Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Textured check Bronx dress

I have a thing, apparently.  If I like a pattern, I make it at least twice, in quick succession.  There are many examples, but this is the most recent instance; the Bronx cowl dress (see first version, here).
Clearly, I love this pattern.  More specifically, I love this silhouette and look for me.  A fit and flare dress just works with my every day life.  And again, for those that think dresses are fussy, count the number of garments I have to coordinate and put on my body.  Yup, that number is 1.  Easy-peasy.
Let's talk about the fabric, though; it is the true star of this garment (at least that's my impression based on the number of approving comments I received when I wore it!)  I purchased it last month with an allowance from Britex Fabrics and unfortunately, it's not available anymore.  I normally wouldn't pick a polyester knit, but I just adored the raised square texture!   The fabric is on the thick side--not quite a scuba knit, but with a good heft.  I don't think I'll enjoy the poly knit in the blazing heat of the summer, but it was very comfortable for our early spring temps.
Here's a close up of the tiny raised squares.  It's really fabulous!
Knowing that the fabric was a little thicker than my last version, I expanded the cowl a bit to help it drape better.  To do this, I slashed the pattern horizontally across the bodice at the bustline.  Then, I cut the remaining upper part vertically and expanded the cowl arc.  This expands the cowl while leaving the bust and waist measurements the same.  

I did want to break up the fabric print with  belt, so I added some belt loops at the side seams.  I just ran my serger while pulling the 4 threads to create a "chain" and then attached them to the dress on the inside.  If I don't feel like wearing a belt, I can pull the belt loops inside the dress to make them less visible from the outside.
I suspect I have a couple more of these dresses in my future, though perhaps using the scoop neckline and short sleeve variation for the summer.

I'm also realizing that my last bunch of posts have all been navy garments (and there is one more, I'm afraid!)  Navy is the new black :)

Friday, March 10, 2017

Cypress Cape

The Cypress Cape by Sewaholic hasn't been getting a lot of attention in the sewing blog world.  The style probably isn't for everyone, but the fact that it's different and interesting is why I was drawn to it in the first place.   Nevertheless, it took me a long time to actually sew it, despite buying the fabric right away (over a year ago!).

The delay was in part because the few people I showed the pattern to expressed "concern", but also there were always faster and easier things to sew first.  But perhaps most critical to the delay is that California had been, until this winter, in a serious drought and an unneeded garment wasn't high on the priority list.  So, with all the rains over the past few months, it became important to be well-outfitted for the CA monsoon season.

For the pattern, I sewed a size 0, which wasn't a good idea.  I was concerned about not being able to make petite adjustments, so I wanted to sew the smallest size possible (hey, it's a cape, right?).  It's actually a very fitted cape, at least around the chest and shoulders.  Size 2 or 4 probably would have been better, so I could more comfortably wear a sweater or vest underneath.  It's definitely wearable as-is, so no big loss.
The fabric is from Hart's Fabric in Santa Cruz (I bought it  year ago, so it's out of stock).  I's a pretty perfect fabric for this application.  The instructions call for nylon ripstop, but this fabric is a bit more thick and sturdy.  The drape is still good, though.  The color is definitely a bit metallic-irridescent.  
The only change I made was to turn under the hems, instead of using bias tape.  My primary motivation for this switch is because all I could think about was water dripping down the sleeves and making the cotton/poly bias all wet.  However, it also gave me the opportunity to shorten the jacket a bit to fit me better.  In the end, I like the look of it a lot better.
The zipper/ velcro closures design in the front look super professional, though it would have been nice to have the zipper go all the way up under the chin.

The back pleats turned out well, though they are generally hidden under the hood.

The one thing I don't love about the style is that it's not really possible to put a bag over your shoulder.  I end up keeping my handbag on my elbow, which I do a lot anyway, but you can't elegantly haul all your groceries while wearing this.   

Overall, sewing this cape was enjoyable and it's definitely fun to wear. I suspect the rain is done in CA for the season, but if not, between my last rain jacket and this one, I'm ready!  

Monday, February 27, 2017

Stretch lace tee tutorial

Did you ever consider that stretch lace could be used to sew up a simple tee shirt?  It just takes the right pattern and a few small sewing modifications!   Here, I've used this lovely stretch lace in "Naughty Navy".
When choosing a pattern for a stretch lace tee, here are a few guidelines:
  • Keep the number of pattern pieces to a minimum--a style with just front, back and sleeve pieces will work better than one with many style lines.
  • Bust darts are okay!
  • A jewel or boatneck would work best, but you can also modify a favorite pattern to have the neckline of your choosing. 
  • Look for a style without closures.   
  • A semi-fitted style would be most appropriate.
For my version, I used Vogue 8151 pattern, (apparently out of print, but I found it in the store) but here are some others that might work well, too:
In addition to the stretch lace fabric, you will also need about 3/4 yd of lining fabric, in a lightweight knit (such as lightweight cotton, rayon, or bamboo knit).  Choose a contrast or matching color; here I went with this peachy knit fabric to highlight the design in the lace.

Step 1: Cut your pattern pieces (front, back, sleeves) from lace.  I made some fit adjustments and widened the neckline, but otherwise stuck pretty close to the size Small for this pattern.
Step 2: Cut the front and back pieces from your lining fabric.  No need to line the sleeves!

Step 3:  If your pattern has bust darts, sew them now in both the lace and lining.

Step 4: Sew the shoulder seams of the front/ back pieces in lace.  Then, sew the shoulder seams of the lining fabric.  I did not include 1/4" clear elastic at the shoulder seams, but it would be useful.  If you choose to apply clear elastic, sew it into either the lace or the lining (not both).

 Step 5: With right sides facing, line up the necklines of the lace and lining fabric.  Sew using a stretch stitch or overlock.  Lightly press on the lining side.
Step 6.  Now, treat the lining like an underlining.  Baste the lining and lace together along the both sides and the armhole to keep the layers together.  I used a simple straight stitch, but you can use a 3-thread overlock and then trim it off as you overlock the side seams together later.  
Step 7: Sew in the sleeves, easing the curve if needed.
Step 8: Sew the side seam, from wrist to hem, trimming off your basting stitches as you go.
Step 9: Hem the sleeves and top using a stretch stitch, double needle, or coverstitch machine.  

Step 10: Wear your beautiful creation, dressed up with wool pants or a pencil skirt, or dressed down with jeans.   Easy!

Many thanks to Britex for providing the fun lace fabric!  

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Bronx dress for the first day of school

After seeing SBCC's new cowl-neck addition to the Bronx dress pattern, I couldn't resist.  I loved the look of a classic skater dress with a bit dressier neckline and elbow length sleeves.  If I were teaching, this style would be perfect every day....
But instead of teaching a lecture, this past Monday was my first day at WVC as a full-time student!   And I was lucky enough that the weather was (temporarily) warm enough to wear a dress without tights!  Yay!
I so appreciate that SBCC's patterns are drafted for us petite ladies.  It's so nice not to have to shorten bodices and hems!  However, when I sewed up the appropriate size (XS), the bodice didn't fit well across the shoulders (sorry, no photos!).  After looking at the pattern a bit, it seemed like the back armholes were a bit deep, at least for my broad back, so I took apart the bodice (cutting away the serged edges) and recut the back bodice to have a wider upper back.  It fits so much more nicely, but it could still use a bit more work.  It also looks like I need a swayback adjustment there!
I lucked out and ordered just the right fabric for this dress: midnight navy rayon-nylon ponte knit from Mood.  The weight is great for its structure and coverage, and it sewed up beautifully, but it's fairly thick, so the cowl isn't as drapey as it might be with lighter fabrics.  I also unwittingly matched the sample shown at the SBCC website.... :)
In the future, I'll alter the pattern a bit to increase the drape when working with this type of thick fabric.  (Notice my rainbow heart "Nicole" pin?  That's totally vintage 80s right there.)
The dress is an unbelievably fast sew, especially since I totally cheated and decided not to hem the skirt or sleeves.   Shh....I even left the back neckline unbound!  This type of fabric could handle it, since bias binding the neckline would have been super bulky.

I LOVE this dress!  I felt put together and comfortable all day, which made it so much easier to learn stuff :)  

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Tomato wool tweed trousers

Initially, I had envisioned this tomato and pink wool tweed fabric from Britex for the perfect chic work dress, but since said chic dress pattern is not in existence (yet...), the fabric sat for a while.  I've tossed a couple of ill-fitting wool pants recently, so this fabric seemed like a fun option with which to replace them.
The pattern is Amazing Fit trousers (Simplicity 8056).  I like that this pattern series acknowledges that people carry weight differently, and the pattern has three "fits": slim, average, and curvy. Admittedly, I had originally tried this pattern in the "slim" category, since my hip measurement is proportionally smaller than my waist measurement when compared to the "standard".  However, the back waistband would pull downward, so it was clear my bum is (much) bigger than I had thought (hoped!).  I went with the average category this time around and the fit was better, with still some tweaking to do.  I also did a bit of a petite adjustment, which amounted to, essentially, shortening the rise in the front and back.  In previous iterations, fabric in the crotch area was kind of pooling below the zipper.   I am *almost* at the goal of perpendicular side seams.
This pattern does not come with back pockets, so I added some single welt pockets.
With extreme close up, to show the fabric a little better.
I also added a full lining (Bemberg rayon, of course) to these trousers, since it is pretty much unacceptable for me to wear wool without a lining.  I'm not allergic or anything, it just annoys the poop out of me.  
Here's the waistband, with zip fly and double bar closures (+ snap).  I'm locked in there!  

At this point, I may still take the length up a teeny bit (like less than 1/2").  Depending on my shoes, they sometimes hit the ground in the back, but it's definitely a fine line.  
Oh hey, I made the top, too.  This is a self-drafted pattern to replicate a Banana Republic one I wore into the ground.  It's still in the early stages of drafting, but it goes well with these pants (unlike most everything else in my wardrobe!).
And here they are on my mannequin with leg stumps.  I've never used my dressmakers form for pants, and they actually fit!  Of course, it's a fiasco to get them on and off, but once in a while isn't a big deal.

I'm a few critical steps closer to my goal of a perfectly fitting trouser pattern, so I can make a shiny new pair of wool trousers for the start of school each year :) I need to clear up the extra fabric under my bum there, but I have a plan of attack for the next version.  
I'm also working on trying to get a well-fitted pair of cropped slim leg pants, and that is coming along significantly less well...evidence coming up.