Friday, October 26, 2012

Blogtoberfest Giveaway!

As promised, I'm having a giveaway today, in celebration of Blogtoberfest. Today, you have a choice, and I hope I have something everyone would be interested in!

The giveaway is for a length of fabric and a pattern, your choice.

There are two options for fabrics, both a bit summery, but if you're anything like me, you like to sit on your fabric for a while before sewing it up. :) The first is 1 7/8 yards of a pale lavender linen blend. The photo doesn't really do it justice, since you can't see the color very well, but it's very pretty. It would make a great skirt. The second fabric is 1 1/4 yards of gray, white, and fushia striped seersucker. It would make an adorable top. Maybe the Sorbetto?


I have a couple of patterns up for grabs. The first is Simplicity 2996, a 1959 pattern for pants in four lengths. The pants have waistline darts front and back and side zipper closing. there's a pocket int he right side seam that's optional. It fits waist 25 and hip 34.

The second pattern is one that I posted for a giveaway a while ago but was never claimed. Oh, sad, beautiful vintage Vogue pattern! It's Vogue S-4067 from 1950, and you have to admit, it's just stunning. It's drafted for a 32" bust and 35" hip.

Pattern number three is Simplicity 5134, a shirt dress pattern from 1963. It's for a 33 bust.

If your taste runs a little more to the modern patterns or you prefer multi-size patterns (I do, just because my body spans about 4 sizes), I have something for you as well. Vogue 8787, in sizes 6-14.

The rules:
 - Leave a comment below telling me which fabric and which pattern you would like.
 - You must be a follower of my blog.
 - You have to have a way I can contact you (email, or a link to a blog profile with your email in it).
 - If you win, please don't sell the pattern. If you decide at some point that you no longer want it, pass on the sewing love to someone else in a giveaway or gift. :)
 - The giveaway will be open until noon (Central Time), Tuesday, October 30, and I will announce the winner on Halloween.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Muslin for Craftsy Couture Dress - Vogue 8648

This month is just flying by! I missed the last two posts, and suddenly it's the end of the month and I'm planning my giveaway post for Friday! :) I finished constructing my muslin for the Couture Dress course, and I'm pretty excited about it. It took me a while to fit it, though, because it's not possible to do that for myself. :) Anyway, some photos and thoughts about my muslin.

The front. Here, you can see there's some weird wrinkling at the top of the midriff band, and you can also see a ton of horizontal lines across my hips. I need to do an FBA, take in the top of the midriff band, and let out the side seams in the skirt. The waist is a little too high, but it will be lowered when I do the FBA.

On the side view, you can also see a little fold pointing toward my bust point from the armhole, which is another indicator of the need for an FBA. You can also see a little bit of the diagonal lines at the top of the midriff band and the top of the skirt. These indicate a massive need for a swayback adjustment, which you'll see more of in the other two photos.

If ever I had any doubts that I was a pear shape, this photo has put them to rest. Damn! I need to let out the princess seams along my butt to make a little more room for it, and in this photo, you can see a whole lot of those swayback lines. I'm thinking about adding a vent in the back as well.

This last photo shows the lines at the hip and back as well as the way the side seams pull forward, which I'm hoping will be fixed with the swayback adjustment.

Do you see anything I don't see? I'm pretty happy with this muslin, even with all its issues.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Internet vs. Real Life

In class this morning, we had a conversation about the Internet and web-based communities, and the difference between the web and real life was a huge topic of conversation. I, of course, immediately started thinking about it in terms of sewing: sewing blogs, the online sewing community, etc.

Online, there is this wonderful, thriving, growing community of sewists. We share our completed projects, works in progress, thoughts about sewing productivity (or lack thereof), wardrobe building, garment planning, exciting pattern and fabric finds, and sometimes parts of our personal lives. The more experienced among us generously write tutorials (for which the rest of us are so, so grateful!), which adds an element of learning and reference to the online sewing community. Sewing has become an underground movement, and the Internet has enabled it.

At the same time, a lot of us talk about time wasted browsing the web, reading blogs, posting on our own blogs, etc. So much time is spent in front of the computer screen instead of the sewing table, and I definitely have a love/hate relationship with the Internet. Love the information and the connection to other sewists, hate the way I lose time online.

The thing is, I don't know the first thing about finding the same kind of community in real life. How do you find other women (or men) who sew in your area and want to share their experiences with you (especially if you live in a small town)? How do you find someone to help you pin on your muslin to check for fit? Or someone to go fabric shopping with?

I'm totally jealous of all of you who have had the opportunity to meet up in person. I would love to do that, and am totally there next time there's one in Chicago.

Do any of you have sewing friends in real life? Do any of you live in Champaign-Urbana and wish you had someone to help you with fitting or go to our one little fabric store with? :)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Five (or Seven) Things I Love to Wear

In The Colette Sewing Handbook, Sarai suggests picking 5 things out of your closet that you love to wear, so that when you're planning your wardrobe and your sewing, the things you make reflect your personality and are things that make you comfortable and happy. I think this is a great idea, but I couldn't narrow it down to just five. I tried to pick five things. I really did. But I have seven, and I hope that's okay. :)

My seven things: my wedding ring, navy linen shirt dress, red Mary Janes, multi-colored scarf, jade bracelet, and Fossil necklace.

My wedding ring is my favorite piece of jewelery I've ever owned. I'm sure a lot of women say that, but for me... My partner and I each got completely different rings. Hers is a single sapphire set in a white gold puzzle ring. Very Celtic. Mine is, obviously, a very organic circle of vine, leaves, and buds set with miniscule diamonds, and it was made by a very talented artisan on Etsy. I would have picked out myself to wear as a right-hand ring if I'd seen it before my partner did (and could afford it!).

I've had this dress for so long I don't even remember when I bought it. I actually got it at H&M, which boggles my mind, because I feel like most of what I've gotten/seen from there in the last few years is the same quality as Forever 21, which is to say, it falls apart quickly. This dress has obviously not fallen apart, and I've had it at least since 2003. I think it's flattering, and it makes me feel feminine and pretty when I wear it.

Quite a few years ago, I went to see a play with my mom and some of her friends, and the main character went through several costume changes, but she always had on these spectacular red Mary Jane heels. I immediately started looking for them, and after just a week or two, I found the exact same pair. They're Nine West, and I'm really sad I didn't buy two pairs. These are the greatest shoes I've ever owned. Comfortable, feminine, sexy, red(!), and high-quality. I wish I had known anything about leather at the time, but I didn't, so they haven't been well cared for, and the leather is discolored and starting to crack. I've been looking for another pair, but so far with no success. 

When my partner and I had our wedding ceremony last year, one of her family members gave her this jade bracelet. Jade is a pretty traditional gift for a Chinese wedding, but since it wasn't quite something she would wear, it went to me instead. I love the color and the speckling, and I wear it all the time. It reminds me of family.

This necklace is the best piece of jewelery I've ever purchased for myself. It's large enough to draw attention but not so large it's overwhelming. The color is possibly my favorite color ever, it has a tiny bird hanging from the chain and a tree on the back.

Me being goofy. This scarf gets worn more than all my other scarves combined. It's versatile, lightweight, cotton, has a lot of the colors I love in it, and it has a sort of abstract natural motif that I love.

All right. So. The leather coat. It's from AllSaints, and when I put it on, I become a total sex bomb. Couldn't you tell? All that hotness just oozing off the screen? Well, it is. This jacket boosts my confidence like nothing else I've ever owned. I put it on and start strutting around like I own the town. Not kidding. I really do. :) It's the most expensive non-jewelery (really, non-wedding-ring) item in my closet, but when something makes you feel that amazing, you buy it.

What does all of this say about me? I like monochrome garments for the most part; I like navy, light teal, and red; I like things that are closely fitted; I love things that reflect nature in some way. I like to feel feminine, competent, and attractive, and I like to wear things that have emotional significance to me. I also like people to see certain things while I keep other things to myself. No one sees the back of that necklace but me. When I was younger, I had a pair of jeans with "You are beautiful" embroidered into the waistband. I bought them like that, and every time I pulled them on, they made me smile. If I ever make pants, I'm embroidering those words on the inside of the waistband. :)

If you picked out five (or seven) things in your wardrobe that made you feel good every time you put them on, what would they be? What do your favorite things say about you?

On a sewing note, I've finished putting together the muslin for the Couture Dress class dress, and my partner's going to pin me into it today or tomorrow for a fitting, so I'll be posting about it later this week. I'm so excited to be moving forward, even if it is slow going right now. :)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Sewing Book Review - The Party Dress, by Mary Adams

After my last post, I started thinking that for someone who adores books and libraries as much as I do, I don't talk about them very much. I'm going to write a little bit about some of the books I borrow from the library, and if it goes well, I might make it a regular feature on the blog. Let me know what you think!

Since I talked about The Party Dress Book on Wednesday, I figured I might as well write my first review about that book.

I first found The Party Dress Book on a shelf at Borders (a mental toast to a dearly departed bookstore...I feel so much sadness for the slow demise of so many brick-and-mortar bookstores) and found myself unwilling to put it down and unable to fork over the cash for it. When I found it at the library, I had to take it home and pore over every page.

The full title of this book is The Party Dress Book: How to Sew the Best Dress in the Room. Some people might criticize the book for containing too much fluff and not following through with enough how-to information, but I would have to completely and utterly disagree with them. I adore this book unabashedly. So much so that I might actually reach into my tiny pockets and hand over the change so I can own my own copy.

As you can see from the Contents, Mary spends a lot of time discussing her own career, where she got her ideas, and what events/things were instrumental in the development of her unique and beautiful style.

The book begins with a forward by Amy Sedaris, and it's the perfect introduction. She describes her first view of Mary's shop as "a pastry shop full of cakes dripping in colorfully dyed buttercream icings. It was a deaf person's dream."  Just look at the photo of the shop and try to disagree:

Mary spends the next 30 pages or so talking about color, which is clearly very instrumental in her own sewing. If you want the best dress in the room and you want people to notice it, the color has to be perfect. Interspersed with the text are tons of gorgeous, colorful, inspiring photos.

Remember how I said the most amazing, stunning, gorgeous dress I've ever seen in my life is on pages 58 and 66? Here's page 58. To see the details of the dress, you'll have to check out the book yourself and flip to page 66.

The next three dozen pages are all about the techniques that Mary uses to create what I would call amazing works of wearable art. She discusses French seams, piecing, quilting, applique, pintucks, ruffles, and bias strips. The woman can work magic with bias strips, I'm telling you. She teaches the technique with clear photos and instructions, then gives examples of some of the amazingly creative things you can do with them (French seams are not just for hiding inside a garment!)

The majority of the book - almost 50 pages - discusses sewing your own version of the dress. Did I mention there's a pattern in the back of this book? There is. Actually, there are two, and they're awesome, and I really, really, really want to sew one up. I've only been able to find one blogger who's made this dress up (check out The Little Red Squirrel), but her dress is stunning, and her posts about the pattern make it seem like the pattern is pretty well-drafted and easy to put together. My one criticism of this book is that the range of sizes of the patterns provided is not very great, since it only covers size 4 (33" bust) to size 14 (40" bust). However, I think that this book is worth the money I'll spend on it even considering the fact that I'll have to grade the pattern down slightly, and if you have to grade it up or down more significantly than I will or don't even end up using the pattern at all, I would still say it's worth it for the inspiration, information, and sheer volume of gorgeousness.

Anyway, moving on from the pattern, Mary covers the planning phase, focusing especially on fabric, and then goes on to discuss measurements, yardage requirements for different fabrics and versions of the dress, and fabric prep. Then she gets into the pattern itself, showing how to make up the dresses in three different ways. She provides thorough instructions for sewing the dress, and there are tons of photos to show as well as tell.

So. I don't know about you, but I'm definitely buying this book. Or asking for it for Christmas. I'm planning on sewing lots of cake this year, but after reading this book, all I really want is frosting. And I'm going to have some. Maybe for New Year's Eve? I think that means I should buy the book myself, since I can't start a New Year's Eve dress after Christmas. :)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Libraries and Sewing

Do you use your public library? It's not a loaded question, I promise. I'm studying to be a librarian, and I'm really curious about what gets people into their public libraries. If you use yours, what do you use it for? If you don't, why not?

I go to my public library about 5 - 6 times a week. I'm not kidding, I really do. I volunteer there on Thursdays, I go to the library book sale on Saturdays, and on the days in between...well, if my partner and I are looking for a movie for date night, we go there. If we just need a place to walk around after a slightly-too-large dinner, we go to the library. Any time I'm interested in a new project or technique or book, I get it from the library. Granted, I'm a little extreme. Obviously, I would live in the library if I could, and that's a large part of why I'm getting a masters' degree in LIS (Library and Information Science).

The small portion of my book collection that sits directly behind my desk. School books and sewing books. :)

But over the last 6 years or so, I've discovered just how much the library has to offer. Did you know you can borrow board games from some libraries (maybe yours)? What about art? Did you know your library probably has story time for your kids, book clubs for you, and workshops (even personal lessons) for people who want to learn more about computer programs or research databases?

Did you know your library has sewing books?

That's a close-up of the photo above. Five of those books are actually library books. This isn't my whole personal collection of sewing books, but if it was, it would only have four more books in it, and it would just equal the number of sewing/style books I currently have checked out from the library. That's right. I can literally count the number of sewing books I own on one hand. (Fit for Real People, The Vogue Sewing Book, The Burdastyle Sewing Handbook, Fabrics by Ann Ladbury, and The Colette Sewing Handbook). But the number of sewing books/magazine subscriptions I have access to?

THREE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-SEVEN!!! Granted, that number probably includes a small number of fiction books whose main character sew, but it also excludes all the books about style, fashion drawing, etc. What's awesome about this collection is that it includes books in the Urbana Free Library and the Douglass Branch, so even if the library down the street doesn't have the book I want, I can still get it if one of the other two libraries has it.

I just reserved a bunch of books about fabric dyeing, since I can't seem to find a nice light turquoise wool coating and I don't want to spend $$$$ a yard and screw it up with a poor dye job. Whenever I'm curious about a book but I'm not sure I want to invest in it yet, I check it out from the library first. If it's a new technique (like fabric dying or embroidery), I check out library books on it to supplement the vast amounts of information on the web.

Do you use your library's sewing books?

By the way, if you haven't looked through The Party Dress Book  by Mary Adams, you really should. It's just one of the most beautiful, inspiring books I've seen, and the most amazing, stunning, gorgeous dress I've ever seen in my life is on pages 58 and 66.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Muted Firework Dress - Completed!

Okay, so this was completed a while ago, but I haven't had a chance to take photos until now. Forgive me? I doubt many of you have been reading this blog long enough to remember the vintage dress pattern I bought last June. It's a truly adorable pattern, but something got lost in translation. Well, a lot got lost in translation. I'm not really sure how I feel about the dress I made from this pattern.

The most obvious things that have changed are the fact that I ditched the bows and significantly shortened the dress. Actually, the length is the one thing I really love about this dress. I've never been confident about my legs, so most of my clothing has been long enough to cover my thighs and sometimes my knees as well. When I made the muslin for this dress, though, I made the skirt super, super short to save on muslin, and I decided that, while 12" is too short for a shirt, I actually liked the idea of something shorter than my usual 22" to 23". I'll be shortening quite a few of the other items in my closet in an attempt to nix some of the frump I have going on. :)

Other things I changed about this pattern: I got rid of the gathering at the shoulder that happened with the bow, but I ended up with some weirdness going on with the fit around the front of the armholes. I also did an FBA, and something went rather awry with my darts. Darts and I... we're not friends right now. I look like I have two extra nipples on each breast because the darts just refuse to lie flat. I pressed them with a ham. I made sure to sew them from the widest part to the narrowest and tied off the thread to avoid the bulk of backtacking. I added the side dart in addition to the waist dart to distribute the vastness of my dartage. I checked and re-checked the angles, and they look right to me. Then I pressed the darts over a ham again. And again. And again. Any advice about fixing darts? I'd like to try this pattern again (with some changes), and I want to avoid this puckering dart thing. I had the same problem on another dress I started (and didn't finish) last winter, so it seems to be a pretty regular issue for me. Is it just that my bust is too large for darts, and perhaps it's time for me to give it up and try a dress with princess seams? Or am I making darts for more bust than I actually have?

After all those changes, I decided that altering facings would be a little too much effort, so I made some bias tape and used that to face the neckline and armholes.

The last thing I changed was to raise the zipper all the way to the top (it's a side zip), to make the dress a little easier for me to get into. I hand-stitched the zipper, and it warps a tiny bit when I'm standing in certain positions, because I sewed it from top to bottom on both sides, which is the opposite of what Susan Khalje says to do in her Couture Dress class on Craftsy. Whoops! I hadn't gotten to that part before I did my zipper, though, so... next time! You can hardly see it, though!

After a couple of washes, I am having some problems with the innards of the dress. I French-seamed everything that I could, but you can't exactly put a French seam in a dart that you're supposed to slash and spread. I hate slashing and spreading darts. How are you supposed to keep these things from unravelling like crazy? And how are you supposed to get them to lie flat?!?! Obviously, I had some dart issues.

The one thing that I think went perfectly with this dress? The fit of the back. Love it. I didn't have to change a thing about the back.

And because I know you all like to see the insides of garments, here's the hem. You can see the French seam for the side seam, and I hand-stitched the hem tape in. Time consuming, but you can't see a thing on the other side.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fantasy Sewing: Winter Coat

I bet you thought I wasn't going to post today, didn't you? Honestly, I thought I wouldn't post today either, but here I am! We're going to call this post Fantasy Sewing, in honor of Tanit-Isis, whose blog I absolutely adore.

I do a lot of fantasy sewing. I do it the most when the weather takes me by surprise and I'm wishing I already had a very specific beautiful garment in my closet. Today, it was a winter coat. Now, I know that it's not quite cold enough for the coat I'm dreaming about, but the weather today reminded me that winter is coming. In a Song-of-Ice-and-Fire kind of way. Minus the dragons. Winter would be so much better if there were dragons. :)

So, I don't know how many of you were reading my blog last year when I wrote about coats, but I've been fantasizing about this specific coat ever since then:

This is the year, guys. After I'm done with the dress I'm working on (admittedly, this may take a while), this coat is next on my list. With maybe a small detour into Renfrew-land, because I'll need something quick and easy after the Couture Dress.

How am I going to make it, you ask? Ummm.... I haven't quite figured that out yet. I also haven't figured out the fabric. Mustard is a terrible color for me, so I initially wanted a navy blue coat with a jade/seafoam lining, but I'm afraid that navy will drown out all those lovely details. So...maybe jade/seafoam wool with a navy lining? Except that I can't seem to find the exact shade of greenish blue I'm looking for. Remember the Pantone color Cockatoo? I want something like that, but maybe a little bluer? Am I asking too much? Is that too springy and not wintery enough? Should I just go with navy? Or maybe red?

The other problem, and of course, the more obvious one, is that there's no pattern for this coat, a fact which leaves me facing the possibility of drafting at least part of it. This is incredibly scary, so I've been looking for a pattern that covers at least some of the coat's aspects. This is the closest I've gotten so far:
Butterick 5425. It has princess seaming that goes to the shoulder instead of the sleeve, and it looks like that white one has a distinctly puffed sleeve. Maybe not, looking at the line drawing: 


Things I'd have to do to this pattern: add yokes at the shoulders, add a waistband, remove the skirt of the coat and draft a new one with full pleating, cut the sleeves off just below the elbow and create that gorgeously full pleated sleeve. That's a whole lot, but I have yet to find a pattern that's any closer. Have any of you seen a pattern that's sort of similar to this coat?

The one thing I have figured out is how to make this coat truly winter-worthy. Have you seen the lambswool interlining Sunni's added to her shop?!? So expensive, but so exciting! If I'm going to spend the time and effort making the perfect winter coat, I'm going to spare no expense to make it the perfect one that will last forever and keep me warm in the coldest of weather. What are your thoughts? Have you used lambswool interlining before?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

On My Inspiration Board - October 2012

 Oh, you want to see the rest of my [non-Pinterest]inspiration board? I did just leave that dangling in my last post. :) Here's my board:

It's a dry-erase magnet board that my mom and I painted together before I left home for college. Yes, I've had this thing for over a decade. When we moved into the latest place, I thought about donating it to Goodwill, but I just didn't have the heart to give it up, so here it is, back on the wall again. :)

I'm usually a little lost about the look I want to achieve, but when I look at the items on this board, it all comes together a little bit better. I want a look that's intelligent, sexy, put-together but not fussy, feminine, pretty, and maybe with a tiny bit of cute, because it's simply not possible for me to get rid of the cute factor.

I've been thinking about a more cohesive wardrobe, and the two colors in the photo from Monday - navy and stone/tan - are probably the best choice for neutrals for me. You'll be seeing a lot of those in the near future.

If you're interested in some better photos of the individual pictures on my inspiration board, here are some pretties for you to scroll through. :)

 Love the texture on this dress! And the box pleating at the wasitline.

 This cross-over bodice just sucks me in. Elegant and interesting.

 Again, with the pleating at the waistline. I prefer this so much over gathering!

Umm... Have I mentioned how much I want to take Gertie's Bombshell class? I want to make this dress, except in a color that would be more flattering on me. This color's great on her, but it would make me look queasy.

 Ah, Drew Barrymore. I want your whole outfit.

 Inspired by the simple beading at the neckline of this top.

 Not so simple, but I don't think it's overdone either. I love the pleat/tucks, the shoulder gathering, and the not-over-the-top sequins.

 I can't wear such high necklines, but I can definitely be inspired by the ruffles and the bronze-buttoned keyhole.

 I adore this simple woven tee, with its boatneck and feminine fabric.

Pintucks in a hemline are such a great detail. I want to include more details like this in my own makes.