Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Coffee date dress...finally!

I've been intending to make the Coffee Date dress by Pattern Runway for years.  Then, I finally broke down and bought the pattern, and it has taken me months to figure out what fabric to make it from.  Once I determined I'd use some less-expensive fabric to give the pattern a go, it took me ages to start.  And then once I started sewing, all the numerous fitting issues stalled me for a while.  So in short, this dress is way too long in the making!
So let's talk about this pattern.  I love the idea of this dress (fitted waist!  pockets!  kick pleat!), but I struggled with the fit a little and the end product isn't really flattering on me.   For the fit, I tried to reduce the volume of the pleats on top by essentially not grading out at the bottom of the bodice like I normally would, and instead using some of the pleat volume to "stretch" the bodice to fit the waistband (does that make sense to anyone but me? :) I think it could use even more reduction of pleating for my shape (both at the top and shirt parts).  I shortened the bodice while adjusting the paper pattern, again while sewing, and finally took in the shoulder seams by 1/2" to get the waistline to fall at the right spot and avoid a really wacky blousing effect.
I didn't care for the longish short sleeves, so they were shortened as well as removing some of the gathers at the cap.

I wore the dress to work yesterday and it's a solid, professional-type garment (I wore a cream colored cardigan with a defined waist most of the day), but I felt like it was unflattering.  The pleats below the waist are a little voluminous and don't hit quite right.  The photo above looks pretty good only because my hands in the pockets are pulling them down a little! I don't know...maybe my belly fluff is the really culprit :)
The back is fitted nicely, at least!    The back kick pleat is very cool and functional!  And I do love the pockets (especially since putting your hands in them pulls the pleating down in a slightly more flattering way :)
The fabric was a new one for me: peach skin.  I bought heaps of this pretty cheap fabric thinking it was stretchy and it most definitely is not (my fault completely!).  Benefits: wrinkle resistant, fairly easy to work with, and cheap.  I also totally love the print (and there are loads of others!).  I can imagine it being hot in the summer, it is polyester after all, but it also feels light and airy, so we'll see when it gets steamy.
I may try this pattern again, but with a ponte knit.  I have some lovely Boden dresses with a pretty similar style, but in a weighty knit. I'd love to recreate those and wear them constantly.  Anyhow, I'll wear this one again, so I guess that counts as a success!

Fun fact: I bought my awesome orange necklace from a jewelry vendor at the farmer's market in Homer, Alaska.  $6!

2015 Resewlution, April garment #1 (I need to do more sewing!)

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Pop art-inspired Shuttlecock Dress

I've been taking fashion design classes at a local community college...a class a semester, whatever I can fit into my teaching schedule, nothing too strenuous.  Anyhow, while sitting in my fashion illustration class a month ago, there was an announcement for a fashion design competition.  Well, the college athlete in me can't resist a competition, so I entered!

There were multiple categories in the design challenge and I randomly selected "Pop Art" as my inspiration.  After some research for ideas, I came upon this series of sculptures, "Shuttlecock" by artist Claes Oldenburg:
(The birdie, not the building.)
The process of designing the garment in my head took a while.  At multiple points, I was reminded quite clearly that I am actually NOT a fashion designer!  I knew it had to be made out of scuba knit (purchased from Mood here and here)----the feathers would be so much easier to manage and give a nice, stiff yet flexible look--and I knew boning would have to be involved.  How to put it all together? Yeah, that was the hard part.

The bodice is drafted from a contouring sloper bodice (to my measurements!) and is sewn with front and back darts, with a strip of velcro on the side.  The feathers involved some trial and error--in the end, each one is a double layer of scuba knit, with a strip of covered boning sewn down the length.  The top layer of the feather was randomly slashed to give a more "feather-like" appearance.  Each is attached to the bodice with a stay of 1" wide elastic.
A circle of boning at the waist is hand stitched to each feather, with a tiny snap at the side as an opening. After trying on the dress, it was clear the feathers needed to be tacked down for modesty, so the bottom layer of each feather is tacked to its neighbor.
Here is my fashion illustration of my garment--I haven't finished the course yet (still a month to go), but I've learned enough to be pretty happy with my rendition! 
Here's my Shuttlecock dress with some of the other entrants.  There were some really inventive garments (take a look at that one of the left (below), made from spoons and garbage bags, winner in the "recycled plastic" category):
The white "paper" dress on the left (below), was winner in the "yarn as inspiration" category.  The dressmaker encouraged everyone to sign or draw something on the garment.
White dress on the left (below), winner in the "transform a t-shirt" category, is all lacy on the back.
And mine, winner (out of 2 entrants :) in the "pop art" category!  Thanks to the members of the Fashion Club for organizing the whole thing--it was truly a fun and challenging experience!  
Someone needs to have a costume party, and soon!  Until then, my dress will be on display in the student center at West Valley College, if you happen to be near Saratoga!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Companion Carpet Bag in silk brocade

I can hardly believe I made this bag--I'm just so in love with it!  As my most recent Britex project, I've been thinking about this bag for a while--I picked out the fabric and pattern months ago, and sat down just this week to sew it.  It turned out exactly like I imagined!

First off, let's talk about this fabric.  Guys, that is silk brocade.  It's a wonderful rough-ish-textured, vintage-inspired medium-heavy weight fabric that just screams handbag to me.  For the bag lining, I went a little unconventional and used a comic-inspired print of extolling the virtues of home sewing. I couldn't help myself.
The pattern is by Samantha from the blog At Home with Mrs. H.  I tested the 12" bag pattern for her months ago, and the pattern is part of the Bag of the Month Club (so not available outside the club quite yet). This is the 8" frame pattern, which features outside and inside slip pockets and an inside zip pocket.

The tubular snap-close frame is so much fun, and creates this gaping bass mouth look, that makes you just want to toss the kitchen sink into your handbag.  It's not quite big enough to stash a floor lamp, like Mary Poppins, but close enough.  You can only imagine how much I can hold in the 12" bag (which I made and will eventually post about :)

Unfortunately, the tubular frame must be ordered from Hong Kong, but it is so worth the wait!  I also purchased the faux-leather handles from the same Etsy store.  
The best part is how well this bag keeps its shape!  I used Soft n' Stable for all the outer pieces and a medium weight interfacing on all the lining pieces.  I wish I had used some kind of spray adhesive to keep the outer fabric and Soft n' Stable together, but it still looks pretty nice regardless.
To keep the bag from sagging at the bottom (look--no sag!  And I have all my stuff in there!), I cut a small flexible cutting board to fit (these exact ones), and drilled holes to attach the brass bag feet (not shown in any photos, somehow!).  It worked like a charm.  
I wrote a tutorial for the custom piping along the front pocket and I'll get that up here shortly.  If you're in a hurry, it's over at Britex right now (and while you're there, you can enter to win a subscription to the Bag of the Month Club!).  

Many thanks to Samantha for providing both sizes of the Companion Carpet Bag pattern and Britex for yet again letting me work with their amazing fabrics!


Sunday, March 08, 2015

My vision, in silk crepe de chine

So when I saw Sunni's outfit here, I completely fell in love with that silk print fabric.  I needed it, so I bought 2 yards from Mood.  And...it sat in my stash for months.  I had an idea in mind, but no amount of searching in pattern books and independent designers yielded what I wanted. This pattern (Simplicity 1692, view A) came the closest, but with some issues (the primary problem being those waist darts!).
I used the bodice and sleeves of the pattern (size 10) and made all kinds of changes: for the neckline, there are some soft pleats instead of gathers, then for the sleeves, I reduced the fullness of the sleeve so there were unnoticeable gathers at the cap, shortened them to 3/4 length and added a tiny band.  I eliminated the waist darts entirely, and then took in the sides to make it more shapely while keeping it loose enough to avoid a closure.  Then, when I realized I had "petite-adjusted" the top too much, I added a 2 1/2" band at the waist.  Which I ended up completely loving.  Is it just me making the best of the situation, or does it make the blouse a touch more modern?
Things I love about this blouse: the back has shoulder darts.  I feel like shoulder darts acknowledge that our backs are also curved, and they create such a lovely fitted shape.  They're lacking in many modern patterns.
Another only-in-handmade-garments feature I love: self bias along the keyhole facing.  
And this self-fabric button THAT CAME FROM MY STASH?  Somewhere along the way, I purchased a garment that came with extra buttons and those buttons were covered with cream colored crepe de chine, as if I knew I'd be making a silk blouse in the future.
Speaking of which,  could I love crepe de chine any more?  No.  The answer is no.  It's my favorite of the silks.  
This blouse reminds me why I sew.  Got fabric and an idea?  Add some sewing skills, and bam, you get a blouse.  I bought some navy stretch twill to make some cigarette pants to complete the vision.  
Resewlution 2015: March garment #2

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Granville shirt in Liberty lawn

I'm pleased to say that I have now, officially, sewn a garment with Liberty lawn! Woohoo!  The price has deterred me for my previous multiple decades of sewing, but a tried-and-true pattern +  20% off at Britex = it was finally time.
I have to say, I surprised myself picking this print.  I had a bunch of Liberty bolts pulled at my last visit to Britex, but I was making the decision mid-February, and I guess I just wanted the most spring-like print in the place. The other selections just felt a little dark or "feed-sack-y", as Geana put it. This strawberry flower print is fun, and such a throwback to my 80s childhood.  
From my original Granville, I made a few slight changes: raised the "petite adjustment" line to above the waistline, shorted the sleeves, and graded in from 4 at the waist --> 0 at the hips .  In terms of construction, I sewed the collar more like Peter's instructions, which works better for me.  And I still don't love the instructions for the sleeve vents, but I made it work for this time around.
The fit is great.  I love sewing up a garment and being able to do some fancier seam finishes without worrying if I'm going to have to take the sides in or redo the sleeves once I try it on.  I may need to make some minor pattern tweaks to the collar; on me, it doesn't lay perfectly in the front, but overall, I like the fit for this style.
For this version, I used French seams for all but the back princess lines (and I'm seriously kicking myself about those!), including the armholes using Jen's great tutorial.   Which was actually not difficult at all, with a switch in the construction order: I set the sleeves (using French seams) before sewing the sleeve and side seams in one long go.
Again, I love the slightly fitted shape of this top, and it really works to tuck into pants.  I'm not really a shirt-tucker, but I could definitely pull it off with this blouse pattern.

I've had a bit of a slow start to the sewing year (which is in no way a reflection of the number of lengths of fabric I have that are begging to be sewn!).  I'm teaching and taking a class (Fashion Illustration), but I've sewn less than when I've had crazy teaching/class schedules.  It'll pick up, I'm sure :)
Resewlution 2015: March garment #1 (though I did the vast majority of the work in February...)

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Stella blouse in stretch silk

This Brilliant Abstract stretch silk charmeuse was seriously calling to me from the Britex website, so I chose it without a clear plan or pattern in mind.  Which, if we're being honest, pretty much describes 95% of my fabric acquisitions.
In the hunt for a fabulous top pattern to go with it, I kept coming back to the Stella blouse, by Pattern Runway.  I've adored the Coffee Date dress pattern for years (don't ask me why I don't own it), sewed up the Scalloped Hem of shorts (my version here), and have just generally liked the slightly more complex designs of PR.  Given my lovely drapey silk, this softly pleated peplumed blouse seemed a perfect match.
The one thing that made me hesitate before pressing "Buy" were the triple-layer sleeves, though. They was just a little too much for me and my broad shoulders.  But you know what?  Therein lies the beauty of making your own clothing; I could just leave off the top, ruffly layer on my version!  Done.
My favorite feature?  The tiny band of trim around the waist.
The pleats around the waist aren't super flattering from the side view, I have to say. But the blouse pulls in at the sides nicely when viewed from the front.

The hem dips in the front and back--so feminine and adorable!
I made a 1" reduction in the bodice length for my petite adjustment, sewing a size 36 in the bust and hips and grading to 38 in the waist.  With those adjustments, I was super happy with the final fit and didn't have to make any "post-production" changes.
I used a combination of French seams (side and shoulders) and serged finish (waist and armholes). Probably not the classiest look inside, but I didn't want to mess with Frenching all the seams, especially with the trim at the waistband.
The neckline is faced and I finished the raw edge with rayon seam binding, and there's an invisible zip at CB.
Definitely a top that can be worn with jeans or a pencil skirt (like this one!  Too matchy-matchy?)
Resewlution 2015: February garment #1

Thanks to Britex Fabrics for supplying the lovely and decadent silk fabric!