Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Flattering Dress for the Robust Booty

Don't call me an unselfish seamstress, because that is not strictly true.  I am sewing a dress for someone else, and I am not unpleased knowing it will please the recipient, but primarily, I remain fascinated with the process of creating clothes that fit and flatter.  Thus I find myself once again the dressmaker, sewing in exchange for the satisfaction of making the world a more beautiful place - one woman at a time.   

When I searched Google images for a robust booty, I came across this work of art.  In response to Gimp's comment, I have updated this post with a more "aspirational" asset.  After all, no one reads sewing blogs to see tired women.  We want to see something we can aspire to, right?  Who am I to let you down?
Now that's a robust booty.
For my next sewing project, the subject is a little taller than, and has circumferences just a little different from, standard sizes.  I have plotted her measurements against the Vogue sizing chart.

I will start with Vogue 8632.  This pattern is multi-sized so I'll cut a size 12 at the shoulders, a 14 with a D cup for bust, taper to a 16 at the waist and an 18 at the hips.

Because of the forgiving style in this dress and my familiarity with the recipient’s figure, I will measure and mark the pattern per her measurements, leave wide seam allowances and cut into the fashion fabric.  It’s likely we’ll get together once midway through construction so I can fine-tune the fit and record those adjustments back to the paper pattern.   As always, I will trace off a copy of the pattern first, so as to preserve the original.

The dress is for DSD Kelly, using this Anthropologie-esque cotton lawn from Elliott Berman

the background is more blue than this picture suggests
This project represents advance planning for those unexpected fashion emergencies that seem to arise now and then.  A person needs a dress for a wedding or whatever, and it’s nice when you can send out an SOS to your DSM, who has more fabric than she knows what to do with, and who is willing to sew up a Very Easy Vogue Dress for her DSD.  Did you catch all that? Kelly and I are hoping to establish a good TNT (tried and true) dress pattern for her.

Next up – measuring circumferences and lengths, and comparing them to the pattern.
Til then, Happy Sewing!

Oh - my goodness, how could I forget?  Have you gotten your issue of the October Vogue Patterns magazine?  I'm told they ran a photo of my version of Vogue 7764, which is now out of print.  I submitted the photo long ago and forgot all about it.  Now it's in print and I cannot wait to get my issue in the mail.  
Electricity & Vogue Patterns = Happiness 
(Hurricane Irene deprived me of electricity for several days, but I am back in action now)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Daydreaming - new Vogue patterns

I am browsing Vogue's new offerings.  Here are a few that caught my eye:    
This is like The Sewing Workshop e-shrug I made in April, but I like the back shaping better and I am curious about the piecing in the collar.  Might be worth further investigation.

The back shaping seams are interesting and provide fitting opportunities, the collar is shaped nicely and I am intrigued by the fabrication.  The sleeves call for a knit fabric and I like the slim look that provides for the arms.  I could always keep an eye out for a piece of leather, right?  If it coordinates with wool double-knit sitting on the shelves, it's a stash-busting project, too!   I can justify almost anything if I just think for a minute.

I feel pretty just looking at the picture.  This says autumn, tights and a search for cute shoes.
These full skirts are doing it for me!  One last summer dress?  I have some gray cotton jersey and a beach vacation coming up.  Speaking of which, I should be sewing a swimsuit.  I can't seem to locate that swimsuit-sewing-mojo, mostly because the swimsuit fabric I have is boring.  I'll gather a sense of urgency as the vacation gets closer.

Are you gearing up for the change in seasons?  Last year I couldn't wait to start sewing wool by this time in August.  The sewing mojo is a mystery.

What are you hankering to sew?  Any opinions of what I should sew next?
Questions, so many questions!
Opinions?  Please share!

Thank you all for your wonderfully supportive comments about the dress I just finished.  You really push me to be my best and I am grateful for the creative energy in the blogosphere.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Lonsdale Dress modeled

Sharon is pleased *WIN* and that pleases the dressmaker *WIN*

And she said she didn't like being photographed!  Honey, if you've got it - flaunt it!

Good for spinning.
Deets on how I made the dress:
I wanted to know if I could take measurements and make flat pattern alterations, then sew a dress without sewing a muslin first.  One of my sewing idols, Ann Rowley works this way.  She doesn't blog, but she is active on Stitchers Guild sewing discussion forum.  If you search around there, you can find her Flickr album.  Ann is a classically trained dressmaker who learned as a young woman, before women wore trousers, as she puts it.  She will be the first to tell you there are multiple ways to approach fitting and garment construction;  this is just how she does it.  We all find what works best for ourselves as we gain experience.

Factors contributing to the success of the project:
  • No shoulder fitting required for this dress style, only these torso measurements:
    • upper chest
    • full bust
    • waist
    • hips
  • Easy fit model
    • Sharon buys lots of clothes off-the-rack, so she is not a challenge to fit
    • I see her at work and at the gym every day, so I have some instinctive knowledge of her figure. This is more important that it may seem.  I had to rely on my gut while making decisions along the way.
  • Love the pattern - motivated me
  • Love the fabric - motivated me
Here is the sequence of steps to create this fitted dress:

  1. Record Sharon's girth and length measurements necessary for this style
  2. Compare her measurements to the actual pattern and adjust as necessary.  I did a petite adjustment.
  3. Cut dress and baste it together, including a zipper, using a long basting stitch. 
  4. One meeting with Sharon for a fitting of the basted dress provided this feedback:
    1. Size 10 was too big!  Even though I had compared the measurements, and assumed no wearing ease in the bodice, I still had to take it in about 5/8" (1.5 cm) on both sides.
    2. The waist needed to be levelled - it was fine in center front and center back, but it dipped on the sides
    3. The skirt also had to be taken in about 5/8" (1.5 cm) on both sides, and tapered to the hips.
    4. It was way too long and I foolishly neglected to take a measurement for what the finished length should be.  This is where I went on my gut and cut off "a goodly amount", as my mother would say.  It worked.  Oh!  All except for the part where I messed up!  Yeah, there was that, ha!
    5. There was gaping at the upper edge of the bodice, so I devised an elastic treatment to keep the edge snug.
  5. Adjust pattern for the alterations.  (I am not sure if Ann does this part, but I wanted to record the changes back to the paper pattern)
  6. Remove basting stitches in dress
  7. Use altered pattern pieces to recut dress.
  8. Sew
This has been a very fun sew-along with Tasia at Sewaholic and it was rather impulsive on my part  something my Sewing Mojo needed.  There is always a little stress when sewing for someone else. The MAIN PROBLEM being you can't try it on to check fit. And I am really not sure I have the patience to schedule extra fittings, you know?   On the other hand, sewing goes fast if you aren't stopping at each step to try it on.  I do that a lot, do you?

Hats off to home sewists because we indulge and appreciate ourselves, don't we?
Happy Sewing!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Finished Lonsdale Dress and Fabric Winner

The lovely Lonsdale dress is finished - but it is hard to show on a hanger, so I draped it on the holly bush.

The Sewaholic Lonsdale dress is adorable.  Because it is a halter dress, there are no shoulder fitting challenges and the front neckline twist is a nice detail, especially on a smaller-busted figure where the emphasis is welcome.  Also, it's easy to wear braless because the bodice is lined and one could easily add cups, although it wasn't necessary for my version.

For my version of this dress, I was concerned with attractive placement of the floral motifs, so I cut each piece individually.  I like using opague pattern paper to allow the print to show through.  This way, I can trace the motifs and match as I cut fabric.  You can see my pencil marks in the picture below.  And because the fabric is so lightweight, I underlined the bodice with cotton batiste and the skirt with rayon lining.  The elastic casing is made from charmeuse silk bias binding leftover from another project.  It adds zero bulk.
Rather than altering the pattern for bust darts, I added casing for elastic on the underlining.
I like this wide elastic that can be cut to any width.  In this case I wanted the narrowest elastic possible.
 This wide elastic can be found in several stores in the NYC garment district and online at Pamela's Patterns.
Both elastic casings finished - they are attached right along the stitching line.
View of finished bodice from the inside, with elastic inserted into the underlining.  When worn, the elastic should stretch enough to lie flat and prevent gapping at the upper edge.
This silk/cotton blend woven can be washed although it loses just a little bit of the sheen.  I'd recommend washing by hand as opposed to using the gentle cycle in the washing machine.   I bought mine in the garment district,  but it is also available online at Gorgeous Fabrics.  I loved it so much, I bought it in both colorways - the teal & gold is warm and I love it on on tawny blondes, redheads, Latina and African-American skin tones.  The black & red is cool and better for my coloring, which is more Irish pale-burns-easily-pinkish skin.

Le sigh.  I would love to go right into another summer dress project in one of the gorgeous cottons I picked up at Elliott Berman last month.  Either that or a bathing suit.  Can't decide - I LOVE daydreaming about my next project, don't you?  I hope my friend likes this dress!

Hmmm, Redrockcity, I wonder how you will use this fabric?  
I will send you what I've got!  
Contact me at alittlesewing at gmail dot com and 
let me know where to mail it!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

dress resurrection and * FABRIC GIVEAWAY *

**The Fabric GiveAway Has Ended** [August 21, 2011]
Greetings from Whirlwind Land!  Welcome to new readers, too - did you see my guest post  on Gertie's blog yesterday?  I enjoyed sharing how I play at sewing in my own little corner of the world.
I am so happy you are here!

Recent days involved a backpack, but more on that in a minute.  I want to show you the best sewing news - I got more fabric so I can cut another skirt (oops) and finish my version of the Lonsdale dress.  Because I used so much of the yellow border for the straps, there is a lot of the teal print left over.
I'd like one of you to have it.  Interested?
Colette Sencha Blouse?  Perfect for that type of blouse.
The fabric on the left shows the front side and it has not been washed yet.  On the right, you can see the wrong side of the fabric.  The front does have a little less sheen after washing.  I washed the fabric in gentle shampoo, but since then I bought some Eucalan, which is so well-regarded by all the great sewing bloggers (thank you Carolyn!).

Leave a comment if you'd like to be included in the drawing. What you would sew with it?  I am happy to ship internationally.  I will post the name of the winner on Sunday night,  August 21.

Back to the backpack.  I put on my own backpack to fetch my backpacking daughter from the airport in NYC.  On Monday, I witnessed a sunshower in Manhattan.  I got drenched, but it was worth every cold squishy step.
Pouring rain and sunshine - it was spectacular.
I was wet.
We stayed in a hostel and I travelled light, packing only knit dresses.   Reporting from the field, these dresses are fantastic for travel.  They are light, take up very little space, don't wrinkle and dry fast. I even got an unsolicitation in the train station!  Some blue-collar-type-dude surprised me, saying "great dress" as he walked by.  I almost spit out the mouthful of food I was chewing.

yay for knit dresses!

Backpacks: heavy
She seems a little obsessed now with hanging her clothes up.
It's funny to see someone so thrilled with a simple closet pole.
That's it for now.  Hmm, should I go to my stepson's performances this weekend, or stay home and sew?  That is a tough call!  I love him, but considering the kind of music I like (broadway show tunes, for example) I may express my love in other ways.

His dad /my husband likes loud poppy-punk, so he'll have plenty of appreciative family in the audience.
Loving life these days...
Hope you are enjoying the sunshine or enduring cold wet feet, as the case may be.  Next I will share what I bought in the garment district and making TNT dress patterns for my DD and DSD.  Would you say they have drunk the Kool-Aid?  They both want TNT dress patterns now, that are designed specifically to their needs.

Fun, I get to play fashion designer next.   One can't stay in the sewing factory forever.  Too many other sewing fantasies to work through.
Be well & Happy Sewing!

Friday, August 12, 2011

miss smarty-pants and I did not see purple walls coming

I was cruising along, stitching up the Lonsdale dress, all full of myself, thinking

oh what a cute dress I am sewing for my chic friend.  I picked the fabric and the pattern and isn't it just perfect for her and really, I am nailing it, I really am ...
... uh oh ...

 I shortened the back piece of the skirt at the hem, not at the top where I intended.  The yellow border, the best part of the dress, is gone.
yes, this happened.
I cannot enlarge the photo, as per my usual preference because it mocks me so.

SO!  Other things are going well, correct?  Yes!  Remember this kitchen?  No need to enlarge this photo, either.
perhaps the house should be magenta!
The kitchen is completely different now:

hee hee
Yes, topic change!
I enjoyed learning about color and design from a professional who helped me select the countertops and tile backsplash.  This was a big investment for us, so I did not want to risk living with buyer's remorse.  It worked because I have no remorse at all.   I love how the lighter, cooler colors & materials balance the warm cabinets.  The kitchen has no windows, so the reflective glass lightens things up.  The stainless appliances do not look as dark and hulking as I had feared.  The new exhaust fan works.

the new color palette
Today was color consultation day and we came up with new colors for most of the main floor.  I pretty much asked for gray walls and white woodwork, but the smoked oyster has a lot of purple undertones.

That makes me pause.  Hmmm.  Really?  Me with purple walls?  Did the interior designer cast a spell on me?  That could be the plot in the book I am reading.  I am hooked on campy supernatural fiction now (love the Sookie Stackhouse series) and my imagination has run wild.

I did not see the purple walls coming.

May you sew without cutting off the important parts this weekend, my friends.
I think I better be careful.  Things can happen.

Happy Sewing

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Borders, Bias and tattoos

Sewing the Lonsdale dress reminded me a few things, for example, bias is my friend and a skirt pattern with multiple panels works a border print better than a simple A-line skirt.
Email question:
"Can I use an A-line skirt pattern with a border print? I have a silk border print and an Indian Sari with a beautiful woven border.  I haven't tried border prints and I am terrified to mess them up!"

This illustrates why I would not use a simple A-line skirt pattern on border print fabrics.
The border will be cut off by the curved hem in an unappealing way.
Instead, use a skirt pattern with more panels.  One simple solution is to simply add a seam at the center front:
The difference is that the grain line marking has been moved FROM the center of the skirt, to the CENTER OF EACH NEW PATTERN PIECE.  This will make the skirt a little drapier, too, now that the seams are more on the bias.  This is often more flattering, depending on your figure and your preferences.
And I wanted to get back to anon, who asked "why aren't you underlining the skirt?  Is it because it will affect the drapey-ness of the fabric?"
Answer:  Yes, underlining will change the hand (the drapey-ness) of the fabric, but no, that isn't why I chose not to underline.  I was more concerned about the hemlines of the lining and the skirt and I want them to hang freely.  It's possible that the fabric will continue to settle over time, much like a building settles into the ground.  If the underlining fabric settles a little differently than the outer fabric, I don't want any droopiness between the fabric and underlining happening to pull anything out of alignment.  Maybe this fear is irrational (this isn't the leaning Tower of Pisa, after all) and it would have been fine, but - that was my call on this one.  Plus I thought it would feel pretty and fluttery to have the dress and the lining swishing around separately.

The dress is almost finished now.  This progress shot is already outdated, as I continue to sew:
In this photo, the dress is basted together for a fitting.
In other news, my girl is coming home!!  She has lived, worked and travelled Asia for the last three years and I am looking forward to having her stateside again.
in Kuala Lampur, where it's hot and humid :)

in London where it is not hot and humid :D
the zebra is a souvenir from Bangkok
Unrelated note:  When we were at Couture Boot Camp, we went out for dinner one night.  I told Gertie, "Thank you for getting me comfortable with tattoos".  Her reply, "You did that yourself!"

Monday, August 8, 2011

skirt - hanging pretty

One of the things I like about the Sewaholic Lonsdale dress is the way the skirt pieces are designed.  When an A-line skirt has a one-piece front, with center front cut on the fold, it just sticks out and I don't like the look on me. 

But the Lonsdale is different - 
The grainline is marked on the pattern piece.  This makes the seams on center front, sides and center back on the bias.
Fabric fabric drapes differently - more gracefully - on the bias

Anon asked these questions on my last post:

Have you found any difference in the way the fabric drapes 
when you use the cross grain?

No - when I played with a sample piece, it seemed to work just the same whether I tugged on the grain or the cross-grain.  As soon as you start handling the fabric, pre-washing, folding, laying it out, etc, be alert for the behavior of the fabric.  I learned early on that I can't memorize a lot of facts and understand fabric.  I have to touch it and handle it and, well, abuse it a little bit.  To me, this is where you use your sense of touch to learn directly from the fabric.  If a little voice inside your head says, "no this sturdy waxed African cotton is not going to drape well in the dress I'm considering" - listen!! That little voice knows something.

Are you lining instead of underlining the skirt because the latter would affect the drape of the skirt?

Hmm, I am running out of time this morning, so I will post again tomorrow when I can fully explain this one.

Have a great day, more to come ...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Lonsdale dress - border print goodness

The Lonsdale dress is now underway.  I have been looking forward to this because I love the fabric and the pattern so much.
A quick layout to see how the border placement looks.   
I cut the skirt  on the cross-grain of the fabric to get the yellow border on the hem.  The bodice piece is cut on grain, and the pattern pieces fit easily along the border.  You can see how sheer this fabric is, so the bodice will be underlined and the skirt lined.

Today is kitchen countertop installation and plumbing day.  Our kitchen update will soon be complete.  The glass mosaic tile will be installed on Monday, then on to painting.
The pretty glass mosaic tile for the backsplash sparkles.
For now, I think a cheeseburger is in order.  With each step of the renovation, I get a little better at handling the chaos & stress, but I will be so glad when it is finished.  May we enjoy this space for a long time to come!

~Happy Sewing~

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Knit dress #4 of 4, done!

My wardrobing goals are pretty modest.  I need to get dressed quickly and easily so I can get to all the other things that interest me.  This comment validated my desire to slap together some wardrobe basics:

Michael Kors: I wear the same thing every day. I always pack two black jackets, loads of black T-shirts, loads of white jeans. I feel a little fresh and glamorous and graphic.

For me, the summer requires knit dresses and I sewed 4 of them.
Now I have time to pursue the fun stuff.  I love helping other people.  I love getting your emails, especially when you have questions and pictures.  Back when I was super busy, I got some very supportive emails and I did not have time to respond.  Thank you so much for your support - it makes blogging a very rewarding endeavor.

Fun stuff:

Sewing for other people - I love it when I pick the pattern, I pick the fabric.  My sewing mojo gets bored with me.   I get to sew different colors and styles and I get odd pleasure from dressing someone the way I want to see them.  This is not unlike playing with Barbie dolls.

Tailoring - I think I will work on a coat project before August ends. I want to finish the coat I started at the NYC Sit & Sew, and I want to sew the vintage Butterick coat pattern I altered earlier this year.  Handling wool in August is kooky, but it puts me in a good mood knowing cooler weather will come.  It really will.

Have a great day, I gotta run - 
Happy Sewing!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Summer Garden Dress - in teal & mustard floral

Here is a look at the fabric I found at Metro Textiles for a Lonsdale dress:
This is a silk/cotton blend.  It's light as a feather and a little sheer.
After taking measurements of bust, waist & hips, we placed elastic on her body to identify location of the top of the bodice, the waist and hips.  That provides the measurements necessary for the first pass of pattern alterations.
Based on her circumferences, we went with a size 10 at bust and waist and size 8 at hips.  [what??  who has smaller hips than bust?  can I still like this person?  pfffsss]  Based on the measurements between [but seriously!  the next time she says anything at all about me being tall, I am hitting back, and hitting hard!  just maybe I would like small hips, did you ever think of that? oops...]

As I was saying, I used the measurements between the elastic bands (that we had placed around her hips, waist and upper chest) to come up with a petite adjustment and a teeny sway-back adjustment.

Oh look at that, ha!  I use Snag-it to capture screenshots and I forgot to close the "blemish removal" tool.  I was smoothing out the appearance of the table top.  Well, now you know my secrets! I use iPhoto editing tools and Snagit.
Optimism is the way I roll.  I thought I'd have time to trace this pattern, make flat pattern adjustments AND sew a muslin last night.  Ha!  I am not planning to become a pessimist, but those expectations were unrealistic.   

What next?  I will take this with me to work today and tissue-fit my guinea pig friend.  What have I got to lose, right?  I have read Fit For Real People (by Palmer and Pletsch) and watched the video many times.  I tend to read Fit for Real People for fitting solutions.   As you probably know, FFRP champions tissue fitting as the fastest way to achieve a great fitting garment.  In my experience, it hasn't worked so well- I accidentally ripped the tissue, ruined the pattern, and cried about "why is my body so weird and hard to fit".   I don't cry about my body anymore, because now I know we all feel that way.  

But I am going to be careful and see if I can do it.  I can always sew a muslin tonight if necessary.
I will let you know how it goes!