Monday, June 30, 2014

Polka Dot Party Time

The Britex Workshop Space Launch Party this weekend was the perfect excuse to make myself a new dress (not that I need an excuse!).  

I wanted an easy, muslin-free project made out of an easy to work with cotton, and Butterick 6055 seemed like the perfect choice.

The quilting cotton has oblong dots that are printed on the diagonal.  That made matching things an impossibility, but that is not a huge issue on a cotton day dress, right?!

I did not have enough fabric to cut everything out, but I was invested in the project . . . who cares if the pattern is unsuited to diagonals, or that the darn facing eats fabric . . . I am going to make it work.

So the insides had to be cobbled together.

I know I may be banned from the sewing community for saying it, but in-seam pockets on a day dress are just not my thing (although jackets and outerwear should always have them, in my opinion).  If they are not a part of the design, I feel like they do strange things to the silhouette and have a tendency to stretch out - especially if you use them to stash things.  And what is the point of a pocket if not to use it?!  

However, all bets are off for decorative pockets - I love them, even if I never end up using them.  Which sounds completely ridiculous, I know.  

The pattern calls for a non-functioning tie to finish off the over-sized pockets, but I decided to go for a little collection of buttons that matched the contrasting bias trim that I added to break up all of those dots.

Because I felt the need to add some hand sewing to this project, I used a running stitch in a double length of silk thread to decorate the pockets.

I added this detail to the sleeve and skirt hem as well.  

I really like the homemade look of the running stitch.

The detail is probably lost in all those oversized dots, but I know it's there!

When I add lining to a full skirt, I like to thread tack the two layers together at the seamlines.  This cotton would probably stay put on its own, but it ensures that the two skirts do not twist around.

And, of course, this dress needed a belt!  I even had the perfect buckle stashed away.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The problem with reorganizing the sewing room is . . .

I can never remember that brilliant spot where I put something away for safe keeping.

Yesterday it was quilt batting for shoulder pads.

It made perfect sense to stash it away in the drawer with old rescued shoulder pads on my last clean up, but for years it has been in another random spot, so remembering its new hiding place was a bit of a challenge.  So much for efficiency!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

eShakti Dress Review

A couple of months ago I was contacted by eShakti and asked if I would like to review one of their products.  And I have to admit that the idea of someone making a dress just for me was rather exciting, even if I was quite skeptical about the quality of the garment that would arrive at my door.  So I decided that I would take the opportunity to honestly review the product as someone obsessed with seam finishing and quality craftsmanship, and extremely wary of the mall and ready-to-wear garments.

There are many, many cute styles on the website, so it is certainly worth taking a gander, if only for inspiration on fabric pairings or neckline options.  The choice for a review was limited (which is to be expected) and it was challenging to find something I thought I would be happy with, and something that I could not easily make for myself.

My first choice was a red cotton poplin frock with a bird motif in blue.  The color pairing was not my favorite, and since the company prides itself on its customization, I sent an email asking if it would be possible to swap fabric colors for another cotton poplin (even though this was not an option given on the website) – I knew it was unlikely, but it never hurts to ask.  The more I looked at the dress, the more it seemed that the motifs I originally assumed were appliqués were embroidered directly on the dress.  How wonderful would it be if you could also customize those color choices?!  So I also asked about that.  Instead of an answer to either question, I was sent an email asking me to choose another dress since that particular fabric selection was limited.  Well, that was fine, but I was actually not interested in the given fabric, and what about my actual questions?!

In the end, I decided on a knit dress.  My choice has already disappeared from the site, although the same silhouette is still available.

I ordered a size up to avoid looking like a stuffed sausage – which is just my personal issue with knits and the idea of negative ease.

There are numerous sleeve/length options for certain styles.  I wanted to make some sort of alteration to see what the company would do with that information, so I opted for a three-quarter sleeve, a knee length skirt, and removed the pockets.

The skirt is really short, even though height information is entered before purchase – not sure what happened there?!  If it was a suitable knee length for someone who is 5’6” tall, I would get a lot more wear out of this garment, but it would need 3 or perhaps 4 more inches added to accomplish this.  To be fair, I did not mention the fact that I am long-waisted, and the dress is a good 2 inches too short in that area (when I alter patterns, I only have to add ¾ - 1” to the torso length).  And while I think the dress is quite small for the size, the customized sleeves are ridiculously big.

Then there was the issue with DHL delivery.  About ten days after I received an email that the dress had been shipped, I checked in with eShakti regarding my order since I had not heard anything and did not have the dress in hand.  I had supposedly “refused delivery.”  The DHL drivers evidently do not know how to read an obvious sign on a keypad entry system, and therefore could not get into my secured apartment building.  After multiple explanations about this with telephone operators at DHL (they finally called me after, I assume, eShakti called them), I gave up and had the package redirected to my office.  So eShakti completed the custom order in nine days which was a quick turnaround, but then DHL needed eighteen days to deliver.  I have never had a problem with UPS or FedEx delivering to my building, so I am hoping that I never have to deal with DHL again. 

And while this is certainly not the fault of eShakti, delivery was not a pleasant experience.  If you are ordering frocks for a special occasion with a specific date, I would make sure to allow plenty of time!

But back to the dress . . .

It was shown with a belt and the description said it was included, but that portion of the garment never arrived.  My disappointment with that was that I missed out on the opportunity to see how much ease they think is necessary for the given waist measurement.  Since most of the dresses produced by eShakti use elastic at the back waistband, this measurement can be easily fudged on the dress itself.  It is a very clever use of elastic, and much more flattering than using it all the way around the waistline, in my opinion.

The dress also has a side zipper which is certainly not necessary in a dress like this.  With the elastic waistband at the back, and the knit fabric, it easily slips over the head.  And to be honest, the zipper insertion was less than lovely.  They really should  have left it out completely.

As a nice touch, lingerie guards are included (although this particular neckline is not very wide and does not require the feature, it is nice to know they made the effort, just the same).

The care label says machine wash.  However, the embroidery was showing signs of wear as soon as I took the dress out of the package, so I think machine washing this dress would make it look ratty.  There are already fuzzy bits in places which does not bode well for an adventure in a washing machine.  Also, because of the dark navy color, a press cloth would have been advisable during construction.  There are a few spots along the princess bust seams that look a bit shiny. 

But that is my hyper-sensitivity to garment construction rearing its ugly head – the dress is certainly acceptable by most ready-to-wear standards.

Overall, I find the customization rather limited for a company that pushes that angle.  There are cute cotton poplin prints and solids that are only available for one or two dresses or skirts.  I would love to see all woven fabric options listed for each woven dress design, and all of the current knit fabric options available for every dress drafted for knits.  Perhaps this would create an inventory nightmare, but I see many styles I like in a fabric that I would not choose.  Making the majority of my wardrobe these days means I have complete control over these issues, so if I am going to purchase a “customizable” dress, I want more options!

While I appreciate the idea of this company, in practice, it is not different enough from ready-to-wear to get me to put aside my sewing needles and fabric.  But for those who are looking for a cute dress with a few more options than the local mall, eShakti is definitely a viable option.

Just to be clear, I was actually much less disappointed that I was expecting to be.  The cotton knit fabric is quite nice, and the overall dress is cute.  And I certainly appreciate the opportunity to try something new!

If you would like to get your own eShakti dress, feel free to use coupon code "lamades" to get 10% OFF when you shop at eShakti – valid through July 2, 2014.

Please note:
Code has to be entered in the ‘promotional code’ box.   It is not case-sensitive.  
Code can be used any number of times until the validity period. 
It can be clubbed with any other promotional offer, gift coupon or gift card in the same order unless explicitly specified otherwise in the offer conditions.
This discount code is not applicable on clearance / sale, gift cards & overstock categories.
Not applicable on previous purchases.

Dress:  eShakti
Shoes:  Halogen

[Disclosure:  This dress was sent to me for review by eShakti, but the opinions expressed here are my own.]

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Beaded Bliss

The beading on my Anna collar is complete!

After a lot of hand stitching, a few unpicked sections, and a ton of seed beads, I am tagging this project "finished"!

After I was happy with the embroidered bits, I basted a few designs on the collar in silk thread.

After covering those basted bits with beads, I started filling in the spaces.

And kept going . . .

and going . . .

until I was happy with the result.

I wanted some of the fabric to show through, it was just a matter of getting it to look balanced with all the beading.

I figured out that my thread had a bad habit of catching on all those three-dimensional clumps of silver beads, so I put those on hold until all of the other beading was complete.

And then the raw edges were turned under.

Which, I have to say, was probably the most exciting part of the project.

To keep the collar closed, I added two hook & eyes to the center back opening.

Although a thimble still feels foreign to my fingers, I managed to spare my fingertips from major injury this time around.  But it would certainly be a useful skill to have with all of the hand sewing I do . . .

A duplicate collar was cut out to use as a lining.  I suppose I could have used an actual lining material, but since I have plenty of scraps leftover of the silk/cotton jacquard, I figured I would use them.

A line of stay-stitching helped to mark the fold-point - this is so much quicker than marking with a pen!  It also keeps the clipped curves from migrating too far.

The lining also allowed me to cover most of the hook & eye bits.

Which is so much prettier than all that metal showing.

The lining was hand stitched into place.

To camouflage the stay-stitching on the collar, a line of beads was stitched along the outer edges.

And that concludes the collar portion of this outfit . . .

Stitching the two hook & eyes on this collar has reminded me that I have to add one to the dress.  And then I am truly done with the outfit!