Friday, January 28, 2011

Pattern Sale!

Jo-Ann Fabrics is having a $3.99 sale on Vogue Patterns... Oh why do you do this to me universe?  Why?

I think I'll be making a quick stop after work!  (Because clearly the hundreds of patterns sitting in a giant basket in my dining room are not sufficient... although I probably need to come up with a better organizational method.)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Jeans Update

No picture today because the batteries in my digital camera died.  (I am so very unprepared for this whole "blogging" thing, I maybe should have given it a bit more thought...) 

Tonight I made the belt loops, attached the waistband, and topstiched the whole kit and caboodle.  The waistband is somewhat looser than I would like but I feel like it is not a fit issue so much as having cut it on the bias.  For the next pair I make I think I'll cut the waistband on the grain or possibly interface it to provide some more structure.  Likewise, I may make the next pair in a sturdier denim with a little less stretch and a wider leg.  The stretch denim definitely makes them look like jeans you could pick up at the mall, but if I'm going to go to the bother of custom making my own pants I may as well fit them rather than allow the lycra to do all the work for me...  That said, between the lycra and the large pockets, these jeans do wonderful things for one's backside.

The only steps left are making the buttonhole, topstiching the ends of the buttonhole, and hemming.  My machine started jamming again when I attempted the buttonhole so I decided to call it a night.  Shocking I know as it's only 2:30 a.m.!  I haven't been able to sleep well this week.  It's been good for productivity on personal projects but not so great for the workday.  I blame my newfound commitment to good health and diet.  I've foregone my nightly glass (or occasionally, glasses) of wine and now I no longer happily drift off in a lovely boozy fog... sad.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Adventures in Denim

My hands are blue.

Despite having pre-washed my fabric, five hours of handling the material has turned my fingers incredibly, solidly blue.  Nonetheless, my first attempt at blue jeans is going VERY WELL.  Tonight I cut my pattern...

Topstitched the pockets...

And then (of course) my sewing machine went all wonky and while the front of my stiches looked fine the back looked like this... (cue noises of disgust)

I cleaned out my machine and fiddled around with the tension until the it started working again and began my assembly...

The fit turned out really well.  I tried on what I have done so far and the only alterations needed  was taking in the yoke at the center back by around 2 inches.  I assume this means I will also need to take in the waistband similarly.  Luckily, this is an alteration I am only too familiar with...

So now all that is left to complete is the waistband and hemming!  I think I may have new jeans to wear by the weekend!  (If I ignore the lack of rivets... But no reason I can't wear my new jeans and add the rivets upon their arrival.  I don't plan on building railroads or generally engaging in activities that will require the added durability!)

The best part is that these really do look like RTW jeans... really well fitting RTW jeans!  I may never buy off-the-rack denim again.  Take THAT Gap! Ha!

Darn expensive hobbies!

I am not a Burda subscriber, but I so very much want this skirt as shown in the February 2011 preview:
In addition, I think FabricMart is stalking me.  This is three weeks in a row that thier 50% selections have included items that have been lingering longingly in my wish list... Because I want several yards of this grape silk chiffon.  I think it would be gorgeous as this dress:

Unreasonable Frustrations and Practical Projects

So the avocado dress is unfortunately on hold until I can make a Jo-Ann run and procure additional thread.  While one spool is generally more than enough for a single dress, that does not hold true when my sewing machine is possessed by anti-bobbin-winding demons. 

Happily, I did make some progress... I finished assembling and pressing the front drape pieces and attached the midriff to the bodice.  Not so happily, this needs tobe redone.  Somehow even though the side seams and all the pattern markings match up perfectly, once turned to the right side, the midriff is not centered.  It's technically centered, it just looks horribly askew.  So I am now going to need to pick out my stitches and see whether I can make it work.

I'm pretty sure this dress is cursed.  It's the only explanation for how unreasonably challenging this is proving to be...

So instead I got started on my Jalie 2908 Jeans.

This has been a planned project for quite some time.  This pattern got such glowing reviews that I simply had to try it!  I picked up a dark wash stretch denim from Jo-Ann Fabrics some time ago along with thread for topstitching and Dritz Jeans buttons in antique brass.  Now for some unholy reason, it seems that Dritz produces Jean buttons and Jean rivet tools, but not the appropriate rivets?  I found some plain nickel rivets but not the nipple or ring rivets that are commonly seen on RTW denim and not in the antique brass to match the button.  (Yes, it IS that important... mixed metals drive me nuts.)  I ultimately plan on placing an order with, but not until my next paycheck...

Last night I altered my pattern.  After measuring both myself and the paper pieces, I realized that I would need to lengthen the leg by 3 1/2 inches (1 1/2 inch above the knee and 2 inches below) as well as adjusting for my "protruding derriere" as one of my fitting books so charmingly puts it.  I started by adjusting the length.  I cut the pattern a few inches both above and below the knee and added the extra length.  Here is a photo of the lengthened back compared to the unaltered front.

Then I needed to add 2 inches to the crotch seam on the back piece to properly accommodate my "assets" if you will...  I began by adding 1/2 inch where the crotch and inseam meet and then tapering the added fabric toward the knee.  This has the added advantage of a little more ease in the upper thigh area.  However, when making this alteration you don't want to add more than 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch at that point or you risk bagginess under the seat.  This is not an attractive look for anyone!  So I added the additional 1 1/2 inches by slicing the pattern horizontally until I created a hinge at the outer hip and adding two wedge shaped segments to assure that I will have the necessary fullness in the seat.  Below is a closeup of the altered crotch seam.

And here is the fully altered back.

Since this is the first time I'm attempting this pattern I used one size larger than the pattern suggest for my measurements.  I think this will give me the wiggle room to make any further alteration and fit as I go.  Based off my measurements I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to take in the waistband and make some alterations to the yoke to cure my gaposis but I am more comfortable tacking that when I am working with the actual fabric than trying to alter the project on paper using only my tenuous math ability.

My fabric has been pre-washed so tonight I cut!  Wish me luck :)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

In Progress...

So despite my hopes, very little sewing got done this weekend... waking up at 2:00 in the afternoon did NOT help.  I had originally planned on finishing the avacado dress this weekend, but alas it was not to be. 

I orginally ran into trouble when my bobbin refused to wind.  It kept refusing to catch on the bobbin itself and instead winding around the post.  A lot of good thread was lost this weekend... truely a tragedy.  I finally was able to hold it down manually in such a way that the bobbin wound, but loosely.  I'm not sure what is causing this problem.

Then I had a bizarre amount of trouble inserting the sleeves of the dress.  On the first sleeve I ease-stiched as per the directions.  However, it didn't quite gather and it didn't quite lay flat.  So I took it out and forced the sleeve to fit without any gathering or puckers.  However, when I tried it with the second sleeve it wouldn't go in.  The third time I had to take it out I got my seam ripper caught in the fabric and managed to put a big tear in the sleeve itself.  As I am not a huge proponent of punky deconstructed looks I will have to recut the sleeve and redo the whole thing.  I was NOT a happy girl.  So I abandoned the sleeve for now and assembled the gathered midriff.

The assembled bodice... and solitary sleeve.  Maybe I can just be all 80's and asymetrical?  Anyway, the bodice is developing in a very pretty direction and if this stupid dress ever gets made I think I will get a lot of use out of it... 
The finished midriff.  I need to press and baste the front drape before attaching it to the rest of the dress.

In other news, I have once again signed up for the Weight Watchers.  I had been quite successful with it during law school but pretty much gave up on any semblance of health or fitness during the bar exam.  Since that time they have institued thier new "Points Plus" program.  I get quite a few more daily (and weekly) points allowance but many foods are also higher in points values.  But fruits and most vegetables are free!  At first I was concerned that it wouldn't be effective because it seems like I can eat a lot.  But then I calculated the points I had been consuming daily the week before I started the program and I was eating 2 to 3 times as much as I should be... no wonder I've put on a few pounds!  (A few...50...whatever!) 

Now how does this relate to my dress-making endeavors you may ask?  Well, my Uniquely You dress form was altered to be "uniquely me" before I gained my bar exam/looking for a job/starting a new job weight...  I have nothing but good things to say about using this product.  However, the reviews are not wrong and actually adjusting the darn thing, especially if you don't have someone to help, is quite the pain in the ass.  Literally.  I stuck myself with a lot of pins.  This was not fun.  Therefore I hope to get back to that size because I don't want to alter another canvas cover.  That's right ladies and gentlemen, I am dieting out of laziness.  It is proving to be suprisingly good motivation.

That's enough of my rambling for one evening... this post has been brought to you by insomnia.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

More Inspiration and Future Projects

So in many ways I feel this may become a space to document the projects I tackle in real life, but also those that I dream up in my head.  Continuing on my retro kick, today's inspiration is this ensemble as worn by Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

I must own this outfit. Including the muff and cape.  And the black hat with the long feather.  (Thank god they reconsidered the leopard hat... the black is much chicer.) 

Just look at this collar with the necklace woven through!  How can I resist?  Now I acknowledge that perhaps the cape and other accessories will have to be left to Halloween or other costumed events but have them I must if it takes all my wiles to do it...

What Would Joan Do? (or Jenny's Mad Men Dress)

I owe a debt to Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner for not only creating fantastically compelling television, but for introducing the world to Joan Holloway/Harris as played by the gorgous Christina Hendricks.  Joan has, in many ways become my fashion icon, my own version of WWJD.

Not suprisingly then, I decided I needed my own Mad Men inspired dress:

The collar and sleeves are borrowed from New Look 6000.  However I replaced the body of the dress with my own princess seamed sheath pattern. 

The dress is constructed with a very dark teal wool found at the Virginia Marti Fabric Store.  (If you are in Cleveland, it is definitely worth checking out as a great source of high quality apparel fabrics.  It is a one of the few alternatives to Joanns or the interwebz.)  My photos don't really do justice to this saturated color.  In real life, it's closer to this color:

I inserted an invisible zipper and fully lined the dress with this silky polyester blend in a blue watercolor floral.  Because if I am going invest the time to make my own clothes I want the insides to be as pretty as the outsides!  It's like pretty underwear... I know that nobody else will see it, but it makes me happy!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


So I have decided to dedicate the avacado green jersey to McCall's M5752

I not only like the lines of this faux-wrap knit dress, I love the built-in fitting instructions by Palmer/Pletsch, the creators of the classic Fit for Real PeopleThis book is a classic and highly recommended to anyone who doesn't already have a copy in their personal sewing library.  (Or borrow it from the public library...)

The most helpful instruction so far was to base my pattern size off my upper bust measurement rather than my full bust measurment.  While my full bust measurment puts me in a 20, using the upper bust I fall between a 14 and 16.  Cutting the smaller size with a full bust alteration (FBA) means that I get a much better fit in the shoulders and across my back... at least judging by my tissue fitting. 

The Palmer/Pletsch method has the home seamstress make fitting altertions to the paper pattern rather than making a full muslin.  I am a big fan, especially for knits.  I don't think I'll be abandoning my true muslins for more challenging designs and self-drafted patterns though! 

So tonight I finished altering my pattern, cutting, and marking each individual peice. 

I also started the gathering on self-faced front...

But ultimately had to put it down...  If I kept working on it I would have likely assembled the entire bodice and only gotten three hours of sleep before I had to get to court in the morning.  Gainful employment is such a hindrance to my hobbies!

I have not, however, given up on Vogue 8489.  I checked my stash and found this fabulous cotton knit that I picked up at Mode in New York several years ago. 

And most important, I already know this pattern won't need alteration.  I made this dress for my younger sister last Christmas (2009) but it needed to be hemmed and is still in my possession... I tried it on and I am good to go!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Easy McCall's M6078

In the past I've always focused my sewing efforts on dresses.  But this week I have definitely discovered the joy of the top!  Today's project was McCall's M6078.

I cut out this top Saturday evening while watching reruns of House and was able to assemble and finish it this evening while watching Joan Rivers deride the fashion choices on this year's Golden Globes.  But I think even Joan would approve of this draped top. 

I made view A out of a rayon knit.  While I think I will ultimately make view B (probably multiple times) to wear under suits and as a general wardrobe staple, I decided to start with view A because I love the lapped back.

This is another top that will look cute with jeans.  My only concern is that the back is pretty low and finding a bra that won't show may be a challenge.  The size large fits well through the shoulder, but I considered taking this in at the waist to get a bit more shape through the midsection and pull the back tighter, but I decided I liked the drape.  Further, the open back offers the perfect amount of sex appeal so the top doesn't need to be form-fitting. 
My assistant Ophelia agrees...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Butterick B5495

So this was the weekend of finishing quick, simple projects... I also tackled B5495.
This easy-to-make top has a dropped shoulder and a front drape.  It turned out well and I think it will be adorable paired with jeans and chunky jewelry for dress down days or casual nights out.

Vogue V8685

On Christmas morning I was greeted with a fantastic gift from my parents... a large basket overflowing with fabric, notions, and fun sewing tools! (Yay for my new rotary cutter!)  Included was V8685, which my father picked out as a dress he thought would work for me. 

And I have to give the man props, because having just finished my first version of this dress, it is both work-appropriate and flattering...

I initially cut out the size 20 which fit perfectly in the bust and hips but graded the waist down to the 14 to get the fit right.  Other fit issues were the oddly loose sleeves for a fitted knit dress and the length.  I made the longer length which the pattern describes as "below mid-calf" but it actually hits about an inch below my knee.  Now, I'm tall (5'9") but if I actually wanted this dress to hit my mid-calf or below I would have to lengthen by at least 6 inches. 

I made this first version out of a very light-weight poly knit that was included in my Christmas basket of sewing wonders.  I would love to try the version with the fitted skirt and cap sleeve in a heavy double knit.  I may also try the full skirt again in a cotton sateen which I think would be sort of fabulously 50's if accompanied with a skinny belt in matching fabric and a fitted cardigan.

If I make this again I think I would line the midriff and yoke to add a little more structure around the waistline so it doesn't show every miniscule flaw.  The other option is to get more serious about my diet and eliminate the flaws themselves... But I think that proper tailoring is much easier!

All in all this is a great easy pattern.  It took about 6 to 8 hours of work (would have been quicker if my serger hadn't kept jamming) over the course of a few evenings and I now have an outfit for tomorrow! 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Pattern Sale!

Yesterday I went in to Joann Fabrics for some dressmaker's tracing paper and was pleasantly suprised by the $1.99 sale on Butterick and McCalls patterns.  I picked up the following:


I also  have a few yards of avacado green rayon jersey and I'm trying to determine whether to make M6078 like above or make Vogue 8489

If I had any readers I would ask for thoughts... but I do not as of yet, so I'll just let you know which I decide!


This past summer I went on a family vacation with my parents and sisters to Washinton D.C.  We stayed in Georgetown right down the street from a boutique selling this dress:

In real life the blue was more a navy than the cobalt it appears here.  I think something like this could be fantastically flattering.  I plan to draft a pattern based on this dress.  Planned alterations are to eliminate the cap slight cap sleeve and make it truely sleeveless.  I also want to create a blue panel in the back as well as the front.  I also want to use pewter rather than gold buttons to be a little less blatantly nautical.  I have purchased a ponte knit in both black and navy and this one is on the list of impending projects...

We'll see when I get to it!