Saturday, May 24, 2014

Smithson 2014: The First Cut

There's something about the thought of cutting into expensive fabric that just paralyzes you.

Over the last few days I started in earnest on my dress (after all, the gala is a week away!). The first thing I did was to clear enough space on my sewing table to spread the fabric out and take a careful look at it.

From one angle, it's predominantly blue.

But look at it from the other corner, and it is a totally different color.

To clarify the orientation, the top picture is viewed from the "bottom" of the fabric, and the bottom picture is taken from what will be the top edge.

I spent quite a while thinking about how I was going to tackle this. With the help of my PMB Users Group friends, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted the end product to look like. The real issue was getting there, with as few seams as possible.

The first step, of course, was to actually cut the fabric to make the basic dress shape. I wanted what was essentially a big tube, so I figured the easiest way to get that was to measure my widest point (my hips), and cut a tube that fit around that (plus some ease and a seam allowance).

First I tried draping it on my dress form, inside out, to see whether I could just sew it inside out that way and have it work. But the fabric is sooooo slippery that it really didn't feel like it would work properly.

Nope, didn't look like much at all. Time for plan B.

Then I realized: why am I trying to reinvent the wheel? I have a knot top shape that fits me well; why not use that as the basis for this dress? So I grabbed my "Tried and True" knit top pattern and laid it out on the fabric in such a way that it was cut as one single piece, with double-ended darts in place of side seams, and a single seam running down the center back.

Here's where that difficult first cut came into play.

"I think I can, I think I can, I think I can..." And with that, I started cutting.

(Note to other sewists: sequinned fabric is not difficult to cut, but it sure puts up a fight. My hands were quite sore when I got through!)

Then I just sewed the shoulders, darts and center back seam on the sewing machine (after testing on a scrap and deciding that the machine-sewn seams didn't look all that bad) and tried it on.

Front view:

Not too terrible, I think! Here's the back view:

The big wedge opening at the bottom is where I will be inserting a godet to make a slight train.

Here's one of the darts.
I'm not thrilled about the dart, but really can't think of another way to do the shaping of the dress; without some kind of dart, it's just going to look like a shapeless tube.

So there you have it; Progress!! I'm going to continue working on it tomorrow evening; now that I know it pretty much fits, it's on my dress form for the tweaking stage. I need to do something about the front and back necklines (such as adding cowls), and finish all the edges. I'm also going to add lining so it slips on and off easier. Then, of course, I still have to make the vest for Bob, as well as a purse for me. Stay tuned for updates!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Smithson 2014: Why, yes, I have completely lost my mind.

"Wait", you may be thinking, "Didn't you just do a Smithson gown a few months ago?" Yes indeed, I did. Last year's Gala was in September. This year they decided to have it in May, on the 31st, to be exact. And yes, that is just a little over two weeks away. Lately it seems like inspiration for the gown is coming later and later, which can mean challenges for getting it all done in time.

This year I was just not feeling any inspiration at all. The last three years' gowns were so much fun to make, and this year I was just struck with an overwhelming feeling of "Now what?" Sure, I could have used the same pattern as a previous year, but in a different fabric. But heck, what's the challenge in that?

I started planning a quick fabric-shopping trip to New York for the end of this week, to find the Perfect Fabric that would just leap out and inject the dress design into my head, fully formed. Hey, it's worked before! But this morning I looked at the weather report and saw that Friday was going to be a day of unending heavy rain -- not the kind of weather conducive for a day on the road, not to mention schlepping in and out of fabric stores. So I reluctantly called off the trip. But then one of my ASG friends reminded me of a closer option that I always seem to forget about: A Fabric Place, on the outskirts of Baltimore.

Today my daughter personal fashion consultant and I headed there to see what we could find. And after more than half an hour looking through the fabrics (and seriously considering a lovely lace, until I saw that it was Dior and carried a $198/yard price tag -- eek!), I spotted one that whispered "look at me!"
Well, okay, it didn't whisper -- it shrieked. With great trepidation I pulled some off the bolt and we draped it to see how it would work. And that's all it took.

Those of you who have seen my dresses know that I tend to be mostly -- well, "conservative" is the closest I can come up with. So you may be totally shocked to see the fabric I picked.


Yes, my friends, that is indeed an overall sequin fabric. It is an iridescent green/blue, very much peacock tones. It drapes beautifully and does amazing things for my figure. Honest! And I feel so fabulous when it's wrapped around me!
The style isn't nailed down yet, but I know that it needs to be minimally seamed/darted, and I've got to reinforce the heck out of the shoulder seam because the fabric is quite heavy. Suggestions are welcome!
I've got 4 yards of it, and that ought to be plenty for a simple gown. I'd love to have some kind of short train, and a draped back... perhaps reminiscent of my Constellation gown?

So, what do you think? Subtle it ain't!!

Friday, May 2, 2014

An end to the sewing drought?

It's been quite a while since I had anything to post; I really haven't done that much in the way of sewing recently so it feels great to be able to tell you about some projects I've done in the past few weeks.

Sewing for Me!

I've fallen way behind on my "Garment a Month Challenge" sewing, but plan to get caught up by the end of this month. Here are two projects I finished in the last two weeks: a knit top using my "tried and true" pattern (drafted with PatternMaster Knits), and a pair of jeans drafted with PatternMaster Boutique.

I'm really, really happy with the fit! These are actually a "wearable muslin" for some work pants for me, so I took the time to add all the details like pockets and such. The only modification I had to make after the first try-on was to take in about 2 inches from the center back seam as it stood away from my back a bit too much. Other than that, the fit is great!

Back view:

This is the first time I've had success with yoke-back jeans, even if I did have to take them in a little. I can move comfortably in them, which will be important when I'm dealing with attics and crawl spaces! I think they'll soften a bit in the wash; it's pretty heavy denim. Now I need to find the right shade of green and start making myself work pants!

Sewing Aprons

One of my favorite accessories has been my sewing apron. I made one last year to use during home inspections and it has proved to be an invaluable accessory there! I recently had the opportunity to make two more; one for our annual PatternMaster Users Group gift exchange, and one for my daughter.

Here's the one for the exchange:

The design is from Urban Threads and was embroidered on my Designer1.

My daughter recently discovered a talent for making quick repairs on costumes and asked me to make an apron for her to keep her supplies in as she dashed around backstage at the local high school performance of Aida. She asked me to put a phrase she had to use often to prevent other people backstage from manhandling the fragile dresses.

Both aprons were sewn from plain canvas and lined with drapery lining (my old standby!), then trimmed with bias tape.