Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Dirndl Detox Sewing

I'm gonna shoot straight with y'all - I've had some sewing mishaps lately. I've had botched button hole placement, collar calamities, and pants fabric that displays mystifying puckers. I've been traveling quite a bit for work lately, and I never knew I could be jet lagged in my own country. It's caused some hazy sewing and more than one mistake! You'll see them all in due time, but this dirndl skirt is a bit of detox sewing, a simple project to refresh me.
Dirndls are such a great canvas for showing off entertaining prints, and this one is delightful. It's a cotton from Hart's Fabric called "Toy Box" and features little boys and girls zipping about on scooters and Radio Flyers. It's got some great colors, too - teal and lime and a rose-colored red. 
Toy Box Playing Cotton in Aqua
The construction is pretty straightforward on dirndls (just a gathered rectangle into a waistband), which is what appealed to me in the first place. I do like that projects like this give me a chance to perfect some basic techniques that are needed on every project. I did an invisible zip, a hand-stitched blind hem, and slip-stitched the waistband on the inside by hand. I also used ban roll in the waistband, which has become my go-to as it keeps your waistband looking nice and crisp all day. 
This was just what I needed! An easy, novelty print skirt to perk me up and give me the energy I needed to finish those tricky projects!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Black Apple Embroidery

This little lady is part of the Black Apple embroidery set from Sublime Stitching. I have stitched embroidery patterns from Sublime before (the Ryan Berkley set of dapper animals), and I just love the aesthetic of these patterns. Even when they're from different artists, they share the same sense of whimsy and charm. 
Embroidery is one of my favorite things to do while traveling because it's relaxing and easily portable. This darling girl got her start on a work trip to San Jose. I've got a new job and have been traveling a bit more for work, although I've managed to make those trips into sewing ones, too! While in Santa Cruz, I drove out to Hart's Fabric, and this week I'm in Boston, having a ball spending evenings with Jenny of Cashmerette! And all that time at airports means a bit of extra time for handwork.
I found a slightly different frame for this embroidery, owing in part to where I wanted to put her. I have little pockets of books that I have arranged about the house. I like to make them into tiny vignettes, although the reality is it's just overflow from bookshelves, so they must go on the floor! So I got a stand for this little one and propped her up next to a set of books that sits on a stool a family friend made me when I was just a little one.
The other print propped up on the books is from Flapper Doodle. There's an Emily Winfield Martin book in there (the artist of Black Apple), which is quite fitting next to the embroidery art she designed!
She fits right in, don't you think?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Feedsack Floral Cambie

At last! I have made the beloved Cambie dress from Sewaholic! This is a smashing dress, and it was a joy to sew. All of the little details in it reminded me why I love sewing so very much. I used a 1930s reproduction feedsack cotton from Hart's Fabric I had in my stash, and it compliments the girliness of this dress so well.
I love the look of this dress, but I had steered away from this pattern before now because I'm not Sewaholic's target shape, and I was concerned with the amount of fitting I would have to do to get it to work for me. Tasia targets a pear-shaped woman, and I am more of an hourglass. Just looking at the pattern envelope, based on measurements I am a 16 in the bust, 12 in the waist and 8 at the hip! 

Since I started fitting with my sloper, though, the task of fitting this pattern seemed a lot less daunting. All I had to do was put my sloper up against the pattern, trace lines to match things up, and then sew a test muslin just to make sure things weren't wonky. I was very happy with how the fit of the sweetheart neckline turned out, too. I did make one slight tweak to the pattern instructions and understitched the sweetheart. I wanted to make sure there was no lining peeking out. 
I did have one problem that I didn't catch in the muslin stage at the sleeves. I've got a bit of gaping at the back of the bodice at the armscye. I took to Instagram to get some help from my sewcialist friends, and came up with 2 main problem spots: 
  1. I was treating the sleeve more like a strap in my mind, and for some reason I thought the shoulder seam should be set back a ways off my shoulder. I actually adjusted it to be this way, and come to find out, that's not right! 
  2. Some folks noted that the curve of the shoulder is very important with the Cambie, and if the curve doesn't match your shoulder just right, it will cause weird distortion like what you see here. So I have a bit of tweaking to do with the curve. 
I fit by myself most of the time, and this time it really would have helped to have another person when I was doing the muslin. I took an inch out of the shoulder seam after doing the muslin, both on the back bodice and sleeve, consistently all the way across. If someone would have been helping me, or my dress form matched me more closely, I could have pinned that adjustment to be much more exact, and seen what it felt like to move about in it.
Oh well! A reason to sew a second! The challenge will be adjusting this for my next version while still allowing good mobility. When my arm is raised, it looks quite nice. 
One of my favorite details about this dress is it's fully lined. It looks absolutely beautiful on the inside! There's pockets in there, too, though I forgot to show them to you when I snapped these photos. There's something so delightful about pockets in a dress! 
I made 2 tweaks on the lining from the instructions. First, I shortened my lining skirt by 1/4" so it would be nice and hidden at the bottom of the dress. Second, I handstitched the lining to the zipper. I did a lapped zip, and I haven't sorted out a way to finish a lining by machine at the edge of a lapped zip. Do you know a way? 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Polka Dot Colette Moneta

Oh, the Moneta! I see what all the hubbub is about! After diving into the world of knits with Coco, I thought I would try to brave a Colette Moneta in this dreamy polka dot jersey.
I was eager to get sewing on this one, so I didn't even bother to make a muslin. When it comes to knits, I live on the EDGE. I sewed a size L, my measurements matching most closely to the 12. I was really pleased with how well it fit me right out of the envelope. I have 2 small tweaks I'll be making for my next version - shortening the waist by about 1/2" and taking a small dart out of the neckline on the pattern to remove a bit of gaping. 
I tried a new method of cutting this time, which I've read is good for knits and other slippery fabrics, where I layered a piece of paper (the thin kind you sit on at doctor's office) between the fabric. It really did help keep it stable while I cut, but it was a struggle to get it all in place. I ended up laying it all on my living room floor, but I felt like I was basting a quilt with all that smoothing.  I think I got a more accurate cut in the end, though, so I'm hoping that gets less awkward to set up the more I do it. Here's a snap where you can see the paper between the two layers pretty well: 
The simplicity of this dress is a big part of what attracted me to it. Dresses like this are so easy to wear and can easily be sewn and worn in so many ways! My pattern making semester didn't cover knits and I haven't sewn with them much, so I'm also fascinated with the pattern itself and how you make fit adjustments. Plus, Jersey is so comfy! It's a superb casual dress.
Hooray for working with new fabrics! Are you trying any new fabrics or techniques this summer? 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Vintage Fourth of July Inspiration

Today's we get a spoonful of patriotic inspiration from Emileigh of Flashback Summer. Emileigh is a darling gal with a passion for vintage, sewing, and knitting. She fits right in here! 

Hello friends!

The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays in the year, the day America celebrates its independence. (It’s also the only time Americans say the day before the month, anyone ever noticed that?) Although some Americans may get a little "big for their britches" about our country, I think it's a great thing for people to love their nation, no matter which one it is.

I realized what a blessing it is to live in America when I lived overseas. We Americans tend to have a lot of hope. Hope that things will get better, hope that we can make a difference, hope that our voice will be heard, hope that we can make something of ourselves. This hope is not inherently present in every nation or culture; it is something that must be cultivated. We are blessed in America to have such hope and to celebrate it on the 4th of July!

You know another great part of the 4th of July? The patriotic outfits and movie scenes! Who doesn't love a glittery Uncle Sam hat, some star-studded pants and a flag dress being tap-danced across the stage? There are lots of examples of these from the vintage stage and real life, especially. I've chosen some of my favorites to share with you, along with my own 4th of July-inspired look at the end!

James Cagney in “Yankee Doodle Boy”

This is arguably the best patriotic movie. It has a whole movie centered around the "Yankee Doodle Boy" and his journey to the American dream. A definite holiday classic, and check out those gorgeous outfits the ladies have on!

Anne Rutherford as a Patriotic Majorette


1940s Patriotic Allies Dresses

What can be classier for a day dress than to have a flag incorporated into its very design?! Pretty much nothing.

1880s Patriotic Gown

Made right around the centennial of the Constitution, this dress says “America” in a gorgeous way. I really hope someone got to wear this for an Independence Day parade!

Fred Astaire in “Holiday Inn”

Saved the best for last! It’s FRED ASTAIRE in starred socks dancing with firecrackers. ‘Merica. ‘Nuff said.

And now, for my Independence Day-Inspired Outfit!

1940s hat: gifted
1940s belt: flea market
Bakelite and bangles: gifted
Red peep-toe shoes: Payless
1940s dress: Ruth’s Vintage Clothing (St. Louis, MO)

Thank you, Emileigh! And Happy Fourth to all of you here in the states! 

If you're interested in seeing more movie magic inspiration, paired with sewing patterns to make your own, you should also take a gander at my series from last year, Sewing Hollywood History

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Sewing Sequin Pants for Miss Pennsylvania Plus America

I recently had the great pleasure of sewing sequin pants for Miss Pennsylvania Plus America 2014, Katy Halter. In addition to being a beauty queen, she's been my best pal since age 12. Isn't she amazing?!
Katy will be wearing the pants as her "elegant pantwear" look at Miss Plus America this weekend in Atlanta, GA. Today I'll cover everything from showing off the finished pants, to how we worked to fit them remotely, to how I sewed the sequin fabric. It was quite an adventure!

The Fun Bit First - The Finished Pants! 

Katy has been a dear friend since the very first year I started sewing, and in those early years she was often the recipient of some truly atrocious handmade gifts. I was absolutely thrilled with how these turned out and glad I could make up for all those years of awful gifts with a lovely pair of pants!

On Sunday she took a trip to her professional seamstress to make sure all her outfits were ready to go for the pageant, and these photos are from that visit. The seamstress found that my pants didn't need any additional alterations (patting myself on the back, there).You'll see them paired here with the top Katy plans to wear.  Doesn't her bum look sensational?!

Fitting Remotely

With Katy living in Pennsylvania and me in Texas, I was a bit nervous about how we were going to fit them in the first place. A "bit" is an understatement. During the fitting process, I actually had a dream that I got married, and in a photo slideshow portion of the reception, there was a picture of Katy wearing the pants. I stood up and yelled, "I finished them!! AND THEY LOOK FANTASTIC!" Needless to say, I was very relieved we were able to find a way to fit while far apart! 

Part 1: Making the Muslin

To begin with, Katy shipped me a pair of pants that she liked the fit of. This is where we hit our first speedbump: the pants she shipped me were very stretchy, but the fabric had minimal stretch. So here's what I ended up doing: 
  1. Laid out a big piece of paper on the floor and taped the pants to trace them. I tried as best I could to follow a tutorial from Cotton and Curls, but mine didn't turn out nearly as neat. 
  2. Used a piece of wax tracing paper and tracing wheel to get to the crotch seam that I wasn't able to isolate. 
  3. Measured the pattern piece and compared it to Katy's measurements. Adjusted the width accordingly for each piece, smoothing all the lines with my pattern drafting rulers. 
  4. Added seam allowances. 
  5. Repeated for the back pattern piece.
Here's what it looked like mid-way through.

Part 2: The Muslin Arrived

Next, I shipped the muslin to Katy to try on. Here's some pics of what we started with.
Initial fit problems:
  • Bagginess at the front crotch
  • A bit too loose at the waist, way too loose at the hip 
  • Tight in the calves 

Part 3: Fitting via Google Hangout

By this point, Katy's mom had arrived in Pennsylvania. Having a fitting buddy is so important on pants! So now that the gang was all ready to go, we had a late-night Google Hangout session to do the fitting.

This worked out so well. 
  1. Katy put the pants on inside-out. It's much easier to fit this way.
  2. I directed her mom, Jessica, to pin and slash where appropriate until all the wrinkles and wobbly bits were worked out. 
  3. Once we were happy with how it was looking, Jessica took a pen and drew a line on the front and back of everywhere she had pinned to remove excess fabric. 
  4. For the calves where we needed more fabric, she split open the seam allowance. Jessica measured the distance up from the bottom of the leg that the split started, the length of the split, and how wide it needed to be (an extra 1/2"). I wrote that down.

Adjusting the Pattern

Katy shipped the pants back to me with all the markings from out fit session. I ripped them apart, ironed them, and set about the process of measuring all the changes. Here's the pattern laid out next to the muslin with the pen markings.

Then I traced the adjustments onto my pattern pieces with wax tracing paper and a tracing wheel. Again, I used the pattern drafting rulers to smooth everything out.
At this point, Oxford was growing a bit weary of the whole thing. Are you still with me?!

Constructing the Pants

At last!! To sewing the sequins! Now, the "correct" way to sew with sequins is to remove each one along the seam line, then hand stitch them back on after sewing to fill in any gaps. The way I did it was what my pattern making teacher would call "the rock 'n roll" way.

These sequins are 1/16th inch wide, and there was no way with the time crunch we had that I could remove them and hand stitch them back on. So I bravely cut them and serged them, very slowly, and crossed my fingers for the best. I only removed them at the invisible zip. Thankfully, this worked out just fine, although if the sequins had been any larger I don't think it would have.

Here's the cutting aftermath, with sequins everywhere!! Thankfully Oxford didn't get a hankering to eat them.
I underlined with a grey cotton that has a bit of stretch to it. The sequins are sewn onto a netting fabric, so an underlining was necessary to make them opaque and more comfortable. That's also why I went with a cotton-only waistband - sequins are scratchy, and Katy doesn't intend to wear these with a tucked in blouse anyway. I used ban roll in the waist in addition to interfacing to make sure it's nice and sturdy. 

To remove some of the bulk at the darts, I also cut off the triangle that the dart forms on the inside. I saw this technique in Adele Margolis's The Dressmaking Book. I likely should have removed the sequins there to start, which would have reduced my bulk as well. 
Here's a shot of the inside of the pants so you can see the underlining. I hand-stitched a blind hem, so you'll see the sequins there at the bottom, too. The waistband is slip-stitched to the inside.

Whew! And there you have it! From start to finish, how I sewed a pair of sequin pants for Miss Pennsylvania Plus America. 

I hope you'll head over to Katy's Facebook page and wish her good luck this weekend!