Tag Archives: sewing

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!

Anna Dress Sewalong!

I just got the Anna dress pattern in the mail a couple of days ago, in time to join the sewalong! I’ve never done a sewalong, probably because I never buy new patterns, but I’ve NO idea how to do an FBA on this kind of bodice, so I’ll definitely need some guidance. I’m really excited to start, especially since I feel like I haven’t done any sewing in ages.

In other news, these last few days have been cool enough to break out knee socks and my fuzzy blue beret! It’s back to the high 70s today, but I’ve really enjoyed having a little taste of fall dressing.

Little Brown Bat!

Browsing EvaDress today, I found this gem:

bat costume

Yes, that’s a bat costume from 1887. Yes, I bought it. No, I’ve never sewn a corset.

It takes about 20 yards of fabric (and you have to make a corset, AND a hoopskirt) so there’s no way this will be done by this Halloween (I’ll have to save up for a year for the fabric, not to mention learning the necessary skills), but I’ll definitely be wearing it next Halloween, and to any fancy dress balls I may attend in the future!

I could make this in black to be really traditional, but my favorite bat is the little brown bat, so I’m going to make it in brown, maybe with some fun variations in texture/shade.

I haven’t really done any historical sewing, and to be honest, I wouldn’t have picked the 1880s as the place to start, but this is just too good to pass up! Look at the bats on her shoes!

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

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…

Waiting for nice weather…

I now have two dresses to blog about, one handmade and one altered, but it has been too cold and rainy for nice outdoors pictures these last few days, so I haven’t been able to blog them yet. I was optimistic this morning, but by the time I was done with lunch, it was raining again. I also have a growing list of things-to-sew, but most of them require fitting, and it’s tricky to do by yourself in a mirror. I really wish I had a dress form, but they’re so expensive! It is incredibly useful to have a sewing room, though, where this is room for fabric chaos and two sewing machines set up at all times. I’m afraid my empty room next door is going to get taken away from me in the upcoming health-and-safety inspections.

To make up for not having pictures of new things, here are some pictures of a pre-existing dress, taken on Halloween in a mass costume-photoshoot with my friends (it’s not a costume, but I wear it every Halloween anyway). I’m pretty sure it’s from the 19-teens or maybe the early 20s, judging by the general shape and length, but it seems odd that it would have survived so well. I wear it once or twice a year and though it has always had some tiny pin-holes, it hasn’t ripped or begun to fall apart yet.

IMGP0376

Standing pointlessly by an obelisk-thing. It felt right at the time.

IMGP0434

Being very careful not to fall in the reflecting pool in my vintage silk. Don’t mind the black and white, we were being artsy.

I really love this dress. The sleeves are actually attached to an under-bodice, which closes in the center front with snaps, and then the rest of the dress snaps up the side. It has a lace collar that snaps, too, but whenever I wear it, it comes unsnapped and looks silly. It can’t have been very practical in its day. The fabric actually used to have geometric shapes on it in dark blue, I think, and sometimes in the right light I can just see the ghost of the pattern. It doesn’t photograph at all, and half the time I can’t even see it.

Yesterday was cold and rainy and quite unpleasant, and I was in such a bored, unsatisfied mood that I decided I was good for nothing but television and mundane hand-sewing, and consequently I managed to bind an entire side of this quilt. So pretty soon there will be pictures of that, too! If the weather ever gets dry again…