Saturday, 9 August 2014

Sunburst Bolero - Vogue 8027

Wikipedia- Vogue 8027
Vogue 8027 is a lovely pattern for a bolero and sundress from 1953.  While the dress is nice enough, with lovely angled dart details and unique circular straps, it was the bolero that really caught my attention.  It features three sunbrust-like darts shaping the shoulder/bust area, a shoulder dart, and a band which is also a folded almost shawl collar.

When I recently purchased some remnant fabric and was contemplating how many patterns I had which could fit in a meter of less, I remembered this bolero and decided to test it out.  I was skeptical as to how well it would fit and look given that the cover illustrations always glamorize the end product, but I was intrigued by the pattern pieces and wanted to see how this little beauty of a puzzle would fit together.

The pattern is unprinted and while the pieces themselves were in fine condition, the envelope and instructions of my copy were literally crumbling in my hands.  I traced out the pieces and immediately took a photo of the instructions to work from so I could put the original safely away.  Happily, there are only two pieces.

The fabric I used is a nice sage linen which wrinkles if you look at it.  After I pre-washed it I realized why it had been so cheap, even for a remnant- there were sun faded sections on one side which I would have to cut around or strategically place.  I'm not sure exactly how much I had to start, but after cutting all I had was a handful of little scraps left.

It came together very well and quickly.  I tried it on partway through and was rather horrified by the arm gape and flap of loose fabric floating around the back of the arm which I think this is due to the pattern being a size 18 and probably intended for those with larger upper arms.  I was pretty stuck as to how to fix the gape.  Take a look at that pattern piece and try to wrap your head around what to do to fix that!  I took a deep breath and it turned out to be a super simple solution- simply stitch the armhole on further than the pattern indicates and it fits much better.  Another think I added was to add some rows of top stitching to the band in addition to the instructed interfacing to help firm it up even more and to make it look a bit more RTW.

before fix                                                                 after fix


Here's the result.  Not too bad.  I think it may make my shoulders look almost comically large, but I think it is a dramatic enough garment to make it look purposeful.  It reminds me of a turtle shell to be honest.

Now, if I were to make it again, I think I would accentuate the drama even more.  Use a long haired fur for the collar band, make it a much, much wider collar around the neck (to look a bit like this) and maybe add some piping or triangular sun ray shaped top stitching around the darts.  It would be useless for everyday wear, but by gad it would be starlet worthy.

What it looks like after a full day at work.  The nice thing is that since it wrinkles immediately, it looks just as good at the end of the day as it did at the start.  :P

Sunday, 22 June 2014

The Denim Dress : Vogue 1273

This dress turned out to be surprisingly straightforward to make and just a flattering as my sketch promised.  The sweetheart neckline stays nice and close, and does wonders for the bust.  The skirt is super easy to put together, the pleats don't puff out at all, and the pockets!  POCKETS!!!!!!!  These photos were taken part way though a full day of public transiting and fabric shopping on Queen St. W. Toronto hence the wrinkles.  I was shoving my phone, tokens, transfers, change.... everything in those babies.  Handiest things ever, pockets.  *snigger*  ...pun intended...

Anywhooo....  As previously mentioned, I ended up using a stretch denim and I'm very happy I did because I don't think I could possibly insert a zipper into the bodice side where there are 4 layers folded over itself at points.  I zigzagged and fake serged the skirt to the bodice and the whole shebang is pull over-able.  In the process I did manage to misalign one of the skirt pleats but at this point I'm happy to leave it be.

Can I complain about Vogue sizing too?  I know it's been overdone, but bear with me.  This pattern has zero ease according to the finished measurements.  Though I was skeptical, after reading the sole somewhat detailed pattern review I could find which had no mention of size difficulties, I cut out a mock up of the bodice in a non-stretch in my measured size of 16.

4" of ease folks.  Four.  Inches.

Admittedly it had none of the foundations layers, but that doesn't account for four inches.  I even scoured the pattern for mention to use a different seam allowance to no avail.  In any case, after re-cutting to a 12 the bodice did fit very well without any other alterations which was a happy surprise, though the princess seams would have made alterations very easy.  In the sewing and final fitting process I think it probably was cut down to a 10 due to the stretch.

left: pocket!  center: pocket!!!  right: inside of bodice showing "french felled seam" and overlay fold over

I used what I'm calling "french felled seams" on the bodice.  I made a french seam to the right side of the fabric, then top stitched.  It made a very, very clean inside, and the stiffness in seams adds a lot of structure which is nice.  I didn't even try to do french seams on the sides where the overlay is sewn into the seam, but just fake serged the layers together, sewed a regular seam, steamed it open, then top stitched to each side.

The only real issue I had that wasn't user error was that the center front tends to curl down as the knot is pulled on by the overlay.  If you boned the bodice I don't think this would be an issue, but I ended up adding a sort of stay across the front to keep things pulled up.

I think this is a lovely pattern and quite versatile if you like to get creative with fabric and finishes.  It could just as easily be made without the overlay for a more plain look, or the skirt could be made on its own if you added a waistband.  I really want to make a second in a large print cotton sateen in a lighter more summery colour.

My attempt at a fashion pose.  That, or I'm checking out my sexy, sexy hiking sandals.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Badgley Mischka Vogue 1275 Planning

This is Vogue 1273, a Badgley Mischka desigern pattern (now oop, but still available on the Vogue website) and the project I'm currently working on.  I had previously started to sew up a super cute 70's skort/culotte thingie, however things got tricky and I got frustrated.  Instead of doing the logical thing and start on something fast, easy and rewarding, I went the complicated and involved route of course.

So, so floofy.  :(
I loved this pattern the first time I saw it.  It has some very striking details, yet isn't over the top and also has the added benefit of adding some... omph... to the bust area.  And the best thing- IT HAS POCKETS!!!!!  When is the last time you saw a cocktail type dress with pockets?  And not just the standard one hidden in the side seam, but angled and designed ones.  Anyway, I bought it not having an exact plan on how to make it up as I (sadly) have very little reason to wear shiny, fancy dresses, but I have since decided to use a trick I've used before- make it out of denim!  Cross my heart, there isn't a garment out there that, if even somewhat suitable for a heavy fabric, cannot be made into everyday wear by doing this.

The plan is to fake flat felled (french) seam everything, do lots of top stitching, ditch the foundation layer and lining, and add some straps to break up the barren expanse of my shoulders and upper chest.  Hopefully all of these changes will also have the added benefit of casual-ifying the dress even more.  I toyed with swapping out the funky pleated skirt for a more standard, rectangular, pleated one but it just started to look floofy which is a look I neither like, nor can pull off.  I drew the skirt as being quite a bit longer than the envelope shows, but I think I'm going to have to wait and see how much volume the awesome double pleats have, and which length will look better.

As a last note, while shopping for the fabric, I accidentally managed to pick a denim with lots of crosswise stretch though I think this will end up working in my favour.  I'm crossing my fingers that if things stay stretchy enough  I a) won't have to deal with inserting a zipper into the gazillion of layers around the pleated overlay and b) will have extra room for food induced expansion.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

The Sacrificial Shorts

A while ago I picked up these high waisted shorts while browsing at the thrift shop purely for the colour.  Happily, the turned out to fit very, very well, though a bit too snugly at the waist to do anything active or, say, eat in.  I have a 10-11" difference between hip and waist, with the hip being located 12" below, so not having waist gape-age, lower stomach pooch, and the waist hitting high enough is rare.  It only struck me to measure how far apart the two were after tracing this out while this vaguely remembered phrase from Vogue's pattern envelopes/website echoed in my head:

"HIP- around body at fullest part—usually 7-9" (18-23cm) below waist (4)"

Let me tell you, this explains a few things.  My "hip" circumference is about 3" less in that area.  I knew I was long through the hip, but I never thought it would be an additional 5-3"- I just assumed I would be more in the 9" from waist category rather than the 7".   Needless to say, I foresee length being added to patterns there in the future.  Finding out the actual dimensions of my body is so fascinating I find!  It's like 18th century mapping: recognizable but so, so off sometimes.

from Wikipedia

Anyway, before sacrificing poor pinkie to the drafting and sewing gods, I tried rubbing them off by putting a cloth down, then tracing paper, then tracing the outline out with a tracing wheel.  This was a technique I saw on a YouTube video which I thought I would try first.  I had to press pretty hard, but the dots made by the wheel were pretty readable and the results, as you can see below, were quite close.

Some changes I will make when using this as a pattern is to lower the rise 1/2", and add 1/2" circumference (the waist band is currently centered on my waist, which means the band folds over itself and wrinkles when I move as you can see, especially with them being a bit tight).  I think this will become my dart fitted, loose leg shorts/pants block and crotch curve pattern which will be very useful.  I will also be able to turn this into a nice skirt block.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Sketchbag Complete!

The guts.

In case you couldn't tell but the very over the top title image, my sketching bag is done and looking pretty damned spiffy if I do say so myself.  It's rivets are shining, the pleather is only slightly grimy already, and the little pencil pockets are bristling with freshly sharpened utensils of destruction.  To top it all off, my zipped passport pocket is pristine.  I. am. smug.  HA!

Alright, it isn't perfect.  There's a couple of spots where the top stitching veered dangerously off track and need a redo, and the reinforcing stitching at the top back is definitely not a rectangle.  In fact, it could quite definitely be called... lumpy.  (Interestingly enough, you will not be seeing a picture of these things.)

Beauty incarnate.
But! I designed and drafted this thing from scratch.  There are only four pattern pieces, all the largest rectangles possible which was done with waste hierarchy in mind.  I don't know if it's a crafting thing, but I sometimes spend a ridiculous amount of time thinking about how to fix something I've made when it inevitably breaks/wears out in the future.  Not so much clothing I suppose, since that tends to wear out in the middle of a piece of cloth and not at the edges (holes in heels of socks anyone?  scraped and ripped knees?), but definitely for other useable items.  I spent all this time making it and I want it to last forever after all.  I have memories of my parents bringing home expired sutures and fixing the holes in the bottom of my worn out backpack when I was little.  It wasn't that we couldn't afford a new bag, but the rest of it was fine so why throw it out?

Anyway, this bag is exactly what I wanted, works better than I could have hoped and I've already stunned a few of my co-workers and Joe-the-sewingmachine-guy with the fact that I made it.  I really do think it's the hardware more so than my epic skill to tell you the truth, but that can stay between you and me.

In the process, I learned a few things about setting rivets the low-tech way through trial and error.  I think it may be helpful to some of you, dear readers, so I think I will put together a post on that in the next week or two.  I also have an idea for a really simple matching water bottle holder that clips on to go with this, so I guess we'll see how that turns out in the next little while too.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Artist's Sketch Bag - Design and Plans

This, dear readers, is a 6 year old project which has gotten a lot of use.  It's a pieced sketching bag made specifically to fit a small sketchbook with pockets for different sized pens, pencils, markers and erasers.  I designed it specifically for an extended trip abroad and it has gotten plenty of use since then.  I'm surprised how long and how well it has survived given its extremely poor construction.  However, it recently started to get holes, and given that I'm going to be making another significant overseas trip in the fall, I decided to make an updated, more useful, more adult version.

I'm using bottom weight cotton in a dark grey for the body of the bag, lined with what looks like a linen/cotton/poly blend.  The front flap is a lipstick red faux leather which will also be lined.  The hardware is gold tone and all straps are red cotton webbing.  The 4" black elastic will be used to make drawing utensil pocket band.  The bag will be convertible between a purse/messenger bag and a backpack by using clip on straps.  I'm super excited to try using rivets in the project!  I think it will make a big difference in making the bag look professional and sharp.  That and you'll never have to convince me that a hammer and anvil are a good idea.  Smashing things is so much fun!  On the other hand, doing a good job on the top stitching will be important.  I only get once chance on the false leather... *gulp*...

This is sized specifically to be able to pass as a cleanly designed large purse, hence the convertible nature (I would make it pretty anyway!).  A lot of museums won't let you take backpacks into the galleries due to space/security considerations, though most will allow purses.  I also plan to include a passport, money and document pocket on the back where it will be very difficult to pickpocket

Enough talk- gotta get back to sewing.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Poppy Skirt

Here is my first project on my new machine.  It's a super simple elastic waist gathered skirt that hits tea length on me when worn at the waist (36" length).  I purchased this bright and cheery poppy border print at Fabricland a few years ago specifically for a project like this and I'm happy to have finally made it.  It's too long to be twirly, but it feels nicely breezy and light to wear.

I wore it to the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) to draw like I do most weekends.  When dressing I realized that the only spring shoes I had were a pair of shoes I use for interviews with 2" heels.  So I went out wearing a very ... obvious... skirt and being pretty close to 6 feet tall.  I noticed that I had no problems with crowds compared to usual, haha!

New (To Me) Sewing Machine- Husqvarna Emrald 118

Up to this point, my personal sewing machine has been inherited from my maternal grandmother.  It was ordered from the Eaton's catalog in 1964 or thereabouts and was a stylish dark/light taupe contraption weighing about 35 or 40 pounds.  It had been used to teach sewing lessons and to create and mend the family's clothes.  This was particularly important to my grandmother as she apparently loved her fashion back in the day and was known to wear platforms and cat eye frames with her saris at work as an elementary school teacher in India.  However, most of the time she wears the traditional Punjabi salwar kameez*  and buying them ready to wear was not an option financially as a new immigrant, nor were there places to purchase these outfits in 1960's Toronto.

Fast forward to the late 2000's.  As my grandmother's eyesight worsened and as she started purchasing more of her clothes at department stores, it was used less frequently and exclusively for straight stitching over the last 20 years.  Consequently, almost every other function on the machine from dropping the feed dogs, to a basic zig-zag stitch had seized.

I have been sewing on a variety of friends' and my mother's machines for all my previous projects and have been putting off actually doing anything on my own simply because my machine was so painful to use.  I can't tell you how many times I plugged the unlabeled plugs in and nearly had a heart attack as the machine roared to life and started sprinting without stop because I had connected to the pedal outlet and not the machine outlet.  Bobbin thread breaks?  Haul 30 pounds of steel up and hold it with one hand while inserting the bobbin with the other.  Changing feet wasn't an option because the needle and the feed dogs had come out of alignment, making zippers a no go.

I finally gave in and went sewing machine shopping.  I pass this store every day to and from work and had only stopped by once before for 10 minutes.  After buying a machine and stopping by frequently to get different needles, threads and bits advice for the last month or so, I can 100% say the owner Joe is an absolute sweetheart and his off hours staff is lovely too.  My budget was around $400-500 for a preferably mechanical basic but long lasting (20-30 year) machine.  I tested the Babylock Grace which was very nice but out of my price range.  I also looked at the Husqvarna 116 which is essentially the same as the 118 without speed control, self threader and with one or two less stitches.  I chose the 118 primarily because of the speed control as I really love sewing with heavy fabrics and it seemed like it would save me heartache in the future.  Luckily Joe had a second hand version that was nearly new.

Emerald 118Husqvarna

Having finished one basic gathered skirt, the only issue I had was that it really liked to pull the bottom layer through the dogs much faster than the top.  This happens on all machines, but after hemming about 3m the difference was ridiculous.  I didn't take the foot pressure down to 0 (I left it at 1), which may have solved that problem, so we will see how that works in the future.  I also find it easier to just thread the needle the regular way vs. using the auto threader, though perhaps I'm not using that feature quite right.

*Pronounced to my ear more like "salvar kameeje" where the -var is emphasized and sounds like car, and the -je is pronounced like French words ending in -ge.  Salwar refers to the pants, and kameez (like chemise) refers to the tunic or top.