Monday, September 29, 2014

Important Things

"It's funny what things you think are important until they aren't anymore."

So says my Dad just as I sit down to write this post. He's talking about his own job, his own to-do list that he has put on hold while my life feels upside down. But he's right, and his words apply to me. If you saw the Fabric Mart blog, then you know that I had to pull out of the Fabricista competition. Even now I struggle to find the words, to balance information with privacy. Please, bear with me.

Friday night, just as I finished up the muslin for my little red dress, my husband came in the house complaining of a sudden terrible headache. Fast forward through two ERs, one helicopter, four brain scans, and one night sleeping in a waiting room (me, not him) and we finally had some answers.

He will be okay, eventually. It turned out to be less serious than we initially thought (though still serious). My husband is the most healthy and active person I know, not to even mention his personal willpower, and he WILL bounce back from this.

But until then, some things aren't as important. I will have one additional post this week or next about a long-planned October event, but after that no promises.

Meanwhile, do me a favor and hug your loved ones. Be nicer to them. Don't wait for a reminder.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Project Runway rehash!

Guess who made it to the next round of the Fabric Mart Fabricista Challenge? Me!! Thank you so much to everyone who voted for me. Next week's challenge is to create the perfect little red many possibilities! Don't worry, I won't be making anything like the red number Char whipped up last night.

Spoilers ahead...

Highlight: I don't know if it was editing, or if these designers somehow grew a soul, but FINALLY we had a "real woman" challenge where nobody complained about their model. I mean, the designers chose who to approach, which helped I'm sure.

Lowlight: So much second-hand embarrassment while the designers were in the park. How horrible. And what about Sean rejecting the woman who was too short? Cold. I don't know if I'm sad about this or not, but it was too bad that it was a makeover challenge and nobody seemed to need one. A professional ballerina?? C'mon!

Best garment: I don't like Korina. She's becoming a "one-way monkey" as Dmitry would say. Haven't we seen this exact jacket before? Anyway, let's pretend I've never seen her jackets, I liked it and thought the dress was cute. AB has a dress with a pleated skirt like that, and I've always wanted one for myself. Zac is right, it's very difficult to do (impossible in polyester) so it is impressive that she could accomplish that in her time frame. But if she becomes even more insufferable I might have to fast forward through her face.

Worst garment: Alexander's definitely seemed like the worst, although I can't forgive Amanda for showing off a random stranger's butt. TOO SHORT!

Best line of the night: "This is one of the most hideous things I've ever seen in my existence." --Tim

I wonder what would have happened if Alexander had finished his ugly garment. I think Char might have gone home instead, because they mostly slammed him for how unfinished it was. About the whole zipper thing: if it had happened to any one of the other designers they would have done the same thing. They would have wanted a bit of grace or time to fix it. And does anyone want to stay in the competition because Char's model broke a zipper? Isn't that a little petty? What do I know, right!?

Next week: More unconventional team nonsense.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fabricista Fashion Challenge Week 3: Inspired by RTW

Wow did I love this challenge! Our week 3 objective was to select one of our favorite ready-to-wear items and create a pattern from it, then to sew a duplicate garment. Copying RTW is one of my favorite things to do, so obvs when I got this challenge I was stoked. My first thought was to replicate a J. Crew sweatshirt that I love, but my husband said "uhhh...didn't you just make a sweatshirt last week?" Touché. Instead, I decided on a dress from Target that I bought about 3 years ago. (Head over to the Fabric Mart blog to see the rest of this week's entries.)

Remember my obsession with the Make It Perfect Coastal Breeze dress? It started from here. I've always wanted to duplicate this garment, so I was pretty happy that this was our week 3 challenge. This dress does have a secret, though: it's a maternity dress!

I don't think you can tell just by looking at it. And I've worn it a lot since AB was born 2 1/2 years ago, so, yeah. I couldn't bear to pack it up! There are a few details that I particularly like, including a shirred waistband, a built-in modesty panel, and the cowl neckline. The fabric is also heavy enough that I can wear it with leggings well into the fall and winter (with a coat).

For the Fabric Mart contest, we were asked to write a blog post detailing how we created our pattern. I've read and own Steffani Lincecum's book on the rub-off method (review here) and I've used the method successfully in the past. However, I also know from experience that you can't really rub-off a cowl neck (proof). It's also a poor method for gathered fabrics since you have to stretch them out, and inevitably you'll have inaccuracies. I ended up using a combination of rub-off techniques, measuring, pattern-hacking, and straight guessing!

A toddler who steals your stuff is optional.

I started with the back since it's the most simple piece, and I pulled out my MIP pattern to compare. I've already altered this pattern so it fits my narrow shoulders and I wanted to start with something I knew. I traced a new copy and then altered it to more closely resemble the base dress (shortened the sleeve, narrowed the bodice, and shortened the bodice).

Next, I traced the shape of the underarm, sleeve, and shoulder onto a new piece of paper to start drafting the front. It's important that the underarm of the front and back are the same length, and the shoulder seams are close to the same (you can get away with easing the front to the back just a little). 

Then it was time to shape the cowl, and things got tricky. I pulled out McCall's 6752 which has a draped neckline, though to less of a degree than I needed. I basically copied the shape over with extra cowl height (or depth, depending on how you look at it).

At this point I made a muslin of the bodice, and thank goodness I did! It looked terrible. The neckline was much closer to a boat neck than a beautiful cowl. After staring at it a while and consulting the McCall's pattern, it seemed that I needed more width across the chest. I cut my muslin vertically at CF and spread it out over my chest. Much better. I went back to my pattern and added 3 inches in CF (on the fold, so 6") then made another muslin to confirm my changes. The bodice was done!

On to the shirring! Confession: I've never shirred anything before, though I have elastic thread on hand. I've read about it but refreshed my memory with this tutorial from Made By Rae. I hand-wound the bobbin and got to work on some tests. Miraculously I had no issues and found a ratio of about 2:1 worked. In other words, I shirred 5" of fabric and when it was shrunk to 2.5" it looked like my inspiration dress. I measured the finished dimensions of the shirred front and back, doubled the width, and added two seam allowances. I measured the height of the WB and noted the amount of rows of shirring and distance between them, then added two seam allowances. Waistband done!

The skirt was tricky. I have zero experience with maternity sewing since I didn't learn how to sew until after AB was born. A few quick measurements showed me that the front of the skirt was 10 inches wider at the hem than the back of the skirt. You need the extra width to accommodate a growing belly. At this point, I had a choice to forget all about the maternity aspect and draft the front to match the back (that's how the Coastal Breeze is drafted, for example) or to go ahead and try to figure it out. I decided to figure it out. I love how the front drapes and I wanted to be able to recreate that. Everyone needs a little help hiding a big lunch now and then!

Here was the problem: the top of the skirt front and back seemed to be the same width (it was hard to tell exactly since they're gathered into the waistband). But the hem width was 10" different. This meant that the front skirt panel had an A-line shape, and the back seemed to be a rectangle. Obviously, the side seams were the same length. I did a few small-scale tests to see if it was at all possible to sew an A shape to a rectangle, and it worked out okay...the bigger the difference between the hems, the bigger the difference between the side seam lengths. I know there's some maths involved here, but y'know...maths. I got an A in Geometry but I didn't learn a damn thing. I ended up laying out three or four measuring tapes on the floor and arranging them until I had a shape that worked.

I've been told I have the handwriting of a 4th grade boy.

Last but not least, the hem is tiered (see collage photo above). The pieces are rectangles sewn together to the bottom of the skirt panels. I measured them (front and back are different by 10" as mentioned above) and added seam allowances. I've always loved the hem on this dress because it's heavy. The bottom tier has a 3" hem allowance!

Did I say the hem was last? I lied. The modesty panels inside the bodice also needed drafted. There is both a front and back. I hate wearing camis with dresses because there's nothing to tuck them in to, so they always ride up. I love this panel because it eliminates the need for a cami, plus you can bend over without fear of the cowl neck draping and showing off your ladies. I drafted these pieces by placing paper on top and sketching around the edges, then added seam allowances. I sketched them in roughly by eye...not the most accurate choice, but fast, and I do it often enough to be halfway confident. Normally I prefer to put the garment on top of the paper, but since this piece is attached to the outside bodice, it wasn't really possible.

It took me basically a whole day to draft the pattern for this dress, working on and off with my 2 year old adding her special brand of help. It took another half a day to draft the cutting layout and write an order of construction.

Cutting layout

Construction order

Luckily I had stash fabric that was perfect for this dress. It's a cotton/rayon/spandex knit that I already had earmarked for a dress of some sort. I chose it because the weight and feel was very close to the original. I needed a fabric with weight for a good cowl, and something sturdy enough to withstand shirring. I was very pleased with how this fabric held up, and c'mon, it's freaking gorgeous! It's from Girl Charlee but since I've had it a's sold out, sorry!

With all the planning done, I sewed like a madwoman! As expected, the shirring took quite some time, since you have to hand-wind the bobbin, and I sewed 5 rows basically a full 60 inches. Then you have to pull the threads to gather it. Phew! I love the effect, but it will be a while before I try it again. After a few days of hard work, I had my completed dress!

The seams are sewn on my serger, and the hems are coverstitched. The back neckline is finished with French binding, matching the inspiration dress (I wrote a tutorial on French binding here).

The cowl edge is serged. The modesty panel is sewn to the waistline at the bottom, and handsewn into the ditch of the shoulder seam at the top. Wherever possible, I matched the finishing of the original dress, including stabilizing the waistline seam with clear elastic.

Copying this dress was an amazing challenge, and I can't tell you how awesome it feels to be wearing an exact replica of something I've loved for a long time. I learned a lot, tried some new things, and now I have a beautiful dress to show for it! If you like what I've done, I'd love it if you trekked over to the Fabric Mart blog and voted for me. Voting opens Wednesday and closes Thursday night, with the winner announced Friday.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Project Runway rehash!

Hooray! I made it through to the next round of the Fabric Mart Fabricista Fashion Challenge! The winner of this week's challenge, and rightly so, was Ann of Sew Baby. What a knockout dress she made! If you've read through the third challenge, you might notice that it's a LOT of work (drafting a pattern and writing a blog post about our process). So please forgive me if this rehash is a bit short! I'm also nursing a cold that my daughter so generously shared with me. Time to make it work!

Spoilers ahead...

Highlight: I enjoyed this challenge more than I probably should have. I loved American Girls when I was growing up (Samantha rules!) and I've even read some of my old books to AB. My sister was the only one who had a doll (Molly) which she generously gifted to AB. And then Molly retired and doubled in value. Ha! Sorry sis, but we envied your doll and this makes up for it.

Lowlight: I was worried that the models aka tweens would be hard to work with, but they seemed helpful. Even though I have a child it still made me nervous thinking about working with a strange kid.

Best garment: Oh Kini. I want that coat SO BAD. Adorable. And being an expert on Samantha, it totally fits with her story.

Worst garment: I was SO nervous when Sandhya's came out. I told my husband that if the judges liked her circus outfit, then I'd have to quit watching the show forever. Not only did they finally see how ridiculous her design was, she was eliminated!

Best line of the night: Anything anyone said about Sandhya's onesie.

I was surprised that Emily was in the bottom and I can't see her as being long for this show. Nina has it out for her. It's going to get pretty tough moving forward with eliminations.

Next week: *gasp* real women! And probably a rant from me. Unless you're dressing a robot, we're all real. GAH! It's starting already :)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fabricista Fashion Challenge Week 2: It's All About Fit

Whooooooa Nelly, if there's anything that scares me about sewing (and probably everyone else!) it's fit. So last week when this challenge was announced, I was alternately excited about winning the first challenge and shaking in my boots looking ahead. To check out all of the entries for this week and to VOTE, click over to the Fabric Mart blog.

Victory Patterns

This week we were challenged to make any garment we wanted, but it had to be in a solid color and it had to fit well. I had to purchase both of my fabrics (Jo-Ann's), which was a bummer, but I don't keep a lot of solids on hand. The tunic is the Lola from Victory Patterns, and is made from pink cotton/poly interlock, and the leggings are a poly/spandex performance knit. I normally wouldn't make leggings from polyester, but I wanted this color and it needed spandex, so there ya go.

You may recall a similar Lola that I made earlier this year. If you look at that one (the fabric is exactly the same except a different color) it looks baggy in places. I also had to sew in a weird dart/wedge in the back. I pinched out fabric in a bunch of places in the teal version, and then transferred those adjustments to my paper pattern. I had to retrace a few pieces completely because the changes were so drastic. I still want to be able to make this in sweatshirt fleece so I kept both versions of the pattern. I did omit the pockets.

I'm not crazy about these photos, but unfortunately it started raining JUST as I finished the leggings and didn't quit for the rest of the day. The next day was totally overcast and dreary. Fall is here peeps and it sucks.

The leggings are made from McCall's 6173, and I think this is my fourth version? One is unblogged in a crazy fun print, and you can see the others here and here. I've actually traced this pattern onto sturdy paper because I've finally worked out the kinks on fit. With a serger and coverstitch machine this one takes no time at all to sew, it's a great TNT for me.

I'm very happy with the adjustments I made to remove all the bagginess (more details are on the FM blog). If not for this challenge I probably would have just lived with it and grumbled internally. Now I have a second pattern for stretchier fabrics like interlock and ponte. I still have one Lola planned for this fall (navy and grey colorblocked) so look out for that! For now, I'm very happy with yet another pink and grey outfit! You have until Friday at 3am EST to vote, if you like my outfit I'd appreciate a vote for me!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Project Runway rehash!

Holy pintucks Batman! I won the first round of the Fabricista Fashion Challenge! If you voted for me, THANK YOU! I tell you what, after going through a mere week of this kind of thing, I have a LOT more sympathy for the Project Runway designers. I hear myself repeating all kinds of cliches in my head while working, it's quite sad really ("It's too safe...I need to stick with my vision...I could be out"). But luckily for me, it all came together and I had a winning look! Hooray! If only there was immunity for me...

Spoilers ahead...

Highlight: This was certainly the best runway show so far. Perhaps these are secretly all avant-garde designers deep inside? I also enjoyed Tim's pensive looks during the critiques, he's always so deep in thought!

Lowlight: I was a little confused why everyone was using glue. Isn't most glue somewhat water-soluble? I've never sewn with vinyl, is glue necessary?

I felt pretty badly for the models. Next time you're caught in a rainstorm, try walking to your car and looking fierce at the same time.

Best garment: Oh. My. Word. Sean deserves all the wins for his amazing dye idea that actually worked. My mouth was hanging open the whole time his model was walking.

I also loved Kini's living umbrella. So cool.

Worst garment: Sandyha's was just way too much. Death by pinwheel. I also didn't like Korina's, I agreed with the guest judge that it was definitely a Halloween costume.

Best line of the night: "This is nothing if not the season of the vagina." --Tim

At the beginning of the episode, I said to myself "oh, Fade is still here". I'd totally forgotten about him, and apparently this was a premonition. Thank goodness Kini and Sean are double winners, if Kini lost to Sean again there might have been some punches thrown. They both deserved their wins.

Next week: I obsess about fit for the FM contest, and the PR designers make doll clothes. I'm not sure which is worse!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Fabricista Fashion Challenge Week 1: Scout Woven Tee

Woohoo the week one entries are up on the Fabric Mart blog! Voting is open until the end of Thursday. In case you missed it, the first challenge was to take the Grainline Studios Scout Woven Tee pattern and ramp it up into something special. Jen from Grainline is a guest judge this challenge! No pressure, right?

Full disclosure: we were all sent the pattern for free. I was pretty excited about this challenge. It made me feel more comfortable knowing we would all be working from the same starting point and just adding our own twists. Plus, it's an easy sew, which left plenty of time for whatever customizations we wanted.

The first thing I did was rifle through my stash to see what I had that worked. I don't stockpile many woven fabrics, and I hardly ever sew woven tops. I also made a trip to Jo-Ann's since the pattern sheet says I needed almost 2 yards for even the smallest sizes. JA had nothing with enough drape (in a solid color in cotton, anyway). After making up a muslin I realized I didn't need all that yardage unless I was cutting self-bias strips, which I had no intention of doing. I ended up going with a grey cotton voile from my stash, bought probably two years ago from I did manage to get the whole top, even with my modifications, from one yard. I made a size 0.

I should take a photo of my muslin...SO BAD! You can't possibly make this top in a fabric with stiffness, you WILL look like a circus tent. There are no darts, no shaping at all. It's like a dart-less Sorbetto with sleeves. If you like this kind of thing, that's cool. It's a great pattern, well-drafted, for this particular look. But it is not something I ever would buy for myself as it's just too loose-fitting.

So what could I do to jazz it up and make it me? I'm also not big into *bling* or too much frou-frou, but I have a RTW dress with pintucks and lace that I absolutely LOVE. I've always wanted to recreate it, so I did! And of course I added PINK, because, duh.

You can read about all the details on the FM blog. The voile, being cotton, was easy to manipulate, but it wasn't without its challenges. Every pin/needle left a hole, so there wasn't much room for mistakes. I had only enough fabric to cut everything once, so when I accidentally made two identical sleeves (instead of one left and one right) there was a little bit of panic. I just tried to keep calm and make it work!

I don't know if I'll ever make this pattern again, as I prefer knit tops. I'm aware that many people have made this in a knit, but I'd rather make a Renfrew if I'm going that route. The only thing I wish I would have done differently is perhaps lowering the neckline, otherwise this top completely fits the plan/vision I had in mind!

If you love this top as much as I do (and why wouldn't you?) hop over to the FM blog and vote for me, I'd appreciate it! And a big thank you to my husband for being a great sounding board about every little detail as it was in progress. Check back Friday for the results of the voting!