Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What I'm Reading: Christian Dior

For as long as I can remember I've had a fascination with France. I remember going to the library at the tender age of 11 and checking out books about speaking French ("Je m'appelle Beth!"). I took three years of the language in high school, and obtained a minor in French in college. Sadly, a foreign language is pretty much use it or lose it, so don't ask me to speak anything now.

I felt my love for all things French being rekindled while reading the book Christian Dior: The Biography, by Marie-France Pochna. Christian Dior was a French fashion designer best known for his design called the New Look, which debuted at the end of World War II. I don't necessarily consider myself a fashion designer, just an avid home sewist, but I still think it benefits me to know as much as I can about fashion history (I highly recommend Tim Gunn's book on the topic). 

I know what you're thinking, oh a biography...yawn! But honestly, I almost couldn't put it down! The author did a fantastic job of including historical context for Dior's life. Whether it was a beautiful description of his childhood home in Normandy, or the glitter of the Paris art scene, or the reality of Nazi-occupied France, I felt like I understood what influenced Dior. Being American, I'm pretty terrible at remembering all the history I learned in school, so I appreciated the author providing so much background. There were even long discussions about the world of fashion magazines like Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, and how they impacted fashion design.

After reading this book, I'm considering including others like it in my rotation of reading material. It's hard not to be inspired by famous designers, no matter their particular aesthetic. One negative word about this Dior book in particular; it was translated from the French publication, and as such there are quite a few errors, mostly in misplaced punctuation. Normally that kind of thing would drive me bonkers, but I enjoyed the content so much that I could forgive these mistakes.

What about you, have you read any books about particular fashion designers? Or do you think there isn't much place for that sort of high fashion among us mere mortals? Inquiring minds want to know!

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Fall sewing plans

This summer has been unusually cool for Indiana, so it hasn't been hard to turn my thoughts to fall sewing (except for the last two weeks, it's suddenly 90 degrees again!). I'm wrapping up everything I had planned for the summer so why not?

If you recall, I used Sarai's (from Colette Patterns) Wardrobe Architect series to develop a spring color scheme and silhouette preference. It taught me a TON about my own style and I was excited to go through a similar process for the fall (images from my Wardrobe Architect Pinterest board).

My fall colors are the same as spring, except I eliminated pale pink (a nearly neutral) and a more bold coral (a statement color). Pale pink is a color I can only pull off with a tan, and bold colors are hard for me to get behind in the winter for some reason. Probably because winter is depressing. I want to limit my palette so that it's easy to layer without a lot of competing/clashing colors.

Silhouettes were a little harder. Fall/winter requires so many layers that it was difficult for me to envision and choose the proper proportions. Did I mention I usually hate cold-weather clothing? I'm pretty particular about long sleeves and sweaters and don't like feeling constricted. But I hate being cold. Honestly, the above photo is just kind of my rough go at it. Footwear can also play a huge part in silhouette, and in the fall/winter the weather usually dictates what goes on my feet. I often start at the bottom and dress my way up!

Once I had my silhouettes worked out, I went through my closet and took stock of what I have already that worked. I picked a random number of items from each category that seemed ideal, then I looked for holes so I could decide what to sew.

In general, I need skinny jeans, warm dresses, and long-sleeved tops that I'll actually wear. Once I knew which pieces I needed, I could go through my patterns and plug in styles and fabrics. (Click the photo to make it bigger.)

wardrobe architect

wardrobe architect

I'm sure this all looks very ambitious! But that's what I said in the spring and I managed to get most of my items done. I am worried about the three pairs of jeans I've given myself to sew...not scared of sewing them, but worried that my machine won't deal. It may not be able to do fancy topstitching but I think it can manage general construction. In the meantime I'll be daydreaming about a vintage Singer 15-91 (more on that coming soon!!).

Soon to be jeans!

Soon to be dresses!

As I look over these plans, I'm a little concerned about overall warmth. Last year we experienced record-breaking cold with temperatures going well below zero. Like, don't leave your house kind of cold. I've got one or two wool knits in my stash and some sweatshirt fleece; the rest is medium weight cotton knits. Any other recommendations for winter fabrics? I hate defaulting to a big ugly sweatshirt just because I can't put together a "real" outfit.

I'm sure my plans will evolve over the season (for example, I already found a new pattern I can't live without). What about you, have you started planning for fall? For my friends in the Southern Hemisphere, are you ready to be done with your cold weather?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Project Runway rehash!

Normally red carpet episodes are super fun for me to watch. Sadly, Heidi has a way of spoiling things and she posted photos of herself on Instagram wearing the winning dress AND tagged the winning designer. So without any mystery about the winner, this episode kind of dragged for me. Curse you Heidi!

Spoilers ahead...(see Heidi, this is called a spoiler alert).

Highlight: You know why Kini gets done so quickly? Because he doesn't waffle on his design. Now that I think about it, why do so many designers waste time doing nothing? They go into this knowing that the setting is intimidating, yet they still can't believe in themselves enough to commit.

Heidi is terrifying. She's SO nice and vanilla as a judge on America's Got Talent, but on this show she scares the crap out of everyone except Tim.

Lowlight: It aggravates me when designers complain about working with new (to them) materials, especially when they've been to Mood (twice!) and had complete reign over their choices. If you're a fashion designer, I think you should have at least slight experience with as many fabrics as you can. C'mon, this is Project Runway, you KNOW there will be at least one red carpet challenge! And if you're not comfortable with satin or charmeuse or whatever, use a double knit like Kini.

Sandhya getting all that extra, I'm glad it came to nothing since she was safe. I don't know if I can blame her for what she did, but I don't think I would have done it.

What does it say about this season that Alexander sent down a model with her butt hanging out, and he was safe?

Best garment: Kini's was my favorite but even that one didn't blow me away. None of them did, really, when you think about some of the other red carpet dresses that have appeared on this show before.

I think Fade pulled out a great look after it was looking kind of drab before. If it had been a different color it would have been a stunner.

Worst garment: So many. Besides the obvious bottom three that didn't finish or execute anything wearable, I didn't like Amanda's. Too Cleopatra for me and the beading looked sloppy.

Best line of the night: "Wksahfk jsnskajd aslkjdf klsjdfhg askdjf" --Heidi speaking German with Fade.

This episode really highlighted the problem with this season. These designers are very narrow-minded and apparently don't have the ability to make it work. Given a second chance at Mood, Kristine did not simply buy lining for her first see-through dress, and Korina still went with green. I don't know if it's fear/pressure or a lack of confidence, but it's not fun to watch. We waited almost a year for a new season and THIS is it?

Next week: Another team/pairs challenge? Blah.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Tribal Print Knit Romper

I decided that one romper wasn't enough. Whether you call it a jumpsuit, romper or playsuit, you have to admit that there's something appealing about one-stop dressing. That's why we all love dresses, right? So why not up the practicality and dive into rompers? I know what you're thinking...but where does one wear a playsuit? A playground, of course!

Although you should probably have a small person with you, otherwise you're one of those creepers that I avoid when we go to the park.

The pattern for this romper is Simplicity 1355, View D.

I originally wanted to make View A (top left) with shorts, but after seeing a bunch of cute versions of View A on Pattern Review, I took the plunge. Obviously, this view isn't terribly bra-friendly, but oh well. It's fun. And yes, I own those Strap Perfect doohickeys that convert any bra to a racerback.

ethnic romper

The fabric is a cotton/rayon/spandex knit from Girl Charlee, and I ordered it specifically for this purpose (don't you love when that works out?). This pattern is meant for woven fabrics, so I made some adjustments since I was sewing a knit:
  • finished the armholes with a single-turned hem instead of bias tape
  • cut a smaller size (XXS for the bodice and XS for the shorts)
  • omitted the pockets
  • used store-bought cording for the drawstring (from the jewelry section at Jo-Ann's)

Unfortunately, I had to sew most of this on my sewing machine instead of my serger. The front and back keyholes and the underarms all needed single-turned hems, the center front and center back seams required the seam allowances be open (and not serged), and the casings for the neckline needed to be sewn on a regular machine. The fabric was NOT pleasant to sew that way, so I kind of hated this whole thing while it was in progress. But once it was done, I LOVED it and might have worn it three two and half days in a row. You cannot beat a knit romper for comfort!

ethnic romper
I adore the back!

One major change I made was to add a middle band with a drawstring, resulting in a more drop-waist style. Frankly, I hate waistlines at my natural waistline. I think a drop-waist is more forgiving since it doesn't expand when your tummy expands, and for me it's more comfortable. I did remove a few inches from the waist portion of the shorts since they're sitting lower on my body than intended.

I'm super proud of the pattern-matching on this romper. Can you find the center-front seam on the bodice?

The middle portion is a black cotton/spandex knit, double-layered so it creates a casing. I interfaced the center front and then sewed two buttonholes for the drawstring. Bathroom visits are kind of a pain with TWO drawstrings (this one and the neckline) but meh. I've gotten over it.

Sometimes when you play hard, you pop stitches, which I apparently did during this photoshoot.

I know summer is coming to a close for half the world, but I encourage anyone who hasn't tried a romper to DO IT! Sometimes trendy sewing is just as rewarding as making those long-lasting navy pencil skirts. And c'mon, don't we all have a playground-loving kid hiding inside us?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

10 Tips to Build a Better T-Shirt

After having so much fun with my Knit Finishes series, I knew I wanted to expand it with some tips for sewing t-shirts.

sewing a tshirt

I had the opportunity to write just such a guest post for Sew Mama Sew, which appeared last Friday. I cover things like fitting the shoulders, understanding ease, and knowing your stitches. Go HERE to check it out! Thanks to SMS for having me and I hope you find the tips useful!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Project Runway rehash!

I had to pause this episode a ton while watching it, so I apologize if I missed something awesome. My daughter kept climbing in my lap and giving me kisses, so I think it was worth it! :)

Spoilers ahead...

Highlight: I made myself laugh when Tim came up behind Hernan for his critique and I thought it was Sandhya.

Kini finishing two hours early on the first day was I guess he didn't offer to help anyone?

Another week and another outfit I love on Heidi.

Lowlight: I thought it was petty that Amanda and Hernan assumed that Sandhya was trying to sabotage them. Really? Does she seem like a devious person? I kind of hate the show for giving her the power to choose everyone's suits...people already disliked her. Perhaps this was a lesson in why you should always be nice to people? Speaking of which, why is everyone so snippy this season? They're exhibiting behavior that you normally don't see until late in the season.

Best garment: Samantha gets passed over yet again. Not high fashion enough?

This was the first time Fade made something I liked.

I liked Alexander's also. I'm glad he pulled himself out of his tailspin from last week. I prefer to see people improve, rather than fall in on themselves.

Worst garment: Someone give Amanda a time machine and take her away from here!! I don't know what I hated more, the outfit she made for her model or the one she was wearing on the runway. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE JUDGES?!

I was kind of blah on Christine's until I saw the tape on the hem. Yikes!

Best line of the night: "Watch the boobage." --Tim

I am over this season already. The judges are nuts. The contestants are mean. Seriously, who is worth rooting for at this point?

Next week: Red carpet! Double auff'ing! Please redeem yourself show!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Simplicity 2443 in Pink Piqué

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about my frustration with size charts, in connection with a muslin I was making for Simplicity 2443. I'm back today with the completed dress!

I think I should change the name of my blog to "110 Pink Creations".

I received Simplicity 2443 as part of a pattern pyramid giveaway (it's out of print, sorry!). I kinda like the jacket but I LOVE the dress (on the envelope anyway, more on that in a second). Someday my husband will come home from work to find me buried under a mountain of knit dress patterns that finally overwhelmed me.

I'd like to find a TNT racerback knit dress pattern, and I was hoping that this would be it. It might be. I finished this a month ago and I'm still not sure. After finishing my muslin, there were a few problems. First, the neckline was WAY lower than it appeared on the model on the envelope. Second, cutting according to the size chart (12) it came out much too big (thus the ranting post about size charts).

For my final version, I cut a size 8 in the bodice, a size 6 waistband and a size 6 skirt. My measurements are 33"-27"-37". The straps were shortened 1 1/2" on both the front and back (I'm 5'4"). This raised both necklines considerably and also made the sides of the bodice fit differently.

Because I shortened the straps so much, I think the overall proportions of the dress are slightly off, though of course it looks fine in these photos. The waistband is slightly higher than where my natural waist is located. I normally like my dresses hemmed to just-above-knee length, but that looked weird when I pinned it. The longer skirt helped with the proportion issues.

The fabric used for the straps and center panel is an interlock that I got, of all places, from Wal-Mart. The rest of the dress is a cotton piqué knit from Mood (sold out, but this appears to be the lightweight version?). Piqué can apparently be a woven fabric also, but my experience with it has always been in a knit. It's the type of material used for men's polo shirts. This was my first time buying/sewing with it, and it was comparable to a heavy weight waffle/thermal knit. I have some of this fabric left over and I'd really like to make a tennis skirt with it.

I'm glad I used the interlock for some subtle visual breakup (it was also easier to sew). I only had enough for the exterior panels, so the facings are piqué. This dress calls for in-seam pockets, which are basically useless when made in a knit. I used a woven quilting cotton instead, making sure that it had a similar color scheme so you couldn't see them through the skirt. The knit is opaque, but I wanted to make sure the pockets didn't look stupid in case you saw a peek of the fabric.

All things considered, this was a faster, easier sew than it appears at first glance. The instructions are excellent, and there are smart drafting choices like a smaller seam allowance for the straps. The straps take the longest, of course, but both times I sewed them (the muslin and the real dress) I managed it without ANY tucks/puckers/seam ripping. For me, that's GREAT. My advice is to go slowly, follow the directions in the pattern (i.e. baste first then sew) and to do it in two parts. I pinned the back together and sewed it, took it off the machine and checked it. Then I pinned the front together and sewed it. That way I could use a lot of pins, but it didn't feel like I had this monster porcupine dress to maneuver around the machine. Also consider changing the order of construction, sewing the straps to the bodice before assembling the rest of the dress. It's just easier to deal with when there is less fabric to manhandle.

The only part I don't like about this pattern is that the straps aren't serged to the dress (no way Jose) and the insides look crummy. What a stupid thing to not like, but there it is!

The hem was finished on my coverstitch machine, which I continue to fall more and more in love with every time I use it.

I don't have a hankering to sew this again anytime soon, though I can see it happening (with a slightly longer bodice) next summer. I a...l...m...o...s...t feel like this dress is too fancy for a weekday, but you may disagree. Let's just say that I've only worn it to church and I got makeup on it within 10 minutes. Normally lighter colors scare me since I have 1 toddler and 3 pets that enjoy making messes. What do you think? Too dressy for the grocery store? Oh and also, while wearing this someone asked me if I was in high school, so maybe it looks young? (Seriously, high school?!)