Jul 132015
 

As I mentioned in my last post, I made seven dresses in like two weeks.  Today I’m going to talk about the second dress, or what is chronologically the first dress I completed.  This one is my second version of McCall’s 6696.  When I made my wearable muslin, I knew I wanted to make two more versions of this dress; one is the one below, out of Art Gallery voile, and the second is a recently completed version with sleeves made from Cotton and Steel tiger print canvas (you can sort of see it behind me in the photos below).  I began this dress in late April at a Chicago-area sewing event, but then I didn’t get to work on it again for a while because I was busy sewing nine gazillion things for my niece.

katarina-roccella-indelible-floret-voile-mccalls-6696-front

I’ve gained some weight since my wearable muslin, so I very unscientifically added some extra fabric to all the seam allowances below the bust (my bust size has remained the same).  The dress turned out a bit too big, but I decided I actually liked it that way.  It was very breezy and perfect for summer weather.  The first day I wore it I had several revelations:  1.  dresses that are slightly too big are pretty comfy, so maybe I should cool it on the fitting quests; 2.  Art Gallery voile is amazingly soft and cool in the heat; 3.  allover printed voile on a dark base is the perfect summer fabric because it makes it possible to not need a lining or slip with this very lightweight fabric.  I took action on these revelations by buying a pile of allover printed voiles on dark bases and proceeding to sew them up into breezy summer dresses (see:  seven dresses in a few weeks).  Unfortunately the universe has not shared in my awe at these revelations and has not sent me much summery weather in which to enjoy my new breezy dresses.  I’ve been wearing cardigans with them most days.

katarina-roccella-indelible-floret-voile-mccalls-6696-back

This particular voile is from Katarina Roccella’s Indelible line, and the color is Floret Stains in Mulberry.  I love it so much!  I seem to have a lot of fabrics in my stash in prints that I only sort of like, so I’ve been sewing up new prints almost immediately after I get them.  I’ve been trying to buy with a plan in mind rather than stashing in mind, which I guess is what I was doing for a while after I began sewing.  I have a few silks that I’m not sure I’ll ever sew up, so perhaps I should try to get rid of them somehow.  I wish my stash was smaller, but since I can’t seem to stop buying fabric, I’m at least trying to sew up more of it when I get it.

katarina-roccella-indelible-floret-voile-mccalls-6696-side

I tried a new technique on the collar, and it turned out to be a fail.  I usually use the ubiquitous method from Four Square Walls, but I read about a different collar method from Beth at Sunny Gal Studio that is supposed to solve the problem of the bulky seam allowance at the bottom of the collar stand.  I hate dealing with that seam allowance, so this seemed like a good method to try, but something about it just didn’t work with my brain.  I couldn’t get the curve of the collar stand or the part of the button band that meets the collar stand to look good no matter what I did.  What you see below is the best I could muster, so I’ve gone back to Andrea’s trusty method.  I don’t know why my topstitching doesn’t meet up in the photo below; I was probably fatigued and just gave up, but I should probably go back and fix that.

katarina-roccella-indelible-floret-voile-mccalls-6696-collar-detail

My buttons are vintage glass from Soutache in Chicago, which has quickly become my favorite place for buttons after my first visit this past spring. The buttons are more expensive than those at Joann’s, but they’re so worth it for the beauty and selection.  I love these buttons, which pick up on the coral flowers in the print.

katarina-roccella-indelible-floret-voile-mccalls-6696-button-detail

As you can see in the photo below, I remembered the pockets on this version of the dress!  I forgot them on the wearable muslin and I vowed to remember them for future versions.  I never used to like pockets because they add bulk in a place where I’d prefer not to have it, but I’ve become a fan because they are a great place to put your hands when you’re feeling awkward, which is 90% of the time for me.  I don’t like to carry things in dress pockets because they tend to distort the way dresses hang, but it does come in handy to have a pocket to throw something into when you need your hands free.  Last weekend we had a picnic for the fourth of July and it was great to have a place to put my phone and keys while I ran in and out of our apartment carrying food and everything else we needed.

katarina-roccella-indelible-floret-voile-mccalls-6696-front-2

You can see some pulling above the bust and I’ve tried to fix that in later versions but I’m not sure I succeeded.  I think it’s caused by excess fabric above the bust due to me not doing an FBA.  For subsequent versions I muslined a new bodice using a smaller size and doing an FBA, and it turned out much worse, which is generally what happens when I do FBAs.  I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but FBAs seem to hate me.  I know I said I’d cool it on the fitting quests, but I would like to take care of that issue, so I’ll keep trying!

Jun 262015
 

Well, I made it through my week of scoring AP essays!  I scored 1,850 essays this year, which is my most ever.  I think in prior years I’ve done around 1,700.  I won’t go into all the gory details, but there are three questions that students answer on the exam, and each year you get assigned to read one question the whole time you’re there.  I got the easiest/quickest to score this year, so I was able to speed through the essays pretty quickly.  It doesn’t take long to realize that most 17 year olds have very similar experiences and ideas and say the same exact things in their essays.  You quickly start to recognize which essays are saying the same thing that isn’t a very good answer and which essays are saying the same thing that’s a decent answer.  There are definitely some phrases I hope to never see again after those 1,850 essays!

This year the scoring took place in Kansas City, MO rather than Louisville, KY as it had in all the prior years I’ve gone.  It used to take place in Daytona Beach, FL, but I missed out on that awesome experience!  I was concerned about having enough cool, breezy dresses to wear in the June heat of Kansas City, so I went a little berserk and sewed seven dresses in the couple weeks leading up to my trip.  Yes, you read that correctly:  seven.  I’ve gained some weight since last year, so a lot of my summer dresses don’t fit.  Some of them still do, but last summer I was sewing everything to be pretty snug because I was hoping to lose weight based on my exercise plans.  Those plans didn’t come to fruition, so now most of my summer clothes from last year are really uncomfortable.  There’s nothing worse than a tight sausage casing dress in the summer humidity!  So I ordered up a bunch of Art Gallery voile based on how much I loved the first of the seven dresses I made, which was my first time sewing with that fabric.  I think I like the Art Gallery voile better than Liberty Tana Lawn, and it’s a third of the price!  I threw in a Cotton and Steel double gauze for good measure and began on my merry way making seven dresses.

I’ll begin my series of posts about these dresses with some of that Liberty Tana Lawn I just mentioned.  Two and a half years after buying my first Liberty fabric, I finally got it sewed up.  For a long time, I didn’t see the appeal of Liberty fabrics, but then I saw this one.  I fell in love with the colors and the scale of the print, and I had to have it enough that I paid full American price, resulting in the most expensive piece of fabric I’ve ever purchased.  And that includes a stash full of silks I keep collecting but not sewing.  I really don’t understand the price of Liberty fabric, but when I see a print I like, there’s almost nothing that can stop me.  Even with shipping from the UK, you can get Liberty cheaper from Shaukat, so that’s what I’ve done for the most recent two pieces I bought.  The full price in America is pretty bonkers.

liberty-tresco-c-grainline-alder-front

Can you blame me for being such a spendthrift?  Isn’t that print one of the most gorgeous things ever?  Don’t worry, I’ll throw a close up at you before I’m done here!  This print is called Tresco C, and I paired it up with a Grainline Alder in a modified view B.  I am in love with the Alder, but since I’d like all my versions to be slightly different from one another, I decided to even out the hem on this one.  The Alder is designed with a shirttail style high-low hem, where the back is longer than the front and the sides are shorter than both the front and back.  My other two view B Alders are unaltered, but this one just has a regular hem which is a very easy alteration.

liberty-tresco-c-grainline-alder-side

That is a very uninteresting side view of my dress, but you can see my Cotton and Steel kitties dress behind me on top of my serger (not the double gauze; this one’s canvas).  I can’t wait to finish up those kitties and wear them!

liberty-tresco-c-grainline-alder-back

And the back.  Not much to say here except that after three rounds, I think I still need to shorten the bodice in the back a bit.  It’s still hanging a little low for me.

liberty-tresco-c-grainline-alder-print-detail

That print!  Swoon!  I’ve worn this dress twice now, and each time I’ve gotten tons of compliments.  I wore it on Tuesday and a woman stopped me when I got off the train to tell me she loved my dress.  I was wearing headphones so she had to wave her arms to get my attention, and I must have given her a look of utter horror because she first apologized, then told me she loved my dress!

liberty-tresco-c-grainline-alder-button-detail

And there are my buttons, which I got from Soutache in Chicago.  I was unsure what color to get for this dress, but I think the orange pretty well matches the orange flowers in the print, which you can see between the two buttons.  I looked for pink to match the pink flowers you see on the left side, but I couldn’t come up with a good match.  I really like these vintage glass buttons; so much so that I bought another color to use on a different dress.

All seven of my dresses were repeat patterns, which is the only way I was able to make so many things in such a short period of time, so my posts about them will probably be short and sweet.

Jun 122015
 

Wow, it’s been over a month since I last posted!  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised; my sewing life hasn’t been what I’d hoped lately.  At the beginning of the month, Ben was out of town for a week because his job sent him to Connecticut, and I thought I’d just have a big one-person sewing party the entire time he was gone, but all kinds of stuff kept coming up, and I got next to nothing done.  As soon as he stepped off the plane, we headed to Ohio to visit family (literally:  I picked him up at the airport and we continued on down the highway).  I actually brought my new little sewing machine with me (I got a Pfaff Passport with some money I got from a teaching award I won at school – yay!) and sewed there, but it was two muslins for dresses for my mother and altering a bunch of her work scrubs for her.  She’s short like me so everything is always too long on her.  We came back with a child in tow, so that threw a wrench in any sewing plans I’d made for when I got back.  I think every time we visit Ohio, our niece Ashley asks if she can come back to Chicago with us, and we always tell her we’ll plan for her to visit some other time.  Well, we’ve lived here six years and we’ve never managed to plan for that other time, so we brought her home with us to stay for a week.  She stayed with us a few times before when we lived in Ohio, and it’s always a fun time, but the last time we did this she was 10 and now she’s 17.  I was worried that she would be too cool for school and would end up being miserable with boring old me and Ben.  It turns out that she may be a little too cool for school (she goes to a high school where she can take online classes instead of going in whenever she wants to, so she was supposed to be doing school work while she was with us but kept blowing it off), but I think she had a good time with us.  She’s already planning her next visit!  During prior visits we did crafty things and baked, so I told her this time I could teach her how to sew.  She was excited and started listing off all the things she wanted to make:  a bag, a dress, a skirt, a top.  This should have been my warning signal that I was about to be signed up to sew a whole new wardrobe.  However, I was wooed by the siren song of fabric shopping, so I merrily ferried her to Vogue and excitedly carried bolts and bolts of fabric up to the cutting table.  At some point I started to understand how much work I was in for, but if there’s one skill I have, it’s underestimating the amount of work things will require, so I plunked down my debit card and bought the pile of fabric you see below.

ashleys-fabric

As you can tell, Ashley has some wild taste!  She was obsessed with getting “tie dyes,” a category to which the batiks pictured apparently belong, plus animal prints, and anything else that caught her eye, which turned out to be a money print and a camo print.  She wanted the money, camo, pink batik, and green batik all for her bag, and I must admit I was giving her some serious side eye vis-a-vis this eclectic combo.  I’ll show you her bag later and you can be the judge of whether she was right or not, but for my part, I was converted.  I think her bag is super cute, and I shouldn’t have doubted her vision!

Below is just a quick illustration of the style differences we faced:  me, suited up for the elements on a cold, rainy night at Lake Michigan.  Ashley, wearing her most recently acquired bling, consequences be damned.  I could not understand how this child’s feet didn’t fall right off wearing those gladiator sandals, but even I must admit that they’re pretty awesome.

Gina and Ashley 2

We’d gone shopping downtown and when she spotted these at Akira, it was love at first sight.  They were on sale, so she called around to her various sources of shopping money until she gathered enough promises to pay me back if I would front her the money for the sandals.  We grabbed the shoes and continued on to my doctor’s appointment, whereupon she began Facebooking her loot in the waiting room, which is the source of the picture you see below.  They’re pretty cool, aren’t they?  My busted old lady feet need more arch support than that, but if I was healthy of foot and thin of calf, we might have been sporting matching gladiator sandals that day.

ashleys-shoes

But is this a sewing blog or a teen fashion report?  Well, today it’s both, but at least we can move on to the sewing part now.  First up, a skirt made of a knit remnant we found in Vogue’s massive pile of remnants.  Seriously, sometimes they have no remnants, and other times, you find all kinds of stuff, including some healthy-sized remnants of Bemberg lining and a very nice 2 yard piece of striped bamboo jersey that one might purchase for oneself as a reward for being such a great aunt.  As evidence of that unnamed individual’s greatness, I offer you exhibit A:  a skirt I “draped”, i.e., didn’t use a pattern for.  It has an elastic waist and is quite mini in length, though Ashley is short like me, so not as mini as it might appear here.  I zigzagged a little ribbon to the back waistband so she could tell the front from the back, and that’s pretty much all there is to tell about this one.
ashleys-skirt

Next up, her most prized item:  leather shorts.  They’re actually vinyl, but I didn’t let on.  When she saw the bolts of faux leather at Vogue, she stopped dead in her tracks and declared that she desperately wanted a pair of leather shorts.  Such a garment sounded incredibly uncomfortable to me, but her body, her clothes.  She assured me that her mother wouldn’t take issue with her wearing leather shorts (which I believe is true; Ben reports that even her Nonnie [his mom] approved of them when she got back to Ohio), and we bought a yard.

ashleys-shorts-front

I used Grainline’s Maritime shorts pattern, which I bought a long time ago after seeing some shorts I liked at LOFT in hopes of copying them.  I’ve since decided that I’m just not a shorts person, so the pattern has sat unused.  I was glad to be able to use it for something!  Ashley didn’t want front pockets, thank goodness, so these were fairly straightforward.  I did make a muslin out of stretch denim, and it turned out to be a wearable muslin because the fit was pretty right on after adding some darts on the back and taking in the sides a bit, so she also has a pair of denim shorts with lime green topstitching per her request, but I must have forgotten to get a picture of those.

I was briefly flummoxed by the fly insertion method because it’s so different than the method on the Ginger Jeans, but Jen has a tutorial that made everything perfectly clear to me.

In what would turn out to be a running theme, Ashley requested something that was more difficult than it sounded for her leather shorts – she wanted heart-shaped back pockets out of the pink batik fabric we bought for her bag.  I made them twice before I ended up at the right size you see here, and I just hope they last because that particular batik fabric has a very loose weave (I did interface to help with this issue).

ashleys-shorts-back

Next up we have a tank top that she requested based on a shirt we saw while shopping.  For this one, I used the slip pattern from McCall’s 6696 and just made a second layer that was half the length and a bit wider.  Because I ended up doing the bulk of the sewing after she was gone, I got out this old dressform to model some of the clothes, but I had to put a camisole on it and pad it out at the bust because it’s just shaped so stupidly.  It has those dials you can turn to increase the measurements, but it basically just makes the form wider at the bust instead of projected.  Anyway, that’s why you see another tank top right underneath this pink and purple one that I made, and it’s why you should just pretend it’s not there from now on.

I used pre-made double fold satin bias binding for the straps and I used my serger’s rolled hem for the edges.  Easy peasy, except for the intersections of the binding at the corners where things got very thick and difficult to sew.  I was an angry seamstress.  I think I might change the name of my blog to “The Angry Seamstress.”  Most of my sewing time consists of being angry at pins for poking me, being angry at my sewing machine for not doing what I told it to do, and being angry at everything for falling on the floor (seriously – I am the clumsiest person EVER).  I can frequently be found grumbling or exclaiming in frustration and sometimes even declaring that if clothes fit me from stores, I wouldn’t be sewing them!  I don’t understand the people who say they sew because it’s enjoyable and relaxing.  I like my hobbies to be frustrating and damaging to my self-esteem.  It’s why I’m a grad student.

ashleys-tank-top

This next picture is an inspiration photo she found for one of the dresses she wanted.  She wanted this out of a red and black knit, so I headed to my pattern collection to see what I could find.  I ended up using Simplicity 1610, which has a crossover halter neckline similar to the inspiration dress.  However, that pattern is for wovens.  I sized down two sizes in hopes of making it work for a knit.  I had to take it in even further, but I got it to work.  Ashley's Dress

And here it is.  The dressform is just so oddly shaped that it doesn’t look quite right, but I think it will look better on an actual human being.  The skirt on her inspiration photos appears to be a square circle skirt, which is like a circle skirt in that the waist is just a circle cut in the center of a large piece of fabric, but unlike it in that the large piece of fabric is a square rather than a circle.  I didn’t have enough fabric for that, so I just put a regular skirt on it and cut the bottom of it to mimic the shape of the square circle skirt.
simplicity-1610-frontsimplicity-1610-backThere’s elastic in a casing on the back bodice to keep it up, and the hem is just raw since this is an ITY knit that won’t ravel.

Finally, the first dress she wanted:  Papercut’s La Sylphide.  I had her look through my patterns before we went shopping, and this was her favorite.  It’s made out of a super shifty and super annoying polyester chiffon.  I am so pleased with how it turned out except for the mismatched skirt pieces.  Big sad face.  Being a genius, I cut them on a single layer because the fabric was shifty.  I thought I was taking great care to match them up, but as you can see, I didn’t match the wide pink stripe to the wide one and the narrow one to the narrow one.  They’re flipped.  I was so upset when I saw this because I didn’t have enough fabric to recut (I never have enough fabric to recut – I’m the queen of buying just enough fabric to squeak by).  I kept going, however, knowing that Ashley likely wouldn’t care.  While I was making her things during her visit I kept stopping to fix this or that and she would sigh exasperatedly and tell me she didn’t care about whatever it was that was stressing me out.  So I tried not to care about this mismatch.

papercut-la-sylphide-front

But look at how nice the back looks!  And yes, that fabric is pink, not orange.  It’s like a coral color, but it’s definitely more of pinky coral than an orangey one, despite what these photos would have you believe.papercut-la-sylphide-back

But look at how nice the back looks!  And yes, that fabric is pink, not orange.  It’s like a coral color, but it’s definitely more of pinky coral than an orangey one, despite what these photos would have you believe.

The final item I have to show you today is one Ashley made, not me – it’s her bag!  She had sewn a pillowcase before so she wasn’t entirely new to the idea of sewing.  She found an inspiration photo online and I worked out the necessary steps to get us there.  First I had her cut out a bunch of squares, then I had her interface them.  Then I realized we should have block fused them.  But I didn’t tell her that.  Then I had her sew together the nine patch squares, which I knew would end up being a little wonky because of her carefree attitude and lack of prior experience with piecing.  I like the wonky look so much that I wish we’d gone full-on wonky, which I think would have been awesome.  Next I had her cut diamond shapes out of her camo pieces and fray the edges of the holes that were left by using a pin to pull at the fabric.  Then I had her sew those squares on top of the money print squares, then sew the whole thing together.  She made a strap that’s money on one side and camo on the other and made a lining out of the money fabric, then I had her put it all together.  She did it all herself on my new Passport while I sewed on my regular machine.  I jumped in to fix a few small seam allowances that had gone astray, but this is mostly her own creation.  I really thought she was a bit addled when she picked out all these fabrics, but the end product is super cute in a funky sort of way.  ashleys-bag

And that’s that!  if you feel exhausted after reading all that, congratulations – now you know how I felt after sewing it all!  The eagle-eyed among you will notice that there’s a blue and white leopard print in the pile of fabric that doesn’t appear as a completed garment.  I just got a pattern for that one the other day based on some inspiration photos she sent me, and I’ll start work on it in a little while.  I have some sewing I want to get done for myself before I head to Kansas City in a week and half to score AP Language essays*.  I’m assuming it will be blazing hot there, and I need a few more summer dresses.

*I drafted this a while ago and I’m now in Kansas city with a pile of new dresses that I frantically sewed before coming here!  I’ll eventually get pictures and get them blogged, but they’re mostly McCall’s 6696s and Grainline Alders, so the posts won’t be that thrilling unless you’re in it to look at pretty fabrics.

 

May 012015
 

I have one more dress to show you from my Florida photoshoots, but first a word about Me-Made May.  Like I said last year:  nope.  I really don’t get Me-Made May as a concept that’s designed to encourage you to wear the stuff you’ve made.  I constantly wear the stuff I’ve made.  I wouldn’t keep making it if I didn’t.  I do own some RTW, though, and I don’t care for the idea of discouraging myself from wearing it.  I like it a lot, which is why I bought it.  I don’t buy a lot of RTW these days, so if it’s in my closet, it’s because I really liked it.  Plus there are some days where I don’t even leave the house – such is the life of a grad student.  Other days, I only go to the library, and I don’t get all gussied up for those days.  I usually end up wearing one of three super comfy knit dresses I own on those days, and one of them is RTW.  So for these many reasons, I give a hearty whatevs to MMM.

vlisco-made-by-rae-washi-front-1

This picture was taken on the only day of our trip that we were able to go to the beach.  It was still quite windy, as you can see – so windy that I think I’m gesticulating and barking at my mom to wait to take the picture until I can get situated.  I like how it looks like I’m doing a sort of stilted dance, though, so I decided to include the picture!vlisco-made-by-rae-washi-front-3The beach was really busy that day, which was crazy because it was a Monday, but I think it was the beginning of spring break for a lot of people.  This theory was bolstered by the massive group of bros that we unfortunately set up in front of.  Bros of the world:  feel free to keep on bro-ing, but could you try to be a bit quieter about it?  I don’t want to listen to your every inane conversation while at the beach, or as was the case last week, while at the library.vlisco-made-by-rae-washi-front-2But that’s enough about bros – what kind of dress is this?  This is the Washi Dress pattern from Rae Hoekstra.  One of the first things I ever made was the Made by Rae Buttercup Bag in a class at the shop where I learned to sew, The Needle Shop.  When Rae made a dress pattern, I snapped it up, having had a better experience with her bag pattern than a lot of others I tried.  I’ve made two other Washis, two of the first dresses I ever made.  I really love this dress because it has shirring on the back, which gives it an almost custom fit.  At the time that I made my first one, I was amazed at how easy it was to fit, especially after having struggled with a Simplicity pattern for what seemed like forever only to be foiled by poor fabric choice in the end.  The Washi is designed for quilting cottons and other similar fabrics, so it was perfect for me at the time because I had a lot of those in my stash.  I still wear those two Washis, one made of a gorgeous Echino fabric, and the other in a Valori Wells quilting cotton.  In the photo below you can see that the dress can sometimes have a little bit of a baby bump illusion effect, which is annoying.  My other two don’t have this and the bodice seems longer on them as well, so I think I may have lengthened the bodice but didn’t mark it on the flat pattern.  I think the longer bodice eliminates the empire silhouette, which is what gives me the pregnant look.  I’ll make note of this for future versions.  vlisco-made-by-rae-washi-sideThe fabric is another Vlisco pick ordered with Charlotte.  When it arrived, I knew I wanted to make a maxi with it because of the large print arranged vertically.  I wanted the fabric to go the other way around so that the longer lines were pointing down, but I accidentally cut it wrong and had no extra fabric to recut.  I was quite irritated by this, but I’m over it now.  I think it looks a wee bit obscene with those finger-like lines pointing up, but Ben said he didn’t know what I was talking about, so maybe I’m crazy.  vlisco-made-by-rae-washi-backYou can see in the picture above that there’s also some funky swayback issues happening on the back, which I’ll also correct in future versions.  I think I want to make another Washi with another Vlisco print Charlotte and I ordered, but I’ll probably keep that one knee-length.  When I make it, in addition to fixing the swayback and lengthening the waist, I’ll take a wedge out of the center front because I have some gaping at the neckline.  I guess I was a lot more forgiving of fit issues like these when I made the first two dresses!vlisco-made-by-rae-washi-detail-printHere’s a closeup of the print, in which you can see that it isn’t actually green, as it appears in the photos above.  It’s yellow with dark navy crosshatching.  I love the green look, so I prefer that everyone stand at least a few feet away from me when I wear this!vlisco-made-by-rae-washi-detail-selvage-center-backThe Washi isn’t supposed to have a center back seam, but I had to use one because I was cramming this maxi onto three yards of 45 inch fabric.  I used the selvedge as my fabric edge because it’s neato.  vlisco-made-by-rae-washi-detail-shirringThere’s my shirring, which is always so much fun to do.  For those unschooled in shirring, you just use elastic thread in the bobbin and the longest stitch length your machine with do (6mm in my case).  MAKE SURE you wind your bobbin the right way around!  The first time I tried to do shirring, I wound my bobbin backwards and thought my machine was broken when it made a terrible noise and refused to stitch.  Internets to the rescue:  if you google something like “shirring problems” there are tons of people giving you the sage advice above.  Very important.  The funnest part of shirring is blasting it with steam once you’ve sewn all the lines.  The first line doesn’t look very gathered at all, but as you continue to sew more lines, they begin to look slightly gathered.  When you blast them all with steam, though, they shrink up a ton and it’s nifty to watch happen.  vlisco-made-by-rae-washi-detail-bias-binderOver a year ago I bought this bias binder attachment for my sewing machine and never used it.  I was making this dress at the same time that I was making my silk Grainline Alder and since I was having trouble with my bias-bound armholes, I thought I’d test this thing out to see if it would make my life easier.  Um, NO THANKS.  It was hard enough to manage with a stable cotton like Vlisco – no way was I going to attempt it on silk!  As you can see more clearly below, the binding you end up with is very narrow.  I actually like the way it looks (and it looks this way on both sides because the foot works by wrapping the binding around the edge), but it’s so narrow that there’s no margin of error, so my fabric kept slipping out of the reach of the binding/stitching.  In a few cases, it looked like the binding had caught the edge of the fabric, but I discovered when I attempted to press it that it had only caught the very edge and any pressure made it come undone.  Those spots were annoying to fix.

Aside:  I know you’re jealous of my stack of theory books!  It’s actually not just a stack of books – it’s a stupid form-over-function bookshelf that makes it look like your books are just stacked, but without the risk of them falling over and crushing your feet or small animals.  It looks really cool, but it has a big footprint because it needs a large, heavy base to keep from tipping over, and you could definitely fit a regular bookshelf that would hold more books in the same amount of space.  Not recommended.  vlisco-made-by-rae-washi-detail-bindingBack to bias binding:  as you can see below, trying to finish off the edge is way messier looking than regular bias binding.  Blergh.  I’m going to sell this thing on Ebay, methinks.  vlisco-made-by-rae-washi-detail-binding-join

That’s it for this Vlisco Washi!  I finished a pair of Ginger jeans last week, but after wearing them for a day, I discovered several problems with them and have demoted them to wearable muslin status.  I’m not going to blog about them until I fix the problems because I want to make sure I know how to fix them.  Among the problems:  excessive front crotch length (and thus begins the discussion of crotches on my blog, ushering in a new era of spam, I’m sure); gapping at the back waistband despite my corrections after muslining; misplaced pockets despite MANY rounds of moving them up, down, and all around; too much ease at the back thigh; and overcorrection for my hyperextended calves.  I’m also not in love with the stretch denim I used, but I think I’ll make the next pair out of the same denim because it was cheap at Vogue ($5.99/yard).  Once I get all the fit stuff down, I’m going to try to get my hands on some better stretch denim.

Apr 172015
 

Hi kids!  Today I have a Deer and Doe Belladone to show you, plus I have some thoughts on purchasing Vlisco fabric, which is what this dress is made of.

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First, the dress.  This is the Deer and Doe Belladone, which I’ve made twice before.  You are seeing it photographed in my grandma’s backyard on one of the many days when it was too cold to visit the beach while we were in Florida.  But I’m next to a palm tree, so it’s better scenery than is usually offered on this blog!Vlisco-Deer-and-Doe-Belladone-back
Also good scenery:  a puppy!  He’s not really a puppy, but I’ve taken to calling all dogs puppies.  That’s Bentley, my grandma’s dog.  He’s is actually not at all a spring chicken; he’s advanced in years for a miniature Doberman Pinscher, and as a result he has diabetes and poor vision.  Which is very sad, but also adorable when he tries to jump up on the couch to sit on your lap and has the grace of a baby giraffe trying to find its legs.  Re: the dress, there’s a little wrinkling on the back that I’ll try to take care of in future versions, though I’m not sure I’ll use the cutout back again.  It’s a bit too distinctive for me to want to have five of them.  I’ve decided I’m okay with a closet full of Archers and McCall’s 6696s, but I draw the line at cutout backed Belladones!

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My lovely photographer, my mother, decided to get artistic, which made me laugh.  But I do like how this photo turned out!

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As we were taking this picture, Bentley decided to photobomb me while taking care of his business.  I 1. find this hilarious, and 2. like the way the wind is blowing my skirt, so the photo gets posted.

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Another through-the-palm-tree shot with bonus puppy.  You can see here that I scooped out the neckline a bit.  That Belladone neckline is really high!Vlisco-Deer-and-Doe-Belladone-detail-waistband

Here you can see my waistband seam matching, which is excellent except for the fact that the side on the right is a little bit shorter than the side on the left.  Boo, but I was very pleased with my invisible zip seam matching.  I didn’t attempt any pattern matching because I just barely had enough fabric to eke out this dress, plus I can’t even discern a repeat in this pattern.  The fabric, as I mentioned above, is Vlisco.  This one is their voile, which seems exactly like their Wax, Java, and Super-wax (I’m pretty sure I have them all in my collection) to me, so I’m not sure what the difference is supposed to be.  This one did seem more shiny when it arrived, but they all look and feel like quilting cotton once they’ve been washed.Vlisco-Deer-and-Doe-Belladone-detail-pink-serging

I used pink thread for my serging!Vlisco-Deer-and-Doe-Belladone-detail-binding

And pink bias tape!Vlisco-Deer-and-Doe-Belladone-detail-pocketAnd pink pocket lining!  I actually didn’t intend to use pink pocket lining, but I had to cut my pocket linings on a single layer because I was squeezing this out of 2 yards, and I accidentally cut them both on the same side.  I always do this when I’m cutting on a single layer!  Ugh.  But I like my pink lining, so it’s all good.

So what am I talking about when I mention liking problematic things?  Well, for background, you can read this: How to Like Problematic Things*.  After buying my Vlisco fabric, I realized I didn’t really know anything about it.  People call it African wax, but in what precise way is it African if it’s made in Holland?  So not at all like the good consumer I would like to be, I looked up information about this stuff after purchasing it.  I found a couple sites explaining the history of the type of prints Vlisco sells: What is Ankara? and The Origin of Ankara.  I learned that these types of prints are the result of the Dutch appropriating Batik fabric-making techniques from Indonesia in order to sell fabric in Indonesia for cheaper than local producers could.  Hmm, I don’t like that.  Colonizing, mass manufacturing a good made by the people you colonized, then selling it back to them for profit?  Not cool, Dutch (but then we all knew the Dutch were no paragons of virtue when it came to colonization, right?).  The fabric ended up not being very popular in Indonesia (good for the Indonesians!), but was popular among people in West Africa.  Which is why we call these prints African wax prints or Ankara today; they’re just most closely associated with West Africa because that’s where the most people wear them.  So the fabric seemed kind of problematic to me because of its history, but I also found this article: The History of Dutch Wax Prints. That author raises concerns about the way these fabrics dominate the textile market in West Africa such that people don’t buy as many locally-produced fabrics because they’re not considered high fashion the way something like Vlisco is.  This, to me, seems to be the more pressing concern.

Finally, I also have some concerns about the appropriative aspect of wearing fabrics associated with cultures that are not my own.  I’m still working through those concerns.  When I went to India years and years ago, I wore saris and salwar kameezes, but I would never do that today.  But would I wear something I sewed out of a sari?  I’m not sure how I feel about that yet.  I’m certainly trying to avoid being appropriative, but intentions don’t really matter in this debate.

Anyway, those are my thoughts, and those are the reasons why I feel some unease about Vlisco.  I’ve already bought another piece after my first order, so it’s not like I’m boycotting the stuff.  I have no willpower in the face of a gorgeous print, and I’m not always the noble consumer I would hope to be.  But I do think it’s worth recognizing the problematic aspects of the things we like.

 

*That article is talking about liking problematic texts, which is different than liking problematic products.  If I buy Scott Pilgrim comics, which is the example from the article, I’m giving money to an individual who has some problematic views.  If I buy fabrics, I’m supporting an industry.  My “support” is not likely to make or break either the individual or the company, but I like to be intentional about what I give money to.  This is less an issue of boycotting for a particular effect and more an issue of avoiding cognitive dissonance.

Apr 082015
 

Let’s begin with a point of clarification:  the supposedly fun thing is sewing with silk, not making Grainline Alders.  That is a definitely fun thing that I’m looking forward to doing again.  I’m planning at least one more Alder as we speak.  Further clarification:  I am going to sew with silk again.  I have some silks prints in my stash that I love, so I’m going to sew them up.  I’m just going to change my processes.  Lest I perpetuate the notion that sewing silk is ZOMG hard, let me say that most of the construction on this was easy.  I used a size 60 needle most of the time and a size 70 when going through multiple layers.  I used silk thread.  I tested everything I did on a scrap before doing it on the actual dress since I’d never sewn silk before.  As a result, I had few problems.  However, when it came to doing the narrow hem and finishing the armholes, I was ready to scream.  One supposedly fun thing I will 100% never do again is use silk bias strips to finish armholes.  Talk about a pain in the arse.  My hem isn’t so narrow and my armholes are pretty wobbly.  In the future, I’ll do a clean-finish lining or use a more stable material for my bias strips, and I’ll also use those same strips to stabilize my hem instead of just doing a fold and turn.

You might be wondering why I made a sleeveless lightweight silk dress when it’s still pretty cold in Chicago.  Well, a week ago I returned from a trip to Florida to visit my grandma.  For some reason, whenever I tell people I’m going to visit my grandma in Florida, they groan.  They think I’m in for a really bad time.  But I have no idea what they’re talking about; I love my grandma.   I also love the ocean, and she lives right near it.  So I look forward to these trips.  I’ll likely be making them more often in the future because my mother is planning to move to Florida this summer to be with my grandmother, who needs some extra care nowadays.  Anyway, in the days leading up to the trip, I freaked out and sewed three summer dresses.  I’ve gained some weight since last summer and I was feeling anxious about my lack of a summer wardrobe.  I made this silk Alder plus two dresses out of my recently acquired Vlisco fabric.  I’ll post about those two soon, along with some thoughts on buying and sewing wax print fabrics.

The funny thing about my summer dress freakout sewing extravaganza was that there was only one day on our trip where summer dresses were really required.  I ended up wearing cardigans over my summer dresses most of the time.

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For most of our trip it was a bit chilly (for Florida; it was in the 60s) and verrrrry windy.  I really wanted to take pictures at the beach because I only ever have pictures of me in my living room, but taking these pictures was a dangerous adventure – the danger mostly consisting of flashing everyone on the beach my underwear.  In the picture above, I’m standing strangely because I had just finished yanking my dress down, I believe.  But I really liked how my hair is being blown, so I included it.  I’d like to style it this way and maybe join a Flock of Seagulls tribute band.

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More windyness!  I was so excited about splashing in the ocean like a little kid, but we only got to do that on the last day of our trip.  It was too cold to even think about getting in the chilly Atlantic before then.  But I did put my feet in the water a couple of days when it was too cold to swim.  I just lovelovelove the ocean and couldn’t stay away.

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I’m trying to look pensively into the sea here, but I’m pretty sure I’m grumbling about my fluttery dress.  It’s not just that it was windy while I was taking these pictures.  I was also wondering how I’d ever wear this dress in the windy city.  Fun fact:  when I was a teenager I read that the origin of the phrase “windy city” was a reporter’s description of the windbag politicians in Chicago, not the amount of wind blowing around the city.  Chicago is purportedly actually not much windier than other cities.  I was sort of insufferable as a teenager, so I loved correcting people when they would talk about Chicago being windy.  Then I moved here and had to stop wearing my hair curled because it would turn into a rat’s next in short order because of the wind.  While Wikipedia still assures me that Chicago isn’t significantly windier than other cities, I’ve read that the way the buildings are constructed and the way the streets are laid out on a grid means that the wind really does come off the lake and whip down some of the streets and around some of the buildings.  On UIC’s campus, the building where my office is housed always has me complaining to myself as I’m walking inside because the wind just swirls around it like crazy.  Legend has it that the campus’s brutalist architect (look it up:  it’s a real architectural term) designed it so that the wind would whip around the building and discourage protestors from gathering around it (it was built in the 60s, so this was a major concern).  I’ll buy it.  As one of those protestors, I’m proud to say that it hasn’t kept me away, but it really does make the space more hostile for people to gather.

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I think maybe you can tell in the picture above that I’m pretty fed up with the wind.  We headed back to the safety of the car after that one.

My silk is from Mood, but it’s no longer available, sadly.  I got it last spring

Now for some pictures where you can actually tell what’s going on!

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I’m hanging my dress on a lamp above because I’m classy like that and because the only places where I can actually hang things in my apartment are dark.

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First silk problem:  My collar pieces must have stretched a ton because I ended up with the above.  As you can see, I basted it on before I realized the problem.  FYI if you haven’t made a collar before:  the edge of the collar should NOT align with the edge of the button placket!  So I had to rip that off, undo my stitching on the collar, cut it down, and restitch it.  Annoying, but easily fixable.

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You can see in the photo above where the collar should end in relation to the button placket.  Yes, mine had stretched quite a bit!  I used Tasia’s tip to make a collar stand template and I liked the results I got.  My topstitching is a bit wobbly, but the shape of my collar stand is good.

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Here’s the corner where the gathered skirt piece joins up with the rest of the front on view B of the Alder.  SO MUCH better than on my first Alder view B, which you see below.

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I was too timid in clipping on my first Alder.  I made sure not to repeat that mistake this time.

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I asked Instagram whether I should make orange or cream buttonholes, and most people agreed that they should be cream.  I guess I could have tested out orange buttonholes with cream thread on the buttons themselves, but I felt like both things should be done with the same thread.

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There’s a finished button and buttonhole on the dress!  The buttons seem simple, but I had such a difficult time finding buttons that I liked for this dress.  I wanted buttons made of shell or glass, not plastic.  Joann’s had nothing suitable, so I headed to Soutache, which is a store in Chicago that has tons of trims – buttons, ribbons, rhinestones, feathers, and more.  They were the exact opposite – they had so many great options that I had trouble deciding!  The owner was very helpful, though, and she and I decided on the shell buttons you see here.  If you visit Chicago or if you live here and haven’t stopped by yet, I can’t recommend Soutache highly enough.  These buttons were more expensive than anything at Joann’s, but it’s very worth it to me for a fine fabric like silk.  Vogue in Evanston has a large button selection as well, but they’re a bit of a hassle to deal with for a few reasons.  Quite often, I find a button I like only to open the box and find that they’re sold out of the button.  Plus they’re on a huge wall that requires you to use a ladder to get to the top shelves.  There is a ladder present, but you’ll get yelled at if anyone sees you using it.  But it’s also so hectic that it really isn’t feasible to get an employee to stand there all day pulling button boxes for you.  Soutache’s selection seems to me to be of higher quality and as long as it’s not busy (it wasn’t when I went), the owner is very happy to help you find what you’re looking for.  She also left me alone for a bit just to browse, so it’s not like she’s hovering annoyingly the whole time you’re there, which is one of my pet peeves.  Bath and Body Works, I’m looking at you.  I’m just here for foaming hand soap, please leave me alone.

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This just wouldn’t be a post on Feminist Stitch if I didn’t talk about something I did wrong.  My bottom button is improperly spaced because I decided to flip my fabric around when I got to last buttonhole.  If my buttonhole foot hangs over the edge of the fabric, it tends to not make such great buttonholes.  However, because I’m bad at math and spatial reasoning, I corrected my beginning point in the wrong direction, so the bottom buttonhole is closer to the penultimate one than it should be.  I realized this at the precise moment that I’d finished cutting the buttonhole open.  I hope it’s out of the line of sight enough that most people won’t notice.  If they do, design feature?

So that’s my first time sewing with silk!  I’m achieving a lot of sewing milestones lately:  silk, blazers, and I’m working on a pair of jeans right now.  I’ve decided to just go for theses things rather than freaking out about them after discussing with another blogger the way we get hung up on certain aspects of sewing more as advanced sewers than we did as beginners.  To wit, the first garment I sewed for myself on my own was a denim skirt with flat-felled seams and a front fly.  Shortly after that I sewed a Burda magazine pattern for a friend and added a lining to it on my own.  I thought nothing of these things at the time.  I only became afraid of things after reading Pattern Review and sewing blogs and seeing people talk about things like they were big bad monsters.  No more, I say.  My jeans are going swimmingly, and I’m excited about the next new thing I’ll tackle, whatever it may be.

Mar 232015
 

The dress I’m showing you today is a child of Instagram.  It started like this:  Last weekend, I posted a photo of some absurdly gorgeous Liberty fabric I have and asked it if it would be crazy if I made an Alder out of it, seeing as how I already have one in linen and had just cut out another in silk.  All three would be view B because I wasn’t sure how view A would look on me, and I didn’t want to waste my Liberty on something I wouldn’t absolutely love.  The always-smart Charlotte suggested I muslin view A.  So I did.  And, in a rare moment of expediency in the garment conception to blog pipeline, here it is.

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My assumption was correct; I do not love this enough to use my Liberty on it.  But I’m glad I gave it a try, because now I know, plus I have a new silhouette in my wardrobe.  Even if I don’t love it, I don’t hate it and I’ll certainly wear it.  Since I knew my first Alder fit well enough, I decided to make this “muslin” out of real fabric.  In fact, my first Alder was a bit too big, but I’ve also gained a bit of weight, so I figured it would even out.  The fabric is quilting cotton from the lovely Needle Shop in Chicago, which will forever be one of my favorite places because they taught me how to sew.  I’d had my eye on this Rashida Coleman Hale print in voile for a while, but it was sold out everywhere.  When I saw it in The Needle Shop, I jumped on it without pausing to realize that it still wasn’t the voile I longed for; it was quilting cotton.  I try not to buy quilting cotton anymore because it’s a bit stiff and I hate how sticky the backside of it is.  I absolutely have to line or wear a slip if I want to wear it in winter with tights, which is a real pain with a dress like this one because of the uneven hem line.  But I do really love the print, so I’m glad I bought the fabric.

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Don’t mind my messy sewing area.  I have like nineteen different projects going on right now.  That number probably even even much of an exaggeration.

I thought about putting in some fisheye darts on the back to help with the back wrinkling you see below.  I may still, but I’ve thus far been too lazy to be bothered.  Looking at the picture below, can you believe that I’ve only recently realized that I’m pear-shaped?

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A lot of things about my shape are confusing.  I was always self-conscious about my belly, so I thought I must be an apple.  I always felt like I was too busty, so maybe I was an inverted triangle?  But I do have hips to balance my top half, so perhaps I was actually dealing with an hourglass?  No:  I’m a pear.  My measurements slot right into the Sewaholic sizes, and I always have to grade up at size or two below the waist with other pattern lines.  Unless!  If I’m sewing a gathered or flared skirt, which I often do, the grading up isn’t necessary, thus the confusion.  Anyway, I am now a card-carrying member of the pear club, whereas before I was a very confused fruit.  Which provides a nice occasion to post one of my favorite cartoons:

body shapesI may yet decide I’m a broken slinky, but for now I’m sticking with pear.

So, I wondered, if I don’t like this dress because it’s too shapeless, will I like it with a belt?  Turns out, not really.  I can tell that it’s giving me more waist definition, which I like, but I also don’t like how the fabric is wrinkling up around the belt.  I’m impossible to please, I know.

grainline-alder-front-beltI think I might like the side view better with the belt, but I’m not sure.  grainline-alder-side-beltI definitely like the back view better.  grainline-alder-back-beltSo I feel like this shape on me results in a resounding meh.  I suspected that might end up being the case going in, and I figured if nothing else, I could always throw a cardigan over it.  In the end, that option is problematic because cardigan weather means tights weather, and tights mean major issues with my quilting cotton sticking to my legs.  So unless I make a better slip that won’t show at the sides where the hem is higher, this look is a no go.  grainline-alder-sweaterI was talking to the cat in this picture.  We converse quite constantly and seriously.  I think I look a little skeptical of whatever she’s saying here.  The problem with cats is that they talk big but can never back it up.  And by back it up, I mean say it in English so I can understand.  She may have been heckling me because my black tight-clad legs weren’t showing up in my pictures, unbeknownst to me.  “You look like a floating ghost,” she screams.  “You’re very cute but you need to learn to talk sense,” I reply.  And we pass like ships in the night.  grainline-alder-buttonsI found some aqua buttons in my stash that match some of the plus signs pretty well.  I wanted pink buttons, but I had no car the weekend I was making this and I didn’t want its creation to drag on forever.  I have recently come to the conclusion that I need to hand sew on most of my buttons.  When I got my first nice sewing machine, I researched all the feet and learned that there was such a thing as a button sew-on foot.  I was so excited that I ran out and got one immediately because I HATE sewing on buttons.  But I feel like they look sloppy whenever I sew them on with the sewing machine.  If it’s something like the button on a skirt waistband that no one’s ever going to see, I use that button sew-on foot and don’t think twice.  But for shirts and jackets and things where the buttons are more visible, I’m going to stick with hand sewing for now.  I’m so much happier with the results when I do even though it takes like five times longer.

So, the picture below is here to show you how ridiculous my camera is, because this is the amount of light in that room while I was taking the above pictures.  I had no additional lights on.  My camera picks up ridiculous amounts of light from I don’t even know where – you can’t tell in those earlier pictures that it’s dusk at all!  You can also see the sewing mess creep that happened while Ben was out of town last weekend.  That pile of fabric and bin of patterns in the foreground is his desk.  I had it all cleaned up by the time he got home and he usually doesn’t read the blog, so he’ll never know!

dark-roomWhile Ben was gone, I cut out two dresses, three skirts, two cardigans, one pair of jeans, and one top.  The top, a Maria Denmark Edith was a bust – didn’t even come close to fitting.  I must have measured wrong.  One cardigan is finished (the Muse Jenna cardigan) and the other (that McCall’s one that’s been going around town lately) is almost finished.  One skirt is finished the other two are well on their way.  This dress got finished, and I’m currently trying to finished my silk Alder before we leave for Florida on Thursday morning because I’d like to wear it on vacation.  It’s the orange and cream spotted fabric in the photo above and I feel like it looks vacation-y.  The main construction is done and all I have left is the collar, armholes, buttonholes, buttons, and hem.  Those things always end up taking me so much longer than I think they should.  I’m always like, “Am I still making this same dress?!”  But I hope I’m still on track to have it done by Wednesday so I can wear it in Florida and hopefully get pictures there too.

 

Mar 162015
 

Get ready for a long post, kids.  I’m naturally wordy and discussing something as complicated as blazers makes me exponentially more long-winded.  Sorry!  So, let’s get on with it.  Two weeks ago I had an interview at a local community college, so the entire two weeks prior to that were dedicated to making a new suit.  My last suit was a wearable muslin and it really wasn’t a proper suit that one could wear to interviews.  Aside from all the finishing issues I mention in that post, I didn’t use any interfacing in it, so it was kind of wobbly and not sturdy-looking, it was too short, and it was a tan color that I wouldn’t really wear to an interview.  For interviews, I’d prefer to stick to black or grey.  Behold:

mccalls-6172-front-2

Suit no. 2.  New and improved with a better color, more (any!) interfacing, and a better pattern.  This time, actually suitable for interviewing!  This time I used McCalls 6172 instead of Simplicity 2446.  Some might question whether it was wise to change up patterns at this point–I certainly did–but I thought this pattern’s armhole princess seams might give me a better fit at that tricky above-the-bust-moving-into-the-armhole area that gave me trouble with my last suit, with its shoulder princess seams.

mccalls-6172-side

I do think that area looks a bit better, but I had other issues at the shoulder.  I think I need to start doing a forward shoulder adjustment.  I tend to hunch over, and I had to stand perfectly straight with shoulders thrown back and my arms hanging straight at my sides for the shoulder to look right on this suit.  Perhaps good to be forced into having better posture for an interview, but it’s more likely that I’ll forget my posture when I’m not looking directly in a mirror and end up with a funny-looking suit.  If I make this pattern again (I might be blazered out for a little while, but I’d like to make more eventually), I would do that forward shoulder adjustment and take some of the ease out of the back.  You can sort of see below that the back looks a little large above the waist, but I needed that ease to be able to move my arms forward.  I think the forward shoulder adjustment will help with that problem, which will mean I won’t need that excess ease in the back.

mccalls-6172-backSorry for the wrinkles; I had worn this to the interview by the time I took these pictures and was too lazy to steam these out.  I didn’t wear the jacket in the car on the way there, so it fared a bit better than the skirt.

When I’d finally finished everything on this jacket, I put it on and and was so disappointed.  It looked really big and sloppy.  I think the stretch of my fabric (it was a stretch suiting made of rayon/poly/lycra) and its drapiness caused it to be a lot more droopy than the wearable muslin, which was made with a cotton blend that had a lot more body to it.  I had to move my buttons over to make it tighter, and then it felt and looked better.  My unscientific button application means that they’re not quite the same distance from the edge of the jacket, so I can definitely never wear this blazer unbuttoned.  But that’s fine, because open it looks even sloppier.  Sigh.

Now for all the ways in which this jacket is leagues ahead of the wearable muslin:

mccalls-6172-bagged-hem

Look at that properly bagged lining!  M6172 had different lining pieces, which made it easy to properly bag the lining.  When I did the lining on S2446, I couldn’t understand how you were supposed to get the right result unless the lining pieces were a different length than the pattern pieces.  Well, you’re not.  The new suit has the proper pleat at the bottom, while the tan one does not.  Point 1 for new suit.

mccalls-6172-back-pleat

Look at that gorgeous back pleat!  Because S2446 doesn’t have separate lining pieces, it also doesn’t have a back pleat built in.  I tried to make my own sad little pleat, but you can see that I clearly had no idea what I was doing or what a back pleat was supposed to look like.  The rippling in the seam on the pleat is because I forgot to change to a smaller needle size for my lining fabric.  You can’t win them all.

mccalls-6172-interior-facing-collar

Just look at that totally not embarrassing collar and facing on the grey suit!  The collar and facing on S2446 are constructed a different way, and I think a combination of being too timid with my clipping and not knowing what I was doing resulted in the embarrassment you see in the tan suit.

mccalls-6172-button

I spent forever looking for buttons for this jacket, and this was the only one I could come up with that even remotely matched the fabric.  So I guess it’s a good thing I liked these buttons, which are from Vogue!  I wanted to go to Soutache which is supposed to be a great place for buttons and trims, but I ended up not having time for that.  I had to go to Vogue anyway for my clapper, so I just picked up the buttons while I was there.

mccalls-6172-collar

Here’s a better view of the collar.  I had a lot of trouble getting those points to look good.  My points on my purple version didn’t look good, so I asked Instagram what to do.  Everyone recommended using this tip:  Grainline Studio: Perfect Points.  Jen’s method is actually exactly what the pattern recommended, but since I’m sooooo smart, I had decided to go rogue and use a method where you don’t clip your corners.  It didn’t end up working, so I tried Jen’s/the pattern’s method and this is what I came up with.  I think my stitch length might have been too long.  Another problem:  particularly on the lapel you see on the right, the collar piece’s seam line is really concave.  The pattern said if that was happening, you could bow your seamline out to compensate, so that’s something I’ll have to do on the next jacket.

mccalls-6172-twill-tape-roll-line

Twill tape on the roll line.  I did not believe this could make that huge of a difference, but it really did, especially on the purple version.  I think I could have made the twill tape a little shorter to make the lapels hug my bust more on this version.  The stretch fabric is so loosey-goosey that it gapes open a bit and I worry that it looks sloppy.

mccalls-6172-wrinkly-collar

The neckline seems like it would have benefited from some twill tape on the roll line.  I steamed the hell out of it and tried to shape it on my tailor’s ham, but it just didn’t turn out very well.  Part of the problem is my floppity fabric, which I think would have benefited from twill tape to define the roll line, and part of the problem is that my under collar was larger than my upper collar when of course it’s supposed to be the opposite.  This happened on the purple version of this jacket too and I have no idea why.  I mean, I guess I could have accidentally stretched it out, but I put interfacing on them both immediately, which should prevent stretching, no?

suit-skirt-inside-pleat

Skirt details!  Here’s the inside with a new fabulous thing I tried:  making a pleat instead of a dart on the lining.  So much more comfortable!  I had wanted to line the skirt in the same hot pink Bemberg lining, but I guess I only bought enough of it for the jacket.

suit-skirt-blind-hem

Blind hem done by one Benjamin L. Gemmel, Esq.  (Note:  he’s not actually a lawyer.  I just think that last-minute conscripted seamstresses should be given an honorific of some sort.)  Not too shabby.  At the skirt-hemming point in the process, which occurred very late in the evening the night before my interview, I was pretty wild-eyed and desperate, and after a failed attempt at using rayon seam binding (that stuff is slippery!), I asked Ben if I could teach him how to do a blind hem.  He’s the best, so he said yes, and what you see above is the result.  He’s a quick study.

Now for a few shots of the wearable muslin for M6172, because I don’t think it warrants a whole separate post.  It’s much more wearable than the wearable muslin I made of S2446, and this was because I used proper finishing techniques on it.  I interfaced the entire jacket, used twill tape on the lapel roll line, put in shoulder pads, and made sleeve heads.  (Don’t mind my huge pile of in-progress projects on the cat tree next to me!)

mccalls-6172-wearable-muslin-front

Ugh, that shoulder crease on the left is really irritating me!  I never noticed until these photographs.  I think it’s because I’ve worn this twice, and both times under my winter coat, which tends to crush things.  That’s what I’m going to believe, anyway.

mccalls-6172-wearable-muslin-side

I have nothing to say about this side view.  I just thought that in the interests of accuracy in reporting, you might want to see it.  I suppose I could tell you something about the fabric.  It’s a mystery fabric from the Textile Discount Outlet, or whatever it’s called, here in Chicago.  From how it behaved, I believe it’s some kind of cotton/poly blend.  It has a fuzzy-ish finish, which makes it feel a bit like flannel, but it’s definitely not flannel.  It’s a very strange fabric, as are most things at the good old TDO.

mccalls-6172-wearable-muslin-back

You can really see those upper back wrinkles from excess ease here.  This fabric is much less drapey, so it doesn’t hide that flaw as much.  I really need to get this solved for any future versions.  This jacket is even more restrictive because the fabric has no stretch.  I think I’m going to try out something like a stretch cotton sateen for my next blazer.  It seems like it would be the best of both worlds:  structured but stretchy.

A couple of points of major importance in achieving the finishes I did on these jackets, which while not perfect, are much better than on my S2446.  First, I have been sewing for four years and just last month finally bought good interfacing.  Don’t wait as long as me, reader.  I’d decided that the cheap stuff from Joann’s was garbage a long time ago, but instead of spending money on the good stuff, I was just going without or using muslin as sew-in interfacing when it seemed necessary.  How stupid I was.  I got a huge pile of interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply and Palmer/Pletsch.  There’s not a huge difference between the two, though FSS has way more options than P/P.  That could be a benefit, or it could be overwhelming, depending on your perspective.  I just got pretty much everything so I’d have it on hand for a while.  Both interfacings are quality materials that fuse easily and provide just the right amount of body as long as you use the one recommended for your fabric.  Quality interfacing, I love you.  Here is my pile, pre-suit:

interfacing

Finally, I want to end with an exhortation to get ye a clapper if you don’t already have one.  It made SUCH a huge difference in the quality of this suit.  In particular, my grey suiting fabric had a high polyester content, so it was difficult to press.  The clapper beat it into submission.  A photographic tribute to my lovely clapper:

clapper

I can’t end this post without mentioning my thanks to Gail from Today’s Agenda.  She’s been working on making blazers lately and has some beautiful finished products.  She was so helpful in answering all my questions while I made these, and I really appreciated her willingness to chat with me about blazers!  Thanks, Gail!

 

Feb 172015
 

A few weeks ago, Ben and I went shopping at IKEA to get him a new desk.  He works from home full-time and had been using two desks, one for work and one for his home computer.  In the “before” picture below, his home desk is on the left and his work desk is on the right.  You can see how his work desk is so cramped that he can’t even have his two monitors oriented the right way.  We decided that we would get him a regular full-size desk to live on the right side of the TV and I would get the desk on the left for my serger.  This was very exciting to me because I’ve always wanted my serger to be on a separate surface from my sewing machine.  It’s difficult for me to go back and forth between the two when they’re right next to each other – the space gets too cluttered.  We ended up getting a table top and legs instead of a proper desk because he didn’t need any of the storage space a desk comes with, and he primarily wanted more space on top of the desk.  The set we got was super cheap, and I decided that I’d rather have the same set up.  First of all, when I tested that leaning desk out, it was pretty wobbly when the serger was running at full speed.  Second of all, I obviously have a thing for symmetry in a room, so I felt like it would look better if we had two similar desks, even if our living room is becoming more devoted to function over form with each passing day.

desks-before

So below is my new sewing corner set up.  As I’ve mentioned several times, we live in a very tiny apartment, so my sewing area has to be in the living room/Ben’s office/our dining room.  There used to be a dining room table where my large sewing desk is, but it was sacrificed to the sewing gods and now we eat on the couch.  I love my new L-shaped setup, which is what I’ve always wanted.  I can roll between serger and sewing machine, and if I ever get my vintage machine cleaned and repaired, I could even set it up when necessary if I wanted to use my regular machine for construction and use my old Singer for top stitching.  As you can see below, my sewing corner also serves as a convenient place to charge our stick vacuum and as the home for a cat tree we recently bought and which Desdemona never uses.  She’s much more enamored of the cardboard scratcher you can see in front of our TV stand in the before picture, and which cost us a quarter of what we spent on the cat tree.  Sigh.  But I have made good use of the cat tree for storing works in progress!
sewing-area

When I knew I would be taking over the space to the left of the TV, I wanted to get one of those IKEA wall storage systems so I could organize some things that had been floating around the drawers of my giant tanker desk (have I mentioned that I love my tanker desk, which I got on Craigslist for $25?  It desperately needs refinished, but it is so sturdy and so spacious!).  I have some tools hanging, like my design ruler, which was so annoying in my top desk drawer because it was always in the way, and the piece I need to convert my serger into a coverstitch machine because it was always getting lost somewhere.  I have bias tape in the first white container, elastic in the second, and pens and paintbrushes (no idea why I still have paintbrushes) in the third.  I got a set of spice jars from IKEA to organize my buttons, and I put a little flower for some color on the end of the my button jar rack.  This system appeals to the crazy organizer in me so much, I can’t even tell you.  I could spend my whole life in The Container Store or the parts of IKEA dedicated to storage and be very happy.

ikea-bygel

Here’s another view of my lovely tanker desk, which is no longer cluttered with my serger.  Now, when I want to cut, I only have to move my sewing machine (which I can put on my serger desk instead of on the floor, which later requires a back-breaking haul back up to the desk), my basket full of in-progress patterns (in the back right corner), my little desktop trash can (it’s actually a vase/candle holder), my tissues (because I’m allergic to and also a lover of cats), my hand lotion, my pins, and my huge stack of fabric.  Ideally, that huge stack of fabric wouldn’t be so huge or perhaps would even be nonexistent, but this is what comes of being excited about sewing more things than you have time to sew.  The thing on the left corner is a bowl full of pattern weights, and that would likely stay on my desk or just get transferred to one of the little side boards that slide out over each stack of drawers while I’m cutting.  You can also see my two other new purchases from IKEA here:  my floor lamp, which means I no longer have to move a lamp off my desk to cut fabric, and my chair, which doesn’t seem like it would be all that comfy, but really is.  Plus it’s turquoise!  This chair was out of stock for the longest time, but I was finally able to get it on Sunday, and I’m so happy to have it.  My other chair bothered my back and would also sink down over time.  This one is much nicer.  And I’m so in love with that lamp, which is on sale this month for members of IKEA’s rewards program.  I’ve always wanted a floor lamp that looks like a giant desk lamp for some reason, and now my dream has come true, haha.  sewing-desk

I moved my old lamp to my serger desk, along with all my sewing books so they’re more easily accessed.  And now for the part of this post that’s actually about sewing something!  My serger used to be in the back corner of my tanker desk, and I used to cover it with a scrap of fabric.  A cover of some sort was necessary because the aforementioned cat that I love so much loves to play with the serger thread if I leave it unattended.  When I moved the serger to its own desk, which is right across from the couch, I knew I wouldn’t want to stare at the busted old scrap of fabric I was using to cover it.  So I made a serger cover!  I’ve been wanting to do this ever since I got my serger, which came with a really stupid plastic cover that looks terrible and isn’t all that functional, either.  I just never want to sew anything other than clothes, so I never got around to it.  As soon as I brought this desk home, I ordered this sewing machine fabric that I’d had my eye on for some time.  I LOVE it.  Even though it’s not printed on grain, which means my sewing machines slope a bit, and even though I bought too little of it, which required me to piece some of it together on the back, at which point I discovered that the boxes are neither the same height nor width from row to row.  So this didn’t turn out as perfectly as I had envisioned, but I don’t care because SEWING MACHINE FABRIC.  Also COLORS.

serger-cover-front

I used this tutorial to make my cover, but I changed quite a few things.  I didn’t sew the outer pockets because I’d never use them, and I didn’t apply piping along the bottom of the cover, instead opting for home-made bias tape that matched the piping.  I also oriented my handle differently and just placed it on top instead of making it run down along the sides.  Most significantly, I used Peltex on the main panel instead of the suggested fusible fleece interfacing.  I used the fusible fleece on the sides, but I wanted my cover to have a lot of structure and I had a huge roll of Peltex from the days when I foolishly thought I’d enjoy making tons of bags, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to use some of it up.  serger-cover-topPeltex is stiff but pretty easy to use if you just leave it out of the seam allowances, which is what I did here.  I did not relish the thought of trying to pull this stiff structure through a hole after sewing in a lining, though, which is why I used the bias tape along the bottom of the cover.  I made the lining and tacked it in the corners by hand, then applied the bias tape along the bottom edge, enclosing the raw edge of the lining and exterior in the tape.  I love my new serger cover!  The bright colors and sewing machines make me happy every time I look at it, and it makes me feel like my serger is right at home in our vibrantly-colored apartment.  Yay for a new serger cover and more functional sewing space!serger-cover-inside

Now a tale of a failed project.  A couple weeks ago, I dropped my wallet while getting into my car and some jerk stole it.  I wasn’t sure whether I just couldn’t find it somewhere in the car despite searching like crazy, or whether someone had actually taken it from the spot where I’d parked, but I cancelled my credit cards and bank card just to be safe.  When I got home, Ben got a notification that someone had tried to use our health flexible spending card at a parking meter.  Since it can only be used for health-related things, it was rejected.  I felt so relieved that I’d immediately cancelled my other cards!  I was so baffled as to why the thief had tried to use my FSA card, of all things, at a parking meter, of all places.  The next day, it hit me:  he or she must have been trying all the cards in the wallet to see if any of them worked at the parking meter because it wouldn’t raise suspicion if they were rejected, seeing as how there’s no cashier involved.  By the time they got around to doing this, though, all the cards had been cancelled except that one.

I wanted to just get another wallet like the one I had, which was from Timbuk2, but they didn’t carry it anymore.  I got the brilliant idea to make a wallet.  I looked for wallet patterns and couldn’t come up with anything that didn’t look Becky Homecky until I came across these two tutorials: large wallet and small wallet. They were in what appears to be Russian, though, which meant they weren’t so much tutorials to me as much as a ton of photos. I studied them for a while and came up with what I thought would be a good method to make a wallet.

I was pretty pleased with the inside.  It had room for twelve cards and two large pockets for coupons/receipts.  I had intended to include a pocket in the center like the wallets in the tutorials have, but it turned out way too bulky.  I didn’t like it, so I scrapped it.  I had wanted it for coins (why do so many wallets lack a place to put coins?), so I decided to just make an exterior zip pocket for dollar bills and coins.

failed-wallet-insideBut the outside left much to be desired.  My pocket zipper application was wonky, which really irritated me, but I figured I could live with it.  Then I came to the edge zipper and bias tape application.  I did this a little differently than the tutorials because I wanted the zipper edge enclosed in the bias tape, and I wanted to avoid hand sewing the zipper, which I imagined would be under too much stress to hold up to my hand stitching.  I could NOT get that bias tape to go around the corners nicely!  I ripped it out THREE times and what you see below is the best I could come up with.  It was really driving me batty.  I eventually got it sewn on, though, and was in the process of hand sewing the interior side of the bias tape when I gave the wallet a zip test, which is something I’d done like a hundred times during the process to make sure everything was lining up correctly.  Well, it didn’t line up correctly this time and goodness only knows why.  You can see in the picture how it’s sort of skewed – you can’t see the back side of the wallet on the right side, but you can on the left side.  That’s because the whole wallet is askew.  I knew that the three problems together would keep me from enjoying this wallet.  I threw it down in frustration and went to Target and bought a new wallet.  failed-wallet-outsideAnd that Target wallet is exactly the wallet I’d wanted to make from those tutorials with the addition of a pocket for your cell phone (which, no thank you – after losing my wallet, the last thing I want to do is lose my wallet AND my phone!).  It’s much sleeker and slimmer because it was made by professionals with the right materials, and this all just reminds me why I don’t sew my own bags anymore.  It’s just too difficult to get the right materials and get things properly sewn with home sewing machines.  Another thing is that the zipper I was using on my wallet wasn’t great and would give me trouble zipping around the corners.  The zipper on my Target wallet is great.

new-walletI haven’t thrown that wallet away yet, so I might try to fix it by reinserting the zipper so it closes straight and by narrowing the bias tape so it goes around the corner more neatly.  I don’t know.  I just knew I was sick of carrying my cards around loose in my purse and needed a wallet for my trip to Savannah, which I took this past weekend.  My Target wallet came in quite handy in Savannah – it had plenty of space for saving the receipts I’d need for reimbursement later (this was a trip to a conference for school), and it definitely came in handy for holding the cards I needed to purchase gorgeous fabrics and yarn in Savannah, which you can see below.

I got the gorgeous green yarn from The Frayed Knot. It’s hand-dyed in Savannah by The Copper Corgi, and it’s the most I’ve ever spent on yarn, but I think it’s worth it. It’s fingering weight merino, and I think I want to make a Peacock Eyes cardigan with it. The blue and white knit, the black textured rayon, and the pretty buttons are all from Fabrika Fine Fabrics. The fabric shop was right across the street from the hotel where my conference was being held, and the yarn shop was about a 10 minute walk away. What a great city Savannah is! The blue and gold striped fabric that everything is sitting on is from Joann’s. This fabric has been on display at my local Joann’s for weeks now, but they don’t have any stock of it. I thought I’d check in Savannah since I would be near a Joann’s as well, and they had it! It’s striped on the side you can see, but I’m actually going to use the side you can’t see, which is polka dotted. I want to make a cardigan out of it. Joann’s has really been stepping up their fashion fabric game lately, and I’ve gotten a few pieces of fabric from them. I’m glad I was able to get my hands on some of this blue and gold knit!

savannah-fabric-yarnI scheduled an interview today for a week and half from now, so all regularly scheduled sewing will be halting while I make my next blazer.  My Simplicity 2446 was good enough for a wearable muslin, but for a proper interview I want to make a proper blazer, with interfacing and some proper tailoring techniques.  I just need to decide if I’m going to stick with the Simplicity pattern or go with the highly-recommended McCall’s 6172.  Wish me luck!

 

Jan 212015
 

I’m here with exciting news today:  I think this might be the first time I’ve ever decided to participate in a sewing challenge and actually got everything done on time!  Last fall, Mary at Idle Fancy declared the Autumn of 1000 Shirtdresses and invited others to participate in making thousands of amazing shirtdresses with her.  I’d been desperately wanting to make McCall’s 6696, so I was very excited to hear about this.  Mary very graciously extended the deadline a couple of times (which is why the Autumn of 1000 Shirtdresses is wrapping up in winter), and if it hadn’t been for that, I never would have made it.  Yay for extensions!

I’ve always wanted to make a shirtdress because button-down RTW things in general don’t fit me.  I love love love shirtdresses, so it’s always been depressing to me that I couldn’t wear them.  My Grainline Alder was technically a shirtdress, but not a classic one, so I was still itching to make a classic shirtwaist dress.  I am very pleased with the results I got from McCalls 6696.

mccalls-6696-front-2

 

This dress is sort of a wearable muslin; I made a real muslin of the bodice out of muslin fabric and made some adjustments based on that, but decided that I wanted to make a practice dress out of some inexpensive fabric before cutting into the two nicer fabrics I purchased for this pattern.  This fabric was cheap as free because it’s part of the massive stash of fabric I keep referencing from my friend Annah’s grandma.  You may recall that I made my first Tiramisu out of red striped fabric from Annah’s grandma, and I still have one more red stripe from her!  She’s apparently a great fan of red striped fabric, and she’s not wrong.  This particular fabric is really interesting because the selvedge says it’s from Wamsutta, a name you might recognize from shopping for bedsheets.  I didn’t know they made yardage you could buy, but I believe Annah said her grandma told her she got it from the Wamsutta outlet.  I’m guessing it was made for some home dec purpose, but I think it makes a nice vintagey-looking shirtdress.  It has in interesting texture, which you can see in some of my closeups at the end of this post.

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I wasn’t sure how much I’d actually like a classic shirtdress on me because I’d never found one that fit properly enough to make an assessment.  I am pretty happy with this, though.  I think this dress probably emphasizes my bustline a bit more than I’d like, but I’m honestly so thrilled with finally having a shirtdress that I don’t even care.  In the picture below, you’ll notice that I took out the back gathering.  I like it on many of the versions I’ve seen on others, but I don’t like it on me.  I also removed a lot of width from the front and back skirt pieces.  There were two reasons for this – first of all, my fabric was pretty narrow and it would have been necessary to not cut on the fold to fit the skirt pieces on my fabric.  I didn’t want to deal with that, plus I generally don’t like as much bulk in the skirt as most pleated or gathered skirt patterns call for.  I probably took four inches out of the back and two or so inches out of the front, and I think it worked out perfectly.  I was able to fit the pattern pieces on my fabric while it was folded, and I really like the amount of ease below the waist.

You can also see in this picture that the back waistline is a little low.  Readers, I’ve already taken off like two inches from the back length!  I chopped about an inch off the bottom and I folded out about an inch at the yoke seam.  I always have a ton of problems with excess back length, and this dress is apparently no exception.  I’ll keep working on this in my next two versions.  All that being said, I’m pretty happy with my stripe matching here.  The collar matching is a total fluke – I initially cut the back, yoke, and collar all on the same fold so they’d match, but then I accidentally sewed the collar without my interfacing.  I didn’t feel like ripping it out, so I just cut a new collar because I had extra fabric.  I’m glad it ended up matching the bodice stripes because I didn’t think of that at all when I was cutting the new one!

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Speaking of interfacing, I still don’t have any quality fusible interfacing, so I decided to use bleached muslin as my interfacing for this dress.  I’d heard of people doing this on Pattern Review and decided it couldn’t be that terrible of an idea.  After I finished this dress, Tasia revealed that she used bleached muslin as a sew-in interfacing on her new Granville shirts (which are amazing and I must have this pattern immediately!) because it’s what David Page Coffin recommends in his shirtmaking book, so I felt justified in what I’d done.  I had been admiring the gorgeous crisp cuffs and collars on Tasia’s samples and wanted to know her secrets – little did I know that I was already practicing them!

For another tip on getting crisp collars, I’d recommend using this method for shaping your corners: Tilly’s tutorial on How to Shape a Sharp Corner.  I’ve seen a few people recommend this method, but Tilly’s is the only tutorial I can remember right now (I think Tasia might have also talked about this one?).  This method works, people.  It works much better than reducing bulk by snipping crosswise, and it also works better than this method I’ve seen where you sew a thread into the corner and then pull it from the outside.

In the picture below, I might look like I’m doing the robot, but what I’m actually doing is looking for the pockets that this dress is supposed to have.  I cut out the pockets and everything, but then I totally forgot to sew them.  I didn’t realize it until everything was done except the finishing and once again didn’t feel like ripping things out, so I just left them off.  Unlike others, I’m not one who freaks out about pockets–I feel like they often sit strangely and make my hips look bigger than they are–but I do feel like a proper shirtdress should have pockets so I’ll try to remember to put them in my next two versions!

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Because this was a sort of wearable muslin, I decided to pink the seams instead of finishing them with my serger.  It also seemed like a good idea because this dress has a sort of vintagey feel to me.  I’ve never done this before, so we’ll see how I like it.  It was certainly a lot quicker, especially since I have a pinking blade for my rotary cutter, but the seams don’t seem to be laying as flat as my overlocked ones do.

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This dress called for some hand sewing, which is something I normally hate, but I’m trying to get better at it.  Part of the reason I hate it is because my hand sewing is messy, so I’ve been trying to work on making it neater.  The picture below shows some of my best hand sewing to date!  But man, was it annoying.  My thread kept tangling like crazy even though I used this Thread Heaven wax that’s supposed to prevent that from happening.  Has anyone tried this stuff?  I feel like my thread was worse with it!  Perhaps I should try some regular old beeswax?

You can see the texture I was talking about earlier here – it has a sort of slubby look to it.  The red stripe is printed on, and in some spots, the the little bumps that you see are loose, if that makes sense, so the dye didn’t take in those spots and there are a few white speckles throughout the fabric (you can see one of those spots on the left side of the waistband above the stripes in the photo below).  Very interesting!  The fabric is cotton, but I’m not sure if it would be called a slub cotton (I’ve only seen slub knits – can a woven be a slub?) or if there’s some name for this.

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There are a couple of things I’d like to fix on my next version, even though changing anything up on a version made from nicer fabric makes me nervous.  First of all, I don’t know how evident it is in the pictures, but there’s some significant bubbling at the ends of my darts, even though I ironed them over my ham like a crazy person.  I had to widen the bust darts to eliminate some gappage at the armhole, which is a pretty standard alteration for me.  I’m thinking that maybe the dart is just too enormous now, so I might try rotating some of it into the waist dart.  You can see my mega dart below.  As a side note, I’ve never quite fully understood how moving some of the bust dart width to the waist dart would, as people claim, not make the waist smaller.  If you’re making the dart bigger, wouldn’t you be taking some width out of the waist and therefore be making it  smaller?  But I finally realized that if you rotate your dart properly, you’re not taking width out of the waist.  If you just widened the dart by redrawing the dart legs wider, yes, you’d be cutting off some of the width from the waist.  But if you do what you’re supposed to do, which is make your pattern hinge at the dart point to make one dart larger and one smaller, you won’t be affecting the amount of fabric on either side of the dart, which means your dart will be wider but the width of your waist will remain the same.  I’m not sure whether that explanation makes sense to anyone else, but it was a lightbulb moment for me!

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The second thing I’d like to fix (actually the third if you count taking some additional length off the back) is to do something about the collar size.  I’m not sure if you can see in the photo below how wide and tall the collar is on me, but it’s very noticeable to me when I wear it, so this might be more of a comfort issue than an appearance issue.  I have a short neck, so I think I just don’t have the room for a tall collar like this.  There are a few things that I think would need to happen to fix this:  I need to make the actual neckline, the collar stand, and the collar itself all a bit lower.  I think all three are combing to make me feel like there’s a lot of excess fabric at the neck, and if I shave a bit off of each, I think it will seem a little less like I’m being attacked by fabric when I wear my future dresses.  The trick will be making sure everything still lines up for the collar when I make everything smaller.   mccalls-6696-frontI’m really pleased with this dress and I can’t wait to make more of them!  I have a floral cotton voile for a summery dress and a canvas with cats on it (this one) and I’m super excited to start working on my cat dress!  I accidentally bought too little of the cat fabric because I thought it was wider than it is, so I’m waiting on some additional fabric to arrive so I can get started on it.  My cat dress will have sleeves, and I’m excited about seeing how that looks on me.

Thank you so much to Mary for thinking up such a great group sewing idea and providing so much great inspiration for McCall’s 6696!  I’m so glad I decided to sew up this dress!