Monday, March 24, 2014

out & about

Before I get to the meat of this post, let's have a lively discussion about photo files, shall we. For some reason every time I upload a JPG file to my blog, the image turns overly pixelated and blurry. This is a recent development because I used to use JPG files all the time. When I save the same image as a PNG file, it uploads much clearer in Blogger -- just as I see it in my photo editing software. However, PNG photos do not show up when I look at my blog posts in the Feedly app on my phone, nor do they show up when I try to pin them on Pinterest, and they're unable to be saved directly from the page. Has anyone else experienced anything similar -- where PNG files aren't "pinnable", or where JPG files are all screwed up in Blogger? I prefer my photos to look better on my actual blog so I've been using the PNGs but I hate the thought of people not being able to read my full posts on other platforms.

No one's said anything, but let me know if you've experienced any issues with my fotes not showing up somewhere. If you do want to pin my blog photos on Pinterest, like to your "Favorite People in the World" board for example, you can just hover over the image and a small red "Pin It" button will appear on the top left.

Anyway, what are you wearing, little one? A new dress! Made of jersey fabric! Get out.

Or should I say, get out & about? The base pattern I used is the recently released Out and About Dress by Sew Caroline, one of my fellow Project Sewn Season 1 contestants who just launched her own PDF pattern company and is also now a fabric designer and an e-book writer and probably a million other things I wish for my sewing self. Geez, some people and their ambitious entrepreneurship. 

And their lush green surroundings. If I took photos of myself walking around my neighborhood I would be kicking through piles of Fritos bags and Honey Bun wrappers. Philly's nasty <3

The Out and About is a basic knit dress with a scoop neck, cuffed sleeves and a gathered skirt that's either knee-length or maxi length. A modest dress for casual everyday wear. If you're new to sewing in general or new to knits, this could be a good place to start because it's a fast sew with a forgiving fit. Caroline's instructions are really thorough with color photographs of each step. She even recommends hemming the sleeves and skirt using Lite E-Z Steam, which helps stabilize the fabric so it doesn't get wavy and stretched out while topstitching the hem. Smart cookie.

I've already made Renfrew dresses and Lady Skaters (unblogged, yikes) so I didn't really want another knit dress with elbow-length set-in sleeves. So I went WILD with this one and extended the shoulder line to make little kimono sleeves instead. I actually meant to make it have more ease in the bodice so I cut the size Medium when I otherwise would have cut the Small, but it's still pretty fitted. The sleeves are hemmed with my coverstitch and not a band.

I also decided to do "color blocking" and make the bodice in leftover black jersey and the skirt in a print. Ooh she bad. For some reason I've never mixed fabrics in one pattern like this before, I guess because I normally don't have anything in my stash that coordinates. It also means I have enough leftover of the print jersey to make a t-shirt or something, which I'm happy about because this fabric is freaking heavenly to wear. It's a rayon jersey with 5% spandex so it's bouncy, drapey and opaque without being heavy. Normally I don't like gathered skirts that sit at the waist because of the bulk, but this fabric hangs nicely. It's from a special designer collection at JoAnn's (here) if you're into it. Yea, one of their so-called "ethnic" fabrics, which always makes me cringe.

My favorite method for gathering fabric for a skirt like this is to sew a zig-zag stitch over a strand of dental floss and then pull. It's faster because there's no need to sew two or three lines of basting stitches, and the dental floss is strong and the fabric glides right over it so there is no risk of threads breaking as you pull and having to start over again. Just be sure you don't accidentally stitch on top of the dental floss at any point because then the fabric won't move at that section.

I left the dental floss in while attaching the bodice to the gathered skirt by sewing directly below the strand and then simply pulling it out afterward.

My only issue, if you could even call it that, with this pattern was that the bodice was drafted to dip down at the sides instead of curve slightly upward like I'm used to seeing. I think I could notice the sides pulling downward on Caroline's black maxi dress, pictured above, so I modified it by changing the direction of the curve so it looked more even once worn. I also decided to add elastic to the waist seam so it wouldn't stretch out over time or droop. Otherwise I am pleased with the drafting of the pattern and happy to support another independent designer entering the market. Keep 'em coming.

This post is part of the Out & About Dress blog tour hosted by Sew Caroline. More of this pattern will be popping up in the coming week by the following talented seamsters:

Mon, March 24: Adventures in Dressmaking and Four Square Walls (that's me, you guys)
Tues, March 25: Alida Makes and Paisley Roots
Weds, March 26: Lexi Made and True Bias
Thurs, March 27: Sewing Like Mad and A Golden Afternoon
Fri, March 28: Lladybird and House of Pinheiro

Now that there are some great options for knit dresses by independent companies out there (Lady Skater, Coco, City Girl Frock, LolaOut & About, any others?), what's your favorite one or which ones would you like to try?

Monday, March 17, 2014

perfect pattern parcel: dandelion dress

Bare skin! Watch out now y'all. The earth is finally tilting in my favor after ignoring my pleas for like two full months. Though I prefer cold weather fashion, I will always prefer warm climates even if it means I have to stow away my beloved grandpa cardigans. My heating bill was half my rent last month, so... get lo$t, winter.

Here's a cool little number. I'm participating in the blog tour to help promote the newly launched Perfect Pattern Parcel, which is a way to purchase a bundle of five PDF patterns by independent designers -- naming your own price! -- with part of the proceeds going to charity. It's headed up by Jill of Made with Moxie and Rachael of Imagine Gnats. Cool idea, right? The first parcel includes five women's patterns, most of which you probably recognize:

Lady Skater Dress by Kitschy Coo
Dandelion Top/Dress by Seamster Patterns
Summer Concert Tee by Dixie DIY
Ava Dress by Victory Patterns
Accordion Bag by Sew Sweetness

The charity supported by this parcel is Donor's Choose, a non-profit that matches the needs of teachers and their students for specific projects with willing donors. The funds raised from each Pattern Parcel sale will support these efforts to minimize educational inequality and expand the resources available for children K-12 to receive a quality education. 

THE PATTERN: After much waffling about what to sew first, I decided to use this opportunity to try out a new-to-me pattern company, Seamster Patterns (formerly known as Disparate Disciplines). I knew they existed but I hadn't researched their patterns fully. The Dandelion Dress is a semi-fitted top or shift dress with a few combinations of necklines and sleeve options. I don't normally scramble to buy shift dress patterns because they're hard to fit on my body, but the unique construction and seaming of the Dandelion caught my attention. I've never seen anything like it. Here's the side, with the front on the left:

I chose to make the scoop neck raglan sleeve dress. The pattern pieces look crazy and I often had no idea what parts of the garment I was even sewing together, but suddenly I noticed I had made a dress. Here's what one step of the construction looks like:

It was fun to make something that was actually pretty simple but used a unique construction process. Sometimes you just get bored sewing plain ole side seams, yaknowwhatImean. The Dandelion is easy enough to follow and comes together surprisingly quickly.

FIT: I did have an... interesting time with fit. As expected with a shift dress, there was a swayback issue on my muslin. Big time. There was also excess fabric in the front, which I believe is how the pattern is drafted -- they advertise it as a dress you can move and eat comfortably in. My muslin was made of stiff quilting cotton and I looked preggo in it when I slouched. To adjust, I had to fold out two vertical inches of the back pattern pieces at the lower back and somehow grade it out to nothing at the sides (where are the sides?!). I kept muttering "This is going to be a disaster" as I was altering the pattern pieces, because a 2" swayback adjustment seemed outrageous and undoable, especially on unconventional pattern pieces like these. I also folded out 1" from the waistline at the front. Miraculously, though, it worked well enough. The dress now hangs properly and doesn't have a hurricane of fabric swirling over my ass. It's still a comfy fit though, as it's intended. This is the size S, by the way.

CHANGES (besides shortening it too much, duh): I used a knit fabric because it was the only workable fabric in my stash for this pattern. Plus I wanted to use something solid so you could actually see the seaming. I seem to own a TON of chiffon (why, oh god) and a TON of wool, but not much in between. Brilliant. I like the texture of this fabric, I think. It's a stable knit that was easy to sew, but it's kinda bulky at all those darts and seam intersections. Because of the darts, you can't really make this pattern as is on a serger alone.

To accommodate the knit fabric, I eliminated the back zipper and finished the neckline with a band instead of a facing. I attached the neckband flat before sewing the center back seam together so I didn't have to calculate the circumference. I hemmed the sleeves and bottom edge on my coverstitch machine. I thought that stupid thing was broken because it was spitting out garbage stitches on lighter weight knits last week, but it sews beautifully on this kind of fabric. Make up your mind, Coverpro.

As always I have things to point out about the pattern. Why can't I just say "'Here's a dress. Alright see ya"? I guess I think I'm being helpful to others by yammering on for days. What's wonderful, in theory, about this PDF pattern is that it tells you which pages to print for which variation you're making -- so I didn't have to print out a bunch of sweetheart necklines or tank top yokes if I wasn't going to use them. However, the guideline was wrong and it didn't list enough of the pages I actually needed, which I didn't notice until I had taped everything together so had to go back to the PDF and scroll through each page to figure out what I was missing. I haven't seen other bloggers mention this so maybe my version was weird, or maybe nobody wants to point out pattern mistakes.

These front bust darts drive me crazy. I tried narrowing them, but they are still very prominent and eye-catching on a solid color fabric because the dart points end directly on the apex. I softened the dart points here a bit in my photo editing software so I wouldn't cause you to blush, but in real life they're much more "Hey girl." I also feel like these seam lines and darts together with raglan sleeves and a scoop neck is kind of a strange style combination -- like this dress can't decide if it's a t-shirt dress or something fancier. Styling is key, and I'm not stellar at that because I don't own much jewelry or shoes. The scarf helps I guess. I made it!

PERFECT PATTERN PARCEL: There is a deadline to purchase the whole 5-pattern bundle, so you have until March 21, 2014 to do so, which you can do here. They're hosting a huge giveaway of fabric shop gift certificates, too, so head to their Facebook page to get a chance. There are billionz of other bloggers participating in the blog tour posting their own creations from the available bundle of patterns. Some of my favorite garments so far are: True Bias, Adirondack Inspired, and Crafterhours.

IN CONCLUSION: Here's a dress. Alright, see ya. Oh, and buy the PPP.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

rosa flora

What's the worst thing that can happen if you try to sew at the same time as you're cooking dinner? Alright, maybe not worst, because that would be like catching your WIP on fire or dropping pins in your soup without realizing it until it's too late.

Here's the answer I'm looking for because it's what happened to me: Forget to wash your hands after a particularly involved cook-prep task and then notice that olive oil has rubbed all over various areas of the solid plum SILK POPLIN dress you just hemmed and it won't come out despite all your eHow stain removal research and you're supposed to photograph your dress for your blog ASAP because it's the Flora Dress you pattern-tested for By Hand London and they already announced the pattern and all the other beautiful pattern testers have dutifully blogged about theirs but you're just a dirty oil-handed slacker who practically ruined your dress during its final stage of hemming.

While Ms. Silk Flora gets sent to the dry cleaner in a future life, I decided to make another one to show y'all. This is Ms. Cotton Flora. She took me a third the amount of time due to muscle memory, yet I like her three times as much and not just because she's machine washable and properly obeys the steam of an iron like a garment should. She's just CUTE. This print is not something I would normally use whatsoever, but this one grabbed me for some reason. It's a quilting cotton (no judgey, please) by Juliana Horner found at JoAnn's (here for now). Roses! I've never owned a rose-print garment, much less a real bouquet of roses, in my life. What did my boyfriend buy me for Valentine's Day? An extra-large order of fries from Checker's and a six-pack of beer, thank you very much. The only joke there is when I said my boyfriend actually "bought me something." ...We split the cost.

THE PATTERN: The Flora Dress is the newest pattern release from By Hand London (BHL), the beloved UK-based indie pattern company best known (by abundance of blogged makes, anyway) for their Elisalex Dress and Anna Dress. The Flora has a pleated circular skirt and the option for a faux wrap bodice or a fitted tank bodice with thick straps. The skirt can be made with a dipped or straight hem. In my true test version for this pattern, before the oil spill version, I made the wrap bodice. It has a plungy depth, as most wrap dresses do, so not something I felt comfortable wearing. For my silk... and cotton... versions, I made the tank bodice instead. It kinda reminds me of an apron but is that a bad thing? Nah.

CONSTRUCTION: I hadn't sewn a BHL pattern before now, and I found it fun to do so. They make some sassy patterns with simple construction, which is certainly part of why the blogosphere loves 'em. This pattern is basic dressmaking so if you are willing to sew a lot of darts (12 of them counting the lining...), some pleats and an invisible zipper, it's a pretty breezy sew. I used a draft version of the instructions so can't speak to the final edit, but I bet if you have a dress or two in your sewing resume, you'll have no problemo with the Flora. And of course (as seemingly expected of patternmakers nowadays!), there will be a Flora sew-along on the BHL blog.

FIT: The Flora is drafted to be pretty darn fitted in the torso, so beware if you're used to commercial pattern sizing. Par exemple, if you have a 35" bust and a 28" waist, it says to sew a US size 8 (UK size 12), which has finished garment measurements of 35.5" bust and 28.5" waist, so only 1/2" of ease (breathing room). Most Simplicity or McCall's patterns will have like 4 inches of ease, ha. I have a 34" bust and a 27" waist but instead of the US size 6 as recommended, I sewed the US size 8 and found it still fits snugly, which I happen to prefer but maybe you want even more room. I like that they include the finished garment measurements so you can make your own call on sizing.

The trickier parts to fit on this pattern for me were the front darts. I had to move the bust darts down 1/2" and the waist darts inward 3/4", with those dart points also moved down 1/2". I also removed a smidge of width from the vertical waist darts. I think this bodice is drafted for a full B cup and I'm not there, though I'm still waiting with bated breath for that day. Note that if you move your vertical waist darts in any direction, the front pleats on your skirt will also have to be moved so they still align. I also shaved 1/4" off each side of the center back seam at the upper back to prevent some gaping at the neckline.

CHANGES: I lowered the front neckline by 2" total. I lost the strap pattern piece (?!) so I had to improvise my own and guess at the length they needed to be. I have no idea if this affected where the neckline sits in the end. It doesn't really look like a 2" drop from the other bloggers who made this variation of the pattern. I could stand to go lower still.

The test pattern didn't have a straight hem option (the published one does), but I straightened it out myself and cut the skirt out at about 21" all the way around .I hemmed with a baby hem instead of 5/8". The pictures make me realize I probably made it too short, as always, but oh well. Tights rule my life anyway.

The shell of the dress needs 60" wide fabric to accommodate the size of the circular skirt. I used 45" fabric here which meant I had to narrow the width of the skirt quite a bit, like Diary of a Chainstitcher did. Kinda regret that I lost some of the swirly volume because of this, and the back pleats don't skim over my hips as nicely as a result. If you have 45" fabric but want more oomph, you can do as Dolly Clackett did and cut the skirt on the cross grain if your fabric doesn't have a directional print or stretch. I used self fabric to line the bodice and attached the invisible zipper to the shell only so I could cleanly attach the lining to the zipper by machine.

The Flora Dress is a cutie so I recommend this pattern if you don't have a similar style already in your stash. It's nothing earth-shattering in terms of design but it's an enjoyable make. Can't wait to see what else is in store for the future of BHL.

So what's the moral of the story here? Sewing dresses is dandy, and roasting spaghetti squash leads to a delicious meal, but, uh, don't do those things at the same time.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

spring sewing: a plan

How can I call myself a blogger if I have never done a wardrobe planning post with carefully curated photos of all the beautiful stylized garments I want to make and wear for the upcoming season? I've never even been to the Polyvore site, whatever that is. I must be pretty damn narcissistic if I just want to clog up my blog with photos of stuff already made by ME. 

Sewing plans and personal style analysis have been the rage among other bloggers (example), but that takes thoughtfulness and care. Lord knows my sewing to date has not involved much of either. I'm usually just like, "Oh, a new Grainline pattern release? That'll do, pig" and then I make 200 versions and consider myself a superhero.

But my style is changing and so is my lifestyle, so I'm finding myself stuck with patterns and fabric that I don't want to sew but with no real idea of what I do want to sew. I had a full day where I could work on projects for myself, but I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT TO SEW so I repaired my friend's pants and then washed a sink full of dishes instead. wtf. So, I thought if I actually did some research and set some guidelines, I would always have something in the queue and I would be less likely to feel uninspired. I should plan my fabric and notion purchases ahead of time so ripe sewing time doesn't turn into ass-numbing-TV-watching time due to lack of ideas or resources.

Anyway, get to the point. Here are some things I want to make for the warmer weather:

1) Cropped Bomber Jacket

Sources: 1 / 2
It's on everyone's to-sew list this year: a Rigel Bomber from Papercut Patterns. I got it for Christmas! The fever spread ever since Sophie's polka dot version debuted and the crowd went wild. I look better in jackets that have a more defined waist, and I've gotten a lot of mileage out of a secondhand cropped bomber jacket I bought a few years ago, so I think I'm gonna chop off some length from the Rigel when I make it, probably even shorter than the ones above. Deciding on fabric is the hardest part. Is a denim bomber jacket unacceptably 80s?

2) V-Neck Tops

Sources: 1 / 2
I think everything I make is either a collared shirt or a scoop-neck knit top/dress. I tend to avoid v-necks, I guess because they're harder to sew, but I need more tops and I need more variety in my life. I figure I can adapt a pattern, or find one, to make a drapey v-neck with a buttoned front like these.

3) Shirt Dresses

Sources: 1 / 2
How cute is Paunnet in her sleeveless Bleuet Dress? The contrast collar is killing me. I also stumbled across this new Salme buttonless "shirt dress" pattern. It seems very simple and fun to sew, though I'm worried about swayback adjustment issues since I don't think there's a waist seam. I wish Salme showed their patterns on real people. I think it's holding people back from trying them!

4) High-Waisted Shorts

Source: 1 / 2
Err this is a big maybe. I haven't worn any kind of shorts in public in YEARS. Too self-conscious. But now that high-waisted shorts are trendy, this helps the pear shapes among us. I would never wear them as short as pictured, and I'd have to be really careful about fit and fabric, but if I can find the right pattern it could be liberating. Speaking of Salme, their Paperbag Waist Shorts look fantastic laying flat... but again they could look disastrous on a full-hipped lady like meself.

5) Bags

Source: 1 / 2
For normal use I just want a bag that is big enough to carry money, phone and keys but still has a shoulder strap, so it's not as awkward as a large purse to tote around at house parties and bars (I live a rowdy life). I'm wondering if I can find a clutch or wallet tutorial and add my own strap. Conversely, I also want to make a bag that's large enough to pack clothes for traveling. I don't own a functional duffel bag, so packing for overnight trips has been a head-scratch. The one pictured above, which is Kelli's awesome It's a Cinch bag, probably isn't big enough for packing clothes, but her use of fabric and detailing is what I'm after. I'll probably make Grainline's Portside Travel Set because I hear Amy Butler's Weekender Bag makes for a stressful sewing odyssey.

6) Springy Sweaters

Sources: 1 / 2
I didn't mean to choose two yellow sweaters to feature but it must be my winter-induced Vitamin D deficiency speaking. I'm so happy I can incorporate sweaters into my handmade wardrobe now! I'm pretty obsessed with Knit York City's version of Amy Christoffers' Faro Pullover sweater. I stared at the instructions all day today and am still unsure I can tackle it. Pipe dreams! Its lacy details and elbow-length sleeves have me believe I can wear it in in warmer weather. Andi Satterlund's Marion cardigan also uses worsted weight yarn, but has cropped length and cropped sleeves so it seems suitable for spring. I think I need help with the order of construction for her designs, too. Ugh learning curves.


I feel better already. Of course I will sew other things not on this list (I have unrelated pattern testing and blog tour garments coming up!) but it's helpful to have some more direction so I never decide to WASH DISHES instead of sew (or knit) ever again.

Are any of you planning on tackling the same types of garments or patterns? Do you have any pattern recommendations for my list?