Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Lovely Christmas, nice and warm now!

A very Merry Christmas to those who celebrate! We've always done the day in a very low-key way: sleeping late, making a big breakfast (this year it was eggs, sausage, bacon, and waffles), then spending a few hours opening presents. Then we all get to spend a few hours playing with our gifts before we assemble to order take-out Chinese food for dinner (a tradition we started a few years ago).
This afternoon I decided to spend some time in the sewing room, finishing up a project that's been languishing for a few weeks. It wasn't a difficult project, yet I had a hard time staying with it. But now it's done, and I can start thinking about what is next on the project list.
A few years ago I had made a fleece jumpsuit (using a pattern from PatternMaster, of course), and it had gotten a lot of wear every winter. However, two things about it had always bugged me: the sleeve cuffs were a bit too lose, and there were no pockets. So this year I decided to make a new one and fix those issues.
No, it's not a terribly flattering garment, but it's not supposed to be! It is, however, very comfortable.

Pockets!! I borrowed a method I saw used in some fleece sleepers I spotted at Target. Instead of the traditional inseam pocket with two layers, there's only one piece of fleece, sewn onto the inside of the front section. The front pocket opening is turned and stitched, and the pocket piece is sewn to the side seam of the back section. This gives much less bulk, and the pocket is always facing the right way!

Booties!! I drafted a pair of booties using the free Wild Things program, and grafted them onto the legs of the jumpsuit. I had made a casing in the tops of the booties for elastic, but it turns out I don't need it; they stay in place just fine.

And to keep me safe on the wood floors, the bottom of the booties are done with Jiffy Grip, with a layer of fleece on the inside for comfort. In retrospect, I should have used either another layer of fleece for padding, or a thin piece of foam. But hey, I'm not planning on taking any long hikes in this anyway.

A Sewing-Related Gift

My son gave me an amazing book for Christmas that I was not familiar with at all and am totally in love with already:
This book is big, heavy and gorgeous. The photography is outstanding and they have lots of close-ups for details. The accompanying text is wonderful as well: there's a lot of historical context that helps you understand why fashions evolved the way they did.

It was a wonderful gift, all the more so because he chose it himself and not because it was something on my wish list.

On the Horizon

I've signed up to go to the Northern Virginia ASG Chapter Retreat next month. I had such a good time last year that I just had to do it again. Now I have to come up with a sewing plan and decide what will be the best use of three days of uninterrupted sewing. Suggestions welcomed!

Friday, November 29, 2013

And now, on to Christmas!

Thanksgiving was fabulous at Redwall. We had 27 people for dinner, and there was much laughter, sharing stories, playing games, music, and general merriment. And food. Lots of food. We capped the evening by lighting and releasing some Sky Lanterns. Here's Bob sending up a big smile:

These lanterns are tissue paper with a framework of metal wire, and are held aloft by a small piece of waxy material that is ignited by a match. We used our gas firepit to "prewarm" the lanterns so they would rise better (and not land on our cedar shake roof!).

Today my daughter and I dragged the Christmas decorations out of the basement and got the tree set up. She and her fiancee, Alex, live in the apartment over our garage, and since he's now living with us, I figured he needed a stocking to hang on the mantle. He is in the army, so I decided to make one to honor his service.

I didn't use any kind of pattern; the size was determined by the other family members' stockings so they would all be about the same size. I freehanded the boot shape and used some bottom-weight digital camo from Joanns, along with some cream-colored felt for the top band and some black felt for the boot sole. The sole is just glued onto the bottom of the front of the stocking. The stocking is lined with a pre-quilted jacket lining from my stash.

Rather than have his name on the top band, I digitized a dog tag with his name and embroidered it onto a piece of gray felt. This was then glued onto the front of the stocking, along with some ball chain from the scrapbooking aisle.
He saw it for the first time when he got home from work today, and he was tickled pink. I don't think he was expecting to have a stocking on our mantle!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Winter Skirt for Diana

I am very fortunate that my lovely daughter can be patient when it comes to waiting for me to finish a project for her. Case in point: I made this skirt muslin for her last year, but dragged my feet on making a wearable skirt. She encouraged me to make this interim version out of corduroy, and it she liked it a lot (and still wears it often). But I was loathe to cut into the $40-per-yard wool cashmere I had bought to make the final skirt for her.
Fine, she said. I'll buy another test fabric and you can make a wearable muslin out of that. So she bought some feels-a-lot-like-wool cotton flannel, and I rummaged in my stash for some suitable lining. And, at last, I finished the skirt last night.
Just in time, too: the temperature is starting to drop and she really wanted a warm winter skirt!

It's a pretty difficult fabric to photograph, but it looks like a very fine blue and black herringbone.

Of course, it needed pockets.
The original skirt idea called for large applied patch pockets, but she decided she preferred inseam pockets instead.

It's got a nice twirl to it.

The buttons are from Joanns. And can you see my mistake?

I'll give you a minute.

See it yet?

I'll tell you about a little mnemonic I learned from Jim Suzio when I took one of his classes at the ASG Conference in Philadelphia back in 2012. "Women are always right, and men are always left over."

When I put the skirt together, I accidentally put the buttonholes on the left skirt front, rather than the right, so it overlaps "wrong." To which Diana replied, "Big whoop."

Here's why it's not such a big deal:
Only the bottom two buttons are functional! The rest of the button placket is sewn shut, and the buttons and buttonholes are just for show. The real closure for the skirt is a back zipper!

Overall, I'm happy with how the skirt came out. However, I am now worried that I don't have enough fabric to make the cashmere version as flared as this one is. For this skirt, I ended up having to cut out the gores in both directions in order to get it to fit on the fabric. Fortunately the fabric didn't have a distinct nap or direction! I'll have to see how many yards of the cashmere I bought... but I fear it won't be enough. We shall see.

And it looks like my prediction of finishing the final skirt by Christmas might be a bit optimistic. Still, there's always hope (and a bit of nagging from Diana...).

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Mild-mannered kid... Or superhero?

Today is my practice grandson's 4th birthday, so of course I had to make him something. Since he has started at preschool, my daughter Diana suggested I make him a backpack. But not just any backpack... One with a secret!

I used McCalls 6410, view D (on the lower left), as my starting point:

Good grief, it had a lot of pieces! And two different interfacings! But once all the cutting and fusing was done, assembly wasn't that bad. And of course, I made a few changes.

Here's the finished product:

I used a brightly-colored canvas from JoAnns, and pre-washed it in case the final pack has to be laundered (If?!? This is a little boy. It's gonna need to be laundered!).

The pattern called for fixed-length straps, but I made them adjustable:

For the lining, I found a Superman-themed fabric, again at JoAnns:

Both the two zippered pockets and the snap-close flap pocket are lined with this fabric. Note: the only beef I have with this pattern is that you have to hand-sew the linings to the zipper tapes as the last step, so the lining isn't fastened at all to the body of the bag, meaning it doesn't help the bag keep its shape. But it's a minor quibble.

But wait... What's this little zipper pull doing along the front edge?

There's nothing in the pattern instructions about putting a zipper there... I wonder what's inside? Let's open it up and see...

Ooh! A secret compartment! And there's something inside...

It's what every well-dressed super hero is wearing: a cape! And it's got his initial on it to show he is SuperG!

The cape is sewn to the edge of the top band.

The birthday boy was so excited to get it this morning, he had to take it for a "test fly" right away!

Then he asked his mom, "Can I take it to Big Boy School today?" He's so proud of being in preschool, and I'm sure his friends will be envious of his new backpack!

It's so much fun sewing for him!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Smithson 2013: The Inside Story

Now that I've had a day to recuperate from all the fun, I figured I would show my sewing friends a few details of the construction of this year's gown.
Since this was a strapless gown, I knew it would require a very stable foundation garment. I've always told my sewing students that a well-constructed, stable foundation garment is the most vital part of a strapless gown; the dress itself is merely "coming along for the ride." The dress itself shouldn't be relied upon to be structural; it should just hang neatly from the top edge and skim across the body.
With that said, this dress did indeed have a foundation, albeit one with a less-than-couture aspect to it.

The foundation itself is actually the muslin! I figured, it won't be seen, fit well, so why waste it?
I also needed to add bust cups to the foundation to give it a nice "line." While I did have a set of traditional sew-in bra cups, I also had a bra that was the right size but had seen better days, so why not use that? To get the placement right, I put on the bra under the muslin and pinned it in place. Then I cut off the straps and most of the band and stitched it to the muslin to secure it. Plastic boning was added along the zipper, at the sides, and at the side back seam (six places in all) on the outside of the foundation, so it wouldn't be on the skin side. The pink ribbon was added as a waist stay mostly to make sure the boning wouldn't poke out and stab me. The facing along the upper edge was hand-stitched in place.
Putting on the dress required doing the inner foundation zipper first, then the dress's invisible zipper. I was worried about the bulk, but it worked out great. The dress was very comfortable to wear (although being pegged in the thigh made it a little difficult to get in and out of the car).
The flounce wasn't hemmed; I cut one each of outer and lining fabric and seamed them together at the outer edge. The inner edge was then stitched to the body of the gown.

One last-minute addition was a bit of netting to try and fluff out the flounce a bit. Honestly, I don't think it made much of a difference.

I just gathered 4 yards of netting and stitched it to the bottom of the dress lining. Inside the netting was another flounce of lining fabric to protect my legs from the scratchy netting. Unfortunately, the netting just bunched around my lower legs rather than poufing out the flouce, so it was a wasted effort.

Here's a close-up of Bob's vest and tie.
I used the same vest pattern I've used for the past several years, with the dress fabric on the outside and the red suede as lining/lapel. The edges were piped in the same brown/black as the dress and vest.
For the first time, I decided to make a real bow tie rather than a clip-on or adjustable. After some searching I found a great free pattern at Sew Like My Mom. It worked perfectly! Searching YouTube for some tutorials also showed me how to tie the tie, which turned out to be not that difficult at all.
I used two fabrics on the tie so Bob could wear it either with the pattern side showing or with the solid red showing.
So now the dress is in storage, waiting for its next scheduled wearing, which will be in January in Nashville, at the annual Home Inspection Conference.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Smithson 2013: After the Ball

What an incredible evening!! We didn't get home until after 11pm. But I know people want to see pictures, so here we go!

So here we are, all dressed up and ready to head out to the Gala.

But we made a stop on the way to the Zoo...

Since it was on the way, we decided it would be fun to stop by the Joanns store where I bought all the fabrics for my dress, and take pictures alongside the bolt of fabric! The staff really loved seeing the finished product. I'm tempted to send the pictures to the company to show them what was done with one of their fabrics.

Here's where the red suede fabric came from.

Then it was off to the Zoo! When we got there, we saw that a few couples had shown up early and were making a festive occasion of it.

That is tailgating with style!

The first part of the evening was a reception, held in and around the new Elephant Community Center. Since this was really a huge group (more than 500 attendees!), there wasn't enough room inside for everyone, so there were also tents set up outside. And yes, it was quite chilly, so I'm glad I had my bolero!

For dinner, we walked down the Olmstead Path to the Big Cats area, where the entire path around the three cat enclosures was tented over and filled with 66 dining tables, each seating 8 guests.

Our table was at the side of the Lion habitat, and we were periodically serenaded by the big male Lion -- who was most likely expressing his displeasure that all this delicious food was being served but not to him!

As always, Bob was being my "fashion photographer," getting pictures of interesting outfits throughout the evening.

These last two gentlemen were classmates from Princeton University (class of 1965)!

After dinner, we were invited to ride the new Conservation Carousel, which is located near the big cat area. It was such a hoot to see the gentlemen in their tuxedos and the ladies in their gowns gleefully riding the hand-carved animals! Many of the ladies (including me) had to ride sidesaddle!

Overall impressions

  • The vast majority of the dresses were single-color, and a good percentage of them were black. There were a few standouts (like the young lady in the pink strapless dress), and two ladies had nearly identical dresses (the teal sheaths). Not a lot of prints; not a lot of sparkle.
  • The real surprise was that there was quite a bit of variation among the menswear! Lots of colorful vests, some white jackets (one gentleman had a white coat and tie and black shirt -- very striking!), a kilt, and one long green velvet coat.
  • We didn't see anything that didn't fit properly. There were a lot of fitted garments, but also a few "art jackets". Most of the women had either shawls or jackets to cover up with, which was a good thing because when we left, the temperature was hovering at about 58 degrees. Brr!
  • Lots of people noticed that Bob and I matched, and they also loved the reversible bolero. I did change it around a few times during the evening, too!
My only regret about the evening is that, because the crowd was simply so large, I didn't get to cross paths with several people (especially one fellow member who also makes her outfit every year). I do wonder where they will hold the gala next year; with so many people, there aren't many Smithson venues that can accommodate all of us!
In the next few days, I'll do a post with some construction notes about the dress. But now I need to go rescue my sewing room from the pile of scraps and muslin pieces that were tossed hither and yon in my rush to get everything finished!