Saturday, August 20, 2011

McCall's 3562 finished

I'm done pouting about my maxi dress now, so here's some photos!

We took these as the sun was going down, so the color is a little intense! Thanks hubby for snapping these. I don't know if this dress will put me on the cover of Burdastyle, but I'm very happy with the outcome anyway. It's made of rayon challis (I think) that I got off eBay. I'm not a big fan of jersey for dresses, so I thought rayon would be a good substitute. I really like the way it drapes. I think it's perfect for this pattern. But it was difficult to work with. It has a sort of flexibility that made cutting the pattern pieces difficult. It's not slippery per se, but it will shift and still lay flat, even though the grain isn't lined up. I think a large cutting table would make working with this fabric much easier. I don't have one, and I had to move my cutting mat and fabric halfway through cutting the pattern pieces (these pattern pieces are looong). As a result, things were often not lined up perfectly and sometimes I wouldn't notice. One of the long facing pieces ended up a good inch narrower than the others because of this. By that point in the process I was too lazy to recut it, which is silly, because it gave me a lot of grief when I went to sew the facings/bands onto the dress. Oh well. Another sewing lesson learned.

I like this pattern. There aren't many pieces to cut, the directions are simple, there's no zippers or other closures, and it probably would fit a wide variety of body types without need for special adjustments. I have very wide hips relative to my bust and waist size, but with the loose cut it didn't matter. I used the size that fit my bust. One thing I did take issue with were the instructions for attaching the facings/bands/whatever you want to call ems. The instructions have you sew the bands right sides together and turn it inside out to create a tube. The next step reads,

"Starting at left front, lap and edge-stitch lower edge of band to line of stitching at neck edge, having right sides up, matching centers and shoulder seams, continuing to stitch lower edge of right band to left band as illustrated."

I suppose this would work, but you would end up with an unfinished edge around the neckline. It would be hidden behind the band, but still, I would know it was there. Also, what's to keep the band from folding back and showing that edge? If the band is only sewn on at the bottom edge, couldn't it potentially flop over? I thought so, so I invented a different (but not necessarily better) way. I sewed the tube like the directions instructed, but I left one side open just for the length where it connected to the neckline. Then I treated the band like a bias binding, following Tasia's method described here: bias binding for Pendrell blouse (you have to scroll down a little). This worked okay, but it got a little messy where the band criss crosses in front. I kinda just had to poke and prod it and make it work. I really can't explain it better than that. I top-stitched the band down along its top edge, and then I did a catch stitch from the inside to hold the bottom edge of the band down against the dress. The outcome looks just fine. I don't think anyone would notice that it's a little funky in the construction. But I think there must be a better way. In retrospect, I think the best solution would be to put a bias tape binding along the raw edge of the neckline and then follow the original instructions for attaching the band. That would probably give a nice, neat finish.

I thought I would attempt to match my fabric's pattern for this dress, but I gave up on that pretty quickly. With the shifty-ness of the rayon, it was too difficult to get a real match. So I compromised by being discerning about the placement of the pieces, but not militant. For example, I didn't want the big purple flower on the front to get cut off by the center front seam, and I didn't want to end up with mirror images of the print on either side of the front. With just a little thought, I got the pattern to look random, and I think the front center seam is barely noticeable. I also avoided having two big flowers smack dab over the chest area (that would look awkward). I was really pleased with the result, and I think doing these little adjustments is a nice compromise when matching the pattern exactly is just too difficult.

One thing (besides the bands) that I realllly struggled with was hemming. With the dress so long, I just couldn't find a practical way to do it on my own. It also didn't help that I cut the pattern pieces uneven on the bottom. It's a bad habit that I persist in doing. I assume I'll want the dress a little longer than the pattern, but I don't bother to measure and do it neatly, so I just hack it off at a safe length and then have a terrible time trying to even it out later. I think this especially is difficult with a maxi dress or any other garment that is so long. Does anyone out there have a tried and true method?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Sewing Stardom (Envy)

What's the mark of an accomplished home seamstress/seamster? Someone who can proudly wear their garments in public? Someone whose garments are mistaken for store bought? Someone who takes satisfaction from their work and is equally motivated by their successes and failures?

All that is nice, but I have another,  more shallow ambition. I wanna be on the cover of the sewing Rolling Stone - aka I want people browsing the front page to see my garment and marvel at it's loveliness, read all the details, check to see my other creations. Being chosen as a featured member project would be nice. Project of the week would be even better.

I'm very aware that receiving those honors has little to do with sewing skill. Project photos usually don't show the details. There could be some really shoddy construction going on, and no one would know. What really matters is that the fit is decent and that you know how to take a good photo. But I don't care. I want my project up there so I can feel like I got a little pat on the back or a gold star. It's petty and silly, but there you have it! (P.S. I'm sure many of the garments that are chosen for these honors do come from talented people - it's just there are other factors at play as well).

I recently completed my maxi dress from McCall's 3562 and a rayon (challis?) that I bought off eBay:

I was really hopeful that this dress might be the one to propel me into Burda fame. I've been day dreaming about the photos, how perfect it all will be, the praise that will be showered upon me. And then... I saw this!

Maxi dress by gemmafloyd - geez, why does it have to be so pretty and elegant?

Oh what a cruel world it is. A beautiful maxi dress, in similar colors and style to mine, just got chosen as the project of the week. I definitely yelled when I saw this. And then tore my hair. And later pondered how maybe this is an unhealthy obsession. You'd think I spend all my time huddled over my laptop or sewing machine, eying the competition and muttering as I sew.* But anyway.... my dress doesn't stand a chance. I'm sure variety is somewhere on that list that Burda people use to choose projects to highlight. Two (very similar) maxi dresses in a row? Not gonna happen. I'm retreating to my sewing lair to plot my next move.

*somewhat accurate

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Box of Vintage Patterns

Whenever I read about another blogger stumbling upon a bunch of vintage sewing patterns at their Goodwill, or at a garage sale, or in a dumpster, or whatever, I always wonder to myself, "Where the heck do you live? Why are vintage patterns dropping from the sky in your town?" Then I wonder if I should move, because my town lacks this abundance of cheap, vintage sewing patterns as well as a decent fabric store. Then I sometimes pout a little and ruminate over how life isn't fair.

Ha! Someone else can pout now, cuz check out what I found on Craig's List:

My very own box of vintage pattern treasures. And - bonus! -  most of them are roughly my size. Granted, I did have to bike up a hill, have an awkward interaction with a stranger, fork out $25, and then RID THE BOX OF SILVERFISH to get these, but I think it was worth it. Maybe.

Silverfish? They're these fast-moving gross little bugs that remind me of the thing that crawls into Keanu Reeves belly button in The Matrix. I'm not going to post a picture here because that would defile my pretty blog. Anyway, I already had the box in my house and was happily rummaging through it when I discovered the infestation inside. I had to take the box outside and go through one pattern at a time, sometimes flinging a pattern across the porch when a silverfish leaped out at me and sometimes smashing wildly with a paper towel til the little bug was dead. I threw the original box away, and hopefully if there are any more bugs hiding out inside the pattern envelopes they will stay there til I work up the courage to take inventory of the pattern pieces.

I regret giving the guy $25 for a box of bugs, but it doesn't seem right to bargain when someone is liquidating their (possibly deceased) parents' assets. Also, the bugs didn't appear til I got home. Oh well. As you might guess, these patterns aren't in the best condition. I can only imagine where they've been stored all this time. The envelopes are pretty beat up, but it looks like the patterns themselves might be fine, just aged. That's my hope at least. So should we take inventory?

Click on the picture and zoom in to get a closer look at individual patterns
So that's 40 patterns from mostly the 1950s and 1960s. Maybe a few from the 1940s? And this doesn't include about 20 men's and children's patterns. Maybe I'll get those photographed later. Now, what do I do with all these? I'm not a hoarder, so they can't just stay around the house. There are a few I'd like to keep or copy, like the shawl collar jacket in the fourth row (fifth in), the dress on the far right of the fourth row, and the top on the first row (second in). The rest I'll part with, but how? Sell them on Etsy? That's a possibility. Trade for other patterns? I like that idea. Or... perhaps my seamstress friend would take some in exchange for sewing lessons. Hey little sis (if you're reading), any of these strike your fancy?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New House!

I've got a lot to blaggy blog about, but not all sewing-related. If you are just here for the sewing, you might wanna skip ahead. I'm gonna do this in installments because 1) I might be too lazy to do it all tonight, and 2) what if you don't wanna read about my new house? Well, then you can wait for the next post. Really, I don't know why I'm so accommodating to my expansive (make-believe) following of sewing enthusiasts. You all are really so demanding.

So, house? Here it is!

hubby finally has a place to smoke his pipe
The lovely (and giant) hibiscus in the top photos are gifts from my mom-in-law. She visited soon after we moved in and was a huge help getting a set up. Aren't they beautiful? Every day new blooms open and old ones die. It's kinda fun to go check on them in the morning to see what they're up to. The interior of the house isn't quite photo worthy yet, except for the lovely sun room. Except, now that I look at it, that's not a very sunny picture. I'll do better later. Whatever. This isn't an interior design blog, after all.

This house has so much space that we don't know what to do with it all. So we're only using a few of the rooms so far. The screened-in porch is also a big hit, especially now that the nights are a little cooler. We had a thunderstorm the other night, and it was awesome to observe it from the porch - until it got really intense and started to hail.

We also have space to garden (pics of that later), plus an Asian pear tree in the backyard and a peach tree in the front. Leigh has already made delicious things out of the peaches. They are on their way out for the year, and the other day I saw this squirrel devour the last one...

He ate it all in a few minutes. I'm pretty sure he regretted it later. That's a lotta peach for one squirrel.

And in other non-sewing news, hubby and I had our three year anniversary a few days ago. We were both lacking in ideas or time to do anything super fancy, but we did go out to a nice restaurant we hadn't tried yet...

ate delicious desserts at home...


and decided we'll keep it going with the marriage thing, because so far, so good! Oh, and he got me flowers - beautiful flowers that are sitting next to me now.

Tomorrow: Sewing adventures! A completed dress! A box full of vintage patterns (and silverfish)!

You'll just have to wait.