Sunday, August 24, 2014

The book club dress

In true 50's fashion, I was a member of a "book club" for several years with a group of my friends in Indianapolis.  I put book club in quotations because there was very little about that group that was related to reading books.  I like to imagine it was like the "bridge club" or "jr. league" from years ago, in that it was mostly bored housewives looking for a good excuse to have a night without our kids and with a few cocktails.  Over the years I became quite fond of my monthly "book club" meetings, so much so that I still made an effort to attend after moving to Chicago.  I'm slightly further away now, so this dress was technically to be my farewell-to-book-club dress.

I regularly attack calmly assess and acquire new patterns during the Joann's pattern sales.  You only make the mistake of paying full price for a pattern once before you would rather plot the schematics of a year's worth of $1 sales (using graphs and probability statistics) (or just the Joann's app that you regularly check) to stock up on all the patterns you want.  I keep a running list in my phone, and knock them out one by one.  I went with a great Retro Butterick 5748 from the early 60's that I had in my stash.
This is a fairly simple scoop neck tank with a circle skirt and side zip.  The bodice is lined, and has two variations.  I made the notched neck/back line with a bow.
 I suffer from a condition known as resting bitch face.  No, I'm not mad.  I also have a portion of my bra showing most of the time.  When you have giant boobs, you also have giant bras.  Sometimes they make an appearance.

I really, REALLY love this dress.  I like the way it shapes me.  I used a sort of eyelet-y looking fabric.  It was a navy cotton with little circular holes surrounded by what appeared to be embroidery, but I later surmised was some sort of raised applied material.  It felt like the non-skid stuff on the bottom of slipper socks or kid jammies.  I don't know what it is, but I liked the look of the fabric.  Because it was full of holes, I had to fully line the skirt in addition to the bodice.  Although I made two bows for the front and the back notch, I ended up just attaching the front bow.  
This pattern was a rather simple FBA, with both waist and side darts.  I really only had a little trouble with attaching the bodice lining at the end.  Because this was a circle skirt, there was very little room for easing the lining into place.  I machine stitched-in-the-ditch on the first pass, but about half the lining wasn't caught and was still flapping open.  I ended up hand-stitching the remainder of the lining down over the skirt seam.  I think if I make this again I will either interface the notched parts for reinforcement, or more likely, make the other bodice version of just a straight scoop-neck.  I will probably also raise the back neckline by an inch or so to ensure that it covers my bra hooks. And finally, I would choose a fabric with a little more give or add a little room in the waist.  You know how you look so great while standing, and then you sit and suddenly your waistline looks like the letter B?  Well, I'm not trying to teach my 2 y.o. his ABC's with my belly fat, so yeah, a little more room in the waist.

If you are on the fence about this pattern, I would say definitely make it.  I think the shape is pretty universally flattering, and its basic enough that you can make fitting adjustments easily.  And its perfect for pretending to be a bibliophile while bitching about your husband with a cocktail in your hand. (Just kidding, honey!  I've never spoken a foul word about you!) Happy sewing!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Atlanta dress

Round about February of this year, we learned that the hubs' job would be moving to Atlanta, GA.  I'm sure many of you have been in the position to make decisions about following your or your partner's jobs all over creation... and we found ourselves having to do just that for the second time in 3 years.  We decided to stick with the bird in the hand, and despite my willful procrastination, we had to set up shop in a new region.  His company sent us to Georgia at the end of spring to get our affairs in order in preparation for a summer move.  Enter the Atlanta dress, which I made for all my very important meetings (at restaurants) (with my husband.)  Technically, this pattern was my first full bust adjustment, and first muslin (whaa?!?!)  I let the adjusted pattern lie in wait for a suitable fabric.  With the glowing recommendation of Gertie, nay, the whole internets, I went with Simplicity 2444 .

If it wasn't for Gertie's creations with this pattern, I don't know if I would have made this dress.  Sometimes its hard to imagine what a garment will look like in a fabric that is more suited to your tastes than what is on the envelope.  As I mentioned in a previous blog, the double angled waist darts on this dress made for a difficult fba.  Typically, you would have a straight dart or darts coming up from the waist, and those are easier to re-size at the end of an fba.  These bad boys are angled from the center and point toward the shoulder, and create a sort of X shape with the darts on the skirt.  Its no joke.  If you, like me, are looking for a method to adjust this, then I will again refer you to Professor Pincushions video tutorial.  This is an atypical adjustment, and her recommendations are really best only for this pattern, or a pattern similarly styled.  There is no slashing and spreading involved for this one, although I did do that for my version because I didn't see this tutorial until afterward.

This pattern uses facings... you know, those demonic fabric flaps from hell.  I don't do facings.  Luckily, the eyelet fabric I chose required a full lining anyways.  In addition to fully lining this dress, I also chose to pipe the arm, neck, and waistline in a white cording.   I rather like the bright green against the crisp white.  If you are new to sewing and aren't sure how to line a dress that doesn't have linings in the instructions, its pretty simple.  If you are an intermediate beginner, you have probably lined something, and are aware of the process.  The most simplistic version of instruction is that you you cut your bodice and skirt out of 2 different fabrics (one outer fabric-the green eyelet here, and one lining fabric-the white here) and sew the bodice right sides together and flip.  If you want a tutorial on this, I suggest Angela Kane's video tutorial. She goes through the steps of an entire lined dress, start to finish, but you can select the pertinent sections.  I also love a dress with pockets, and this dress has nice big pockets sewn into the lining.

Overall I would call this dress successful.  The pattern offers many choices in terms of sleeves and collars, and I would really like to make a 3/4 or long sleeved version.  The beauty of adjusting patterns to fit your body (rather than lamenting your body for not fitting industry-standards) is that you have the basis to create entire tailored wardrobes that fit YOU!  That's a nice thought for Boobs Mcgee over here.  I spent a lifetime feeling like something was wrong with me, but it turned out I just needed to learn how to sew!  I wear the Atlanta dress all the time.  I love it!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

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Back in the saddle

There have been so many changes in my life since my last post.  My family has moved from our long-suffered Indiana home to the western suburbs of Chicago, and then again to the northern suburbs of Atlanta.  I had another baby (a boy who is nearly 3... not so much a baby anymore.) And in that mayhem, I wasn't in any position to create much of anything (aside from the errant drop-in studio drawing class-- so I have some charcoal drawings of random naked strangers to show for my absence.) I had tucked my machine away in our tiny Chicago apartment until Easter rolled around this year. My daughter asked if I could make her dress, and I obliged.   
We had a bit of a turquoise theme.  Even my husband reluctantly participated, though I won't post pictures of him for his benefit.  I did not approve the shoe choice... but evidently when kids turn 9,  I no longer have any say in shoe choices.

It was very nice to be back at my machine, and in addition to whetting my appetite for sewing again, this project highlighted my self-taught, rookie habits.  I began studying my nicer professional clothes... how the seams were finished, subtle cutting techniques, shaping methods, etc.  I felt like I had a lot to learn, and was suddenly so dissatisfied with the quality of my me-makes.  I took to the Internet (glorious Internet!) and I DISSECTED every you-tube, blog, online (free) class I could digest.  Can you imagine what people must have had to do before the freaking Internet?  I can't believe all the information I could find at my actual fingertips.  Before long, I was fully immersed in a sewing education that 8th grade home ec simply could not offer.

If you are a home sewist, you probably already know about full-bust adjustments.  You know what?  With the ample bosom I have been cursed blessed with, there is no legitimate reason I shouldn't have known about them.  My novice dress-making skills included cutting the pattern in and out of the graded sizes, but that doesn't work for more tailored or shaped garments.  Enter the full-bust adjustment (FBA.)  I don't need to explain FBA's to the Internet for the eleventy-billionth time.  If you are looking for a good tutorial, there are a couple.  Check Christine Haynes for a good FBA with photos, or another static (excellent) tutorial is here at sewyourboatProfessor Pincushion's video tutorial is a very thorough set of instructions for a specific pattern (Simplicity 2444), or similar patterns.  I'll be blogging about that in the future, but be assured that an angled double waist dart is no easy FBA.

So, armed with my new-found knowledge and a great deal of zeal, I attempted my first fitted dress.  I worked with Simplicity 1419, a Lisette pattern.  I made the sleeveless dress with a peter pan collar.
 It is an adorable pattern, and I love the result.

There is no explanation for the bicycle print.  My tiny Chicago apartment had zero open spaces, so I just moved my dining room table and shot the pic there.  I feel like I fabricated some kind of hipster scene.  I don't even own a bike.

I chose a black-on-white polka dot stretch cotton poplin.  I love stretch cotton poplin.  It washes well, and holds its shape. I had to do a monster fba.  You can see the enormity of the darts in the second photo.  I'm alright with that... 

This could still use a few adjustments.  For instance, there is some excess fabric at the upper bust.  The collar is a little high, and can be uncomfortable (read: if I bend over, I'm choking.)  I would definitely correct that bit in any future iterations. I also had to tack the collar down inconspicuously because I chose a rather heavy bottom weight from my stash, and the peter pan nomenclature became very apropos.  All in all, though, I would rate this dress a success because A. I wear it and B. it fits for real.  Woot!

You probably don't know me, but if you did you would be surprised at my new-found interest in wearing dresses at all.  I just became some kind of girl-acting woman.  To further illustrate that, and to punctuate this post, I leave you with the coordinating nail art I painted when I first wore this dress.
Au revoir!