Washington Dress – TNT

Greetings! I’m finding myself quite recovered from the Thanksgiving holiday and am gearing up for the Christmas season. As I mentioned our lives have been quite full lately and a big chunk of my time has recently been taken up by church. I’m not here to prattle on about religion. I promise. But church is a part of my life again. Partly because the political climate makes me nervous, partly because I have two little girls and want to give them a solid religious base, and partly because I was really missing the community church brings into one’s life.

For most of October and November I’ve spent Sundays going from service, to sunday school, to grocery shopping, then back to church for New Members Class. It was exhausting, but also fulfilling and I’ve met some pretty nice and welcoming people. I had planned to make a new dress for the service when new members are introduced. The dress is even mostly put together, but well…it wasn’t quite right. I used rayon challis and it will be a lovely spring dress (maybe Easter?), but it wasn’t right for November. Plus I need to take out a huge chunk of length from the back and that means a lot of seam ripping. I just did not have the time for such an endeavor.

So I set aside the rayon dress in favor of something quick and easy, a tried and true pattern. Yep, my favorite winter dress, the Cashmerette Washington bodice with a half circle skirt. I’ve made it several times and knew I could whip one up in just a couple hours.

img_1104Tada! A nice fresh dress to kick off the winter sewing season. Soft and lovely and forgiving to wear.

I don’t really have new to add to my thoughts on the pattern. I’ve used it several times and it always works well. This time I added a touch of ruching at the bust.

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The fabric is Liberty of London Ganton Jersey in the pattern Meandering Chrysanthemum. I purchased it at The Fabric Store in LA a few month ago for what must have been a clearance price. Something like $16/yard when Liberty jersey tends to go for double the price. Usually I like a bit of lycra in my jersey, but this 100% cotton version was too nice to pass up. It reminded me of the fabric I used for my very favorite winter dress. In practice it was hard to find the grain of this jersey and I am wondering if there was a reason it was so cheap.

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I think I’ve mostly avoided the dreaded flower boob in this one. It was a close call with so many blossoms closely placed šŸ™‚

Anyways, this dress was originally intended for Thanksgiving. I figured it would look nice for photos and also be comfortable for the 5 hour drive to Vegas and eating massive amounts of food. I was right on both accounts. I give the dress two thumbs up. It also had me feeling confident while standing in front of hundreds of people in church. Now to sew up the two more dress quantities of fabric I ordered this month. Once I pulled out my winter dresses I realized I have about 5 days worth of work clothes. Not quite as much as I’d like. Plus some of the things I packed away looks a little worse for wear after spending the summer in a plastic bin.

And if you’re interested in other sewer’s favorite patterns, I hope you’ll check out the Sewcialist’s Tried and True Month. It is really interesting to see what styles people pick to make again and again. For me, this skater dress style is now a staple of my winter wardrobe. Easy to make and easy to wear.

 

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Halloween 2017

It’s been a little while since I paid a visit to this space, but I’ve been busily working away. I’ve been spending a little less time on the internet lately and a little more time sewing, knitting, and volunteeringĀ  including joining the editor pool at the Curvy Sewing Collective. We’re also well into the busy season at Heritage Square Museum. Lots of commitments to my time, but in a good way.

When it comes to Halloween I try to keep my sewing to a minimum. I’ll make one piece for each child and then buy or find the rest of the pieces. Its worked really well so far! This year both girls wanted to be fairies, or I should say that Lu wanted to be a fairy and Charlie wanted to be just like Lu. Lu picked her costume months ago so I had plenty of time to think about how I wanted to make a couple of fairy costumes.

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I spent a bunch of time looking for a fairy costume pattern, but most of the Pinterest ideas were geared more towards the occasional crafter. I just wasn’t interested in tube tops and tying a ton of tulle strips to elastic. Both of my girls love to play dress up so I decided to make something built to last rather than for one day.

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I settled on using Rae Hoekstra’s Flashback Skinny Tee for the tops and drafting my own circle skirts for the bottoms. I did not tell the girls my plan. If I had they would have thrown a fit of unhappiness. They wanted frilly collars like the fairies in their activity book. Instead we took the girls to JoAnn’s and planted them in front of the athletic sparkle fabrics. Then I gentle steered them towards two fabric that came in multiple colorways. Lu immediately latched onto pink! Charlie took some convincing, but we got her to agree to gold.

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That one trip to JoAnn’s ended up supplying everything we needed to produce two fairies. While I waited in line to get the fabric cut, my husband and the girls ended up finding the dress up clothes area and procured 2 sets of wings and 2 sequin crowns. Not a prefect match to the fabrics but they worked out perfectly. With an armful of sequins we headed to the register and all our Halloween costume shopping was complete!

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The dresses were so easy to complete. Not my finest work, but perfect for the holiday. Charlie’s also served as her birthday dress. Her birthday is right before Halloween, so we threw a costume party at the park and our newly 3 year old daughter was super happy. It was also impossible to miss them with the sun shining off all those sparkles!

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As a wonderful bonus, we had a super generous employee at the fabric cutting counter and I now have enough left over material to make the girls something else as well. I’m thinking coordinating gymnastics leotards would be super fun. Now I just have to find time to actually sew them up!

 

Operation Sister Quilts

I’ve gotta admit I’ve been feeling pretty horrible these last few days. I’ve was slammed with a sudden flu like something and then the shooting in Las Vegas hit way to close to home. It feels more and more like the world has gone mad. I don’t write this blog to get into politics, but how I feel definitely directs my posts. I’d planned to write up a project I made for myself, but instead I’m posting a project that I’ve been working on for over two years. Something warm and happy and lovely.

I’m a pretty big fan of Heather Ross prints. I keep an eye out for her prints on apparel fabric for me (exhibit 1 and exhibit 2) and when the collection is something special I buy quilting cotton too. The Tiger Lily collection came up for pre-order when I was all high on newborn baby fumes and I was inspired to make sister quilts for my tiny and tough girls. I loved the mix of ballerinas and girls climbing trees.

Now I can finally call the project a wonderful and finished success.

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These suckers were quite a bit of work. Churn dash was the only block pattern I even really considered. It just seemed to suit the fabrics so well, but trying to figure out which prints to pair took me many many evenings. Early on in the planning process I realized I didn’t have enough fabric and had to desperately email Westwood Acres Fabric to order a bit more! I also originally thought I’d make the tops with different mixes of fabric, but I couldn’t ever quite figure out how to make it work in a well balanced way. So both tops are identical.

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Well, the tops are identical except one one very special detail. I hand embroidered their names in the sashing. Even this detail took a lot of thought. Originally I’d planned to have them machine embroidered, but then I was too lazy to actual research it after my friend with an embroidery machine said her machine couldn’t handle the size of the project. The big push came when my local yarn store announced they were getting rid of embroidery floss and I made a quick run down to buy really high quality floss while I could still see the colors in person.

In fact a lot of this project was only moved along with pushes from the outside world. I kept procrastinating the next step until I couldn’t wait any longer. The sashing? Well that was motivated by my local quilting store’s going out of business sale. I shopped there pretty frequently, but the threat of having to buy sashing fabric online was nerve wrecking enough for me to drag the squares down to the nice natural lighted store before I was left guessing shades against a computer monitor!

I was so good about piecing the fronts and cutting all the strips for the binding and then the project just sat again…for months. I hit a rut in my sewing. I wanted to piece together the backs, but we were in a tight financial place and I couldn’t afford to spend money of fabric. I dug through my scrap bin and and found the leftovers from my dark green butterfly dress. It was lawn, not quilting cotton, but that’s okay! I also found left over rose print from the dress I made to wear to my bridal shower. The colors weren’t quite perfect, but with everything gathered I had just exactly enough to eek out two twin sized quilt backs. Not matching like the fronts, but similar enough.

img_0895With the fronts and backs completed all that was left was the quilting and binding, but instead of just getting it done I stuffed it all in my sewing cabinet and forgot about it. Finally in some of the hottest weather this summer I decided to pull out all the supplies and finish these suckers. With lots of swearing and sweating I managed to mostly pin the layers together with a minimum of wrinkles. Only took 4 attempts. With the home stretch in front of me I couldn’t turn back. The pair of quilts were also threatening to take over my sewing space (our kitchen table). Once I got past the horrible pinning part hand tying the quilts was hot but easy work and the bindings went on pretty easily.

These quilts are absolutely massive in their tiny toddler beds, but I hear a bunk bed isĀ  coming this winter! My hope is these snuggly twin quilts will be just perfect for many winters to come.

 

 

Hand Me Down Dress

My sweet baby. She’s on the cusp of turning 3 and becoming more independent with each day that passes. In this dress she looks like an angel.

The dress pattern is Simplicity 9605 which was published in 2001, but this style has been popular for decades. In fact this dress is 15 years old. I made it back when I was 20 and my cousin was 2! My aunt held onto it for all these years hoping I would have my own daughter and she could pass it down. Luckily she found it before my girls grew out of it!

She’s also lucky my kids grow slowly as I made a size 2. My cousin was also quite a tiny toddler. As you can see this dress is likely to get a lot more wear. YAY!

Oh sweet goodness. Look at that Joann’s quilting cotton. 15 years ago that’s pretty much the only fabric I used to sew clothing. Most of the rest of the store was filled with polyester (not much has changed) and the wall of pretty cottons was so much more appealing to both my wallet and my taste in colors.

Heart pocket! I’m thanking past-me for adding this sweet detail.

Underneath is a full petticoat in the same pink cotton. All these layers give the skirt a nice body that is missing from a lot of other patterns.

It was so fun looking at the guts of the dress and noticing which techniques I used finish seams and such. I don’t usually bother with much finishing work on clothes for myself, but gifts are a different story. I always make sure everything is neat and tidy. In this dress it looks like I tried to use the selvedge of the materials as much as possible. I didn’t own a serger or pinking sheers at the time.

Charlie loves this dress. We started going to church over the summer and she always wants to wear her pink twirly dress. It is just perfect for wearing to service even though she mostly goes to the toddler room. In my opinion, one should always dress for church. And nearly every week one of the older ladies stops me to comment on Charlie. So many of them made dresses like this for their own daughters and it warms their hearts to see that someone still sews up these styles.

Now I’m contemplating making this pattern again. I have some vague memories of it going together well even if more involved. I’m thinking it would make a perfect Christmas dress for Charlotte because she’s too old for the style. Maybe I’ll make something similar for Lu. Is five too old for pinafores?

Sewcialists Tribute Month – The Project!

Yay! I managed to fit in another project this month! I surprised the hell out of myself by knocking out one more thing this afternoon. To be fair it was more of an alteration, but I think it counts just the same.

Last month I posted my plan for the Sewcialist‘s tribute month. To summarize, I’m paying tribute to Mrs. Mole from Fit for a Queen by altering a much too small skirt to fit my current figure. Like, the skirt was 7-8 inches too small in the waist. Whoops!

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Success!!!!! This turned out to be a really simple and fun project.

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First I took the old waist band off very very carefully as the silk is so thin the seam ripper could easily slice right through. Then I folded the skirt in quarters and turned to my trusted copy of Patternmaking for Fashion Design to find out the waist radius for my current waist size. A quick snip to enlarge the waist and I was on my way.

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The next step was to insert a side zipper. The original dress had a front waistband that wrapped around the back and hooked, then a separate back waistband wrapped to the front and tied. There were 5 inch openings on each side to allowed room to pull the skirt on. I closed one of the side openings and enlarged the other to make room for a zipper. I used an invisible zip because that’s what I had on had, but a lapped zipper also would have worked well.

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I discarded the original front waistband that hooked because it was too short to reuse and stabilized with a material that would have been hard to find today. The back waistband/tie was gloriously long! I picked up some purple silk organza at The Fabric Store (the same outing as my previous LACMA excursion) and inserted a double wide length into the new waistband to stabilize the original silk. Lucky me, the silk pressed like a dream and the original 60 year old creases made sewing the new waistband to the skirt very very easy. It was shocking how nicely those creases agreed with the alteration process.Ā I hand stitched the waistband down on the inside and now all the raw edges are completely inclosed.

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The only problem is figuring out where I can wear a hand-painted Mexican silk skirt with piggy banks. Church? Date night? Work? Back to School Night? It is totally fabulous and feels wonderful in this summer heat, but it is a lot of look if you know what I mean. And should I stick with the white blouse? I’m kind of tempted to whip up something in hot pink or teal instead. A simpleĀ Cashmerette Springfield might work without overwhelming the beauty of the skirt. Anyone want to throw out an opinion? In the meantime I’ll keep playing dress up and spinning around my yard.

 

The Laneway Dress

Oh August, you really got the best of me. I had plans for at least two items this month, but it looks like I’ll only finish one. Thank goodness for deadline sewing? I thought I’d have more free time, but instead I got all wrapped up in back to school preparations for both home and work. I had no idea getting Lu though the first two weeks of kindergarten would be so exhausting for me!

My lone August project isĀ The Laneway Dress from Jennifer Lauren Handmade. Back at the end of July, Jennifer put out a call for pattern reviewers. I don’t usually volunteer for such things, but I love her clean and classic vintage vibe. I also sympathized with her problem. Pattern testers are great for making sure your pattern is well drafted and error free, but test versions are not always great for promotional purposes. When looking to purchase a newly released pattern I always look for examples, but I don’t want to see tester versions. Test versions are not using the final product, the one I’m paying good money to purchase. It seems I’m not alone in my desire to see final versions of the pattern before making a purchase. A quick glance in Facebook groups, blogs, and Instagram will give you a sense of how well a pattern works in the hands of other home sewers, but that only works if those patterns get sew up right away.

I volunteered for a selfish reason too. Jennifer recently started including cup sizes up to D in her patterns and updated her drafting. I definitely wanted to see if the drafting changes would work in my favor! When The Laneway Dress came up for review I frantically emailed Jennifer from the terminal in LAX hoping I would be selected as a reviewer. Success!!!

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Oh the finished dress is so lovely, but it took a little work to get here. I started with a muslin in size 16D at the bust and 18 for the waist and hip. A couple problems were apparent from the beginning. 1) The shoulders were too wide. 2) I needed more room in the front waist and less room in the back waist.Ā Both of these fit issues are really common for me.

Last time I did a really detailed muslin process I was just making it up using common sense, logic, and internet tutorials. This time I purchased a copy of the popular sewing book, “Fit for Real People“. What I learned is that a lot of my instincts were good.

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To address the too wide shoulders I put on the muslin bodice and drew in a line where I wanted the shoulders to hit. Turns out they were 1 inch too wide. With a new armscye Ā the whole bodice sat much better.

The sleeves miraculously fit pretty dang well right out of the envelope. I almost always need to do a bicep adjustment, but this time there was enough ease! The only alteration done to the sleeves was to increase the height of the sleeve cap to fit the new armscye. I have never had sleeves sew in so smoothly. Not a single pucker!

Next I altered the waistline to give me more tummy room. A lot of people make this adjustment at the side seams, but I prefer to alter the darts. I just made the legs of the darts .25 inches wider in the back and .25 inches narrower in the front. The circumference was perfect out of the envelope. I just needed it distributed in a different way. Thankfully I remembered to alter the skirt too by adding .5 inches to the front skirt piece. Technically I should have also removed .5 inches from the back skirt, but I always need extra booty room so I left the back skirt the same width and eased the extra skirt width in at the waist.

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After altering the shoulder width and darts there were just a couple tiny fixes to make. 1) I squared the shoulders and 1) Ā I did a slight sway back adjustment.

This probably sounds like a lot of adjustments, but in reality the only major adjustment was the shoulder width. Everything else was just drawing slightly different lines on the pattern pieces.

In full disclosure, Jennifer sent testers the pattern for free, but she asked for complete honesty, so I’m giving it here. Aside from the fit alterations things went really smoothly. The pattern was easy to download and I liked the way it was tiled so I Ā only printed the pages needed for the D cup dress. The biggest gripe I have about taping the pattern pieces is there is no grid of notches to help you match pieces. I found it easy enough to match things on the bodice, but with so much blank space the skirt was a bit more of a challenge. I hope in the future Jennifer will add some sort of feature to ensure better accuracy during the pattern taping process.

The construction was pretty straightforward. I’ve made a lot of dresses so I took a glance at the order and then took off without having to give them another glance. If you’ve made any other basic woven dress, you can make this one too.

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Stylistically I think it is a cute basic dress. I love the three different necklines and it would be easy to adapt another pattern to include this detail or use your sloper. That had been my original plan until Jennifer Lauren’s review announcement. I also really like how the pattern has open ended darts. It is super bust friendly because you don’t have to worry about the darts ending in exactly the correct place.

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And oh look at that fabric. I think it might be my favorite part. The print was purchased at The Fabric Store back when Jenny from Cashmerette came to LA for a visit. It is hard to tell in the picture, but the background color is a deep navy, my favorite neutral. I always find myself drawn to darker colors as fall approaches, but it is still rally damn hot here. This fabric is super light though and incredibly similar to a Liberty of London lawn.

My husband thought it was “a lot of print” before I added the contrast facing. The facing fabric also came from The Fabric Store, but was purchase specifically for the Laneway Dress. Lu and I took a side trip to look for fabric on our way to LACMA and after walking the whole store I just could not get this sheer stripe out of my head. The color matched perfectly, but I could not figure out how to interface such a sheer fabric. In the end I flatlined it to a piece of the main print and that method worked really well. Both fabrics are also cotton so laundering should be easy.

The finished dress fits pretty darn well. Is it perfect? Of course not! But I wore this dress all day to work and the ease and fit suited my lifestyle well. If I’d taken out all the ease and wrinkles the dress would have been too tight for carrying children, buckling car seats, and using a desktop computer all day. I also got multiple compliments on my Laneway and who doesn’t love compliments?!?! Now I’m thinking I should make another. Maybe with a different neck treatment?

 

 

Kinder Cardigan

There was a big transition for our family this week as our oldest daughter started kindergarten! Lu was just thrilled to go to elementary school and start learning big girl things. I really wanted to make her a first day of school outfit, but she is required to wear a uniform. Sure, I could have made her a blouse and skirt, but I have to admit uniform sewing is super boring. While I try to make a good chunk of the kids clothing, for uniforms I was happy to put in an order from Gap and use my limited summer sewing time for other projects.

This seems ridiculous since we live in Southern California, but I opted to knit Lu a first day of school sweater!

Gosh, she is so cute. Sure it was a high of 85F on Monday, but it was grey and cool-ish in the morning. She happily donned her new cardigan which looks quite nice with her new school shoes.

I’ve been trying to knit up some of the patterns in my library and yarn in my stash, so I shopped both to achieve a nice traditional sweater. This is the Wee Wildflower pattern from Alana Dakos. There is actually an adult version too, but I don’t think I’d ever knit it for myself. A little too twee. The yarn is Madelinetosh’s Twist Light in the color Care. Twist light is 75% wool and 25% nylon which is a good combination for a kids garment. Technically it is machine washable, but I’ll try to remember to wash it by hand. Care is a wonderful color that includes nearly every shade in the rainbow. It was a limited release color sold to benefit Doctors Without Borders. I took the time to alternate two skeins so there is very little pooling of the colors. Yay!

Choosing a size to knit was a bit tough. Lu has a 19 inch chest, but is average height for a 5 year old, so I ended up knitting the size 2 sweater with a size 6 for the length. It worked out pretty well everywhere except the sleeve caps. The sleeve caps as written have almost no height, just a lot of width. I added some extra height and it was still tough to fit the sleeves into the armcye. Lu also have very thin arms and the sleeves are tight. I cannot imagine shoving a 2 year old’s arms into such a small circumference. Could be my gauge was off, but still I found the sizing odd. The pattern also has no shaping for the shoulders in the back, so I added that too.

This finished sweater is pretty great and fits Lu well right now, but I don’t think this one is going to last long. I have a feeling Lu is going to shoot straight up this year with all the running and learning she’ll do. Just one day into the school year she’d figured out how to swing by herself and by Friday Lu was all atwitter over recycling, the solar eclipse, and science! “Mommy, I want to be a teacher when I grow up.”