Thursday, March 29, 2012

Finished Project: Joan Dress

My Joan dress! (attempting to pose like Joan without consulting the inspiration picture first... blerg!)
Joan: my inspiration
Here's my finished Mad Men Challenge dress, inspired by the lovely Joan. I used a cotton stretch sateen from my stash and New Look 6968.

This project held a lot of firsts for me. To start, it was my first official sewing blog challenge...thing! I was so excited to participate. I've loved seeing everyone's projects progress and am SO EXCITED to see Julia's post rounding up all the entries!

full length shot - thanks, photographer Dad ;)
It was also my first time experimenting with lining. I had some trouble wrapping my head around how it all should work, but got a lot of help from some of you...which basically saved me (read the comments on my "Ides of March" post to check out the helpful tips)! So, a huge THANKS!!

Another first for me was constructing this type of collar, having only ever done a peter pan collar before. I feel okay about the way this turned out. I basically just followed the instructions and didn't alter any of the collar pieces, which I might try doing next time for a slightly different look. Mine didn't turn out exactly like Joan's but that's's called inspiration! I also decided to omit the gold colored brooch/fastener from my plan, even though Joan had one on her dress. I didn't think my dress needed it.
collar shot
My other 'first' was altering the sleeve pattern pieces by extending them by about two inches - not really complicated or anything. I wanted to go for a more '60s look and felt the cap sleeves prescribed by the pattern were just not it.

New Look 6968 with cap sleeves
Speaking of these sleeves...they were kind of the bane of my existence when it came to attaching them to the actual dress. After I'd gotten the bodice attached to the skirt and inserted the zipper, I tried the thing on and went about pining out the areas that were too big. Word to the wise, when you take off an inch or so from the side bodice seam and about half an inch from the shoulder seam, you've made your armholes that much smaller. As I'm sure you smarty pants have all guessed, this makes your sleeves just a little bit too big to "ease" (hah!) into the armhole. I fudged 'em a bit, but managed to get them in there, somehow. The stretch of the fabric helped make up for the sloppy job.

Anyway, next time I sew anything with set-in sleeves, I'm doing it this way.

I struggled with the lapped zipper a little bit, too. But, at this point, I'm not sweating it!

from the back
That's all, folks! Be sure to check out Julia's upcoming post of all the Mad Men Challenge entries. What fun!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Return of Mad Men ...and Goals!

The past few days I've been thinking a bit about the goals I mentioned when I first started this little blog. I've done fine when it comes to some of the things I'd wanted to aim for, like trying new techniques and working from my fabric stash rather than impulsively buying new fabric all the time ($5 boxes from yard sales don't count!), but I wasn't making much progress in other areas, such as MENDING. Yeah, who wants to mend when they can start new projects!

I decided to focus my efforts a bit and last night, with the two-hour season premier and long awaited return of Mad Men on the tv, (can we talk about Megan's eye-makeup and Joan's shocking, hot pink dress?!!) I grabbed my pile of to-mend pieces and camped out on the couch.  I was able to complete four items at my slow, meandering pace, (amidst much oohing and aahing over the tv show) and was rather pleased with myself.  I hand-stitched my little heart out.

Ahh! That pink!
I replaced all of the buttons (some were missing and the rest didn't match) on my boyfriend's cardigan with some vintage buttons from my stash that were a perfect match, did a very amateur darning job on a hole in one of his shirts, and re-stitched the blind hem on a Banana Republic (typical, BR!) skirt that came undone at the hem about a week after I'd bought it...2 years ago.

The last piece I mended was a 1960s plaid sheath I've had for a year-ish? It is a little snug in the shoulders, which causes me to bust the seams on the armholes every other time I wear it (and had been waiting to be mended for a looong time). 
'60s summer sheath and jacket
It's a lightweight linen-like fabric, great for spring, but not the most festive, springy color scheme? I do love a plaid, though, and am definitely glad I snatched this baby up at an antique mall. The tag just says Lord & Taylor and there is a little matching jacket, which is cute in theory, but makes me look like a boxy cube-person whenever I attempt to pull off the look.
bias bound neckline
jacket insides with little Lord&Taylor tag
cute lace trim on every raw edge
I decided, in honor of the return of Mad Men, to break out this little, freshly mended, '60s office-appropriate dress and paired it with a cardigan to wear to work today. Of course, at the end of the day when I was getting out of the car and straining to reach my 56 lb. purse, I busted the shoulder seams. Back to the mending pile! Sigh.
'60s sheath with cardigan
I'm really going to try to keep up with my mending. It's so easy and even relaxing to work on it while watching tv in the evening, so I'm going to try to make that part of my routine. As for my de-stashing goal, past projects have used stash fabric, including my Joan dress for the Mad Men dress challenge (minus the lining), so that's good. I'll plan to keep up the good work as I get crackin' on my spring/summer wardrobe sewing.

Speaking of my Joan's done! Here's a look. I'll have to get better pictures (like better lighting and me actually wearing the dress) and put together a post so I can share all the details. But for now...
Joan dress

Friday, March 23, 2012

Why do I feel like I need this??

Vintage Necchi 1954 Sewing Machine
I started drooling when I saw this machine listed on Craigslist today, as I quickly browsed for "sewing" items in the For Sale section (which happens to be how I found that awesome yard sale with the magical $5 box of fabric). I don't know anything about Necchi machines, other than I've heard of them before and they seem legit? Here's a closeup of those enticing pictures!

In addition to my computerized Singer, I already have a 1967 Singer (like this one) that I learned to sew on, in it's original little table, that was passed down from my great aunt to my mom to me. Why do I feel the urge to jump on this vintage machine (and so many others I've seen)?!

Sometimes I think the only thing stopping me from becoming one of those people who has 37 vintage sewing machines is lack of space in my apartment and the fact that my boyfriend would probably kick me to the curb. Sigh.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery...or something like that, right?

Well, I totally copied Zoe, of 'So, Zo...' fame, after reading her recent post about blouse patterns. I feverishly scoured the internets for this adorable little 1950's kimono sleeve blouse and managed to snatch it up on Ebay - thank goodness!

Simplicity 3266 (image via Vintage Patterns Wiki)

I selfishly waited to share until I'd won it, for fear someone else would out-bid me in the meantime - I know, slightly obsessed.

This blouse hits several marks for me. I find the pattern illustration adorable, I really love the cute collar,  and I especially love the fact that there's no setting-in of sleeves to do! After struggling with the sleeves on my Joan dress (which I'll share more on once I've emotionally recovered) I'm ready for a break from traditional(?) set-in sleeves.

Versions 2 and 3 look just perfect for spring. Yay! What am I talking about, Version 1 is 3/4 sleeves - perfect for spring, as well. Now I just need to figure out what fabric(s) to use...

What do you think? Would it be weird to have the collar in a contrasting/coordinating print or color? Maybe I could add some piping or other trim to it, too? What about contrasting cuffs on version 2? Am I just getting crazy here?

Monday, March 19, 2012

All that, for $11? Yep!

After seeing this post about an amazing estate sale on the sew weekly (make sure to check out the amazing Mad Men inspired dresses over there this week!) some time ago, I've been on the lookout for something similar in my area. This weekend I stalked Craigslist for happened upon a great yard sale that, not quite as awesome as the sale Mena found, was pretty impressive. 

Before I even got there, I had a good feeling about it. There was mention of fabric and sewing items in the listing and it was located just a short drive away from my house. When we arrived, I was not disappointed. The woman holding the sale had been sewing for years upon years and was not at all emotionally attached to her twenty or so boxes of fabric she had removed from her stash. She'd cleaned out her sewing room in preparation of selling the house and just wanted everything to go. Even my boyfriend, who I'd convinced to come along with me, was impressed. He managed to pick up a couple of vintage ties, while I feverishly grabbed the following:

This box, full of fabric - not a hyper cat, for $5. 

Some tracing paper and three vintage 1940s mail order home decor patterns (not sure what I'll do with these yet), thrown in my box-o-fabric and included in the $5 price. 

This vintage display mannequin thing that has a 7.5" waist (I guess 15", when doubled) and a three-dimensional chest, for $5. It's kind of like a human-sized (ignoring the ridiculous bust/waist/hip ratio) metal hanger. I've named her Mable and, though difficult to photograph, she seems to hang quite happily on the wall in my sewing area. Hopefully I can use her to display future makes, since Ruby (my red, adjustable Singer dress form) is fuzzy, wobbly, and pretty cranky, making her a huge pain to drag unlined dresses onto.
This bolt of bright pink, thick, home decor fabric, for $1. There appear to be several yards still on there, so I'm thinking maybe a twirly '50s style party dress? If it doesn't work out, whatever, it was ONE DOLLAR (plus, it makes my sewing room look super legit to just casually have a bolt of fabric hanging out, like I'm a dressmaker or something). For now, this baby gets to live in the only free corner in my sewing space, behind grumpy old Ruby.
Oh, and maybe you're wondering about the contents of the $5 box of fabric?  Don't worry, I'm pretty excited to share. About half of the pieces of fabric were smaller lengths with pieces cut out, but the other half consisted of a few great fabrics in good sized cuts.
Duke likes to inspect anything new that comes into the house.
I threw some of the smaller pieces outside on the table to improve the lighting.
 Here's what it looked like when I pulled out all my loot and spread it on the living room floor to admire. You may have noticed the good sized spool of something like seven miles of white lace trim. Yeah, that was included in the $5 box, also. Anyone ever try dying lace trim? 
longer lengths from the magical box-o-fabric
As for the longer, more usable lengths of fabric, here they are. Some of my favorites are also pictured below. Most are wool, but I did manage to get a huge length of white lace, that I'm also considering dying.
white lace
lovely plaid in mixed browns
deep blue and dark green plaid, darker than it looks here
light blue with darker blue flecks, worsted wool (maybe??)
more wool! brown and white with flecks of blues/greens/reds
Maybe you're like "that's great, Sue, but when are you ever going to finish your Joan dress for the Mad Men Challenge?" Well, to you I'd say, I'm not quite finished yet, but I think I'm in the final stretch. I've got the zipper in and have tried it on, pinched out all the extra baggy bits, made alterations, and was struggling all morning with trying to get the dang sleeves set in before realizing that my alterations affected the armholes. So, once I get those sleeves in, I've just got to add the collar and hem her up. If I have time before the deadline, I'll post some little previews. Otherwise, look forward to April 1st, when Julia Bobin rounds up all of the entries. ;)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Beware the Ides of March

Maybe when the soothsayer was warning Caesar of his impending doom, he could have also mentioned "Oh, and Sue, don't bother trying to sew that day," as well.
Exhibit A: sad mess of pink lining and green Joan dress.
Guess what, I don't know how to do lining, and having two of everything... in opposites ...has confused me. See, I'm not even making sense. Maybe I'm too literal when I look at the directions...or too stupid! I've consulted the sewing gods via my Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing, but I'm still not getting it. Time to walk away and try again this weekend, rather than foolishly trying to squeeze in some sewing at the end of a busy day.

Oh, and those buttons Joan has down the back of her dress? Not looking like I'll be making those happen on mine either. I'm just going to save the fabric-covered buttons plan for when I (finally) get to sew up a Sencha.

At this point I'm feeling more overwhelmed than inspired and have already stumbled into setting this dress up for a center back zip rather than a side zip (which would have allowed me to make a non-functional placket of buttons down the back). I'd considered just trying to make an extra large ...zipper-cover-flap-thing, that I could apply the buttons to, down the dress back, and use a hook&eye or a tiny snap to keep the flap secured once the zip was zipped, but....meh.

It seems like whenever I get excited enough to feel confident about a project, I forget that I don't have experience with certain techniques (see my first UFO, New Look 6587 - no big deal, it just has twelve buttons down the front...of course that'd be the perfect project to try my had at buttonholes for the first time, right? Wrong. It was promptly abandoned.) and then I get all discouraged when I can't figure them out instantly.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A blog award

The lovely Tina over at Down the Retro Rabbit Hole has nominated me for The Versatile Blogger Award - thanks, Tina!! Here are the rules:
  1. Add the badge to the winning blog page.
  2. Thank the blogger who gave it. 
  3. List the rules.
  4. List seven (7) random facts about yourself. 
  5. Pass on the award to fifteen (15) deserving and conscientious bloggers who are nominated for their diligence, demonstrated skill, and achievements in the world of blogging and specifically in the sewing related category. 
  6. Contact the nominated bloggers and let them know they are recipients.
I really am honored to accept this award, but can I just say that thinking up seven facts about myself is kind of daunting in itself...and then I get to decide on fifteen of my favorite bloggers to pass it on to? Is there an award for successfully accepting this award? :)

Anyway, enough complaining about privileged problems and on to my seven random facts!
  •  I love sloths. Probably on the same level as Kristen Bell.
  •  I absolutely abhor, loathe, and detest stink bugs. They are so sneaky and just want to be ON MY STUFF! Blech. They fill me with rage and have been the bane of my existence ever since they infested my apartment during my senior year of college.
  • I played softball in high school, some first base but mostly center field. My parents attended most of the games and my dad took approximately 239475994 photos of me doing all sorts of softball stuff. So, that's documented in case you didn't believe me.
  • I worked at Starbucks for five years and am (creepily) really interested in knowing what drinks my coworkers/friends/acquaintances/people I see on the street have ordered...and why.
  • I was a history major, but don't ask me to act like a history buff, 'cause I'm not one! I loved learning about history but can't readily recite facts.
  • I am obsessed with checking Craigslist (as I've kind of mentioned before) and monitor it daily to see if there are any deals on sewing stuff in my area. Just today I found a sewing machine for $20 for my friend, Steph, and I'm going to help her get started sewing. Yay!
  • My favorite movie is Bye Bye, Birdie. Watch it.
And here are my nominees for The Versatile Blogger Award, in no particular order:

Ruffles & Whiskers
Sew Me Love
Stitch and Witter
Struggle Sews a Straight Seam
Su Sews So-So
Curves, Patterns, and Pins
Seams Sustainable
Erika Made It
Kestrel Finds and Makes
Sew *seam-rip* repeat
Lucky Lucille
Scruffy Badger Time

These are some of my very favorite blogs out there, so check them out if they're new to you!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Random post: fabric store deal!!!

This is actually an accurate depiction of how much fabric I'd like to buy with this deal.
Whenever I hear about a special deal on anything sewing related, I get super excited. I am one of those people who checks Craigslist at least once a day for steals and deals on anything for sewing. So, without further ado, let me share with you the latest awesome-for-sewing-enthusiasts deal I've found lately.

The deal: for anyone in the Washington, DC area, there is a great livingsocial deal going on for a few more days. You purchase the deal for $25, which gets you a certificate for $50 to spend at G Street Fabrics, a local fabric store chain.

I bought this one (about a year ago??) last time it was available and was able to stock up on a bunch of great stuff and definitely took advantage of their well-stocked zipper selection! This time, I'm looking to pick up a hem gauge like this, maybe an invisible zipper foot, some more zips, and OF COURSE fabric. Yay!

Alsooooooo, I know this sounds tacky, but it just so happens that if three of you use my link to purchase this deal, I'll wind up getting the one I purchased for free! (Then, you can get three of your fabric-loving friends to purchase it, too, and yours is free!) So there's that.

Monday, March 12, 2012

More Joan dress

Joan dress, image borrowed from Juia Bobbin (again).
So, today I came across this picture of Joan in the green dress I'm using as my inspiration for the Mad Men Challenge. LOOK AT THE BACK -- those buttons! I had no idea they were there.

Should I try to incorporate this into my dress? Julia Bobbin has done an amazing button back dress inspired by this look, which is simply beautiful. I love that she didn't actually make the buttons functional, which makes them lie a bit flatter/more neatly and prevents any buttonhole pulling or bunching...or really any buttonhole anything! (I hate buttonholes.)

But... I've never done this kind of thing! Are fabric-covered button kits easy to come by? Is it better to just have them done professionally? I don't know if I'm comfortable with a side zip yet ...could I still do a center back, non-invisible zip and also incorporate a placket of non-functioning buttons down the back?  Do I have time to add this to my project and still complete it by the deadline? Eeeekkk!

I wish I could just put up an inspiration force-field and become temporarily immune to all inspiration. Otherwise, I feel like I'm never going to actually get to complete this dress and will keep thinking of different things to add to it!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Spring sewing obsession

Today really felt like spring. Even though it's only early March, and I was inside my office building all day, away from windows and natural light - not to mention fresh air, I could just tell the weather was lovely (and it was - 70 degrees and breezy). I found myself daydreaming about colorful fabrics and cheerful prints, including a little bit of the following, which has been taunting me from my upcoming projects queue.
Colette Patterns' Sencha blouse - white with red dots, rayon shirting
Then I saw Zoe's post about blouse patterns and I just couldn't get those cute-blousey-ideas out of my head. One of the things that excites me most about the Sencha pattern is the little grown-on sleeves that are part of the bodice, instead of being set-in sleeves. It's a sleeve type (akin to kimono?) that I've been wanting to try and that just seems like it'd be so simple and quick to sew up. This is the line of thinking that has encouraged my mind to go crazy and dream up about eighty-seven different versions of this blouse, which I'm sure I could just sew up in no time at all... I mean, look - the sleeves!

I became a little bit obsessed and scoured the internets for MORE BLOUSES.





The adorableness became a bit overwhelming. (I recommend you all stay away from Etsy for at least 20 minutes after reading this.) There were so many out there, between Etsy and Ebay, I about lost my mind - and a LOT of them say "EASY" or "SIMPLE TO MAKE" -- um? yes!! I guess I always knew these types of patterns existed, I just never took the time to drool focus (this much!) on them.

Then I realized, derr, I already have another (in addition to Sencha and Violet) cute, springtimey top pattern just WAITING for me to match it up with some fabric and get going (once I've finished everything else I'm working on). Enter, Simplicity 2154.

Check out the adorable blouse!
That's right, ladies (and gentlemen?). This baby doesn't' even have sleeves to fret over. All she needs is some adorable, springy fabric and we've got unlimited (meaning I could make forty-two of this thing, it's that cute) blouse-making possibilities! Just check out Alana's darling version.

Just in case that wasn't incentive enough for me to do some fabric shopping (or at least dreaming/window-shopping), the amazing Tasia over at Sewaholic has got Hart's Fabric to do an awesome 10% coupon in honor of her. So, there's that.

Here's a bit of what has caught my eye, fabric-wise. I've found myself surprisingly drawn to prints & fabrics of the pink/purple/orange variety, rather than my usual greens and blues.

Yes, this is chiffon, but it's such a cute print!
Not 100% on this print, but I love the bright purple + orange combo.
More colorful prints, please! Today's colorful, springtimey fixation has definitely got the wheels turning (in my brain?) for planning my Spring/Summer sewing list. Stay tuned for more on that soon.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Joan Dress update

Here's a little update on my Joan dress for the Mad Men Dress Challenge. I've already shared the pattern I plan to use, but here are the deets (definition provided for when my mom reads this :) ) on my fabric plans.
My inspiration - check out that collar!
I already had some green cotton sateen (in my slightly out-of-hand fabric stash) that, though you can't quite tell from the picture, is a pretty similar shade of green to Joan's far as I can tell. I have several yards of it, so I'm just going to (probably unwisely, but whateverrr!) dive in without making a muslin first, mainly because I'm impatient, but also because the last time I made a muslin, I was still baffled over whether the thing fit or not. I plan to just adjust what I've got as I go along and wait until the end to add the collar, which I know I'll want to fiddle around with, in case I do end up needing to majorly alter or re-cut anything.
Green cotton sateen that does not really photograph true to hue.
The pattern doesn't account for a button, brooch, or buckle on the collar, like Joan's dress has, but I'm planning to add a good-sized, gold-colored metal button I picked up at an antique store with some other vintage sewing goodies recently. As you can see, it's just a plain gold-looking disc of a button, with a little shank. I hope it doesn't look too dinky on the potentially substantial collar. (Feel free to share any other gold-colored buttons, buckles, accents, whatevers you happen to find in your online sewing shopping excursions, people!) I'll be on the lookout for other options as I'm not necessarily sold on this baby for this project.
Brass? gold-colored vintage buttons against the green fabric for the dress.
The pattern calls for lining of the bodice and sleeves (really? lined short sleeves?) but I'm planning to go all the way and line the whole thing, including the skirt. I've never done lining before, only underlining, so I hope it all works out OK! Again, let me know if you come across any good tips or have any recommendations to throw my way. I've picked up this exciting bright pink poly China silk lining, which I think will look great next to the green fabric for the dress.
China Silk Polyester Lining Fuchsia -
After seeing some pretty dress linings on the interwebs recently, including the lovely Neeno's beautiful examples, I was itching to try lining! I love the way it looks to have colorful lining with lace trim on the hem. I've got the lining, but all I have in the way of lace is some random black scalloped lace trim with hearts, leftover from some distant craft project, which I hope won't look too over the top on the bright pink lining. I'd wanted to find some lace of the light pink variety, but also wanted to continue the stash-busting theme this dress has got going on for me, so am opting to stick with what I've already got.

Let me know what you guys think - I'm really excited for this project!
Black lace trim for hem on lining? - found on Etsy, similar to what I've got in my stash.