Monday, January 27, 2014

McCalls 8107 -- Polka Dot Dress

I am allowing myself to sew winter things through February, but my daughter is sick of the cold weather and has moved on to sewing spring and summer things.  She purchased some white cotton fabric with black polka dots (the polka dots are very slightly raised) from Joann Fabrics and she rummaged through my pattern stash for a style she thought would work, settling on McCalls 8107, a basic princess-seamed but now out-of-print pattern.

Because her fabric was white it needed a lining, and for that she used a nice white broadcloth from Hobby Lobby.  She was afraid it would make the dress too heavy, but actually the weight of the lining feels good, and both fabrics are all cotton so the dress should be comfortable even in the summer.

The directions for sewing princess seams must have been good.  I was expecting to help with that part, but she already had them sewn and had done a great job before I even knew she had started.

However, the directions for the rest of the dress were terrible.  She used the directions of view I, because that view has a lining. The lining was attached with bias tape at the neckline and sleeves (she used black for contrast).  BUT -- and this was the terrible part -- the zipper was put in last, after the dress was sewn together.  And instead of sandwiching the zipper between the lining and the dress, at that point the lining and dress were treated as one.  The zipper was very difficult to put in with the rest of the dress sewn up.  I put the zipper in for her, and I had to redo it several times to get it to be acceptable.  Not fun!  I DO NOT recommend this method ever.

The dress by itself is a little plain, so she added a patent leather belt for waist definition.  After driving around to at least five different stores in a fruitless attempt to find one, I finally ordered one from Ebay (under $10 for a real patent leather belt - plus it is delivered right to your door!).
My daughter added 1 inch to the hem length which left very little room for an actual hem.  I'm trying to get her to add 3 inches to patterns (she is 5'9"), but for this dress we used hem tape to make a narrow hem.  The lining was hemmed an inch or two shorter.

Here is a close-up of the fabric and the bias trim:

We almost gave up on this dress, but I'm glad we didn't.  My daughter looks lovely in it, and she has gotten to wear it already during one of our warmer weekends.  It also looks cute with a black cardigan.  

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

McCalls 3830 -- Leopard Print Skirt

I am such a slow blogger that I have a couple of makes from before Christmas (as in late November/early December) that I am just now getting around to posting.  I like to record my projects on my blog, so.......if you are bored to tears by these sewing posts, I try to clue you in by the title so that you will know what you're in for.  However, if you do like to read about sewing, read on:)

Sorry for the slight blur of the photos
Even though I am late to the party, I wanted to join in the animal print trend.  Last year I bought some leopard print fabric from Joann Fabrics.  I'm not sure what you would call it.  It's not a knit, more along the lines of a microsuede, but I'm not sure if that's exactly right either.  Anyway, a fabric suitable for a skirt or a bag or even a structured jacket, but not right for a flowy dress.

I really just wanted a plain straight skirt.  I have not totally given up on A-lines, but so far I have not found one that flatters my poor body at all.  I chose McCalls 3830, which is a very basic but useful skirt pattern to have in your arsenal.  I chose view D because all the longer views have a kick pleat in the back and I didn't want to fool with that.  I did lengthen view D to hit me right above the knee.

Despite the supposed simplicity of skirts, I approach skirt-making with trepidation because skirts have to fit:  too loose and they fall off or twist around, too tight and you (as in, I) will look like a stuffed sausage.  It's a fine line.  Also, how to choose a size?  For dresses I usually choose a size 14 but then I add an inch to each side seam. I think I chose the skirt the same way, which put me in a size 18 for the skirt.

The skirt has a zipper up the center back and front and back darts.  One small change I made was to use hem tape at the waistband instead of facings as per the pattern instructions.  This worked great, so great that I decided to use hem tape on the hem as well, particularly as I did not add as much to the length as I should have.  However, the hem tape on the actual hem was my downfall.  I think maybe I made the hem tape too tight or something, but the hem looked AWFUL.  I redid it and redid it until it was passable, but I really wish I had just folded the hem up and sewn it down.  I always find a way to sabotage the simplest tasks;)

Anyway, I am hoping to get multi-season use out of this skirt.  Here I have worn it with black, but I think it can also look good with red, cobalt blue, denim, and even some other color combinations I haven't thought of seen on Pinterest yet.  I have quite a bit of the leopard fabric left, so I may eventually get around to making a bag out of the rest.
The camera was not cooperating with me 
My 12-year-old informed me that he thinks leopard print skirts are tacky(!).  I, on the other hand, think they are cool fun (so there you have it ........I hope I'm not alone:)  In fact, Anne of Pretty Grievances is hosting a whole month of animal print garment sewing (just go to her blog and click on Jungle January on the sidebar).  I would enter but since I didn't actually make this skirt in January, I will just have to be there in spirit;)  It is hard to explain to a twelve-year-old that 48-year-olds often feel the need for a little zip in their life and in their appearance.  (At least I do, do you?)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Happy Connections

Last summer I was contacted by email by someone who was searching for an out-of-print pattern, New Look 6751.  She had seen a review I had done of it here and asked if I might be willing to sell the pattern.  I wasn't quite ready to do that, but I suggested she could borrow it, and she took me up on that.  Little did I know that she was in Queensland, Australia!

So, I went down to the post office and sent the pattern off from Texas to Queensland.  I was not in a big hurry to get it back, but in December Christine contacted me saying she had put it in the mail.  We missed a week of mail in December due to an ice storm (hard to believe since this week we are in the sixties), but a little before Christmas I got a fat envelope from Queensland.

I was only expecting the pattern, but when I opened it there was a lovely notecard with a kookaburra and some Christmas paper!

Inside the paper were some lovely gifts.  A beautiful tea towel with a map of Australia (whose photo needs to be rotated but I'm not blogging this from my computer so I don't have access to my photo files at the moment):
Also, this little pouch --
which unzips into a tote bag:
And these adorable little clip-on animals, all icons of Australia:
What a lovely surprise to open all these gifts!  My husband was quite impressed that I had received a gift all the way from Australia.  Thank you, Christine!

I have to say that making these kind of contacts through the internet has been so much fun and so nice!!  It really gives a boost to your day when someone on the complete other side of the world has given you a little thought.  I have always enjoyed making connections with people, and even though a lot of us may never meet in person, it has been (and is) such a pleasure to get to know some of you.

Here's to many more happy connections between us all for 2014!

Friday, January 10, 2014


Yesterday began and ended with drizzle and heavy fog.  However, around lunch time I returned home from an errand, and while the skies were still gray, the fog and mist had temporarily lifted.  I got out of the car and decided to walk down to the end of the driveway and pick up my soggy, plastic-wrapped newspaper.  As I walked, I began to notice bird song in the air -- something I hadn't heard in a long time.  I looked up and saw birds all round my little neighborhood.  There were tiny birds swarming in the bare branches of a mulberry tree, but they were so tiny and so fast I could not get a photo nor could I clearly identify them.   Doves were pecking beneath the bird feeder in my backyard, but I could not get a photo of them either because they attracted the notice of my little dog Luna, who raced out and barked at them in a very offended manner.

My neighbors' yard was filled with robins.  By leaving Luna in the house, I was able to get photos of a few of them using the zoom on my camera.
We live too far south for robins to be the first heralds of spring -- it's spring when they go back north.  I'm not sure where they spent the month of December, though.  We had a very icy, cold December -- the polar vortex reached all the way down to Texas -- and yesterday 40 degrees felt downright warm. 

I thought so anyway and so, apparently, did the birds.  This little fella is enjoying a puddle.
Winter is actually a pretty good time for us to see birds.  The usual winter birds of cardinals, chickadees, titmice, bluebirds and dark-eyed juncos are around, as well as lots of blue jays, crows, mockingbirds, starlings/grackles, doves, ducks and geese.  We also live on some kind of migratory highway.  Birds pass through on their way south to Mexico for the winter and then again when they go back north in the summer.  Every year for a few days we enjoy flocks of cedar waxwings, Mississippi kites, killdeer, and goldfinches.  More ominously, our entire town gets covered up in starlings/grackles (I'm never sure of their official name) at certain times of year, to the point you begin to feel you are personally inhabiting an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

Anyway, it was nice to see so many birds out cavorting around because this past month has been a month to hunker down in the house.  The Christmas season seemed very short, partly because  Thanksgiving was so late and then an ice storm hit my county and lasted through the first week of December.  School didn't finish until December 20th and then my mother arrived for an extended visit on the 19th.  Blogging had to fall by the wayside to make room for parental and filial duties.
This was the first time my mother had visited me in five years.  She got to spend Christmas with us and we had a great time making candy, thrift shopping, and generally just lounging about.  I took almost no photos of the holidays -- when I'm with other people I seldom think to stop and take photographs -- but sometimes that's okay.  While it's fun to have documentation, it's not always necessary.  It's okay just to live:)

I feel like I should have something more profound to say about the changing of the year from 2013 to 2014, but I'm past the point of thinking I know everything and I'm not yet to the point of feeling like I have a lot of wisdom to impart.  I will say this about 2013 -- I lived through it, with its good parts and its hard parts.  I hope to say the same about 2014.  Of course I cannot read the future, but from this vantage point it doesn't look to me that it will be an easier year.  In fact, it looks like a year of hard  work.

I have a friend who chooses -- or feels that God chooses -- a word for each new year.  I don't usually do that, but this year the word "diligent" keeps calling my name.  The Lord has helped and will continue to help me persevere, but at the same time He is calling me to be diligent:  that is, to keep doing faithfully those things that I know to do.  I will leave the results to Him.  I guess it's like the old song:  "Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey."

I'm not trying to be gloomy and pessimistic.  Although many sad and hard things happened in 2013, many good things happened, too.  I'm sure the same will be true of 2014:)

In any case, I wish you all a belated Happy New Year!