A sewing blog about building a functional, cohesive handmade wardrobe, one garment at a time.

Monday, April 27, 2015

KCW Day 7: Paisley Boho Maxi Dress

Pinterest is driving me crazy.  Has anyone else noticed this?  All of a sudden my feed has blown up with "chosen for you" pins selected, apparently, by an algorithm that doesn't take into account whether I have already pinned said item.  It's super-annoying, because in at least half the cases, I HAVE already pinned said item.  This a) tells me that Pinterest has kind of become a closed loop and b) I don't check it much anymore.  I do still use it to pin things (mostly sewing related) that I find online, but the feed is kind of useless to me now.

BUT, yesterday I logged on and saw, at the top of my feed, the Boho-Maxi Dress tutorial from Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom, selected especially for me.  I had actually pinned this ages ago, but had forgotten about it.  My girls have been dying for maxi dresses and I wasn't sure what I would sew for the last day of this KCW.  It was serendipitous.

Anyway, as this dress requires nearly 2 yards of 45" wide fabric in my girls' sizes, I had to dig into the mama fabric stash box.  I found this paisley pima cotton lawn I got over a year ago at FabricMart.  When it arrived I immediately regretted the purchase - I couldn't think what I would possibly make myself with it.  So it went into the bottom of the stash box.  When I presented the girls with their fabric choices, though, little sister immediately grabbed it and called dibs.  I'm really glad she did because this stuff was a dream to sew.  It gathered perfectly, pressed crisply, and didn't make my machine crazy.

The pattern is very cute and sews up quickly.  The straps are a little wide for my taste but that is easily remedied in a future version (and big sister has also chosen fabric from the mama stash box, destined for the same pattern).

Six sundresses, two pairs of pajamas and the completion of a pile of WIPs later, this KCW is over!  I am not quite sure what I will do with myself now.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

KCW Day 6: Two more comfy knit dresses

So the first fish dress I sewed ended up stretching horribly in the bodice due to un-stabilized shoulder seams.  I tried to fix it but I completely botched that.  I decided to scrap it and make one last fish dress   (again using my modified version of the Comfy Knit Dress tutorial) out of the remainder of my mom's old blue dress.  I didn't have enough fabric for the whole bodice, so the lining and the back bodice are aqua Laguna Jersey knit.

I made another out of some cotton/lycra jersey I just got from FabricMart.  I have a ton of this jersey now because they mistakenly sent me one yard instead of the 1.5 I ordered - and then to make up for the mistake, they sent two more yards in the mail.  If you like it, there is still a ton left on the site.  The jersey curled like mad but it seems to be very nice quality - supple and stretchy yet quite lightweight. The rest of it might make capri leggings and/or new pjs.

I actually did attempt pattern matching on the front bodice this time, and I'm pretty happy with the result!  The bodice is lined with a scrap of Free Spirit cotton/lycra - another jersey I like to work with.

The skirt is quite long - the proportions are actually nightie-esque - but this way it should fit her again next year.  The girls would not pose for photos today.  It wasn't actually warm enough to wear the dresses outside so they went on photo strike.

Little divas.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

KCW Day 5: More stripey boy pjs

I made another set of summer pjs for my 2-year-old using stash scraps.  The top is made of the last of my dreamy Land of Oh striped interlock.  Even my machine likes it - see that hem?

Don't mind the loose thread.

The top is another super-lengthened size 12-18 month Oliver+S Field Trip Raglan.  As the interlock isn't very stretchy I probably should have drafted the next size up.  It should fit for the year though.

For the pants, I used the Oliver+S Playtime Leggings pattern in 3T - for no reason other than that the pattern piece was sitting on my ironing board and it was faster than digging out the Growing Up Sew Liberated Sleeping Johns pattern again.  I just cut off some of the length and came up with these breeches.  The fabric is some very bright yellow cotton/lycra from Girl Charlee awhile back - the color wasn't quite what I thought when I ordered it and so it has languished in the stash several years.

For the waistband I used my new favorite finish - serving the elastic directly to the edge of the fabric, then turning it to the side and topstitching right through the elastic using a three-step zigzag.  It looks so much better than my knit elastic casings, and seems to be holding up a bit better in the wash.  I have read that this approach only works if you use woven elastic or knit elastic - braided elastic apparently is weakened by sewing through it (oops, I used braided elastic in the legs of all my cloth diapers!).

The baby woke up super-cranky from his nap and although he was thrilled to try the pjs on, posing for photos was not high on his priority list.  Check out those teething cheeks.

I think I'm just about out of boyish knits now.  Whenever I am shopping for knits I get seduced by florals so that is mostly what is left in the stash.  I have checked out the usual suspects but I'm having trouble finding anything other than stripes or solids - and while I love those, I feel like I should branch out.  Where do you get your boyish knits?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

KCW Day 3 - Fish Dress #3

My sister requested the black fish dress fabric for my niece.  She wanted the whole dress made out of the black fish fabric.  I used the same Comfy Knit Dress tutorial I'd used for the last two dresses, but I extended the bodice upwards about 3/4"(I had already lengthened it about 3/4") and only sewed one tier this time. This dress is about a size 5.

I'm much happier with the bodice fit now.  I am planning some (non-fish fabric) Comfy Knit Dresses for the remainder of KCW with the new mods.

I couldn't bear to just leave the dress black and white so I added some teal buttons I bought before we left Georgia and finished the hem with a teal zigzag.

And that's all there is to say about that.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

KCW Day 2 - Fish Dress #2

Last night I sewed up the second fish dress out of my mom's old clothes using the Comfy Knit Dress tutorial.  I am much happier with my fabric choices this time.  I used a jegging fabric (left over from these jeggings) for the bodice and some scrap cotton/lycra knit for the lining.  Then I used the green fish dress for the bottom.  I had some thrifted buttons in the exact right shade of green.

I remembered to reinforce the shoulder seams this time, and I also shortened the straps a bit from my last dress.  I still feel that it is a little low-cut, so for the next dress I plan to redraft the front bodice.  I didn't notice it looking too low cut on the model when I first looked at the tutorial but upon reexamination I do think it is just drafted a little low for my taste. I plan to go back and add a green ruffle peeking out of the top of the bodice to fix the situation.

I should note that I did lengthen the straps originally, per the tutorials instructions for sizing up, however, that was necessary to ensure that the armhole was deep enough.  So I will need to just draw the top of the bodice about an inch higher for the next version.

I do still really like this pattern - it sews up quickly and it is so perfect for a little girl's summer dress. After I complete the fish trilogy, I plan to sew up another couple of these dresses using some stripey knit I got at the G Street fabrics $2.97 table.

Perfect playground wear and I know it will get a lot of use at the beach later this summer!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

KCW Day 1 - Sentimental Knit Dress

After my mom's funeral last year, my sisters and I cleaned out her closet.  We donated a bunch, kept a couple pieces that we wanted to wear, and I squirreled away a few things that I thought I might repurpose into clothing for her granddaughters.

Among the latter items were my mom's infamous fish dresses.  Over the course of the last 10 or so years of her life, I think she bought at least five of these dresses.  When we cleaned out the closet there were three remaining.  They all had different labels and were bought at different stores at different times, but other than color, were pretty much exactly the same.  All are made of non-stretchy knit t-shirt material, are printed with a rather unattractive ocean themed pattern, and are shaped like tents.  These dresses were a running joke among my sisters - we couldn't understand why mom gravitated towards them.  But they were part of her summer uniform (although sadly I have been unable to find any photos of her actually wearing one).

I have a great memory associated with the blue dress in particular, though.  We spent a few months in the States in 2012 between our overseas postings.  During that time, dress-obsessed big sister would not tolerate her "Baka" (how she pronounced "Babushka") coming downstairs in anything other than a dress.  If Baka were to descend in pants and a shirt, big sister would take her by the hand, lead her upstairs to the closet and pick out a dress.  The light blue fish print was her favorite one.

When I took away these dresses, I had in mind summer beach clothes for Baka's three granddaughters.   Yesterday I pulled the dresses out and spent some time thinking about how to do it. I decided to use the Comfy Knit Dress tutorial from lbg studio, pinned ages ago but never attempted.

After much hemming and hawing I decided to use a number of different fabrics from the stash.  I was going for a cute boho effect but I'm not really sure how much I like the end result.  I don't think the fish fabric really goes with the other prints.

 I extended the pattern to a 4/5 size per the tutorial but I neglected to reinforce my shoulder seams and as a result the weight of the skirt pulls the bodice down.  It's almost indecent, as you can see, so I need to go back in and shorten the shoulder straps (and reinforce that seam).

Though I had planned the blue fabric for big sister's dress, the bodice ended up too large for her.  Little sister was happy to take the dress, though, and although I'm still not quite sure how I like it, it will work for play this summer.

I'm still planning to sew two more of these dresses using more of the fish fabric.  On the cutting table right now is a version using denim jegging fabric for the bodice and the green fish for the skirt.  Not certain how to use the black, if at all, for a little girl's dress. I have enough of the blue for the third dress so I might just turn the black into a beachy skirt for myself.  It's funny how the ugliness of the fabric doesn't seem to matter anymore ... suddenly the butt of years of jokes takes on enough sentimental value that I'm willing to wear it.  Funny how that happens.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Mod shift dress for spring

I last left you with images of little sister's new dress for spring.

When it was older sister's turn to choose fabrics, she picked out a rose-print woven cotton pique, purchased for $4/yd during a FabricMart sale last year. I was curious about the fabric's lineage, and thanks to the magic of Google, discovered that it was from a Land's End dress line a couple seasons back.

It's funny, if I had seen this dress at Land's End, I would have thought "meh," and scrolled past it.  I don't think the lines of the dress make the best use of the fabric.  But when I saw the fabric swatch at FabricMart, I couldn't stop thinking about it until I had purchased it.

During my Google investigation, I also found a few projects using the same fabric, including this incredible ball gown.  I think it is stunningly beautiful, so click over and have a look!

It took me a few days to figure out what pattern to use.  Big sister is so skinny and the print was so big that I didn't want it to overwhelm her.  Ultimately I decided on a simple silhouette.

I got Simplicity 4927 at a thrift store for 50 cents.  View A, with sleeves, looks very Becky Homecky to me.  But View B, a sleeveless a-line shift, is a classic design that reminded me of the dresses my Babushka made for me when I was a girl.  

The dress is simple enough - three pattern pieces if you don't count the facings.  And I didn't.  I wanted the dress to be cool and summery and facings felt a little fussy for that.  I decided to try an invisible bias finish on the neck and arms instead.

As you can see, I did not achieve a perfect finish.  Though the neckline does pucker slightly against the stitching, it now lays flat against the body when worn.  Not so with my first attempt, which was poke-out city.  I had to take it out and redo it, helped in large part by this great post from Grainline Studio.  I had neglected to clip the neckline sufficiently the first time around, but another go-round with the scissors fixed the problem.

After it was all sewn up I decided that it needed something.  I searched the stash and found some trim that I had picked up at the grocery store (yes) when we lived in Georgia.  I think it suits the lines of the dress and the fabric perfectly, and it further reminds me of things my grandmother used to sew.

A big yellow button from the stash to complete the mod feel, and I was done.

I searched for a photo of myself wearing the dress that I was thinking of when I sewed this, but I couldn't find one.  However, I do still have the doll dress that my Babushka made to match.  When I pulled it out (after the dress was all sewn up) I couldn't believe it - it was exactly the same dress with exactly the same construction.  Granted, this construction was not at all difficult.  I did have to modify the back opening after I opted out of the facings, and it makes me smile to know that I did it the same way Babushka did when she made this little doll dress.

A-line shape - check.  Cool structured fabric (in this case cotton faille) - check.

Invisible bias neckline - check. Seamed back with simple button closure - check.

However, Babushka's bias-finished neckline and armholes didn't pucker at all.  And she finished them by hand.  I could have learned a lot from her.

She would have loved the dress.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Seashore for spring

During a recent closet inventory, I noted that each girl could use an everyday summer dress. They each have a few church dresses, but those are reserved for Sundays as I am a believer that church clothes should be kept nice. So it was time to do a little sewing.

I set out an array of fabrics from my stash and let them choose. Little sister chose this Valori Wells linen that I got on super-sale from Jimmy Beans Wool three or four years ago. I only had a yard of it, and I had been itching to sew another Oliver+S Seashore Sundress. 

Don't mind the dirty tights.  That's how we roll around here.

I sewed up the 3T with added length for my 4.5-year old (who fits RTW size 5 perfectly). The fabric motif runs parallel to the selvage, which makes it a natural partner for the Seashore's many vertical seams.

My official excuse for not even trying to pattern match is that I was working with limited fabric. Also it was about midnight when I got started (hello, third trimester insomnia!) So I shouldn't have been surprised when I made some dumb cutting errors and the dress was too short. I didn't have enough fabric to cut new pieces, so I decided to sew a band around the bottom.

As I didn't have enough fabric to cut a single piece, and because pattern matching the rest of the dress would have been a nightmare, I decided to cut the fabric on on the cross-grain and piece it together to make the band. I messed up there, too (I think it was about 1 a.m. at this point), and didn't get the band's seams lined up with the dress's seams. Honestly at that point I didn't even care.  I had messed up so many things, I just wanted to be done. So I powered through, added some thrifted vintage-looking buttons, and gave it to her the next morning.

I took the dress out of the wash today and while the dress itself is not terribly wrinkled
(at least not by my standards, go ahead and judge), the facing did not seem to want to stay inside the dress.  Ironing the dress after every wash will get old fast so I think I might tack the facing at the side seams. Or maybe I'll even topstitch it down completely to make sure it stays put.

In any case, I got to sew the pattern again, I used up a 1-yard cut from my stash, and I filled a wardrobe hole.  Wins all around.

Happy Spring!

I made big sister's dress in the photo above, too.  That will be in my next blog post.