Tag Archives: handsewn

Alma Blouse

Well, I’m back! What with school and all, I’ve hardly had time to sew, and it doesn’t help that both of my sewing machines are broken! I did make a Secret Santa present using the sewing machines in the costume shop, but other than that I haven’t been able to sew since I don’t know when. Now we’re in the middle of winter break, though, and I’ve been out in the country using my mom’s fancy Juki to make her an Alma blouse!

Alma and car

When Mother first bought this lawn, she described a fitted, vaguely medieval, possibly button-back blouse with 3/4-length sleeves. We decided that the Alma blouse had the right fit, and the sleeves were easily modified. It is also such a nice, versatile, modifiable pattern, and falls within both of our sizing ranges. I can’t wait to sew myself a version in white geometric-patterned cotton with a forest green yoke, or a little floaty summer blouse in lawn or voile with cap sleeves…

I cut a size 16, going by Mother’s upper bust measurement, and did a full bust adjustment. At first I added a total of three inches to the bust, but after the first muslin, I had to reduce the bust by an inch (interestingly, this happened with the last FBA I did as well–I’m really not sure why). I also did a forward shoulder adjustment of probably 1 1/4″.

Alma and car

I had a lot of trouble fitting the sleeves, and as you can see, they’re still not quite right. I narrowed the shoulders by about 5/8″, and put that fabric into the sleeve cap instead. I also did a full arm adjustment, and cut the sleeves on the bias. They fit a lot better in the lawn than they did in the poly-cotton sheet I was using for the muslin, and Mother can move her arms pretty freely, but I’m still not entirely satisfied. Sleeves are hard!

sleeve detail

In addition to changing the sleeve length, I gave the sleeves a little notch that matched the neckline. I trimmed both sleeves and the neckline with some homemade burgundy bias tape.

blouse and earring

Alma neckline

I attempted to do a swayback adjustment because of the wrinkles in back. I don’t think I did it right, but there are fewer wrinkles than there were…

Alma back

Alma zip

I used a regular zipper instead of an invisible one, for no particular reason. It is still pretty discreet. The belt shown here is the leftover burgundy bias tape.

Alma and car

I also made the skirt that Mother is wearing, which was last year’s Christmas present. It is something like a quarter circle, made out of something woven but stretchy from Fabric Depot. It matches the blouse perfectly!

I’m going home tomorrow with a borrowed sewing machine, to sew like mad until I leave for Ireland in a week! I’m hoping to make a shirtdress, two circle skirts, and to finish the Macaron I was sewing when my machine broke. And if I can accomplish all that, there’s a million other things I’d like to sew…but I’m trying to keep my to-do list short!

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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!

Herringbone Macaron

I bought Colette Patterns’ Macaron pattern on Black Friday, when all of their patterns were 30% off. I had coveted Chantilly for a long time, but Macaron is such a sweet pattern with a lot of room for variation, and a bit of a break from my normal full-skirted silhouette. I didn’t end up saving that much money, since shipping turned out to be about 30% of the pattern price, but my Macaron arrived in the mail a short time later, in an adorable pink booklet! Then it sat on my shelf while I frantically packed and sewed Christmas presents (for the most part undocumented, I’m afraid) and took my finals.

I brought it with me on break to my parents’ house, where it languished in a paper bag while I made a quilt (more on that later). I had brought with me a few yards of brown herringbone wool rescued from the Bins (a terrifying place, but lots of very cheap fabric if you care to find it). I didn’t really have any plans for it, and had only brought it because it didn’t fit conveniently in any of my boxes. I thought about making an a-line 60s miniskirt out of it, or a vest, or something. However, going through Mother’s suitcase of apparel fabric (most of which she has given to me), I came across a lovely sheer burgundy and brown floral, which, held up to the herringbone, cried out to be my first Macaron.

Newly enthused, I set about muslining!

…and muslining.

…..and muslining.

I have made things from patterns, but they have either turned out ill-fitting (as in my green blossom dress), or needed no alteration (as in my corduroy Burda skirt). I had never altered a pattern to fit me, and didn’t really know how to go about it. I made three muslins before I was finally happy enough with the result to make it up in my fashion fabrics.

My finished dress:

macaron

(It’s January, it’s freezing out. Also, time to invest in some hairclips.)

My alterations:
I shortened the bodice pieces by 1″, narrow-ed the back by 1″ (tapering off to normal at the waist), deepened the armscyes, widened the waist by 1/2″, shortened the entire bodice by an inch (I think I’m a petite size, technically), and did an FBA!

The last is really the exciting thing. I’d never done an FBA, and had really hoped to avoid it since Colette patterns are drafted for a C cup… but alas, ’twas not to be. The pattern piece was not meeting in the middle, so I pulled up a couple of tutorials and started drawing lines all over my pattern. (I traced it, don’t worry.) It fits much better now, happily, though I can’t say I’m thrilled to have to do that with every pattern I make.

macaron back

A little too much fabric in the back yoke, but the skirt pleats look fine despite my apprehension.

I bound the neckline in bias tape, and the same with the hem. I was going to use hem tape and do it all properly, but the wool is so bulky, I didn’t want to fold it under or anything. I got a bit lazy there…

bodice

With my next Macaron, I think I will have to alter the armscye in order to get rid of the excess fabric in the yoke (though you can’t see it so much in these pictures, so am I imagining it?). I deepened it here, which didn’t really solve any of my problems and resulted in it looking a little silly.

The sleeves are lined with purple silk:

sleeve

And the pockets are silk too! I won’t be able to put anything heavy in them, but any pockets are a luxury.

pocket

My invisible zipper is invisible this time!

invisible zip

The waistband doesn’t line up though, so oops.

In conclusion, I’m pretty happy with this dress, though it’s not perfect. I had some issues with the different types of fabric, which were all unstable and tricky in their own special ways. Some of my pattern alterations didn’t really work, and some of them worked but not well enough. But, it’s the first pattern I’ve ever altered, and it’s quite pretty, considering. I wanted the insides to look really nice, but they don’t, particularly. I should go back and bind them with bias tape of purple silk, but that stuff is hellish to cut so I seem to be putting it off.

Now, for something completely different:

chicken and me

No country home is complete without a pet chicken.

Almost a Violet, or, The Tale of the Unremarkable Sundress

Well, this weekend was the last one with my beloved sewing machine until September! I’m off to go work on a lavender farm for a month, and then I’m rushing about thither and yon and though I will have a few days at home at some point, I’d better be packing, not sewing. Anyway, I’m out of fabric! I will update occasionally with outfits, probably, and I’m going to be making a Stripe Study Shawl, which will hopefully be finished by the time it’s cold enough to wear a shawl and academic enough to study (i.e., finals). Can I finish a shawl before December? We’ll see.

Anyway, my last sewing weekend this summer. I spent most of it making a blouse, which is almost but not exactly a Colette Violet. By which I mean that I had the pattern booklet, kindly loaned me by my mother/Shannon, and, actually the pattern pieces as well, but I didn’t really feel like ironing the paper and tracing them out onto paper bags and then having to fold the paper back up, so I made up my own.

blouse

The booklet kindly advised me to “Measure twice, cut once” and Mother is always telling me to do a paper fitting, so I tried, I really did. But it’s no easy feat to fit patterns to your own back, especially when they’re made out of paper bags instead of tissue, so after a while I just gave up and decided to fit the fabric instead of the paper. I’m afraid I forgot to take into account what bust darts would do to the grain of the fabric, so it wrinkles in sort of a weird way under the bust.

blouse

Also, the collar is asymmetrical, despite my careful pinning. Oops. I’m still not sure how upset I am about that. I do like the sleeves though–I’d never made up my own sleeves before and it was surprisingly easy! And I did all seven buttonholes by hand–I’ve done all my buttonholes by hand and I really dislike it but somehow I keep making things with buttons. My shipment of 62 vintage zippers arrived though, so maybe I’ll avoid buttonholes for a while.

blouse back

Here is a picture of the back of the blouse. The fabric is cute, but it photographs absolutely terribly because it’s so busy. It hides darts pretty well though, which is nice. The collar was all wavy, probably because I didn’t use staystitch like the booklet said to do, so I darted it in a couple of places to make it lie flat.

It’s definitely not a perfect blouse. I learned an important thing making it: the people who make and sell patterns have years of experience, which is why they can make a living selling patterns, and I could learn a thing or two by actually following the instructions. I could probably make another of these blouses without a pattern now, but it would have turned out better if I had used one here, especially since I actually had one to hand. Oh well.

Next up–a high-waisted skirt in a mint green or pink to match this blouse that I have created.

Oh, but wait. I wouldn’t take two days to only sew one thing, would I? How silly! And I still had a piece of fabric!

Which is where the unremarkable sundress comes in.

sundress

There’s not that much to say about it. It’s been really hot the last few days, and I have a tendency to melt in weather above 75 degrees, so I wanted another low-effort sundress. I patterned it off of a green one that I frequently wear to ceilis, thinking hey, I could use another ceili dress too. Of course the green dress is made from drapey rayon and this dress is made from quilting cotton, so all the boringness of the pattern came through. It’s pretty much what I expected so I’m not all that disappointed. I think it’ll soften up with a few washes, and the fabric is pretty. I doubt I’ll be wearing it ceili-ing any time soon, as its stiffness sort of accentuates how short the hemline is (also what a terrible job I did hemming it straight…ugh), but it is actually pleasantly crisp in hot weather.

I am leaving on the train in a few hours and should go finish packing. I hope to see some spectacular outfits on the train that I can photograph, but I’m not counting on it.

I made a dress!

I think I have become a compulsive sewer.

It being the 4th of July, I had the day off, and yesterday I was so excited about it that I decided I would make a dress! I had a few yards of light brown sprigged quilting cotton, and it seemed the perfect stuff for a vintage-inspired summer dress, something with a fitted bodice and a full skirt. So I sat down to make one, because why not, really?

My dad bought me 62 vintage zippers on eBay, but they probably won’t arrive before next weekend, so I had to come up with a fitted bodice that didn’t have any zippers. Luckily for me (I thought), I have a lovely blue dress that not only buttons in the front, but also doesn’t have any darts, so I would just take a pattern off that–no adjustment required, since it fits me perfectly, etc. etc.

dresses on the line

(Sad side note about the blue dress: I’ve had it for a couple years and never washed it, and decided it was high time it was washed. I handwashed, but it still bled blue and red and purple all over the place and it is looking a bit faded and blotchy in spots. Not in a super noticeable way, but how do you wash things like that that bleed like mad?)

Of course the reason it doesn’t have any darts yet still fits perfectly is because it has armscye princess seams. I blithely traced it onto brown paper, cut out the pieces, and prepared to sew them . . . and then realized the edges of the pieces were curved. In opposite directions. I have no idea how it took me so long to realize that this might be problematic or confusing, but by the time I had noticed it was far too late to go back, and I definitely had no better plan, so I forged on ahead, found some video tutorials, and sewed the dress.

dress

dress back

It was a learning experience, for sure. I had no way of knowing how much seam allowance I would need, and tried using washable markers to denote where my pieces should match up, but in the end I was more preoccupied just trying to keep the pieces matching up at all while I curved them in directions none of them wanted to go, so the bodice didn’t fit perfectly. The dress being sleeveless, the armholes pooched out in unfortunate, boxy ways. In the end I ditched my armhole interfacing and added darts–even though it seemed silly to have darts and princess seams at the same time.

The internet cautioned me against french seams on armscye princess seams, but I don’t have a serger or zigzag or anything of that ilk, so I tried to finish my seams by turning them under and sewing along the edges, adding some decorative topstitching while I was at it. I can’t say that it worked splendidly, I’m afraid, but luckily no one is looking at the inside of my bodice and I can just handwash the dress from now on.

I stayed up until 2 AM sewing and finished the skirt this morning. I had to teach myself how to make a placket!

I cannibalized buttons from a cardigan that I’ve never worn and wouldn’t wear buttoned anyway…

buttons

…And a hook-and-eye from a blue cut-up evening-gown that I subsequently decided didn’t fit very well anyway and deprived of its zipper as well.

I also made a sash, not because it’s at all helpful or necessary but mostly because I still have lots of fabric and I like sashes. It’s good practice for sewing long, straight seams, anyway.

dress with sash

Yay! Overall I’m really pleased–it’s not perfect, by any means, and it definitely falls short of my imagination, but on the other hand it is way better than what I expected last night at 1 AM. It is something I will wear, and happily, and the next thing I make will be even better! I am not giving up on this bodice pattern, either; it’s lying scattered around my floor with scraps of fabric at the moment but sometime I might play around with the neckline and figuring out how to work with seam allowance.

skirt: an experiment

I made this:

skirt front

Totally patternless, no less. And I probably used about twice as much fabric to do so as was actually necessary.

My original plan was to make a pinafore dress–an empire-waisted, a-line skirt with criss-crossing straps and lots of buttons, mostly decorative. It would be really simple, not use too much fabric, and would mostly be practice in making seams, something I’m pretty bad at. Most importantly, I wouldn’t have to take a bodice into account.

So I cut out five skirt panels from my fabric, only part of the way through I got really concerned about whether I had enough fabric and started paying more attention to conserving fabric and less to how the skirt was actually going to look. In the end I succeeded in doing neither, because what I ended up with was three panels cut on the right side of the fabric, and the other two backwards. Eventually I sorted it out, by shortening the panels and disregarding the actual grain of the fabric, but when four panels were sewn together and I tried on what I had created, it didn’t fit very well and the entire project was just getting more and more complicated. I didn’t even want a pinafore dress, I was only making it because it seemed simple.

And so I thought, why make an ill-fitting dress suitable only for children under twelve, when you can make a tasteful, high-waisted skirt instead and with less trouble?

So that is what I did. I used the last piece of fabric to make a sixth panel, and voila! A skirt!

skirt side

I kept the sash, because I had already cut it out and I needed a waistband. I think it adds a nice detail and it is good to be able to cinch up the waist a little bit, but even as I was making it I was aware that the sash I was envisioning was not made of quilting cotton, but maybe of some material that gathers and drapes. Hopefully, though, this fabric will have an opportunity to soften up, because I will be able to wash this one with impunity!

Which brings us to the highlight of the skirt–French seams!

french seam

I’m really proud of them. You can see from the picture at the top that the first one didn’t turn out ideally–there is a thin line of unfinished edge showing in one of the seams, but I refuse to let that bother me.

I also kept the button fastening from the original dress design, mostly because I didn’t have any zippers, but buttons are cute so that’s all right.

buttons

The closure was kind of tricky and is less than perfect and probably not the most durable thing ever, but it’s almost my favorite part, if you don’t look too closely at it.

Now that I have purchased an iron, I have no excuse not to sew things and I am already trying to figure out what my next project will be. Though I am somewhat limited by lack of skill and having only one pattern (well, two, but one needs all sort of fitting work first), I am sure I will come up with something, and if I don’t come up with anything soon I will maybe make myself curtains with beautiful seams.

dresses!

Well, I finally found a way to take pictures of myself, and so I can post pictures of the dresses that I have been making this summer. The pictures are not very good, unfortunately, because I lack anything resembling a tripod and have been hanging my camera on a safety pin jammed into my windowsill and taking “interval shots.” If I ever want to photograph anything below my knees, I will face problems, but for right now, this is sufficient.

First, my circus-y t-shirt dress:

t-shirt dress

One of the joys of doing cool things in high school is that you end up with a plethora of t-shirts that you never wear. Looking for a way to utilize or dispose of some of them, I hit upon the idea of making a dress out of them! I made this before my sewing machine was functional, so I had to sew the entire thing by hand. The skirt is made of three National Ocean Sciences Bowl t-shirts and one random purple t-shirt from who-knows where, and the bodice is my t-shirt from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival Summer Seminar. I made mismatched sleeves and decorative but-not-particularly-sturdy pocket, and even a sewn-in sash to help support the weight of the skirt.

t-shirt dress

t-shirt dress

The purple sleeve is unfortunately folded oddly in these pictures, but I had taken so many of them by the time I realized that I decided I didn’t care.

And then there’s this dress…

flowery dress

I started making this dress three years ago, sewed it all up exactly according to the instructions, basted in the zipper . . . and then tried it on and realized it didn’t fit very well. I was terribly upset and lost all interest in finishing it, but the other day I finally sewed in the zipper, shortened the hem, added snaps to the cuff, and put ties on the back, all in time to wear to a solstice party!

flowery dress

It still doesn’t fit perfectly; there’s too much extra fabric under the arms, and the quilting cotton is really stiff. Nor will it stand up to much washing, since I didn’t zigzag the seams or anything. But, after all these years of disappointment, I am really very pleased with it.

Just for good measure, here’s a picture of me wearing clothes today and wondering if the camera is ever going to hurry and up and take the picture:

an outfit