She’s Alive!

The last year has been a challenge for me, and getting any project started, let alone finished, was difficult. I spent countless hours spent studying patterns, fabrics, and blogs for ideas and inspiration, AKA procrastinating. I wanted to make a polka dot dress, or top, as a bit of homage to my mother, and hopefully that project would give my slow, slow sewing a needed kick in the shorts.

My friend Del, https://curlsnskirls.wordpress.com/author/celtib47/, had gifted me a marvelous, soft and drapey polka dot rayon challis from her stash to sew this dress, and I began the pattern hunt. It had to be simple and flowy, with sleeves and no waistband. New Look 6340 was my chosen pattern, using View D with V-neck, short sleeves, and in-seam pockets, but opting for the longer length from View A. 

Having never made this pattern, a muslin was in order. I had just enough muslin fabric to complete the bodice, which was enough for fitting, as this is a swing dress and based on measurements, clearly large enough through the waist and hips. The bodice muslin almost fit, but was just a bit snug so I decided to go up one size (without making a revised muslin), even though the low neckline worried me. I cut it out and began to sew. This truly was an easy sew, folks, even for me.

For example, can I just pat myself on the back for this beautiful, perfectly sewn V-neck?

Nope, not so fast speed racer, the try-on after basting up sides and sleeves was, shall we say, revealing. Whoa. The deep V neckline? This was more like a plunging neckline! I don’t own a bra cut low enough to tuck out of sight. And let’s face it, the bosoms are not where they used to be, and the whole thing looked a bit saggy. No pun intended. Or maybe it was intended.

How in the world did this happen? How could there be so much difference from the muslin? I’m going to blame it on the fog of impending migraine. I couldn’t possibly have been thinking clearly when I ignored the only (and so, so easy) opportunity to raise the V-neck. Was this repairable? I could wear a cami, but that seemed so unimaginative. I thought of inserting a neckband, but there was not enough fabric left to make one. Could I use ready made bias tape? Of course, at this point I’d already trimmed and clipped all the neckline seams, making it even more difficult to take apart and reassemble.

So as soon as my brain was less addled, I remembered there is a Plan B, which was to baste it all together and try it on again. This confirmed that I could definitely bring up the neckline at the shoulder seams, add two neckline darts, and perhaps could insert a little bias tape piping along the sides of neckline. I carefully unpicked the neckline again, took a bit from each shoulder, added a dart on each side, stitched it all back together, omitted the piping, and it’s just fine. Go figure.

The dress was finally ready to be sewn together. The sleeves were easy, but the in-seam pockets were a first for me. Though the instructions were clear enough, I was sure a quick tutorial would be helpful, and I found this one right away: https://byhandlondon.com/blogs/sew-alongs/11628661-nerdy-sewing-tips-how-to-add-side-seam-pockets  These pockets were constructed just as the pattern described, but the visual example was so helpful.The process was simple and uncomplicated, not the pivoting hither and yon that I had imagined. Perfection.

The pockets may have been perfect, but a new issue emerged.

So much fiddling with the neckline, plus bias areas from the wide skirt resulted in a very uneven hemline. The dress had to hang for a few days, partly to fall into place, and partly because I was miffed at it for causing yet another delay. After sufficient “hang time”, I tried it on again. The whole thing was still quite loose and the hem was a good 2″ longer in the back. Too long, but not long enough to be a definite high-low style. There must be something that could bring in the excess fabric at the waist as well as bringing up the back hem. My only solution was MORE DARN DARTS! Fish eye darts in the back would bring in the waist a bit, plus raise the hem. So I just eyeballed it, and pinned out 2 long darts in the back. Dare I show you? No! It’s so embarrassing. Never! Okay, yes. Pretty impressive, eh?

It looked as if there had been bike races up my back. Funny though, how both darts took off in the same (mis)direction! Not one to be outsmarted by a dart, I knew there must be a tutorial on making real fish eye darts. And of course there was. The one I selected was Craftsy https://www.craftsy.com/sewing/article/how-to-sew-a-dart/ which gave instructions to properly measure and place the darts. The new darts were spot on.

At last it was on to the final try-on. Curses. The darts had brought up the back, but the sides were still much longer than the front and back; certainly not the intended result. I hemmed and hawed (sorry, couldn’t resist) and wondered how to fix it. Should I try to measure from the ground up by myself? That seemed impossible. From the top to bottom? That didn’t make sense. Just start pinning and see how it went? HA! We know how well that went the first time. The hem would still be wonky, just a bit shorter. And then I had a brilliant idea – let’s line it up with the pattern pieces. That should show me where the original cutting line was and how the hem should look. Right? So, you must know what’s coming next don’t you. Another tutorial! Megan Nielsen had one that seemed just right: http://blog.megannielsen.com/2015/06/a-simple-trick-for-evening-out-the-hem-of-a-circle-skirt/ What was her advice? TO LINE IT UP WITH THE PATTERN PIECE!! I am a genius after all. Now the hemline was (nearly) straight, but the front was too short to turn under twice, so a cute little narrow hem was out of the picture. After another conversation with Del, I decided that lace hem facing and handstitching was the way to go. This must be the easiest way of all to make a hem!

I just cut off the excess hem fabric, added a package of lace, and voila! We have a hem that is even and pretty.

At last, my long-suffering dress is finished!

It’s taken so long to get this made that I think I should name her. Her name shall be Dotty and she is my new favorite thing.

What’s next in the queue? Vacation sewing! Considering how long it took to complete one simple dress, I won’t even pretend to be creating a me-made vacation wardrobe. But if the stars align, I hope to finish my blue and white birds top and maybe make a cocoon dress or a pair of pants or a kimono or a cardigan in the next few weeks before sailing away. Where would you begin?

Thanks for reading, and until next time, Stitch on Everyone!

 

 

 

 

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On Changing One’s Mind and How That Works Out Sometimes

Changing one’s mind is definitely better than losing it, wouldn’t you agree? And it can certainly bring a happy result.

Here are the details (and my apologies for such shoddy photos). After my miserable attempt at a Linden toile, I decided to switch gears and sew a cute little lap blanket, the perfect fail-proof project. I washed and dried the fabric, and laid it on my table to round off the corners and stitch the edges. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed my sewing machine, silently waiting with the gray thread still in, and the stretch needle still poised. It must have been a sign. There was no reasonable choice other than to finish up the Linden before beginning something new.

Originally I’d cut the neckband from the pink fabric, but discovered after basting it on, I didn’t like it at all. However, there wasn’t even the tiniest possibility of enough gray to make the neckband instead. Or was there? I found two large-enough pieces left, but alas, the stretch was going the wrong direction. Dig, dig, dig. Eureka! One long, skinny piece appeared. It was just long and wide enough, had the proper stretch, and my shirt would have the proper neckline.

I took off the pink one, attached the gray one, trimmed and understitched it, and the neckline was completed in mere moments. (And rather nicely if I may so.) The sleeves were long enough just to hem, although on second look I really should have made them wider – these are a bit wavy.  The top, though, was a little too short for a plain hem. So I attached the pink hem band, and voila! My Linden was transformed from the wadder I originally proclaimed it to a comfy, wearable top. It’s quite roomy, and the fabric is super soft. And now I’ll know how to alter my next one, so behold my first successful muslin of 2018.

Two thumbs up for making the right decision. Now I can stitch up my fun little blanket project, do a bit of mending, seek out the perfect fabric for my next Linden, and begin work on the muslin for my beautiful dotty Grainline Farrow dress.

Stitch on, everyone!

Hey Kids, We’re on a Roll Now!

We’re on a roll, I say. Really? you ask. How many garments have you completed?ONE! (Does one garment really constitute a roll?)

The Hudsons! Remember them? They are on my makenine list for this year. And they have been on my cutting table for an embarrassing number of days ….weeks ….months. But, they are finally finished!

This make was to be a toile, from sale bin fabric. No big loss then no matter what, so I would just bite my lower lip and cut right in, hoping to have a successful, wearable pair of comfort pants at a low cost, and know how to adjust the fit for a new, “better” pair. But look at this rare magic moment … when I uncovered my machine to get started, instead of a shambles, I found this:

Everything was set up and ready to go before being covered up!

So off we went, and the world’s slowest sewist (oh look, an alliterative rhyme) cut out the pants in short order. So easy! Fronts, backs, pockets, waistband, cuffs. I should have been well on my way at that point, but I needed elastic and cording. My closest fabric store is about 10 minutes away. So how many days did it take for me to complete this task? Seven! The bottom line is, after acquiring the last necessary items, I stepped up to the table and cut out the pants. I carefully marked all the pieces, and pinned the pocket lining to the pockets. Then my life began to cave in, and the Hudsons were cast even further to the background.

While I wasn’t sewing I began reading my favorite blogs again (not commenting, not posting, just reading). And from time to time, checking my emails. A newsletter from Karen Ball of Did You Make That? waited for me, asking folks what they would like to see her address. You know, problems or issues we may have with sewing. So I spilled my guts and asked for help when the sewing is just too scary to attack. And she used my question in her blog! I took Karen’s advice to allot a short amount of time to sew and when time was up, move away from the machine. Allowing myself to sew in only tiny bits freed up my worries about not accomplishing a damn thing and just see what happens. Well, my Hudson pants happened! And this is roughly how it went.

Day 1. Pockets. Pocket 1 – it was perfection! Boy am I good. Pocket 2 – the bloomin’ thing was inside out. Curses, perhaps I’m not Susie Sewist after all. However, after moving the pocket to the proper side, all was well.

Day 2. Side and crotch seams. Easy peasy.

Day 3. Waistband – hmmm do I really need that cord? What a pain it will be to do all that work, there are two buttonholes and a channel to create. But determined to do it properly, I followed the pattern and my buttonholes are perfect. Next step, attach the waistband to the pants. In so doing, I caught up the pocket in the stitching and with a sigh, began the unpicking process. Guess what? I had run out of bobbin thread! No unpicking required. This project had adverted its own crisis! Another magic moment.

Day 4. Attaching the elastic was the next challenge. With elastic in place, I basted using colorful rainbow thread because sheesh, this a lot of black thread on black fabric and my old eyeballs needed a rest. I sewed the bottom edge of waistband to pants, and tried them on once more. This was going to be one comfortable pair of pants.

Day 5. First cuff. Next I tackled the final piece of the pants puzzle, the cuffs. First cuff – meh, not bad. That’s all for today. Tomorrow will be the grand finale!

Day 6. Second cuff. Can you see the overly pinned cuff waiting for me, just behind the machine? I quickly sewed it up, and took it to the ironing board. Yikes! what happened here? Bunch upon bunch upon bunch. Once again, seam ripper to the rescue, and with only two short segments to sew (or resew, if that’s a word) with fewer pins, the cuff fit over the throat easily, and the job was at last complete.

After a good press, I am thoroughly enjoying my new, super comfy, wearable Hudson pants.

And the moral of the story? Sewing is a very humbling activity, but sometimes the magic happens. It turns out that my cheapo fabric is a wonderful ponte and my new pants are beyond wearable; they fit perfectly as printed, and are perfectly suitable for public viewing! I love my new Hudsons! Must make more. Many more. Gray, green, blue, red, wild prints. We shall see. And I must find a more dignified method of taking selfies.

Next up: the toile for my dotty Farrow Dress, which will be made of this luciousness.

Thanks for indulging me, and stitch on, everyone!

 

1, 2, 3, 4….

Four fabric squares, each with four seams and four corners. Now that is some advanced sewing, wouldn’t you say? And all these “fours” rolled together in my brain, and came out as 1, 2, 3, 4 … can I have a little more … a dandy little ditty by my four favorite guys.

So after this little digression, let’s get on with the post.

While on vacation last September I bought 4 cotton fat quarters (2 in Brecon and 2 in Chester) to make bandanas for my dear hubby. There couldn’t be a simpler project and as it is now April, he has waited long enough, wouldn’t you agree?

I zipped through the first one, but didn’t turn the corners properly.

Even though they are not terribly bulky, I needed to make better corners with the next one. Unfortunately, the next one was a very lightweight fabric that hubby had chosen himself. Now, who can worry about proper corners when one can’t even keep the feed dogs from chomping up the teeny tiny hems? And of course, this was the smallest of the pieces so making wider hems posed a problem. (Hmm, shouldn’t fat quarters be fairly uniform in size?)  So I did some troubleshooting. I cleaned and dusted my machine, grabbed a new needle, rethreaded both top and bobbin thread. I changed from the lightweight transparent foot (which I had just bought, and love!) to a heavier edge foot and checked the foot tension. The only thing left for me to do was buck up and start again. Starting with great trepidation on the flimsy little square, I happily discovered my machine just whirred right along, and no more hungry feed dogs! And look, my corners have improved!

Rather blurry photo, my apologies.

Here is the completed stack. A grand total of 16 corners and 16 hemmed sides to create four workout/running bandanas for himself. I don’t know which is his favorite, but I’ll just bet you can guess which one is mine!

Somehow, the color is a bit off on just one of these bandanas – the plain green one is a nice, bright green. Won’t he be a big hit at the gym?

And next to come, my new True Bias Hudson pants! And could it be? A dress!

Just the top, ma’am…

This was supposed to be a post about a pajama/lounging outfit, but I’m so happy with the top, I couldn’t wait to show you.

Working on my #2017makenine, I hit a snag right from the outset. It seems all the materials I had on hand were of the stretchy variety, which I’ve never sewn, even back in the old days when I made most of my wardrobe. (oh wait, there was a pink textured polyester shorts & tank set – ack! I’d forgotten about that gem – wore it proudly, but  in retrospect, it was an absolute horror)

Anyway….I decided to  toile my first planned make, pajamas, sewing the top from the Simple Sew Shannon Collection, a pattern gifted to me by Ali of THIMBERLINA fame. I would be using a beautiful piece of Art Gallery stretch jersey, purchased at Akhaban in Chester, when I met Ali and her mum.

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Thanks to all your good advice, see previous post, the neckline was stretched into submission and sewed to near perfection (although still a bit puckery).

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I tried on the top again; the fit was right, but something was not right with the sleeves. Were they too long? Maybe. Too tight? Not really. They just weren’t right. So how did I resolve this issue? Ditch the cuffs! So, with sleeves hemmed without cuffs, the length is perfect and the top is great! I love this cheery fabric.  For my next version, I’ll most likely make wrist length, snuggly sleeves.

Truth be told, the sleeve hems are not perfectly done; I turned them under twice so they’re a tad thick. I wanted to do a better job on the hem, so I searched the internet for tutorials and tips for sewing knits without a serger/overlocker. It seemed rather hopeless, as all the examples looked so nice and mine looked so …. well, not nice.  So I procrastinated, and tidied my sewing area instead. Lo and behold, I found some hem tape! I made a couple of sample runs to get the desired width, and with the hem finally sewn, this top is finished!

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Not the best hairdo for this picture, as it reveals that something is askew with the shoulder/neckline. The neckline isn’t so pointy when my shoulders are in a normal position, not up in a funny how-does-one-pose-for-a-selfie shot.

I love this happy little top so much, it might be allowed out in public after all.

Next up, to complete the outfit, my Hudson pants in a luscious black double knit. They just might have a little contrast trim in a familiar print.

Watch this space.