Sunday, April 27, 2008

Draping Trial

I'm still not doing any sewing for now, but I've been thinking I'd like to try draping a bodice or something for a while now, and decided this might be a time to try it. I managed to find a few moments to try with a knit fabric I want to make a dress from, and I'm not too unhappy with how it's going so far. It really was very quick and I know I'll need to work on it, but it's not too bad for a quick first try.

I've always wanted a knit wrap dress, but anything I've tried has been way off on fit for me. The lightbulb finally lit and I realized that I could easily drape one, and it would naturally fit. Tra la!

The photo above is with a piece of yarn tied at the waist, and the photo below is without. Otherwise, they're just the same. The one without the "belt" is a little more true to color, although it's not nearly as reflective. It just has a little shine.

I like the belted look, but I want to see how it will look with just a half-belt in the back. So far I have the fabric just pulled around and pinned at CB at about the waist. It isn't the worst idea, and with a little work I think it could be interesting. The back reminds me a bit of a Bonnie Cashin design, so I feel like it isn't completely unworkable.

If you want to see larger photos, and side photos as well, you can see them here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

2-Piece Floral Dress

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I finally finished this dress, and I'm glad to be done with it. Not that I didn't enjoy working on it, but I've been able to spend almost zero time sewing in the last couple weeks, and I was so close to done it was just killing me not to finish. So, here it is.

The fabric is a silk/cotton blend with an interesting weave that makes effective use of the fact that silk and cotton will take dyes differently. It makes the print look almost like a woven design, and gives it a watercolor effect. Yes, it's a really, really, really large scale print, but it's so large it almost reads as an abstract, and I like that. The fabric is from Nancy Erickson, and I borrowed her idea of making a 2-piece dress. I did not use the suggested princess-seam top however, preferring a darted, cut-on-sleeve top that I've made before. The original pattern is Vogue 2719 which is a Vintage Vogue dress that's OOP. I used the bodice as a blouse previously and it's a real favorite. I redrew the neckline for this to make it a little dressier than a shirt collar.

When I ordered this fabric, I assumed I was going to be using a princess-seam sheath style top pattern, and planned accordingly. As I mentioned before, I really had a hard time getting this top out of the fabric I had. I didn't have really any choice in print placement because there was one, and only one way this fit on the layout. After stitching the top, I really didn't like the look of the CF seam with the print. I came up with my triangular appliqué idea, and like it, then decided that adding a bow would be even better. How can you go wrong with a bow?

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I underlined the entire thing in silk organza, which gave this a lot of body. This fabric has body of its own, and the result is almost a spongy feel, and I think it holds the style very nicely, especially the skirt. I was a little hesitant about lining this as well as underlining, because of the thickness of the fabric and underlining even before lining, as well as the fact that it's a Spring/Summer outfit, and I didn't want to add warmth. And, I'm just not a "line everything" kind of girl. I like to go on a case-by-case basis, and I rarely line tops. Because this top pattern was altered with my saran wrap block, it has a really nice fit in the neck and shoulders, so I knew I could get away with just piping the edges and hand overcasting the piping to the wrong side. There's no peek-a-boo problems with the inside showing here and there, and it makes a really nice clean finish. Here's the top inside-out. You can get a better look by clicking on the photo link and viewing the Original size. This is true of all of the photos.

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The skirt is drafted from my favorite straight skirt, and is the same as the green skirt I did as a trial. It looks quite different, but it's all in the different properties of the fabrics, not the pattern.

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And here's a side-front view.

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I did contemplate a belt with this. I took photos with and without, and although I like the belt, it just makes me look awfully short-waisted, and I think this is a more graceful look. It's amazing how much easier it is to make a style decision while looking at photos rather than when looking in the mirror. Everyone says this, and it's really true.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Sewing By Mail?

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This isn't sewing by mail, it's real sewing, but it's been all I could do lately to get this little bow made. I think it's quite darling, and it's the finishing detail on my 2-piece floral dress, so now if I can get it attached and finish up a little hand stitching, I will finally be done with the whole thing. I'm still unable to spend any appreciable time in my sewing room, so this is quite the achievement.

Now, on to Sewing by Mail. As many people have noticed, when we are prevented from pursuing the creative process itself, we have to do something, and many of us seem to get a little satisfaction from planning future projects. Of course, that planning seems to move right into gathering items to complete those projects. The computer and the credit card are handy tools for this process, and of course, things show up in the mail, or at least are delivered similarly to the mail soon thereafter. That's been my recent modus operandi. Today was a banner day for the mailman.

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I finally broke down and ordered the Iris Apfel book, and am I glad I did! I've only dipped into it for a short time this morning, and I can't wait to get back to it. What a great story besides the great photos. Very inspiring.

And, my KnitPicks order came. I got the nickel-plated modular needles for Christmas and thought I needed a few more cable sizes as well as needle markers, a few circulars in sizes smaller than the set has, and a set of their colorful laminated double-points that are in the foreground above. So, no excuse for not knitting now.

I've been knitting away, but not very quickly on the cropped cardigan with the textured stitch pattern, and it's very slow going. I decided to add darts in the front, so that's another element. I'm on the left front and am making careful notes so I can duplicate the shaping on the right.

It's raining here now, but when I took these photos on Wednesday, it was sunny. These are the first tulips of the year for me. They're species tulips.

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The grape hyacinth below are so darling, and so easy to grow. They multiply extravagantly over the years, and I have them naturalized into the grass under trees where it's thin anyway, and it's such fun to see them popping up in the spring. This works if you mow the lawn yourself, or have a cooperative mower, since you need to let the leaves (grasslike) grow for a while before you cut them off. So there are a few taller spots in the grass for a while. It doesn't bother me, but if you need seriously perfect grass, maybe it's not for you.

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Apologies to those who've tried to read this and found that the photos weren't showing up. There's definitely a problem with Blogger photos. I finally uploaded the photos to my Pbase photo site and linked from there. Even now it seems like Blogger is having a hard time with the second photo. It comes, it goes. So, if you want to see it, just hit the Photo Link link under the photo (or under where it's supposed to be) and it will take you to the photo on Pbase where it really will show up. I've been using Picasa albums and Blogger to post some photos lately, and it hasn't really been a problem until now, although I hate the fact that you can't make it so you can click on the photos and a new page will open. With these photos, I can do that, at least with the link. I used to be able to make the whole photo a clickable link, but Blogger has "improved" that out of existence.

Thanks for the heads-up on the photo problem, Rhonda!

Thursday, April 10, 2008



I was so thrilled to get my copy of the new Vogue Patterns magazine on Tuesday. I am a real fan of Ralph Rucci, and besides his first 2 patterns for Vogue being showcased, including this one on the cover, there are 2 articles about Rucci and his techniques and how to accomplish them, or at least how to attempt them. It seems quite early to get the June/July issue, but of course if we begin sewing now, we may be done by June or July.

We've been battling a bad run of bronchitis or something here, and I've been very occupied with being a not very satisfactory stand-in for a nurse. Needless to say, I've gotten almost no sewing done, and only a little knitting. I really hope we're seeing the light at the end of the tunnel though, as it's been a long siege. I am determined not to get sick too, and I've got my fingers crossed. Maybe that's why I'm not getting any sewing done.
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And last, but not in the least least, Happy Birthday to my dear sister!

Monday, April 07, 2008

A Blast From the Past

Lately, every vintage pattern on Summerset's blog brings back some memory for me, but this one is special. The sleeveless, long version of this dress was what my college choir wore to perform. We all professed to hate these dresses with a passion, but they were actually amazingly well chosen for their ability to look fairly decent on everyone, no matter what size or shape. The skirt was very graceful, and the style was very forgiving. We didn't know enough to realize it at the time. I think I still have my dress, although it's unhemmed now, since after graduation I loaned it to a new choir member even taller than I am, and when I got it back, the hem had been carefully taken out and pressed flat. They used these dresses for at least 15 years.

The other real beauty of the dresses was the fabric. It was just a medium blue polyester crepe, but it was indestructable. I still remember being in Hawaii on tour. We sang in a bandshell right across the street from Waikiki Beach, and we wore our gowns and the guys wore their tuxes. We were staying at a local college (it was Christmas break) and we didn't want to have to go all the way back to change, so we girls all wore our bathing suits under our dresses and when we were done singing, we took off the dresses, popped them and our shoes into a tote bag, and sauntered over to the beach. Meanwhile, there were about 40 guys with tuxedos in garment bags looking disgusted. Once in a while, we get the better deal.

Anyway, you could leave your dress crumpled in a bag all day and when you took it out, it looked just as good as before. Hooray for polyester! It certainly has its uses.

Friday, April 04, 2008


I received my new Knitter's magazine yesterday and settled down to look at it last night. The first thing I noticed was a note that I only have 2 issues left on my subscription, so I was thinking I'd have to decide if I was going to renew. Lately I've been somewhat disappointed in them, and I was interested to see if they would change my mind with this month's issue. Well, in a word, NO. I hate to state it so strongly, but the patterns ranged from pedestrian to just plain ugly. No interesting shaping, some really awful fit, colors and yarns were uninteresting. There were just no redeeming features whatsoever. So, I believe I'll just let it run out. You might think that the cover sweater isn't so bad, but it's actually a tube top with an asymmetric cape over it. The model has been carefully posed in this photo as in the others, the most charming body area of the arm/body junction is prominently on display under the short side of the cape. Ick, even on the model. I have to say that several of the most uninspired and amateurish of the designs are from the magazine staff. I don't know if they had to whip up something quickly because they were short or if they're practicing their design skills on the paying public, but either way, it's a mistake, in my opinion.

And now for the much better stuff.

Today I got my first issue of a new subscription to Piecework. It has a cute Nancy Bush knitted sock pattern as well as an article on metal thread embroidery, and a project to try it. I have just scanned quickly through it, but it appears to be worth a more in-depth read.

Summerset has been putting up a vintage pattern with each post from a collection she was given. Today's offering is a 1970's sailor style pattern She mentioned that her MIL remembered wearing these styles then. Well, me too! This immediately took me back to my first "with a pattern" 4-H project. It was a sleeveless sailor top and straight elastic-waist skirt in a lavender-blue/white windowpane check with a solid blue skirt. I remember redoing the point of the V-neck where the collar sets in over and over and over again. My top didn't have a CF seam like this one does, which would make it much easier, but what did I know? I don't remember actually wearing it a whole lot after I finally got it done, entered in the fair, modelled in the Dress Review, etc. By the time I was actually free to wear it, I think I was probably sick of looking at it. But, I still like that style! What does that say about my fashion sense? Set in stone at age 10, apparently.

E for Excellent!

How exciting! I've been tagged as an E for Excellent blog by not one, but TWO Excellent Bloggers. Vintage Threads (Charity in Alaska) and Diary of a Sewing Fanatic (Carolyn) both named me in their lists. I am so honored and flattered. They are both on my list of bloggers that I read regularly, and it's so nice to know that my posts aren't completely frivolous.

Carolyn is a long-time friend from the old Sewing World, and now Stitcher's Guild. She is fearless and committed to excellence in her sewing and design. She has shown me that it's not only unnecessary but silly to "reinvent the wheel" with each new garment when we have patterns we've slaved over until they fit perfectly that we could tweak a bit and make again with a totally different look. I'd done some of this before, but Carolyn takes it to a new level, and her embellishments are subtle, wearable, and beautifully unique.

Charity is an indefatigable stitcher and designer who is always doing something interesting, and who can take a technique we all know and add a small improvement/variation and come up with something that will make you say "Ooh, that's wonderful!" Right now she's in the middle of a Hundred Skirt Project in which she and some other bloggers who've volunteered are making a hundred skirts with coordinating Tees to send to a Guatemalan orphanage with which she has a connection. The skirts are spread across the size range beginning I think, at T3 through adult. These aren't just plain old skirts either. Each one is embellished to show off the fabric pattern and the Tees are coordinated as noted above, and each ensemble has a name. She's aiming to finish by August. There is one that I hope to shamelessly copy the pocket from. It's this one called Pocket Pals.

I love the knotted strip at the top of the pocket, and I think the fabric combination is darling.

Now, I have to think up 10 (only 10!) deserving blogs as well. I will try to choose blogs that haven't already been chosen, so I'll be leaving out quite a few favorites.

Sew Distracted is Mardel's sewing and knitting blog. She has a wonderful eye for fashion, and uses the most fabulous fabrics and yarns to create her personal style. She is also a source of books-to-read ideas for me, and she reviews them when she's done too. Her taste is exquisite.

Barbara at Cat Fur Studio is a real bundle of energy as she seems to sew most of her wardrobe while effortlessly performing her very high-powered 'real' job. Her shoe choices with her outfits are always instructive as well.

You Can Have It Made which is always an interesting read, and often quite witty. One of my favorite recent posts is
Dirty Tricks Patterns Play, or: Things to Know #10.

Stitchworks is a very seriously art and especially fiber-art blog, with some sewing, but lately more fabric design and manipulation. This is pure inspiration.

May Studio's M&M is a knitting maven. If it can be knit, she will knit it and it will be gorgeous, perfectly done, perfectly fitted, and done very quickly. She is also extremely generous with her time to those of us who beg for translations of the Japanese sewing and knitting patternbooks. She and Hellenne did all the translations for the Mrs Stylebook instructions available at Stitcher's Guild, and helped walk a group of us through a skirt draft from the magazine, which turned out perfectly due to her excellent skills.

Patty Hudson at Fiberly One is another fabulous knitter who is concentrating on lace knitting recently, but knitted things drop from her needles in perfection with great rapidity. She has done sample knitting for KnitPicks at times, especially when they need something on a tight deadline. She also sews beautifully, and as she sews many shirts for her husband, I feel we're kindred spirits in this endeavor.

Gaile Online has a great blog that's been a favorite for a long time. She's a Canadian knitter/photographer who is an engaging writer as well on just about any topic. Her bird photos are some of my favorites.

Pam Erny has 2 blogs that are well-worth following.
The first is Off The Cuff Style which details her custom shirtmaking. She most often does hand drafted patterns with subtle details to perfectly tailor a shirt and its details to her client and his activities.
The second is Sewing for the Divas which has detailed her efforts at clothing her fashionista nieces in the style in which they are thrilled to be becoming accustomed. It appears to have been folded into her first blog above, but the photos and tips still on it are worth looking at if you're interested in very cute and innovative customization of children's wear and of Ottobre patterns in particular.

NancyW at encue creations is always inspiring. I like her photographic record of fitting challenges and her solutions. She does some beautiful work, and has just finished her 2008 SWAP. Congratulations, Nancy!