Monday, September 1, 2014

What was I thinking?!

Under Construction...
I was thinking that I have wanted to make this dress ever since the day I stumbled across it inside InStyle magazine! When I did a Google image search for "Milly, Banana Republic, striped dress" look who popped up all over my screen!

You know that if Zoe Saldana is wearing this dress, that it deserves to be knocked off! Granted, I could buy this exact dress off ebay right now for as little as $50, but I've already purchased the fabric, and feel compelled to complete the challenge!

Fabric: 3 yards of striped voile from Joann's. I found it on the Red Tag Bargain table of all places, but it was exactly the print I wanted (and a great price, if I messed it up). It's a cotton/poly blend, and quite sheer, so I also picked up a couple yards of navy poly lining.

Pattern: Simplicity 4070. I'm planning on wearing this dress to work, so the sundress straps are non-negotiable. I'm using view F, but obviously not including the lace. I needed a semi-circle skirt, and the first pattern I chose (Vogue ????) wouldn't work because the skirt was too full for the 3 yards of fabric I had to work with. So, was perfect, even allowing me fabric to spare after laying out the pattern so the stripes would match!

I laid the pattern out for the skirt on a single layer of fabric, as stripe matching was a priority for me, with a center front seam. I marked my pattern paper with lots of lines 45 degress from the marked grain line. Once I had the first layer cut, I just flipped it over (now right sides together), and matched the stripes, pinning and cutting carefully.
I used the crayons to aid in moving the paper and cutting the 2nd piece, but flipping it directly over was so much easier!

The bodice pieces being smaller, I felt more confident being able to cut 2 layers of fabric and keep the stripes matched. I had about 1/3 yard left over, but may still use it for a band/belt at the waist.

I started assembling the bodice first, matching the stripes at the front had priority, but finding that the side seam matching also worked made my heart sing! When I moved onto the center front seam of the skirt, I paused. The skirt being cut on the bias meant my seams might stretch, and I didn't want anything wavy or wonky at the center front. I cut a strip of sheer ribbon the exact length of the center front seam, and once I had the stripes matched, I used the sheer ribbon as a stabilizer to hold the seam true.  After stitching, a breathed a HUGE sigh of relief... the stripes matched AND the seam was firm! I need to cut away more of the left over ribbon from the seam, as it's creating a small bubble, but I'm beyond happy with my progress!
So, this is where it stood when I made myself go to bed at 11pm last night. I was actually having fun matching the stripes, stitching the seam and checking to see if I had success. Sick, right?! I still have to cut and construct the lining layer, and decide what to do with the waist, as it seems like it needs a band or something... Thoughts?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Beach Reception Dresses

What an honor and privilege to make these dresses! As I'd said in this earlier post, L's beach reception was casual, so she wasn't looking for the typical white "beach wedding" dress. Her requests included...
1. A chevron print fabric paired with a solid.
2. A halter top.
3. A high/low skirt.

Check, check, and check!
Patterns: 8470 (bodice) and 8870 (skirt)
Fabrics: Silk Faille Chevron from Spoonflower, and Yellow silk/cotton and lining (poly taffeta) from Haberman Fabrics.
Modifications: I had to adjust the skirt pattern at the waist to eliminate the gathers. If I had to do over again, I think I'd prefer to increase the fullness of the skirt, though. I took about 3" off the back length of the skirt, as L is quite petite, and also shortened the center front of the skirt by about 2".

Once the fabric was ordered and purchased, I was able to see that I'd have enough to make her daughter a coordinating look. How perfect!

Little Miss A's dress used the chevron on the top and the solid yellow for the skirt. I considered adding a sash, but L loved it just this way! I think Little Miss A loved it, too! Butterick 3350 is the pattern I used, which goes together very quickly and easily!

When everything was said and done, the girls loved their dresses and I loved making them. I've known L since she was a sweet little 9th grader, so seeing her grow up and become an amazing woman (with a beautiful family) has been a pleasure. Making these dresses was just the icing on the cake.

Congratulations and Best Wishes!!!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Good Things Come in Small Packages

On the 4th of July, dear friends of ours had a very special package arrive... their little girl! Weighing in at just under 6 pounds, she was the tiniest little bundle of sweetness! Suddenly, I was looking through the old baby girl patterns from 10 years ago, digging through my fabric boxes for pink floral cottons.
While at Haberman's getting fabric for a different project (the search for the perfect shade of yellow!), I found this lovely pink and while floral cotton. The local quilt shop had the perfect solid shade of pink to pair with it, too. Now, I needed a pattern!

Baby Girl is still so tiny though... even the newborn sized clothing she has is too big! What to do, what to do... and then I had an idea. I asked my friend, "How long is she now?" and she answered, "About 20 inches." Perfect.

This lovely pattern was in a big box of vintage patterns that I bought from a friend a few years ago. Simplicity 4723 is described as a "baby doll layette" for 20" dolls like "Thumbelina, Baby Dear, Tiny Talker". Although it's not marked, I'm pretty certain this pattern is from about 1962 or '63.

I made 3 pieces: The sleeveless dress ("slip"), the jacket ("sacque"), and panties. I made lots of bias tape from my left over fabric, to trim the jacket and finish the armholes and neckline. I folded and gathered a little ruffle to add to the dress, and 1 single yard of pink satin ribbon made 4 little bows to embellish with.  I found a vintage card of snaps in my notions drawer, with just 3 snaps remaining, so I used those at each shoulder for closures.

All in all, I'm really happy with the look of the set, and I think it's very sweet. I enjoyed making it much more than I thought I would, having never made such a small baby dress before! I could hear my mother in my ear saying, "The bonnet! That baby needs a bonnet!", but she's more of a "headband" girl. Sorry, Mom!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Perfect Shade of Yellow

My current project is a beach reception dress for a former student. She and her new husband will be celebrating with family at a local beach, and she didn't want anything particularly formal or traditional. The party is fairly casual, so our design brainstorming session took a lot of back and forth with "How about this?" and "No, more like this..." via numerous Facebook conversations! She fell in love with this dress, but wanted it "fancied" up a little bit. She loved the chevron fabric, but was hoping for a white/cream colorway. Loved the hi/low skirt, but wanted a fitted halter top.

The only white/cream chevron fabric I found was for home dec, so her second pick was a white/pastel yellow chevron. Lots of bright yellow chevron fabric (in cotton) out there, but nothing in a pastel with more drape! Spoonflower to the rescue!!! Chevron: check! Pastel yellow: check! Silky Faille: check! Having never ordered from Spoonflower before, I was a little nervous... but, the fabric arrived faster than expected and is exactly what she wanted!
I headed to Haberman's in hopes of finding the perfect shade of yellow for the bodice. I'm marrying 2 Vogue patterns to create her look, 8470 (halter bodice) and 8870 (long hi/low skirt).

One more pattern edit... The top of the skirt pattern needs to be adjusted for a smooth seam, not gathered.  So, anyway, back to the color matching (and the reason for this post!)...
I first found a yellow taffeta, but it was a smidge too dark, too shiny, and too stiff. I carried it along through the store, anyway though. Then I found a cotton/silk voile, but it was a smidge too light and definitely too sheer.  Neither fabric was right, and those were my only options (with no time for swatches from online resources). Hmmm... what to do???
A ha! Lightbulb! Layer the fabrics, you silly seamstress! Use the taffeta as an underlining! PERFECT SHADE OF YELLOW!!!
So, I've got the bodice constructed, and it's time to edit, cut, construct, and attach the skirt. I'll probably have the finished project done to share with you in the next few days or so!  It's such an honor to be asked to make such a special dress for a special day, especially considering that I've known her since she was a 9th grader in my Student Council class!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Quick & Dirty Tank Dress

I needed a quick fix, something painless and easy, something that didn't require detail work, something that I could start and finish in the same day.

Got it.  Let me introduce you to New Look 6210!

If you'd like to read my pattern review, here it is. Basically, I had a little over a yard of this lovely knit from Joann's (bought it a year ago), and it took a few hours to assemble. I originally bought this pattern a few months ago because I wanted more racer back tanks for the gym. This pattern would be easy to trim down to hip length and make a top, so this dress was my "muslin" version to test the sizing.

I cut and stitched the 16 according to the "finished garment measurements" on the pattern paper, but when I was done, I had a decision to make.  There was some gaping in the underarms and it was fairly loose through the sides, especially in the waist. If I left it alone, this would make a great swimsuit cover-up or nightshirt. If I took it in 3/4" along both sides seams (all the way from armhole to hem), it would be fitted and make a great summer tank dress.

I took it in. I love the fit now and want to make about a dozen more. I just love racer backs!!!

So, I used 3 machines to construct it. I used my regular machine set to the slightest zig-zag for the seams, and then hopped over to the serger to clean up the seams (I know that's silly, I really only needed the serger). Then the coverstitch came into play for the hemming.
So, my appetite for construction has been fulfilled, I've got a new TNT (for both a dress and gym tank), and it was done (start to finish) in a few hours today. Love, love, love! Best sewing day I've had in a long time!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Finished: The Dubai Dress

This lovely dress is currently making it's way across the country, headed from Michigan to California. I hope my cousin likes it, as it turned out to be such a lovely dress. Simplicity 2053 turned out to be a real winner, and I'd recommend it heartily to any sewer that is comfortable with pleats.

It took me a little longer than I anticipated, as the chiffon and silk are both challenging fabrics to work with, and my decision to use the solid silk as an underlining and treat the layers together as one. I didn't want all the side pleats to be visible through the chiffon, or the darts in the back, so this way all of that was hidden inside the dress. Basting the two layers together on all of the pattern pieces took some time, and I had to get creative about the facing of the neckline. Facing pieces are included in the pattern, but I wanted to make sure the facing really blended in (I hate when they peek out). I fused a very lightweight interfacing to the remaining fabric and was able to cut the facings from it. Bonding fusible interfacing to chiffon was pretty nerve-racking, but it came out great, and blended in perfectly! I used my serger to finish all the seams on the inside, as adding another layer of lining seemed like over-kill for a dress that's going to live in California!

When I get a picture of her in it, I'll be sure to share it here with all of you!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Electric Party Dress

I wouldn't say that this project was a "perfect marriage of fabric and pattern", but I did make it to wear to the wedding and reception of some friends that are the perfect couple! Congrats Sarah and Eric!

The fabric was a "deal of the day" from Mood Fabrics a couple of months ago. It was the color (and the price) that sold me! "Electric Fuschia" is what the tag said, and for half off ($6.99/yd), I picked up 3 yards, not sure what it would become yet. It was exactly the amount needed to make Vogue 8997, and although I was tempted to make the typical black cocktail dress, this fabric just kept asking to become a party dress.

I picked up 3 yards of lining at Joann's and got started Tuesday night. I worked on it an hour here and an hour there during the week, and finished tacking down the lining at 4:30pm Saturday, walking out the door an hour later! Here's the inside of the bodice:
I don't think it was the perfect fabric for this project, though... I followed the pattern's recommendation to interface all the bodice pieces, but I should've also stabilized the skirt seams (at least at the top, through the waist area), as the puckering was really irritating me. It also wrinkled so easily... I knew that my back side would be a mess from the car ride before we even got there. This fabric is made more for blouses and tops... but, I sure did get lots of compliments on the color!

The pattern is drafted beautifully and the instructions are great. I only strayed twice... once for the cutting layout (they recommend cutting a single layer, but I folded my 3 yards in half (1.5 yd x 45") and fit all my pieces just fine (size 14) with all the pattern pieces following the grain line. I also lowered the center front neckline about 1", as I wanted it to be a little bit sexier. Once I had the dress layer done with zipper, I simply put it on, and pulled out the stitches from top down until I was happy with the neckline.

Please pardon the wrinkles, pics taken after wearing!
The sizing on the pattern paper was accurate, and this pattern offers the "custom fit" multiple cup sizes for the bust. I made the size 14, C cup, and it's spot on. I hemmed it 1.5" and *love* the swishing-whisper sound it makes when I walk! I forewarn you to machine hem this dress, though... 4 yards of hemline by hand will be time consuming!

Back view
I'm certain that I'll be using this pattern again in the near future (with the standard neckline provided), as it is a great dress for just about any occasion. It has classic style, with feminine lines (did you see the flutter sleeve version?) and was really straight-forward to make. In a "beefier" fabric, you could either line just the bodice, or forego the lining all-together and use bias tape to finish the neckline and armholes.  It's winning pattern, you'll see it from me again, I'm sure of it!