Saturday, November 23, 2013

Holiday Sewing Fantasies

When it gets around this time of year, I can't help fantasizing about all the elegant, festive, glitzy, shiny, sumptuous clothing I could sew in name of the holiday season (if I only had the time). There's something so enticing about the sewing possibilities at this time of year. I love thinking about different fabrics - lustrous velvets, crisp taffetas, brocades with metallic threads, sequins! - and all the beautiful things they could be made into - sleek cocktail dresses, froofy party skirts, jackets with fur collars. Aah! It's all too good!

I have to get it out of my system, where or not I have the opportunity to sew something up for the holidays. So here is a list of things I've been fantasizing about sewing lately.

A brocade coat with metallic accents and maybe a (faux) fur collar...

available on Etsy
Wouldn't that be perfect for wearing over a festive dress? You know, on my way to the ballet? No, I don't have tickets to the ballet, but if I had this coat I might buy some! The coat above is beautiful, but I think I'd go for a shorter jacket. I have McCalls 5668, which I think could be a relatively quick sew:

Ooh! It could have a gold belt buckle. Or gold piping on the princess seams! Or some sort of jewels sewn onto the collar.

Next fantasy (and one that has been in my mind for years) is to copy this skirt sported by Emma Watson in a  Teen Vogue photo shoot a long while back:

You can see more photos from that photo shoot here. Really, I'd like to copy any of those outfits. They check all the boxes on my holiday fantasy list.

Item 3 - a luxurious silk velvet robe to lounge around in.

This one is from a company called Soft Surroundings, but mine would be a short version because let's be honest - I can't afford that much yardage of silk velvet. This item is also practical, because I don't need tickets to a ballet or a fancy ball to get use of it. But I might need to wear lipstick while wearing it. Silk velvet deserves a little effort.

Item 4 is something quite attainable. I'd like to copy Kathy's twist tank in some sort of sparkly or shiny fabric:

The fabric on the right is Robert Kaufman "Radiance" cotton/silk sateen, and I bet it would do awesome for this pattern. It also comes in a wide array of colors. I could even choose a different fabric for the over and under layers! That would make it entirely reversible, right? Or maybe I could embroider a little beadwork at the bottom of the V neck? Gonna be thinking about that one for a while...

I could go on, but homework is calling. What would YOU like to be sewing this holiday season?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Simplicity 2177 à la Kaffe Fasset

I plowed ahead on my homework today, finished a paper, and actually snuck in some sewing time this evening! Since I'm feeling industrious, I thought I'd go ahead and share what I'm working on. After finishing my sister's wedding dress in August, I treated myself to a fabric purchase at Crimson Tate in Indianapolis. It's a cute little store that stocks a mix of quilting and apparel fabrics. Sometime I will have to go take some pictures of what they've got to share with you. Anyway, I walked out of the store with this:

It's a Kaffe Fassett print called "Roman stripes" and the colorway is called "dusk." You can buy it online from Hawthorne Threads here. Careful when you click that link! I find all the different color options dangerously appealing.

I didn't have a project in mind when I bought this, but when I went through my collection I knew it would have to end up as Simplicity 2177, which is made for stripes.

I bought this pattern a while back after seeing the Slapdash Seamstress post this inspiration photo of a J. Crew dress, which is a pretty excellent match for this pattern:

Here is her post on her own make. I've had the photo pinned for quite a while, and the dress is no longer available through the J. Crew website. One thing that I think makes the Simplicity pattern superior to the J. Crew dress is the dart placement on the bodice. You can kinda see on the left side of the J. Crew dress that the dart cuts across the stripes, creating an awkward offset in pattern. The darts on the Simplicity pattern are in the center and point from the triangle inset in the direction of the stripes, so it minimizes the offset that happens. (Or at least it seems that way to me.)

Actually, at first I thought I didn't want darts on the front at all, so I went through a bunch of effort to convert them to gathers. I didn't follow a tutorial, so I'm not sure this is the proper way to do this, but here's what I did. First I closed the dart, transferring the dart to the armhole...

Then I closed up the armhole and transferred the excess back to the front again, only this time in many small slashes...

Then I filled in the space between the slashes and marked a gather on the spot. I hope that makes sense! If there's a nice tutorial out there for this process, lemme know. After all that work, I didn't even like the way the gathers looked, so I ended up going with the original design. I guess I was thinking that gathers were the best method for not interrupting the striped pattern, but maybe the angularity of a dart goes well with the lines of stripes?

I'm glad I made a muslin, because I ended up making several pattern adjustments. I had to get rid of some gaping at the back neckline by transferring the excess to the dart at the waist. I also had to take in a little gaping at the front armhole, transferring that excess to the bodice dart. It was my first time trying both these alterations and it worked great. What else.... oh. I had some tightness in the back. This was a weird one, because I had to slash and spread, but that combined with the back neckline alteration was really messing with my head. My darts in back are now pretty big, but the fit is good, so I'm going with it. I love it when you go through all that geometric tinkering with a pattern and then it actually WORKS. Amazing. I'm actually sitting in the couch in my muslin of the dress right now, and it's feeling pretty comfy. It's good to wear your muslin around the house for a while. It's really the only way to tell if you've gotten a good fit. For instance, at first I thought this dress was a little long and that I should maybe take a few inches off the hem. But then while sitting at the sewing machine I noticed that it rides up quite a bit when I sit down. Makes sense, since it's gotta curve over my booty when I'm seated. So I'm leaving the length alone.

I'm underlining the dress in cotton batiste, because it's rather thin material. Tonight I finished attaching the underlining to the main fabric.

At first I considered hand sewing the two together, since it's easy for the fabric layers to slip around when doing this part. But instead I just put my walking foot on my machine and went for it. It worked just fine - I didn't even pin a lot of the edges. I guess all that money I shelled out for my walking foot was worth it. Maybe I'll use it more often. You can't see it in this photo, but I sewed strips of organza around the armholes and the back neckline of the bodice so that these areas won't stretch out. I didn't bother doing this for the neckline, since it's not cut on the bias. Is that reckless? Instead, I just used a short stitch length to attach the underlining to the main fabric, and I'm hoping that this stay stitching is enough.

Here's the front of my bodice sewn up:

Isn't it so prettyyyy? I love the colors in this fabric. They are like autumnal jewel tones. I showed Josh, and he was not such a fan. He asked me if I ever considered sewing with solids. SOLIDS. As if. He wasn't a fan of my birthday dress fabric either. He said the zigzags looked kinda 80s. Clearly, there is a discrepancy between his tastes and mine. Is my style too loud? Outdated? I know I'm not riding the front end of the trends, but I think this striped dress is gonna be awesome. What do you think?

Can you imagine what he would have said if I had chosen one of the other prints by Kaffe Fassett?

Love 'em. Maybe I'll have to go back and buy another couple yards of one of those...

Friday, November 15, 2013

Better late than never

Where does the time go? It's pretty disconcerting how easily the months slide by lately, but I'm trying not to worry about it. I started a new graduate program this fall, and although I've been careful to take time for certain crucial activities...
apple pickin
homemade apple fritters (thanks to Josh)

Live music at Lotus Fest (Dhaka Brakha - they are amazing!)

running/hiking when the leaves were at their peak
 ...I haven't been doing as much sewing. But I do have a finished project to share! Way back at the beginning of summer, I blogged my plans to sew a birthday dress from this cute Burdastyle sweetheart dress pattern:

In this fabric:

Well it did eventually happen, but not in time for my birthday. It did happen in time for a fancy night at the museum where I intern, however, which was equally satisfying.

I love how this dress turned out! This project feels like a huge win because I don't think I could ever buy something similar in the store - it simply wouldn't fit. The ratios of my measurements don't exist in off-the-rack clothing, at least not that I've ever found. Earlier this year I searched in vain for a career-wear sheath dress that could handle my shape, but everything that fits me in the waist and bust is far too small in the hips. If I didn't know how to sew, I'd be restricted to A-line skirts. If I didn't know how to sew, I'd still be thinking that my body shape was the problem, instead of seeing that ready-to-wear clothing uses standardized measurements when no single body is standard. Sewing is awesome, and wearing this dress makes me feel like a million bucks.

I got so pumped about this dress, I whipped out my gorilla pod and the self-timer and took about a zillion pictures of myself as I was leaving the museum that night.

Just missed the sunset, unfortunately. But the lighting in the stairwell to the parking garage was pretty dramatic...

I ended up extending the side panels on the bodice all the way down the skirt. I guess I should have just stuck with my original plan to use Colette's Lily pattern. There were a couple problems with using the zigzag print for the entire skirt. First, it was a little overwhelming when stretched over the widest part of my body:

A little much, right? Second, there was this:

I swear I matched the pattern before I cut... but obviously something went wrong. Putting in the black side panels took care of both of these problems, and also allowed me to get a really good fit by creating princess seams. I'd still like to try this pattern with the original skirt (which has pleats and is less fitted) - just maybe in a solid or a a print that doesn't have loud, horizontal zigzag stripes.

I'd say more about the construction of this dress, but the insides aren't much to brag about. I pinked a lot of the seams. I suppose that's pretty lazy, but with this fabric (stretch sateen) I think it works. I did add a little pocket which I quite like:

It's basically an in-seam pocket at the waist, and I made it just big enough to hold a library card. In case, ya know, I decide to wear this dress to hang out at our public library.

I used two different materials for the facings because the main fabrics are so contrasting. This way, if the facing pokes out a little it won't be blatantly obvious (which it would be if it were all black or all white). I remember that figuring out how to attach this cut this facing, piece it together, and attach it to the bodice made my head hurt, a lot. Ever staring at it now is making me confused. Hopefully I won't have to do this again soon.

Thanks timestamp, for reminding me just what a procrastinator I am. On the other hand, it makes it easy to aim for improvement! All I have to do is post my next project before April!

See ya soon! (I hope!)