Tuesday, November 27, 2007

...and play

Holiday time brings invitations to parties. Different types of parties; neighborhood “girls only” parties, work department parties, and appreciative business client parties. For some reason I really enjoy sewing holiday party outfits for the dressier type parties. I no longer sew a lot of gifts, or Christmas ornaments to exchange with friends. So to keep the holiday stress level up, I make party outfits. Every year, I go through the catalogs for ideas. Bloomingdales, Barrie Pace and NM are favorites. I also review my inspiration file of pages torn from magazines.
I typically choose a traditional dress or jacket pattern (my comfort zone) and make it in a glitzy, fancy fabric. This year the dress I have made for the cocktail and hors d’oeuvres party at the local botanical garden was inspired by the SFA ad for an Alberta Ferretti dress. All it took was Vogue pattern. 8229, silver and gold floral brocade fabric, and quite a few design changes.

I spent a lot of time studying the picture of the Ferretti dress in order to replicate the size and location of the design details correctly. The relationships I noted were; the pocket welts were the same width as the neck bands, the pockets were located in the waist to high hip area, the angle of the pocket welts was close to vertical, and echoed the angle of the armhole from underarm to neck band. The center front slit was longer then I felt comfortable wearing, so I exercised artistic license and shortened it to about 4 inches. I extended the bottom edge of the dress an additional 8 inches, and eliminated the ruffle. I used the pocket bag pattern and the welt form a raincoat pattern in a 2006 issue of BWOF. I have a packing tape dress form double that duplicates my shape very well. I pinned the partially completed dress to the dress form to make sure it fit, the fabric gathered reasonably well, and played with the pocket placement. The fabric is “cringe” …nylon. But it was lightweight, matched the look I was going for, and was on sale. I checked Sandra Betzina’s book More Fabric Savvy for info. on sewing nylon. “rip stop” was the only entry for nylon fabric and that sure didn’t make me feel good about using it for a party dress. I guess I can wear it camping and it will be water and wind resistant. The Vogue Sewing Book had a section on sewing metallic fabrics which was quite informative. Actually the rip stop recommendations worked well; cotton/poly thread, a new size 12 universal point needle, and medium heat with steam for pressing. The fabric was actually easy to sew. I used a low heat fusible interfacing for the bands, and to reinforce the front slit and pocket area. There was very little fraying, which was a pleasant surprise. I am hoping the party will be in one of the greenhouse rooms with lots of plants so that the temperature will be fairly warm. Of course that means the humidity will be high and I will need to use super hold hair gel. Just in case the temperature is a little cool, I am on the lookout for a cream colored shrug or shawl.

Sewing for Work

I recently made two items, from the Oct 2007 Burda World of Fashion magazine, to wear to work.
One is the popular, much reviewed jumper, number 121. Jumper, that is such a weird name for a garment if you think about it. The magazine called it a pinafore which is even worse. A pinafore to me is an apron type garment with a bib, worn over a dress. It is commonly worn by females under the age of 4 at dressy events. Imagine me waking up one morning and saying to myself “I think I’ll wear my gray pinafore to work today”. Anyway it is quick to make in knit (rayon polyspandex blend) fabric, comfortable to wear, and in dark grey, can be worn over a rainbow of different colored sweaters and blouses. The other item is the dress, number 117. I was intrigued by the origami type pleats used for shaping in the bodice. The magazine picture was a side view that didn’t show much. That caused me to think twice about making it. Was it so bad the stylist chose to hide the major details? I decided to proceed based on the line drawing. I wanted to use a plaid fabric, but a subtle one. I found a poly rayon blend with a dark grey background and a thin pastel pink and blue plaid. I really like how the dress turned out. The bodice pleats accent the horizontal lines of the plaid and they soar up and out on the sleeves. The changes I made were…1 Tapered the waist tucks into darts in the back. I think I will do the same to the front tucks. There is nothing like an abrupt change in a line to focus your attention on that area. 2. removed some of the bodice length for a SBA (small bust adjustment). And 3. lined the bodice and sleeves, eliminating the need for a neck facing.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Plethora of Plaid

I have been a very lazy blogger lately, but I have been sewing. I have always loved plaid fabric. And for some reason, plaid has been popping up in my life a lot in the last few weeks. I finished my purple plaid swing jacket. McCalls pattern 5480. I love the violet background color and the grey bands match grey dress pants/skirts for work and faded black jeans for play. It is the first time I have ever made a bias cut jacket and I chose to do it in an uneven plaid. It is hard to see, but the bands of grey stripes are wider in one direction. If I had thought this project though, I probably would have never started. Sometime it is good to just plunge in, unaware of the trials and tribulations ahead. I carefully cut all pattern pieces out one at a time, matching the plaid at the notches. The right and left front were identical mirror images of each other, the bands of the plaid chevroning perfectly at the center front. Only after I had cut everything out, did I realize the jacket right front overlapped the left a good 2 inches, and because of the uneven plaid it would not match at the overlap. After much thought, I decided to make the plaid chevron at center front by adding a separate band for the overlap. This simulated a center front seam where the plaid matched and continues the pattern into the left front . The pattern called for big 1.5 inch buttons. I cringe about making big button holes because they always seem to gape and stretch. I notice that in this fall’s RTW clothes, a lot of big buttons have big snaps under them, eliminating the need for the button holes. But I chose to use the center front seam for in-seam button holes, which are easy to make.
While I was working on the jacket, the family attended a Celtic Festival and Highland Games. I really enjoyed looking at the plaid kilts of the game contestants and in the vendors' booths. Each one was prettier than the previous one. Both my husband and I have Scottish ancestors, but they must not have been “highlanders” because there is no plaid allocated to the names. Too bad, my 15 year old son really wanted a kilt. Yes, I was shocked too! There were some guys there that really looked good in their kilts. A pair of wide shoulders, the pleats of their kilts swaying from narrow hips, muscular calves in thick socks. Nice! But I don’t think it is a good look for my 140 lb, 6’ 4” son with his stick legs. I also noticed that some men have the same fitting problems as women, like shapely butts and rounded tummies. Unevenly hanging pleats really emphasize them.
Earlier this week I asked my husband what he would like for his birthday, he replied “ I want a new plaid vest, just like the one you made me.” When my memory failed to recall this item, he went down to his work shop and brought up the reversible vest shown in the pictures. The thing must be over 25 years old. I can’t remember if he was my boyfriend or my husband when I made it. Based on the gap in the front when he tries to close it, I say he was still a boyfriend. I was amazed at the work that went into it. I quilted the heavy brown cotton fabric to some kind of batting. There are shaped bands around the armholes, welt pocket on the wool side and patch pockets with flaps on the outside and button closures. My sewing skills were still developing when I made it. I can see the “large” hand sewn stitches tacking the armhole and bottom bands in place. The plaids on the welt pocket don’t match. I can’t remember the pattern I used or doing any of the work, which bothers me a bit. He requested that the replacement have a reversible zipper and a brighter plaid. And, I thought to myself, I can use pre-quilted and water/wind resistant fabric, snaps for the pocket closures, elastic ribbing at the bottom. It is amazing the new fabrics and notions that are now available to sewers, that were not around back in the 80’s. And I will need to make it. Hubby is a Medium Tall. Retailers seem to think all tall men are “big and tall”. A quick perusal of the Cabela's, Woolrich, etc. catalogs did not yield exactly what he wanted. Plus my stash contains loads of wool plaid remnants from the Woolrich store in Woolrich, PA which was conveniently located near Penn State University, where I went to college.
And the last plaid coinky-dink. The Activities Committee at work announced November’s activity as an outing to a dinner theatre. The play…..Forever Plaid.