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Aug 132015

Here’s yet another Alder – number five to be precise!  It’s made of yet another Art Gallery voile, this one from Leah Duncan’s Gramercy line.  The print is called City Lights in Night.  I’d had my eye on it for a while and was delighted to discover that it could fit in with my plan to take home all the dark, printed voiles this summer.  I do love the print, but the hand of this voile is much different than the two other Art Gallery voiles I have.  It seems stiffer and stickier.  I’m guessing it’s the fault of the black dye, which is known to wreak havoc.  So if I’ve inspired you to buy the whole catalog of dark printed Art Gallery voiles, be aware that this one is not quite as magical as the others.  It’s still light and breezy and good for keeping as cool as possible in summer, but it’s not the wondrous fabric that led me on my dark printed voile quest.leah-duncan-gramercy-city-lights-night-grainline-alder-front

I really don’t have much to say about this dress that I didn’t say in my post about my Liberty Alder.  Like that dress, I also straightened the hem on this dress instead of using the shirttail-style hem of the pattern.  The only thing I have to say about this one that I didn’t say about the other is that the armhole on this one is a bit higher than my other Alders, thus making it a bit uncomfortable.  This happened because I forgot to use a 1/2″ seam allowance on the shoulder seams and instead used a 5/8″ allowance.  You wouldn’t think that 1/8″ would make much of a difference, but it really does!  The Liberty Alder armholes are high, but not as uncomfortably so as these.


I mentioned in my post about the Liberty Alder that I wanted to shorten the back bodice for future versions.  Since I made this one at the same time as that one, I didn’t make that change.  I’ll have to remember when I make it again, and I definitely will.  I’m thinking I might need a long-sleeved version for the fall.


These buttons are not very thrilling, sorry!  They’re just from Joann’s.  I had such a hard time deciding on buttons, though.  I thought maybe yellow, but I couldn’t find a yellow I liked.  Blue was my second choice, but these buttons only match the blue of the dress in certain lights/at certain angles.  So not the best option, but in my seven dress making frenzy, I didn’t have time for a trip to Soutache, which is further from me than Joann’s and has less convenient hours.

And that’s the tale of dress four of seven.  I have three more to show you (basic math, ya’ll), then I can move on to the two dresses I’ve made since.  My output has slowed down significantly since the seven dress making frenzy, perhaps understandably so.  In addition to being a little sewed-out, I’ve also been working on a really annoying dress that doesn’t inspire me to sit down at the sewing machine.  I hope it will turn out to be great dress, but the sewing of it is driving me nuts.  I forgot one of the lessons I learned when I sewed more in the month of January than I had all last year: if I’m not happy sewing something, give it a break and move on to something else.  I have this resistance to changing the thread in my machine and serger for some reason.  Sewing machines are easy to thread and I have an air-threaded serger, so there’s really no excuse.  I told myself in January that I just needed to rethread my machines if it meant I got to work on something more exciting, and I need to remember that so I don’t get hung up on one annoying dress!


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.


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.


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!


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.


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!


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.