Memories of Sewing in 2013

December 30th, 2013 - 

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I returned to sewing this year with high hopes. I have exited 2013 with not much I’m proud of, but a lot of good experience.

Top 5 garments include:

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  1. Wedding dress
    - Might have liked a smoother hem line from front to back, but otherwise no complaints
  2. Adam’s second western shirt
    - Nice colors, looks good, well-loved, highly complimented
  3. Honeymoon shift dress
    - I wear this often with a cardigan, but don’t much like it without one
  4. Wiksten Tova
    - This shrunk and I grew, unwearable now, but loved in its time
  5. Pair of booties (unblogged)
    - Given to my mother-in-law for X-Mas, handmade leather foot bed, good color/fabric selection, stash-buster, and real cute

A message for me in the future:

  • Fabric bought on the internet could be see-through, ergo pain. Try not to buy it
  • There is muslin fabric to be had at every thrift store, cheap. Buy it. You now have no excuse to avoid making a muslin
  • Learning to embroider will make you want to buy an embroidery machine. Do not do this. Everything you want in an embroidery machine is $1000+ and you will never find it cheaper EVER
  • Figure out what RTW styles look good on you and search for patterns that match these styles
  • Stop making shift dresses, they look horrible on you
  • Spend time fitting one pattern in each category that you will actually wear and make them many times over
    - Leggings
    - Panties
    - Sleepwear
    - Pants
    - Cardigan
    - Fun dress
    - Work dress
    - Jacket
  • Please lose weight, you have gained too much weight, it is becoming difficult to fit you
  • Buy nice fashion fabric in-person that looks good with your skin tone
  • Stop buying fabric without a plan
  • Use your stash
  • Thin your pattern collection
  • You do not need another Craftsy class
  • When your wearable muslin does not fit, adapt the pattern and move on. Stop trying to edit the muslin. Just donate it if it’s nice. That’s someone’s size as-is and when you toy with it you always ruin it
  • Every four items you make for yourself, make something for him or a friend
  • Make one child’s pattern before buying any more children’s patterns, you are not even pregnant
  • You were right, quilting cotton does not look good in a garment, still avoid
  • If you finish the edge of your quilt, you will have a quilt, instead of a pile. Apply this wisdom to all areas of life
  • Continue to challenge yourself

2014 Goals:

  • Make a jacket
    - Minoru with existing canvas
    - Trace and remake favorite RTW coat
  • Test a new western shirt pattern for Adam
  • Make something from each Burda magazine
  • Finish both knitting projects from 4+ years ago
  • Make the window drape you planned to make for the kitchen
  • Make one vintage dress from a vintage pattern
  • Find at least one TNT pattern
  • Meet another who sews, attempt friendship
  • Make shorts
  • Finish and mail Dad’s shirt
  • Make Mom a cardigan
  • Create better fitting garments
  • Make better color and fabric selections

Overall, as a sewer, I feel very confident going into 2014. I’ve had a lot of missteps, not all of them blogged, but my think muscle is stronger for it, and I feel like I’ll see a lot of improvement next year.

Vintage Pattern Haul

December 12th, 2013 - 

Adam and I had a very successful trip to Savers last weekend and I found a ton of vintage patterns!

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These Vogue patterns are gorgeous. Look at these details!

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Ooh la la pockets.

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Love this silhouette.

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Side gussets! Ah!

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The way Savers packages their patterns, I lucked into these vintage patterns as well.

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Darling little neck ties.

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I will probably use this little V neckline in something.

I am beginning to see a need to thin my pattern collection. I’m overstuffed. But it’s so hard to pass these things up!

There’s just no way I’m getting through 2014 without attempting to sew my first vintage dress pattern.

Simplicity 1609 #2

December 3rd, 2013 - 

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I did it again! Simplicity 1609.

The fabric is a crinkled polyester from Vogue Fabrics bought on sale for $1.99/yard.

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As with my first purchase from Vogue, the striped pink cotton lawn, it is a little see-through, so I fully lined the dress.

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The lining fabric was purchased at Arc’s Value Village. I love looking for fabric and notions at thrift stores! I found a bunch of amazing stuff last weekend.

I used my old self-eased template from the first version. Except this time, I removed the center seam. I actually think it drapes a lot better! I will probably not make this dress again with two front pieces. I am eating my words about how much easier it is to size with a center seam. Derp.

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One thing I hate though is how long it was to begin with. I cut 4″ off the bottom hem. Sometimes the scale of things is not preserved in larger sizes, I’m finding. The envelope shows the hem falling just above the knee, and in my size, it fell a few inches below the knee.

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The cap sleeves were a nice addition this time. I used the cap sleeve option in Simplicity 1880.

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The collar called for interfacing, but my fabric was so stiff to begin with, and my main fabric so flowing, I’m not really sure the collar needed all the additional structure of interfacing. This was probably a job for organza and I just messed up. It did lead to the first time I ever edge stitched something to my lining fabric. Ooh la la.

The green buttons are a vintage find from my mom. My sole supplier of buttons. The collar fabric has been seen in the bodice of an earlier project.

Total cost: $10 fabric + $0 pattern + $2 thread + 8 hours

I thought this dress came together rather quickly, but there was some ripping out of stitches when I started to install the sleeves, and I did have to cut and sew the dress panels twice, essentially, to fully line the garment.

After this dress, I really feel like I can achieve anything. Again, I ignored instructions, and just did it out of instinct, which saves a lot of time. I sewed the shoulders, then the neckpiece, then the sleeves, then the side seams, then the back seam, then the hem. I’m really proud of the construction on this one!

Simplicity 4417 D #1

November 27th, 2013 - 

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I found Simplicity 4417 (size 6-14) at a thrift store and saw some potential in it as the basis for a simple negligee. The pattern was partially pre-cut, which didn’t bother me, since I planned to make a lot of changes anyway. To start, I would have needed a 16, plus I wanted to add in some ease to avoid the side zip and I needed to lower the hem to make it skirt length.

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I am into creating wearable muslins right now, considering my large remnant collection is getting out of control. The main fabric for this project was a remnant from Jo-Ann Fabrics. I had slightly less than 1 yard to work from and was very excited when it seemed to be enough. It’s pretty and silky, but polyester. I have some nice silks I’d like to make this in later, once I perfect the fit. The lining fabric is a silk charmuese.

This was my first time creating little delicate fabric tubes for straps. It was frustrating, but I did it somehow. I literally can’t remember how. I must have blocked the memory.

Lately I’ve stopped reading pattern directions and just dive in. Here, I made the tubes first, then sandwiched the end between the main and facing fabric pieces and sewed it into place at all four points, then sewed the sides of the bodice in a continuous line, right side to right side at the side seams, and pressed the seams open, before attaching it to the skirt, so there are no raw edges in the bodice. I also did a French seam in the skirt.

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To keep bulk out of the hem, I just serged it, turned it under, and stitched .25″ from the edge. I love when I can hem like this. It’s so simple.

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I thought at first I would enclose the raw edges of the bodice/skirt seam into the skirt somehow, but now I think I’d rather enclose the seam with bias tape. I ran out of the main fabric and have enough of the lining fabric to make bias tape, but it’s time to move on. This is something I will try to do on my second version.

I still don’t know a lot about adjusting pattern sizes (slashing and spreading and whatever). So while technically this “fits” and “works,” the side seams don’t line up in the bodice and skirt, and the shoulder straps are a bit too far out, I’d like them closer to the center of my body where they will not fall down so much and possibly feel more comfortable.

I have made some adjustments to my already-adjusted pattern, and hope to start a new negligee soon!

Total cost: $5 fabric + $1 pattern + 4 hours

Note: this would not take nearly so long to make if I was able to turn a fabric tube more easily and didn’t have to rip out and re-attach the skirt which I initially put on backwards. Derp.

Magic Kingdom Dress

November 16th, 2013 - 

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We left for our honeymoon the morning after our wedding, and spent 7 days going to theme parks in Florida.

I knew I wanted to make a few dresses for the trip, and this one was meant to be worn at the Magic Kingdom. I thought maybe it would equal the park’s optimism.

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The fabric is a cotton lawn I picked up on sale from Vogue Fabrics online. It’s my first time working with lawn, and I thought it was pretty nice! Mine was quite transparent though, so I backed it with a pink lining fabric. It showed through the fabric somewhat to make it look even pinker. I used a thrifted, vintage zipper that picked up some of the blue.

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The bodice comes from Vogue 8755 (a personal favorite, very comfortable) and the skirt is a modified version of…something vintage. I forget. Anyway, I used 5 panels for the outer skirt and 4 panels for the lining skirt. I used pre-made bias tape to finish the neck and arm holes. The lining gave me some trouble so I just used my serger to finish that edge, and I sandwiched the lining to the fashion fabric panels and serged those edges before sewing them together. Worked out pretty nicely!
magickingdom_dress_5I thought I would have to retire it after the trip, since it’s no longer warm and summery in Minnesota, but I still decided to wear it last week with a cardigan and boots.

Total Cost: $7 fabric + 6.5 hours

And how was the honeymoon? magickingdom_dress_1

Wonderful!

 

Wedding Dress Recap

November 15th, 2013 - 

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Having zero experience and moderate confidence, I believed I could sew my own wedding gown and I did.

A year ago, I had only sewn quilts and unfinished or misshapen garments. Knowing this, my then-boyfriend-now-husband still assumed I could make him a Western shirt. I like him, so I tried.

After completing the first Western shirt, I was utterly impressed by own achievement. So much so, I figured I could probably make more garments. Even a wedding dress. I was relieved by the thought.

I was already sick from looking at wedding dresses online, never finding the right one, and being totally put off by the price or quality of each one. I figured it was time to commit to making my own, cobbling together the best parts of the dresses I’d seen, and inventing something unique just for me.

I knew that this project was out of my experience level, so I approached it very gradually.

I found the “looks” I wanted in both the Burda Princess Dress 11/2012 #121 pleated skirt and the top from this Simplicity 4070 cocktail dress.

My hemline was inspired by this Embellished High-Low Gown by Oscar de la Renta:

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Oscar de la Renta can do no wrong.

The tone of our wedding was inspired by the prom scene in Back to the Future and I wanted something that fit our evening but also met my criteria:

  • Suitable for dancing all night
  • Something I wouldn’t trip over
  • A neckline I wouldn’t fall out of
  • Not white
  • Sweetheart neckline
  • Pockets
  • Tea length hemline
  • Could still be identified as a wedding dress

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I feel very happy that I have achieved most of my goals.

The bodice has boning in its underlining, for structure and support. This was a challenge for me. I spent a lot of time agonizing over how to properly insert boning. I read a ton of books about corsets and undergarment construction but never really found the “how to” guide I wanted, which would use exhaustive details and pictures to describe the process of creating a beautiful boning channel. You would be surprised how many books have words in them, guys. What I needed was photojournalism.

In the end, I realized that what’s in this dress isn’t visible — it’s not a sexy corset or anything like that, it’s just a support structure — so I cut corners. Considering I would only wear the dress once, it didn’t matter much to me if the boning was slightly distorted by the end of the night.

Therefore, I used Dritz Featherlight Twill Boning — a kind of plastic boning with a stiff cotton channel — and I didn’t bother ordering the spiral steel boning that more professional corset makers and sewers seem to use.

The invisible zipper in the back gave me some anxiety. When I started the project, I still had my old Kenmore Mini Ultra and I couldn’t figure out if there was a zipper foot available for that machine. While waiting for zippers to make sense and accessories to appear from thin air, I sewed more, grew more confident, and decided to buy a nicer machine with many presser foot options to avoid the headache of inserting a zip without the right supplies.

Buying my Janome Sewist 500 was definitely the right choice. I’ve never been happier sewing than I have been the past few months with a decent machine. To call the purchase life-changing is probably an understatement.

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I don’t mind saying that I did an incredible job inserting my first invisible zipper. I also found an innovative way of attaching the full zip down the bodice and into the skirt of the dress, hiding it in the folds of the pleated skirt. Bringing that concept together felt amazing.

The skirt had extra fabric in back, along the zipper, and the zipper extends about half-way down my rear. This allowed me to get into the dress more easily because with the flap and zipper open, I had a lot more room in the waist and bodice. Of course, that flap of fabric needed to be attached back to the skirt once I was zipped in, which I achieved through four “hidden snaps” in the bustle area.

The additional fabric also meant more fullness in the “train,” which is what I wanted. I really agonized over how to do this, but once I just bared down and pushed forward the answers luckily fell into place.

I’m so grateful that I spent time during this project to take breaks and work on other things. It improved my skill level tremendously and helped me build confidence for eventually returning to this project that was, at first, out of my ability and, at every moment, very important to me.

I did agonize and think on every little bit of this garment before making my decisions final in the cloth. I hope the end result is something, though, that looks effortless!

Elvis sang me down the aisle and married us, it was very special

I tried to build volume within the dress by lining the top pink and under magenta color with organza, but wasn’t convinced it did enough to achieve the full look I wanted in the skirt, so a few days before the wedding I bought a petticoat for more volume.

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There is horsehair in both layers of the dress hem. It was a real process involving a lot of hand-sewing and I didn’t document the process but it was pre-tty cool, guys. Pre-tty cool.

I covered a headband with my dress material so that explains the matching. My dad asked for a tie made of my dress material too, a few weeks out from our wedding day, but I was unable to deliver on the request.

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I actually sewed all of the gold table covers (20) in the weeks leading up to the wedding. I might go over this process in another post. It’s not mind-blowing, just interesting. Anyway, that project took up a lot of time at the last minute and I’m still sad I never got to make my dad’s tie.

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Not that he “needed” it. He changed into jeans as soon as he could after the ceremony. Classic Dad.

It’s good that I finished my dress early so I could accept a few additional projects like my headband and tablecloths that came up near the wedding date.

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BUT ALSO. Having our outfits ready a month ahead allowed us to get this photo stand made, which our guests clearly enjoyed at the party. Much love to Jacie of Moss Love Terrariums for taking the photograph of us that we used in the stand!

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Adam’s coworker made this Airstream cake. In lieu of gifts, we asked guests for money to help fix up our 1978 31′ Airstream Sovereign

Well, I had a lot of fun making this dress. I somehow paced the work just fine. I didn’t get too stressed or screw up anything or have to buy my gown. I did spill a lot of champagne on it that night, but I’m sure that’s just the hallmark of a good time.

Someday I would like to make another fancy dress. And I should. Because I still have 7 yards of this fabric.

Simplicity 1609 #1

November 4th, 2013 - 

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At some point I got the idea in my head that I really needed to wear Simplicity 1609 at my bachelorette party. Simply had to do it.

At the outset, I was clear on the pattern but not details of what the dress would look like.

Because the pattern is designed to be close-fitting, I really wanted a fabric with some give, so movement in the dress would be easy. I also wanted some flow to the dress, so adding in side ease was something I wanted to do as well.

Snooping at SR Harris, I found what I was looking for: a one-directional stretch knit in a fall color pallet.

I just love SR Harris. I think about not living near a discount fabric store at any point in my life and it sounds like such a downer. I never forget how lucky I am to have so many garment fabric options.

They also  have huge tubs of leather scrap, buckles, straps, and decorative cowl pieces, things I look at but don’t usually buy.

For this project though, I thought one of the cowl piece (lace applique) would be fun to use instead of making the scalloped Peter Pan collar, so I stocked up on a few possibilities and hoped one would work out.

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Very happy with my pick! I think it pairs nicely. Unfortunately, since I’d never bought one before, I learned after reading the receipt that they are $3 apiece. Probably buying 3 in one go with no plan was a mistake.

For this dress, I did make a muslin — two muslins.

I know, basically, that Simplicity is not sized like Vogue, since my earlier failed attempt at making a shirt for myself based on my commercial sizing. So, instead of cutting a size 14, which seems to be my commercial and Vogue size, I cut a size 20, going on bust measurements alone and hoping for the best. I think I will be better served next time by finding my shoulder measurement on the pattern and grading to the bust, but for now my wonky fixes seem to work.I know a lot of people hate that front seam, but I really found it useful for adjusting the fit. I took in about 2″ at the front center seam at the neck and graded it down to the bust, then let out the dress gradually from the waist to the hem for more ease. I took in the pattern from the top of the bust dart to the arm hole on both the front and back, and in back I took in the zip a little at the top and graded it out from “rear end” to hem. A lot of adjustments, but I’m very happy with the results. This could be my go-to shift dress pattern from now on.

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Photographed later in Hogsmead on my honeymoon.

I couldn’t find any “how to” guides online for applying the cowl, no matter how I looked.

Basically, I decided to approach it like lace. Which I’ve never done, but have read a lot about.I placed the detail over the dress front, pinned, sewed the shoulders with a zig-zag, and straight stitched the cowl along its U shape, closest to the neck. Then I cut away the underpart and left about 1/3″ — which I then edge serged, folded and pinned down, then straight stitched over through the cowl along its U shape farthest from the neck.

I used pre-made bias tape along the armholes beforehand, and used the same bias tape along the back of the neck hole after I applied the cowl.

At first I thought I would attach the applique with clear thread — but that was a mondo bust. It kept breaking and bunching and it’s very difficult to handle. In the end I machine sewed it to the fabric with matched Dual Duty XP Heavy thread I had in my stash. I thought it would be too visible, but it actually looks pretty nice. In the process, my machine did skip some stitches — some of which I ripped out and re-did — but what imperfections remain are a-okay with me.

Total cost: $13 fabric + $3 cowl + $2 pattern + $3 thread + $1 bias tape + $1 zipper + 14 hours

And how was the bachelorette party?

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I had a good time.

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They made me a sushi penis at Masu! AMAZEBALLZ.

I will absolutely be making this dress again, in a few different styles. I’m satisfied with this first make, but I’d like to revisit the pattern and use it to help me understand which shoulder size I should grade to in my next attempt at a Simplicity pattern.

I’d also like to make a few other shift style dresses to compare fit.

How To: Covered Headband

October 22nd, 2013 - 

I’m getting married on Saturday!

I’ve made my own dress, so I’ll post about that later.

When I bought the fabric at SR Harris I was brand new to sewing, so I had no idea how much to buy for a full-length gown. I was also concerned I would fail and have to re-make large portions — so I got 10 yards!! Still cheaper than buying a new dress, and more personal, but that’s a lot of fabric I have now to deal with.

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Which is why, when thinking about the kind of hair piece I wanted, I decided to cover a headband with my dress fabric and go all matchy-matchy. Here’s how I went about it:

  1. I found a hard plastic headband that was already covered. I wanted to see how “the professionals” did it. What I found was that most of the fabric had been glued in place. I decided I would sew mine instead.
  2. It was important that the headband not have teeth, it needed to be flat and smooth. The teeth wouldn’t do any good covered up by a silky fabric — it would have just been too bulky.
  3. I traced the headband on some paper (laid it flat and traced both sides while I rolled and stretched it along) and added .25″ seam allowance.
  4. I made a muslin and it was too small — .25″ seam allowance was not enough to account for the surface area along the edge of the headband.
  5. I cut one piece with a .25″ seam allowance (the underside) and one piece with a .375″ seam allowance (the top side) on the grainline (not on the bias).
  6. I matched the edges on one side and both ear pieces and machine stitched those areas with right sides facing using a .25″ seam allownace
  7. I trimmed down the seam allowance and snipped along the ear pieces, then turned it out, slipped the ear pieces of the headband into their holes — a nice tight fit!
  8. I stretched the top fabric around the headband to its underside, folded over the bottom fabric (trimmed it a bit first, maybe .25″ — due to stretch) and hand stitched it along the seam, using this method, making sure that the seam line fed along the bottom of the headband (not along the edge of the headband), and was hidden.
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  9. DONE! The “pretty” machine stitching will go in the front and the hand stitching in the back. An enamel flower tie clip (I think that’s what it is) will finish the look.
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Going in for my hair trial tonight!

UPDATE:
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McCall’s 6747 #1

October 17th, 2013 - 

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I thought this dress could be done with a dressier fabric and buttons to make for a nice work dress, but my first attempt is a big flop.

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Adam says it looks like pajamas and now I have trouble seeing it any other way. I wore this to work once, I always try to wear my makes once, but I think it’s pretty awful.

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This fabric with the pattern seemed like a good fit. I really like the color, but it’s gross polyester with texture issues and I realize now this project just wasn’t a good match.

I think I bought the fabric at the 2013 Textile Center Garage Sale for $3.

I’ve had issues before with lining a dress, so here I decided to stack the dress fabric with its lining on the body of the dress, serge the edges, and sew those stacked pattern pieces together.

Not a bad work-around, except when the pattern is new, and still needs adjustment.

This dress started too big, so I kept skimming off the edges, and the two slippery fabrics kept moving, so some areas of the dress look extra bunchy to me.

This process has been the fatal flaw of at least three dresses so far. I think I have learned my lesson. Hand slapped. Will not do again.

A good reminder for me to make a muslin as well, since I’m not true to any size and still have a lot to learn about fit.

Total cost: $1 pattern + $3 fabric + 7 hours

I can’t actually remember how much time I put into this, 7 hours is a guess.

I did hand stitch the placket together so it wouldn’t pop open when I sit, which is a big deal for me. I hid the stitching really well and that part I’m really proud of. Doing this to all of my shirts would be a great idea.

Mash Up: Vogue 1289 + Simplicity 4070 #1

October 15th, 2013 - 

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This dress has the bodice of Simplicity 4070 and the skirt of Vogue 1289.

I’m incredibly happy with the results!

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This bodice uses boning and is a copy of what I’m using in my wedding dress. It sewed up very quickly because I didn’t have to do any fitting on the skirt or bodice since I had already sewn them before and was able to use my me-adjusted pattern pieces. (Well, the bodice I adjusted, the skirt was always just fine.)

The skirt fabric is a nice jersey that was “made in Germany” and therefore a little more expensive than fabric I usually buy at SR Harris — this was $7.50/yd when I usually buy at $4.50-6/yd — but I thought it was lovely and worth it. Adam totally hated the weird boxy print at first, but I still thought it had potential.

I used a black rigiline boning — .50/yard at SR Harris — sewed directly into the seam. I didn’t build a channel or anything. I just wanted this make to be easy-breezy.

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I still need to add a hook and eye to the top of the zipper.

The zipper I got at SR Harris for like $1 or whatever they charge, and it’s kind of unusual. It’s big, but the zipper teeth are hidden on the inside of the bodice. It’s not a perfect hidden zip though, because the teeth are still so large, so I think it’s meant to be exposed. I did just a little, but I think it’s interesting nonetheless.

The exterior of the bodice is a stretchy fabric I got as a Jo-Ann remnant years ago. The lining fabric is a silky black that I cut from a wrap I wore to a dance when I was a junior in High School. The wrap was just hanging out with my scarves, being useless. How is it I’ve been moving with a black wrap for 10+ years of my life? Why? Glad to finally do something with it.

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Here is something I might as well document: I needlessly raked part of my skirt through the knife of my serger just under the pleating on the side of the dress. So I hand stitched that together and you can barely tell. Could have been a real day ruiner, but thankfully it hides well within the print and drape.

What happened is, I sewed the skirt to the bodice before serging the edge of the jersey because I wasn’t sure the pattern pieces would fit together and I wanted to be able to stretch the jersey if necessary to fit with the bodice. Well, it actually fit pretty great, I didn’t need to stretch a thing. But now I’ve got a lot of unfinished jersey inside. I didn’t want to serge the bodice and skirt together for some reason, so I tried to serge just the skirt edge, after it was attached, despite the rigid bodice fighting against me. Anyway, in the struggle I lost focus and part of the dress caught. It’s not the worst, but if you look inside now I’ve got about 2″ of serged edges on the skirt and the rest unfinished. I’m not going to bother at this point. The jersey will likely curl, not fray. Maybe in round two.

Total Cost: $0 pattern + $15 fabric + $2 thread + 6 hours

I still can’t believe how easily and quickly this dress sewed up, and how nice it looks — probably my favorite make to date — it was a real bummer to add this imperfection, but what can you do.

Very excited to wear this on our honeymoon. Should be good in the heat!