Sunday, November 23, 2014

Holiday Dress for the Surprise Sewing Bee

Well I made it to round three of the Surprise Sewing Bee at Pattern Review!  The challenge this week was to make a dress using the Winter Street Dress Pattern.  I'm not really sure why but this challenge was even harder for me than the last- maybe it was the knits? maybe it was the restriction of pattern choices? maybe it was the pressure of knowing there were 24 other sewists working as hard as me to get through...(nail biting!) anyway it was a little tough.  

 I think at first glance it looks like I didn't make many changes to the pattern but oh no my friends, I made a lot of small changes.  I really wanted to preserve the basic pattern pieces but tweak them to fit my shape well and be fairly easy to duplicate for anyone out there looking to get a better fit.

The Fabric: 
Both of these knits are from Hancock fabrics.  They were on the value fabric table and when I placed them next to one another they really jumped out at me.  This is not a typical fabric combination for me but I wanted to get outside of my usual comfort zone.  Royal blue is one of my favorite colors and I love the print on the bottom of the skirt.  The striped fabric is a poly knit with two way stretch.  The skirt is poly/nylon spandex something or other.  Slinky feeling but easy to work with.  I tried the skirt of this pattern in a ponte as well and the look of it was completely different so the fabric choice can really change the shape of this dress.  I also did a test run for fit on the top using some gold spandex and it looked great too.  For the stripe I worked hard to get all of the stripes to line up.  My method is to fold the fabric over and tediously pin each stripe line together matching them all up.  Then I cut out my first pattern piece and use that piece as the base for the placement of the other stripes.  I also lightly trace the stripe pattern on the first pattern piece I cut so its easier to match the others.  In the picture below with my arms raised you can see the stripes are matched all the way around (pats self on back). :)

 The Pattern: 
For my first test run of this pattern I lengthened the bodice and back to make a long sleeve top and I love the fit of it and will make more!  I used my favorite Target T-shirt to get the bodice fit just right. I folded the T in half and traced its fit on the waist area, small changes but perfected the fit.  I made the shoulders XS and from the bust down a size S.  The fit was great.  For reference my bust is a 34 but my shoulders are smaller.  I also changed the sleeve head on the pattern.  I have a winter top with small gathers at the sleeve head and love the touch of femininity it adds so I slashed and spread the pattern to get the amount of gathers I wanted.  In the picture above you can see how these small gathers make the sleeve head stand up slightly- which I love.
I also altered the skirt.  For one, I flipped the pattern piece upside down.  The dress was originally to have a tulip shape with box pleats in front and back but I have been there done that with box pleats see here.  I found that changing them to tucks and gathers much more flattering for my pear shape  So in the front there are tucks and in the back there are gathers.  But back to flipping the pattern piece.  I wanted more of an A-Line shape for my skirt and as I studied the pattern I could see there was already an A-Line shape to the pattern piece- it just needed to be flipped.  Worked like a charm and no pattern slashing necessary!      
The directions for this pattern were pretty good, they call for clear elastic to stabilize the shoulder and waist and that worked great.  I tried clear elastic in the past and failed but this time it worked great.  I think that maybe my fabric was more cooperative this time hence the success.  The method for finishing the neckline was new to me but it achieved the cleanest knit neckline finish I've ever done. There is a youtube video of Deepika (the pattern creator) showing you how to use this method here.  
I used a zig zag stitch on my machine rather than the serger because I wanted the option of unpicking any mistakes easily.  I loathe picking out serger stitches- ugh.  I also use a lot of steam on the seams to get everything nice and smooth.  I used a wet pressing cloth most of the time to protect the fabric and get extra steam.                                            

So I was hoping to make a dress that in theory could be worn to church or a Christmas party.  I think I achieved that!  It has enough dressy-ness for either.  I am wearing my usual bootie boots and tights with it.  I really wanted a cute necklace to go with this dress and wanted something that would pick up on the colors of the dress.  I dug through my abandoned beading box and embroidery thread and found some gold embroidery thread and a strand of royal blue wooden beads.  I kept digging and found some cute owl beads from my Mom (thanks Momma!) and put together this tassel necklace for the dress.  I love the necklace and don't get many opportunities to make jewelry anymore.  This was kind of thrown together in the chaos of my kiddos discovering the secret beading going on in my bedroom and going bonkers because- I mean BEADS!- kids love little beads.  However, I do not like cleaning up beads after my children tear through them so they stay hidden away most of the time.  

I have to say this is a really comfy dress and I have had a great time participating in the Surprise Sewing Bee.  I don't know if this dress will get me through to the next round- there are so many great sewists in this round- but I've had fun creating it and will get a lot of wear out of it.  So many wins here!  So fingers crossed maybe they will put me through to the next round!

In closing I will include a couple of technical shots of my process since someone out there may find them helpful for their own alterations!  
Shoulders XS bust S.  used favorite Tshirt for shaping and length to make Shirt.

Slash and spread of sleeve head for gathers and a bit of volume. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Jacket for the Surprise Sewing Bee

Last week I entered my plaid A Line skirt in the Pattern Review Surprise Sewing Bee contest merely for the fun of it.  I was thrilled to be one of 56 entrants to move on to the next round of the bee.  This contest is inspired by the British show "The Great British Sewing Bee" and if you have never seen this show and you like to sew you really should watch it on youtube.  I loved it and would love to see the second season as well.  So I was pretty excited when I realized I could participate in an online sewing bee of sorts!  

Our second challenge was to make a garment from men's shirts.  My mind instantly went to Simplicity 1688 which is part of my Big List 'O Cool Weather Sewing Plans.   I love this little jacket and even though I think it was designed for warmer weather I was determined to make it cool weather appropriate.  In order to do this I thought of the kinds of shirts I would need and I thought of the shirts my Pa Pa used to wear in the woods, they were quilted on the inside and flannel on the outside.  I hit several thrift stores (with 2 year old in tow of course) and found the shirts pictured below (didn't end up using the X out one).   

The Fabric: 

The two I ended up using are the pale striped denim and the flannel quilt lined plaid shirt.  I could just picture the jacket in my head and traced off the sketch from the pattern and added my own coloring to it to get an idea of what it might look like.  
I wanted the sleeves from view A of the pattern and the bodice from view B.  The quilted fabric and the denim would be alternated on the bodice.  I also did something to the denim that I've never done to a garment before- I quilted it so it would match the weight of the navy quilted fabric.  To do this I just put a layer of quilting batting behind each cut out denim piece and sewed a longer stitch of lines about 1 1/3 inches apart.  So its totally quilted on the inside- which ended up giving it the structure I wanted.  Since this jacket was designed for lighter fabrics I graded the heck out of the seam allowances to reduce as much bulk as possible.  For the inside of the jacket I used bemberg rayon- slippery as all get out but wonderful next to your skin- and at the bottom of the lining I added part of the flannel shirt.  I also used the flannel shirt for the decorative piping around the jacket and the pocket on the front.  

The Pattern: 

I have one thing to say about this pattern and that is "Holy pattern pieces Batman!"  To make the coat the way I did took 14 pattern pieces (and if you decide to make the sleeves striped you can add 5 pattern pieces to that number).  But this is also why this was a good pattern for piecing together two shirts.  As far as the fit goes I love the way it fits.  My bust is a 34 and I sewed the size 10.  I sewed the side seams up with 1/2 inch seam allowances for a little more wiggle room.  I also lengthened the bottom of the jacket by 1 1/2 inches.  Aside from those changes I did not alter the fit in any other way.  Its a pretty boxy jacket but I love that.  As far as the construction methods in the directions, I only used them to keep track of my pieces and the order in which to assemble them.  I used this Grainline Studio Tutorial for bagging the lining.  I really can't give a fair judgement of the directions since I diverged from them so greatly.  


I searched Pinterest for inspiration on styling and found these jackets: here, here,  and here.  I didn't realize they were such a thing but all these versions are beautiful.  Mine is a little less patterny than the examples I showed but that same quilted, boxy, cropped style that I really liked.  You can see I'm pretty safe with my styling- standard jeans, tee, belt.  I'm also thinking a fitted white button down with cuffs rolled up would be cute too.  Or better yet over a simple sheath dress!

In conclusion I'm already wearing this jacket around and lllooovvving the snuggly feeling the quilt batting lends.  One jacket down....a bunch on my sewing list to go!!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Rescuing Plaid

If you're familiar with our blog you will know that I like to rescue fabrics from thrift stores.  This is one such fabric.    
The Fabric:
I found this length of wool plaid and just couldn't pass it up because of the beautiful saturated colors.  There's always a risk with wool that it will most certainly have some moth holes and this one really did.  You can't see it in this picture but I held the fabric up to a window and put a blue chalk X on each moth hole.  As if plaid matching isn't hard enough I had to plaid match around all the moth holes as best as possible.  I think I did pretty well with only one pattern piece having some moth hole damage that I repaired with tricot fusible interfacing applied to the wrong side of the fabric.  I don't know if that's the "right" way to fix a moth hole but it worked for me. 

I have to say if you are going to match plaids that my tried and true method is to cut each piece separately unless you have a piece that must be cut on the fold.  Then I match up the lines using pins to hold the fabric together before I pin my pattern piece down.  I also always examine the notches of the pattern to see if the placement matches.  There are a lot of sewing blogs with more detail than I'll offer here on how to match plaids, if you do a search you're sure to find one.  A few of my favorites: here,  here,  and here.  I also like to read my Vogue sewing book for things like this.     

I used bemberg rayon for the lining.  That stuff is a slippery little booger but it makes the inside of your skirt feel so wonderful.  I picked mine up at Hancock fabrics, occasionally they carry it there so when I found this gray bemberg on sale I grabbed several yards. 
The Pattern:
The pattern is from the Sew U Built by Wendy book released some time back.  I'm noticing that there is a copy for dirt cheap on Amazon right now and if I were a beginning sewist I'd snap it up.  I have had this book since it first came out and this is the first pattern I've used from it.  I like the book for the sheer inspiration but I now like the book because this skirt turned out well!  Now I'm kind of itching to make the other two included patterns in the book. 

I made a size Medium from the skirt pattern and my waist is 29 inches and hips 39 inches.  I did however sew the side seams of this skirt with a 3/8 inch seam.  I was worried it might be too tight and have pulling.  I probably could've used a 1/2 inch seam on the sides since the skirt is a smidge loose.  I added a waistband to the skirt as per this tutorial from Colette.  It worked great.  However next time I might widen the waistband about half an inch and then add belt loops.   
She's back there saying "where's my play shoes?"  She's obviously ready for us to go outside. 
I can't decide how I like this skirt best.  I tried it with my tall black boots and with my bootie boots (is that what you call them?).  I think I'm leaning toward the booties but I would like to get more wear out of the tall boots.  I am no styling expert but I think either pair of boots will work.  I also think that this skirt could be styled with a nicer t-shirt or a white button down.  The top in these pictures is a thrifted Ralph Lauren sweater.  I also think that it works well with the top tucked or out.      

Yes that is a baby-doll behind me.  There was playing going on back there.

I'm entering this skirt in the Pattern Review Surprise Sewing Bee Contest going on right now so I had a few parameters that they require you to follow.  My personality is kinda "meh" about parameters- blame it on the "P" in me from the Myers Briggs.  But I am glad that I made this wool up into this skirt because I am going to love wearing it.  The contest had several specifications for your project: A-Line Skirt, Zipper, Closure, Hem, Lining.  So one good thing about all of these specifications is that this is probably the nicest skirt I've ever made.  
See the plaid matching across the side seam!

I've never lined a skirt (a dress but not a skirt) and I did that here.  Makes it muuccchhh nicer.  I used this tutorial to figure out the lining.  I did vary with the zipper since I didn't have an invisible zipper.  I just hand sewed the lining to the zip at the end of the assembly.  I also made sure the hemline was finished well, I serged the edge of the hem and then sewed lace tape to it and hand stitched the hem lace in place.  One other detail is that I used a vintage metal zipper.  It is bright red and sooo cute.  I always love a good excuse to use a vintage notion. 

Over all I am really glad for making this skirt with the right attention this fabric deserved I know I will wear it a lot this winter and it makes me so happy to rescue some sad moth bitten fabric and turn it into something classic.  Its also nice to pull out all the stops and pay attention to detail with a project- a quick make is sometimes what you need but a make with a little extra TLC makes you feel special when you wear it. 

Here's a few final insides pictures for those who might be curious.  
Vintage zipper here. 
Hemline here. 
These are the moth holes that couldn't be avoided.  I just fused them with tricot interfacing.  You can't detect them from the outside of the garment.  
Well if you made it down to the bottom of this post thanks for reading to the end and happy fall sewing!!