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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

B5466: Spring into Fall?

This is a project I completed in the spring, but never got around to blogging. Why? Well, mostly because I finished it, wore it once and decided it wasn't working for me. Don't you hate it when that happens? Put in all this work on a garment and then find yourself not happy with it by the time it's done. Ugh.

The pattern itself was fine - I made view B, a straight skirt with a narrow waistband. I originally cut the 14, but wound up taking out enough width through the waist/hips that it was more like a 12. The revised skirt fit well through the hips, but the waistband was then too snug. I fiddled with it and sort of fixed it, but it still sat higher on my waist than I like. If I were to make this again, I'd cut a 14 at the waist and then taper in to a 12 around the hips. For this pear-shaped gal, that is so counter to the adjustments that I ususally have to make to patterns. So weird! I added a lining because the fabric felt a bit too flimsy without one and used lace for the hem. The actual construction of this skirt is probably one of my best - all of the finishes are clean and feel very RTW. Which made it even more of a bummer that I was so unhappy with the finished product.

I originally purchased the fabric for a spring/summer skirt. I thought it would be pretty paired with grey heels or light brown sandals and a tank/cardigan combo for work. I even went so far as to pick up a new pastel pink cardigan to match the print so I was all set to have a new outfit to wear to work. Unfortunately, none of my shoe and top combinations seemed to work. My shoe choices all felt too dark or too clunky. The skirt sat so high, that the tanks looked funny tucked in, but looked sloppy or too tight left out. I was at a complete loss on how to style the poor thing to make it feel right. Hence, it was relegated to the back of the closet.

We had our fair share of chilly days this summer (so odd here in SoCal) and I pulled this skirt out on one of those mornings, hoping to give it one more shot before I retired it for good. Something about the cool weather and this skirt finally clicked and I ran for my tall boots. Wouldn't you know, flat boots and a 3/4 length sleeve top gave this skirt a whole new look - one that I felt good in! I think the colors had me hung up on making this a spring skirt, whereas for some reason, it works much better as a fall transition piece - even if the colors don't so much read "fall." What's nice is that the lining makes this lightweight skirt suprisingly warm, and will feel even moreso if I pair it with a cozy grey or pastel sweater for a different look.

Now that we are truly in summer temps here, I've put the skirt away for the time being. But, I'm so looking forward to dragging it back out at the first hint of chilly mornings. I guess I was getting a very early jump on fall sewing and I didn't even know it.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Simplicity 2874: When you wish upon a star

One of my good friends at work is throwing a birthday party for her daughter this weekend - a mere 3 days before we jet to Hawaii. Her daughter is turning 4 and is super obsessed with Disney princesses, most recently Tinkerbell. Even though I've got a ton of stuff to do before our trip, I still found a smidge of time to whip up a dress for her gift. I typically try to use a print or color scheme that isn't too cheeseball for baby/kid gifts, but I figured that at 4, her daughter would love the Disney print more than her mom would enjoy a more sophisticated dress. I did choose the purple colorway because it was much more subtle than the pink Tinkerbell fabric.

For the dress itself, I chose Simplicity 2874 I really love seeing jumpers on little girls as evidenced by the fact that most of the baby dresses I've made fall into that category - heh. Not only are they a classic silhouette, but I also like that it gives the parents options. It's warm and sunny - wear it alone with sandals. It's cold and rainy- thrown on a long sleeve shirt underneath and pair with tights and boots.

This particular pattern is drafted really well and went together very easily. The bodice is actually lined, a nice touch, but from the waist seam down, all of the edges are raw. Um, what? Instead of following their directions, I did french seams on the skirt, attached the inside hem band with a blind hem and added bias tape to the waist seam. These changes didn't add much time to the project, but the finished result was much more impressive than a bunch or raw edges hanging out. I completely realize that it's a bit nutty to use french seams on a casual kid dress, but it was easier/faster than using bias tape to finish off the seam. In addition, even if my friend and her daughter don't see the extra details, the grandmother is a design school grad/former seamstress and I know she'll appreciate the finishing touches. :)

The one note for this dress is it seems to run pretty long. My friend's daughter is really tall, so I don't think it will be a problem for her, but might be something to doublecheck if you're planning to make this dress.

To complete the gift, I added a long sleeve white shirt, a Tinkerbell metal tin and two pairs of socks (thank you Target dollar bin!). I know mom will like it, but I hope it gets the approval from the little girl, too. We shall see!

In other sewing news, I'm on a last minute sewing kick for ME before our trip next week. I've finished 2 skirts, 2 dresses and have another dress and swim cover-up that are on the cutting table as I'm writing this. My photographer has been out of town for the past week and I just can't bring myself to get all gussied up again after coming home at night all sweaty and gross from the gym. So, I'm hoping to get pictures of stuff up later this week. The posts are mostly written, they just need pretty pictures to go with them. :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

August Madness

I don't know about you, but I'm not sure where the first half of August went! It's been non-stop action around my house with hosting two summer parties, my birthday, my father-in-law's birthday and a last minute trip to Disneyland. Whew! So many fun things, but no time to blog it all. Things are starting to calm down a bit, but man oh man, things were crazy there for awhile. So, in my typical recap style, how 'bout some bullets:

* We celebrated my father-in-law's birthday at the Cicada Club in downtown Los Angeles. My inlaws have recently become enamored with ballroom dancing - they take lessons and love to practice every chance they get. The Cicada Club opens every Sunday night for dinner and dancing with most patrons dressing in vintage 20s and 40s dresses and suits, which fits the very Art Deco vibe of the place. It was a much cooler club than any of us realized and we had a great time just hanging out, having classic cocktails and soaking up the atmosphere. If you're into vintage stuff and you're ever in LA on Sunday night, it's worth a visit.

* Jim surprised me with a mini in-town vacation the night of my birthday. We stayed at the relatively new Ritz-Carlton in downtown LA and ate at Wolfgang Puck's new restaurant WP24. Neither of us had ever stayed at a Ritz before and it definitely lived up to its reputation. And dinner? Oh man, dinner was AMAZING! We started off with glasses of prosecco and because it was my birthday, mine was served with a shot of St. Germaine on the side. Can we say LOVE?! Fabulous service (formal, but not stuffy) and the food was really delicious. When we go out for fancy dinners, we don't typically do Asian food, so this was a nice change of pace for us. The package he reserved came with the tasting menu and it was so. much. food. Good grief, they practically had to roll me out of the dining room. Highly recommend the place. In fact, we are already planning a time to go back.

* And because my husband is amazing and treats me like a princess, I also got a Nook! I've been very skeptical of e-readers since they were first released a few years ago, but he seems to think that I need one seeing at how much I read and all. I still feel like it's cheating on real books, but I'm also pretty excited about my new toy. And it will make packing for Hawaii so much easier. (On our last Hawaii trip I read 6 books - heh.)

* Since Jim's co-coordinator wound up at home on bedrest for the last bit of the summer program, I was invited along as her proxy for their lunch at Club 33. Guys, it was so much fun! Jim's partner buddy treated us to dinner there during his summer at the firm, but we hadn't been back since. The food is really quite good (much better than anywhere else in the park) and the appetizer and dessert buffet are pretty awesome. Someone had tipped off one of the female summer associates that they should order a "tinkerbell" with their drinks so we all did just that. There we sat with our adult cocktails and cutesy light up toys perched on the rim. So cute, right?

The rest of the day we spent bumming around the parks and riding all of the big ticket attractions. One of the summers had never been to the park and we had fun showing him the ropes. I also really enjoyed getting to know the summers on a more one and one basis. I'm bummed that his co-coordiator couldn't make it, but really happy that I was able to take her place.

* As a last hurrah for the summer associates, we hosted a backyard bbq and pool party before they left to go back to school. I've said it before, but it's worth mentioning again - Jim had the best group of summer associates ever. They were such a sweet bunch of kids and it was really fun having them all over for one last casual party. They all managed to crowd together in the same tiny little space around one side of our pool, which was pretty darn adorable to view from the house. Jim misses them quite a bit and I know we're both looking forward to seeing the ones that accept offers again next fall.

* We had a ton of booze and soda left over after the work party, so we thought it was an excellent excuse to host a repeat bbq/pool party for all of our friends and family. And oh boy, when I say all, I mean ALL. We wound up with around 70 or so folks and while it was crowded, it was also pretty mellow. We went through 3 dozen burgers, 5 dozen hot dogs/bratwursts and a silly amount of potato salad, chips, salsa, fruit, brownies and ice cream. Even though there were folks everywhere, it was such a fun day. This party is kind of becoming a yearly tradition and it has grown every year since we bought the house. I hope that we're able to host it for many years to come.
With a few of the ladies at the party. Photo courtesy of Winnie.

In other news, I've finally worked out a sewing plan for the goodies that I want to give Vino and Blondie for their babies. I don't do simple very well, so needless to say, the plan is ambitious. I've already completed one outfit and have several cut out, but there is still a lot to do. Unfortunately, you don't get many details because they read this blog, too and I don't want to ruin the surprise. The showers are tentatively scheduled for mid-October and early November respectively, so more details later this fall.

And I'm even working on some sewing for me, too! We have our trip to Hawaii at the beginning of September, so I'm trying to squeeze in a few more garments before then. Since our summer weather just got here, the summer sewing still makes sense and the garments will at least get used for more than just our vacation. However, I'm afraid that I'll be itching to make fall dresses next month and it'll still be in the 90s here. Hmph.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Thoughts on Sewing

It's been just over a year since I was gifted my first sewing machine by my mom for my 30th birthday. My request to her for a machine elicited both excitement and a bit of confusion - she didn't think I would get the sewing bug for at least another decade or so. Ha! I started out with a basic tote bag class at a local sewing studio and the rest, they say, is history.

To say that I've fallen in love with this new hobby of mine is a wee bit of an understatement. I can't figure out why in the world I didn't jump into the sewing world after college, when I first toyed with the idea. Something about the investment of a sewing machine was too much for me to handle fresh out of college and heading to grad school, so instead I took up cooking - a hobby that has not only served me well, but makes my husband very happy, too. Even though I don't regret the decision, I'm still bummed that it took me 30 years to really learn how to sew.

My mom has a different take. She thinks that I wouldn't have had the same experience that I'm having now because my resources of both time and money are greater than they were 10 years ago, which I have to admit, is a valid point. Not to mention the amazing resource that I have found in the online sewing community. None of my close friends sew, which means that you sewing bloggers have been the people that I have looked to for inspiration, support and a general sense of community. I've learned as much from you folks as I have in my local brick and mortar sewing classes. I've also been inspired to try things that I would have shied away from had I been going at this sewing journey alone.

The thing that has shocked me the most is how much I have learned in the past year. Sure, I still haven't tackled pants or tried to make a jacket, but I've grown so much as a sewist in the past 12 months. Things that seemed daunting last July are now done without a second thought. I've also gotten to a point where I really, really like the clothes I'm making for myself. A few things I've made recently are in heavy rotation in my closet and I'm just as pleased with them as my favorite RTW garments.

While I know that success at hobbies isn't really genetic, it kind of feels like sewing is in my blood. My grandmother was a fabulous sewist and quilter and my mom continued that tradition for many years. I just seem to "get it" when it comes to sewing in general, making difficult or fiddly tasks a bit easier to tackle. I know that my mom is quite happy with my sewing progress and I would like to think that my grandmother would be proud as well.

I'm even more excited about sewing now than I was when I started my first beginner class. There are still so many garments I want to make and techniques I want to try. I'm looking forward to continuing to push outside of my comfort zone and expand my sewing skills even more. I think I'm really just getting started....

Monday, August 9, 2010

KS3758 + KS3523: Mixed print tank dress

I've said it here before, but man, do I love a knit tank dress. I mean, I'd live in them if I could. However, when I was pattern shopping for my idea of the perfect tank dress, I didn't find one that had everything I wanted - a nice scoopneck, something that I could wear with a regular bra, fitted through the bust, a nice empire or waist inset and a lightly gathered skirt. Sounds simple, right. I guess not, since my search came up empty handed. Lots of things came close, but nothing was a clear winner. So, I decided to create my own using the top from KS3758 and the bottom from KS3523.

I actually first used this combination of patterns in January. I made a long-sleeved dress out of a really lightweight navy wool jersey. Make a long story short, I fought with getting the pattern pieces right and while I liked the final dress well enough, it was a pain in the arse to get to the finished product. I got busy and never blogged it and by the time I was ready to write about it, the poor dress, which was already a touch on the too big side, was much too frumpy to photograph well. Here it is on the hanger. Looks kind of pitiful, doesn't it? :(

It looked much better on. Well, at least it did several months ago.

After the first go round, I knew where I needed to make changes and was excited to make a sleeveless version for summer. But, what fabric? Enter the Bold Boho Panel Print from Gorgeous Fabrics. I'm trying to experiment more with printed fabrics and working with a panel print would prove even more of a creative challenge. I retraced all of the pattern pieces so they could be cut as a single layer and started playing around with them, eventually deciding on a layout.

I had originally thought I'd use plain black for the neck, arm and waist bands, but right before cutting, I happened to place the waistband piece over the border of the panel print. It was the perfect width and that is when this dress became a mixed print design. :) I have a RTW BCBG dress that I just adore and it uses some really cool placement of a border print - it became a reference of sorts.

On my first version of this dress, I wasn't very comfortable with the idea of negative ease and this dress really needs it to fit right and not droop in odd places. This time around, I embraced negative ease and lo and behold, it fits so much better! This dress is pretty simple to put together, the hardest part is re-engineering the original bodice and skirt pieces to get the correct lengths that will play well with the rest of the dress. You have to remember that the bodice will stretch down a bit once the skirt portion is attached, so you have to play around to see what works the best for you.

Here is a summary of changes I made to the original pattern pieces (in case anyone wants to recreate this style at home):
* I cut the bodice of KS3758 at the line for View B and then still had to shorten it about an inch or so. This left the inset band from KS3523 sitting just above my natural waist. This style could easily be turned into an empire waist dress just by shortening the bodice length even more.
* I stabilized the shoulder and both waist seams with clear elastic. In RTW garments, you'll often find seams stabilized with clear elastic, but it's often enclosed within a serged seam. I don't own a serger, but using the "lightening" stitch on my regular machine does a good imitation of the serged edge. I found the first few times I tried this technique, it was a hot mess, but with a little practice, I think my poor sewist's version looks good. Not only that, it's functional and makes the garment feel more secure.

* I made the "skirt" portion from KS3523 much longer than the original pattern piece - the final skirt being 22 inches long or so. Again, this is something you just have to play around with and see what works best for you. For the hem, I used my twin needle and after playing with the tension, it doesn't seem to be tunneling anymore.

This version of the frankenpattern went together very smoothly. Well, with one glaring mistake. Can you spot it?

Doh! In case you were wondering, ripping out the lightening stitch is a real pain, even for such a small area. Otherwise, this dress was void of the crazed hair-pulling moments that characterized the first version.

Carolyn has referred to some of her more subdued, basic dresses as "whispering pieces", which I love as a descriptor for a garment. This dress, however, is a shouting piece. It's loud and kinda crazy, but I love it. Cool and summery, perfect for the office or running errands on the weekend. I'm so glad that I didn't go with the black bands - I think the border print keeps the dress light and fun.

Will there be a version 3.0? Oh yeah!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Burda 01-2010-104: The summer of skirts

This skirt pattern has been making its way across the sewing blogosphere with some pretty fantastic results. Amanda, Kristine, Eugenia and Ann have all made some really lovely and downright covet-worthy versions of this skirt. Some even more than one *cough*Eugenia*cough*. ;)

This is actually the pattern that finally convinced me to sign up for a Burda subscription. I own a RTW skirt that is absolutely identical to this pattern (the tan skirt below). I love it, but it's now a touch too big and just try finding something like this in store right now. Yeah, not happening. By owning the pattern, I could just make my own version whenever the spirit moved me. Woot! Of course, that still meant that I had to track down the February issue as my subscription wouldn't include it. Thanks to ebay, I found it for the fairly reasonable price of $15. Yay! [Since then, Burda's site underwent a pretty huge transformation, including a lot of magazine patterns now available for purchase as single downloads. If you missed this issue and want your own version of this skirt, check it out here.]

I traced off this pattern a good month ago and then never had time to actually cut it out and sew it up. As this was my first time sewing a fitted Burda garment and not knowing exactly how their sizing would work for me, I decided to make a wearable muslin before cutting into the really good stuff. I purchased this stretch cotton sateen panel print from Fashion Fabrics Club with the idea that it would make a cute tropical-inspired skirt for our Hawaii vacation this fall.

After seeing the fabric all laid out, I found that the large blue/navy leaves would work best for the skirt and I planned to keep the wave border in my stash to whip up a few O+S lazy days skirts for friends later down the road.

All of the pieces were cut single layer so I could ensure the print was placed exactly where I wanted it to be. The downside of this was I had no idea just how off grain this fabric was until I went to fold up the wave border sections. I should have taken a picture, but no joke, it was off by at least 3/4". UGH. Needless to say, the cute little waves hit the circular file because there was no way they could be salvaged. I went ahead with my skirt though to see if I could make it work. And indeed, I think it turned out quite well.

I pretty much sewed this straight from the pattern. The only small change I made was taking off 1" total from the side seams. After getting most of it sewn up, I realized that this skirt actually looked like something I could wear to the office as it was more Tommy Bahama than Hilo Hattie. I was glad that I had cut the longer length (version A) initially, as this gave me more wiggle room to give it an office-appropriate hem. I also took pains with this version to finish all of the raw edges with bias tape.

Even though the print is off-grain, I was still pretty thrilled with the final skirt. I wore it to the office this week and got tons of compliments. Even better, it was comfortable and I felt really good wearing it. That's a total win in my book.

All of this meant that the pattern was approved and it was time to cut into the good stuff. And here is where I need to make a confession. I've always loved the madras print skirts that J crew releases most years during the spring and summer, but my child-bearing hips and um, "muscular" thighs means that I never buy them. They're just too short, too tight and generally a hot mess on my body. So, when I saw Ann's madras print mini, I about died. I mean, this was totally my chance to own a madras print skirt that actually fit *me*. So, I did what any good blog-reading seamstress would do. I left a nice comment on her post and promptly ran off to her fabric site and scooped up my own bit of madras fabric with full intentions to completely copy her skirt. :D And I did just that. Sure the colorway may be different, but basically here is my homage to Ann and her madras skirt.

She was not lying when she said that this fabric washes up beautifully. It's super soft and light and absolutely perfect for summer. I didn't want to lose the drape of this fabric, so I just pinked the side and back seams (would have used a serger to finish them off, but um, don't have one!) and used bias tape to finish the pockets and inner waistband. Paired with my J crew flip flops and a coordinating tank, I feel super preppy and summery.

After sewing with the Big 4 patterns, it's really nice to be able to use a size chart to determine what size to sew and have it turn out well without any major adjustments. So far, Burda, even with their sparse instructions and lack of diagrams, is quickly moving to the top of my favorites list. I really can't wait to make more garments from the magazine. It's also nice to have another TNT skirt pattern in my arsenal (aside from McCalls 3830). Like Eugenia, I don't know that I'm ready to quit this pattern quite yet. There may very well be another version (or two) that I make before we say goodbye to summer.