Monday, March 20, 2017

A Matched Set


On this first day of Spring, the weather took a bit of a backward turn, and last week’s gorgeous sunshine was replaced with gray skies and rain.  Boo.


This skirt was what I pulled out of the closet this morning to brave the wet weather, along with a sweater, a pair of pumps, and some red lipstick.  It was a bit of armor, if you will, to face the week.  


The first outing for this skirt, however, was back in December.  It has taken me this long to get through the photos, and there are quite a few other finished garments that I would like to get around to posting at some point!


This daisy print was originally destined to be something else entirely, but I have managed to make a cropped jacket, a full skirt, and a pencil skirt from the yardage.  So, all in all, I am going to call this a success!


These three pieces have become staples in my wardrobe.  They are in heavy rotation from season to season, and I think they will continue to be for many years.


I love the opportunity to go all out with an outfit, including a hat and gloves, but I am also finding it very helpful having more and more separates in my closet.


Now I just need to make friends with solid colored fabrics so more of those separates will work with each other.


But I am not sure I will ever be able to resist a textured floral textile, and I am not sure I want to!



Jacket:  Made by me, Vogue 9082
Skirt:  Made by me, McCall 2698
Shoes:  Royal Vintage “Marilyn
Hat:  Made by me
Necklace:  Grandmother’s (borrowed from Mom)
Earrings & Brooch:  Grandmother’s
Gloves:  Vintage

Monday, March 13, 2017

A Beautiful Silk Wool Blend


There are so many reasons I enjoy working with gorgeous fabric; one of the main ones, of course, is that it makes garment construction so much fun!


After managing to squeeze all of the pieces out of my leftover fabric, it was time to baste the layers together.  I like to use silk thread for this task - it is so much easier to remove, and definitely a pleasure to hand sew with silk.


I had my suspicions that the neckline might want to gape, so I used a scrap of organza to stabilize that portion of the fabric (this particular scrap is dark green because I dyed it for use as the underlining of this dress, so it is a little bit difficult to see, but it's there, I promise!).  I measure off the length of the seamline and then subtract an eighth to a quarter inch and distribute the extra ease in the garment fabric along the length of organza.  The organza is then stitched into place just inside the seamline so those pick-stitches will not show when the edge is finished.


The skirt and midriff pieces went together fairly easily.


The most irritating part of the process is removing those white basting threads after each seamline is stitched by machine!


The skirt was then pinned to my dress form while I cut out a second version of the dress.  Does anyone else have nightmares about slicing through a portion of a work in progress while using scissors on something else nearby?  I have never been able to get over the paranoia, so I try to keep everything at least three feet from the working scissors!


The bodice sleeves are raglan for this particular design, so everything looks a bit crazy during the construction process.


For very special fabrics, like this one, I do a lot of hand stitching.  Because all of the pieces are underlined, those stitches are easily hidden from the right side of the garment.  In a silk blend fabric, this is especially helpful, since even the tiniest of stitches stand out.


The midriff cutouts on this design require that certain points be snipped right up to the seamline.  A simple line of stay-stitching did not feel sufficient, so I used another scrap of organza and this gusset trick to keep any raw edges nicely contained.


There is quite a bit of catch-stitching in this piece!


I like to use a ham to elevate my project an extra few inches - this makes it easier on my back when I am hand sewing for long periods of time.


The real moment of truth is putting the bodice, midriff, and skirt sections together.


Everything looks good!  Now I need to tame those oversized seam allowances . . .


Thursday, March 2, 2017

Leftover Cherries


I am currently working on two different versions of Butterick 6413.  I don't believe I have ever done this before, and it certainly has its benefits, but since I am constructing the two dresses slightly differently, it is messing with my head!


When I brought this pattern home, I really hoped it would be the perfect design for my leftover cherry silk/wool from New York.  I have tried repeatedly to use this fabric, but there is never quite enough.  I really am down to scraps!  In fact, the muslin for Vogue 9125 was meant for this fabric, but it ended up working better in a knit.


Since this design has quite a few smaller pieces, I thought there was a good chance that this might work.


Of course, I started with a muslin.  Finding enough scrap fabric was even challenging - I ended up piecing the skirt front.  Which reminds me that I have to order more!


My standard alterations made this dress fit quite well, but that did not stop me from messing with the back skirt darts.  In the end, I went back to the original placement, and just shortened them a bit.


Then the whole thing was ripped apart.


The real test, of course, was to see if the pieces would fit on my leftover fabric (basically a yard of 60" wide fabric with a flaw smack dab in the center, plus scraps).  It took a bit of finagling, but I did manage it!  


I took pictures of my layout, and I also drew a sloppy diagram in case the pictures somehow disappeared and I was unable to replicate the jigsaw puzzle!


The underlining for this is plain old mid-weight cotton.  The stitching lines were traced onto that, and then I had to fit those on my cherry print.  I would have liked a deeper hem on the skirt, but really, I am very, very lucky that everything fits!


Next up is a whole lot of hand basting . . . because such a gorgeous fabric deserves special treatment!

Monday, February 27, 2017

The 2017 Oscars Red Carpet

It's that time again . . . time to gaze longingly at couture gowns I wish I could examine inside and out, and at the same time pick apart the mess that sometimes manages to make it down the red carpet.  This year, I can't even say that I have a favorite.

But I will say that Viola Davis looks AMAZING in Armani.  Just don't make me watch her trying to walk in the heels that I assume are hiding under that dress, it will ruin the illusion.  If I am being picky, I am not in love with that clutch with the bracelet.  But really, this is a fabulous look for her, and she should definitely be adding more of that red color to her wardrobe.  Just don't tromp about like a football player when you look this stunning, please!


Kirsten Dunst chose Dior Haute Couture, and the arched neckline is lovely.  I also really like the slight high-low hemline that shows off the shoes (which I really, really love).  I would have preferred to see this in a color, though.  She wore a lemony colored dress with short sleeves and collar in Cannes earlier this year, and if this gown was that color I think it would have been truly stunning.  But what is with the hair?!  Messy, messy, messy, and it really takes away from the glamour.


And because I miss Evan Rachel Woods in a tux, here is Mahershala Ali - this is how you exude style on the red carpet as a man without looking like you are trying too hard (hello, Pharrell Williams).  Do we think that is a silk/wool blend; oh, how I wish I could get my hands on some of that fabric because it looks yummy.  But wait a second, aren't his sleeves supposed to show below the jacket?  And the white buttonhole on the lapel is a bit jarring.  So, so close, but not quite perfect. 


Brie Larson is wearing Oscar de la Renta.  Now, there is something I like about this, but all those flounces get lost in the black.  I think a contrasting color would have worked better for the lining to highlight the details.  The bodice looks really good on her frame, but the skirt is a little too late 80s for me to really love this.


I can’t put my finger on why I am drawn to this Elizabeth Kennedy gown on Busy Phillips, but I am intrigued.  Maybe it is the luscious green velvet, or perhaps it is simply because it is so unexpected.  Although, I am having flashes of a vintage movie theatre marquee . . . but I really love the hourglass shape this creates . . . but now I want to see the dress light up.  I am really stuck on this one.  I cannot decide if I love it or hate it.


Taraji Henson looks stunning in velvet Alberta Ferretti.  That neckline is glorious, but I do wish she had taken it easy with the boob tape and/or contouring, because the girls are treading dangerously close to Miss Universe territory.  Not sure about the necklace, and the ring really doesn't match, or maybe I would rather she keep the ring and get rid of the necklace, but one of them has got to go.  The messy hair works for her - perhaps this is the look that Kirsten Dunst was going for.  Her toe appears to be hanging off the edge of that shoe, but I am going to give her a break because she did not shove her thigh way out of that slit like some classless actress that shall remain nameless.


Dakota Jonson often looks sickly/really uncomfortable on the red carpet, and that trend continues.  This reminds me of a 1940s bridal gown, which I should love.  But girl, do something with your hair, for crying out loud.  Hate the necklace with this Gucci dress, but I think I might like this on someone else, or really anyone who would actually make an effort when getting ready for a huge event, because I just cannot look past the horrible hair.  When I force myself to ignore the head attached to the dress, the fit on the sleeves looks awkward as well.  She really does look like she just rolled out of bed . . . perhaps while wearing the dress, by the looks of the wrinkled skirt.


I love this ankle length ballerina inspired Dior Haute Couture dress.  The shoes are perfection, and surprisingly enough, I think the washed out tone works for Felicity Jones.  Her skin looks really gorgeous.  Maybe it's the dark hair that keep her from being washed out?  I like the minimal jewelry on this as well.  My only issue here is that she looks rather thick through the middle, which I am going to blame on all of that tulle.  I would say add a thicker belt to corral the frothy fabric, but I do like the delicate look, so not really sure how to fix this one.


Nicole Kidman.  Oh, dear.  What happened here?  This Armani looks like something you would find in the prom clearance section of Macys, the scratchy polyester snagged from being shoved to the back of the rack for months on end.  The color does not work for her - seriously, when is someone going to tell the misguided woman that the monotone look from head to toe just does not work for her?  To top it all off, the hairstyle looks horrendous, and the shoes are too big as well.  The only redeemable things here are the diamonds.  She is built like a model and must have a whole team of people helping her get ready for an event like this - how can it all go so horribly wrong?!?  


Paging Sharon Stone - someone has stolen your Casino dress again - this time it’s Jessica Biel with an assist from Kaufman Franco.  That necklace, though, looks like it was stolen from a Broadway production of The Lion King.  There are enough gold statues at the Oscars, darling, trying to look like one is just embarrassing in a situation like this.


Emma Stone is in Givenchy Haute Couture, and boy would I love to see that bodice up close.  I love the hair, love the jewels, love the makeup, and love the top half of the dress.  Unfortunately, the bottom half looks like she is auditioning for the role of Babette in a Vegas production of Beauty and the Beast.  It is possible that this dress looks wonderful in motion, but at rest, it's rather sad looking.  And here is another pale skinned woman who looks good in a muted color.


Here we have another Babette look, this one by Marchesa, worn by Olivia Culpo.  The dress is a familiar look for Marchesa, and I seem to recall Georgina Chapman wearing something similar on a red carpet in the recent past.  This particular beaded feather duster works much better than the Givenchy, in my opinion.  But the hair is all kinds of wrong.  Did they gel it like that on her forehead?  I love a good spit curl with a flapper inspired frock, but the trick is to curl the hair into an interesting shape, not paste it down in an oily line.  This just looks like she is desperately trying to hide the fact that she needs to wash her hair, and failing.  I do like that delicate black ribbon and the dark clutch and dark nails.  And I would have liked a darker lip (or anything, really, to distract from that greasy mess on her forehead).


And in the role of Belle, we have Leslie Mann in Zac Posen.  From the shoulders up, she looks adorable.  The dress, however, looks like a contestant on Project Runway threw a bunch of fabric on a dress form and called it a day.  And top it off with a bow at the bust . . . what the heck was he thinking?  Is the skirt supposed to be that wrinkly, because the bodice is not.  I can just imagine Mr. Posen's snarky comments when this came down the runway:  "Who do you think you are, Charles James?"  That being said, she does look really happy wearing the dress, so that has to count for something.


Janelle Monae did not let me down in the crazy dress department (Helena Bonham Carter would totally wear this, and I am now convinced that they are red carpet cousins).  I am calling this one "Rococo Punk."  The overlay looks suspiciously shiny like polyester, but I cannot imagine that Elie Saab would use the poly organza from JoAnn Fabrics, so I am going to blame the lighting and hope that it is, in fact, silk.  She looks like a rock and roll princess; it really is incredible how a person can turn a potentially hideous garment into something wonderful with the right look.


So, not a lot of color this year, and nothing that I would give my left kidney to own, but it's been fun wandering down this year's red carpet.  Did I miss any of your favorites?

[Click on image for source]

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Genus Rosa


My original plan for this fabric was to attach a circle skirt to the bodice pieces of Butterick 6413.  


Unfortunately, I just could not make the circle skirt fit on my yardage without cutting one of the skirt pieces upside-down, which I really did not want to do.  This print is directional and I know I would regret cutting one of the skirt sections wrong side up.  I cut the back skirt pieces, taking a slight wedge out of the circle to narrow the piece.  This means that the center back is no longer cut on grain, but I would rather have that issue than have the print upside down!


With the "scraps" leftover from cutting the skirt, I was easy to cut all of the bodice pieces.  I was even able to do a pretty good job matching the roses.


To stabilize the neckline I used rayon seam binding.


For the lining, I had just enough fabric to cut a duplicate bodice out of my fabric.  I did not have enough blue bemberg on hand, and there was really not enough of the rose print for another project, so I went with the roses.


I deviated from the given instructions slightly because I do not like to have both the fashion fabric and lining stitched together before inserting a zipper.  That application has always seemed sloppy to me - if I am using a lining, why not enclose everything?  And I certainly don't mind the hand sewing.


Perhaps I should have used a lighter weight fabric for the lining, because when it came time to gather the upper bodice, gathering everything down to two inches was challenging.


I attempted to bend the fabric to my will with the help of a zig-zag stitch.


But my machine had other plans.  I can count on one hand the number of times a needle has broken on me, and each time it scares me half to death.  The sound my machine made was  horrible, which does not help.


Everything turned out okay for the dress and the machine, in the end.  I did have to use a thimble and a very thick needle to get everything gathered, but I won the battle.


There is still a bunch of finishing work to be done, including the dreaded evening out of the skirt hem, but this is definitely beginning to look like a dress!


[Disclosure:  Contrado provided me with this fabric, but the opinions posted here are my own.]