Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Oh Anna! Where have you been all my life?

Seriously, Anna is one cool cat.  She arrived in such a pretty package. She was a dream to sew.  My first Anna, bless her heart as the Southerner's would say, met a terrible fate with the dreaded serger knife (Mental note to myself: Must be more careful and pay attention!).  I was gonna call her the Grapefruit Sorbet Anna since I had the most dreamy pink fabric.  I am no miracle worker and with a gaping hole in a rather delicate part of the skirt, well, no amount of patching could not save her.  With a loud sigh, I stashed her away for fabric use later. 
Experiment:  By Hand London's Anna Dress, size 4

3 yards floral cotton blend from stash
22" zipper in sand color
Gray Thread

As Hanibal from the A-Team would say "I love it when a plan comes together".  I *love* it when a garment comes together.  By Hand London's Anna dress has taken the sewing world by storm and it is easy to understand why and how.  Anna has a very forgiving bodice, easy for beginners to fit.  She has two different bodice variations -- I chose the v-neck merely because I realized that I tend toward sewing high-neck bodices. I needed something fresh and different in my closet.  
 Anna also has a paneled skirt in varying lengths, including the maxi.  If I had enough fabric I would have done the maxi with the thigh-high split.  Alas, I do not tend to stash fabric at 4+ yards in length therefore not enough fabric and opted for the shorter version. (I am plotting another Anna that will be a maxi with that split!)  I did have a mess-up with the panel skirt: I carefully marked all the panels since they look so damn similar.  I sewed them up and when I was finished, there was a panel hiding, or should I say camouflaged, next to my machine. I think it was a lone "I" piece that was not attached.  I shrugged it off, counted panels from the middle, and attached it to the side in need of another section.  It was not earth-shattering but annoying that I wasn't a tad more focused.
My husband loathes this fabric.  He thinks it looks drab.  I agree that it is not the most spectacular fabric and I can't even remember why I purchased it in the first place but after my grapefruit Anna disaster, this fabric came to the rescue.  I am grateful.  It is not soooooo hideous as he makes it out to be (hopefully, I don't have wobbly eyes).  I am hoping to make a a cardi to go with it.
The husband also dislikes the expose zipper in the back.  I did not have an invisible zipper the right length on hand and I improvised.  Zip was way easy to insert.   Regardless of what Mr. Chemist thinks, I like it!  And I will wear it.  Oi! Put a stopper in your beaker and take me out for a drink in my new Anna!!
I finished my MAGAM dress and now I have to devise a "Let there be cake" garment for TMS.  When anyone mentions cake, I salivate.  How can one focus when there is cake around?  This is going to be a tough challenge -- bhah! what am I saying?  This gives me the perfect excuse to bake a cake and stuff my face with it in preparation for a sewing challenge!

Happy Stitching!!


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Last of the Summer Wine... errr, I Mean, Dress

Tomorrow marks the official end of the summer holiday.  Back to school, back to classes, back to the university rhythm.  It also means that we begin to count down to the next holiday off from school.  I am looking forward to the hustle and routine of the school year (as a mom who works it is a very fine balancing act).   Summer time is flexible and impulsive.  I take a little pleasure during school time  knowing that I have a designated sewing time (after my son goes to sleep and chores are complete).

To celebrate, I am desperately trying to finish up my summer sewing list while I really should be focusing on my Fall/Winter to-sew list.  I had several unblogged horrible summer sews:  The Bombshell Bathing Suit (tried it before I got my serger), pants (Pants Why U So Hard!?!), and a knit cardi (picked a horrible knit).  But one thing that I did complete was a summer dress.  Shocker! it is my favorite: Simplicity 2444. Sorry, dear readers, I know you are probably sick of it but I cannot get enough of it.  The more you sew it, the easier and quicker a dress goes from fabric to fabulous.

Experiment: Simplicity 2444, size 8

Navy Polka Dot cotton
22" zipper
White Mettler Thread

Ummmm, I love, Love, LOVE this dress. I promise I will sew something different and showcase it on the next blog post. But, I mean, come on, I can't resist polka dots.  I adore girly dresses.  It seemed like a perfect fit.  Understated elegance -- dressy or casual.

Let's skip the tedious construction details and instead touch on the key points:  I did switch out the pleated skirt again for a gathered skirt, added pockets, and since I am a lazy seamstress I finished with bias tape.  The zipper insert is sort of a double lapped with the zip down the middle. The one thing I did do differently -- I ditched the instructions.  Sounds dangerous, yea?  More and more I find that I only turn to the pattern instructions if there is some bizzaro piece or weird technique.  And I have a quirky way of constructing the garment.   It works.
My WIP is By Hand Lond's Anna dress.  It was almost complete until a serger accident, in which a giant gapping hole was left in the skirt (clumsy me -- must pay closer attention when serging at lightening speed!!! But in my defense, when Doctor Who is on and it becomes harder for me to multitask!), relegated it to the 'Return-to-Later' pile.  Another WIP is a Staple dress for my mother.  I am grooving on my handiness cuz the pattern is cut and fabric pre-washed.  

Here is to a good first week back to school!

Happy Sewing!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Take Chances, Make Mistakes, Get Messy

Oi!  It has been a while.  I've just gotten back from a long road trip sans sewing, blogging, and other new-fangled technical devices (well, I fib, I did have to stay in email contact with work...).  It was a nice holiday.  The kind where you eat and drink too much, stay up too late, and do not want to go back to reality.

For my MAGAM challenge in July, I decided to channel one of my favorite TV science personalities: Ms. Frizzle!  That is right folks, Magic School Bus and the zany Ms. Frizzle.  For those of you who are scratching your head, Magic School Bus is a children's cartoon all about science. 'Take Chances, Make Mistakes, Get Messy' -- that was the Frizz's famous tagline.

Thousands of Bolts carried a navy blue solar system print for a whopping $4.95 per yard.  (You should really check out their selection because it is enormous and prices are reasonable.) Magnetic! I had to have this fabric.  What better way as a science professor to start a new fall semester with bright-eyed freshman than with an homage to Ms. Frizzle.
Image via Scholastic
Experiment: Simplicity 2444, size 8

3 yards Solar System cotton
White thread
Bias tape
22 inch zipper

Simplicity 2444 is one of my favorite dress patterns.  * Deep breath *  It might just be a TNT pattern for me (sound exciting, huh?). The bodice fits oh-so nicely and the options with the pattern can vary the dress, allowing for many combinations.  Speaking of, Simplicity 2444, is a Project Runway pattern and the new season has begun.  Ooooh, my DVR is going to fill up quickly!

Ms Frizzle.   She is simple gal therefore I went with the longer sleeves, plain bodice, and gathered skirt. 

I am channeling my best school teacher persona.  My brother was kind enough to take pictures of me and suggested we go to the local park near his house.  Soccer and baseball field -- very teacher-y (think recess, elementary school, Magic School Bus!).

I finished the neckline with bias tape.  I opted not to do a pleated skirt and, instead, swapped for a gathered skirt.  The gathered skirt looks softer and goes nicely with the high neckline and 3/4 sleeves.   Instead of an invisible zipper, I used Rosie Wednesday's method for inserting a lapped zipper and it looks amazing.

Pockets!  My absolute favorite feature of sewing my own clothes is adding pockets.  Many RTW dress or skirts do not have functional pockets and I need to carry my cell phone, keys, gum, a fiver to grab a coffee before or after lecture... 

I was a bit nervous about the print on the fabric.  I wanted a dress that was quirky and wearable.  I didn't want it to venture into the costume arena.  If you Google search Ms. Frizzle dresses, you will find an absolute plethora of costumes (some creative and others, well, then there are the others!).  I have to pat myself of the back because I think it turned out fabulous -- nerdy yet sweet, geeky and subtle! 

The same fabric company had a chemistry fabric with atoms all over it -- stay turned for my next nerdy make because I just couldn't possible pass up that fabric!

Happy Sewing!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What Did the Little Acorn Say When He Grew Up?

Ha! Nerdy jokes always make me smile.  I am probably one of the few who chuckle.  
I was invited to participate in Skirt Fixation's Fabric Swap Challenge.  I figured geometric fabric was probably the wisest choice for me. I sent some black and white geometric cotton fabric to Heather from Feather Flights.   I recieved 2 yards of this colorful fabric.

The fabric was lovely -- I suffered from scatter brain because of it.  I just couldn't figured out what to make with it.  I rummaged through my pattern stash.   All the while the geometric fabric sat on top my fabric pile, taunting me every time I passed it by.  It came down to me randomly drawing a pattern.  Pathetic, right?  It was worth it since I pulled out the Ava dress from Victory Patterns.   I am a sucker for dresses, what can I say?

Victory Pattern's Ava Dress
Size: 2

2 yards Orange Geometric Cotton
2 yards Natural colored cotton
1 spool of Gutterman thread in Ecru
1 white zipper 9 inches

This dress needs more than 2 yards of fabric.  I found a natural colored cotton which paired perfectly.  I scooped up 2 yards and began to sketch my dress.  I had envisioned a dress with the geometric fabric for the bodice and sleeves.   I wanted to use it for panels in the skirt also.  The side panels fit best with the fabric I had left over from bodice and sleeves.  The front and back panel of the skirt was cut from the natural colored cotton.  My plan was to highlight the beautiful fabric.
After my first fitting, the plethora of plain cotton made me gasp!  It looked so clinical and boring.  I took all the scraps from the geometric fabric and began playing.  The challenge was linked to geometry, geometry linked to shapes, and I decided to add an element of geometricness (ha!!, made up a nerd word!) to my dress.  When I think geometry, I think triangles.  I found a suitably large scrap and turned the thing into an isosceles triangle affixed to the back panelTrying it on also revealed how large the dress was on me.  I am lazy and I didn't feel like ripping any seams (I had already done plenty of that!).  Instead, I added a continuous pleat down the center back.
Well, the front cotton panel needed to be dealt with.  The largest scrap piece was sort-of rhombus shaped.  It fit the length of the panel and added some depth.  Look at the twirl:
Makes me want to go dancing!  I did muslin the bodice and I added a 1/2 inch.  Next time (if there is another Ava in store for me), I need to lengthen a full inch.  Besides me fretting about adding more geometry nerdiness to this, I sewed Ava up while binging on Dr. Who.  Luckily, Netfilx is a good friend and always there when I need something to watch (unlike Cable who constantly shows junk).
Geesh, I look too serious in this picture.  Too much TARDIS or alien catastrophes!? Maybe the Doctor is getting to me. ;)  You can check out all the rest of the geometric projects over at Skirt Fixation!  

Happy Stitching --

P.S.  At the end of the week, you can go vote for the best geometric fabric project at Skirt Fixation (Pick me! Pick me!).

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

May I Have Some Tea with My Emery Please? Black with a Splash of Milk

I love me some tea.  Black with milk.  I used to love it with sugar... then I got pregnant and suddenly, sugar did not appeal to me.  Give me a good strong cup of Assam or Yorkshire Gold (or Yorkshire Red, I do not discriminate) and I am content.  My students find it odd that I drink black tea with milk since the common form of tea around here is sweet tea (a sugary concoction of tea and ice that tastes nothing like tea in my opinion).  Ok, ok, why all the talk of tea!?! I just  couldn't help but thinking that this dress would make a splendid afternoon tea dress.   Proper tea with scones and clotted cream and sandwiches and sweets!

Experiment:  Christine Haynes Emery Dress
                       Size: 0

3 yards floral print cotton
1 yard of pink polyester charmeuse
Coats and Clark Ecru all-purpose thread
Berry colored invisible zip (22 inches)

I am not a vintage gal. I like the vintage-inspired look which is why I absolutely adore the stylish vintage-chic Emery dress pattern.  It only took me several months to make an Emery dress. Ummmmm, that's exaggerating.  I had the pattern traced off in April.  I cut the pattern in May.  I began to sew the pattern in June.  Finicky details like hand sewing slow me a sloth's sewing pace.
 Let me count the ways in which I love this pattern:
  1. Pockets -- hell yeah!
  2. Gathered skirt (no pleats!)
  3. No facings (this can be good or bad because I am really terrible at lining)
  4. Perfect fitting bodice 
Construction of this dress was easy due in large part to the awesome directions.  I will admit that I suck at linings.  Bodice linings in-particular.  Every pattern seems to have slightly different directions.  I read the directions and scratch my head (I sympathize now with my students when they get frustrated when I derive an equation!).  I get the concept, however, the execution on my part is pathetic.  I would not pass a bodice-lining class.
I lined the bodice with pink poly charmeuse.  It is soft and slinky so it feels really nice on the inside.   I would grade my lining as a 'D' (it's 60% correct but 40% wrong).  It took me what felt like hours of handsewing and unpicking several times to get the lining and bodice to work which means not wrinkle or pull.  My husband keeps telling me that I just need to have someone show me just one time --  then I will figure out what I am doing wrong, you know that 'Ah-ha!' moment. He is right but there are no classes in the town I live in and I have exhausted YouTube so it will be trial by error!
Besides the lining, I enjoyed constructing this dress.  I call this a wearable muslin since the fabric was ridiculously cheap and since, I never made this pattern I didn't know quite what to expect.  I think in the future I need to lengthen the bodice and maybe ditch the lining.  I will wear this -- in fact, I have already worn it out and about.  I knew it was a winner because of how easy this dress was to wear and it doesn't hurt to have recieved several compliments.

On my work table right now is a Simplicity 2444/Emery hack (date dress!).   I also have cut and traced Simplicity 1873 and another Coco.   My son has been watching Dual Survival and somehow I have gotten sucked into the show while I sew (I move my sewing machine and serger to the dining room table to be with the family).  It is a wild show about surviving in crazy-ass places.  I digress but I have accomplished a fair bit while watching insane people survive for entertainment.

One last look at my Emery Tea dress!

Happy Sewing -- I will be sewing and watching the last of the World Cup action this weekend  --

Sunday, July 6, 2014

July Pre-lab and June Wrap-up

My birthday was at the end of June and I was surrounded with love. I know this is late post but with the holiday in the States (July 4th), we have been busy and I needed a blogging break (not that I blog everyday mind you, but a break is always nice!).  On my birthday, I had a lovely barbecue with my family: sipped on sparkling Palomas, and ate delicious lime shrimp kebabs.  
 My boys got me the bestest gifts -- of course, they are sewing related:

1. Anna Dress Pattern By Hand London

                                                     Image via By Hand London

I want to make the maxi-version of this dress.  It looks perfect for summer and can transition into fall with a cardigan.  There is also so many fabulous Anna dresses and Anna dress hacks out there.  So much inspiration.....

2.  Brother 1034D Serger

I have been wanting this bad-boy for a while now.  I know it is not the ultimate serger but I don't care!!   It has good reviews on Amazon and easy threading.  Ummm, perfect pour moi.  I have already used it to make a birthday date-dress (yes, I know it is post birthday but we are waiting for things to settle down, summer camps to be over, and our sitter to be back in town.).  Woo-who: it speeds things up immensely.

3.  The final gift was not sewing related but awesome nonetheless:  A tattoo.  White ink on my left wrist with my guys names.

I was a bit nervous but conquered it.  Now I am inked and planning more...;)

I did get some sewing done in June but I was not as productive as I would have liked.  I planned to enter all The Monthly Stitch Indie Challenges but only managed one.  Therefore, July is going to be about finishing the things I have started.  There are a ridiculous amount of patterns cut and ready to be sewn.  I also have to get onto making some new kitchy work dresses.  The fall semester begins in the middle of August!!  

For July (I am one of those kinds of people who write lists - - it is cathartic to have it laid out!):
  • MAGAM: Solar System Dress Emery Dress
                                                 Image via Thousands of Bolts
  • Handmade by Heather's Sun Dress Sew Along: Polka Dot S2444 AKA The Birthday Date Dress.  This has been on my work table for the last week or so...It will be done and blogged soon. 
  • Skirt Fixation Challenge Create: Geometric Fabric (Check back soon!)
  • TMS: Monochromatic -- this one is hard.  I need a cardi -- I may attempt the Swoon Cardigan again
Whew!  Well, I better get to it!

Happy Sewing --


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Staple Top and Why I Sew

I remember the first knit t-shirt that I made on the kitchen table with my mother's help.  It was a basic salmon colored t-shirt but I was really proud of it.  Proud that I made it, proud of the flaws, proud that I had something different.
Fast forward to end of grad school (PhD finally done!) and accepting a university job.  My family and I moved so I could start a new job in a medium size southern town.  It is the smallest place I have ever lived and it was culture shock (My husband and I grew up in large cities in the north).  Gone were the big city days (well now, holidays are devoted to a city!).  Things that I used to enjoy were no longer as fun.  Shopping became such a chore because the shops/boutiques did not carry the styles I liked.  If a shop happened to carry something I did like, I rarely found it in my size or it was outrageously expensive.

Santa Claus was nice enough to gift me with a sewing machine.  My husband was also happy Santa gifted the sewing machine so my complaining about clothes would stop!   My mom would be proud that I didn't even need to look at the manual to thread the machine or get it started.  Within a couple of days, I made a tunic dress (quite hideous on many levels: fabric choice, style, and the fact that I was getting back into the groove with sewing!).  I was smitten.

I sew for me.  I sew for my family and friends.  I sew to let go of stress.  I sew to learn new things.  I sew for style.  I sew because I can do it better and cheaper than RTW.  I sew because I like it.  I like having clothes for my family and I that are unique, fun, and special.

And sewing I did.  A couple of weekends ago I stopped at an estate sale and picked up oodles of fabric!  In this bounty was a yard of striped polyester fabric.  I figured I could squeeze a top out of it since (a.) it was girly colors  and (b.) between tops and shorts I cannot come up with anything else to do with a 1 yard of fabric (any clothing suggestions are welcome).

April Rhodes Staple Dress, pattern hack
Size: XS

1 yard stripe polyester fabric
Gutterman gray thread


I loved the simplicity of the April Rhodes' Staple dress.  I wear it at least once a week for convenience and comfort.  Hence, the lightbulb went off when I saw this fabric -- a summery blouse to be worn with jeans or capris.  I have professed this before but I am really in need of blouses or tops.  My closets is full of dresses and skirts.  I have a few go-to blouses and several comfy knit tees.  That means a giant void begins to slowly close when I sew a blouse.

I folded the material twice so that I could squeeze a front and back out of it.  In fact, I only used the back piece of the pattern to cut, then on one of the pieces I deepened the neckline for the front.    I also didn't have enough material for the bias neck tape or the arms so I improvised.  The neckline is finished with little bias strips that I hacked together, not the most elegant approach.  The arm holes are finished with a rolled hem (Thanks to that handy little sewing machine foot!).
Ironically, I didn't even aim to match stripes. I mean, I had very little fabric and I thought it would just be a funky shirt if they didn't line up.  But the sewing stars aligned and I got lucky.  Shoulder and side seams matched!  Huzzah!
I orignially put in some elastic shirring in the back of the shirt to give it some structure.  I wore it out and it felt really uncomfortable.  That evening I ripped it out (Hello! Why did I think it would be easy!?). It was time consuming!  I kind of like the boxy structure of the blouse and the fabric has a lot of drape so it is a bit billowy.
This was incredibly easy.  I am loving it.  I am still lusting after Sewaholic's Belcarra blouse.   Since, I am a Sewaholic virgin. *gasp* I haven't found a reason to order it yet.  It is sort of the same style shirt with some neat details in the sleeve area.  Should I get it?

Happy Sewing!!