Monday, March 28, 2011

Finished Object: Mariana Trench Dress

I first came across McCall's 6279 a few weeks ago while preparing for a McCall's pattern sale at Fabricland, and while I was attracted to version C right away, I've fallen more and more in love with the pattern ever since. In fact, I loved it so much, I didn't even deviate much the colours they chose for it on the envelope.

Look at those white white legs. Yeesh.

A trip to Fabricland yielded a lightweight navy blue cotton poplin with a bit of stretch, a lovely funky floral cotton voile for the lining, grey swirly buttons, and a bunch of thread. I cut a size 16 out of some cheap cotton as a muslin, and only really needed to add some ease to the hip area and lengthen the fabric. For those who didn't see it, I talked about both the fabric choice and muslin here.

This dress required so much patience. While the pattern went together beautifully, my own blunders caused me a lot of grief. For instance, I originally fused medium-weight interfacing to the front panels, but then tore it out because it was too stiff. It caused a bit of distortion and shininess to the bottom of one of the front panels, but luckily it was on the side that gets overlapped, so it's not visible.

I chose to top-stitch along most of the major seams, and practiced (and practiced and practiced) before hand to make sure I wouldn't mess it up. I'd originally picked up some top-stitching thread for the job, but the sewing machine I was using hated it, so instead I used regular thread. Luckily, all that practice paid off and I didn't have to unpick anything.

Look at all that top-stitching

I can't say the same for the buttonholes and sleeves. Out of six buttonholes, I had to unpick three, two due to negligence while lining up the buttonholer, and one because of my bobbin running out of thread. I'm surprised the whole thing didn't wind up in the garbage.


The sleeves were another headache entirely. I left them until last because I hate gathering and easing sleeves, and this required both along the armscye, as well as gathering along the cuff. On the cuff itself, I thought I needed to add length, and inserted a small panel to widen it (I'd already cut it out to pattern specifications and was out of fabric). However, as shown on the left below, it turned out to be too big. So I yanked the panel out, and the cuff turned out to be perfect (shown on the right). Should've trusted the pattern.

Boy does this colour ever make my hair look red.

I do love these sleeves. They are loose and comfy, but the cuff makes my arm look more slender (in my opinion). However, the gathering on the sleeve cape has caused some other problems, specifically a nice big bump when I'm not standing perfectly still with arms at my side. I'm considering flipping the seam allowance under the shoulder and tacking it down, but any suggestions would be appreciated!

Any suggestions on how to deal with the shoulder bump?

I sort of messed up the hem, or rather, how the instructions say to do the hem. But because I added a lining to the dress, the instructions weren't going to work anyways, so I sort of jury-rigged a hem. I cut down the inner front facing so that it matched my lining (1 inch shorter than the shell), hemmed the entire lining, then attached the lining and shell together along the collar and front seams. For the shell hem, I sewed some hem ribbon along the raw edge, then slipstitched the tape to the skirt. I like the effect, especially when you catch a flash of the silver ribbon.

Note the change in thread colour from the navy blue thread on the poplin facing to the grey thread on the lining. :)

I paid a lot of attention to the details on this dress. I hand-stitched where ever needed, and even hand-basted where needed. This was a novelty to me, as I usually avoid basting whenever possible. It's amazing how much more lovely the results are when you baste, as opposed to simply pinning the tar out of the seam.

Yes, that's hand stitching. I'm getting better at it, when I pay attention.

I think the hem length turned out perfect. The picture below, while a little shoddy, shows the length perfectly.

I love this dress. It's comfortable and cute, and I think it'll dress up and dress down nicely. I fully intend to wear this to my thesis defense on the basis that an awesome dress - and feeling good about how you look - totally boosts your confidence, and I'll need all the help I can get!

Now I just need to find the perfect shoes!

ETA 1: Alright, so after a tonne of input from people here and in my review at PR, I think I've worked out why the sleeve caps are popping up so much. First off, thank you everyone for reassuring me that they're not actually that bad. It's funny how you can nitpick over something you've made that you'd completely disregard/love in RTW.

I believe the poof is meant to be there. This sleeve was a headache because it involved gathering along the top of the sleeve cap, and easing on either side of the gathers to about halfway down the armscye. This leads to a concentrated poof at the top of the sleeve cap. When my arms are hanging straight down at my sides, the sleeves are heavy enough that the gathers are pulled down and don't poof as much (as you can see on my right shoulder in the 'pondering' picture above).

Since these sleeves are elbow length, as soon as I bend my elbow or lift my arm, the weight is let off of the sleeve cap, and the gathers poof upwards. Most of the pictures above show some degree of this, since I'm posing with my arms oh my hips or bent or something (leave me alone, I'm a scientist not a model).

The sleeve poof has grown on me, and I think that once it's washed a few times and I take an iron to those babies, the poof will relax a bit.

Thanks again to everyone for your input, suggestions, and lovely comments. They all made me smile in joy!

ETA 2: The Mariana Trench has been featured on the McCall's facebook page! Thank you so much Kathy!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Progress on the Mariana Trench Dress!

I'm nearly done the Mariana Trench Dress (McCall's 6279), but I'm too excited to share my progress to wait until the sleeves are finished before showing it off. It's turning out so good! Probably my best work to date!

But boy have I been arguing with the dress all day. From the interfacing to the topstitching, the hem to the button holes, and even the buttons, this dress has been fighting me the whole way. But even after having to pick 3 different buttonholes, I've doggedly (and patiently) kept going, and I'm loving the results.

All I have left to do is sleeves, and I hate easing in sleeves. Obviously, since I'd rather deal with hemming AND troublesome buttonholes. I'd make it sleeveless, but I really do prefer the version with the sleeves.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

McCall's 6279 Trench Dress: Fabrics Shopping, a Muslin, and a Call for Suggestions

Guess who got her major report in, just in time for her birthday? I DID I DID! So in celebration of both events, I'M SEWING!

As I mentioned in the last post, Fabricland was having a sale on patterns, and I insisted on going to pick them up. However, I guess the stores in Western Canada has different sales than in Eastern Canada, so McCall's patterns weren't actually on sale yet, not until after March 21. But that was fine. I picked up some fabric anyways, for McCall's 6279 Trench Dress.

I really want this dress to be formal enough to wear to my thesis defense, fabric choice was essential. I wanted a solid navy blue fabric, and really had to fight my tendency to gravitate towards the funkier colourful prints. Found this lovely cotton poplin in a navy, and then proceeded to spend the next hour trying to pick buttons. There's so many choices! Do I go with something to blend in or stand out? But since I'm loving grey and navy right now (and the navy-coloured buttons were all ugly and hard to match), I chose these swirly grey ones. Some grey topstitiching thread, and I'm good to go.

I'm a little worried that the poplin would be too lightweight. It's pretty thin, and after my experience with my awful pants, I'm leery of stretch cotton poplin. But then Fuss suggested I line the dress, and after a bit of research (and this great tutorial), I decided that's exactly what I was going to do!

So today, I ventured back to Fabricland to pick up the patterns (McCall's 6279, McCall's 5525, and McCall's 6286) and some lining fabric. Guys, I searched that store top to bottom trying to find exactly what I wanted, and what I wanted was a large patterned slightly funky but not sweet floral print. And as I was about to give up and settle, I found this cotton voile (look at me go, knowing my fabrics!) in the discount area for $5/m.

It's PERFECT. Almost a shame to be using it as a liner.

Anywho, this evening I came home after a birthday dinner with my Uncle and Grandma (mmm..brownie and ice cream), and got right into it. Worried about the fit, I decided to make a muslin (also Fuss's idea). I cut a size 16 (boy my measurements sure have changed since last summer!) and whipped up the dress in this horrid white teeny floral fabric.

I think it's a pretty good fit. I unfortunately didn't take any pictures (or maybe fortunately) since you can see my gotch underneath the white. It's a little too snug around the hips, so I'm adding about a 1/4 inch below the waistline.

I've also noticed that most tops I've made in the past look weird around the shoulders, and I think it's because my shoulders are narrower than most patterns draft for. When wearing the muslin, I pinned back the shoulder to about where I'd like the seam to lie, and I think I need to take in about 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch.

Despite it being a muslin, I practiced topstitching all the seams, and I'm glad for the practice. I was all over the place at first, but got used to it after 6 seams!

I don't even think I need to do a FBA!

I can't tell you how excited I am to be sewing again. I was dishearted after the failed muslin for the Simplicity 2254 top and haven't been able to motivate myself to go back and fix it (never mind the lack of time). But boy has this put the spring back into my step!

But I need your help. What should I call this dress? Since it's for my thesis defense (in late April? Early May?), I'd like to call it something along those lines. But I'm not very creative with naming things, so I'd love to pick your brains! Mmm...brains...

Thesis Trench
Trench Defense
Mariana Trench
(Haha Fuss, this one's for you!)
Other? (Suggestions in comments please!)

Today was an awesome day. Perogy pizza, beer, brownies, fabric shopping, and sewing. Best birthday ever!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Temptation, Thy Name is McCall's

Fabricland has a sale on right now, and I'm taking the afternoon off tomorrow to go pattern shopping. Huzzah 2/$7 McCall's! I'm hoping to track down some dress patterns for this coming summer, and a found a few possible gems. These are the ones I'm looking at:

McCall's 4769 Shirt Dress

I've mentioned about this one before, and I'm still drawn to it. I want a nice, basic shirt dress pattern with a wider skirt, and I think this fulfills those requirements. From what the reviews on PR say, it's a difficult pattern, but might be a nice challenge after I get back into sewing. I like challenges!

McCall's 6279

I'm really loving the blue version with the sleeves. It has a narrower skirt than I'd prefer, and maybe I'd want to look into widening it from straight to A-line, but I'd have to see. The only reviews for it are for the sleeveless version, and I particularly like this woman's review, but sleeveless tops on me is No go.

McCall's 6070

This knit dress looks super cute and comfortable, and looks pretty easy to put together. Might be a chance to use some of the lessons in knit I learned here. Ooo, I'd love to make this in a deep purple or teal, or some funky print fabric!

McCall's 6286

Okay, so I doubt this would do much for my hips, but I love the green version of this, with the sleeves. The wide neckline, 3/4 length sleeves, and self-belt looks really flattering, no? I'd love it in a breezy brown cotton or linen, something cool and comfy for summer. There's no reviews for it yet on PR (of course), but I think I'll get it anyways.

I'm so looking forward to this break tomorrow, I can't tell you guys how much. All I need to do is resist buying fabric.

Don't worry, I wouldn't bet on that either.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Another "I WANT THIS" Moment

No sewing of late due to a major upcoming thesis deadline, but that hasn't stopped me from stalking reading my favourite sewing blogs! Just before succumbing to the flu a few days ago, I came across some amazing inspiration at Snuzal Sews. She found this drop-dead amazing dress in a post on Colette Patterns Blog, and I WANT IT.

It would probably make my *ahem* ample bottom look even more so, but I can't bring myself to care. Luckily Snuzal wants to attempt this dress, so maybe by the time my thesis is over and I have a life and time to sew again, I can ride on her coattails once she figures out just how to do it! Wouldn't it be pretty in some shade of grey?

Okay, back to thesising for me. Happy sewing all!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

New Look 6940: A Look Back at My First Me-Made Top

Back in January 2010, I got inspired to really get into sewing my own clothes. Off I went to Fabricland, and hunting through their awesome bargain bin area, I found a whole bunch of fabric. Oh, was I ever inspired! I had so many plans for that fabric! Some of them came to life, some of them utterly failed, and some fabric remains in my fabric stash to this day.

When I saw this fabric knit fabric, I knew right away that I wanted either a top or a dress made out of it. I eventually chose New Look 6940, and dived into the project. It became one of my very first wearable projects.

And it shows.

The pattern itself was pretty easy to make, and I don't remember running into any major snags. I made version E but with the cap sleeves from version A. I believe I originally cut a size 14 or 16, but then had to take in the sides drastically. I've since learned that A) New Look patterns, especially knits, tend to fit a little on the big side, and B) I'd been choosing too big of sizes to begin with. I also had some problems with the bias tape facing, and with wear I see why stabilization of the neckline is needed, but I had a hard time understanding the instructions for it back then. I'm sure it'd be a breeze now that I have some experience with sewing from a pattern. Also, I found the neckline to be a little too low cut, but that's another problem I've had in general with tops due to my bust size. Oh, and I think I hacked off 4-6 inches off the length.

But seriously, there are some major problems with this top, all of which were entirely due to my inexperience.

The shoulder cap went poofy, but in a weird narrow way. I don't think it was supposed to be gathered like how I did it, but I didn't know what it meant to ease in a sleeve back then. I think the sleeve was also supposed to be tighter than it turned out to be, and I suspect that's due to cutting it in a too-large size. If I were sewing this now, I'd probably cut the sleeve smaller, ease in the sleeve cap, and iron the seam allowance towards the shoulder to reduce the poof.

Although to be honest, I think the slightly fluttery sleeve is cute!

The bias tape used as a facing is just weird, especially since I sewed it a scant 1/8th of an inch from the edge. The darn thing flips out all the time, and I'm constantly fiddling with it. One of these days, I'll fix it by running another parallel seam along the neckline where I should've put the seam originally. of these days...

Also, I sewed this entire project on an old Walmart-$20-Special Dressmaker II, my dear old Herbert. The stitches from that machine were never even or tight, and you can see them in all their wonkiness in these pictures. I didn't help that I lazily flipped over the sleeve hem once and sewed. It held up fine until oh about the second wash, and then the hem allowance flopped down. Maybe it would've been alright if I stitched it more than 1/4 inch from the edge, or you know, just sewed a proper hem to begin with. If I were making it today, I'd probably try out a double needle so that the hem has more give and maybe buckle less than a regular straight hem on knit would.

I was less lazy on the bottom hem, but knits are tricky and the hem rolled a bit. I'm constantly fiddling with it, trying to straighten it, to no avail. Now-a-days, I'd be more careful when turning up the hem not to twist the fabric, and once again, probably use a double needle.

And never mind the fact that the fabric is piling like crazy. Learned a lesson about fashion knits, let me tell you. No dryer for you, my pretties!

But you know what? I don't care about any of these imperfections. I love this shirt to bits and pieces, and it's rare that a week goes by and the top isn't in the laundry. It's a fun shirt (I mean, come on, look at that print!) and a comfortable design that really flatters the figure. And even with my recent weight gain, I still feel awesome in it! I just tend to layer it, with a cami underneath to cover the cleavage and a cardi on top to hide the horrible sleeves (and keep warm - Hello Manitoba winter!)

What about you? Do you have a self-stitched shirt or dress or cross-stitch project that is horrifically imperfect but that you adore anyways? Ever revisted a me-made item from your early sewing/crafting days and looked at it with a more experienced eye?

And hey, if you chose to take a look at a piece and then tell us about it in a blog post (or have before), let me know! I'd love to see other people's awesome messes or messy awesomes!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Simplicity 2254 Muslin #1: Too Big!

Alright, no laughing at my disheveled/un-make-uped self and my horrid muslin. I seriously don't want to post these, but I suppose it's all part of the documentation process. In my defense, I'd been tearing out my hair all morning writing thesisy things, and just ran outside to get some photos during daylight.

So my Simplicity 2254 muslin is sort of looking like a disaster so far (and that's ignoring the colour and the fact that it's looking like some horrible scrub), now that I've photographed it, and I suspect that I should've done a 1 inch FBA instead of 2 inches. Wow, is it ever big. The photos really don't capture just how roomy it is in the bust. I wonder if there's enough ease in this pattern to get away with not doing a FBA after all? I think I'll just try reducing the FBA for now, recut the bodice, and see how it goes from there. It's all a process, right?

Oh boy, I'm sort of hating the sleeves, too. Maybe I'll slope them down from the shoulder to the elbow, reduce some of that slouchy fabric. Ick.

You can probably see how big the skirt is, too. I've recently gained quite a bit of Thesis Crunch Weight, and as a result, a lot of my tops just don't fit properly anymore. I cut the skirt a size larger, then tucked under and sewed the excess material when attaching to the bodice, just in case I still needed to grade to a larger size around the waist. Turns out that this was not necessary. I knew there was some ease in this pattern, but I think I underestimated just how much.

The excess material combined with the gathering in the front has the unhappy effect of making me look pregnant. Well, unhappy for me. My Mom was delighted.

Obviously I need to do a bunch of work on this bloody thing. And sadly, it's going to have to wait a little while. Turns out I have a major thesis deadline on my birthday, March 23rd, and I have a whole lot of writing to do in the mean time.

Wish me luck, on both the thesis and this (horrid) pattern. I think I'll need it for both!
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