fitted and pattern adjustments made, and I think it's going to look smashing. I recently got Adele Margolis' The Complete Book of Tailoring, so now I'm trying to study up on how to put a fleece interlining to make it warmer.
Source
My fabric is a cream wool blend, and I have a black and white polka dot lining. I'm visiting the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina for my birthday next month with family, and I'm hoping to get it done in time for the trip! 

What are y'all working on? 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Coco Chanel-Style Suit

I sewed a suit. I sewed a suit!! I still can’t believe it. If you would have asked 12-year-old me when I first started sewing if I’d ever make a suit, well, I probably would have told you I could have sewn anything. But by 16, I was gifting good male friends pajama pants without a fly because I was too timid to tackle it. So I’m glad to see that my childhood enthusiasm and fearlessness is returning! 

My class and one other concluded our 8-week course with a style walk at Austin School of Fashion Design to show off our garments. As a special treat to the students, ASFD provided us with professional hair, makeup, and photography (credits below). So you get to see my fancy suit with fancy photos! 
I'm so happy with the fit. I think this is the first time I haven't had a lingering feeling of a fit tweak I wish I could make. I mentioned I never imagined myself in Coco Chanel suit, but now that I've made one that fits me, I'm quite enamored with it. It's much easier to be when you make all the fabric and detail choices yourself!

I teased you a little last week with background on the pattern, fabric, and some in-progress photos. So let's talk about how some of these details ended up in the finished garment. I made the "lips" of the welt pocket from the back of my fabric for a nice contrast. I also added a facing in the polka dot to the inside of the pocket, so you wouldn't see the lining peeping out.

The lining is polyester in a snazzy red. I want this jacket to last me a long time, so polyester seemed like a good, durable choice. I hate that polyester gets so hot, but in a jacket, that's not a concern.

At the bottom of the jacket, I hand stitched a chain of pearls. This is a great feature of the original jacket that has stood the test of time.  The story goes that Coco Chanel was having problems with the hem of her signature jacket flipping out, so she took a chain necklace and stitched it to the bottom for extra weight. I like how the pearls tie into the polka dots on the fabric. 
The skirt is made from my sloper, with 2 darts a piece in the front and back and a small pleat at the back. I made it with the same fabric and lining, and chose to highlight the stripe on the back of the fabric at the waistband. I added a grosgrain ribbon on the inside of the waistband, then handstitched it down to finish. 
What a wonderful experience this class was. If you're in the Austin area, I can't recommend Austin School of Fashion Design highly enough. Now I'm eager to start using my new tailoring skills on other projects. I'm also feeling very ambitious, so I think I'll sew a coat this winter, too! 

Credits
Hair and Makeup: Mariana Meredith Salon

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Sewing a Coco Chanel-Style Suit

One of my goals for the year was to sew a jacket, and when I discovered that Austin School of Fashion Design had an 8-week course called the "Coco Chanel Suit," I knew I couldn't pass up the opportunity. It's been a dream, and I can hardly believe that I'm just about done making my own suit!

The pattern for the class is Vogue 8804, a Claire Shaeffer pattern. It has princess seams, side panels to provide extra shaping, and a three-piece sleeve. In the first class we talked a bit about the history of the Coco Chanel suit, which was originally designed to be made from a knit as a lightweight jacket. So it's a bit odd that I'm using it to learn tailoring, but it's fascinating to learn about all that goes into making these jackets nowadays.
Source
It turned out that I was the only student to sign up, and ASFD had the tremendous good nature to keep the course just for me. So I've been getting private lessons essentially from Karen, an amazing seamstress and professor at The University of Texas. We started out with a muslin in a straight size 14. There was a CRAZY amount of ease up at the top of that sleeve cap, and it was a little bit big at the waist and shoulders. My right side is pinned in, and the left is how it fit straight out of the envelope.
Muslin #2 went a little better. My left arm is the the second take on the sleeve, and the right is the third. Much better! We took out some ease at the top of the sleeve cap, and then cut into the armscye slightly. I had a bit of tightness there.  We also placed the sleeve about 1/4" off my shoulder, so it would be easier to wear sweaters and such underneath it.
It's about at this point that I started to get really excited. To be honest, I had never imagined myself wearing a Chanel-style suit. They are beautiful garments, but not something I really pictured in my wardrobe. By the time we finished with the second muslin, though, I realized it could totally work for me. It really is a lovely, classic piece, and we made adjustments in the muslin for it to be a little less boxy and more shapely so it would work well with my figure and personal taste. It also helped that I found great fabric, a black and cream polka dot wool from Mood
With the muslin finally fitting well, I got to cutting and sewing! I picked a fabric where I would need to match up the print, because I wanted to have a teacher walk me through what to do. I've matched up tons of prints, but I still struggled with getting that sleeve area right. The steps to do it are the same as the ones I mentioned in my plaid shirtwaist post from last winter, but it helped so much to have a teacher showing for me how to do it. I think it's finally stuck in my brain!  
When it came time for the pockets, I decided that I didn't really care for the patch pocket look. You can see my paper placeholder below, with the hem pinned up to get an idea. I'm so short-waisted, that I just didn't think it was going to look right on me. So I decided to do welt pockets instead, a superb tailoring technique. The back of the fabric has a very nice stripe that I wanted to use some place, and it turned out to be a great spot to show off the contrast. 
Below is a photo of the guts, midway through construction of the welt pockets. I went with a wider welt pocket, with 3/4" "lips" to really showcase the stripe from the back of the fabric. You can also see that the entire jacket is underlined in muslin, which I really liked doing. It gives the jacket a little bit of extra body, and a touch of warmth (at least enough for Texas). I still interfaced the facings, too. 
For the lining, I'm using fire engine red so it really pops. I'll also be making a matching pencil skirt to go with it. It's all so very exciting! My mom came over for dinner one evening, and I was showing her the suit in progress, and she said, "You're never going to buy another jacket or coat again." Yes, she's totally right! Why would I now?!  

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Attach a Pocket with Almost No Topstitching

Today I have a tutorial for you on how to attach a pocket with little to no topstitching. I learned this technique in my tailoring class, and it's a nifty trick. Apparently a lot of time in tailoring, you will hand stitch a pocket for a nicer finish. This method is done almost completely by machine, so you get a nice finish with sturdy construction.

First, you want to finish the pocket however you plan to finish it. So if you're going to add a lining, go ahead and do that now. Here, I've serged the edges and topstitched at the top (that's the last bit of topstitching you'll see!).
Next press back your seam allowances. These press lines will be very important to you later on, so go ahead and chalk them on the inside of the pocket, too. 
Right sides together, pin the bottom of the pocket only. Remember this is going to flip up when it's turned back to the right side. Stitch along the teal line, leaving the seam allowances on your other sides open so that you can fold them under.
Press that up and pin it down. Now you're going to do a zig zag basting stitch along the dotted lines. You want to catch just the edges of your pocket with the zig zag. 
Now comes the tricky part. Open up your pocket from the inside, and do a regular stitch along your press line, just between the dashes that the zig zag basting stitch formed. You won't be able to go all the way down to the bottom corner, so just get as far as you can, backstitching at both ends. 
Remove your basting zig zag, give it a good press, and then you can hand stitch the little openings at the corners you weren't able to grab. Voila! A pocket with almost no visible stitching!

Pretty neat, huh?