From my current project…

I’ve put away the swing dress for now… I wasn’t feeling up to altering the bodice at the moment.  And, to be honest, I think it might fail the “would you buy it” test I’m supposed to be having.  It has a crossover bodice, something which doesn’t work great on me since I never fill them out well and they look hollow.   But I may come back to it later.  In the meantime I’m working on the above.  The red is a linen look suiting for the main fabric, the pink is cotton batiste for a full underlining, and the zebra is for the pocket lining as well as a scarf I’m making to go with the dress.  What am I making?

This is Vogue 1219, a Christian Dior design from 1975.  I bought it because I thought it was a nice basic a-line with a few designer touches.  Very classic – you see how this sort of design ages well, and it suits my personal style.  I like classic lines.  This is sort of a trial run – I’m making version B, with the short sleeves and without the detachable collar.  I didn’t have enough fabric to cut long sleeves, and the collar scared me a little with how huge it was, so I’m planning to leave it off for now.   If it goes well, I may make it again with long sleeves in a navy linen.  A-line dresses are supposed to be good for my shape, but I am so picky about length and the amount of A-line that I don’t usually get them… this time I am in control of those issues!

It took me 2 days to complete the underlining – I used a technique where you cut the underlining 5/8″ larger on vertical edges, and then sort of wrap it around the fashion fabric, enclosing the edges for really pretty seam finishes.  I’ve also been using my serger on some edges to stop the fraying of this fabric (it’s cheap fabric, but it was so pretty that I had to get it!)  Then I hand basted on the rest of the underlining.  It took a long time, but it looks really great!  I removed the back shoulder darts and made my “erect posture” alteration before cutting.  I tried on the body pieces, and decided to take in the bust and waist by an inch, which I divided between the seams (makes sense since I am an inch smaller than this 32.5″ pattern… good to know that 70s Vogue wasn’t adding crazy amounts of ease yet.)  I also shortened the skirt by 3 inches before cutting, bringing it up to mid knee.  I have short legs, and the just below the knee look is not good on me.

I hope to finish the dress this weekend… right now it needs the button band, sleeves, and the pockets.  I’m taking my time!  Since the dress has short sleeves I’m not going to be wearing it yet anyway (Come on warm weather!)

I’m still considering my options for the sweater yarn… I’m probably going to have to order yarn, and I am slow as molasses when it comes to making a purchase.  I literally have to consider my options a week before I can click the “buy” button, lest it cause anxiety.  As you can imagine, I don’t hop on many “one day only” sales… does anyone else have this sort of issue?  Everyone I know says that it’s too easy to buy things with credit cards, so they only carry cash, but I am the opposite.  I will spend cash quickly, but am loathe to ever take out the card.

Knitting and sewing this week

I know, way to make with the creative titles, right?  It’s just been one of those weeks.  I made a quite muslin for the Sencha blouse and… too big all over, as well as possibly unflattering on me anyway.  I give you all permission to yell at me if I start talking about wanting to make something with cut-on or dolman sleeves… so unflattering to the petite.  I looked like a big ol’ blousy triangle.   So I decided to make a muslin of this dress, the Sense and Sensibility Swing dress.

I was hoping to make it from a pretty Rayon Challis (above)for spring.  The bodice muslin went better than I expected – I even understood the shoulder instructions, which called for topstitching a seam.   There are a few issues, and I need to decide whether this dress is worth the work.

My dressform, who has yet to be named, is actually a bit more buxom than I.  You cannot buy a reasonably priced dressform that goes down to a 31.5″ bust.  This one stops at a 33, but it was a gift, so what can you do?  I see a few problems here… first of all, I don’t like where the gathers fall (too close to the underarms.)  It looks weird on the dummy, and worse on me, since I am smaller.  The’s easy enough to fix.  I already shortened the bodice by almost 2 inches, as it was super long before, and this style doesn’t work without a well fitted waist and bust.  The ties are too short – again, an easy fix.  I will probably remove the back tucks – they are cute, but they just don’t work on me, as I am very narrow and straight through the back.  The sleeves seem to be strangely drafted, but I may shorten them, since I don’t love the length they are here.  There’s a short sleeved option, which might be nicer in the floral fabric anyway.  There was a whole ton of ease in the sleeve cap, leaving me uncertain as to whether the sleeve should be gathered or not.  I opted to gather, since it wasn’t going in otherwise.  It’s a little janky, but my gathering skills are a work in progress.  Maybe I’m being a perfectionist, but I never feel like they are evenly gathered!  I’m going to go back to my old method of gathering – sewing a strand of crochet thread on with a wide zigzag stitch.  It makes a much more even gather possible, and you won’t break any threads.

Finally, the dress just exactly fits me in the waist, even though I cut a good 2 sizes up in the waist and skirt.  I never knew before I started sewing that my top and bottom measurements were so different!  Explains why I can’t find dresses that work on the top and bottom. I feel like there’s too much material in the chest area, so it might need an adjustment for small bust?  Maybe I should move the crossover in a little?  It fits through the shoulders, and they are very flattering (I do have shoulder pads in on the first photo above, but not the 2nd… this style looks better with them in.)    I generally like all the gathering.  I’m just a little discouraged because it seems that everything comes out big in the chest on me.  I suppose everyone has their fitting challenge, and that must be mine.  40s dresses have always been good to me in true vintage, so I know this will work if I can get the fit right (50s? not so much… I am too skinny, but I wear them anyway!)

I’ve also been contemplating my next knitting project.  I’ve decided to go on to knit something out of one of my vintage booklets.  I looked for inspiration, and narrowed it down to these:

#1 is from the 50s, and I like the lace treatment.  #2 (on the left in the photo) assures me that it is not, in fact, a bedjacket, but a cover-up for over your evening dress.  The last 3 sweaters are all knit in light fingering, and all are from the 40s (the 1st 2 are worsted.)  I did look for some 4-ply yarn today, but I suspect I will have to look at heavy lace weights to achieve 8 st/in (With fingering I am lucky to get 7, as I am a loose knitter.)  Zephyr might work.   Any votes?  I do like them all, and I am not scared of the small weights either (hey, short sleeves!  I can do that!)

And finally, having to do with none of this, the preview for spring/summer Vogue knitting is out, and I have to say that I am very impressed!  They have a whole section of 1920s inspired knits, and they are to die for.  Look at these lovely lace capelets:

The sweaters in the section are equally lovely.

Yay, Vogue – thanks for improving after I nearly gave up on you!

FO: Vogue 1132

Pattern: Vogue 1132

Fabric: Plaid rayon/poly suiting from Denver Fabrics, still available here.

Notions: 22″ black invisible zipper (cut down to a shorter length,) nonwoven sew-in interfacing in a very light weight.

Notes: This pattern was super easy – with almost no effort the skirt made itself!  I did have a few problems starting out.  First of all, my fabric was not 60″ wide, although it wasn’t the 44 Denver fabrics is claiming either – it was actually about 54″.  The skirt pattern used almost the whole 60″, so I had to shorten it.  I did this by taking a fold where you attach the skirt extension, removing about 3 inches.  As it turns out, this skirt is pretty long, so I would have had to shorten it anyway.

This was my first time installing an invisible zipper, and it was much easier than I thought!  I watched a few videos on youtube, basted in the zip, and then went for it with my invisible zipper foot.  The Bernina zipper foot is great – it rides along the zipper track and sews a perfectly close line.  I switched to the regular zipper foot to close off the bottom, and the zipper is invisible, with no rippling.

I love long skirts – they’re dramatic, and in the winter they’re warm (I will wear a sweater over this when I’m outside!)  I had trouble figuring out how to style this.  One of my blog readers suggested a victorian style shirt – thank you so much, that’s perfect!  I have several shirts similar to this, as apparently I love frilly, faintly gothic things.  I have a long sleeved version, but it’s in the wash right now.  The belt I bought at Forever 21  (I really hate going in that store, but their belts are dirt cheap and small enough for me.)

At some point I would like to make the whole skirt suit out of a different fabric – the jacket is really cute too!  But for now this will fill the “long plaid skirt” place in my closet.  Highly recommended for beginners (just the skirt.)

Spring knitting 2010

Ok, that’s it… I am done with winter.  With snow on the ground, and more coming soon, I just don’t want to look at tweedy yarn or wooly fabric.  My wooly WIP?  Going into the basket until late summer.  I’m not working on it anyway, due to its mind-numbing boring-ness.   It’s time to look toward spring, and I’m going to give myself permission to start work on some lovely warm weather projects!  With that in mind, I went looking for the new spring knitting patterns, most of which are out or at least previewed by now.

First is the new Knitscene, which is in stores.  How am I not going to love it when Connie is the featured designer?  She has designed my most favorite sweater projects.  I love her henley (first below) which has some great details and looks like waffle stitch (love me some waffle stitch) and the geodesic cardigan, which besides having a cool name rings one of my current bells – laceweight yarn knit at a loose gauge.  There are also some really beautiful shawls in this issue, including one knit in worsted weight (I wear my worsted weight lace shawls constantly… they are both warm and classy!)

The preview for the new Interweave Knits is out as well.  I have to tell you, I am not feeling it.  I like a few pieces, and I will buy the magazine because I am a collector, but with the exception of Connie’s tank (do I sound like a broken record here?) I am not sure there is anything I would make.  OK, unvarnished truth time here… I really hate the loose knitted camisoles over long sleeved shirts.  It’s just odd, and I don’t know anyone who dresses like that.  Now, I’m sure the camisoles may be nice on their own, but the styling is just weird.  I don’t really knit camisoles anyway (in my experience, if it’s hot enough for something strappy, I don’t want a sweater) but I can’t be the only one who just hates this look.

Ok so… enough whining about that.  I also took a look at Rowan’s offerings this season.  First of all, I’m really excited that they are doing a dedicated crochet book.

The designs are nice too, although some of them are a bit too oversized for my taste.  Love the white off the shoulder top above!

Rowan Magazine 47 is not bad for a summer issue.  I’m not sure I will pick it up, because it’s a little blah, but I’ve noticed that they tend to struggle with warm weather items.  I don’t subscribe anymore for that reason, and I usually only buy the winter issues.  They also have a new yarn made from recycled clothing, and a really great dedicated pattern booklet to go along with that.

I can’t tell much about the clothes from the photos, as the model has terminal slouch.  And maybe it’s the whole “British country” look that I love again, but at any rate isn’t the purple color pretty?  I really want to check out this yarn!

And finally, while not exactly new, I’ve finally broken down and bought a copy of A Stitch in Time by Jane Waller.

I’ve wanted it since its release, but I kept waiting for a US edition.  No such luck, but with my recent rediscovery of vintage (well, I didn’t forget about it, it’s just that I started caring more about dressing that way I wanted) I had to have it.   If you love vintage, you need this book!  The styling is gorgeous, and the patterns are just as they should be – faithful to the original styles, with updated terminology.  There’s nothing more than I hate “updating” a vintage pattern – sure, expand the size range, but don’t change the things that made it so great in the first place (adding large amounts of ease is the biggest offense here.)  In addition to the cover sweater, which is glorious, these are my favorites:

It was hard to pick favorites – I love most of the book!  Most of the sweaters are knit in fingering or sport yarn, with a few gauges that are crazy tiny.  And remember, once of my New Year’s resolutions was to knit more in small yarn.  Many of these would make great spring sweaters, as lots of short sleeved numbers are included.  I do have lots of vintage knitting patterns, but these are easier to deal with, and I’ll get to some of those eventually!

If I keep wishing, warmer weather will come, right?

Celebrating the return of the blouse

As fashion waxes and wanes, certain words become hopelessly outmoded.  Can you honestly say you would buy “a nice pair of slacks?”  But we used to!  The word slacks still makes me think of days spent flipping through the JC Penney catalog in the 80s.  So I will say trousers, or pants, or describe the type of garment, but never “slacks.”

I was worried that the word “Blouse” was becoming tainted as well.  It seems that for ages we have been given tees, camis, and tunics… but a nice blouse?  It seemed to disappear along with the 80s.  And I will admit… there were some blouse monstrosities in the 80s… but there are also nice styles like this:

(available from Ikonic on Etsy)

A blouse is flattering – I would so much rather wear something that skims over my shape than something skintight.  So I am pleased to see pretty feminine blouses in many of my favorite stores this season!

I have, of course, been thinking of blouses I could make for myself, as my closet is pretty bare after yesterday’s clean out!  I’m planning to make a black skirt, based on Vogue 8425, and I would like a nice blouse to go with it.

The skirt on the right is my inspiration.  I may add boning to the waistband of the skirt, as it’s pretty high, and reviews on patternreview indicate it helps (almost no one has made this view though… perhaps I am just going through a high waisted phase – I have discovered that a high waist looks good on me, something I would not have suspected!)  I have a black gabardine wool that should look great, and I’m planning to make a blouse out of some green synthetic shantung:

This photo is pretty awful, as my camera once again refuses the task of photographing green.  This is better:

I’m considering Sencha, by Colette patterns (I can’t help it, I just love her patterns!)  I want to make the view with the tiny bow and the buttons up the back.

The fabric has a nice drape – it only looks vaguely like shantung, it doesn’t feel anything like it.  It was inexpensive, but I like the color, and I won’t be sad if it doesn’t turn out.   I’m really curious about this blouse shape – I’m never worn one similar.

I’m also in love with this new pattern from Burdastyle:

The Alexander Blouse, in honor of Alexander McQueen.  This combines my love of a blouse with my love of polka dots.  Oh yes… I cannot resist anything dotted.  And I do love a peplum.

I’m looking forward to using my serger to finish the edges of my blouse fabric, as it frays like mad.  I hope to get the pieces for the blouse cut tonight, since due to the snow I don’t have any rehearsal.  I want to muslin the skirt, so I may try to find a suitable fabric for that as well.

Happy snow day to anyone else having one – we’ve made up a crockpot full of red beans and rice, which goes great with the cold!

Still winter? Just checking…

More snow… ugh.  I am so over winter now.  But soon it will be March – and at some point the weather will have to warm up!

For Valentine’s day Marc and I went to our local Skyline Chili, where they were having a 3 course V-day dinner.   I’m not a huge fan of the holiday, so we like to do something silly!  If you’ve never had Cincinnati chili, you really should try it.  The key is to think of it more like spaghetti and less like chili, as I don’t really consider it chili if it’s served on a plate of spaghetti, contains cinnamon  and chocolate, and is topped with american cheese.  Marc, being from Cincinnati, is of course obsessed with the stuff, and I have cultivated a certain fondness for it as well!

And this afternoon we drove north into Indiana to pick up my new serger!

It’s the Brother 1034d, a pretty basic model, but it gets great reviews from beginning serger users on Patternreview.  It’s used, but looks in good shape.  I figure it’s a good place to start, and if I wind up using one all the time I can upgrade to a fancier model later.  I’m going to sit down with my copy of SEW U: Home Stretch this week and see if I can figure it out… and I figure that I will have time to work on things, what with the coming snow, and my city’s general lack of preparedness for bad weather.

I’ve spent this weekend cleaning out my closet, which is always fun… I think sewing is making me pickier about the fit of my clothes, and I was finally able to let go of some things I just don’t feel good in.  I also found plenty of items I had forgotten I owned.  For instance… I was gifted this vintage faux fur coat this winter by my Mom.  I think it’s from the 40s.   It isn’t exactly convincing fur from up close, which is fine by me.  It has a nice lining and a label from a defunct local department store.   I feel a little silly in it, but it’s staying in the wardrobe – you never know when you will be invited to a formal event in a blizzard!

And finally… I finished my skirt!

No FO post yet… I have yet to decide how I’m going to wear it.  It may require some shopping, so it will have to wait until after the snow – thank you for all the suggestions, they really helped me decide how to style a maxi skirt – a style I haven’t worn in years, since they have been out of style so long (but they are back this year!)   I highly recommend the pattern – it went together with no problem, and the instructions were really excellent.  I did wear it out to play piano for a mass this morning, and it was nice and warm in the cold weather!

And that reminds me of one more thing I’m excited about… fish fry season!  Don’t ask me why, but there’s nothing I love more than a catholic fish fry… and living in a heavily Catholic area, we usually hit a different one every week during lent.  I hope you have all had a fabulous weekend!

Channeling Emily Hartley

Amongst vintage devotees, there is a fair amount of discussion as to what era defines you.  Do you love the flapper styles of the 20s?  The mod 60s?  The nipped in waist of the New Look 1950s?  Every time I go to answer this question I find myself totally unable to answer it.  The answer for me would be “All of them, and none of them.”  There are certain styles from each era that I love, and others that I could do without.  It all depends on the look I want, and what I’m in the mood for.

I love the elegance of the 30s, the tailored looks of the 40s, the extreme silhouette of the 50s, the cute mod dresses of the 60s, and even the peasant styles of the 70s and even the more elegant 80s styles.  My wardrobe is a mishmash of all those, although I probably am more likely to dress in a 1940s fashion than anything else.  I like being able to mix items from (and inspired by) different decades to create different looks.

Lately I’ve found myself strangely attracted to the 70s, rewatching my dvds of Mary Tyler Moore and The Bob Newhart show (I love Bob and Emily’s marriage… they remind me of my husband and I.  One of my favorite TV couples ever!)  Anyway, in one episode Emily is wearing this fabulous plaid maxi skirt (I think they called them “Hostess skirts,) with this crazy ruffled blouse.  It was very similar to this pattern:

That’s a whole lot of look (says Tim Gunn.)  I like it, but I’m not really sure I want to wear a ruff.   Right now I want a skirt inspired by Emily’s skirt on the show – bias cut in a plaid that has red but isn’t Christmassy.  I’m using the pattern I showed the other day:

I am only making the skirt.  It’s long (that model must be tall) but not quite to maxi length.  I’m going to be using a red/black/gray suiting fabric that I got from Denver Fabrics.

It’s a poly/rayon blend.  It feels quite nice – not too synthetic.  I think it’s mostly rayon. I like that it doesn’t wrinkle easily, as past experience tells me that I will not iron skirts very often.  The skirt itself is easy to make – 2 main pieces and a waistband.  It is bias cut, so that will be a new thing for me.  I love long bias skirts because the drape is so nice.  I’m not a fan of bias cuts in general, as I find shorter or silky bias cut skirts to be really unflattering on me, but it a long skirt it’s great!  I have been reading up on working with bias cut fabric, as that’s my way – before I do anything I read as much as possible about the new skill online and in books.  When I put in that invisible zipper earlier in the week I spent a solid hour watching people do them on Youtube before I felt confident enough to try it myself (I have a hard time learning from diagrams or still photos.)

I’m not making a muslin of this (shocking I know!) because literally the only thing to fit is the waistband.  I want it to fit at the natural waist (and I plan to wear it with a belt) but I have a fear of tight things for some reason… I have to constantly fight against my urge to make things too big.  I’ll probably make the size 10 – if it doesn’t fit then a waistband is easy to take in.  The skirt itself is just full, and there is very little difference between sizes.  I love that the skirt is long enough that you have to tape the pieces together since it wouldn’t fit on one piece of tissue.

And what does one wear with a skirt like this?  A black turtleneck like the modern pattern, or a ruffled blouse like the 70s pattern?  I’m not allowed to cut it unless I can figure out what I will wear with it.  I have a problem of buying separates without considering that they match nothing else in my wardrobe, so I must have a plan for such a distinctive skirt.  I mentioned that I plan to use a belt – that’s a big step for me, since I’ve actively avoided belts since the mid 1990s.  One of my favorite style blogs, Almost Pretty, has a great primer on belts for the belt-phobic today.  I’ve discovered that I really like wide belts, and I love the stretchy ones too – they always fit, and I never have to make extra holes.  I may be making a trip to the thriftstore soon, with looking at belts specifically on the agenda!