Friday, December 31, 2010

Plan D Seems to Be a Good Plan.

Hey, remember that black tie event I have coming up? Yeah. Neither Plan A, nor Plan B, are working for my evening dress. (The vintage Pauline Trigere pattern was a disaster in muslin form, if you're curious.) I came up with a Plan C, but it was quickly dismissed due to lack of readily available supplies. So, for Plan D, I've concocted a little sewing equation for you.

First, you take Vogue 1176, a lovely retro Michael Kors pattern.

Then you combine it with the long, lean, strapless silhouette of Vogue 2481. (Throw in the satin stole as well, please.)
Take some duchess satin in a lovely deep ruby color.
And complete the recipe with a dash of Marilyn. (Mostly for the moxie and matching belt. No gloves, please.)
Do you see where I'm headed with this, readers? I've made a muslin of this new "Franken-pattern" and let me tell you, it's good. So now I have roughly 11 days to make this dress, complete with boning and underlining and the whole deal. But I'm feeling positive.

(And don't worry, the sew-along is still happening. When the going gets tough, the tough get sewing!)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Finished Red Lace Dress!

Here it is! The product of much scheming, muslining, reconsidering, and fancy lace techniques. I didn't get a ton of pictures, but you get the idea.

I wore it with my little white owl brooch—and red lipstick, of course!
I went practical with tights (ignore the run, please) and flats.
I added a coral organza petticoat to peek out, but then decided it was too fussy. So instead, I converted the petticoat to a double ruffle and sewed it to the skirt lining, letting the lace scallops on the hem stand on their own. Fun! And a great excuse to flip up your skirt!
I wore it on Christmas Eve. I knew I was going to be overdressed, but I did not care.
I'm very happy with it, though it's amazing to me how much one can fuss with a pattern and still see room for improvement. It's a process, huh?

Hope all your holiday sewing went well!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Annual Sale at the Blue Gardenia!

Hey friends! I'm back and just updating briefly with a sale from fab vintage pattern seller The Blue Gardenia. Denise always has tons of glam patterns, like the one above. Here are the details—enjoy!

End-of-Year Sale!!!
Buy 3 or more items, get 33% off!
Sale prices good through Midnight PST Thursday, January 6, 2011
Payment via credit card or PayPal only
Shop Early for Best Selection!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Henry Says Relax

Well readers, I'm off! I'm actually writing this from the airport, where Jeff and I are catching a flight to Virginia to spend Christmas with his family. I have a beading project packed, and my finished red lace dress in a bag at my feet, since I couldn't bear to stuff it in the suitcase. (Pictures to come!)

I've been winding things down here this week, and I've decided to take a complete blogging break for at least the next week. I plan to come back refreshed and with many more Crepe tutorials!

I wish you all the happiest of holidays!

P.S. Isn't the above pic of Henry just precious? He takes his belly rubs very seriously.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

1955: The Year of the Pink Beaded Dress?

Jeff and I are leaving for Richmond on Thursday, and I'm intent on taking a hand-beading project with me. To that end, I've been stalking the V&A archives (a favorite pastime of mine, I admit) looking at gorgeous vintage dresses for inspiration. I found it interesting that three of my favorites are pink beaded dress from the year 1955. I just had to share!

The short dress above was designed for the House of Worth by Owen Hyde Clarke. The design is made by a combination of beading and applique for the white flowers. Have you ever seen applique look so elegant?
I also love the neckline and matching belt.
The second dress is also designed by Clarke for the House of Worth, so it's really no coincidence that it bears a resemblance to the first. But I did find it interesting that this look seemed to be a trend in 1955.
This one is floor length, and the white flowers are formed by beading rather than applique.
And for the third pink beaded dress of 1955! This one is by Norman Hartnell, whose designs I've drooled over before. I do like the little velvet jacket (how chic for a winter ball!) but I wish they'd included a picture of the spaghetti-strapped dress without it.
I don't think this beading is quite as elegant as the Worth designs, but lovely all the same.
Oh, and these pink beaded Dior shoes are from the late 50s, but I had to share:

Anyway, the V&A is a great place to search for inspiration. Just enter a term like "beaded dress" and before you know it, you'll have been staring at gorgeous gowns for an hour. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Crepe Sew-Along #7: Underlining 101

Woo hoo, almost time to cut our fabric! Things are shaping up nicely in the Flickr pool; always feel free to stop by, upload pics, and ask questions about fit—or anything else!

Today I'm going to walk you through cutting out your underlining, which I'll remind you is an optional step. First, a couple distinctions in terms:

Lining: this is a separate layer of fabric, usually of a slippery texture, that hangs freely within your garment to keep it from riding up or clinging to you. I won't be going over lining this pattern.

Underlining: This is a second layer of fabric, cut from your main pattern pieces, that gets basted to your fashion fabric and then the two layers function as one piece of fabric, rather than hanging separately. Underlining is most commonly silk organza or cotton bastiste. It adds body and opacity to your fashion fabric. As well, the color of your underlining can influence your fashion fabric, and you can use this to your advantage. I'm using a bright white cotton batiste underlining to add opacity (and keep the facings from showing through to the outside of the dress) and to brighten the ivory background of my fabric. I'll be showing you how to underline your dress today. (This is also sometimes called interlining, and it's one of those terms that people use differently and everyone is sure that their way is the best! I won't get involved in that heated debate; we'll just call it underlining for the purpose of this sew-along.)

Interfacing: This is a special material, either fusible or sew-in, that gets attached to crucial parts of your garment to add stability and structure. We'll be adding fusible interfacing to our dress facings in a later step to add structure to the neckline of the dress.

So, are you ready to underline? I'm going to get you started on the bodice pieces. I'll try to cover lots of step-by-step cutting instructions since this is a beginner's sew-along. Don't be afraid to ask plenty of questions!

First, lay out your underlining fabric on a fold. Your cut edge of your fabric should be on-grain. The easiest way to do this is to cut a snip into the selvage and tear, letting it rip on grain. It will do this naturally if you just rip.

(Do you like my fancy photo work? My fellow blogger and real-life friend Robin let me in on her secrets of labeling photos like this. Thanks, Robin! You can double-click the labeled photos to see the text easier.)

Make sure that your pattern pieces are on grain. This is the back piece; it has a "floating grainline" (an arrow marked in the middle of the piece) that you'll need to measure to make sure it's parallel to the fold of the fabric.
Here's the front bodice piece. It has an arrowed bracket that gets placed on the fold line rather than a floating grainline.
Cut out your underlining pieces. You now need to use your tracing paper to mark both sides of your underlining fabric. I'm using a pale yellow tracing paper. The yellow is kind of hard to see on white, but that's preferable to using a bright color that might show through to the outside of the dress and will be hard to wash out. Make sure to mark your darts, circles, and grainline.
Clip into your notches now too. I just take a little snip into my notches rather than cutting them out completely.

Now that you've got your underlining pieces cut out and marked, you'll want to lay out your fashion fabric, wrong side up. Straighten the grain on the cut edge, as you did with your underlining. You will be using a single layer layout for your fashion fabric. 

Open out your front bodice underlining piece, and lay it out on your fashion fabric, keeping the grainline straight. Your marked side should be facing up. Pin it in place temporarily.

Now you're going to attach the underlining to the fashion fabric by basting it by hand. I used silk thread here. Baste within the seam allowances around all the edges of the piece. Also baste up the dart legs, right inside the stitching lines.

 Once you're finished basting, cut out your fashion fabric around your underlining piece.

 Here it is from the wrong side:

 And the right side:

Now this piece can be treated as one for the rest of construction!

Homework: repeat this for the back bodice pieces. Move on to the skirt pieces next. (Important: if you made your bodice wider or narrower, remember to compensate for this on the skirt pieces by adding or removing width from the skirt side seams. You'll want them to match up easily to your bodice pieces.)

You only need to underline the front bodice, back bodice, skirt front, and skirt back pieces. Lay your underlined pieces neatly aside (be careful of stretching out the neckline or skirt waistline edges as you're handling them).

The next step will be stabilizing the neckline. I'll show you a couple methods, one with silk organza, and another with bias cut strips of fusible interfacing. (I know some people couldn't find silk organza.) I'm unsure if I will get to this before or after Christmas right now. The holidays are creeping up rapidly and I know lots of us are looking forward to some family time and celebrations. More to come!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Crepe Sew-Along #6: Don't Forget to Pre-Treat Your Fabric!

Hey all! Just a quick little post today. I'm going to be showing you how to cut out your underlining and fabric this weekend, but before I get to that, one crucial step: pre-treating your fabric. For cottons, this essentially means laundering your fabric as you intend to care for it as a finished garment.

I'm a big fan of hand-washing my handmade clothing, and for this I use a product called Soak. It's a gentle detergent that doesn't require any rinsing. So you just fill up a tub (I use a small plastic storage bin) with cool water, add a dollop of Soak, and immerse your fabric. Swish it around gently, and leave it sitting for about 10 minutes. Dump out all the water. Roll your fabric up in a bath towel and squeeze out the excess water. Hang your fabric to dry. Once it's dry, you can press it with a steam iron. (Always test your fabric to see how it reacts to pressing; you may need a press cloth if it's sensitive to high heats. Cottons are generally easy to press, though.)

You can also handwash using a detergent (baby shampoo also works well for delicates), but you'll have to rinse it well to get any soap residue out.

If you plan to machine wash your garment, put your fabric through the same cycle you will use on your dress. Serge, zigzag, or pink the cut edges of your fabric before washing to avoid fraying and tangling.

That's pretty much it! A couple more posts to read on pre-treating if you're interested: one I wrote earlier this year, and a great one from Colette Patterns' blog.

How's everyone doing? Feeling ready to cut out? Or still working on muslins?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

My New Gig: Teaching!

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you know how excited I am about this: I was recently hired to teach sewing! This is a dream gig for me, at a dreamy place: The Sewing Studio, right here in New York City. You may know of The Sewing Studio's orginal Toronto location, and they've recently opened up a fabulous new location in Manhattan, right near the Garment District.

While I was being considered for the job, I was invited to the studio to chat and I knew right away that it was the place for me. Friendly, inviting, and hot pink! I just love the vibe of the place: clean, spacious, and pretty. The teachers are awesome and so is the owner, Denise. It's a large, airy space outfitted with brand new Janome machines and sergers. There's an always-full jar of chocolates. And the cutest little sitting area!

I'm teaching a couple classes a week, starting with the 8-week Introductory Sewing course. It's super fun: the students learn the correct techniques for all the basics and make three projects, culminating in the skirt pattern of their choice. I'm only a couple weeks into it, and I've discovered that I love teaching. What fun it is to share my biggest passion! With plenty of chocolate nearby! Sure, it's a lot to take on with a full-time job, a blog, and a book in the works, but I'm having such a blast I've hardly noticed.

So, anyway. I will keep you updated on my teaching schedule in the hopes that some of you locals might come sew with me in person. (Visit the classes page for lots more details on the school and curriculum.) I'll also be taking on private students in the future. Fun fun fun!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Holiday Gift in Your Honor

Jeff and I were watching A Christmas Carol last night, and it really got me in the spirit of the season. I feel so fortunate this year and I've loved having all of you in my life. Luckily, I found the perfect way to give back: I've made a gift in honor of "the readers of GNBfBS" to Women for Women International, which provides business resources to women survivors of war. You can choose a symbolic gift, and of course I chose the sewing machine! (I especially love that the image provided is a vintage Singer Featherweight. A classic!)

According to Women for Women, "In Afghanistan, Kosovo and DR Congo, the path to economic self-sufficiency often begins with a small home tailoring business." It really struck me that a simple resource like a sewing machine could be a life-changing business asset. If you'd like to give a gift in honor of the seamstresses in your life, please visit the Women for Women website.

Happy Holidays, lovely readers. And, as always, happy sewing!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sew-Along Badges Are Here!

A big thanks to Casey, who is an absolute sweetheart and made us these gorgeous sew-along badges! Pick your favorite, and simply right-click to save to your hard drive. Then upload to your blog's sidebar, with the link of your choice. May I suggest this one?

And now for the pretty pics:

Casey, we can't thank you enough!

Crepe Sew-Along #5: Pattern Alterations

Happy Tuesday, Sew-Alongers! A bunch of stuff to go over today.

First, I confirmed with Sarai, the pattern's designer, that the back pieces should not wrap all the way around to your side seams. They should definitely cover your back darts, and then end about 1-2" away from your side seam. The fit in a wrap dress is more flexible than other garments, so don't fret too much about this number. I did let my own side seams back out to give me a bit more wrap.

Next, let's talk about darts.

Your darts should end about 1" away from the apex (or fullest point) of the bust. The darts on this pattern are a little long on some people, me included. No worries! It's easy to shorten a dart.

First, make a mark 1" (or however long you need to shorten) from the tip of the dart. My new point is marked in silver Sharpie below.

 Next, draw new lines from the end of your dart legs up to the new dart point.
That's it! You'll now have a shortened dart.

Next on the dart agenda: moving darts up or down. Your bust darts should be level with the apex of your bust, no higher or lower. The darts on this pattern seem to be a bit high for some. The easiest way to lower a dart is to cut it out and move it down as far as you need (have some new pattern paper taped underneath). Re-draw your side seam line. (You can see this method in action in the book Fit for Real People, but it's really as easy as it sounds.)

And lastly on the subject of darts, re-shaping a dart for a more flattering bust look. Some of you may be noticing a bit of bagginess under the bust. You can re-shape the dart to get a more stream-lined look. First, draw a line about 1-1/2" down from the tip of the dart (this measurement may be shorter or longer for your personal fit), making it perpendicular to the dart's center line. My new marks are in silver again.

 Make new marks 1/4" away from the original dart lines.
 Connect the dart tip to these new marks.
 Connect from the 1/4" marks down to the beginning of the dart legs.
This is your new dart! It's curved rather than perfectly triangular, resulting in a snugger fit right under the bust.

Finally, let's talk about transferring muslin alterations to your paper pattern. After you've pinched out whatever excess ease you have on your muslin, take your muslin off but keep the pins in. Mark the "humps and gullies" (as Sharon would say) on the pins, as below.

After marking all your pins, remove them. Your muslin will probably look kind of like this.
Side seams are easy to change. Just measure the difference between the old seamline and the new one and re-draw it on the pattern. (New side seam in purple below.) It's a good idea to work on a tracing of the pattern at this point.

Trace the rest of the original pattern, removing width from side and shoulder seams where needed.

Next, you can deal with your tucks. You can't just take a tuck out of a pattern because it changes the position of the neckline and shoulder. Here, I've taken the tucks out of the original pattern.
Now, I've put my tracing down on top of it. See how the neckline has shifted on the pattern below because of the tucks? This would not be a flattering fit.

You want to use the original shoulder position, but the lowered height of the piece. Trace your new lines and slash through your old ones so you don't get confused.
Repeat on the back, drawing a new smooth line at the back neckline where you've taken a tuck.

Don't forget to label your pattern pieces! If you're going through multiple drafts of a pattern and muslin, I highly recommend numbering your drafts as you go along. You think you'll remember which is which. But you won't. Trust me.
For best results, make a new muslin. Remember that fitting is all about trial and error! The only way to get better at it is to practice. To give you an idea of the process, just check out this shoulder seam I was working on. Yikes!

Always have a bunch of different colored pens and pencils for this purpose! Slash through any bad lines, and draw little circles along your final line. That way you can keep some of your madness straight.

I know that was a lot to cover for one day, but I hope it helps. Keep uploading your muslin pics to the Flickr Pool, and check back for a fabric cutting post later this week!
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