Sunday, August 22, 2021

Rambling Rose

And now for the bodice!  I knew early on that I wanted to use McCalls 7929 as a starting point.  I used the pattern to make this top and loved how it turned out.  The only major change necessary would be to alter the button back to a zipper, which is extremely simple.

I actually began cutting out the bodice and sleeves prior to all of those ruffle calculations

That way I would know exactly how much fabric was available for the skirt.

The pattern recommends using purchased bias tape, but I really don't like the poly/cotton blend stuff, so I made my own out of self-fabric.

It really doesn't take much effort, and this ensures that the weight of the bias is the same as the garment fabric.

I highly recommend doing this even when a pattern suggests otherwise.

And while I am not a huge fan of elastic casings in general, for some reason I really like this sleeve.  For the arm casing, I decided to use some plain cotton from the stash because I was worried about the print bleed through after cutting out the bodice lining.  When both layers were held up to the light, there was an obvious shadow from the lining.  This bothered me for a couple of days, and I thought about recutting the lining, but soon realized that when the bodice was on a solid body and light was unable to filer through, all was well.

I even managed to find suitable elastic on hand.  I rarely use elastic in my sewing projects, so this is no small feat.  I probably should stock up on more at this point because I really dislike having to put sewing on hold for a silly thing like no elastic.

And since I can't imagine any bra strap working with these really wide-set sleeves, I added bra cups.  They get loosely stitched into place along available seamlines and any edges that don't fit the design are trimmed away.  This makes the dress much easier to wear in the long run, just step in, zip it up, and go.

The major surprise for this dress was the amount of torso length that I ended up removing from the bodice.  Granted, I had added in a bit to begin with, but I removed that, and then some. The only explanation is the weight of the ruffled skirt.  Well, that, and maybe the elastic in the sleeve cap. 

I also added a few boning channels to the bodice lining (I did this on my previous version as well).  I find it extremely odd that the pattern includes a strapless version, and yet there is no mention of boning. How on earth would that stay up?!  Oh, and this pattern also contains a fair amount of ease, so I would wager that the strapless version was a late addition to the design, and it is not going to go well for someone attempting to make it as drafted.  The pattern even recommends lawn as one of the fabric choices!  How on earth is that going to stay put, even in the best of circumstances, let alone with a couple of extra inches of ease at the waist???!!!!  I cry foul.

For my purposes, the boning just adds a bit of structure to the lightweight cotton.

And that's about all there is to the bodice.

I did have to re-open those side seams even though I knew I would be adding ties right from the start, because somehow I always manage to forget something along the way.  But so far, she's looking good!

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

A Tiered Skirt

This is a project that I have been working on for the last few weeks, and I thought I would do the smart thing and jot down my thoughts right after making the dress so the memory of construction is fresh.  What a concept!  I haven't managed to do this in what feels like ages, so hopefully this means that I can get back into a routine around here.

I actually had the design for this project outlined (in my head, at least) for almost a year.  The fabric was initially purchased with the thought that it would make a lovely quilt backing, and it would have done a wonderful job.  But I didn't love the match with the quilt that I had in mind, and the more I handled the fabric and looked at the print, the more I was convinced that the fabric deserved better than to be hidden on the back of a quilt.  Since I had a whole lot of yardage that had been intended for a queen sized quilt, I thought I might as well take advantage of that fact.  The idea of a tiered maxi skirt was the first thing that came to mind.  I mean, how often do you have almost 9 yards of fabric to play with?!

But if I wanted to make a tiered skirt with all of that gathering, I was determined to use one of my vintage ruffler feet.  That meant that my Featherweight needed a little TLC.  I don't use this machine as much as I would like because I am slightly wary of damaging it.  And if it was going to create miles of ruffles, it was going to get a bit of a workout, so I figured it was time to get the screwdriver out and make sure she was ready for the task ahead.

I am no repair expert, but the nice thing about these machines is that everything is fairly basic and there is plenty of online information to be found.  And clearly someone had taken some care with this Featherweight at some point in the not too distant past.  I was expecting a lot more lint under the needle plate, for instance.  Now that I have spent some quality time with her, I believe I will christen her "Fiona the Featherweight."

But back to those ruffles!  I am not one for top-stitching as a general rule, but I had a crazy idea as the dress design was coming together in my mind.  Why not use another vintage sewing machine foot if I was going to use that ruffler.  And instead of gathering each tier and stitching right sides together, I might as well go crazy and apply each ruffle one on top of the other to create a visible fluted edge.

That was going to require more of the dreaded top-stitching, so why not go a step further and use a narrow hem foot for that top edge?  Because my fingers are not ready to narrow hem never-ending ruffle edges; I just know I would burn myself with steam from the iron and get disgusted with the whole process.

I recall using a modern version of the narrow hem contraption on at least one dress back in the day with my first sewing machine (a White with snap on feet).  If memory serves, there was a few curse words uttered, and although the hem turned out pretty well, it was not perfect.  But that was a curved hem, and a straight edge should be easier, right?!  It took a bit of practice to get where I wanted to go, but overall, I am quite pleased with the end result.  I have a few of these narrow hem feet for vintage machines.  One is adjustable, but it wouldn't make anything narrower than a 1/4" hem.  It looked okay, but slightly clunky for this application.  The 1/8" foot was giving me grief because the needle placement was too far to the left to catch the folded edge of the fabric.  But for some reason, after I cleaned the machine, this was no longer an issue.  I am not sure why that fixed the issue, but I am very thankful that the narrower hem was achieved since it looks so much nicer!

One thing that I wasn't expecting was the fact that my pre-hemmed lengths of fabric reacted differently under the ruffler than a raw edged piece of fabric.  The good news is that I tested scraps of hemmed fabric and calculated the amount of fabric taken up by the foot before cutting my actual dress pieces, so it was clear to see the difference between my initial un-hemmed scraps, and the hemmed fabric bits and readjust things.

But before cutting out those really long strips of fabric, I spent quite a bit of time thinking about how many ruffles I wanted in the skirt, and what the width of each ruffle should be.  It's a bit ridiculous how long I thought about this, and the amount of images I stared at.  I knew that I wanted a narrow width at the waist, grading to larger widths as they move toward the hemline.  Most photos of ready-to-wear skirts have a deep ruffle at the waist, and narrow ones at the hemline.  And I suspect this has more to do with saving on the cost of fabric than anything else, since the lower ruffles are going to take up a whole lot more fabric because they have to be a significantly longer length than the upper ruffles.  So if you are going to have to cut yards and yards of ruffle for that bottom tier, making them 6" wide instead of 14" wide makes a huge difference when you are making hundreds or even thousands of the same dress.  But, in my opinion, having a wider ruffle above a narrow one looks unbalanced, so I decided to splurge on the yardage.  And since four tiers is more extravagant than three, that sounded good, too.

For my skirt, I decided that the four finished tiers would be 7, 9, 11, and 13" wide, respectively.  Since I was applying the ruffled edge on the right side of the fabric, I gave myself some wiggle room when cutting those pieces out.    

To create the ruffle tiers, I first calculated the length needed, and cut my four strips, each tier approximately 1.7 times longer than the one above it.

Next, both edges of each piece was narrow hemmed, except for the very top edge that would be attached to the bodice, and the bottom edge of the lowest tier.  I decided that the fluted edge would only add bulk at the waistline, so that one seam would be constructed in the normal fashion, skirt gathered down to the width of the bodice waist edge, and stitched right sides together.

For the three lower tiers, the upper edge was put through the ruffler, to be stitched approximately 5/8" from the narrow hemmed edge.

That left me with a mountain of ruffled fabric.

It was then possible to measure down from the stitching line made by the ruffle foot to my 9" length, or 11" length, etc.  I then marked that line across the length of the edge and applied the next tier along that placement.

Once pinned in place, each successive layer was stitched into place along the same line of stitching created by the ruffler.

Because I was dealing with a massive amount of fabric, I went back to my contemporary machine  for this step since there is a lot more room for maneuvering than with a small vintage one.

And that process was repeated for each layer of ruffle.

And eventually, after hauling around a lot of fabric, the skirt began to take shape!

I should also mention that I left the lower edge of the bottom ruffle raw.  I decided that a narrow hem was something that I would find on a cheap maxi skirt at the mall, and a more substantial hem would add a bit of weight and create a much nicer finish. 

And here is the almost completed skirt.  That's a whole lot of floral fabric to haul about, and I love it!

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Floral Challis Leftovers

If I had to choose something good that came out of 2020 as far as productivity goes, it was the amount of in progress projects that were completed, and being forced to use what was on hand (since dropping in at a local sewing store was impossible for a large portion of the year, and thereafter, not something I wanted to do very often).

After making a dress out of this rayon challis, I had a small amount of leftovers.  There wasn't very much there, and I had attempted to make a couple of tops over the years with the remnants, but even playing pattern tetris didn't work.  And then I came across Vogue 8736 in the pattern stash.  And miraculously, the short sleeved version fit onto my randomly shaped rayon pieces!

I used french seams where I could since the fabric is very lightweight.

There was also some rayon seam binding thrown in for good measure, namely for the armhole seams and facing edges.

And in the spirit of using what was on hand, I found these green buttons which are pretty much a perfect match to the green in the print.

This was a pretty quick pattern to put together.

I did take the extra time to mark my buttonholes with basting thread before using a vintage buttonholer.

Who am I?!?  Machine buttonholes on more than one project in a year?  I tell you, I no longer recognize myself in the mirror.  However, now that I have discovered hand worked buttonholes, the Greist buttonholer may have some vacation time coming.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Ditsy Florals and Hand Worked Buttonholes

Hello there!  It's been a while.  I feel like I say that each time I write a blog post, and I wish I could get back into a routine around here, but I am not sure how to go about that. 

I feel as though I lost my sewing motivation for a while, but thankfully, it is back.  So I have been spending a lot of my free time in the sewing room instead of on the computer.

But anyway, back to the sewing!

This is one of the few projects that used nothing but stashed items, which is always nice.  I even managed to find a suitable thick white cotton thread for the hand worked buttonholes tucked away in the sewing machine table!  Which is one of the reasons I have a hard time letting go of sewing related bits and bobs . . . someday they may come in handy.

I am never sure about long sleeved summer themed and weighted dresses.  But this one has already had a few wearings, which is a good sign.

This project also confirmed my suspicion that 1970s clothing designs are beginning to grow on me (well, at least some of them).

There are definitely some lovely basic silhouettes to be found.  And I really need to see past the super mini lengths that are often found on the pattern illustrations.  Because obviously, hem length is one of the easiest changes to make to a pattern.

But my main objection to the era was probably all of the polyester.  But that, of course, is also an easy fix.

I had a good feeling about this pattern from the start, and I was not disappointed.

This design would also look wonderful in a solid color, if I ever manage to find something that I like.  And I would love to try this pattern in something a bit more drapey.  Where are all of the heavier weight rayons? I do love a challis, but sometimes a girl wants something more substantial!

Dress:  Made by me, Vogue 8399
Shoes:  Colin Stuart