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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

New Summer Dress

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Finally, the perfect little summer dress.  I hit a few snags along the way, but I'm really happy with how it turned out.  The dress is exactly what I had imagined.  It's comfortable and light and perfect for the hot hot hot weather we've been having in the city. 

The shape of the bodice came from the pattern used in my first dress, which had a similar design.  I used only the bottom portion of the bodice pattern, stopping at the armholes and adding an inch and a half at the top for additional fabric to create a casing for the elastic needed to hold the dress in place.   

Vogue Pattern V8631

I used Vogue Pattern V8631 to get the shape of the skirt.  The pattern was perfect except for the pleats, which didn't work with the gathered concept I had in mind. To get rid of the pleats I carefully folded the pattern piece, taping the pleats down with tiny pieces of masking tape so as not to ruin the pattern.  Once the pleats were folded down, the pattern piece could be used to cut out the fabric for my gathered skirt.    

I initially planned to self-line the entire dress so I wouldn't have to deal with finishing off the hem, but I didn't have nearly enough fabric to cut out a second layer of the dress.  Instead, to finish off the very long hem I made my own bias binding by cutting strips from my left over fabric.   The strips were cut diagonally or on the bias - instead of with the grain, straight up or across the fabric - because fabric cut on the bias has more flexibility to shape around the curved hem.  I sewed each strip together and ironed them to create the folds.  I then sewed the binding to the edge of the skirt before attaching the skirt and bodice together.  Creating your own bias binding is a very time consuming process.

After testing out the finished product while running errands, I realized that gusts of wind would not be my friend in this dress.  To keep the skirt from blowing every which way I tacked it down about halfway between the hem and the waist with three tiny stitches in the hemline.  The stitches are virtually invisible from the right side of the dress.  Problem solved.  I love the end result so I just may have to create my own pleat-less pattern for future use and multiple versions of this dress.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Vacation on the mind...

Next up on my to sew list is something inspired by this currently out of stock dress from Mikkat Market, which I actually first fell in love with when I saw in on The Man Repeller, here.  

The Mikkat dress is made out of 100% silk, again maybe a little more formal than the cute summer day dress I'm aiming for.  

Urban Outfitters does a super affordable version in cotton spandex.  My version may end up costing me more and will definitely take up more of my time than a quick stop into the store, but sometimes it's all about the journey not the destination.  

I couldn't find a perfect pattern for a strapless dress with the right kind of skirt so I toyed with the idea of drafting my own, but I'm just not there yet.  Instead, I ordered two patterns from Vogue with similar asymmetrical skirts, V8631 a dress version and V8711 a skirt version.  Hopefully I will be able to adapt one pattern or the other into what I'm looking for.

I plan on using this tropical cotton print for a look somewhere in between the more formal Mikkat dress and the casual Urban dress.  I don't have the vacation planned yet, but I've definitely got the vacation wardrobe plans down.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What to do with left over fabric...

I had a good amount of left over fabric after completing my first project.  Due to my lack of pattern placement skills I was left with just two usable scraps of the fabulous lace fabric, just under a yard in total.  I had already been thinking of making a semi-sheer beach cover-up, which doesn't require much fabric anyway, so it was perfect.

I didn't have a pattern that fit exactly what I was thinking of, so I traced a short tank-dress I already owned onto the fabric instead.  A French curve was perfect for connecting the dots when I wasn't able to trace the dress perfectly around the arm and neck area.  I knew the tank-dress fit me well so I skipped making a muslin and cut right into my remaining lace.  The length is perfect for a beach cover-up, but it would be way too short to wear out in public otherwise without shorts or leggings underneath.    

On the inside view you can see I used a French seam finish.  The French seam was another first for me - I am a beginner - and I just love how clean it looks.  I made sure to press the French seams toward the back of the dress before I finished the edges with bias tape.  
Here's a little preview of how it will look on the beach.  I can imagine it now, wearing it on vacation in the sun and sand, which is long long overdue.  I can't wait to break it out.   

Monday, May 23, 2011

New Toys!

Super excited about the new goodies I just received in the mail.  I ordered them from Susan Khalje Couture.  I've definitely dreamed about taking a class with her one day, but I'm going to have to build up my skills quite a bit before I'm ready for that. 

I've heard that cutting out patterns can dull your scissors so you should always have a separate set for fabric, so I purchased a pair of 8" Gingher micro-serrated shears.  I love the weight and feel of them and the serrations should come in handy when working with slippery materials like the two very gorgeous silks I have in my stash, which I will be working with very soon! 

 I also got this wrist pin cushion.  When I'm sewing I have a tendency to stick pins in my mouth for safekeeping after removing them from a garment and inevitably I end up sticking myself or dropping them all over the floor.  This gives me a quick and easy place to put my pins where they're never out of reach when I need them.  I love the metal band.  It's totally comfortable, although it is a little large for my wrist so I do have to push it up my arm a bit to get it to stay in place.  I think it goes really well with my watch, no?   

Sunday, May 22, 2011

First Project

I've completed my first dress! I decided to go with Vogue Pattern V8241, the shorter version shown below, because it was one of Vogue's "very easy" patterns and a cute unstructured dress for summer.  

I used this amazing off-white lace I picked up at Mood.  I'm not sure if you can tell from the photos, but the lace has a strand of metallic gold thread running through it, which gives it a really subtle and gorgeous sparkle.

I used a pale nude silk satin for lining.  The silk satin was really high quality and I think the color of the lining makes the lace stand out, but I didn't think about how the stiffness of the lining would affect the final look of the dress.  I think it gives it a much more formal look than I was going for.  Clearly not the cute unstructured summer dress that I had in my head when I began.  I'm going to have to start thinking about how to choose a lining fabric at the outset of a project.   

The pattern calls for a closure at the neck with an opening down to the middle of the back.  The shape of the dress is boxy so I wanted to give it a bit more interest and I extended the opening to the waist.  I love an open-back look.  

I had to understitch at the neck, armholes and back opening to keep the lining from showing on the right side.  Since this was the first time I've ever lined a garment, let alone understitched anything, I spent quite a bit of time googling what the pattern instructions even meant, but I eventually worked it out.  

To finish off the waist seam I used bias tape.  There were a lot of firsts for me with this dress, including working with silk and this silk satin lining was fraying like crazy.  I was pretty nervous that my entire lining would unravel before I was able to finish the seams, but the bias tape seemed to fix that issue.  
All in all I think it turned out okay.

Total amount of time spent: Approximately 25 hours


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Welcome to My Oasis!

noun /ōˈāsis/ 
oases, plural
  1. A fertile spot in a desert where water is found
    • A pleasant or peaceful area or period in the midst of a difficult, troubled, or hectic place or situation
      • - an oasis of calm in the center of the city
    Sewing is my oasis in a life often dominated by my very hectic and stressful chosen profession.  After working seven days a week every week for nearly five months I think anyone would be desperately in need of a little pleasant and peaceful period.  For me sewing is it.  I promise plenty of pictures of my sewing exploits to come, but for now I'll leave you with a little inspiration. 

    Nothing is more inspiring than Oscar...

    Watch live streaming video from oscardelarenta at