PR Hacks - A Trapeze Dress Two Ways

5.27.2016

Hey everyone, just a heads up that my monthly PR article is live.  For May Deepika and I wanted to create a simple to sew, simple to wear project.  We ending up turning the Grainline Studio's scout tee into a trapeze dress. But you know, I just can't keep things simple for myself.  It's both a curse and a blessing. ;)  Because of this I decided to do not one, but two variations on the hack.

Version 1 -  Rayon knit Jersey with V neck and cap sleeves.  I call this one the keeping cool while running errands outfit.

Version 2 - Rayon Challis with a higher neck and a bit of a racer back.  This one's the night out on the town outfit.

If you'd like to know more than pop on over to the PR blog

Another trip to the lemon aid stand

5.03.2016

Hey all, hope you're enjoying your Me Made May so far.  This year I'm only doing it on instagram because frankly the weather has been completely shitty here and will be for the foreseeable future. We've have so much rain forecasted I'm starting to think that converting the deck to a boat might be the smart choice. I'll make sure all the sewing frogs get a place even if it breaks the "only 2" guidelines.

Instead of complaining about gloomy days let's go back into the past when it was sunny and the trees were blooming. A day where I finally photographed a project that took almost 2 months to finish. Was it a lined coat? Some sort of crazy chiffon confection? Or maybe a pair of pants with a thousand welt pockets?!  No my friends, it was only a kimono sleeved dress in some cotton sateen.
Now sometimes you buy a pattern knowing it's going to be a fiddly pain in the ass to sew.  In this case you gird your loins and plunge into the fray knowing that you might get out of this with only a dust rag. There might be a lot of swearing, but at least you knew what you were getting into.  Other times you buy a pattern thinking it's gonna be a fun simple sew and then suddenly you're hand sewing for hours. (I'm looking at you McCalls 6696.) This vintage Advance pattern must have been a soul sister of McCalls 6696 because it was also a hidden bomb of fiddly hand sewing.  Why do I like shirt dresses again? Oh right, they look nice on me.
Let's start out by talking about the bodice sewing directions given for the pattern. Here they are in abbreviated form.
1. Sew waist darts and bound buttonholes.
2. Join shoulder seams and side seams. Narrow hem sleeves and finished back neck with bias tape.
3. Turn under the front neckline edge a 1/2" and catch stitch it down.
4. Baste all neckline darts.
5. Turn under facing edges 1/2" and stitch down. Check that bodice neckline and facing match each other.
6. Now actually sew all the neckline darts.
7. Finally slip stitch the facing into the bodice neckline a 1/8" below the already finished edge.
I read these directions, had a good laugh and then thought, "Aint nobody got time for that sort of nonsense."
Here's what I did instead.
1. Drafted my own facings for the front and the back neck.
2. Made the bound buttonholes and sewed the waist darts as directed.
3. Sewed all the visible neckline darts which was tricker than I thought it would be.  I ripped out several for not being straight enough.
4. Sewed on my facings with the machine and edge stitched that area.
5. Finally I had to fold under and hand tack the front edge of the neck facing to the fold over button facing.
In addition to all the neckline insanity I also chose to make 7 bound buttonholes.  Think I'd rather rip out an overlock stitch with my teeth then make a bound buttonhole. However some part of me thinks if if I'm forced to sewing enough of them then I may magically start enjoying the process. NOPE!  And don't even get me started about sewing the bottom of the button placket which literally made no sense. In the end I just catch stitched the whole area and called it good.

By this point you've probably gleaned that sewing this dress was not the most fun I've ever had. Hand sewing is never going to be a "zen hobby" for me. But after the hair pulling/gnashing of teeth was over I put on the dress and magic happened.  Those lovely lemons practically glow on the black background! Oh dress, you might have driven me crazy but you were worth it.

Pattern
Advance 3740. (You know, just having a little chit chat with the girls while waiting for the kids at the bus stop.)

Fabrics used
Cotton sateen from the current Gertie line of fabrics at JoAnn's.

Pattern changes/alterations
1. "Graded" the shoulders and bust down 2".  Really all I did was fold out a wedge at the shoulder and into the bust area.
2. Standard 1/2" forward shoulder adjustment.
3. Removed 1/2" of bodice length.
4. Took in the shoulders 1/2".

Confessions/Advice
- I didn't need to take out 1/2 from the shoulders and the bodice length. Had to go back in and make the bodice a bit longer.

- I could have done a bit of a sway back adjustment on this pattern.  At least kimono sleeves tend to look blousy in that area regardless.


Husband Comment
"More lemon dresses for my sours."

My Final Thoughts
I can pretty much guarantee that this pattern won't be a resew, but I'm going to enjoy wearing the finished dress. Frog reminds me that past Heather said the same thing about McCalls 6696 and then made a second one. Hmmm, maybe I secretly love torturous hand sewing because it gives me an excuse to eat chocolate? Let's not think about it too much now, just pass the peanut butter cups.

PR Hacks - 50's Style Shirt Dress

4.27.2016

After a month's hiatus I've got another hacking article posted over on Pattern Review. Sometimes a girl has to take a month off to sew 3 Easter dresses, you know how it is. The April post features a 50's style shirt dress hack based on McCalls 6891. In the article I talk about how to convert set in sleeves to kimono sleeves and how to redraw the neckline. Nice thing about this hack is that you can mix and match either one of those new design elements with the original pattern. You can even switch up the skirt portion for a slightly different look. Ahh shirt dresses, they are the best.  If you'd like one too then hop on over to the PR blog and read up.  

Taming the Lime Leopard

4.17.2016

In March I had one of those fabric buying binges brought on by thoughts of Spring/Summer clothing. My stash busting spreadsheet assured me that this is an annual occurrence. Once florals and hawaiian prints start popping up I get all weak at the knees and scream,"Take my money!"  Even so there was a certain amount of guilt about adding almost 15 yards of fabric to the stash in the space of the month. What to do, what to do?  Maybe sew up some old stash into transitional clothing? Sounds like a plan. I even doubled down and choose one of the patterns that was in my "to sew" January post. Namely the Du Barry wrap blouse. Good blogger, you get all the cookies.
The Du Barry blouse was another one of those 32" bust patterns that I just "had to have" even though I'm a 36" bust.  Grading never seems easier than when you're pushing the purchase button on Etsy. But when it comes time to do the grading work I feel like a complete fraud. "Don't know what I'm doing, tra la la la la. Look over there instead." So after pulling out the pattern I waited for the usual sense of panic and dread to overtake me. Instead my brain said, "Hey we just graded that whole Hollywood pattern and it turned out fine. Just do the same thing knucklehead." It was then that I realized that maybe, just maybe, I wasn't a fraud but had learned to do a pretty good 4" grade. Huzzah!

 Incase you're wondering what my personal grading steps are I'll break out for you.
1. Trace the pattern...of course.

2. Since I'm pear shaped 1/2" is added to the waist and hip area along the side seam. In the case of 40's skirts I usually add that extra 1/2" of width down the whole length.

3. For pattern pieces on the quarter, I draw 3 grading lines and slash the spread the pattern. Two of the lines are spread 3/8" and the third is spread a 1/4".  (Was pretty pleased with myself for remembering the front blouse on this pattern is not on the quarter and needed to be slashed and spread 2".)

4. Finally I add 1/2" of extra height to the pattern along the shoulder and neckline. If there's some sort of attached neck facing, like on the Hollywood blouse, I usually walk the pattern on the seamline to see how much extra length is needed.

At this point I'll make any standard fitting adjustments for my figure and then sew a muslin.  Usually the muslin fits pretty decently and I can tinker with seam placement, lengths, etc.  The Du Barry wrap blouse was an easy fitting job since the shoulder pleats give you plenty of bust room and the tie makes the waist width easily adjustable. After the first muslin all that needed to be done was remove some of the height from the sleeve caps. Those babies were impossible to ease in without puckers.
For the fabric I choose some silk crepe de chine that had been in the stash for a couple of years. Sewing pleats in silk wasn't exactly my idea of a good time, but froggie and I got through it with a minor amount of ripping. We also learned from past mistakes and hand sewed the neckline bias binding on out of the gate. Better to do the hand stitching first thing then after you've ripped out your machine stitches 3 times. A person could go leopard blind doing a thing like that.


Pattern
Du Barry 5510, blouse portion only.

Fabrics used
Silk Crepe de Chine from the stash.

Pattern changes/alterations
1. Graded the pattern up from a 32 bust to a 36 bust.

2. Did standard 1/2" forward shoulder adjustment to the shoulder and sleeve cap

3. Reduced the sleeve cap height by 1/2" because they seemed to have too much ease to set properly.

Confessions/Advice
- I said on my instagram feed that this isn't a blouse made for raising your arms. Even with an at waist skirt any upward arm movement results in some bare midriff.

- The downside of a silk wrap blouse is that the ties starts to loosen as you wear it.  I haven't had a wardrobe malfunction, but do need to retie the blouse during the day.

- Put 1/4" shoulder pads in this because I've been brainwashed by the 40's into worrying about droopy shoulders.

- In case you were wondering how does this particular wrap blouse wrap, then here's a handy illustration from the instructions.
The pattern has a short tie and a long tie, the short tie goes on the blouse half that crosses in front. On the other blouse half the long tie comes out of a hole you leave in the side seam, wraps around the back and ties to the short tie.

Husband Comment
"Never seen a green leopard before but it's silky and nice."

My Final Thoughts
Despite my confession about the length occasionally causing accidental bare midriff, I've worn this blouse every week since finishing it. It just feels so elegant in both style and fabrication.  Figure I need to add a pair of high waisted trousers and high waisted skirt into the sewing list. Then I can pair them with this blouse and wave my hands in the air like I just don't care. Cause I won't because my hats are too fabulous. ;) Have a great friends. Next time we "talk" I'll have a dress that's refreshing as a tall glass of lemonade. Mmm delicious.

Stash Busting April Theme - Facing your Fabric Fears

4.04.2016

This month I'm the hosting the Stash busting sew-a-long group theme which is "Facing your Fabric Fears." I guess this means I better pull the tricky fabric bin out of the back of the stash cave. At least froggie will get to sleep in silk all month.

For those of you who may not know the Stash busting sew-a-long group was created as a support group of sorts for those of us who felt overwhelmed by our stashes. We wanted a way to motivate ourselves to sew out of the stash instead of constantly buying new fabric.  We have a monthly theme to get the creative juices flowing but you can sew whatever you want.  Here's a link to our facebook group if you feel like joining the party.

To start off the month put together a list of tips and links to helpful tutorials for all the stereotypical tricky fabrics.

Silk 
- Stiffen light weight silk fabrics, like chiffon and georgette, before cutting. My favorite method is soaking the fabric in gelatin solution as described in this Threads article. This does take a little pre-planning since the fabric will need time to dry before cutting.  What I like to do is mix up my gelation solution and put it and the fabric into a rubbermaid dish pan. (A bucket or the kitchen sink would also work fine.) After letting the fabric soak for an hour, I take it out and roll it in a towel to get rid of the extra water. Then the fabric is put on a drying rack to dry overnight. After the fabric is dry it can be pressed on low heat if any wrinkles happened during drying. Then you're ready to cut

- Cut silk out in a "paper sandwich." You've probably heard this before and I'm here to tell you that it does make a BIG difference.  Let's not talk about the time I decided to cut georgette without paper.....total disaster. Grainline Studios has a nice tutorial on how she cuts using this technique. I do it the same way other than using the floor and a roll of Kraft paper. Use the sharpest set of shears you have to make everything go as smooth as possible.

- Use a new sharp needle.  You don't want to accidentally snag your fabric just because your needle's gone dull. Also make sure you're using the right size needle for your fabric weight.

- Empty out the water in your iron and use a pressing cloth. Don't take the chance of your ironing peeing all over your silk project. A press cloth is another great way of protecting your fabric.  Silk organza is my personal favorite pressing clothing because you can see through it while pressing.


Rayon
- Pre-wash, pre-wash, pre-wash because rayon will shrink like nobody's business.

- Give yourself some cutting help.  Cutting rayon isn't as tricky as silk, but using some of the silk techniques can keep you from getting wonky pattern pieces.  Personally I like to stiffen rayon up with some spray starch and then cut it laying on some paper.

- Let it hang before you hem it. I've had more wonky hemlines with rayon than anything else so let it drop before doing all your hand sewing work.


Plaids
- Choose a plaid line for all your matching. When I start cutting a plaid project first I mark all my pattern pieces with a horizontal like in this Grainline Studio post.  That way I know all my vertical plaid will match up as long as I place them on the same plaid line.

- When cutting pieces that are mirror images use the first to help line up the plaid on the second. For example my pattern has two back skirts to cut.  When cutting the first pattern piece I use my plaid line mark and straight of grain to line up the pattern. Then when I cut the second piece I flip the first piece on top of the pattern and use that to help line up the plaid.

- Sew with a walking foot to help match plaid along the seams.


Leather
- Get yourself some clips to use instead of pins. You can go high end and buy some Clover Wonder Clips or be cheap like me and buy some small binder clips.

- Use a leather needle and 100% polyester thread. You don't want to worry about cotton thread deteriorating on your leather project.

- Teflon or roller feet are great for sewing leather because they don't stick to the hide. You can also put some scotch tape on the bottom of a regular foot to keep it from sticking.

- Use a hammer to help flatten any seams or darts that you don't want to topstitch flat.

- Double sided tape is helpful for positioning things like zippers on welt pockets.


Sequins
- The By Hand London blog put together a very comprehensive post on working with sequined fabric. Thinking I should don some safety goggles and finally sew the black sequin yardage in the stash.


Knits
- We just finished up a knits themed month in the group and Heather D rounded up a lot of great tips. Here's a link to her blog posts.

- I think of my pal Gillian as "The queen of knits." Her Lazy tips for sewing knits series is great of any newbies out there.

- Get yourself a self healing mat and a rotary cutter to make cutting out knits a breeze.

- I also highly recommend buying yourself a serger if you really like working with knits. My personal machine is the fairly economical priced Brother 104D. I've been using mine for several years and it's probably the most dependable machine in my sewing room.


That's all the tips and tricks I've run across in my personal experience. How about you guys? Do you have any great tips you like to share? Leave them in the comments section and I will have Froggie collate them for everyone's benefit.

Rosey Easter Dress

3.30.2016

Well hello there, I blinked my eyes and suddenly the month of March was just about over. Must have been some sort of Easter candy induced coma.  My love for things coated in chocolate has no bounds other than my now too tight clothing.

Between scarfing down egg shaped treats, I got to work sewing up this year's Easter dress.  You might remember that there were two pattern contenders, Hollywood 1159 and Simplicity 4958. Well I got super cocky and decided to muslin both patterns. Then threw them in a ring and let the dresses battle it out for supremacy.....er I mean easy sewability?  The Simplicity pattern won by not needing any sort of major alterations and by flashing it's curved sleeve hem at me. Oooo pattern eye candy, Momma likes.
There's not too much to say about this this project because it was pretty much smooth sailing from start to finish.  The bodice of the dress has V shaped waist darts that radiate from the CF and the back is gathered at the waist instead of darted. This results in a semi fitted top that cinches in at the waist and then flows out in a narrow 4 paneled A-line skirt. All of that was easy to fit and assemble.
Most of my sewing time was spent is getting smooth curves on the neckline and sleeve areas. Usually I mark my own guidelines for scallops, but this pattern helpfully included them on all the facing pattern pieces. All I had to do was transfer the punch outs onto the fabric and get stitching.
Since a strong shoulder was such a big part of a fashionable silhouette in the 40's pretty much every pattern calls for shoulder pads. This sometimes gives me 80's flashbacks of the terrifying kind. NOOOO, linebacker shoulders everywhere!!!  Right now I'm making the shoulder pad decision on a pattern by pattern basis. On this dress I did end up adding 1/2" pads because the semi fitted bodice needed a big shoulder to anchor the blousines of the design. At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Pattern
Simplicity 4958

Fabrics used
Cotton Sateen from the Gertie/JoAnn's line from 2015. I noticed she has this fabric for sale in her Etsy shop now if you're dying to have some. I enjoyed sewing sewing it and wouldn't make padding my stash with a bit more.

Pattern changes/alterations
1. Bumped out the waist and hip 1/2" for my larger lower half

2. Made my standard 1/2" forward shoulder adjustment to the shoulder and sleeve.

3. Dropped the bust dart 1".

Confessions/Advice
Nothing to disclose on this project other than this rose pattern placement being entirely accidental. I loooove it.

Husband Comment
"Hey pretty rose covered lady, I like your sleeves."

My Final Thoughts
These photos don't really do the dress justice. It was one of those days where the sun piercing my eyeballs threw off all the picture taking mojo. This dress makes me feel pretty and comfortable, but I didn't feel that translated into these pics. Next time I bring some sunglasses and pick a different location that isn't a bunch of uneven steps. Future goals right? To sum it all up, enjoyable vintage pattern to sew/wear, cotton sateen is still my favorite fabric of all time, and shoulder pads are sometimes good.  See you guys in April!

Vintage Pledge #1 - Hollywood 1032

3.09.2016

After much blathering on about this pattern for many posts, I'm pleased to unveil my finished Hollywood 1032.  Not in red, as previously discussed, but PLAID! A lady has the prerogative to change her mind after all.
After "discovering" that Hollywood 1032 was drafted to be a blouse and skirt instead of a suit, I still wanted a jacket like feel to the blouse. Exactly how to do this didn't cross my mind until stumbling across this plaid cotton shirting. "Perfect!" I thought, "This totally reads as jackety blouse to me."

Perfect except for two things
1. The back peplum was impossible to plaid match along the side seams. If I'd started cutting with that pattern piece it probably could have been managed. Of course I started with the front like I always do because that's the area you really don't want to mess up.

2. Elbow darts and plaid are not the best mix. This honestly didn't even cross my mind until the blouse was done and I hung it on a hanger.  Ooops, weird biased plaid at the bottom of the sleeves, too late to fix that now.

But whatever, I'd probably do it again because plaid is awesome and I really like this outfit.
This was my first time sewing an unprinted pattern and it went pretty well.  Transferring pattern pieces to new paper is a bit tricky because they are hard to see through the paper. Then I got some good advice off of Instagram to put dark paper behind the patterns. What a difference this makes! You still need to do some "pattern braille" for the darts/other punch outs but it works wonders for everything else.
The pattern illustration compared to the actual drafting was mostly accurate. The only glaring difference was that the peplum length was drafted to be much shorter than drawn.  I added an 1" of length to make it match up to the illustration and because that's more flattering for my figure.  Sewing wise this one was easy to whip up after all that waffling over fabric.  I'd definitely buy more Hollywood patterns in the future. :)

Pattern
Hollywood 1032

Fabrics used
Stashed Plaid cotton shirting - Originally from Fabrics and Trimmings on Etsy
Stretch wool suiting maybe from EOS.

Pattern changes/alterations
1. Graded the size 32" bust up to a 36" bust.  I used the same 4" grade described here. This worked for all the pieces other than extending the collar that becomes the back facing. Here I lucked out and was able to properly guess how much to add thanks to some notches.
BTW - It's interesting how extending the front facing and collar up to finish the back of the neck in this manner was a pretty standard drafting technique in the past.  Now it's something we only do for if there's a wrap around collar.

2. Added standard 1/2" forward shoulder adjustment to the shoulder and sleeve head.

3. Dropped the bust dart 1".

4. Added a scant 1/4" to the bottom part of the princess line seam. The placement didn't look proportionally correct on my body without it.

5. Shortened the waist length 1/2" above peplum.

6. Added 1" additional length to the peplum.

Confessions/Advice
1. Don't forget about your elbow darts when you pull out a plaid. Derp.

2. Confession - I might be addicted to hug a snug and need an intervention.  It's something I'd never ever bought until the Veronica coat and now I can't stop putting it on hems. But see, so pretty.

3. I also covered shoulder pads with self fabric for the first time. All the pretty insides!

Husband Comment
"Are you going to a fancy business meeting?"  Why yes, I like to meet my donuts at the boardroom before eating them.

My Final Thoughts
Great start to my Vintage Pledge year.  I like the silhouette of both of the pieces and love that I can mix the skirt with various other tops. This should be the last "winterish" project for awhile. Look forward to lots of flora patterns in the future.

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