Thursday, February 28, 2013

I'll finish tonight...

I really need to stop telling myself, "I'm going to finish this tonight."  This encourages me to stay up 'til 1:00 AM desperately trying to meet my self imposed deadline.  It's silly.  And the shirt still isn't finished!

One of my main problems is once I get home, eat dinner and spend a little time with family it's already 9:00 before I can even start.  Last night I drug out the shirt that I had been so proud of the night before, tried it on and immediately wanted to just throw it into the trash.  Everything was wrong wrong wrong!  I took it off, and went and whined to my husband about it for a bit.  I realized that my perfectionism was holding me back and that it was really hard for me to work on something that wasn't going to be perfect, but if I didn't work on doing some of this stuff, I would never improve!  Like many things in life I've got to be willing to suck.  I also realized that I was trying it on with one of my 'crappy' bras and the shirt that I had on was much bulkier then the t-shirt I had been wearing under the blouse the night before, so I changed, tried it on again and things looked much less bleak.

It took a little work but I managed to get the second set of bust darts in place to allow the fabric to lay better around the arm holes (does this mean I need to start with a smaller pattern maybe?)  I also sewed the shoulder and side seams where I had just basted them and got the side zipper put in correctly.  I'm pretty excited that I was able to use a vintage metal zipper from my mother-in-laws stash and that I was able to sew the lapped zipper without too much trouble.

Then I started on the collar.  The first thing I noticed was that I had only cut two out the collar pattern and I needed four.  Luckily I had enough fabric left over that I was able to squeeze two more out.  I didn't interface the collar (nor am I doing the bow) because the reviews I've seen say that it makes it a bit TOO stiff.  Plus, I'm using a 'quilting cotton'  (Yeah - what of it) and it's a bit stiffer too so it feels like I don't need the interfacing.  Since this blouse was mostly about an experiment in altering patterns to fit - I don't think it's a big deal.  But, here's the thing that annoyed me about these instructions.  When making the collar they call the piece that you've ironed innerfacing to the 'collar facing' in one step - then in a later step tell you to attach the collar facing - which is a labeled pattern piece that was cut out earlier.  This really threw me for a bit, but, I finally figured it out and got the collar and the facing attached to my shirt.  I rolled the collar facing around to the inside - stitched it all in place then excitedly tried it all on...  Only there was something seriously wrong with the collar!  It was bunching weirdly and wouldn't lay right.  I took the shirt off and tried ironing the whole thing and it STILL wasn't working.  The pictures on the envelope weren't helping either as the collar was mostly covered the by jacket/cardigan that was also part of the pattern and the line drawing was too simple to help me figure out what was going on.  Then I figured it out.  I had attached the collar facing like biased tape, using it to wrap the edge like this:

But, that isn't how it was supposed to be used in this case.  Here the entire facing was supposed to be folded under and stitched down.  When I did that.. Poof... the collar looked fabulous.  So, I ripped out all my old stitches and tonight I should be able to finish stitching that down correctly.  Once that's done all that's left is to put the facing around the armholes and stitch and apply the bow.  I'll be finished tonight!  (I mean - soon)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Fit? I don't even know what that means...

I've been sewing most my life.  In fact, I don't remember learning to sew.  My mom used to sew a lot of my clothes (and hers) so I grew up around a sewing machine.  As soon as I was able to hold a pair of scissors I was cutting up fabric and making clothes for my dolls.

As I got older the time for sewing was never there and I would pull out the machine and throw something together for special holidays like Halloween.  Trying to find costumes of quality, and then that would fit my 'girls' was an exercise in frustration - so I would sew.

However, the older I've gotten the more frustrated I've gotten with the fit of clothing.  I have one garment (my wedding dress) that was made especially for me and everytime I put it on I'm left thinking - everything I wear should feel this good.  Although - look at this thing!  Can you blame me for loving it? (This was designed and sewn by the amazing ladies at Dark Garden here in San Francisco)

Add to that the fact that as I've delved into the world of costuming more and more (Edwardian Ball, Labyrinth of Jareth, Steamstock, Dicken's Faire) I've become more and more interesting in figuring out not only how to build a great looking costume, but building one that well and truly FIT me.

So, I've been buying books and wading through blogs and sites on the internet learning all I could about going beyond my skill of being able to cut out a pattern and follow the instructions to put a garment together and truly SEW. 

That brings me to today, having just finished one of the most challenging sewing projects of my life and ready to kick off a new chapter of my sewing life - I'm terrified and excited all at the same time.

Last night, I worked more on my bow blouse from Simplicity 2154.  Of course I'm taking my leap into fitting in the total wrong way.  I'm going for the fit as I sew method.  Or - in typical Shawn style - read all  you can about how to fit things the 'right' way, then do it your own way and screw it up.  

Surprisingly this is going rather well.  I cut all the pieces in a size 22 and started fitting last night.  I started with a 22 because I have broad shoulders, and wide back and since I was fitting while sewing I would need this to fit in my widest areas and I could dart out the rest.I started by wearing a skin tight t-shirt and pinning 1/2 the bodice at the center line, shoulder and side seam.  (don't have a dress form so I'm fitting and pinning right on my body -- tricky to say the least).  This allowed me to figure out the side darts. They moved in and lower and were wider then the pattern showed because not only am I 'endowed' but I am very very long from my shoulder to my 'apex'.  It's something my seamstress at Dark Garden mentioned and I'm well aware of from buying off the rack clothing.   Once the side darts were done I sewed the center seam, pinned the entire front to my body at shoulders and side seams and then started working on the front seams.  these ended up being shorter, deeper and moving closer together then the original pattern.  Again, pointing to my rather unique body shape.  Wide shoulders, broad chest, boobs but small (by comparison) ribs. 

For the back I sewed it together on the center seam and then pinned the darts as they were drawn into the fabric.  I was surprised to see they actually seemed to be spot on - hitting at the right spot on my shoulder blades and taking enough in off the waste, so I sewed them in for real.

Now for the moment of truth.  I basted the back and front together at the shoulders and one side - then basted in a scrap zipper to one side (since I don't have the zipper that will go in the finished product.) and tried the top on.  I swear, that when I did I nearly cried because -- wonder of wonders it fit!  Now, don't get me wrong... it still needs work.  I'm going to put a little ease back into the waste and I need add another side dart to get rid of a bump at the top of the chest, but it works.  And honestly, at this point, it fits better then any non-stretch cotton shirt I've owned since I was 16 and discovered I could not wear the cute 'oxford' style shirts that were in style at the time!  I'm so excited to see this pull together!  There's hope for me - both in the sewing department and in the style department.

Think about it.  As a oddly shaped busty girl I haven't been able to wear a top that was 'fitted' unless it was of some stretchy (and thus more casual) material for my entire adult life.  If I got something that fit at the bust and shoulders it would be so baggy around the rib cage that I could either look 10 lbs heavier then I was and leave it untucked - our I could tuck and have all this extra fabric billowing around my waste band that eventually made me look as thought I was 10 lbs heavier then I was.    

This top is going to be perfect for what I wanted it for which is, tucked into skirts and/or slacks, displayed under a sweater or jacket or under a cute pair of overalls!

Oh!  and best of all, it's of a super cute green print that even my opinionated husband liked!

I love all the shades of green and how the pattern looks almost embroidered.

I hope to have it finished tonight - then it's onto more complicated things that I will have to make muslin's for.  Maybe a dress - eep!

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Cape

Please ignore the fact that I buttoned this wrong so it's not meeting at the bottom correctly - duh!

I wish I could tell you what this fabric is but I bought it so long ago... it has the weight and texture of wool but isn't.  But it's super warm and the high collar keeps me toasty.  I found myself wearing this all night while watching TV (our house is drafty and cold in the winter) and it kept me at the perfect temperature   I have a feeling I'm going to have to make a few more of these - I think I like it even more then a hoodie for lounging.


So, you may be wondering why one silly dress prompted me to create a blog.  The answer is simple - I caught the bug!  As I was sewing this (and reading the best sewing blog ever - Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing) I knew I needed to sew more.  So I bought a bus load of patterns from Amazon and picked up some fabric from the fashion district while I was in LA.  You combine that with the stash of fabrics and patterns I already had, and the corner of the bedroom my husband so sweetly cleaned out for me and I'm on a roll.

I got home from LA yesterday and I barely got unpacked before I was organizing my supplies and new sewing space.  Then I jumped on my machine and completed a cape project that had been sitting in my sewing box for about three years!  (I even wore it to work today I was so happy with it).  I also got started with cutting out the pieces to make the cute bow blouse that's part of this pattern.

One thing to note is that one of the issues that I've always had with sewing is that I never seem to finish anything.  The few projects I have are usually costumes because there's always a good reason and a solid deadline to get it done.  So what's the impetus for my new sewing barrage?  We'll hubby and I are going to Viva Las Vegas  and both of us need some awesome clothes to wear to make the weekend even more fun.  The blouse above is one of several projects I'm working on to bring a little retro flair to my Viva clothing and is one of many things I want to get done over the next month -- wish me luck!


Simplicity 2172 and the Edwardian Ball

After many years of dabbling in sewing I recently got excited and interested in sewing again.

This started with me deciding to to sew myself a dress to wear to the Edwardian Ball this year.  Like many of my decisions it was completely last minute and I found myself starting on the dress on Monday afternoon.  I had until Thursday night to finish it because I was leaving on a plane Friday directly after work.

I had picked Simplicity 2172 because it seemed perfect for the ball and like it was a fairly simple silhouette.  Little did I know the rabbit hole I was going down when I opened up that pattern!

Because I was in a hurry - and feeling cheep - I bought a pretty, stripped, purple cotton for the bustier that became my inspiration.  I purchased a solid purple to match for the dress and coat and a lavender organza for the ruffles to complete the look.

I realized this was going to be a challenge as soon as I started separating pattern pieces.  There were over 25 of them and most needed to be cut in fabric, lining and many also in interfacing.  I spent most of the first night just pinning and cutting and BOY did my fingers and wrists hurt.  

I did manage to get started sewing but then my machine did the unthinkable and jammed on me!  It wasn't the first time this had happened and from past experience I knew it would take me several hours to disassemble the bobbin assembly and fish out the broken thread that was causing the issue.  And there was no telling how long I would be able to sew before I did it again.  So... I jumped in my car and drove down to pick myself up a new (very cheep) machine.  

Soon I was back sewing again, but things still weren't going smoothly.  The instructions were terrible and the number of pieces with names like back, side back, front, side front  were confusing things in my head and I was already having to rip as many seams as I was sewing so, at 2:00 AM I packed it up and went to bed!

The next day after work I jumped back into the project full force.  I had been determined to finish the jacket on Monday and couldn't believe how long it was taking me to finish.  More frustration, more confusion and finally got to bed at 3:00 AM with the coat still incomplete.  The organza had given me fits and I just gave up on it - decided to make the ruffles to match the bustier, but then had issues with the sleeves and finally threw them all out and decided to leave it with just the small shoulder pieces as sleeves after lining them with the contrast fabric to match the bustier.

Wednesday night when I got home from work I jumped right in.  The jacket was so close to being finished - I just needed to sew on buttons.  But here's where things got a little fun.  I had bought some silver buttons from the store, but they had been a ,'These will do' purchase, not exactly what I wanted.  I happened to be digging through the sewing box I had gotten from my mother-in-law when I came across a cache of buttons! I soon had four different designs to choose from and ended up with these amazing gold and silver Scottish design buttons (that no one noticed but me - lol).  

With that going so well I was ready to approach my second more dreaded part of the project - setting the pleats!! OMG what a chore! Luckily, after reading many reviews of this pattern (after I had already started it) I was prepared for how much of a chore this was going to be - 9 yards of fabric, over 200 pleats - ready.. GO!  As I had been warned it took me three hours to fold, set and baste the pleats but honestly I was so pleased with the process I created.  I would lay out one of the sections on a towel on the floor (all nine were sewn together already) mark it, fold it, iron each as I folded it and then when I got to the end section, hand baste all the pleats in place while the fabric cooled and the pleats set.  Then I would move that section over and put the next section on the towel. Yes, my back, feet and knees were hurting by the end, but they were done and they looked A-MAZ-ING!  (I'll upload a picture tonight).  I sewed the pleats to the rest of the skirt and then started to gather the top of the skirt when I had issues with the stitch I had used to create the gathers (new machine - bah).  I decided to just go to bed and prey I could finish it all on Thursday.

Thursday I worked from home and I was able to sew with a little clearer head.  That was good because with the skirt quickly finished up it was time to turn to the most dreaded portion of the project.  The bustier.  I'm a well endowed girl and had this overwhelming dread that it was not going to fit and being in such a hurry to finish I didn't have time to do a mock-up OR go out and purchase more fabric if I messed this one up.  I dove in and started sewing anyway and was pleased as punch when I finally got all the pieces together of the lining and found that I could wrap the fabric around myself - hoooray!  I managed to install all the boning (my first time ever doing it) get the lining attached to the fabric and I had a top!

My only 'OOOOO NOOOO!' moment came when I realized I had bought the wrong kind of zipper.  The pattern called for a 'jacket style' zipper and the one I bought was attached at the bottom. But,  I put it in anyway - and still managed to get the top on - though it was a close call.  I tried everything on together - confirmed that it fit and was finished - threw it all in a bag to take with me to L.A. and fell into bed.  The monster project was finished!!

And here's the finished product:

And my hat with motorcycle goggles that were my husband's grandfather's and the flower/feather decoration that my sister made for me!

I really with I had had more time to accessorize this, but I'm  glad I got it finished!  If/when I make this again it'll be in something finer the cotton - it deserves it!