Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Sporty Summer Sewalong - Claire Befriends Swimwear!

Watch out viewers. I'm posting pictures of myself in swimwear for the first time on this blog. Just keep in mind, this is for SCIENCE.

This bikini represents an epic sewing feat for me on so many levels, or else I might not have posted photos of myself so scantily clad. First of all, this swimsuit is a year in the making! Last year I attempted swimwear for the first time when Heather Lou put out her beautiful bombshell swimsuit pattern.

I was so hopeful about that pattern working for me, especially after seeing so many beautiful versions made by other seamstresses. But I didn't know how to use my serger very well at the time and the results were rather sad. I shelved the bombshell for that summer, but the longing to sew some perfect swimwear stayed in the back of my brain until this summer rolled around... along with Karen's Sporty Summer Sewalong!

The sewalong was a nice nudge to get me going on finally making the swimsuit I'd been envisioning for a year - one in a pretty floral print, slightly vintage look, and full bum coverage. The cheeky look is alright for some, but I'm more comfortable with both cheeks hugged by some granny-panties style bottoms. (Also, can we stop using the term granny-panties and think of something better?) For a while there I thought I would just buy one, but suits that cover your rear are few and far between, especially in a two piece. And when I did find some possibilities they were sold out in all the larger sizes. Am I just getting too old for two pieces? Should I give up just let my butt hang out?

NO. I will make it myself. And I did. It took me four tries. But it was totally worth it.

I find it terribly awkward to pose for photos when I'm fully clothed, much less nearly naked, but holding a ukulele helps.

The bottoms I made by chopping up some old unders and making a pattern.

I cut the elastic off the edges so that the fabric would lie flat. Then I traced it and added some seam allowances. This did not work nearly so well as you might think it would. Maybe it's because spandex is less stretchy than jersey? That must be the case, because when I sewed this up in my swim fabric it was definitely too small. So I tweaked the pattern, sewed it up again, tweaked the pattern, sewed it up again...

After several renditions, I finally got something that covered ALL my bum. And even though there are some things I think I still might change on future versions, I'm very happy with how these turned out.

Actually, having to make several pairs of bottoms was a great learning experience. I was much better at working with the spandex by round three or four, especially after viewing this awesome video from BrianSews:

Also, sewing the top was a breeze compared to the bottoms. I used Butterick 3264 which has been in my stash for a few years.

Aside from adjusting the cups a little for a smaller bust, I didn't have to change a thing on this, although I did eliminate the closures in back. After messing around so much with the bottoms, it was thrilling to get a near perfect fit first time around on the top.

Do I almost look like I know what I'm doing with this ukulele? The only other prop we could come up with were fun noodles. But there's not a lot of ways to hold a fun noodle without compromising my blog even more.

I'd love to share some construction photos and things I learned, but I will save that for another post as I have to quickly submit this in time for the sewalong deadline! In parting I would just like to say that sewing swimwear is hard, but it does get much, much easier with a little practice, and it's totally worth it!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Fabricmart v. Claire, Round Two

I could only hold off for so long, guys. I thought I was over my compulsion to shop the Fabricmart sales. But then I was browsing through the review gallery on Sewing.PatternReview, and saw THIS:

Tanya sewed up a beautiful pencil skirt out of the same rose print pique that I had been eyeing for... a pencil skirt.

and it's still available here!
I really admire Tanya's sewing (she blogs at Mrs. Hughes), so once I saw the awesome skirt she made it didn't take long for me to go online and buy some for myself. I also purchased a few other things because I had to make the most of my "welcome" 20% off coupon and the flat rate shipping. You know how it goes. Some of the things I had my eye on before seemed to be gone, or else they no longer held my interest. So I ended up with this instead:

It's a rayon ponte knit (still available here). Lately I've been getting a lot better with my serger, and I really want to start sewing with knits. Ponte seems like a good starting point, since it's sturdier and (I've heard) fairly easy to work with. I've also heard that some people don't like ponte, because it often contains a lot of polyester. This one didn't have any poly in the content, however, so into my cart it went.

And finally, I also purchased a little of plain ol' black jersey knit, also rayon. I want to try this raglan T from Burdastyle...

... only with a bra, because the above look just wouldn't fly at the office.

That's all for now! Now to stop looking at fabric and starting photographing some makes. I have a lot to show!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Resisting the Urge

Oh boy, I need some moral support to help me resist buying fabric this week! I'm in a tough situation and highly susceptible to temptation right now! Here's the problem:

1. I'm covering shifts at a job where there's lots of time to browse the internet.

2. I have a penchant for browsing the "Fabrics and more..." message board over at Sewing.PatternReview...

3. Through said message board, I discovered mega sales over at Fabricmart:

4. I just got a new job (starting next week) which gives me a real grown-up salary!

5. This job requires business casual attire, of which I have very little, which is a good way to justify buying fabric.

Can you see why this is a recipe for disaster!!?? Yesterday I only browsed, then resisted. TODAY I ended up with things in my cart and my bank card out, then resisted again. Phew. It was a close one though. And I only just got done talking with a coworker about trying to limit my fabric stash! I need an outlet for my fabric fantasies and frustrations, so I'm foisting it on you guys. Maybe if I show you all the things I'm thinking about buying I will purge myself of the need to actually buy them.

First off, we have some "mint slubbed rayon suiting." I'm not sure what exactly to expect from this, but I like the sound of it and it's only $1.99 a yard. I KNOW.

This could make a really nice sheath dress and matching summery jacket for, oh, $10 or less. Resist! But if I didn't resist, I'd probably use McCall's 6460 (which I have in my stash) and make the short sleeve raglan version:

And then use McCall's 5668 for the jacket (another stash pattern):

Then there's this stretch cotton pique in a beautiful rose print:

If I got my hands on this, I'd probably make a pencil skirt. I recently made Colette Patterns' Lily as a skirt (blog post coming as soon as I take photos), and I'm eager to make another, and another, and another...

Fabricmart also has a whole bunch of cotton/silk voile from J. Crew, and I could sure use a basic white blouse...

And I was also drawn in by this striped shirting, which could make a really cute button-up to pair with the navy pencil skirt I just finished:

You can bet I'd play around with some diagonal striped patch pockets or peplum or something.

I do feel a little better now that I've gotten all that off my chest. I'm going to keep on resisting. For today at least. What are you resisting lately?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Visiting old friends - McCalls 3562

Have you ever held an idea for a sewing project in your head for so long that when it comes time to sit down and sew it, you're no longer inspired?

I was going to make up this cute late 60s dress in navy with a contrasting yoke in white, maybe with some gold buttons to give it a jaunty sailor vibe. My mom gave me some lovely linen from NY Fashion Center for my birthday last summer, and the pattern and fabric have been dancing around together in my head for the past year.

But when it came time to put the two together, I wasn't feelin it any more. The hot Indiana summer is on its way, and when I sifted through my pattern stash and came across this one, I decided to shift my plans:

This is the same pattern I made a maxi dress from several years back...

Despite looking a little preggers in that photo, I love this dress to pieces. I don't even care about all its beginner-sewist flaws, like the fact that my straps are different widths where they cross over the shoulders and that the hem is uneven and poorly finished with some sorta weird stiff hem tape. I don't notice any of those problems when I wear it. All I notice is how lovely and swishy the rayon challis feels. I feel like a pretty pretty princess. A pretty pretty comfortable princess, since it is also loose and flowing - perfect for a hot Indiana summer. Isn't it nice to know that the sewing flaws we brood over sometimes don't matter at all in the finished project?

So I decided to make up this pattern again (in the shorter version this time), using my navy for the main body and the white for the contrast straps.

I love how it turned out! Also, if you tie the straps in front, you won't cause consternation in people who can't tell if you're expecting or not! (Although I could definitely still carry a basketball around under this dress if necessary.) Also, check out how vibrant and green Indiana looks in that photo. I haven't messed with the colors at all. C'mon Mom and Dad - don't you think you'd like to try Indiana out just a little?

Moving on, I traced off this pattern again in the shorter length because I have a feeling I'm going to want more of these. First of all, it's a super simple sew. One pattern piece for the front, one for the back, and a couple for the straps. No closures. Easy peasy. Second of all, it's the perfect dress to throw on when the weather is hot and you can't be bothered with anything finicky or clingy.

This dress also makes me feel like a pretty pretty princess - a low-maintenance princess who frequents farmers markets and likes berry picking. The lace helps. It is leftover from my sister's wedding dress, and I think it was the perfect finishing touch.

I sewed it on like a facing flipped to the outside, which made for a very easy hem finish. Here's the deets:

1. Cut two strips of lace of equal width and long enough to go around your hem when pieced together (unless you're able to cut one very long strip equal to your hem circumference).

2. Put your strips right sides together and serge or zigzag along one short end.

3. Press your seam allowance to one side. Turn your dress inside out and lay the right side of your long lace strip against the wrong side of your hem. Pin all the way around until you figure out how long you need your lace strip. If possible, make sure the seams on your lace fall somewhere inconspicuous, like at the side seams, and not at the center front - like I did. Whoops.

4. Mark the point where the lace ends meet. Serge or zigzag this short end together, and cut off the excess.

5. Finish pinning the lace to the hem, and then serge or zigzag all the way around the hemline, joining the lace and skirt fabric.

6. Press the lace to the right side of the garment. You probably want to use a press cloth like I did, or you might melt your lace (as I have done in the past). Try a test swatch first before putting any heat on it.

7. If your lace is shifty like mine, measure and pin the top edge so that it maintains an equal width all the way around your hem. Then you can either put a basting stitch in to hold everything in place or just charge right ahead and secure the top edge with a zigzag stitch. I used a basting stitch first, and I'm glad I did.

And that's all there is to it! Almost not worthy of a tutorial. I really like the result though - I'm always meaning to put more effort into embellishing my makes. I think I'm going to use this technique again, maybe to hem some shorts or the sleeves on a shirt.

Other things I did with this dress - I changed the back neckline to a V, partially because I thought it would look nice and partially because it allowed me to cut down past a weird bubble I had created in my French seams. This dress is all about embracing imperfections.

The neckline facing (which is on the outside and turns into the straps) is just kinda sandwiched inside of that center back seam. Not proper technique, I know, but who's gonna criticize me? I top-stitched the bottom edge of the facing to keep it secured against the bodice of the dress.

Also, I should mention that I cut the fabric on the bias for this dress. It's the first time I've dealt with a bias cut dress, and this is a nice and easy starter pattern for doing it. The pattern doesn't say to do this, but I thought it couldn't hurt.

I let the pattern pieces hang on my dress form for a day (maybe two?) so that they could stretch out. It created some weird puckers around the armhole where I had put in stay stitching.

You can kinda see the puckering in the photo above. I ended up pulling out the stay stitches to get rid of this, and I'm still not really clear on the rules of bias sewing. You're supposed to let the garment hang to stretch out, but what about areas that you don't typically want to stretch out? I read some forums on Pattern Review that say to let your garment pieces stretch out, then lay them down again with the pattern paper on top and trim off areas where they grew. That seems like a big hassle. I also read that some people recommend cutting your pieces with extra wide seam allowances, so that if they stretch vertically you don't loose too much width. That seems like an even bigger hassle. In the end, I put my stay stitching back in after I let the pieces stretch. I used twill tape or organza strips to stabilize the neck and armholes against further stretching. I hope my methods work, but only time will tell.

As for the bias affecting the drape of the dress - I'm not sure if it helped or not. Even though this is handkerchief linen and very lightweight, it's not particularly drapey, so maybe the bias cut helped a little. I definitely wouldn't make this dress in anything less drapey or much heavier - it's best suited to fabrics like the challis I used on the maxi version. But I think the linen works, especially for the short version.

Nothing else to report on this one, so I'll leave you with this glamour shot:

Haha! That's how I work it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Finished Project - Vogue 1387

The semester is finally over! I'm taking a deep breath before plunging into a summer of job applications, so I feel like I can finally take a moment to share some finished projects with you.

This is Vogue 1387, my triumphant success after the fitting failure of Simplicity 8399. Through that failed project and this successful one I've learned a lot about fit - particularly about upper backs and sleeves. After throwing Simplicity 8399 away in disgust (and I never just throw patterns away), I debated whether to go for another classic blouse pattern or something a little different. I settled on Vogue 1387, view B (on the right below).

I love both views of this pattern, because I don't usually like the way I look in traditional shirts, unlike this classy looking lady:

I don't know why I can't rock this, but I think it's something about the collar. Too much clutter around my face? Too menswear-y? So I latched onto view B of Vogue 1387 as offering a different take on the classic shirt. The placket angles away from the face to create a sort of v-neck effect, which I really like. There isn't really a collar, only a collar stand. And the curved yoke and little pleats are neat details that make it more feminine. Nothing menswear-y about this! Especially not when made up in a flowery voile. (This is Anna Marie Horner lou lou thi, that I got on clearance from fabric.com a long while back.)

This is only the second Vogue pattern I've sewn, but I'm on my way to being an ardent fan. I love the detailed instructions and the nice details and finishes. I really tried to follow the instructions to the letter on this one, instead of winging things in my usual manner. And while the details on this blouse might be rather fiddly for some people's taste (especially all those little tucks on the front), I really enjoyed being meticulous and slow on this project.

Here's a closeup view of the yoke and the decorative bias strips:

A tad wrinkly from the wash. Note to self: remove garment from delicate garment bag before placing in dryer.
I used French seams all over the place - the shoulder seams, the side seams, the armholes. The below view is the blouse inside out, which I think looks pretty dang good (aside from the wrinkles).

I even hand-sewed all the snaps on, as directed, although I missed the bit about sewing the decorative "x" over each snap.

You might notice that I didn't stress about pattern matching at all on this. I'm very frugal with my fabric. Since I had three yards of this, I wanted to have enough left over for a second project. So I fit all my pattern pieces on the smallest yardage possible and I cut my yoke facings and bias strips from a thrifted shirt in a coordinating color.

I love finding nice quality fabrics in thrifted clothing and then incorporating them into garments this way. It's much cheaper than buying small yardages of nice fabrics online (although maybe not as convenient - you take what you can get when you're thrifting).

sleeve hemmed with bias strips and invisible hand-stitch finish
I also opted for short sleeves, and I finished them with bias binding. I was originally going to fold the binding to the inside and stitch it down, but it was looking so pretty that I decided to leave it visible. The length of the sleeves is maybe a bit long. I might shorten them an inch or two if I make this blouse again.
As for fit alterations, here's some of my notes...

I'm a 36"-29"-44", for reference. I cut a size 14 with some modifications after doing a muslin. I curved in the side seams, which are drafted to be straight (if I remember correctly). I raised the armhole a half inch, to allow more movement. That meant changing the sleeve cap a little to adjust for the lost length of the armhole seam, and that's what the little chart at the bottom of my notes is for. Also learning from my previous blouse, I widened the upper back, although I forgot to note this is my little book. Getting the fit right in back is tough for me. Widening the upper back makes the lower back blousier, where I really don't need the extra room. I don't mind for this shirt too much. It'll just have to be casual and breezy. But if I want a more tailored look I think I'll have to go for a pattern with princess seams.

I also made some extensive changes to the sleeves in order to get the range of movement I like. I hate feeling restricted in my clothing, and after all the messing around I did with that last blouse pattern, I think I identified both the problem and solution for my sleeve fitting issues. In the photo below, the pencil line is the seam line for the original pattern. The pink line is my new, roomier seam line. If you think of this seam line as a hill, a steeper slope makes for more restrictive movement because the sleeve will hold your arm in closer to your body. The more gradual slope of the sleeve I drafted adds in extra fabric to the sleeve where it joins the body of the shirt, allowing your arms more room to lift and move around. Of course, that extra fabric will form some extra folds or wrinkles when your arms are hanging at your sides, but that doesn't bother me.

The length of the sleeve seam where it joins the armhole of the garment stays the same for this alteration, which is why the seam line extends out to the sides on my pattern piece above - making little "wings." If I didn't extend those wings out, the armhole would shrink, and I don't want a smaller armhole. Hope that all makes sense. And I'm happy to report that all those alterations were successful! I can reach objects on high shelves without feeling like I'm about to bust a seam!

Overall, I'm quite proud of how this turned out, from fit to finishing. This pattern gets an A+ from me, and I'm excited to try my next Vogue pattern.