Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 – A Year in Review

Before the New Year rolls around, I wanted to take a look back at my creative accomplishments for 2013. 

There were lots of dresses, which is not very surprising!

Last year I had the Sew Weekly challenges to keep me on track, so my pace was more laid back this year (which is a good thing!).  Turns out, however, that the numbers are very similar.  I made/re-worked a total of 39 items this year, which is hard to believe!

Accessories are always fun.  I discovered that I really enjoy working with beads on fabric.

Being involved with Britex as a Guest Blogger is an incredible honor, and I look forward to playing with more gorgeous fabric in the coming year.  If I had to choose, these garments are probably my favorites.

I also altered a wedding dress.  And I managed to complete six sweaters (I am including my Cabled Cardi that has not yet been worn - the last button was stitched on just hours ago).  

That means half of my makes were separates!  I have found that separates are, by far, the most worn items in my closet, and am very pleased to look back and see that their number is increasing.  

All in all, it was a successful year on the creative front, and am looking forward to the next!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Hidden Treasure

Do you ever wonder what becomes of the treasures that a seamstress leaves behind?  Fortunately, quite a few people seem to rescue gorgeous vintage patterns, fabric, buttons, and notions from the trash bin these days.  But I suspect that a good deal of the irreplaceable ends up in the landfill because someone does not know its intrinsic worth.

When I came across this Etsy listing on Pinterest, I was fascinated.  I wonder, was this a gift, or purchased with a specific event in mind?  Why was the garment never completed?  Perhaps the owner could not decide between the two designs?  (I know which I would choose!)  

There are no buttons included, but other than that, this seems to be a complete kit.  I suspect, however, that the patterns were purchased separately.  Three yards of fabric would seem to be cutting it close, especially for the Paquin dress and jacket combination.  And if the patterns were not part of the initial purchase, who decided to put them together?

How exciting would it be to open a box tucked away for decades only to find such riches?!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Napped in Velvet

A few people spotted the pink velvet shoes in my last post and asked if I made them . . . I wish I could make my own shoes, but have never had the nerve to try - a large part of the problem is my aversion to to projects that require glue!  The shoes in question are actually crushed velvet, where the dress fabric is a patterned velvet.  They just happen to be the same color pink.  Working with the fabric reminded me of their existence as it has been a few years since they were last worn.

In my mind, December is the perfect time to work with and wear velvet.

Last year, I managed to save some red velvet from a horrible fate, and this year I finally got around to working with this textured velvet for yet another winter themed dress.  It does not scream Christmas, but it feels rather festive.

The fabric is perhaps more drapey than the pattern calls for – the lower front bodice section is folded on the bias and would probably look more like the sketch in a crisper fabric.  I do, however, like the draping, although the finished look is different than what I expected.

And it is certainly a relief to finally finish a project, even if there are already quite a few more in progress!

Dress:  Made by me, Burda 7176
Shoes:  Colin Stuart
Coat:  Harve Benard
Earrings:  Banana Republic 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Finishing Touches

The last few weeks have done nothing to cure my lack of motivation.  Sure, there has been a bit of sewing, and some knitting here and there, but I still feel incredibly lazy and unproductive.

I realize that I should forgive myself for not being in a creative mood, but it always makes me feel guilty.

In fact, my pink velvet dress is finished, so at least I can tell myself I have completed something.

The pattern does not call for sleeve lining, which seems silly to me.  If everything else is lined, why not make the extra effort and have a completely lined garment?  Unfortunately, I did not have quite enough pink bemberg on hand.  But I did have a bit of ivory that works almost as well.  I am just going to pretend that the mismatched colors add character to the piece!

And now I am going to attempt to snap out of this funk . . . I desperately need a Chihuahua hug!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Beaded Belts

Since I have had so much fun beading recently, I thought I would start another project.  My velvet dress  was not labor intensive enough for me, so I added beading to the mix! 

For this belt, I decided on simple linear rows of beads.  All the preparation needed was a few rows of lengthwise basting to keep things on track.

These beads have been living in my beading box for an eternity - I believe they originally came from a garage sale lot that my mom picked up.  Pink is one of my favorite colors, but for beading projects, I usually gravitate toward purples and blues.  This seemed like the perfect opportunity to use pink!

To help tie in the fabric for my velvet dress, I added a flower (which also covers the closure).  First, I penciled the design on paper. 

Two flowers were cut out of paper, one of which was trimmed down.  This process was repeated until I had four different sizes.  This templates were then used to trace on scraps of velvet.

A bit of Fray Check was dabbed along the edges and the pieces were layered one on top of the other.

To finish things off, I added a few beads at the center before attaching the flower to my new belt.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Purple Paisley

As the years go by and my closet fills with more and more hand made pieces, I take every opportunity to play matchmaker.

Purple and teal are probably my favorite color combination, most likely due to the fact that I love purple, and I love teal – put them together and I love them even more!

The jacket was created as part of an outfit, and each time I wear it I remind myself that I keep meaning to make another version.  Who knows when I will get around to that!

The dress is another Vintage Vogue reproduction.  It is a definitely a summer frock, but before I put it to bed for a few months, I though I would pair it back with the teal velveteen blazer.

And now I feel like I need another circle skirt or two and a couple of new short sleeved jackets.  Actually, there really needs to be a whole lot less dreaming up new garments, and a whole lot more sewing.  I have been lazy, lazy, lazy for the last couple of weeks – it probably has something to do with the ridiculously cold temperatures (which seems to have improved in the past twenty-four hours)!   

Jacket:  Made by me,  McCalls 4928
Dress:  Made by me, Vogue 2902
Brooch:  Made by me (for this sweater)
Coat:  Banana Republic

Shoes: INC

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Quick Refashion

I am always so jealous of folks who take an existing garment that is rather drab and re-fashion it into something amazing.  Sure, I have taken old clothing items apart, but I would say I use them more as fabric yardage.

And I was in desperate need of a quick project.  My velvet dress is not abandoned, but on hold for the moment.  More than anything, I want to assure myself that I am still able to finish something in less than a month!

For some reason, I purchased two of these cotton dresses back in 2007 at Old Navy (thank you Gap Corp. for putting dates on your tags).  I plead cheap clothing insanity.

There are certain styles that I just adore, however, I do not adore them when they are on me.  Every time I see an old Audrey Hepburn photograph, I want to put on a pair of cigarette pants and a striped sweater and flats - but I know that I would not be happy with the look on my body.

And as much as I love the trapeze line that Yves Saint Laurent created for Dior, they just do not work for me, either.  I did wear the black version of this dress with a thick cinch belt which looked rather cute, however, belting the dress raised the hemline a few inches too many for my comfort level.  It would have looked great with a pair of tights, but that defeats the whole purpose of a cotton summer dress, doesn’t it!?

This weekend I was attempting to find some extra room in my closet and rediscovered these dresses.

I measured from the hem up, wanting to keep the existing faced hemline in place.  A few gathers, a placket for the zipper, and a waistband, and I have a couple of "new" skirts!  All that I needed was a zipper and some thread to complete them. 

Cotton is not exactly suitable for this frigid weather we are experiencing, but I just know that these skirts will get more wear than the original dresses ever did!

Hooray for refashioning!  And now I can get back to a more involved project . . .

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tempting Treats

I received an email from Denise over at The Blue Gardenia which I thought might interest you.  In honor of a site re-launch arriving in The New Year, The Blue Gardenia is having a sale (now through December 31st)!

So many gorgeous patterns, so little time . . . 

These are just a few of my favorites.

Because I always have time to page through images of stunning vintage patterns!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Working with Velvet

Here are some construction shots of my latest project, made with a lovely pink textured velvet that has been stashed away for quite a few years (I believe it is a rayon/poly blend).

I hate to tell people that working with a certain fabric or a specific technique is difficult, because I would never want to influence someone who has had a fantastic experience with a complicated process.  For instance, I am basically self taught, and because no one ever told me setting in sleeves was supposed to be challenging, I have never had an issue with them.  And zippers . . . they are an integral part of certain designs, and so learning how to work with them was necessary and not a big deal.  Certainly my first attempts did not look beautiful or “professional,” but they got the job done just the same.

A costume designer who I thought knew everything there was to know about sewing, once grumbled that she would never use velvet again after completing a stunning gown in the fabric.  It suddenly struck me that velvet was "supposed to be" a bear to work with, not because I had a bad experience with the fabric, but because someone who could do just about anything with a needle and thread was frustrated.  Silly, right? 

That being said, velvet, along with many napped fabrics, definitely has a finicky personality.  

Directionality is extremely important.  Cutting layouts should have all pieces facing in the same direction.  For the richest color, the nap should face upwards.  Many patterned velvets are cut with the nap facing the hemline so that the pattern is easier to see.  I was quite interested to feel that this particular fabric has the nap moving from selvedge to selvedge (perhaps the texture process is responsible).  

Of course, there are some items that will help make things easier.  A walking foot and a needle board are fabulous when working with napped fabrics, but both are an expensive proposition.  I have neither, and it does not stop me from working with velvets – they are just too yummy to avoid!

This is not going to be a super quick project, even though the dress design is rather basic - velvet is not a fabric to choose for that last minute frock for tomorrow evening’s party.  Patience is required.  I will avoid a project made from velvet if I am feeling the least bit cranky – I will only get frustrated.

The pleats were the thing I was most worried about.  There are a lot of lines to mark and match up. 

I basted the muslin to the cut piece along the pleat lines, turned the piece over, marked in chalk, and then snipped the basted stitches apart.  I figured, between the thread and the chalk, something had to remain visible!

Hand basting is your friend!  To avoid irritation, I am hand basting all of my seams, darts, and well, basically everything.  Velvet has a habit of shifting around, especially under a standard machine foot.  Also, un-picking machined seams will most likely mar the fabric and remove some of the pile - hand basting eliminates that problem.

Make sure to never set an iron down on napped fabric, instead, gently steam from the wrong side while hovering the iron over the fabric.  Crushed or patterned velvets are a lot more forgiving in this regard.

Expect raveling and shredding – those cut edges are going to be a mess.  I have been using my pinking shears on every seam that is completed.

So progress is slow, but the dress is coming along!

What are your favorite tips for working with velvet?