Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Boxy Hawaiian Shirt = Sexy Tie Top

I bought a little boy’s Hawaiian shirt at the thrift store and decided to remake it into a 40’s style tie top. I used this 70’s tie top as a template.

I laid out the Hawaiian shirt and then laid the 70’s shirt on top. Using a white pencil, I traced a line around the bottom edge of the 70’s shirt. I kept the line about an inch away from edge of the original shirt so that I’d have room for a hem. The excess was cut away and I used a rolled hem foot (possibly the greatest invention ever) to hem the edges.

The edges of the ties gave me some trouble. I couldn’t figure out how to feed the rounded-off corner edges of the ties into the foot. The fabric kept either slipping out or getting stuck in the foot and jamming up. Finally I gave in and switched to the regular foot. I rolled the edge of the fabric under with my fingers and stitched over the fold.

To make the neckline deeper, I folded out the collar and steamed it down with the iron. A couple of invisible stitches under the collar help to keep it flat. Eventually, I'll get around to adding a small flower appliqué over the exposed open buttonhole in what is now the collar.

The bottom hem is much lower in the back than the front so the midriff only exposes a cute little half-moon of my belly. My love handles are nicely hidden. Yay!

It came out pretty good. It will probably look cute with a swing skirt or maybe wide legged trousers. I wish I could have finished the ties a little better but I don’t think anyone will notice them unless they are standing really close to me. Anybody standing that close better have something nice to say.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Cherry Gingham #2 - Much Better

So here's what happened to the leftover cherry gingham. I used the skirt-only views of Simplicity 1664. Minus the appliques, natch.

The skirt went together quickly and easily, although, once again, it was much larger than I expected. Odd, considering that when I made the jumper (View 1) I didn't have to take it in at all. Hmmm, clearly I'm missing some basic point of clothing construction. Anyway, it was easy to take in all four seams until it fit.

There wasn’t enough fabric left to make the waistband (tossing out fabric I need is becoming a running theme). I made a waistband out of black twill and covered the raw edge at the hem in black double fold bias tape. That makes the contrast waistband look intentional, right?

I like it a lot. I think it will be very cute with red flats and a black peasant top.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

World's Greatest Wrap Dress, Almost

On July 3rd, I read about this dress pattern on the fantabulous blog A Dress A Day. Sadly, I can’t figure out how to attach a fancy link thingy that will take you directly to the post. However, A Dress A Day is in my links at right and you can search the archives to find that post and some pretty awesome photographic examples of this dress as well.

Apparently, because it was so easy to make, this dress was one of the most popular patterns ever released by Butterick. Well, I just had to have it! Original vintage copies of this pattern have been known to sell for upwards of $35 on ebay. Luckily, I was able to find a reproduction of the pattern for $5 including shipping.

From start to finish, it took a lot longer than I thought it would, but it really is so wonderfully easy to make. The fact that there are no facings or zippers or buttonholes is just so cool. It simply snaps together and the edges are finished with bias tape.

There are some fit issues that I wasn’t prepared for. If I make it again, and I almost certainly will, I may go down an entire size. It was pretty baggy when I finished. After I took up the shoulders, it was still pretty droopy. I suppose I could have taken in the waist a little more but it just seemed like too much trouble to take the whole dress apart. Also, the front panel tends to climb my legs when I walk but I’m hoping static spray will fix that.

Its so close to being the greatest dress pattern ever. I wish I could say that it looks better on me than on the dress form, but its just kinda saggy-baggy. Sigh.

So I don’t love it. But I think I could love it. Next time, if I can figure out how to make it fit right, I think we’ll have a winner. In the mean time, since the fabric is so comfy and soft and pretty, I’ll wear this one anyway. Its almost awesome.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Super Cute Jumper!

I loved making this one! (View A

I cut the pattern out just before we moved in May. When I finally got around to putting it together near the end of June, I was really surprised at how easy it was. The instructions actually made sense for a change! It only took the better part of an afternoon to put it together, minus hanging the skirt over night for the seams to set.

There was some trouble with the shoulder straps as I accidentally attached some of the iron-on interfacing to the wrong sides of the strap fabric. I had to re-shuffle everything to get the right number of pieces. One section of the strap ended up with no facing at all. I really hope that strap doesn’t go limp and awful after wearing the jumper a few times. Fingers crossed!

Here it is on the dress form along with a white puff-sleeved H&M top. Won’t this little number be fetching with some clunky Mary-Jane shoes?

Sorry about the picture being so dark. I'm trying to come up with a better way/place to take photos.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Nice Try, Gingham

I found some gingham print fabric with little embroidered cherries at Discount Fabrics and fell in love. I didn’t know what I was going to do with it, but it was on sale and therefore, totally irresistible! I bought all that was left on the bolt, nearly 5 yards, easily enough for two projects. I’m glad I bought it all. The first pattern I chose turned out to be way more difficult than I expected.

I tried the (View B) tank bodice with the (View A) slim skirt and short sleeves. There was a sleeve included in the pattern envelope and instructions, although it’s not shown in the pictures. I ended up making puffy sleeves because I couldn’t get the sleeve fabric to lay flat in the shoulder. Puffy sleeves were just the path of least resistance.

Even though the measurements on the pattern are my measurements, the pattern must include an enormous amount of ease. The finished dress ended being much too large. I adjusted the width of the skirt at least twice. The bodice had to be taken in a few times as well, which took forever and still didn't help that much. Finally I tried taking up the shoulders. It fit somewhat better after that.

The front panel with the buttons was extremely difficult. I ended up putting snaps behind the buttons rather than risk cutting and embroidering buttonholes. I totally live in fear of making buttonholes so I usually come up with some way of omitting them. The front panel is just crooked enough to drive me crazy, but I’m not making any more adjustments.

Here is the finished garment. On the dress form, its super cute. (Hello farmer's daughter!) On me, not so much. On me, its a dress for a farmer’s wife as portrayed Marjorie Main. In it, I look even older and lumpier. Sigh.

Sometimes the process of trial and error can be so painful. I really did try but I’m not all that happy with the result. At least I have enough fabric left to make something else.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sailor Skirt From Leftovers

What to do with the evil 60’s puffy a-line skirt that I vetoed in the polka dot dress project? (I wish I had a before picture so you could see the evil.) Why not just make it into a less horrifying skirt?

First, I took out the gathers and added darts instead. Really. Deep. Darts. That just made it round and puffy instead of gathered and puffy.

Then, I tried pleating the front but there wasn’t enough room for multiple pleats unless they were super tiny. Even just pinned in, multiple pleats just looked weird because there wasn't enough fabric to pleat the back and the front of the skirt. Instead, I tried two simple inverted pleats and buttons on each side of the front panel for a kind of sailor-ish look, but it didn’t really come across.

Finally, I tried taking the whole thing apart and laying out one of my old skirt patterns in an attempt to totally re-make it. None of them were the right shape and I didn’t really have enough fabric to start from scratch anyway. Then I found this pattern on ebay:

It still wasn’t a perfect match-up for remaking, but it inspired me with the idea that a few simple notions could make an otherwise plain (or in this case, odd looking) skirt into something interesting. I added narrow double darts in the back and front, and stitched on fold-over braid and buttons. Because I clearly can’t do math, my darts didn’t work exactly as I thought they would and, while it ended up being a much cuter garment, it was huge. So I did what any desperate novice sewer would do. I took it in at the sides, a little at a time until it fit. Then I realized that I’d misplaced or tossed the rest of the extra white twill and had no way to make a waistband. I bought a pack of white jumbo double fold bias tape and stitched it on as a waistband.

Here’s the finished skirt.

The picture doesn't do it justice. It looks better on, really! I mean, it bunches out a little over my rear end and the hem is sort of a nightmare, but I think I'll probably wear it. I just wish I had a cute stripey sailor top (and a yacht) to go with it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Polka Dots Forever!

Back in March, I bought a yard of red & white dot intending to whip up a quick pencil skirt for an upcoming party. Unfortunately, I wasn’t paying attention and the fabric was not as wide as I had thought. There wasn’t enough to make any of my skirt patterns, no matter how I laid them out unless I made a mini, which was not going to happen. So I decided to make a short midriff top to wear with my high-waist vintage-style jeans. I used the bodice from this pattern:

When the bodice was nearly completed, I realized that 1) I’d accidentally thrown away the neck facing along with my scraps and was out of dot fabric. 2) I might just be too old to pull off a midriff top, no matter how high the waist on my jeans.

Rather than simply buy more red & white dot to use as facing, I tried folding over the fabric at the neck and basting it down. This resulted in a bumpy, uneven, ugly collar. AND I’d accidentally used a tiny stitch so seam-ripping it out was going to SUCK. I cried. And then put the unfinished item in a box and forgot about it.

In May, we moved into a new place where I actually had sewing room! I was so jazzed about having a designated place to work but I really wanted to finish all my outstanding projects before I started anything new. I decided to go ahead and try to make the red dot top into a dress. I chose this pattern (view B):

I bought two and a half yards of white twill at Discount Fabrics. I came home and laid out the skirt pattern and realized that I had about twice as much fabric as I needed. Darn those 60” bolts and my unwillingness to do simple math!

After assembling the skirt and attaching it to the bodice, I discovered that the 1960’s slightly puffy A-line skirt was a very, very, BAD look for me. Gathers give me trouble anyway and because there were only gathers in the front, the belly puffed out like a maternity dress. I only discovered this AFTER I put the darned zipper in! So I cried a little, seam-ripped a lot and started again with the remaining white twill and this skirt pattern:

Success! The new skirt looked SO much better. Unfortunately the dress itself was not so good. The length of the sleeve made my boobs look lumpy, the collar was still bumpy and evil, and I appeared to have some kind of hunchback due to the placement of the zipper.

More alterations! I took up the shoulders, which mostly fixed the hunchback. I shortened the sleeves by just hacking them off at the desired length. The collar and sleeve ends were fixed and finished with double fold bias tape. I added a cute little bias tape bow at the neck. Hooray! A dress I would actually consider wearing in public!! And it only took six months from start to finish!

Here it is on my as yet un-named dress form. Unless I can get MD to take pictures of me, you'll be seeing a lot of her here.

It came out okay. Definitely wearable. Maybe I'll get a white pillbox had and white wrist-length gloves to go with it. Here's a shot of the bow detail. I didn't finish the ends. Hope it doesn't ravel!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Implements of Destruction

Howdy! I was hoping that my first post would be something a lot more spectacular. But I'm having a hard time figuring out how all this stuff works. The "add picture" thing is proving particularly problematic. So.

I will attempt to add pictures of my sewing machines to this post.

Husqvarna Viking 5610. A total workhorse. A gift from my husband found on craigslist and refurbished by the Singer shop on Irving street. This is a truly great machine.

Singer Touch and Sew Zig Zag Model 628. Its not as nice as the Husqvarna. Plus it has all kinds of annoying quirks, like a finicky bobbin, and a tendency to get stuck right in the middle of a very important seam. But its the one I use the most. Its my mom's old machine and I guess I'm just sentimental.

These are the machines I use in my attempt to reproduce lovely mid-century clothing. I love vintage and vintage-repro SO much but its just so darned expensive. Plus, even though I'm a pretty average shape, I have a terrible time finding things that fit properly. So, I sew. Most of the time, my sewing projects are a bit of a disaster, but each disaster teaches me something new. My hope is that if I just keep sewing, I'll eventualy figure it out and be able to make truly lovely things without so much crying and seam ripping.