To be a bit cliché, this shoemaker is a professional Web Developer and her child is this blog, but it was past time to launch what I have of a new design. All the content is still here, everything else is a work in progress (kind of like most of my sewing projects)!
I’m lusting after the new American Duchess carriage boots right now, in anticipation of winter and my denial that it is as long and as cold and icky as it probably will be. Of course, I’ll always long after impractical-for-every-day-wear Victorian boots instead of practical snow boots like the ones I have even if mine are boots with the fur and all.
In between bouts of covetousness, I realized I should mention my AD purchases this summer—one of the last pairs of ivory Gibsons (they’ve since reordered) and a pair of seamed stockings.
I swapped the ties out with ones I made using a bit of stashed blue silk dupioni.
My wedding dress was not remotely Edwardian, but it worked. The Gibsons rocked all night long, no cliché reception flip-flops required. And, I had the perfect excuse to skip the whole bouquet/garter throwing—my garters had a real purpose. Thank you, American Duchess.
Sometimes taking a break from something makes it all the more sweet when you finally return to it. That was the case with me and Tiramisu. Last spring, I fully intended on making a Tira for summer wear, but fell out of love with the idea after fitting the bodice. One thing lead to another, and I didn’t pick it back up again until now.
When my company subtitled the holiday party theme “wear white,” I decided it was the perfect opportunity to pick up where I left off and whip together a wearable muslin (since white doesn’t stay that way for long when I wear it). Because I had two attempts at fitting the bodice under my belt from the spring, it went together quickly, and fits pretty well. The only additional modification I made was shortening the midriff section (perhaps too much) because I didn’t like where it hit on my body in the previous iteration.
It’s not perfect; the neckline needs attention since rather than doing an FBA, I just cut a larger front size which made the shoulders too wide and causes build-up around my neck. It’s not something that I will fix on this dress since it doesn’t bother me all that much, but when I find time to play with the pattern again, I will go the FBA route to see if that improves things. That said, there’s not much gaping!
I did a rolled hem on it which really doesn’t work so well in this heavier knit. I want to shorten it anyway, so I’ll cut that off and re-hem soon. Then, it has a date with a dye bath because the white just isn’t doing it for me. The stain-magnet properties aside, this is the kind of dress I don’t want to wear a slip with, but unfortunately have to in white. Considering how obvious the skirt seam is at center front, the pockets are almost invisible until I stick my hands in them! I loaded them down with wallet, keys, and cell phone, and it all just hid in the folds of the skirt.
So, despite the small fit issues and color, I really am in love with this dress. Now to choose a color to dye it! (Once I stop twirling…)
The fabric is a poly/rayon Ponte Roma knit from JoAnn Fabric (why yes, I bought the fabric four days before the party). It has a wonderful weight, and was very nice to sew. It’s also pretty warm; this isn’t a summer dress. I wore it to the party with Astorias and knee-high socks (8°F that night), then around town today with the pictured knee-high boots (26°F out), and was surprisingly no more chilled than I would have been in jeans.
The pattern is Tiramisu by Cake Patterns, an indie pattern company out of Australia. I love what Steph is doing with making patterns that are sized to real bodies, easily modifiable, and infinitely customizable. You can buy this and her other patterns from her Etsy shop, and her site, SewingCake.com is packed with advice and tutorials. It’s one of the few patterns cheap-skate me has purchased at full price and not been disappointed with—even when I was annoyed by fitting earlier this year (which was all me! She gave me very helpful advice, and the instructions are very clear). Once I get tired of Tiramisu, I may have to move on to Red Velvet!
I’ve been on a de-cluttering kick, and pulled this out of the back of my closet:
I made it in 2004 for my high school graduation. Yes, for some reason, we wore wedding gowns (tuxes for the guys) for the graduation ceremony. It’s a little too big for this dress form, but you get the general idea. The fit was actually pretty good despite the construction issues, believe it or not:
I was way into medieval stuff and LOTR, so fell in love with McCall’s 3861 at first sight. Somewhere along the line I decided not to make sleeves, so this was the result.
I’m pretty sure I cut corners all over the place to finish it in time. Such as this basting (maybe?) on the shoulders.
Half the hem was only pinned in, not sewn. Actually, I have a really bad habit about this on dresses. The difference is, I now know about hem tape. My regency gown is still waiting on a hem, too.
Then, there are the splitting seams at the underarm.
And, there’s no hook above the zipper (not to mention oddness at the zipper base).
So, it can’t be donated as is, and probably shouldn’t be anyhow because of poor construction elsewhere. It is also far too small for me now, so can’t be remade (at least, not with my imagination). Any ideas for what to do with it?
If you know of anyone that could use it for a drama production or something, I’m more than willing to part with it!
My project last week was to cut out and assemble a shirt based on the dress pattern Tiramisu from Cake Patterns. Why a shirt rather than the dress? I wasn’t in love with the fabric I had (a basic black medium-weight jersey from JoAnn Fabrics), and wanted to get the fit issues out of the way before cutting out a skirt. Mostly, I don’t need another crossover bodice black dress.
My first iteration didn’t go so well. I started with cutting out the size based on my measurements, but the front was a bit indecent (at least for work and family events).
This is my second iteration, using the next size up for the front pieces, which I went ahead and sewed up into a full shirt to wear for Easter morning.
It still has some fit issues in the crossover bodice, but overall, it gives pretty good coverage, doesn’t gape badly, and is very comfy. I love it from the underbust up.
However, as soon as I can buy more of the jersey, I’m going to rip it apart from the underbust down and make a few more changes. There are two major issues with the way I sewed this up as a shirt.
The first is the lower “skirt” part—below the midriff panel. I cut it with the stretch going the wrong way (down, not across), so it doesn’t stretch like it should, and could have also used an extra inch or two in width over the hips. Secondly, it is too long, but it’s also currently unhemmed, so that would be an easy fix if not for the stretch issue.
The most important issue is proportion. I am rather short waisted—especially when you factor in the visual imbalance of my chest. As a result, the wide midriff panel comes to my belly button, and with a seam lying there, it just throws off all the proportions and makes me look weird.
I’m trying to decide between two fixes: one is to remove the midriff panel all together, and just sew the base of the shirt to the crossover section. The other is to drastically shorten the midriff panel (like sew-along-er Melanie did), so that it is better proportioned. I think I’m going to do the latter for this particular iteration. I’d like to play around with doing the former in the future, but I would change the back to be all in one piece so there is no awkward, unneeded seam horizontally on the back.
I think if I can fix the proportions and cut the lower panels properly, this will be a great t-shirt alternative. There is more work that can be done for the chest fit on the pattern, so expect a second version of the top in the future, or maybe even a full dress.
The top’s not the only me-made article of clothing in the photo. The skirt is something I started about two years ago, but still haven’t finished (I wore it with a slip here, but it really needs to be lined for opacity). I’ve forgotten by now, but I think it is Simplicity 4188, made in a linen/rayon blend. I need to take in the waist a bit (even though I’ve put on weight since I made it) and chop a few inches off of the length in addition to finishing seams and adding the lining. It is supposed to be tea length (both by pattern and personal preference), but I’m so short that even with it hiked up to my natural waist, it reaches the ground when I’m barefoot. I never posted about it, since I never finished it, but I needed something to wear yesterday, so out it came (but I didn’t have time to fix the issues before we left town Friday night.
I think I’ll focus on fixing it up this week—it is a very nice skirt otherwise.
Costumes and I have an interesting relationship. I love the idea of them, but can’t seem to manage any sort of follow through. My sewing past is littered with half-finished costumes (Devil in a Blue Dress from a couple of years ago comes to mind). They become odd, unfinished creatures never to escape balled up stasis in dark corners.
I didn’t even bother starting one this year, and have no plans to dress up tonight. But, while searching the other day (unsuccessfully—where the heck did it go?) for a corset I made a few years ago, I came across one of my very first corsets that has somehow survived a few moves and purges.
I present to you Lulu’s Corset:
I don’t remember much about this corset, if it can be called that. I was 16, I think, when I made it, and going through a short phase of gaming mostly centered on trying to play Final Fantasy VII and the newly released Final Fantasy X. I decided that I wanted to be LuLu for Halloween that year.
Here’s Lulu (standing):
So, I started with the corset. The front is a textured woven of unknown fabric type. The back is pleather, which was also going to be the main fabric for the rest of the costume.
The lining is a rather nice menswear lining I found in my step-mom’s stash. There’s Ridgeline boning involved. And shoelaces. And hot glue to attach the grey ribbon, which says “Calvin Klein”—I really wonder how I got ahold of that.
And a cheap poly zipper closure.
In other words, what on Earth (or in Spira) was I thinking?
I’m not sure which pattern I used. If I had to venture a guess, I might say it’s a modified M4861 (the McCall’s “Renaissance” bodice/corset pattern), but I’m not sure that it was actually out back then. I might have (heavily) modified some other pattern of unknown origin, a strong possibility being the out of print Simplicity 5843 that I made (and finished!) the year before (the instructions for which I just found in a bag of ancient scraps), although that would be heavily modified, and I have no idea why I would add the side lacing to it.
Also, notice how it (sort of, in so much as it probably does anyone) fits? That’s current me modeling it. Either there is a whole lot of ease provided by the side lacing (possible, although it’s limited by the short shoelaces). Or, it never actually fit 16 y.o. me, seeing as I was about 40lbs lighter back then. Perhaps that is a clue as to why I never finished the costume. I vaguely recall working on the skirt, but whatever I accomplished there is lost to time (or possibly lurking in a dark corner of my parents’ closet, ready to attack at any moment).
I’d like to think that I’d make some better choices for construction now, but then again, it was a Halloween costume, so I suppose anything goes.
What horror stories do you have in your sewing past?
I was not at Quilt Market in Houston last week, but something I made was.
Perhaps you saw this:
or maybe this:
while you were there (on a person, of course, not my decrepit, listing dress form)?
It was a simple reversible wrap skirt made from this tutorial on Sew Mama Sew. The purple side is the cheater print from Asbury (available in January), the yellow is a print from Frippery (in stores now), and the waistband is another Asbury print, all by Thomas Knauer (who, incidentally, was likely wearing the skirt if you did see it, hint hint).
And, because I’m supremely lazy and technology-savvy, rather than draw out the pattern on paper like the tutorial suggested (which required finding my roll of craft paper, a straight edge, etc), I just mocked it up in real-size on the computer and printed it out. You reap the benefit: here is a downloadable pattern for a 34″ waist, approximately knee-length (20″) skirt. Well, if you’re 34″ waist ± an inch or two (it’s a wrap skirt, after all). Cutting instructions are included based on what I did. You’ll have to refer to Sew Mama Sew for the construction instructions, though.
I foresee a skirt or two of my own from this pattern in the future… I just have to decide what to make it out of—oh, the options!
With my sister’s graduation coming up, I realized that I need something dressy–yet–casual, and nothing in my closet fit the bill. So, since I loathe clothes shopping and love fabric shopping, I decided to make Simplicity 2245, view A—a Lisette dress.
As discussed previously, my goal for Halloween this year is to finish my costume that I planned to wear last year: the Devil in a Blue Dress. Once I’d settled on which blue-clad devil woman I wanted to protray for Halloween, I had to choose the exact costume. I’m quite in love with Vogue’s current-print retro patterns, but unfortunately not all of them come in a large enough size, or were sold out at the local store. I was rather pressed for time, so I needed some sort of modern pattern that would fit without too much muslin fiddling.
Ok, so once again this costume will go unfinished. Other projects (sewing and otherwise) have gotten the best of me. Of course, our plans for Halloween involve driving 7 hours, so I doubt we’ll do much more than watch a mildly scary movie and binge on some chocolate or something that evening. But, since I intended to post about the dress two weeks ago, here’s more information.
I ended up choosing a Butterick Retro pattern: B5281. It has the asymmetrical skirt piecing I was looking for, and sizing to fit me. I settled on the short-sleeved, view B.
Choosing the fabric was not as easy as you might think. There was a dearth of blue fabrics at the local store. I ended up with a poly/rayon faux silky fabric that actually works really well with this style, draping wise. It’s also not bright blue, but a dusty sort of muted one, which appeals to me.
So, as for progress, I’m approximately 75% finished with the dress. It needs closures on the yoke, a hem, shoulder-pad insertion and sleeves. If I feel especially productive, I will unpick the zipper and reinsert it. I did a terrible job the first time around.
And, because no 40s devlish-ly clad woman would go about without a hat, I picked up Vogue V7464. I am in love with view B; it’s just so… kooky. I have absolutely zero experience with millinery and didn’t even begin making the hat last year, beyond cutting, so it should be an interesting adventure.
To round out the costume, I’ll need to find suitable shoes. I’ve wanted to pick up 40s-inspired peep-toes for a while. I’m just hoping that the fad from a few years ago is still alive. And because a devil can’t be a devil without horns (ok, she can, but they’re just so symbolic), I have a small set of horns from the halloween store.
I’ve done the devil wearing a blue dress before, but it was sloppy thrift store+halloween store finds with no cohesive style thrown together for a small gathering. Looking back, there was nothing properly devilish about it (except that it was hellaciously bad dressing). Last year, I wanted to do it with élan: instead of just being a regular ol’ devil in a dress that’s blue, I wanted to put some effort into the look, choosing a specific style and going all out.
The question, however, was which blue-clad devil I wanted to portray. In my mind, I had two options: the Devil With The Blue Dress On as written by Shorty Long and William “Mickey” Stevenson in 1964 (and made popular by Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels in 1966) or the Devil in a Blue Dress as portrayed by Jennifer Beals in the 1995 neo-noir film of that name.
These two characters are quite different. The lyrics of “Devil With The Blue Dress On” describe the devil:
…Wearin’ her wig, hat and shades to match … high-heel shoes and an alligator hat … pearls and her diamond rings … bracelets on her fingers … Wearin’ her perfume, Chanel No. 5…
and based on the time period, we can infer an early-60s Motown-inspired costume.
The Devil in a Blue Dress, on the otherhand, is classic late-40s (1948, to be precise) film noir femme fatale. Be still my beating heart.
Either way, the character was going to be a fashionista—we do live in the era of The Devil Wears Prada afterall—but they are very different decades and realistically, I am in love with post-war 40s and early 50s vintage fashion and not so much a fan of Motown fashion. It’s just my personal preference, of course. So, Devil in a Blue Dress it was. And btw, I am in no way a fashionista. It’s me, mostly jeans and a t-shirt or hoodie all the way.
So, I started planning with that in mind, and even got so far as to start making the dress, but I didn’t finish in time. So, that’s where we’ll start tomorrow: the pattern, the progress, and what I need to finish up for this year.
One of my younger sisters is graduating from high school this weekend, so I’ve been working on packing for our trip. This seems like the perfect opportunity to wear a dress I bought last summer but haven’t worn. However, I need some sort of jacket or shrug for it, since it just has very thin straps and late spring evenings in MO can be fickle. Sounds like the perfect chance to put some black silk georgette in my stash to good use. Taking advantage of a $3.99 Vogue pattern sale, I picked up the stylish V8622 pattern, and decided to make view C.
This silk georgette is just barely transparent against the skin, and is a nice matte black
The pattern recommends for crepe or chiffon—in other words a sheer, flowing fabric. Georgette is a crepe fabric that is just a hair more opaque than chiffon, but has the same type of flowing, draping hand and is a little stronger, so I think it’s a great substitution.
I purchased five yards of 45″ black silk georgette a while ago with plans to make a little black dress. Since it’s been sitting in my stash for a while on account of my not having any suitable lining material (it’s just barely too sheer to self-line), I decided to sacrifice it for this project. The pattern calls for 3 1⁄8 yds. of 45″ fabric for the large size. The body of the pattern doesn’t use much more than 1.5 yds; most of the need is due to the bias cut for the pleated upper and lower parts. I managed to use closer to 2 5⁄8 yds. by slightly modifying the layout and cutting the cuffs separately instead of as part of the cross-folded main layout.
It was an adventure to cut out the pieces—the fabric was sliding all over the place and I don’t own a cutting table or rotary tools (soon, I hope, soon). When it came to the sewing part though, the georgette was surprisingly easy to work with. It wasn’t sliding around at all, although it did require some fussing with the machine tension and careful feeding so that it didn’t pucker along the seams.
The pattern and construction
This pattern is rated Average by the Vogue people, which is only one step down from their hardest patterns. I’d rate this particular view as Easy. It is by far the easiest of the three styles in the pattern, though. For the most part, the instructions and process for creating the pattern were very clear. The instructions even step you through creating the french seams needed with the sheer fabrics they recommend using. The pattern pieces clearly mark the pleats needed, and the instructions not only have you baste the pleat lines for easy pleating, but also clearly step you through the easing needed for the pleated section attachment.
How to make a french seam. A french seam is a traditional straight seam with the raw edges enclosed. They’re pretty straightforward: (working with a 5⁄8″ seam allowance)
Sew a 1⁄4″ seam with the wrong sides together. (This step creates a seam with the edges on the outside of the garment.)
If the fabric edges are ragged or raveling, trim them so that they are as straight as possible. It is very important that your allowance is no greater than 1⁄4″ at any point along the seam.
Press the seam allowance to one side.
Fold the fabric along the seam, with the allowance inside (right sides of the fabric together now). Press to a firm crease along the seam.
Sew the seam with a 3⁄8″ allowance. This will encase the first seam, giving a nice, smooth, finished edge on the wrong side of the garment.
Press the final seam to one side
The one major problem area in the instructions are the cuff attachment steps. The instructions tell you to create another french seam, but are ambiguous as to the proper side on which to sew the seam. I’m not 100% sure how they intended the seam to go, so I used my best judgment: sew the cuff seam on the opposite side of the garment than the other seams. This hides the seam inside of the cuff, which is blindstitched to the sleeve. Doing it in this manner helps the cuff hang correctly, and ensures you don’t have a pesky seam trying to fold down to the outside of the garment.
Unfortunately, since the instructions were so ambiguous, I started doing the first seam the same way as the others. Because I didn’t feel like ripping the start of the french seam out, the seams where the cuffs meet the sleeves are currently unfinished. I plan on overlocking those seams as soon as my machine is fixed (it refuses to pick up the bobbin thread of the needle is moved to the left, so I can’t do zigzags or overlocking stiches). Because that seam is well hidden by two layers of fabric on the front, an overlocked seam will be sufficient by my estimation. If I were sewing the shrug for someone else though, I would have removed the seam and put in a french seam. But hey, time is money, and I just wanted to finish at that point.
Also, don’t forget to pull out your basting stitches when you’re done. The instructions don’t bother to remind you.
The completed project
I’ll try to post a better photo when I wear it this weekend.
The result: a versatile black shrug/jacket thing in silk, which can be dressy enough to wear over a cocktail dress or casual enough to go with a strappy tank and nice jeans.
Project time & cost
I didn’t care much about cost in this project, since I was making the shrug mainly to keep from having to go clothes shopping (*shudder*), and to clean out some of my stash. But it ended up being a relatively cheap project:
$15.21—~3 yards of 100% silk georgette fabric that cost me $5.07/yd inc. shipping.
$ 3.99 + tax—Vogue pattern on sale.
$ 2.39 + tax—Gütermann silk thread (orig $3.99, but I had a 40% off coupon).
Total: ~$22.00 give or take a few cents for sales tax.
The entire project took me about 3 hours from start to finish, which wasn’t too painful.
Can sewing your own clothing really be cost-effective? is a question I’ve been mulling over lately. The answer is entirely relative. Is making my own stuff cheaper than buying clothes from places like Walmart/Target/Steve and Barry’s/Gordman’s (which is where a lot of my wardrobe is traditionally from)? No, not really. But it is cheaper than buying high-quality clothing. A quick internet search for a similar item turns up things like these:
The first shrug above is from Saks Fifth Avenue and retails for $150 online. It’s made of silk georgette and satin, and looks like it has nice french seams. It’s a decent substitute for the pattern I made, but costs almost 7 times more. The second image retails for about $40 from JC Penney. It’s made of a Rayon/Spandex blend and probably has overlocked seams. It’s on sale for $15 now, so cheaper than my cost, but I doubt the quality is very high. Not to mention, you can’t get silk at that price point. If I ever make this pattern again, I might take a cue from the Saks shrug and add the contrasting satin cuffs. Leaving off the pleated section and finishing that edge with a rolled hem would also be simple.
So is sewing my own clothing worth it? I think so, at least in some cases. I’m very tired of buying items, wearing them once or twice, and then having them fall apart from crappy quality. When I make something, I’m well aware of the quality of my product. In this case, my seams are french-finished, not serged, so I’m not going to end up with raveling seams. A cheaper shrug would surely be overlocked. Additionally, I know that stress points are reinforced. And best of all, I know it fits me without any additional modification, since I made it and fitted it to start with. That’s a lot more than I can say for most of the items I can purchase in stores.