Monday, May 20, 2013

A Good Excuse to Make a Dress

Our friends, Jessica and Johnny, were married May 11. I met both of them through church choir but was friends with Jessica first. When they finally started dating we had them over for dinner and games and got to know Johnny better. We are so happy for them, they are a great couple. The wedding was full of love and excitement, everyone was glad to see them married. There were a few very touching moments: when the parents of the couple came forward at the beginning of the ceremony to pray over them and the best man's speech just blew me away. They have wonderful friends and family who will support them in their marriage, it is so wonderful to see that. It seems much rarer these days.

For such a special wedding, I had to make a new dress. I made one in plenty of time and actually had it completely done a few weeks early, but it was too small. I wasn't sure if it would fit, but I went by the measurements on the pattern (ignoring the size number) with my fingers crossed. I can't even zip the thing up. I'm really not surprised and I wouldn't be so disappointed if I hadn't cared so much about the fabric. I bought it in Hawai'i when I was there the last time with my grandparents.

So, I threw in the towel on the Big 4 pattern companies and went back to my tried and true Colette. I had purchased their sewing book in the fall but not got around to making any of the patterns. Babies getting in the way of sewing seems to be quite common, I hear. Anyway, I decided on the Licorice dress pattern and found the fabric at


This is a satin/rayon blend lined with a light polyester. It's hard to see the pink roses in this light over the cream background.

I ordered the fabric in plenty of time but it didn't arrive until Wednesday afternoon. The wedding was on Saturday...

I was miffed about having to hurry through the process. This dress is lined for Heaven's sake! I prepped the pattern pieces ahead of time since I had been tracking the package and knew that the timing was going to be close. I made a size 10 on the top and a 12 on the bottom. I've started tracing my patterns to preserve them better. This also allows me to lose (or gain) weight and still be able to make the pattern without having to buy it all over again. This is fine for the Big 4 companies whose patterns go on sale for 99 cents, but I'm not OK with it when I've spent $16 or, as in this case, it comes in a book.

So, yeah, I went to bed at 1:45 am on Friday night/Saturday morning. I kept telling myself it wasn't my fault, I didn't procrastinate after all. I forced myself to go slowly on this dress because I didn't have time to mess up. The fabric was very difficult to cut out as it is very slippery. I'm amazed the pieces came together so well considering how wonky they were. I think I'll try the tissue paper thing next time I decide to use a slippery fabric. Anyway, I felt like my mother on Easter morning. We had to be at the church at noon because I sang with the choir. It was a great thing that J&J wanted us to sing. They met in choir and wanted to include us all in the ceremony. The groom's mother is the choir director and managed to not cry until the last verse of the song. Most of us started tearing up then and barely made it to the end.

I should have had John take pictures before the wedding and the wrinkles set in. I realized as I was getting dressed that these colors are exactly my Grandmother Eunice's colors and I can imagine her wearing a dress like this in her younger days. I must be getting older because that doesn't bother me as much as it used to. It feels more like a tribute.

We took the photos at Green Lake while waiting for the reception to start. John made me take off the sunglasses, he said they ruin the look.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Cecelia's Dress

Our good friends Travis & Anna had a little girl, Cecelia, a few months ago. Since Anna is an avid quilter, I thought I would make something different for the baby. About the time I was thinking about what to do, Made By Rae announced a free version of her Geranium Dress. Yay! Problem solved. 

I raided my stash and had just enough of this lovely green eyelet to make the dress. Little clothes use a surprisingly small amount of fabric.


 This fabric is so fun. I think I bought it to make a top quite a few years ago and as I recall it was an utter failure. That was before I knew anything at all about sizing. I think it probably went in the trash in a fit of frustration. I liked the fabric so much that I kept the scraps, hoping to use them for something later.

The pattern calls for snaps, but I used hooks and eyes instead. I sometimes find that snaps don't hold up well with something that is worn a lot.

Here is the lovely model, Miss Cece! Isn't she cute?!?! 
She is over four months now, I hope it still fits. 
I wonder if I have enough for a matching bonnet? I think she needs one.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


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Geometric Laurel

A bit of Audrey Hepburn channeling going on here...

My latest finished project is the new Laurel pattern from Colette. (I seem to be on a Colette kick lately.) A classic shift dress that promises to be repeatedly made in various versions and fabrics. This has to be the fastest and easiest dress I've ever made and was a much needed mind-break from a quite challenging skirt I'm working on right now. Also, a good jumping back in project since I've been mostly sitting on the couch staring at the TV and indulging my chocolate chip cookie obsession for the last month since the baby left us. My primary motivation was Colette's contest that coincides with the release of this pattern. 

I used just the two pieces for front and back and decided to leave off the sleeves since I wanted this to be a spring/summer dress. The fabric is a polyester I found at Pacific Fabrics and I used bias tape for the neck and sleeve edging. I had decided to not buy any more fabric for a while and try to use up my stash, but when I woke up the next two mornings thinking about this fabric I gave in and bought it. It is really not like anything I would normally choose but I do love it. Weird. I bought 3 yards so I'm sure it will make another appearance here sometime or other.

I made my normal size 12 for this brand, but I think it is too big, especially across the shoulders. For the next version I will go down at least one size and try to fit it (gasp!) a bit better. It's such a pain to do fitting but totally worth it for the finished product. I try to tell myself that, anyway, but usually am too impatient to bother.

Off to enter the contest and win lots of cash and prizes!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

New Outfit

One of my goals for this year is to make over my wardrobe from store-bought to hand-made clothing. I can hardly believe that I am even able to think about this since not that long ago I was afraid of sewing clothes at all, preferring to stay within the confines of my two dimensional quilting. While I still do love quilting, I got to a point where it just wasn't challenging me anymore.

Now that I have gotten better at sewing my own clothing, I find that these are the garments I am turning to when I want to look and feel my best. I have been increasingly unhappy with the clothing offered in the stores for their lack of good fit, quality, and uniqueness. We all have to spend good money on our clothing, so why spend it on something made with cheap fabric in a sweatshop that looks like everybody else? It does take a lot more time and energy to build a wardrobe this way, but it also has made me stop and think about what I wear, what I want to wear, and the idea of voting with my money.

But enough about that. On to the outfit...

Both pieces are from Colette's line of patterns. The top is the Jasmine pattern and the pants are the Juniper pattern.

I went with the recommended bust measurement for the top and it came out perfectly. I am always worried about the shoulders being too big, since mine are narrow, but this was just fine. I did have to ease from 5/8" to 1/4" seam allowance in the sleeves as my arms are apparently much larger than average. This is a common problem for me...whatever. This was my first time using a cotton lawn fabric and I am hooked! It was a bit of a splurge but so worth it. Not Liberty, though, since I still can't stomach the thought of $30/yard for cotton fabric. The top is cut on the bias and the stretch is equal to a light weight knit. I'm glad I took the time to trace the pattern since I will certainly be using it again.

The trousers are fantastic! As with the Clover and Iris bottoms, these needed no adjustment for me. The one change I did make was to remove the pockets, but you can't tell!

Pockets in pants just add bulk for not much benefit, so I thought I would try them without. It took some thinking but it all came out right. Perhaps I will do a "tutorial" on this the next time I make this pattern. (Like I know so much!) I love the wide leg style.

The fabric is a brushed cotton twill; so wonderfully soft and warmer than I expected. Hopefully not too warm for later spring.

And a view of the back:

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Backward and Forward

It seems I am late in the blogging world with my "year in review" post, but whatever. Obviously I have been silent for a few months (longer than I realized). Our life is in crazy mode right now as we are waiting to find out if we will be allowed to adopt our foster son and all the meetings and emotions that entails. Not that I'm trying to use that as an excuse for not blogging...but it is a good one. Another reason I didn't blog much this autumn was that most of my projects were failures. Everything from sizing weirdness to fabrics falling apart after a make was finished. Really frustrating! So I kind of gave up and spent some time thinking about what my purpose in sewing is and what I want to get out of it. Also, I spent a fair amount of time watching Netflix and crocheting under a blanket in a sulking state of "I suck at sewing". I got over it.

So 2012 was a big learning curve year for me. I started following a few professional sewing blogs as well as non-professional experienced seamstress blogs. I have learned a ton! Some of the highlights that I am choosing to focus on this year are:
     1. Trace patterns, don't cut them. This does add extra time to the process but it is worth it because it is so infuriating to have cut into a pattern, only to find that if you had made the size your instincts told you to then you would not now own a too small pattern and a too small garment.
     2. It is much easier to fuse cut fabric pieces to interfacing and then cut the interfacing, rather than cutting the interfacing from the pattern piece and hoping it matches up with the fabric. I have found that a tea towel works wonderfully for this.
     3. Full bust adjustments are a necessary evil. Hopefully they will become less evil as I perfect this skill.
     4. Slow down and enjoy the entire process of garment construction. Before I started making clothes I made a lot of quilts. My favorite part of the quilting process is the cutting of the fabric. There is something so exciting about using the rotary cutter, watching the squares piling up, and beginning to see the quilt's potential. Cutting fabric for garments is my least favorite and the most frightening part of garment making. I suppose this is because a quilt doesn't need to be exactly perfect in dimensions when it is finished, it still will serve its purpose but if garment fabric is cut incorrectly it is a waste of both time and money.
     5. Don't sew when I'm tired! Staying up late to finish a project that night just to be able to put the sewing machine away is not worth the mistakes that are inevitably made.
     6. Do not obsess over sizing! Part of the cause of so many failures this year is that I have not been honest about my body shape. For example, I have larger than average upper arms (made much bigger from carrying a 27 pound 10 month old). Patterns are not made with this consideration so I need to check the sizing and allow for it in the construction.

2013 is shaping up to be an exciting year for sewing. We have three weddings this summer which will all need to have a dress made. There are at least two baby quilts on the horizon. I will hopefully need to make a tiny little Easter suit! as well as my dress. I am determined to give more thought to my wardrobe and create garments I love and will wear. I hope that by the end of the year most of my wardrobe will contain clothes I have created, enjoy wearing, and reflect my style. I'm starting off with my two favorite designers: Colette and Sewaholic, and will be looking into Lekala's revolutionary and amazing approach to pattern design.

I am off to a good start. I just finished this top. Post coming soon!

Happy 2013!!