Ok, not actually this pattern, which I picked up for half a buck at the thrift store the other day. It’s unopened, and that 80s style of dress pants with the front pleats and the slash pockets is exactly what my husband likes in his dress pants. But look at the shirt on the guy on the left. Gun flaps buttoning to pockets? Nifty details. Maybe not for everyone, but I can’t help but wonder of this was referencing an actual pattern (maybe another Kwik Sew?) or if it was just a flight of fancy. It seems like it would be fun, if it were a pattern… Although with my luck my husband wouldn’t ever wear it.
Monthly Archives: August 2013
I worked it out the other day and realized it’s been like a year and a half since I made myself a pair of jeans. Say what? I know! Crazy! And, the best of the remaining pairs (or at least, the newest) recently developed a run, or whatever you’d like to call it, in the butt just beside the CB seam—you know, when denim wears so the threads one way are gone but the threads the other way are still there. Anyway, I darned it up on my Grandma’s Rocketeer, which is about all I can really do on it since neither cams, accessories, nor bobbins have appeared.* but the fact remains that it’s well past time for a new pair or two.
So I cornered my Stylish sister-in-law and we picked a date for a sewing day—after months of not being able to—and when I asked her if there was anything she wanted to make For Her (as opposed to the kids or husband), her first thought was capri-length jeans. Perfect!
Not really a beginner project, you say? Pah, I say! We shall charge ahead! Especially since I just scored some lovely denim at 70% off… What could go wrong?
Don’t answer that.
Anyway, we set up our little sweatshop in Stylish’s basement. I brought over the elderly serger (which has decided it won’t cut at the moment. Yes, I’m sure the blades are dull as all get up, but the damn thing was slicing everything just fine right up until two weeks ago. WTF?) and my featherweight, for the topstitching. The three-machine, two-sewists setup worked quite well, as I could usually manage to be working on a different machine.
So, over the weekend we spent all our spare time tracing, cutting, and sewing a couple of pairs of jeans. The pattern, of course, is Jalie 2908. I really need to re-trace and revamp my version of the pattern, and come up with a less stretch-intensive version, but for this one I resorted to just chalking in a bit more ease (and length) where I needed it. Again.
For Stylish, I had her trace off her hip size, and then added the usual suite of alterations I do for Tyo in Jalie patterns—adding to the rear rise with a wedge at CB and curving in the rear yoke. I’ve been working on my contour waistband pattern, too, and I think I may have perfected it—or at least, it appears to work for both my butt AND Stylish’s, which is a friggin’ miracle if you ask me.
(Note—all images are of my jeans. Why? Because while I was standing around taking pictures, Stylish was actually working on hers. 😉
Confession—between when I first banged off this post and publishing, we managed to pretty much finish. My pair is OK, although I made the waistband non-stretch which means it’s really tight. I like the non-stretch waistband but I need to make some pattern modifications (i.e., more ease) in the upper hip if I’m going to use one. Stylish’s pair is pretty good IMO, in her opinion not so good—one of the legs twists a bit and the fly does a curious list to one side. I’m not sure what’s up with either, frankly, since we both did the exact same thing. I just wish I could get her to appreciate the miracle that is the fact that it doesn’t gape at the back and is only mildly wrinkly under her butt. Also, I don’t think she is adequately awed by the fact that that fly (which she sewed entirely on her own, albeit with me going “ok, sew this part now. Now sew this.” is her FIRST ZIPPER. FIRST ZIPPER EVER, peeps.
Actual photos to follow at some point, but for now, have a floor pic with a chihuahua, MPB style. My Crafty sister-in-law came over one evening, too, and finished a blouse she had started way back in the winter—so I will have to make her dress up and get photos done of that, too. In my copious spare time…
*not strictly true. There is actually a cam in the machine, for making, based on its markings, a diamond pattern zigzag. I have managed to get it to produce great straight stitches, narrow zigzag stitches, and a variety of “decorative” variations that don’t look like much. I will definitely be consulting the manual linked to by my helpful readers! Intuitive, this machine ain’t. I’ve come to the conclusion that I like my sewing machines the way I like my computer programs—while I appreciate a good manual, I’d much rather just sit down and bash at it and see what I can figure out. For that matter, I think that’s my approach to a good chunk of life…
I am not, in any way, a historical seamstress. I don’t even think of myself as a particularly “vintage” one, though I definitely have leanings in that direction (I may be in denial.) The Dreamstress I ain’t. However, back in my hometown, I have Connections. In particular, a local history site my mom has been involved with for yonks, has some antique machines that I wanted to play with. They were amenable to me playing around, and wondered was I amenable to doing a program or two on Victorian sewing? (The house, the oldest in my hometown,* does low-stress, small-scale historical programming, everything from Victorian laundry to kids games. Strictly speaking the time period is 1880s**, but they’re not particularly picky about that.)
Originally I had hoped to play around with some antique attachments on the actual machines in the house. There’s a National machine that fits this set of attachments, and a singer Model 12 that’s, frankly, a caveperson of the treadle world. Sadly, the National is missing part of the tension apparatus so isn’t currently usable (although I have hopes of fabricating a replacement piece in the longer-term), and the Model 12 needs some new needles before I can assess whether it’s skipping stitches because it’s old and gunky or whether it’s just that the needle that’s currently in it is about as thick as a tree stump and equally sharp.
Anyway, not having the treadle option, I packed up my Featherweight (which has the look and the attachments, even if it’s far from the genuine article) and set about sampling some examples of Victorian embellishment, at least as it occurs on linens and underthings. I figured my goal for the day would be making some samples and, if all went well, starting on a pair of Victorian drawers, which you can see part of in the picture above. To go with the corset I haven’t made yet, you know.
(And to those who are justifiably appalled that I, having just professed myself Not A Historical Sewist, am doing educational programs on historical sewing, well, I did know a tiny bit more than anyone else who showed up that day, and I did read about five different Victorian sewing manuals in the days leading up to the event. If a real re-enactor shows up, though, I’m sunk.)
It made for a lovely, low-key afternoon, anyway. I’m oddly thrilled by the experience so far. There’s a lot I could babble on about the styles, my research, and the individual techniques, but a) I didn’t take any good pictures (I did some totally killer lace insertion on a sample, doods. OK, not actually killer, but I’m stoked) and b) I have to go to bed, so I’m going to hit publish and bore you with the obsessive details some other night.
*On its original foundation, which has to be the most annoying footnote to always have to add to a “oldest X” claim.
** People reading in the many, many parts of the world where established human settlement stretches back more than a century and change, feel free to laugh your asses off.
If you garden, you’ll know that there are lots of perfectly edible foods grown that end up just, well, not being terribly attractive. The carrot with two points. The lopsided apple. We eat them from the garden because, well, food is food and the taste matters more, but we’d probably never buy such an oddity in the grocery store (which wouldn’t sell it to us anyway.)
Well, this is kinda how I felt about my first “successful” set of undies made last fall. Sure, they were comfy. The fit was fine, or at least no more annoying than most of the storebought ones. But DAMN they were ugly, especially in the drawer. And who wants to reach for ugly panties, I ask you? My butt has standards!
So eventually I caved and hacked off the old elastic and bought some black fold over elastic and then the whole kit ‘n kaboodle kicked around, never in the same place at the same time, for ages.
It was the perfect size of project for my wedding-sewing-recovery phase, though, so sometime last week I settled in with a zig-zag stitch and a determination to stretch the elastic as little as necessary without getting weird, wavy, stretched out panties.
They still won’t win any beauty prizes, (especially with my crappy overexposed photos) but they’re at least pleasantly functional. They are comfy, though I won’t claim I’ve reached any particular pinnacle of high fitting. More importantly, I’m feeling happy to reach for them in the underwear drawer. And that is important, right?
In other news, we’re visiting Cowtown this week, so enjoy a photo from the (not quite) Rockies.
Today, my Dad dropped off a slightly bittersweet present: the sewing machine that belonged to his mother. My grandma* (who gave me these quilts and also this fabric) is moving from her small senior’s apartment to an even smaller room in a care home, where there will be people around a little more continuously. I’m sad for her, (especially giving up her machine) but hopeful that she’ll be well taken care of.
I hadn’t really thought much about her machine. The last time I snooped it, I think I was nine or ten, and I remember being unimpressed. Obviously my tastes are a little more refined these days, because now I find it quite charming in that mid-century way.
I once claimed my other grandma’s machine looked like a rocket ship. Well, this one is DEFINITELY going to the moon. Actually, the comparison between the two machines is kinda fascinating, since as far as I can tell they were both purchased within a year or two of each other in the early sixties. My maternal grandma—okay, I give up, I’m going to call her Grandma South—‘s machine is a Japanese-made Singer 15 clone, a sturdy old-fashioned straight-stitcher dressed up with a nice coat of paint and some cute decals. Kinda like a horse and buggy sporting racing fins. My paternal grandma (henceforth, Grandma North)’s machine, on the other hand, is full of newfangled gadgetness.
It starts with this proud patent label. This is not your Grandma’s sewing machine, Grandma. Er.
But seriously. Aside from the zig-zag, it has what looks like a plate for cams on the top (I have no cams, but my Dad thinks there’s another box of odds ‘n ends that are sewing-machine related still back at his house, so I shall live in hope for another day or two). And a very mysterious dial. I hope there’s a manual in there, too. Although I can ask Grandma, if push comes to shove.
And it has a drop in bobbin. I had no idea these went back to the early sixties—I feel kinda like an archaeologist who unsealed the Pharaoh’s tomb only to find Pharaoh buried with his iPhone.
I have not actually tried any sewing with it yet, although I presume it’s in working order—it’s been a while since Grandma made a quilt, but I imagine she’s mended the odd thing. Speaking of which, I had assumed this lever dropped the feed dogs, since it says “darn” in the middle position (machine darning being like free-motion quilting, usually done with the feed-dogs dropped). Well, it doesn’t. What it does is lift the needle-plate. If you move the lever all the way to the left, it pops the needle plate right out. Crazy, no? I’m presuming this is one of those aforementioned “patents” that didn’t catch on like wildfire… but maybe I’m naive. Anyone else ever seen a machine that “dropped” the feed dogs by raising the needle plate?
In addition to the machine, I was handed two large boxes from Grandma’s kitchen. Mostly food, dried pantry stuff, which is nice enough, although I have no idea what I’m going to do with three bags of shredded coconut. Unless I find Grandma’s recipe for Coconut Mountains**, which were one of the highlights of the Christmas season of my childhood, but that seems a lot like work, and baking would take away from my sewing time. Anyway, much of the stuff we can use, and eventually use up—but it included the contents of the spice cabinet, a random array of little bottles, some of which are older than I am, although I’m going to assume that the contents have been consumed and replaced many times over the years. Anyway, I find them adorable in their slightly gungy glory. I have no idea what I’ll do with most of them, however.
*I grew up calling both my grandmothers “Grandma.” This makes it a little awkward in the context of the blog, since it’s not immediately obvious that I’m not talking about my maternal grandmother, whose machines I’ve already scoped out here. My kids are much luckier, having a Momo and a Gigi and a Nanny (sometimes referred to as Kokum).
**A search for “Coconut Mountains” only turned up this recipe. These look nothing like the things my Grandma made (I’m not convinced hers were even baked) but I suppose the idea is similar. Grandma’s always had the tips dipped in chocolate “snow”
Of the organizational variety, that is.
In the wake of the Wedding Sewing Marathon, I’ve been attempting to regroup with a bit of tidying. I’ll warn you, this does not come naturally to me, and what with the inundation of my sewing space (the waters have receded but the entire area remains damp and untrustworthy) and the other upheavals of the last year, well, I can’t find ANYTHING. Or rather, I find it one day, nod sagely to myself and go “okay, there it is!” and then promptly loose it again. I even lost a sewing machine last week—you know things are pretty bad when. (Don’t worry, I found it.)
So, I took the plunge. Okay, maybe dabbled my little toes in. I bought a couple of sturdy, transparent Rubbermaid tubs. I wish I had the funds to buy a jillion more, but I’m hoping if I can buy one each time I’m at the grocery store, I’ll have enough to keep everything in by, oh, Christmas. /sigh.
One tub is already full of the fabric that had migrated up to the sewing room* during the wedding sewing. I want enough of those to sort my fabrics by type again—I haven’t had that since before we left Calgary.
The second tub, pictured above, is holding patterns. It’s not quite deep enough—a half inch more would be perfect—but I think it will do, at least for the regular-sized envelopes. The contents are sorted, roughly, by company. I’m pretty sure I can fill at least two or three more of these tubs just with patterns. My name is Tanit-Isis and I am a pattern-aholic.
While sorting patterns, I’ve also been working on transferring my pattern info, which I’ve been tracking in a phone app called Sewing Kit (as reviewed here), into a different app, MyStuff2 (as recommended by several commenters in my review of Sewing Kit). Although Sewing Kit worked fairly well for me for a long time, once I got to about 500 patterns I found it crashed more and more and more. It still has one or two features that MyStuff2 can’t replicate, and MyStuff2 takes some setting up to get the categories and attributes all the way you’d like, but if I can’t use Sewing Kit because it always crashes, it doesn’t do me much good. I don’t have MyStuff2 up to 500 patterns yet, but by all reports it’s a much more reliable program all around (people use it to categorize all kinds of things—it’s actually really awesome for books and movies because you can scan the barcode), so I’m hopeful that all will be well.
I’m going to need another shelving unit for sure, but I’m optimistic if I can get the fabric and patterns tubbed up, I can re-organize notions and thread and things into the other plastic-drawer-storage unit I already have and then maybe, just maybe, be able to actually find things. Of course, what I really should be doing is tracking the fabric stash, so I can paw through that digitally… but somehow it’s not as satisfying as tracking the patterns.
Of course, assuming I get everything organized, then there’s the task of KEEPING it organized. Which always seems to be the one that defeats me. Aiee.
*Formerly the computer room. My husband is not happy about this.
OK, so I’m kinda tempted to answer that in one word. “Don’t.” Which is not actually how I’m feeling, but close enough that it seems pretty hilarious. I might not be entirely sane at the moment, though, so probably best to disregard that.
So, right now, there’s so much to say I don’t even know where to begin.
The pattern, as you know, was Butterick 3441, a pattern lurking in that vapid no man’s land between contemporary and vintage, complete with really awkward pattern photo. It had most of the features the bride wanted, however, barring a few minor tweaks—more so than anything else we looked at. We settled on the pattern back in the winter, made up a practice dress in the spring, and then dawdled over ordering the fabric until pretty much the last possible second. Such is life. Did I mention the bride (Epona) got pregnant a few months after we’d picked the pattern? Which kind of killed my inclination to finish early, anyway.
So, the pattern itself is pretty basic. Epona was not into a fussy, restrictive dress. She did want a lace overlay over the skirt, and lacing in the back. The lacing seemed like a REALLY good idea after the pregnancy happened. And I was both excited and terrified when I managed to talk her into using REAL silk and PRECIOUS lace. Yikes.
So, I don’t know how much to go into fitting details. Epona is not tall and she is rather curvy. I was pretty sure a small full-bust adjustment would be in order, and absolutely certain that some serious shortening was required. I was correct on both counts, although I still wonder if a larger FBA might’ve been helpful. I still can’t quite figure out where the underbust seam of this pattern is supposed to fall—it seems like it isn’t meant to come all the way in under the bust. At least, it didn’t on Epona, and it didn’t on Stylish either (since Stylish’s Maid of Honour dress was made from the same pattern, albeit in a different size.) Weird. Anyway, I kind of wish I had split Epona’s larger post-FBA dart into two smaller darts, but, well, that idea scared me even more than shaping one big dart, although maybe it shouldn’t’ve.
I wanted to cut the skirt on the bias, too, which led to some more playing around with the pattern, and trying to figure out how to make it accommodate a six-months-pregnant belly gracefully. After we had determined that she could wriggle into and out of the practice dress without the zipper, I decided to omit it from the final dress, since I learned from Thread Cult that zippers in bias-cut garments are generally asking for trouble. Though in this particular style, I think it wouldn’t’ve been a big issue since the zipper would be hidden behind lacing and lace draping. Anyway, I left it out.
The fashion fabric was a delicate (very expensive) silk charmeuse ordered locally; I ordered silk habotai and organza from Dharma Trading for the lining and interfacing. I hadn’t originally been planning to interface the bodice—the pattern called for it, but I certainly didn’t see the need on the practice dress. When it arrived, the silk charmeuse was both thinner and softer than its polyester cousin—and when the lace arrived, heavy with all that beading, I knew interfacing was going to be a thing.
In an attempt to organize my thoughts coherently, have a heading:
I used tissue paper layered above and below the fabric to help stabilize it when I cut everything out. This worked fairly well, although I then proceeded to layer both fashion fabric, lining, and silk organza interfacing and cut all at once. This wasn’t hard—even layered, these are ridiculously thin fabrics—but may have led to less-than-optimal grain placement on some pieces. On the other hand, once everything was basted together it seemed to keep the proper shape just fine.
On the practice dress I used almost exactly three metres of 150cm wide fabric. The silk was only 140 cm, and sold in yards. I was figuring 3.5 yards would do it, but the fabric store lady talked Epona into ordering four. Which turned out to be just about exactly right, so Fabric Store Lady 1, Tanit-Isis 0. I had only ordered three yards of the lining, however, which turned out to be not enough to cut the skirt on the bias even without the small train. Oopsie. So the lining skirt was on grain. Again, with the lace overlay in place, I don’t think it made much of a difference to how the dress looked or moved, but oh well.
I didn’t start out planning to go all couture on the bodice, but sometimes these things happen. First, since I had to add the organza interfacing (which added the perfect amount of body to the bodice, and yes, that sentence does make me snicker), I was hand-basting like crazy. While I was at it, I added some on-grain and selvedge stabilizing strips of organza around most of the edges on the back pieces, where the lace would weigh most heavily. It took forever, (ok, most of a day) and I do not regret any of it.
Although Epona didn’t really want any boning, the combination of heavy lace and halter dress and corset-style lacing scared the pants off of me, so I added some light-weight, zip-tie boning along the sides and side-back seams of the bodice (where the lacing loops inserted.) I just added a second row of stitching in the seam allowance (fortunately I thought of this before I went and graded my seam allowances) to make the casing. I cut the zip ties to the right length, cut the ends rounded, and then smoothed by melting in a lighter flame. I may have been a little overzealous in the smoothing department, hence the brownish ends. Oh, well. So far, anyway, no harm has come to the dress.) I don’t think Epona would even have noticed the little bones if I hadn’t mentioned them, and while I can’t be absolutely sure they helped, I’m sure they didn’t hurt.
I knew from the practice dress that I wanted to pipe the upper edges of the bodice, but I had decided I wanted a silver piping rather than just the white on white. I had silver chiffon left over from the skirt overlay for the Maid of Honour’s dress, but experimentation determined that it needed a solid silk under-layer to look really good.
Yes, I layered poly chiffon bias tape over silk charmeuse bias tape to make my piping. Did you know you could do that? I didn’t, either. I started (after make shitloads of bias tape… I always make way too much) by stitching the two layers together about one seam-allowance away from one edge. Once this was done, I wrapped the two stitched layers around my piping core (a slender wool yarn in this case) and basted them into place. This was not without a few ripply mishaps, but once all was in place it looked pretty darn fine. I lived dangerously and applied the piping by machine, no hand basting! CRAZY!
I also hand-basted the darts and the loops for the back lacing. Did I mention I was using SILK THREAD for all of this? Aside from the fact that it’s like five dollars for a teeny little 100m spool, man that stuff is dreamy. It’s so soft. My White machine didn’t like sewing with it (the tension would go intermittently weird) but the Featherweight didn’t even blink. Yay, Featherweight. And the silk thread was very nice for hand-basting.
The main thing I’m NOT satisfied with about this dress (and don’t tell the bride because I don’t think she noticed) is the darts. Maybe it’s the way I was trying to shape them, but they seem a little baggy and draggy and angled funny on this pattern. I dunno. Me and the darts, we have never really gotten along so well, y’know? Gimme a good ol’ princess seam any day. The problem was the same for both Epona and Stylish, who have very different busts, so I’m inclined to blame it on the pattern…
After the cray-cray that was the bodice, the skirt was almost an afterthought. I used French seams. They work okay. I still wish they were narrower, but they may actually have approached the actual seam allowance width, which I always feel is pretty hit-or-miss with French seams. I didn’t have any problems with puckering along the seams, possibly because of the silk thread (another episode of Thread Cult, the guest mentioned that polyester thread can sometimes cause puckering because it has a certain amount of elasticity, something which gives it extra strength but can make really light-weight fabrics pull up on themselves. I did not sample a poly seam to compare, but anyway. This was my observation—the silk thread worked really well. Well, on the Featherweight.
And then there was the lace. I spent a full day, basically, on the lace. My goal was to cut it as little as possible. But one thing I did have to do, was cut the scalloped edging off of one edge and piece it on to the cut ends, to form the edges of the front opening in the overlay. The length of the overlay at the front was decided by how much scallop I had to piece in there. Because of the heavy beading on the lace, there was no chance of machine stitching any of this. Hand stitching it was—up one side, down the other, knotting frequently, and then trimming the mesh close against the stitchings so nothing was flopping around.
Actually, working with the lace was much less nerve-wracking than working with the satin—knots and sloppy stitches all disappear into the texture of the lace and nothing showed once the edges were trimmed. I think it looks pretty darn good, if I do say so myself. I didn’t want to do a back-seam in the lace, so elected to just let the excess drape down the back of the dress. I think it worked, anyway, although the weight of the lace completely collapsed the delicate train that looked so sweet in the practice dress. So the final dress had no train. C’est la vie.
And did I mention that my iron died at 10:30 at night the day before the wedding, just as I was pressing the hem? Which I hand-rolled, by the way. That was a lot of hand-rolled hem. I was able to borrow an iron the next day out at the farm, and really the creases from travelling (the garment bag wasn’t quite as long as the dress) were worse than the un-pressed hem, but anyway. As inevitable mishaps go, this is a pretty minor one, except that now have no iron.
And now, random bridal photos.
Yes, she rode in on a horse. It was That Kind of wedding. Don’t get me started on the music at the dance.
You can kinda see the draping at the back of the lace, where I refused to cut the damn stuff any more than I absolutely had to.
This is probably the best view of the dress as a whole. You can’t see where I hand-pieced in the scalloped edge all along the front “slit” of the lace. Neither could Epona, even when I pointed it out to her. Also, I haven’t talked about the sash, which was ridiculously simple compared to the rest of the dress, but I really, really love how it brings the dress, and the whole wedding party together, frankly.
Ok, I don’t know that you can see much here, but it’s a great picture anyway.
I did NOT sew the flower-girl dresses, modeled by Fyon and the Waif, who you’ve met previously. Their mother, my Stylish sister-in-law, is the maid of honour (closest to the bride). I will talk more about the bridesmaid’s dresses later, because this is already an insanely epic post—they’re not nearly as involved as the wedding dress, mind you.
I’ve mostly stuck to photos of the bride here, but you can see more of the wedding photos (mostly taken by my Crafty sister-in-law—yeah, we were keeping it in the family) on my Flickr set. I can’t wait to see the official photos, though.
Bridal Couture (Susan Khalje)
Couture Sewing Techniques (Claire Schaeffer)
Fabric Savvy and More Fabric Savvy (Sandra Betzina)
Sewing for Special Occasions (Singer Sewing Reference Library)