Tag Archives: finished projects

The first Fiona

Apparently since all my (minuscule amount of) free time is no longer occupied with Fabricland projects, my vulnerability to the lure of the Shiny New Indie Pattern has re-emerged. Or something. Anyway—first Avery, then York, and now the new Closet Case Patterns Fiona dress have leapt to the front of the sewing queue.

Ok, the Avery was for a class I was teaching, but anyway. Fiona just hit me in all the right places. You may have noticed I have a bit of a thing for button-front sundresses, and sundresses with a band detail across the top. Add in that fabulous low-back option? The only thing I might have changed was a fuller skirt, but on the other hand the columnar shape is one I don’t already have in my wardrobe. And it’s good to try something new.

Well, high hopes can be a curse as much as a blessing, and I kind of struggled with this pattern. Which is fine since this was meant to be a wearable muslin, but it’s still a fairly intensive pattern. Them’s a lot of buttonholes.

I took brand-new measurements and followed the pattern recommendations, which put me in a size 8 at bust and waist grading into a size 10 hips. I think for the no-bra version, at least, I should’ve gone down to the size 6… and possibly up to a 12 in the hips.

Anyway, trying to figure out how a button-front bodice with criss-cross straps and a back overlap is fitting before things are all sewn together is pretty tricky. There are a lot of variables. Initially I thought I could take in the waist by increasing the back crossover. This seemed to work, and I attached the straps, trimming about an inch and a half off (as I had expected since I’m fairly short-waisted). But then when I got the skirt on, it was pulling up weirdly at the back. Releasing the overlap to its original amount (and then taking it in at the sides, and then also taking it in at the princess seams over the bust) fixed most of that. But then my straps were too short. So I opted for a halter closure.

After all that, the skirt itself is pretty much as-is, though I made the rear darts a bit deeper and they could perhaps be a smidgeon longer. The grading to the smaller size at the waist changes the side curve, and I could probably tweak it a bit, but it’s not bad.

I’ll add a little bit about my construction here. The fabric I picked, which looks like linen, is apparently actually ramie, which is a bast fibre from a different plant (a member of the nettle family, which I always think is neat possibly because I watched The Wild Swans too many times as a child and shirts made from nettles are a big part of the plot, anyway, this does not matter). It behaves like linen in pretty much every way except for maybe being a bit scratchier. Anyway, it is a handkerchief weight, which is lovely and summery but not actually opaque. So I underlined the bodice and the upper part of the skirt with random cotton scraps from around the sewing room, making it opaque and also a little bit less scratchy.

I did the buttonholes on my grandma’s Singer Rocketeer, which made them largely painless although the metal grip that jerks the fabric around seems to have done some damage to the lightweight ramie. That would’ve been another foot reason to use a wash away stabilizer… note to self.

Since there were also so many damn buttons, I decided to face my fear of the button-sewing foot. The principle is simple: drop the feed dogs, set a zig-zag to the width of the holes in the button, and the foot holds everything in place.

There’s an oddity with mine in that the soft no-slip plastic “shoe” on the foot seems to slip forward and get in the way of the needle. I had to trim parts of it away with scissors to get it to work at all. But once I did it worked really, really well. Just hand-wheel the first couple of stitches until you get really good at gauging where the holes need to be.

The blue buttons were my kids’ suggestion. Left to my own devices I would’ve gone with white (actually, I would’ve liked metal but I didn’t have twenty random matching metal buttons. These blue ones were just about the only non-white buttons I had in anything like the right quantity and size. )

I don’t know if I’m overly in love with this version—I had a hard time getting photos I liked. (On the other hand it was the end of a long hot day where I spent several hours walking, so my makeup was basically gone and the hair was hanging on by a thread). I do think the band at the top is too loose, maybe not enough to show but it doesn’t feel as secure as it might. But it’s still pretty fun and I like the overall look.

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Summer reruns

I first made this pattern last summer. Apparently it was the last thing I sewed before we moved. I didn’t have a lot of casual yet nice summer stuff. The previous version is great, but the bottom was always just a wee bit snug.

This version arose out of my intermittent but recurring attempts at scrapbusting. (So far no significant reduction in scrap volume has been observed, but I keep trying.) I had just enough of this lovely textured cotton for the top, spliced in a bit of another lightweight cotton for the bottom, added some lace (as well as some more width at the hip) and, I almost have a little dress!

I had to take some closeup selfies to get the fabric to show up. I suck at these, by the way.

Unfortunately, apparently I have no shorts at all to pop it over. Maybe I need to steal them from my children. I usually have just lopped off old jeans into cutoffs but certain increases in the derrière department mean that my last generation of jeans either doesn’t fit any more or has disintegrated at the thigh and butt rather than just going at the knee. So I might have to make shorts, or worse, buy them. I kinda hate making shorts for shorts sake, I gotta say. They’re just as much work as pants but I only wear them a few days a year. So maybe a good candidate for buying.

I should mention that I found the bust snug in my first version, but I don’t in this version. I’m guessing the fabric I used this time has more give.

I’m not super in love with the straps—I could’ve done them thinner and positioned the front wider—but I like the criss-cross in the back. The non-criss-crossy straps are my bra, by the way.

None of my pictures show the lace on the bottom very well. This is some of my favourite lace of all time. I didn’t do a good job finishing the raw edge though. Shhh.

Other than that I’m pretty happy with the finishing. I finished the top with more single-fold bias tape, and I even remembered to sew on the straps in front first. I did the buttonholes on my modern Janome, which never goes as well as with the vintage buttonholer on my Rocketeer, but I was impatient.

All in all, I think it’s pretty cute. Maybe needs some teeny little shorts to go underneath. Summery and casual. Well, casual for me. Come on now.

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Deep Stash York

I’ve been vacillating about the pinafore/overall trend that has been bubbling around the sewcialsphere for awhile. I think they’re adorable, but I couldn’t really see myself in them. The last time I wore overalls (the only time I’ve worn them post-adolescence) was when I was pregnant with Tyo, and then only because a friend gave me some giant pairs (since I had no money for maternity clothes) and I felt able to get away with wearing my beloved crop-tops with them. In hindsight it was a pretty cute look, though, and I kinda wish I had pictures but that was long pre-selfie.

Anyway, it wasn’t until Helen came out with the York Pinafore this spring that a pattern really clicked and said “yes! This is you!” Maybe because of the stripped down, no-hardware style, but largely because the exaggerated hip curve reminded me of the strange shape I loved so much in my striped sweater-dress from this past winter. Anyway, it suddenly struck me again as a perfect vehicle for getting away with a crop-top when I once again find myself in a physical state where I don’t feel comfortable with my belly hanging out. (And yes, there’s a whole other conversation about body positivity and acceptance, and I’m all about that, but anyway.)

The pattern is kinda stupidly simple, front, back, pockets. No darts, fastenings or anything.

I spent a few weeks dithering over my fabric choice. I liked the idea of denim, but I didn’t really want a stretch denim and I wanted something not completely plain. Then I remembered I still had some pinstriped denim in deep, deep stash, left over from my Kasia pencil skirt. (Wow, was rereading those posts a walk down memory lane! That was from my first summer of blogging, way back in 2010.) Anyway, my Kasia is long gone (it was cute but every time I wore it I ripped the back seam while walking), so another straight-ish skirted thing in this fabric seemed ok. I was a little apprehensive about the width though, since I have issues with narrow skirts (see above comment about my poor Kasia).

I didn’t have QUITE enough fabric, technically, since my remnant had some odd bits trimmed out of it, but I was determined, so I made it work by featuring some raw lapped edge piecing. Hopefully it looks cool and intentional and doesn’t completely fray away. And of course I had to cut the pockets on the bias, which necessitated some more piecing. I finished the pocket edge with a band of denim on the straight grain, and of course managed to sew one of them onto the part of the pocket that goes into the side-seam, not the actual top. Because I’m that good.

You can see the pockets have some pretty prominent topstitching, which is cute but not reflected in the stitching on the bias tape finish. That was mostly fear that my first pass at stitching down the tape was going to be all over the place, but now I’m not sure I want more visible topstitching. It’s kinda nice and sleek how it is?

The pattern as a whole is super simple, but the bias tape finishing, on the other hand, is not the easiest technique ever, in my opinion. I know how to do it—it’s actually a bit of a motif in my summer sewing this year—but applying everything I know in theory is the trick.

I made my own tape. Actually, this is tape I made for my first corset way back when—I have a whole box of leftover bias tape from various projects. I ran it through the bias-tape folder doodad.

I guess here’s my first issue. I make continuous bias tape, because it’s efficient, but I tend to wing it on the cutting part so my finished tape is often pretty uneven. That’s not a big issue for most of the things I use it for—Hong Kong seam bindings, corset edges, finishing the edge of the inside waistband of jeans—but it gives the bias tape folder doohickey fits. For this particular tape, I had actually marked and cut quite a bit more carefully than other times, and the width was pretty good for my 1/2″ folder. The second problem was that this fabric is a lightweight twill. Still lighter than my denim, so this was a good project for using it, but heavy enough that getting the seams through the folder took a bit of finessing.

Then there was the application. Before applying your bias tape to a curved seam like these ones, you should really press it into a curve. The curve doesn’t have to match your finished one, but it gets you into the right ballpark, shrinking one edge and stretching the other. But for some reason I thought I could skip this step. I could not. If you look real close in the pic up above you can see two seams where I had to add in 1″ of tape at the center front because I didn’t have enough tape there to stretch the outer edge round the curve. I’m not even going to complain about the not so even folding to the right. Once I curved the bias tape, the rest of the finishing was much less harrowing.

I was pleasantly surprised that the walking ease in the skirt seems to be quite adequate.

Helen spends quite a bit of time in the instructions on fit (aimed at beginners) and I did absolutely none of it. Other than combining the pockets from one view and the length from the other, I made no changes at all to the pattern—I even did the specified 2″ hem. (Actually, on re-reading, the hem should’ve been 2″ total, 1/2″ folded over and then 1.5″… so mine is 1/2″ shorter than intended. And I’m quite satisfied, though a version with a deeper side scoop might be nice.

It feels fun but bordering on cartoony—I’m very curious if it’ll be something I reach for or something I only pull out for novelty value. On the other hand if it lets me wear my crop tops more, that’s a big reason to wear it because otherwise why do I even have them? So I guess I’m not certain, but hopeful.

And on that note, let’s finish with some cat butt!

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Slouchy dad style

The plan was to make Burda envelope pattern 6931 for my husband for Father’s Day. Back in the day he had a habit (which I found quite dashing) of wearing tuxedo shirts with the pintuck fronts loose as a casual overshirt. He also used to wear some denim chambray overshirts (90s guy that he is). And lately, his beleaguered wardrobe has been absent both.

Let’s be honest here—he needs clothes about as badly as I don’t. If he were a little more fun to sew for, I’d just make them, but he’s wildly picky so anything I make (including this shirt) is a big risk.

However, for Father’s Day I couldn’t quite resist trying a slouchy, comfy, yet tux-inspired style using this pale rayon “denim”.

Since I was (justifiably) terrified of sewing pintucks in the wiggly denim, I took the added step of making a starch dip for the fabric that would become the front pieces. This was highly successful in turning it from something that draped and wiggled at the slightest touch, into something that felt and behaved not unlike paper. All you do is boil up a bit of cornstarch and water into a sauce (minus the usual flavourings), dilute, dip, and dry.

This would’ve worked very well for the pintuck topstitching, except that I wanted to sew them on my new-to-me Elna, which handles topstitching thread better than any of my other machines. However, I don’t have an adaptor to use my edgestitching feet with her, and getting high precision pintucks without precision feet is tricky for me. If your sewing skills are up to it, I salute you! Mine fall short. The resulting pintucks were very far from as neat and regular as I would’ve liked. I could only hope that once they were washed and slouch-ified all would be forgiven.

I was, however, dispirited, and a few other things that irked me about the pattern didn’t help: there was no separate back yoke, and the cuff placket was made with just a simple bias strip rather than a tower placket.

I realize these are stylistic decisions that probably say more about my own prejudices about a “proper shirt” than anything else. Regardless, my enthusiasm had distinctly waned, and there were other projects with more pressing deadlines.

So the whole thing languished for several weeks waiting on a hem and buttons because I just couldn’t stand it. But finally, just in time to be late for Father’s Day (and for no particular reason except that I didn’t have enough time for a serious project and had run out of other quick things I could tackle), I found the motivation to finish it off.

It really wasn’t much more work to finish the hem, and the laundering to remove the starch fortunately also left the tucks much softer, which I think makes the unevenness much less noticeable (and if you feel differently you can just… feel that way and not tell me about it. Same goes for the general wrinkliness.)

So anyway, at the end of the day I like it and I think it fulfills the vision I had in my head. Let’s just hope it also works for my husband.

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Bring on summer

This sundress was supposed to be done a LONG time ago—it was supposed to be the one project I kept out while everything else got packed up for the basement reno. That was back at the beginning of April when it was basically still winter. Unfortunately, packed up it did get, so things got delayed.

Anyway, the dress, (Butterick B6349) which felt very unseasonable when I started it, feels perfectly timely now!

However, I also thought it would be a quick, simple make. Surely that cute handkerchief hem indicated few and simple pattern pieces. It would be refreshingly quick to whip up in my soft, tie-dye-with-faint-woven-stripes cotton and delicious cotton-silk lining.

Well, geometrically they were simple. However, the main pattern pieces are all cut on the bias, and everything has to fit together with a quilt-like precision.

I didn’t help myself by deciding that my fine fabrics deserved the special treatment of French seams.

And I decided to change the hem border construction to double-layered to add heft and swish. Not a bad idea in my fabric of choice—but the way I went about constructing it was very far from the easiest it could’ve been, especially considering how soft and easily distorted the fabric was. I ended up topstitching with an embroidery stitch to make sure I caught all the backside of my double layer to hold it closed. A cute detail in the end but very far from the quick and simple I was going for.

Then there was the bit about the lining showing. See it in the photo above? Well, in the pattern instructions there was a mysterious band of outer fabric facing the outside of the lining hem. How odd, I thought. What a strange feature. I want things simple so I’ll skip that. Well, little did I realize that the lining actually SHOWS quite prominently at the sides. The handkerchief upper layer is knee-length in places but quite scandalously short at the sides. After some thinking I concluded that I actually love the depth and complexity the double-layer gives the design—but it definitely needs that hem band. So I had to back and add that in after the fact.

Considering how frustrating the actual make was, I’m pretty charmed by the dress. It’s another foray into tent-shapes, which I realize everyone else has figured out but I’m still a bit hesitant about. I did try taming it with a belt:

But I actually think it’s mainly at its best flowing free. In particular it’s relaxed enough that while I’m happy to wear it to the office, I think I’ll be equally happy to toss it on for a Sunday at home, which isn’t the case for much of my wardrobe.

So yeah. It’s fun. Cute. Easy to fit. (I made a straight size small). Just, not actually quick and simple. You’ve been warned

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(A)rum-ination

I didn’t really think the Deer and Doe Arum dress would be my first stab at a D&D pattern. I’ve been in love with their Fumeterre skirt since it first came out, among others, but I hadn’t really noticed Arum.

Until last winter when I went looking for a basic dress to teach a beginner garment-making type class at Periwinkle Quilting, the local shop where I’ve been getting to do some teaching this past year. I loved the slender silhouette and the simplicity seemed perfect for a one-day class.

And, having made it up, I think I was right, on that front at least.

I’m a little less at ease with my choice of fabric. It’s a muted greeny blue that I LOVE but combined with the simple cut it reads dangerously close to hospital gown, which is not helped by the fact that the fabric (a cotton-linen blend) really has a bit too much body for the design. But I’m a sucker for linen.

I added some lace motifs at the neck to hopefully distract from this.

I blended from a 38 in the upper body to a 40 at the hips, and did a swayback adjustment, which I think helps but it’s a bit hard to assess given the loose shape.

I have mixed feelings about the dolman sleeves. On the plus side they’re super simple and quick—on the minus I think they’re a bit low under the arm (duh, that’s how sleeves like this work). I might try playing around with raising them and adding a gusset in the future, but I didn’t want to go too far off the grid with a class sample.

Also did I mention it is SHORT? Ok, again in the pattern’s defense I did a one inch hem instead of 3/4″, so it might be slightly shorter than intended, and I am technically taller than most patterns are drafted for… but I rarely have to add length to skirts. It’s technically mini length, but because of the style of sleeves it comes up quite a lot when you raise your arms.

Maybe some lace around the bottom to add a wee bit of extra length… things I will think on later, after the class is done.

In the meantime I might have to try another. It was seriously quick and fun to put together.

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A farewell project

One of my final projects, taken out right before the news about our store closing dropped, was Butterick B6556, a newish pattern from Gertie. It’s a cute retro style and I loved the square neckline. And it was PERFECT for this linen-rayon blend border print.

I often struggle with gathered skirts on me, but pleats can be an ok substitute when you still want a straight edge to use with a border print.

It was fun to tackle a VERY limited amount of pattern matching—just at the center back of the bodice. I used the print upside down in the bodice so the flowers would trail down from the neckline; a bit more flower might’ve been nice though.

I ended up with a serviceable lapped zipper in the end, but it was a struggle. I should’ve interfaced the area to stabilize it—with the fabric cut on the cross-grain, it stretched out like crazy! And then there wasn’t enough fabric for the overlap I wanted, so I added a little facing piece to the upper edge. And THEN when I was topstitching somehow things got misaligned and the whole bottom half got stitched closed. Grr. Not aided by being in a hurry, of course. Hand-picking it might’ve been faster.

And yes, it has pockets!

Other than the zipper, there was not much drama. I made my “usual” size 10 bust and shoulders grading to size 12 at the waist. I did wind up fiddling with the dart tips a wee bit but that’s easy enough (and I think again had a lot to do with the vertical stretch from being cut on the cross-grain). My only fit change was a small swayback adjustment on the bodice only. I love the length as drafted (especially since it fit perfectly on my double-border-print fabric, so zero-waste skirt!)

The pleated skirt is too narrow to go over my crazy crinoline! I’m wearing it here with my “everyday petticoat”which is fine but not crazy exciting. Maybe I should have a “mid crazy” petticoat. Actually, I do but it’s black and a little bit longer, so not right for this dress. And I’m not inclined to find space to store another one!

All in all pretty excited by this dress. Perfect work dress for summer! Even while I’m very, very sad that my Fabricland projects will be coming to an end.

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