Monday, December 15, 2014

Rain, Rain, Go Away

It feels like it has been raining for thirty days straight.  That is, of course, a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much.  California could use the rain, but not all at once, thank you very much!

The Bay Area has been drenched with rain for the past couple of weeks, and getting around in a flood zone is not very pleasant.  Neither is a leaking roof . . . it could have been a whole lot worse, but it happened in the same exact spot a couple of years ago, so it is not very reassuring to know the problem remains in the case of a real storm.

On a more cheerful note, a bit of sewing has been accomplished.  But mostly, I want to sit on the couch with my knitting needles and some of my new yarn.  And I don't see that changing until the sun decides to show its face again.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Most Popular Vintage Decade

McCalls 7087

The new McCalls Spring Patterns have been released, including two new Archive Collection designs.  I thought that we might get more 1930s silhouettes, but it looks like the 1950s/60s are the most marketable of the vintage decades.

The double-breasted look is not that exciting, and I don’t know that I have anything quite like it in my (rather massive) collection of patterns.  But honestly, I can take it or leave it.

McCalls 7086

The other vintage reproduction is a very basic silhouette.  I have come across quite a few vintage garments with this exact look, but have never seen this specific pattern.  However, I know that I have a kimono sleeve/dirndl skirt in my stash - add the front bow to the side seams, and there you have it.

But where are the vintage illustrations?!  That can sometimes be my favorite part of these vintage reproductions, and they are nowhere to be found.  I would probably be more inclined to like these if I had that image in mind.  Hint, hint, McCall Company.

McCalls 7086

The rest of the new patterns include quite a few shirt dress designs, some very 1990s silhouettes and a Tracy Reese dress with an interesting under bust seam (is it enough to make me purchase it? . . . only time will tell). 

And what the heck is this?!  A dress becomes a fitting shell, becomes a dress form, becomes a Halloween costume?!  What is it supposed to be?  Any guesses?  Galliano dressed his mannequins as actual mannequins in a couture collection in 2005 which I actually loved, but this dress is disturbing me . . . is that an actual metal dress form cage she is wearing???!  This has to be an inside joke.

McCalls 7089

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Finished Dress Photos

Do you remember Sewing Indie Month?  One of my projects was this Anna Dress.

Needless to say, the dress did not get finished during the month of festivities, then pictures had to be taken, and lots of other stuff got in the way.  Well, it took me a whole lot longer to get through the photos than I expected. 

But this weekend, I decided, enough was enough.  I suppose I could have waited until Spring for a more weather appropriate time to share this cotton/silk blend dress.  But instead, I will pretend I live in the Southern hemisphere, the sun is shining, and the weather is as balmy as it was the day these pictures were taken.

Just as a reminder about the construction of this dress, I prepped the pattern with a muslin, used bias strips of self-fabric to hem the sleeves, and reinforced the neckline and back opening edge with silk organza.

For a bit of  embellishment, I beaded a collar to add to the dress.  Now that I am finally getting around to posting these pictures, I have a mind to make myself a winter appropriate frock with which I can reuse the collar.

So, after many months, the dress finally feels finished (a project never really does until the pictures are posted to the blog)!

And now it is time to pull out my knitting needles.  My latest Knit Picks order has arrived, and I can't wait to get started on a new sweater!

Dress:  Made by me, “Anna” By Hand London
Collar:  Made by me
Shoes:  Franco Sarto

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Stormy Weather Knitting

The rain has definitely arrived.  It is messy out there . . . and poor Tino is less than thrilled with a wet belly and paws (there is only so much a rain coat can cover).

Terrible to be out in, but perfect weather for being indoors with a pair of knitting needles and a cuddly chihuahua.

I did not get very far with this project in New York, but since I was in the mood for knitting last week, out it came.

Once I started, I just couldn't stop!

I even had a chance to use my crochet hook.

Now all I need is to find the perfect buttons . . .

[Pattern found here]

Thursday, November 27, 2014


Here is the finished skirt!

It did not make it past the first round of The Great Pattern Review Sewing Bee, but I did manage to start and finish a project that has been stuck in my head for years, so I am going to call it a success!

Which is actually a relief.  A week is not enough time to produce a detailed garment (for me, at least!) and the hectic schedule would have stressed me out.

The contest did finally get me to watch the Great British Sewing Bee.  Clearly, the show was not produced in America.  My goodness, everyone was so kind to one another (why can’t reality television in the States be more like that?!).  The snarkiest thing I heard was Ann commenting that she could have made rouleau straps as delicate as those on the winning dress that week – and I believe her.  I actually think that the smocked design looked a bit silly with such tiny straps that would probably end up destroyed after being worn by an active child.

To continue the sewing television trend, I have also starting watching some of the old Project Runway shows.  Wow . . . not quite sure what to think!  The time constraints are ridiculous, and some of the hem finishes are painful to look at; I wonder what they really look like in person.  

All I can say is that I am very thankful the only time constraints and deadlines I have are self-imposed! 

Skirt:  Made by me, Sewaholic Hollyburn Skirt
Sweater:  Banana Republic
Shoes: INC

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

An Experiment in Sewing Notions

Do you ever come up with an idea for a project, and years go by without doing anything about it?  Well, this particular project (or a variation of) has been stuck in my head ever since I first laid eyes on Hug Snug seam binding.  And I finally found the motivation to get started!

I chose a stashed cotton velveteen as the base fabric.  I knew it was going to be a pain to work with the nap, but it was sturdy enough to handle a lot of top-stitching, and it had a few sections of squashed pile that made it less than ideal for a project where the fabric itself would be the focus.

I knew I wanted to use a simple skirt pattern as a base; Sewaholic's Hollyburn Skirt was an obvious choice.  It’s always handy to have a muslin from a previous version of a pattern.  No prep work needed!  I decided to eliminate the pockets (shock, horror!) to keep things a bit more streamlined.

To keep the seam allowances out of my way, I catch-stitched them into place.

The skirt was constructed at the front and side seams, leaving the back open.

I did add 1.5” to the hemline, but I ended up trimming off some of that extra.  Another Hollyburn is probably in my future, and if I have enough yardage, I plan on adding an inch or so to that version since I think this silhouette would look great hemmed at the knee.

Then came the fun part!

I originally intended to leave some of the velveteen visible through the stripes of seam binding.  But what I visualized in my head did not look as good when I tried it out with a scrap of fabric.

Somehow, I did not have thread to match back to the seam binding.  How does that happen with two racks full of thread?!  But other than three new spools of thread, this project was made entirely of stashed items.  And I only had to travel a couple of blocks to the new sewing store right in my backyard to get them.  Unfortunately, the only fabric they stock is quilting cotton which is easy to come by, and lots of poly tulle (which probably had something to do Halloween).  Oh well, at least there is a convenient place to go for a last minute zipper or random bit of thread.

I started at the hemline after giving myself an even thread-traced line to work from, and went to town!

The rows are far from perfect.  Between the nap of the velveteen and the bias bits there were a few frustrating moments.

And the jade green spool of Hug Snug is the first I have come across with major imperfections.  The first five yards or so were too flawed to use.  Something chewed through a section of the spool which was less than ideal - especially when I was working with long strips of the stuff.  Thankfully, the flaws did not mar the entire 100 yards.

As an added bonus, because I started at the hemline each row became shorter and shorter as I went along.  I think I may have given up had I started at the waistline and worked my way down!

In all honesty, the process was not nearly as tedious as I was expecting.

I found a vintage zipper in a drawer that was a decent match for the color palette.

And I decided the waistband needed to be embellished as well - I thought a plain band would look silly next to all that ribbon!

An underlining of cotton was applied before I stitched on the seam binding.

The waistband was hand basted in place to make sure I did not catch any of the binding in that seam.

And a bemberg lining was added to make the skirt more hosiery friendly since this is a winter-weight skirt.

Because the bemberg has a significantly different drape than the velveteen, thread tacks were added at each seam to keep the lining from hanging below the skirt.

It is an extra step that makes a real difference.

Two thread hangers were added as well - the clips on a skirt hanger might smoosh or mar the ribbons along the waistband.  (These were made from polyester ribbon; seam binding is not quite sturdy enough to carry the weight of an entire skirt, in my opinion.)

Is this skirt technical perfection?  Absolutely not.  But, even so, I would call my experiment a success.  And I have a feeling there will be more seam binding as embellishment in my future.