Friday, May 1, 2015

The Great Dickens Christmas Faire... In Costume!

So I do love an excuse to dress up... particularly if said dressing up involves a corset and a hoop skirt.  Because of this love, I left the 2013 Great Dickens Christmas Fair bound and determined to attend in 2014, but this time in period costume!

So after recycling some undergarments from past costumes, I sat down to plan out my own Dickensian dress.  I ended up mixing and matching pattern pieces from a few different sources including:  Simplicity 2881 and 3727.  I also referenced patterns of Fashion 2 by Janet Arnold which provides a great sense of the shape and seam placement.  Some day I'd like to try to scale something from that book up to person size but for now it mostly serves as inspiration for my own (franken)patterns.

So without further ado... my great Dickens Christmas dress!

This thing was both fun and a bit of a chore to wear.  The corset was actually pretty comfortable (who needs abs when you have an exoskeleton!) but the hoop was HUGE.  I had to sit in the back of the car by myself.  (I also didn't get the front of the skirt quite full enough for such a large hoop so I wound up with a little bit of pulling across the front.)  It was just so much fabric!  

That said, wearing that much fabric is somewhat freeing... My actual shape was irrelevant when compared to the overall shape of the dress. Thus, a total lack of self-consciousness. (Welł, other than when we were walking to and from our car that we parked on a random side street in Daly City... That bit felt odd.)

My favorite element is the green shoulder... flaps? This detail was borrowed from 2881 but utilized in a slightly different way as I wanted to make a winters day ensamble rather than a light evening gown.  So I borrowed the shape but used them as a decorative rather than construcural element.  However I thing this shape along with the heavy fringe helps create that sloped Victorian shoulder and the placement and sea lines in the back accentuate the waist.

My only real disappointment is that I didn't have time to construct a bonnet...  I guess I'll have to plan ahead for next year!

Enjoying some Great Lakes Christmas Ale after the fair!

Hello Again...

I last posted just over 7 months ago.  Seven months. This is a long time.

Usually when I'm working on something I think about how I'm going to blog it.  About 60% of the time I remember to take pictures.  Sadly though, pictures need to be edited.  And then they need to be uploaded to something other than my phone or iPad.  Then I actually have to write stuff down.  It's a lot of work you guys, and at the end of the day I am sorta lazy.  I inevitably run out of steam somewhere between the "sewing" part and the "writing" part.  Leading to the past seven months.

Now I could make excuses.  For instance, we did move.  So for a few months there I wasn't doing much in the way of sewing.  I was mainly searching for apartments and then moving into said apartment and then deciding how to decorate the apartment.  All of which I'm quite pleased with, but is rather time consuming.  I also have been spending a good chunk of my sewing time on the bridesmaids' dresses I'm making for my sister's wedding.  That wedding is now in two weeks and we are getting down to crunch time.  Are the dresses done?  Hahaha! No! But because I'm a glutton for punishment I've decided that a better use of my time is catching up on my long-neglected blog.  Because that's the sensible type of lady I am!

Other than the dresses, the major sewing news since I last wrote include a costume for the Dicken's Fair, the acquisition of a (new to me) sewing machine, puppet outfits, the making of some deeply unflattering pants, and a dress that is both crazy-comfortable and crazy looking.

Stay tuned...

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Weekend Palette Cleanser: M6844 and Simplicity 2475

For the past two weeks I have been wrestling with The Decades of Style Object D'Art Dress #5007... While it is coming along and I think will be a nice addition to my work wardrobe, it has also been a colossal headache. The dart inserts didn't fit into the pattern correctly, and even once I sorted that out, the bodice just fit wrong.  I eventually added a bust dart that seems to have fixed the gappage issues (I will get into the details later) but completely ran out of steam.  

You know when you like a project, but are not excited about it? And then it stares at you from your dress form begging to be completed but the very idea of tackling it is overwhelming? So then instead of sewing you pour a giant glass of wine and watch Doctor Who? (Just me?)

In any case, having reached the dreadful point where sewing felt like work rather than a joy, I realized I needed a palette cleanser; a quick simple project (or two) that would restore my confidence and refresh my spirit. So this weekend I tackled McCall's lovely 6844 and made a ponte pencil skirt based in Simplicity's 2475.

I first noticed M6844 when named it 2013 pattern of the year. My love grew every time it saw another rendition in the blogosphere... It seems to look good on everyone! So a mere two years after the peplum trend swept the nation, I have taken the plunge!

I used a brown and black heavy weight sweater knit from Fabric Mart that I bought a few weeks ago.  The fabric has a great weight and heft that adds some jacket-like structure to the cardigan. Plus I love that the black and brown pattern will expand the versatility like woah.

Obviously that picture is a little faded, but you get the idea... 

The pattern itself required minor alterations. I cut an XL and added 3 inches if length to the torso and 2 inches to the sleeve length.  I determined these alterations by holding the pattern up to my torso, eyeballing,  and saying to myself "eh, good enough."

In what may be my favorite part of the sweater, it didn't require any fancy finishing.  I sewed all my seams with a stretch stitch. (Side note: is that what it is called? You know the one I mean... Programmed stitch 03 on my machine? The one that looks like a lightning bolt?). I then finished all my seams on the serger and pressed, easy peasy.

The only complicated part of this pattern was finishing the underside of the collar.  I had run out of knit so I cut the underside of the collar/front band in a black ponte of similar stretch but different weights. Unfortunately, serving these two fabrics was not as "finished" as the rest of my seams so I cut some bias tape out of a brown stretch material and bound the seam.  

It isn't perfect, but it is neat enough that I won't be terribly embarrassed if the collar lays wrong and someone sees it.  To further prevent such a disaster, I tacked down the front band at the waistline with a few stitches to help keep the proper shape and drape in the front.

And of course, the requisite (blurry) on-a-human shots...

Seriously, this will be a new staple... I plan to wear it on the plane Wednesday.  Also likely to become a new staple? Palette cleanser #2, a black ponte pencil skirt.

So I used to have this great pencil skirt from Anne Taylor.  It was a heavy ponte knit similar to high end yoga pants, high-waisted, and fit beautifully through multiple weight gains and losses.  I wore it until developed holes in the side seams that could no longer be repaired. And while I have made and purchased other black skirts, none have managed to live up to the comfort and versatility of that long lost perfection.

In an attempt to recreate it, I bought two yards of extra heavy weight ponte from Spandex World.  As the old skirt had princess seams and a shaped waistband I decided to use Simplicity 2475 as a jumping off point.  

I cut a size 22. I initially sewed in a zipper but it went in wavy due to the extremely stretchy fabric.  Luckily I realized that the extremely stretchy fabric also rendered the zipper unnecessary. So I sewed up the seam and pulled on the whole kit and caboodle. It was... I'll-fitting and enormous.  I flipped the whole thing inside out and pinned out the excess from the seams.  In the end I took out about two inches from each side seam and an additional inch from each side of the waist.

When I attempted this pattern in the past, using a woven, it was boxy and I didn't much care for it.  However, in the stretch material, it has a far better shape. I still don't really care for the kick pleats and they are not really needed for movement here. I may ultimately sew up the seams to remove the pleats, we'll see.  

And happily, these items work really well together! Here is my outfit du jour!

To be worn with my new Gucci shoes!

That I bought for under $50! That's right, look impressed!

Monday, September 15, 2014

M6503 - A Modern Pattern with Vintage Flair (the process in pictures)

So yeah, I really like this pattern... It fits well, it is flattering, it is comfortable to wear, and it is so easy to sew.  

For this version I used Liberty Tana Lawn in a small scale floral print. Typically I like a larger and more graphic pattern, but in this case I made an exception because this fabric is so lovely.  Unsurprisingly, it sews up like a dream and is perfectly suited to this pattern.

So here is that delightfully easy process in pictures...

Step 1: Interfacing - for this pattern you need to interface the midriff sections, collar, and front band.

Then you skip to step 14 and gather along the lower edge of the bodice before moving to step 18.

Steps 18 - 22:

These steps have you attach the interface front band to the bodice front, sew on band facing, flip to the correct side, press, and tack down.  To add some extra detail and finish, I decided to top stitch the front band.

Pastels 23 - 24:  back darts and attach the front and back bodice.


Step 29 - 30: Then I added the collar, and again I top-stitched to finish.  To clarify, the top-stitching is largely because I am too lazy to do any hand stitching.


Then we skip to step 36 - 39 and add and finish the sleeves.


Step 40 - 45: Then I attached the midriff band... At this point I did not follow the directions as written, but rather sewed on both the band and facing with one seam.  


Step 50 - 52:  Next I completed the pleats on the skirt, sewed up the non-zipper side of the skirt, and attached the skirt to the midriff band.


Now we break for a cat... (cue elevator music)

As an aside, I also top-stitched the midriff band.

Step 50 - 59: Zipper and Finishing - I finished the dress by sewing in a 12 - 14" invisible zipper and completing the side seam.  I then sewed in three buttonholes, attached the buttons, and hemmed the dress.

Given the light weight of the fabric I did add a small strip of fusible interfacing along the edge where I ultimately installed the zipper.  This both adds stability and heft which makes the zipper easier to sew in, and it adds some strength to the part of the dress that will likely get the most wear and strain.

Initially I planned on using small red shank buttons, but once the dress was complete it seemed too childish and cartoony.  So I busted out the button box and instead went with a burnished gold plain button.


The final step? Wear your new dress, look adorable, and be photo bombed by your feline assistant!


And yes, I posed with my bike. It lives in my living room so I may as we'll adopt it as an accessory... Also I am really looking forward to riding in this dress!