Friday, September 9, 2016

80s Simplicity Tee Dress

After my last few sewing disappointments I put off going back to the sewing table. I did some embroidery, some tidying and organizing of the sewing space, and so on... but I was finally inspired to sew something up again after a day at the thrift shop.

I picked up a handful of late 80s patterns (uncut) in one of my regular rounds of my local thrift shops:

The same night, I decided to cut out a simple tunic circa 1988, Simplicity 8684, View 3 (the blue one on the cover). I scrounged around in my stash and found a very soft, thin mauve knit I was planning to make something from someday. The day had arrived.

I laid out the pieces to see how they'd fit, and realized I'd have to shorten the pattern by 3 or 4 inches to have it the tunic length as on the pattern illustration. But then again, I'd only have to lengthen it by 4 or 5 inches to get a knee length dress... I finally decided to cut the dress length and if it didn't look good or feel comfortable, I could chop it off back to tunic length.

I carefully pinned the markings for the extra length - I extended the A-line of the pattern out further to the hem, so it's quite a full skirt. Despite our more modern methods of sewing knits, I decided to try out the suggested neck facing finish on this, as I wasn't really concerned about the fabric or really all that hopeful that my sewing slump was actually over.

I actually really like the way it turned out. It didn't pucker up or get all bunched. I just pinned and sewed slowly, and it's a smooth finish. They suggested sewing a second line (I guess to copy the RTW look) -- I could've used my double needle but I didn't -- and I didn't want to risk getting it all bunchy in between another stitching line so left it at one. Same when I did the sleeve hem, which was just turn under and stitch. When it came to my huge circle hem at the bottom of that skirt, I just left it unhemmed. I couldn't imagine that a stitched hem would turn out nicely on so much fabric. This knit didn't curl or fray so it's not noticeable anyhow.

inside shoulder with stay tape & neckline facing
smooth finishes

 And there sure is a lot of fabric with that A-line from the bust all the way down!

Anyhow, with a belt and some jewellery (and very important with this light knit, the right undergarments so the outlines don't show) it's a great dress for casual Fridays. It's really just an oversize tee, which gathers nicely and swirls around my knees in a soft and pleasing way. I think this simple 80s pattern has got me back to the machine and feeling like I can tackle my queued projects once again.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

When Projects Go Bad, or #Sewingfails

I have been sewing a bit over the last month - but very sporadically. It's been hot, I've been on holiday, and I've been a little discouraged by my last two projects as well.

I first tried making Sew House Seven's Mississippi Ave Dress & Shirt, in the top length. I used a fabric that I've had around for a while, a silky bright green embossed poly. Man, was it a trial!! The pattern has a gorgeous picture of airy dresses on a line, and such great design features.

Look at that centre panel - what a great feature. The waistline has an elastic casing all the way around, but stopping at either side of that front panel. In theory, this is a lovely dress.

On me, it is not. First off, I messed up the point of the "V" when I was attaching the bias binding at the neck. It's bumpy and messy -- I know I *could* unpick it and hand stitch it to fix that...but will I? Probably not, since when I put it on I realized that this style doesn't work for me. I look dumpy and disproportionate in it. I can't quite figure it out. I think I may fix the neck and give it to my sister, who will probably look fab in it, since she looks good in everything.

Here's how lovely it looks when it's not on me.

BACK - note the cute elastic casing

closeup of shoulder tie feature; nice in theory!

closeup of the casing & a better look at this lovely fabric

So then I thought I'd try to get over the disappointment with another dress, a McCalls 7115 which I thought looked very 90's - and that was a good thing. I had the perfect ditsy print rayon (which I picked up during PR Weekend in Chicago) to match the feel of it.

Well. Again, it is really pretty, and looks fab on the hanger.

kimono sleeve

wonderful added-in pockets

BUT!! I even sewed all the lovely mauve shimmery buttons on lovingly, and when I tried it on.......yikes! I've reviewed it over at PR, with full gory details. The short form is: I looked like a babushka in it, and it was extremely unflattering.

I think I probably spent a good hour or two fiddling with it, trying to come up with ways to alter it to make it work. Nada. It does not work. It's oversized, the proportions are off, and this flowing, dropped waist style just does not suit me at all.

I was seduced by the appeal of the pattern cover, but didn't take into account my own figure. I'm going to chop it up a bit and refashion -- I'm not losing this wonderful fabric. Perhaps into a loose top, if I can finagle that.

Anyhow, after two fails it feels kind of daunting to get back on the horse and try again. My next project is another rayon dress, and I hope that the fabric doesn't cross me for a third time. Well, I'll only know if I try. Meanwhile, I've been taking a break from my garment sewing and spending quite a bit of time on embroidery. It's soothing to the smarting sewing pride after these two #sewingfails.

What about you? What do you do to recover from a disastrous make?

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Costumes & Quilts to beat the heat

What do you do when you're not sewing? Well, I end up visiting places that always include sewing!

A few weeks ago there was an event at my local history museum, a Sunday picnic/craft beer tasting on their expansive grounds, which included entrance into the museum exhibits. Since it was a super hot day and I had been intending to go to the Art Quilts exhibit, we took the afternoon and headed over. So fun. Lots of tasty beer, hot weather, and the blessed air conditioning when we went inside ;)

The main exhibits were the Art Quilts, a Narnia themed one in conjunction with the Stratford Festival's showing of The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe this year, and an exhibit of some of the Festival Archives' costumes and accessories. All were a lot of fun to see.

**Edited to Add: a new 360 Tour of the museum has just been added to their content. You can see one hall of the quilts plus the costumes & Narnia! 

I forgot to take photos of the attributions for many of the quilts, so don't feel that I can post them without. But I did get a couple! One of my favourites has the clearest writeup, the rest you should be able to kind of see if you embiggen the photos.

 We also enjoyed seeing the masterful work on the stage costumes - even though they are seen from afar, the Festival wardrobe is amazing at the detailing and finishes.


We also liked the Narnia show - including the hilarious family photos in Mr. Tumnus' parlour:

Plus we had to play Peter & Susan in the throne room...

What do you do when you're not sewing?

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Cherry Print Nostalgia with the Sally Shirtdress

Thanks to everyone for voting for my dress
 in the Monthly Stitch contest! I won a prize :)

Let me tell you all about my new Sally Shirtdress!

Why yes, Madge, it is a Sally!

After the completion of my first shirtdress ever (McCalls 7351) I got the bug - I needed to make more! I happily had picked up this new-to-me pattern at the Pattern Review Weekend pattern swap (thanks to whomever it was who let it go). Added to that, it's Indie Pattern Month over at the Monthly Stitch, and the first weekly challenge is to make something by a designer who is "new to you". I've never made anything by Serendipity Studio before, so the Sally Shirtdress moved to the top of the queue.

I thrifted a fabulous cherry-print quilting cotton which I knew would be perfect for a retro style shirt dress. This pattern fit the bill. I crowdsourced opinions on which trim to use, and the replies were overwhelmingly for the red polka dots -- about 50 to 1. So I went with it. I was also able to use some fantastic vintage buttons from a full shoebox of them - all still on their cards - that my sister sent me for Christmas this year (great thrifting score on her end!)

original trim options
look closely for the buttons

To suit the vintage styling, I thought that a photoshoot at The Stratford Antique Warehouse would do the trick - thanks to Tracy and her wonderful staff for letting me take pictures and for chatting about sewing with me.
Outside, about to head in...

A bright and beautiful little with laser eyes

And now for the pattern itself -- I really enjoyed making this one. The Sally Shirtdress is an interesting design. It has four pieces: the collar, one long front and one long back, and the sleeve. Plus the trims, if you want to count those as extra pieces. It is sewn together and then you fit it by adding pleats in at the waist - you make it as fitted as you want, and put the waist where you want it. There is a rather complicated mathematical calculation in the instructions that is a bit confusing, so I just used the measurement of the waist and then divided it evenly to space my 1" pleats. It shapes it up nicely!

The pleats are well-placed but do we really want to know more
about our figures? Testing out a retro grain scale
I slightly extended the pleats higher in the back to reduce puffiness in the upper back, otherwise followed the pattern suggestions for size. Once the pleats are sewn, they are pressed flat along the centre and topstitched to keep them tidy. I've shown a photo of the insides, as they are completely invisible on the outside!

I cut the "above knee length" view with no shortening done except for a small pinch out of the upper back length-- I am 5"2 so be aware if you don't like really short things. I also chose the trim that is a flat band. The pattern gives options like a ruffled band as well but I thought I had enough going on with cherries and dots.

I coveted this enamel red & white drop-leaf table
and all the red & white glassware too!
The flaw in this pattern is that there are no pockets included. I added basic side seam pockets using a pattern piece from another dress, and placing them as usual with the hand opening 4" below my natural waist. You'll have your own perfect placement, so if you add pockets just measure a favourite pattern and place accordingly.

The other thing to be aware of is that the pattern assumes quite a bit of sewing knowledge. For example, she states "make a bias strip" for the trim but gives no instruction. Or, when setting in the sleeves, she tells you to pin in place, put the sleeve side down when sewing and just stretch and ease the the excess fabric in the armhole as you sew -- no gathering stitches, just all freehand. And she adds, "if you have any tucks, unpick and just sew again". It's all rather freeform, and while I was a little suspicious of this technique, these are the first sleeves that I've ever set in perfectly smoothly on the first go. So there's that.

I cut the under collar from the contrast as well
I actually really enjoyed the way the pattern was designed. I like to figure things out as I go and learn new ways of doing things, and I did both with this pattern. It had a relaxed, freestyle feeling to it.

Does this necklace go?

And should I buy a purse? (full confession time: I went home with the black one!)

So if you are okay with a different approach to things and with looking things up as you go, you'll like this pattern. It is a great silhouette, really fitted to the individual figure, and goes together quickly. I like it!

We had a gas with my new Sally at the Antique Warehouse!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Floral McCalls 7351, a Fabricville Special

It's the end of MeMadeMay, and it's been a month I've enjoyed. Even if I didn't take many daily photos at all, I was wearing me-mades and enjoying others' participation. I realized that I wore most things only once, with only a couple of tops making a repeat appearance -- and I still have things that I haven't worn yet. So I don't really need this month to get me wearing more of my own makes, but it has helped a lot in pinpointing what I reach for most.

And that's usually a dress, and usually colourful.

All photos taken in the lovely Shakepearean Gardens in Stratford

What can I say? If I have a style at all, it would have to be described as fairly eclectic. I like one-off outfits that don't really match with each other ;)

Please visit the Fabricville Blog to see more about this pattern & fabric!

My latest dress is a shining example of this. It's my latest project for the Fabricville Bloggers Network, and it has been delayed somewhat - ironically - by my trip to Chicago and the Pattern Review Weekend! But I powered down when I got home and learned a lot of new things with my first ever shirtdress, McCalls 7351. It helped that McCall's is hosting a Shirtdress Sewalong - lots of tips and support on their blog and the FB group associated with it.

I am really pleased with this dress! It fits well - I used size 14 at neck and shoulders and graded out to 16 by bust & waist. I do feel like it's a teeny bit big at the waist but it is super comfortable so I can live with that! :) Next time I might make it just halfway between 14 & 16 -- a modified size 15, if you will, haha.

I love the way the neck fits and the flowiness of the skirt. It's a really lovely thing to wear. It's drafted well and it includes pockets, always a plus in my books. I had the perfect buttons in my stash, I was so delighted to finally use them!

I decided that this would be my year of shirtdresses, and chose this pattern to start with as it came recommended for beginning shirtdress sewists on PatternReview. I received it from Fabricville along with the beautiful cotton - an exclusive print made for Fabricville in three colourways, and quite irresistible!

The dress was straightforward, although I did make a few changes to the construction process as I went:

  • Instead of attaching the yoke as in the instructions, I used the 'burrito technique', or as it is called in my trusty Readers Digest Complete Guide to Sewing, the 'couture technique'. It worked great and the yoke looks lovely all enclosed. 

  • I watched a Professor Pincushion video to help me understand how to attach the front bands. I really mean it when I say I've never made a shirt dress (or any kind of button down shirt) before.

There's not that much more to say about this pattern, as it went together logically and step by step. It's a solid one! It took me quite a while - a few afternoons and nights working on it, going slowly - it seemed like a lengthy, drawn out process while doing it, but I love the result. I am sure the next time I make a similar dress it will feel much easier!

As to my summer of shirtdresses...I've already cut and been sewing away at my next one, the Sally Shirtdress by Serendipity Studio, a pattern I picked up at the pattern swap on PR Weekend - thanks to whoever let it go!