Monday, July 6, 2015

Pattern Review - Chambray Dress [McCall's 7081]

chambray dress 1

chambray dress 5

Pattern: McCall's 7081, view C
Fabric: cotton chambray from Metro Textiles

Sandals: B.O.C
Bracelets: J Crew

Behold, the first garment hot off of my new sewing machine (more on that to come soon)!  On my last day of vacation, I decided to throw caution to the wind and cut out this pattern with no muslin to test the fit.  It was a bold move...and it almost was too small for me in the waist because I didn't pay attention to the finished measurements on the pattern piece (the usual size I cut was about 1 1/2" too small, whoops).  But I recut the waistband and was good to go.  Whew, close one!

chambray dress 2

I love love love this dress.  Usually I'm not one for circle skirts, but there's something about this silhouette with the nipped in waist and the full skirt that feels ultra-feminine and is fun to twirl in, an added bonus.  After seeing gal-pal Karissa's version on Instagram, this pattern skyrocketed to the top of my sewing queue.

chambray dress 4

The pattern is really straightforward to make - the bodice has some pleats in the front, a surplice faux wrap (which I tacked in place at the neckline to keep things modest), side zipper, and a real collar with collar stand.  The skirt is a full circle skirt - let me tell you, it was a bitch to hem, but that's the nature of circle skirts amiright?  Lots and lots of fabric in that skirt, but the method to hem circle skirts on the Coletterie was a sure-fire way to get a professional, neat-looking hem.  I cut out and assembled this dress in an afternoon and evening marathon sewing session, and then hung the dress up overnight for the hem to settle and spent the following evening hemming and hand-sewing the rest of the dress.

chambray dress 3

If I had actually sewn a muslin, I could have corrected the fit in the back, which I didn't notice until I looked at these photos.  I think the bodice may be a little too long, which is a problem I haven't encountered before with my sewing.  If I choose to make this dress again, which I probably will because it's a great pattern and would look spiffy in a printed fabric, I'll need to make that adjustment.

chambray dress 6

And lastly - chambray, why have I never sewn with you before??  So easy to handle and work with, and really comfortable against the skin.  I love that it's denim-like in appearance, but much dressier feeling.  This is a great dress to wear to work (and it hides a full tummy after a big lunch)!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Time For an Upgrade!

Tomorrow is a big day - I'm visiting my family in PA this week, and tomorrow we're trekking out to Amish country so I can buy a new Bernina! I'm very excited since this is something I've wanted for a long time (about five years?) and the timing couldn't be better as I start to sew my wedding dress. My OG machine above, the Bernina 1005, will be going in for a check-up and cleaning and will hopefully have a new friend to come along on the car-ride back to Boston this weekend.

I had to explain to Chris the concept of having more than one machine, he didn't understand...oh grasshopper, you have much to learn! I tried to put in terms he'd get: "you have your twelve-string guitar, your electric, your mandolin..."

Here are the three models I'm considering. Of course, price will really be the determining factor:

530 - probably as basic as I'd go. All of these have an automatic button-hole feature, which is a HUGE deal for me, but I like that this one doesn't have all of those fancy embroidery stitches (don't need), has needle up/down, can wind a bobbin while sewing, etc. Pretty much all of the modern functions of sewing machines out there that I'm dying to have!

560 - this one is a little fancier than the 530. It stitches faster, has a touchscreen, automatic thread cutter, tutorials, and a USB. Not must-haves, but nice-to-haves.

710 - ooo baby, this is a Cadillac of a sewing machine. What's nice about this model is the longer arm, which would allow me to try some machine quilting without bunching up the project too much, or would just be helpful with a bulky garment. It stitches 1000 stitches/minute, has all of the fancy features of the above machines with LED touchscreens, stitch memory, and adjustable presser foot pressure. What really takes the cake is the Bernina Dual Feed - essentially, it has the capability of a built-in walking foot. How cool is that?? One of the reasons for upgrading to a new machine is that it's virtually impossible to find a walking foot for my model (nope, don't want one of those generic "converters" off of eBay). This would be so great to have...but it really comes down to price and what deal I can get. When I called the store they said they had this, but it was a floor model and was being maybe I can get a deal!

Do you have any of the above Bernina models? Wish me luck tomorrow!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Giraffes For Work

giraffe linden 4

Last week, while packing for three back-to-back meetings in three states in the midwest, I came to the realization that I have very few summer clothes that are "work appropriate" for hot weather.  I lived in graphic tees, shorts, and tank tops last year when I worked from home (and could wear jeans and sneakers to see customers), but now that I'm in the office and in front of large customers on a regular basis, I need to step up my game a bit!  Cutesy sundresses just aren't going to cut it.

giraffe linden 1

Patterns:  top - Linden, view B; skirt - Magic Pencil Skirt, reviewed here
Fabric: top - poly knit jersey from Grey's Fabric; skirt - ponte from Fabric Place Basement

Sandals: Franco Sarto
Bracelets: J. Crew

With my hectic travel schedule lately, I'm tackling quick-and-easy projects during my downtime that also serve as stash-busters, in preparation for my big move to my fiance's condo at the end of next month.  This Maggie London giraffe print has been hanging out in my stash for a year and a half mainly because I wasn't sure how to use it.  I bought enough yardage for a dress, but the funny thing I didn't realize about the fabric is that if it was cut with the greatest direction of stretch going across the body, as usual with knit fabric, the giraffes would run horizontally across instead of up and down.  Weird, right?  The Linden top is perfect for this fabric because it's not fitted, but there's just enough stretch in the fabric to pull it on and off comfortably.  And I love the drape of this top!  It's so different than the other Lindens I made with sweatshirt fleece this past winter.

giraffe linden 2

I'm now in love with Steam-a-Seam tape - how have I sewn knits for seven years and never used it?  Combined with my standard twin-needle hemming technique, it gave a crisp, perfect finish to the hems and neckline.  This is now my go-to for any type of hemming on knits without bands.

This is also my first "high-low" hem garment ever in my closet - I was so anti these types of tops,dresses etc when they first came out a few years ago.  This is a subtle high-low hem, so it doesn't bother me as much, and I think it works nicely on a loose silhoutte - it's more subtle.  The skirt it's paired with is a high-waisted skirt, so I'm curious how this will look with my normal mid-rise jeans.  This gal does not flash her stomach anywhere that's not a pool or beach!

giraffe linden 3

If you're looking for a quick, mind-numbingly easy project, I highly recommend the Magic Pencil Skirt pattern.  After making your first version and getting the fit down, you can easily whip out one from start to finish in a little over an hour.  I made the skirt and the Linden top between late Friday evening and Saturday morning - it was the top that took the longest because I wanted to do a nice job with the hems!

Everything looks so much more profesh with a label #sewing #stashbusting #handmade

Also note - "designer" label inside.  This top looks totally profesh, amiright?

giraffe linden 5

Usually when wearing a skirt like this, I pair it with a fitted top.  This combination of a loose top with a skirt pushes me outside of my dressing comfort zone, but the silhouette also feels a bit more modern with the boxy fit and dropped hem of the top.  I think I like it!  I was also relieved that along with being very comfortable to wear, the top also hid the mimosas and apps my friends and I indulged in at a bridal show this weekend.

And now, to pack my suitcase for a trip to Texas this week.  The travel never ends!


Thursday, June 11, 2015

When Bad Things Happen to Good Fabric

#mmmay15 ready to go out in my new jumpsuit, a hybrid of a @mccallpatterncompany bodice and @byhandlondon Holly trousers #sewing #mmm15

This was supposed to be a happy post about a sassy jumpsuit I made for a friend's bachelorette party a few weekends ago in Boston. A post about how I took two patterns, the Holly pants pattern from By Hand London and a McCall's bodice pattern from a dress, mashed them together, and came up with a jumpsuit that made me feel like a million bucks, as well as a jumpsuit that my fiance hated, which meant it must be 100% awesome (because boys are stupid sometimes).  I was man-repelling in this baby, and I didn't really care.

However, that is not the story for this post.  But, it does have a semi-happy ending.

Monique L'Huillier Silk Crepe de Chine, digitally printed in Italy. Destined to be a jumpsuit to wear to a friend's bachelorette party next weekend. #nuffsaid #gonnabeepic #fabricheaven #sewing

Wanting to wear something special for a night out in the city, I splurged on some Monique L'Huillier silk crepe de chine, digitally printed in Italy. 

Did you catch that last sentence?   There is nothing not amazing about that sentence!!!  Her garments made out of fabric like this sell at Bergdorf Goodman, omg.

Stumbling upon amazing designer finds like that at Fabric Place Basement is why I keep coming back over and over again.  There were so many stunning prints to choose from, and I ended up landing on this green/black colorway that looked like abstract-printed butterfly wings.  Beautiful drape, easy to sew, and felt great on the skin.  I couldn't wait to wear it when I was finished!


A full-length shot in my hotel room before we went out to dinner - was loving this whole look so much.

We then proceeded to have a fun night of dinner, a cruise out in the harbor on a boat with a live band, and then drinks and dancing back at our hotel.  All-in-all, not a rowdy night, especially for a bachelorette party (we may or may not have asked some guys to pose for butt-judging you do when you're out for a bachelorette paty!)

With all of that being said, someone please tell me how this happened all over the front of my jumpsuit:


I started to notice this happening as the night went on.  At first, I thought it was fuzz from my white napkin at dinner, but it grew progressively worse and worse as the night went on.  Keep in mind, silk crepe de chine is a pretty durable fabric, dresses and blouses are made from it all the time.  I also want to mention that I didn't wash/launder this fabric in any way, shape, or form before I made this, figuring if I needed to clean it I'd take it to the dry cleaners.  This pilling/pulling/bearding was all over the top of my thighs, lower part of the bodice, and along the upper side seams of the pants.  The back was completely fine, which I couldn't understand!  If anything, if friction caused this, this should have happened to the rear-end from all of the sitting I did that evening.  Even when I got home, I tried to replicate this effect by rubbing and picking at the fabric, but I couldn't get the fabric to behave as such.

So, I took my beloved jumpsuit to the store, spoke to a manager, and explained to her what happened - she was just as stumped and puzzled as I was as to why and how this happened.  After taking it to the back to show one of the other associates and figure out if there was any kind of solution to this, she came back out and apologized for this happening to my garment and gave me a full refund.  The whole point of taking my jumpsuit in was to let the store know they may have a faulty roll of fabric - I'd hate for this to happen to someone else!  I'm also really glad she was so understanding and accomodating, because this wasn't a small amount of money spent on this project.

Trying to be the eternal optimist, I'm seeing the silver lining of this whole experience that this jumpsuit was a "first run" of the future version that I will eventually make again.  I really liked this garment, and got lots of wonderful compliments in the few short hours I wore it, so I know the next one I make will be just as fabulous to wear.  And yes, much to my fiance's protestation, I will wear the new version out to dinner with him.  So there!

Have you ever had a freaky-weird situation with fabric for a garment you made? 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Knowing When to Part With Handmade Clothes

Donation pile
Donation pile...getting rid of the old!

Before I get into my post, I want to thank everyone who left kind words about my engagement, as well as encouragement about making my wedding dress.  After thinking it over, I'm going to do it!!  That will definitely be an upcoming post once I start making muslins.  Thank you to everyone who left links to their posts on wedding dress sewing, I definitely have some reading to do now.

I'm going to be moving in with Chris towards the end of the summer, and after living on my own for almost three years now, I've acquired quite a bit of "stuff" in my apartment that will need to be downsized.  As I started to switch over my closet this weekend from late winter/early spring clothes to summer, it seemed natural to start purging the clothes that I own and don't wear anymore.

When it comes to getting rid of handmade clothes, it can be hard to make the firm decision to part with something that you spent precious time on.  For me at least, there's more of an attachment to handmade clothes vs clothes you buy in a store: creating a wardrobe is a journey from picking out the pattern and selecting the fabric to actually making it, whereas buying something at a store and plunking it down on the counter is transactional affair that only has a monetary investment.  As I went through my closet and reflected back on what handmade garments I wore the last twelve months, I asked myself these questions:

When is the last time I wore it?
Does it fit my current style/lifestyle?
Is there a sentimental attachment to this?
Am I proud of this garment when I wear it?

As it turned out, I had quite a few things I was hanging on to that I wore maybe once or twice in total since I made them, some garments I didn't touch in the last year, and quite a few that just don't jive with how I dress on a daily basis now.  There was even a cardigan I made that had a hole in the middle of the back that I couldn't fix!

I even have a small section of my closet that holds a few garments I need to finish or projects that didn't turn out right and need to be tweaked.  The reality is that even though I have every intention of getting back to these projects, they've been hanging in my closet for almost two years and I probably won't get around to them.  It's worth determining whether or not I get rid of them.

It can be a liberating feeling to free yourself of things you're hanging onto.  Every garment I ever made is something that advanced my skills further and served a purpose at that time when I made it.  And now, I have room to move forward with adding in new garments that fit my personal style and life, and I know each time I look in my closet I will only see clothes that I love and wear regularly.  With Me Made May in full-swing right now, I encourage you to take a look at what doesn't work in your closet and lifestyle anymore and free up some room!