I’m pretty slow at getting around to actually making something from an inspiration. How slow? Well, the inspiration for this make was a dress worn to announce the engagement of a couple who has subsequently married, had a child, and gone on a tropical vacation without said child. Yeah, it’s been a while. In fact, it’s been so long that Simplicity released a knock off pattern of the dress, I bought it, and it has since been discontinued. So while when I initially saw the dress all that time ago, I thought “I can hack that”, I waited long enough that I didn’t have to. See, it was a cunning plan all along! Yeah, no it wasn’t.

Simplicity 2145 front 3The dress is, of course, Simplicity 2145, based on now-Duchess Kate’s engagement dress heard ’round the world. What possessed me to finally make it up now is beyond me. Just before the opening of my show last month, having been suffering from a certain sewing malaise, I thought I’d pull my sewing-with-a-deadline trick and try to make a dress in two days, for opening night. I chose this pattern somewhat at random, but it fitted my requirements of being not-too-hard and suitable-for-winter and already-have-appropriate-fabric. But for once my deadline game didn’t work, and on opening night I only had cut out pieces of a dress and I had to wear something else. So I reassigned my deadline to Valentine’s day the following week. (I finished it in time for our Valentine’s dinner, but why am I just blogging it now? Clearly the excitement for this dress is slightly lacking.)

I pulled the perfect fabric out of my stash (hooray!) – a really nice, heavy, matte ITY jersey, almost certainly from the Crazy Fabric Store in Solvang. Sadly, I hear that the CFS has closed for good. Such a bummer! Granted, for the last year or two it hadn’t really had anything good, but I will always appreciate all the fantastic basics I found there over the years. I have a bunch of these nice heavy solid ITYs from there. Bizarrely, now that my source has dried up, I’m loathe to use them, but this seemed like a worthy use of one of the good cuts.

What I failed to realize, all the way up until I was about to cut it out and I went on PatternReview for some sizing guidance, was that this is inexplicably a pattern for woven fabrics. What? Kate’s dress was jersey, it looks like a million other jersey dresses I’ve seen, I would never in a million years think to make this pattern in a woven. Of course, that could just be my knit-lover’s bias. But still. I did cut my usual size 10-top-12-bottom with a little bit pinched out of the neck line for an SBA, because the ease didn’t seem too bad and I didn’t want it too tight. Where I ran into problems with the woven-to-knit conversion was with the front wrap pieces. I tore out that part of the side seam three times trying to get the right amount of ease in the wrap pieces – too loose and they drooped down in the middle, too tight and they pulled the back tight and gathered the front at the sides in an unattractive manner. I think I reached a good balance finally, or at least a good enough balance.

Simplicity 2145 front 2I made just a couple other adjustments. The sleeves, in addition to being drafted for a woven fabric, have a weird cuff pleat detail that I didn’t want, so I subbed in the sleeves from Simplicity 1716 (because I had it to hand) and they fit well. I also stopped sewing down the skirt pleats at the waistline, so the pleats would open up right under the wrap pieces. I initially shortened the pleats in back too, but they opened up in an unflattering place on my bum, so I went back in and sewed them down to the marked end point. It’s not the best fit in the back, still – I suppose I really should start making an actual swayback adjustment.

Simplicity 2145 backThe last woven-pattern weirdness I had to deal with was the neckline. It calls for a facing, of course, and of course I never want to do facings. I was torn this time, though, because the facings would give it a nice clean look with no visible neckline stitching. I almost went with the facings… but then I came to my senses. The facing would never turn under neatly and stay there in this poly jersey. So I resorted to my usual clear elastic/twin needle neckline finish. I’ve had a request for a close-up view, so here it is. I zig-zag clear elastic to the wrong side, 2/8 of an inch away from the edge (it’s 3/8ths elastic, so that makes the edge at 5/8ths), then I fold over the neckline along the edge of the elastic and topstitch with a twin needle.

clear elastic neckline detailYou can see the wide zigzag stitch that is from attaching the elastic to the wrong side, and the tiny narrow zigzag from the twin needle. The twin needle tunneling is worse on this dress than usual because I missed the elastic – usually I get the twin needle line closer to the edge so it sews through the elastic, minimizing tunneling. But, I was in a hurry, so I called it good enough. The thing I most love about this technique, particularly for poly knits and other unpressables, is that the clear elastic creates a nice hard edge that looks sharp without all that mucking about with turning the edge under just right and pressing. It’s also a super stable neckline that won’t stretch or deform. I can’t take credit for this method – I’m sure I encountered it somewhere on teh interwebs, though I’ve no idea where – but I love it and use it on all my v- or crossover necklines.

So, all in all, a nice, practical, dressyish winter dress. I must say, though, that I’ve caught spring fever bad and am no longer interested in making anything with sleeves. And the 80-degree weather we had last week has been backing me up in this regard. But, since it doesn’t actually get warm enough again here to go sleeveless until September, I think I can’t dive into halter dresses yet… so I’ll just have to keep dipping into the inspiration archives.

Back in early January, when everyone else was making very sensible resolutions to stash diet, I got sent to Los Angeles for two weeks for work. So, what was I supposed to do with that opportunity? Not buy fabric? So I guess I’m a yo-yo stash dieter… because I binged a bit in LA. But from now on! Oh, who am I kidding. I’m not strong enough to stash diet. But here’s my spoils, so all you more scrupulous stash dieters can live vicariously through me.

LA haul jan 14

The top row is my haul from my favorite fashion district haunts: a nice teal doubleknit and a small piece of striped knit from the Michael Levine Loft, and a lovely drapey charcoal jersey, super stretchy drapey avocado jersey, and a great print poly-lycra from the FIDM scholarship store (which I finally arrived at early enough to spend more than 5 minutes there). The blue print is obviously perfect for a DVF wrap dress, and the stripe for the top of another wrap dress if I can find a good contrasting print for the skirt.

What I didn’t find downtown, though, was bottom-weights, so I actually went into Mood for a minute and restricted myself to the denim aisle only. I found a great stretch denim and a black and white striped stretch cotton for (gasp!) more skinny pants.

But by far my favorite stop in LA this time was a new-to-me place on La Brea called The Fabric Store. They’ve been a presence in New Zealand and Australia for a long time, but they just recently opened an LA store to share the goodies with us Northern Hemisphere folks. Ms. McCall of Brown Paper Pattern clued me in to its existence, and was kind enough to take me there (probably because I bugged her about it nonstop once I saw what she’d bought there). From right to left I got: an awesome pink polka dot merino remnant for a skirt maybe, a blue and a green 200g merino jersey that is pretty much exactly the fabric my beloved Icebreaker bike jerseys are made of (finally! I can make real bike jerseys!), a lighter weight yellow merino jersey for a top, and a fantastic navy ponte knit that I’m going to make into a moto jacket with a pattern from the new Burda Easy magazine that Ms. McCall also generously loaned me. Oh, and my weird impulse purchase at The Fabric Store is the green and white print in the middle – it’s a cotton voile-like fabric with a cool abstract embroidered texture under the green bird(?) print – I’m thinking summer tank top.

But lest you think that the only sewing-thing I did down south was buy fabric, never fear! I also caught the (free!) Diane Von Furstenburg dress exhibit at LACMA. (Well, kind of at LACMA. It’s in a building on the corner of the museum campus, but the exhibit isn’t on their website at all, and I found three different addresses for the exhibit online… But trust me that it’s in the building on the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax and you enter from the back.) Basically, for the 40th anniversary of the wrap dress this year, they assembled something like 400 DVF dresses and put them all on creepy mannequins on step units sorted by color in a giant room. It was pretty amazing to see all those dresses in one space, and up close! Oh, I so badly wanted to touch them though. Is there a waistline seam? How is the binding attached? Is there a pleat or a dart under there? Ah, so frustrating. But still cool. It was interesting to see how that 70s jersey hasn’t really held up very well, and that some of the older prints were fabulous and some were the ugliest thing ever. Though the more recent dresses also were pretty evenly split between fabrics I loved and fabrics I would never ever buy. But I did find the section I fit in with! (The dress I wore was not my DVF knock-off, but a similar Butterick I made a couple years ago. Gotta wear a wrap dress to a wrap dress exhibit, right?) Obviously I am attempting a creepy mannequin pose:

me at DVF

And there were so many different kinds of wrap dresses! I took pics of the ones I want to copy… I fell in love with the halter wrap. One or two of these are going on my summer make list for sure.

DVF halter wrap

And the lace one is so. pretty.

lace DVF halter

And look at the front gathers on this one. Plus the parachute print!

gathered DVF

Anyway, it was a really cool exhibit and totally worth checking out if you’re in the area. It runs through April 1st.

So I’d call my work trip a resounding success in the sewing department. Except, of course, for all the sewing I didn’t do while I was down there. Ugh, I’m the worst kind of stasher! My stash in/out statistics are atrocious. Well, at least the Orange Terror appreciates my efforts…

OT on haul

Even after I got really serious about sewing my own garments, I never thought I’d make pants. They’re too complicated, I thought; they don’t really fit into my quick-and-dirty instant gratification style of sewing. I’ll just stick to those one-day-project knit dresses. But… then I stopped finding pants that fit in RTW. So I made some shorts. And they weren’t too bad. I still thought of pants as a big project, though – that is, until I made not one, but two pairs of pants in one day marathons. Two days, two pairs of pants. So, I guess they’re not the monster project I made them out to be.

Right before Christmas, I realised that I owned only one pair of long pants – not exactly ideal for a week-long trip to Northern Nevada. So with just a day before leaving, I pulled out the bag of Thurlow pants pieces that I’d cut out of a brown corduroy almost exactly a year before for the same reason, but I’d run out of time to sew them up back then. Not this time! So I hunkered down and pulled an all-day pants-a-thon and put them together in one afternoon and evening. Really, once you break down pants into little chunks of sewing, they’re not that hard. I just pushed through out of desperation, and I discovered that it is possible to make a complicated garment in one day, if it’s all you do… I find Project Runway slightly more believable now.

Thurlow cords front

Now, when I cut these cords out last year, it was after I had only made one pair of Thurlow shorts, and I hadn’t fine tuned the fit yet. I remembered that I had added a half inch to the rise when I cut them out, which I later determined wasn’t necessary, so before sewing I trimmed most of that added length off the top. I hadn’t really remembered that I’d cut a size 10, though, or it didn’t really occur to me that my last couple pairs of shorts were on the biggish side, so I was a bit surprised to find that these pants were much too big when I tried them on before attaching the waistband. I took them in at the side seams by maybe a quarter inch, then put on the waistband and basted up the back seam. And wow, there was a lot of extra fabric in the bum. And for me to say that, it means really a lot of fabric, because I am not lacking in the bum department. After some consideration I decided to take in the back crotch seam from the inseam to right where the basting starts by about a half inch, basically increasing the back curve substantially, and that solved most of the weird bagginess.

Thurlow cords back

They are, however, still just a little too big. I mean, they’re not falling off, but the additional ease of a trouser-style doesn’t play nice with this heavier corduroy, so they’re just not super flattering. (Plus, they are very wrinkled in these pictures.) Now, don’t get me wrong, they doubled my number of things-to-wear-on-my-bottom-half-in-cold-weather, so obviously they got some use, but they’re not my best work.

So I resolved to do better, next time. And although I have bravely resisted the skinny pants trend for the last, oh, 8 years or so, this incident really brought it home that maybe trousers and wide leg pants weren’t doing me so many favors after all, and just possibly it was time to see if skinny pants weren’t the evil I’ve always seen them to be. Plus I was going to an indie rock concert and, well, I wanted to blend in.

So in early January, out came the Trusty Thurlow pattern again, but this time also out came an ancient pair of RTW cropped jeans with slim legs that I love the leg fit on (but the rise is much too low, sadly, so they’re not worth copying entirely). I traced the top part of the Thurlow front and back, but – get this – in a size 6 hips grading to an 8 in the waist, something I should have been doing from the start, I think. I also increased the back crotch curve, as I had learned from the previous pair. Then I laid out my RTW crops on the pattern paper and did a quick and dirty trace of the legs, extending them to full length. I considered this a shot in the dark – after all, I’m not the sort to make precise measurements – but what do you know, it worked!

skinny Thurlow cords 1

I traced and cut the pants one day, then took the whole day before I left for Los Angeles for 2 weeks (more on that later) to sew them up. Hey, I knew it was possible! And when I pulled them on at the pre-waistband stage, they actually fit. Like a glove, really. I put on the waistband and rolled up the hem and suddenly I had a pair of skinny cords that I was willing to wear. Nay, that I liked!

skinny Thurlow cords top

Now, they’re not perfect, of course. I’m having a terrible time with the waistband pulling funny when it’s attached (I really need to find a walking foot for my old-style Bernina ), so the waistband lining shows a bit in front (but I never, ever tuck shirts in, so it’s cool). They also don’t have the best range of movement in the knee-bending department, so they’re not exactly bike suitable, sadly. I think I can fix that by giving myself a little more room in the calf and thigh areas, so the pants can slide up my leg easier when I bend my knees. Oh, and in my rush to cut them out and my ever-present but somewhat inexplicable need to use fabric in as efficient a way as possible, I forgot that corduroy has a nap and I cut the front pieces and the back pieces facing opposite directions… so the corduroy is fuzzy in one direction in the front and the other direction in the back. Oops. I’m hoping this is one of those things that only sewists would notice or concern themselves with. It is, right?

skinny Thurlow cords side

And I’m not sure if I got the grainline right on the pattern pieces when I merged the top with the new leg… The seamline seems straight on my leg, but when I fold them up the legs are all twisted. Is that okay? Are my legs just that weirdly shaped?

skinny Thurlow cords back

But, oh, I have big plans for this pattern now. I’m gonna try to jeans ‘em up a bit more when I make a denim pair by converting the back darts to a yoke. I already have the back patch pocket pattern that I traced off a pair of RTW jeans and used on both of these corduroy versions, and for future jeans I may try rounding the front pocket to more of a jean shape too. But the bones of the Thurlow, the waistband and rise, are such a good fit for me, I think I’ll never use another one. I’m so glad this pattern is proving to be so adaptable, and that pants-making has turned out to be not nearly the ordeal I assumed it would be when I first started sewing.

But don’t worry, I’ve got knit dresses on the brain (and on the cutting table) again, so I haven’t strayed too far from my roots…

Hey, it’s a new year! What’d’ya know. So do I have any profound thoughts on last year? A look back at my year in sewing, a cool collage, goals for the new year? Nope. I just can’t get excited about any kind of summing up this year. The second half of the year was so crazy and stressful and simultaneously flew and crawled by, and I really don’t know what to say. So instead, here is a thing that did get me excited: a wrap dress.

Yeah, I know, right? A wrap dress? Not the most exciting thing in the world. But hear me out: on New Year’s Day I went to see David O. Russell’s new film American Hustle, and I got bitten by the wrap dress bug. Hard. Now, I’m the last person in the world to like or appreciate 70s fashion. Because, wow, so much of it was so very, very ugly. But! In this (expertly costumed) film, Amy Adams wears a series of fantastic wrap dresses (and exposes so. much. side boob. Amy Adams’ side boob should get co-starring credit on this movie). It was like they (the wrap dresses, not Amy Adams’ side boob) were talking to me: “Hey, you like wrap dresses! Like that one there! You should make a classic DVF wrap dress right this instant!”

(source; plus an interview with the designer)

So I went home and skulked through my pattern stash, and nothing was quite right. Amy Adams’ dresses would not be satisfied if I pieced together a classic DVF wrap dress from random other patterns (like, for example, Buttericks 5454 and 5030, both of which I own and could have been cobbled together with little issue). Oh no. I was mysteriously compelled to drive 40 minutes to our nearest JoAnn the next day and buy the Vogue DVF ripoff pattern, 8379 (at least they were having a Vogue sale. Even Amy Adams can’t convince me to pay full price for a Big 5 pattern). Happily, I had the perfect 70s jersey in my stash already. This fabric has been cleverly avoiding being made into anything for quite a few years now. It was a very early internet purchase from FFC, one of my first fabric buys without a project in mind, and I’ve been pulling it out every fall since then, trying to match it with a pattern, but nothing has stuck. Clearly that’s because it was destined to become an awesome 70s wrap dress:

Vogue 8379

Whoa, print overload! Sorry about that. Though it somehow seems appropriately 70s to mix loud prints like that. (I’m still experimenting with photo backgrounds at our new house. This geometric print is home dec fabric that I covered one of the mirrored closet doors in the sewing room with, but I’m not sure it’s the kind of neutral photo background I’ve been looking for.)

Some notes on the pattern: I’m pretty sure I would have been better off with the Butterick hybrid. Sure, this is the closest pattern out there to the original DVF dress, but it’s not perfect. As many reviewers have noted, the bodice seems a bit short. I don’t generally make bodice length adjustments, as I seem to have a totally average torso length, but this waistline hits me just slightly above my natural waist. Not helping matters is the fact that I pinched a wedge out of the crossover length on the bodice as an SBA. It seems that whenever I do that the pattern didn’t need it, and whenever I leave it as drafted I have gapeage. Actually, if I make this pattern again, I will likely leave the wedge pinched out and just lengthen the bodice at the line indicated. I also folded out a little bit from both pleats, as I was afraid there would be too much excess fabric there for bust I don’t have (although I, unlike Amy Adams’ character, will be wearing a bra with my wrap dress. Clearly, the 70s were a looser time in more ways than one).

I also de-70s’d it a bit by eliminating the facings. On the bodice I zigzagged clear elastic along the neckline then folded over and twin needled (as is my wont), and on the skirt front hems I just folded and twin needled. I folded out all but 5/8 inch of the self facing on the skirt pieces before cutting. This makes the tie attachment a bit less elegant on the front, but it’s better that than the dreaded facing-flip-out. I’ve no idea how that was supposed to work. Oh sure, facings will totally stay put with just a little understitching on a thin, flippy jersey. Was poly jersey somehow more well behaved 35 years ago? Because this stuff was totally impervious to ironing. (Also to wrinkling, though, which is why I love it!) I further de-70s’d the dress by not using the collar or cuffs. I know, it’s much less authentic this way, but I finally (maybe) am strong enough to resist cool fashion details that just aren’t me. Finally, I took an inch off the bottom before hemming, to get a more flattering length (with the shortness of the bodice, before shortening the hem it looked like all skirt and no torso).

Vogue 8379 skirt

And in the end I think I like it. I’ve scratched the wrap dress itch for now, but I’m pretty sure it’ll be back. It’s just a silhouette I like, and it’s pretty easy. I know there’s been a lot of chatter out there about the potential for… wind-related accidents with true wrap dresses. I get that. I certainly wouldn’t ride a bike in this dress without leggings, but for everyday walking about it feels pretty safe. There’s quite a bit of skirt overlap in front. And while it might show a little leg if you, say, stood like Angelina Jolie at the Oscars, well, I think that Amy Adams’ side boob would approve of that.

Well hello! So work has been eating me alive recently, and although I have completed my Cordova jacket I have not photographed it, and I am now in the throes of Holiday Making, so I have here a most unseasonal garment to share. Because it’s almost Christmas, so clearly it’s time to blog about… shorts! Yes, this is a pair of shorts that I made, and wrote up, back in July, but never posted. So here they are (better late than never?) – let’s just pretend they’re for all those southern-hemisphere-sewists, and not just because an already-written post seemed like the only thing I could muster right now. Shall we?

•  •  •

My shorts kick continues! After making the floral-back tank, I found I didn’t have any shorts to go with it, since there’s brown in the print and so far I’ve got gray and black shorts only. And because, for a while, it was actually behaving like summer around here, I wanted to wear it with shorts. So the brown stretch twill I grabbed at the Loft in May got bumped to the front of the line.

Burda ThurlowsI was thinking I would just make regular Thurlows again, sans cuff, when a review on PR of a pair of shorts from my only issue of Burda caught my attention. See, without the review, I would never have noticed the cool pockets on these shorts. From the picture and line drawing, they look just like your run-of-the-mill plain shorts. But it turns out that the pocket wraps around the whole side of the leg. Burda really isn’t trying very hard to call out this design feature, so I’m glad someone else noticed and brought it to my attention.

Burda Thurlows side

But of course, now that I’ve got a shorts pattern that I know fits me pretty well, I didn’t want to just go mucking about with a whole new waistband and crotch curve. Time for a mashup! From the Burda pattern sheet I traced only the side panel and pocket pieces. I then laid out my Thurlow front and back pieces, overlapping them to account for the seam allowance, and laid the Burda side piece on top, centering it on the side seam. I marked where the new front and back seams would be in the middle of the Thurlow pieces, then traced them out on new paper. I compared my Thurlow front and back to the Burda pieces, and other than a drastically different crotch curve, they were roughly the same shape. I measured across the top of all three pieces (less seam allowance) to make sure the waistband would fit. I eliminated the back dart from the Thurlow and moved it to the back-side seam by shaving a bit off the edges at the top, tapering down. I ended up taking more off when I sewed it together, shaping the back-side seam more. The rest of the fitting I did with the back seam as usual. And it all went together pretty well.

Burda Thurlows back

I did have a slight bump when I was cutting. I laid out the pieces as usual, with the grainlines, only to realise after cutting out two pieces and the waistband that the fabric stretched the wrong way. I had never encountered this, so I didn’t think to check, but this stretch twill stretches with the grain (as in, with the selvege)! That kind of threw me for a loop. Luckily I had bought much more fabric than I needed for shorts, so even with two pieces cut I had just enough left to fold it the wrong way and fit all the pieces in. I didn’t have room to cut waistband linings, though, but I figured the interfacing would negate the wrong-way-stretch so I just used the ones I’d already cut. I guess now I’ll always check the direction of stretch before I cut!

This fabric may have been just a little too stretchy for this pattern, as I’m getting some gathers in the corners of the pockets, and some pulling around the waistband again. But they are very comfy to wear! After thinking further, I’ve decided that the 1/4 inch rise lengthening I’ve been doing isn’t doing me any favors in the front – the last two pairs have been too baggy across the stomach. Next pair I will keep the extra length in the back, eliminate it in front, and see what happens.

And here’s one more picture  - a look at how the pockets work on the front (and oh yeah, I topstitched all the seams), but mostly to brag that I inexplicably had the. perfect. button. just sitting in my stash… but nary a matching zipper in sight. Le sigh.

Burda Thurlows detail

•  •  •

And now, hopefully, back to our regularly scheduled seasonally-appropriate sewing. I will photograph that jacket soon! I hope! And in my imaginary world of super fast sewing perfection, I will be making a pair of pants for the cold weather I will be facing when I travel to Nevada for Christmas, as well as several more bag-type items for gifts! In the next three afternoons! Yeah, let’s pretend that’s going to happen!

So, yeah, I know I’m a little late for Halloween jokes. And that’s not the only thing I’ve waited too long for… Sorry for dropping off the planet for a while. Suffice it to say, unpacking turns out to take significantly longer than packing. Not to mention assembling two full carloads of flat-pack Ikea furniture. And painting. Man. Painting. is. terrible.

But! The house is “done”! I put “done” in quotation marks because, as everyone who’s ever bought a house has told me, it is never, ever really done. But! Our house is done enough to have had a housewarming party, which in my book makes it done enough for now. Most everything’s put away, there are no boxes left lying around, and I’ve gone back to work, so let’s just call it good. And now I’m really optimistic that I can get back to my regular schedule of, ya’ know, sewing something every once in a while.

But for now, I thought I’d do a recap of the meager sewing I’ve done in the last month… all in my new sewing room(!)

The weeks leading up to my birthday last month were incredibly busy, but the Crazy Sewing Monster in me absolutely demanded I make a new dress for my birthday dinner. Left with just 2 hours before dinner on the day, I pulled out trusty 2-pattern-piece Vogue 1250 and some ITY from the Loft and I just. did it. That pattern is truly miraculous. I literally cut it and sewed it in an hour and 20 minutes. No joke. My last version is a little, uh, clingy, so this time I gave myself a smidge more ease along the back skirt seam and it was perfect. Here is a not-great picture in front of my new front door (it is a totally awesome 15 panel solid wood door, which might actually be original to the house – I love it, but it’s not light enough in the morning in the entryway for good pictures):

Vogue 1250 stripesThe second thing I made in my sewing room (I’m just gonna keep saying it cause it sounds so good) was another down-to-the-wire effort. At 11pm the night before our housewarming party I whipped out a cushion cover for our new bench (it’s an Ikea Expedit 1×2 shelf with casters). For the cushion, I cut a piece of fabric (it’s a cool home dec print from fabric.com – home dec fabrics have such great prints! Why can’t garment fabrics be that cool?) that was as long as the piece of foam and twice as wide plus a bit. Basically, I folded it long-ways right sides together, sewed the back (I inserted a zipper) and the sides, then squared up the corners just like my messenger bag. I wanted to take pictures for a tutorial, but, well, it was midnight and it just wasn’t gonna happen. I’m happy to provide more details if folks are interested. Anyway, the Orange Terror sure likes it:

expedit bench cushionAfter that there was no sewing for a while, until I was invited to a baby shower rather last minute, and I realized that I kind of had to make a baby-something in one evening with supplies I had in the house, since I would have no time before the shower to actually go to a store that sold baby-somethings. To the internet I went! And found this pattern/tute for cute knit baby hats. So I made a couple:

knit baby hatsAnd that brings me to my most recent last minute make (are you sensing a theme here? I’ve said it before, I work best with a deadline!) This one wasn’t really urgent, it’d just been so long since I’d made an easy everyday garment, I just wanted one. This has gotta be the fastest fabric-purchase-to-garment conversion I’ve ever done. I bought the fabric at Jo Ann (I know, I try to avoid buying their fabric, but once in a blue moon something acceptable pops up) last Sunday during their crazy sale, and I cut and sewed the shirt on Tuesday evening (and wore it Wednesday). The pattern is Simplicity 1716, which is my holy grail of cowl neck tops. I love this pattern. It’s such a quick sew, the cowl is just the right depth, and the fit is great right out of the envelope. I don’t imagine this one will be my last. (Here is my first one, with more pattern details.) This time I cut the second-longest length and did the ruching detail on the sides. What can I say, I like long shirts.

IMG_9778I was trying out another photo location here – this is a redwood screen we put up on the side of our back porch for privacy. I like it as a background, but the morning light was even worse here! This picture was manipulated a lot to get me even visible. Ah well, it’ll probably take me a few more projects to find a good photo spot…

Just one final piece of sewing news: a friend who deals antiques brought me a box she found at an estate sale recently – a box full of random sewing goodies! Granted, about 70% of the box was ugly trims, but there was some good stuff too. Here’s my haul: a big box of zippers, lots of snaps and hooks (most of them antique – love those labels!), bias and hem tapes, a grommet setter and bias tape maker, horsehair braid, and some cool pre-cut waistband interfacing (self belts, much?). Oh, and it looks like another household member is interested in learning about “Stitching the Knits”…

vintage notions haul

vintage chanel tweed…and from the same estate, about 2 yards of a beautiful white and blue loose weave fabric with a label reading “Chanel Tweed”. Originally $175 a yard! My friend said she maybe paid $5 for everything. My first vintage fabric find! Now what should I do with it? Before you suggest the obvious – a Chanel jacket – know that I am utterly not the sort of person who would make and/or wear one. I’m nothing but impressed with those that take the time to create a beautiful couture jacket – it’s just not my thing. As you can probably tell by …basically everything I’ve ever posted. Plus when would I wear such a jacket? But – perhaps some other kind of coat? A sheath dress? Just leave the fabric in my closet and pet it every once in a while? Help!

So that’s what I’ve been up to. Not a lot to show for two months, but there it is. I feel like I’ve missed a whole season, and now I’m way behind on fall-appropriate sewing. Luckily I have a lot of stuff I made last year to wear now that the weather’s changing (yes, here it’s basically summer until November. Not complaining). But I want shiny new things! So I’d better get moving (figuratively, of course. I don’t want to literally move again for a very, very long time). I just dug out the doubleknit Cordova jacket I started last winter (by “started”, I mean cut out one piece), and finished cutting it out finally. Also on the “urgent” list: pants. Because I currently own one single pair of long pants that fits. I had the shorts bug this summer, hopefully that will translate into the pants bug… Now to get sewing!

For realsies this time.

Well hello there.

So, yeah, I’ve been missing for a little while. It turns out that even when your no-time seems like it should be lots-of-time because you’re on summer hiatus, something else pops up to turn it in to no-time again.

To wit: we bought a house.

Here’s the thing: everyone who tells you that being in escrow was the most stressful time in their adult life (this includes people who have had children) might be understating it a little bit. Escrow is terrible. I have a stressful job, I feel like I manage stress pretty well, but this was a whole other monster. Between just wanting to curl up in a vibrating ball of uncertainty and terror, and spending hours in the black hole that is google image searches for “bathroom paint colors”, sewing has been basically nonexistent for more than a month. Sorry ’bout that.

But! We closed! Then we had to move! (Silent horror screaming commence!) I have always understood that I have a lot of stuff, but that understanding didn’t really sink in until I started actually opening closets and attempting to pack. I’ve been much better recently about not keeping stuff I can’t think of an immediate use for, but we’ve been in our place for eight years, which equals about 6.5 years of collected cute-small-plastic-doodads and random-rectangles-of-foam and boxes-from-things-I-got-rid-of-4-years-ago and truly-horrific-hat-I-bought-at-a-college-costume-sale-and-why-do-I-still-have-this?! My hoarding tendencies did not start with my epic stash, I tell you what.

Anyhoo, I will answer the one question that matters, and then shut up about it. Yes, there is a room in our new house that will be the sewing room! Hooray!

All that out of the way, I do actually have a small backlog of things to share – to tide you over until the sewing can recommence. (I need to buy a table for my machines, in my new sewing room, so my dining table can go back to serving its intended purpose, solely. More hooray!) I will start by sharing a quick dress I whipped out in a most careless fashion in the middle of July, mainly because the marvelous Ms McCall has already spoiled it (she had a fried hard drive and beat me to it! My house excuse is sounding pretty sad…)

Nhi Sandra and me

About a month ago (eesh!) I had an awesome visit from the most wonderful and talented Sandra (of Brown Paper Patterns) and Nhi (co-founder of the new Lolita Patterns), up from LA for the night. We finally made it to the weirder ugly cousin of the LA fabric district, the Crazy Fabric Store in Solvang (sadly, it has seen better days, it was mostly ancient polyester this time); we had a lovely swap in which I acquired the remainder of the aqua and silver stripe jersey that Nhi’s shirt is made of (which was passed on to her by Cindy of Cation Designs – what a pedigree!) as well as a few other cool things (including loan of like 6 Burda issues and other pattern goodies); we saw a show at my old theatre company; and generally just hung out and chatted and had a great time. And Sandra bogarted my photo wall! (Well, I guess it isn’t my photo wall anymore, now I have to find a new spot at my new house…) But I had a dress I needed to photograph too, so it worked out.

Simplicity 1881

In the midst of escrow craziness, I found myself wanting a new summer dress to wear to a friend’s annual giant backyard party, so I somewhat arbitrarily pulled out Simplicity 1881 and a yellow polka dot ITY I had recently ordered from fabric.com. I chose the pattern mainly because I only had a couple days and I judged that a fully lined halter bodice meant no time-consuming edge finishing, and the construction seemed very straightforward. The fabric I ordered in a fit of weakness in June when my common sense was overruled by my love of yellow and dots. But, predictably, it is not very nice fabric. It’s rather shiny and slippery (most ITYs are matte, I thought?) and pretty thin. Too thin to wear without a lining or a slip (needless to say, with my time constraint I went with “slip”), and I probably should have interlined the bodice or inserted bust cups, or both, because even with a double layer the fabric feels pretty insubstantial up there.

It did go together easily, though I’m not in love with the results. I didn’t really think about the effect my very small bust would have on the fit (shouldn’t I know better by now?), and because I shortened the back elastic substantially to get a tight enough fit, it pulls the bust area toward the back and creates wrinkles below the bust (because I have nothing fighting back against the elastic in the front, I guess). And it still slips down in back. Sigh. I like halter designs because I like my shoulders, but I think I should stick to nontraditional halters (like my open back dress) because they work better with my no-bust.

Simplicity 1881 back

I didn’t use the recommended purchased bias tape as the elastic enclosure (though I think it’s a great idea) simply because I didn’t have any (and although I live in a metropolitan area of more than 150,000 people, there is not a single place to buy regular ol’ Wright’s or Coats and Clark anything within 40 miles anymore. Seriously). So I had to use self fabric, which doesn’t stabilize the elastic casing at all, obviously, and the elastic twists around something terrible, which probably exacerbates the slipping-down problem. Lesson: follow the directions. (Within reason, of course.)

I didn’t hem the dress (see: time constraints), though I may go back someday and line it properly and hem it. Or I may not. I’m not sure the fabric is good enough to be worth the effort. But, all things considered, I had a new yellow dress to wear to the party. And that felt pretty miraculous at the time.

And appropriate too, because our new house is Bright. Yellow.

When I logged in to WordPress today it congratulated me on my two year blogiversary. Well, that came out of nowhere. As much as I’ve enjoyed (slash been tortured by) the house-buying-packing-moving-decor-planning process, when I ducked back into a few blogs I hadn’t read in a couple weeks I realised how much I missed sewing and reading about sewing and admiring all of your creations. While I’m sure it will take me a while to get unpacked and settled and sewing again, I certainly want to, and I will make a valient effort to tear myself away from the IKEA website occasionally and rejoin the sewing community. And I promise to not make curtains. Well, maybe a roman blind or two… but that’s it!


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