Tuesday, August 31, 2010

When Life Gives you Lemons ...

I am well on my way with my last challenge assignment.  The task was to make a simple dress.  Despite having meetings and back to school shopping and starting Monkey Girl on her project, I have managed to get a dress cut out.  This is where the lemons come in.

As I have a stash of Sophia knits, I wanted to get through those for easy fall sewing projects.  That was why they were bought after all (almost 2 years ago, sigh!).  I chose a simple T shirt type dress from Hot Patterns.  Yes, I LOVE Trudy's designs.  Not all of them are to my personal taste, but she manages to get current trends as well as the classics into her line.  The other main reason is that her sloper is NOT Twiggy or a look alike.  Her slopers are built on her.  She has a shape that is full figured, has hips and a real life bustline!  So, there is not much fitting in her lines for somebody like me.  So, when I want an easy project I usually pick one ofher patterns.

The pattern is a simple polo style shirt dress with a rugby style hidden button front placket.  Easy peasy, right?  Warning: here be lemons... As Trudy assumes a level of sewing knowledge and experience, her instructions are very basic.  Usually I do not have a problem with this as I have enough time behind my machine that I can figure most things out or research them online if need be.  That being said, I have never done a hidden button placket on a center front application that wasn't a shirt.  So, a new skill, I thought.  I read the instructions briefly and didn't see anything that surprised me and visually I thought I had it made.  Then I cut it out and started to assemble.   This is where things started to go sour.  The pattern calls for you to cut the CF section BEFORE you apply the placket and then flip and stitch.  The placket is two pieces and it just didn't lie right.  (more details when the project is finished when I do the full review).  So, being short on patience and being long on fabric, I cut out a second front piece and then tried to fashion my own placket based on David P. Coffin's CF Placket design, but incorporatingt a hidden placket.  The mock up of the ploacket went great, but once it was sewn into the second bodice front, there was too much fabric for it to lie flat.  I had done something wrong again.  By this time, the CF had been cut to allow the placket insertion and I was out of fabric for a new front.

This is where two nights sleep and many a thought about how I REALLY wanted that dress and how I did NOT want to start completely over led to the lemonade.  The front bodice is a single piece.  I am using a solid colour.  Can I remove the aggravating CF opening portion and insert a coord colour piece to add a design element?  I searched the stash and found a basic black that obviusly will go with the basic dark blue of the dress.  Then I took some chalk and started to draw lines from the shoulder, extending down around the horrible part.  Then I took some black SEAMS GREAT and pinned it in place to get a feel for the lines.  Liking what I saw, I grabbes the black and started to pin a length down.  The way it was lying, it had a CF cowl shape to it.  I kind of like it.  I added the self belt to the dress form and am now thinking overnight about it.  I always wanted to try draping .... maybe this is an opportunity to ease myself in by draping the cowl!  So, I left it pinned for now and will think on it some more.  I also want to check out some of the prints I have in the stash.  This might be a great way to incorporate some shorter lengths of woven prints to give a "fooler" type look to it.  If I have enough, I may even add a faux cuff to the 3/4 length sleeve.

I know there are no pics, but I want to leavethis up to your imaginations!  I have taken some, but will leave them for the final pattern review.  There is only one review online that I have found, so I am going to post mine when the dress is complete.  That reviewer also had some problems with the placket, but she managed to pull it off.  So, just as a teaser, here is the pattern:  HP 1013 Plain and Simple Iconic Shirtdress and here is the link to that review:Heatherrique Review on Pattern Review.com.

Stay tuned ... I love a challenge and I do have the challenge deadline, plus one more evening meeting and Dino Boy still needs new jeans and sneakers for his first year in Junior High and we are going away for the long weekend.  ThinK I can pull it off AND get Monkey Girl's jean jacket cut out?  Not unless I live on caffeine and don't sleep!  Wait and see what happens this week!  any chance of an extension, Darrell???  :)

Thursday, August 26, 2010


So, the first shots are of the pre-challenge garments to show that I actually did sew something! The shots are not the best, but I can't find the tripod and the Pilot is already in bed for the night, so you have just me! SO, remember, the angle is wonky and the lighting not the best ...

First up is a redux of a DKNY shirt that I made into a knit top by leaving off the collar/band and the cuffs. I also shortened the sleeves. The pattern is an OOP Vogue DKNY 2742. It is a loose fitting knot front shirt. By using a smaller size and a knit I was able to use the Rayon knit in the stash quite nicely. I used a slightly lighter thread to have some visual interest in the hems.

Next up is the semi self drafted wrap dress.  I used a simple wrap style raglan sleeve top as a basis and then made the fronts a bit narrower.  The original pattern has the wrap stitched into the side seams.  The fabric is a pure poly silk weight knit bought years ago as part of a Fabricmart bundle.  As the neckline is a bit low, I threw together a quick tank from stashed Powerdry that happened to cllosely match the green in the print.  The side ties are temporary in brown bamboo.

Now, the homework assignment!  I wanted to make a bunch of nice knit tops that weren't T shirts when I bought a bunch of Sophia Knits from Ressy's coop a few years back.  It is lovely to sew with ... drapes beautifully, wears so soft and still holds it shape nicely.  Good thing I have more left!  I mentionned that I had ordered a number of new patterns from my fave indie pattern line, Hot Patterns.  I had been waiting for the right time, and August was it!  First off the block was a unique loop front view of the basic T.  The newer knot/loop combined with the lower necline and the French Dart on the side gives wodnerful shaping!  I made the top a little longer in the front to give that shirt shape to it.  Because I was shopping the stash, I did not have the match rib knit cuff called for.  I used a dark forest type green Sophia knit once again. Here is the link to the pattern: Hot Patterns 3 Graces T shirts.  Here is the top:

The lay of the neckline is not as smooth as I like in the shots, but that is due to me taking the photo and also to the height of the camera for the full body shot.  It really focuses on the lower body, so the perspective is off somewhat.  I will wear it to Darrell's and he can give his own opinion in person!  The unique loop treatment was a bit of a challenge to visualize as the pattern instructions are somewhat sparse (as is normal for HP; they assume a level of ability that allows for that).  My spatial sense did not allow me to picture it, but Trudy @ HP always thinks ahead.  She has done a number of You Tube videos showing construction and tips for her patterns.  Without that video, this could have been a UFO ... I must also add that the pinning of the loop and the darts was made much easier by pinning on the dress form.  Laying it on the flat table was a bit troublesome.

So, there you have it!  First installation of the actual sewing challenge is done!  Tomorrow Monkey girl is going to cut her pattern out (we are using a KS jean jacket) so that will be her first step in her project as well!  I am nervous and excited at the same time.  I am passing a skill on to my daughter that my mother and dear aunt passed on to me.  The challenge of doing it right makes me nervouse, the excitement comes from having something that we can share and that she will use for the rest of her life!  Watch out Darrell ... she may only be looking and fondling those samples now, but soon enough she will be buying it!  SEE YOU IN A WEEK, DARRELL!!!!

homework update

A quick update on my howmeork! I know I am a couple of days late but I was teaching all day Saturday and the weekend before I was at a company conference for 4 days. When you lose the weekends, you lose a lot of sewing time!

The good news is that I have started and finished a new top. I am going to take pics after the kids are in bed and I have the ability to do quick changes without fear of interuptions! I had ordered new patterns from Hot Patterns and they arrived just in time for this challenge.

Another new toy arrived today as well that will help with getting the posts online! I have been dond extra hours at work for all of August (almost full time hours!) so I rewarded myself with the purchase of a laptop! That means that I no longer have to wait until Dino Boy and Monkey Girl and now the Pilot have all had their turns at the computer. I now have my own! I have spent the evening setting it up with all my software and this is my first non-set up function! What a way to christen it! I can now have it in the sewing room for easy access to video tips and pattern reviews. No more stairs!

So, two tasks down and only one more to go! An sinple dress was the next assignment, I believe. I have two different styles of T shirt dresses, a kimono style wrap dress and then there are the woven patterns to choose from. I think that the stash of Sofia knits and bamboo needs to be dealt with. Since the nights are starting to cool off, would a stylish nightie work as well for the next assignment? I am thinking no. The dress will get done then Monkey girl is keen to start her own back to school sewing. We are going to do a quick jean jacket together on her grandmother's very forgiving old Singer. So, since school starts in 2 weeks, I will get going on those tomorrow night. Tonight is all about the camera!

Monday, August 09, 2010

One Year Later ...

I was reminded by a dear friend today that it has been over a year since I last sat and shared my projects with the world (so to speak). To me, it seems like so much longer. I wish I could say that I have been madly sewing away and that my wardrobe is overflowing with completed projects that are absolutely divine!

The reason? I wish I could say that I was just too busy but that is not the reason. The past has seen me burn midnight oil many a time as that was the only time avail to me to sew. The truth is that I just didn't want to do it. I had such great hopes for a classy working wardrobe and had invested in some excellent quality fabrics to accomplish that goal. I had the patterns and the storyboard ready to go. Then the work dress code changed, making everything irrelevant. I could not justify sewing up clothes that would not be worn. My logic was, if I sewed them up and kept the work outs going, then I woudl have to spend all that time altering so why not just wait until I needed them and fit them once.

As you may remember from my last post, I work at a women's gym as the Club Administrator. Up until this point last year, I was wearing trousers and nice shoes with a semi fitted yellow cotton blouse (OK, by the time I was done with it, it was tailored to fit me and was not too shabby all things considered!). I had images of pinstriped shirtdresses, tailored pants and jackets, maybe even a vest for winter warmth. Then the new policy came in. The polo shirts are made of a dry fit type fabric in a red with lots of piece work and angles and white accents. I am still supposed to wear dress pants with it and then finish it off with quality sneakers to give the "casual recreational professionsl image". Let me say right up front .... the prospect of wearing sneakers with a pair of trousers made of an Armani wool does not sit well with me! So, all those nice plans went out the window and all that fabric (Armani included) are in stasis. Yes, I have spent the past year basically sulking.

For all the sewing I have done, it took a lot of mental preparation for me to start such a collection of tailored, professional looking clothes. I started with a tailored blazer in a class at my friend, Darrell's. It hangs unfinished (yes, Darrell, it is not finished) in the shop. I initially stopped as the fit changed when I lost weight and then was bulking up in muscle across my back. That affected my sleeve and back fit and then, well, I gave up. Why bother when it would never be worn at work? More sulking ...

Don't despair, though, all is not lost! I started sewing again last month. I made myself a promise that for every UFO I finish, I get to sew something new. First off the table? I finished a knit version of a DKNY knotted top that I have made in the past. This time, instead of leaving the bottom of the bodice open and just overlapped, I changed the pattern somewhat to allow me to stich the CF seam up to the under bustline seam. I shortened the sleeve as it was originally a fall project and then left off the collar and neck band. This lightened the look a bit as well as allowed me to finish it more quickly. One down!

We had a heat wave that had me wishing for summer dresses, so I pulled out a poly knit in a Pucci style print and threw together a semi-self drafted wrap dress. I started with a wrap top that I had made quite a few years ago and then changhed the shape a bit and lengthened it into a dress. I don't yet have the button for the side, so as a temporary measure I have added a wrap belt in a coord colour due to not having enough scraps for a belt. I am not happy with the way the solid belt cuts my silhouette in half (this depsite the fact that I situated the belt as an empire level tie) so I will have to see about finding just the right button for the closure. This is where I discovered that the dress form needs adjusting ... it fit nice and decently on the form, but on me it was a little lower than I liked. So, out came the power dry stash and I threw together a fast tank to go underneath it. I was very lucky to have PD that matched the lighter colour in the print for the time being anyway ...

We had a plumber in to replace the faucet outside in the back of the house last week. When the plumber looked in the ceiling to shut off the water he discovered that the piped were swollen and looked like it had one time almost burst due to freezing. Considering we shut the water off each winter, it had to pre-date our purchase. The Pilot did the only thing he could do ... protect my machines as the pipe was directly over my sewing table!!!! "Move the tables and replace the pipe!" he says. ME? I would have have looked at the tables and said "let it burst, then I can get new machines LOL!" So, now the room is a mess again as we have to put it back together and do some heavy vaccuuming before I sew in there again.

I have to give a very big cyber hug to the dear friend who e-mailed me a sewing intervention today. Knowing I work on deadlines each day and that I thrive on external challenges, this is the gauntlet he threw down:

You have 7 days to make an update to your blog
You have 14 days to make yourself a simple skirt or top
You have 30 days to make yourself a dress.

Well, task one is almost complete. I will say it is done when I have taken and posted pics of the top and dress. As for the project two weeks form now, I saw a top at Mass this week that I am mulling over in my head ... I think I would love to knock it off. It had saddle shoulder lines to it, but the sleeve was more like a very heavily ruched shaped band that went over the shoulder. It was not a full sleeve, but had shaping to it to follow the line of the shoulder. I have an old WOF pattern that I can start with ... but my version has band at the underbust level and maybe a crossover upper bodice. Of course, I will also have to finish a UFO before I can start cutting the top. So, it looks like the bamboo cord jacket will be ready for fall after all! It was originally going to be the rhinestone Riri, but I think I am going to rip the rainbow Riri out of the jacket's original muslin and use that instead. While I am sewing that, I can decide on the fabric for the top. Will it be bamboo knit or a Sophia knit? Both are in the stash ... Blue, green or teal? Burgundy is too dark yet for this time of year, I think.

What say you all?