Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Dress and Blouse Patterns are Here

Yay, the sewing patterns I ordered online have arrived! At the rate I get through projects these will keep me going for months.

Waffling on what to make first. It's gonna be one of these two, with contrast yoke and hem panel:

Fabrics... oh I've amassed so many to choose from. Amy Butler for sure, but which to feature and which to trim with... could take me days to make a decision.

If I decide to go with 5179, I prefer the lower yoke and pleated bodice (vs. gathers) of this version (Simplicity 2962):
... which I'm gonna make at least one top from. But a dress comes first.

Actually, meeting my noveling goal for the day comes first. No sewing until that's done.

Monday, September 29, 2008

... and then a miracle ocurred!

You know how you ALWAYS run out of bobbin thread either in the midst of something really finicky and tricky or 4" from the end of a seam?

Well, this weekend I was working on a couple of projects (photos still in the camera, details not yet written up but will appear eventually) and stitched away making some striped bias tape, lots of seams. And at the end of the LAST seam, after stitching all the straight bits of fabric together, and cutting on the angle, and then piecing all the ends of the strips to make one very long piece (for coverlet binding all the way around), I lifted up the pressure foot and pulled out the fabric and along with it came a tiny little curl of tail-end of bobbin thread, just under 3" long! A miracle! Just think, only a tiny tug more at the end of an intermediate seam at any point along the way, and I would have run short so close to the end. But I didn't.

Small pleasure, I know, but satisfying nonetheless.

Even more fun was when it happened AGAIN about a half-hour later, when I'd switched to another project!

So this is my public shout-out to the bobbin genies or gremlins, or whatever they are, to express my appreciation for being on the "little bit extra" end of the thread this time around.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Heather Bailey Charming Handbag

My first handbag project: the “Charming Handbag” from Amy Karol’s Bend the Rules Sewing, made from several Heather Bailey “Pop Garden” fat quarters. Pretty easy to do, once I got my hands on some flannel for the facing.

If I’d made this for myself, I would have used the interior fabric on the outside, but this version’s a gift for my sister who I think will like the green rose print better.

I enjoyed making it, and am proud of myself for following the pattern and directions diligently, for a change. Other than adjusting the scale to make sure I could get both front and back pieces from one FQ, that is. I had a lot of ideas of what I could do differently, but decided to challenge myself to make the original first without messing around with it, and then see what I might want to change.

Couldn’t help myself, though, had to add a little patch pocket on the inside. Every purse should have an interior pocket, don’t you think?
Here’s how it will look in action.
If I ever make this again, I would add a closure of some kind. It gapes open: not a great feature in a purse.
And I do think a band of ribbon trim, as Amy K suggests and shows, would be nicer. But my trim selection is dismal at the moment. Got a couple of nice things in a swap, but they’re not right for this fabric. If I can find something appropriate before my sister shows up for a visit next month I’ll might hand-stitch an embellishment to the front. A fabric rose might be pretty, not that I have a clue how to make one. A few minutes with Google would probably take care of that.

Bottom line, I’m not sure I like it enough to make another one, not with so many other handbag possibilities out there and in my head. But it’s cute enough. I’ll call it a successful start at handbag production.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Favorite Housedress, Replicated

Here’s the original ‘favorite housedress’ again (well-loved, much worn, and falling apart), and my recreation using blues from my stash: Well, mostly blues. The dark tones in the brown batik are really more purple than blue, and the waterlily fabric used for the bottom border is black/green/purple, no blue at all. But it’s sufficiently floral it’s a good companion for the hydrangea print up near the top. The new dress is about 2 inches narrower than the original; it looks so much wider ‘cause the fabric is years of washes away from being as soft and drapey as the inspiration garment, but that’s okay.

Fabric choice was mostly influenced by desire to make inroads into the stash. I chose and paired the blue and brown batiks because I have several yards of each and wanted to see how well they play together. I think they go together very well. These two will make a return appearance together in a future garment, for sure:

This was quite easy to make. Cut the basic fabric blocks on Saturday afternoon, stitched it all up on Sunday, easy peasy. Could have done the whole thing in one day, but I don’t know that my sewing stamina would have been up to it.

I measured the original dress color block dimensions plus a little extra for seams, shaping, to get the overall block sizes needed. The fabric piecing is identical on front and back, so just do it all twice and you’re set. I traced the outline of the neck/arm/shoulder shaping onto a piece of freezer paper – including marking where the first fabric block seam goes), then narrowed the shoulders, lowered the neckline just a bit, and tidied up the lines to make smooth curves, added ¼” for edge seam.

Each side (front, back) is essentially three sections: the long fabric piece on left, the pieced section that matches it on the right, and a border piece that goes across the whole width at the bottom. The top of the border piece is straight across the straight edges of the top right-left sections, curved slightly at the hem.

I started by stitching the pieced righthand pieces –as rectangles, no side or shoulder shaping done yet. Pressed seams down and top-stitched to control inside raw edges (serging would work, but I don’t own a serger). Then I put the right section with the left fabric, stitched the center seam, pressed to left, and top-stitched.

Pressed everything well one more time, folded on center seam, spread out nice and smooth on my worktable, and lay the shoulder pattern on top, matching the block seam line.

Then I lay out the original dress on top to trace the general outline of the rest of the dress from underarm down.

Cut the neck/arm line and outside edges, then added the bottom panel pieces to both front and back, trimmed sides to continue outside line, and trimmed bottom edge to curve up slightly toward sides. I stitched up the sides using a French seam to enclose raw edges, leaving 12” open at the bottom of the side seams to be slits (the original doesn’t have any, but I like them). Turned back edges of slits and bottom hem, and the bottom part was done.

Stay-stitched around all the neck-arm curves, using a basting stitch for about six inches up the front from the underarm seam. That enabled me to gather up that short piece of armhole just a bit, thus preventing gaposis on the side of the upper bust. The original had a very handy short strip of ¼” elastic sown into the lower front armhole edge hem, to accomplish the same thing with a lot more work. Plus, I don’t have any ¼” elastic lying around (that I could find, although I think there is some somewhere around here. One of these weekends I should postpone sewing long enough to clean out the projects closet!).

Stitched up shoulder seams, then finished neck and arm edges with narrow bias tape. My first try at that – mostly because I wanted to use my new bias tape maker. Initial results looked a little wavey and not right, but a good press on the tailor’s ham with my super-duper new iron and it shaped up beautifully! My track record with first attempts at new sewing techniques isn’t all that great, so I’m thrilled the bias tape finish turned out so well. Was a bit of a pain to do, required a monster pinning job (I usually try to avoid pinning whenever possible, but here it was a good idea) but worth it. Will definitely do again.

My favorite detail: the original plan was to cut the back neckline a little higher than the front but I completely spaced on doing that, oops, so they’re identical now. Since the high-bust ease I put into the armhole is subtle, I needed some way to tell front from back at a glance. So I made this fake tag and edge-stitched it into place at the inside center back.

Cute, huh? I’m gonna put one in everything I make from now on, just for the fun of it.

Am wearing the dress right now, and rate it a great success. No drape to it yet, the fabric has all only been washed-dried once, to pre-shrink, so it may be years before it’s as soft as the original, but I’m going to enjoy it a lot in the meantime, anyway.

I already have plans to make a shorter version – maybe an inch or so above the knee, and maybe with a different shoulder treatment – for midday wear on steamy days. And with a different color family. Reds and pinks, maybe…

Stay tuned.

Friday, September 5, 2008

My Favorite Housedress

... is falling apart. Funny that I love it so much, because brown is totally not my color. I'm a blues/pinks/greens wearer usually. It was that big bold leafy print that hooked me. That and the fact that it's a size too large, ankle-length, huge and loose and oh, so comfy. I've been wearing this around the house in the morning and/or evening for 9 years now, year 'round, so it's been both worn and washed a lot. Even cold water/gentle cycle/line dry, that's enough trips through the washer to have taken a toll. Plus, I've literally worn it out.

The neck looks funny in the photo because it originally had a button holding a key-hole opening closed. I like that look, but unless I had my hair pinned up my braid kept catching on the button, which was beyond annoying, so I just cut the button off one day, and let the tabs hang there. Even at that point, which was years ago, the dress wasn't worth putting any repair work into. But I've continued to wear it. And now close-ups look like this:

I'm going to try making something like it out of the dark blue fabrics in my quilting stash. I've got at least one nice batik, and some florals, and an abstract or two. Nothing as big and bold as the leaf print in the brown version, but enough variety that I can replicate the general look.

Gotta get some birthday gifts (mom and sis) finished up and in the mail, but once those are done I'm gonna turn my attention to this, because I don't have a backup. My next favorite housedress is in even worse shape: one of the spaghetti shoulder straps shredded in the last wash and is literally hanging by a thread. The fabric has completely disintegrated, and all that's left is the seam stitching. (Tried to take a pic of that, but it didn't come out and my camera battery is just about defunct.) These impending disasters on the wardrobe front were a driving force behind my deciding to start making some clothes, which is what led to this blog in the first place.

Anyway, I'd better stop futzing around with too-pretty-for-around-the-house things like that Amy Butler peony skirt, and make something loose and comfy I can wear the h*ll out of.

Pink, White, Red

I am so grooving on these colors in bold, oversized florals right now. Still haven't hemmed the Amy Butler peony skirt (it's on this weekend's projects list), but love love love the fabric.

So I bought more. And a couple of others by Michael Miller. One yard each, thus demonstrating some moderate restraint. I thought I'd given up quilts -- not that I was churning them out at anything more than a one-per-decade pace -- in favor of making clothes, but the vision of a quilt from these pink-white-red florals has seized my imagination and won't let go.

I'm gonna start stockpiling these prints as I find them, think about a really simple setting (oversized florals = keep the pieces on the biggish size) and see if I can come up with some idea of how many different patterns I'm gonna aim to collect before getting started. I might just do 5-6" squares with white sashing. The fabrics are so gorgeous a fancy block setting will be overkill.

Also ordered a nice set of Kaffe Fassett "charm" pieces (5" squares) and Heather Bailey fat quarters. Don't know yet what I'm gonna do with those. Looking forward to getting inspired by them when they arrive.

First, I have to turn my attention back to my "get this stuff done and your weekend playtime can start" list. Still many items on it, and would like to get them all crossed off before noon tomorrow. Hope to post some new sewing projects by Monday...

Monday, September 1, 2008

UFO Discovery

I was rummaging around in the projects closet, and came across a UFO I'd completely forgotten about. How many years ago did I piece this quilt-top together? 15?

I remember I'd cut a gazillion strips to make a log-cabin something, and had so many left over I cut a few more and put them together in this zig-zag pattern. Here you see it folded in half and draped over my ironing board.

Seeing as I could use another blanket-type item for when my sisters come visit in mid-October, I thought "hey, maybe I could cobble together a back to this and have it quilted in time to use by then." Maybe.

Wanted to do something more than a plain back, partly 'cause I have a few largish pieces of fabric in the stash, but nothing with enough yardage to make a complete back, even for this smallish quilt (finished size will be approx. 66"x78": nap size, rather than bed size, but adequate for an extra layer for one person).

Along with the UFO top, I also found several longish strips of blue and brown check border: alternating 1.5" squares. And about 3 yards of a flame-colored orange tonal print ... and a navy fish theme fabric (where you do you suppose that came from? and why do I have 2.5 yards of it???) with lots of oranges, so the colors all go together nicely. Can't say orange and navy, with out without fish, is anything close to my style, but I really don't care. Goal is to DO something with this quilt top to get it closer to off the UFO list.

So, step 1: I cut some long strips of the flame orange, 8, 9, 10" wide, then cut them lengthwise sortof in half on a slight diagonal, and put the checked strips in the gap:

Step 2: Lay the quilt top out on the carpet in the bedroom... hey, look, there's just enough clear floor space for it, that's nice.

Step 3. Pinned bright yellow poly ribbon (from the gift wrap stash, I've got a 100-year supply of ribbon) to the carpet along the outside edge so I'll be sure to make the back bigger than the front by a few inches.

Step 4: Picked up the top, and lay down the first long strip, on a bit of an angle.

Step 5: Add more strips. The crosswise ones don't go all the way across (didn't have enough linear inches of the flame/check strips). They've been cut into sections and the ends tucked under the edges of the lengthwise ones. Hey, look, I've got just enough for two cross-wise and two lengthwise ones. That's nice.

Step 6: Fill in the gaps. This is where that fishy print gets used up (what else am I ever gonna do with it?). I've rough-cutting shapes here, freehand, making sure everything overlaps by at least an inch or so, for wiggle room.

Step 7: Stitch it together. I had to scratch my head for a bit to figure out how to get it from rough layout on the floor to (reasonably) accurate seaming on the machine. The orange edges are all nice and straight, so the trick is to fit the blue fishy pieces to them. Decided to pin more ribbon along the orange edges:

At that point pieces were picked up a few at a time. I measured out 1/2" from the yellow ribbon on the blue pieces (ribbon marks raw edge of orange, so 1/4" out = orange SA, another 1/4" for blue SA), used the rotary cutter to trim edges straight, and sewed the first batch of seams together. Trimmed the inside long edge to straight again (it needed tidying) and added the first lengthwise flame strip. So far so good.

Getting the rest of it done so the crosswise pieces lined up in the right places and at the right angles took a little more finagling and pinning and head scratching and double-checking -- with frequent breaks because it was a hot day and the temp in the west-facing, no A/C bedroom by mid-afternoon was a steamy high 90s, and I needed freqent ice-water-and-fan breaks.

Anyway, the free-hand layout, guesstimate piecing all seemed a bit iffy, and I'd half expected a hair-tearing, head-banging, swear-inducing nightmare by the time I got to the far side. But it turned out okay:

Things moved around just enough so the finished product isn't quite a much wider than than top as planned, but I can either add a small strip to the sides of the back or trim the front border a little when I get to the next stage.

So now the question is whether to send it out and pay someone else to quilt it for me (if I can find someone who can get it back to me in no more than 5 weeks -- and for a reasonable price -- or to put the whole thing back in the closet until I get a new sewing machine that will enable me to quilt it myself. That's still undecided.

Amy Butler Skirt #1

My first "Amy Butler" skirt... almost done! Just needs a buttonhole in the waistband, for the wrap tie to pass through, and to be hemmed. But it's a steamy day in Hilo, so final decision on hem length is going to have to wait until it's cooler out and I'm showered and clean before trying it on.

I've had this fabric for MONTHS, have been dithering endlessly trying to make a decision on what to make from it. Finally snapped out of it and told self, "Just pick a style and MAKE it, already. Sheesh." There's more fabric where this came from (fabric.com). Not like it's made out of gold or anything. Doesn't have to be the ultimate most perfectest thing I ever make in my life. Just do it! (My Nike moment for the month.)

So I did. Cut the fabric Sat. am, stitched most of it Sun. afternoon, finished the waistband and ties this morning.

The "pattern" is a combo of the "Breezy Beach Wrap" (wrapped to front, not back) and "East Meets West" skirts from "Sew What? Skirts". Both are based on the basic A-Line. I kept the skirt fairly narrow and added some waist darts 'cause my shape needs that.

The AB peony fabric is lightweight and in this colorway very transparent, so I underlined the whole thing with white cotton lawn. A bit more of a production, but easy enough to do. Helps with drape, gives it more of a "quality" vs. "pretty but flimsy" look. Should be okay to wear on all but the warmest days here. Not sure I have a top to go with it, but that's a whole other issue.

I'm eager to get this done, but am still unable to locate the buttonhole guide-foot-thingie for my sewing machine. It's gotta be somewhere. I used it, oh, six months or so ago...

I'm also feeling burned out on sewing, which is mostly what I've done for this 3-day weekend. This skirt was my second project of the weekend, the first being to make a back for the "ZigZag" UFO quilt top I found in the projects closet. I'll blog about that one, too, in a little bit. First, I need to take a break and get some lunch.

Anyway, hunger + sewing project burnout + humid weather + can't find buttonhole thingie means this gorgous skirt will most likely hang in the closet as a UFO until next weekend. I'll post a photo of it "in action" when it's done.