Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Pretty Ditty Apron

For someone who doesn't consider herself terribly domesticated, I sure love aprons!  Then again, I LOVE coats and live in South Florida, so go figure.  I have several aprons; some I bought, some I made, and some were gifts from other people, but a girl can never have to many aprons. Anyhow, a couple of years ago an acquaintance of mine posted a picture on Facebook of a gorgeous apron she made, it was in a gorgeous floral print and matching solid blue fabric. I was smitten.  I loved the fabric and I loved the shape of the apron. I did some searching and it turned out that the it was a pattern from an indie designer, Jamie Christina.  I bought it immediately and then I waited, and waited, to find a similar fabric to the Facebook apron.  I didn't find it and I got involved in other projects so the apron pattern sat in a drawer.

Tied at the front

A few days ago I decided I wanted to make the apron and I searched through my fabric stash to see if I found anything suitable that I liked.  I have a lot of pretty quilting cotton, thought I don't quilt, so I started there.  There I found this lovely Asian themed fabric from Alexander Henry that had been in the stash for years; I think the actual name of the fabric/design is Koto. I didn't have any other patterned fabric I liked to go with it so I chose the green solid instead.

Tied at the front

While I love the finished result and the construction of the apron wasn't actually difficult, I have to say that the instructions on the pattern were not very good.  There is the option of making a reversible apron or a non-reversible one, and I chose the latter.  The instructions were for the non-reversible version were all over the place and has the sewist doing a lot of back and forth on the sheet, and it's just not very clear.  The instructions for the reversible apron take up 95% of the space so I suspect that they are clearer and better than for non-reversible.  That is my only complaint with this pattern.  It's really not difficult to figure out but it is annoying nonetheless.

Tied at the back

The construction of the apron is pretty cool, and leaves all the edges of the bodice portion bound since the shoulder straps, which go all the way to the waistband, are double folded binding tape cut on the cross grain.  The top edge of the bodice serves as an elastic casing, which is how you get the gather there.  I have read that some people leave out the elastic altogether and just gather the bodice to into the binding strip.  I like the elastic.  The pattern instructions call for gathering the ruffles at the bottom by making a loose stitch line through the middle of the fabric strip and manually gathering it to the skirt bottom but I didn't do it that way.  Instead, I used my ruffler presser foot set to the "6" setting (the middle of the three).  I put the ruffle strip into the ruffler foot, the skirt under the ruffler foot, and sewed the ruffles directly onto the skirt.  I hope that makes sense.  The alternative would have been to make the ruffles and then apply them to the apron, but then the ruffles would have had two visible stitch lines unless I was SUPER careful to stitch only on top of the first stitch line.

Tied at the back

After all is said and done, I LOVE the apron and I will probably make another in different fabric combinations.  Love.  I would wear this as a dress if it had a back, and it turns out that Jamie Christina does have a dress pattern that looks like this on the front...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Historical Sew Fortnighly #7: Tops and Toes

If the cap was pink, I'd look like Edith for Despicable Me.

The Challenge: #7 Tops and Toes.

Fabric: Medium weight linen.

Pattern: None.

Year: Circa 10th century.

Notions: Thread, embroidery floss.

How historically accurate is it?  The cap is based on an extant piece from 10th century Dublin, the embroidery design is also Norse from the same time period, all the visible stitching is done by hand.  Only the seam and the seam's raw edges are done by machine.  I'll go about 95% accurate.

Hours to complete: It took me about ten hours of work.

First worn: I haven't worn it yet, now I must make a Norse outfit to go with it.

Total cost: Very little. The cap is 8 inches by 24 inches, including seam and hem allowances. I paid about $5 a yard for the linen.  The embroidery floss was about $1.50.  The total cost of materials was probably around $3.

The description for this challenge was very simple: make something that goes on your head or on your feet.  Initially I made some notes about making hosen or stockings of some sort, but after a short battle with trying to drape stockings on myself, it didn't happen. I was in the mood for something a bit less challenging so I thought, hey, I'll make a Jorvik cap!  Then I decided I didn't want to round the back so I made this, a Dublin cap instead.

The cap is based on an extant Norse head covering from the 10th century found in, you guessed it, Dublin.  The extant piece is made of wool, unlike the Jorvik cap which is silk.  The other difference between the Dublin cap and the Jorvik cap is that the former has a pointy back seam while the latter is rounded more to the shape of the head.  I actually quite like the point.  It's supposed to be sewn shut with a diagonal stitch line going from the center back seam to the top of the head, forming a triangle, but I didn't like the look when I sewed the test cap.

Geez, I don't think I'll ever wear it tied in a bow.

The embroidery....that was the first time I did hand embroidery and the I actually learned to do the backstitch specifically for this piece. It's not perfect, but it's not bad for a first time.  The embroidery design can be found here.

A bit blurry but it's a good example of what the cap looks like tied at the back of the head.

I'm quite pleased with the results and I cannot wait to wear with this the appropriate garb.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Simplicity 4192, Wrap Pants

I'm going on a cruise in a few days (YAY!!!)  and I had so much sewing planned, but sadly, most of it will never come to fruition, or at least not in time.  But these pants did and I'm pretty much in love.   I love how versatile they are. They can be dressed up or down, and even serve as a swimsuit cover.  Most of all, they were very easy and quick to sew.

This is the envelope front from Simplicity.

I scouted this pattern a couple of weeks ago but was waiting for Simplicity to go on sale at Joann because I refuse to pay full price for patterns, there is no need at all to pay full price for the big four. But I digress.  The pants are very simple in construction, they are made up of 3 pattern pieces, one of which is just the binding/tie combination.  I shortened the crotch by half an inch at the front and half an inch at the back, and then shortened the length below the crotch by three inches.  The waist of the pants sits just about at my waist, and the pattern says they are supposed to be worn one inch below the waist. I actually prefer to wear my pants just above the hips so in the future, if I was to make these pants again, I would shorten the crotch length even more.  That said, they are comfortable as they are.  I chose a very light and airy fabric, it's almost see through, but for this style of pants you really need that as bulk just won't do.

While the construction of these pants is very easy, I have to that say I would have hated hemming the pants without the aid of a narrow hem foot.  There's a lot of hem, and narrow hemming by hand is dreadful.  I'm so very thankful for that nifty little presser foot.  I also ignored Simplicity's instructions for binding the waist edge of the pants, which also serves as the ties.  They have you do everything the hard way, which I suppose is just a way of explaining the process to people who don't have tools to make the process easier.  Instead, I made two single-fold binding tapes from the appropriate pattern pieces using a bias binding maker, then I used an adjustable binding foot to sew the tape and bind the waist of the trousers all at once. Does that make sense?  With those two time saving devices, the trousers took me about 2 hours of actual working time from the beginning of cutting the fabric until they were finished.

With just flip flops it would be a great swimsuit cover.

 There's a good description with pictures here on how to tie wrap pants.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Retro Simplicity 7638

I first saw this 1968 pattern in a vintage pattern lot I bought in 2009.  I was immediately smitten with the color and the scalloped edge of the center front edge. At the time, I wasn't confident enough in my sewing skills to attempt those scallops and I left the pattern alone.  At the time, I was also considerably heavier and I would have had to make a lot of adjustments since the pattern, as these patterns usually do, only came in one size; size 16 38-inch bust in this case.  I also didn't think it'd be flattering.  The pattern sat in a box with the rest of the lot for a few years.  I took it out again a couple of years ago and although I was confident in my sewing skills and even in my grading skills, I was much lighter then, which would have also required quite a bit of faffing around to make the pattern work.  So I put the pattern again again.  Damned if you, damned if you don't.

So, in July of last year, after having put on some weight again, I thought it was the perfect time to finally make the dress.  After making a muslin, I searched high and low for suitable fabric; I knew I wanted bright green, and it had to be a heavy enough fabric to give the dress shape but not so heavy that it would be too stiff or bulky.  Not an easy combination of qualities, it would seem.  I ended up buying lime cotton twill from and not only was the weave and weight perfect for this dress, I loved the color too.  I mean, it's green, really green. I love it.

"Juniors' and misses' dress and sash...Designer Fashion.  The lined, collarless dress has lowered round neckline and front button closing.  V. 1 has about wrist-length bell-shaped set-in sleeves.  Sleeveless V. 2 has self fabric sash.  V. 3 has scalloped right front edge and short set-in sleeves."

I did have to make fitting alterations to the, but none to the bust, which was surprising considering that my full bust measurement is way larger than 38 inches.  I imagine this would be enormous on anyone with an actual full bust measurement of 38 inches.  I'm short, as we've established, so I had to take three inches off in length right off the bat.  Which left me with a two-inch hem, which I think works.  I have big upper arms and added some width to the sleeve.  I also removed some of the sleeve cap ease.  Once I got the fitting done, I cut the fashion fabric, then proceeded to let it languish in the sewing room for seven months.  In my defense, grad school took most of my non-work time and I truly was swamped.  Never mind that I could have just as well finished the dress between when I cut the fabric in July and when school started the next month.

Sewing those scallops to be as rounded as possible was not easy.  I used something like a 1.6 stitch length and sewed very carefully and very slowly.  The photo on the pattern envelope shows bound buttonholes and the instructions do mention bound buttonholes but I chose to make regular machine buttonholes.  I did cover my own buttons.  I did not line my dress, mainly because I didn't see anything about lining in the instructions even though the pattern description says the dresses are lined and there is a fabric layout for the lining.  My best guess is that they assumed people knew how to line dresses, but there really is no mention of lining in the instructions that I could see.  At any rate, I live in South Florida so I wouldn't have lined it anyway.  I finished the seams by serging.

I am very pleased with this dress. I love that it's so distinctive, but I'm also apprehensive BECAUSE it is so distinctive.  Not only is it bright lime green, but it's also a style that is no longer worn by the masses.  I'm going to have to just own it and put on a poker face when I wear it in public if I have any hope of pulling it off.   That said, the dress doesn't look quite so bright green in person, I think it's a bit less obnoxious.

Monday, February 17, 2014

McCalls 6458 Children's Pajama Tops and Bottoms

Finally something non-costume and non-knitting related!

I first traced this pattern according to my son's measurements months and months ago, but as always, I got sidetracked by life and the traced pattern just sat in the sewing room.  That and I didn't have enough flannel to make the pajamas and just didn't seem to get my act together and buy some.  A few weeks ago I pulled the pattern out again, remembered I didn't have enough flannel, and put it back in the envelope.  FINALLY, about a week ago I bought some very cute nautical themed flannel, and started working on the pajamas as soon as I was finished with the two other projects I had been working on.  In the end, it probably worked out for the best because the pajamas are a bit big on my son now, but when I first traced the pattern it would have been massive.  The pattern runs absolutely huge.

The pattern instructions were actually pretty decent, but despite that, this pattern is not really a beginners pattern, or "easy," as McCalls sells it.  The way that the button bands and the collar are sewn makes for a clean finish, which I'm glad I did because, for pajamas, I'd be tempted to go the easy route even if it doesn't look as good from the inside.  That said, I skipped the interfacing in the collar.  They are pajamas, interfacing is superfluous.  I chose view D for the top, which is the view without piping (and obviously, no flounce).  If I made this again, I'd do the piping. I do love how it turned out, but I think piping would have really made it pop.

I made the buttonholes in the new(ish) sewing machine, which I hadn't used for buttonholes before.  The buttonhole foot comes with a metal plate so that heavy fabric can be sandwiched between the plate and the sewing foot, making the entire piece move as one and not relying on the feed dogs to move the fabric.  This make for pretty great buttonholes that would have otherwise been meh due to the thickness of the fabric layers. I am pretty impressed!

My son loves it, like everything I made for him. He stood in front of the full length mirror in the sewing room and said "Do you know what this is?  It's beautiful!"  :)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Historical Sew Fortnightly #3: Pink

The Challenge: #3 Pink

Fabric: Poly Shantung.

Pattern: Past Patterns 4678, originally Butterick Design 4678.

Year: 1921.

Notions: Just thread.

How historically accurate is it?  It is sewn by machine, which is period, and it is made from a period pattern. The only non-period thing about it is the fabric.  Based on that, I'm going to say about 80% historically accurate.

Hours to complete: Not a clue.

First worn: Sunday, February 9th, 2014, to a Downton Abbey inspired tea.

Total cost: About $15. I bought the fabric with a 50% off coupon, otherwise it would have twice that.

In early January (I think), someone I know told me about an upcoming Downton Abbey inspired tea at a new tea room in town.  Eager to expand my historical wardrobe, I jumped at the chance of making something out of my comfort zone and bought tickets.  I knew right away that whatever I made had to be pink that way I could also use it for this challenge.  Initially, I bought a bright pink fabric, and after cutting a portion of the dress, I just couldn't see myself wearing it.  So I went back to the fabric store and ended up buying this dusty rose poly shantung and planned to use the dull side.  I really, really wanted to make this in period correct fabric so I looked at the fabric recommendations on the pattern. The recommendations were moire, taffeta, radium (yes, RADIUM), gros de londres, silk crepe, and chiffon velvet.  I looked into all those fabrics and some were no longer available, like radium, and others were prohibitively expensive.  As much as I wanted this to be historically accurate, I wasn't about to shell out a small fortune for fabric. I also considered rayon, which would have been much more accurate than polyester, but I couldn't' find any suitable fabric that was a pink i liked and rayon.  I was actually pretty surprised to see radium as a suggested fabric and I thought it had to be something other than I what I thought it was.  I did some research and I still can't figure out whether radium is just a weave of whether there was fabric actually made from radium or containing radium.  Can you imagine walking around dressed in radioactive material?  Me neither.

The pattern itself was a bit of  a surprise, mostly because I failed to read the description before I bought it.  I thought it was a dress, and it turned out to be a skirt/blouse combination.  The skirt is attached to a slip-over underbody, basically making a sleeveless dress with a blouse over it.  It was fine, just unexpected.  It shouldn't have been a surprise though, considering it was right there on the pattern description on the website. The description printed on the pattern reads "Dress for misses or small women, in Bustle Effect, with Draped Basque Closed at Left Underarm, and Draped Straight Skirt Attached to a Slip-Over Long Underbody Marked for Camisole Top."

The pattern is sized for a 37 inch bust and 39 inch hip.  Although my bust measurement is larger than that, and my hip measurement is smaller, I decided not to make any adjustments after making the muslin.  I didn't wear the dress with a my usual style of bra but rather with an unwired, soft bra which gives a silhouette much more like that of the period than I would have gotten otherwise.  I thought about making a 1920s corset or corselette but I didn't have time nor the inclination, really.  After all is said and done, I do wish that the hips fit a little better as the skirt is too loose, I think, but I'm happy with the ensemble otherwise.

Now, the bow, the bow was a royal pain in the patoootie to tie and I am still not happy with how it turned out.  Thankfully, I made the decision to attach it to the skirt with a safety pin before I made a more permanent decision.  The pattern actually calls for attaching the bow to the blouse and that's what I did initially, but I found that the weight of the bow pulled on the blouse too much.  I pinned it on to the skirt and it was much better.  I hope to be able to make a prettier bow in the future.

I wore the outfit to the Downton Abbey tea, and what do you know, I won best "costume!"  I wore the dress with black tights and a pair of shoes that I bought at DSW a couple of years ago but have a definite 1920s vibe.  At the tea, I heard someone say "look at that, even her shoes are accurate!" It wasn't true, but it made me smile.

Unless I lose massive amounts of weight, I think I'm going to take this outfit to Costume College (I REGISTERED!!!!) as one of my day outfits for classes and the like.

Anglo-Saxon Female Peasant Outfit

After I made the green tunic from the previous post, I started to work on an outfit for me for the same event.  I actually had the pattern, La Fleur de Lyse MAR 1001, traced for about two months before I started, but between Christmas and working on other things I hadn't gone any further than tracing.  It is a different pattern from the green tunic but the construction is the same, except that this one does not have gussets.  Instead of gussets, the armcyes is much higher, and the sleeves attach at a 90 degree angle, more or less, giving excellent mobility without so much excess fabric. 

I went with the Peasant 1060 view but chose to sew the side seams on the outer tunic closed all the way instead of only to the hip.  I didn't add the contrasting bands either because I wanted to see whether I liked the outfit untrimmed, as it's supposed to be a peasant.  I like it but I'm not opposed to some embellishment.  I also decided against the wimple and veil, although I did make one of the short draping veils called for, and went with a rectangular veil like the one in the Peasant 1150 look.  This rectangular veil is period accurate so it didn't really matter.

When I first traced the pattern, I shortened the length of the long tunic a total of three inches, which included one inch above the waist.  When I made a muslin, which I"m glad I did, I realized that I STILL had to shorten at least two inches and raise the gores one inch so they would sit more on my waist and less on my hips.  For the outter tunic, which is made from the same body pieces, just with shorter gores and different sleeves, I shortened four inches and raised the gores yet another inch, for a total of two inches up from the original position and I liked it much better.

Because at this point I had made up three other tunics with the same construction, I put the pinkish tunic together in an afternoon.  I think it took me just as long to hand hem it than it did to sew the seams.  The blue tunic has a self-bias binding neck finish, the pink one has a folded in neck.  Depending on how the latter holds up, I may bias-finish it as well.

The Monkey wanted a piece of the picture action.

I wore this outfit for about fourteen hours straight at the event and I was very comfortable.  I did take off the veil because I was hot, and then because I was serving feast, but it was otherwise very wearable.  I will most definitely make more in other colors, perhaps with trimming or embroidery to make it less of a peasant outfit but still keep it comfortable.  I would also like to make other views of the pattern.  The pattern pieces went together very well and it was overall a pleasurable sewing experience.


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