Saturday, November 16, 2019

A Wrap Top for Getting Ready - Butterick B6285

I finished all the sewing I needed to do for my brother's wedding on Thursday. The wedding was on Sunday. That's right, I completed all necessary sewing several days in advance, no last minute sewing for this event!

On Friday I felt somewhat at loose ends with no wedding sewing to do! As I was thinking through what I should do with my new found free time, I realized I needed a shirt to wear while getting ready on Sunday. Something that would not need to be pulled off over my head when it was time to change into my bridesmaids' dress.

Sunday morning I needed to be at the wedding venue bright and early to get my hair and make-up done. Now I could have just worn a button-down shirt for getting ready that morning, but I don't like any of my button down shirts. None of them fit right. All are either too tight in the shoulders, or too tight in the bust, or both, and too big everywhere else. Very annoying.

And thus, on Friday afternoon, I decided I might as well make myself a shirt, which wouldn't have to be pulled over my head, to wear on Sunday morning. When I got home from work that evening I looked through my pattern collection to see what struck my fancy.

I decided the wrap top from Butterick B6285 would suit my purposes well, so I picked out a fabric from my stash, threw it in the washer to prewash, and cut out the pattern that night.

Arg, very bright, blinding, sunshine!
On Saturday, in between other necessary tasks, such as running errands and helping my sister with photo booth props, I leisurely cut out and sewed the shirt. By evening, I had a brand new wrap top.

Most knit tops are pretty quick and easy, slap-dash, affairs. This one, however, required construction methods more often seen in woven garments, such as darts, a full lining, and a bit of hand sewing to finish up. It was still a rather quick and easy top to make, the finished top is just "more" than I would expect a simple knit top to be - and I quite like it!

As this top is fully lined, it requires a *bit* of fabric - right around two and a half yards. Most of the cuts of knit fabric in my stash measure 1-2 yards, so this could have been problematic. However, I currently have such a scarily large fabric stash (Must. Not. Buy. Any. More. Fabric.), it turned out to be a non-issue. I had a 4 yard cut of a light weight magenta sweater knit (a 4 yard for $4 bundle obtained from Wa-lMart), which I decided would work for this top. It is very thin sweater knit, so doubled up it was the perfect weight for a late fall top - warm and snugly on that chilly November morning, but not too heavy. 

The back of the top is shaped with waist darts, giving a nice close fit, and there are no shoulder seams on this garment, just side seams and a center back seam. All the seam allowances are hidden between the two layers of fabric, so both the inside and the outside of the top look exactly the same. It could be fully reversible if you used two different fabrics.

My only complaint about this top is how short it is. I was not expecting it to be this short! Even with my highest-waisted skirts and pants the hem of the shirt doesn't meet the waistband of the bottoms. Thankfully, I can wrap the extra-wide waist ties of the top a bit lower than the hem of the top to make up for the length deficiency, but, if I make this pattern again, I will definitely be adding a few inches of length to the hem!

Will I be inclined to make this top again? I don't see why not! The neckline doesn't gape at all and feels very secure, something not always guaranteed with wrap tops. Even with the full lining it doesn't take long to sew up, and it really does give the most beautifully finished end garment. I really do want to try making a reversible version I think! 

My spur of the moment, lets make one more thing before the wedding, top turned out almost better than I expected! It was perfect for wearing to get my hair and make-up done that morning. No regrets, what so ever, about not just pulling an old button-down out of my closet for the occasion.

And a big thank-you to my friend Erentry for coming along early the day of the wedding to help set up, and allowing me to drag her outside into the blinding sunlight to photograph my new top and my hair in its freshly curled glory before I changed into my bridesmaids' dress!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

There Was a Wedding

We added someone new to the family a few days ago.

My little brother got married last weekend.

The bride was stunning, the groom was handsome, the day was beautiful, and the couple seemed pretty darned crazy about each other.

The wedding day dawned sunny, warm, and beautiful - perfect for an outdoor fall wedding! The following day was icy cold and very snowy - Thank God that weather didn't appear 24 hours earlier!

The past few months have been a blur of wedding preparations. 

My sewing room was overtaken by all the wedding clothes in the two months leading up to the big event!

I altered the wedding dress and made the bridal veil for my new sister-in-law. On her wedding day the dress fit her beautifully and she looked like a princess. My brother cried when he saw her.

I made my mom's mother of the groom dress, 

And I thought she looked pretty darned spectacular on the wedding day as well.

My mom and I worked together to alter my sister's pretty floral dress for the wedding.

My mom hemmed the dress and I made a matching capelet to cover my sister's shoulders just in case the November day proved too cold for wearing a strapless sleeveless dress.

And finally, I made my own bridesmaids' dress - finished the week of the wedding.

The idea of making my own bridesmaids' dress was much less stressful than the idea of shopping for such a garment - so no regrets there!

All in all, everything went very well on the wedding day, and I couldn't be happier for my little brother and his wife! They are off on their honeymoon, and I'm recovering from the craziness of the last couple months - slightly at loose ends now that all the wedding sewing is done! 

For now I'm enjoying sewing whatever the heck I want, before I take on any more projects with deadlines. And, once I have access to the good pictures taken on the wedding day (rather than just my cell phone pictures), I'll blog a bit more in depth about most of the wedding-related sewing projects I did.

But for now - Congratulations to my brother and new sister! I'm beyond happy for the two of you!

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Tiered Skirts, Flounces, Nostalgia, and Unseasonability

Just when it starts to get rather chilly outside. After it's already snowed once this fall. That's the perfect time to make a new summer dress, right?? It was just so pretty, I had to make it!

I have a soft spot for tiered peasant skirts. Back in middle school and high school I had a couple I wore regularly. They're just so fun and swishy!

Those elastic and drawstring waist skirts from my teenage years are wonderfully adjustable in size, so they still fit me. Though quite bedraggled now, I still wear those old skirts around home. They're just so comfortable - and swishy!

So, with this in mind, when Pattern Union put out a testing call for an elastic waist tiered maxi skirt, I couldn't resist testing it. The pattern made me feel nostalgic. I could use another comfy skirt in my wardrobe for hanging out at home!

Thus, I tested the Phoebe Maxi Skirt pattern and made myself a new peasant skirt from a plaid homespun cotton. (It reads brown in the photos but it really is a tiny maroon and navy plaid.)

I liked how the peasant skirt turned out, of course, and it has definitely been worn a fair amount since I finished it.

After the maxi skirt test wrapped up, the pattern designer announced she's drafted a bodice, which could be either made as a stand-alone top, or be paired with the skirt to make a dress. It was such a pretty, flouncy, bodice, I immediately volunteered to test it was well.

I'd recently found a beautiful red cotton cambric king size flat sheet at a thrift store. Such a lovely fabric, it was just the thing to make a summery maxi dress from!

So I made a second peasant skirt from that flat sheet, made up the new bodice as well, sewed the two together, and tried on my new dress.

I felt like a princess in it!

Perhaps it's not the most seasonally appropriate dress at the moment, but it sure is pretty, and comfortable!

Other than the overall general "prettiness" of the Phoebe Flounce bodice, the thing that really excited me is that it comes in three different cup sizes! There's bodice pieces for cup sizes A-C, sizes D-E, and F+. I fall into the middle size and it fits perfectly! No gaping armholes or straining buttons like I get with store bought tops or patterns I forget to adjust for my bust size. 

Speaking of buttons, I had 4 sweet flower shaped metal buttons, which I bought a couple years ago for a project I never got around to. They were the perfect finishing touch for this dress!

The details of this bodice make it special - the flounces, the button loops, the neck tie. All put together these things make the bodice look somewhat complicated to make. So I was pleasantly surprised when the bodice didn't actually take that long to assemble!

I had one afternoon and evening set aside to make this dress, and it went together in that time frame without issue!

The instructions are laid out in a clear, logical order, and before you know it the bodice is done, ready to attach to the skirt (or pants if you'd rather make a jumpsuit).

The finished dress feels both fun and elegant. I love it!

I'm hoping that maybe we'll get a few unseasonably warm days in the next month or so, because I really want to wear this dress for more than just some quick pictures!

The bodice pattern can be found here and the skirt pattern can be found here. I received both patterns free of charge in exchange for testing and providing feedback on them, but everything written in this blog post is my own opinion. I was not required to share anything about this pattern.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Francaise Dinner, Lard, Cornstarch, and Lace

A Francaise Dinner with the Saint Louis Georgian Sewing Society. It sounded like great fun, and a fabulous excuse to dive deeper into 18th century costuming and make a new gown for myself. Well, it was fun (though I completely forgot to take pictures sadly!). There were over 20 of us dressed up in 18th century fashion from the 1740's through about 1800. We enjoyed dinner at a restaurant in a building which had been around since the colonial era. The food was good and the company was wonderful.

When I signed up for this dinner months ago, I thought for sure I'd have time to sew a new gown for the occasion. However, that was not the case, large family events come up in the ensuing months, and my sewing time was otherwise spoken for. Thus, my 1760's, sacque-back, bird gown was to be worn again! And really, I can't complain about re-wearing this dress. I love how it turned out, so the more I get to wear it, the better!

I dressed up my gown with a new green silk petticoat, some fresh white lace, and a bejeweled costume brooch. Then, to finish off the look I attempted to coerce my hair into a 1760's hair style and topped it off with a fluffy, lacy, triangular, white cap.

Actually doing my hair for this event was one of the most intimidating parts of historical costuming I've encountered thus far - either it was going to go ok, or it was going to go horribly. And I was fairly sure "horribly" was the more likely outcome. 

I began, weeks in advance, by pulling out my copy of The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Beauty, which I received for my birthday this summer. I read up a bit on styling hair, looked at some 1760's portraits online, and decided I would attempt to do the 1765-1772 style in the book - the "Coiffure Banane", as it matched the time period of my dress.

Along with the hairstyle, I also needed appropriate head wear for the occasion. So I picked the fluffy triangular cap, called the "Proto Pouf" in the American Duchess book, which went along with my proposed hairstyle.

I started, two days before the dinner, by sewing the triangular base for the cap using the dimensions given in the book (page 82). I used a very stiff, slightly sheer, mystery fabric I found in a box of fabric someone gave me. It resembles silk organza (it's definitely not a synthetic, I could tell that from a burn test), but I'm not entirely sure that's what it is. I had about 1/2 a yard of the fabric, which was just the right amount for this project.

I sewed the base triangle by machine, two layers of fabric, sewed right sides together, then turned right side out and pressed. I skipped the wire around the edge, which was recommended in the book, and it turned out just fine.

I then sewed some pre-gathered lace around the edges of the triangle, also by machine.

Finally, I cut the remaining mystery organza-ish fabric into strips, which I sewed into tubes to make puffed trim from. The tubes were turned right side out, and the following day, the day before the dinner, I proceeded to trim my little triangular cap. 

I gathered up the narrower strip of fabric into poofs about 1"-2" long. I then arranged this poofed trim around the edge of the triangle, covering up the line of machine stitching I used to attach the lace.

While I was at it I added a bit more lace to the back of the cap then tacked everything in place by hand.

I considered calling the cap done like this, but then I decided it needed a pit more poof. So I took the second, thicker, tube of organza stuff, and gathered it up by sewing a long running stitch along the center seam, being careful to only sew through one layer of fabric so the tube was still a tube.

I gathered the tube up tightly until it looked like this:

I stuck this poofiness in the empty space on the top of the cap, poking, and prodding, and squishing it until I was satisfied with the general random arrangement.

I tacked it in place with some large hand stitches and called it finished! My cap was ready to wear the following day!

The morning of the dinner, I read through the hairstyle instructions in the American Duchess book, pulled out my hair styling tools, and got started.

Lard, cornstarch, and hair donuts. That's how I was going to style my hair. The book heavily emphasizes the importance of pomade and hair powder in 18th century hair style, but I didn't have either of those things, or all the ingredients to make them. However, the pomade recipe in the book is primarily animal fat, and I did happen to have lard on hand, left over from making goat milk soap. So I decided lard was better than nothing and proceeded to grease up my hair with it. Once it was nice and greasy, I used a make-up brush to powder it with corn starch. (Yes, 18th century hair powder was primarily starch, so I used corn starch as that's what I had on hand.) It worked.

I cut up the hair donuts into sections, and rolled my hair up around the sections, approximately following the directions in the book.

I pinned the rolls in place, then pinned more hair over top of them. I braided the back section of my hair and pinned the braids up as well.

Then I pinned the triangular cap to the top of my head to hide the mess of pins, and my very first attempt at 18th century hair was done!

Photo by Jennifer Old-d'Entremont

My hair was far from perfect, but it was done! And I'm pretty darned pleased with myself for actually attempting it.

I had a lovely time at dinner, greatly enjoyed the company, and am eagerly looking forward to the events we will do together next year! And, now that I've done 18th century hair once, it's not quite so scary.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, the lard and starch washed out of my hair just fine with my regular shampoo. Here I am the following morning, dressed and ready for church - no sign of lard left in my hair!