Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I Won An Award!

Karen at Bobbins And Bombshells gave me this lovely award!

I've been asked to pass this on to 10 bloggers that inspire me. I always have a hard time with this. Really, everyone in my blog roll, and everyone in my followers, and every new sewing/vintage/fashion/art blog I run across inspires me! Here are a few of my long-time daily reads and some new-found treasures.

Bitch Cakes
What I Found
Destination 1940
Enamorada De La Moda Vintage
The Blue Gardenia Learns to Sew Her Blossoms
Gatsby and Me
Pink Champagne for Dancing
Maria's Arts
Tuppence Ha'penny

Love to all y'all!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Khaki A-Line Skirt

A neutral a-line skirt is something I really need in my wardrobe so I decided to give repro Simplicity 4044 a try. This skirt pattern intimidates me a little bit because of the interesting waistband detail. But then again, that's exactly what makes it such a neat design. I could make the SAME OLD skirt again, but this way I'll get to try a new technique.

I have found that when I make one of these repro patterns, it almost always comes out gigantically huge in the end and I have to re-do the whole thing. This time I measured all of the pattern peices while flat and after a bunch of (dubious) math, I decided to make a size 12 instead of my usual 14. The tissue fit for the size 12 seemed to be just about right.

The khaki kona cotton I got from is a lovely weight, just slightly stiff, although it may relax a bit after its washed. Unfortunately, It's a little lighter than I expected, color-wise, and it wrinkles like mad so it will have to be lined. Lining is really not my best thing. I kind of suck at it and I usually mess it up somehow.

This time I looked online and found a great tutorial for lining a-line skirts. I think I may have this in a book somewhere too, but for some reason, once a book page has been scanned into pixels, it makes much more sense to me. I blame you, blogosphere.

Essentially, you make the lining the same as the skirt except you don't put in the darts. Once you've completed the main skirt body and are pinning in the lining, you just put in little gathers in the lining along the waistline. That way it ends up the same width as the skirt, but you don't have to match the darts. The lining instructions worked a treat and I will be using this technique from now on. (I'm sure that makes no sense, but follow the link and you'll see what I mean.)

After the lining was in, I attached the waistline facing and was really surprised at how easy it was to get the front detail right. The center point was a bit fiddly as I'd stitched it a little off center, but I took out a few stitches and top stitched the V and it seems all right now. The facing wants to flip out a little in the back so I may topstitch the entire edge in order to make it more secure.

Hemming is always a problem for me because I absolutely hate doing it. Frenquently I just run things through the rolled hem foot, but they never seem quite finished to me. This time I used Gertie's teensy hem technique and I like it so much! The topstitching is neat and even and looks quite professional. Its as nice as a picked hem without all the pain and suffering of easing in the rounded edges or bending over a skirt bottom for ages making those tiny little picks.

It fits well and the length is good but I'm wondering if I did something wrong. It hangs rather strangely and the sides stick out like wings. I'm not sure what happened. I double checked the cutting guidelines and I definitely cut it out properly...but looks weird to me.

Still, it looks no worse than some RTW skirts I have bought in the past. Although I suppose that defeats the purpose of sewing ones own clothes...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thank You Aunt Maria!

A while back, my Aunt Mary (a wonderful fine artist who blogs at Maria Bales Art Blog) sent me some wonderful fabric from her stash! I was so pleased and flattered that she'd think of sending all this gorgeous fabric to me!

This amazing 70s Art Deco Print will be a blouse, I think.


I might just have enough of this similar print to make a dress. It's hot pink, yellow and green. I don't know why the scanner insists on making the hot pink into purple.


This rayon flower print is my favorite color combination. I think it would be a cute 40s dress.


This polyester flower print rules. I'm thinking ... 60s style bikini swimsuit and a matching cover up...? There is a ton of it but I don't think I have to use it up in one go.


This dusty rose print is pretty stiff; almost like denim. I think it might be upholstry fabric. Still, I think it would be a nice dirndl skirt and matching bolero jacket. I think the stiffness of the fabric would make the skirt nice and poofy.


It's impossible to see unless you biggify the picture, but there are stripes and geometric flowers in this white fabric. I think there is enough here to make a blouse or two. It's a mid-weight poly blend, so not exactly shirting, but I think it will be okay for a structured blouse.

Thanks Aunt Mary!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Home Decor IV - Cat Box Cozy

When we moved in to our rented house a couple of years ago, there was no storage in the bathroom. There was a cabinet surround for the sink with a few drawers, but it just wasn't enough storage for all my hair junk, makeup and other various beauty products. Also, the sink surround didn't really have enough counter space.

There was a giant space next to the sink that was empty so the Hubs built me some custom shelving with a counter top. The bathroom is so much better now. I can store all my stuff and I have plenty of space to spread out when I'm doing hair and makeup. Hubs left an extra tall space at the bottom where we could put the cat box. At the time we had an igloo-style one with a tall lid and a flap door in the front so the bottom space is very large.

It worked really well until the cat decided that he would prefer not to use a litter box with a lid on it. I took the lid off but, let's face it, an uncovered cat box can get the surrounding area pretty dusty which is beyond gross. I was none too keen on accidentally dropping things into it. (I am super clumsy, it could totally happen.) When we have guests over, I don't really want them to have to look at the icky cat box. And, even though he hates the igloo, kitty likes his privacy.

The solution: a privacy curtain!

I cut a wide length of fabric from my stash and used the rolled hem foot to finish the edges. Then I cut two slices up the front to make doors. I used the rolled hem foot to finish the edges of those too. Once the curtain was finished I added some sticky back Velcro to the top of the curtain and the edge of the cabinet. The nice thing about Velcro is that when the curtain gets all covered in cat hair, its super easy to peel off and toss in the washing machine.

To make sure the Velcro won't come off in the wash, I stitched it onto the curtain at the top. I learned a very important lesson about sewing anything with a sticky back: it sucks. My needle kept getting covered with glue and the thread kept fraying and breaking. I'm sure there's a secret to this, but I don't know what is is.

I think it turned out extra cute and the cat doesn't seem to mind it at all. I pull it off and wash it every week or so and then iron it with heavy starch. Its frayed a bit here and there after multiple washings, but I think it still looks good.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Re-Fashioned Knits

Sometimes it seems like I will never find sweaters that fit me properly. I am short and small boned and curvy and I guess there just aren't sweaters for this body type. Misses or Women's sweaters in size S are always huge on me and juniors sizes never seem to work right either. Sometimes a little girl's XL works, but they tend to pull across the chest, especially if there are buttons.

I found this tutorial for altering cardigans over at Casey's Elegant Musings. If you have a problem finding sweaters that fit, and have been too afraid to try and alter them yourself, go look at her page. It has changed my life! (These links are also to the right under Retro Goodness and Useful Linklandia)

I have few shell sweaters in neutral colors (beige, white, black, brown) that I bought at Dress Barn a couple of years ago. Despite being size S they are sort of baggy and don't fit quite right. I washed them a zillion times in hot water trying to shrink them, but it didn't really work all that well. Below is a picture of the beige one before altering. This is what they all looked like when I started.

You can see that the sweater body hangs straight from the under-bust to the hem without giving any real waist definition. I'm standing up really straight in this picture but when I relax, there are multiple rolls of fabric at the waist. The sleeve ends at the worst possible place, (right at the apex of my breast) and makes me look much wider and heavier than I am.

Casey's advice made it really easy to figure out where to mark and cut them, as you can see in the picture below. Please ignore the horizontal chalk lines on the shirt body. They are there to convince myself that everything is laid out flat and straight.

To narrow the body, I stitched along the curved line under the arm. To shorten the sleeve I marked just above the sleeve trim and again at the place where the new sleeve end would be. The section between the two lines was cut out and the trim re-attached at the new sleeve end.

Casey recommends a straight/zig-zag/straight stitching technique to re-attach the pieces. It works perfectly! You have to be careful, though, and pay attention or you might do something stupid like, oh I don't know, sew on the sleeve inside out and have to pick out all your stitching. Not that I would ever do that...

It's reeeeeeeely hard to pick out the stitching. It took forever and I had to pick out every single stitch, one at a time. It was frustrating, but it made me feel pretty confident that the finished sleeve isn't going to unravel any time soon.

Another thing to remember is to use way more pins than you might think are necessary. I played with a couple different sleeve lengths and tried to give them all a slightly puffy look by gathering rather than easing them in. How much puff I got seemed to depend on how much I did or didn't pin the gathers. I think its because of the amount of stretch in a knit fabric, it just naturally eases the new cuff on to the sleeve. Use LOTS of pins to get exactly the look you want.

Here are the sweaters after being altered. They have been narrowed at the waist by an average of three inches, which I think makes them so much more flattering. Small shoulder pads were added too, to give them a more vintage look.

I think I could have made the sleeves on the black sweater a great deal shorter, but over all I'm really pleased with the results.

* * *

I also used Casey's technique to refashion a knit top I got from Target. I liked the beaded yoke around the neck, but the shirt was ridiculously long. I suppose I could have simply worn it tucked in, but tucking in all that fabric just adds bulk around my hips. I really don't need any more hip bulk!

It was pretty simple to cut off the band and re-attached it higher up. I think I did pretty well. There's one droopy spot in the front that I think should have been gathered a little better, (must use more pins!) but I can live with it. (Yes, I know the tag is still on.)

Now that the shirt is shorter its actually pretty cute when its tucked in. It no longer climbs up my hips and bunches up around my waist!

I am so happy that I am not afraid of altering knits any more. I am going to try shortening a few of my cardigans next. Hopefully it will be just as fun and easy as altering these tops has been.