Thursday, September 25, 2014

Mod Top and Skirt in Cotton Interlock

Finally an opportunity to wear this little set, which has been complete for a few weeks now. Unprecedented: sewing in advance of the upcoming season!

Although I think it feels heavenly to wear, I've tended to avoid cotton interlock for clothing because it has essentially no recovery. Close-fitting garments made of all-cotton knits in general seem to get stretched out in a matter of minutes when they are worn (very high quality cotton knit is a different matter, but it is so difficult to find, especially in grown-up colors).

This length of teal interlock cost $2 at a yard sale, so I figured I had little to lose except my time. To minimize the sagging problem, I looked for looser fitting pieces that could benefit from a fabric with some heft. The initial idea was to make a top. Once the top was all done, quite a bit of fabric remained, so the skirt emerged from the leftovers.

Vogue 8699 is a firm favorite knit tunic of mine. This time I added two hip-level pockets, which worked out well, and I tried to add a sixties-style standup collar (like the collared version of the Tilly Coco top), which didn't.

Coco Top from Tilly and the Buttons

Maybe if I'd actually looked at the picture of the Coco top before cutting and applying the collar, I would have had a clearer notion of how to do it...

Anyway, my collar didn't stand up well, so I turned it to the inside and stitched it down. It looks kind of like a lumpy binding. Oh well. I'm fine with it. Next time I'll be a little more deliberate in my drafting.

The skirt is New Look 6856, an out of print pattern that I've had hanging around for a few years. Of course it's as simple as can be, but I do like the little skirt and I can see this being a useful shape for future makes.

I hardly need to say that this outfit is as comfortable as they come. I'm off to substitute at a neighborhood elementary school, and I am happy to be wearing my new teacher outfit, which I think might get a lot of use this fall as both separates and together.

Have you made garments--successful or unsuccessful--from cotton interlock? How did they wear over time? I would love to know.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

For the Record: Simplicity 2148


I b'lieve this pattern must be out of print now, and I'm not sure it ever took the world by storm, but  I always liked the peplum/pointy front view (now I also like the other view, minus the slouchy pockets; maybe I'll try that one soon). I made a test version and altered the pattern about three years ago and then never got around to a wearable sweater.

So I pulled this back out this year to make up a sweater for my petite mom. She doesn't like things overly long, so my previous alterations of shortening the bodice one inch and the peplum two inches were perfect for her. 

The fabric is a double-sided rayon/polyester ponte knit from FabricMart. Although it is appealingly soft and a nice color, the fabric did suffer in its prewash. It developed some faded lines (more visible on the back of the jacket) and it began to pill slightly. Good thing that this is going to my mom, since she is much easier on her clothes than me! I have a big white dog whose hair gets on everything, meaning I have to wash my clothes more frequently than I otherwise might do.

With the front flipped open, you can see the reverse side of the fabric
The hardest thing about this pattern is finishing the lower edge of the peplum. Different strategies will work better for different knits, but in this case I serged 1/2" strips of a very soft fusible interfacing to the hem, turned it up a generous 1/2", pressed in place and topstitched with a twin needle. This fabric happened to be quite cooperative with pressing and stitching. The pattern doesn't instruct you to miter the front corner, but I think that looks much better so that's what I did.

There are those lines that developed during prewashing

My mom and I both like the neckline and collar of this pattern. It isn't so much fabric that it is constantly flopping around, and the wrong sides are encased by the front band. Even though this style is probably not the most current or fashionable, I like how it hugs the neck and hangs.

The other slightly challenging aspect of the design is the inset corner at the shoulder. But the instructions are good and I didn't have much trouble making a nice sharp corner here.

The coordinating shell is Simplicity 4076.

It would be very simple to round off those dangly points in the front, and that's what I'd like to do in a sweater for myself. I like the pointy bits, but I have to confess that they might look a little dated.

My mom tried on the sweater yesterday and liked it, which was especially good since she seems to have just been diagnosed with cancer. I say "seems" because the communication with her primary care nurse practitioner has left something to be desired in terms of clarity. But we are working through the process and hope to know what she is facing soon.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Liesl + Co. Cappuccino Dress Returns to Its Roots

So, I understand that Simplicity 2245, the Lisette Portfolio dress designed by Liesl Gibson, is kind of a thing. After the pattern had been taken out of print, it caught fire on Pinterest and copies grew scarce. I believe they go for big money on eBay.

According to Liesl's blog, despite much customer interest and many requests, Simplicity decided not to reprint 2245. Reading a bit between the lines, I am guessing that copyright concerns prevented Liesl from reissuing the pattern in its original form under her own brand, Liesl + Co.

Original 2245

2245 Line drawing. The pants are cute too!
So Liesl + Co. reworked the design and released it in digital format as the Cappuccino Dress + Tunic.

I like the new design and I think the V neckline would probably suit me better than the original round neck. But when I showed the pattern to my friend Amie as part of our "smock project" to outfit her in comfy funky smocks, she preferred the round neck. I blithely assured her that redrafting the Cappuccino dress to return it to the original Portfolio design would be no problem.

And actually it wasn't a problem, though like all pattern drafting it did require some thinking and much studying of images of the original dress. This is a size 12, shortened 3" at the hem to hit Amie right above the knee for wearing with leggings or slim pants, over a long-sleeved t-shirt.

I'm going to show you a couple of photos of the inside of the dress, in case someone out there would like to try a similar "back to the future" adaptation of the current pattern.

The gray linen smock for Amie is actually the second version I made of the pattern. After downloading, printing (all 45-some pages!), taping together, tracing and altering the pattern, I felt a need to check it before cutting into the final fabric. Using a cotton print bought for little at FabricMart (specifically for making test garments) and a scrap of linen from Amie's Tosca Dress, I mocked up a trial version. Here it is pre-embellishment:

I brought in the side seams underneath the arms and through the bodice to see if I could make this muslin work for me, but it's still really too big for me to wear out of the house. And it is long! Not the hemline--though I shortened that six inches--but the distance to the pockets. I can hardly reach them.

Even though I couldn't see myself getting much use from this garment, I couldn't help but try to dress it up a touch, with an applique made from some very fancy Anna Maria Horner ribbon.

Now I honestly like the tunic, but the colors still look grim on me and the neckline is still too large. So I'm tracing out a smaller size at the chest and shoulders, and shortening it through the torso, and I will see how that goes. I can't imagine this shape being particularly flattering on me, but it could be so comfortable and practical for my everyday activities of writing, housekeeping, cooking and childcare. I think it would be great for winter worn over a warm turtleneck and warm leggings or pants as an upper layer to brighten things up and hold my phone and tissues. And think of the crazy possibilities for combining fabrics and trims...

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Here's Proof!

...of how cute the Tosca dress looks on my pixie-like friend Amie!

I also want to draw your attention to two very insightful comments on yesterday's post, in which I talked about how not-cute the dress looked on me.

First, from Steph of The Dashing Eccentric:

"What a gorgeous version of this dress! I've been a Tosca fan for years now, but haven't bought the pattern or made it up. You're tempting me!!! Lucky lucky friend :)

I see this type of comment popping up quite a bit recently. Certain shapes - a princess lined sheath, fit and flare dress, classic trousers - look great on the vast majority of people provided they're properly fitted.But there's a lot of other, interesting, unique designs which look great on some people but fall flat on many others. This often depends on subtler variations in build and proportion. This dress looks amazing on TerriK of Sew Sophisticated (she has pics on her flickr stream but i don't have time to search right now). Terri's a rectangle with a delicate build, high small bust and neat square shoulders and long, lean calves with nicely turned ankles.

Those figure types are highlighted and showcased with this design. If a person has a lower-set, fuller and more rounded bust with sloping shoulders this can start to make the top part of the dress look kind of bulky and droopy because the dress design accentuates and exaggerates that aspect of the person's form. If you have two people with the same bust measurement, but one's inches are mostly chest and less bust, while the other has a smaller chest but more in the breasts themselves you could get this type of situation (hope this makes some type of sense!).

These types of designs are wonderful to give life and style to our wardrobes, but they won't work for everyone. I adore Marcy Tilton's designs but i only look good in her V8876 dress - everything else looks terrible on me. But Marcy is a delicate rectangle, with a high small bust, whereas i'm a busty, hourglassy linebacker shouldered IT. Really, it'd be surprising if much flattered both of us with such different shapes!

But your case here shows that even subtler differences in shape can have just as dramatic a difference. I enjoy the challenge of educating my eye, but it can be so frustrating and vexing at times! 

I hope we get a picture of this wonderful piece on your friend sometime :) Happy Day! steph"

Oh, doesn't Steph just hit the nail on the head about how small differences in proportion can make architectural, sculptural designs like this one look great on one person and not great on another? And I do think Steph could wear this design magnificently herself, so make one already, Steph!! By the way, Steph's latest version of Vogue 8876 makes me think hard about finally making up this pattern for myself.

Second, the amazingly stylish Curtise of The Secondhand Years points out:

"The dress looks great, how nice of you to make it for your friend, but it would look just awful on me! As the commenter above observes, there are all sorts of differences of shape and figure which means that styles work for us or don't. As an hourglass with biggish boobs and hips, this style would disguise rather than accentuate the good things about my figure. But hey, wouldn't the world be dull if we were all the same! xxx"

Even though Curtise is shaped very differently than I am (i.e., she is a goddess), I think she's right--this dress wouldn't be a good look for her either. It would turn her statuesque curves into an undifferentiated volume of lumps!

So here's a great benefit to sewing for others: it gives us a chance to take a new idea for a spin, check it out and see if it might also work for us. As long as it works for its intended wearer, it's all good! And I do think this dress works for dear Amie, amazingly well. I'll enjoy it on her!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Tosca Dress from The Sewing Workshop

You will not be seeing this just-completed project on me for two reasons: first, because I made it for a friend and second, because it just wouldn't be fair to those nice folks at The Sewing Workshop. This dress looks so cute on my friend and so very bad on me. I amused my husband and myself by parading around the house in it last night. My friend and I are of similar size and height, so I don't know why it works so beautifully for her and so dreadfully for me, but such is the truth.

When Waechter's Silk Shop was going out of business in the spring, my friend bought their sample of this dress. She liked it so much she wanted another, so she ordered the pattern and the fabric and had me make it up.

For this version we omitted the top pockets.

Even with just the two lower pockets, it's still plenty pocket-y! The fabric is European linen in Fig from I enjoyed working with the fabric--it had a nice combination of weight, drape and softness.

It's not a hard dress to make, though the pockets take a good bit of time. This is a size small at the chest and shoulders, medium through the hip to hem. I reduced the length by four inches.

My favorite part of the project is a little brooch I made for my friend to wear on the dress. The pin on the back was still drying when I wanted to take a picture, so I held it in my hand. It's a combination of needle felting, free motion stitching and a little trapunto stuffing. I think it will be cute on the dress and I did enjoy making it!

Friday, August 29, 2014

McCall's 6891 Shirt Dress in Silk Noil

Sewing by the numbers, checking off my "needs, wants and requirements" list:
  • Solid color
  • Pockets
  • Collar
  • Stash fabric
  • Appropriate for summer to fall transitional wear

Making up a new-to-me pattern is always more exciting than embarking on a proven winner, and I loved the collar shape of McCall's 6891. Although you wouldn't know it from the envelope of this Palmer/Pletsch pattern, the instructions note that this dress is based on a 1947 Dior design.

From the fitting perspective, I found the dress very straightforward. I compared another well-fitting darted bodice to the tissue and found the necessary changes to be fairly minimal and easy to execute. This is a size 8 in the shoulders and neck, tapering to about a size 12 at the waist and through the skirt. I shortened the bodice one inch and took a generous swayback tuck in the back.

A more significant change was reducing the flare of the skirt to fit within my three yards of 45" wide silk noil fabric. I used another pattern as a guide, which helped me to adjust the curve of the waist to match the flare of the skirt. Do you always remember that the wider the skirt, the more extreme the curve of the waist? I don't. At any rate, the skirt is much less full than as drafted--maybe as much as 25" to 30" less circumference at the hem. But I used up nearly every scrap of the fabric even so. I had to piece the inseam pockets, using a strip of the garment fabric as a facing at the edges, but switching to lining material for most of the pocket bag.

The biggest challenge of all was deciding what to do about buttons. Nothing at Hancock Fabrics was exciting me, self-covered buttons seemed too boring and I was having a terrible time picking out a button online. I wanted to try out a mixture of different vintage buttons, but I wasn't sure how to handle making different-sized buttonholes for varying sizes of buttons. Some of the ones I most wanted to use were really too big for a dress anyway. The solution was snaps sewn invisibly under the edges, with the vintage buttons applied on the outside. Wow, that was a lot of hand stitching--eight snaps on the right, eight snaps on the left, eight vintage buttons on top--at least to my mind.

I'm not positive how I feel about the buttons, but the good thing is I can change them out, since there are no buttonholes. It would be hard to make myself cut off all that hand sewing, but it wouldn't hurt the dress at all.

The only review for this pattern I found online is over at Cotton Creek Sewing--love her blog and her finished dress is gorgeous!--but she was, oh, shall we say, not a fan of the instructions for sewing the collar and facing. I consulted Claire Shaeffer's Book of Sewing Shortcuts (my enthusiasm for which I have mentioned before), which had some good points on this method of sewing collars. I took a few construction photos, but I just don't have the strength (or really the thorough knowledge) for a full tutorial. I am including the pictures, and the encouragement that I found the collar construction achievable. Just a different point of view from someone who is a booster for the convertible collar style and who would hate to see this pattern passed over entirely.

Under collar applied to bodice

Upper collar applied to facing

Inside corner detail, upper collar applied to facing, trimmed and pressed
This is actually my second version of this dress--I will show you the first just as soon as I get it hemmed and photographed.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Kwik Sew 2935 Birthday Shirts

My sweet stepfather turned 75 a few days ago, and I decided to repeat a popular past gift: a short sleeved camp shirt. How lovely that he wore his first Virginia-made shirt (from 2010, according to my note on the pattern), to his party today.

Version One of Kwik Sew 2935 in crinkle rayon

Holding up the card I stitched for him
These photos of this year's shirt don't do it justice. I took some other shots this morning while wrapping it, and then just a few minutes later my phone was, well, I don't know what it was. Hijacked? By porn vendors? My husband declared that only a complete reset would do, so the photos were lost. Here is the shirt after it had been passed around the party, and then hastily flung onto the pool table as my son was trying to drag me out the door.

The fabric is a dreamy cotton shirting from the late, great Waechter's. It was so cooperative. The main challenge of the project was matching the plaids. I think that turned out pretty well.

And here are the pictures of me wearing Butterick 5925, as promised. These photos, too, are not quite what I would like them to be, but my camera remote seems to have given up the ghost, so my husband kindly took some shots. His composition is good, but the light was so flat and gray that it's difficult to see much detail in the lace in the wide shots.

Being silly, but you can see how the back side panels wrap around to the front in this shot.

Wearing a lace camisole from Coldwater Creek underneath

And here I am just showing off one of my big pumpkins, along with my shorter haircut.