Tuesday, January 11, 2022

"Home Sewing is Easy"

A couple of months back, modeS4u, an online fabric shop, contacted me with an offer to send me my choice of fabric from their extensive collection in exchange for blogging about my experience with said fabric.  They have an extensive selection of novelty fabrics, and it was difficult to decide on just one!  The Christmas prints were very tempting and seasonally appropriate, and there were a few Halloween novelties that I wish I had spotted a couple of months sooner, but I really wanted something not so seasonally themed.

When it came down to it, I couldn't resist this Alexander Henry fabric that I have wanted since I first spotted the design years ago.  It is entitled "Home Sewing is Easy," and I think it is truly marvelous.  I have a dress made from the similarly themed "Home Sewing is Easy:  Part 2," and I now feel as though I need to add each and every one of these sewing themed novelty prints to my closet!

I knew that I wanted to try my best to match the feeling and theme of the print, and a 1950s shirtwaist seemed appropriate and was the first silhouette that came to mind.  After looking through my vintage pattern stash, I came across Advance 6821 from 1954.  With 3.5 meters of fabric to play with, the yardage requirement was going to be a tight squeeze.  And then I figured out that the pattern layout on this particular pattern is multi-directional . . . which is pretty standard for vintage patterns, but certainly wouldn't work for this fabric!

But I am not one to back away from a challenge.  And I am quite stubborn, so once I latched onto this particular design, I wanted to use it, and nothing else would do.  The only way I could be sure that all of those pattern pieces would fit on my fabric was to start by laying out the skirt pieces which were the largest of the bunch.   Once I figured out that I could fit every pattern piece on the fabric, the skirt pieces were cut.  I would have to use the remnants to cut the bodice pieces with the best possible design placement.  To help me choose the best placement, I stitched my skirt pieces together before cutting out my bodice and sleeves.  And that led to cutting pieces right in the middle of the fabric, which is something that I try to avoid . . . until I need to pattern match with a large repeat!  It looks like someone butchered this poor fabric.

But in the end, I think I did a pretty good job.  The most obvious portion of the print is the yellow rectangle with red writing.  My main focus was to keep those blocks separated!

As drafted, this pattern includes a single pocket on the right side seam.  This is most likely because of the side zipper that is installed on the left side seam.

I decided to install two pockets.  I have done this method of construction before, but I had to think about how to do it for a couple of minutes before I remembered just how to go about it!

The trick, obviously, is to construct the pocket so that both pocket bags are attached to the skirt front instead of the standard construction of an in-seam pocket where one is attached to skirt front, and the other to skirt back. 

The pattern also suggests making machine buttonholes, but I was having none of it.  I have to keep practicing my bound buttonhole technique so it doesn't get rusty!  

The bodice facing is cut in one with the bodice, so I applied interfacing to the facing portion and the matching section of the bodice.  A bit of measuring, marking, and some basting stitches, and my buttonhole placement was ready.

Interestingly enough, no button size is listed on the pattern envelope or in the instructions.  The buttonholes themselves are marked with perforations on the pattern tissue and lead me to believe that 5/8" was the intended diameter of the buttons.  But that seemed a bit small for the dress and my choice of fabric, so I went a bit larger.  And I didn't bother to properly draft the change of button, but since the bodice is roomy, it wasn't a huge issue.

Unfortunately, I didn't think about buttonhole placement when I was cutting out my bodice.  Then again, I am not sure that I would have been able to work around all of the faces on this print when pattern repeat is rather large.  In the end, I think it was better to separate those yellow blocks and hope that people don't notice I have slashed the lady in red right across the face.  Yikes!  The button covers at least part of the massacre, so we are spared the gruesome bits when the dress is worn.

And for the facing, I made buttonhole windows out of some cotton voile remnants.

This is my favorite way to make bound buttonholes, although there are at least three other ways that come to mind.  I keep meaning to try a few of the other techniques, and then chicken out, or feel like this particular way is perfectly suited to the dress, and stick with the same old way of doing things.

I bound my raw seams with rayon seam bidding, per usual, and folded up a narrow hem, mostly because I wanted to maintain the length of the skirt.

The sleeves, on the other hand, had a ton of extra length, so the sleeve hems are quite deep.  If I use this pattern again, I will have to remember to shorten those sleeves!

One other thing to note about this vintage Advance pattern is the sizing.  This is a size 14 1/2, Bust 34.  The bust size is the one that I usually pick for most vintage patterns as well as contemporary Big4 patterns, and I didn't really think much of it.

This is a single sized, unmarked pattern, meaning all I have is blank tissue with perforations.  I made sure to take some quick measurements of the bust and waist using the tissue, subtracting all tucks and darts and seam allowance.  The waist seemed rather large, but I didn't think much of it at the time.  Well, silly me, this is a 1/2 size pattern, which turns out is made for a short-waisted, stocky figure.  I am the opposite of short-waisted, and my waist is not tiny, but it isn't overly large, either.  I always add length to the bodice, so that wasn't a problem, but the extra ease through the waist was unnecessary, and the dress is a little larger than I would like through the waist and hips.  It is certainly wearable, but it will teach me to not investigate further when I come across something I haven't seen before.

In my defense, the sizing chart is unlike any I have ever seen.  The back of the envelope states the size and bust measurements right at the top, and then goes on to list yardage requirements for both views, then interfacing requirements, and only then does it list "Corresponding Body Measurements."  And for a size 34, those are a 29" waist and a 37" hip.  For comparison, a Simplicity pattern from a similar time period gives a 26" waist and a 36" hip, which is a 3" difference at the waist.  That is a massive difference when you are talking about a waist measurement!  And the ease given through the hips on this pattern is a little wild since you can fit a whole lot more than 37" worth of hip in the dress that I made.  Which only goes to show that I should pay a little more attention to all of the writing on the back of the pattern envelope.

But everything turned out just fine in the end.  And for a finishing touch, I rummaged around and found this vintage belting tucked away.  I thought that the bright red would be a nice break from the busyness of the print.  To match the black outlines on the print, I wanted to top-stitch in black.  I found the largest needle I had on hand, and some thick black thread for the top thread.  I'm not sure my machine loved the process, but she made it through.  And a cute black Dritz buckle that was stashed away finished off the look.  Thankfully, it is one of those buckles that allows belting to be threaded through each side, because stitching through two layers of this stuff would have been impossible.

This dress was a bit of an adventure, but I love how it turned out.  Thank you to modeS4u for the fantastically fun cotton print.  Hopefully the weather will cooperate so that I can wear it very soon!  Although I suspect that a cardigan will be necessary for a few months yet . . . and I believe my hand knit red cabled cardi may just be the perfect match!


[The fabric for this project was received from modeS4u in exchange for writing a blog post.]


Sunday, January 2, 2022

2021, A Year in Review

McCalls 8141 / Vogue 8772, Stanwyck Skirt
Simplicity 8736, Simplicity 8458 / Vogue 4203

Another year has passed, which means that it is time for one more Year in Review.  As a reminder, for purposes of sewing and knitting projects, I don't consider them finished or complete until they are posted to the blog.  In fact, I don't even like to wear something until I have photographed and documented the project.  So here are the completed, photographed, and blogged outfits for 2021.  A couple of these took way longer than they should have, and so it feels great to finally call them finished!

Vanilla Bean Turtleneck, Vogue 1247 / Butterick 6380
Ivy Pinafore, McCalls 7053 / Jailbird Blouse, Butterick 6285

I had hoped to have posted a bit more this year, but I am going to go easy on myself.  It has been a trying year, and feeling motivated has sometimes required more energy than I had.

Vogue 8399 / Gable Top, Butterick 6556
McCalls 7929 /  Vogue 9182

I won't be making any sewing resolution for the New Year, but I am looking forward to spending some time in the sewing room.  There are at least two projects I have in mind for some lovely wool that is taking up a whole lot of space, and I am thinking now might be an excellent time to cut into that yardage.  Or maybe I just continue sitting on the couch with my knitting and a cup of tea (possibly with a chihuahua on my lap, if Mr. Valentino is so inclined).  In fact, I think that's where I am headed right now.  Fresh Meyer lemon squeezed into some hot water with honey and cayenne would hit the spot.  The only question is . . . do I disturb the sleeping chihuahua?

Butterick 6463 /  Butterick 2259, Simplicity 8019

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Oh Tannenbaum

For this year's holiday ensemble, I decided to dress as a Christmas tree.  For many years, Jay Peterman catalogs would illustrate festively adorned dress forms wearing evergreen boughs and ornaments galore in December.  Let's just say that this is my take on a much more comfortable version of the wearable Christmas tree (involving a lot less sap and pokey bits).

And then, late one night in December, I happened across an image of these super glittery shoes, and I had to have them.  They reminded me that I wanted to make an over the top dress out of this holiday novelty print, and time was running out.  After finding the perfect shoes, there was nothing that was going to stop me from making a suitably festive tree frock.

And with the addition of sequined shoes, there was certainly no reason to hold back with the dress and the accessories.

The ornaments and tinsel garlands were taken care of in the print, but vintage crystal jewelry would add some glitz and glamour.  I also festooned the dress with ball fringe, because the busy print was just not crazy enough for those shoes!  

I had an idea for a star or an angel headdress, but I ran out of time, so I pulled out a velvet bow  as a finishing touch.  Let's just call it a representation of the gifts that go under the Christmas tree, although it currently sits atop my head.

Perhaps next year I will create a shimmery tree topper, although I have to say that I am rather pleased with how the outfit turned out.

And I am very happy to say that a complete stranger that came into the office when I was wearing this ensemble said "You look like a Christmas tree!"  Success!!  The wearable Christmas tree is recognizable by all.

But no matter if there are a few people who might miss the reference . . . because the dress makes me very happy.  In fact, it would be quite difficult to be truly cranky while wearing such a print.

This is now the third dress that I have made based on this pattern, not including a petticoat version, and even a cropped top.

Am I totally finished with Vogue 4203?  Probably not!  It's a wonderful pattern with a poofy skirt that I love.  

At the time I competed the first version, I was wondering it it was worth making petticoat specifically for the dress.  Years later, I think I may need to make myself another because it gets so much wear.  I just need to figure out the best color before getting started!

For now, I have added another Holiday dress to the collection that I love, and I am already thinking about next year's festive frock!   

Dress & Belt:  Mady by me, Vogue 4203
Earrings, Necklaces, and Bracelet:  Vintage
Shoes:  Irregular Choice "Danity"
Hair Bow:  Made by me

Friday, December 24, 2021

Jingle Bell Rock

For this year's Christmas themed dress, I decided to use this fabulously over the top and perhaps slightly obnoxious quilting cotton.  I cannot recall if I found this two or three years ago, but from the moment I laid eyes on it, I knew that I needed a dress made from the fabric, and it needed to be further embellished because clearly the explosion of printed ornaments and tinsel garlands was not enough.  But I wasn't entirely sure how to go about that.  Last year I ran out of time to make a second dress for the holiday season with the fabric, but I was content to add my snowman printed frock to the collection.  This year, I was determined to get around to making the dress.

Vogue 4203 is one of my favorite dress patterns, so that was a great place to start, but I knew that I wanted more of a crew neck with this particular print.  Using Simplicity 9447 as a starting point, I cut a tighter neckline.  This alteration was not perfect, and there is slightly more fabric through the upper chest than needed, but since the print is so busy, I don't think it will take away from the finished dress.

One of my favorite parts of this vintage pattern is the fabulously full skirt that balloons out from the waistband.  The hemline is straight, which means adding trim is much easier than with a curved hem.  Included in the instructions is an aid to help the hips stand out, which is what that extra strip of fabric does.  This time around I used an un-interfaced piece of cotton, but it still manages to do the job nicely.  And, of course, I will also be wearing a petticoat underneath to further exaggerate the silhouette.

The next item of business was to find an appropriate trim for the Christmas tree I was creating.

I originally intended to use a medium sized ball fringe, however, the red color that I found was too bright for this print.  What I finally found was a smaller sized ball fringe that came in a much wider variety of colors. 

Of course, I didn't anticipate the issue of attaching the trim to the fabric.  I have worked with larger ball fringe in the past, and since the pom poms hang off of the trim, a standard machine foot works just fine.  For this stuff, however, it was necessary to get creative.  A zipper foot worked okay, although it was a bit of a fight to keep things from going off the rails.  I suppose I could have hand stitched things, but in this instance, the thought of having thread snag on all of those bumpy bits was too much for me.

I did, however, hand baste placement lines to make sure the fringe was attached in as straight a line as could be managed.

I had a bit of unpicking to do with the project.  I knew that I wanted to add the ball fringe to the sleeves as well as the skirt, but for some reason I forgot that step while sewing late one evening, which is why you see the seam binding in place prior to the seam being closed.  I don't like to finish edges until the seam is stitched, but sometimes mistakes are made.

The other issue that I encountered was what to do with all of that bulk along the seam lines.  Because there really was no way to avoid having the bumpy bits interfere with the seam line.

I attempted to sew right over the bulk, but it was never going to look great, and once again, the seam ripper was called into service.

In the end, I found that it was easy enough to clip the pom poms right off of the trim without anything else unraveling.  So any offending bumps were simply removed from the seam allowance before stitching the seam closed.

And once again, my stash of zips has not let me down.  In the end, I went with the maroon color since it blended in with the print the best.

When I was messing around with the neckline on this pattern, I knew that it was potentially going to give me a bit of grief.  And I cannot be sure whether it was that, or if my stay-stitching did not do its job, but for whatever reason, the neckline began stretching out while I was constructing the bodice.  Maybe the extra weight from the trim on the sleeves was also responsible while I was wrangling the set in sleeves?

Well, I decided the best way to handle the situation was to sew the facing on immediately.  Obviously the center back zipper still needed to be installed, so I left a few inches unstitched, but getting the front curve to stop stretching was my priority, and the facing did the job better than any stay stitching ever could.

The hems were stitched by hand, which was a little bit awkward with the lumpy trim, but even that was not enough to keep me from enjoying the process.  I love hand stitching hemlines!!

At which point the dress looked like so.

Totally over the top, and pretty darn cute, if I do say so myself.  But I still had a belt to make for the finishing touch.

And I just so happened to have a very appropriate and sparkly belt buckle that I found at an estate sale.  At some point, one of the rhinestones must have fallen off, and someone used what looks like hot glue to put it back in place.  The glue has yellowed, but I think that the flaw will be lost in all of the craziness that surrounds it.

And here is where I made another sewing mistake late at night.  I calculated the width for the belt, but somehow forgot to double it so I could fold the rectangle in half to create the belt.  I've never done that before.  But thankfully I realized the problem before stitching anything, so I just cut a duplicate belt piece.

I love the extra sparkle from the belt buckle, and I have plans to wear some blinding crystal jewelry to further deck the halls.

And that is the story of this year's Christmas frock.

Because why should Christmas trees be the only ones getting dressed up for the season?!

If they keep making such cute holiday prints, I am going to keep making these silly dresses.  Because they are too much fun!  And yes, I pattern matched the back bodice, because even ridiculous prints deserve attention to detail.