Saturday, May 18, 2013

Fitting the birthday dress...

I'm here today to talk about my birthday suit!

No, not birthday suit... birthday dress!

Closer, although I do not expect my birthday to be quite so elegant. But before I talk about my birthday sewing schemes, it's time to highlight another fellow blogger I admire. Today it's Cathy from Treadling in Benin.

Cathy works for the Peace Corp as an art teacher, and she is documenting her sewing projects made on a vintage treadle machine. I am in awe of how quickly she plows through projects and makes it work - often with limited resources and of course with only a treadle sewing machine. Super inspiring! It makes me feel guilty for not getting my own treadle machine up and running. She also does interesting posts on sewing professionals in Benin, and I find it really cool to see how sewing is done in another part of the world. Check her out!

On to the birthday stuff. Remember this fabric?

It's a stretch cotton sateen and an impulse purchase from, necessary for meeting that $35 mark and getting free shipping. Ohhh how dangerous the temptation of free shipping can be. But I have no regrets. The print I think is even prettier than the photos on the website indicated. I looove it. When I clicked "buy" I thought it would make some great shorts or a skirt, but before long I was dreaming of a special dress for my birthday instead. Separates are practical, but I want to make it into something fun.

My inspiration, at first, was this Betsy Johnson dress which I thought I could rip off by modifying Colette Patterns Lily.

But looking at all those seam lines on Lily, I realized it would be a nightmare for matching up my zig-zaggy print. Also, Lilly doesn't have the sweetheart neckline that I covet. Enter Burdastyle 04/2013 #116. (Why can't they just give their patterns a simple number code?)

dress pattern on

Ahhhhh! Isn't it adorable on that model? She looks like it's her birthday. I love this pattern. I love the neckline, and that the straps are incorporated into the bodice. I like that the skirt doesn't require pattern matching except in back. Using a ribbon belt means I won't have to worry about pattern matching between the bodice and skirt. And if I use contrasting black panels for the sides of the bodice, ala Dixie DIY and her adorable Elisalex dress...

check it out
... then I won't have to pattern match there either. Can you sense I'm terrified of pattern matching? Well, I am.

Being a smart cookie, I decided to make a muslin. I had read Kathy's review of the pattern here.

She had issues with the straps being spaced too wide. And since I am scheming to make a pair of shorts or a skirt with the leftover zig-zag fabric once this dress is done, there's no room for error. So muslin I did.

First off, Burda messed up on a few of the pattern pieces. Stuff just didn't line up right when I went to tape everything together. See?

PDF patterns can be a pain. PDF patterns that don't line up properly... even bigger pain. After taking a lot of measurements, I decided that the center front line on both the front and back bodice pieces was misplaced on two of the pages. I moved it inward as indicated by the pink arrows:

After that, everything sewed up just fine. Here's my muslin of the bodice:

Blurry photo. Sorreee. Also, my belly button. Also, doesn't this muslin match my shorts well? I cut up a pair of stretch jeans from Goodwill to make this. I hate wasting a lot of money on muslin fabric. The jeans were cheap and expendable. Hopefully the stretch factor is comparable to the fabric I will be using. Anyway, I cut a straight size 40 for this muslin. I am around a 36.5" in the bust, and somewhere around 31" in the waist. Maybe I could have gone down a size, given the stretch material. But I decided to alter the size 40 instead. I pinched out some from the center front, as you can see. I also concur with Kathy about the straps - I decided mine need to come in a little. Here's the back...

See, the straps could come in towards the center a little in back as well. Also, maybe I ought to take a little off the bodice length? It's hard to tell without having a skirt attached, but I didn't have the fabric to muslin up the skirt too. Or the patience, for that matter.

Here's how I altered my pattern pieces. Trimmed off some from the center of the front bodice piece...

Angled the top of this pattern piece in a little (about 3/8") where I want the strap to move over. The new stitching line is indicated by the blue arrow and that strip of paper is what I removed...

I angled the pattern piece for the bodice sides in a little. The original pattern piece is underneath in the photo below and I'm tracing a new line on top, indicated by the blue arrow again.

I had to shift the whole strap over too. This photo doesn't demonstrate too well, but the pink arrow is pointing to the old strap lines. I tilted the pattern piece a little towards the center of the body so I could trace new lines.

You can kinda see the difference in the photo below. New strap is on top, old strap is on bottom. It's a pretty small adjustment. Hopefully it does the job.

And I repeated this same process with the back bodice side piece, bringing the strap a little more toward the center but keeping it the same overall width.

And of course then I had to shave a little off of the center back piece, which I forgot to photograph. I hope this makes sense. Pattern alterations are so tricksy.

I'm excited to start on the real deal! Just have to wait for that black contrasting fabric to arrive. Oh hurry up UPS....

Sunday, May 12, 2013

McCalls 6550

I have a finished project to share! But first, I'm gonna keep my promise (since I just made it today) and share a blog I find inspiring. I just discovered it today...

Jolies bobines is written in French, and Google translate only gets me so far, but the pictures say a thousand words. Check out these lovely makes...

...and those are just what's on the front page of her blog right now. Impressive, no? I particularly like the dress in the center, because it's a color combo I probably wouldn't think of and I think it looks great. I foresee some time lost surfing her archives in the near future.

Now, on to a project I finished a while back...

The pattern is McCalls 6550, a vintage pattern from the 70s.

I should have graded this one up a size, but instead I just added some length and a little extra at the side seams. Next time, though, I will do it properly. I think the fit would be slightly nicer if there were some extra fabric gathered at the front yoke/shoulder/whatever you call that area. As is, it pulls across the bust a little. I don't think it's too noticeable, but I think to stay true to the design of this top it should fit a little looser. Despite that, I consider this one a success, and I've already gotten a lot of wear out of it. I can definitely see myself making more of these as it doesn't require a lot of fabric (I only used 1 yard), it's a great lightweight summer top, and it layers easily.

I put a lot of little blue buttons down the front. It was a lot of buttonholes, and my sewing machine doesn't like buttonholes so much. In fact, whenever I have to do buttonholes I contemplate buying a new machine. Someday... I didn't put in the casing for the waist tie, but I did stitch up a tie to wear with the top. Mostly I've worn it without...

Cool plants, huh? I took these photos with Josh at the greenhouse on campus. I thought the greenery was a good accompaniment to the fabric, which is a voile from Amy Butler's "Soul Blossoms" collection.

Check out the pretty orchids! I liked these little cement pools of water plants. They even had fish.

back view
Want to see some more plants?

It was very inspiring to wander around the greenhouse while thinking about sewing. There are so many interesting patterns and shapes and textures in a greenhouse. If I ran Project Runway (don't get me started) I would definitely have a greenhouse challenge. Just think if they were to design prints here, or do a challenge where they had to play with shapes. I would loooove to see what they came up with.

Do you draw inspiration from nature when you sew?

Takin care of Liebster Business

I just typed my blog name into my web browser's address bar, and it didn't autofill for me because it has been so long since I last visited here that all the cookies have long since been cleared and Google Chrome no longer recognizes as a familiar place. SAD. Oh well. I don't feel too guilty because blogging isn't homework. Or is it....?

On my blogging "to do" list is responding to the kind people who have recognized errantpear recently with a little blogging award called the Liebster. Thank you Hazel! Thank you Claire! Hey waaaaait another Claire? I already knew I had Seemane Claire to compete with. Now I see there's Turtle Claire as well. As they are both across the sea, I don't I have anything to worry about.... yet. Just kidding. The more Claires the merrier! And I'm very pleased that my little, inconsistent, often poorly photographed posts have gathered some attention. Here's the rules of the Liebster award as summarized by Hazel:

  • Nominees must link back to the blogger who awarded them (check)
  • Write 11 random facts about yourself
  • Answer 11 questions asked by the blogger who nominated you
  • Nominate 11 new blogs and ask them 11 new questions
So now for the homework.


1. When I was 18 I wanted to go to college for either archaeology or technical theater (set design etc). That is why I ended up at Boston University, the only school I found that had both departments (this was before I knew archaeology is usually nested inside anthropology departments).
2. I'm trying to grow out my bangs.
3. I have had coffee grounds embedded in the wrinkles of the fingers on my right hand for years from being a barista.
4. I own rollerskates.
5. I dislocated my knee doing lunges.
6. My garden is gonna burst with strawberries any day and I'm gonna make them into jam and it's gonna be delicious.
7. I like camping.
8. I named my cat Pidgin because we wanted to name him after an animal, but if you abbreviated Pigeon it's "Pig" and we didn't like that.
9. I had peanut butter and jelly for breakfast.
10. I'm hungry again.



1. What is your favourite project that you've made?  (sewing, knitting etc.)
This is hard! I think my favorite might have to be my Minoru, because I put so much time into it and really made it my own. But I've worn my maxi dress twice in the last two weeks (now that it's maxi dress weather) and I love it too. I think the colors are beautiful. Whenever I wear it I find myself just staring at my lap.

2. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I used to want to travel all over the world, but now I just want to be able to see my family on a regular basis. Anywhere in the United States is cool by me. For our next adventure we're thinking... Seattle?

3. Online fabric shopping: yes or no?
Yes! What other option is there for us people who don't live in LA or NY... or a couple of those other lucky places with access to nice fabric stores.

4. What essentials could you not leave your house without?
Chapshtick. My house keys (although I often do). Gear for whatever the weather is doing, because people who leave the house without checkin the weather are noobs to life.

5. Who are your fantasy dinner party guests?
Tim Gunn. Bertie Wooster and Jeeves. Ms. Marple and Hercule Poiret. Michelle Obama. Steven Colbert. Maggie Smith. Paul Simon.

6. What inspires you to craft?
The need for clothes. Seriously, since I started sewing I've become incredibly snobbish about store-bought clothes. As a result, I don't go shopping much and my wardrobe has been steadily dwindling because I don't sew fast enough to fill the gaps that form. So my inspiration lately has been based on things I need and that I'm stubbornly resisting buying.

Also greenhouses. More on that to follow.

7. What is your most visited website?  (Facebook/Twitter not allowed!)
After my feedly, probably Burdastyle. But I feel like there's not really much to see there lately.

8. What are the top 5 most played songs in your iTunes/Music library?
...................I haven't used those in a while. I am sadly music deprived, and my iPod has been broken for a year.

9. What is the background on your desktop/phone home screen?
a flower image I stole from Urban Rustic (I love her photos)

10. What is your favourite TV programme?
GAME OF THRONES very obsessed

11. Do you prefer working stretch or woven fabrics?
Wovens. My serger scares me.

Claire's inquiries...

1. Who, or what, is your biggest inspiration?
I don't really gather inspiration the way real artists do, but I gather crafty inspiration from all the sewing bloggers out there and the lovely things they make. My sewing is much more practical than "inspired by", but I do love to see new techniques and creative endeavors by other bloggers. I could never choose just one. They are all awesome.

2. Why did you start blogging?
To win a giveaway! For real, I wanted to win something off of Grosgrain. Go back and read my first post and you'll see. I don't read Kathleen's blog anymore because I feel like it became more and more commercialized and advertised and a dumping ground for pinterest inspiration and less and less about her own creativity and beautiful makes. Oh well.

3. What is your favourite pattern (sewn or not)?
Well, the only pattern I've made twice are my Simplicity 1887 shorts (oncetwice,), which I like a lot. I have a lot more sewing to do before I find my true love though.

4. What is your best sewing tip?
I'm pretty proud of this little tutorial I worked out. It might not be the expert approach to doing a neckline slit, but I quite like how mine turned out.

5. Do you avoid a pattern because of a certain feature e.g., buttonholes?
Not yet... but there are things that scare me - finishing curved edges being a big one.

6. Name one thing that is on your bucket list.
I'd like to see the Hagia Sophia.

7. Your worst sewing experience
Oh geez. I've probably blocked it from memory. Maybe it was dealing with the silk that stretched out on my mom's robe. That was pretty hellish.

8. Cats or dogs?
Both! Can't it be both? Are we so inflexible? Here is my cat doing a pull-up on the window sill.

9. To trace or not to trace (a pattern)?
I've been tracing lately. It's a pain, but I think it pays off. I trace onto heavier tracing paper which is nicer to use. And since it's a tracing I'm not hesitant to make alterations because I'll still have the original.

10. Would you apply to be on The Great British Sewing Bee?
Mmmmmmm no. There's no way I could produce under those time constraints. I would be a hot mess.

Homework done! Okay, not quite. I know I'm supposed to nominate a whole bunch of other blogs to continue on the tradition and invent homework for them to do. But to be honest, I'm not really interested in carrying on this tradition. For one, most of the blogs I follow have already received this award at some point. Two, I feel like the more this award gets passed along the more the prestige attached to it gets diluted. Three, if you're like me you're happy to get the award and stressed out with every day that goes by without you following all the protocol that goes with it. So no thanks. Instead, to keep the spirit of the Liebster award alive (which is honoring small blogs) I will attempt to briefly highlight someone else's blog on the beginning of each new post I make. From now until whenever I don't feel like it anymore. Cuz blogs ain't homework. At least not this one!