Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lotus Tunic Pattern Review - Take 2

I love this pattern so much, I made it again! I saw the fabric in a LQS last Friday, bought it, and got in finished in time to wear to work today (Thursday) as it was a "jeans" day at work - you could wear jeans if you donated a dollar to the American Heart Association. Here's a better photo:

The fabric is from the Gipsy Glitter Collection from Art Gallery Fabrics, and it is more of a poplin cotton than the quilting cotton I used to make my first one. Thus, it wrinkles a bit more easily. This is what it looked like after a four hour meeting:

I really love this version; I think the fabric is in keeping with Amy Butler's design, even though it isn't one of her fabrics. The only alteration I made was to take a tiny sliver out of the front neckline pattern piece to eliminate any hit of gaposis:

This is one of those happy projects where the garment ends up looking exactly as I imagined it when I saw the fabric. So yay!

Have a happy, sewing weekend, y'all.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Lotus Tunic Pattern Review

I love this pattern! After making three tunics from Amy Butler's Liverpool Tunic last year, I decided to try the Lotus Tunic pattern. Now that I know that my bust is 36 inches instead of 34, I made the medium, instead of size small. I did use 5/8 inch seam allowances on the sides of the tunic, rather than the 1/2 inch the pattern called for because I knew it was going to be a bit loose on me, especially through the waist and hips. (It fits great in the bust.) VickiW took my photo wearing it with jeans: If you click on the photo, you can see where I added mismatched buttons in the corners of the neckline. The reason is no secret: it's to hide my less than perfect sewing in those corners. I didn't have two buttons that matched, so I picked these two from my stash and pronounced the look "quirky" instead of "little house on the prairie". Here's the back:

I ditched the belt loops and belt that the pattern called for and used the back ties that came with the Liverpool Tunic instead. I sewed them into the side seams just like the Liverpool Tunic as well. Be forewarned: the waist markings on the Lotus Tunic are low - I positioned the back ties just above the waist mark and they hit right were they should. Also, the original pattern calls for this tunic to be lined. I cut out muslin for a lining, but as I was making it I really didn't see the need with this substantial cotton. Also, no one needs that extra layer of fabric during one of our southern summers, so I left the lining out.

I originally planned to make it with sleeves but as I was making it, the sleeve construction seemed a bit fiddly, and there seemed to be a mark missing on the pattern indicating where one was to stop gathering the sleeve cap. I didn't need that stress in my life, so I left it sleeveless. I figure I'll just wear a long sleeve knit top underneath when winter arrives anyway.

Also, you can see that this tunic seems a bit long. I believe a Tunic should hit about mid thigh; this garment is really dress length:

I wore it as a dress to a casual wedding I went to the day I finished it. The wedding was at our town's minor league baseball field before the game started!

All and all, I really love it and want to make another for fall. I can't believe I was so anti-tunic a couple of years ago . . .

Parting Shot: A photo of the baseball wedding. The bride is flanked by her two daughters, and the groom is in the lavender shirt - they got married on the pitcher's mound. It was surprisingly touching!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Not My Worst Mistake

This past spring I tried an experiment of fusing interfacing to silk charmuese. It turned out well enough that I bought enough silk to add the gathered skirt to the fused bodice for a potential cocktail dress. Here's the skirt attached to the bodice, none to expertly:

It was okay. I wasn't thrilled, but it turned out okay. I really don't like gathering - it never seems to go well with me. This skirt is really poofy, with a whole lot of fabric, and it was a huge PITA to get all that skirt on that bodice. I managed. But then I got cocky: I used my serger to finish the waist seam.

So of course for the very first time ever, because I was using an incredibly expensive fabric, I ran my garment fabric in the bodice into the serger blade. Arrgghhh! There was a small triangular cut in the bodice, but I was not to be deterred. I figured a little fusible interfacing might hold the tear together enough and maybe I could cover it with a sash or some other imaginative fix. But when I went to apply the fusible interfacing, my iron was still heating up. So it was on super-heat, trying to achieve the right temperature and it just melted the interfacing previously (and carefully) applied to the bodice fabric. Arrrghhh! Here's the mess I ended up with:

The triangular piece of interfacing is the fix for the tear, the mess above it is the melted interfacing caused by the iron. Here's another shot:

And here it is from the right side of the dress:

Ick. No way to save this at all. But strangely enough, I was hardly bothered by it despite the expense of the fabric, and despite all the work with no dress to show for it. I couldn't believe how not-upset I was. And then I realized: this wasn't the dress I wanted to make anyway. It was actually a relief to have it ruined beyond repair. If I had just listened to my muse in the first place, I would have been working on the dress I really wanted to be sewing and I would have avoided this sartorial disaster. I keep having to learn this lesson over and over and over; I just don't seem to "get it". Sewing is fun - work on what you want to work on, not what you think you should be working on!

Parting Shot: A visitor that showed up on my deck this evening; I got to watch him take a nap while I ate dinner. I have no idea where he came from or where he went to later, but it was nice have a kitty around, even if just for a little while.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

How To Know When You Need To Update Your Blog

When you start clicking on it, idly wondering if there is a new post. Seriously. The last couple of weeks, I've been checking in, sincerely hoping the author has written something new. When you start reading your own blog like it belongs to someone else, you are way past due for a new post.

I was startled in to realizing that I HAD a blog when I read Isabelle's at Kitty Couture this weekend and found that she mentioned my Easter Monique dress in her very first podcast. Wow. I am a way beyond flattered and she said some really wonderful things about it, being the lovely generous person that she is. I loved hearing her (and not just because she said nice things about my dress) because her voice is beautiful, and I made my mother listen to her, too.

I have actually been working on some things, and even taking photos, but no great finishes to show. This weekend, though, I wanted something I could make in a day, and I decided on a skirt in a wonderful Kaffe Fassette rayon I got last summer. I made this dress in a different Kaffe Fassette rayon, and I found it to be high quality that didn't wrinkle very much.

I practically knew from when I bought it what I wanted to make: a maxi skirt. For the past three summers, maxi dresses have been all the rage, but I wasn't interested. I wanted, though, a long, flowing skirt I could wear with flat sandles and feel cool, but still be covered up. I had decided to look for the appropriate pattern.

But on Saturday morning, I remember I had this book that I found in a dark, and wonderfully musty bookshop near Threave, Scotland in 2003 with Eileen and Loy:
It was written in 1955, by Mary Brooks Picken. All of the 200 projects involve NO patterns, and it is full of timely advice such as:

Make yourself ready mentally and physically for sewing. First, assemble all your materials just as you would if you making a cake. Then order the groceries, make the urgent phone call, tidy the house and yourself so that you will not have other things on your mind while you sew.

Yeah, I'll keep that in mind, Mrs. Picken. My sewing process starts like this: Is it Saturday? (Yes.) Can I blow off all the activities I could or should be doing like working out, going to sewing guild, photographing the company golf tournament, and attending the required seminar at church? (Yes.) Do I have Diet Coke? (God, yes.) If there is no food in my house at supper time, can I convince The Carpenter to take me out? (Praise God, yes.) Did I shower? (Of course.)

The first project Mrs. P has in her book is a dirndl skirt. Pass. But the second project in her book is a semi-circular skirt which is a LOT of fun to make:

You can make this skirt any length you like, but the longer it is the wider it will be at the hem. Mrs. P gives you specific instructions as to how to cut the waist and the hemline, complete with a diagram. I have made this skirt three times before: 1) a short, above-the-knee cotton skirt; 2) a below-the-knee duchess satin skirt for a Christmas party; and 3) a long rayon skirt for summer.

First you fold your fabric on the cross grain as shown in her diagram. For your waist, the measurement you want is one-fourth of your waist measurement plus one-half inch. I wanted a 29 inch waist, so that came out to be 7 1/4 inches, and with the half inch, the total was 7 3/4 inches. I rounded up to 8 inches. So from corner A, I measured 8 inches to point B. I then attached string to a pen, held the string at corner A, and drew from B to C. That gave me my cutting line for my waist.

As for cutting the hem, I decided how long I wanted my skirt to be, and then I added the seam allowances. My total ended up 37 inches. I then added the previous 8 inches (which was my A to B radius). This ended up at 45 inches. So I measured 45 inches from A to D. I again took my pen on the string, held the string at A, and then drew from D to E. (This was a bit tricky since my arms were stretched for a very great length to make this happen. It would be a easier if someone else held the string at point A while you draw your mark if you are going to be making a very long skirt.)

I then cut out my skirt on those two lines.

The great advantage of this skirt is that there is only one seam - the back seam. And it is on the selvege, so techincally, you don't even have to finish the seam allowances. Just sew up the seam, and insert your zipper. (A handy tutorial on zipper insertion is here.)

For the waistband, I cut a four inch wide rectangle, about 6 inches longer than my waist (just to make sure it was long enough) and I interfaced it. I marked 29 inches on the waistband and attached the skirt to the waistband. You will probably have to clip the edge of skirt waist to get it to stretch to fit onto the finished waist size on your waistband. If the waist is too small, just move the skirt piece up, making the seam allowance bigger, to make it fit.

I finished the waistband in the usual fashion, but decided I was too lazy to go the button/buttonhole route, so I ended up just hand sewing a snap on it.

The only tricky part of this skirt is hemming it. Here's the thing: a semi-circular skirt, by it's very nature, is going to involve various grains of your fabric. Your back seam will be on the lengthwise grain, the front of the skirt will be on the crosswise grain, and the sides of your skirt will be on the bias. If you have a firmly woven fabric, this won't be a big deal, but if you have drapey rayon, for example, that bias is going to stretch, stretch, stretch. Here's an illustration:

See that? The sides of my skirt hung more than 3 inches lower than the front or the back. I figured this out by using a yard stick and measuring in the mirror how far from the floor the front of the skirt hung, and then compared it to how far from the floor the sides hung. At least three inches. I thought about leaving it alone and calling it a "design feature" but then I decided even I wasn't that lazy.

There is no exact science to trimming the necessary amount from the sides and blending the cut to nothing on the front and the back. I just laid the skirt down, measured 3 inches at the sides and gradually reduced the trimming to nothing as I approached the front and the back:

Ahh, that's better. You can see that the sides are still a little longer than the front, but that was on purpose. I have a tendency to over-correct when I sew, and the last thing I wanted to do was to make my sides shorter than they were supposed to be. A little longer, no big deal; a little shorter - ack!!!

The actual hem was just sergering the hem edge, turning it up a half inch, and topstitching it down.

Here is the finished skirt:

A better view of the waistband:

The back:

You can see that it did end up being ankle length which is what I was going for:

What the photos don't show is how wonderfully swishy this skirt is. I should have gotten a shot of me twirling in it. Also, the other nice feature of this skirt is that it is cut so that it lays flat about the hips and then flares out as it gets longer. This is nice because, unlike a gathered skirt, it doesn't bunch up around your hips and waist (where you DON'T want extra fabric).

Anyway, this was a one day project and I had it done before three o'clock. Mrs. P would be pleased to know that I still had time to run by the grocery store and cook dinner for The Carpenter. But by no means was my house tidy.

Parting Shot: One of Anne's quilts she made for her nephew - I took this at her annual Memorial Day party. It looked lovely lying near the tree, waiting for a child to get tired and cuddle with it:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Monique Dress

I'm pleased to report that spring has officially arrived! And not only is my Easter dress done - weeks ahead, mind you - the retreat I was directing at my parish is also over. I'm not completely done, of course (you never are), but most of the work with the retreat is finished and hopefully I can spend more of my free time on sewing and maybe I might even quilt something. (Gasp!) I finished the Monique dress this weekend. Based on the muslin I made, I wanted to lower the bodice, so I lengthened the front "straps" of the dress bodice pattern by an inch and a quarter:
You can see where I lengthened the front bodice piece and front neckline pattern piece. Once I got it all together (with the exception of the arm facings), I tried it on and discovered that rather than drop the front bodice down an inch and a quarter, my alterations had pushed the shoulder seam to the back about an inch. I tried it on while Vicki was over, and she suggested that I simply lengthen the bodice about 2 inches at the bottom of the bodice so that the waistband would actually sit at my waist. I agree, and I'll do that next time. The dress as it is, with my experimental alterations, doesn't look bad, so I'll wear for Easter. I made up the dress in a Jane Sassman fabric that I got in Dolyestown, PA.
The light was bad when I photographed the dress, plus the wind wasn't cooperating. This photo doesn't do the fabric justice, so click on the link above to see what it should look like. I'll try to get Aimee to take a photo when I wear it so you can see what it looks like on. I did find a very cute white cardigan sweater to wear with it because at this time of year, it can always be a bit chilly. I'll be wearing this to the Easter Vigil Mass, which won't start until 8:00 pm, so I know I'll need the sweater.

Of course, nothing ever goes smoothly, as I discovered when I attempted to put on the arm facings. While I had altered the front neck facing to reflect my pattern alteration, I had neglected to do the same to the front arm facing. As Vicki would say, "Duh."

Tonight, having a rare evening with nothing planned, I decided to make my silk dress a silk skirt. The bodice was really too tight, and I have been wearing it with a turtleneck sweater over it, so I wouldn't have bust-revealing issues. With spring here, I really wanted to make it an elastic skirt. I love the silk and I love the colors of it.

Normally I avoid refashioning. It seems to be so much more of a PITA than new construction. Probably because I am operating without instructions and there always seems to be unforeseen issues. : )

But I thought this should be fairly straight forward. I cut the bodice off, slipped the skirt over my hips to make sure it would fit, and then put in an elastic waist. But when I tried it on , it wouldn't go over my thighs. Sign. An unforeseen issue. I don't know why this happened and I don't want to find out. There is no way I'm going to take a measuring tape to my backside. Instead, I discovered that it will slide on just fine as long as it goes over my head. Problem solved:

One aggravation: the elastic is twisted inside the casing despite my best efforts. I hate it when the elastic gets twisted. But as bad I hate it, I hate resewing even more, so twisted it shall stay. The twisting will not deter my wearing this skirt all summer - it's light and cool and the silk is already showing signs of wear, so I need to enjoy it now, before the silk breaks down completely. This will be a one season garment.

Parting shot: I've been baking bread like Loy taught me. It has been awesome!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The One Where I Run Away From Home

I spent this past weekend in Doylestown, PA where I visited my friend, Loy, for no other reason than I had to leave town if I wanted to sew. I've been too busy thus far this year to do any meaningful sewing, and I anticipate my life to continue that way for at least another month, so the only solution was to run away for a three day Craft Weekend. Loy's place fit the bill remarkably well since she is a lacemaker, glassblower, silversmith, knitter, quilter, potter, and jeweler. Oh, and she spins her own knitting yarn too.I wish I had gotten a photo of her spinning wheel, but the battery on my camera died before I could snap it.

I'm probably leaving out some of her other skills but one I enjoyed this weekend was her ability to cook:
We enjoyed this crusty, fresh baked bread Sunday afternoon with tea, butter, and jam. Yum.
But I'm getting ahead of myself; on Friday evening I was waiting at the Richmond airport to board the plane and one of my fellow passengers had on a gorgeous white dress with a beautiful jacket. She was totally rockin' it while waiting to board and I couldn't help but surreptitiously take her photo:

How fabulous is this outfit? How gorgeous does she look? I love the scarf, love the pocket book, love the whole way she carries this off. I desperately wanted to a) tell her how much I loved her dress, and b) beg her to tell me where she got it. But she got away from me before and after the plane landed, and I was never able to stalk, I mean, compliment her.
I can assure you I did not look this put together. I was wearing jeans and a sweater that is starting to pill, but I can't throw out because I love the color. : )
My plans for the weekend were to rectify this situation and make a muslin of a new dress pattern that I got at the Mid Atlantic Quilt Expo, another dress by Kay Whitt, called The Monique Dress:
My vague plan is to make this my Easter dress, but after my last Kay Whitt escapade, I knew a muslin was a must. First though, I have to show you what I was sewing on. This is Loy's sewing machine that she got at age 13, and it was used then:

Loy thinks it is from the fifties; I wouldn't be surprised if it was older. Sewing on it isn't bad, but the foot pedal has a tendancy to stick and just keep running; it's like driving a car with no brakes. Fortunately, it completely behaved until the last seam, and then it just kept sewing along as if a ghost was running the damn thing. Loy gave it a stern talking to, and a shake, and it finally quit. But then it wouldn't start again. I guess we hurt its feelings. Loy is going to try and get a new foot pedal for it since she has never bonded with another machine. She has tried, she really has, but she always comes back to this one.
But back to the Kay Whitt pattern. I paid $ 13 for it, so I decided to take the time to trace the pattern pieces. I also decided to trust Ms. Whitt's sizing, but before I traced and cut it out in my muslin fabric, I doubled checked my bust size. When in the world did I go from a 34 bust to a 36????? I don't remember this. It can't be possible. And yet, there it was, right on the tape measure.
So I traced and cut a size small, and it fit perfectly.
These are horrible photos of me; I hate to think I really look like this in real life, and if I do, Vicki, please let me know (I'm counting on you). They were taken on a rainy Sunday late afternoon, and it was cold, cold, cold. The dress is not as short as it is pictured here; there is a band that goes on the skirt edge to make it longer, but I didn't bother as it was just a muslin. The biggest surprise is that the "waist" is really a raised empire waist, rather than sitting at one's actual waist. That isn't what I got from the pattern photo. I even double checked the pattern to make sure I didn't miss some lower bodice pattern piece. Nope, I did it correctly, and the "waist" sits right up under your bust. I'm not long waisted either; if anything, I'm a tad short waisted . . . it's a mystery.
Loy and I went to the local fabric shop and I bought some fabrics to make this into a very bright Easter dress. I'm looking forward to it, but I don't know when the making of this dress will occur. Lent starts tomorrow, so I guess I have 40 days to make it happen!
My other revelation this weekend: my scissors are crap. I used Loy's Ginghers to cut out this muslin and there is just no going back. I went out today and bought a pair for myself and can't wait to use them.

This was a much needed getaway weekend. I feel like my sewing compulsion has been satisfied and hopefully this will get me through the next four weeks where there will be no time for any sewing/quilting/knitting!
Parting Shot: One reason I've been busy; the Carpenter was received into the Catholic Church on February 6, 2011. The Sacrament of Confirmation, Father Spencer presiding:
It was a great day.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things (or how I learned to love my notions)

I've been wanting to write this post for awhile; I always like hearing about other sewers' favorite notions and how they use them because it gives me new ideas to try. Now that I have been sewing for 9 years, I've picked out my own favorite notions that help make the creation process more enjoyable.

First up are these:
These are stone coasters with cork bottoms Anne gave me a couple of Christmases ago. They are decorated with vintage pattern illustrations, and I have found them to be excellent pattern weights due to their weight and non-slip bottoms. I don't even use them as coasters anymore!
Next up is my handy rotary cutter: The rotary cutter is no surprise; it's a staple for many sewers and quilters, but I've learned that, for me, the 45 mm is the optimum size - the 60 mm size is just too large and I can't control it as well. Also, this brand, Olfa, is my favorite - there is another brand, sold at Walmart, that just isn't as good. The reason I have included it in this list is that I am using it more and more to cut out my garments. It is excellent for those patterns that are mostly of straight lines, and it is superior for cutting out silks and drapey rayons. Using scissors on those fabrics results in more distortion. You can cut patterns, even curvy ones, much more accurately with this rotary cutter.
Here are three more; my glue stick, painter's tape, and silk pins:

The glue stick is just a regular Elmer's glue stick; I don't use fabric glues, just this glue stick I picked up at Walmart. It's my secret for glue basting zippers, or for any time I need a temporary hold.
The painters tape is extremely useful because it is a tape that lifts off easily and has no sticky residue. I use it to indicate the wrong size of fabric when cutting out (it helps to ensure I don't get two right sleeves or two left backs), and I use it to tape pattern pieces together (unlike scotch tape, you can iron it). I've used it to tape down tissue paper to my sewing table when I'm tracing patterns too.
And the silk pins: they are the only pins I use these days. When I was piecing the Double Wedding Ring Quilt, I needed very sharp pins to piece all those curved pieces. I tried new quilting pins, I tried applique pins, and then I finally bought these silk pins at my LQS. I found them to be the sharpest of all the pins and allowed me to accurately pin all those curves in the DWRQ; I just continued to use them in my garment sewing, no matter what the fabric content. Pining is just so much easier when your pins are really sharp. And these pins have no plastic parts to melt - so you can iron over them. AND these are the only kind of pins I have found you can sew over (not that I'm advocating such a thing or would ever sew over my pins -ahem). Basically, these days, my feeling is that if your pins don't draw blood when you reach for one, they aren't sharp enough.

Next up, quarter inch Steam-A-Seam and tissue paper:
I orginally started using the Steam-A-Seam to secure my seam allowances when sewing in a zipper. Now I have found all kinds of uses for it. Like ironing down a quilt label before I hand sew it to the back. Or matching plaids at a seam line. Or anytime I need to make sure my fabric does not move while I am sewing it. It's more secure than the glue stick, and has no sticky residue. The longer I have it around, the more opportunities I've found to use it.
And the tissue paper is the cheap stuff you can get at the drug store. I've found it the best for tracing patterns. I've tried Swedish tracing paper (too expensive and too hard to find), sewer paper (too hard to see), brown wrapper paper (can't see through it), but I've found that the cheap tissue paper works the best. I don't even have to buy it most of the time - I just save it from gifts and use that.
And finally, my tried and true trusty iron:
I bought it in 2003 and it is still going strong. Nothing makes your life easier than a really good iron that heats up hot, has great steam, and doesn't drip.
So those are some of my frequent tools that might not be so obvious as sewing notions. Noticeably absent are some really good scissors. I'm still buying my sissors at Walmart. If you have a favorite pair that serve you well, let me know - I'm on the hunt for an outstanding pair of scissors big enough to cut out patterns and really sharp, too!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

An Experiment

Now that I have my muslin sort of where I want it, I wanted to try to make it in a silk charmeuse. As you know, silk charmeuse is absolutely wonderful to wear, but a PITA to sew. Conventional wisdom says you need to line it with a sew-in interfacing like silk organza, which gives it body, but allows the sheen and drape to remain. That sounds like even a bigger PITA than I wanted to deal with. But I got an idea. When I was sewing my Singapore silk dress, I used this fusible interfacing on it: It was the first time I had ever used this particular kind of interfacing, made for light fabrics like silk and it worked great. Usually, I use the all-purpose stuff for my sewing and it is the best fusible interfacing I've ever used:
Chris, in my sewing guild, got me hooked on it; I know everyone has their favorite interfacing, and this mine. The tricot worked great on the Singapore silk dress, so I wanted to try it on the silk charmeuse. I fused a sample first:

And found it looked pretty good from the right side:

So I cut the bodice pieces from the tricot interfacing and marked all my darts on the interfacing. Then I fused the tricot to the silk charmeuse, and cut the silk with a rotary cutter, using the interfacing as my pattern. Here's the front bodice already fused and cut out of the silk:

Here's what the right side looked like before the darts were sewn:

I think it looked pretty good; maybe not as good as if I took the time to go the whole couture route, but good enough considering the time and effort put into it. I went ahead and sewed up the darts and bodice. Sewing the darts were a breeze since I could easily transfer all the pattern markings to the tricot. Here's the inside:

And here's the right side:

I can't really tell how it fits since I haven't put in a zipper. I think this is worth going back to the fabric store and getting another 4 yards to make the skirt and finish the dress. The bodice isn't strapless, but will have thin straps to help keep it up. The pattern calls for facings for the bodice, but I usually prefer to line my bodices. But I haven't decided which way to go on that. If it all works, it might be my Christmas party dress for 2011!

Parting Shot: There is no parting shot, but a confession: I managed to give myself food poisoning Thursday night. I suspect my undercooked chicken was the culprit. The good news is that I only poisoned myself - I was in a hurry because I was hungry. I made it to work the next day, but finally had to go home after lunch - my stomach was in full rebellion mode and was not happy. To say my culinary skills are less than accomplished is the understatement of the week. Sigh.