Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Two fit + flare dresses

Again, I couldn't help but make two of the same pattern!  This time the pattern is the Bronx dress from SBCC, with some fit alterations (armhole redo, back width increase, sleeve redraft).  As I'm sure I've mentioned on this blog before, I just love the fit and flare shape.  What I especially love about this dress, though, is that I can sew it in way less than 2 hours, from cutting the fabric to hemming.  Plus, it only takes like 1.5 yards of fabric, so it's kind of a stash-buster, too.
I made this wallpaper floral knit dress first, just because I adore the fabric. It might be a little bold for Paris, but I like bright colors and patterns, so I guess I'll just stick out.  Plus, the poppies will remind me of California when I'm homesick.

Looks like I could use a it of a sway back adjustment, too, but I don't see back there too often :)
Simple and comfy, yet a bit dressy.  My kind of travel outfit.
So the second dress came about because I got my schedule for school in Paris.  The first three official days are going to be spent working Paris Fashion Week!  Backstage, we'll be assisting the models into their haute couture garments.  Holy crap, guys, I will be able to touch and see the insides of haute couture dresses!
But the catch is that we have to wear black.  For three days.  Clearly I don't really *do* black clothing (my dark neutral is navy, obviously).  In fact I've only made two black garments (I believe, though my memory is pretty crap): this black skirt, which I made for a funeral, and a pair of black pants that wasn't properly blogged about and no longer exist in my wardrobe.
Of course, I immediately ran out to buy a few yards of black stretch knit and whipped up another Bronx dress.   With the leftovers, I made a simple black tee to go with some RTW black pants I already owned (to be blogged about shortly).  Two outfits is going to have to be good enough for three days....hopefully no one notices.

A black dress is definitely a useful staple item in a wardrobe, and perhaps more appropriate for Paris, so I'm really pleased with the addition.  Plus, I can make it more colorful with accessories!  I'm in NY now visiting family, but a little over a week until I make my flight to France!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Draped denim day dress

Here it is; the culmination of my draping class at WVC!  When I say draping class, the assumption is that there are going to be, like, a drape of fabric somewhere on the garment, but really draping is just another way to draft a pattern.  Many of the styles we did as exercises were not "drapey" at all, since the method lends itself well for creating perfectly fitted garments.
It looks very simple, but there are some tricky (to drape) and interesting elements to the dress.  Let's walk through it, shall we?  First up is the combination sleeve and bodice. It's essentially a kimono sleeve.  I love the above-bust seam line for us smaller-chested ladies.
The front bodice has a seamed center front and I used decorative red topstitching for fun.
There are princess seams in the front that transition into scoop pockets.
The back also has princess seams that end at the hip.
I topstitched the hem in red and used a red invisible zipper to tie it all together.  The back bodice/ sleeve combination has the same general shape as the front
My original dress didn't fit me because my dress form at school wasn't petite enough (despite grabbing the only petite form in the class), so to adjust, I took up about an inch on the upper sleeve seam, if that makes any sense.
While it's not the most earth-shattering design, it's very me and I kind of love the utilitarian vibe it has.  Also, within 2 minutes of wearing it to the farmer's market, a woman walked over to me to tell me how much she loved my dress and asked where I got it, so that was affirming.  It was pretty amazing to be able to say I designed and sewed it myself!
As a bonus for making it this far in my post, I've also photo'ed my mid-term dress!  It doesn't work on my body, so here it is on the form.  The assignment was to design using bias or other non-straight grain grainline.

The dress opens at the front at the waistline with a snap--it's kind of clunky.  The dress was a complete pain to drape and it doesn't look like I envisioned it, so I'm not thrilled with it.  Let's look at my final project again, since it was a pleasure to work on :)
Thrilled that this is one of the items I'm taking to Paris!





Thursday, June 08, 2017

Liberty blouse knock-off

I've been hoarding this piece of Liberty lawn for ages.  Since I didn't have a set plan when I purchased it, the ideas of what I could sew with it have run the gamut: pajama bottoms, dirndl skirt, button down shirt...  However, browsing through the J. Crew website the other day, I found a blouse in the exact fabric, with a really cute and summery design.  Done!  Here's the inspiration piece:
Analyzing the garment, I figured the blouse was a simple pull-over with no closures.  My recently drafted shift dress had the right general shape, so I shortened that to hip-level and removed the back zip.  There are ruffles at the neck and top armholes, and looked to be just gathered rectangles with baby hems.  Easy enough!

I faced the neckline and front slit because I didn't want the ruffles to weigh down the super light fabric, but I used matching bias to finish the armholes.
The shape is slightly fitted with French fish eye darts, but plenty roomy to be comfortable and cool.

Even though I'm typically not a "ruffle person", I'm pretty psyched about how this knock-off blouse turned out!  
I wore it for my birthday to the Berkeley Botanical Garden and Chez Panisse and loved it!  I have to say, I dread washing it for fear of what I'll have to do to get the ruffles looking lovely again, but I've got one more wearing before I have to cross that bridge :)  








Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Graduation dress in summery eyelet

After three and a half years of very part-time classes at West Valley College, I finally graduated a week ago with my A.S. in Apparel Production!  Since I made a new dress for my very first day of class at WVC, it was only fitting that I drape, draft, and sew the dress in which I accept my degree.
Not only did I just graduate, but tomorrow is my 40th birthday (!).  Both events together feel kind of momentous and I'm feeling all nostalgic...forgive me while I wander through my sewing history!  Of course, it all starts with my mom.  I have been sewing for about 35 years, thanks to my mother who would give me buttons to sew onto felt while she sewed our clothes.  She gave me my start down this path and I still chat with her about sewing regularly.
I sewed clothing in high school for myself (as well as one for my older sister, who doesn't sew) including my high school graduation dress. While looking for photos of that one, I stumbled on what I believe to be the oldest documented garment sewn by me, worn to the "Sophomore Soiree" as a 15 year old.  That is definitely quilting cotton.  How far I've come in 25 years!
I would wager I was the only undergrad at Trinity College (Hartford, CT) to have a sewing machine in their dorm room, and I sewed through graduate school at Cornell (when I should have been reading research papers).  Sewing has been such a big part of my life, yet I majored in Biology and then Plant Biology, never once considering to study fashion or apparel production.  I'm not even sure I knew that was a thing at the time!
So even though I have a few other degrees, this one feels particularly special to me--it kind of honors my life-long "hobby" and those that have influenced and encouraged it all these years.  And now it's official--this degree means I can sew clothes!  Thanks to my instructors, Tiina Keller, Sally Aitken, and Kaee Minn.  They are all amazing.
As it turns out, there is a lot more in common with Plant Biology and Fashion than you might expect and I could envision a career in that zone of commonality if I didn't love teaching so much.  So, back to the lecture hall and lab next Fall.  I'll be thinking about and researching "normal" and sustainable pattern design in my free time.
You want to hear about the dress now? Okay, enough nostalgia!  First up, let's talk about this fabric. The amazing eyelet from Britex just had to be the star of the garment, so a simple silhouette was the way to go.   I draped the simple sheath dress (with French darts in the front and fish eye darts in the back) on my personal dress form, tested the half drape, transferred to paper, tested the full garment in muslin, and sewed the dress in one day!  Phew!  

I'm particularly pleased with how well the back armhole fits, thanks in full to the tiny, nearly invisible shoulder dart.  Such an under-utilized feature of garments these days, shoulder darts are. 
To maintain my modesty in this open eyelet and keep it comfortable in potentially hot weather, I chose to underline the dress in muslin.  The arm and neck holes are finished with muslin bias binding.
Check out my pattern matching on the back.  It was mostly good fortune, but I'll happily claim to have meticulously planned it!
Here's a photo of the dress on Graduation Day with my two boys, and another of me in my robe and mortarboard (dress hiding underneath).   

A big thank you to Britex for providing the fabric for this special project, and for believing in me over 4 years ago when they invited me to be a Britex Blogger.  I definitely gained skills, inspiration, and confidence as a sewist as a result of my time working with them!  
Finally, as a combined graduation and 40th birthday gift, I am continuing my education for a little while longer; I will be spending the month of July in Paris while I take classes in Couture Techniques at the Paris American Academy!   No, I couldn't get any luckier and I'm fully aware of that.  







Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Quilt finished!

Quilting really isn't my thing; I've made a handful of quilts over the years and while I have been really proud of the resulting blankets, it's not something I enjoy very much.  So, clearly, making a new dress or blouse has taken priority over a long-term quilting project!
On the spare bed for a moment
Truthfully, I had intended to make a quilt for my younger son when he moved into a "big boy" bed. But that was about 4 years ago.... However, with an impending long trip away from my kids, there was an impetus to get that project off the queue.  Finally buckled down and got it done!  Phew!
The pattern I used was "New Wave" by Elizabeth Hartman.  Such a simple, modern and beautiful design!  I can imagine it in tonal solids for an adult bed.  But for this one, I chose 19 different prints (over the years I've swapped some out as I've found new and exciting prints) that had a similar color scheme to the quilt I made for my older son.


Since the blocks are trapezoidal, cutting was not quick!  Then there was the perpetual fear of stretching along the near-bias of the slanted edges, so sewing was not the quickest, either.  It was also not trivial to line up all those diagonal lines!  However, the result is totally worth it.  Love!
Since the only thing worse than sewing the quilt piece together is the actual quilting part, I "subcontracted" that part out! Local long arm quilter, Melodee Wade, who also quilted my older son's quilt, did the work.  She does a beautiful job and in hardly any time at all!   She also trims the edges so all I had to do was apply the binding--pretty awesome.
Laid out on the kitchen floor in preparation for quilting
Melodee suggested the "bubbles" design for the quilt, which nicely complemented some of the wheels and other circles in the prints.  
The edges are finished with handmade binding, with mitered corners. 
The back is a solid orange color, with a strip of fabrics from my son's original baby bedding that I made when he was an infant.
Here's the photo of the two mom-made quilts together.  The idea was to have them coordinating but not identical.  My older son's (on the top) is a Denyse Schmidt design from her book, made about 7 years ago (before this blog).  It's shocking how much wear it is showing already, and that makes me sad.  Some of the blocks are ripping and the whole thing is very faded.  Honestly, we don't wash it that often, but clearly this isn't going to be an heirloom!  Below is a close-up of some of the worst blocks, how the quilt looks on his upper bunk, and finally what the quilt looked like originally (on Melodee's long arm machine):


C'est la vie, I guess.  Perhaps I'll be making replacements for these in the next few years!
It's such a nice feeling having this project done...now now back to clothing!