Friday, April 18, 2014

Spring Fever and Prom Thoughts

My mom was over for dinner a few weeks ago and asked what I was sewing.
"Nothing. I'm not allowed to sew until I wrap up our taxes." [Imagine my frownie face.]
"But there's no creativity in taxes!" She said.
"EXACTLY!"  I was so relieved, thinking at least my mom understands my pain.
She smiled. "That's what you would tell me when I asked you to clean your room...'But Mom, there's no creativity in cleaning'"
Hmmm, not much has changed.  Well, my desire for clean spaces has improved, at least.

It kills me not to sew!  I'm a little lost without a sewing project.  Good news for my addiction: my daughter needs a prom dress!

We actually looked at some RTW dresses, but she was mostly disappointed.  So much so, she didn't even try one on.  After all, it is her last year of high school, and we would both regret it if the poor thing had to wear a store-bought dress.  Within minutes, she gave me her ideas.  Of course they're red carpet dresses.  No bling like the typical prom dress, and she doesn't want any added.  I do think a dress is more versatile without a lot of fluff and bedazzling, though.

Idea #1: 2011 Academy Awards, Jennifer Lawrence in Calvin Klein

Idea #2: 2014 Golden Globes, Julia Louis Dreyfus in Narciso Rodriquez
After getting her dad's input (he has more fashion sense than I), she decided on the Jennifer Lawrence.  It is available on Rent the Runway -- believe it's $300, but I think I can do it much cheaper than $300.  In fact, I'm happy to make it.  "It will save us a couple hundred dollars, after all".  I will just have to set this boring paperwork off to the side for a few days (or weeks)...

No patterns exactly like it, but I did find a similar Vogue, that I immediately bought and re-sketched with the scoop neckline and teardrop back and ordered red jersey.  

Then she changed her mind.  She wants the other one.

That's fine, there is a Simplicity pattern that is very similar to the Narciso Rodriguez, which will inflict less pain than re-drafting something.  It is slightly different, in that it has princess seams instead of a bias cut and a sweetheart neckline.  I really prefer the fitting advantages of princess seams, and re-drafting a neckline shouldn't be an issue.  Getting that tight mermaid look while still allowing her to walk may be an issue, however.

Hers will be in a red crepe, instead of orange.  We toyed with the idea of dying silk, but decided to go with a "sure thing."  I'd feel awful if it came out pink, or freckled or ombre.

The fitting is complete, so I'm hoping to cut out the dress and wrap it up in the next few days.  Prom is a week from tomorrow, and we are hosting dinner (in my sewing/dining room), so no room for last minute sewing!

It's a little sad thinking that this is the last prom dress.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Simplicity 2153 - Tweaked

As intended, sur le safari
The "wearable muslin" of S2153 that I gave my daughter has seen a lot of wear, but still looks great.  She loves it, and it really does suit her.  It works as a shirt, or a light jacket, depending on the weather.  I had nearly given up on making one for myself, as I just couldn't find fabric suitable for my intentions.  Honestly, I don't think I knew what I wanted.  

...Until I came across this wool twill while looking for coating, and fell in love with it.  Many colors are woven together: blacks, browns, white, even some blue and a little rust.  The overall effect is a heathered greenish-brown.  I was shocked to find something I liked so much in a local chain store.  On sale!  

It has a bit of spandex or lycra in it, and is probably better suited for a pair of trousers, but I didn't need wool pants.  Or maybe I do:  I considered buying an extra 3 yards, or the rest of the bolt.  I regret that I did not.  It's a lovely wool.  Soft, great drape, great color.  This is such a comfortable jacket!  
The photos make the fabric look browner -- it's actually more green.

My version of 2153 included the following changes:
1. Sized down.  The wearable muslin was a 14, with no alterations, and it was a bit on the baggy side from the waist up, even though that's where my high bust measurement placed me.  I started with a 12, but after a few more adjustments, I was nearly down to an 8 in the shoulders.  I still have plenty of room.  
2. Swayback alteration: took an inch out of the middle lower back (horizontally). 
3. Narrow shoulders: removed about 3/4" from the center back neck, as part of truing the swayback adjustment.
4. Drafted a lining and neck facing; expanded the front facing.  
Can still seem my chalk marks in the photo!

6. Zipper pockets: moved the pockets that I added in the first version to the front facing, behind double welts.
There's zippers in them thar welts!
7. Widened the waist casing, and included loosely gathered 3/4" elastic, as well as leather drawstrings.  Personally, I think this is more comfortable than just a thin drawstring.
8. Raised the armscyes 3/8", narrowed the sleeve to match, and tapered down to a size 8 at the cuff.
9. Added more interfacing than the pattern suggested: behind the pockets and zipper and in the collar.  This was to bolster the wool.  The cotton twill of the original version didn't require it.  Looking at my finished version, I should have included even more interfacing in a few other places.
10. Added the pocket flaps as in my first version.  
11. Created a pleat in the center back to control the gathering.  
Pleat in center back

This is a simple pattern, with not-so-complicated changes, but I was riddled with anxiety (from non-sewing issues) while sewing, resulting in a comedy of errors throughout the project.  Because I ripped out more than a few seams, the project took me more than a month to complete.  There were even a few instances when I thought the whole project was a loss.  

Error example #1: Collar was cut too small and installed unevenly.  And I didn't realize it was off kilter, until AFTER clipping AND trimming the seam allowances AND understitching!  How would I ever restitch this with clipped and trimmed seam allowances?  I saved it by making a tissue copy of the facing and collar patterns, pinning them to their fabric counterparts, and aligning the restored "seam allowances" for sewing.  The tissue ripped out fairly easily after the seams were resewn.  I could have cut a new collar to a larger size, but I decided to leave it as-is.  I'm still not convinced I made the right decision.
It's fine with a scarf, but I do wish I'd re-cut a larger collar.

Error example #2: Sewed the sleeve tabs to the sleeves before I put the lining in.  Didn't realize it until I thought I was completely finished and wondered what was moving around inside the sleeve lining.  Easy save - open the sleeve lining, remove the tab, close the lining, sew it back in place.  Not really a fatal error, but just an example of one of my many boneheaded sewing mistakes.  There were several.

Error example #3 (and the most painful): lost control of the seam ripper, running it into the facing and ripped a nasty hole in the fabric.  AT THE VERY END OF THE PROJECT.  After mulling this one over in my head several times, and deciding I didn't want to re-do the entire project, I just used some fray check, some hand-darning and covered it with a lovely hand-embroidered "S".  It's not great looking, but it is on the inside.

So my biggest lesson learned from this project was: FOCUS MATTERS.  If I'm thinking about something other than what's in front of me, come back to it later.  Thinking about my idiot brother while trying to attach a pocket flap is going to result in a misaligned, ugly pocket flap that I'm just going to have to rip out anyway.   Obsessing about my daughter's scholarship applications while I try to sew a lining together will most likely result in the wrong side of the front sewn to the right side of the back.  Yep, just set it aside and have a glass of wine instead -- it will actually be more productive, since I would have saved myself the time of ripping out and resewing.
Wearing it with my Vogue 1378

I am taking a short timeout from sewing to focus on our tax documents.  After that, I hope to have some boucle selected for another cardigan...hope I can keep my mind on taxes!  

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Winter Coats: A Removable (Warm) Lining

Winter seems endless.  While awaiting the long overdue thaw, my fixation with winter coats has accelerated.  However, I haven't found a pattern or a fabric that makes me happy (yet).  

This is the one I covet.  Yes, I know it's a man's coat, but my stylist daughter and I have decided it that it would look fine on a girl, or at least easily adaptable to my form.  The recent Sherlock episodes have definitely fed my obsession with coats.  And tweed.

Back to real life.  To prevent my daughter from swiping my old pea coat, I found a newer doppelganger on eBay for her.  It was advertised as "excellent" condition, and lo and behold, it really does look completely new (but the shoulders are straight out of the late 80's/early 90's).  This one is red, which suits her even better than the navy. 

Unfortunately,  it did not have the extra warm lining that mine did, only thin acetate.  My assumption that it was lined to warm in even frigid conditions -- since I was purchasing it from an Alaskan -- was clearly wrong.  No worries, I sewed a removable quilted lining.

It's a pretty simple design. I made a rub-off, by copying the princess seams of the coat, and decreasing the height of the neckline.  The hemline is about an inch higher than the jacket's hemline.  I suppose I could have done a zip out lining, but that would have involved deconstructing the jacket and lining, and I really didn't see a need for that.  I used buttons on the side facings, and big snaps around the neckline to attach it to the jacket.    

Buttons secure the lining to the facing.
The lining is a quilted padded lining from New York Fashion Center fabrics.  It comes in several colors, but their red clashed with our red, so we went with navy.  I think it looks quite classic, and almost as if it is original.  It was a bit pricey, but I only needed 1 yard to make this.  The back was unfinished, which would be fine if you were sewing this into a jacket.  Since I assumed that this would be removed fairly often, I enclosed the entire lining, by sewing a flannel shell to the back.

Funny, I just realized that I spent more on the lining than I did on the coat!
No idea how this snow appeared in my picture.  I need to learn more about Picasa!

If she ever takes the coat off long enough for me to work on it, I will continue weatherproofing by adding wrist ribbing in the sleeves.  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Vogue 1378 or my "Next Generation" pants

This is the closest I will ever get to a Star Fleet uniform, and I love them! They were fun and easy to sew, and fit me perfectly without any alterations whatsoever. 
Vogue 1378, view B
I do not have the proportions that are flattered by wearing leggings or skinny jeans, but the flare at the hem gave me hope that this style would work for me, and I'm generally satisfied with the result.
Need to adjust my camera -- not sure why it's so grainy.
Unfortunately, the pictures are all rather grainy, and the black fabric doesn't help show the fun details.  Outdoor photos would be better, but the weather hasn't been cooperative.
Opening on outside of leg results in a bit of a flare.
Top stitching detail is even more pronounced here.
These slacks can be dressed up or worn with a casual top (I'm wearing it with a long sleeved yoga pullover & moccasins today, all super comfortable).  I will definitely make at least one more pair, maybe six.  

I used a heavy ponte (poly/rayon/spandex) from Hancock's that comes only in black.  The weight is perfect, and it seems to have more stretch than the ponte fabric in other colors.  I would love to find it in chocolate brown or charcoal or maybe even an olive drab.  No need for a serger, although the two seams that were not lapped, I sewed with a slight zig-zag.

My only gripe with the pattern is that there were no measurements for the finished garment, and no markings for where body landmarks were expected to fall (other than the 1" below waist at the top).  I spent more time fiddling with the tissue, trying to figure out what size to make than I actually spent sewing them.  I finally gave up, and went with Shams' method of going down two sizes from what Vogue's size chart indicated for my body measurements.  I think it worked out fine for me -- any larger, and the pants would bag.  However, if the fabric had any less stretch, I may have to increase some areas.
My attempt to estimate the measurements failed...lucky for me, the pants fit perfectly.

Since there are no side seams, I was worried about how I would handle it if they did not fit.  Luckily, I didn't have to worry about alterations, other than making the elastic at the waist a few inches shorter.  I cut 2" off the bottom when I hemmed, as the pants were a bit to long for my 5'5" frame (I rarely wear heels).

Lapped & Top stitched Seams

Trimming the seam edges gave me some grief.  Nearly ever seam is lapped, and top stitched at least twice per seam, then fabric is trimmed close to the stitching.  My hand was just not steady enough to cut perfectly, but the black hides most of those issues.  The crazy piecing ends up making some nice design lines in the finished product.
One leg stitched and trimmed before sewing the inseam.