Friday, January 17, 2014

This is 40.

The big Four-Oh. 40 years of being a daughter and a sister. 28 years of sewing experience. 20 years since I met my husband. 15 years of marriage. 16 years of being a teacher. 10 years of being a parent.  Wow. Makes me tired just thinking about it! Earlier today, my husband sent me some stats about 1974...
Cost of a gallon of Gas 55 cents
Average cost new car$3,750.00
Average Cost of new house $34,900.00
Average Income per year $13,900.00
 My mom told me once that she was watching the Mary Tyler Moore show when she went into labor with me. Yup, that pretty much fits the bill, huh?

So, here we are in 2014, and while I didn't have anywhere to where it to, I'm sure I'll find something will come up soon! Like I said in my earlier post, I used Vogue 8766. In hindsight, I wish I'd altered the neckline. There's just something too "round" about it that is bugging me, I really do prefer the boatneck style that the designers used.  2 yards of tropical wool (I think from Gorgeous Fabrics, like 2 years ago), 2 yards of nude poly lining (Joann's), 2 yards of Venice lace and 2 yards of faux leather trim. Lining with the opaque nude was darn-near brilliant, as it totally blocks any possibility of "see through".
Inside of front bodice with neckline facing and armhole.
Placing the lace flat edges together was a great way to fake a double-scallop edge lace! I zig-zagged it together, then hand-stitched it to the waist seam. The leather trim was made like a single-fold bias tape, so I opened up one fold, stitched it down, flipped it over, and top-stitched along both edges. The bow was handstitched at the center front. I came so close to the pattern repeating perfectly at center back, but was just a smidge off!
The dress went together very easily, I followed the instructions and just had to get creative and think through the lace application. I can't decide if I like the black heels or sand ones better. Opinions???

 I tacked the lace down by hand, at the peak of each scallop. I let the bottom edge hang loosely, but I may need to tack it down a little. It's riding up on the sides here, making it look weird. Here's the back view.

Overall, it's a nice dress. Almost too nice! Paired with the black jacket, it still seems too dressy for work, so I'll hang onto it until the right occasion comes along. Little Man is making his First Communion this spring, and it seems like a good dress for that event! 

My only complaint about the pattern is the sleeve. I don't understand why they chose to use 3 darts instead of easing it in like normal. It gives the sleeve cap some stiff fullness that has an 80's vibe to it. No? Do you think so? Also, there was too much fullness in the sleeve width for me. I took it in about an inch at the hem, grading it in to nothing where the sleeve seam meets the bodice.
In the end, it's a pretty dress. I'm not sure if it turned out exactly how I expected. When I put it on, I'm not sure that it's "me". Maybe it's that funny thing that happens at this age, the discrepancy between the age you feel, the age you look, and the age you actually are. Right now, I wish I had the energy to put this dress on, head to the casino, and play some roulette or craps. But, actually, this cozy couch and blanket are feeling fantastic, and I'm getting more tired by the sentence! I'll close with this wonderful quote by Sophia Loren... “There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age." 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Perfect Timing, Lucky Me!!!

Isn't it nice when things fall together in a nice way? When luck gifts you something great in a timely manner?  Last week (in the midst of the 14" snowfall and Polar Vortex freeze), my phone "dinged" and I saw this notification:

Now, the funny thing... I have 2 Twitter accounts, this is my "Math Teacher" one that I use to communicate to students! If you want to follow me there, you'll find me as @KrisBalinski where I follow fashion and sewing and fun stuff, like celebrities. Otherwise, you'll get homework reminders and math problems... :(

Anyway, HOW LUCKY AM I?!?!?!?! $200 credit at Mood Fabrics? It's like the best early birthday gift possible!!!! I never thought I'd utter these words, but seriously, "THANK YOU, MOOD!"
If you have a blog and would like the chance to win such an awesome prize package by entering the "I Sew Mood" badge program, just hop over to Mood Fabrics to see the rules and get the badge you see in the upper right corner of my blog.

What to buy? What to buy?  I've dreamed of creating a wardrobe from Mood Fabrics (although shopping the NYC store in person was part of the dream), but where to start? And then, yesterday, in the most timely way, this challenge appeared in my facebook newsfeed:

With guidance and pacing and Pinterest, I can do this!!! I've started pinning to a board for this, along with a "Mood Board" at the Mood Fabrics website, which is a great way to keep my "fabric thoughts" organized over a longer period of time! Monthly prizes and a Grand Prize, too? I'm probably pushing my luck, but regardless, I *should* end up with a fantastic sewn wardrobe, which is a pretty great thing!  If you'd like to join in the fun, follow this link to the rules at Angela Wolf's page!

So, with my inspiration in mind and challenge in hand... I'm on the lookout for pretty fabrics and patterns that are feminine, soft, and easy to wear. Simple and classic lines in coordinating colors and prints: seafoam green, ivory, hazy blues, sand... garments that would get packed for a weekend away at the beach, with a slight nod to a vintage vibe. 

Slim fit capris, striped top, side zip shorts, a lacy t-shirt, cable knit pullover, long A-line skirt... and a sundress, of course. Something like that?  Check out my board at Pinterest, and see if you catch my drift. I was slow to join, but now that I have... I. Love. Pinterest.  Great links for sewing tips, fashion ideas... and dinner! Can't beat one-stop-shopping, right?

One more challenge floated in this morning via facebook, that I'm going to try to fulfill, too. The EvaDress Pattern Contest. Emma One Sock is a sponsor, and that's how it showed up on my newsfeed. I wasn't familiar with EvaDress Patterns, but it's a pattern shop of "reproductions of patterns dating from the 1860's through the 1950's that are in public domain" with some new patterns inspired by vintage fashions. I immediately fell in love with this 1939 evening dress pattern:
I'd shorten my version to make it more wearable, but isn't it lovely? It fits perfectly into my "storyboard" for the warmer months. You can tell that I'm done with winter at this point, I've got visions of sundresses dancing in my head!
p.s. The "Birthday Dress" is very nearly done... I should be able to finish it this weekend. It's turning out so well, and I have to laugh... a sure sign that I've "matured" is my new found ability to hand-stitch with patience! Hoping for good (enough) weather to snap some pictures next week!

Monday, January 6, 2014

What is Up with the Weather?!?!

My holiday break started with and ice storm and ended with a snow storm. I hate winter.

The Sunday before Christmas, we woke up to find a solid layer of ice covering all the trees and surfaces outside.

Did you know that 1/4" of ice on power lines is the equivalent of 500 lbs of weight? The lights went out Sunday around 10 am... and came back on Friday around 9 pm. We opened Christmas presents by daylight, and Santa brought the kids each new flashlights in their stockings. Our generator took care of keeping us warm and our food cold, but we were still limited in our activities. No cooking! No XBox for the kids (Merry Christmas?!)! No sewing!?!? It was a very long 5 1/2 days.

Then we regained electricity (and wifi!) and life got better. New Years Eve was fun, and I was able to complete nearly all the construction of my "Big Four Oh" dress. Heat. Cooking. XBox. Sewing. Life was good.
Bday Dress Progress: A "blah" sheath is becoming beautiful!

And then, the snow came. The forecast of 12" of snow and brutally cold temps for a few days had the grocery stores slammed, with 1 hour waits to check out. Insanity.

Yesterday morning around 7:30 am, the power went out. At this point, I was all, "No problem! I've done this already! I can start a generator! I can do this!" The kids played in the snow, I shoveled the walk, the dog ate snowballs, hubby plowed the driveway. We headed out for lunch (with about 6" having fallen at this point).
There are actually 2 lanes northbound, and 2 lanes s.b.
After 2 more shovel/plow sessions, the dark came out... and so did the generator. Finally, about 8 pm, the lights came back on, and school had been cancelled for today. Yay for power! Yay for a snow day!

This morning, I woke to this view of my deck.

Now, the "dangerous cold" is setting in, so we're camping out for the day. I'll add the lace and leather to my dress, and do some additional alteration work on a wedding dress for a client. Some area schools have already cancelled Tuesday classes because of the wind chill. Our current weather advisory says:


I know that this storm is hitting all over the country with even more snow and even lower temps, so I hope that all of you are staying warm inside WITH POWER this week! 

Are you a fan of winter? I'm a summer girl, through and through. Coppertone is a favorite smell and when I need to find a "happy place", I envision Kona, Hawaii. This winter... BRUTAL.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year, New Project!

Happy New Year! I disappeared from blogging there at the end, didn't I? Sorry about that, but life got a bit hectic, and 2013 decided to fill December with enough frustration to make a big exit! I won't worry or depress you with the details (ice storm = 5 days without power during Christmas), just know that I'm fine and moving forward. So, there! On to happier adventures... like birthdays!

This month (in 16 days, to be exact), I'll be celebrating the big FOUR-OH. Whoa. I know that everyone approaches this landmark date in different ways, but I'm actually pretty excited about it. I'm quite pleased with how I've maneuvered and journeyed through life since 1974, and I'm feeling very blessed. I have no big plans to mark the day, but I'm sure we'll celebrate with a night out... so, a new dress is definitely in order, right?!?!

I don't remember when I first spotted this dress, if it was in a magazine, on Pinterest, or on TV. There a few different versions of it, but most notably, it's been done by both Michael Kors and Valentino.
Michael Kors, $1025

Valentino, $2490

I love the stark contrast of the ivory with the black trim, along with the combination of leather belt and lace. There is simply something about this dress that says "I am confident, I am sexy, I am stylish, I am smart, and I have timeless beauty." What more could I hope for at 40?  Carolyn of "Diary of a Sewing Fanatic" hears me. She made her own killer knock-off in red and black! Great minds, Carolyn... great minds!!!

I already had 2 yards of perfect ivory tropical wool in my stash, so I just needed lining and trim. I searched online for the perfect black trim, but ended up purchasing 2 yards of beautiful venice lace and faux leather from Joann fabrics. I couldn't find the right width double-scalloped lace, but realized that when I place 2 strips side by side... it's exactly what I wanted!

As for lining, I grabbed that at Joann's too. Since the ivory is so light in color, it's semi-sheer. Sometimes light-colored linings don't help fix that issue, so I went with a nude color instead. Likewise, I decided that it may be better for me to underline with the nude, instead of line, like I normally would. Again, that light-colored ivory would show my seam allowances, so underlining will fix that problem, too. I'll just use my serger to finish the seams, and that's ok with me.  To hide the nude lining at the neckline edge, I traced neckline from the pattern, and created facings to make from the ivory. Since I can hand stitch them down to the underlining, they'll be completely hidden and won't flip out (which is my usual complaint of neckline facings).
I had some hesitation with going sleeveless like the inspiration dresses, but in reality... it's January and it's Michigan. So, a 3/4 sleeve it will be. I'm using Vogue 8766, and the sleeve cap has 3 darts (instead of a smooth rounded cap). Different, yes?
I also decided to stick with the scoop neckline in the pattern (rather than the boatneck of the inspiration dresses) because Santa brought me a couple of stunning silver necklaces that I'd love to showcase!
So, I've made good friends with my "walking foot" and stitched all the underlining to the ivory. I traced the darts onto the lining (not the ivory), and stitched along the dart lines, too. This way, there's no worry about the double layer of fabric not matching properly when I go to sew those darts in!
I haven't started actual construction yet, but I think that it will go quickly since... 1. It's already lined, and 2. It's a sheath dress. I'll post again later this week, hopefully it will be done by Sunday (when this vacation ends, sadly)!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Fantasy to Reality: Cobalt Dress

When my "Cobalt Fantasy" started, I knew that I wanted a cobalt and black sheath dress.  I couldn't be happier with the final result.  Donna Karan cobalt wool gabardine (2 yards, Haberman Fabrics) trimmed with faux leather (Joann's), this sheath is a marriage of two patterns.  Simplicity 1802 (bodice) and Butterick 5566 (skirt).  I wore it today with my black cashmere (vintage pattern) jacket.
I love the back of the bodice, the deep-v back is so feminine, but not too revealing. No special undergarments required!  The skirt (16) and bodice (14) matched up perfectly with no special adjustment to marry the two together at the bottom of the waistband.  To get a neat finish on the sleeve, I lined it and stitched the layers together at the hem right sides together. Then I turned it right side out, understitched along the hem, and pressed it.  When I inserted the sleeve, I treated the sleeve as a single unit, and used my serger to neaten the armhole seam. Not perfect or couture, but it was less of a headache and just as sturdy with a very clean finish.
I cut the faux leather into 1.5" strips, folded them in half wrong sides together, and stitched them wrong sides together. Stitching the piping in place was easy enough, but made me nervous, as the pattern piece edges were diagonal and I didn't want to stretch it out of shape. I topstitched on the blue alongside the "piping" to help flatten and neaten the seams.  Pressing was done very carefully, as the faux leather didn't care for direct heat!
Look at the matching of the seams with that piping! The invisible zipper is hidden along that side seam, too. There's a fair amount of bumps there, but I managed to insert the zipper without drama on the first try! Please pardon the wrinkles and bumps, these pictures were taken after a full day of work!
The piping on the bodice and the skirt is positioned to point downward, but the center front strip faces left and the trim on the waistband points up on the top and down on the bottom. I can't get over how the leather trim really makes this dress look amazing, and I'm so glad that I decided to use it! I cut about 8 vertical strips, so I used less than 1/2 a yard of the faux leather.

All in all, it's a great dress with professional flair and strong design lines.  I'll be able to get continued use out of it come spring, as it's a light to mid-weight wool with short sleeves. Today a student complimented me and asked if I got my dress at Guess or BCBG. I think that equates to a sewing win!

Friday, November 29, 2013


So much to celebrate!!!  We spent yesterday with my in-laws, watching the light snow fall. Little Miss helped Grandma make the chocolate pie the other day, so she was pretty excited for dessert!  She enjoyed the last top I made her so much, that I wanted to make her another.  This time something with a little sparkle like my luxe sweatshirt, which turned out to be a winner!
It's hard to photograph, but this crochet lace does in fact "sparkle", with a silver thread running through it...
I paired it with a heathered grey lightweight knit, and used McCalls 6832. I took a yard of the lace and a yard and half of the grey, with both fabrics came from Haberman's.  The lace was on the clearance table for $7, and I used less than half of the yard I bought!

Great pattern, lots of wonderful options for a 10 year old girl!

With cousin Miss S (and Little Brother photo bomb)

Like I said, my luxe shirt ended up taking 1st place in the contest, and I was beyond thrilled!
 My shirt was on display in their gorgeous store, which you can actually tour online. Go to their website, and you can't miss the "Tour Our Store" image at the top. Click on the arrows to rotate, click on the circles on the floor to walk forward. I'm so lucky to have this amazing store just 45 minutes away. So many beautiful fabrics (fashion and home dec), trims, buttons, patterns, and the largest selection of amazing bridal fabrics and notions.  There are classes offered for all levels and ages, too. Just a treasure of a store for someone who loves to sew.

The prize package was a $100 gift card for Haberman's and a notions package! A pair of Kai dressmaker shears, pin magnet, clips, zippers, buttons, thread, needles.Thank you, Haberman Fabrics... I'm so thankful for a local store with fantastic fabrics, helpful employees, excellent service, free tutorials, and fun contests.  I really appreciate the prize package and the opportunity to challenge myself, too!
 So, you'll find me in my sewing room this "Black Friday", using these wonderful notions, planning a garment using fabric I bought with my "prize money", and finishing the memorial quilt for my dear friend.  I'll be posting the final project very soon, I'm so excited to give it to her...

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Never Too Old to Daydream...

Saturday night I was flipping channels, and I stumbled across my most favorite movie... Dirty Dancing. In 1987, I was 13 years old, and I loved everything about the movie. The soundtrack, the dancing, and the wardrobe. For me, Baby's finale dress is right up there with the iconic "Breakfast at Tiffany's" dress.
I'll let you in on a secret... When I was a pre-teen, I'd daydream of having random dance sequences happen during my normal life, like in the movies "Footloose" and "Grease". While that doesn't happen in "Dirty Dancing", I'm pretty sure that there were also a few fantasies of dancing with Johnny Castle, too. 
What girl in 1987 didn't?!
So, what does this have to do with sewing? Have you seen the newest Vogue patterns? As I was reading a blog post offering the thumbs up and thumbs down on them, this number popped up and it immediately made me think... "That's it. That's Baby's dress."
Vogue 8943

Now, hear me out.  Dropped waist. Check.  Flared circle skirt. Check.  
Scooped Neckline with tank top straps. Totally Fixable.

In this shot, you can see the back of the neckline.  I love it even more.  I can use this Cynthia Rowley Simplicity pattern (already own) for the front neckline.
Simplicity 1607
This dress is really close "as is", but the skirt yoke is actually quite loose (and long) and the gathers are all wrong...
The back zip would need to be moved to the side. No biggie. 
So... Simplicity top + Vogue bottom = "Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner"!

What would I do without "Paint"?

So, I have absolutely NOWHERE to where this, but it excites me. I wouldn't do it up in pale pink (too much like the movie dress), but a red version would be fun. Who knows... with Christmas and New Years ahead, anything is possible.  There is also a Big Birthday on the horizon for me, so perhaps this could be for that occasion?

Did you know that...The indoor scenes (Penny crying in the kitchen, and the Houseman's cabin) were set at the Mountain Lake Hotel in Mountain Lake, Virginia? Twenty-five years later, the hotel still hosts "Dirty Dancing Weekends"? How fun would that be?!

So, please do tell... if you could have any dress/outfit from a movie, what would you pick?