March 28, 2012

One Week One Pattern, numero dos!

Self Drafted Top 2.0

Don't you love how the more times you make a pattern the faster it is to finish? That's one of the great things about this challenge and repeat pattern sewing.

I whipped this shirt up in a couple hours. You can see the first version of my self drafted top here.

Self Drafted Top 2.0

It's basically the same idea as last time but I shortened the sleeve cuffs.

The fabric is a feather printed, rayon jersey from which is drape-y and soft and very light weight.

Self Drafted Top 2.0

Suzanne made a really cool sleeveless top out of the same fabric (in a different colorway).

I've got one more top to make before the week is over!

Self Drafted Top 2.0

On a side note - this is the first time I've worn these shorts since last summer (ok, more like October) and I have a problem. I've lost weight.

At the end of last summer I took the buttons off these shorts and reattached them further towards the sides. This made the waist smaller when buttoned because even back then I wanted them a little tighter.

Now I put them back on (these shorts are also part of my Shorts and Shirts Summer Wardrobe I'm making this year) and not only are they still a little loose in the waist but the legs seem huge! They were never tight shorts to begin with but now they look like I'm wearing an A-line mini skirt. I don't remember them feeling this large last year.

In most cases losing weight would be a good thing, right? Not for those who sew. Now I have to go back and alter these shorts. I'll have to take out the hem and re-finish the seams and re-hem again. Ugh. I am annoyed because I hate hate hate having to make alterations on something handmade after it's been finished.

If you loose a lot of weight you'll need to get a full new wardrobe but even losing (or gaining) a small amount of weight can be frustrating, too, when the clothes you spent so much time making don't fit any more!

I can't even imagine how I'd feel if I was one of those people who spend hundreds of dollars on a very customized dressform that matches your exact measurements and then went up or down a size! Or maybe that's a good motivator to stay a certain weight so you don't waste that investment?

Have any other sewers had this problem? Did you alter all the clothes you sewed to fit your new size or just make all new clothes?

March 27, 2012

One Week, One Pattern

Self drafted t-shirt

Ooops, I'm a little late on this one. But I think I have an excuse - I was out of town all weekend for a wedding so I wasn't able to blog (but I was able to wear my Macaron dress for the wedding. It's nice to have clothing that serves a purpose in your wardrobe).

The Goal: Anyway, even if I am a little late I have been wearing my "One Week, One Pattern" pattern. If you don't know what Tilly's One Week, One Pattern is you can check out the info on her blog or I could just tell you - you pick one sewing pattern that you love enough to create multiple looks from and wear the garments for a whole week (or most of it, anyway).

Self drafted t-shirt

The Pattern: This is a self drafted t-shirt (because you all know I love my knits!) which is similar to this pattern in some ways. I thought it would be good for OWOP because I knew I'd need to make a few versions to get it right and I have some fabrics that I really wanted to use.

Self drafted t-shirt

The shirt is loose fitting (which I love for hot summers) which is slightly cropped in front but longer in back. It's got a scoop neck and drop shoulder sleeves.

The Fabric: I've made two versions so far and I have one left in the mix to sew. This was my first draft that I made out of some bland taupe jersey I bought specifically for muslins but I think the end result looks good enough to wear.

Self drafted t-shirt

The Changes: It took some trial and error to get the sleeves right but next time I'm trying a different approach. Also, some time later this week I hope to try ombre dyeing this shirt. The beige is a little dull for my taste and I want to try this technique but didn't have any projects in mind. I'm still not sure what color I want, though. I'll be overdying the existing color so the dye won't look exactly like the package. I'll need to test a scrap piece first.

Self drafted t-shirt

The Results: This will be another great top for summer. I'm planning a version in a striped jersey which I think will look pretty cool as the stripes meet at the sleeve cuffs.

Self drafted t-shirt

I hope to finish all three versions I want to make and then draft up a new multi-size pattern. Yay!

Thanks Tilly, for organizing this awesome challenge!

March 21, 2012

Sewing For Boys Book Review

I don't really sew for children. Ok, I've made like four things and a couple quilts. But I liked this new book so much that I thought I'd review it. I know not every reader here has kids or sews for kids but if you're interested please continue reading!

There aren't many good clothes sewing patterns out there for little one, especially boys (not counting Oliver+S, which have super cute designs). Now, I know there are plenty of patterns for little girls, many from smaller companies but most of them have a problem - they're uber-cutesy.

(sorry, pink fig)

I'm talking patchwork pattern catastrophes like one above (Good God! Why so many ruffles?! Ruffles on the legs, why!?! Make it stop!) which is just an excuse to use as much ridiculous quilting cotton as humanly possible. And I mean, really, what 7 year old would wear that? It looks like Raggedy Ann got in a fight with a bag of jelly beans.

I feel like the guy in those Dos Equis commercials only my tagline at the end would be "I don't always sew for children, but when I do I prefer them not to look like clowns."

My sincerest apologies for your children if you like sewing designs like those. If it makes you happy, go for it!

Anyway, this is supposed to be a book review not a rant so the point to all of this is to say that what I like about boy related sewing is that it rarely turns into a candy colored mess of crazy. With boys they get to dress like miniature men only a little more stylish because you can get away with shapes and fabrics and designs that a grown man might veer away from. Boy sewing can be really modern and stylish while the only thing juvenile is the male wearing the clothes.

Which is why I like this new book, simply titled, Sewing for Boys by Shelly Figueroa and Karen LePage (who are also awesome kids pattern designers)

The book is organized with a little introduction at the beginning followed by a fashion photoshoot style layout of every project in the book over several pages. Next all those projects you just saw are organized in six sections with four projects each. The first four sections cover clothing by seasons. The final two sections are more crafty.

The sizing ranges from infant to age 7. Not every project is appropriate for a baby so if you buy this book for yourself do so when you're kid is very young to take advantage of all the projects as he grows.

"Sewing For Boys" doesn't teach you to sew and the instructions are very similar to regular clothes sewing patterns so the user needs some previous pattern experience. It does include a small glossary of necessary terms along with a helpful list of seam finishes, you know, if you forget how to do a flat fell seam for those Treasure Hunt pants.

This book would be good for both beginning and advanced sewers as the beginners can try new projects and the more advanced can whip out a boy's shirt in no time!

Most projects are labeled "beginner" or "intermediate." I only counted three "advanced."

The patterns are printed on 8 sheets of sturdy, semi-transparent white paper (much better than tissue paper!) The large number of sheets makes it easy to find your project and I especially liked that the sheets were not very big at all, making them easy to trace and fold back up in to the envelope.

Ok, enough with the technical, let's move on to the fun part - projects!

The styling of these adorable little boy models struck me as very "I'm from Austin/Portland/San Fran and I let my kid's hair grow out and send him to Montessori school and for his fifth birthday we had a 'make your own compost' party." You know what I mean. Which is totally fine because I am from Austin and if I had a kid I'd probably do all of those things (and I think the authors are from Portland). But if that's all too granola for you, you can still easily adapt any of these designs for a more suburban, public school lifestyle.

I could see myself making nearly all of the clothing designs. I especially like the coat pattern and the hoodie. I'd probably skip the suspender shorts. They're a little too Von-Trap family for me.

The clothes are pretty basic but have little twists that make them unique - a hidden pocket here, cuffs on the pants, piping, etc. Lots of possibilities for cool fabrics.

I also liked that they included many patterns for knits because kids practically live in stretchy fabrics at that age.

The crafty sections are more predictable. There's a notebook cover with crayon holders, appliques on old t-shirts (being eco-friendly), a quilt made from out grown shirts, fabric belts made with d-rings. All stuff I've seen before.

The standout project from that section is the race car mat - something a kid can enjoy for several years. There's also a hat project that's great for using scraps.

This book would be great for a parent of boys or someone who loves to sew and has nephews or little cousins. Go check it out on Amazon or on the book's website (they post a bunch of sew-alongs for projects in the book!).

March 19, 2012

Eva Dress Croquette Blouse, or, way too many sewing challenges

Eva Dress Croquette Blouse

Eva Dress, the company that reproduces vintage and antique sewing patterns hosted their contest again this year and I entered!

I sewed this 1920s blouse for Category 4 - vintage patterns as modern wear.

Eva Dress Croquette Blouse

Now, I don't expect to win. I realize I didn't choose the most challenging pattern but I really loved this pattern and how well it works for a modern style.

Eva Dress Croquette Blouse

I may not have used the most difficult pattern but I used a super difficult fabric - white stonewashed charmuese (which is also difficult to photograph).

 Eva Dress Croquette Blouse

The contest has four categories and so many of the projects are absolutely stunning! You can read more about the rules for voting on the Eva Dress blog and you can view all the entries here. If you want to vote for me I'll be very happy but, please, vote for who you think deserves to win, whether it's me or someone else.

Eva Dress Croquette Blouse
And on the topic of sewing challenges- this month has been full of them. Not all are contests like this but I'm doing a Sew Weekly challenge, Tilly's One Week, One Pattern challenge (I'm drafting my own top pattern), then there's Pattern Review's Swim Wear contest and Julia's Mad Men Challenge. All this before the end of March! And later this month through April five bloggers are hosting That's Sew Cinematic - a challenge to sew something inspired by the silver screen. Uh, can anyone say "striped dress from Breathless"!?! Yes, please!

I don't think I can do it all and I think Mad Men is going to have to take a back seat, unfortunately.

Ugh, it's a lot on my plate for one month. Are you doing any challenges this spring??

March 14, 2012

Darling Ranges Redux, or, things are alway better the second time

Darling Ranges Version 2.0

The Goal: I wanted a comfy and easy to wear dress and because this was the second time I sewed this pattern I finished in half the time!
Darling Ranges Version 2.0

The Pattern: Megan Nielsen's Darling Ranges Dress. You can take a look at my first version for comparison.

Darling Ranges Version 2.0

The Fabric: An Anna Maria Horner voile from The Common Thread (also where these pics were taken!). I worried that the fabric would be transparent but luckily that's not the case. I planned on sewing a half slip for this but maybe I don't need to after all. As for the buttons - sure, they don't really match but I'm starting to realize that I *love* wooden buttons for some reason.

Darling Ranges Version 2.0

The Changes: I incorporated many changes to this version compared to my first. Like the last time I lengthened the bodice by 2in. This time I raised the neckline by about 2in, too. I made sure to stay stitch the neckline (important!). I kept the original skirt length but used a slightly smaller hem than the pattern called for. So the overall length is still a couple inches longer than the pattern is. I'm 5'6" if you're wondering.

I left out the back ties in case I want to wear a belt with it. I added more buttons than necessary for extra "peep protection."

Darling Ranges Version 2.0

I also nixed the elastic arm and chose instead to make a small cuff and gather the sleeve into it. This is just a personal preference. I don't really like the feel of elastic on my arms.

The Results: I love it! I like it a lot more than the other dress, partly due to changes I made but also I really like this fabric.

One difference I noticed between dresses - I think the bust dart is a little short for me on this version. It keeps folding over itself which tells me that the fabric has a mind of its own and is trying to form it own longer dart. Funny because I didn't have this problem with the other dress, perhaps because that fabric was heavier and pulled down more.

Darling Ranges Version 2.0

I can always go back and make the dart longer and I doubt it'll will make the overall bust ease too small. This dress is comfortably roomy at a size M.

***I usually don't make a pattern more than once (ok, there are a couple of exception, like this pattern) but I'm glad I did for this dress. I'll probably make a few more with tweaks to the design here and there because it is such a versatile design!

March 10, 2012

Shorts and Shirts Summer Wardrobe Planning

(Oh, look at that! I made myself a fancy graphic.)

I'm jumping on the mini-wardrobe sewing bandwagon and planning a set of 10 (yep, 10!) pieces to make for this summer.

Now, I know you'd might ask, "Hey, Dixie, can you really make ten garments for this summer? Isn't that a lot!?"

But then I'd tell you "Well, two pieces are already made. And besides, summer in Texas means the majority of the year so it's March right now - I reasonably have about 8 months to make all of this stuff before I'll have to go back to wearing pants again." And then I'd give you a wink. ;)

That doesn't mean I'm limited to only making the things in this wardrobe plan. I'm still going to sew lots of other stuff for fun but I like the idea of a handful of clothes that can easily interact with one another and that I can wear all summer.

I'm calling this mini-collection my Shorts and Shirts Summer Wardrobe because, as you'll see, it's all shirts and shorts with a couple extras. No, I don't hate dresses but dresses are outfits in themselves. There's not much mixing and matching going. And last summer I realized that nearly all I wore was a few tops and a couple shorts!

How to decide what to make: After doing my wardrobe catalogue earlier this year I figured out what I wear most, what I wear least, and what gaps I need to fill. Because I practically live in shorts in the hot Texas summer I'm making (or using) some versatile shorts. I also need solid color tops that aren't too plain. I need more blazers - ok, maybe I just want more blazers...

But I also wanted to incorporate some trends that I like - bright colors, bow blouses, chambray/denim, scallops, 70s vintage, and stripes. I also thought about what would be comfy in the summer - loose fitting, flowy tops that don't stick to my skin.

The Color Scheme: I'm going with neutrals mixed with brights - I've got one bright top, one bright pair of shorts and a bright printed scarf. The rest are pretty neutral - gray, black, white, navy, and blue. I love using neutrals as a base and then spicing things up when I want to with a little color. I definitely wanted to incorporate some of the Spring 2012 Pantone colors.

The Shorts

The Shirts
  • The tennis tee - in white seersucker, a vintage McCall's pattern from the 70s, #5526, I call it the tennis tee because when I first saw the image it reminded me of something someone would wear to tennis practice in the 70s.
  • The bow blouse - in floral rayon, self-drafted
  • The pearl snap button down - in gray chambray, possibly from BurdaStyle Magazine 3/12
  • The drop shoulder tee - in rayon knit stripe, also self drafted
The Extras
  • The printed scarf - in floral gauze, self drafted (probably just a big square)
  • The white blazer - in a white floral damask, haven't found a pattern yet

The Extras are like support staff - just in case I want to mix it up or I need a summer blazer for cool restaurants.

Fabric sources: Stripe knit for the drop shoulder tee, Rayon Challis for the bow blouse.

There are some rules: each item has to work with at least three other items or outfits. Most of the tops work with most of the bottoms. I probably wouldn't wear the scarf with the bow blouse because the bow is sort of a scarf in itself. Since I'm making the pearl snap button down out of a gray chambray I probably wouldn't wear it with the chambray shorts but it would work with all the other shorts.

What about accessories? Since I began making nearly all my own clothes the only thing I get to enjoy shopping for are shoes and bags! I plan on buying a couple pairs of shoes for summer to replace old worn out shoes and maybe I'll even make a couple bags?
Progress: I'm working on drafting the drop shoulder tee right now and if all goes well I plan on making a PDF pattern for it. Yay more patterns!

***I've been getting inspiration by looking at others people's wardrobe plans. Are you doing a spring wardrobe this year? Let me know and I'll check it out!

Also, a woman in my sewing group came up with the idea of doing a small workshop of sorts to plan a seasonal mini-wardrobe. Would you be interested in attending something like that and what would you want covered in the workshop?

March 9, 2012

Megan Nielsen Darling Ranges Dress #1, or, the kite day fiasco

Darling Ranges Dress

Let me just first start out saying that although I have gone to Austin's annual Kite Festival (held last Sunday) for the past four years I had never once brought a kite! This year I chose to build my own using the pattern and instructions in Fabric by Fabric: One Yard Wonders. It was a big fat fail but that deserves it's own post. What wasn't a fail was this dress!

(BTW, sorry for the quality of these pics - it was high noon on kite day with no shade whatsoever. Not exactly good for picture taking. I had to do a lot of editing to make the dress clear and well exposed which in turn makes the grass look weird. Click on photos for better views of details!)

The Goal: I heart Megan Nielsen. Not only does she sew a ton of her own clothes, but she also makes maternity patterns, misses patterns, owns a clothing line and is now venturing into kids designing patterns. I'm not sure how I found out about her but I know it was before she released sewing patterns from her fashion line. When she announced the pattern for her Darling Ranges dress, a simple but adorable v-neck, button down style, I was excited to try it out!

Darling Ranges Dress

The Pattern: If you've never sewn a MN pattern you'll be impressed by the packaging. The pattern comes in a cool envelope with a small velcro closure.

The instructions are in a booklet and nearly every step is on its own page with big, clear illustrations.

At the end she has a page of inspiring ways to alter the pattern and also includes a convenient "notes" section and a pattern log where you can write down info each time you make the pattern like what changes you made. It even has a space for a fabric swatch. Because I made several changes the notes pages were very helpful. No more leaving a slip of paper jumbled around in the pattern envelope listing necessary changes, it's right in the book!

The pattern paper is sturdy but semi-transparent which is nice for tracing.

The Fabric: I bought this printed cotton from The Common Thread here in Austin. It's a fairly loose weave can be slightly see-though and while I thought the upper half would be ok I went ahead and lined the skirt for extra precaution. The lining was a white cotton batiste and the trim was an off white crocheted lace both of which were dyed orange with iDye (I wrote a review of my experience with iDye a few weeks ago).

Darling Ranges Dress

I tried to take advantage of the border print on this fabric and made the skirt a little longer to accommodate the very edge. I also tried to line up the zig zag. I managed to do so in the front and on one side but on the other side it was no use. At least the front looks good, that's what's important!

The Changes: I made a size Medium with no real fit problems. However, after reading a couple other reviews that said the bodice is a little short I added two inches to the length which works but I think the weight of the skirt pulled the bodice down even further.

I also used more buttons in front than the pattern called just 'cause.

I've actually already made a second version of this dress and implemented some changes I wish I had made in this version like raising neckline by an inch or two. Women with larger busts might find the pattern too low in front.

Darling Ranges Dress

One thing I should have to do but didn't - stay stitching the neckline. The neckline uses bias tape as a facing but the pattern doesn't call for stay-stitching so I didn't think to do it. You REALLY need to. I had to re-do this neckline like three times because it was all gaping and wavy looking. My second version of this dress did not have that problem because I stay-stitched!

The Results: While I love the design, easy fit and great pattern instructions I think in the end I just didn't like this fabric on me as much as I liked it on the bolt. I loved the folksy prairie floral print and the orange tones but I'm not in love with it on my body. Just one of those things, you know? However I love love love my second version which I will hopefully share with you soon!

Kite Festival 2012

So many kites! Too bad none of them were mine. It's ok, we still had fun and ate sno cones and avoided being attacked by falling kites (seriously! you have to watch out!).

March 8, 2012

Pattern Organization, or, why I am banned from Ebay

Hello, my name is Dixie and I am an addict - a buying-vintage-pattern-lots-on-ebay addict and I need to stop. Two boxes totaling about 130 patterns showed up on my door step at the same time. I was quite pleased as you can see above.

The good thing about all these patterns? I really can't buy any more lots because inevitably half of the patterns will just be repeats of what I already have. I seriously think I have nearly the entire misses catalogue of Simplicity patterns from the 1970s.

The bad thing is where do I put them all? And how to I organize them so I know what I have??

Since I do everything on the computer anyway I decided to make a digital catalogue of all my vintage patterns and keep the physical patterns in boxes. My modern pattern collection is small enough that I can usually remember what I have and they sit on an easy access shelf.

Like my modern patterns I organized my vintages first by company (alphabetical), then by date, then by number within each year. If I just went by number I'd have a problem as Simplicity for example begins the 1970s in the 8 and 9000s and also ends the decade in those high numbers but 1971 and 1979 had very different styles!

I'm not a preservationist but if a pattern is looking pretty worse for the wear I will put it in a ziplock baggy. They all go in boxes so at least the envelopes won't fade from sunlight.

(click on pics for a bigger version)

For the digital archiving I took photos of every envelope cover (in groups of nine, so no, I didn't take 130 individual pictures!) and over a couple weeks in my spare time I cropped each individual envelope pic, sized them smaller (400 pixels wide) and saved them at a reasonable file size (preferably under 55kb). I did this in Photoshop but you could use any ol' photo editor.

I put all these pics in a folder and tagged each photo. I have Windows Vista (aka the Devil's OS) so this is what my set up looks like. I tagged them by company, decade (and when I have more time I'll probably add specific year), garment type and special collections of patterns (like Mario's Corner from the 70s). You could also tag by size, designate if it is for misses or juniors or kids, whether or not you have more than one copy (I have a couple doubles), knits or wovens, or any designation you want!

I can even add star ratings for patterns that I really want to make sooner than others.

You can then organize the pics by one or more tags. So if I'm looking specifically for a pants pattern I can check that tag and only those that meet the requirements show up in my folder. Very convenient!

Because I usually start a project by picking a pattern first then fabric this system works for me. But I know of another woman who keeps all her pattern envelopes in categories in a big binder and all of the pieces and instructions are filed by number in ziplock bags in boxes. Sort of like a visual dewey decimal system. She can take the binder with her to the store if she's looking for inspiration.

If you like having your pattern collection catalogue on hand all the time Sophia Sews has a great list of sewing apps for smartphones. A number of them are pattern (and/or fabric stash) organizers. A woman from my sewing group suggested which costs about $45 a year. They don't have an app yet but you can always log on from any computer or on your phone.

 ***How do you organize your patterns? I'd love any tips! Also, are you an Ebay addict as well??? I know there are more out there!!