Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Quick Update

 

The reason you haven't heard from me following Gertie's awesome sewing retreat is two-fold:  1)  I've been sewing up a storm since I got home, and 2) I replaced my laptop computer (it was 7 years old) which required a stay at the Geek Squad, and a complete relearning of everything I have ever known about how to use a computer since I now have Windows 8.  Of course, the key is to just spend time with the computer, trying it out and seeing what works, but who has the time?  And when I do have the time, I'd rather be sewing.

So then, of course, I couldn't write the brilliant post I felt the weekend deserved, because all this time had passed, coupled with my perfectionist's tendencies.  It's time for me to get over that and just tell you the whole experience was marvelous and if you ever get the chance to go, just go.  Gertie and her husband, Jeff, are delightful, down-to-earth people who truly want to help and make sure you have a good time.  And everyone who attended couldn't have been nicer.  Jenny, Lauren, Kristen, Joanna, and myself were the bloggers in attendance.  We had lawyers, a microbiologist, costumers - such a wide range of amazing, intelligent women.  We had three Brits (counting Gertie's trusty assistant, Fleur), two Canadians, a Dutch-American, and a Cuban-American.  All were looking for help on fitting and we had come to the right place.  I watched Gertie do a full bust adjustment in about 45 seconds.  I watched 
Jenny do a full bust adjustment in about 30.

Of course, I took my green peddle pushers with me for fitting and it took Gertie about a minute and half to take 1/2 inch out of the front rise and add about 1/2 inch to the back rise.  Then for the rest of the weekend, I made pants.  I made another pair of green pants with the altered pattern:

And then I got started a polka-dotted version from some cotton stretch sateen I found at Joann's before I left:






(Look at that bootie fit!)

To say I can't be more pleased is a massive understatement.  

One funny story:  I really admired Jenny's Simplicity 2343 skirt she wore at the retreat and I was determined to make it when I got home but found the pattern was out of print.  One of the attractive features was that it had pockets like my Gertie pants.  But then I thought, wait a minute!  I have a pants pattern that fits me like a dream through my waist and hips - why can't I draft a skirt pattern?  Which, of course, I have never done before.  But I did it, dear readers:

And I used the left over polka-dotted fabric!  I anticipated having to sew the side seams multiple times to get just the right fit, but nope, it fit perfectly on the first try!  One of the great things about the retreat was that it really did de-mystify the whole "altering patterns is hard and time consuming" mindset.  Seeing it done in person, and so easily, made me realize that this isn't brain surgery - all I need to get good at it are more classes and retreats like this one.  It won't be my last!

P.S.  1) Gertie is stunning in person.  Really.  And Lauren is astonishingly pretty!  We kept urging her to try out for the Great American sewing bee, but she lives in Austin, Texas, not the Tri-State area of NY/NJ/CT they are looking for.  We think she should move.
2) I hope to get the whole camera photos/new computer issue resolved soon so I don't have to keep relying on crappy cell phone pics.
3) It took me HOURS to write this post.  I'm sure this new computer will become second nature to me in due time.  Like 7 years.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Muslin Take 2 - Butterick 5895

Well, y'all, today went better than yesterday's horrific pant ordeal. This rainy afternoon I managed to make the size 14.  This time I used the cotton sateen that will be my final pair of pants (I bought twice as much as I needed so I could make a muslin in my actual fashion fabric.)  The fit was much better, in that I could get the pants around my body:


Working with this stretch cotton sateen was a LOT easier to work with than the stiff twill stretch icky stuff I used yesterday:


 It was soft, and much easier to pin.  Just like yesterday, I sewed my outside seams so the allowances were on the outside, for future fitting purposes.


 These photos don't really show the true greeness of this fabric - they are a little washed out and make the fabric look a little minty instead.


Here's a shot with flash:


 I'm no expert on fitting pants, but I suspect I need a little extra room in the high hip, a little less fabric in the front rise, and a little extra in the back rise.  But I don't know - it's hard for me to tell without a waistband attached.  


I timed myself this go around, and from the time I sat down and sewed my first stitch on this muslin until I finished the zipper was one hour and sixteen minutes.  Now, I didn't finish seam allowances, or do the waistband, or hem, but still:  these pants are a quick make.  One thing I did do that I didn't do yesterday, I edgestitched and topstitched the front pockets to see if I like it.  Verdict:  I like the edgestitching but the topstitching, not so much.


 Here's a photo that shows more of the true green!


I pray this gives Gertie something to work with while fitting this coming weekend.  I'm hoping these pants become my sloper for any pants in the future!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Goin' to See Gertie - Butterick 5895

I'm going to Gertie's sewing retreat next weekend which I'm pretty excited about (I leave Friday), and the consensus was that pants should be my project for the weekend.  Vicki pointed out that having the opportunity to have someone help me fit my first pair of pants - by the person who drafted the pattern, no less - was an opportunity not to be wasted.  Butterick published Gertie's pattern for a pair of peddle pushers last year:


I wouldn't say it's my style, but it is an easy pair of pants - the zipper is in the back seam, and a good place to start.  I bought the smaller sized pattern that went up to size 12 because size 12 in the Big Four is my usual pattern size.  I plan to make my pants from a gorgeous green stretch cotton sateen I got from, where else?, Gorgeous Fabrics.  

Gertie recommended to the retreat group that we make a muslin prior to our arrival, so we can maximize our time fitting and sewing.  This is my last weekend to make my muslin (nothing like waiting until the last minute to do my homework . . .).  So this morning, I looked at the pattern.

Huh.  Those size 12 finished measurements printed on the pattern look kinda small.  But I'm going to use a stretch fabric, right? That's going to affect fit.  But still.  Those are small measurements.

So in abundance of caution, I went to Hancocks to get the larger size pattern that contained size 14.  Of course, the Butterick patterns weren't on sale today, so the pattern cost me $ 11.00 as opposed to the $ 1.99 I spent on the first one a few weeks ago.  I also bought some stretch twill pictured under the pattern as my muslin fabric.  When I got home, I decided to give the size 12 a try - if it worked, then I could return the larger, $ 11 pattern.

Well, y'all, I can say that the size 12 is definitely too small.  I'm glad I muslined it.  It saved me some major embarrassment at the retreat.  And it wasn't that bad to make.  I didn't worry about topstitching or finishing or trimming seams.  I didn't attach the waistband.  It went pretty quickly.

And then I tried it on.  Well, I tried to try it on.  

To say it was snug was an understatement.  It took a lot of strength to get the zipper up.  I can't believe I'm going to show you my fat behind, but since this is in the interest of science, dear readers, I will sacrifice my dignity:



You can see that I sewed the side seams wrong sides together so the seam allowances are on the outside.  My thinking that I could more easily make alterations, if necessary.  My thinking was correct only if I didn't need like, at least two more inches all the way around:





OK, size 14 is definitely required.  I felt like I needed to lay down after taking these photos with a cool, damp cloth on my forehead.  And never eat again.

I realize this pattern is deliberately close-fit.  I realize that the skirts and dresses I usually make have some fudge factor in them - a precise fit isn't usually required, limited only to how tight you like your skirts.  

So I'm recovering.  Slowly.  I'm trying to learn that no muslin is failure because you learn something as result.  And I've learned to trust the measurements printed on the pattern!

By tomorrow, I'll be recovered enough to make the 14.  Wish me luck.

: )

Saturday, March 15, 2014

New Look 6000 Dress


After finishing the Tippi Hedren suit, I wanted to make another dress to wear with the jacket which I absolutely love.  I wanted to use the rayon/silk blend check on the left below:


I used some of it for the back of my Victorian vest, and wanted to make a simple sheath dress.  I decided to use New Look 6000, which I have made before.  


This time, I made view E (the yellow polka dot version) without the sleeves.  It was an easy make and I made no alterations, just a size 12, straight up.  It was fun because the dress went together quickly which was nice, given all the trouble I had with my Victorian vest. 

The rayon/silk blend was supple, a joy to work with.  I used facings for the armholes which isn't my favorite finishing for armholes, but I felt this drapey fabric needed the added structure.  But upon wearing, I found this stuff wrinkles horribly:




 But I loved the look; the checked fabric was a wonderful match for my wool jacket:


 But well, there is the wrinkling:


And by the end of the day, I discovered that my back center seam was beginning to shred.


Apparently, my rump is just too much for this fabric; I underestimated it's delicate nature.  I'm not certain I will be able to wear this dress much in the future, especially to work as that seam could go at any time!

So not an epic fail, but not a success either.  I have not given up on this fabric; I still believe I can make a non-fitted skirt to wear with this jacket.  But to recover from this project, I'm working on my first shirtdress of 2014!!!  Yes, it's been a while since a shirtdress was made, and I'm in withdrawal.  Onward and upward!

On more exciting news, I discovered that I got into Gertie's Sewing Retreat for the first week of April!  I'm in a complete dither as to what project I should take that needs Gertie's help.  Possibly the Vogue Couture dress which had fitting problems (plus the dress is already made so essentially, it is muslin), or, and this is a wild thought, maybe I should try a pair of pants. Other than some boxers or pj bottoms, I have never made a pair of pants, and Gertie has a pattern out now with a pair.  How cool would it be to learn how to make pants from the person who drafted the pattern???

Still deciding . . .  Any suggestions welcome!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Folkwear Victorian Vest & Sewing Room Reveal!

It's a snow day here in Richmond, VA, so an opportunity to update what I have been working on the past month or so!  After completing the Tippi Hedren suit, I was left with scraps from my 3 metres of fabric I had bought in Rome.  In an attempt to keep the good time going working with this wool/cashmere blend, I decided to make something from the scraps - no amount of this lovely fabric should go unused.  I scratched my head and came up with the idea of a vest - yes, that's it!  I'll make a vest.  I had large enough scraps for two front pieces, and then I could use a coordinating fabric for the back of the vest.

I've never made a vest before, but I thought it would be a good idea because my workplace has declared Fridays as jeans days, so 20% of my workwear is now jeans.  Making a vest would allow me to wear this yummy fabric on Fridays and weekends.  Yay!  Not being a western type of person, and probably under the influence of too many Downton Abbey episodes, I was thinking Victorian and Folkwear Patterns had one:


I thought the fitted vest on the far left to be the winner - it is shaped for the female figure and looked wonderful.  I planned to use the wool/cashmere fabric for the two fronts and the rayon/silk fabric on the left that I ordered at FabricMart for the back:



It's a vest, right?  How hard can this be???  Pretty hard, I discovered.  It seemed that everything that could go wrong on this seemingly simple project, did.  I mean, beginner sewers often make a vest as a first project and I had just finished the Tippi Hedren suit, drafting my own lining pattern in the process.  I thought I had this.

I was so wrong.  I cut the fronts in a single layer so that I could fit the pattern pieces on the scraps.  In doing so, I found I had failed to flip my pattern piece, so in essence I had cut two right side pieces, but no left.  This wasn't fatal since the right and wrong sides of this wool/cashmere fabric aren't very different, so I just flipped one piece over and declared it fine.  

It was a portent of things to come.  I kept making rookie mistakes, like pressing darts the wrong way.  I used habotai silk for the lining, which I knew would be evil, and it was.  My attempt to find buttons was a fruitless search, so I ended up trying to cover buttons in the wool/cashmere fabric in two sizes, but neither could handle the thickness of the fabric.

And when it was done, I found the waist to be a little small, even though it seemed to fit when I basted everything together prior to the final sewing.  I don't know what happened - maybe I was confused as to where the center front was located.  

But the biggest problem was my failure to recognize that the vest only came to one's waist.  Victorian women wore Victorian vests with Victorian high-waisted skirts.  Which is pretty obvious, right?  But I failed to consider how this would look with jeans, which aren't waist high these days, unless you are wearing the dreaded "mom-jeans" from the 1990s.  My jeans aren't particularly low-rise, but there is a good three inches from where this vest ends and my jeans begin - not a good look.  I searched high and low and found exactly one garment I owned that was high-waisted enough to wear with this vest - a grey Cabi knit maxi skirt.

My enthusiasm to finish this vest that can only be worn with one garment in my wardrobe waned considerably.  Especially after three weekends of work.  So I basically called it a day and gave up on buttons, closing the vest with my cameo pin I got at the Vatican on our Italy trip:



 This solution had the added advantage of leaving the waist free, thus, eliminating the too-tight waist problem.  I used the rayon/silk for my undercollar:



 Here's that nasty habotai silk lining that was a bitch to work with:





 Here's the back, which I did think worked well and looked pretty good.  Ignore the wrinkle, I had been sitting:



 In sum:  the only way this vest is going to get any substantial wear is if I start making Victorian high-waisted skirts, and given my recent steady diet of Downton Abbey, that is a distinct possibility.  At least I now know what adjustments I need to make if I ever make another and that I'll have to make a Victorian skirt go with it.

I do want to make it plain that any problems I had with this pattern is not the fault of Folkwear Patterns - it was all due to user error and the fact that my sewing brain took an enormous holiday during the making thereof.

The other project that has been going on is the transformation of my sewing room!  Until about a month ago, it looked like this:



And now it looks like this:



 Vicki gets all the credit for this; she came over and got me organized!  See the big cabinet in the corner?  That's where my fabric is these days.  And here is The Carpenter's old kitchen table, raise to 35 inches so I have a proper cutting out table in my actual sewing room:



 He sanded down the top for me; I haven't decided whether to leave it unfinished, or prime and paint it.  I'll think on it for a few years.  Here's a book case in the corner holding pressing things and vintage patterns:



 Here are two cubby-hole thingys we got at Home Depot; Vicki came up with the idea of adding a shelf on top of both, providing more horizontal surface area and stablizing the two.  The Carpenter built and painted the top shelf:



Also those blue, yellow, grey, and green baskets are now holding patterns, sewing magazines, buttons, and various notions.  My zippers are on the top shelf, in old flower vases.  And, for the first time ever, I have a full length mirror in the house.  (How did I ever sew without it???):



 Vicki also came up with idea for peg board over the cutting table.  I still haven't quite organized my tools on it:



My pressing area is pretty much the same, but the bookcase provides so much more space to store my pressing items:


I still need to hang my sewing themed artwork, but my picture hanging mojo is low, so I went ahead and took these photos before I completely junk up my beautiful sewing space.  : )  Thank you, Vicki!  And a big shout-out to Tammy, who came over and helped us put all this new furniture together!

Happy sewing, y'all!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Tippi Hedren Suit Done! - Butterick 2178

I finished the Tippi Hedren inspired suit Saturday night, just in time for our Italy trip reunion on Sunday - we got together and shared photos and memories.  I usually don't like to sew with a deadline, but I really wanted to finish my suit so our fellow travelers could see that I actually did something with the fabric that I forced them to admire as we left Rome.  Here it is:





Here I am doing my best Tippi Hedren impersonation:



OK, I'm not quite the tall, willowly blond Tippi Hedren was. 


But I am enormously pleased with this suit.  As you can see, my winged collar isn't exactly like Ms. Hedren's, but I think I captured the essence.  As you recall, I began with this pattern:


The Butterick pattern was published in 1963, and had fake pocket flaps, rather than patch pockets, and the jacket had no cuffs.  The film was released in 1963, which means it was probably filmed in 1962.  I recently trolled the internet for 1962 patterns and saw that the suits in 1962 did have the patch pockets and collars more like Ms. Hedren's.  


As you recall, I used McCalls 5972 (the blue dress version) for my dress under the jacket.  It is just a basic, sleeveless sheath dress.  I lined the bodice with some leftover quilting weight cotton I had in my scraps stash.  I did not line the skirt portion.  It was interesting that Edith Head's original conception of the costume was a skirt and blouse under the jacket, just like my pattern.  Somewhere along the way, she must have decided to do a dress instead.


When I lift my arms, the peach colored lining peeks out.  That's OK with me:


Here's the back:

Whoops, I probably needed a little more pressing back there.  The Carpenter didn't get a photo of the bottom of my dress - it's straight, with a back vent.  Because the jacket is boxy, you need a straight skirt.  A full skirt with a boxy jacket is not the most chic look.

This suit was a joy to sew, and my favorite thing I have ever made.  I have high hopes that it will equally be a joy to wear - I certainly enjoyed wearing it this afternoon.  While I usually don't like having self-imposed deadlines, I'm glad I did for this suit because it really is a cooler weather suit.  There's nothing more deflating than working on a garment and then putting it away for six months before you can properly wear it.

All my posts on this project are here.

I anticipate wearing this jacket a lot, with jeans, if nothing else.  I want to make another dress or a skirt to coordinate with the jacket.  I'm thinking of this checked fabric:


(I believe it is some sort of rayon/silk blend.)  I have until February 12th to wear my new suit to the Hollywood Exhibit at the VMFA and compare it to the original inspiration!