I didn’t say anything on the blog, but I suffered a fairly extreme disappointment a few weeks ago, and I bought this pattern to make myself feel better. I showed y’all a sneak peek on Saturday, and here is the final (and modeled) product:

This is going to be a picture-heavy and word-light post (unusual, I know) because I made the dress almost exactly as written…and taking photos of myself wasn’t as difficult as usual, owing to the cooperative weather.

I really, really, really love it. I took a chance and bought a 30.5″ bust because I’ve been getting so irritated by the amount of ease in the bust in vintage patterns, and it fits like a charm. My only complaint is that the skirt isn’t lined, just the bodice, and after wearing it once, I really think the skirt needs a lining.

The flowers are obviously a “modification” of sorts. I omitted the self buckle belt because once I got the flowers on, it just seemed like too much, so I made a thin fabric belt that snaps in the back. It’s nothing special, but I think it adds a nice extra touch.

The flowers were honestly a burst of inspiration halfway through the process. I used Calamity Kim’s tutorial, which was great. She’s right, though; you have to make a lot of flowers to come up with a few good ones. I made six to end up with three nicely-sized rosettes.

Onto the boring parts. This was actually a wearable muslin, but I’m not motivated to make the pattern again right now, so I’m not doing it. But I’m so happy with it, it doesn’t matter! The pattern is versatile and fits well (for once!), so I’m sure I’ll make it again another time. My zipper is hand-inserted, as usual. This time, I did it while sitting next to an old lady in the library watching Lost on abc.com…but it’s Harvard. Nobody even looks askance at me. My stitching looks great this time…can you even tell it’s hand-stitched? I’m so proud of it.

The fabric is a linen/ rayon blend in a lovely, bright, coraly red. It’s very vibrant, and it’s a nice spring color for me. I used to really avoid reds because of my hair, but I’ve realized it actually looks good, not scary!

I’m planning to enter this in the Pattern Review vintage competition. I’m hoping they will accept modifications (the flowers)…please tell me if you know they don’t! I am so excited to have something to enter. For some reason, I like entering competitions, but I really don’t care about winning. Plus, how could I? Have you seen the Slapdash Sewist entry??

I hope you all had a lovely weekend! I’m taking time off for the first time in a year this week, but I spent almost the entire day learning how to do bound buttonholes, so sewing progress is slow…

ETA: I can’t contribute to the PR competition because I’ve been a member for fewer than three months!! Oh, well…maybe next time!

Vintage modern fusion

April 22, 2010

I’m almost finished with a lovely new project made from a vintage pattern, but with a modern update…I hope to be able to share FO shots with you soon!

Thanks for all your comments and feedback on my blouse! It was so wonderful to hear everyone’s opinions on Simplicity and to feel such support from all of you!

Simplicity patterns, as I’ve mentioned before, just don’t work for me. And yet, if you shop for vintage patterns, you cannot escape them. There are so many of them, and some are just…so…cute. I have vowed several times not to sew from a Simplicity pattern again, but I had this lovely blouse pattern staring at me…and I’ve wanted to make it for so long…and I had a truckload full of new pattern paper and muslin…etc, etc. You know how it goes.

O, Simplicity 3358, View 1, how you defied me from the very beginning! I made a real muslin that required extensive alteration. And here I was, thinking a 32″ bust would fit me nicely…silly me! I traced my patterns onto pattern paper before making the muslin (first mistake) and then basted away. I cut down the neckline, as always, changed the darts and tucks into something more friendly to my body (okay, okay, it was a small bust adjustment), and decided it needed to be a bit longer. It wasn’t a good tuck-in length, and I need to tuck things in, you know?

I had some beautiful teal silk crepe de chine, which I had bought just for this project.  I went to work cutting and made my first mistake quickly by not adding length. “No problem!” I thought, sewing away. “I’ll just wear it with a high-waisted black skirt. I’ll need to make one, but that’s okay.” Other than that mistake, all seemed to be going well from Day 1 to Day 3.

On Day 3, I became frustrated. I read Susannah’s post in which she detailed a significant number of issues with–you guessed it–a vintage Simplicity blouse. Eek. Did I take it as an omen, as I should have? No. I carried on. Day 4 was horrible, but I was determined to finish. On Day 5, things improved somewhat. And here is the final product:

I didn’t even notice that it was coming off of my shoulders until I looked back at the photos, but I was rushing to take them…it was in the 40s and raining outside! I just couldn’t bear re-shooting the photos.

I only managed to complete this blouse by trashing (by which I mean folding and nicely putting away) the instructions after the first direction, which was to sew the darts in the front and back. There was a crazy treatment for the underarms (don’t ask), and the topstitching the pattern called for around the neck and armholes looked truly awful. Because I’m a one-trick pony, as you already know, I did a catchstitch on the armholes and finished the neck with an understitched facing, which I had to draft a few times to get just right.

The bow turned out much larger than I expected, and since I don’t look right in precious details because I have a baby face, I’m not sure what is the overall effect on me.

As with everything I make, the ratio of hand- to machine- stitching was about even, which was (in my mind) necessary for a polished look. The entire front placket, bow detail, and hems are sewn by hand. I learned recently that my machine has a blind-hem function, but I’m afraid of it…have any of y’all ever used your machine’s blind-hem stitch? Hand-sewing my hems makes me happy, is consistent, and is fast, so I see no reason to change yet.

At the very least, I’m pleased that it was a technical success, even if I’m not sure how wearable it is yet…time will tell.

Why I sew.

March 1, 2010

I was reading Sarai’s recent post in the Colette Patterns blog about why she started sewing (and other bloggers’ ideas about this), and I want to take the opportunity to post something about that here.

I decided I wanted to start sewing my own garments for many of the same reasons others did: the clothes in most mainstream stores don’t fit my body, the things I find are never exactly what I like, and the things I love are often too expensive (this is not to say I have found sewing clothes to be inexpensive, because I haven’t). I would say, however, that my primary motivation was that I love vintage clothing, and it’s very difficult to find it (dresses, in particular) in sizes and styles that suit me well, at a price I can afford. I do have a good collection of vintage jewelry, however, given to me by my grandmother.

One of my friends suggested that my interest in dressing vintage comes from my close relationship with my grandmother. My nana is an amazing person and friend, and an inspiration to me in every way, not just stylistically. Her family was financially stretched and she made clothing for herself and her children, and worked as a dressmaker in a bridal store as well. She made evening gowns for herself most often, because my grandparents apparently attended galas for which she could not afford to buy a new gown each time. One night, she sat us down and showed us a series of slides that spanned decades of her life–and she remembered every detail (down to where she bought the fabric) of every article of clothing she had made in the slides. It was especially notable in light of the fact that she does not always remember what she ate for breakfast. She passed on her sewing skills to my mother, who is, without question, the most talented sewer I know.

To be honest, I avoided sewing for a long time because I always saw it as my mom’s “thing,” and even though she tried to teach me to sew–on paper plates, no less–when I was young, it never stuck.  I never had an appreciation for the depth or breadth of her expertise until now, and I’m sad we are living apart at a time when I could be learning so much from her.

She bought me a sewing machine a few months ago and to say it has changed my life would be an understatement of epic proportions. After making several quilts, two dresses, a shirt, and some sleep shorts, I feel ready to embark on some vintage sewing. I bought the following patterns last week:

I plan to make the second dress above out of this fabric:

photo copyright Gorgeous Fabrics

I used a silk twill in my last two projects and have grown more comfortable working with it (thanks to my Singer sewing book), so hopefully this dress will be a success.  One of my grandmother’s sewing commandments is only to use Vogue patterns, but that isn’t always possible. I did, however, buy the pattern for this amazing jacket:

Luckily, there are many vintage patterns available in my size, and I’ve learned a great deal about resizing patterns from books and blogs.

In other news, I am looking into buying a dress form. I am getting a big bonus at work next month, and planned to use it to buy a serger and a dress form, but the serger may be unnecessary–my machine has a great overcast stitch that seems to do the job well enough for now.  I am looking at the Uniquely You dress form, which is the only brand I’ve found so far that will accommodate my petite measurements (I am about 31.75-24.75-33–it’s the hip measurement that gives me the biggest problem). It seems to be a considerable process to fit, so I will have to wait for the next time I see my mother (sorry, Mom).

Do you have a dress form? If so, what kind–and do you like it? And, most important, why do YOU sew? I’d love to hear what you have to say!