Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Girlfriend Gown: All's Well that Ends Well

Well, Sis's 50th birthday party was last night, and it was a rousing success. Her dress held up perfectly, and, although she was a bit nervous about feeling secure in the bust, as the evening wore on she worried less and less.

As you can see, I added a 4"-wide band of fabric to the skirt, bringing it down to the floor (which is what she wanted -- to hide her orthotic shoes). The band really tied the gores and godets together. The band wasn't straight; I drafted semi-circular pieces from each of the original skirt pieces, so the swing of each section wouldn't be affected by a change in grain.

Here she is doing a twirl.

The skirt really flared wonderfully as she walked, and it was really only when she walked that you even noticed the sheer inset gores. Her husband's reaction? "Oh, my!" (He didn't see the dress until the party)

Striking a sultry pose. You can see how high the sheer insets went.

Sis and her dressmaker! I got a lot of compliments from the guests on her dress, and on mine. I wore my "Constellation Gown", which I had made for the 2004 Smithson Gala at the Air & Space Museum.

Sis has given me the gown so I can bring it with me to Puyallup for display in the Wild Ginger booth.

It was a lot of fun doing the dress; Sis and I are still friends, and I'm looking forward to a productive year of sewing to come. Best wishes to all for a happy and healthy 2010!!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Girlfriend Gown: Done!

Sorry, no pictures to share (yet). But the dress is done and delivered. Sis and I had a good cry together before the final try-on... Turns out we were both really afraid that this whole escapade would damage our friendship. But she loves the dress, and it does fit her well.
I have to give MAJOR props to my daughter Diana, whose excellent color and design eye helped salvage what could have been a big disaster.
I'll be taking final pictures at her party tomorrow evening, so won't have any to show until Thursday.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Girlfriend Gown: So Close!!!

It's almost there. SO close! I've only got a few things to do before delivery tomorrow morning.

The front:

The color is so perfect on Sis; the trim is very subtle.

Side view:

Back view:

The wrinkles are caused mostly by the dress being pulled forward by her bust. To help keep the back in place, I'm going to add a stay at the empire seam. Hopefully that will do the trick.

Here's the detail of the trim:

The changes I need to make tonight are to add a band to the bottom of the dress (in leiu of trim, of which I do not have enough), add the stay, and give it a really good press.

Oh yeah, then I need to figure out what I'm going to wear to this party.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sewing is so Glamorous.

Sometimes the hardest part of sewing is finding a comfortable position for hand-work. In this case, I was trying to sew the lining to the waist seam, which was on a curve, so I needed something like a ham to shape the seam. My knee was the ideal surface. I just had to be careful not to sew through my jeans.

This was followed by another hour or two of hand-stitching the trim to the front and back neckline. Luckily I had a very engaging podcast to listen to: Canadian radio's "Definitely Not the Opera".

In between bouts of working on the Girlfriend Gown, I am also doing projects for my son Ian, who is leaving in a week to start his Junior year of college at the University of Advancing Technology in Tempe, AZ. He wanted a laundry bag like the one I made for Diana, but with a different embroidery.

Sorry if the color blinds you. He wanted something he couldn't lose easily, and this was the most obnoxious colored fabric I could find.

The embroidery is really something perfect for the "geek school" he's heading to.

The embroidery reads "1d6 acid/round". Don't ask me what it means; supposedly it's something to do with Dungeons & Dragons and refers to something harmful. Perfect for a fermenting bag of laundry.

By the way, I decided to use an actual pattern for this bag, rather than figure out the diameter/circumference thing again. I used Wild Ginger's new progam, Wild Things Gifts. It's great!! I used the pattern for the water bottle carrier, but I increased the diameter to 12" and increased the height to 20".

I also got him new towels and embroidered his name on them so they're less likely to be misplaced. Ever since I moved the embroidery machine to its new higher perch, I've been doing so much more with it!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Treasures!

Christmas has always been a pretty low-key event for us; we do love to give gifts and have always stressed the importance of giving things that are meaningful and useful.

This year I made my daughter a reusable grocery bag. This was really a last-minute thing (I mean it... we were joking Christmas Eve morning about her being a "starving college student" and immediately a design popped into my head, and that afternoon I started work on the embroidery design, and I finished the bag at about 11pm.

Inside the top back edge of the bag, there's a small zippered pocket to hold her grocery club card, along with four gift cards to the grocery store she uses in Swannanoa (Ingall's). The bag is canvas, with a contrasting cotton twill bottom, cotton webbing straps, and an embroidery design done in Embird (love their Font Engine!).

I received several sewing related gifts, too. From my son, I got two fabulous sewing books. I had never heard of either of them, but he took the time to go to the bookstore and find two books I actually did not have in my library!

Hand-embroidery is something I've never really gotten into, mostly because all the design books I've seen are heavy into the old-fashioned styles and designs. Not this one! There are some really funky designs, and they even include transfers so you can create your own embroidered masterpieces.

This is another really cool book, with instructions and inspiration for painting, dying, stamping and printing fabric to create your own original designs. I've always wanted to learn silkscreening, and the book has instructions for it (and it'll be cheaper than buying a Yudu machine at Michael's).

Finally, my wonderful husband gave me this:

I had mentioned it to him some time ago, after seeing one at a PMB Users Group meeting. I thought he could go to the local Bernina dealer and pick one up. Turns out it wasn't that easy: he actually had to contact the Wenger factory in Switzerland and buy it directly from them!!

This tool is simply fabulous:

There's a chalk marking tool, scissors, rotary cutter, seam gauge, eyelet cutter, buttonhole gauge, thread cutter, needle threader, mini screwdriver, magnifying glass, knit snag tool, and I'm sure there are other features hidden in there that I haven't found yet.

I hope all of you who celebrate Christmas had a wonderful day!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Girlfriend Gown: First Final Fitting

Sis came over this morning to try on the final dress for the first time. There are some minor tweaks to be done: she needs more support in the bust area, and the underbust needs to be tightened. I put some bust cup inserts in to test them out and they will definitely help. Ignore the puckering and creases; the whole dress will be carefully pressed before delivery.

Here's the front view.

The neck edge will be trimmed in a sparkly band to match the sequined motifs. Also, the hem will be trimmed in a beaded trim that looks like picot edging.

The darned shoulder straps still keep slipping down, even after narrowing them. I'll be providing her a package of Res-Q Tape to help keep things in place; the deep neckline just doesn't help anchor the shoulders. The wrinkling in the front is due to the excess underbust width being pinned out in the back.

Side view:

It's really a lovely silhouette for Sis.

The back view:

I can see her right hip is a little higher than the left; there really isn't much I can do to camouflage it and she doesn't think it's an issue. The puckering at center back is due to the 2" pinned out. I can't adjust it at center back, though, so I'm going to take 1/2" out of each of the side and side back seams.

The skirt:

The six-gore skirt has six sheer godets set into the the seams. The muslin didn't have enough flare for Sis, so I increased the flare in each gore and now she's satisfied. Also, the beaded trim at the hem will give it some weight for extra twirling drama.

I was thinking of adding a lining to the skirt, but the godets are so sheer it might be distracting. However, I might just tack one in for the final fitting and she can decide whether she wants to keep it or not.

So, there's some unpicking to do, then the bulk of the work is hand-sewing the trim. She is wearing flats with the dress (she can't wear heels) so the length should be good.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My Visit with Spoonflower

I had heard about Spoonflower -- the site that lets you submit designs for your own custom fabric, then prints it and mails it to you -- but had never really thought about trying my hand at it. But now, I think I'll be diving into the world of fabric printing on demand, especially after I got to visit their "factory"!
It was really a lucky coincidence that I was in the area. I was visiting with a friend in Wake Forest, NC, and the topic turned to sewing. She asked if I had heard of Spoonflower, and I told her I had. "Did you know they're close by here?" Why, no, I didn't. A quick map search showed that not only were they nearby, but visiting them was only about 2 miles off my planned route. Imagine if I had found that out after the fact!
So, last Thursday morning, I dropped by their shop in Mebane, NC. It's in an old sock factory, right next to the railroad tracks, and is staffed by the most delightful people.

This is the view from the entrance. The rack in back on the left holds the raw fabric, waiting to be printed. There are several printers, and all were humming with work.

Here's one of the printers, hard at work. What's so amazing is that the smallest custom fabric order is a mere 8" square! My tourguide, Danielle, showed me a few jobs they had run recently, including some custom fabric labels, calendar tea towels, and more.

Once printed, the fabric goes through a heat setting process, leaving it completely colorfast.

My head is swimming with possibilities!! It's hard to know what to try first. To help me get started, Danielle showed me a book she had just purchased:

Of course, that one went in my Amazon basket as soon as I got home. It just arrived today, and I'm working through some projects so I can curl up with it and learn the ins and outs of designing my own fabric.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Meet Me In Puyallup!!

Oh happy, happy day!! I've been invited to return to Puyallup to work in the Wild Ginger booth!

Even though I don't work for Wild Ginger, they invited me to help out two years ago, doing product demos and helping with sales. It was a lot of fun, and a great chance to meet new people. I'm so thrilled they want me to help again.

What is Puyallup? Well, besides being a town at the base of Mt. Rainier (very odd seeing "Volcano Evacuation Route" signs), it's one of the largest sewing expos in the country, if not the world.

Are you going to Expo? Be sure to come by the booth and say hi! I'll be there all four days!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Non-Sewing: Litter box? What litter box?

We have two cats; therefore, we have a litter box. The only logical place for the box was in the hallway outside my sewing room. This meant that every time I went in or out of my creative space, I was greeted with the sight (and smell) of a litter box. This got old pretty quickly, so I decided to do something about it. The resulting project took a single weekend, not much money, and some precise measuring.

Here's what I see now when I approach the sewing room.

And here's the view when I leave the sewing room.

The space where the box is used to house a full-sized refrigerator. When we moved in we decided we didn't need a fridge in the basement, so had a very handy open space in the downstairs kitchenette.

How do we clean it? Here's the area with the lid raised.

Everything is hinged, so the lid is lifted up and a barrel bolt holds it in place. The platform is carpeted with a scrap of indoor-outdoor carpet, and the frame is painted to match the counter color next to it. The litter scoop hangs from a handy hook on the wall.

In this picture you can see the two hinges that hold the lid to the wall, the barrel bolt holding the lid up, and one of the two L-brackets that the lid rests on when it is closed.

But where does the used litter go?

The trap door in the platform lifts up, revealing an access hole to the waste disposal bag beneath the platform.

The bag units are from LitterWorks; they slide into rails screwed into the bottom of the platform. The plastic bin is there to contain any stray spills. With two cats, the bag is replaced every week or so. To the right of the waste bin is space for the tub of litter, plus a wisk broom and dustpan to tidy up spills. The bottom area is concealed by a fabric curtain on a tension rod.

The smell is pretty non-existent (thanks to the stick-on odor puck and the occasional spritz of air cleaner), and it's now much nicer to walk past it. The cats took to it right away.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Happy Recipients

The luncheon today was a lot of fun, and Pam and Scott really loved all the gifts they got (including a set of his 'n' hers cowbells, for summoning help!!).

They really liked the blankets, which made me so happy!

I think this is my new favorite picture of Pam. What a happy face!!!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Gifts with a Theme

One of my friends will be heading into the hospital shortly to receive a kidney transplant. Her donor is her husband. To celebrate this event, a group of her friends are hosting a "Bon Transplant" party tomorrow. My gifts for the occasion will hopefully come in handy... and perhaps cheer them up too.

I figured that, while they are convalescing, they will need to have things close at hand. So I made "bed caddies" that can slip between the mattress and box spring to hold their reading materials, remote controls, or what have you. The basic design came from the Sew4Home website. I made a few modifications, including drafting accordion pockets with my free Wild Things program from Wild Ginger (so the pockets could hold more). And, to keep them cozy, I also embroidered some fleece throws I got at K-Mart.

The kidney embroidery is one I digitized about five years ago; I used to sell original embroidery designs, and this one came from a set I called "Body Parts". Other designs in the set included a gall bladder, mouth, heart, and even an egg and sperm cell.

Scott is the donor, so after the surgery he will only have one kidney left. Here's a closeup of the design.

The organizer is meant to be used in bed, but can also be used draped over the arm of an easy chair. One of the things I wanted to avoid was "sloppy pockets" that drooped and sagged. See how nicely straight the pocket edges are here?

And here's how I did that:

This is a plastic tubing that is sold as "Roman Shade Rib". It's very sturdy, but easy to cut with scissors. I just cut it to length and slipped it into the top hem of each pocket piece before attaching it to the backing.

To keep the organizer from slipping out from under the mattress or off the armchair, I added a big piece of "Grip Rite" fabric. This is the stuff that is used on the soles of childrens' footed sleepers. It's a bit finicky to sew on, though... I don't have a teflon foot for my Bernina (yet). So I put a piece of waxed paper over the Grip Rite and sewed right through it. No problem!

Here's Pam's organizer, with a few items in it to show how the pockets stay nicely straight.

In hindsight, I would have made one longer pocket for the TV remote.

Here's Pam's fleece blanket. Interesting factoid: When you receive a kidney transplant, your original kidneys usually aren't removed. The donor kidney is nestled in the abdominal cavity, protected by the hip bone. So Pam will have three kidneys!

To finish off the gift, I created this little graphic in CorelDraw, then copied it multiple times and printed it out on my large-format HP650 printer to make my own wrapping paper!

Tomorrow they get to unwrap their presents. I hope they like them!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Girlfriend Gown: Second Muslin

Sis came over today to try on the second muslin of the Girlfriend Gown (See the first muslin here). I had fixed the neckline in the front and back, narrowed the shoulders, lengthened the godets and changed the flare profile of the skirt panels.

I got it close enough that the next iteration will be in the fashion fabric. I only have a few small tweaks to make: the darts in the back are too short, and the skirt needs to be longer overall. I also need to fix the small "bat wings" that showed up at the armscye (will correct that with a dart uptake setting change).

Here's the back view.

The final gown will also have bra cups sewn into it, so she won't be wearing a bra. I will have to add some additional "support" to the fabric of the bodice to make sure she's "secure".

The shoulders look odd because there's still the seam allowance sticking out; the final dress will, of course, be fully lined.

Sis also asked for more flare, so I'll be drafting new skirt pieces too. I'm also trying to figure out how to give the hem some support and a little bit of weight, since the fabric is sooooo lightweight.

The next fitting is scheduled for sometime in the next week; I promised the dress would be done by the 15th.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Purses! Lots of purses!

I'm finishing up a project that will be delivered to a client tomorrow morning, and I'm really happy with how it all worked out. It's a set of purses that will be sold at a local craft show! There will be 12 altogether (I still have a few to finish), six each of two styles.

Here are the first half, hanging ready to go:

What's that you say? They look like books? That's because they are... or were.

Each one started out as a hardcover book. The inside pages were removed, and the covers formed the body of the purse.

Not really something you can stuff full, but just big enough for a cell phone, lipstick and mad money.

There's a top flap that's secured by a magnetic catch.

You could probably store it on a bookshelf by tucking the handles to the inside.

The other purse style is a cute little zippered clutch, perfect for a party because it will keep your hands free.

It's entirely sewn by machine, but in such a way that there are no visible raw edges, even on the inside. It's fully lined, too.

It was a lot of fun matching up fabrics for the insides and outsides of the clutches, and finding bangle bracelets to go with them.

The best part about these purses is they are always at hand; you can carry it to a party and still have your hands free to accept the flute of champagne from dashing admirers.

I'm having so much fun making these! I'm also thinking of doing a tutorial for them, if anyone is interested.