Monday, February 20, 2017

Fabric Design with Contrado

I was recently contacted by Contrado with an offer to try out their fabric printing services.  Yes, please!

They offer a massive amount of textile choices (over 95) - maybe a little too many!  Navigating the fabric selections was challenging for me, and names like "Archway" and "Boston" are not especially helpful when trying to suss out the natural fibers from the synthetic - if I had to change anything about the experience, it would be that.  There are various filters to apply while perusing the online fabric selection, but none of them include fiber content.  Contrado was kind enough to send me a swatch pack to make the choice a bit easier.  The swatches also make it easy to see how fabric content affects the dye. 

And there are a few natural fibers to be found.  I was very tempted by the Lima Cashmere which is a wool/silk blend.  There is also a Viscose Twill, and even a Silk Satin.  In the end, I decided to go with Cotton Satin.  It is 100% cotton sateen with a nice mid-weight hand.

Then it was time to come up with a design.  And surprise, surprise, I went with roses.  This time around, I decided to learn just enough of Illustrator to create a repeating pattern.  For fabric design, I think it is definitely a better choice than Photoshop.  The fact that I can make something as large or small as I want is fabulous.  Hooray for vectors!  And because it is so difficult to find oversized florals at the fabric store, I went big!  

Once I was happy with the design, I uploaded it to the Contrado website.  It was easy to rotate the image so it follows the cross grain (I intend to make a circle skirt that will have to be cut crosswise).  And here is the actual fabric!  It arrived a mere four days after I completed my order, which is awesome. 

Before sending my yardage through the wash, I cut a bit off to see just how much the hand and/or color would change.  The fabric is still quite crisp after a bath.  There is perhaps a tiny bit of fading if I stare at it closely, but not as much as I expected with the darker colors, and certainly not noticeable if I do not have my original reference scrap.

And now it's time to cut this up and start sewing!

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

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Baubles & Beads

A few years ago, I made this dress.  I also made a matching velvet purse, but never got around to blogging about it.  Well, I am currently working with the scraps of the cherry silk/wool to make myself another dress, which reminded me of the bag.

I had some red velvet stashed away, and it was the perfect fabric to make a matching evening bag for my cherry gown.  Coincidentally, I used the same velvet to make an oversized rose hair accessory  many years ago, and ended up wearing it with this dress.

I started with Vogue 7354 as a pattern.  As drafted, there was hardly any room in the purse, and I wanted more of a round shaped accessory that might resemble a cherry, so I increased the diameter of the two circles that make up the bag.  Before cutting into velvet or spending a lot of time beading said velvet, I mocked up a version in some scrap fabric.  One circle was cut 1" larger in diameter than the original, the other 2" larger - I ended up using the larger of the two.

Some of the beads I found in my stash, but I did have to make a trip to JoAnn Fabrics to find the larger ones.  My initial idea was to really go for a cherry inspired look, so I thought I would add beaded leaves near the handles.  Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, as it turns out) time was against me, and the beaded leaves never materialized.

Then I had to test out my beading pattern.  If I hated it, I could scrap the beads and go for a plain velvet bag.  But where would the fun be in that?

A scrap of cotton doubled as interfacing and a means to mark my beading pattern.

I basted the two layers together with red silk thread.  The thread almost disappeared into the nap of the velvet, but did leave a slight trail that I could follow while applying the beads.  And since the basting was invisible after the beading process, there was no need to remove those stitches.  Hooray!

I was not about to fight with this velvet and a zipper foot and hope that the top stitching would look decent on the first go, so I knew I would be hand-picking the zipper.  

I decided to add beads along that stitching line.  A few years ago I saw this technique in Threads Magazine used on a center back zipper for a dress, and I thought it would work nicely for this bag.

I was a bit concerned that the embroidery hoop might leave a mark in this napped fabric so I decided to make the beaded portion of the design fit within that hoop.  

As it turns out, the gathered velvet really masks where the beads stop, so there was no problem there.  And a quick blast of steam from the iron solved the ridged hoop issue.

The final bit of beading was adding the large rondelles to the middle of the gridded pattern.  One side down, one to go!

Once the beading was complete, it was time to stitch everything together.

Gathering velvet fabric is a real pain, let me tell you!  But I did manage to get it done without breaking a thread, thank goodness.

The velvet pieces were basted together before sending them through the machine.  

Yes, I was in a rush, but I really did not want to rip any seams out, and without a walking foot, I just do not trust that my machine will behave.

My basting served me well, and everything went together painlessly (although I can vividly recall thinking that this outfit was never going to be finished on time!).

This lining fabric was not my first choice.  With no time to find something I liked better, I had to go with something that I had on hand.  

I prefer lighter colors in handbag linings because it makes it easier to find what you are looking for, and I thought the cherry print was a cute callback to the cherry print fabric of the dress.

And it doesn't get much easier than working with a quilting cotton!  That is one well behaved fabric.

A pocket was added to each side of the lining. 

And there we have it.

Another accessory finished just in the nick of time.  And I think I like this one better without the green beaded leaves.  It is certainly more versatile this way.  

And I was pretty pleased that I did not have to use some old boring black clutch to complete my outfit!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Is Vintage Going Out of Style? and other thoughts on the latest pattern collections . . .

I have not been all that excited about the latest pattern collections.  The last two releases for Vogue have not included any Vintage Vogue designs, McCalls did not add to their Archive Collection, and after last year's Simplicity catalog mostly filled with vintage reproductions, the new catalog does not include a single one.  

And what happened to the finished garment measurements on the back of the pattern envelopes?  This issue was improved a couple of years ago, but with the newer releases they are only including not especially helpful measurements like back to waist length.  One step forward, two steps back.  

Butterick, it would seem, has not given up on their Retro line, so I am going to start there.
Butterick 6454 is a vintage reproduction dress from the 1950s.  This prom dress has something between a shelf and petal bust.  Most vintage patterns with these details go for a lot of money, so I think that this was a smart choice for Butterick to reproduce one.  I love the basque waist at the front, but that detail does not continue through to the back bodice, which is a disappointment.  From the back, this dress is really basic and rather boring.  And the polyester satin is not doing the dress sample any favors; the bodice is supposed to be boned, but it sure doesn't look that way.  Step away from The Casa Collection fabric . . . it is evil and must be destroyed.

Butterick 6454

Gertie has a new design.  I like the dress, although why anyone sewing a garment for themselves would need adjustable straps is beyond me.  If the whole lingerie strap thing from the 90s is returning, then I am not very excited.  I just think it looks sloppy.  The dress itself is pretty basic, but it is cute.  Once the fit is perfected, I could see this pattern being used as the basis for a lot of really lovely dress variations.
There are two other Butterick vintage reproductions in this catalog - both include multiple apron designs, one for adults, and one for dolls.  I would have hoped to see both the full size and doll sized pattern in a single envelope.  Since the designs are identical, they could have saved space in the envelope with one set of directions, and surely doll sized patterns do not take up very much room.  I am also not thrilled that they updated the illustrations; they are retro themed, but definitely not original and some of the charm is lost (this is one of my main gripes with the Archive Collection for McCalls - no illustrations).

Butterick 6467

Moving on to Vogue . . .

Let’s just say that I am very miffed that a fabulously complex vintage design has not been included, but Vogue did manage to make room in the catalog for a rectangular scarf.  Say what?!  For $27.50, those better be some amazing directions.  I am still shaking my head over this one . . . 
I do like the over-sized drop shoulder sleeves on Vogue 9239, but the rest of the design is rather ordinary.  It is one of those multi cup size patterns, which I know people really like.  And those sleeves are calling my name.  The sample on the model is not very appealing, but I am putting that down to the fabric choice and the fit.

Vogue 9239

I am slightly intrigued by the off the shoulder design of Vogue 9238, but the garment on the model is very awkward.  Perhaps it is the fabric choice, and something with more drape would look better?  Not sure if I am willing to take the chance on this particular dress.
Vogue 1536 definitely grabbed my attention.  But I wonder how much of my attraction to this design has to do with the color?  The dress is just a simple princess seamed sheath, so nothing new there.  The jacket has an interesting treatment from the back, but I could easily reproduce that by adjusting the back of any cropped jacket.  So upon closer inspection, I am not that impressed.  But at least it's not a bloody rectangle with fringe!
This formal Bellville Sassoon gown is really striking.  I will probably grab that at the next pattern sale, but if I am going to make a gown, I tend to go for something vintage.  I would definitely like to have a look at the instructions on how that bodice goes together, though.

Vogue 1533

The Lialia design is also tempting.  I doubt I would ever make it up, but that neckline is gorgeous (it can be worn as a caplet or hood).

Vogue 1531

McCalls has never been my favorite brand, but I do wish that the Archive Collection would release another design or two.  And now that I am a bit less intimidated by knit fabrics, there are a couple of dresses that I may add to the pattern stash.  The cross over design is interesting on McCalls 7538
McCalls 7535 is another one of those patterns that supposedly works for knits and woven - I wonder which is it actually drafted for?  Having had issues with this Vogue design that claims the same, I am skeptical.  This particular design does have some nice touches, like Dior darts and an open back option.  But the styling on this one came directly from 1994.  Yikes!
The cut of McCalls 7531 is extremely basic, but if it fits decently, there are a lot of possibilities there.
Continuing the knit theme, I believe I will grab this Mimi G maxi dress for Simplicity.  I like those style lines, and I love the look of the black and white version.  Now I just need to find some great mid-weight knits.  And whether or not I continue to sew knit pieces has yet to be seen.  Most of the knit fabrics I come across that are not 100% polyester are too lightweight for dresses.

There is something I really like about this dress as well.  It's probably those sleeves.  But I am not sure I need to add this one to my stash because there must be something similar in my pattern collection.

The Dottie Angel pattern caught my eye because of the hooded jacket.  Would I ever really make it?  Probably not, but it does make me want to quilt something!

So I guess there are quite a few things here to inspire me.  Now if only the rain would stop, I might feel motivated to actually complete a project . . .  At the moment all I want to do is sip tea, knit, and snuggle with my pup.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Gifts for Tino

Valentino has quite a few sweaters that I have made for him, but they are almost ten years old at this point, and some of them are beginning to look their age.  I was hoping to make him a new one for Christmas, but never found the time (and I really was not looking forward to braving JoAnns or Michaels for a skein of yarn during the holiday season).  But since every day might as well be Christmas for a spoiled pup, a couple of weeks back I decided it was time to gift my little guy with some swanky new clothes.

Stashed away in a bin are the remnants of many, many old knitting projects.  Most are small bits that are not suitable for projects, or are made with less than stellar quality fibers, but I have a difficult time throwing it away because it seems like such a waste.  But then I have that bin full of scraps of yarn which makes me feel guilty for not doing anything with it . . .

Well, I finally came up with a use for some of it - sweaters for Valentino the Chihuahua!  A sweater for a seven pound dog does not take much yarn, and with a bit of finagling, those scraps can be put to good use.

I found this pattern on Ravelry and thought it looked like a good starting point.  Turns out, the directions are rather confusing, but I muddled through.

Once I started using up those scraps of yarn, I really did not want to stop.  I thought Tino would look quite handsome in stripes.  And two colors meant using up more leftovers.

For this version, I did away with the hood, since Tino is not terribly fond of wearing things on his head.  He will put up with the hood in rainy weather, but since a sweater will get super soggy when wet, I substituted a turtleneck.

Making a sweater just for him also allows me to customize it.  Most of what I find in the stores do not have an opening for his harness/leash.  The real deal breaker, though, is when the underside of the sweater is as long as the top, or it does not fit snug through the belly.  I am not dressing my dog to be a cute prop - he gets cold in the winter when he goes out for a walk and needs something that he will not soil the first time he lifts his leg (marking the tree is fine, marking his own clothing, not so much!).  

And he certainly does enjoy the attention he receives while looking super smart in his custom made clothing.  To be honest, the prancing gets out of control when a stranger starts complimenting him!

What a showoff!

Sweaters:  Made by me, "Hoodie Dog Coat"