Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Spooky Owls

The street I grew up on dead-ended into open space, so I spent a good deal of time walking through the nature preserve that was less than a mile from my doorstep.

One evening around dusk I was walking with my Mom and we heard, and then spotted, an owl perched on a tree.  My Mom decided to attempt to communicate with said owl with a few hoots and some jaunty head movements.  Whether this attempt at communication was some sort of blasphemous threat or the commencement of a mating ritual, we shall never know.  But whatever she managed to say did not please Mr. Owl, to say the least.  He came swooping down directly at us with a screech and we had to duck and cover.

Traumatic experience with a raptor aside, I am rather fond of the feathered creatures. 

These days I usually only hear them, but every once in a while on a late night walk I see a light colored flash of movement swoop on by.  It's truly amazing how SILENT their flight is, and I have been startled more than a few times.  Thankfully, they don't seem to be aggravated by a lone human being walking along their flight path, minus the awkward hooting and any exaggerated head movements, so they never come directly at me.  And they are definitely welcome to any rodents that might be living nearby.

A few years ago, I started an annual tradition of making myself a novelty print themed Halloween outfit instead of costume (although I am quite certain that a large percentage of the population would consider a large portion of my wardrobe a "costume").

Part of this has to do with the fact that the availability of fabulous novelty prints has improved over the years.

It has always been easy to find Christmas themed designs printed on fabric, but the Halloween themed prints have come a long way, probably due to the increased number of individuals who are quite obsessed with this holiday in recent years - because I do not remember the entire month of October being spooky season when I was a child.  I am sure it has a lot to do with the commercialization of the holiday, similar to Christmas, which is a shame, but I will definitely take the opportunity to make and wear more novelty prints.

So when this whimsical owl print grabbed my attention last year, I knew I would enjoy making something with it.  And I am very pleased with my choice for this year's holiday themed project.

I have also come to the realization that the idea of working only with "flattering" colors is easily forgotten when a print is just too good to pass up.

I now have one more lovely choice to add to my arsenal of Halloween appropriate frocks.

And this project has reminded me that I should recall the existence of my rick-rack collection more often, because scallops of any kind are always a fabulous choice.  Happy Halloween, everyone!

Dress:  Made by me, McCalls 8401
Hair Bow:  Made by me
Earrings:  Etsy, Glitz-o-Matic
Shoes:  Miss L Fire "Bel-Aire"

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Orange & Black

Ah yes, the annual Halloween novelty print dress project.  I do enjoy this process!

I picked up this adorable owl print last year after the aforementioned holiday had passed.  There was slightly less than four yards left on the bolt, and I had to have it!  I didn't know what I would do with the fabric, but I was quite certain that it was worth taking home.

Fast forward to this year, and a rummage through the seasonal printed fabrics in my stash reminded me of this print.

Unfortunately, McCalls 8401 requires more than what I had on hand.  Ggrrrr.  But I was convinced that this pattern was the perfect option for this print.  And once I get an idea in my head, my stubborn streak rears its ugly head.

But as you might have guessed, I figured out a solution.  As is pretty clear from the illustration, the skirt is a dirndl; in other words, just a bunch of rectangles stitched together.  After a quick look at the fabric layout, it was clear that the four skirt pieces were the biggest fabric hogs, and was the obvious place to make some adjustments.

So after laying out the bodice and sleeve pieces, and figuring out exactly how much fabric was required, I measured the remaining yardage and divided by four.

I actually ended up cutting out two sizes larger for the skirt width to give myself even more fullness in the skirt (and utilize as much of my fabric as possible).  Why leave a narrow scrap when it can be incorporated into a full skirt?!

The next question was whether or not to add rick-rack trim.

That was an easy decision!

I wasn't sure how obvious the scalloped edges would be laid next to the black and white gingham, but it was worth a try.

The rick-rack that I found ended up being slightly narrower than I liked, so I stitched it in place favoring one edge instead of right down the middle - which ended up working quite nicely.

And just to make things interesting, I made a rookie mistake on my sleeves.  Can you spot the problem?

The sleeve in the back of the above photo has the facing pinned right side to wrong side.  I don't think I have ever done that before.  Not only did I pin it, I stitched and trimmed that seam before realizing what I had done.  Thankfully, the cotton is pretty sturdy and I was able to salvage the sleeve.  Which is a good thing, since the scraps that I had remaining would not have fit another sleeve piece.

The midriff overlay had me a bit stumped.  I kept browsing the instructions looking for where the buttonholes were mentioned.  The pattern piece itself had three circles indicating where to place the buttons, but no lines for the actual buttonhole.  Turns out, the pattern has you sew the buttons through both layers to secure the pieces with no functioning buttonhole.

Well, that just wasn't exciting enough for me, so I added bound buttonholes, cut on the bias to contrast with the gingham checks.

I had already chosen my buttons, which included a pretty significant shank, so the buttonholes just seemed necessary in my mind.

And I think they look rather jaunty, so the extra bit of effort was absolutely worth it!

That contrast gingham also came in handy for my facings.  My fabric was about 41" wide without the selvedge, and even though the pattern layout suggested that I would be able to fit the collar pieces next to the skirt pieces, that was not possible.

But I actually think that the contrast is fun, so I'm not mad about it.

This particular design has a side zipper.  As mentioned above, those button are not meant to be functional, and the back bodice midriff is cut on the fold.  The center back bodice opens for about six inches to allow the dress to be pulled over the head.  If I was to make this dress again, I would think about adding seam allowance to the back midriff section and using a center back zipper.  The skirt already has a center back seam, so this would be a fairly easy alteration, and I find a center back zipper so much easier to get in and out of instead of a side zip.

The instructions call for single fold bias tape, but I like to make my own, so I used the contrasting fabric for a nice bias finish to the neck edge.

I actually love the rick-rack trim on the collar with this fabric.  I think that detail would have been easily lost in this busy print without the extra bit of contrast on the edge.

And as for for the skirt, since I added a bit of width to the skirt pieces, I was slightly nervous that they might not gather down to the bodice waist.  It was a tight squeeze, but I managed to keep the extra floof.

I contemplated adding the piping that the pattern suggested to the waist seam, but I thought that the skirt gathers were just a little too bulky for it to work.

And I think that there is already enough going on here!

I installed a side lapped zipper by hand, per usual.

I did make sure to match my center front midriff in the gingham check, but I didn't think enough about the side seam match.  Oh well, most of the time it will be covered by my arms, so it's not the worst mistake in the world, but it's still aggravating to have missed that match.

But I do love the way that the contrasting prints work together.

As you might have noticed, I was inspired by the cover illustration.

This is one of those projects that was just sort of meant to be.

I only have a very small pile of scraps left of this fabulous novelty print, and I think that it really suits the style.

I did have to purchase the black and white contrast fabric, as well as the rick-rack.  But I guarantee I will find a use for the rest of that rick-rack.  And everything else (including the buttons) were from the stash, which always feels good.

I do love the way this turned out.  In fact, I wouldn't be opposed to making this pattern again if the right fabric comes along.  It's a wonderfully classic silhouette, and I do love any excuse to pull out a petticoat!

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Wrapped in Vintage

I am getting better at making newly released patterns.  I have a tendency to get excited by a new pattern, think up all sorts of options for said pattern, and then get distracted by other shiny things.  Then the weather changes and I lose track of the pattern, and out of sight, out of mind, and that projects gets lost in the shuffle.

But I was definitely intrigued by this vintage reproduction and wanted to give this one a try . . . sooner rather than later.

It's a fabric hog, so my choices of stashed fabric were limited.  But I did have a lot of this print.  

One dye bath later (in an effort to make the color story slightly more palatable), and it was time to cut into the pattern.

The sewing process itself was a bit of an adventure, and I was convinced halfway through that the project was destined to fail.  Some designs give you a good idea of the final fit along the way, but this is not one of them!  This looks like a shapeless sack right up until the end.

But I kept going, and surprise, surprise, this dress turned out to be a super comfy, easy to wear option for lazy days when I can't be bothered.

The print has certainly grown on me, but it's never going to be my first choice, which is keeping this dress from being a favorite.  However, it has certainly earned its place in my wardrobe.  And I do think that all of the elastic casings and gathered ruffles improve the fabric print, so this particular pattern was a great choice for this fabric.

And for that, I am very pleased.

This version was always intended as a wearable muslin, and after completing the dress, I was rethinking that.  Do I really need another version of a dress that doesn't thrill me?  Well, having now realized that this is the perhaps the ultimate throw on and go dress, I may have to make myself another - only time will tell.  And if I come across the right fabric, it is quite likely that this design will make an appearance in next Summer's sewing queue. 

Dress:  Made by me, McCalls 8358
Shoes:  Sam Edelman "Kanya"
Necklace:  Vintage, from Mom
Bracelet:  Vintage, from Mom