Wednesday, November 4, 2015

HAPPY HALLOWEEN of 2015: we interrupt this wedding dress for a costume request...

Sunday night, my 16 year old, soon-to-be step son came tumbling down the stairs saying, "Ashley, I need you."

He starts out by explaining that his life-long Halloween dream costume is "Aladdin" and he's been invited to a costume party this Friday night.  He said, "Help me figure out what I need to buy to get this look."

He started talking about acquiring white sweat pants and a purple vest, all while searching for Amazon Prime red fez hats.

Having grown up in the 80s, I knew all he needed was for me to sew him some "MC Hammer" pants out of light colored fabric and his costume authenticity would be off the charts.

So, I offered.

He said, "Really?  That's too much trouble."

And I promised it would take no more than an hour.  AND, it would look GREAT.

 Monday morning I did a quick internet search for DIY MC Hammer pants and found this photo, and realized I could use a pair of Eli's pants--on the fold--on top of the fabric to make the "pattern"....followed with a low and long arch connecting the legs:

Monday night the boys delivered me to Joanne Fabrics and out I came, $25 lighter, with these magnificent fabrics:

 Off-white, linen-look fabric for the pants...discounted 40% (gosh, I love a sale!);

Red charmeuse fabric for the belt...also discounted 40%; and

And a bit of bright yellow cotton fabric for the knee patch.


On the way to the fabric store we stopped at Goodwill and found this lovely purple men's shirt that I will turn into an Aladdin vest.


Here's a few photos of the MC Hammer pants under construction:

I used a pair of Eli's regular pants as a guide for the general shape and his waist size.  The crotch of his pants is facing the folded edge of the fabric.

 Here, I shaped and cut the low-slung crotch curve.


And the pants are cut!  I cut 2 piece exactly the same.


I unfolded the cut fabric and serged the pants together in about ten minutes!  I tucked the pant leg "ends" under for this photo while I wait for Eli to come home from school to try them on and tell me how short to hem them.  :)  This is my best guess on the length he might prefer (just below the knee).

Don't forget the red sash and the yellow knee patch! 

Here Eli is in all his dreamy Aladdin glory.  Red fez hat and magic lamp compliments of Amazon Prime!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The wedding dress: raw materials

 I've got roughly six months to sew my wedding dress.  I even had a conversation with my groom, because he is the ultimate project manager, about how many weekends I needed to make this dress.

We figured I will need a couple of weekends in what's left of 2015, and another 8 to 10 weekends in early 2016 to make this come together before our wedding on April 2, 2016.

So, here's the pattern of the dress I'll be making.  I found it on Ebay!  It's tea length, and not too stuffy--a critical dress feature for a woman of my years!

I plan to make (no pattern) a lace-overlay, off-the-shoulder shirt with half-sleeves to go with it.

Much like this one I saw on Etsy:

Here's the lace I'll use for that overlay.  The scalloped edge will make up the neckline.  I got this from G Street Fabric's fancy stash of lace.

The dress calls for tulle to be gathered and sewn to the lining to make the bottom of the dress look a little more full.  I thought it would be cute to do this in teal. I haven't yet decided if this feature will be peak-a-boo or not.
Here's the satin ribbon that I'll use to lace up the back of the dress.  I purchased it from a corset shop.

 This is the luxurious off-white hemp-silk blend that I will use for the dress.  It's gorgeous.  Bought online from Dharma Trading Company; they sell all the best silks that are ready for dyeing, though I won't be dyeing this!
 This is the 100% silk lining for the dress.
This is the 100% silk organza; a very stiff fabric used to add body to the bodice of a gown.'s a birdcage veil that I made...that I HATE.  It just sits there like a napkin on my head.  What I once thought would be a really cute little item is now the stuff of my nightmares.  I hope the rest goes better.  I've decided--no veil.  I'll just stick some flowers and butterflies in my up-do.

Here are said (handmade silk) butterflies from a gal in England that I found on Etsy.

Bonus photo of my teal kitten heels.

Struggling to find my sewing mojo.

I just reread my posts here, and I have to say...I'm pretty fucking entertaining--if only to myself.

But, I've dropped out of "sewing sight" for quite some time now.  I looked at the date of my last post and realized it was only a few months before my mom would be diagnosed with end-stage terminal cancer.
Here my mom is (right), sitting in her hospital bed that sat in my living room, with her best friend Sharon (left).  The photo was taken after nine long months of battling the cancer and having just entered hospice.  My mom was tired, in pain, and would only live another couple of weeks.

While I cared for her, I sewed nothing.  Sewing was one of my favorite hobbies, and not only did I not have time for it anymore, I also didn't feel like doing it anymore.

In the year following her death, I didn't sew anything either.  I just grieved.  Wait, I think I fixed a zipper for someone, but that's not technically "sewing" as I like to think of it.

It's been a year and a half since my mom died, and I don't have my sewing mojo back yet.  I'm hoping it's around here somewhere, because I got engaged in September 2015 and have committed to sewing my wedding dress in time for an April 2, 2016 wedding.  This terrifies me a little (see the first sentence of this paragraph).

Here's the lovely man who proposed to me, Craig Sauerwalt.  I've even set up a new sewing room after I moved into his house, hoping that this would help the mojo.

So far, I've sewed curtains and hemmed pants.  Not the most inspired work I've ever done, but my foot WAS on the pedal.

I've ordered wedding dress fabrics and a pattern, and I'm ready to go to town.  So, cross your fingers with me that the mojo will come back soon.  It's been too long, and I've had to purchase too many RTW pants.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pintuck tanks

I've been using the same self-drafted tank pattern (based on an LLBean tank I bought many years ago) to spice up my corporate-barbie wardrobe.  Lately I've used a lot of poly charmeuse for this, because it's  cheap yet dressy looking.  Recently, though, had an INSANE sale on their 100% silk charmeuse and I took the plunge.  I ordered three different fabrics (two jewel tones and one "hammered" gray).  One of the jeweltones was called "cinnamon"--who could resist that with holiday parties a-comin'!?  

The silks I purchased were regularly $30/yard, but on sale for $10.  I figured, even if I needed two yards for a tank, $20 was waaaaay better than buying a silk tank from Talbots for at least double that.  
Plus, I've always intended to one day make a garment with pintucks in it, but I never really had a vision of the final product.  Now, everything started to come together... 

 I made the ivory shirt with the same pattern using some poly charmeuse I had left over from another project.  I used that shirt as a dry-run for the cinnamon silk because I'd never really done a serious job of incorporating pintucks into a garment design before.

All I needed was a double needle and my pintuck foot to make this fancy design element.  I watched a couple of youtube videos on making pintucks before I started out, and the one helpful tip I picked up was to hold your fabric taut both in front of and behind the needle as you sew.  This kind of makes the fabric pop up between the ridges in your pintuck foot.

Here's a close up of the results; I'm not sure why the poly seemed to form more reliable tucks.  The silk was definitely easier to work with when it came to the bias binding, though.  The cinnamon silk is sooo hard to photograph!

As you can see, upon close inspection, the pintucks aren't perfect.  However, it doesn't much matter as the overall effect is more like a textured panel and the imperfections aren't noticeable.

Here's a parting shot:  my continuous bias binding and some kind of stay-iron-on-stuff that I used to stabilize the pintucks.  I measured the front of my pattern piece for the tank, then transferred that marking onto my un-cut fabric (plus an inch or two).  Then, I made all my pintucks (24 total for these garments).   After that, I folded my fabric, placed the front pattern piece for the tank onto the pintuck portion of the fabric, and cut it out.  Then I used the iron-on-stuff, plus a scrap piece of fabric, to stabilize (pintucks are a bit stretchy!) the neck line and hemline and to keep the pintucks from unraveling.  It worked really well!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Two-shell weekend

I kicked out two(!) shell/tops this weekend.  A purple one (see previous day's post) and this one!

This is poly charmeuse that I bought online.  When I first saw it I admired it but didn't add it to my basket because it just didn't seem like something I'd wear.  I mean, it's orange and pink and yellow, for cryin' out loud!  Most definitely NOT my style.  But I kept coming back to the online swatch thinking, " could  use some color in your wardrobe--plus there's that whole orange pantone thing going on this year that I can't get down with...perhaps this would be my one piece where I dipped my toe into trendy."

Okay, I know, let's not get carried away.  It looks like something my grandmother would have worn. 

After all that, I finally bought it and thought that I'd give it a the very least I could make satiny lounge pants out of it and no one would ever have to know I purchased such hideous fabric.

Fast forward to today and it's now a nice little shell.  Unlike yesterday's shell, I decided to leave the neckline plain (i.e., no cowl-neck) because, let's face it folks, this fabric is B...U...S...Y and does not need any help in the jazz-hands department:

Believe it or not, I ordered an equally hideous sweater from Lands End that actually goes with this darned fabric:

The online description of the color of this sweater was "hot pink."  They got the "hot" part right, but I think this color is closer to "flaming hot gingivitis."  I mean, it's a painful color, folks.  Painful like a deadly sunburn.  Literally.  I was going to return the sweater until I put it up next to this fabric.  Painful sweater + granny fabric = ???  I hope I can work it.

This poor little charmeuse didn't know how close it came to being pajama bottoms!  Right up until the very moment I started to cut out the shell pattern.  I wasn't sure which way this sucker was gonna turn out.  Now, we all know.

Honestly, this is THE brightest thing in my wardrobe.  It'll be interesting to see what people say about it when I wear it this week!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Cowl-neck tank

I've been saving this 1.75 yards of GORGEOUS fabric that I scored from Jomar for probably 3 or 4 years now.  I have no idea what it's some kind of almost-crinkly-almost-stretchy-100%poly that feels so soft (not shiny and not dull...go figure).  Not wanting to just throw it away on any old pattern, I would hide it away in my stash and occasionally drag it out to drool over it.

I have been working on a self-drafted shell/top pattern that I think I've got down pretty well, and the jewel-toned purples in this fabric are just screaming "FALL, FALL, FALL."  So, the two came together, and in about 3 hours I had this little gem:
Shell done, without the cowl-neck installed


A lot of thought and planning went into cutting out the front piece and the placement of the pattern; I was trying to avoid the dreaded "oh, crap, it's right on my nipple" mistake we ALL fear.  I think I was pretty successful! 

I decided it needed a special neckline, so I drafted a cowl-neck piece on the bias of my scrap fabric.  It didn't turn out too bad!

I love this shell!  It's gorgeous and you'll see me in it at least once a week this fall/winter.  :)

Finished, with the self-drafted cowl-neck

As an added bonus, this is the first garment into which I was able to install my "me made" satin tag that I bought from Yuki (from Hong Kong!) off Etsy.  It's so cute, and it's lavendar!  It's got the bird and the phrase "me made" on the front, and on the back it says "Ashley." 

"Me-made" satin tag from Hong Kong

Monday, August 27, 2012

1 hour lounge pants

I've made a couple of flannel lounge pants (a.k.a. "jammies") from tutorials that show you how to use a pair of pants you already own as a pattern (just add an inch all around, except add 2 inches above the waist for the elastic casing).  I decided to use this luscious, chocolate, poly charmeuse fabric to make some satiny lounge pants:

I originally purchased this fabric to make a shirt, but I decided against it afterward, so it's been sitting around, unloved, for a year. 

If you've never owned a silky/satiny pair of lounge pants/jammies, I highly recommend them; not only do they raise the sophistication level of your down time, they make turning over in flannel sheets completely effortless!

It's best if the fabric has a little stretch, but this particular fabric didn't.  I tried to cut myself a little extra room in the hips and waist to counter-act the stretch-free charmeuse.  Instead of modeling these jammies on an existing pair of pants, I grabbed a T&T pattern:

Part of sewing these suckers up in an hour is being able to really zoom along on your serger...until this happens:

I really hate it when that happens.

Here's the finished product...and I'm wearing them right now as I blog this, and I feel sooo damn sophisticated even in the midst of my laziness (it IS only 7pm here)!

First-ever BIAS BINDING...yes, I said it.

Folks, I have a loooong list of sewing fears.  Nothing makes me break out in a cold sweat in front of the sewing machine more than things like sewing a rolled hem on sheer fabric, welt pockets, and until very recently, buttonholes.  Was bias binding one of those sewing fears?  Sorta, but I have to admit my avoidance of this particular sewing technique boils right down to extreme laziness (do you think less of me, now?).

I'd been making knit tops like mad, and never even had to think about bias binding.  But, once I ventured into woven top territory--and I continued to use finishing techniques for knits on my woven armholes and necklines--stuff started to go all wonky.  Consequently, it was difficult for me to like my finished garments....especially when I'd look down at my chest and the darned inside of the neckline was flopping out in public for everyone to see!  Grrr.

My kamikaze seamstress buddy had been telling me for many moons that bias binding was where it's at, but I kept ignoring her (and kept not liking my finished results on woven tops).  She even sent me blog after blog of bias binding tutorials--including something called continuous bias binding that totally blows my mind and I STILL don't quite understand.  Someday maybe I'll understand how to do a continuous bias binding for myself.

Okay...down to business (the whole reason for this post).  I bought some poly stretch charmuese in grape from for some insane price, like $1/yard.  I decided to start building a little of a fall wardrobe as summer wanes, and I thought this purple-shiny-lovely fabric would make a super shell and add a punch of jewel-toned color to my bland repertoire.

I based my pattern for this woven blouse on a pattern I copied from an expired LL Bean knit shell.  I altered that pattern (in pink, below) to take it from a knit pattern to a woven pattern (and, uhm, to adjust for weight gain...ughh!).  On the white pattern below, you can see how I exploded that pattern and added some side shaping.  I even made a muslin to make sure the new dart placement was correct and that the side shaping (that I horked from yet another pattern) looked right on me.

At the last minute, I decided to add a detail from a free Colette sorbetto pattern that I've admired on my kamikaze seamstress buddy.  I can't really explain that detail to you, so if you're too lazy to click that link, here's a photo of it (see that foldy-thing down the front of this top???  CLASSY!!):

As you can see, this top requires some mad bias binding skillz.  I didn't (couldn't) use the continuous bias binding technique, so I powered through the old fashioned way (i.e., guessing what's a 45 degree angle from the scrap fabric and sewing bits of it together).  It was a little difficult pressing the 100% poly stretch charmuese--it just didn't want to hold the crease I was attempting to put in it.  But it mostly worked out.

I'm super please with this top AND my first bias binding attempt.  It's mostly an acceptable job, with a few tweaks in it.  I don't yet have the stitch-in-the-ditch operation down yet, but it's an acceptable product.  (Honest, this IS purple, but somehow turned out blue in my photos!):

Here's a bonus photo...the top/shell that caused me to become committed to figuring out the bias binding is below.  Though you can't see it here, trust me, the neckline was flopping out so badly that I had to make this ruffle to cover up my shoddy work!  So there you have it, folks...bias binding IS worth the effort.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012's Lined Jacket Contest is hosting a lined jacket contest this August and I've entered!  Wish me luck!

I used Burda 7484.  Click to read my review of the pattern (i.e., an account of my harrowing fitting experience)--or scroll to the bottom for a long read.

Here's the finished product (lucky you!  you get to see a sneak-peak of my self-drafted, oyster-colored, satin, deconstructed-ruffle-neck shell):

Here's the jacket and the lining, side-by-side:

A shot of the shoulder pad(s):

Another photo of the finished jacket, on a hanger:

Detail of the ivory frog I used for the closure:

And a final shot...the inside of the jacket to show its lining:

My Review of Burda 7484
Pattern Description:
I first saw this pattern reviewed by Mimi G. who made the jacket in white (cotton?) and I just loved the style. It's a cropped, shaped jacket with a shawl/tuxedo collar (i.e., View A). It looked super easy (i.e., just two darts in the front and some shaped panels in the back) so I decided to buy the pattern a few weeks back. I was excited to try this pattern; I'd made one Burda (unlined) jacket before with mixed success and was ready to try again.

Pattern Sizing:
Here's where this project gets REALLY interesting. The pattern states the sizing as 8-20. I figured I was somewhere *around* a 20...maybe a 22. Nothing I can't grade up, right? When I received the pattern and began cutting out the pieces I noticed they said "for women 5'3" and under." OMG. I'm, like, 6 feet! I scoured the front of that pattern cover and sure enough, there it was in teeny-tiny print in a little bubble I can't even see on my computer screen--PETITE. I finished cutting out the pattern pieces, but had to walk away before ironing them, thinking about it too much, and having a small melt-down.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Amazingly, after all the gyrations I went through to create an altered pattern that would work for me, YES!

Were the instructions easy to follow?
The instructions? Super easy, though I did abandon them at the lining stage...I just went on intuition; I think I did some kind of modified bag lining. Getting the pattern to fit me was a totally different story: super frustrating!

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
Well, like I said, I love the unique shawl/tuxedo collar, and the fact that it is shaped in the front by two large darts (one under the collar from the shoulder seam towards the inner bust, and the other from the bottom of the jacket to just under the bust). I also liked that it came in a "cropped" length. Even though I'm 6 feet tall, I'm slightly short-waisted (proportionately) and have wide hips, so I tend to think tailored tops/jackets that hit at the high-hip are most flattering to my shape. The only thing I disliked about the jacket, which I figured I could easily change, was that the closure (just one) for this jacket is a small hook. I bought a frog closure that I'm thinking of using, instead.

Fabric Used:
The fabric is a cotton suiting with just a touch of lycra (probably 1%)--not too stretchy, but just enough for a slight amount of give across the back. It's off-white/light tan with a tiny gray stripe that you cannot see unless you're a foot away from the fabric!

I also used light-weight iron-on facing for the collar and the sides/bottom-back of the jacket.

For the lining I had some light-weight poly stretch lining. I think I bought these fabrics a loooong time ago from a Jomar in Philly.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
Oh, my. Where to begin? Where to begin?! It might be easier to convey this to you in list form:

1. Muslin #1. Thought the petite might not be too bad of a fit after all, so I only dropped the sleeves 3 inches (I have to lengthen arms on regular women's patterns). I was a little concerned the 20 might be too small, so I graded up one size. Result: I looked like a circus monkey wearing a vest that was 4 sizes too small. There may have been some tears at this point.

2. Still working with Muslin #1. I slashed the muslin horizontally just above the bust (through the armhole) in the front and the back and dropped it by 2.5 inches. Then I slashed the side seams and added 1.5 inches just under the arms and graded out to 3 inches at the hip. Result: I looked less like a circus monkey because the jacket started to fit properly in the shoulders, but there was now a 4 inch gap I didn't seem to have bridged yet where the jacket should meet in the front. *Sigh*

3. Muslin #2. I redrafted my pattern pieces to incorporate the changes made to Muslin #1, plus I incorporated another four inches around (sides/back)--careful not to mess with the line of the collar! Result: The jacket now closes, barely, but I'm still a little to tight for comfort in the back.

4. Fashion fabric. I finally decide that my pattern is ready, but for good measure I add another 0.5 inches to the back center seam and another 0.25 inches to the side seams (and 0.5 inches to extend the collar by the back of the neck). I also deepened the armhole on the front jacket piece to give me a little more "forward" room. Result: Not bad, not bad. The only other adjustment I made at this point was extending the bust dart up another few inches (this was a "duh!" moment...after having dropped the entire jacket by 2.5 inches at the beginning). At this point, I'm just super-shocked that it looks ANYTHING like the pattern illustration!

5. Instead of a hook-closure, I used an ivory frog. I didn't want the frog to be the 'star of the show,' so I hid most of it under the shawl collar. I was aiming for something a little more stable (and beautiful) than your run-of-the-mill, industrial hook. The frog is beautiful AND functional! I love it.

6. I also added small shoulder pads...the jacket was a bit wrinkly between my pits and shoulders and I thought shoulder pads would help. They did.

7.  Lastly, I omitted the pockets.  Frankly, I haven't faced my fear of welt pocket construction.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
Yes, I would sew this again. Now that I have a pattern that fits me, I feel I've done all the hard work so the second time around shouldn't be too hard.

I love it, but...WHEW!