Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Swiss dot considerations

Okay, I'm not stalling on my Violet project, I promise! I just have to figure something out before I cut my fabric and really dive in. The fabric I chose for my adventures in Violet-making is ...you'll never guess...polka dotted. White and green swiss dot, actually. It is lightweight and rather sheer and I'd figured I'd end up wearing an undershirt of some sort with the finished product.

Poorly lit vintage swiss dot & little vintage clear buttons.
another fabric shot?
After seeing this and then lladybird's underlined swiss dot Violet today, I started to doubt my plan. I think I need to underline this baby...but with what? I'm not sure if I have enough fabric to underline with the swiss dot and I'm not even sure if that would be a good idea. The dots would surely show through and could potentially look odd. I don't have anything else white and lightweight, though. Any recommendations? Cotton batiste? Bah, I don't know! (Okay maybe I'm allowing myself to be paralyzed by indecision a little bit here...not purposely stalling, per se.)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Coming soon: Violet

I hope everyone had a nice weekend! I just got back from a last-minute long weekend trip to Richmond. We stayed in a cute little bed & breakfast right by the VMFA, in the museum district. It was a fun place to visit and we got to check out a few vintage/antique stores and I managed to pick up some little goodies (unfortunately represented here with poorly lit bad photography ...sigh).
Some cute vintage buttons I found.

More sewing books! "Embroidery," "Clothing for Moderns," and "Sewing Made Easy." No, those are not blue rubber dish-washing gloves.
A peek inside "Sewing Made Easy" - tips on measuring and figure flattery.

Inside "Clothing for Moderns" - display of "Prints either poor in design or lacking character." Unfortunately these were all polka dots! Looks like I need to work on my fabric choices.

Cute pattern transfers from "Embroidery." Can't wait to try these!
Before I left town, I'd been on the right track with my latest project -- Colette Pattern's Violet blouse. Well, at least on the right track preparing my latest project. I'd picked out my fabric, washed it, ironed it, laid it out on my nice new IKEA folding table (side note: I'd been searching for this - my dream sewing table - for months, once I'd learned of its existence. I managed to find it on Craigslist a couple of weeks ago and have been hyped to use it. It gives me so much space for working and laying out fabric and then folds up so small when I'm not using it, and it has drawers! - no more need to convince the boyfriend why I need so much computer room/office real estate for potential sewing. Yay!!), cut out and pressed my pattern pieces, arranged them on my fabric, and then... went to Richmond. Now that I've returned, this afternoon/evening, I have a cold or some persistent allergy problems and no energy to do anything other than post this.

I do expect I'll be back in action soon, though. I've got my pattern pieces all set up waiting for me to cut them out...taunting me, and the dread joy of agonizing over those seven buttonholes on the blouse, once I finally get to sewing. Wish me luck!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Round two

So, you know how I got that lot of patterns through Craigslist earlier this week? Well, today I lucked out again! I'd had this on my list of books to keep an eye out for, so I was ready to jump on it as soon as I saw it.
©1976 Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing
Funny thing is, the seller ended up being the same girl I bought the patterns from. (If you're for some reason reading this, Katie, thanks!!!!) I told her to just call me before she lists anything else! Anyway, I'd heard this book was a great reference guide, but when I actually got my hands on the thing, I was kind of blown away. In the first little section, this bad boy covers essentially every type of sewing tool and accessory known to man, and the different variations on them, plus how exactly to use 'em. You may think you know all about those things, but you might be surprised. I found myself saying, "Oh! that's what that thing's for," more than once. Hooray for learning! On top of that, the pictures and illustrations are so very clear and detailed, I'm already ready to try some new techniques -- and I'm only a few pages in! I'm sure this book is going to be a great help to me as I try new things and expand my sewing skills. Yay!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Just thought I'd pop in to gush about some vintage patterns I scored today. I've made a habit of checking Craigslist's for-sale section for sewing supplies, pretty much daily...just in case! I've had a couple of great successes recently (more to come on the other one soon), and today I managed to get a bag of around 30 patterns from various decades (for 10 bucks) from a girl who was cleaning out her sewing room. Half of them are vintage patterns from the late '60s and '70s and most of them happen to be about my size, yay!

Vintage patterns!!
They are so fun to look at and imagine the person who originially owned them. A chunk of them are a similar type of dress, with slightly different variations, are the same size, and seem to be from the '60s/'70s, leading me to believe that one person owned them and passed them on to the girl I got them from. Maybe that's just ignoring other, less special-sounding possibilities, but that's what I'm going with! Here are my two favorites:

The style of the pattern illustration for this skirt pattern is so cute and retro and I just love it, even though it's pretty simple.

This looks like something I'd totally wear -- and look at the adorable hair styles on those girls!
The rest of the non-vintage patterns in the lot were mainly from the '90s/now and are a little less exciting. About half of those were not really to my taste, but the other half-ish were pretty basic/classic and I could definitely get some use out of them. Definitely feel like I got my money's worth! Now I really have no excuse to keep avoiding sewing up something from a vintage pattern.

That's all for now. I'll have more details on my current sewing project along with more newly acquired sewing goodies soon!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A post-holiday holiday party post

This weekend was the annual holiday party for the company my boyfriend works for. It's always towards the end of January, which is nice to look forward to after the hustle and bustle of the holiday season has passed. I can't take credit for creating (sewing) the outfit I wore to the party, but thought I'd share anyway.

The dress ...with pockets!
The coat...with fur collar!
I'm still working on finding appropriate places in my apartment for taking photos that are well lit. Anyway, the dress is from modcloth and the wool coat with fur collar is a vintage (early 1960s?) find that I discovered (for 30 bucks!) at an antique expo...thing... a few months ago.

Look at all that lace!
I bought the dress with this event, and future fancy events, in mind and I'm so glad I did. I love the vintage-inspired feel of it. It was a bit of a splurge, but it is now my go-to fancy LBD. I am obsessed with the scalloped lace edge on the neckline and sleeves. Maybe one day I'll have the skills/courage to sew with lace. I would love to make something (anything!) with a lace overlay.
But, back to the coat! I've not had a nice enough occasion to wear this yet, so I was really happy to be able to wear it for this event. There was a coat check, so I didn't have to worry about anything happening to it after taking it off at the party.

Closeup of collar.
It has a silky satin-like lining that continues through the sleeves, which feels really luxurious when you wear it. As you can kind of see in the picture below, the bound buttonholes could use some reinforcement stitches as they're coming undone a little bit. Also, the tag says "Junior Lustrosa," (so glamorous sounding!) which I'm assuming has something to do with this being a juniors' coat in terms of sizing/style. One thing I love about the coat, other than the adorable fur (for some reason I want to say rabbit?) collar, is the 3/4 length sleeves -- so sixties! Unfortunately, I didn't have long gloves to wear with it, but I survived. :) Maybe by the next occasion I get to wear it, I'll have the proper gloves.

"Junior Lustrosa" tag and bound buttonhole in need of some love.
For this party, I also had the opportunity to bust out this little vintage hand bag I've had for a while but also haven't had an excuse to use yet. I picked it up at the cutest little antique store in Kensington, MD. It has the same grossgrain feel to the fabric as the skirt of the dress I wore, so it was basically a perfect match!

Little vintage purse I finally got to use.
It's lined with gold-ish cream colored satiny stuff and is in great condition -- no tears in the lining or discoloration. It has a cute little coin purse hanging from one side of the frame, with the logo "J.R." and "made in USA." I have no idea what decade this little baby is from, but I love her.

 Silky lining and a little coin purse inside.
I was also able to finish up the hem on my polka dotted Peony dress (finally), making it officially wearable. I plan to tackle some mending projects for the rest of the day and, who knows, maybe I'll even start a new project?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The "Good Intentions" Dress

Fabric: Light-weight navy and white cotton for main fabric, muslin for underlining
Pattern: Colette Patterns' "Peony"
Year: 2011
Notions: 20" vintage zip - navy, store-bought red piping, thread
Time to complete:  several hours, over a few days (3 day weekend)
Total price:  ~$30.50 total --  ~$10 for the fabric, 50cents for the zip, $2ish for piping, & $18.00 for the pattern (the expensive part...but I'd definitely make it again)

Peony, piping, polka-dotted cotton, and matching vintage zip.

Similar to my intentions when taking the above picture (despite the bad lighting, etc.!), my intentions for this dress were good...I promise! I even made a muslin of the bodice because I'd heard through the internet sewing grapevine that this pattern's bodice generally required a little bit of fitting and tweaking. But wait, there's more. I decided, why not try underlining (for the first time) for this project, since I had a rather lightweight fabric for a pattern that specifically noted the suitability of "crisp, medium weight fabrics." (It did give the dress a nice weight.) I even took it a step further and used the same soft muslin material to underline the facings, instead of using fusible. How fancy am I! 

Used Tasia's advice re: underlining a bodice and dealing with darts.

Well, just because you've created a muslin doesn't mean you'll automatically be able to determine which ways to adjust it to perfect the fit! Also of note, underlining makes for bulkier seams, which, when combined with underlined facings makes bulky, fiddly shoulder blobs seams.

with a thrifted belt, from the front...
and the side...(ignore my dopey face!)

...and the back.

One final product I did like is the sleeve cuffs. These babies were inspired by Alana's and Adey Lim's cute little curved cuffs. I decided to use contrasting navy/white striped fabric from my stash with a pop of red piping (I know, it all looks rather patriotic and a bit nautical--but I'm ok with that!).

Doing my darndest to stitch super close to the piping.
Trying to figure out how the heck to construct and attach them.
Ta-dah! Fancy cuffs!

Cute--just ignore those bunchy shoulders!

All in all, I'm fairly pleased with this dress. Maybe I'm ready to veer away from the polka dots for my next project. And I didn't really make any progress in the fitting department, other than actually creating a muslin, which I never do. But, I'll wear this dress (once I finish the hem -- I hope no one noticed!). Also, maybe I can find an in-person class on fitting...because it seems like no matter I how much I read about it, when it comes to actually identifying what to alter on my own projects, I'm clueless! I guess the only thing to do is to just keep on trying and practicing and making. :)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

hmm...up next?

"I love sewing!"
Meet Duke. He may look a bit cranky, but don't be deceived; he loves sewing. He loves everything to do with sewing. He especially loves to cuddle with dress forms and caress fabric laid out to be cut using his 
entire body.
cuddlin' up

He's been politely bugging me to let you know about what sewing projects I've got coming up next. The thing is, I've got  a few different things in the works...so, I'll be sharing more in a little bit!
Until then, have an excellent rest of your week!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The story so far...

So, as I said in my little introduction, I've sewn a rather limited number of successful (truly wearable) garments, and only one item in this category for myself.

For me, I used New Look 6808.  It was a fairly simple pattern and I'd really like to sew it again. It was my first go at facings and sleeves and a regular (non-invisible) zipper.
Wow, polka-dots!  New Look 6808, view B (with a few little tweaks).

Little pleats with button accents I added at the neckline.
After sewing up the top according to the pattern instructions, I realized I was not a huge fan of the boat-neck neckline. It was a little gapey and I could not get the thing to lie flat against me. To remedy this, I just made two little pinch/folds in the neckline and stitched them down, adding a couple of vintage buttons I had in my stash (they're white, and the same size as the dots on the fabric (also from my stash), so they're not super easy to see in the picture). I'd rather die than have an accomplished sewist check out the other little improvised tweaks I made around the shoulder seams and the horrifying dart I sneaked in at the back of the neckline, but all in all the thing is wearable...if you love polka-dots, like me. I'll be taking an alterations and repairs class in early February, so hopefully, next time I'm in situation where I need to do some tweaking to a garment after it's been sewn up, it'll turn out a little more polished!

For my other "successful" pieces, I sewed the same thing...twice. Does that only count as one, then? Whatever, I sewed two. A pair each for my boyfriend and my grandpa as Christmas presents."What could they be?" you ask. If I said they were separates, would you be surprised? Well, they were. Pajama pants with New Look 6924.
He would not model them for me, so I was forced to try to arrange them nicely on the carpet. ...Sigh.
Here's the pair I sewed for the boy. They're a navy blue cotton blend broadcloth from fabric.com with orange contrasting ties and cuff piping (he loves the Chicago Bears). Don't be mistaken, though, when I said "successful" I by no means meant perfect, or even as polished as I'd liked them to have turned out, but that's how it goes!

I added cuffs with contrasting piping and polka-dotted facings.
I improvised a little again here with these. If you look at the pattern illustration, there are no cuffs at the bottom of the legs, but I wanted to add some contrasting piping to make them a little bit more interesting and decided I needed to add extra fabric at the bottom to accomplish this. I tossed and turned for a couple of nights as I tried to fall asleep, visions of cuffs, cuff facings, piping and zipper presser feet dancing through my head. I was a little baffled about how to have both rows of piping on the cuff without also having visible stitches galore on the right side of the fabric. I muddled through and ended up edge-stitching next to the upper strip of piping in order to sew down the edge of the cuff facing. Phew, done.

Oh, the allure of separates. So manageable, so much faster to complete...but so not a lovely twirly party dress. That attitude is going to change this year, I promise! I will absolutely find manageable and successfully complete a dress project, and that's that. ...I just might need to take a few more baby steps to get there.

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Not 100% sure how claiming your blog works, though. So...we'll see how this goes.

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Hello,  interwebs! I'm Sue. Lovely to meet you.

Hi, there!

It's a new year and I'm looking to kick off a new part of my life. Yep, I'm corny like that. Honestly, I'm creating this blog because I daydream about sewing all day. Really. So many times, though, when I finally get home from work, I find I've lost steam and end up being too tired or just too plain lame to work on anything I've dreamed up. I seem to have so many ideas and details for potential projects swimming around in my head every day that sometimes I get too overwhelmed to do anything...it's annoying, not to mention dissatisfying!

Well, here's my plan. I want to use this space to organize and hone my sewing focus. Some of the goals I'd love to work on this year are:
  • tackle my mountain of mending! the pile at this point is a little ridiculous, but, in my defense, who wants to mend when they can start new projects or look at patterns/fabric inspiration on pinterest, not to mention marveling over all the other amazing sewing blogs out there? Time to focus more on practicality here, whether that means replacing that pesky lost button or refashioning a thrifted piece I've been meaning to finish for months...or even, heaven forbid, complete some of the abandoned unfinished projects I've chickened out on or gotten bored with over the past year or so.  
  • try some new techniques so I can really work on developing my sewing skills. I've been learning to sew for a little over a year and, though it's a little nerve-racking for some perfectionists like me,  it's important that I make sure to push myself to try new things instead of only making things I feel comfortable with. That's right, bring on the pleats, gathering, slippery fabrics, gasp, linings, proper buttonholes, gasp-gasp, collars... I'll stop here before I begin to hyperventilate.
  • de-stash! I need to do some serious chipping away at the ridiculous stash of fabrics and patterns that I've not yet gotten around to using. This is a big deal for me! It's so easy to get carried away with new inspiration. I really need to focus my efforts when it comes to new projects.
  • sew actually wearable pieces. for real, y'all. This is my big dark secret: I've been doing some sewing and buying some fabric and some patterns and more fabric and some vintage sewing supplies, and did I mention FABRIC? and the number of pieces of clothing I've produced that I actually wear in my daily life is....drum roll....one. yep, uno. I must work on this.  I know. I dream of twirly party dresses and cute day dresses and fun, quirky separates and all I've got is one shirt. Anyway, hopefully working towards this goal will also help me to make fewer rtw clothing purchases (which I later end up regretting about 50% of the time anyway!).
  • Lastly? learn to make properly fitting garments! or at least try to get pointed in that direction. This scares the bejeezus out of me. Fitting is rather intimidating, and by rather I mean ridiculously, as in this is like my greatest fear (apart from all of those new techniques I keep putting off).
  • Oh and one more thing: start learning to knit by the end of 2012.  if I could one day have the knowledge/skills to dream up and then create virtually any type of garment or accessory, whether sewn or knitted, that would be truly AMAZING. 
Thanks for bearing with me for my rambling list! My goals and hopes may be a little scattered, but I think I can accomplish a lot if I work to really focus and hold myself accountable to a plan, even if it's a little bit all over the place. It's time to give my enthusiasm for sewing and my love of making things a more prominent space in my life. Hooray!