Sunday, September 12, 2021

A Festival Friendly, Little Women Inspired, Burnside Bibs Excessively Pocketed Pinafore

 My two best friends and I still make it our habit to go to the Japanese Festival at the botanical gardens every year.

But it's a whole lot simpler now than it used to be. We haven't bothered dressing up in the past 5 years, so now we just go and enjoy the festival without being sleep deprived. Dressing up as teenagers and college students was a lot of fun, but just going now, without having to plan and execute elaborate costumes first is very nice! (2015 costumes can be seen here, 2016 costumes can be seen here.)

That said, in the 10+ years we've been attending the festival, I've learned what makes a good outfit for traipsing around the botanical gardens all day.

~ BIG Pockets, so one does not need to carry a purse or backpack.
~ A convenient way to carry a water bottle, because staying hydrated on hot summer days is important!
~ Personally, I prefer skirts or dresses as they can accommodate larger pockets than shorts can, and allow for good air flow and comfort on the afore mentioned hot summer days in a way that pants don't.

Really, it all comes down to the pockets.

The week before Labor Day Weekend, it dawned on my friends and I that the Japanese festival would be that weekend, as it always is, and yeah, we wanted to go, as we always do. So, we checked our schedules, decided Sunday would work best for us this year, bought our tickets for that day, and arranged to meet each other at the festival. 
I then started considering what I would wear for the occasion. 

Now, I'm sure there was something already in my closet that would have worked just fine for the day. However, when I was running through my mental catalogue of clothing I own on Tuesday, I couldn't come up with anything. I have dresses and skirts with fantastic pockets, but none of them had a good water bottle carrying system. I have dresses with belts I can easily attach a water bottle to, but those don't have pockets worthy to replace purses.
By Wednesday, I'd decided I would be making something new to wear to the Japanese festival this year. 

My husband and I live in a one bedroom apartment at the moment, and there's just not enough room here for all the sewing stuff I have acquired over the years. Thus, the majority of my fabric and pattern stash resides in my parents' basement, two hours away from me. At any given time, I have approximately five projects' worth of patterns and fabrics hanging out on the back of my pantry door here. Whatever I was wearing to the Japanese Festival would need to be made from those materials.

Current Sewing Space

So what were my options? A 1940's style wrap dress? A 1950's style shirt dress? A fancy satin and lace dress? After looking through my fabric and patterns I quickly narrowed down my options to one - a project that has been in the back of my mind and on my "to make sometime soon" list for over a year. A pinafore inspired by the one Jo wears in the final scene of the 2019 Little Women movie.

The costumes in that movie were disappointing from a historically accurate? Adequate? Plausible even? stand point, as they didn't draw one into the story and the era particularly well and actually proved rather distracting at some points. That said, I appreciated the story telling choices in the movie, and I immediately fell in love with Jo's pinafore at the end of the movie - for every day modern wear, not historical. 

The bodice shape of Jo's pinafore reminded me of the Burnside Bibs pattern from Sew House 7 - which I've had in my stash a while.

A look through my fabric stash revealed 3 or 4 yards of a brown poly/cotton blend with a subtle all over pattern, given to me by a friend of a friend along with a bunch of other fabrics. Not quite the pink linen of Jo's pinafore, but well suited to every day life. A pinafore hack of the Burnside bibs out of this fabric went on my "to sew soon" list.

 Well, soon didn't happen as soon as I'd thought it would. Since planning this project I got engaged, got married, and moved. When packing for the move, I decided to pack the fabric and pattern for this project. And so, that is how it found it's way to a bag hanging on the back of my pantry door, ready and waiting when I started brain storming the perfect Japanese Festival dress 3 or 4 days before I planned on going to the festival.

I quickly realized with the addition of extra pockets and a water bottle carrying system, this pinafore would be just the thing!

  I cut out the pinafore on Thursday. I cut out the straps and scoop neck bodice front just as the pattern dictated, without change. For the bodice back/ back waistband piece I cut two of the version #2 back facing pieces.

The skirt is just two panels of 44" wide fabric, cut to be ankle length like Jo's pinafore from the movie.

I cut HUGE inseam pockets for the side seams.

And then for good measure, I also cut a set of large patch pockets to sew on the front of the skirt.

I wanted something a little more interesting than a plain rectangular patch pocket, so I gave these a bit of a tulip shape at the top edge.

I really like the result! I'll be remembering this pocket shape for future use!

I placed the patch pockets rather low on the skirt so they wouldn't overlap the inseam pockets much and cause excess bulk when all the pockets were filled.

The bottom edge of the skirt got a nice deep hem and the top edge got gathered down to the circumference of the bottom edge of the bodice. It definitly has a different shape than the skirt of Jo's pinafore, but I'm good with that. The goal was just "inspired by", not an exact reproduction.

As for my water bottle carrying need, I accommodated that by adding extra belt loops to the front of the pinafore, sewn into the front waistband. 

These belt loops have an extra little loop sewn at the bottom, perfect for slipping a carabiner through to clip a water bottle too. The weight of the water bottle does distort the shape of the garment a little bit, but I prefer that to having to carry the water bottle in my hand, or carrying a backpack to carry the water bottle.

The pinafore came together pretty quickly - which was good since I didn't allow myself much time to make it! I got it over half done Friday evening after work - and I probably would have finished it too that night had I not decided to go for a walk with my husband instead.

Saturday morning I was back at it, and finished in an hour or two. All together, it probably took about 4 or 5 hours to sew this pinafore - not bad at all!

Sunday I wore it to the Japanese festival, and found it to be very comfortable and serviceable, just as I'd hoped!

The only thing I hadn't thought about was a way to carry the fans they always give out at the Bon Odori dancing demonstration - but that was easily accommodated anyway! By best friend slipped it through the ties on the back waistband, where it stayed quite securely while we walked through the gardens in the twilight.  

Now that this pinafore is done, I want to make an un-hacked version of the Burnside Bibs! I've been trying to decide if I wanted to make the loose or fitted back version of the pattern ever since I got it. After making the pinafore, I've decided I want to make the fitted version. There's a lot of fabric to be gathered up by the ties in the loose version - which is fine with a skirt, but I think would look a bit awkward with pants.

Overall, I love the flexibility of both sizing and styling this pattern offers! My pinafore was perfect for the Japanese Festival, and I look forward to wearing it lots more now that it's finally off my "to sew" list and in my closet!

And the Japanese Festival? Once again, it was great fun to attend!

Monday, September 6, 2021

My Wedding Dress - The Finishing Touches (Part Seven)

I had a wedding dress. A beautiful white lacy dress. Just over a month before my wedding and I had a gown that strongly resembled the dress of my dreams - it just needed a couple more things to be perfect!

  • More lace. (Yes, more!)
  • And buttons. (No, I was not going to be safety pinned into the dress on my wedding day!)

Lace, upon lace, upon lace! That was pretty much the theme of my wedding gown. Beyond the lace appliqués from my mom’s wedding dress and husband’s grandmother’s wedding dress, I also had a piece of lace from Thailand that I wanted to incorporate into the design. The lace as a whole was a bit too heavy and modern for my current tastes and the general feel of my gown, but it did have such pretty swirl motifs! (Which is why I bought it to begin with, such pretty and unique twists and swirls!) This lace was a case of a little bit goes a long way so I opted to cut some motifs out of the yardage and appliqué them onto the dress so the swoops and swirls could really shine!

I wanted the net lace over skirt on my dress to be noticeably higher on one side than the other so I decided to use the swirls from the Thailand lace to highlight that feature.

My idea was for the swirls to trail down the front of the skirt at an angle in an organic fashion, holding up the net lace slightly, like the roses in the above 1860's fashion plate. I began by cutting motifs out of the Thailand lace.

What pretty shapes the motifs were!

I decided to start at the top and work my way down. I pinned the first motif so the swirls came up on the bodice just a little bit, overlapping the pleats in the bodice lace.

Then I worked my way down the skirt. Where one motif ended, the next was added.

I played with the angle and the way one motif connected to the next until I was happy with the direction the lace was going.

Every now and then I would pleat the net lace up beneath the motifs because I wanted the overskirt to be just a little bit higher in the front than it already was.

The trail of Thailand lace ended at the bottom of the net lace, right where the cascade of lace from my husband's grandmother's dress began.

When I was pleased with the positioning of everything, I hand sewed each and every motif in place.

Hand sewing on all the different laces - the sleeve lace, the lace from my mom's and my husband's grandmother's dresses, this lace from Thailand, heck, even the net lace over skirt, was definitely the most time consuming and tedious part of making my wedding dress!

But it was totally worth it! I love all the different laces and layers and stories that are in my wedding dress!

That said, the amount of time and effort that went into all the lace, made adding the closures to the back of the dress feel quick and easy! 
(and those actually took a bit more work than I'd originally intended. . .)

Somewhere in my stash I have some pre-made elastic button loop tape. It came to me in a bag of random sewing stuff from a thrift store or something at one point in time. It was nice, good quality, stuff. I'd been saving it for years, intending to use it on my wedding dress one day to save myself some time.  Well, when I was actually ready to sew the buttons and loops onto my wedding dress I could not figure out where the heck those pre-made loops were. They must have gotten misplaced in my sewing room move last summer, and now they were nowhere to be found. I looked everywhere I could think of with no luck.

Thus, I would be making my own button loops. I was sure this would be a very time consuming process, but really, it wasn't too bad! (Not after hand sewing all that lace at least!) And the end result looked nicer to me than the pre-made button loops would have. 

I made the loops out of bias cut strips of silk, sewn into narrow tubes. Turning those teeny-tiny tubes right side out was certainly the most tedious part of the process! 

I figured out a couple different methods involving yarn, ribbon, and occasionally large needles to make this happen, but I'm not going to go into describing that here. Once I had the tubes turned right side out, the hard part was over and it was a pretty straight forward process to finish the loops.

I cut a piece of twill tape the length of the opening in the back of my dress, decided how far apart I wanted the buttons to be, and made marks at those intervals all down the length of the tape. 

Then I formed the loops, out of the silk cord I'd made, between the dots on the twill tape, anchoring the cord to the tape with a few hand stitches at each point. 

Part way down the tape I realized I'd misfigured and the buttons were going to be way too close together if I kept them at this spacing. So, I un-did all the loops I'd just made, re-marked the twill tape, and started over.

Forming the loops went faster this time with the larger distance between marks!

I finished making the button loop tape at work one afternoon, then I was ready to attach it, and the buttons, to my dress!

I sandwiched the button loops between the back of the dress and the facing I was using to finish off the back opening.

 Once the button loops were sewn in place and that side of the back opening was finished off, I moved on to the other side - buttons!!

For the button side I made an underlap back extension thing. I wanted the back edges of the bodice to meet evenly when the dress was buttoned, so this underlap would make sure the dress didn't gap open between the buttons. 

 I was getting tired by this point and just wanted the dress done, so I used the underlap as the facing to finish off this side of the back opening as well, rather than making a separate facing to really finish things off nicely here.

The net over skirt was hand stitched to either side of the opening.

Once the loops, facing, and underlap were all stitched in place, I pinned the back of the dress closed. . .

And marked the button placement with a pilot frixion pen. (Don't worry, these marks would iron right off easily!)

Then on went the buttons!

Lots of buttons! Once they were all on, the marks were ironed away.

And my dress was ready to button up!

I added a hook and eye at the waist and at the top of the bodice to keep the strain off the buttons at these high tension areas.

To keep even more strain off the buttons, and to keep everything fitting properly, I added a waist stay.

I used a blue petersham ribbon picked up at a recycle shop in Japan when I was there a couple years ago.

The ribbon was cross stitched in place to the boning channels at the waistline.

The ends were finished off with hooks and eyes.

And that was it. Just under a month before the wedding and my dress was done, finished, complete, ready to be worn.

After months of working on this gown, and years of dreaming of it, having it finished was a very surreal, strange, feeling. I decided to add one last little detail, I embroidered our initials onto the waist stay. 

One final detail to make this project of a lifetime complete. 

I was ready to wear the dress and get married!!