yellow!

corduroy

I scored this beautifully yellow corduroy today…

yellow pants

In the form of men’s pants!

I was costume shopping at JC Penney for the school’s fall mainstage production, and spotted these on the clearance rack for the low, low price of $1.97 (I told you it was low!). Now, my budget is tight, but all the more reason to snatch up fabric when I can get it cheap! Especially when it is yellow corduroy, so I bought it.

It’s a 40 waist, which is fairly large (the larger, the better, when buying garments for the fabric), but it is still definitely a limited amount of fabric. I’m not sure what to make out of it. Shorts? A skirt? The tiniest 70s a-line jumper for fall? Hmm…

yellow corduroy pants

Circus Shorts!

I’ve been wanting shorts all summer, but I didn’t want to spend money on a store pair. Shorts are exactly the sort of them that I would spend an hour trying on and considering, and then decide that it wasn’t worth it and I would just do without. So the obvious solution is to make some. If I don’t like them, then at least they provided entertainment value, and I didn’t spend money on them.

These shorts are really more of a muslin or a practice piece for future pairs of shorts, but I did make them, they are my very first pair of shorts, and I do on occasion wear them, so I thought I’d share them here.

Disclaimer: they are very wrinkly. Also, you can see the line of my shirt tucked in. Oh well.

teal shorts

teal shorts

I took the pattern off my best-fitting non-stretchy pair of trousers, which I got secondhand somewhere and which are clearly hand-sewn! I love them, and they fit really well except for a bit of gaping in the back waistband. I tried to eliminate that gape with the shorts, but they still do, a bit, and they are dangerously low-riseā€¦ It looks fine in the picture, but it can be uncomfortable to wear.

The fabric is a teal poly-cotton bedsheet. I meant to use the wrong side, which is less shiny, but halfway through inserting the fly I realized that the shiny side was going to be showing, and I didn’t have the heart to take it out when everything was going so well.

teal shorts

The waistband doesn’t match up quite as well as I had hoped. I don’t entirely know how it worked in the original trouser pattern, but I think it needs to be longer. The fly’s a little narrow, too, but I do know what went wrong there.

The hem does an amusing flippy thing. Something about it not being quite even, perhaps. I’ve made another, modified pair, which I finished last night, and it’s not really an issue with them, so I’m not sure.

Something about wearing shiny teal short-shorts can be really tricky. I believe with the right circus-inspired styling (lace tights, blousy top, vest tall boots) they could be kind of fantastic, but usually I just wear a longer top so there’s, well, less teal.

teal shorts

teal shorts

Now that I know what a few of the pattern’s kinks are, I have plans for a cuffed pair in green wool for wearing over tights in the winter. It’s still the heat of summer, but I fear limited sewing time once school starts, so I’ll have to finish my summer sewing list in the next couple of weeks and move onto my fall/winter one (haha! dream on).

The Ashland Dress

I made this dress a solid month or so ago, and it’s been waiting to be photographed along with a million other things (at least three), but it wasn’t until the light was starting to go this evening that I had the brilliant idea of tying my camera to my bike basket in lieu of a tripod. I have been really eager to talk about this pattern, because apparently, I would be one of the first sewing bloggers to do so. When I first began to admire this pattern from afar, I went looking for reviews, and I only found one, at Cotton Creek Sewing. I didn’t understand why the entire sewing blogosphere wasn’t full of Ashlands, it seemed such a simple, everyday dress.

Being poor, I didn’t buy it, but Mother did, and when she didn’t like it, she gave it to me. I was more than happy to take it off her hands, and made grand plans for the dozens of versions I would whip up in happy afternoons. In the end, I only made one, and I don’t have plans for another right now (though I still have the pattern, so you never know), because ultimately I found it a little disappointing.

ashland

Don’t get me wrong, it’s cute and wearable and an easy summer dress, it’s just not quite the paragon of pattern-drafting that I had hoped it would be. To begin with, the multitude of options is a bit baffling. Do you want the sleeveless bodice, or the one with sleeves, because they’re different pieces with different amounts of ease. Do I wear a C cup with sleeves, but a D cup without? Or D cups all round? Or C cups all round? Should I cut a size 4, C cup, or a size 2, D cup? Or a size 2, C cup? The amount of muslins required just to get the right size would be staggering. I did several tissue fittings and ended up cutting a size 2, D cup, and by this time I was frustrated enough that I didn’t even care if the finished dress fit, so I skipped a muslin and plunged on ahead.

ashland

Luckily, it fits. Well enough, anyway. The saga of fit is long and arduous, I’m always agonizing about it, and sometimes it’s nice to accept that the fit on a dress is not perfect and doesn’t need to be, and I can wear it anyway.

ashland dress back

I did a tiny dart tuck in the back to accommodate the roll of my shoulders, and called it good. Also, I accidentally cut both back skirt pieces facing the same direction. I was cutting this dress out of the salvaged remains of last summer’s princess-seamed dress, which I wore all fall and winter and which ultimately, tragically, shrunk in the wash. This meant that I didn’t have nearly enough to re-cut a skirt piece, but I trimmed the back pieces down and sewed them without darts, and somehow it all worked out.

The Ashland dress has you do a lot of hand-sewing, and most of it before you’ve sewn up the side seams. This was nice because it forced me to take me time, and led to a nice clean finish, but I was terrified that the dress wasn’t even going to fit and it would all be a waste of time. I compounded issues by handpicking the zipper, since I didn’t have an invisible zip or brown thread, and didn’t want my stitching to show.

inside front

Inside front, self-faced and tidy.

inside back

Inside back. I also didn’t have a brown zipper, so I used a grey one. It’s all neutral, right?
armhole

Armhole binding. I didn’t have enough brown sprig for bias binding, so I used muslin. I tacked it down at various point along the armhole, but didn’t bother sewing it down all around.

handpicked zipper

This was the first time I handpicked a zipper properly, and it’s magical. It’s like it’s floating there without any stitching at all! I was so enchanted with prick-stitching, I went on to prick-stitch the entire hem.

ashland hem

The hem is nice and deep, and the skirt is very short. It felt like the most flattering length at the time. I’m not sure now that it wouldn’t benefit from an extra inch, and it would certainly make water fountains easier, but oh well.

buttons

The pattern calls for five buttons, but I only had three matching brown ones, and I didn’t want to make buttonholes anyway, so I sewed the front closed and stitched the buttons through both layers. My new zigzag machine may do buttonholes, but I haven’t figured out how quite yet.

I took this dress to the country fair, and it was comfy and cool, so I say it’s a win. I probably won’t be making dozens of Ashlands, though. Maybe another one, with a few modifications, if the right fabric comes along. I’m feeling more kindly disposed to it than I was before I started writing. Give me a year or so, and I might be really kindly disposed! In the meantime, I think it’s time for a new princess-seamed dress…

Also, you may notice that this is no longer the beautiful college campus, but in fact a pinkish house with hydrangeas! This is my new house, where I will live, hopefully, for the next couple of years! I still get to see the beautiful college every day, but now I have a patio, an herb garden, a kitchen that I only share with four other people, a sewing room, and I don’t have to shuffle in and out every couple of months and listen to people rapping upstairs every night. Hooray!

Look what I found!

girl's dress

This isn’t what I found, actually, I’ve had it for ages, since I was 10 or 12 and actually had a chance of fitting into a 30″ bust. I even got a royal blue sprigged quilting cotton with this dress in mind, but never got around to even looking inside the pattern envelope. Until today, when I reached inside for the instructions, hoping to find the date (I was organizing my patterns chronologically, for no reason) and this fell out:

front page

A Hollywood Patterns catalog from 1942!

front page

rick-rack dress

chic crocheted hatss

Chic crocheted hats.

suit dress

suit dress

suit dress

What would 40s fashion be without suit dresses?

dress

The back page is torn, unfortunately, but I really like this dress.

children's fashion

children's fashions

There are some children’s patterns (like mine).

back page

The back page. Shirtdresses, and a tip to read Glamour Magazine to find out how to meet and marry men.

Amazing. I can’t believe this has been sitting in either mine or mother’s stash for so long and neither of us ever realized it.

The pattern that I have is 847, and the catalog starts numbering in the 60s, so it’s probably from late 1941 or early 1942. A pattern piece also fell out with the catalog, and it’s probably a good thing I didn’t try to make this 8 years ago because my 12-year-old sewing skills would definitely not have been up to the challenge of an unprinted pattern.

unprinted pattern

I wish now that it was a grown-up pattern, because it’s a really sweet little dress.

Apple Violet Blouse

This is what I wore today:

violet

It was sewn entirely by me! Excepting shoes (brown oxfords, not shown) and tights, which don’t count. The skirt you’ve seen before–it’s my green corduroy one I made last summer, though it has been taken in since. But the blouse is new!

It is a Colette Violet, made up in the cutest fabric you ever did see. It has been sitting in the closet awaiting buttons for at least two weeks, and I finally got around to them last night at a sewing party.

buttons

You can’t tell from this photo, but I couldn’t find enough matching orange buttons, so they are slightly different. It’s barely noticeable, though, and if anyone did notice, I think the print can pass it off as “whimsy.” There are also nine buttons, instead of the six or seven that the pattern called for, and I regretted it long before I had finished hand-sewing each buttonhole. When I had pinned it together, it pulled at the bust, and my nine buttons were meant to prevent gaping, but in fact there is room and to spare in the finished product. I later learned that I can pull it over my head, and the buttonholes are utterly unnecessary.

violet collar detail

Collar detail. I love the collar, and there’s enough of this fabric left over for a few details on some sweet cream-colored dress.

I made no alteration to this pattern, just traced it off in a size 0 and made it up, with only the minimum possible tissue fitting (that is, “is this going to fit over my bust? yeah, looks like it, let’s go”). I thought about making a muslin, but for such a simple pattern I didn’t really think that it could fit me that terribly. I don’t exactly regret making a muslin, but there are definitely some alterations I will make for next time; this version is a bit too voluminous in places.

violet back

The back.

violet untucked

And untucked. It really looks best tucked in, it is just a little too big and a little too boxy to be really flattering, though it might be cute with jeans or a straight skirt.

In my next version, I will probably take out about an inch of length in the high bust, and maybe a quarter to half an inch in the shoulders. I might also take out an inch of length along the lengthen/shorten line, because looking at other people’s Violets, they do seem to be a bit shorter than mine, and I will probably end up hemming mine a little more–I am, after all, quite petite. I am also considering taking the next one in at the side seams. A lot of this depends on how I feel as I wear this one, but I already have plans for another in white lawn with purple accents–it’s a very cute and easy pattern, and it seems a shame to let a small sizing problem get in the way. Of course, if I keep making Violets I’ll have to keep making high-waisted skirts! I really only have a couple skirts that I feel I can wear blouses with, especially blouses this blousy.

Overall, though, I’d call it a success! The cut and colors are very summery and light, but the print is a bit more autumnal, so it’ll be relevant all year round!

drafting a dress

I want to make this 50s halter dress from BurdaStyle.

I have a green and black gingham seersucker, and black broderie anglaise for the straps. Or something. I’m still a bit hazy on the details. Maybe I’ll make my own piping, if I’m feeling really ambitious. The fabric, being seersucker, has really subtle stripes, and I have some idea of chevrons in the skirt, if I have enough fabric. Can you make chevrons in a circle skirt?

But, I don’t really want to buy it, print it out, tape it together, trace it onto pattern paper, do an FBA, and then realize that it doesn’t fit me right anyway (I’m facing the terrible fate of having to grade all of my patterns, ever). So, I decided, why not draft it myself? It has two darts, how hard can it be? (Ha ha.) I would never knock off a pattern from an indie pattern company, but this is Burda and vintage and, well, I don’t feel bad.

I am using a piece of muslin, a tape measure, the Burda line drawing, and a giant roll of paper towel to draw my pattern pieces on (I couldn’t find a newspaper). The pieces themselves are coming along all right, but I feel that the construction may prove difficult. Burda seems to have made the X across the bodice out of one piece, but surely that is not an economical use of fabric…

Floral Drop Sundress

The moment I saw the Joel Dewberry Floral Drop pattern (used in three different colorways in this quilt!) I knew that I wanted a dress out of it! Never mind that it’s quilting cotton, it HAD to be a dress for swing dances and ceilis–even in January, you can only wear sundresses because it gets unbearably hot, and the best sundresses are twirly ones, because what is dancing without lots of spins? Less fun, that’s what. Luckily, the fabric store in Astoria had the red colorway on sale, so I bought a couple of yards it to make my dream dress.

dress and sweater

And it is such a dream dress! Let me tell you, I want five of these dresses, in a variety of beautiful prints, to wear in all seasons to all dances and classes and parks and dates. It is so comfy and pretty, and the fact that it’s quilting cotton matters not a bit–it actually makes it better, because it gives the skirt some stiffness without needing a crinoline. It’s a fantastic sundress, and if it’s chilly, I can just wear a sweater and tights!

I’m actually wearing white tights in these pictures, but you can barely tell because my skin is pretty much the exact same color. It’s nice to feel sunshine again! (Though Sierra had me face the sun for better lighting, and I haven’t mastered the ability to stare at a brilliantly glowing object with a straight face.)

floral drop dress

I knew I wanted a sweetheart neckline (I have admired them for ages, but never had a dress with one until my Macaron), so I used the bodice from the Macaron pattern, sans yoke. I had to take it in at the sides, and make it higher front and back to cover my entire bra. It took ages to alter it just right, and foolishly, I didn’t trace my finished product out on pattern paper, so for the next dress, I’ll have to figure it out all over again. Oh well.

I wanted a full skirt, because it’s a dancing dress, and I used a circle for maximum twirliness. I didn’t originally buy enough fabric to finish the circle, so the project was put on hold for a couple of months until I had enough. It twirls excellently!

floral drop dress back

The back. My straps are quite wide–perhaps a little wider than they need to be, but I wanted to be sure they would be stable and cover my bra straps.

floral drop dress

From the side. I put this zipper in and ripped it out twice before realizing that I’d been doing it right the whole time. After that, I didn’t have the heart to take it out again and try to make it properly invisible. I don’t think I’ve ever done a zipper well–I’ve done two in the last week or so and neither of them came out very well, though I’m probably the only person who will ever notice. Maybe in the future I’ll just handpick them all.

I also hemmed this dress twice. I cut it out sloppily, thinking that I would take off length once I’d tried it on, but I liked the length so I didn’t trim it down at all, I just hemmed it. I didn’t notice anything wrong, and wore it around one day, and then dancing a few days later (I got a very nice compliment from someone, who was very impressed when I told her I had made it and wanted to know if I’d used a vintage pattern!), but when it was hanging in my closet afterwards, I noticed that it was not even at all… so I had to rip it out, trim off about an inch from places in the front, and do it over. It’s just a machine hem, luckily. In the end, I decided I like this length much better, it feels like a much more reasonable amount of fabric for some reason.

floral drop dress

It’s been such a gorgeous weekend, I’m so happy it’s sunny. I went for a two-hour walk/run in the state park near campus, and have played a ton of frisbee in the sun. I have been making a Colette Violet blouse in a charming print, but my sewing room was taken away and I no longer have a place to set up my machine, so I’ve started sewing it by hand–just the darts, so far. I don’t want it to be half hand-sewn and half machine-sewn, so I’m hesitant to go too far, because then I’ll have to finish the whole thing by hand! Ah well, anything to teach me patience…