Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hey Mom!

“Hey Mom, I have a sewing project for you” I heard my elder DS’s voice say from the computer room. “What?” I asked from my comfortable chair, reading my book and sipping my tea. “Come here” he replied. As I got up from my chair, I knew this was not going to be the typical rip repair request. “T. (his friend girl) wants this for Christmas. She sent me the link, but it is sold out.” He said, pointing to a picture of a fleece hat with big panda bear eyes and ears on a cosplay site. “Can you make it?” Mixed feelings swirled in my head. Flattered that he thought I could, there was also some reluctance because this wasn’t what I had planned to do today. My book would be there when I got done, so I prepared to be "Sewper Mom". The first thing we did was look for similar hats on other sites, but there were none as cute. So we looked for fleece hat patterns with ear flaps and ties. We found some great patterns and a source of unique outdoor fabrics at Finnish web site Shelby , a company that provides extreme materials and designs to do-it-yourself enthusiasts, students, designers, and manufacturers. They have patterns for sale as well as some free ones. The hat pattern we used is the free Shelby Kaava #403 Tunturi Hat Pattern . The crown section of the hat is made from four triangular pieces and the bottom section from one of three options: a short ear flap, a long ear flap with tie, and a Balaclava. The pattern prints out in 4 sizes.

I had to climb up the ladder to the unheated attic to check my fleece stash. I had every color except the black and white needed for this project. The main roads had been cleared after our weekend snow storm and we had to go to the Alltel store to get my dead cell phone diagnosed, so I talked my DH into going "just a little further down the road to the fabric store” to get the fleece. In the mean time DS asked T. what her hat size was. Fortunately she responded with her head circumference, which is what we really needed to determine which pattern size to use.

From a closer examination of the pictures, it looked like the pattern used was a little different than the one we downloaded. The hat was cut in one piece and the crown shaping was done with darts. To get the same pattern shape, I positioned the crown pieces on top for the band pattern with flaps and cut out the shape. Now the crown shaping would be achieved with large curved darts.

After I showed him how fleece stretches in one direction and not the other, my son did the pattern layout and cutting. He drafted the pattern pieces for the eyes, nose and ears. The ears were 3 inch diameter lined circles, that are inserted in the crown side seams. I did all the sewing. Boy, it had been a while since I zigzag stitched around curve shapes. That is definitely a skill and mine is rusty. The white fleece was thin and seams show thorough, so we lined the hat with the same fleece. DS was fascinated with turning the tie tubes using a long metal rod with a hook on the end. He thought that was pretty neat.

Wouldn’t you know, I checked the web site of the original inspiration hat today, and it is back in stock. But DS is very pleased with the result of our sewing collaboration and we both enjoyed ourselves. He refused to model the hat himself, so here it is on a hat form. I think it will look really cute on T. with her long red hair.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I Felt Loopy

Before I was sidetracked by the December issue of Burda magazine, I was working on a jacket. I bought the fabric in November in Hampton Roads, VA. I had driven my older son there so he could take his friend girl (it’s a long distance relationship so she really isn’t his girlfriend) to her high school’s fall Homecoming Dance. He doesn’t have enough driving experience yet to do the trip on his own. I dropped him off at the friend’s house and spent the rest of the evening shopping. In the sale section, at the back of the JoAnne Fabrics store, was a bolt of dark brown flannel like fabric with a variegated yarn felted to it in a meandering loopy pattern. I am pretty sure it is felted because there is no visible sign of stitching and the yarn fibers can be seen faintly on the back side of the fabric.

The local JoAnne Fabric store had a different colorway of this fabric last fall. I thought it was a bit overpriced for something made of acrylic/poly/wool, no matter how unusual the fabric was. It sold out very quickly. I always wonder what makes a fabric popular at one store and not at another. At half the original price, the fabric became more appealing to me. I decided a jacket with soft curved style lines would be a good choice for this fabric. Simplicity 2810 is a pattern for a double breasted, shawl collar jacket that fits that description.

On the pattern envelope, this jacket is shown in a paisley fabric with coordinating binding around the edges. The instructions say to finish the lapel outer edges and hem normally, and then apply binding made of bias strips cut from a coordinating fabric. I had a solid brown wool fabric that coordinated well, but as a binding over the finished edges it was too bulky. I considered cutting off the lapel edge seam allowances and binding the edge using the solid brown fabric, but that was still too bulky. By this time the binding issue was driving me "loopy" and the project stalled for a bit. I felt the patterned fabric really needed some kind of edge definition. Then I remembered a scrap of cream colored faux suede left over from a Davy Crockett/Daniel Boone costume project. You know the type of costume I mean...a leather looking jacket with lots of fringe. I folded strips of the suede in half and inserted the folded edge like piping. It extends about 3/16 inch from the front edge, about the same width of the yarn.

I had two fitting issues which are not normally a problem for me with Simplicity patterns. The full length sleeves were about 1.5 inches too short. I ended up sewing a bias band to the bottom of the sleeves to get them to the appropriate length. And the sleeves were also very narrow. Bicep circumference measurement for my favorite RTW jackets is 14.5 to 15 inches. For the size 14, the finished pattern measurement was 13 5/8 inches. I used 3/8th inch seam allowances on the two sleeve seams to get a little more room. The sleeves are comfortable over tops made of thin fabric.

One more day of work and I am on vacation until after the New Year. Gift shopping is done, thank goodness! I am actually feeling very relaxed about the upcoming holiday and am looking forward to luncheons with sewing buddies, visits with friends and relatives, and doing goofy stuff with the family like the Tacky Light Tour. The TLT is when you drive around the city after dark, looking at the Christmas lights on the homes of people who go to decorating extremes. I have not planned any specific sewing, but I am sure some will occur.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Strong Shoulders Revisited - Burda 12/09 Overblouse 108

I posted earlier this fall about strong shoulder silhouettes. My fascination with these extreme shoulder shapes was around the technical details. How did they construct them and what was used to maintain their shape? Some of the pictures in my idea file featured this sleeve used by Dolce and Gabbana in their Spring 2009 collection.

Yesterday my December issue of Burda magazine arrived in the noon mail and there was a “over blouse “ with similar sleeves. Shown in a brocade fabric, it was styled with leather pants, a wide black cuff bracelet and a clutch purse. Sort of a dressy up casual look, for holiday parties.

I had started working on a wool jacket that morning, but it was “same old stuff”. This over blouse was much more interesting, and after reading the instruction, I just had to make it. Was it a bit fashion forward for the Richmond fashion scene? Yes. For a lady my age? Yes. Would I wear it a lot? Probably not. But sewing is my hobby, done for pleasure, not production! If a new technique or style excites me, I will try it just for the experience. Okay, I do have a practical side. The blouse is actually a fitted sleeveless top, that is completely finished prior to attaching the lined oval shapes over the armholes to form the “shoulder puff’ sleeves. So when this fad passes I can remove the sleeves and have a very nice fitted holiday top.

I had a bunch of silk brocades in my stash, part of a bundle of tie fabric remnants bought years ago. So if this blouse reminds you of your husband’s tie, it may be the exact same fabric! And I keep a supply of lightweight separating zippers because I like to use them for blouses and indoor jackets. So I was ready to go. The blouse is in Burda Tall sizes. I fall in between the 5’9” of their tall size and the 5’6” of the regular size. I always make the regular size and lengthen leg and skirt lengths. I was prepared to “de tall” (shorten) this pattern, but during a test fit the bust point and waist fell in the right place for me. I did shorten the top at the hem a bit so it did not hit mid hip (widest point on me).

The sleeve pieces are two similar oval shaped pieces that are interfaced and lined. They are attached to each other along part of the seam that goes over the shoulder. I used a non woven fusible that tends to stiffen up fabric. It, along with the natural stiffness of the silk brocade, worked nicely to hold the sleeve shape. And the seam allowances on the shoulder curve are not trimmed. They are pressed open on both the lining and fashion fabric adding a lot of stiffness and shape in that area. The back sleeve piece is actually slightly bigger than the front, because it has go over the rounded contour of the shoulder back. I like the oval shape of the sleeves better than the circular shape used by D&G. It looks more “couture” to me. Someone did a very good job drafting this pattern.

Is this sleeve comfortable? Yes, when my arms are down or only bent at the elbow. (Note to self: Only drinks with straws, no bottled beer) When I start to lift my arm, I feel the stiffness of the sleeve edge, which is strange. If I lift my arms up a lot, the top goes with it. (Another note to self - restrained dancing only, hip shimmies and shoulders rolls) Ah ha, I just realized why they showed a clutch purse with it in the magazine picture. A purse strap would crush the sleeves. Ummm, I hope it’s warm the night I wear this. I can’t imagine what kind of coat or wrap to wear over it. I haven't seen a name for this sleeve. I think it should be called the Pauldron Sleeve. A "pauldron" generally refers to any kind of shoulder-pad style armor, covering the top of the shoulder. And the definition goes on to say that when the pauldron extends past the armpit, movement is restricted. I'd say that is accurate.

Laughing and head shaking is permitted.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Winter Coat - Vogue 8548

Yes, I am still around, Lots of weekend activities have cut into my sewing time, and then more recently, uncertainty over my job (layoffs) dampened my enthusiasm to sew clothes for a lifestyle that might soon be changing. Even though the severance package would have been great and we could live just fine with one wage earner, it was still stressful. Last week I was told I still had a job and I could feel my spirits lift as I drove home from work that day.

I reorder my clothes closets twice a year when the seasons change. I pull the fall/winter clothes out of the cedar storage closet and move them to the bedroom closet, at the same time I take the spring summer clothes to the storage closet. I also do the same thing to my sewing patterns and fabric. I put all the patterns and fabrics that I never got around to sewing this summer, in a storage closet, and bring out the winter type patterns and fabrics. One cold day a couple weeks ago, while fondling a pile of wools, I looked out onto the deck and backyard and noticed a startling large number of squirrels, all with acorns in their mouths, darting too and fro between the planters and the flower beds. Darned lazy varmints! They prefer to bury their nuts in the soft soil of those locations, rather than the hard packed clay of the yard. Every spring I have to pull oak and black walnut seedling out of the planters. I wondered if the mass squirrel scamper was a harbinger of impending colder weather. I really believe animals can sense weather changes before humans. For a winter coat, I tend to rely on an ancient lined raincoat. It works well for all weather conditions such as rain, sleet and snow, if combined with quick dashes between buildings and car. I haven’t made a coat in over 25 years. Not since I moved away from rural central Pennsylvania and its cold snowy winters. Ah, the memories of the 40-minute drive to work, following behind the snowplow on a narrow winding two-lane road. Anyway, I always read magazine articles about finding the perfect fashion forward, slim fitting, warm winter coat. Dashingly accessorized with a non hair crushing, non static generating hat, and artfully arranged scarf. Well, I decided to up my winter fashion game a bit and make a nice coat. I remember being impressed last fall with EricaB's version of Vogue 8548 coat.

It was stylish, but still fairly easy to sew. No notched collar, no buttonholes, and lined to the edge. I made version C ( gray check in picture above) with corded button loops and the smaller neck opening. The fabric I used was a charcoal gray and red jacquard purchased recently from Fabric Mart. I thought the fabric would be jacket weight. When it arrived it was definitely coating weight. I used the darker, predominately gray side, as the "good" side. I reversed the fabric on the lapel facing so that if it is unbuttoned, it shows a bit of a brighter color. I was able to squeeze the knee length coat out of two yards even after lengthening it by 2 inches.

Even though this was an easy pattern, I managed to sew the skirt piece together in the wrong order, I guess I was "sewing while distracted" and ignored the notches. I did not notice the mistake until the bottom half was finished, lined, edge stitched, hemmed and ready to attach to the bodice. Arggg, I hate ripping out stitching, especially on thick fabric in a coarse weave. The threads are embedded in the fabric and there is a higher chance of catching and cutting the fabric. While working on the coat, all the things I did not like about coat making came back to me. Working with heavy fabrics, especially the weight of the nearly finished coat than must be heaved about when working on final finishing details. And the fitting issues. I can fit a blouse or jacket, but am uncertain on how much ease is needed in a coat that will be worn over other garments. I made the size 16, but I think the bodice is a little large. The shoulders extend beyond my shoulders and the back the upper back is too wide. However our weather has warmed up again, so rather than tear the coat apart to downsize the bodice now, I think I will wait and wear it a few time over clothes to see if I really need to alter it.
Our cold weather spell, followed by recent warm wet weather has the poor Camellia bush confused. It is blooming profusely now, about 4 months early. But its red and yellow bloom look great next to the turning leaves of the red maple (both in the background of the picture) Can you till my favorite color is red? Not only in my wardrobe, but also for flowers and leaves of the plants I grow in my yard.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

No Jewelry Required - Vogue 8594 dress

I had a business trip to Chicago earlier this week. It was my first visit to this city and I really enjoyed it. It had big city atmosphere and activities, but it was clean, with friendly people. Granted I saw a very small section, and from watching the local news, I know that things aren’t as nice in other areas of the city. All the direct flights from Richmond to Chicago leave early in the morning, so I had some time to kill before the conference kickoff reception that evening. I had planned to do some cultural stuff and fabric shopping. I took a taxi to the Chicago Art Institute and spent 3 hours walking around the exhibits. It was really exciting to see paintings and sculptures that I had only seen before in books, in person and up close. American Gothic, Monet’s Water Lilies, Mary Cassatt’s The Child's Bath,

Van Gogh, Frederick Remington’s paintings and sculptures, so on. The rest of the afternoon I had planned on fabric shopping at Vogue Fabrics and Fishman’s Fabrics. Some of the fabric stores often mentioned as the source of the lovely fabrics used by Chicago sewing blogger Cennetta . But my guilt over the amount of fabric I have recently purchased made me reconsider. Instead, it being a beautiful day, I decided to walk up N. Michigan Ave to my hotel, about 13 blocks , stopping in the stores and parks along the way. I did some snoop shopping in the designer clothes departments of Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom's for ideas to use up my fabric stash. Gorgeous garments! Paralyzing prices! Tired from all the walking, I finally reached my hotel late in the afternoon. My hotel room was on the 33rd floor of a building with a clear view of the lake, two blocks away. A strong wind was whistling against the window, and I could hear the creaks and cracks as the building flexed in the wind. It reminded me of the sounds I listened to the night that Hurricane Isabel roared through Richmond. I know the wind is not unusual in Chicago, nor I guess, is an out of town guest’s unease. Part of the bed turn down goodies included earplugs and a card stating "Pardon the Chicago wind noise… This building has been constructed to withstand high wind velocity, and like every high-rise building, it is designed to sway. Due to this factor, we do encounter creaking sounds in some of our rooms depending on wind direction and velocity. We hope that these unpredictable circumstances with not inconvenience you tonight. Should you hear the wind noise, the earplugs are provided for your sleeping comfort." Thankfully, by bedtime the wind had dies down and it was quiet.

The dress I wore the welcome reception that night was one I had made the previous weekend. Vogue 8594, a fitted dress with some interesting seaming.

I had really liked a simple brown sheath dress displayed with patterned tights and high heeled pumps on a mannequin at my local Macy’s store. I bought the tights with the idea of making the dress using this pattern. In my stash I found suitable brown fabric; a crepe type weave with multicolored threads of gold black and brown. One of the pattern illustrations, View A, showed contrasting fabric used for the triangular shaped sections on the side waist. I have a fondness for garments that combine fabric and matching leather. So I decided to see if I could find some matching leather to use for the side waist sections of my dress. I found some fake suede at JoAnne’s in a similar color, but later, digging through a box at Tandy Leather, I found 4 scraps of matching leather, just barely large enough to cut out the pattern pieces. The brown fabric, even with matching leather, was still a bit too boring for me. I don’t know why I decided to make a brown dress. I should know by now that I rarely wear clothes in earth colors like brown and dull green. I also liked the pattern view D which had "flexible trim" applied around the neckline. Finding trim that would curve around the neckline and match the brown fabric was going to be tough. And I didn’t have enough time to weave or braid my own a la Kenneth King. Instead I decided to jazz up the dress by using iron on metallic studs.

The studs were gold and silver, in various sizes, with an occasion small crystal thrown in, They were already arranged in a random pattern on a backing sheet. I cut small sections of the studs and arranged them in a 1.5 inch wide band below the neckline seam. I really enjoyed doing this.

I followed the package instructions, ironing the wrong side of the fabric with high heat to melt the adhesive on the back side of each stud. The adhesive held very well. I had to remove a few studs that I inadvertently placed too near the seam line. They came off when I reheated the glue using the iron. But they left glue residue melted into the fabric. After sewing the seam I affixed smaller individual studs over the glue spots to hide them.

I originally made a size 14 top and a size 16 bottom in this dress. A normal split of sizes for me when I use Vogue patterns. Surprisingly, the size 16 bottom was too big for me. Because of the seaming details I could not just take it in on the side seams like you would a simple skirt. If I had, the seams that started in the front and curved over the hips to the skirt back would no longer match at the side seams. Instead I had to unsew the skirt pieces and recut them to the smaller size. I highly recommend making muslin of the dress bottom if you think you might have fitting issues.

After adding the stud trim, I really liked the dress and I will wear it. And it doesn’t need any jewelry, what with all the bling at the neckline. A perfect travel dress! Alas, the patterned tights don’t look good with it. I guess I’ll have to make something else to wear with them.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Strong Shoulders

One of the trends this fall, as reported by fashion sources, is Strong Shoulders. "Soft and billowing or big and dramatic, shoulders take a starring role this season." Here are some of the photo’s I have in my idea file.(click on picture to enlarge)
When I look at these pictures my first thought is "Oh my gosh! How did they do that?" Followed shortly by… "Is that wearable in my world?" The techniques used by the designers to create these strong shoulders include gathering, pleating, padding, folding and structural steel (just kidding). The designer versions are pretty extreme. But many of them, when scaled down a bit, are very wearable. Some of these big shoulders are created with big sleeves. Sleeves that create width at the shoulder line visually slim the waist and hips. Plus my shoulders are sloping and on the small side to start with, so I really like this trend!
Even the sewing magazines have articles about big sleeves. Sewstylish magazine had an article titled "High Style Sleeves" that had instructions for modifying sleeve patterns to make two styles of "exaggerated sleeves that capture the modernized shoulder style".

I appreciated the Sewstylish article because it explained how to make the dramatic expanded shoulder in a way I never would have thought of. The original sleeve pattern cap is enlarged considerably. To avoid problems making the sleeve fit into the armhole, the sleeve is sewn over the original armhole. I briefly considered making a dress with this kind of sleeve just to try the technique, but I just didn’t think I would wear it; too afraid something like this would happen.

To satisfy my urge for a wearable wardrobe update, I sewed a couple of blouses with unique sleeves. The first one was Simplicity 2633, a Project Runway pattern for a princess seam blouse with a variety of collar, and sleeve options. I made the version with the short sleeves with pleat details. The sleeves are a modified version of a tulip sleeve.

The fabric was silk linen blend. I originally bought the fabric to use in a bias draping experiment (more on that in a future post). It was too stiff for draping. I washed two yards to soften it up, which didn’t happen, but the fabric took on a slightly rippled texture, which I really liked.

My second blouse, with a totally different sleeve, was made from Simplicity 2501.

I made view D, which has elbow length sleeves with gathers at the cap and along the length, a neckline tie, inset waist band, and a peplum. The sleeve pattern is freakish elongated. The fabric is gathered to a shorter length by sewing a long casing to the center of the sleeve on the wrong side, and inserting a short piece of elastic in the casing. The armhole gathers extend from the armhole front notch to armhole back notch.
The fabric for this blouse was silk print twill. Not the easiest fabric to cut out and sew, but worth the effort. I used silk organza for the interfacing and the sleeve gathering casing. I was really pleased with how it turned out.

Now on to something different!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mrs. McW's Patterns

I accompanied my husband to several estate sales yesterday. This is a bit unusual. I find estate sales depressing. They are usually held when someone has passed on, or is moving into an assisted living facility and the family needs to liquidate the estate. I find myself studying the house, furnishings, clothing, and books, and thinking about the person they belonged to. This was their home, their cherished personal possessions, and I feel uncomfortable being part of a crowd of people examining and evaluating them for purchase. I went to the sales yesterday because I was up early, with makeup on, having dropped DS #2 off at football practice (yes, on a Saturday) and completed my grocery shopping.

The first two sales didn’t have much of interest. The third sale was at a home in Westover Hills, a neighborhood of unique, but small, brick and stone homes built in the 1920-40’s. The occupants had obviously loved antiques as evidenced by the furniture, clothes, pictures, and the accumulation of antique and doll magazines. And there in the corner of the musty basement, were several boxes of sewing patterns from the late 50’s through early 70’s. My heart started pounding as I started to sort through them. I purchased 50 of the about 70 patterns, paying $.30 per pattern. At home, looking through them at a more leisurely pace, I started to form an image of the person who collected and sewed these patterns. The first patterns were from the mid 1950’s. Spadea patterns that were marketed through a syndicated newspaper column entitled "You’re Sew Right". More info. about Spadea
All the envelopes are addressed to a Mrs. C.(husband’s name) McW at the address of the sale.The earliest postmark date was 1955. Gosh, she had lived in that hours over 5o years. In 1955, I imagined she might have been in her twenties, newly married, perhaps on a budget given that the patterns she purchased were modestly priced. She had probably learned to sew in school or from a relative. The patterns were for simple shirtwaist dresses, blouses, and jackets. From the same time period the patterns were mostly inexpensive non-designers Vogue patterns, and a few Simplicity and Butterick’s. These included both casual sportswear styles and dresses. My favorites include these dress patterns.

and a 1960’swimsuit designed to be made from denim or gingham with small darts in the bottom back to mold the fabric under the curve of the butt.

Starting in 1960 and through the early 70’s, all the patterns were Vogue Paris Original's or Vogue Couturier, some still had the woven labels in the pattern envelope. Many of them were purchased at Thalhimers or Miller & Rhodes, the elegant, rival, family run department stores that existed in Richmond from the 1800’s until the early 1990’s. Some of the patterns were stamped with the store name, and date of purchase, making dating the pattern easy. Either her finances had improved or her sewing skills and confidence were now at a level she felt comfortable tackling designer patterns. I would say 70% of the patterns had been used. The pattern pieces were trimmed, the dart lines were perforated by a tracing wheel, and they were neatly refolded when put back in the envelope. There were no signs that Mrs. McW made any pattern alterations. And she appears to have maintained her Bust 36, Hip 38 figure during the years for which there was patterns.This would have made her just slightly smaller ( 1 size) than me, though in all likelyhood a bit shorter. She even switched from a size 16 to a 14, staying with the same measurements, in 1968 when Vogue did some vanity resizing of their patterns.
On the back of some of the pattern envelopes, there were penciled calculations. They looked like yardage requirements multiplied by the cost of fabric in the 7 & 8 dollar range. Is this price level indicative that her fabric purchases were of high quality fabrics? I would like to think so. Mrs. C. McW certainly had a dressy, designer wardrobe in the 60’s. Where did she wear it? Did she work outside the home or did she have an active social life. The latter I suspect, based on the norm for women at that time. What did Mr. C. McW do for a living ? A Google search of his name did not return any info. He must have been successful, given where their home was, and the type of clothes his wife wore. I wish I could have seen her finished creations, touched her fabrics, talked to her about her love of sewing. Some more favorite patterns: This lovely draped Laroche.

This Pucci with a free hanging bodice.

A Pierre Cardin bias cut dress.

A Jacques Griffe dress styled to look like a vest and skirt, and jacket.

This Patou dress with matching cape.

Mrs. C. McW was obviously married and living in the house in 1955, based on the Spadea envelope labels. So the fantastic 1960’s ermine trimmed wedding dress pattern must have been purchased to make the dress for a non wedding event.
Were there any children? One, perhaps a girl for which she made this charming smocked dress in 1966. It was the only child’s pattern.

The last designer pattern was from 1973. After that the patterns were for Home Dec. items, Christmas ornaments, etc.. I didn’t buy them. If Mrs. C. McW was in her 20’s in the 50’s, she sewed gorgeous clothes through her 30’s and tapered off in her 40’s. There was no sewing machine or fabric included in the estate sale, supporting my hypothesis that she had not sewn for quite some time. I wonder why she stopped sewing? Did her lifestyle or body change? It happens. To see all of Mrs. McW's Patterns
My other purchase at the sale was this velvet, beaded, Victorian pincushion. It was so horribly over the top, and much too big (12" diameter) for my crowded sewing table. But it was red, my favorite color, and one of the beaded monograms is an "A". How could I resist?