Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Wardrobe Contest: Defeated!

Wow, I can't believe I did it! And I can't believe that it all works so well together. I've learned so much during this process, and met some amazing people here and over at PR. I don't know if I would've made it without all the support. Thank you!

I can see how much my sewing skills have improved from my first piece, the brown faux wrap top to the final piece, the corduroy jacket. I've learned to appreciate not only a well constructed article of clothing, but having the inside of the garment look as nice as the outside. I've discovered the joy of hand sewing, which I've always despised. And I've also discovered that I need a lot more practice fitting pants (that is another post entirely). Patience is a virtue. Patience is a virtue. Patience is a virtue.

So thanks again to everyone for your support and help! And a special thanks to my wonderful photographer, Jen, who did a great job capturing my wardrobe, despite the incompetence of her model.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Jaunty Jacket

The jacket I mentioned in the previous post? You know, the one that everyone and their dog seems to be sewing? The Simplicity 2443 Cynthia Rowley design?

Et voilĂ !

I wasn't sure of this pattern. I'm a curvy woman (with a few extra curves in places I'd rather they not be), and this jacket hits me right at one of my widest parts. But surprisingly it works!

In fact, it works so good, I'm having a hard time choosing pictures for my final wardrobe contest composite that don't include the jacket. I'm so glad I decided to sew this. It's the final piece of my wardrobe that ties everything together beautifully.

Although honestly, about half way though, I had my doubts. When it was still sleeveless and missing the bottom band, it sort of reminded me of a Medieval peasant vest. That was about when I chose to chuck the corduroy facing and add a fun print instead.

The original pattern had you make self-fabric loops and ties, but I didn't like the effect. I chose to use some twill tape for the loops and these perfect buttons that happened to be in my still-small-but-growing-quickly stash. The shot of colour it provides to the jacket is a nice effect.

I like how the waistband topstitching went. It's not perfectly straight, but it's not obvious that a 3 year old did it, so I must be getting better!

And one of my favourite things about this jacket is that I finally got to use this pretty floral cotton I picked up right near the beginning of this contest. I've been in love with this fabric ever since I first laid eyes on it, and I'm so glad I found someplace to use it in this wardrobe.

On the inside of the jacket, I originally did french seams on the sides, shoulders, and centre back. However, they were sticking out too much, so I decided to top-stitch them down, sort of like a flat-felled seam...only not. Still, I like how it looks. No more raw seams for me!

The placket was difficult to work though, but the pattern instructions were really good at guiding you through it. I'll tell you a secret, though. I cheated on the placket. Only temporarily, though. I realized after making the sleeves this morning that I needed 1" D-rings, and I'd picked up 1/2" D-rings. So for now, until I have time to get to the fabric store again, I'm using safety pins. BUT it's pinned down the way the D-rings will be sewn in, and I think it looks fine and you probably wouldn't even notice if you didn't look to closely.

Despite my misgivings of this pattern, and even my fabric choice ("Is the fabric too thick? I think it's too heavy for this pattern. Ooo, I don't know..."), it turned out not only good but fabulous. Not bad for $30 total cost, especially since I hear this designer is selling this same jacket in leather for $550. I can't wait to wear it out!

Now if only this heat wave would go away...

Friday, August 27, 2010

Gotta Love Last Minute Changes

It's 4 days before the wardrobe contest closes, and instead of finishing off my pants, doing the final fixes on other pieces, and either making a simple top to replace my dress (and use a previously made jacket as my topper) or make another simple topper that will go with my dress and everything else, I do something stupid.

I start a fairly complicated jacket. This one, in fact:

I know. I KNOW. I don't have time for this! Especially since I'm losing a day and a half pet sitting for a friend this weekend, and I've still got to take 10 bajillion pictures.

But...I was looking through old entries from previous wardrobe contests, and I just wouldn't be happy if I did something quick and crappy last minute. I wouldn't. And the stupid vest I was planning on whipping up, I doubt I'd ever wear it. So...jacket.

Head? Meet desk.

My old topper? That horrible brown droopy thing? It's in the garbage. Mostly because I hate it, it's ugly, and Peter from Male Pattern Boldness told me to.

11. That sewing project that you started that's been hanging over your head for weeks and fills you with despair every time you think about it -- DUMP IT AND MOVE ON.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tops and Skirts and Pants (OH MY!)

With the wardrobe contest deadline coming up in a week, I've been sewing up a storm trying to get my entry finished. This past weekend, I got two pieces completed entirely, and another one started. (Go me!)

Because of the time crunch, I ditched a more complicated top I was working on and instead tackled a simple "2 hour" knit top, New Look 6807, view B. The fabric is a pretty t-shirt weight knit I found in the knit ends bin at Fabricland. It was warped a little strangely, so it took a bit longer to lay out and cut the pattern, but it was worth it for the final result.

I did quite a few alterations to this pattern. Based on the reviews of it up at PR stating that this pattern runs quite large (as I've found all New Look knit patterns do), I decided to cut out a size 12, 2 sizes smaller than I normally would, although I graded up a size at the hips. Despite this, I still took off 3/8 inch off each side seam. It's still loose, but comfortably so. I also cut the neckline at size 16 to raise it up a bit. I'm glad I did that, since it's almost too low right now as it is.

Between New Look not actually providing markings on the neck binding piece for lining up with the shirt neckline, the very narrow binding piece, and my sewing machine deciding that it'd had enough with knit fabric, I had quite a bit of problems attaching the neck binding. Next time, I'm going to make the piece wider, and make it shorter so that it stretches and pulls the neckline closer to the body.

The other article that I made this weekend is this denim pencil skirt, using Simplicity 2343. This skirt came together really well, and I only really got hung up on the zipper, which is a common problem for me. I was nervous making this skirt since it's supposed to be very snug, but I was afraid of making it too small. I cut a size 16, and I think that's pretty much the perfect size for my bottom half. I did let out the seam allowance along the centre back, since I thought it was a little too tight, but I probably could've just left it.

I love the look of it with the shirt tucked in, but I've got some major wrinkles going on in the front there, and because of my tummy, it isn't that flattering from the side. Still, I think that's a pretty awesome silhouette. I just need the confidence to rock it all day!

One of the things that I love about this pattern is how it uses pieces to shape the skirt, doing away with darts. I hate darts. They used four wedge-shaped pieces with a slightly curved seam to create shape. I'd planned to top-stitch these seams, but with this beautiful dark denim, I thought it looked good without this detail. Maybe on the next skirt.

Technically, I only have one more piece to go before I'm finished, the pants I started last June. But I think I'm going to try to redo my topper, if I have time. That cardigan really is horrible. But we'll see. We're less than a week away, I don't know if I have time.

Pants are hard, you guys! I've got these ones almost finished, but I'm not crazy about the fit. Think it might be time to invest in this book:

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tool Denial and Discoveries

While I've been sewing on and off for years (mostly just hemming and very basic items), I've only been sewing seriously for less than a year. And as a graduate student who has had to jury-rig many pieces of equipment while doing remote field work, I'm used to making do with what I have.

I have a ruler and a mechanical tape measurer, I don't need one of those flexible measuring tapes. Why get one of those fancy plastic poking things for corners when I have mechanical pencils and chopsticks around? A pen and highlighter works just as well as chalk for marking up fabric. I have pins from the Dollar Store, what's the point (HA HA!) in getting new ones? My $20 Walmart special sewing machine that fits in my purse works perfectly fine, thank you very much.

This is Herbert, by the way, my very first sewing machine. He's a trooper, let me tell you. A portable, adorable little straight stitcher, on which I sewed my first (and possibly last) quilt on last fall. It's difficult to tell in the picture, but it's about 3.5'x3.5'.

Well, I'm slowly learning that some of these tools are awfully handy. Maggie is a lovely old Kenmore and a joy to sew with. A flexible tape is much easier than a honking big mechanical one, and chalk is actually so much easier than a pen.

Yesterday, I picked up a couple more tools that have made me pretty starry-eyed. I've had this set of dress-maker pins for ages, but they're really hard to see on the floor when I spill them (which is often). But I found these pretty glass head pins for a couple bucks, and they're so much more fun to use and they're SHARP!

Maybe it's finally time to sew myself a pin cushion for all my pretty pins. The plastic pin box isn't going to cut it for these lovelies!

I also picked up a 'heart' chalk marker, which has a little wheel at the bottom that dispenses chalk in a fine straight line. I'm not sure how useful this is yet, but I'm sure I'll love it when I use it.

But the bestest, most wonderful tool I've found to date is this little hem gauge. I've scoffed it for ages, thinking that my ruler works just fine, thanks. WELL, was I wrong! This thing is a gem, a delightful little helper disguised as a cheap flimsy strange ruler. I used it this afternoon to help press up the seam allowance for a hem, and I nearly cried it was that simple!

Of course, this now makes me fear for my pocket book and small sewing space, thinking of all the other sewing tools and equipment I've been doing without. This is how you can wind up with an entire room stuffed full of sewing stuff, I'll bet. In fact, now I think I know how my Dad wound up with a garage full of a different sort of tools!

Have you ever discovered a piece of equipment or tool that you swore you didn't need, only to discover how wonderful it is and how wrong you were after you finally use it? Is there still something that you refuse to get because you're doing quite fine without it thank you, but secretly want to try out?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I promise, no more of this coral fabric after this!

I'd like to thank everyone on their input in my last post on how to finish this petal skirt this past weekend. I opted to sew it up plain for now, and then add the small peach coloured lace later if I decided to.

As yet, I'm still undecided. I think I'll live with it for now, and see how it looks when worn with my various tops and jackets. While mono-coloured, it still has more detail than I'm used to in a skirt, and I want to make sure it's not too busy to go with all the patterned tops I like to wear.

For now, I'd like to share the construction process for this skirt, particularly since it's drafted to hit mid-thigh, and I much prefer knee-length. It was a more involved process than normal because of all those curved pieces (there were 4 uniquely curved pieces to cut out individually).

Although hindsight is 20/20. It probably would've been easier to alter the actual pattern than the process I took, but where's the fun in that?

I knew I wanted to add 2.5 inches length to the skirt. I started with one of the back pieces that line up on the fold since I knew it'd be easier to work out the process on it (there's two of these pieces, in two separate lengths for each petal layer).

I pinned the pattern piece down enough to keep it from shifting around, and pinned it well along the bottom before cutting along this edge.

To mark where the skirt bottom finished, I just snipped along the side-seam about 1 cm.

Instead of cutting the side-seam or top, I marked a point 2.5 inches above the top of the skirt along the folded edge and moved the pattern piece up to that point. My reasoning for this was to add the desired length without messing with the pattern markings. Like I said, probably easier to slash and add to the pattern, but those curved pieces were tricky and I wasn't sure where to slash them.

Then it was just a matter of moving the pattern up to the mark and re-pinning it down, this time concentrating along the top and the side-seam. Because the skirt is flared a bit, if you continued the side-seam down to where we snipped it, they don't line up. I just shifted the side-seam edge over until it lined up with the snip mark. In this case, I wanted a straight skirt and there's not a lot of flared drafted into this skirt to begin with, so I wasn't concerned about losing about a half inch of width. However, this could be be a bigger issue if attempted with a more flared skirt. It might be better to cut or mark the bottom edge of the skirt on the fabric, then extend the side-seam as far as it needs to go with the added length.

Once the pattern was shifted up 2.5 inches, I just cut it out the rest of the way.

The process was similar with the curved pieces, just a bit more tricky. Not wanting to lose the effect of the curved petal parts of the skirt, I opted to cut along the curve up to a point 5 inches below the waist at the centre line on all 4 pieces. Then once I shifted the pattern up 2.5 inches, I just finished cutting that line.

I didn't even bother keeping track of how long this all took. But it did work out well, and I got the length I wanted without sacrificing the original drafted pattern!

Once everything was cut out, two of the curved pieces were sewn to the back piece to make what looks like two short wrap skirts. Or two fabric canoes.

Hello pinning nightmare.

Although I'm quite proud of my pinned curves. I think they turned out quite nice.

Then it was only a matter of layering and basting these two skirts together before attaching the casing for the elastic waist band.

I'm not a fan of how they had you attach the waistband. It was done by folding the waistband in half wrong sides together (after sewing up the side seams), laying the outer part of the waistband against the right side of the skirt, and sewing through the waistband and skirt raw edges. While I can see why you'd want to avoid having all this bulk inside the waistband when you still need to put the elastic in, my new found goal to keep the inside of garments as pretty as the outside chaffed at this. So I sewed some bias tape over this seam.

Let me tell you, attaching 1/4 inch bias tape to a seam that has anywhere from 4 to 6 layers of fabric in it is difficult!

I wore this out today for a test drive, and managed to work out a few kinks in the design. First off, my mistake, the elastic is too long so the skirt kind of floats around a bit. Not a problem, I can fix that easily.

Less easy is the fact that the fabric sticks to itself a bit, so those layers of petals don't sit flat, but tends to bunch up a bit. Not too bad, but I found myself fiddling with it all day. I'd recommend using a less piled fabric, something that doesn't stick to itself so easily.

The last problem isn't actually my fault at all, and is a design issue. Um, I found out the hard way that when a moderate to strong wind hits you in just the right direction, like Moses parting the water, the petals kind of...open. And then there's a bunch of flailing and grasping of the skirt to preserve your modesty.

It was a Marilyn Monroe moment, only more parting and less up. But maybe just as much sexy. ;)

Although I think I probably even had this expression on my face, too.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Petal Skirt Dilemma

As we're coming in to the final few weeks of the wardrobe contest being hosted by Pattern Review, I'm starting to panic about finishing on time. There's a part of me that keeps saying that there are other projects I want to be working on, and I'm tired of sticking to my wardrobe plan and wants to sew a pretty dress or a more complicated jacket. But there's another stubborn part of me that's determined to finish this contest, to complete all 10 pieces and prove to myself that I can do this.

Plus since I've signed up to do Self-Stitched September, I kind of have to if I want any clothes to wear for next month!

So I figured I'd tackle one of the easier projects left on my storyboard this weekend.

View C, the pretty petal-like skirt on the upper-left. I thought it fit quite well with my floral theme, and it'll add a pop of colour to my decidedly brown collection of bottoms.

After 2 days of cutting, I've finally got everything prepped to sew (that little "1 hour" note on the envelope obviously doesn't count cutting time), but I've come up against a bit of a snag. You can't really see the layers! :(

It may be better once it's hemmed and worn, but right now, I think it'll just look off.

So I thought maybe adding a bias hem to it. I liked how it looked on the inside of my ruffle blouse, so what the heck, eh?


Not so much. Kind of reminds me of a '50's waitress uniform. I just need an apron and I'm set. No thanks.

I have lots of lace and trims hanging around though, so after digging through my twisted, tangled stash of notions, I found two possible candidates.

Cute in theory, but kind of has the same effect as the bias tape.

But then there's this one, a 1/4 inch edging in an apricot or peach colour.

I like the subtlety of it, how it defines the petals without being too in-your-face about it, and adds a touch of girly-ness to it.

Is this too old-fashioned looking? Should I stick with just a plain, unadorned skirt? Is anyone else sick of looking at this light coral fabric?

*le sigh*

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ruffle Blouse: Mission Complete

It's finished, and it matches my bathroom walls! Actually, it looks a little orange in this picture. Seriously, my camera hates this colour.

(Don't mind my pose. My landlord came out seconds before the timer ran down on my camera, and I was a little embarrassed!)

I love this shirt. I love the colour and the bib ruffles and just how comfy it is. I wore it out for lunch with the girls yesterday and it was ridiculously comfortable and cool. And I love that the pattern came with separate pieces for other cup sizes! :D

The top requires a button at the back of the neck. It turns out it's not really needed, since I can put it on quite fine without undoing it, but it's a pretty detail. I may yet hand-sew most of that gap closed, and next time I make this shirt, I'll cut the back piece on the fold. But for now, I love the flower button!

But I think my favorite part of this shirt is the details you can't see. I'm so proud of the finishing inside the shirt. I know it's pretty basic, but it's the first piece of clothing that I haven't left seams unfinished. It looks so good inside out! As I mentioned in the progress post, I finished the centre back with a french seam, and sewed on bias tape over all the other seams and facing edge. I also hand-stitched the bottom hem, and it looks so good that I wish I'd done it on the sleeve hems. Oh well, next time.

I almost want to wear it inside out! This is such a great top, I can't wait to make a second version! But that'll have to wait until after the wardrobe contest. :)
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