Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Vogue 8876 Mixed Media/Mixed Emotions


Marcy Tilton's Vogue 8876, nominally a dress pattern, has been on my list to make for a good while. This jacket version was very much inspired by The Dashing Eccentric's version and by Marcy Tilton's discussion of using the dress pattern to make a vest.


My reaction to the style and construction is positive, to the specific outcome I've achieved here is ambivalent. Among other quibbles, these photos reinforce my conviction that the plaid hem binding has got to go!

What I love, number one: the organic cotton sweatshirt fleece fabric, purchased here in Asheville at a warehouse sale from Spiritex, but I believe this is the same fabric available by the yard from Organic Cotton Plus. I linked to the navy blue color, as they don't seem to have black in stock. I would love to get some navy.

I made a long sweatshirt out of this fabric in the early winter and I bet I have worn it at least 50% of all the days since then. It is just heavenly: soft, breathable, warm without making me sweat, beefy and non-clinging. The fabric also washes very well. It has almost no stretch, so I thought of making a casual jacket with a little extra "something" to make it special.

Finding organic, comfortable, durable fabrics is not easy. Finding them in exactly the color or print you want can be flat-out impossible. If I want to use these fabrics, I need to find a way to embellish or manipulate them. Plain black isn't my best color, so I tried to think of how I could incorporate another color, preferably brown or rust, into the piece. Color blocking is a "no" for me--too harsh.

So I tried bleach dyeing. Following instructions from various pins on Pinterest, I laid a lace curtain over a cut yard of the fabric and sprayed it with a 50/50 mixture of bleach and water. Unfortunately my spray bottle was very dribbly, so my results weren't as precise as they might have been, but I was satisfied with an abstract outcome. I love the color bleach on black produces.



The bleach dyeing process is fast, too: I pretty much finished spraying, let the piece sit for just one or two minutes, and then put it straight into the washing machine. It's important to rinse the bleach out immediately, unless you actually want it to make holes in your fabric.

What I love, number two: the shape of the neckline and collar. Could this be more perfect for ladies of, cough, a certain age? The long, narrow oval is so flattering, especially once the stand-up collar has been added. Unlike so many higher collars, this one stands away from the neck enough to not irritate the skin on my jaw. I used a contrasting cotton for the inner collar, since it seemed that two layers of thick sweatshirting would be too bulky. Despite my concerns about bulk, I did use lightweight interfacing on the lower collar, and I am glad I did.



Virginia's rule of thumb on interfacing: if you are asking yourself, "Should I use interfacing here?", the answer should almost certainly be yes.

What I like: the topstitching and zipper details. Good job, self.

What I am unsure about: the length and proportions.

What I don't like, number one: the amount of fullness in the lower part of the jacket. It is just too much in this bulky fabric. I may go back and stitch the back pleat all the way down to the hem to pull it in. I'll baste it in first to test.


What I don't like, number two: my oversight in not realizing that these sleeves are intended to be bracelet length. I added a bit of length in cutting, but not enough to turn up a hem and still have a full length sleeve. Now I'm not sure how I want to finish that edge: not at all? serged hem? add a cuff? Also, I added some volume to the sleeve cap to make a gathered sleeve, but I didn't add enough. The gathers lack oomph. So I need to remove the upper parts of the sleeves and reduce the sleeve cap height, and then reinsert the sleeves.

What I hate: that hem binding, which I thought would look so sharp and cool, but which is too much of a contrast and just generally wrong.

I still have some work to do here, but I wanted to show you the jacket in its unperfected state. Experience has shown that, if an item is not blogged soon after its making, it is unlikely ever to be blogged at all. My clothes live a hard life, full of Great Pyrenees hair, sweaty dancing and perfunctory laundry practices. Once they are in the regular rotation, they don't look pristine for long!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Jalie 2563 Sport Bras, Meet Hot Yoga

Classic marketing research from the 1960s concluded that a prospect needs to hear about a product or service three times before making a purchase. Later research expanded that number to five times, and then seven, and so on. I can't even imagine how many times I must receive a marketing message these days before making a novel purchase or behavioral change, but it's exponentially larger than three.

Whatever that magical number, hot (or Bikram) yoga finally reached it and I decided to give it a go about four months ago. Even though I'm not fully convinced by some of the claims (notably, that sweating a lot "detoxifies" the body), I instantly loved it with all the fervor of a new convert. And you know what that meant: new sewing projects!

The joke is somewhat on me, because the answer to what one wears to hot yoga is really, "Not much." Even the most modest outfits tend to be form-fitting, because wet sweaty fabric draping around the body creates a very unpleasant sensation. After a bit of experimentation, I concluded that the ideal combination of items for me is: sports bra top or tank plus capri length athletic leggings (tight fitting, not loose or bootcut).

I also discovered that the RTW sports bras I already own (one by Moving Comfort and one by Panache) were, to my surprise, overkill for yoga. There isn't much of a need for support, since there is no jumping around whatsoever. I started out wearing my highly engineered bras with a tank top, but eventually I had to concede that these bras don't really allow for unrestricted arm and shoulder movement. They do give my breasts a more "lifted" appearance than compression bras, but I have now obtained the yogic enlightenment to decide I don't care so much about that anymore.

Jalie 2563 is a predictably wonderful starting point for all sorts of sports bra concoctions. I have now made both views in size T multiple times.

View A, lengthened to tank length with an inner shelf bra made from Powerstretch:


The main fabric is activewear knit from FabricMart, which is soft and stretchy and perfect. It looks all linty and pilled here, but this is the fault of my washing machine, which is leaving tons of lint on everything these days (any tips???).


View A made in all one color by combining the panels:


I think it makes a lot of sense to combine the panels into one front and one back piece for the inner layer of the bra top, even if you are doing the color blocking on the outer layer. Fewer seams to create bulk and potentially chafe. It would have been nice if Jalie included such an option. For similar reasons, I sewed the outer layer and the lining each as one complete bra, and then attached the two wrong sides together. This way, the shoulder and panel seams are enclosed within the layers and feel smoother against the skin.


View B, per the pattern:


Both the outer and inner layers of this bra are made from an activewear knit from Hancock's with a high percentage of lycra (I think 10%). It is nice and firm. I think this particular configuration is the most comfortable of the bras I have made, with the stipulation that I am unhappy with my foldover elastic choice. This is the 3/4" unfolded size, and it just seems too thin and delicate for the task. Everything stays in place just fine, but the scale strikes me as wrong. Unfortunately, the 1" unfolded size of FOE is very difficult to feed through lingerie sliders, even the 5/8" size. I'd love to find a better source for high quality FOE intended for binding activewear.



View B variation, tank length with inner Powerstretch bra:


Sorry for the unhemmed lower edge: I need a walking foot for my Bernina 1090 and a new twin needle before I attempt hemming a stretchy knit again.

For this variation I trimmed the back piece straight across on the upper edge.


This is the wider foldover elastic, here applied with a regular old zigzag.


Inside out, showing the Powerstretch inner bra:


And inside out, from the back. Straps are simply zigzagged into place, but you could use lingerie rings and sliders to make the straps adjustable. When I can avoid that, I like to. Less hardware, less adjusting down the road. But I did just buy a pack of 25 clear rings and sliders in the 5/8" size on eBay for $7.50 (so, so much less expensive than at Hancock's or Joann's).


And, the fanciest-looking variation, another View B takeoff:


The rings make the straps look adjustable, but the truth is I made them too short the first time around, and then had to improvise a fix. This thicker FOE wouldn't go through the lingerie sliders, so the rings are just for decoration.

Even though this variation looks a little complicated, it's simple to do. Instead of enclosing the front edge binding in the armhole binding, extend the neck binding for 20" or so on each side. You can reinforce the spot where the two bindings meet with a little zigzag tack if you want. I haven't done that yet, but I will if the area starts to show signs of strain.


So many more variations are possible!

On a different note, check out this amazing deal on eBay for Patagonia sports bras for $5 each. I got two and I really, really like them. Very comfortable and the construction quality far exceeds what I can produce with my domestic equipment. I will be buying at least four more for wearing every day. These are, as I understand, military surplus. That means they are only available in sizes M and (in some other auctions I saw) L. The color is...I don't know...beigeish, greenish drab. It's not a color I would wear on its own, even in hot yoga class. But for the price and the workmanship, I love it!



Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Ruffly Hello

Golly, it's been a while.

One thing: Lindy Focus, the week-long camp that brings over 1,000 people to Asheville to celebrate vintage jazz music and dance. A very exciting and action-packed week builds up to New Year's Eve--which I skipped this year, due to overload and exhaustion.

I led a new project for the event this year: a real-time event blog to record and reflect on some of the event happenings. So instead of sewing new dresses for six nights of dancing this year, I led a team of bloggers and wrote and edited a whole lot of blog posts. The project made for a wonderful baptism by fire into WordPress blogging, so who knows? Perhaps I'll use my new skills in this space...though my plans are not yet clear, even to me.

Happily, the photos from Lindy Focus show a dress I never did manage to record once it was completed, the striped sweetheart ruffles dress. It's a mashup of a Simplicity 2174 bodice, self-drafted shoulder ruffles (wish I had made them wider!) and the skirt from McCall's 6503. Even though it fits in the upper bodice, it takes the lingerie guards I sewed in at the shoulders, plus a fair bit of fashion tape to keep my undergarments hidden. The fabric was from Waechter's Fine Fabrics going out of business sale. It's a rayon challis. Even though I now love the colors and the print, this design is one I know I would never have bought if it hadn't been a serious bargain.


Perhaps you remember or share my rule: no strapless bras...ever!

This is our local dance group. As I'm sure you can see, I'm on the right. FYI, I am purposely showing my vintage pink lacy slip at the hem of the dress--it's very pretty lace and I like it with the ruffly feeling of the dress.

There is one new dress in my life--which was intended for Thanksgiving--in a hilarious foodie rayon print (from FabricMart). It didn't quite make the deadline for our trip to Missouri to visit my in-laws at Thanksgiving. I surprised myself by finishing it up after we got home, all except for the hem. And there it waits for my mom to help me mark it.

This hem marking has been very much delayed by the illness and ongoing hospitalization of my dear step-father, over a month in duration so far. So, indeed, there have been things (enormous group blog projects, ill family members, other work and family activities) that have conspired against sewing, especially of the frivolous dress variety.

But I notice that there are other things I want so much to write about: my new interest in Bikram yoga (!), a natural cosmetics line I am liking, how breaking my smartphone has improved my life...and surely more. Chat soon.

And be sure to check out the bearded lady in the picture above--amazing, no? She is a makeup artist and theatrical costumer who likes to push it to the edge. And beyond.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

New Look 6298: My New Bestie


You know how I (and lots of other bloggers) am always like, this dress is nice, but if I had done this, or if the fabric were that, or next time I will change this? Yeah, I'm not going to say any of that stuff today! I am happy with this dress, without qualification.

I have some very, very similar patterns (including another New Look raglan top which could easily be lengthened), but I liked the pattern illustration and the general vibe of this dress so much, I went ahead and coughed up the extra $4 to have the best possible chance for success.


Normally I avoid the New Look patterns that start at size 10, as this tends to be too wide for me at the shoulder. This time I cut the 10 through the waist, tapered out to 14 at the hip through the hem, and did a 1" swayback adjustment. After putting the pieces together, the shoulder area was indeed too wide, and I took in the center back about 3/4" and back raglan sleeves 1" each--for a total reduction in shoulder width of a huge 2 3/4". But it was an easy change and everything else suited me fine. It would be possible to take in the side seams as much as 1" per side for a closer fit, but at the moment I feel satisfied with the roominess.

Could definitely be more fitted, but I like the looseness for now.
The shoulder dart worked well for me.
One reason I was eager to make a success of this version was my fondness for the fabric, a quilted polyester doubleknit from FabricMart (recent, but sold out). On the website, only the striped side of the knit was shown. I was so thrilled when it arrived to find that the "wrong" side had an adorable pattern of "x" shaped cross stitches. Both sides were so appealing that I wanted to find a fun way to use them both. The possibilities are endless, but I am happy with this combination. Wish I could get more of the fabric!


The one change I made was to the neckband. New Look included a different kind of pattern piece than the type I have seen before. Instead of a straight band seamed in the back, it was a notched pattern piece meant to be sewn together in a mitered v-shape in the front. That went together fine, but then I couldn't get it sewn onto the garment edge well. I needed two more tries to get the neckline to work out using the more common method (with a little pleat to form the vee at center front). First I used a narrower band like the pattern, just with the joining seam in the back. With the bulkiness of my double-layered fabric, though, it was just too narrow. I cut another band wider, and used a wider seam allowance. The pattern specifies 3/8" for the neckline, which would normally work great, but not in this fabric; 5/8" worked much better.

Pockets!
We all love pockets, and these are big! I didn't sew them exactly as directed--that would have made them stand away from the body slightly. I know from previous experience that I don't like that. But pinning them flat was no trouble and it worked out fine. These pockets have a stitched hem on the top edge and turned under edges on the side fronts and bottoms. The side seams are sewn into the garment side seams.

I've already made another version...in fleece! I did change the pockets in that one, since I didn't want to turn under an edge in fleece. The biggest disadvantage of the fleece version is that, once I have it on, I will not want to take it off until May. It's a slanket to end all slankets. I'll show it to you soon.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Burda 7734 Hooded Sweatshirt in Fleece




My son has never been a great one for posing for photos, but I think he's getting less cooperative as the birthdays go by. Here he is in his mom-made 15th birthday present, a fleece hoodie.

There might be more to say about the shopping for the supplies to make this garment than about the sewing. The Polartec fleece came from FabricMart for a great price. In addition to the main blue color, it has some faint fibers of black, which was very fortunate when it came to pairing the fleece with notions like a separating zipper, ribbed cuffs and waistband and the cord for the hood.

Real, honest-to-goodness ribbing is something I don't usually source or incorporate into my projects, but in this case it seemed that having a nice stretchy fabric with great recovery at the cuffs and hem would make the shirt much more polished and therefore more exciting to a 15 year old boy (or to my forty-something husband, if the boy turned out to not like it). I looked out a source at The Rain Shed, which is based in Oregon. They have two weights of ribbing, both of which look very nice on the website, but since my fleece is a regular weight, I went with the Standard Ribbing rather than Heavyweight. I also ordered the coordinating seamless ribbed cuffs. The quality is nice and the weight is perfect. There are quite a number of colors to choose from, but in this case black was the best choice.

The 24" separating jacket zipper and the black cord at the neck also came from The Rain Shed. I was a bit concerned about the time required for shipping, since the supplies would be traveling from coast to coast, but I ordered on Saturday morning and had my package early Monday afternoon. One thing to mention is that you cannot order directly from The Rain Shed's website: you must call in your order. The phone staff was friendly and efficient, though.


Online reviews indicated that this sweater runs small and short, so I made the next-to-largest men's size, a 42. It looked very large while I was working on it, but it seems like a pretty good fit on a rapidly-growing teenage boy.


Instead of turning a hem to the wrong side on the pocket edges, I fully lined the pocket with a thin black polyester ITY knit, which made a better edge on fleece. The pocket was turned right side out, topstitched along the angled edge, and then edgestitched into place along the top, side and bottom edges. The pattern's instructions for the zipper edge were odd to me: it asked you to turn the center front seam allowances to the outside, baste in place and trim to 1/4". The zipper tape was to be applied on top of those seam allowances, enclosing the raw edges. That might be good for a sweatshirt knit, but the fleece would have made a very bulky edge, so I applied the zipper in the "normal" way and then topstitched it.

You can't see it in these photos, but I taped the hood/neck seam edge with black twill tape, a finish I copied from an RTW hoodie.

My son is always asking me to sew more for him. He didn't have a whole lot to say about this sweater, but he's hardly taken it off since I gave it to him, so I guess that means it's a success! I hope to make him and my husband more of this style, since it is so ubiquitous and popular.

Here is the pattern, Burda 7734, which is out of print:



Thursday, October 30, 2014

Wonder Woman Revealed!


This shot somehow makes me look a lot taller and thinner than I actually am. Any ideas how to get this effect without a camera?!

I think the Wonder Woman costume was a success. I did enjoy the gratifying phenomenon of having my friends look at me without recognizing me!

Next time, I would go for shorter cuffs with grommets. The elastic loops didn't hold up very well. Everything else performed great.

I appreciate all your cheering about the contest, but I was one of the judges and therefore ineligible. One winner was an adorable sewing friend who made herself into a letter (vintage slip with love phrases written on it) in an envelope (square tunic with airmail markings and address) worn over the slip. I hope to get a picture to share with you!

Would you believe it, I think I am going to have another opportunity to wear this costume tomorrow?

Friday, October 24, 2014

Knit Tunics: I'm Collecting 'Em



And here's a quick one! Another Butterick 5954, this time the un-crossed-over version. Basically a long roomy t-shirt. I need, like, about 70 of these.


Side view, showing how the hem is longer in back.


And the back view, showing all kinds of imperfections in pattern alignment/matching/sleeve fit, but my God, it is a t-shirt. What I would like for you to notice is that the center back seam allows for a lot of flare over the booty without a lot of looseness above the waist. In fact, the pattern has so very much flare that I took bunches of it out (four inches out of the center back seam at the hem, and another inch on either side seam).

I chose not to use a cowl neck on this top so that I can wear scarves with it and layer it. For the cleanest neck finish, I used a technique which is included on a few patterns I own. For this technique, you apply a neck binding in the standard way, but then you understitch the seam allowances to the binding and turn the binding completely to the wrong side. The binding is then topstitched in place close to the folded edge.


Even though this fabric, an ITY knit I just received from FabricMart, is not very sheer, I still thought the dots might show through if I used the same fabric for the neck binding. I had a little piece of white lycra knit left over from my Halloween costume, which has the additional attribute of being stretchier than the fashion fabric.


This binding technique should really be used more often, because it looks neat and it is very durable. It puts a whopping five layers of fabric into the neck edge, so it is not good for bulky or thick fabrics.

I used a narrow band to finish the cuffs. The lower edge was tricky to hem (stitches were skipping badly), so I had to use some strips of very lightweight knit fusible interfacing to stabilize and fuse the hem into place before topstitching with a twin needle.


Only 69 to go--good thing they are quick!