Monday, April 6, 2015

Vogue 8876 Renovation + Wardrobe Contest

First things first: inspired by your comments and good ideas, I made some changes to my Vogue 8876 sweater jacket from my last post. While I feel better in the 2.0 version, I'm not sure the resulting garment will be quite the wardrobe workhorse I had originally envisioned because:

I removed the sleeves and made it into a vest.

Usually, when I am chilly enough to need a vest, I am chilly enough to also want an extra layer on my arms. The adage "if your torso is warm, your whole body will be warm" isn't true for me. I decided in this case, however, to do what I thought would have a better chance of producing a successful garment rather than what suits my usual functional requirements.

In addition to removing the sleeves, I picked off the bias trim at the hem and shortened the length slightly, and I reduced the volume of the lower part of the garment by a whopping 12"! The reduction in fullness was achieved by sewing both the front and the back pleats closed through the hemline and by taking in the side seams by 4" per side. I could still hide an early pregnancy under there, though I certainly don't plan to. Now the piece looks roomy rather than completely overwhelming.

So, that's the update on the Vogue 8876 front. On to new business.

I sewed up a very simple pair of pants (worn in the photos above) on Saturday. Any elastic waist pants pattern would have done the trick, except for my TNT (tried 'n true) elastic waist pants pattern, which has mysteriously become less billowy recently. I can't imagine what could have caused that to happen...

In any event, I used Butterick 5203, size 14, shortened on all the petite lines plus an extra 1 1/2" at the top of the waistband (otherwise I think the waist would have reached nearly to the bottom of my bra band) and an extra 4" at the hem (to make the cropped length). I've had such rotten results with pants of late that I decided to skip adding pockets or any other details--expending only the absolute minimum effort necessary to test the pattern and, as it turns out, end up with a wearable garment.

The fabric is a black rayon challis from FabricMart. It was on sale and inexpensive but it feels fantastically light and cool, and the nice drape makes it as flattering as a loose-fitting, elastic-waist pant is going to be. At the lower edge, I turned up a 1 1/8" casing and inserted 1" elastic to make a sporty gathered cuff.

This picture is so much like the others! My husband has limited patience for this sort of thing.
The top underneath is Butterick 5954.

It was only after I finished up these oh-so-basic pants that I realized a new Pattern Review Wardrobe contest started on April 1. Whether or not I will actually enter the contest, I decided to sew along with the concept: a full capsule wardrobe of nine pieces that work together.

The contest wardrobe consists of:

  • Four tops
  • Three bottoms
  • Two items of the sewer's choosing (could be a dress, a jacket, a cardigan--whatever)
I have so many new motivations for wanting to sew a different kind of clothing just now! For one thing, I have become entranced with the work of Katy Bowman, a biomechanist and author whose basic message is that we need a whole lot more movement in our lives. An hour of exercise per day, no matter how intense, is not enough to maintain a healthy human structure and biology. As startling and unrealistic as this idea seems at first, after reading Katy's work for a while, I am starting to see how I might be able to incorporate her suggestions for adding more movement to my day while still getting life done. But pretty, whimsical dresses are not exactly the ticket when one wants to alternate between walking, standing, sitting on the floor, stretching and hanging from a bar throughout the day. I need movement-friendly clothing! And I want it to be compatible with comfortable, not-very-restrictive bras and minimal/barefoot shoes.

Second, I am taking on a new "job" supporting business development and marketing for my husband's new architecture practice. Since my former professional networking wardrobe is ten years old, too small and too stuffy for Asheville in any event, I need new versatile pieces that work in a casual business and community environment.

More movement or not, my size and shape are changing in the second half of my forties. I vow to fight on, but today's reality is a more middle-aged form! This translates into a need for a shift in my ideas about the kinds of clothing shapes that flatter me. 

Finally, I feel ready for a change. I am really excited about trying some new things. And I definitely need some new basics in my closet--most of my every day items are overdue for replacement.

That all adds up to excitement for the Wardrobe Contest. I also finished two new (very basic tops) over the weekend, which I will show you soon.

What do you think of the contest? Can I convince you to join in, officially or unofficially?

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.