Friday, November 29, 2013

Fall skirt, and happy Thanksgiving!

Do you have fabric stashed that you consider "too special" to use on just any project?  Is it sitting in your stash area just waiting for that perfect pattern or idea to come along?  Has it been there for years??  Me too!

Last year for my birthday, my Great Aunt Barbra (who just celebrated her 93rd birthday this year!) gave me a couple of large bags of fabrics she would never use.  Some were remnants, some whole pieces.  
There were 2 lovely Challis', one deep blue with scattered golden flowers (untouched, about 3 yards), and the brightest fall colored piece, also about 3 yards.  I loved the colors of the fall piece; flowers in yellows, golds, oranges and reds all on a black background with paisley here and there to accent.  I was thinking about a dress, but then my wonderful father gave me boots for my birthday (he called them my wicked witch boots, lol), and now I have something to wear skirts in fall with!  I recently found McCall's 6799, and the line drawing as well as the model picture showed such a lovely drape, I just had to try it, even with no previous reviews to guide me.  I plowed on, and am glad I did!

Mark my words, this will change my wardrobe. :)

I originally intended to make an entire Thanksgiving outfit, appliqueing the remnants to my own black long sleeved tee, but I just couldn't find time before the holiday arrived.  Still, I am thrilled with the skirt alone, and I think I will get a lot of wear out of it, hopefully for may autumns to come.  

I've always been a fan of maxi dresses and maxi skirts, and the flow of this one is amazing.  This is the first project I've ever cut on the bias, and it really makes a difference in how it fits, hangs, and moves.  I love it!  It was a little trickier to cut, and much trickier to hem, but not too bad really.  And well worth it!  I also love the yoke, which hides the tummy pooch....

The back has a slight tacky spot, but I don't think it is noticeable unless you know what to look for.

I hope no one finds it inappropriate, I was just having fun showing off my boots, and got kind of a old time teaser shot on accident.  I thought it was kind of cute.  Looks like I'm about to do the can-can!  lol.

I wore this all day Thanksgiving while cooking the turkey, potatoes, casseroles, etc, and it was comfortable and I felt lovely dressed up, but not too much.  

I hope those of you that celebrate it had a wonderful turkey day!  And that like me, you find the right pattern for those "special" fabrics in our stash!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Liz's little suit

I made these pants for Liz for her Girl Scout uniform (I wanted her uniform complete for the Veterans Day Parade), so I bought a few yards of this soft, faux suede (khaki is the official color...close enough!).
I had enough left over material to make this little jacket, as long as I made the facing from a different material.
 I let Liz pick a fabric from my stash for the facing. :)  Thanks dad, and my dads friend Jay for this lovely found fabric!

Here you can see the facing is not a full lining, just partial.

The back of the jacket has a set of ruffles on it, I made them in the same contrasting fabric as the facing.

The pants are such a great fit!  The darts in the front and back, and the partial elastic waistband make for a very nice fitting yet comfy pant for an active kid!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Stuffed Jellyfish!

I finally finished this stuffed jellyfish for Liz.  I put it off for a long time.  The math behind drafting the top (with the odd darts for shaping) scared me a bit, but I worked out.
The top is 2 layers of the sheer, sequin print mesh underlined by purple satin.  I don't think any of the pictures do it justice, it is such a pretty, iridescent fabric, perfect for a jellyfish!

Getting the tentacles on the outside was also a challenge.  I had to sew them into the center of each dart BEFORE I sewed the darts shut, but leave enough of the end of the dart open that the tentacles didn't get caught when I sewed the whole thing onto the bottom.

Liz is showing off the bottom of the jellyfish, purple satin and 3 gathered sheer magenta ribbons.  The color scheme is entire hers, she picked out all the fabrics and the ribbon.  Speaking of, to get that effect, I gathered the 1.5" ribbon 1/2" in, differing lengths for each one.

Liz is Very happy with the final product.  It's a pretty unusual stuffed animal, but she is enamored with all of the creatures of the sea right now, and it is already in bed next to her shark and starfish. :D

BTW, this entire project was inspired by a puppet we checked out at our local library.  I didn't coy it exactly, but it was a major source of inspiration for the design.  Liz just wanted a stuffed animal though, no puppet, and I'm thankful for that!

Original puppet from library.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Birthday Beach Outfit


She's 6!!  Her party was lots of fun, and totally exhausting!  Two days later, I'm still recovering from the all the work, chaos and kids.

She got a lot of presents, but her big present from us she will not get until summer, because she wants to go to the beach and also visit the aquarium, so we will be camping on the coast for one or two nights after school lets out.

It was quite a while ago that she decided she wanted to take that trip, so I decided to make her a beach outfit.  She had already picked a dark pink cotton out of my stash, it is covered in tiny butterflies.  I found a matching dark pink and burgundy (and lots of other colors, too) cotton sateen with a diamond print on it in my stash, and also the perfect pattern, Simplicity 5540.


It included a button front dress with elastic pockets, shorts, and a hat, all perfect for a walk on the beach!

This pattern is pretty well designed, though I had issues with the hat.  not a single notch or marking matched up, not on the crown, top, or brim.  I did make it work though.
I added a self made hat band and a much larger bow than the pattern called for, because she asked for a big bow on the hat.  I think it turned out pretty cute on her, and it will serve it's main purpose of protecting her face and eyes from the sun.

It is somewhat adjustable, which I love in kids clothing. With the tie in back, she has room to grow.

Overall, very happy with the dress, also happy to make her something more practical that she will (hopefully), get a lot more wear out of than the "dressy" dresses I have made her in the past.  Hurray for cotton!
This is a really great pattern (sans hat markings), with a lined bodice, well designed button bands and adjustable shoulder straps, and I will keep it for when she is older.  I can see her wearing a larger version of this even up to age 9 or 10.  So this pattern is a winner, and a keeper!


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

New summer dress, new sandals!

This is my new summer dress! Mom Pat got this fabric for me last year, and I am really glad to find a good pattern match for it.  I entered it into the Accessories Inspiration contest, when I saw the red and gold gladiator sandals, this is the fabric that called to me out of my stash.

The draping class my husband bought me last month really did teach me a lot.  I made 3 new darts in the bodice of this dress to get such a great fit around the bust and armholes.  In the past, I would have let little fitting issues like that slide, now I know how to fix some of these things, and it really shows!
The only area I did not know how to correct was the back.  The pattern has gathers at both the top of the yoke and at the waistband, which makes lots of room for movement, but also makes the back a bit pouchy near the waistband.  If I ever make this pattern again, I think I will redraft the entire back to use a box pleat on top, and be more fitted at the waistband.
Since the inspiration for this dress was a pair of shoes, I wanted to show off my new sandals!  They are not red, but instead a dark salmon, but they do have gold!  I found them on sale for only $5 on clearance, and couldn't pass them up.
I do wonder if I should have raised the hemline about 2"....but I have developed some modesty about my legs as I get older.  Still, this length makes me look shorter, I think.  But besides that, I am extremely happy with this dress!  Something pretty but also practical (did I mention it has pockets?) to wear this summer.  Some of my dresses are too dressy for daily wear, but I could see myself grocery shopping in this, which is perfect. :D

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Spring Pantone color outfit

Make a two piece outfit using the Spring Pantone Colors?  Challenge accepted!

So, the dress was a giant pain to draft and make for such a simple thing, as I wrote in a previous blog.  But the jacket was surprisingly easy and fast to make, considering it is a jacket!   I adore the jacket, very 60's retro.  I think it will get a lot of use this year.

James was not available to take pictures today, so Liz did it all.  I think she did a darn good jab for a not quite 6 year old!  Also....does this outfit make me look taller??
Buttoned up, it doesn't help my boxy shaped dress they way I hoped it would.  But I do think with a flared dress/skirt or even the right shirt and jeans, this jacket will be very cute, and very versatile!

The back has a cool tab and pleat (which I had to starch pretty good to make it lay down right, since this polyester did not want to take a crease well).

Although I finished the jacket in less than 10 days, there is still some detail work that went into it.  Sadly, you don't get to see it well from a distance, but I worked hard to get the top stiching looking nice and fairly evenly spaced, both on the collar and the sleeves.  Kind of gives those a quilted look.

Next up will be another dress, but this one with a very flared skirt and button front and collar.  After that, I have got to make something for Liz for her birthday, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Learning draping, my first self drafted pattern!

About a month ago, my husband got me an online sewing class as a gift.  It was Fashion Draping: Dress Making Basics with Paul Gallo, and I was eager to start right away!

My very first attempt at draping the muslin went all kinds of wrong.  I was very, very frustrated, but my husband convinced me to try and think about what had gone wrong and how I could correct it.
I thought my main problem was my dress form, which didn't have any of the areas marked on it that are used in the class, no stable reference points.  Also, some of the measurements were not correct for me, such as from the shoulder to the bust point.  Yes.....even with a good underwire bra, my bust is not longer THAT perky.  It's about 1.5" lower.

Now don't get my wrong, I love my dress form, but I knew I would need to do some serious work on it to make it functional for draping.  I would love to put a picture here, but honestly, the "fix" I came up with isn't pretty and not something I want to show in public!  I used an old nursing bra, and stuffed it with folded fabric scraps to get the correct bust size and placement.  My waist also no longer curves in like that.  Actually, thin as I have been most of my life, I don't think it ever did. :/
So I took some knit fabric and wrapped it around the waist and hips until all the measurements were again correctly matching mine, then held that in place with a spandex band.
I didn't have any style tape, and for whatever reason Joanns didn't have any for sale, so I hit a bit of a wall on marking the seam lines.  Then my husband got out a roll of black duct tape, and cut it into neat strips for me.  This worked well!  I did have to "guestimate" almost every line I marked:  Side seam, shoulder seam, princess seam, neckline, center front, and center back.  I used my own measurements to mark the waist, the bustpoint, and the shoulder blade.

So now my dress form looked like a cobbled together ugly mess, but it had stable (and hopefully accurate) places from which I could mark and measure.

My next attempt at draping the muslin went very well.  Everything seamed to match up down to 1/16", and I was feeling great about it!  What I did not realize was that the markings for the seamlines on the class dress form are probably (guessing here), about 1/8" wide, and the tape I had cut was about 3/8" wide.  The teacher added ease into the pattern by pinning on the far side of the CF or side seam, etc.  So while he was adding 1/8" ease into the seams, without realizing it, I was adding about 3 times as much ease!  Doh....

After I finished the drape, I transferred it all onto a paper pattern.  I had no drafting paper, but the teacher suggested using the back of gift wrapping paper, and that worked very well.

I felt pretty confident (I still didn't realize I had built in too much ease), so I went ahead and cut my fashion fabric from my own paper pattern.  It was not until I had the bodice sewn together that I realized it seemed too large.
It didn't take me too much time to realize my error.  I will have to buy style tape and remark my dress form for future drapes, but I was not about to toss this out as a wadder just yet!

I took it in at the side seams about 1" on each side.  That helped, but I had built too much ease into the CF, and that was going to be harder to fix.  The bust and chest were droopy and full of extra fabric.  The solution I ended up with was to widen and then join the top and bottom darts, basically turning my darts into makeshift princess seams.  But hey, it worked!  The bodice fit was now very good!
I did not alter the back darts, since it was too difficult to see and pin out the excess on my own back, and anyway, I do need room to move! :D

The class has us draft sleeves, and although I did draft my own short sleeve, in the end I decided to make it sleeveless, and just finish the armholes with bias tape.  A classic, sleeveless shift dress is something I did not own.

So, many hours of fitting, refitting, hemming and finishing later, here is my self drafted fitted dress.

From the front, I'm not loving it.  I have always been pretty straight from my waist to my hips, and this just emphasizes my rectangle shape.  From the side it looks good though!  Maybe a belt would help define my waist more?  I'll have to give that a try.

Also, for such an extremely simple looking dress, you would never know how many hours (and hours...and hours) I spent working on it.  My initial reaction after just finishing this project is this:  Drafting my own pattern was interesting and I learned a lot!  But I did not really enjoy myself nearly as much as I do using commercial patterns.  I felt too stressed the entire time.  For now, I think I'll stick to commercial patterns, and work on more self drafted things further in the future....maybe.

Next up is a cropped jacket in a matching blue (Monaco blue for the Spring Pantone colors).  A nice EASY pattern.
That may also help with some shape defining.  Or make it worse!  Geeze, I hope not, lol.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Fitted blouse, but still flowing

Making blouses is probably one of my favorite things.  I wear them often, and there are lots of fun styles.  When I heard there was going to be a Fitted Blouse Contest over at I was very excited! I have been really slow in the sewing department lately, and what I really needed was a project that got my imagination fired up, something I really wanted to make.

As is usual for me, I changed my mind several times before I finally got started, both on fabric and pattern choice.
I finally settled for a pattern that has been in my stash for a while but that I had not yet made, McCall's 6649, and a plaid fabric that's been in a my stash a long time.  I think it is rayon challis, both from the feel and from a burn test, but I can't be sure.  At any rate, it didn't have a wrong side, and it flowed nicely, so I knew it would work well on the pattern. It is a TOTAL coincidence that envelope shows it maid up in plaid as well.....

Although the pattern is self described as a semi-fitted blouse, it has bust darts, front darts, and back darts, as well as shaping through the side seams.  It was pretty easy to make it a truly fitted blouse!

It has a very nice back yoke, and I cute that on the crossgrain, to try and get a cool effect.  I like it :)  Also, the back fits perfectly!!  I'm pretty impressed with the fit of this pattern, despite it calling itself semi-fitted.

I have heard a lot about this idea of mixing hard and soft from Project Runway and other places so I wanted to play with that idea.  The fabric and design of this blouse is obviously very soft and flowing, so I made the cuffs contrasting in black.  The original cuffs on this pattern are extremely large and ugly.  These are exactly half the size of the pattern cuffs, and I much prefer these daintier sized ones.  Also, I tried to pick a fairly neutral button for this blouse.  I'm prone to making the buttons the stars on a blouse, but this fabric is already so busy, I though it just needed a simple button.

So there it is, my newest creation, and my entry into the Fitted Blouse Contest.  I really wasn't sure how I felt about it until my husband took the pictures.  They all looked pretty good, no bad shots, and I think it's a pretty cute top on me!  The scarf collar makes it a tad impractical, but it doesn't LOOK silly.   I have this weird attraction to scarf collars it seems.  :)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Coral Reef - first pieces

I'm certainly enjoying my new project, to crochet a coral reef!
Of course, I haven't finished much.  I suspect this will be months long or more, but certainly an ongoing project.
So far, I'm getting about 1 piece a day done, but that will slow down soon, as the little one gets over her cold, I'll have far less free time just sitting and watching TV. :)  Plus I have other sewing I'd like to do, and books to read!

So, here is what I have done so far.  The first piece, starting on the left, I used leftover variegated yarn, and used the basic hyperbolic plane (just going back and forth in a straight line, with steady increases).  It was just supposed to be a test piece, but I like it a lot.  It didn't photograph very well, but it has some interesting shapes.

On the far right is a small hyperbolic pseudosphere, meant to be a brain coral.  This is also a test piece, and I stopped as soon as I got a feeling for the weight of the yarn vs the stitch size.  I want to make one of these in coral pink, and make it BIG.
This is just chrocheting in the round using a steady increase in stitches.  This one is too tight for the yarn weight I think, as I increased 2 stitches in every stitch.  The next one I'll increase every other stitch instead.

I got to buy a couple of skeins of yarn yesterday, just for this project.  Since it was Presidents Day, I got some good buys on a pretty coral pink, and a nice teal.  I used a small amount of the coral pink to make a little sea anemone.  I already had the pink/white ruffly yarn on hand, just a bit left, and it made a super cute anemone top.

I'm getting most of the patterns here, at the Maine Reef site.  I want to try the Jellyfish and the manta ray eventually, too!

One of the best aspects of doing this is Liz's interest in marine life.  She really wants to help make this, and though she can't crochet (she tried, but the fine motor skills just aren't quite there yet), so she is making a paper background, crabs, sharks, etc to paste behind it or hang above it.  If nothing else, it will be a pretty little display for the house, as well as a fun art and learning project for Liz and me alike!

At least one other person is joining me from the PR site.  we are hoping to collaborate to make enough pieces to eventually donate an entire display to The Nature Conservancy.  Of course, this would be far in the future.  for now, we are just making pieces and having fun. :D  However, if anyone else is interested in joining and making some coral reef pieces and crocheting along, please do so!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Crochet, Math, and Marine Life

Isn't this amazing?

So I recently watched a marvelous TEDTalks called Crochet a Coral Reef and I was really inspired to participate. Creating a hyperbolic math model with crochet is very cool, and turning it into a lifelike coral reef display is even cooler!
I really want to start a local chapter, or some sort of group to create a display, though that might be too ambitious.  At least, I plan on making a display for our home.  I'm hoping once I get a small display started, I can post some fliers around schools to see if anyone else would like to participate.  I would really like to get the $250 to create a full display, so if my pieces turn out well, I may pitch it to the local Community College.

I started one today, and half a skein later, I am really amazed at how simple it is to make some of the basic coral shapes, and how beautiful it is!  Currently, I'm just using the yarn I had on hand, some green and brown variegated synthetic.  It makes a lovely basic coral!  Once I finish a piece or two, I will post pictures of what I'm doing.  In the meantime, check out what other people around the world have made!

Doesn't this make your fingers itch for a crochet hook and some yarn?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Back from a Winters Break.

I am not entirely sure why I pretty much stop sewing for a month or two every winter.  I sort of hunker down during the coldest part of the season.  This year for the holidays, instead of sewing gifts, I made handmade candies and chocolates, and that was a nice change of pace.
But the sun peeked out this week, and now I'm ready and eager to get back to sewing!

This month, I have been putting in a little sewing time, since my husband was nice enough to make me a mini-sewing area in the living room, so I could stay warm.  My sewing area is just so COLD all winter, and I don't want to waste the energy to heat it, since it leaks back out pretty quick.

So I wanted to make some warm tops for Liz, and kept putting it off and putting it off, but finally got motivated and finished 3 long sleeved turtlenecks for her.  The One Pattern Many Looks Contest got me thinking about making more than basic turtlenecks, so I came up with 3 variations.

This is Liz's favorite of the 3, mostly because of the lovely iridescent butterfly applique I found for it.  This baby ribbed knit fabric is leftover from a top I made for myself, using the same pattern, Jalie 2805, but with a different neck option.

I added a ruffle to the bottom and sleeves, as well as a little bow to the neckline, in a pretty leopard print knit I got from my great aunt.  I think animal prints are really cute on little girls, in moderation. :)
The burgundy knit is probably the nicest knit I've owned,  It is really thick and gorgeous, a very drapy and soft fabric.  It is leftover from a cardigan I made myself from a McCalls pattern that I really didn't love. At least this piece was put to better use!

I actually made this one first.  both the white and the floral print are also from my great aunt.  I tried to give this a faux layer effect.  It isn't too small on her, it is exactly the right size, which means she will outgrow it in a month (at the rate she's going!).  That's why I made the other 2 a size larger.

Next I have plans to use a green wool/polyester blend that JillyBe sent to me ages ago, and attempt to make myself a pair of wide legged-trousers and a matching vest.  It's ambitious, so wish me luck!!