Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Princess Dress and Party

  Gaiw turned 5 in December!

  She's still delighted by all things princess, so for her birthday I made her a fancy dress.

  I used this pattern but added puffed sleeves (I wish I'd made them puffier!) instead of the cap sleeves. I actually bought the pattern, but Stef, the designer is a friend, and refunded the cost with a sweet note, which pretty much made my whole week!

  I used pink satin and tulle from Fabric.com for this dress... the pattern has some pretty generous fabric requirements, but I was able to get the outer and lining of the dress from just 2.5 yards of satin! I decided to add some extra layers of tulle to the skirt so it would be super-fluffy, so I used a full 4 yards of 108" wide tulle for that. I also used some heavy-duty white tulle from Jo-Ann's. The satin ribbon is from Hobby Lobby and I had the trim and snaps on hand already.

  I changed the sewing order of the bodice a tiny bit because I changed the sleeve type. Aside from that and the extra layers of tulle, the only change I made was to skip the top-stitching around the waist seam. Or to be more accurate, I initially top-stitched but with so many shifty, fluffy layers, I bent a bunch of my pins and the seam was all over the place! So I picked it out. It probably would have worked if I'd hand-basted first, but in the end I decided to just leave it.

  I love the pickups on this skirt! But unfortunately the whole bows keep escaping up into the casings, so next time I think I would do two separate casings for each pick up.

  I used more of the trim around the sleeves, and did the lower section of gathers with elastic thread in the bobbin as usual:

  I used KAM snaps for the back instead of the recommended covered buttons and buttonholes... they look really cute, but the bottom snap is perpetually coming un-snapped, so buttons probably would have been better! There's also a bit of a gap where the top of the skirt meets the bodice... I think a hook and eye right at the waist seam would help.

  Gaiw absolutely loves this dress though... she's worn it at every possible opportunity! It's showing a little wear already... one sleeve has torn a bit and she and her sisters ripped big chunks out of the tulle because they wanted veils. But she doesn't care a bit!

  I also put together a fairly quick and simple party for her... I made a cake and ice cream, threw together some fabrics and decorations I had on hand, and made some crowns. Here's the cake:

  As usual with anything more than a very basic design, this was really tough for me, and didn't turn out nearly as well as I'd imagined it would! I froze my cake layers first but someone turned the heater way up and everything thawed before I realized why. So the towers were very tippy and crumbly. And the frosting wanted to melt on the outside... but that works anyway because it adds to the stone effect a little! I had planned to use sugar cones for the roofs of the towers but I only had two on hand, and there weren't any this time of year at the stores closest to us. So I improvised with a lot of aluminum foil to make the other two tower roofs!

  For the crowns, I slightly modified this technique. I used a spray-on fabric stiffener, so I coated the pieces of lace twice before painting them. I also let them dry completely after painting both sides, before forming them into a circle and gluing, because they were a little floppy when the paint was wet. 

  I used a DecoArt Dazzling Metallics paint in Glorious Gold and Rich Espresso, and Ceramcoat in glitter silver. That glitter one was definitely everyone's favorite... and since it was in the paint it didn't flake off everywhere, as glitter is wont to do!

  I loved making these... they were a lot of fun and I think they turned out beautifully! Although I couldn't figure out how to capture how sparkly these were in a photo! All of the materials for these were from Hobby Lobby.

  I made a quick sign with some torn watercolor paper, gold Pearl-Ex, and pink cardstock, all things I had on hand, to set in front of the crowns:

  I prettied up the table where the cake and crowns were by adding some fabrics... that adorable gold-dot knit is from Hobby Lobby (although it could have done with a steaming before I used it), and the thin pink satin was given to me a while back. And of course ruffle fabric for the backdrop!

  I added a little bowl of chocolate-covered almonds to the table at the last minute, and I also made plain vanilla ice cream that I didn't include in any of the photos, as well as some coconut milk ice cream for one sister-in-love who is allergic to dairy:

  The ruffled streamers were leftover from a baby shower a few years ago:

  And so were the pomanders:

  And that's the entire extent of the party! The crowns were the favors and I didn't plan any games. I've been ridiculously short on time to create lately so this was about all I could get done in time, and still be able to finish the girls' Christmas dresses. But the important thing was that Gaiw liked it, and she did. =)

  Gaiw is a very interesting little girl... she's always thinking big thoughts with her sparkly eyes wide and you never know what she's going to blurt out next! She's a little butterfly, always flitting from one thing to the next faster than I can follow.

  She's been surprising me lately by doing chores without being asked to... even making her sister's bed one day! And she loves to wrap toys up in old boxes and gift them to people.

  Gaiw loves her fruits and vegetables... salad remains high on the list of requested foods for her! But she's also quite fond of sweets!

  She absolutely loves art and spends hours each day creating vibrant pieces portraying adorably funny little people, and writes, 'I love you!' on almost all of them. =) We love our Gaiw -our family just wouldn't be the same without her!

Thanks for stopping by,

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Gabriola Skirt And Cowl Sweater

  Back in October, I had bought some brown suiting to coordinate with some brown medallion print fabric, with plans to turn it into a dress for my mother. When she changed her mind and decided on a blouse instead, I was left with three yards of fabric, cut as a two-yard and a one-yard piece.

  I've had the Sewaholic Gabriola skirt pattern for a long time... I bought it in a sale in early 2015, but I never made it because I was pregnant at the time, and ever since she was born I've been just outside the size range for the pattern. However, I took a look at the finished garment measurements and thought that the largest size might be wearable anyway, so I decided to see if I could squeak it out of the brown suiting. I had to cut the whole skirt on the cross-grain, but I managed it! It's supposed to be maxi-length, but I'm taller than average and didn't have an inch to spare to lengthen the skirt, so it's not quite that long.

  Unfortunately, the fabric is 100% polyester, which not only smells bad but presses horribly, so the result isn't fantastic. The seams are really bubbly, and the hem is pretty bad too! I'm thinking I'll try pressing everything with vinegar and see if it helps at all.

  The fit isn't great either, which I kind of expected since it's meant to be worn by someone smaller, but it's not tight or uncomfortable and I have a clothing shortage at the moment, so it's going to get worn anyway.

  I had the worst time with this zipper! I don't know if it was the fabric, or the fact that I usually use invisible zippers, or what, but this was the best out of... I think it was four attempts, all of them involving basting or glue-basting as well as pins in a futile effort to keep the thing lined up while I sewed it! At least the seams mostly match up, but I have no plans to put in this type of zipper in this type of fabric ever again! It's pretty obvious from this photo that the back of the skirt is riding up because it's too small too.

  I've got some odd bumps going on around the hips...I'm not sure why. I suspect I may have introduced a slight jog near the seam intersections, or maybe it got a little stretched when I was sewing it.

  The yoke is my favorite feature of this dress, but since I almost always wear my shirts untucked, it's not really visible. At least that means the lumpiness and zipper don't show! ;-) I spent a lot of time lining up the seams:

  I also spent a very large amount of time embroidering a rose on it! I got plenty of practice satin-stitching in, and I think it turned out all right. I didn't have it hooped, but I wish I had because I think it would have prevented me from pulling my thread too tight. Here's a close view. (Please excuse the lint... this was washed once before I managed to get photos and I didn't realize how much lint the embroidery had caught until it was too late!)

  And here's the whole thing... I think this would work better with the scale of the skirt if I'd made it larger, and there are a lot of other little changes I would make next time (like using long-and-short stitch instead of satin stitch) but overall I'm pretty happy with it.

  I had planned to make an Alma blouse from plaid fabric to coordinate with my daughters' dresses, but I ended up with just one evening to sew it so I turned to knit fabric and a very modified Lane Raglan (I would have preferred set-in sleeves but raglan sleeves are faster). I bought this beautiful textured double knit from Imagine Gnats on Black Friday, and since I wanted to wear it with this skirt (which I'd finished in November) I decided to turn it into a cowl-neck sweater. At least, that was the plan. Last minute drafting of the cowl didn't leave time for a muslin, so it ended up as a strange mixture of a cowl and a Bertha collar.

  I used the original neckline of the Lane Raglan, because I didn't want the cowl to be uncomfortably snug, and thought the added height of the cowl would give it enough coverage for me to not feel exposed, but with the collar ending up less like a cowl than I'd planned, it is a little too open for me.

  This fabric didn't have quite as much recovery as I'd expected (it was also thicker than I expected -it's described as medium weight but it's more what I'd think of as heavy weight) so the neckline stretched out just enough to be a problem as I sewed it. I initially sewed it with the seam on the inside of the shirt, but it showed, so I unpicked the serging, and sewed it with the seam allowances between the cowl and the shirt, and sort-of remedied the stretched out bits by adding some clear elastic in the seam.

  I added some width to the pattern to make it a slightly looser fit, but I should have also straightened the side seams some. I lengthened the sleeves too... I prefer slightly over-long sleeves on sweaters.

  This fabric lettuce-edged beautifully!

  My sewing for myself hasn't worked out very well for the past year or so... it seems like everything I sew for myself has multiple shortcomings and fit problems. Or maybe I'm just getting pickier? In spite of all of them though, I really like to wear these two garments... these are some of my favorite colors, and I love the textures, plus embroidery and swishy skirts make me happy.

  I'm hoping I'll be happier with the things I sew for myself in the coming year, but in the meantime I've got several other less-than-perfect things to blog about. ;-)

Thanks for stopping by,

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Building Block Dress

  I had meant to include a quick write-up about the Oliver + S Building Block Dress book that I used to make three of the girls' Christmas dresses in my last post... and I totally forgot, so here it is if you are interested!

 I really like the idea of this book... it starts with pretty basic dress block and shows you how to create many, many different styles. Unlike books like the Metric Pattern Cutting series, it includes information on how to sew the different styles you come up with, and includes the original dress pattern in sizes 6 months to 12 years, so it's geared more toward people who are just beginning to learn pattern alterations instead of people who do it regularly. It also isn't as extensive as the Metric Pattern Cutting series.

  For me, this book is more of an inspirational resource, although having a basic dress pattern that is well drafted is really nice! 

  A few of the sewing techniques aren't clearly explained. For example, an external facing with an invisible zipper, like I did for Booper's dress. From a quick perusal it looks like most of the ideas are covered clearly, and of course there's only so much ground a single book can go over, but I did feel like the instructions could be a bit more thorough for that technique at least.

  The dress seems to be very well-drafted... all of the relevant corners are squared, the pieces fit together, the notches are in the right spots, and the grading looks pretty accurate. I am a little suspicious of the slight peak at the top of the sleeve in the larger sizes. Otherwise, I had no complaints with it. You definitely need to be comfortable with tracing to use the pattern, since it's all on a single large page, but it's much easier to trace than some magazine patterns I've started. 

  If your kids are tall and skinny, you'll definitely want to make a muslin. I did, based on chest measurements, and I needed to widen the shoulders for Booper and Beckers, who are both in a bigger size height-wise than around. A lot of the versions I've seen from other bloggers also look too small through the shoulders. Next time I'd like to try making a muslin in the size that corresponds with the height instead of the chest measurement and see if that helps.

  The dress is fitted through the shoulders and upper chest, but is intended to be pretty loose through the waist. My daughters have narrow back waists and the muslin was gaping away from them quite a bit, so I removed some width from the back of the pattern for Booper's and Gaiw's dresses. That's not an problem with the pattern though, just a difference in style from what I expected.

  Since this book goes over the techniques of pattern alterations, it's useful for more than just a little girls dress... many of the ideas can be used for womens' dresses or shirts, and a few, such as the pocket ideas, could even be used on pants. It also covers some basic muslin and fitting techniques.

  I bought the book myself, and even though I don't feel like I learned much, if anything, as far as pattern alterations from it, I would absolutely buy it again just for the pattern and ideas, and I found a few sewing techniques that I hadn't seen before in it as well. 

  I used a few techniques for the girls' dresses that weren't covered in the book, such as the mitered corners on Booper's dress, and the welt pockets on Becker's dress. A few more details on what's included in the Building Block Dress book are mentioned in its listing, here

  Overall, I absolutely recommend the book! I'm thinking of getting it for a couple of relatives who have expressed an interest in changing patterns as well. I think it's a really great resource for a beginner to pattern alterations- I wish I'd had it when I started doing that!

  That wasn't nearly as quick of a write-up as I had expected, but if you are interested in the book I hope it was helpful! ;-)

Thanks for stopping by,

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016 Christmas Dresses

  It's been a while and I've got a backlog of things to post, so I'm going to start with some recently sewn things first, and cram all four Christmas dresses into one post!

  Years ago I started searching for a blue-and-brown woven plaid to make some Christmas dresses. This year, I finally found a plaid like that, and bought as much as my budget could handle, but couldn't remember what the dresses I'd initially planned to make looked like! So I decided to pair it with some navy and camel 21-wale corduroy, and came up with some slightly vintage-inspired designs.

  More backstory.... I started tatting some trim this spring with plans to add it to a grey corduroy skirt. I also tatted a heart, which I was planning to use atop a pocket, and when the sleeve trim didn't work for this dress, I thought maybe I could make a dress instead of a skirt and use all of my trims together, but I just wasn't in love with the idea. However, when I saw the navy corduroy I'd ordered, all of the pieces came together! So the first dress actually doesn't include any plaid at all!

  I used the Oliver+S Building Block dress as the base for a drop-waisted dress with elbow-length sleeves, a pleated skirt, and an external neck facing with mitered corners. It closes with an invisible zipper... I used interfacing down the back because the corduroy seemed light enough to need it, but it caused some puckering. I need to buy some better-quality interfacing!

  The neck facing would probably have looked better if I'd managed to cut the pieces perfectly on grain, but I still love the effect:

  I cut most of the pieces with the nap going up the dress, and the external sleeve facings, waistband, and part of the neck facing have the nap running to the right, for a little added interest. I had to take a few inches of tatting out of the sleeve trim to make them fit, and it took a really long time. It probably would have taken only about one hour more to completely re-tat them! Tatting is very difficult to unpick. The flecks on the sleeves are mist from the cold and drizzly weather we were having when I was photographing these. =)

  I liked the effect better with the tatting at the hem upright rather than hanging down, so I sewed it on with two rows of hand-stitching, along the top and bottom of the trim. For some reason that took me a really, really long time, but it was worth it!

  I eventually decided that making the heart a pocket was just asking for trouble, so I used it as an applique instead. I used the same pattern to tat the heart as I did the blue one in this post.

  I also made a big corduroy bow to go with this dress:

  I absolutely love how this dress turned out... it was worth all of the time I poured into tatting the trim and sewing it on!

  For Gaiw, I decided to use the camel corduroy with plaid accents.

  I also used the Building Block dress pattern as the base for hers, and used techniques from the book for most of the design features. It has piped princess seams that meet up with pockets in the skirt, a sash, banded sleeves, and a tie collar. I used some pretty antique copper spring snaps for the back, but next time I use these I would add extra interfacing, as the fabric has already torn next to one of the snaps.

  I spent quite a lot of time figuring out how to make the piping seamless between the princess seams and the pockets, because I wasn't sure about the sash, but in the end I much preferred the dress with the sash, so that time was rather wasted!

  I love the piped pockets though:

  I top-stitched the sleeve band down on the outside of the sleeve to secure both layers... it's the only top-stitching in this dress so I was concerned that it would look out-of-place but I don't think it's noticeable at all.

  I love the tie collar! After I took these photos I tied it in a double-knot and that worked a lot better than the single knot here:

  I also made Gaiw a quick elastic-back beret from the corduroy, with a little plaid bow to accent it. It was a little tight on her, but I didn't have time for a remake!

  Becker's dress is an a-line dress with a tie-look collar, a big central box pleat, hem facing, petal cuffs, and welt pockets. Hers is the final dress made using the Building Block pattern... I made muslins for all of them but didn't notice on Becker's that I needed to widen the shoulders slightly for her.

  Because of that, the sleeves are also slightly shorter than I meant for them to be!

  I made a polo-style placket in the back for this one (I'm not sure what the correct way to do that would be... this is just a wide continuously-bound placket stitched down at the bottom and with snaps!) I stitched the placket to the outside first so I could enclose the bias neck facing underneath it. I somehow managed to make it off-center though. =( And this is the only photo I took of it, and it's terribly blurry! I'll probably re-visit this idea again someday though, I think it might work really well on a thinner fabric..... and I should have added 1/2" width to the neckline to accommodate the seam allowances of the placket. I used the same antique copper spring snaps on this dress.

  Beckers' collar was cut on the fold, with an additional 'knot' piece, and a wide sash for the tails. It was a bit bulky at the center front, but still worked in this lightweight plaid.

  I love the petal cuffs! This is an idea I got from the original version of the Tinny dress, although I drew my own for this dress. Instead of sewing these to the inside of the sleeve then turning them out like the Tinny pattern, I used the bias sleeve facing from the Building Block Dress book, and they worked beautifully!

  This was my first time sewing welt pockets, and they also turned out quite nice, although I'm not sure about whether I should have done something more to finish the edges of the slash on the inside of the dress.

  Beckers got a big plaid bow to finish off her ensemble:

  And finally, Foof! I drafted her dress from scratch... starting with a basic woven block in a size 6 months. (I only used her chest measurement to determine that, because every time I tried to measure her she would roll onto the floor and kick her legs around. She thought she was the funniest girl ever.) I then drew in a yoke and turned the portion below the yoke into a big circle! Her dress has, besides the slightly-oversized yoke, a hem facing, ric-rac trim, and banded sleeves.

  I stuck two decorative buttons on the front of the yoke... these remind me of gingerbread! This one was really difficult to sew because of the tight opposing curves!

  The back closes with more antique copper spring snaps, and has a continuously bound placket below the yoke. Those snaps are lined up perfectly, honest. It's just the angle! ;-)

  I didn't get a detail shot of the cuffs, because she was being a booger and kept running off when I was trying to take photos, but they are also trimmed with white ric-rac. I added two inches in length to the dress when drafting it because Foof usually wears a size 12-18 months garment in height, and she wouldn't cooperate for measurements so I could make sure that would work. I ended up taking it, and the entire beautifully-sewn hem facing, back off and re-hemming. I had to cut another hem facing and re-sew.... the dress would have draped more than I wanted if I'd just hemmed regularly. It was worth the time though, because it suits her perfectly!

  I also made her a little hat, which is just a 14" circle (next time I'll try an 11 or 12" circle instead) gathered onto a band with a little bit of elastic in the back, and a plaid bow in the front.

  In spite of all of the little problems and all of the mistakes I made, I'm just delighted with this batch of dresses! I love the fabrics, love the trims, love all of the little details that went into these. =)

  I also made a sweater for myself using some thick navy knit, and wore it to our Christmas celebration, so I coordinated as well! But since I made it the night after taking these photos, I'm not in them. ;-)

Thanks for stopping by,