Focus on Sportswear

The term sportswear has always confused me.  It brings to mind the clothes we wore in gym class, and I was not exactly athletic.  In the 4th grade, the only part of the President’s Physical fitness test that I managed to pass was the “fixed arm hang,” in which you are lifted into place and hang from the bars for as long as you can.  That’s right… I hate running, and I can’t do a decent pushup to save my life, but I can hang fixedly in one place with the best of them!  I was an abysmal failure at every team sport my Mom ever signed me up for, ducking at the sight of softballs and trailing weakly behind the pack in basketball.  Being not at all competitive, I didn’t much care if we won, an attitude that did not endear me to my teammates and resulted in a lot of “not being asked back for next season.”

Anyway, since I assumed that sportswear was a term for the clothes you wear for sports, I never paid the word any mind.   Looking at the definition of sportswear on the allknowing Wikipedia is confusing as well – let me quote from there “Since the 1930s the term is used to describe both day and evening fashions of varying degrees of formality that demonstrate this relaxed approach whilst remaining appropriate wear for many business or social occasions”

So… not beaded cocktail dresses then.  Maybe.  In my mind I’ve decided that sportswear means separates, and that’s what I’m going to focus on for the next few weeks.  Here are my plans (subject, as always, to change!)

Simplicity 2896 (the pants only) in this lovely silvery metallic linen.  I’m making a muslin of these right now.  The jacket is lovely too, but has a ridiculous amount of ease.

Simplicity 2614  in green gingham.  I’m making the version shown in pink above, with short sleeves and no tie.

Simplicity 2451, to go with the green gingham top, and hopefully the top below as well.  I don’t have fabric for this yet – I haven’t decided on a color or material, suggestions are welcome! I want to make the modeled version.

Simplicity 2601 – the first on the middle row in pink – short sleeves and no ruffles.  I showed this fabric before, but I have decided that it will get more wear as a kitschy top than a dress.  Plus it’s pretty sheer, and I won’t mind wearing a camisole under this top.  I think the modeled photo on this pattern is terrible… really, Simplicity?

Finally, I have 2 pair of shorts that I’m planning to make.  We walk a lot in the summer, and I really need some shorts to mix in with my skirts (pants are too hot!)

First is Mccalls 5391. It was really hard to find a basic shorts pattern that didn’t look awful!  I want to make the bermudas in the lower right corner, in madras plaid of course.  I have some fashion magazines from the early 60s that show madras plaid bermudas being worn with cute sleeveless blouses, and that look is what I want (I still need the blouse pattern, and I’m looking for a vintage one.)

I showed this one before… Simplicity 2654.  I want to make the shorter shorts with the waist tabs (in plaid above) out of navy blue twill.  I bought some at Joann, but after washing the fabric it retains a distinct “school uniform” hand.  I’ll probably make them up anyway, and if I hate the results with the fabric I can make them again.  I imagine cute nautical buttons on the tabs (I’ll have to order those!)

I may or may not get to all these… it depends on my attention span, and how many pretty dresses sneak in there!  I need bottoms very badly, tops less so.  I hope to get the muslin for the pants sewn up tonight – it will depend on how I feel after teaching is done.  I have been working a lot on the Dawn sweater – I am a bit worried about the size – it looks ok now, but if it stretches that would probably be bad.  We will see… it is exciting to have knitting motivation again!  I am nearly finished with both fronts.  The knitting has gone very quickly!

FO: Vogue 2960

Pattern: Vintage Vogue 2960

Fabric: brushed cotton from Fashionista Fabrics (sold out now,) silk organza underlining from Dharma Trading.

Notes: Wow, this dress was a lot of work!  I have an afternoon wedding to attend in June this summer, and I was inspired to sew a Betty Draper inspired sundress.  I had this beautiful fabric I bought with no purpose in mind, and it was perfect for the vision in my head!  I love vintage patterns, but I fear the necessary alterations to fit the modern figure (I’m not so much for the girdle wearing) so I hadn’t yet made a 50s dress.  I chose this Vintage Vogue reissue, hoping it had been updated for modern undergarments.  Was it?  Well, not having the orignal pattern in hand I can’t say… but I tend to say “not much.”

The sizing was a little strange.  I normally wear an 8 on the top and 10 on the bottom in Vogue patterns.  According to the finished garment measurements, a size 6 had the 34.5 inch bust I like in this style of dress (about 3 inches of ease) so I originally cut a 6 fading to an 8 at the shoulders (because I have broad shoulders)  for my muslin.  Well, it fit through the bust, but it was huge in the shoulders and yet way too tiny in the waist (indicating to me that a girdle was expected for the pattern, and that it hadn’t been updated that much.)  So in the final dress I cut a straight 6 in the shoulders and bust, and faded to an 8 in the waist.  I was still worried that it would be small in the waist, so I gave it almost an extra inch when sewing the side seams.  Probably the 8 would have fit, but it was hard to tell, and I’d rather have a little too much room than not enough in the waist – I hate to feel strangled, and that way I can wear it when I sing (ever notice how opera singers wear a lot of empire waist dresses? There is a reason for that… I have massive expansion powers through my lower ribcage.)  The shoulders are still a bit wide, but I’m going to sew some bra strap holders in, which I think will fix the problem.

The back of the dress is pretty low – I had to buy a special doohicky to lower my back bra band or it would show.  Also, notice that my hair gets redder by the day, I swear… I am thinking of dying it dark auburn.

I underlined the entire dress in silk organza – I bought a 13 yard bolt from dharma trading.  It was a good choice – on its own this fabric is a bit limp and slightly sheer (I think it might be sheeting) and with the organza is stands nicely without a a crinoline.

I made self fabric buttons, because I am obsessed with them right now.  The hem was shortened by 7 inches, and then I made a narrow machine hem (life is too short to hand hem circle skirts.)  Overall I am very pleased – except for the underlining, the dress was very easy to construct.  I did not do the bound buttonholes, and I topstitched the placket bottom down, but other than that I followed the directions pretty closely, and they were excellent.  I would highly recommend this pattern, but watch out for the shoulder width, and measure your waist!

Now with actual knitting content!

You may be asking yourselves “Didn’t she used to knit?”  Well, I do still knit, though obviously not as much lately.  But here’s the thing… I have 90 bajillion sweaters, and I’ve wanted to really focus the last few months on amping up my sewing skills, with the aim of making most of my wardrobe handmade, both sweaters and clothes (at some point in the distant future!)  And I am probably more of a product crafter than a process crafter – I enjoy knitting and sewing or I wouldn’t do them, but I am more focused on the end result than the process.  So knitting has fallen by the wayside.  I knew that when the time was right I would want to start a new sweater – no way could I give up something that has been such a great part of my life!    Lately,  I’ve been missing it, especially after the beetle debacle, but it’s taken til now to get everything out of cold storage and sorted away.

I wanted to start a little cardigan to go with all the great sundresses I’ve been making, so during the Project Runway finale (so happy with the outcome of this season!) I cast on:

This is Dawn, from Kim Hargreaves’ Breeze book.  I am creating a smaller size, since I think the XS would be big on me, and the stitch pattern is stretchy.  I actually bought the yarn for this (Rowan handknit cotton) when I got the book, but I’ve only just now gotten around to it.  I originally thought it would be great with my current dress project, but that’s what I get for knitting at night… this yarn is clearly ivory and not white.  But that’s ok – it will go with everything that isn’t white, and I look better in ivory than in white.

I love this book… I’ve made several of the sweaters, and still have more planned!  I’m planning to get Kim’s new book soon.  I skipped her last winter one, because I was a little burned out on patterns (what?) but I’m over that now.  I’ll probably get that one as well – because in spite of the expense of these books, I use the heck out of them.   The styles are classic and do not date.  Look at these beautiful sweaters!

Lovely!  I am resolved to knit with more cotton – I find that I wear my cotton sweaters more, as they don’t overheat me… and are unattractive to bugs (yes, I am scarred.)  Let’s face it, I don’t exactly live in the arctic circle, and I have a few sweaters (Vaila is one) that are almost always too warm.  And since I’m sewing as well, and splitting my time, I don’t hurt my wrists on the cotton.  I am actually amazed that I have managed to knit as much as I do and be a pianist without developing carpal tunel… though if I had to guess I would say that I don’t carry much tension in my hands or wrists, which may help?  I do have tendinitis from long ago, but as long as I don’t go crazy with the knitting (as I sometimes have) it’s ok.

Now we will see how long it takes me to finish this one.  The pattern is straightforward, but there are a lot of P2togs, which tend to slow me down.  I worry that it might be a bit of a slog, but hopefully it will be worth it!

She’s here!

Introducing my Singer 500A, Doris!

I’ve named her after Doris Day, of course.  I love her films with Rock Hudson, and they are from the same time period as the new machine!

I’d say this machine was in great cosmetic condition.  There are only a few tiny tings in the paint, and a little cracking on the feet underneath.  I haven’t tried yet to shine up the gold printing, but I’m pretty sure it will clean up.  However, when this machine arrived a week ago, it was immediately apparent to me that it had one big problem – whoever owned the machine before had been oiling it with something that was distinctly not sewing machine oil.  It was probably WD-40 or similar, and you should not use those in machines – over time they freeze up the works!  It sewed, but the bobbin winder didn’t turn, and the feed dogs were cranky… really cranky.  She needed to be totally cleaned out and relubricated, so  I took her into “my guy” at the sewing center for a checkup.  (He’s “my guy” because the 500a is his favorite machine, and he congratulated me on buying one!)  I could have cleaned it out myself, but to be honest I don’t have a place that’s great for doing that kind of deep cleaning – plus I really wanted a professional to go over the machine and make sure nothing else was wrong.  He ended up replacing the stitch plate, because the old one had some big nicks in it, and he fixed the broken front door hinge.  But other than that, he gave her a clean bill of health!

You can see above a test on a double layer of denim.  The stitch quality is really beautiful – completely even and balanced.  Honestly, the straight stitch blows poor Audrey the Bernina out of the water.

The 500A is the blue thread above, and I sewed a parallel line next to it in white with the Bernina (on the right… the other white line is something else.)  Sorry it’s hard to see, but the stitches are lovely!  The stitching underneath is nice too:

In this photo the 500a is the black thread, and the Bernina is white.  Beautiful! Does it matter?  Probably not, but I am thrilled!

I have a few more projects to complete on the machine before it’s totally up to speed.  I want to thoroughly clean the exterior, as I mentioned.  I’m not sure yet what I should use, but I will find out!  I also need to clean the other feet I got with the machine  - a ruffler, an edgestitcher, and some unidentified parts.  They are very faintly rusty, and I’m going to soak them in Evaporust.  Luckily, no rust at all in the machine, in spite of coming from humid Florida!

And then, after that I will be up and running!  I would like to stitch my next project as much as possible on the 500a, to get used to the feel (I actually like the weird pedal – it’s a sort of button that you operate with your foot rather than the clamshell style.)  An all mechanical machine is different, and I will say that I miss the needle up/down button!  And I don’t have a buttonholer yet, so I will do buttonholes on the Bernina.   Still, I’m excited to get going!

If you’ve made it this far, here’s a preview of my sundress!  I have had some trials with the pattern, which I will write about later.  It needs hemming and buttonholes, thus the extra strings in this photo.  I do clip my threads, I swear!  But not serger threads right away, so that’s what most of those are, along with basting from the underlining.  I hope to have photos on Sunday!

Oops, I spoke too soon…

on the whole “not dead yet” thing.  When I had dental work done, the dentist prescribed Clindamycin, an antibioic, and I am having a bad reaction to it (don’t worry, I won’t go into details.)  I canceled my lessons today, which I hate to do (I don’t get sick days) but I have to remind myself to not run myself into the ground – better to take a day off and feel better, than to work through it and end up out for weeks!

I have been working on my sundress.  I made a muslin of the bodice, and I have to say that the sizing is a little strange.  I took a size 6 in the bust – smaller than usual for me – but I had to cut almost 2 sizes bigger in the waist!  Hopefully it will fit – I am still nervous about the waist size.  Of course, I can always sew that part with a smaller seam allowance if I have to.  It took me quite awhile to get started because I was considering my options on 2 points – the underlining and the buttonholes.  I’ve decided to do regular buttonholes rather than bound.  The underlining, I am happy to say, is much easier now that I’ve used a tip I found  here.

I’m using silk organza, which gives a lovely body to my rather thin fabric (I suspect it was meant to be sheets.)  But silk organza is very hard to cut and sew evenly, as it shifts around like crazy.  This method solves that.  Basically, you cut a block of the organza, big enough for your pattern piece.  Lay the cut fabric piece face up on the organza, and then pin everywhere (a crazy amount of pins, as it says in the link.)

Finally, pin around the edges and hand baste.  Hand basting is important for underlining, because it will wrinkle and shift if you try to machine baste, even with a walking foot.  I use a new piece of thread for every edge, and I use colored embroidery floss because it’s easier to remove later.  Finally, cut around the piece with a rotary cutter and remove the pins.

I also baste through the center of darts, so that the layers don’t shift when sewing them.  And no, I won’t be winning any awards for my even basting skills, but it works well enough!

Cutting the organza after it’s sewn does save time, and it certainly saves me frustration!  I did not attempt to match the pattern on the dress, except for making sure that the center back matches.  It has a very large repeat, and I would have driven myself crazy!  I’ve also shortened the dress by 7 inches, making it hopefully right at my knees.  I still have quite a bit of underlining to do before I even get to the actual dress sewing, but I’m hoping it will all be worth it!

A tale of two irons

Here’s the hard truth: if you take up sewing, you are going to be ironing.  A lot.  I once saw someone on the internet say that we might as well call this hobby “ironing,” since we do so much of it, and they had a point.  I’ve always found ironing clothes to be satisfying to a point (the point where my OCD tendencies take over, and it makes me crazy that I can’t get the shirt perfect!)  But I own very few items of clothing that need ironing, and I certainly don’t iron for my husband (if he doesn’t see a problem with being wrinkled, then I can affect blindness on particularly rumpled days.)

You may be tempted to make a go of pressing your seams with the travel iron your great aunt gave you when you went away for college.  I cannot recommend this path.  Your life will be much easier if your iron has: A. A decent sized water reservoir and B. some heft.  Those seams don’t press themselves, but it’s much closer with a heavy iron.  I’m a little obsessive about ironing seams – I iron each on flat, then open from both the wrong and right sides.  Darts get pressed over a Tailor’s Ham, and for long sleeves I use a seam roll (I got both mine at Joanns, and they are by Dritz.)

When my Mother-inlaw found out I was sewing, she bought me a Rowent Effective iron for a present.

It looks all unassuming there, but trust me… this baby is evil.  At first everything seemed fine – the iron heated quickly, and it is nicely heavy.  The steam vents are toward the front, so it does tend to burn fingers, but I also think pressing is a little easier with the steam close to the tip.  Unfortunately, the iron quickly showed the source of the incredibly bad reviews it has received on Amazon.  There is an issue with the auto-shutoff.  I don’t like auto shutoff anyway, but this one performs very badly.  It will actually trigger the auto-off while you are ironing!  And then you have to stand there and shake it around for awhile until it decides to come back on.  And then, one day, it decided to start leaking water out of the part where the cord is stored.  Yeah.  It wasn’t the cheapest iron, and I would expect better from Rowenta – but perhaps they are a victim of shipping their factories overseas as well (my iron was made in Mexico.)

So, completely angry at the Rowenta, I went back to my old iron.  It was a wedding present, and considering that I never ironed before, it’s basically new.

It’s a  Black&Decker Digital advantage.  It wasn’t until I tried the other iron that I really appreciated what a great all-purpose iron I had.  It has a few things that make it superior to the Rowenta.  First of all, the water reservoir has a cover.  On the Rowenta it would just leak on you if the iron was tipped sideways.  The tip is perhaps a bit more pointy, making opening seams easier.  It seems to hold more water.  The steam holes are toward the back, making me less likely to burn myself (in this case I will trade functionality for not being burned!)  It has a reasonable auto-shutoff, and it never senses wrong.  And finally, my favorite… the steam settings are separate from the temperature settings.  The Rowenta had basically no steam or “auto steam” which meant that you couldn’t, for instance, have a low temp with some steam, and you had no control over the amount of steam you would get.  Seriously, it was terrible.  So I totally recommend this iron – it wasn’t the cheapest, but it really performs well for me.  I can’t say how long it will last, but sewers are really hard on irons anyway.  When I wear this one out I might look into a gravity feed or something fancy, but I might also get another of these!

And my final tip for ironing… you need this stuff:

Mary Ellen’s Best Press is easily the best spray starch I have seen.  It never leaves flakes, and it smells nice.  I’ve only seen it at Hancock fabrics, but it may be available elsewhere.  I starch slippery fabrics to stabilize them, and finished garments.  I love me some starch.

So there’s my iron story!  Thanks for the emails wondering where I was – I had about 5 unfinished posts, but didn’t realize I hadn’t published them… so now I am back!

In my rocketship

I’m a little down today, having encountered some surprising negativity… and I, of course, am a wee bit sensitive.  Or a lot.  I might be famous for it.  But never you mind – I am resolved to put it behind me, so onto today’s post!

One of  my favorite kitschy tunes… it relates to the subject of this post!

I’ve been wanting to get a second machine.  You know, for when the Bernina is in the shop.  Or… um… because I want one.  Specifically, I wanted a vintage machine.  I love my modern machine, but I also like the idea of connecting to the sewing past.  I decided I wanted a Singer, because my great grandma was wicked awesome on the treadle, and I love the history of the company.  I’ve always wanted one, and I was disappointed when buying my modern machine that Singer isn’t what it once was.

Once you decide that you want a vintage machine, there are many questions to answer – do you want treadle or electric? (electric for me.)  Do you want a small or full-sized model? (full sized!  I’m not traveling with my machine!)  What features matter to you? I wanted a really good straight stitch, with the ability to sew through thick fabrics.  I wanted an all metal machine.  Any extra stitches are nice, but other than zig-zag I don’t use them much.  I like the button-holer on my regular machine, but like I said I would like a backup.  And then there is the question of looks: to get a classic black singer, or one of the more modern looking models?   My Mother-in-law has a Singer 201, the classic black machine.  It’s beautiful and sews really well.  I thought about getting one of my own, until I saw the model I just purchased on Ebay.

photo credit: Swayframe

The photo above is of a Singer 503.  I actually purchased the 500A, the same machine basically, but with more built-in stitches (top of the line in 1961!)  They are gear driven, all metal, and use cams for the decorative stitches that are not on board.

The 500 series is called the “Rocketeer,” for obvious reasons.  It’s so space age-y, I just love it!  I also love that it’s the “Slant-o-matic.”  Everything sounds cooler with “o-matic” at the end!

Here is the machine I’m actually getting, as soon as it makes its way through the postal service!

Notice the dial in the middle, which you use to set the different stitches – this is the difference from the 503.  I’m very pleased that it has a bunch of feet, (including a ruffler, which I wanted!) cams, stitch plates, and the original manual.  The cams are the black circles – it comes with 5, and they are easy to buy on ebay.  I made sure to ask lots of questions, and the overall condition looks excellent and clean (including the interior mechanics,) so hopefully it runs well!  The seller says it was her Mother’s, and that she sewed on it until her death a few years ago.  I made sure to ask if she had actually tested it sewing, and she had.

I’m hoping to find a table that will fit this machine, so that I can recess it – it has a drop-in bobbin, unlike the Bernina, and it doesn’t have a free arm, so there is no reason to not make it level with the table surface (these reasons are why I don’t want a table with my other machine… I am forever switching bobbins around, and sometimes the free arm is handy, though I confess I more often sew small diameters inside out.

Christmas ad, circa 1961

The 500A is labeled #1 here.  Check out the great turquoise machine at #7.

And yes, I have officially lost my mind.  I will be sure to post when the machine actually arrives, but I was so excited to buy it – I’ve been ebay stalking them for over a month!

FO: Fear of knits (Vogue 1027)

The modeled photos are at the bottom, if you are impatient!

No, not fear of the handknit kind… we all know I can handle that.  I’m talking about the kind of knit that you buy by the yard and then sew on your sewing machine (or serger) into something that hopefully resembles something you would wear out of the house.

I’ve made a few muslins of knit tops out of cheapie stuff from Joann’s.  Audrey (my Bernina) sews knits pretty well on a narrow zig-zag with the walking foot.  Even so, I always felt that my knits seemed more “homemade” than my woven clothes, since store-bought knits are serged, and they never made it to the actual garment stage.  So I bought a serger a few months ago, a Brother 1034D for $80 on Craigslist.

I’m not going to lie… the serger scares the beejezus out of me the way that the regular machine never did.  First of all, threading it is like some sort of logic puzzle:

and here we run into my biggest handicap in sewing… 2d diagrams make literally no sense to me.  My brain cannot translate them into any sort of actual sequence of events.  I require words or an actual moving photo.  For sewing patterns I usually just read the description and occasionally ask my husband to interpret a diagram for me (thus he is learning to sew through osmosis!)  But for this… ugh.  Luckily, it came with a video… on VHS.  We don’t have a VHS player anymore, since the only movie I still own on video is Francis Joins the WACS (shut up, I love that wise-cracking Donkey!  Someday it will be on DVD!)  Luckily, some kind user had uploaded the hilariously dated video to Youtube.  After watching it about 5 times, I was able to thread the machine (I don’t like how you have to start in the middle of the cones, rather than with the leftmost or rightmost.)

I’ve been using the serger to finish my seam allowances quite a bit – it’s really worth it just for that, honestly.  I wouldn’t buy an expensive one for that purpose, but this one is great!  But now we come to the other scary thing about sergers… the knife.  I am very uncomfortable with my fabric being trimmed while I am sewing – what if I make a mistake and sew the skirt together backwards or something (as I am very wont to do… my seam ripper and I are good friends.)  Before this week, I had barely used the knife, and when I did it was with a sense of great fear.

I’m waiting on a bolt of silk organza to arrive from Dharma Trading so I can start my sundress (I’m going to underline the whole thing.)  The other day I went through my tubs of fabric, just to remind myself of what I have (I don’t have a lot, just a little over 1 sterilite tub… I don’t like to buy too much in advance.)  I remembered the leopard knit that I bought in the fall, and thought maybe this would be a good time to try a knit pattern for real – since I’m off work and supposedly less stressed, and I’m waiting on a delivery before I can start my big project.

I chose Vogue 1027, a DKNY pattern that was really well reviewed on Patternreview.  I like that it looks like a wrap dress, but actually isn’t.  I look awful in wrap dresses, but the slight empire waist on this is very flattering.  I looked at the sizing and said “Eh, I’ll just make the smallest one, it’ll stretch.”   Nice scientific method there, right?  I have a lot of confidence in the power of negative ease, and this knit is super stretchy.  I only had 2 yards, and the pattern called for almost 3, so I left out the pockets and facings and cut in a single layer.  I also trimmed the skirt by 6 inches, and it’s still the length it looks in the photo – this is sized long!  I got it in no problem.

Cutting this stuff was really god-awful.  My rotary cutter didn’t like it much, but my good scissors liked it even less (seriously, this stuff repels them) so I used the cutter.  Then I had to face the serger, since I was planning to use it to sew the major seams.  I get that the serger has lines for different widths, but since my fabric doesn’t actually go over them, I’m not sure how accurate I am.  I marked the 5/8″ line with blue painter’s tape, so I could actually see it.

That was slightly helpful, but this fabric is, again, so drapey and stretchy that it was sort of vague.  I figured “Eh, it’ll work out… who can tell if my seams in this stuff are slightly off?”  (The answer is: no one, really.)

I sewed the side and shoulder seams with the serger.  I’m very proud of myself for using lining selvedge to stabilize the shoulders:

But as it turned out, it wasn’t the serger seams that gave me issues.  The Vogue pattern was written all sorts of crazy – first of all, I didn’t like the facings, so I didn’t use them, doing a narrow hem instead.  It seemed to be suffering from confusion about whether it was calling for a knit or a woven.  There were a lot of “press under this amount” directions, which let me tell you wasn’t happening in this fabric.  And a lot of basting, some of which I did, and some of which seemed silly.  The tie directions were weird, and left it sort of unfinished, so I sewed the tie together and turned it, like most of the other reviewers on Patternreview.

The final major seam – sewing the skirt to the bodice/belt – was really hard to do.  There were about a million layers of basted fabric to sew through, and when I took it off the machine last night I fully expected it to just fall apart or look like a drunk blind person sewed it.  Not so much, since it’s covered anyway, and you can’t tell anything in this fabric.   I decided not to hem it, because it isn’t going to fray, and I want to see how much the skirt is going to stretch out, so if it looks a little uneven right now that’s why.  And so… after far too much rambling, the finished dress!

My husband says this is my “sexy cavewoman” dress, which he says is a compliment but… I do feel a little like a character on the Flintstones.  I’ll definitely wear this dress, and I will say that the shape is exceedingly flattering.  I’m pleased to have finished a knit dress (and this pattern was pretty easy, in spite of the weird directions… there are probably only 2 hours of actual sewing time, not counting cutting.)

I am interested in how I am starting to define what kind of seamstress I am.  I don’t think sewing knits is my thing – I own some knit dresses, but I mostly own them because woven dresses never, ever fit me from the store, and stretchy things are safe.  I definitely don’t want to sew t-shirts (I’d rather buy them,) and I don’t wear many anyway (I don’t have much of a sporty mode, and the sight of me in sneakers tends to always provoke surprise from my friends.)  Dressy knit tops are easy for me to thrift, and I have a ton of them.   Plus there’s the fact that I hated every second of sewing with this fabric.  It was stretchy and drapey and hard to pin and cut.  I do have some wool jersey that I want to make into a drapey cardigan – but that feels like a different animal – as well as some double-knit that will become a dress next fall (but again, it isn’t so stretchy at all.)  I really enjoy fitting – I like to make muslins, and I like figuring out what causes different types of problems and how to correct them.   Sewing this dress made me stressed out – it was fast, but I don’t really need sewing to be fast.  I like enjoying the details and doing things like carefully ironing every seam open and finishing every seam allowance (yes, I am majorly OCD, if you hadn’t guessed yet!)

Oh, and I tried to get Sarah Jane to model, since after all the leopard is her totem animal:

She is remarkably not amused by my mockery.

FO: The Happy Mistake dress

Pattern: Vogue 8577, view A

Fabric: Blue “Aruba” linen look cotton from Fabric.com, black bemberg rayon for the lining

Notes: I love how this dress came out, even if I’m not smiling much (my face is still a little swollen from root canals on Thursday!)  I’m a big fan of  full-skirted sundress, and I find myself suffering from a full-skirted sundress deficit in my closet.  So… before tackling some of the pretty 1950s patterns in my possession, I decided to give this modern pattern a try.

I made a muslin of the bodice only – after all, a full skirt is a full skirt.  I tried a straight size 10, but decided I needed it to be smaller through the ribcage and waist – but the shoulders were good.  So I traced a size 8 bodice out to a size 10 in the shoulders only, which fits just great on me.  I find that I have rather broad shoulders in comparison to my underbust measurement, and patterns that fit me below may be tight in the shoulders.  Things I love about this dress: The shoulder gathers, the color, and the enormous pockets (so fun, I can’t believe I forgot to get the obligatory “hands in pockets” photo!

And then, of course, there is my error – I left out the side panels when constructing the skirt.  Oops!  But the skirt fit nicely to the bodice without them, no gathering required.  It is a little less full in the back than in the front, but I like it that way – it wrinkles less.  My husband says this makes my dress like a reverse mullet – party in the front, business in the back!

The dress is fully lined in black bemberg rayon.  The pattern called for a lining, and besides that the fabric was pretty sheer on its own.  This is the second time I’ve used this lining, and while it feels lovely on I hate working with it – even with starching the heck out of the pieces, it shifts around like crazy during cutting.  I find it ok to sew with a walking foot, so no problem there, but cutting it makes me crazy, even with single layers and a rotary cutter.  I’m going to try a silk or cotton lining on my next sundress – I will probably come back to the rayon, but I need to let my frustration settle down a little.

This dress was rated easy, and I’m not totally convinced – the pockets were a bit complicated, and there is a full lining – but if you’ve made a dress or two I think it’s pretty approachable.  Hemming a full skirt is challenging, but I used the method outlined a few posts back – I serged the edge and then folded on that line.  Then I machine sewed the hem.  The 1940s sewing manual I’ve been using lately informs me “Never machine sew a hem except for children’s clothes, lest your garment look coarse,” but oh well – I didn’t feel like doing the hem by hand, although I usually do.

Now I am onto my next sundress, a 1950s dress in a beautiful rose print fabric.  I have this whole week off, and since I am now mostly recovered (and off the heavy duty painkillers) I can sew!

Still alive!

I have survived my dentist experience!  It may have been the hardest one so far (and I am including having the front crowns) because I had a deep root cleaning at the same time.  I would not wish that on anyone, but fortunately I was sedated and remember very little of it.  (Although apparently I made my husband promise not to film me and put me on youtube before the drugs wore off!)  It is still pretty painful, but it’s getting better now.  Today all I did was sit around and try to come up with things I could eat that didn’t involve chewing.   When I’m sick, I still eat exactly the same things I did when I was 8… chicken soup (from the lipton mix… I know, it’s awful for you, but I love it,) yogurt (with cream on the top if I can find it,) and rice pudding.   My husband voted for Jello, but I don’t like jello… I know, I’m the only one.

 

I did manage to put the buttons on my dress, and it is basically finished.  The only issue I’m having is that the lining wants to show in the front, so it will need to be shortened.  I didn’t do the hem the way the instructions said, so it’s probably a bit long.  That’s an easy enough fix, and I hope to finish it in time to wear it to a baptism this weekend.

I’m considering my next sewing and knitting projects.  I really want a knitted bolero, so I’ve been sifting through my books.  I’m considering this vintage pattern, from an issue of Stitchcraft:

The pattern is available free here.  I would need to purchase yarn and decide on a color scheme… my supplies of skinny yarn are sadly depleted.

I also have quite a few Kim Hargreaves patterns I’m thinking of… but we will see.  I can’t wait for her new book, I always find them so inspiring (and yes, they can be similar, but I adore a peplum, I can’t help it!)

The next dress I make will be the 50s sundress with the rose fabric I showed a few entries back.  I want to finish it for a wedding, and I don’t want to be rushed.  I’m also thinking of blouses, and maybe trying a pair of ankle length pants?  I haven’t got a pattern for that though… I want something tapered, but without too much fullness around the hips.  Think late 50s/early 60s.  I think they were called cigarette pants?  And I’m still searching for fabric for my purse.  I’d better hurry up – spring has arrived, and I’m still carrying a purse made of tweed!

Thanks for the shoe help – I’ve ordered the Clarks and the Seychelles – I can’t wait for them to arrive!  I love Zappos… not only do they have free shipping, but they are headquartered here, meaning that they sell off all their returned shoes super cheap in their warehouse store.  Must make a trip there soon…