Friday, August 23, 2019

The Watermelon Joey Tank

I bought 1 yard of watermelon print fabric for the bodice of my watermelon dress. After making the dress I still had over half of that length left - and it needed to be turned into something awesome!

But what can one do with less than a yard of 44” wide cotton? Well it turns out, with careful positioning, piecing, and pattern hacking, one can make view A of the Joey Tank, by Made Again Patterns.

After testing several different pattern layouts on my little piece of fabric, I went with the option pictured above as it allowed the front to still be cut on the fold and required very little piecing. The piecing required, across the top of the front piece, actually looked intentional when all was said and done, so that was a win. I even added some dark green flat piping to highlight the fabric join.

To accommodate my fabric shortage, I changed the shape of the upper back a bit - and I really like how that turned out!

After cutting out the tank itself, I turned all my left over fabric scraps into bias tape. The itty-bitty scraps I stitched together yielded enough bias tape to make straps, but not enough to bind the armholes the way the Joey Tank instructions recommend. Thus, those would need to be finished in a different way, but that was ok, because I had I plan.

The Joey tank isn't ideal for wearing with a normal bra. And I don't like wearing strapless bras. Thus, I decided to add a shelf bra to this tank of watermelon-y goodness.

The shelf bra is made from cotton/spandex jersey with a layer of power net added to the front panel for a little extra support.

I cut the jersey to have the same neckline and armhole shape as the tank itself, then cut it narrower below the armhole so it would be tight enough to be some what supportive. I omitted the bust darts, as those wouldn't be needed in a knit support layer. I cut the shelf bra long enough to go from the neckline to right below my bust. Then I cut a matching back piece from the jersey and sewed up the side seams.

Around the bottom I attached elastic. 

This got folded up and zig-zagged in place, just like you do with elastic on a swim suit.

Once the elastic was securely stitched in place, the shelf bra was ready to be added to my watermelon tank top.

I sewed it in like a facing, effectively finishing the neckline and armholes all at once.

The result? A cute and comfy tank top which I don't have to wear a bra with!!

I love it!! And I definitely plan on making more Joey tanks with shelf bras in the future.

Next time I do this however, I do believe I will go ahead and bind the arm holes with bias tape as the pattern recommends. That will keep the shelf bra fabric from peaking out around the edges while raising the armholes just a touch from where they are on this tank top - which would be more comfortable for me.

So there you go, my watermelon fabric has been used up completely, hardly a scrap was wasted.

And I have wound up with not one, but two fabulous watermelon garments which I enjoy wearing immensely.

Not bad for a single yard of fabric purchased off the clearance rack at JoAnn's!

*I received this pattern free of charge in exchange for testing it earlier this year, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Very Pink Pindakaas Dress

Yes, I have googled the word "Pindakaas" and learned it means "peanut butter" in Dutch. Thus, let me tell you all about my pink peanut butter dress, or, as I call it, my birthday dress. (Not to be confused with a "birthday suit"!!) This is not because I wore it on my birthday, but because I did most of the constructing of it on my birthday. And, it's pink.

The dress was finished, and photographed (by my brother who was excited to use his new camera) about 4 days after my birthday - so it was still my birthday week at least. And now, this dress and my birthday are linked together in my mind.

Aside from the timing of when this dress was made, the color also contributes toward the birthday-ness of the dress. It's pink. Very pink. And my favorite kind of birthday cake is generally strawberry, which is also pink. Sometimes very pink.

Thus, this is my Birthday Dress. And it's pink. Very pink. It stands out in my wardrobe because of it's very pinkness. Now why did I make such a very pink dress? This is not part of my usual color pallet, that's for sure!

The story begins a couple weeks before my birthday, back in June. It was the week after I got home from Japan, and I had the week off work. I was steadily working my way through my project list, making my Mrs. Maisel dress, my 4th of July dress, and my Joey Tank outfit, among other things. As that wonderful week off work was drawing to an end, I wanted to make myself one more dress. The only question was, what dress? I have a very long list of dresses I want to make myself!

As I was contemplating this, I saw a pattern tester call from The Eli Monster. As I've mentioned before, I do have a bit of a weakness when it comes to testing patterns for The Eli Monster. A new girls' dress, the Pindakaas Dress, had just been released, and matching adult version of the pattern was ready for testing. After a bit of thought, I decided that I'd like this fun open backed dress in my wardrobe as much as any other, so testing the pattern might as well be my next dressmaking endeavor for myself. I do love the uniqueness of the Eli Monster dress designs!

Thus, I volunteered to test the pattern, and began to consider what fabric I might have in my stash which would be suitable for this project. The dress on the pattern cover for the girls' version of the pattern is pink and looks fabulous. That stuck in my head and I was quite certain I wanted my dress to be pink as well. But did I own any pink fabric? That I didn't know.

I looked through my fabric stash and, in one of the bins from my aunt's friend's mother's sewing stash, I found it - 2.5 yards of hot pink floral batik. Just barely enough fabric for this dress. It was perfect!

So I did the whole pattern testing thing, making a mock-up, waiting for pattern revisions, then making a dress from the final pattern, and about 2 weeks after I decided to make this dress I had it - my very own pink Pindakaas dress. My Birthday Dress.

Great care was taken in testing to make sure the bottom back strap would align with the bra band, making it possible to wear a normal bra with this mostly backless dress - something I greatly appreciate!

When the dress was done, I dressed it up with my fancy cowboy boots, a net petticoat, a pair of pretty dangley earrings my sister gave me for my birthday, and a ribbon in my hair, then my brother and I went out to my grandpa's farm to photograph it. It was fun to have different back drop options than normal!

This dress is super fun to wear and quite eye catching. Even my relatives who are very used to my me-made wardrobe have commented  favorably on this dress. Apparently I look good in pink and should wear it more often.

This whole pink thing is an interesting idea which perhaps I ought to consider.

 But if I make too many pink dress, that might make this one less special, and I'm not sure I want that!

Maybe I should comprise by making myself a pink dress every year for my birthday - that just might do the trick!

*If you are interested in this pattern for yourself it is on sale for only $7 through this weekend!
**I received this pattern for free in exchange for testing it, but all thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog post are my own. I was not required to write a post about this dress.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Making a Black Wool 1840's Dress on an Airplane

Wool fabric and the 1840's appear to be my weaknesses. When my mother happened across 5 yard lengths of both black and navy blue worsted wool on Etsy for an extremely reasonable price, I was quick to say "Yes I want it!" Never mind I already have a decent wool stash, a couple more pieces wouldn't go amiss!

When the fabric arrived. I immediately knew the black wool needed to be an 1840's dress. Never mind that I've already made two 1840's dresses, and one happens to be wool. Clearly I needed a black 1840's dress, something definitely inspired by Jane Eyre, in my collection as well. I began to get serious about historical costuming with an early 1840's project, and that era of dress still fascinates me immensely as I come back to it again and again.

With this decided, all I needed to do was figure out the style of gown my black wool would be made into. The style of my purple plaid wool dress dates from about 1838 through 1842, and is a prime example of the transition between the romantic 1830's fashions and the gothic 1840's fashions. My previous project is completely hand sewn from a single sheet. That dress is in the fan-front style, based on examples from the late 1840's. I was severely tempted to turn the black wool into another fan front gown, as I dearly love that style, but I decided it really needed to be made up in a style I hadn't yet attempted. Something new to me, but still quintessentially 1840's. I turned to my costuming books to figure out what that style would be. Other than the fabulous fan front bodice, what are some other hallmarks of 1840's fashion?

Some features of 1840's fashion include a basque bodice (pointed front waist), straight sleeves, a cartridge pleated skirt, and piping, lots of piping. I found a pattern for a dress featuring all of these elements, plus more, on page 164 of Cut of Women's Clothes by Norah Waugh.

This early 1840's bodice pattern contained all the above features, plus a couple others which are rather specific to this decade as well. Front bodice seams which run from shoulder to waist (a feature seen both on day dresses and evening dress in 1840's but only on evening dresses through out the remainder of the century) and sleeves with a shaped wrist opening (What should I call this shape, an inverted point? An upside down heart?) rounded out this excellent specimen of an 1840's dress bodice - just what I wanted for my black wool, Jane Eyre inspired, evidently gothic, early Victorian dress.

With the design dating just after the era of my purple plaid wool dress and just before the era of my fan front dress settled on, I got to work. First, I sized up the pattern diagrammed in Cut of Women's Clothes 800% on my copier. Not necessarily the most precise method of sizing up patterns from books, but it worked.

Then I measured the pattern and compared it to the scale in the book and found it to be about 90% of the size it was supposed to be. I decided this was close enough to full size for me to be able to successfully grade the sized up pattern out to my measurements.

I used the slash and spread method of grading to get the pattern pieces to the correct size for me. Then I made a mock-up, which fit surprisingly well for a first try!

After trying on the mock-up over my corset, I made a few alterations, and then a second mock-up.

After a few more minor alterations, I cut a final mock-up out of what would become the flat lining of my bodice, just to triple check my pattern was good to go before I cut into my black wool. With only 5 yards of wool, I didn't have much extra fabric for making mistakes!

I messed around with my sleeve pattern a bit more, then I was ready to go - to Japan.

That's right - this project was coming with me to Japan! I would be hand sewing this dress, which, in addition to being historically accurate, is a very travel-friendly occupation. The day I was to leave, I hurriedly cut out the bodice and packed the pieces, along with a sewing kit meeting TSA regulations, in my carry on. I began the dress by sewing the piping as I waited at the airport for the first flight of the trip.

Over the course of the next two flights and one layover, I succeed in making all the piping and basting together the wool and flat lining for all the bodice pieces. Once I arrived in Japan I was ready to begin constructing the bodice. 

Thus that is what I did during my spare time over the next two weeks. During my down time at the church, on long bus rides, and on the flight back home, I sewed. By the time I got home, the bodice itself was constructed. I was ready to do a fitting, then set the sleeves and finish the bodice with piping around the waistline, neckline, and sleeve cuffs, add boning, and closures. (I'd actually meant to add the boning and boning casings while in Japan, but I'd forgotten to pack the cotton ribbon for the casings and the boning itself.) 

The bodice fit!! So I went ahead and finished it up. Honestly, finishing the bodice took longer than the actual constructing did. (Probably because I was home by this point and distracted by other projects.)

I'd intended to finish this dress for the Historical Sew Monthly June challenge - favorite technique, as the finished dress will feature my two favorite historical sewing techniques, piping and cartridge pleats. (These are the features of 1840's dresses which draw me back to this decade time and time again.)  However, that did not happen, as I didn't get around to finishing the bodice itself until mid July.

Having missed the end of June deadline, I then intended to finish the dress by the end of July for the Historical Sew Monthly "Unexpected Feature" challenge. Then I wound up making the skirt way more complicated than any 1840's dress skirt I've ever made before, so it wasn't done by the end of July either.

Full details about why this project would have qualified for the July challenge, and all the complicated-ness of the skirt, will be in my next blog post about this dress.

Meanwhile, let me leave you with some pictures of the finished bodice. No, when we took these pictures I had not yet finished sewing on all the hooks and eyes down the back.

Rest assured, all closures are now sewn on, and the bodice generally fits well - not too tight, or too loose.

The one exception to this statement would be the sleeves, which are very nearly too tight in the forearm. I may go back and let those out a hair. 

The upper sleeves however, and the short over sleeves, called "jockeys" according to the Norah Waugh book, are just fabulous.

A solid black dress could be considered plain, but these sleeves definitely keep it out of that territory! Now please forgive the cat hairs. . .

Our quick "lets run outside and take pictures of this bodice because I have it on right now for a fitting" photo shoot, began with this. While adorable, it turns out a black wool bodice and a pale gray cat don't actually mix that well. . .

Now, onto actually finishing this dress!

As, at the time of writing this post, the overly complicated skirt is still not fully attached to the bodice. 

Good luck you say? Well thank you, I will need it! (And a good thimble, but more on that in a future post!)