Thursday, June 27, 2013

Impromptu Gulf Coast Bikini

Gulf Coast Bikini

It was the night before a quick trip to the gulf coast for a family reunion.  The swimsuit I was planning to wear was giving me muffin top.  All my other suits were a little too skimpy on the coverage for me to feel comfortable in front of family (not my family, but still).  It was ridiculous to think of making a new swimsuit, as it was already past 9:00 in the evening at this point and I was working in the morning and going straight to the airport from there.  Ridiculous!  But....muffin top!!  But it's late!!!  But....muffin top!!!!  OK, fine.

I didn't have any swimwear fabric in stash, so this is just a lightweight poly knit.  I'm not sure it can actually get wet, but I'm more of a dip my feet in kind of person than a swimmer anyway, especially when it comes to the murky bay water here.

I knew if I had any prayer of finishing before midnight I had to use TNT patterns I had already fitted and made zillions of times.  Jalie 2563 and my TNT panty pattern to the rescue!  Both of them have plenty of coverage and I knew they fit perfectly.  As a bonus, I had already traced each pattern as a full size piece (rather than place on fold), which was necessary for this symmetrical print.

Stretch Elastic to Fit Fabric

Not only did I not have any swimwear fabric, I didn't have any swimwear elastic.  I decided the quickest finish I could get that would look decent was foldover elastic.  Again, I'm not really sure this can actually get in the water.  I don't know how well FOE performs when wet.  I didn't really measure it, just left a lot of slack in the fabric around the curve of the bum so that the elastic would be stretched there, as well as a little slack along the front neckline of the top so it would hug the chest.

Elasticize Leg

For the panty leg, I thought it would be easier to stitch the elastic on before sewing the side seam.  It was easier, although didn't quite work out how I envisioned.  As I've mentioned before, I like to sew foldover elastic first to the wrong side of the fabric, then fold it over stitch to the right side.

Silly Mistake

Well, my lack of a 3D mind really screwed me here.  Who would have predicted that this would result in the seam allowance of the foldover elastic being on the outside?  ::rollseyes::  Oh well.  I wasn't going for perfection.\


The one area where I took great care was in cutting the fashion fabric.  I wanted to make sure that my print was perfectly symmetrical, and for once I think I got it as close to perfect as I am capable.  I am really happy with the print placement on these pieces.

Bust Cups
The final part of this project was sewing the bra cups in place while on the plane (I had pinned them in position and enclosed them between the outer fabric and the lining before sewing in the lower elastic band).  The cups are perfectly round (unlike an actual human bust).  I got them out of a RTW sport top I bought several years ago, in which they looked ludicrous.

I wasn't even sure why I was keeping them, but I was glad I had when I tried on the top.  (This is not good for my supply hoarding tendencies.)  The downside of a sport top is that there is no building up of the bust with ruching or gathering or ruffles or whatever.  Just a really flat chest.  The cups aren't so large that the top looks obviously padded, it just has the shape you'd expect a swimsuit top to have (a shape that I cannot supply on my own).  I can't believe that not only did I find a use for these cups, but they were absolutely perfect for the job!

All that and I made it to bed before midnight!  It is by far not my best work.  The join on the foldover elastic that finishes the armscyes and makes the straps is fairly terrible, and the fashion fabric and lining layers aren't perfectly aligned in the bottoms.

But really, nobody would notice these things except a sewist, who is not likely to be looking that closely at a swimsuit.  I felt comfortably covered but still stylish in my suit, and enjoyed sitting by the water!

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Vogue 8728, Vintage Ruched Bodice Dress

V8728 Thumbnail

I have had Vogue 8728 on my list for years.  In fact, two years ago (or was it three?) I altered the pattern and drafted a stay for the ruched upper front bodice, though I ultimately decided that in my lightweight fabric it was better to underline the piece than to do an un-ruched stay.  Every time I saw someone else make the dress, I was intensely jealous.  And yet, somehow I was never into sewing it up.  I really don't know why.  Finally, I decided the time had come!  The serger was threaded in white, and I am participating in the stash contest to move older pieces out.

Source: Trena on Pinterest

This pattern is a vintage reissue, though Vogue doesn't say from what year.  This photo popped up on Pinterest a while back, from a vintage shop (the dress has since been sold and is no longer on the website).  It looked rather familiar!  The Vogue is not an exact copy, but it was clearly in fashion when it was designed.

Mark Bias Lines

This dress needed self bias tape.  I always use this continuous loop bias tape tutorial.  It is a great method, but cutting apart the tube at the end is the worst part.  It is both tedious and nerve wracking, because I'm always afraid I'm accidentally going to to cut into the wrong part.

This time I had a flash of brilliance (though one that has been had before, I am sure!).  I made my parallelogram and marked off my two inch bias lines, as usual.  I find that a pencil marks well on almost all fabrics, and it doesn't matter that it won't come out because the only place there will be pencil marks is along the edges, which will be enclosed in any project.

Cut Along Marked Lines

Then, I used my rotary cutter to cut along my marked lines, leaving about a 2 inch uncut margin at each end.  You MUST do all your marking before you start cutting.  I think it would be fairly impossible to get accurate lines if you've started cutting the fabric apart.

Stitch Together Tube

Next, I sewed it into a tube as usual, offsetting the bias tape at one end so as to get the continuous length. Please refer to the tutorial linked above for a full explanation.  If you don't offset the ends, you will end up with lots of bias loops, not a continuous length.

Cut Apart Tube

Then I finished cutting along the lines.  My two inch margins were rather unnecessarily generous.  You could probably leave only 1 inch margins, though I am a scaredy cat and will probably still do 1 1/2.

I could not believe how much easier and quicker the cutting went.  It took a fraction of the time it would take to cut apart a solid tube.

Completed Bias Tape

Not only was it faster, it was also more accurate.  I always end up with skinny parts and fat parts when I cut apart the tube all at once, because it can be hard to see and follow the marked lines.  With this, so much easier!!!!  I will definitely be doing this from now on.

Skirt and Lining Separate Below Pocket

My polka dot fabric was very sheer, so I went with underlining rather than lining for the bodice.  For the skirt I did a hybrid.  I wanted pockets, and I didn't want the pocket bags to shine through the skirt.  I cut the front pocket bag out of white batiste, and the back out of the polka dot, so it wouldn't be *quite* so noticeable.

I treated the skirt and lining as one for stitching in the pocket.  Then I clipped into the seam allowances about an inch below the pocket, and stitched French seams in the two layers separately.  This gives the skirt a nicer flow than if two layers were hemmed together at the bottom, but ensures opacity for the pocket.

Bodice Piping and Bias Neckline

I added piping to the seam between the upper and lower bodice, using the tips and techniques shown here.  It just seemed like it needed it to echo the neckline. I did not invent this; I know somebody has done this on this pattern before.  I thought it was Joy of 21 Wale, but a quick look through Pattern Review isn't revealing it.  It rather disappears into my print, but it makes me happy to know it's there.

I lowered the front neckline by 1 inch, as it was unflatteringly high.  I think it could use a touch more.

Top of Zipper Below CB Neck

I took two HUGE darts in the back neck.  The dart width is 7/8", meaning each dart takes up 1 3/4 inch.  The back neckline was *ridiculously* gapey.  I do have a forward head and rounded upper back (aka terrible posture), but I don't see how anyone could wear that as drafted.  I kept making sure the shoulder seams were exactly on my shoulders and not falling to the back because I didn't see how it could possibly be that bad, but they were placed correctly.

To get a continuous bias finish at the neckline, I started the zipper a few inches below the neckline at center back.  The dress is not drafted with a CB seam, and it is designed with a side closure.  I prefer a CB zip, so I just cut the center back with seam allowance instead of on the fold.

Hand Stitched Armscye Hem

Because the bodice is underlined, I stitched the armscye hem to the underlining by hand for an invisible finish. This dress is meant to have shoulder pads and the distance from chest to shoulder is a bit tall.  I should have shaved it down.  The right shoulder was quite gapey so I took out about 3/8 inch of length at the shoulder, tapering to nothing at the neck.

I shortened the skirt 2 inches in cutting, and shortened it another two inches before taking a very deep 3 1/2 inch hem.  It is drafted long!


Three Quarters
I got this fabric in New York at H&M fabrics for $2/yard in November 2010, so it's been in stash for a while.  Along with the bodice lining (cotton batiste), I moved 2 3/4 yards of fabric out of stash.  And I finally have this dress! 

I like it.  I purposely left in a lot of ease at the waist.  A cotton dress on a hot day is a nice comfort.

The design of the bodice is a little weird. I assumed that the curve of ruched upper front bodice would cup the bust, but in fact it cuts across it.  For my small bust, this doesn't really matter, but it might look strange on a larger bust.

When I looked at these photos I was so confused, because my face is out of focus in all of them.  My camera has facial recognition, which is a pain the patoot when using the self-timer because it takes forever to "find" me.  I have to do gymnastics and position my face into every possible place in the frame before the self-timer catches onto my face and starts counting down.  It went suspiciously well when I was taking these photos.  Well, I'm pretty sure it was finding polka dot patterns it thought were my face.  I once attended a presentation on facial recognition and they showed a soccer team photo where all the players' faces had been detected, but also the soccer ball's "face."  At least the dress is in focus, right?

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

McCall 6069, Knit Cowl Dress

M6069 Thumbnail

More stashbusting!  It had actually been a really long time since I made an easy knit dress.  I had forgotten how quick and instant gratification they are!

I made M6069 for the first time in the turquoise polka-dot border print quite a while ago, in 2010.  I don't *love* that dress.  The double cowl is awkward to wear, and I made it a little too long but hemming it shorter would interfere with the border effect.  When I passed it up again last week, I decided it was time to rotate it out of the closet.  I contemplated my stash and ran across this polka dot knit that seemed the logical replacement.

I have a love/hate relationship with black and white.  I love the way it looks on other people, and any time I see someone in a really great black and white print dress I want to make one immediately.  But then when I'm getting dressed in the morning, I want to wear a bright color.  The thought of wearing funereal black, even with some white in it, is too much for me, especially right when I wake up (I am not a morning person).  I rarely wear my black and white pieces; I literally never wear all black.

This dress may have broken the spell.  I think the key for me is that the print is black-on-white; the larger proportion of white keeps it bright and fresh.  Prints that are white-on-black, with black the predominant color, feel too somber to me.  Of course, the first time I wore it I met some friends after work for happy hour and to watch one of their husband's band perform.  Of the six of us, five were in black and white.  I'm not kidding.  Two stripes, two polka dots, and one print.  I felt like a noncomformist, just like all my friends.

Silk Front
Silk Back

When I was packing for Portugal last Fall I unexpectedly found myself with time to make one more piece to go in the suitcase.  So I inventoried my packing plan and found that what I needed was a nice dress that would travel well but really sparkle at night and would be suitable for cooler weather.  I was surprised I didn't already have anything that fit the bill, but my knit dresses are generally pretty casual and my dressy dresses don't pack well.

This pattern came to mind, and I had some luscious silk jersey from Michael's Fabrics.  I used my TNT t shirt pattern to draft a plain back and made it up.  It came out gorgeous!  (If I do say so myself.)  The luxurious fabric, the saturated colors, the flattering shape.  When I finished it, I thought, "This casual elegance is exactly what I want for my entire wardrobe."   I don't know that I've managed to effectuate that thought, but I still love the dress.

Back Neckline Finish

Details on that dress are using the serger to attach clear elastic to the wrong side of the back neckline and then turning under and twin-needling for a neat finish, and cuffs on the sleeves (only because I didn't have enough fabric to cut the sleeves the length I wanted so I had to add scrap cuffs!).

When I drafted the back for the silk jersey version, I somehow made it an inch too short at the waistline.  WTF?  So I had to shorten the front to match.  This turned out to be a fortuitous error, as the dress is much more flattering on me with the waistline raised by an inch.  The sloppy waistline location is part of what I didn't like about the turquoise version.  So I retained that for this version.

Since I'd already drafted the back, it was really easy to make the latest iteration.  I finished in under four hours, and the only trouble I had was the shoulder length of the front and the back not matching up.  I was annoyed with myself for doing such a poor job of drafting the back piece.  Well, when I pulled the turquoise version off the hanger to put it in the giveaway pile I remembered that I was supposed to put some pleats in the front shoulder to take up that extra width.  D'oh!  The cowl lays fine without them, luckily.

Extended Cowl Facing

My secret for cowl necks is to extend the self-facing as long as you have fabric for. My ideal preference is for the facing to extend all the way below the armscye, but that takes up a huge amount of fabric and I didn't have enough here (and it would have required drafting the facing piece).  Here you can see how much fabric I added to this project.  I also caught the cowl facing into the armscye for an inch or two so it would stay folded toward the front.  As a result, the cowl stays firmly in place in wearing.  There is no chance of all of that fabric flipping to the outside. 

I used the flutter sleeve from Burda 03-2008-113 for a little shoulder coverage from the sun without any added heat retention.  To make it really easy, I didn't hem the sleeve.  This jersey is lightweight without much body, and the thought of trying to wrestle a hem onto the circular curve was too much.  The lower hem was easy, though, as it is on the crossgrain and I used a line of dots as a guide to get it perfectly straight for my twin-needle hem.

Badge Loop

I added a badge hanging loop to the waistline.  I am so into this right now!

B/W Side
B/W Back

The downside of the black-on-white print is that the fabric is slightly sheer.  I lined the skirt part only with tricot from Golden D'Or in Dallas.  The front bodice is essentially self-lined with the long cowl and with a flesh-tone bra the back bodice doesn't show anything.

This isn't super-old stash, but it's been lurking around for 3 years.  I got it from in May 2010.  In all, I used 1 3/4 yard black and white polka dot and a little over half yard (0.58 yard) of the tricot.

I'm so happy with this little dress!  I don't think it will get passed over like its predecessor, and I already know the style travels well.  I just need someplace exotic to take it...

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.


Dangit!  Missing Fabric at Side Seam

I used up all the full length yardage, which is the criterion for the stash contest (as I understand it).  But I had enough scraps left for 2 pairs of panties.  Or so I thought, until I looked at the bottom layer front piece.  You can see at left that there was a big divot in one of the side seams.  Curses!

I contemplated for a moment.  The missing part was too large to absorb into the 1/4" seam allowance of my perfectly fitted custom pattern.  Time for a random lace insertion!

Stitch on Lace Insertion

I put the scalloped side of some stretch lace over the side with the jagged seam line, extending about 1/2 inch beyond the missing fabric.  I zigzagged over the scallops, and then trimmed away the polka dotted fabric underneath.

Trim off Lace Insertion

Next, I laid the pattern back over the piece and trimmed away the lace, leaving a perfectly shaped piece of fabric.  I constructed the panties as usual.

After all that, I truly did have only scraps remaining.  Well, scraps, a cute dress, and two new pairs for the drawer. The only downside of these is that it amuses me greatly to wear unmentionables I've made out of leftover fabric with the dress they match, but I'm afraid these will show through the skirt, despite my tricot lining. So I have to wear them with unmatching clothes. *sigh*

Unmentionables from Scraps

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Raspberries and Cream Crochet Lace T-Shirt Dress

Raspberries and Cream Thumbnail

It's stash busting time!  PR's Fabric Stash contest started at midnight on Friday night (so, Saturday, June 1).  What better way to stash bust than to sew up double layer projects?  I have at least 3 planned.  This is the first, using my TNT tee pattern as I did for my striped sweaterdress.

Lace is still hot!hot!hot! for summer.  I love that it is sticking around so long.  This one is Elie Tahari ($598), showing a contrast color underlayer.

Source: via Trena on Pinterest

Here's another one from BHLDN ($420), in a swingy A line shape.

I use the stash contest to try to use up older pieces that have survived multiple purges and yet still linger.  The lace is the elderly stashbusting here, I got it on the G Street $2.97/yd table over 4 years ago in 2009.  The underlayer is a mere two years old, an athletic knit I got from FFC in 2011.  It has a waffley texture and is fairly sheer, so it really wasn't good for much.  I made a top from it for my bike trip to the Netherlands, with a self-lined upper bodice, but it's just not that good.  The fabric doesn't stretch much and is fairly ugly.  However, it's the perfect underlayer for a summer dress!  It gives a pop of color to the otherwise bland lace, and will be nice and cool for hot days and nights.

I stayed up late and starting laying out my pattern and cutting at midnight.  I am more than a little proud of how completely plumb-accurate the motif of the lace falls at center front.  Not bad for the witching hour!

The back does not have the satisfying precision of the front with the CB seam, but it sits perfectly over the swayback.  I'd rather have the perfect fit than the perfect line, I think. I will go in and try to take out that weird bagginess below the butt, having seen the photo.

Stabilize Shoulder Seam

I sewed the CB, side, and shoulder seams of both layers, stabilizing the shoulder seams of the lace, and then went to bed.  I was beat and in no condition to tackle sleeves! For stabilization I used some stretchy jersey strips kindly sent to me by Yoshimi the Flying Squirrel. I usually use ribbon, but I thought it would be too stiff for my lace.

Unflattering Long Length

I added a little width to the side seams of my TNT as I was going for a shift shape rather than a skin-tight fit.  The hemline is *key* to wearing a shift.  Most of my skirts and dresses hover right around the knee, but this style must be fairly short or it is dowdy city.  I wish I'd thought to take a picture before I hemmed the underlayer, but even with just the lace layer you can see that this does my figure no favors at knee length.  Take off a few inches, and it becomes a thousand times more flattering.

Inside Out to Trim Lace

To trim the lace to the proper length for the hem, I found it easiest to put the dress on the dress form inside out, and then trim the lace as it was hanging down below the hem of the underlayer.

I constructed the two layers separately, treating them as one at the armscye for setting in the sleeve and at the neckline.

Tea Dyeing Foldover Elastic

To finish the neckline and sleeves I used foldover elastic.  I had some beige, but it was too dark, so I tea-dyed some white instead.

I steeped 2 tea bags in 1 cup of boiling water for 5 minutes, then removed the tea bags.  The first batch of elastic I dyed for 5 minutes and it came out way too dark!  The second batch I did for 1 minute, and it was the perfect match for my lace.  My FOE shrank during this, which was good to know because now I will pretreat all of it.

Topstitch Outside of Foldover Elastic

I did my usual method of applying FOE:  lay the wrong side of the FOE over the wrong side/inside of your edge, aligning your fabric edge juuuuust below the fold.  Zigzag.  Moving very quickly, because if your iron lingers it will melt the elastic, and press and steam the elastic at the fold over to the right side.  Use the blind hem foot and move the needle one click to the right, and topstitch on the right side.  My elastic didn't need to stretch, but if it does, you can stretch while sewing the topstitch, and/or use a slight zigzag to get more thread in there.

Strips of Sol-U-Film

I decided against FOE for the hem, thinking that it would be too stiff.  When I first sewed elastic the width of the sleeves on the sleeve hems and ended up with sputnik arms, my suspicion was confirmed.

Serge Sol-u-Film into Hem

I sampled a couple different methods for finishing and decided to go with washaway stabilizer film, serging, turning under, and zigzagging.  Without the stabilizer, I couldn't get a really narrow turn under; I wanted it to be just the width of the serged edge.  It also made zigzagging the turned under hem a million times easier (though I still had to use the walking foot).  The washaway stabilizer does not like to be pressed, but I was able to use the iron--be sure to turn off the steam or you'll have a gummy mess on your hands!

After I stitched the hem I soaked it for 30 minutes and the stabilizer dissolved.  Do not try to skimp on time, because again--gummy mess.  I wouldn't do it in the washing machine either, at least not with other items.  I don't want the dissolved stabilizer stiffening the other things in the wash.

The only challenging part of this project (other than having to rip the elastic out of one of the sleeves THREE times; there was some bad language coming from the sewing room and this added about two hours to what should have been a fast and easy project), was remembering to change the settings on the serger when switching between the raspberry and lace layers.  For the lace, I used a short stitch length as I needed a lot of stitch density to create fabric in the air between motifs.  However, that much thread in the underlayer would have made the seams too stiff.  I also needed a lot more differential feed for the lace.


I am delighted to have these two pieces out of stash!  And I somehow found a project that used up all of each piece.  I am always having small amounts left of everything, just enough for a tank top or a pair of underwear or a hat or whatever thing I don't really want to make but "should."  The raspberry knit has only shreds remaining, and the lace is not enough for anything, not even a tank top.  Two yards down, another thousand or so to go...

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.