Friday, October 17, 2014

Project Runway rehash!

Tim Gunn was on Sesame Street this week. It was awesome. He played a character named Bill Ding (although Elmo kept calling him Mr. Gunn, which was hilarious) and he was some sort of architecture critic. He was judging houses that the Three Little Pigs were building, which of course kept getting blown down by the Big Bad Wolf. Every time the Wolf blew down a house, Tim ended up completely disheveled. Yes, friends, Tim Gunn had his hair askew on national television.

I couldn't find a photo online so you'll have to accept a picture of my TV. And yes, I DVR Sesame Street. Don't judge.

Spoilers ahead...

Highlight: Rome! Beautiful, in such a strange way. So many of the places they visited had a dark and deadly past, despite being feats of  architecture for that time period.

No challenges! No eliminations! Wow, that was refreshing.

Lowlight: I HATE how little time they have to get ready for Fashion Week. Five weeks? Didn't contestants on older seasons get something like 12 weeks? It also didn't seem fair that Kini got his visit from Tim weeks before Sean did.

Best mini-collection: I was crazy about Kini's when I saw it in progress, but then Sean's ended up being so much cooler. I like the fringe, and his silhouettes are interesting and innovative. Kini has a chance if he changes up his styling. My husband and I both were appalled by the amount of eye shadow they were applying during Kini's makeup consultation.

Worst mini-collection: I was meh on both Amanda and Char. I don't think either of them can/will win. There were pieces I liked (this tunic jacket ugggghh WANT), but the collections weren't wow-ing me. I think Char's final show will be totally haphazard.

Best line of the night: "Nina's not the dictator of fashion, she can't tell me what to do." --Sean

I'm excited to see the collections, but sad for Kini that he's in such a bad place right before Fashion Week. I know they're being hard on him because the judges are rooting for him to win. But I almost died when they flippantly told him to lose the coat. My heart! I can't even imagine how many hours went into that thing.

For once, I don't hate any of the designers in the finale. I think it's clearly a race between Kini and Sean. Simplicity versus tailoring. Either could win, based on whatever whims the judges feel like indulging that day. Your thoughts? Are you rooting for someone in particular?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Grey and White Stripe Renfrew

How is it possible that I've only made two Renfrews? You can see my first one here. I made today's version a few weeks (months?!) ago, and I've been wearing my two constantly. Like, never-make-it-to-the-hanger-straight-out-of-the-wash-onto-my-body kind of stuff.

For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to take photos after running errands in the rain. Sorry I look like a wet dog. Also, growing out bangs sucks.

Anyway! The fabric I used is a cotton/spandex knit from Girl Charlee. I can't find it online anymore--sorry! It's a good weight, though I realized when I was finished that it's not completely opaque. As long as I leave the neon blue nude bra, we're cool.


This is a size 4, with short sleeves and a V-neck. On my first version, I removed quite a wedge from center-back using this tutorial. I got it in my brain that I could stand to remove a bit more (I have pretty narrow shoulders) so I took another wedge out. I think that was overdoing it, and it's a little tight across the back. It looks fine in these photos, but the first shirt is much more comfortable in terms of movement.

I'm always impressed by what a quick sew the Renfrew manages to be. It usually takes me 2 days (one to cut, one to sew) but that is fast by my standards. The only fiddly bit with this view is the V-neck, but I think it's worth it for that extra touch of femininity. One tip for the V-neck: use a scrap piece of knit interfacing (I got mine at Jo-Ann's) on the point of the V (on the shirt bodice) and it will keep your fabric from stretching all crazy. I also recommend basting the neck binding around the point before serging.

This wasn't on purpose, but I did manage to match the stripes on the bodice and sleeve.

...y'know, on one side only. Le sigh. Oh wait, I don't care! Sometimes it's nice not being terribly picky.

What else is there to say? I love this pattern and I've traced off the 3/4-length sleeve and scoop-neck bodice to make a few for fall/winter.

We're halfway through October, have you picked out a Fear Fabric yet? You could win a $35 gift card to Girl Charlee!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Vintage Pressing Tools

Proper sewing seems to require a lot of tools. One that I've managed to live without is a clapper. Most of the clothing I make is loose in silhouette, or a knit. Tailoring isn't something I do on a regular basis. But conquering jeans has been on my to-do list for quite some time, and I know from my experience with hemming jeans that it was about time I got a clapper.

My five year wedding anniversary was last week. My husband and I usually stick to the traditional gifts (paper, cotton, leather and flowers so far). Five years is wood. So guess what I casually suggested he get me? Along with a clapper, I also mentioned a wood tailor's board (like this one from Jo-Ann's). Being the amazing gift-giver that he is, my husband totally floored me with what he ended up buying.

Not just pressing tools, VINTAGE pressing tools! Yeah, I was drooling. 

He found both of these items on eBay. Even though they're used, both look almost new, especially the pressing board. I love love love the box and instruction booklet that it came in, they're so cool!

Armed with these tools, I might be inspired enough to make another wool coat, even though I kind of swore them off after my last experience. Maybe an Albion for me?

Do you have any vintage tools? Honestly, I never even thought of checking eBay for this kind of thing, random finds at garage sales are more my speed.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Second Annual Fear Fabric Challenge!

Today I'm SO excited to announce the Second Annual Fear Fabric Challenge! If you remember last year, I challenged my readers and fellows bloggers to use the month of October to tackle a scary fabric. What's that one textile that makes you quiver in your boots? What would you hesitate to take even for free? Last year we had some amazing entries, including lace, leather, brocade, and those slinky silky fabrics we all hate. This year, I'm kicking it up a notch, and there will be a fantastic PRIZE for one lucky participant! You want more details, right? Well read on!

It's oh-so-easy to participate. All you have to do is pick a fabric that scares you, and sew something with it! You're the best judge as to what qualifies as "scary" to you. You can sew a garment, a bag, home dec, or even a Halloween costume. Go crazy! Just have a photo of your item ready by October 31st.

To submit your entry, please join the Flickr group and upload ONE photo there. Not on Flickr? No worries, email me your photo and I can add it for you. One person will be RANDOMLY SELECTED from the Flickr group to receive a $35 gift certificate to Girl Charlee! Woohoo!

Girl Charlee offers knits, specialty woven fabrics, and there is even some talk on their Facebook page about faux fur and leather coming soon. I should basically buy stock in their company since they take all my money! They also offer a 10% discount on orders for new customers, and free shipping in the contiguous United States for orders over $99.

At the end of the month, I will be posting my Fear Fabric project, made with this crochet lace from Girl Charlee:

It's super cool, but the open-work knitting totally scares me! Let's hope I can conquer my fear, and also provide some tips for working with this type of fabric. There will also be some fabulous ladies participating on their blogs as well!

Andrea from Four Square Walls
Jane from Handmade Jane
Nakisha from Sew Crafty Chemist
Shannon from Shanni Loves

So get your imagination working and pull out that stash fabric that has been intimidating you for so long. I promise you will learn something, and hey, you might even win a gift card! To recap:

  • Sew an item using a fabric that scares you (garment, home dec, bag, whatever as long as it's sewn)
  • Take a photo and either upload to the Flickr group OR email to me for upload (sew110creations (at) gmail (dot) com). Upload only 1 photo please. Emailing me your photo gives me permission to add it to the Flickr group.
  • One person will be randomly selected to win the $35 e-gift card to Girl Charlee Fabrics
  • Optional: link to your blog in the comments of your Flickr photo

Questions? Email me or leave a comment on this post. In fact, comment anyway so I can see who is playing along! I can't wait to see what everyone makes!

Thank you to everyone who commented on my last post. We're finally home from the hospital and looking forward to the next steps of recovery. If you're so inclined, continued prayers are always appreciated!

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.