Saturday, January 14, 2017

Finished Project: Lemon Laurel

Attempting to document at least some of the backlog of completed sewing projects from the last few months! Today, we have a Collette Patterns Laurel dress in a bold lemon print.

The fabric is the same lightweight cotton sateen by Gertie for Joann's that I used for my Winslow Culottes.  If you follow me on IG, you know I looove this fabric. It's so soft and the colors are great. One thing I really appreciate about it is that what would normally be a very summery/springtimey print can work with more wintry wardrobe items, too, due to the black background! Please, fabric designers of the world, make more fun bright prints on dark backgrounds!!

I ended up deciding to throw my plan to use this remaining yardage to make a crop top to match my culottes (for a little play-set look) out the window, as I came to realie I would not actually wear something like that more than once in real life. I recall having the waistband get a bit stretched out during the construction process for my culottes in this fabric, but I just thought it was a one-off. Silly me. Though this sateen does not contain any stretch fibers, it does tend to stretch out a bit as you handle and work with it -- the more handling, the more stretching. By the time I'd finished sewing the neckline bias facing on this dress, the entire neckline had stretched out quite noticeably, causing it to ripple and not lay flat -- WHY didn't I stay-stitch beforehand?! A word to future Sue: stay-stitch necklines!!!!! Just do it.

Now, if you've read this blog for a while, you'll know how much I like the Laurel dress pattern. I've also sewn it as a dress and a top for friends, over the years, so I'd like to think I'm rather familiar with it! Because it has been a little while since making one of these for myself, I knew I'd need to cut a new, larger size, but I think I over-compensated for my larger measurements. It's hard to say, though, with the fabric stretching issue. Did I cut this out too big, or did it grow? The fit is not quite right.



Talk about a quick, easy project turning into something oddly challenging! [Insert here: fabric joke on making lemonade from lemons - ha, ha, ha] As you can see, I even tried to take things up a notch in photographing it with some new poses!

But, even back to the construction, once I realized the neckline was stretched out and crazy-looking, I knew I needed to try something different. I took a deep breath, cut around the entire neckline to trim the bad part off, and then traced the remaining neckline curve to make my own facing pieces. If you'd asked me in advance if I knew how to do that or thought I ever would, I'd have said "no," but I found that having sewn my fair share of facings in my sewing career, it was not difficult to come up with how to draft my own. I ended up basically tracing the shape of the neckline, adding seam allowances at the shoulders, and extending the whole neckline shape down a couple inches. I used a sturdier black cotton broadcloth for the facing pieces to try to help stabilize things there. It pretty much worked, but I didn't quite make the facings long enough, so they like to flip up a little bit (yes, I under-stitched) even after stitching them down in the shoulder seam ditch. Womp womp.

The verdict is that I love this fabric but not as this dress. The shoulders don't seem to sit right and the adjusted scooped shape of the front and back neckline are a little odd after my re-facing. I'm not sure if the whole thing was able to stretch out enough during construction to make the entire dress too big (apart from the stretched neckline), or if I just need to go down a size. It can be tricky when you change sizes after having determined a TNT pattern at a size different than you are now! I was worried that anything smaller than this would not fit, but I think it ended up being a bit more of a sack -- or pillow case, as a friend noted when I wore it out in real life -- than the casually loose shift I'd envisioned.

I think, to be sure, I have to try it out again in a non-secretly-stretching fabric and see where that takes me!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Finished Project: Colorblocked Linden

Happy New Year! I have a little backlog of finished projects to share, but instead of picking up with them in order, I'll share the most recent one I completed, since it's fresh!

The Linden Sweatshirt pattern by Grainline Studio has been hanging out in my pattern stash for a while and this month I was finally inspired to sew it up as a Christmas gift for my sister. I'd toyed with making an Ogden Cami but kept dragging my feet until I realized it just didn't seem right. I'm sure you've seen other bloggers make the Linden as a gift, since it's pretty forgiving fit-wise and quick and satisfying to sew.

I grabbed two different pontes from my fabric stash. The black and white striped one is more stable and less stretchy than the lighter weight teal. I knew I wanted to use the stretchier teal for at least the neckband (otherwise I'd need to make the neckband longer to account for the lower stretch percentage of the striped ponte), and then opted to avoid extra side-seam stripe-matching by also using it for the back. The cuffs seemed a little small, so I figured they should go with the stretchier fabric, too. To avoid things getting too scrunchy and tight around the waist, I used a split-hem variation, with Jen's quick tutorial.  I prefer this look to a traditional sweatshirt hem anyway.

In reading through the pattern instructions, I could not, for the life of me, seem to find the seam allowance noted anywhere. I had a feeling it would be smaller than your traditional 5/8" since it's intended for knits. The only mention of the SA I found was in the "Sewing with Knits" section, under "Using a Serger" where it notes 1/4".  I used a sewing machine with a tiny zig-zag stitch for the entire thing, and a 1/4" SA. Also of note, in using Jen's tutorial for the split hem effect, follow her advice and make the back band significantly wider when you're cutting out (if you like that look where the back flap extends further down than the front). I only extended mine about half an inch, which turned out to be hardly noticeable once the thing was folded and sewn together.

Now that I've finally tried out this pattern, I'm looking forward to making one for myself! I have some classic (boring but soft!) grey french terry that I bought at Mood to copy Sallie way back when, and even got the matching ribbing. Hopefully I'll FINALLY get cracking on that soon. For now, here's a photo of my lovely sister modeling her Linden for us.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Finished Project: Testing The Acton Dress

Hi friends!

Today I'm here to share my tester version of the Acton dress from in the folds. Does she ever sew anything other than pattern testing?! YES! I hope to share my backlog of sewn projects soon -- there have been some glimpses on Insagram.

This was actually my second pattern testing experience, but the schedule included a break between our testing submissions and the formal release of the final pattern -- which seems rather reasonable when you think about the (supposed) purpose of pattern testing in the SBC. I wrote this post up back when everything was fresh in my mind from the experience, then returned to it and added in a few afterthoughts when the pattern was officially released. To see my thoughts on pattern testing in general, visit my earlier post, here.

For the test of the Acton dress, Emily was especially nice to work with because it was clear how much thought and care she'd put into her pattern, and also into the experience designed for her testers as we went through the process. She was friendly and communicative via email, and it was clear that she was truly grateful for and excited to have our help, respected us and our time, and she even created a private facebook group for us to share questions and ideas with her and each other. She was easygoing, and it did not feel like a process only intended to benefit her as the designer. All that, and, I also did not feel like she was 'sucking up' to us as her potential customers-turned-testers.

Regarding the pattern itself, the Acton dress pattern came as a layered PDF, so I was able to select only the size I wanted to print, which made for easier cutting when it came time to cut the pieces out. The princess-seamed bodice is the most fitted part, and ends a bit above the natural waist, so I went with my bust measurement to pick a size. All pages and pattern pieces were clearly labeled and easy to use, with markings matching up as they should, and the dress came together fairly quickly. This was not really a surprise, if you look at the pattern-making tutorials Emily has shared on her blog you can tell she knows what she's doing!

The fabric I used is a floral rayon challis I'd bought at JoAnn's a couple of years ago. Sometimes you can luck out there with surprisingly cute rayon, sometimes. This one seemed rather RTW to me, in a trendy Juniors Department way, hah! The bodice lining is an even lighter weight, sheer-ish, bright red rayon, also from JoAnn's, which you can see kind of trying to peek out in the back view below. I made View A in a Size E and skipped the in-seam pockets.  The only other adjustment I made was to take in the bodice side seams about a quarter of an inch each.

As a tester, I provided some feedback to Emily during the testing period, but it was only related to the instructions. The pattern itself was already in a great place and I didn't find I needed to suggest any changes to it. It turns out the only major change she's made since us testers got our hands on the pattern was to change the style of the visuals in the instructions from photos to illustrations (which I find are often more helpful, and able to provide more detail than an actual photo, so, yay!).

I had a fun time sewing the dress and I like that the style lines create something a little different than my usual vintage/midcentury-leaning look.

My favorite elements of making this dress were, oddly, the skinny straps and then inserting the invisible zipper (a must for this lightweight, flowy fabric). Past Sue would probably spit out her La Croix on the computer screen in shock reading that, but I found these normally pesky parts of the construction process to be quite satisfying (even though they did not go perfectly)! I recently got an invisible zipper foot for my sewing machine and it was really a game changer. That, and adding a thin strip of interfacing where I'd be inserting the zip, plus, first basting the zip in place (as Emily's instructions suggested) really made for a smoother process than the last invisible zipper I sewed (um, 3 years ago! can you tell I've been avoiding them?).

By that, I mean it was smoother until I realized I'd gotten a little overzealous with my zip stitching, and had accidentally stitched through the zipper teeth in a few places. Luckily, I just had to rip out those stitches (with my tiniest seam ripper and some tweezers) and sew back over the areas, carefully avoiding the teeth while staying as close to them as I could, rather than replacing the entire zipper (I'd initially thought I'd melted it with the iron when I couldn't zip it all the way up). Phew!

For next time, I might skip taking in the bodice seams and leave them alone, for a more relaxed fit, and also make the straps just sliiiightly longer. The straps come with extra length so it's entirely up to you how long you make them for your dress. You could probably even get really crazy and extend them several inches so you can criss-cross them, or even tie 'em into a halter.

* * *

I'm still (over almost 5 years later!) working on the whole posing for blog photos thing. Props (that I don't have to hold/actively do anything to), like trees and railings, help but sometimes there's just no hiding the poorly-timed awkward moves I find myself in. #dork