Thursday, January 31, 2013

Simplicity 2054 -- Winter Sparkle Dress

One more dress.  This is from a Cynthia Rowley pattern, Simplicity 2054, view A.  The fabric is a steel blue sweater knit that has sparkles in it that I got from my local Joann Fabrics, although the sparkles are hard to see from the photographs.  I was afraid the unusual fabric would be hard for my machine to handle, but there were no problems.

I cut a size 14, but added an inch on each side, beginning under the arm, for some fit insurance, and I added two inches to the length and to the sleeves.  The sleeves are almost too long now, but it feels luxurious to have sleeves this long, especially during cold weather.  This dress is super warm (in a good way).
The cowl is huge, but removable, as seen below (although I prefer it with the cowl).  The neckline is finished with a binding.  I was a little nervous about putting that in, but it fit beautifully.  I almost made it all the way through construction without using my seam ripper -- which would be a first -- but I mis-sewed the pleats on the back of the cowl, so there was a tiny bit of stitch-unpicking.

I will have to say that this dress is one of my favorites.  I don't think it will last forever -- the fabric is fun but probably not that durable -- but I've already worn it at least three times.  It is comfortable, fun to wear with boots, and I love the color.  A great winter dress.  I do wear a half-slip underneath to keep the sweater knit from sticking to my tights.

Also, if you are wondering why do I keep making patterns that I have to add width to -- why not just make it in a larger size to start with? -- here's why:  you want to choose a pattern that fits in the shoulders and upper chest.  It is relatively easy to add or subtract width down the side seams, but if I went up a size it would be too big and the shoulders and neck wouldn't fit right.  Also, patterns assume that you will have an hourglass shape -- they are graded for people whose waists are ten inches smaller than their busts or hips.  Well that is never gonna happen in my world, so there will always need to be adjustments there.  And really, that's the nice thing about sewing--you can change things up to better suit you.

Monday, January 28, 2013

McCalls 6612 -- Take Two: The Snowflake Dress

After making the Molecule Dress for myself, it was time to make something for my daughter.  She had chosen some black sweater-knit fabric with snowflakes on it, and wanted a cowl-neck dress.  I used the same pattern as the Molecule Dress -- McCalls 6612, but this time made View D, adding the long sleeves to it.

For my daughter I cut a straight size 10, adding length to the dress and the sleeves (I added more than 3 inches to the sleeve length!! -- this is why it is very difficult to find ready-to-wear winter tops that will fit her).  Several patterns that I've used recently instruct you to hem the sleeves before they are attached to the dress.  This seems like a bad idea to me (how do you know where to hem them until the shoulders are seamed up?), so I have disregarded the instructions on that and hemmed them AFTER the sleeves are in.

I had not sewn with sweater-knit fabric before, but actually it was pretty easy.  The fabric is not slippery, so it tends to stay where you put it.  Also the thickness of the fabric hides the stitching lines;) I used a size 80 universal needle, regular sewing thread, and a machine setting of a short, narrow zigzag.  I also used my knit stay tape when turning up the hems of the sleeves and the bottom.  Again, if you are sewing with knits, this stay tape will make your sewing life soooo much easier.  It's not expensive -- get some!

The cowl on this dress is large, which is good for cold weather.  The print and the cowl neck do make it difficult to determine which is the front and the back, so I hand-sewed a small piece of red embroidery thread to the inside of the back neckline.

This is a great pattern and a useful dress:  it keeps you warm and it can be rolled up and packed in a suitcase and then taken out and worn straightaway.  But because it is a sweater-knit, you do need to wear a little half-slip to keep the skirt from sticking to your tights.

(And yes, we need some more snow to cover up the non-existent grass in my backyard.)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

McCalls 6612 -- Take One: The Molecule Dress

Someone referred to McCalls 6612 as just as easy as McCalls 6559, the tank dress I made three times last summer, so I bought this pattern with great hopes.  And decided to make it in great haste.

I already had a spandex-y knit in my stash.  It's dotted, but the dots are more along the lines of molecules, so I think of it as my version of a Mrs. Frizzell dress:) (Mrs. Frizzell, the science teacher on The Magic Schoolbus, always wears science-themed clothes).

I made view B, a long sleeve dress with a built-in draped neckline.  After holding the pattern up to me and eyeballing it, I traced and cut a straight 16.  I did not tissue-fit -- failure number one.
(Tissue-fitting means pinning the front and back pattern pieces together along the seamlines and trying it on.  If the center front and back aren't at your center front and back, you need to do some adjusting -- for example, either adding or subtracting along the side seams).  The failure to tissue fit was compounded by a failure to translate the words "close-fitting" on the pattern description to "tight."  Remember:  if the pattern says "close-fitting," that's a code word for "tight." If I had tissue-fitted the front and back pieces, I would have noticed that the narrowest part of the side seams hit me at the wrong place, and I could have added a little width there, or even better, raised the waist.

Consequently, when the dress was completed, it fit -- but just barely.  Now this was meant to be more of a comfortable dress, and I did not want to have to spend the whole time wearing it having to worry about breathing too much;)  However, I noticed that if I raised the skirt part up a little there was plenty of room across my middle.  I am very short-waisted, so even though I usually need to add length to the skirt portion, if I had shortened the bodice portion it would have been a better fit for me. (Note to self:  remember to check the waist).

Side view
So I attempted a salvage by cutting the dress off horizontally under the bust and resewing the skirt portion on at a wider place.  This took forever as I kept trying to fine-tune the fit but in reality I was merely making it harder on myself.
The horizontal seam where I tried to fix the fit is just visible at the bottom left
I'm not sure how I feel about this neckline.  Even though there is extra fabric in the bodice, there is still a modesty issue if you bend over too far.

In the end, I'm not crazy about this dress.  It's okay.  It's warm, and I did need some winter dresses, and I may wear it here and there, but the print is a bit much and the fitting issues kind of dampened my enthusiasm.

As for the pattern itself, it was very straightforward and I had no problems sewing it.  I will make it again for myself after adjusting the fit on the pattern pieces.  I do recommend it -- just check for fit BEFORE you make it.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

How to Fit the Pattern Pieces Back in the Envelope

I am definitely not the originator of this idea; I came across it awhile ago on the internet but don't remember where.  However, it is so useful that I hope it's okay to reshare it, in the interest of helping others struggling like me to get their patterns back into the envelope.

I usually trace my patterns.  I like to preserve the original pattern, plus I just find it easier to make any alterations or notations on my traced pattern piece.  I use a sharp pencil and thin tracing paper that I ordered here.  Sunni at A Fashionable Stitch has an explanatory tutorial on How to Trace Sewing Patterns, if you want more information on that. She also sells the necessary supplies.

After I finish tracing the pattern pieces I will be using, I lay the tissue sheets out flat on top of each other and fold them until they are slightly narrower than the length of the pattern envelope.  (This will work even if you cut out the tissue sheets themselves.  Just lay them out as flat as you can and start folding.)

I have a clear ruler that is slightly less than the width of the pattern envelope. You can use anything you have that would be the appropriate size.  I lay this ruler on the tissues and start folding inward.

Here are the sheets all folded up:

And here they are nicely stuffed back in the envelope:
This sure beats my old method of painstakingly trying to find and match the original fold lines, or giving up and cramming the tissue into the envelope in frustration.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

New Look 6096 -- Bohemian Dress

Are you up for some sewing posts?  I have a few things I did before Christmas that I would like to share.

First up is New Look 6096, the long-sleeved View A.  This pattern was chosen by my lovely daughter (tip: if you are sewing for a teenager and you want them to actually wear it, THEY need to pick the pattern or the fabric).  She liked the style of that dress, and I happened to have some fabric in my stash that I thought would work. Because this fabric was from the thrift store, I'm unsure of the fabric content, but it is thin and cotton-esque -- think about lawn-weight (lawn the fabric!) or slightly heavier.
I made a size ten, adding length to the sleeves and the dress.  My daughter is long and lean (5'9"), so this is pretty much a standard adjustment for us.  I had never made anything quite like this.  The sleeves are actually part of the bodice.  There is elastic around the sleeves, the neckline, and the waist.  The skinny bow at the waist is merely decorative.

A view of the back:
I have to say this is one of the easiest dresses I have made so far (even though the pattern itself is not designated "easy").  Her brothers teased her about looking like she was from the 60s, but I love how it looks on my daughter.  It also looks great with a jeans jacket thrown on top.

I am also happy that I finally figured out how to use this loop turner:

I have had this for awhile and never got the hang of it, but this time I realized that you have to get it started (vs. just giving it a yank, which always resulted in tearing the fabric).  But once I got it started,  it turned the narrow trim for the tie in probably five seconds flat.  AMAZING!  Now that I have figured  out the secret, I LOVE this tool:)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Toy-Making (and Other Gifts)

Christmas (and birthdays and other special days) always seems to catch me by surprise.  I'm one of those people that is not born with a good sense of time (my husband will agree with this:).  Every year I have lots of ideas of making gifts, but realistically I need to work on those ideas starting in May, and in May I'm usually busy thinking of other things.

My daughter, however, is wonderfully creative, productive and efficient, and not hampered with the curse of procrastination.  She had another good year of Christmas gift-giving.  In a matter of two weeks or so, she made three stuffed toys.  All of them were from the book Wild and Wonderful Fleece Animals by Linda Carr.  This is a great book.  My daughter has made most of the animals in the book, (including a duck, walrus, penguin, dog, and a pig) and they have all turned out looking fabulous. 

Here are the three she made this past December, all destined for younger relatives:
A Panda
A Leopard
A Brown Bear

A better look at the bear's face
Then she also knitted this sweet baby for a little cousin:
Sleeping Baby
This little baby was made from the Snuggle Dolly pattern by Tina, who blogs at Tea and Woolly Socks.  The only change my daughter made was to convert the flat pattern to knitting in the round because that is what she prefers.

And look at the present I received from my friend Elizabeth of MrsThomasinaTittlemouse fame:

It's a wonderful zippered pouch to keep on-the-go projects in. I promptly filled it with my long-suffering hexagons and took it on my cross-country journey, where I was able to sew hexagons together in the car.  Thank you so much, Elizabeth, for your gift and also for your thoughtfulness xx

Monday, January 7, 2013

Christmas Wrap-Up

The month of December slipped by in a blur of sickness, so that I felt like there was little more than a week to prepare for Christmas festivities.  The only goodies that got made were chocolate covered pretzels and sausage balls.  The peanut butter balls and coconut balls will have to wait for another special occasion.  No outside lights got put up, either.  But we did have our tree, and as I've said before, for myself I prefer the grinchy look, so the tree was well-adorned in round, colored lights.

Our stockings also were hung with care.

After months of parched conditions, a deluge, accompanied by thunder and lightning, erupted the night of Christmas Eve.  An empty five-gallon bucket on our back patio was filled to overflowing with rainwater by Christmas morning!  Despite Christmas morning beginning with a rainy 50 degrees, by early afternoon we had this:
My three youngest in the front yard

A White Christmas is truly a magical gift.
View from the front door
Here are my sheep, Mocha and Latte, who enjoyed the snow a lot more than they enjoyed the rain.

This is the most picturesque my backyard has ever looked:)

The stockings were pushed to the side to make room for a cozy fire.

The next day we had to make a two-day road trip east to see family.  My older two stayed behind to work. The rest of us drove through an entire day of this:
Along the roadside in Arkansas
It truly looked like Narnia, so beautiful and surreal, and the roads were perfectly clear ---- until we got near Little Rock, Arkansas.  There they were so treacherous--cars were in the ditch everywhere -- that an 8 hour drive turned into 12 hours.  We found out later that parts of Arkansas got 10-15 inches of snow.

Anyway, we made it to see our families.  I hated to leave my older boys behind, but I think they were glad to miss the four days cooped up in the car.  It ended up being good visits with everyone, though sleeping was another issue;)

Now I am home and trying to catch up on everyday life, which has included absolute mountains of laundry and a general cleaning out of closets and drawers.  January does push us to make a fresh start each year, doesn't it?