Saturday, September 22, 2018

One Last Run of Summer

For the past couple weeks the temps have been up in the 90's. Summer has shown no sign of departing any time soon. Which I really can't complain about, as I had a couple late summer makes that really needed to get a bit of wear before Autumn truly dawned.

Oh goodness, I've spent a lot of time in the fabric store this summer, and it shows! Buttons here, patterns there, zippers here, "just gotta swing by real fast and buy some interfacing" there. And you know what happens if you go to the fabric store? You buy fabric, even if you hadn't planned to. There's a 60% coupon you just can't justify not using. Or you find something fabulous in the remnant bin. These shorts are the result of a 60's off coupon, and the tank top? The remnant bin.

This particular 60% off coupon came in the middle of July, when I was making items to share on the Winter Wear Designs "Pool Side" blog tour.  I saw this pale blue 100% linen at Joann's and instantly thought "Endless Summer Shorts" The linen was more than I prefer to spend on fabric, but the 60% coupon brought it down to a reasonable price, and I figured surely I could squeeze a pair of shorts out of half a yard. So, that's what I used my coupon on, one half yard of linen, destined to become a pair of shorts. Hopefully in time for the blog tour. Or at least in time for vacation.

Well, yeah, the shorts didn't get made in time for either of those things. However, I really did want these linen shorts to become a reality, and I really didn't want the fabric to languish in my stash. Thus, within a week of returning home from vacation, I pushed them to the top of my sewing queue and got them made!

I found it is possible to get a pair of size medium shorts out of half a yard of 54" wide linen, just barely! My waistband is pieced together, and I had to hem my shorts with bias tape, as I didn't have enough fabric to cut the standard hem allowance, but it worked!

For this pair of shorts I decided to make patch pockets (using the pocket facing pattern piece as my pattern), rather than the standard inset pockets. I lined the pockets with a scrap of white and black checked calico from my scrap bag.

To match the black and white pocket lining, black bias tape hem, and black serging inside the shorts (I was too lazy to re-thread my serger with white thread at the time), I bound the interior waistband with black bias tape as well.

None of the black details show on the outside of the shorts, but I love the extra pop they give to the inside!

I considered adding welt pockets to the back of the shorts, but when it came down to in, I really didn't have enough fabric scraps left to make the welts, so that didn't happen. You know you're cutting it close on fabric, if you don't even have large enough scraps over left to make pocket welts! Oh well, I'm a fan of these shorts, even without back pockets!

The front pockets hold everything I need, and the shorts are cute and comfortable, just as shorts are supposed to be. They pair perfectly with my collection of tank tops for hot summer days.

Speaking of tank tops, have I ever mentioned how much I love the 10k Racerback pattern from Pickle Toes Patterns? I tested this pattern back at the beginning of summer, and it's been one of the biggest contributors to my summer wardrobe. I made three during testing, and another a couple weeks later for the 4th of July. These tank tops have been worn constantly all summer long. But. . . They didn't fit me quite right. The armholes all slightly gaped. 

Now I knew why the armholes gaped. I was just afraid to address it. They gaped because I needed a full bust adjustment. The difference between my high bust and full bust measurement is greater than 2" - which is the high and full bust difference most patterns are drafted for. Because of this, when I make the size indicated by my full bust measurement, the top fits fine across by bust, but is too big above my bust. There's too much fabric there, so the armhole gapes. 

With this pattern in particular, I tried to fix that problem by stretching the armhole bands extra tight to pull in the fabric. That kind of worked, but not as well as a full bust adjustment (FBA) would have. I should have done a FBA during testing, as the pattern designer recommended, but that kind of pattern adjustment sounded scary to me. So I avoided it, just as I'd been avoiding it on other garments for 2 years.

Then I found this sparkly, glittery, shiny, pretty, black cotton/spandex jersey remnant at Joann's and it just begged to become another 10k tank. After putting it off for nearly two months, last week I decided to oblige it, and do the dreaded FBA while I was at it. Long story short, I did the adjustment (following the Pickle Toes Patterns Tutorial for this pattern), and while it took a bit of time, it really wasn't that hard. And look! Perfectly fitted, non-gaping, armholes!

Now, if I just take the time to do this same adjustment to other patterns, I'll be set with a well fitting, non gaping, closet! Which, would be fabulous. . .

However, I think the next item I do a full bust adjustment on will have to be for cooler weather. Yesterday, just in time for the first day of Autumn, the temperature finally dropped! I can't complain about that at all, but I am glad summer lasted well into September this year so I had a chance to enjoy wearing both of these garments!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

After 3, You Gotta Change it Up!

When you sew the same pattern several times in a row, there are two things that might happen. Either A) you will get completely sick of the pattern and never want to see it again, or B) you will begin to think of all the ways you can alter the pattern to make amazing new garments that look very little like the original. Personally, I fall into the second category.

Back in April I was testing the Beltaine Fires Tunic, by Mother Grimm. Throughout the course of that test, I made my little sister three new tunics (one never got blogged). These tunics looked so cute on my sister, I began to want one for myself. But. . . I don't wear leggings. And I didn't think I'd really wear a tunic with jeans. So, there seemed to be no point in making the pattern for myself, unless I changed it up a bit! Luckily, I already had a plan brewing to do just that.

I would "hack" the pattern into a dress! I'd make the skirt longer and fuller, lengthen the bodice, and add a bit of interest to the back. It would be a quick and easy project, leaving me with a comfy, easy to wear, summer dress. That was the plan at least, and, for the most part, it worked out!

I found a 2 yard piece of striped poly/rayon/cotton/spandex jersey in my stash, and began playing with the pattern. First, I tackled the skirt.

Please excuse my poor photo editing.
 I didn't want to share the picture with all the designers' pattern markings visible, in order to protect her intellectual property.

I used the "slash and spread" method to add both length and fullness to the skirt pattern. When all was said and done, the skirt had a generous flared A-line shape, and was about knee-length on me.

Next, I changed up the bodice a bit. Mother Grimm patterns are awesome as they come in three heights, Petite, Standard, and Tall. (All 3 are included when you buy the pattern, you don't have to buy each separately! Perfect if you happen to be long or short waisted and want to mix one height bodice with another height skirt.)  Personally, I fall into the "standard" category. However, I wanted my dress bodice be a little longer than the tunic bodice was. So, I opted to use the "Tall" bodice for my dress. The bottom of the "tall" bodice hits me at the bottom of my ribcage, rather than right under the bust as the "standard" would.

Between the bodice and skirt, I decided to add a waistband. Still wanting to add more length to my bodice, I used the Beltaine Fires waistband, and just doubled the width of it. So my dress waistband is now over 2" tall, rather than just over an inch.

For a bit of extra interest, to an otherwise basic dress, I cut the back neckline just as low as the front neckline, then filled it in with some angled straps. This is an incredibly easy "alteration", and I just love the effect it gives!

I added basic inseam pockets to the skirt, because what is a dress without pockets? Sad, that's what! To minimize the pockets dragging down the dress when I filled them with stuff, I stabilized the waist seam with 1/4" elastic.

Then, because the pockets were still dragging down the dress a bit, I stabilized the side seam, from armpit to just below the pockets, with rayon ribbon. This worked pretty well, but you can still tell by the drape of the dress if I have something in my pockets. Pockets in knit dresses are hard!

Once my dress was done, I still had some of the striped fabric left, so I decided to make my sister yet another tunic! No changes to the pattern this time!

I didn't have enough of the stripes left to make a full tunic, so I pulled some solid gray rayon jersey from my stash and made a color blocked tunic.

I made her the "round hem with pockets" option included in the pattern, and added a ruffle to the bottom. That ruffle makes this tunic pretty much dress length.

These dresses have served us both well all summer long. Both have been worn regularly, just as I hoped they would!

And, I don't think I'm done with this pattern yet! Between these dresses, the tunics I made my sister during testing, and the rabbit costumes I made for Mulan, I've made the Beltaine Fires pattern 7 times now, and I can still think of ways to change it up and have fun with it!

So yes, just in case you were wondering, the Beltaine Fires Tunic, was a pattern well worth testing!

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

Monday, September 10, 2018

Will I Like the Pockets and Neckline or Not?

We all know I love pockets. Big pockets. Pockets you can shove anything and everything in. Here's what you may not know though; I kind of prefer for my ginormous pockets to be almost invisible. Hidden in side seams, or somewhere else in a dress design. At least I thought I did. I shied away from vintage re-print patterns feature huge statement pockets, because I didn't think I liked them. Then I decided to test the Brijee Patterns Casey Skirt at the beginning of the summer.

With that skirt, I decided to give the big statement pockets a try, though I honestly wasn't sure how much I would like and wear the finished garment. My decision to test the pattern was more "Hmm, this style sort of intrigues me, maybe I'll enjoy wearing it" than "Oh my goodness! I love that design and must make it now!!". Well, after a summer of wearing my Casey skirt almost non stop, I was converted. I loved the skirt, big, visible, patch pockets and all. And I needed to make myself a second just like it - one was not enough!

The thought that I might just need to make myself a second Casey Skirt was solidified while I was on vacation. If I thought I wore the skirt a lot at home, that was nothing compared to how often I chose to wear it on vacation - 4 days in a row? Yes. The day after I returned from vacation, I drove to Joann's and bought 2 yards of a plum-colored linen/rayon blend I'd had my eye on for some time. My second Casey skirt was happening. I needed another large-pocketed skirt in my life!

So, that very week, I made the skirt. As I'd already made the pattern once before, I was familiar with the construction order, and the skirt went together very quickly - which was good because I really wanted to be able to wear it as soon as possible!

And wear this skirt I have! Being made from a linen blend, my new skirt wrinkles way easier than my green polyester skirt, but that's to be expected. Wrinkles are what you get with linen, there's no way to avoid it. Other than that minor detail, this skirt proves to be just as wardrobe-friendly as my first. It turns out purple goes with just as many things as green does. Blouses, tank tops, and t-shirt, I've worn it with all of them. However, my Outer Banks Boatneck (pattern by Winter Wear designs), is one of my favorite shirts to wear with my new Casey Skirt (and my old one too for that matter).

This shirt is another example of "this style sort of intrigues me, maybe I'll enjoy wearing it". I'd never made or worn a boatneck garment prior to this pattern. I appreciate the aesthetic of the neckline, but the style is much higher than the necklines I'm comfortable wearing. So I never made a one. Or bought one. Or wore one. Nope. I tend to avoid high, wide necked, garments. I just don't feel like style flatters me. That said, when Suzanne of WWD offered me the Outer Banks Boat neck pattern to go with my Real Deal Jeans for the blog tour this spring, I decided to give the style a try. 

So, I made the top one evening, tried it on, and no. I didn't like it. It looked like I had my shirt on backward. It looked like my bust had fallen over halfway down to my waist. Nope, I was not a fan of the neckline. I was not going to wear the shirt as it was. But. . . I liked the idea of the shirt. And I liked the fabric I'd made it from (A multi colored striped knit remnant scored for under 50 cents at an Amish fabric shop). I even liked the overall shape of the shirt. Literally the only thing I didn't like was how the neckline looked on me. Thus, I was going to salvage this shirt somehow.

After a bit of thought, salvaging it turned out to be ridiculously easy. I just decided to add a short center front slit to the neckline. Throw on a few eyelets, add a bit of lacing, and done!

The neckline is finished with a facing, so I just cut down to right above the bottom of the facing, flipped the facing to the outside of the garment, stitched around the newly cut slit, then flipped the facing back to the inside of the garment, where it belonged. There, slit finished.

I added the eyelets and lacing for a bit of visual interest and texture to an otherwise plain garment, and I love the result!

The finished neckline is still rather high, but I feel it's much more flattering than the original - and I'm much more comfortable wearing it!

The shirt actually gets worn regularly now - and I enjoy wearing it! I might just have to pull this pattern out again for a second go. I've already got ideas on how else I can have fun with the neckline! There's lots of room for creativity here!

So, as it stands, I have now come around to large statement pockets, rather than just large hidden pockets, but I'm still against boat necks on me (not in general though!)

And that concludes this blog post about my experimentation with different styles. Sometimes, you actually like something previously untried. And sometimes you don't. You never know until you try. 

*Also, I feel like I should mention I received both of these patterns for free, but all thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog post are all my own.  

Monday, September 3, 2018

The Laura Ingalls Dress Re-Created

I've always been intrigued by the dresses Laura and Mary Ingalls were wearing in this picture of Laura, Mary, and Carrie from the late 1870's.

Growing up, I loved the "Little House" books, and read them all more than once. The dresses the girls wore in this photograph fascinated me, as they weren't what I pictured in my head when I thought "pioneer dresses".

As a teenager, sewing doll clothes, I got really into combining different patterns and altering them to match the vision I had in my head, rather than the picture on the pattern envelope. I decided the Laura Ingalls dress would be a fun challenge to recreate, so I found some black polyester gingham in my stash, mashed together several patterns, and made it. For an 18" doll. I was very proud of that doll dress as it was the most complicated pattern I'd ever semi-drafted myself, and it turned out exactly as I'd hoped it would.

Fast forward several years and I decided it would be fun to make the dress again, this time for my little sister. Fast forward a few more years and I bought 4 yards of green plaid cotton homespun for the project. It was November at the time, and I was determined to make the dress as a Christmas present for my sister. I prewashed the fabric, found the perfect pattern in my stash, and then ran out of time to make the dress before Christmas. The fabric got abandoned in one corner of my sewing room, and I moved on to other projects.

Thus, the fabric has sat, waiting in my sewing room to be turned into this dress, for over three years. Finally, a few weeks ago, I decided I would make my sister the dress for her birthday this year. It was absolutely going to happen. Finally. Really.

So, a week before my sister's birthday I pulled out the fabric and ironed it. Then I set about finding a pattern. (My sister has long since outgrown the pattern I originally planned to use.) But first I had to figure out how this dress was actually constructed. The skirt of the dress in the picture is clearly two layers. Now was the under layer a seperate under skirt or somehow attached to the main dress itself?

To answer this question, I found a very similar extant dress on the Augusta Auctions website, and read the description of it. "Two piece dress" the description read. Ok, that answered my question. The underskirt was separate. I studied the pictures of the extant dress to get answers to a few more of my questions (What might the back of the dress look like? What shape were the pockets?), then proceeded to compile a pattern for my reproduction.

After a look through my pattern stash I pulled out Burda 7880 and Past Patterns 904 and combined the two, to make something resembling neither of them. I traced the relevant pieces from each pattern onto clear plastic, mashed them together and added my own spin on things. When I was done, here's what the dress front pattern pieces looked like, all taped together so I could even out the hemline.

With my pattern done, I was ready to cut into the long-hoarded fabric and actually make the dress! At this point I cursed myself for choosing to make this dress out of a plaid fabric. As much as I love the look of plaid, I really hate plaid matching across seamlines. However, I wanted the finished dress to actually look nice, so I gave this plaid matching thing a go.

I started by cutting out the center back panels, one at a time from a single layer of fabric so I could be sure to cut both pieces with a perfectly matching plaid pattern  From there I worked my way around to the front of the dress, cutting all my pieces from a single layer of fabric, rather than folding my material in half like normal.. After I'd cut out one identical matching set of panels (right and left side back, right and left side front, etc) I'd lay the pattern piece for the next set of panels over the newly cut panel, match up my seam lines, and mark the plaid pattern directly on the edge of my next pattern piece. 

I would then take my plastic pattern piece with the plaid pattern marked on it, and lay it out on my fabric, matching my markings with the plaid before pinning the piece in place and cutting it out of the fabric.

The finished plaid matching isn't perfect, but it's decent. And I'm satisfied with it. Plaid matching on curved seams is hard!

Once I finished cutting out the main dress panels and sleeves, I ran into a problem. I was out of fabric, and I still had the ruffles and underskirt to cut out!  Three years ago, when I bought the fabric for this dress, 4 yards would easily make a full historical dress for my sister! However, she's grown since then, and 4 yards is no longer sufficient. I needed more fabric. Thankfully, Joann's still stocks the same homespun as they did 3 years ago. So, I ran into town and bought another 4 yards of the fabric. Unfortunately, yet unsurprisingly, it was from a different dye lot than the 3 year old fabric.  So yes, the ruffle and the underskirt are slightly different colors than the main dress is. Oh well - at least it's the same plaid pattern!

To somewhat disguise the color difference, I sewed a row of lace around the bottom of the dress, where the ruffle was attached. I used a net lace I picked up at Hobby Lobby a while back. It's not perfectly historically accurate, but it gives a good effect.

I used the same lace on the sleeve cuffs and around the neckline to tie the whole look together. The pockets got a little bit of lace as well.

Once I had the dress all cut out, it wasn't particularly hard to make - just time consuming! My sister's birthday was on a Tuesday, and it took me most of a weekend preceding that to make the main dress.

On Monday, while the kid I nanny napped, I sewed on all the buttons and hemmed the main dress.

And on Tuesday, I made the underskirt - thankfully that was a really quick project! I sewed the ruffle in place and hemed it during nap time again. Then I pleated the skirt onto the waistband, and added a placket and hooks and eyes, as soon as I got home from work that evening. I finished the dress just in time to wrap it up and have it ready to give my sister at her birthday dinner!

As she's recently read all the "Little House" books herself, she was very excited when she unwrapped the dress and I explained it was a copy of one of Laura Ingalls' dresses!

She immediately ran to put it on, and I breathed a sigh of relief upon seeing that it did indeed fit her! This girl is growing so fast now that I'm always concerned she'll outgrow things between the time I measure her for a project and actually finish the project - even if that's only a week long timespan like this dress was!

Once my sister had the dress on, the first thing she did was check to see if our new kitten would fit in the large patch pockets - it did! You know a dress is a good one if it has large, kitten-sized pockets!

Pockets aside, I think my favorite thing about this dress is the back - it has such an elegant shape!

The back pleats at the bottom of the button placket are such a pretty detail, taken from the extant Augusta Auctions dress.

The side silhouette is just as it should be for a late 1870's/early 1880's natural form era bustle dress. This is thanks to both the cut of the dress and the petticoats my sister is wearing underneath.

My sister is thrilled to have a new historical dress that fits her well, and I'm very excited to have finally made this dress! It's really been 10 years in the making, and the finished garment turned out just as I'd hoped - and better than it would have had I made it 3 years ago as I'd planned.

And as a bonus, this dress fits the Historical Sew Monthly challenge for August -  Re-create an extant garment!

August 2018 - Extant Originals
What the item is: 1870's girl's dress
Which extant original did you copy: My goal was to copy the dress that Laura Ingalls Wilder wore in a photo of Laura, Mary, and Carrie Ingalls. To do this I found a very similar extant dress on the Augusta Auctions website and referenced it for construction details.
Material: "Homespun" cotton plaid
Pattern: A mashup of Past Patterns 904, Burda 7880, and a fair bit of my own drafting.
Year: Late 1870's
Notions: All purpose thread, coconut shell buttons, net lace 
How historically accurate is it? About 60%. As I made this for my fast growing little sister, I wasn't overly worried about historical accuracy - she'll have it out grown in a couple months! The pattern is good. The construction is a mixture of accurate and modern. The materials are a mix of accurate and modern. The overall look is good.
Hours to complete: Around 20
First worn: August 21st, when I gave it to her for her birthday and she immediately tried it on!
Total cost: Under $30 - Thank you Joann's 60% off coupons and Hobby Lobby discount trims! 

If you'd like to see some more similar extant dresses, check out the Pinterest Board I made for the project. This was actually a relatively common dress style in the late 1870's!