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

Get Your Motors Running (Va-vvrrooooom!)

Sometime back in the fall Rhonda Buss from Rhonda's Creative Life invited me to participate in Janet Prey's (of Islander Sewing) Get Your Motors Running contest. Ten bloggers would participate and the winner would receive the Islander MotorCity Express Jacket pattern and the Craftsy class that goes with it (awesome prize!). As the project wasn't due until February, I thought I would have plenty of time. You know where this is going, right? The holidays were busy then I had to catch up on client work and my classes started and I was suddenly surprised to find it was almost February. After a brief panic, I settled down to figuring things out.

The challenge was to take a panel of fabric (white with black flowers) and  . . . do something with it. This is where a good blogger would insert a photo of the fabric pre-cutting. You'll have to hop over to one of those good bloggers to see that. I can tell you that it was loooong (at least 5 feet) and narrow (approximately 24") and somewhat drapey. It really should have been made into a maxi-dress, but since I don't wear those, I had to think again.

I'm really excited about making coats and jackets right now so even though this wasn't really the right fabric, I decided to do it anyway. I made a coat for a client last fall that had overlay panels of contrasting fabric and I generally had that in mind. Let me just admit right now that I really had no idea what I was doing with this project. No plan. I really just started working at it and it took me where it wanted to go, which was probably far far from my scissors at different points along the way. I really felt like I was channeling my inner Oona while I hacked and fussed and sometimes turned my back on the whole thing. Not sure the result lives up to her gorgeous creations, but it was fun to step away from rules for a while.

I started with Butterick 5473, mainly because it is a very simple jacket pattern with very few seams.

B5473, Misses'/Women's Jacket, Vest and Pants
I made a muslin and made the following changes: lengthened bodice 1", lengthened sleeves 1", lengthened length 1", added shaping to the waist by curving in approximately 1.5" on each side. I didn't want a waist seam in my final jacket, so I used the muslin pieces as my pattern for cutting out the coat pieces without a seam. I'm sure this messed with the grainline, but it seemed to work.

I also wanted the jacket to be lined, as I really don't have much patience for unlined jackets and coats. I simply cut out the same pieces, decreased the seam allowance to 1/4" for side seams and underarm to give myself more ease, and cut away the facing areas. This is probably all wrong, but again, it seemed to work!

Now comes that fabric panel. I started by interfacing it with a lightweight woven interfacing to give it a bit more stability. I tried just using it as an overlay panel on the back of the jacket, but it didn't look right. So I sketched around the flowers to see what that shape looked like.

Look close for sketch lines.

I stitched on top of those lines and  then drew around the sketched lines a second time.

After saying a brief prayer, I cut the whole thing out. No turning back now!

Now I had to figure out how to get it onto the coat. I experimented with some scraps, and finally settled on using a satin stitch to sew it down on the fabric using my earlier stitching lines, then cut away the excess fabric. I liked the fuzziness of the edges.

I felt like it needed something more at this point, both to help the overlay stay connected with the coat back (I was worried it might droop), but also to give it some more texture/color variation. I'm currently infatuated with Alabama Chanin style embroidery, so I decided to give that a go. I wanted it as more of an accent than and all over thing (which is good, since I did not have the time to go all out with it), so I added stitching here and there to the flowers:

After assembling the coat, I felt that it needed something to hold it closed. I thought about using a belt, but I didn't like how that cut through the design on the back. I took inspiration from a RTW jacket I own, and attached and over-sized hook and eye using black jean rivets.

Inspiration from RTW
My version
And it was done!

It's hard to see the black fabric, but I used this black cotton twill for the back and this stretch cotton metallasse for everything else. I purchased both of the fabrics and the lining from I love love love the metallasse and I'm happy to say I have enough left over for something else (short jacket? skirt?).

I'm not entirely sure what I think of it. It's definitely a statement. I'm just not sure it's my statement. I'll need to wear it around a bit once Spring arrives (too cold now!) and see what I think. I did have a thoroughly excellent time making it and I learned a lot. Rhonda will be posting pictures of all the final projects on her blog Monday, February 2nd. I'm excited to see what everyone else did with their fabric!

Click here if you'd like to vote (then just click on the heart in the upper right hand corner of the thumbnail to vote for your favorite).

Refashion: Wedding Dress 1970-something to Wedding Dress 2014

I have a few refashioning projects to showcase this month. One of the things I like about refashioning garments, is that there is usually a story involved. The projects come with a shot of nostalgia.

Back in April I previewed a wedding dress I had taken on as a refashioning project. Our bride Jamie really wanted to wear her mother's wedding dress. I don't think she actually liked the dress all that much (and her fiance actively disliked it), but she really liked the idea of wearing something of her mother as she walked down the aisle.

Yep, classic 1970's wedding dress: floor length skirt (as opposed to 1960's wedding tea dresses), fitted lace sleeves, high neck lace overlay on top of princess neckline bodice. Jamie's mom looked gorgeous in it:

Isn't it funny how context changes everything? The dress looks perfect on Jamie's mom in these photos. I think it's because everything goes together - the hair, the hat/veil, even the flower arrangement. It looks old-fashioned on the dress form, but on Jamie's mom it looks sexy and hip. It's harder to like the dress in a modern context, and it needed some help to work for Jamie.

First, even though it had been packed away carefully by a dry cleaner (we had to break the seal to get at it!), it had yellowed a bit in places and was certainly not the bright white color it once was. After researching online, I decided it needed a bath. I removed all the metal bits (buttons, hook and eye, zipper) and soaked it in our tub for 24 hours in cool water. I discovered that our tub will not hold water for that long, so I had to add more water every few hours. This may have helped as the dirty water was replaced by clean multiple times during the soak. And it worked!!


After (with sneak peek of corset back)
I have to admit I was surprised by the results - I was worried that I would somehow damage the dress and I didn't expect it to brighten as much as it did. But there was no other way to do it - it's not like I could cut off a piece of the dress to test it!

The second step was to remove the lace sleeves and yokes. I carefully removed the lace applique that vined up from the bust and the back, and picked away the mesh from the bodice. Jamie wanted this preserved in case her own daughter someday wants to incorporate it back into a new design. I love imagining what this dress might become in 30 or so years!

Back of lace applique

Mesh, lace, and inside of bodice

For the third step I needed to tackle the straps. I very luckily had a 1/2 yard of perfectly matching silk satin in my stash. I found a pattern with straps and neckline similar to what Jamie was imagining and made a muslin. Jamie came to try it on so we could tweak it for fit and placement.

Muslin fitting

Pattern pieces for straps/neckline

Now it was time to tackle the back closure. The dress was a titch too small, and Jamie loved the idea of a corset back. I follow the blog Fit for a Queen, in which Mrs Mole tells stories of the brides and wedding gowns she tackles in her alterations business - it's both hilarious and informative. I knew she had added corset backs to a number of wedding gowns, so I wrote to her asking for help. And Mrs Mole delivered: she sent me to a step-by-step photo tutorial she had written up for Sew Much Talent AND gave me guidance on where to buy satin cording. I was so pleased I didn't have to try to figure this out on my own!!

Loops sewn from cording and Petersham ribbon

Snaps to hold modesty panel in place while lacing

Modesty panel backed with cotton for support/comfort,
boning to stop it from flopping.

All laced up! The ribbon is as close to "Cubbie blue"
as I could find. Thank you, Soutache!
I found this strange, but the dress bodice wasn't lined and it had no boning for structure. I wanted it to have both, so I made an internal corset from the same pattern (Vogue 2237) I used for the wedding dress I made in 2013, and hand stitched this into the bodice.

Finally, all that was left to be done was adding back the lace applique and bustling the back for dancing.

Jamie's sister under the dress to learn how to tie the bustles!

This was a scary process - I was terrified much of the time that I would both ruin Jamie's mother's dress and ruin Jamie's wedding because she wouldn't have enough time to get another dress. I do like taking on these heart-racing projects every now and again, and every time I finish one successfully I have a little more faith in my ability. But it was nice to have some pants to hem when it was all over!

And finally, here are some pictures of Jamie from her wedding day in the finished dress (nothing was ruined!). Isn't she a beautiful bride? Her photographer was Brittany Lynn from Brittany Lynn Studios. I love when I get to see dresses in action, and Brittany is good photographer.

Getting tied up

(I lent my wedding earrings to Jamie so she
would have something borrowed.)

Congratulations to John and Jamie!
I do like getting to be a part of these transformations!

A Little Holiday Giving

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen some of these gifts already. I didn't sew as many small gifts this year, but I did make a few bigger ones. I had to cut down on my sewing for teachers - now that I have two in school, the number of teachers, aids, etc, just got to be too much (somewhere around 20, and it will be more next year). So I made a gift for the main teachers and everyone else got soap from my friend Stephanie's beautiful Etsy shop. Since I love these soaps, I figured it was a good compromise.

Belly's teacher loves animal print, so she got this furry zebra print clutch:

Mooper has three preschool teachers, and I made zippered pouches with boxed corners for them (but failed to take a picture).

My husband's Aunt Wendy is tough to buy for, so I made her a cross-body messenger bag with fabric I knew she would love (she bought it for a different project, and I had plenty left over), and a leather strap from remnants. I was particularly happy with my stripe matching on this one.

Mooper and Belly received the bulk of my Christmas sewing, and that's probably as it should be. One of the best things about sewing for them is how happy they are that I made something just for them. "You made this?! For me??! Thank you, Mama!"

Christmas nightgowns (Simplicty 1575):


Christmas Pillowcases (to match the blankets their Grandmas made for them):

Christmas owl ornaments (thank for the idea, Liza Jane!). I cut the larger eye circles to give them lashes:

And simple Christmas skirts:

I particularly love the trim on this one -
it came from my husband's Grandmother's stash.

Mooper turned 5 just after Christmas, so she also got her annual birthday dress, this time with a matching reversible bolero (Simplicity 1703):

And special homemade cupcakes (these ones are supposed to look like scoops of ice cream in a banana split).

The cherries are made from cherry Starbursts.

I also made around 20 infinity scarves for my Etsy shop, and all but two sold, so I guess I helped some other folks give handmade for Christmas!

I received some lovely sewing gifts from my family as well. I've been wanting these for some time without really needing them, so I was tickled to find them under the tree. Those Kai scissors feel so good in comparison to the Fiskars I've been using!

I hope all of you had an absolutely lovely holiday and Happy New Year!