Archive for the ‘dress’ Category

Project #265 – Hourglass Jumper

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

I love reissued retro patterns. There is something about mid-20th century clothes that is so hard to find these days. Maybe it’s the solidness and shape of the clothes. It’s hard to replicate that using today’s construction technique and fabric-buying short cuts. There are a lot of darts and a lot of yardage in this dress and I just can’t image anyone taking the time.

Still, it’s a little like wearing armor. Wearing this kind of dress makes me want stand up and take charge of something. No one can push me around in a massive, tailored dress like this.

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 #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 #182 – Metafilter Dress

Friday, July 17th, 2009

I need to learn to be more careful about vintage patterns where the cover art represents an artist’s interpretation rather actual finished product. For example, the above pattern looks pretty cute. It has a big, flowing skirt and nips in a bit at the waist. Lovely.

Well, the real thing is a tad poofier than the drawing above, like, 80′s prom dress levels of poof. I should have taken heed when the seller labeled it as a ‘square dance’ dress.

The top part does not conform to the front cover. Instead of a nice, trim waistline, the upper section gives one the appearance of a pigeon chest. I fashioned a sash to give me some curves in the right places, but the rest of the chest and shoulders are so poofy that I had to shelve the dress from its intended purpose. I was planning on wearing it to the Metafilter 10th anniversary party, but it is not the right dress for meeting strangers in a casual bar setting. However, if there is a 80′s or 90′s party in the near future I’m set.

* * *

I’ve been neglecting my fabric countdown, but I’ve been making lots of progress.

Yardage Countdown to buying more fabric:

1 yard – Yellow T-shirt
2 yards – Hiking Skirt
1.5 yards – Office Shirt
3.5 yards – Parasol Dress
2.5 yards – Interplanetary Space Travel Dress
.75 yards – Vintage 1950s Top
4 yards – 1950s Vintage Dress with Tie Back Neck
1.5 yards – Half Circle Skirt
1.25 yards – Cutsey Knit Dress
1 yard – T-Shirt Muslin
2.5 yards – Fourth of July Dress
5 yards – Metafilter Dress

Total: 26.5 yards
Remaining: 3.5 yards

Rats!! I promised myself that I wouldn’t buy any more fabric until I finished off thirty yards and I’m just three and a half lousy yards from being able to buy all the silk that I can fit into my budget. I thought it would take less than six weeks to blow through the full 30 yards, but it’s going to take at least twice that. ちくしょう!

Project #172 – Fourth of July Dress

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

I cut this dress out in February thinking that I would have plenty of time to get it done before the Fourth of July. Well, I starting sewing the buttons on at midnight, the midnight that technically started July the 5th. This was after a full sweaty day of frantic sewing, oh, and having fuzz from the serger fly around and stick to my skin so that I was kind of blue tinged by the end of the day. There is a reason why winter and spring are my preferred sewing seasons.

The pattern I used was M4769, view C, shortened a bit because it’s hawwwwt outside. My only complaint about the pattern was the difficulty of placing the collar facing. Wait, make that ‘complaints‘, plural, because the pockets are also too shallow to be useful. It’s a shame to have a dress that cares to have pockets but not be able to use them without worrying that everything is going to fall out when you sit down. However, I will forever love shirt dresses and I will put up with serious amounts of frustration because they are great.

Project #166 – Cutsey Knit Dress

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

Okay, this is crazy…but a friend, a very convincing friend, talked me into attending Anthrocon this year. Yes, it’s that Anthrocon, the annual furry convention. I had no idea that there was an annual convention, in my fair city of Pittsburgh no less, of people who like dressing up as and acting like animals. At first, I had absolutely no desire to go, but my friend convinced me over several months with stories about canine commandos and technicolor panther pimps. I am easy to wear down if you can tell a good story.

So, now I’m resigned to going. And of course, as with any special event I had to make a new dress, one that will serve as my camouflage. The fabric itself is covered with tiny frolicking animals.

It was my intention to make this dress using a new pattern, but the test run didn’t turn out too well. So, out of impatience I used a familiar adaptation of two patterns, S3835 from the neck to the armpits, and M5144 from there to the bottom hem. I also add darts in back to make the shape a little more fitted. I’ve now made this exact knit dress a total of four times, and this is the second one this year. Still, the pattern is really versatile and it’s as comfy as wearing a pair of pajamas.

Project #137 – 1950s Vintage Dress with Tie Back Neck

Monday, May 25th, 2009

I made my second dress based on a vintage pattern, Simplicity 4341. I’m not sure I’m in love with the styling, but this is why I try out new, complicated-looking patterns in cheap fabric. The cotton dotted fabric used here was $2 a yard on sale. That, along with thread, a side zipper and some interfacing adds up to less than $10 in total.

It’s kind of shocking how delicate the pattern pieces are in these 50+ year old copies. I tore multiple ones and had to tape the delicately back together. The instructions, too, are looking worse for the wear.

I really wish that instructions on how to tie the back tie into a bow were included. The interfacing doesn’t seem to help; instead of adding structure, its extra thickness makes it nearly impossible to form a neat knot that will stay tied. This is why first drafts are important, I wouldn’t want to waste important fabric on something that is less than fabulous. It’s nice to have a chance to learn from myb mistakes.

Project #120 – Interplanetary Space Travel Dress

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

I never miss out on an opportunity to make a theme dress. The new Star Trek movie is coming out in a few days and despite the fact that I have seen exactly one Star Trek movie in a theater (Though I will admit that I do enjoy some Khaaaaan! when it comes on TV.), I’m going to be there at opening day with my husband and some friends. Well, if you’re going to go to a Star Trek movie it might as well be on opening day, because that’s when the cosplay geek pageant is in full effect.

I had some really dorky space fabric that I was planning on using for bag linings, but this seemed like a good opportunity to make a nerd dress. Of course, I made the mistake of showing it to my husband, who told all of his friends about it and now everyone is expecting me to show up today in a wacky dress.

In reality, I didn’t have quite enough time to get it done and get enough sleep, but I have too much pride when it comes to expectations, so I sewed this dress over the course of one stupid, stressful day. I even had to go to dinner at the home of another couple, which took a few hours that I could have spent sewing. I did get to eat the delicious pile of avocado and sushi tuna pictured above (Thanks, Melissa!), so it was worth it in the end, but I still ran straight to my machine as soon as I got home. I cranked away until about 2:00 in the morning, and I managed to finish with only a few shortcuts.

It looks a little more New-Age than Star Trek, like I should be wearing a crystal or something, but at least it’s finished. I guess I’ll have something on hand for my next trip to the Science Center.

Yardage Countdown to buying more fabric:

1 yard – Yellow T-shirt
2 yards – Hiking Skirt
1.5 yards – Office Shirt
3.5 yards – Parasol Dress
2.5 yards – Interplanetary Space Travel Dress

Total: 10.5 yards
Remaining: 19.5 yards

Project #119 – Parasol Dress

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

I have four weddings and two high school reunions to attend this year, all out of state, which means that most of our disposable income will be going to pay for plane tickets, gifts, food, and…umm I think there is at least one mandatory bachelor party in there, so yes, some of our money will probably be going to strippers. Sigh. Good bye vacation days and money.

So, this means that I need to spend as little money as possible on clothes, and therefore I need to work with what I’ve got. Luckily, I’ve already got a substantial stockpile of silks and prints that are wedding-appropriate and pass the strict no black (Unsupportive!), no white (Upstaging the bride!), no red (Hussy!) wedding dress code. Though I do believe that these rules are outdated and I don’t fault anyone else for wearing any of these colors, there is some deep neurosis in me that keeps my brain beeping “MUST. FOLLOW. OLD. TIMEY. WEDDING. RULES!” Though I will tell the bride ‘congratulations’ because the logic behind not saying it (‘Congratulations’ is supposed to imply man-trapping.) is just absurd.

The pattern for today’s dress is a vintage reprint from 1960, B6582. I’ve made view B before, but at a size too small as you can probably tell from the picture. This try, of view C, turned out much better, probably because I’ve learned a lot about fitting in the last year. The fabric is a little loud, but probably appropriate for the (likely wacky) wedding celebration I’ll be attending this Saturday.

Yardage Countdown to buying more fabric:

1 yard – Yellow T-shirt
2 yards – Hiking Skirt
1.5 yards – Office Shirt
3.5 yards – Parasol Dress
Total: 8 yards
Remaining: 22 yards

Project #104 – T-Shirt Dress

Monday, April 20th, 2009

I managed to get through sewing all of this dress except for one seam before I started dinner last night. I’m still getting over a nasty head cold so by the time I finished burning the chicken I just wanted to put down my spoon, lay down on the kitchen floor and go to sleep. So, I went to bed without eating dinner and without finishing my dress.

If I had to choose between one or the other it would have been a tough call. I like food, but I also like new dresses, they take the sting out of Mondays.

Knit dresses are one of my favorite ways to scratch an itch for a new dress. They’re fast and the good ones are as comfortable as a pair of pajamas. However, good patterns for knit dresses are sometimes few and far between. My solution is usually to take a pattern for a t-shirt, lower the hem and widen from the hips downward. Today’s dress was a longer version of last Tuesday’s green t-shirt, B5335.

The lengthening process is pretty straightforward. Simply measure the distance between your waist and your desired length and add that amount to the pattern pieces, front and back, with your ruler starting at the waist.

I’ve converted a few other patterns from shirts to dresses. These two are my favorites:

V2925: This pattern is only two pieces, which is fantastic.

S3835: I added darts to the back of the dress to give it some shape. I made it for my birthday last year.