Thursday, July 30, 2015

One down, two to go!

This weekend I had the chance to fit my sister for her bridesmaid's dress, and I'm happy to say that her dress is now complete! The changes to the bodice and skirt worked great, and this actually came together pretty fast.

I had a moment of panic when she put on the halfway finished dress for her fitting--how do I fit another person?! But I guess my years of reading sewing books paid off, because my brain instantly shouted "fit from the top down!" First I adjusted her straps, then fit the waist, then checked the hem. 

It's interesting, our whole lives we've been able to wear the same size, but her torso is completely different from mine. I removed a few inches from the bodice because she's (apparently) short-waisted. I learned to not attach the skirt to the bodice until you're sure where the natural waist is...I had to seam rip a stretch stitch. No fun. The hem is a rolled hem done on my serger.

The tail is attached to the inside side-seam.

Despite the lack-luster hanger appeal, this was looking pretty cute on my sister when it was only halfway done. I can't wait to see how all three of them look in action! 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Binding Knits: My New Secret Weapon

A phrase that makes all sewists shudder: knit binding strips. Yes, those curling, twisting, narrow nightmares. The tiny seam allowances that get sucked into your throat plate like a shoestring in a vacuum cleaner. If you're like me and too scared of spray starch (what if it doesn't wash out like magic??) then let me introduce you to my new best friend.

If you've peeked at the bridesmaids' dresses I'm sewing, then you know that the Delphi Dress uses knit binding to finish the armholes and create the straps. I took on the pattern knowing this, and knowing how fiddly binding can be, but I was pleasantly surprised to read some helpful advice within the pattern directions.

Ah ha! Knit interfacing! I've previously used knit interfacing on evil sweater knit hems and to reinforce V-necks but not on binding. However, remember that I'm making three dresses, and there is miles of binding here. Cutting 1 1/2" strips until I turn into an "old wrinkly lady" (my toddler's new favorite name for me, thanks to her dad) did not sound like fun. So, I took to the internet to see if there were any such thing as pre-cut strips, and luckily, there is!

I found this Pellon Easy-Knit Tape on Amazon (affiliate link) for a very reasonable price. It comes in white and black. It's marked "Quilting" but that didn't stop me from ordering it and giving it a try. The back of the box even says "Recommended for stabilizing waistlines, curved necklines, shoulder seams, pockets and gathered seams." I don't know about you, but those all sound like places to use it in garment sewing.

Fusing this tape to a larger chunk of fabric, and then trimming, saved me SO much time. The width of the tape (1 1/2") is exactly what my pattern recommended for binding strips, so I didn't have to measure anything besides length. I simply laid out my fabric, fused, then cut along the edge with my rotary cutter. No marking with a ruler! No measuring over and over! No curling edges! There is stability to the piece and I can sew it on my regular machine without any trouble at all. I can have confidence that the binding is not going to bag out over the course of the wedding.

Dress in-progress

One note: once fused, there is very little stretch down the strip. If you need stretch in your binding, say, along a tight crew neck shirt, don't use this stuff. But it will work for so many knit applications that I'll definitely have some on hand from now on.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Named Patterns Delphi Layered Dress

Warning: sad-faced muslin photos to follow.

Operation Bridesmaid Dresses is in full force! I finished a muslin and now have a more solid direction for the final dresses. Good thing too, since we're about a month away from the wedding!

This is the Named Patterns Delphi Layered Maxi Dress pattern, shortened to about knee length (it's not hemmed). After studying the measurement chart and the finished measurements, I sized down. There is 0 ease across the bust now, rather than the 1" per the chart. Sizing down was definitely the way to go. The underarms would have gaped and ain't nobody want to see that.

That's the only "good" in this muslin. First off, this color is hideous and I'm very happy I only paid a few bucks a yard for it during Girl Charlee's 4th of July sale. It was supposed to be gray, btw, not army poop olive. The final dresses will be different shades of green.

The other issue with this dress is the proportions. The more I looked at it, the more the overlay looked wrong with a knee-length skirt. In its intended design, a maxi, I think the long skirt would balance the top. Right now it looks like I'm wearing two skirts. So, I played around with it and found that belting the overlay looked a whole heck of a lot better.

After a discussion with the bride, I decided that it would be better to ditch the overlay. Underneath of it is a plain fitted bodice, so I will use that pattern piece to essentially line and finish the top. No fluff. I'll also add some fullness to the skirt, since this one is fairly straight up and down and boring. Fuller skirt=formal occasion in my book!

I guess there is one other piece of good news; the back is still as swoon-worthy as I thought it would be.

Now all that's left is the simple task of printing/assembling/tracing/modifying three patterns (including nursing modifications for mine), then cutting and sewing and fitting and finishing. Easy peasy, right? If you have any spare mojo or good vibes laying around, send them my way, please!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Mood Board of the Month: Heat Wave

Summer is here and with a vengeance! In Indiana, we're experiencing record rainstorms and flooding. In between the raindrops we're suffering from suffocating humidity. This month, let's keep the sewing simple and the outfits breathable.

We've got a new color palette this month! Steer away from heavy neutrals like black and go with brown instead. 

// Patterns //
Is there a better summer staple than a tank top and shorts? Try the free Sorbetto top by Colette Patterns, which can be sewn in no time. Pair it with the popular Grainline Maritime Shorts. For work, the new Harwood shirt dress from Sewaholic will be appropriate for work, but sleeveless so you don't melt in the car. Toss a kimono on top (McCall's 7200) to combat that icy AC.

// Fabrics //
The Sorbetto works best with lightweight wovens, like this voile with triangles from Organic Cotton Plus. Elevate the look with shorts in a cotton twill, from Mood. Keep cool in your shirt dress made from Cotton & Steel rayon poplin, with navy diamonds. Your kimono will work with many outfits if it's made from a versatile solid brown rayon from Hart's Fabrics.

This post is not sponsored by any pattern designer or fabric seller. I wish. I just have too much time on my hands and love planning wardrobes! Check out my Mood Board of the Month Pinterest board for all the links to my inspiration. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Rio Racerback Tank and Tee

Having daughters is fun. It means I can sew quick, cute dresses with minimal fabric and maximum fun. And we can all match! (Cue eye roll) (But I'm serious) (Scroll to the end)

Here we have two Rio Racerback dresses, pattern from Peek-a-Boo Pattern Shop (affiliate links). This is the 0-3m size. The floral fabric (The Fabric Fairy, long since sold out) has appeared many times before (mama dress, undies, toddler top) and now baby sister has some too!

"Wrong" side of a triple coverstitch on the hem.

The grey and white chevron (Girl Charlee) has also been a mama dress (the exact same pattern as above...) and I believe it was some jammies for AB, too. Those flawed bargain boxes from GC are the gift that keeps on giving!

"Right" side of a triple coverstitch on the hem.

This was an easy pattern, but on the tiny size I don't think you do yourself any favors by applying the binding in the round. Next time, I'll do it in the flat and save myself some hair pulling. I don't know if you can tell in the photos, but I over-serged one arm binding on the floral dress and almost serged the whole thing off. I'm trying not to be heart-broken over screwing up a project with my favorite fabric. It is just a baby dress, so I think I'll take it easy on myself.

The pattern goes up to size 12, so with two daughters I can see about 1363 of these in my future. What is your go-to summer pattern? I kind of want one of these dresses for myself...

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Bridesmaids' Dresses: The Fabric!

I'm moving along at a snail's pace on these dresses, but hey, at least the fabric is here and washed!

We ended up with three shades of green jersey. From lightest to darkest we have avocado cotton jersey (sold out), green cotton jersey, and olive bamboo jersey. All three are from Nature's Fabrics. Jeanne was wonderful to work with after there wasn't enough yardage for a single color. She picked out a few coordinates, emailed me photos, and got the package out right away once we had decided.

I'm sure jersey isn't at the top of everyone's list for bridesmaids' dresses, but I'm beyond happy that there isn't any polyester involved. I wore a RTW polyester shirtdress last week, and even though I was indoors most of the time, I was sweating like crazy! I can't wait to wear a breathable natural fabric at the wedding.

Next up is gathering measurements, printing the pattern, tracing, and making bodice muslins. Of course, my printer has been acting up, so a run over to Office Depot is in order. A note about Named Patterns; their PDFs come grouped in sizes of two. For example, size 0 and size 2 are in one PDF, size 4 and size 6 in another, etc. Normally this wouldn't be a big deal, but now I'll have to print a few different sizes to cover everyone. And I still have to trace, because the pattern pieces overlap.

Colors in first photo are more true to life.

And a little legal note, I believe that if you're making garments to sell, there are strict rules about purchasing patterns each time, licensing, etc. I am not selling these dresses, I'm simply being reimbursed for cost of materials. I believe that would fall under personal use and not commercial.

I hate it when sewing prep work takes longer than the actual project, but hopefully by this time next week I'll have something to show for it!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The What is this Bird Dress

I write a lot about failure on this blog. I'm not afraid to show off things that just didn't work out for me (or things that I've totally screwed up). It feels like I've been having a lot of fails lately, so I'm excited to show off a project that DID work out. And oh do I love it.

This dress is almost a year in the making. The pattern is self-drafted but is based off of a few different things. One is the Coastal Breeze dress by Make It Perfect patterns (made four times previously, here, here, here and here). It's also influenced by a Target maternity dress that I copied last year for the Fabric Mart Fabricista challenge (here). The skirt is a quarter circle skirt, drafted with the By Hand London circle skirt app. Phew!

As you can tell, I've been playing around with this basic dress for quite a while. The quarter circle skirt is new for this version and I. Love. It. The midi length is a new look for me and was unplanned. I was going to shorten it to knee-length but liked it as-is.

There are a few little things that need changed for the next version (lengthening the bodice and distributing the front gathers better) but I'm so very close to, dare I say it, the prefect dress pattern? Perfect for me anyway!

The fabric is a cotton/poly knit from Nature's Fabrics. I first came across it on a different website and didn't order it, even though I thought it was amazing. When it sold out, I completely regretted not buying. When it showed up at NF I knew I couldn't let it pass me by again. Aside from getting fuzzy all over the first time I washed it (waaaaaah) it's just as lovely as I thought it would be. The "waistband" is a heavy rib knit from The Fabric Fairy (navy sold out, other colors here). I've previously used cotton/spandex knits for this portion, but I'm digging the rib knit here. I did size down slightly to accommodate a stretchier fabric.

I don't think I have any other dresses with quarter circle skirts. It's just the right amount of flair without going overboard. If I ever release this as an actual pattern (!! secret dream !!) I wanted to get further away from my inspirations, which meant modifying the skirt somehow (it's a rectangle in the Coastal Breeze and a odd trapezoid in the RTW dress). I'm so glad I tried a circle skirt because it feels like the right fit for this design.

Because the gathers weren't quite right, there was some weird blousing in the front. It's mostly fixed after I tacked them down to the waistband, which you can see below.

The back neckline is finished with French binding. Looks sooooo RTW and fancy. I wrote a tutorial on this method as part of my Knit Finishes series. Way better than a full facing or a narrow hem.

This dress hugs and skims in all the right places, and it's the first thing I've put on post-baby that made me feel great. A lot of my favorite me-mades still aren't fitting right, and maybe they never will again (UGH). So for now, I'll squeeze out all the happy vibes I can from this major success.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

My Most Important Project--Ever!

I often ask myself, "if I had known how to sew when I got married, would I have made my own wedding dress?" Luckily, self does not have to answer this question for reals, as I imagine it would involve a lot of sleepless nights. So what's one step less important than a wedding dress? How about three bridesmaid's dresses?

One of my sisters (I have two) is getting married next month, and after much debate over dresses I volunteered my services. The matron of honor is already sewing my sister's dress and her own dress, which leaves three dresses for me. Well, three and a half. AB is the flower girl and I'll be making her dress as well. At three years old, she's already an old pro at the flower girl game.

Because I have a newborn, I do have some special requirements for this special occasion dress, mainly that I need to be able to nurse in it. This led me to consider knit dresses, especially since the wedding is outdoors, in August (it will be HOT!). We ended up choosing the Delphi Layered Maxi Dress, from Named Patterns.

It will be shortened to knee-length. My sister's dress (sorry, but I will NOT be showing a picture!) has roses on it with an overlay. We were looking for a dark green knit with roses to coordinate.

Eventually we found this beauty:

Sadly, it's only available from an overseas seller, and would have been upwards of $75 per dress (for only 3 yards per person) with shipping. Price wasn't necessarily the main concern, but that was a lot of money for fabric that we couldn't swatch, that might not even be here on time (yes, I just found it last month!).

Instead, we decided to go with a solid green. We found a lovely bamboo jersey from Nature's Fabrics and I placed the order over the weekend...only to have a problem with it, too. The remaining yardage was in two cuts, and the colors were inconsistent between them. Whomp whomp. So now we're considering different shades of green for each dress.

I already have a great hack in mind for making sure I can nurse in my Delphi dress, so stay tuned for that. I hope this week to finally have the fabric on order, and buy/print/trace the pattern. I've read reviews and it seems the biggest issue is excess ease in the bodice, particularly under the arms. I will certainly muslin the bodices for all of us (myself, my other sister, and the groom's sister). 

I keep reminding myself, it's only three knit dresses! But in truth, I'm looking forward to the challenge and to contributing to my sister's big day in such a special way. And I know we can all agree that the world doesn't need anymore polyester chiffon crowding our thrift stores ;)

Have you ever made a VERY IMPORTANT garment? How did it go? Any words of encouragement for me?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Itty Bitty Baby Shoes

About two days after my due date, I was desperately trying to keep myself busy and my mind off of my discomfort. But an in-depth project wasn't up my alley either. A quick rummage through the kids' room and I couldn't find any baby shoes (until about a week later, then I found a whole box of them). I turned to my favorite resource for children's patterns, Peek-a-Boo Pattern Shop, and bought the Tiny Toes Soft Sole Shoe pattern (affiliate links).

This was definitely the quick, satisfying project that my tired-of-being-pregnant self needed. I think I fall firmly in the middle of the spectrum when it comes to whether or not baby shoes are necessary, but they sure are cute!

Baby H wore these home from the hospital and got lots of compliments. They're getting snug now at 6 weeks.

One day old, heading home

They're made from stretch faux leather from Girl Charlee. This was my first time sewing leather (fake or not) and it was pretty easy. Don't be scared of it! Since it's basically kinda sort of a knit, I used a ballpoint needle and had no trouble.

Since I made the newborn size of these shoes (it goes up to 4T) the small pieces were a bit fiddly, but if you have some patience with them it's a very manageable pattern. I had attempted shoes once before, as one of my first projects, and it didn't go so well. If you have any experience you'll be fine.

I liked this pattern because the shoes are unlined, which means there isn't any hand-sewing seams shut. There is elastic behind the heel and you have to hand-sewn the ends there, but only because there isn't enough slack in the newborn size to get the elastic under the sewing machine. A larger size might not have that issue.

And c'mon, how adorable would these be for a baby shower gift?

For more Peek-a-Boo pattern love, check out the Run n' Play Dress and Romper, out today! Grab it on sale today only. SO. CUTE. (affiliate links)

Newsletter sign up