The thoughts, sewing projects, and fabric oglings of a dedicated sewist.

Wedding Dress to Biker Jacket Refashion

12/16/15
Whew. Now this was a Project, capital P and all. This was one of those projects that feels a bit like climbing a mountain or running a marathon. For a long time, you can't quite see where the finish line is and you have to stop thinking about it or you'll get too frustrated. One foot in front of another is the way to go. And even when you can start to see the finish line, it takes a long while longer to actually cross it - like the peak of a mountain can seem much closer than it actually is. But when you arrive? When the last stitch is sewn? Ahh, you are rewarded with such a sense of accomplishment. I need the quickie-jersey-top-done-in-two-hour projects as much as the next sewist, but I glow for days when I finish one of these challenges (and because I'm a little bit crazy, this one was a twofer).


If you have been reading my blog for a couple of years you know that back in 2013 I sewed a wedding dress for client K. And if you don't know than you can back track and read about it here. And since I love to show off pictures of it, here it is it all it's glory:




A year after the wedding, K brought the dress back so it could be shortened to cocktail length. 


A year later after that, K had me use the remaining bits and pieces along with leather to create the jacket using Style Arc's Jett Biker pattern. I think this will be the end of the line, since there are very few pieces left (I had to piece together the front panels as I didn't have anything big enough - the lace pretty well hides the seam). The leftover scraps from the dress and three lamb skins (from GorgeousFabrics.com - still in stock) fit in a quart size ziploc bag.

What made this such a challenge? Let me tell you!


It started with a muslin so that I could check fit and practice some of the steps. The fit was perfect out of the box and I'm close enough in size to my client that it fit me, too (bonus!). This is where easy ended.


The sheer number of pattern pieces was part of the challenge here. Each sleeve alone was comprised of five pieces (although the lining only had three). If I'm counting correctly, the outer layer was made up of 19 pieces while the lining involved another 15. Then I decided that everything needed to be underlined (I used twill for K's jacket because it needed a lot more body and cotton batiste for mine) so for each jacket I had to cut out 53 pieces of fabric. I just added that up right now (106 total!) and I'm no longer surprised that it took me two full days just to cut and mark all those pieces!

Trying to cram as many pieces as possible onto one of the skins.

I decided to go full couture so I hand-basted the underlining to the main fabric. I have no idea how long this took me, except that I watched a season of Broadchurch and a few Miss Fisher's Mysteries while I worked my way through the 27 pieces that needed be be underlined (the leather pieces I basted with glue, so they went quickly). My eyes and fingers were sore by the end.

At this point the meticulous side of my personality was in full reign so I decided that every seam needed to be top stitched with a double strand of thread, so each seam was sewn three times.



You can't even see the second set of top stitching but I know it's there.

The construction process was tricky, but luckily The Clothing Engineer has sewn this pattern and provided guidance through her own blog and on Style Arc's website (see links). If you ever get stuck on a StyleArc pattern, check to see if TCE has help for you. The lovely thing about Style Arc patterns is that once you know what to do, everything comes together neatly because the patterns are so well drafted.  The only change I made was to add a hidden pocket in the inside, since the jacket has no pockets and I was afraid that adding them on the outside would mess with the very fitted design.

I'm such a bad blogger that I didn't take very many pictures of my client's jacket - my giddiness fogged my mind. But I have some of the one I made myself. The are almost the same in terms of main/contrast fabric. 












I used a stretch cotton matellasse for the black parts and a wool suiting for the black/light pink parts, both from GorgeousFabrics.com (sorry, both out-of-stock). I have worn my jacket almost every day since I finished and my client seemed equally pleased with hers. Oh, and those jeans I'm wearing? They are the Angela Woolf Angel Boot Cut jeans I made last spring - they've gotten tons of wear this fall, too!

Next up I've got some Christmas sewing to finish before I tackle my next big project, a winter coat. And I have another wedding dress order, so I have more mountains to climb in the new year! What about you? I'd love to hear about your latest sewing accomplishment (and feel free to post links to said accomplishment in the comments).


Happy Halloween!

10/31/15

My husband and I started using those pumpkin stencil booklets that you can buy at the grocery store a few years ago, and we got hooked. At first we just did fancy carvings for our own pumpkins, and the traditional circles and triangles for the girls, but of course the girls started to want the fancy ones, too. They don't have the patience to do them on their own, but they can help (and we are secretly happy when they lose interest and we get to take over).

We learned how to do the surface scraping thing this year and that opens up a whole new set of possibilities!

Belly choose a skeleton hand with cocktail glass -
I'm sure that says something terrible about us as parents!

Mooper's cat

Devon wanted the Eddie face but had to settle for this one.

Pumpkin family!

I drew my own stencil this year because I couldn't quite find a Day of the Dead stencil that had all the elements I wanted.

You can download it here, but you will likely need to scale up.

Back in August, Belly received face paints and a couple of face paint books for her birthday. This turned out to actually be a gift for me, since I love following steps (color-by-number sets were always my favorite as a kid). Mooper tried out two different designs for her fairy look (with skirt by me - see? I slipped some sewing in here after all!):




And Devon and I made up something together for Belly's zombie:


We had a fantastic day carving pumpkins and trick-or-treating. Hope your day was as sweet as ours!

Pattern Review: StyleArc Antoinette Pant

10/19/15
I hate to start anything with an apology, but I must say that these photos are not my best work. But if I wait until I can find another 15 minutes to re-take the photos (you know, when light/weather/time all join together to create opportunity), this won't get posted for another month. So you all will just have to live with sub par details and chopped off heads (my expression in a few of these was borderline insane, as in, you all would be sending emails to my husband asking if I'm okay),

So the Style Arc Antoinette is the second pair of trousers I've made for myself but the first I've blogged about. I made jeans back in the spring that I absolutely love and one of these days I'll get around to taking photos that do them justice. The jeans were a breeze to fit (I love you, Angela Wolf Angel Bootcut pattern!), but these required some work. After sewing up the first muslin I almost stopped as I wasn't sure they could be made to look good on me. The best way to describe the look is if you imagine a combination of clown + jockey. Unfortunately, these pictures don't quite capture how ridiculous I looked (go figure, the photos that were supposed to look bad don't look as bad as I felt wearing them).



 Muslin #1 was too big in the waist, hips, and thighs, but too tight around the calves (I couldn't squat without straining stitches).

When I sewed these up I suddenly realized just how impossible it would be to fit them without the help of a friend, so my sewing buddy Nancy and I found a way to trade fitting (knit top for her and these pants for me). Nancy pinned out the side seams, inseams, and center front seam. I then cut a second pair where I also added width to the calf (no tapering at the knee) and about 1" in length. Muslin #2 made me think that I just might like these enough to sew with real fabric:


At this stage, I couldn't tell if the bits I didn't like were due to the fabric (this muslin seemed to grow every time I put it on) or due to the style, but I felt confident enough to cut into this spring-weight Japanese twill I had purchased in a Gorgeous Fabrics' sale.

I'm not 100% sure, but I think I like them!



Please excuse those wrinkles you see across the top of my butt.
Those were caused by a too-long cami. I will hem that cami now
that I have seen how the excess fabric pools across my butt.
I did end up taking the side seams in a bit more from waist to knee. I added another 1.5" to the length, and then used a hem facing to keep almost all of it. If I make these again, I may also slash and overlap under the butt (my husband has requested that I made them more "fitted" next time, but since Style Arc describes these trousers as slouchy, I'm not sure that's a good idea.) I really enjoyed making the pleated pockets and the Style Arc diagram was quite good in explaining how they worked.

For those into sewing geekery, here are the changes I made to the pattern pieces:



I serged the seams, bound the facing edge with Rayon bias tape that I acquired from somewhere (periodically I get handed a bunch of sewing supplies from someone's grandmother's stash), and used wide black quilt binding to face the hems.




The only construction problem I encountered was with attaching and turning the waist facing. There is so much bulk where the pleat and pocket fold overlap that the waist does not want to lay flat in that area, and the facing wants to peek out. For the moment, I tried tacking down the facing in a few places under the pocket fold, but it's not a great fix. I have some red wool crepe I've been hoarding, waiting for the right pattern to come along. I might make another pair with the wool, but I want to figure out the bulk problem first. I also might save the red crepe for Style Arc's Sammi Pants.

So that's the story of this make. I searched high and low for other reviews of this pattern before I started and the only review I found was from Sophie at AdaSpragg.com. She made her version up with a silk charmeuse, so the look is different. I hope this review helps anyone else out there who is considering this pattern!


More cami wrinkles . . .

PHOTO SHOOT OUTTAKE
Here's a terrible photo that makes me think of The Blair Witch Project. After watching that movie, I slept with a bottle of Tilex next to my bed for a week (so that I could squirt bad guys in the eyes from a safe distance), mainly because of the person-in-a-corner scene.


Embracing Mistakes

9/14/15
Greetings! How are things in your part of the world? Fall is creeping in here, although the cicadas are still chirping so summer doesn't quite feel over yet. I love this time of the year, when change is all around us. I'll share one of my favorite poems in a few weeks when Autumn is truly here, but for now I'm enjoying being in in between the two best seasons.

I have a group class starting up this afternoon (machine sewing for kids age 9+) and that has me thinking about all the things I want to teach kids outside of threading a machine, the importance of pressing, and why seam allowance matters. You know, those aspects of sewing that go beyond the basic skills, things like being patient instead of rushing, and challenging yourself to go beyond "good enough" (clip those threads! press those seams! be proud not sloppy!). I think the most important of these extra skills is learning to embrace mistakes.

There is nothing more satisfying the finding your way around a mistake. Of course, getting something right the first time is exhilarating while failing after effort can be deeply frustrating. But rising up above failure? I think we remember those moments more than those of instant success.

Last week I wanted to do a quick project after finishing my Bombshell, which was a skill-stretcher. Angela Wolf's Ruched T-shirt pattern arrived in the last box I received from Wawak (so mad/glad they sell her patterns). I ordered this one after reading a couple of reviews on PatternReview.com and because I had such success with her Angel Bootcut jeans. And this did not disappoint - it fit perfectly almost out of the box. For my first make, I wanted to do the version without a cowl (I've already chosen my fabric for one with). I was a little concerned about the neck binding - it didn't feel right, at least not with the fabric I had chosen. I went ahead and followed the directions and this is what I got:

Ugh. Definitely not attractive! Homemade, anyone?

I walked away from the project for a couple of hours to see what I could think up. I unpicked the coverstitch from the neckline, turned the binding completely to the inside and stitched again. This was better, but because the binding was wide, it kept wanting to flip up and peek out. I thought about unpicking again and reducing the width of the binding, and I also thought about doing a second set with the coverstitch. But the more I stared at it, the more I actually liked how it peeked out. I decided to press the neckline so that it peeked evenly, then stitched over the top row of coverstitch with my regular machine. And this is how it turned out:


So satisfying! I like the added interest at the neckline and I like that it's a bit more scooped (hello little piece of my tattoo!). I actually like this so much that I plan to do it again on purpose.

I went into this project wanting an easy, quick project to clear my head after something challenging. I'm so glad I didn't get my wish! I don't mean to say with this post that mistakes and failures always lead to something wonderful. Sometimes we can't figure it out, sometimes it can't be fixed, and sometimes we don't have the skill level (yet) to go beyond. But sometimes when we take a deep breath and try to be curious instead of mad, we find something good.

How about you? When have you saved a mistake?


Boom!

9/9/15
Yep, that's the sound of my Bombshell bathing suit, or at least it's the sound I made out of excitement when I was all finished!

So this is officially my second adventure in swimsuit sewing, but I'm pretty sure the first one didn't get blogged about because I never wore it due to it being better suited to someone with a torso about four inches shorter than mine. Not a good look.

But this suit? I feel fantastic in it! I wore it for about an hour around the house just because I could after sewing the last stitches.


And it's a good thing I did because the next week, when we actually went to the beach, I had to dress like this:



Okay, I do realize that my 5-year-old was fine in shorts and a t-shirt but she runs hot. It was 64 degrees out! I needed a sweatshirt.

I have wanted to make the Closet Case Bombshell for over a year, but second-guessed my choice because I wasn't sure it would suit me (and instead made the 4-inches-too-short suit. Good call.). I bought the pattern back in June but managed to procrastinate the work all summer. Karen's Made Up challenge got me to tracing, and cutting, and all the rest. I love books (I was a reading teacher in a former life) and I lived in England for nine years, so the National Literacy Trust is something I can fully support.

I used the lining as a muslin and took it in by increasing the seams allowance to 5/8" at the side seam. Luckily, I tried just a 3/8" for the real deal and that was plenty. I don't know if my main fabric had less stretch, or just all the layers and ruching made it tighter, but it was perfect as it was. No other fit adjustments were made. The only struggle I had during construction was that my regular sewing machine completely refused to sew zig-zag stitches in the rubber elastic around the legs and neck. I tried stretch needles, universal needles, ballpoint needles and even a Microtex sharp, but I had skipped stitches every time. I finally ended up attaching the rubber elastic with my serger and then topstitching with a straight stitch. I'd like to play with this some more when I make this suit again, as I think the neck will want to roll out without the zig-zag.


I love the back of this suit - all that ruching is super flattering on everyone.

I purchased the fabric last summer from Girl Charlee. I was on swim team when I was a kid, and my favorite swim team suit was a navy/white swirly print. I loved that suit, because everyone ended up with crazy tan lines since somehow the white part of the suit didn't really block the sun. It was like having a henna tattoo all over your body. This suit is black/gray/white, but the print pattern is close enough to call up the memory.

My only disappointment was that even after adding bra pads and a shelf bra to the inside, I am still not a B-cup in this suit. I know that it's probably asking too much for a swim suit to give me the same lift as my best bra, but who can blame a girl for dreaming?


Looking forward to seeing all the Made Up projects tomorrow!

Old School Rickrack

7/28/15
So wikipedia just informed me that rickrack's popularity peaked in the 1970's. I'm sure my mom stitched it onto the clothes that she sewed me, although I have no physical evidence of this. Our living room at the time was on trend (avocado and vitamin pee yellow dominated the color scheme) so I'm sure she was hip to rickrack.

Hi! Yes, it's me! I started a new job at the beginning of March that messed with my blogging schedule and just generally turned my life upside down for a while. I had to choose between sewing and writing/reading about sewing, and I went with the former. I'm probably only writing this post because I'm on vacation this week (kids are with grandma, D and I are home alone . . .). But if feels good to write something more substantial about sewing instead of sporadically posting photos on Instagram.

If I do manage to blog about sewing again I have some fun projects to show. I made jeans for starters! And another Style Arc Marni jacket and some tops and other random things. But this post is about a skirt.

I've had a version of this skirt in my head for about three years. I wanted a flared skirt to replace a simple flared skirt that was damaged by some zinc oxide and never really recovered. I found an Alexander Henry quilting cotton that was a good reverse of the original skirt (that one was black with beige/white embroidery). But I felt like something was missing so it never got made up. This spring I worked on a skirt for a client and I found the inspiration I needed: rickrack! The skirt needed rickrack!


I drafted this skirt using the By Hand London quarter circle skirt tutorial (genius! circle skirts math simplified, with an app no less). I used the waistband from my skirt sloper, then measured the bottom edge of the waistband and used that as my waist circumference for the circle skirt. Well, this is what I did after I cut it out too small the first time. For the hem band, I rather haphazardly cut out and edge using the bottom edge of my circle skirt as a guide. I inserted black rickrack between the waistband and skirt, and skirt and hem band:





And I made the extra effort of using a hem facing, and I really like how this turned out (and it made hemming the circle skirt edge easier to do):


I lined the skirt with cotton poplin and inserted an invisible zipper through the center back seam (the only seam in the circle skirt!) and I was done. I'm glad I waited, because this is exactly what I wanted. I like how the skirt bells away from my body due to the crispness of the cotton, and I like that the embellishment makes it look just that bit fancier (if rickrack counts as fancy).




I hope all of you are having a fabulous summer with lots of fun sewing projects and plenty of summer cocktails!

Activewear for the Win! McCall's 7026

2/27/15
Hey folks! February sometimes does bring good news along with all it's never-ending snow and cold (and more and more cold with all the staying indoors with bouncy children that it brings. Mama's going a little crazy.)

I love entering sewing competitions. They help me meet a deadline, tackle a challenge, and do creative problem solving. I've never actually won any of the competitions . . . until now! I placed second in Pattern Review's Activewear Contest and won $75 to Mood Fabrics for my trouble (hello, new Mood Bag!).

You can see all the contestants here and the winners here. I really want to sew Fehr Trade's Surf to Summit Top after seeing the 1st place project by feldmanTcat and the beautiful color combo she chose.

What did I make? McCall's 7026 jacket that has been in my stash for a relatively short period of time (6 months). I found the fabric at Fishman's Fabrics in Chicago when I was looking for navy taffeta for another project (yes, I know, knits are nowhere near the taffeta. Got to be thorough when looking for the right color.).

I was able to sew this up on Valentine's Day when Devon took the girls out for an extended shopping trip (to buy presents and dinner for me, since the day after is my birthday - more February good times). Four glorious hours of sewing time on a Saturday, when usually I have to work or do chores or ferry children on a Saturday. Ahhhh.


I did not sew a muslin for this one because I figured I would run in it no matter how it turned out. I made just one adjustment - adding 3/4" between bust and waist - before cutting. I'm happy with the fit, and I'm glad the shoulders worked out (bit of a risk, but I don't usually need to adjust there on jackets/coats). Next time I'll add a bit to the length so that I can make a deeper hem, grade down to a size 12 from a size 14 at the hips, and interface the collar (pattern doesn't call for this, but I think it would look nicer). You can read my full pattern review here if you're interested in that sort of thing.

The thing I love most about this jacket is the back. Great design lines, right? I'll have to run fast so that I give everyone the back view.


Another great detail is the cuffs with thumb hole. If you have long arms (like me), you'll want to lengthen the sleeve if you're not adding cuffs.

My new jacket has given me a blast of excitement to keep running till Spring. And I needed that blast.

Can we get a break from the snow? Please?
So my first attempt at activewear was a success. Not sure how much of this kind of sewing I'll do (I'm too addicted to sewing pretty clothes), but it was a lot of fun. Would you use precious sewing time for activewear?

Yay. Snow.

Completely fake action shot.
I don't think it's possible to run like this.