Archive for the ‘sewing’ Category

Project #235 – 55 Years Gown

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

Dim light and photography don’t really mix, but it’s what you have to do if you want a picture at a wedding reception with mood lighting. I sewed most of this dress right before leaving for Indiana a few days ago, but I was tacking down facings and stitching the hem up until an hour before the wedding ceremony.

The pattern is Vogue #2960, originally published in 1954, hence the name of my dress. Two people I love were born in that year, so it’s a good one.

This is the first time I’ve ever done bound button-holes. I think I’ll need to do a few hundred more before I get the hang of it; they are not for the faint of heart. I think they where a good choice for what would be a formal dress (much neater than machined button holes), but I’m dumbfounded as to why any pattern with such a difficult set of details would be classified by Vogue as “easy”. I really makes me scared to try any vintage reprints labeled as ‘average’.

Still, I loved wearing this dress and I think the color suits me. I made it out of three yards of silk shangtung that I purchased with this pattern specifically in mind. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten so many compliments on a dress before. Maybe the good wedding vibes prompted everyone to be free with positive comments, but it’s nice to get nice feedback on a dress that has to fit in amongst hundreds of really nice store-bought ones.

It feels a little weird to tell people that I make most of my own clothes. It’s a little like fishing for compliments when I say that I made something, so I’ve been keeping my mouth shut most of the time in public. Still, the rumor got out, so I’m not sure if people were saying ‘What a pretty dress!’ or ‘What a pretty dress, you know, for something handmade.’

Whatever. I like it and I’m going to wear it again.

Project #225 – Wrap Front Shirt

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

The pattern for this shirt is B4789, and I’ve made it least twice before. So, really I should not have been surprised that it’s such a low-cut pattern…but I was. I have a goldfish-strength memory sometimes.

It left part of me thinking that I needed to install a ‘modesty panel‘. Is there a grimmer name for anything in fashion? It makes me think of the fussy calico dresses work by my grade school teachers, the kind with tiny pastel floral prints and a prim white panel if the dress even dared to show some collarbone.

So, for that reason, I’m going to reject the idea of a ‘modesty panel’ and show a little d├ęcolletage. Whatever, it’s not like we burn people for doing that anymore. Right?

Project #224 – A-Line Skirt

Saturday, September 5th, 2009

I finished my green corduroy A-line skirt in the car at the last minute as we drove to the Cass Railway, the first stop on our 2nd Anniversary trip. I spent most of the 4 hour car trip in my pajamas, which is actually a pretty comfy way to travel. When we arrived at our hotel I did a quick change and Clark drove like a maniac on little mountain roads to get us to the train just before it left. We made it with just 5 minutes to spare.

The whistle on the train is very loud. Next time I’ll ride in one of the rear cars just to protect my hearing.

Clark’s Dad worked for Union Pacific Railroad until he retired last year. Clark inherited from him a strong case of train fever and spent a while after dinner deciphering the machinery on the Shay #6 that drove us up and down the mountain.

Project #222 – Bias-Cut Silk Dress

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

I’ve never worked with silk charmeuse before. It’s a beautiful, lustrous fabric, but with a reputation for being difficult to work with. It’s slippery, quick to tear, and shows needle and pin marks. Plus, fabrics cut on the bias (that is, fabrics cut at a 45 degree angle) have a little stretch in them and are therefore more prone to warping and stretching.

Silk charmeuse really is all drape and no body, but it’s perfect for a slinky cocktail dress that’s supposed to hug your curves. This was how sexy clothes were built before the creation of mass-produced knit fabrics. Marilyn Monroe almost certainly never wore a jersey dress. Instead, she wore clingy fabrics cut on the bias to hug her curves, with a dart here and there to show off her waist.

Still, I think I managed to pull it off. I used some navy batiste for the lining to add some stability. Batiste is usually used to make lightweight shirts, but it has a good hand so that it’s easy to sew with and yet has enough drape not to spoil the lines of the dress.

I really liked the pattern, Vogue 2898. The foot petal to my sewing machine is broken from overuse, so I sewed this entirely using the push-buttons on the machine display. This method of sewing is growing on me because I have a little easier time controlling the speed. I’ve learned the trick to sewing charmeuse neatly is to set the needle pace really, really, slow. Still, it was simple enough that I only needed a few hours to sew the dress together and finished in time for my wedding anniversary dinner. Time for sushi!

Project #221 – Woodland Apron

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

Each year for our anniversary I try to make something that is on theme for the traditional type of gift for that year. Our first anniversary was paper, so I put together a photo album for him. This year is cotton, so I made him an apron out of cotton fabric. Clark likes to cook and get messy, but it’s hard to find an apron that fits him and doesn’t look to feminine.

I purchased the fabric for the apron back last fall in Tokyo. Clark only sort-of liked it until I pointed out that it included a hedgehog balancing an apple on its back. After that, he really liked it. Of course, bright, garish colors are also his style.

Project #214 – Fall/Winter Fabric Palettes

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

I’ve spent hours going through my (embarrassingly ample) fabric stash to assemble my fall wardrobe this year. I’m already going to enter a wardrobe contest, and I have one palette assembled, but that would only cover part of my fall sewing. It’s ridiculous, but true. Really, I just like to sit on the floor of the living room stacking and re-stacking my favorites in little piles, trying to build a ‘color story’ for what I’m going to wear.

Okay, ‘color story’ sounds a little nuts, but trust me, it’s like the pleasure of organizing all of the crayons in a crayon box into perfect ‘ROY G. BIV’ color order. It’s soothing. Plus, it’s good to have clothes that coordinate, especially if you’re going to take the time to make them yourself.

I came up with two palettes that will cover my fall/winter wardrobe.

I like mixing intermediate colors together, and these greens and purples combine to make the think of a shady grove. There are at least three corduroys packed into this palette, so I think most of the clothes will be business casual and ‘play’ clothes. I also have a beautiful dupioni silk and some lovely silk shangtung that I’ll use to make the dresses for some of my formal occasions this fall and Christmas.

I expanded on my last primary colors palette to add three festive polka dot fabrics that will help make this collection of fabrics look a little less serious. I have some knits for t-shirts and light cotton fabrics to keep me covered up, but not stifle me in the more conservative parts around the Nile.

Japanese Fabric Finds: Otsukaya, Part 2

Friday, August 21st, 2009

More from one of the greatest fabric stores on the planet:

Project #206 – Fall Wardrobe Plan

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

I used to be that the end of summer meant back to school shopping and new clothes. In my younger days that meant angst and boredom at the department store. As I got older I gradually grew an interest in clothes, although, mind you, it was years after most other young ladies my age began to care about what they wore. Still, I developed my own shopping system. I would look at the Sunday circulars for items I liked, circle them and then try to assemble a wardrobe under the dollar amount set by my mother. Other times of year I shopped where-ever for what-ever with friends, but fall always had a plan and a mission.

Now, instead of perusing circulars and catalogs, I’m looking through pattern books and my fabric stash. This is my second year of making all of my own clothes, or at least my second year of attempting not to buy clothes I am capable of making myself. The magic of having this kind of goal is that it’s suddenly made me impervious to impulse. I can slide through a entire rack of clothes thinking “…I can make that…I can make that…that is hideous…I can make that…” Now I can walk out of stores empty handed when it used to be guaranteed that I would drop at least $50. It’s a nice feeling. In fact, it’s been months since I so much as purchased a pair of socks.

I’ll be joining the wardrobe contest over at to give me limits and structure for my fall clothes. There’s just something about having rules that makes it easier to make a plan and get started. I’ll be making most of my stuff with a future trip abroad in mind, so there will definitely be some pieces that are more conservative than my usual style.

I’ve been waiting for it to finally get cool enough to sew. It’s not fun to be buried under piles of fabric when it’s 85 degrees in the house. I’m excited to start again.

A larger version of my wardrobe plan can be found here.

Project #195 – Sit Upon

Friday, August 7th, 2009

We’re going to another bonfire in the woods! I like nature, but I do not like sitting on the ground or on dirty benches. When I was a girl scout about *mumble* *mumble* years ago we would make these things called ‘sit-upons’ so that we wouldn’t have to get our precious fannies wet or muddy in the wilderness. The first one I ever made consisted of a few laminated layers of newspaper and didn’t last too long. Now it’s time for a sturdier, more grown up version.

My sit-upon is made of a layer of quilt batting sandwiched between two layers of vinyl. It will be waterproof, comfy, and easy to roll up and carry.

First, I sewed the two vinyl pieces together on three sides, right sides together. I then turned to vinyl and inserted the batting. I sewed the open end shut, tucking in the edges, and topstitched on two ends for extra waterproofiness.

Rolled up and ready for campfire time!

Japanese Fabric Finds: Otsukaya, Part 1

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Otsukaya (Kurumamichi, Nagoya) – This place is the Mother of all Japanese fabric stores. It is simply huge and by far wins for total selection and prices. I found so many things that I hadn’t seen anywhere else and other things for 200-300 yen less than the equivalent in Tokyo. The discount pile is easy to miss on the first floor, but two weeks ago it was stuffed with bolts and bolts of fabrics that I had contemplated buying on the internet for $20 or more, all for 400 yen or less. The top floor has a great selection of quilting cottons and Japanese-style fabric. I think I walked around for two hours with a look of pure ecstasy on my face.

This store is also cash only, but that is probably for the best in my case.

Plus, there is a little cafe on the second floor where one could stash their husband and buy him cake and coffee for being so patient.

It’s really worth a trip from Tokyo if you have half a day to spare. It’s only an hour on the Hikari and then a quick switch to the Sakura-dori line on the city subway. One of the exits from Kurumamichi Station leads directly to Otsukaya’s front door.