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!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Some News


April is turning out to be quite the month this year so far - my birthday is in two weeks (big 2-9!), I just became an Aunt last week (yayyy!), and I read plenty of these magazines on the flight to Las Vegas for work a few weeks ago:

Airplane reading #surprise #ringadingding #happenedonsaturday

I'm engaged, you guys!!!!

It's been a short amount of time since Chris "popped the question", but I'm now in the throes of planning our wedding for sometime next year - I'm so excited!  Of course the first question anyone asks when they find out when someone is engaged is, "when's the date?"  And honestly, we have no flipping clue yet, haha.  Somehow between his wacky work schedule and my meetings and travel, we'll need to nail a date/venue down soon.  I feel like that's the biggest thing to figure out, and then it's all the detail-stuff.  I've been reading the blog Broke Ass Bride religiously for wedding planning ideas, those gals totally get what we're trying to achieve - not breaking the bank on one day (I'd say I'm more cheap-ass bride than broke-ass, but whatever).

Every night now, I fall down the "wedding planning" rabbit hole instead of doing anything constructive - my sewing is definitely suffering!!

Which brings me to the next big question I've been asked: am I going to make my dress? 

I really don't know yet...there's so much to figure out in the next year that I'm not sure if I can take on that additional layer of pressure/stress.  After getting dress ideas on Pinterest, and then subsequently becoming sticker-shocked, the idea of making my own dress is appealing - I know what I want, what works on my body, and can make something for a fraction of the cost that they charge in bridal stores, but with much higher-quality fabric (helloooo I'm not paying thousands of dollars for a polyester dress okthanks).  Even JCrew and BHLDN, which have beautiful wedding dresses, are a little over-priced in my opinion because of the materials used.  I also got the idea from my Mom to think outside the box and look at non-bridal places - I found some cute white gowns with designer labels (Vera Wang, anyone?) at Bloomingdales and Nordstrom for a tenth of what the typical wedding dress goes for.

Making my wedding dress is the only thing I envisioned about my wedding, I never was "that girl" that fantasized about her wedding day.  But I feel like because I sew and make the majority of my clothes, it's expected that I make my dress (and I want to!).  My Mom made her dress when she married my Dad in the 70's, so I'd like to continue on that custom.  At this point, I'm thinking about it, but not committing to the idea yet...however, I did order some swatches from Mood and patterns from Etsy this evening.  You know, research...

So much to figure out in not that much time!  But when it comes down to it, what I'm most excited about is starting a life together with him - that's what really matters, no matter what I wear or where we are.

So - did you make your wedding dress?  Advice for anyone thinking about making their wedding dress?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Wrap Dress Sewalong - The Reveal!

floral wrap 1

floral wrap 2

Pattern: Butterick 5454; sleeve length altered
Fabric: ITY knit from Metro Textiles

Jacket: Michael Kors
Flats: Sperry

Surprise!  This actually isn't the wrap dress I was planning on making for the sewalong - I started making this version in late February for vacation, but never finished it (hems - I hate sewing them...). I was almost finished with my original dress for the sewalong, but the flutter sleeves didn't look right and I wanted to make it a sleeveless wrap dress instead.  So, this floral one ended up being perfect to   debut this past weekend for Easter and the timing was perfect to coincide with the sewalong.  Yay!

floral wrap 3

For the third rendition of Butterick 5454 (I still have to post version #2!) I took a stab at shortening the sleeves for something more spring-y.  The length is just how I like it - don't you hate how cap sleeves scrunch up into your armpit?

And yes, there's still snow on the ground here as you can see in the photos...but it's a million times better than it has been in the past month.  We've had a lot of temps above freezing and the snow is retreating pretty quickly.  Now it's leather jacket weather!

floral wrap 6

The no-gap wrap dress method works every time!

floral wrap 5

Hope your wrap dresses were a success!  My co-hosts Ruqayyah at Red Pants Designs and Meg at McCall's also have their dresses up today, make sure to check them out.

And now, I'm off to pack for a work trip to Las Vegas for the week!  This dress is definitely coming with me.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Busy But Happy

5" off my hair length last week and I don't even miss it. Having fun with this "just woke up like this" look #hairstagram #springcut #shorthair #chopchop

Whoa you guys, it's almost April. Where did March go?  I think in the past month since I returned from vacation in FL, I sat down at my machine maybe two or three times.  Absolutely crazy, right?  And that's kind of how it's been around here lately.

This month I took a new position with my company and no longer work from home...which is a good thing, but also a big adjustment for me!  I've been spoiled these past two years working from home - I could pick up groceries on my lunch break, throw in a load of laundry at the laundromat between emails, and my commute was nonexistent (and living in yoga pants and hoodies all day everyday had its perks).  Now I have to go to bed at a reasonable hour so I can get up early for my drive to work (no more midnight sewing sessions), and weekends are the time now that I have to get "life stuff " done like laundry, groceries, and chores.  I come home from the office and just plop down in front of the TV at night now, no energy to do anything other than cook dinner.  I know I sound whiny...but I've never had an office job with a commute before!  It's an adjustment I'm getting used to, and I think I'm starting to settle into a routine now.  Once travel kicks up into high-gear, that'll be another story...

And with a new job comes a need for more "office appropriate" clothes, even though our dress-code is pretty lax.  I have a pile of fabric from my last NYC trip and plans for everything I brought home, but it's been difficult to find time to cut anything out and whip up some new spring clothes.  This past weekend I made two Renfrew tees and came to a realization that now that my time is so limited, I don't want to make basics anymore - I'd rather spend the time I have making things I can't find in the store, like cute dresses and pretty tops.  I'm also ok now with not having a completely handmade wardrobe, which I was striving towards this past year and really limited the clothing I bought - it's just not possible to do now with the time I have.

But let me tell you - it's been hard finding RTW things I like out at stores!  Just this evening I stopped at the mall to find some things for a long trip next week and I was non-plussed by the options out there.  Everything was so blah - the colors, the shapes, the styles.  It made me really happy that I don't have to be a prisoner to RTW, but on the flipside, I don't have the time to whip up a whole new wardrobe (I wish!!).  After avoiding retail for so long, it was a bit of an eyeopener to see what options are really out there.

Well enough with the rambling, just wanted to share what's going on over here since it's been pretty quiet this month other than my wrap dress sewalong stuff.  Oh, and I cut my hair, too this month - 5" off and I don't even miss it.

Hope your March went well, will it ever warm up???

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wrap Dress Fitting for Small Busts

Wrap Dress SBA

Up until a few months ago, I couldn't wear anything with a wrap, or surplice, neckline.  Being of the small-busted variety (and damn proud I might add!), wrap dresses and tops would always sag or dramatically gape open, exposing my bra (eeek!), due to the length of the wrap being too long.  After searching all over the internet to find ways on how to make a wrap neckline fit and having no luck with the results, I pretty much gave up on ever being able to make or wear a wrap dress or top.

Then, I put together techniques I found from two sewing resources and hit the wrap-dress-jackpot: Power Sewing by Sandra Betzina, and Threads #168 September 2013.  Both cover different ways to alter wrap necklines, but combining elements from both articles gave me the winning combination for my first wrap dress I ever made at the end of last year - I highly recommend checking out both for more information on wrap dress fitting techniques.

DVF Wrap 1

There's some good info out there on how to do a full-bust adjustment for wrap necklines - if you're looking for a great post on how to make this alteration, Ann from Gorgeous Fabrics wrote an informative tutorial on how to do a FBA for a wrap dress for the McCall's sewalong recently.

SBA Bodice Pattern Alterations

Before cutting out your fashion fabric that you plan on using for your final dress, use a knit fabric with comparable stretch/weight as your final fabric for a test bodice.  I also recommend trying out all of the below steps on a test bodice to make sure you get the fit you want before committing to using these techniques on your final wrap dress.

bodice diagram
Original diagram from Sofilajantes

If you're small-busted like me, and have tried on a wrap dress in a store, you've probably noticed that the length of the wrap is too long, since we don't need as much fabric to cover our bust line.  To solve, that, we're going to take some length out of the neckline above and below the bust point by pinching out extra length above and below the bust point.  This will vary from person to person, as well as pattern to pattern, so make up a test bodice to try on and play around with.  For me, I ended up needing to take out 1" of length total: 1/2" above the bust point and 1/2" below, illustrated above.  If you need to take out more length, try to evenly distribute a series of small tucks above and below the bust point.

As a personal preference, for more coverage, I also raised the neckline.  At the waist I added 1" to the neckline, and blended it out to about a 1/2" at the neck.  This also affected the shoulder seam, which needed to be extended 1/2".


Here's what  the pattern piece looks like after my alterations - the tucks are circled in yellow.  I taped the tucks in place with scotch tape, and the tucks gradually tapered out from the tuck point.  The white paper is the new drafted neckline.


Here's another angle so you can see the tucks in the tissue a little better.  The bottom tuck, on the left-hand side above, was tricky for me since it intersected with the grainline.  So, I tried to keep the grainline as straight as I could while smoothing out the tissue from the tuck point.

Fixing the Wrap Gap

With the pattern alterations done, now we can move on to solving that annoying gaping problem and create a bodice that stays snug and close to the body.  If you don't have that problem with your pattern, then great!  You're ready to get sewing!  If not, try out this method using 1/4" twill tape - I like it better than using clear elastic for stabilizing a wrap neckline.


Using a tape measure or your preferred way of measuring (flexible rulers are great for this), measure the length of the neck for the front bodice piece and the neckline of the back bodice piece.


Using those measurements, cut one piece of 1/4" twill tape that corresponds with the back neckline measurement, and two pieces of twill tape that correspond with the front neckline measurement - one for each side of the wrap.  In Power Sewing, it's recommended that if you have a B cup to cut the front strips 14/" shorter than the neckline measurement to draw in the neckline better.  If you're an A-lady like myself, cut the pieces out as the neckline measures.


Bodice wrong side up, pin the twill tape with the edge of the tape 1/4" away from the edge of the neckline.  Using a straight stitch, sew the tape to the neckline.  The feed dogs will ease in the bodice as you go, but I find stretching ever so slightly on the twill tape helps with this step.  Repeat for the other side of the front neckline and the back neckline as well.


This is what one side of my front neckline looks like after stitching the twill tape.  Gently press out any puckers with a cool iron.


As a personal preference, I serged the neckline edges for a clean finish after stitching all of the twill tape.  When you're at the part during dress construction where you're ready to hem the neckline, simply turn in the neckline 5/8" and stitch in place.

*You may have noticed in the above photos in the tutorial that the wrong side of my garment fabric looks different than the right side.  Since my knit garment fabric is so sheer, I underlined the bodice with nude-colored swim tricot, so my bra won't show through.  I like the body the underlining gives the fabric as well!

There you have it - I'm now on wrap-dress #4 (and have yet to post #2-3!) using this method, and each time I'm thrilled with how the neckline turns out.  If you're small-busted like myself and have yet to successfully make a wrap dress because of how the neckline fits, I hope this opens up a world of wardrobe opportunities to you.  Let me know!

Now, to finish making my dress for the sewalong...