Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pink Floral Wiggle Dress

Hello, readers! I made a dress. And there are several exciting things to report about this dress.

First, it's made from this really lovely pink floral cotton poplin, marked Ascher Studio in the selvage (just like this other floral dress I made).

Secondly, we took some of the photographs in front of my new favorite wall. (What, everyone has a favorite wall, right?) It's just off Main Street here in Beacon, New York, and it has the most darling pink patches of paint. In fact, the pink paint matches my dress!

Third exciting thing: this is based on a pattern from my forthcoming book! I wanted to include a glam sheath/wiggle dress, but then I spiced it up a bit with a sweetheart neckline. In the book, this design is made in a really luscious, really expensive duchess silk satin, so it's nice to make some more "everyday" versions, if you will.

Fourth exciting thing: I added a drape at the waistline, as that's a feature I've admired in many vintage dresses of the late 50s/early 60s. 

It was easy. I just sewed two pieces of fabric into a rectangle, leaving a space to turn them right sides out. Then, I closed up the hole by hand sewing. 

Then, I pinched the fabric at a point just off-center. 

Then I twisted the fabric draped onto itself.

Then I basted it to the dress waistline, just underneath the twist. When I was happy with the positioning, I sewed it in place permanently by machine. 

There's also pink piping on the neckline and waist seam. 

 Also exciting: it looks really pretty in my studio. 

And the last exciting thing? By popular demand, I'm starting to offer made-to-order dresses in my Etsy Shop. And this is the first! (You can also buy the white flower hair clip here.) People always ask me if I sell my designs, so I figured I'd give it a try. 

Hope things are exciting in your corner of the world!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Your Iron's Auto-Off Feature: Friend or Foe?

Most irons seem to have one these days: the auto-off feature, that little mechanism that causes your iron to go into a "stand-by" mode when not in use. It cools down the iron's plate completely when not in use for a certain amount of time. In the case of my iron (which is the Rowenta Focus, if you're curious), the iron shuts off if it's been out of use for 8 minutes.

Now, there are times that I appreciate the feature. Safety first and all that. I've never been good at remembering to shut off hot things. Jeff has been terrified to find (on more than one occasion, I admit) that I've left the gas burner on after cooking. I mean, the thing has flames coming out of it! It's not exactly inconspicuous. So if I leave the house and have that "OMG I think I left the iron on" feeling, I don't have to fret. Also on the safety front, it's worth noting that my iron turns off after only 30 seconds if it's horizontal and not in use. Clever, huh?

On the other hand, the 8 minutes allotted for the vertical position seems a little stingy, right? That's just about enough time for me to sew a seam or complete some other mid-project tasks. You know the drill: when you go back to iron, the thing has shut off. Reactivating the iron (and waiting for it to heat up again) becomes one of those irksome sewing activities that takes the place of actually sewing.

If I had to choose again, I would probably still go with the auto-off feature rather than not have one at all. (So perhaps, in answer to the title of this post, it's my frenemy.) But perhaps there's an iron out there that's geared to people who might leave their iron idle for more than 8 minutes at a time? I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this matter!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Introducing the Frida Fascinator!

Thank you all so much for your support and kind words about my hats! I'm happy to report that the final class went very well. I'll have more photos of each of the hats soon. The next class, Fabric Hat Construction, starts next week! I can't wait.

I have more exciting news for today, though. I'm selling one of my pieces! I call it the Frida Fascinator, and it's an item I've been developing for a couple months now. {Update: the first one sold--yay! I have more ready to go, so I've re-listed it here.) Since I started learning millinery, I've become enamored with making felt roses (see my tutorial here). And then I became enamored with the idea of turning them into a Frida Kahlo-inspired fascinator. My love for Ms. Kahlo is well-documented here, so I'll just leave it at that.

I fiddled with it for many weeks before I figured out how to make it successfully. The secret is a handmade fascinator base. I shape it out of wire and then cover it with felt, and then add an elastic to keep it on the head.

I must have been very influenced by the techniques of my couture millinery class, because I've insisted on making the whole thing by hand. (I tried gluing one of the early models, and, well . . . yuck.) I also looked into less expensive materials, but nothing compares to 100% wool felt. Anyway, here's where you can find it on etsy.

I hope you like it! I'm playing around with more rose accessories too. More to come!

P.S. I also have a Frida braid hair tutorial! For the pictures above, I just made the braids a bit looser.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Greetings from Hat Land

Hello, readers! My brain is out of town this week. It's currently residing in the strange, magical land of Millinery 101 at the Fashion Institute of Technology, where finals are due tomorrow. That's when I will present my first collection of hats to the class. I'm somewhat terrified.

You see, at the beginning of the term we had to present a "mood board" (I've come to loathe that term) and the instructor wasn't very taken with mine, to say the least. Here, you can see it if you want. (Click to make bigger.)

My theory was that I would make a collection of vintage-inspired hats that are wearable today. Emphasis on wearable. I don't think I've quite succeeded in that, but I have kind of learned how to make hats, which was the aim. Here are a few of my favorites.

Anyway. I'll admit to being in kind of a dark place about the whole thing. It's so hard starting out at something, wanting it to be perfect, and not being able to really make your vision happen. It's so much like learning to sew! I don't mean to be so negative, but I knew you all would understand.

I have tons of finishing little finishing touches to do, so my brain and I are going back to Hat Land. I hope to be back in Dress Land next week!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Goings On

A few odds and ends! First, here is my first official portrait with my bicycle. Isn't she cute? I've decided that her name is Peggy Olson. I rode over to Peoples Bicycle yesterday, and found that amazing cherry blossom print saddle bag. It's like it was made for Peggy! The shop owner, Jon, was so excited that he took my picture. Peggy and I have gone for several joy rides lately and we're like two peas in a pod.

Also!  I have some writings and tutorials up various places on the interwebs:

  • Check out my lapped side zipper tutorial on the Coats & Clark blog.
  • Last week, I asked the question "does the phrase 'not your grandma's knitting' bother you?" I got so many great responses that I wrote a follow-up post at STC Craft incorporating comments and thoughts from readers. Thanks for your insights, as always!
Last, but not least: have an awesome weekend! May the sewing goddesses be with you. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Dealing with Pattern Ease

Here’s a topic that gets a lot of discussion, but I think the info bears repeating: ease in patterns. I’ve been making more contemporary patterns than usual, and also featuring them here. I’ll often get comments (virtually and in person, when I teach) warning me to watch out for the sizing on a certain pattern because it’s all off and it came out ginormous, etc.

So, here’s the thing: the sizing on a pattern doesn’t have to be a surprise. Actually, let me restate that: the EASE on a pattern doesn’t have to be a surprise. (Ease being the extra inches built into a pattern for wearing room.) It just takes a couple more steps in preparation than usual.

As traditional sewing wisdom would have you believe, all you have to do to get your correct size is measure yourself, check the size chart on that pattern, find the size that corresponds to your body, make that size, and ta-da! Your dress will fit you perfectly. Unfortunately, this is completely untrue.

The two most important pieces of information you can have when you start sewing a pattern are

1.     Your preferred amount of ease in the style you’re making. So rather than measure my body, I’d be better off measuring a dress I have that fits me the way I want: provided it’s a similar style and fabric to the pattern I’m making. (You can’t compare a stretch woven dress to one that you’ll be making in a woven without stretch; you have to compare apples to apples.)
2.     The pattern’s finished garment measurements. You can find this information a couple ways:

A.     By looking on the tissue and finding the symbol that looks like a circle with a cross through it. There’s usually one at the bust, waist, and hips. The chart underneath will tell you the finished measurements at each of these points.

B.     In the absence of the above, you can measure the flat pattern pieces at the bust, waist, and hips. Subtract any seam allowances and double the measurement (if necessary, i.e. the piece is cut on the fold or on a double layer). This is how big the piece will be when you sew it. So, you’ll have to measure the front and back bodice at the bust, and add them together to get the finished bust measurement, for instance.

So here’s a real world example. Let’s say I’m going to make a dress with a full skirt and fitted waist, and I’m sewing it up in a woven fabric without stretch. Let’s say it’s McCall’s 6503.

My measurements put me at a sewing pattern size 16. But if I made that size, I would be very unhappy with the fit, especially in the retro-style garments that I make. The first thing I’ll do is measure I dress I have that fits me well. I recently made Vogue 2960, and had to adjust the waist, but now I’m happy with the fit.

I measure the dress itself and find it’s 31” at the waist. When I look at the pattern tissue on McCall’s 6503, the finished size at the waist of the 16 is 32.5”. No good. The finished size on the size 14 is 30.5”. Close! I now know that I need to gain .5” in the waist to be happy with the fit. There are 4 seam allowances on the bodice (2 at each side seam). Divide .5” by 4 and I get 1.8”. So if I add just 1/8” at each side seam, I’ll get a finished waist measurement of 31”, just what I wanted.

I’ll repeat this process for the bust measurement, but not the hips. Since it’s a full-skirted dress, the hips will naturally have a lot of ease in them.

One thing you might be wondering is: if you’re on the cusp between two size groups (as I am), how do you decide which pattern size to buy? There’s usually one finished garment measurement on the back of the envelope, which will give you a preliminary idea of how much ease there is in the pattern.

via Simplicity.comhttp://www.simplicity.com/t-sewing-101-part2.aspx

Also, after you’ve sewn a few patterns, you’ll see a pattern. (Get it? Pattern!) And I can tell you that the pattern is usually this: you’ll wear one size smaller than the pattern companies tell you that you do. I don’t know why so much ease is added to sewing patterns, it just is. So be aware and be prepared!

Okay, readers. I’d love to hear your experiences with ease and pattern sizing. And tips, please!

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Daily Dress: Cherry Smash

Do you readers watch Smash? I don't, and I really can't tell you why. It's comprised of many things I love: musicals, Marilyn Monroe, Katherine McPhee (I don't know why, I just like her, ok?), and musicals (yes, that had to be said twice). Someone wrote to me about this cherry print dress months before the show even premiered, and I'm sure you can see why. So cute! So retro!

Anyway, it's months and months later, and I find myself thinking about the dress again. And about Smash, which I just informed Jeff that we're going to get caught up on.

Anyway, the dress comes from repro brand Stop Staring!, and you can buy it here.

 Or, better yet, you can sew your own! New Look 6002 has a great option.

I would just remove the bow thingy and widen the neckline, making the straps slightly narrower. I would make it very snug, in a stretch woven (let me know if you find some cherry print fabric!).

Happy Friday, dear readers!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Generational Aspects of Crafting

Hello readers! I am currently jetting off to Denver to film an episode of Sew It All TV, but I wanted to make sure to tell you about a guest post I wrote for STC Craft/Melanie Falick Books about the whole craft trend of saying “it’s not your grandma’s sewing!” or some such.  The idea for the post came out of a conversation with Melanie about the topic when we realized how much that adage bothered us.  As someone who sews styles that my grandmother might have liked, well, it really is my grandma’s sewing. And, in general, crafters have relied on older generations to show us the ropes, if you will.

What do you think of that phrase? Does it bother you at all? Definitely come read the post and jump on in the discussion!

P.S. This is what I look like in a bow turban and no makeup, after waking up at 3:45 to catch a flight (with some "airbrushing" help from Instagram, I can’t lie). Don’t worry, there will be a makeup artist on set and I’ve got pin curls under my turban!

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