Sunday, October 27, 2013

Dress Form Troubles

So wouldn't you know it, a mere three days after I wrote and posted my ode to the dress form, it decided to give me problems.  I was working on my latest UFO project, the finishing of an avocado green, faux wrap, jersey dress.  I attached the sleeves...
 I pressed the remaining unassembled pieces...

Because seriously, two years in a bag at the back of the closet can lead to some severe unwanted wrinkling... And as I was working, I heard a loud thuwump.  I looked over to my dress form to witness this: 

And as I am not three feet tall, this was a problem in need of a remedy!  Let me explain what happened...  This dress form is adjustable by height.  The stand is made of metal piping and the center of the foam form has slightly larger metal pipe running up the center.  The bottom pipe fits inside the top pipe which is held up by a rubber ring and screws.  Sadly, after several years the rubber had grown a bit stiff and brittle and could no longer take the tension created by the screws.  It cracked in two separate points leaving my poor dress form with a very abbreviated leg line.

Now, this didn't stop me from finishing the dress!  (Although the fit is off here and I may have to do some alterations as I like a lot more negative ease on a jersey dress than this pattern provides.  The fit is quite loose and it just doesn't work.  More on that later...  Plus I can't exactly pin the hem when my body double is in this terrible state!)

My first attempted fix involved creating a new ring of scotch tape which initially seemed to work, but... well...


The clear scotch tape didn't quite have the sturdiness needed.  So I decided to head to the Home Depot, pipe in hand, to find a more permanent solution.  After half an hour of searching the shelves of the hardware and plumbing aisles with two different employees, I came home with... Slightly sturdier tape!

Sadly, unless I wanted to buy a heavy duty drill capable of putting holes in the underlying pipe, duct tape seemed to be my best bet.  And so far it seems to be holding up.  My dress form friend is standing tall once again.  Let's see how long it lasts!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

UFOs... project "WTF"

So please ignore the poor quality selfie, but I am totally befuddled by my incomplete rendition M5752... a dress that should be fabulous.  But I apparently decided sometime in January of 2011 that I wouldn't bother to finish this garment which proved problematic to past me.  So nearly three years ago I abandoned this dress at this point of undone:
If I pin on the other (distressingly wrinkled) pattern pieces I wind up with this disheveled mess... and I have EXTRA pieces!  Extra pieces that I have zero idea what they are because the dress is fully pinned!  Thus the befuddlement and WTF face of the initial picture.

In this case, I am incredibly grateful for the blogging... if not for the post from January of 2011, I would have no idea why this was a) in a bag, b) not completed in any semblance of order (see the directions below), and 3) why it looked like an angry dog was chewing on the sleeve. 

On the bright side, I've decided what I'm going to do for the Vintage Pattern contest.  I will make this classic shirt dress in this lovely brown polka dot sateen.  However, I think the look will be modernized somewhat by the fact that this polka dot is a border print...  We'll see.  It will either be cool or crazypants.  This is always a gamble.


Monday, October 21, 2013

My Dress Form... the best purchase I've ever made

On my last post, reader ozviking asked about my dress form and whether I had made it.  The answer is no... and sorta?

The dress form I own is the "Uniquely You" a customizable dress form which is made of a high density foam which you customize with a canvas cover that has been altered to meet your measurements.  The dress form comes with a cover but additional covers can be purchased to accommodate weight changes or multiple individuals  (provided you are roughly the same body size). 

Now this dress form is obviously not homemade, but it takes quite a bit more work than your average "dial a size" form.  See the (hilariously old-timey) instructions: 

There are two main challenges to fitting your dress form.  First, you have to perfectly fit your canvas cover.  This can be a bit of a struggle, particularly if you don't have a friend on hand to help you out.  Working alone this took me several hours of sitting alone in front of my sewing machine in my underpants.  I would turn the cover inside out, put it on, pin, stitch, and repeat making tiny adjustments until it fit like a second skin.  Which leads us to the second challenge... to assure that the canvas cover is properly filled out, the underlying foam form is significantly larger than the final intended measurements.  This means that you may break a bit of a sweat wrestling some laughably enormous foam bosoms into your canvas.  However, once the canvas is zipped up and the foam appropriately compressed, it creates a dense, pinnable form that should closely mimic your figure.

The form comes in 5 size groups with 14 adjustable cover sizes.  

Now it's been over six years since I purchased my form, but I believe I bought a medium form with a size 9 cover?  Due to some weight gain in the ensuing years, if I was to buy one today I would probably get the medium large with a size 11 cover, but I'm working on that!  

A few thoughts about this form that you may want to consider... I love this form but I am not that far off from a "standard" figure.  I tend to be a bit bustier than average and sport some junk in the trunk as it were, but my measurements generally adhere pretty closely to those propogated by the Big 4 pattern companies.  I don't know how much my love of and success with this form is related to the relatively minor adjustments that I needed to make.  Also, I am uncertain as to the compressabiliity of the shoulders and back width.  One thing I LOVE about my form is that the shoulders are perfectly my size (even with the weight gain) which makes it much easier to install sleeve caps and so forth.  However, I have fairly balanced and squared off shoulders.  If you have a severe slope or narrower shoulder and back it may or may not work for you.

Finally, as for price... Now this is obviously not going to be as cheap as the DIY dress forms made of duct tape, paper mache or the like.  That said, it is not unreasonable compared to other options on the market.  Various sites price this out at between $139.99 and $189.99.  Given the advantages (no sticky residue on your pins!  practically industructible!) I think the price is well worth it.  And keep in mind, when I decided the price was worth it, I was on a student budget...  As an adult with a grown-up job my reaction is "OMG BUY IT!  BUY IT!  SOOOOOOO worth the cost!"

So there you go, more than you ever wanted to know about my dress form.  If you are interested in getting one for yourself, here are the resources I found:

Allbrands (this site looks familiar and I think this is where I ordered mine lo these many moons ago)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

And I continue to work my way through unfinished white garments...

So strangely, all the unfinished garments that I have worked on completing so far have been white or ivory... probably because a large number of my unfinished garments are, in fact, white and ivory.  I think I am often inspired by color and as much I like wearing white, it just doesn't capture my interest enough to fully complete my paler creations.

Today's unfinished, now-finished garment is a white and cream floral silk from Butterick 5455, a Maggy London dress with a midriff band and slanted pockets.  Now this is one that I had made previously and know fits well.  This version was begun at around the same time but got put away unfinished and remained untouched to this very day.  And the sad thing is, it didn't need that much work! 

I needed to finish the back closure by adding a hook and eye to the top of the zipper and finish the back seam by completing the seam below the invisible zipper.  (Death to back vents!  They always pull and ride up and make me look vaguely pornographic... NOT what I am going for!)

I also needed to finish the arm-holes, something that I've never entirely figured out the best way to do on this pattern...

Finally, I need to reinforce all the side seams... For reasons lost to the mists of time, 2011 Jenny decided that the side seams of this dress should be sewn on the serger.  Not just finished, but outright sewn on the serger.  There is a bit of stretch to this fabric and it's not necessarily a problem except that my serger is not great.  The tension is never, EVER right and so all the seams of this dress look like this:
So I fixed and finished these minor things and wound up with a very pretty dress.  


Yes, this is indeed a very pretty dress.  A very pretty, and entirely impractical dress.  A very pretty, impractical dress which I will likely never have an opportunity to wear.  Because here is the thing about white, floral, silk brocade dresses... there is NO occasion in my life where this sort of attire is appropriate!  In the end, this has a very "garden party" vibe.  Sadly the only places I ever wear "garden party chic" is daytime weddings... and I know that the rules around wedding guest attire has relaxed, but I still think most people frown upon wearing white silk.  So. 
I do love this dress though so I might eventually decide that it is work wear, practicality be damned.  Dressing down otherwise "dressy" dresses is the primary reason I own approximately 352 cardigans in every color imaginable.  (Secondary reasons include: "but they are so pretty!" "I don't own THIS shade of purple," and "Victoria's Secret is having a sale on their silk-cashmere blends.")
But never mind all that!  Let's look at the fun details!

 One thing I did on this version as opposed to earlier incarnations, is I extended the midriff band around to the back, including the self-fabric piping.  I dislike the very common practice of including details only on the front of the garment and not equally embellishing the back.  (You do not want to hear my rant about sequin tops which are plain cotton on the back... there is no excuse!)

I also used the self-fabric piping to finish the pocket and neckline.  I think this sort of detail separates the luxe from the lazy (or cheap, but that doesn't have the same fun alliteration).  And hey, if I am going to take 2 years to make a dress?  It better be pretty darn awesome!

So 3.5 UFOs down... and a frighteningly large number to go!

M5759 - and the winner is... SNAPS!

Last week I constructed a lined jacket from McCall's M5759.  This red wool jacket with leather accents has an oversized collar and asymetrical front.  I had purchased some gold and red enamel buttons but after seeing the buttonless jacket on my dress form I was torn... Should I use the truely fabulous buttons?  Or should I go with a sleek modern look and keep the front clean and button free?

I decided on the latter.  I installed five large snaps on the inside of the jacket which is now complete!


2013 Lined Jacket Contest

Finishing the high-waisted 1970s skirt...

As per my last post, today I finished my cream, 1970s skirt.  I made this out of a pattern I "acquired" from my Grandmother's basement but cannot now locate.  Therefore I am sadly unable to identify it for your reading pleasure.  This skirt sports front side pockets and a VERY high waist.  The bottom of the waistband hits at the natural waist while the top of the wide band lands just under the bust. 
The fabrication is a relatively heavyweight wool which I have previously used in a different color for both a skirt and a cape.  Despite the heaviness, it is very soft and has a bit of a drape so I decided to underline in a silk dupioni, adding a bit more body and structure to the strong A-line of the skirt.

Yesterday I installed the zipper and hand-stitched the lining of the waistband.  Today I added three hook and eye fasteners to the center back of the waistband, ironed the heck out of this thing, and hemmed the skirt to just below the knee.  

I'm not sure that I know quite what I could wear with this somewhat crazy looking skirt in a heavy winter white wool, but I'm sure I'll think of something!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

UFOs and Vintage... my next projects

One of the hardest parts of packing up for the big move was taking stock of all the "stuff" I'd accumulated over the years and deciding what to keep, donate or throw away.  This was particularly challenging with all my sewing and crafting supplies... Should I keep the basket of scraps?  Fabrics I bought on sale and don't have a designated purpose yet? Multiple knitting needles in a single size? Hideous patterns from the 70s that I will likely never use?  Unfinished projects that have been languishing for a year (or three)? 
Ultimately the unfinished projects (or unfinished objects, aka UFOs) made the cut.  And I now have a wardrobe full of garments in various stages of incomplete.  Given that I'd like to save both space and money, I have decided to tackle the staggeringly time-consuming and somewhat frustrating undertaking of finishing what I've started.
I started simple... with a Colette Sorbetto top that I started well over a year ago.  Now I've made this lovely free pattern multiple times out of lightweight cottons.  It is easy to wear and makes for a great layering peice.  So over a year ago I thought how nice this would be in a floaty silk to wear as a shell under work pieces.  I bought silk in both black and white, cut out and sewed the front pleat, side and shoulder seams, and then never bothered to finish them.  For the white blouse I had also made bias tape out of the leftover materials.  So this week I finished the neckline and hems. 

Amazing!  Emboldened by my success with white silk, I decided to finish the pussy-bow blouse that I had cut out and started for the 2012 mini-wardrobe contest. 

At this point the blouse is fully contructed and all that is left is hand finishing at the sleeve caps, hems, and buttonholes and buttons... Maybe next week.

Another unfinished project is a highwaisted cream wool skirt made from a 70's pattern.  For this one I needed to finish the inside of the waistband and add the zipper.  I still need to hem this one and add hook and eyes to the top of the waistband. 

 But just as I began to make some headway, I realized that the November pattern review contest is the vintage pattern contest!  So I busted out my box of vintage patterns (the ones that made the cut) and identified the following as possibilities to try in November:

Day dresses from the 40s and 50s

Workwear from the 60s and early 70s

An awesome jumpsuit from the 70s that I would likely never wear but nonetheless find amazingly glam

Four of these patterns are actually in my size and I wouldn't have to grade up... These four the are most likely to make the cut.  Any suggestions?