Saturday, August 29, 2015

Oliver + S Art Museum Vest

Oh my, how cute is this! This is the Art Museum Vest by Oliver + S on little Lion, who is 4.5 months old.

My family had a wedding to go to, and of course I was making a dress for myself. But what to dress the kids in? In browsing for a dress pattern for my daughter, I came across the Art Museum Vest and was instantly taken.

It was a surprisingly easy make! I had it mostly done in one late night of sewing after the kids went to bed. Probably about 4-6 hours. I had the perfect fabrics in my stash already... this gorgeous stripe by Michael Miller, along with a scrap of silver silk charmeuse for the back. The inside is a fun insect print on gray. The metal buttons were also in my stash, I can't recall what I originally purchased them for. The vest is very cleverly constructed... the seams are all enclosed with only a tiny bit of hand stitching. Brilliant!

I skipped the belt in the back, but I totally did the welt pockets, how cute! I made a lame attempt at pattern matching... totally didn't work, but I think I know how I need to do it next time. Since I had a whole sewing agenda to finish before the wedding, I didn't redo them.

I had thoughts of making it reversible, but I didn't have time to solve the problem of reversible closures. Magnets might work-- does anyone know where to get those cute sew-on magnets that I see elsewhere in people's makes? I actually love the buttons on this one, but perhaps for a future version.

And aren't those buttonholes beautiful? Another thing to love about my new Janome. I did buttonholes for the first time under time with this machine under time pressure (those precious 10 minute gaps between taking care of baby needs) and it was amazingly easy-- just put a button in the automatic buttonholer and off it went, no measuring necessary. I did have a small panic moment at the beginning when the machine started then stopped with an error, but I pulled out the manual and quickly educated myself on the buttonhole lever that I had to attach to the foot. After that they went smoothly.

The matching bowtie was a total afterthought... I whipped that up on the morning before we left. Tutorials here and here. It adds such a nice touch!

The pants are the Big Butt Pants by Made by Rae, in natural linen. Also a super quick make, since I've made several before and know the pattern fits him. If I had more time I would have made the pants that are part of the Oliver + S pattern, but that would have required fitting a whole new pants pattern and I wasn't up for that right now.

The shirt was a fabulous find at our local used children's store, Mama Goose. How lucky am I to have gone out the day before the wedding, and found the perfect white button down shirt/onesie! Mama Goose is a pretty awesome store, but I don't always have such success. I didn't even know shirt/onesie things existed. It is made by Carter's, but the local Kohls who carries Carter's didn't have anything of the sort.

It is so much fun dressing up a little boy!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Shibori Dot Anna Dress: By Hand London

To continue my By Hand London pattern streak, here is my first Anna dress!

I had planned to make this pattern for the wedding I was attending in August. I had this pattern all ready to go, even had the toile done, in mid July, but I just couldn't find the right fabric! I know, that is crazy, since theoretically you could make this pattern in almost any fabric. I had this idea in my head of a drapey, floor length dress in a summery pattern, but everything I looked at was not drapey enough, not summery enough, or just too expensive to purchase 3.5 yards (or more, if it was a 44 inch fabric like many silks). I almost did it in the digital linen I made the Flora dress with, but at $30/yard I just couldn't get myself to spend over $100 just in fabric for this dress. I also was concerned that the linen would wrinkle and look dressed down, which isn't the look I was going for, and I didn't think underlining was going to work well for the Anna dress. Then there was this gorgeous blue crepe de chine, but it was strikingly similar to the fabric of my mom's dress... anyhow, the point is that the Anna got put aside.

As soon as we got back from the wedding, I was eager to sew up an Anna in whatever I could find from my stash. I decided on this gorgeous cotton shibori dot print cotton from Marcy Tilton (still on their website!). The fabric is even more lovely in person than in pictures... the dots are a bit dimensional from the dying process. The Anna is a departure from my usual silhouette-- as you've probably noticed, I love sheath dresses. But I'm working on at least exploring other shapes on my body. I figure that in a dark, quietly beautiful fabric, this dress might work for my work wardrobe as well as dressed up for the evening.

It was just barely possible to get all the pieces laid out with 2 yards of 50-55in fabric (the midi length calls for 2.5 yards of 60 inch fabric). If it had been any narrower, or directional, it wouldn't have been possible. There are only small scraps left!

It is actually a surprisingly heavy fabric, sort of a light twill weave, which might not have been ideal for the Anna. I made the problem even worse by deciding that I would make an all-in-one facing for the bodice, rather than the suggested facing- and since my order of black cotton batiste from refused to show up in a timely manner, I did it with self-fabric. And, I made it EVEN WORSE by deciding that I needed to interface, even though the directions called for nothing of the sort. No, I didn't choose a nice lightweight interfacing... I used organza.

In this particular case, I probably should have just stuck with the neck facing, possibly with a lightweight interfacing. But by the time I realized this, it was too late to go back.

The end result is that the bodice is a little more "structured" than is really necessary. It makes it so that the V neck is nice and sharp and unlikely to stretch out, which is a good thing. But it also made the kimono sleeves stand up like little wings. Therefore, I cut off most of the kimono sleeve and made the dress nearly sleeveless, which a actually sort of prefer, although I would give the sleeves another go if I make it in a more drapey fabric.

Back gape!

No back gape? or gape occuring lower down?
The other problem with the rather stiff bodice is that it points to possible fit problems. There seems to be gaping in the back sometimes-- it seems to depend on my posture. I think I would just take a bit out there for good measure, if I get to alterations. And while the shoulders fit well when standing, as soon as I sit down and forget about my posture, the shoulders of the dress feel like they are floating inches over my real shoulders. I think, if I were going to sit down and fix things, I might take in the shoulder seams half an inch or so. None of this was apparent in my muslin, which was done in nice soft muslin, and seemed to hug my body quite well. But, rather than taking it all apart and fussing over it, I think I am going to let things stand for now, and wash and wear it a few more times to see how it all settles in.

The benefit of the slightly heavy fabric is that it skims the body well and gives a nice line to my not-so-perfect post baby body. The fabric also has quite a lot of mechanical stretch, so it is very comfortable to wear.

I did make some pattern alterations. I lowered the v neckline about an inch, as many other bloggers have done. I also lowered the slit about 6 inches to make it more modest for wearing to work. Even before the stiff bodice problem, I cut about 1.5 inches off each of the kimono sleeves, they are just too long for my taste. I did my usual grading up a size for the waist and hips. Since the fabric doesn't ravel much, I didn't do any particular seam finishes, and I machine sewed the hem and slit.

I'm eager to try this dress again in something nice and drapey! It might be just the pattern for a particular silk that I have been hoarding for years... I wonder if I have enough of it to make the maxi version...? And if I do make this in silk, with a V neck, how should I finish the neckline? Perhaps I should follow the instructions, and just deal with the neck facing, but I have never met a neck facing that has stayed put despite understitching, topstitching and tacking. Maybe an all-in-one facing wouldn't affect the drape of the fabric so much if it was a softer fabric to begin with, and only interfaced just around the v-neck with a lightweight iron on or batiste-- it does also give such a nice clean look to the armhole, and it gives the option to make the neckline with no visible seams. Or should I risk a self-bias binding finish-- this would be lovely on a rounded neck, but I'm not sure I can get it to lay perfectly on a v-neck.

However, that will have to wait a bit since I have a bunch of projects lined up. Fall work wardrobe items are going to be needed rather soon. As soon as my fabric arrives (Marcy Tilton again! love her ponte selection right now), I'm planning 2-3 princess seamed ponte tops, and if that order ever arrives with my cotton batiste lining fabric, a navy linen sheath.

In addition, I've gotten excited about the Jacket sew along/contest at Marcy I have always admired the Tilton jacket patterns but haven't yet sewn a single one. Vogue 8430 has been in my stash for years, and I just pulled it out last night. I also unburied a gorgeous felted, embroidered wool I have been saving for just this pattern, also from Marcy Tilton. I particularly love the innovative collars on their patterns. The versions made by Katherine and Marcy Tilton are all stunning, but I've been put off by the experiences of other sewists who find the pattern to run huge. I've seen some lovely artistic versions that drape beautifully, but others who sew the pattern seem to be buried in folds of fabric. But I think I can make it work... I was comparing the pattern to some of the other jackets I've fitted to my body, and I think with a few tweaks I can make something to my liking while preserving the uniqueness of the pattern. We'll see... if I am successful, you'll see it here, and if not, you'll see it here too!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Tie Dye Swing Dress: First Day Dress by MADE Hack

In the sewing flurry for the August wedding my family attended, I also purchased the First Day Dress pattern by MADE. I have yet to blog the sweet confection I made for Little Bug (getting her to model is getting tricky!). 

I did, however, manage to get some pictures of a dress I made using the pattern pieces, not exactly in the way that was intended!

This cute little number would have to be titled a collaboration, since the tie dye was done by Little Bug herself at her playschool. I neglected to send along toddler-sized white tees, so the mom in charge generously donated a white men's T... this one happened to be size Medium, V neck.

In my first attempt, I placed the shoulders of the bodice pattern of the A-line dress view of the First Day Dress against the shoulder seams of the T, hoping to make use of the already finished neckline. Of course I'm doing my sewing late at night, totally guessing on fit. I thought I was so clever, I even sewed on cute little cap sleeves and put a tag in the back. When I put it on her in the morning, the V neck went down halfway to her navel! Doh!

For take 2, I just moved the A-line dress pattern down a bit, and got over my laziness and finished the neckline myself. Since the fabric is stretchy, there was no need to add the back closure. It looked fine as an A-line dress, but it occurred to me that a little skirty or ruffle would kick it up a notch. In tunneling through my stash, I came across a red ponte knit that I picked up on super sale when Joanne's was moving locations. Using the pattern for the peplum, and adding a few inches to increase the circumference, I traced out a little skirt. The skirt is zig-zagged on, with a quickie zig-zag hem.

She just loves the twirliness! And it's hard to tell behind that impish 3 year old grin, but I think she's pretty proud to have had a hand in the making.

I love this dress pattern, BTW! I was looking for a little girl dress pattern that would be simple and classic. I have a couple big 4 patterns for little girl dresses, but they are so fussy-- zippers and elastic in funny places and all sorts of closures. And of course, crazy, unpredictable sizing-- I always have to muslin them when choosing a new size. This pattern by MADE is just what I wanted... it has the two silhouettes that I envisioned (A-line and a swing-y circle skirt) and a super simple closure-- one button held with an elastic loop. The size fits her right out of the envelope. It is hard to pass up those $1-$2 patterns, but I'm beginning to learn that a well thought out pattern is well worth spending money on, especially kids patterns-- I'll make it dozens of times!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Linen Floral BHL Flora Dress

When I was looking to make a dress for a wedding this summer, suddenly I understood why so many bloggers rave about By Hand London patterns. I had a really hard time choosing... I very nearly made a floor length Anna dress, but I just couldn't find the right fabric for it. I nearly had a gorgeous blue silk chosen, but when I saw the dress my mother was going to wear I noticed it was exactly the same shade, and I wasn't feeling like fielding comments all day long about how much we looked alike!

Then I saw the second view of the Flora dress and fell in love. I just love a good wrap dress (even a faux one). Bonus: no alterations need to make it nursing-mom friendly!

I also was dying for an excuse to purchase this digital print linen from Emmaonesock. The color palette just appealed to me and I love the texture of a nice linen. I'm also in love with it since the pattern emulates a narrow depth of field, with some flowers appearing sharply in focus against more blurred flowers in the background.

I was, however, really worried about having a wrinkled mess. A few light wrinkles provide a lovely texture, but I really didn't want deep creases forming at the waist and bum. I couldn't find anyone who had made a Flora dress in linen to be my guinea pig, so I did just about everything I could think of to keep the wrinkles under control. Before washing, I pressed with lots of steam... it might just be mythology, but some people seem to think it might help set the sizing into the fabric. I then washed it and dried it in a hot dryer, to soften the overall hand. More pressing, then I underlined the entire dress. I did this partly to help with the wrinkling, and partly to give the dress a little more body and structure. I was going to use silk organza, but my local shop didn't have any on hand so I came home with a cotton organdy. I was a little skeptical, but it was easy to work with and seems to have done the trick. I especially love how the skirt falls-- a bit flouncy, but not like I'm wearing a petticoat (and I did consider this also, could have been nice if I had decided not to underline the skirt).

Instead of using twill stay tape, I sewed elastic into the top edges of the wrap bodice, using the same technique that Sew Buzy Lizzy used on her blog. I sewed a channel by sewing the lining to the seam allowance and inserted a length of elastic about 1.5 inches shorter than the length of the channel, then secured it at the shoulder and waist. My thinking was that the elastic would allow bust access for nursing, while also helping to hold the bodice close to the body. It works pretty well... not much gaping, and nursing was a breeze.

I had to make a few alterations to the pattern. My bust size falls between a 12 and a 14, but I decided to go for the smaller size since I think the wrap bodice would look better a little tighter. I graded to a 14 at the waist, which was actually a bit of a trick since the bodice pattern wasn't nested. I traced off both the 12 and the 14 then did my best to capture the width of the 14 at the waist. I also found that I needed to add a bit of length to the front of the bodice to keep the waist seam level. Perhaps because I chose the smaller size, I had to move the bust darts (up? I can't remember which way). I didn't change the volume at all, but I just changed the angle so that the darts would point the the right place. I did all of this with a muslin of the bodice to check fit.

Once the adjustments were done it all went together very smoothly. I used the sew-along to help make sure I put things together in the right order. Everything just fit together like a puzzle, very satisfying.

I lined the bodice with  cotton voile and the skirt with rayon Bemberg. Enclosing the waist seam was a bit of a trick since the two wrap bodice pieces cross over each other, not allowing you to separate the lining from the shell fabric. I used the same method that Fiona used on her blog to enclose the waist seam, which just left the back seam along the zipper exposed, which I finished with packaged bias binding. I used my new invisible zipper foot for my Janome for the first time and that was by far the most painless zipper insertion ever.

I finished the seams in the skirt with bias binding, since I thought they might show and I don't have a serger. The hem is finished with grosgrain ribbon held with a machine blind hem stitch. I'd like to go back and do a hand blind hem stitch sometime because I think it would be a nicer finish, but I was in a rush to get the dress done.

You can also see in the pic above the little triangles I had to insert to complete the circle of the skirt. Of course the fabric I fell in love with was not a full 60 inches! I figured I'd just pattern match, perhaps even seaming the front panel right up the center, but I just could not figure out how to pattern match this fabric. It seems to be an engineered print with no repeat across the width of the fabric, and how to match something that needs more width totally baffles me-- perhaps it can't be done? Anyhow, I don't think my little triangles on the sides of the front panel are too big of a deal.

So the dress isn't perfect. I think the bodice is still a bit looser than I would like, and I left a bit of ease in the side seams that I might not need right now since I think I've lost a few pounds since I made the muslin. When my body stops changing so much, I'll see about taking in the side seams a bit, and I might have to do something about the bust, not sure what.

I love the dress! It is such fun to wear. I can't remember the last time I wore a circle skirt, it makes me feel like such a girl. I wore it this weekend to a milonga, and it was such fun twirling around the dance floor!

I'm sort of obsessed with By Hand London patterns right now. I have an Anna dress just about done, and I can't wait for them to release the PDF pattern of the Sophia dress... the sheath dress with angled darts is just my style. I was thinking about rotating the darts of my TNT sheath dress, but I also love the neckline of the BHL version. Also, don't you think the Flora would make a lovely peplum top using the other view of the bodice? I just might have to try it.