Wednesday, April 9, 2014

My Mission (Maxi) in Life

I present you with my Jamie Christina Mission Maxi:

And while I'm at it, let me tell you something about getting older and birthdays.  They're better.  Much better!!  And here's why:  instead of just buying my kids birthday presents, my grown kids actually get me birthday AND Christmas presents.  Well, one does because waitressing in college can be fairly lucrative.   She'll graduate on time this May WITH a job so I expect those presents to keep coming lol ;) .

Toward the end of last year, I was gifted with this awesome purple/grey snakeskin ITY from Spandex House in NYC by my oldest daughter.  So pretty and funky!   I loved it but couldn't quite decide what to make with it.  It sat around for a few months aging gracefully until I saw a pic of my daughter with her friend who was wearing a RTW ArdenB dress shown below left.  I fell in love with the style and color blocking and knew exactly what to do with the snakeskin print.

The question, as always, is determining the best way to approach making a RTW knockoff.   First thing to do is to either draft from scratch or modify a pattern.  My go-to pattern for this cute little number is my beloved Jamie Christina Mission Maxi dress pattern shown at right.  I've made this dress so many times for myself and my daughters in various styles, lengths, as tops, etc.  It is a workhorse of a pattern, truly a must-have for me.  I can't say enough good things about it.

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Pattern Photo Source:  Jamiechristina.com
The second question is to determine what modifications are necessary to recreate the knockoff style.  The only true modifications were to add princess seams and determine a hemline.  (Psst:  Always make your vertical seam allowances 1".  It allows for easy tweaking and is especially helpful if you are using a knit that  isn't as stretchy as you'd like.)  The neckline was already round and scooped which works for me. It is the best choice given my facial shape.  V-necks are not as flattering as scooped necks (for me) unless the V is particularly low highlighting the "assets" if you KWIM.
Photo Source:  ArdenB website

In addition, I chose a hemline near my leg "indent" as well as pegging the side seams to create a more flattering and slimming silhouette.

Overall, I love this dress.  It's great for a night on the town in the summer, or I can wear it to work with a flowy, long-sleeved cardi to avoid showing an excessive amount of skin.

And while on the subject of knockoffs, I'll leave you with a dress I made for my oldest daughter which was inspired from a Balenciaga dress she pinned on her Pinterest board.  Which pattern did I use to recreate it?  The Jamie Christina Mission Maxi dress, of course!!!  Told you it was a workhorse :) .  Here it is.   My daughter's Balenciaga-inspired dress is on the left (Spandex House fabrics again--love that place!) and her friend with the ArdenB RTW dress which inspired me. 


Stay tuned for changes in my sewing life.  Happy Sewing!!!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Playing "catch-up"! Part I

Did you ever have so much to do that you let the little details slide?  I'm sure you have because, well, who hasn't.  The little details that I have let slide are blog posts.  So...instead of doing a blog post on several of my projects I've completed throughout the year, I'm going to do a single write-up about my sewing endeavors the past several months. 

Let's start with Spring!  Think fresh and pretty.  My inbox was inundated with emails from my daughters with comments such as, "I like this dress!" or "Make this one."  We narrowed down the choices to these lovely creations, a beautiful ArdenB and a dress from an unknown source.



One of the things I love about sewing is taking an Internet pic or something that has a high price tag and see how low I can go in regard to price.  Sometimes I'll splurge and buy some really wonderful fabric from a NYC store, other times I'll snag some yardage at Walmart.   The other part of the challenge I love is to see how closely my garment can be copied from the inspiration pic.

Overall, I think I did pretty well!  The one at the left hasn't been worn yet.  My oldest daughter is hoping to wear it to an event in the Spring of 2014.  I'm hoping to get a pic, but here it is in a pic comparing it to the original.  Sure wish my camera was available to snap a pic during a fitting but oh well.

One of her first comments during the final fitting was, "Wow!  This looks just like the original."  Yes, it sure did :) .  As for the price point, I believe the ArdenB was well over $200 which is too high for a poor, college student's budget.  I made it for a whopping $20.  Seriously.  The chiffon was purchased via an online sale (probably fabric.com), and the sequin fabric was a found at Walmart in their prom dress fabric section.  The sequin fabric is definitely not high quality by any means along with being somewhat sheer, so I backed it with a medium-weight cotton muslin to beef it up.  Cost of sequin fabric?  $2.14.  Cotton muslin?  About $6. 

I call this a disposable dress.  It's not meant for more than 5 or so wearings, but with a dress like this that doesn't seem to be a problem. The style certainly is not for everyday wear.  The chiffon can be removed and reused for something else.  In fact, I'd remove the lining with the boning and reuse it for another dress.  So why did I even bother to make it?  It was pretty much the Halloween costume principal.  Make something perfect for the occasion and then move on.  It's just that the occasion hasn't happened yet lol.  It will, though, and I hope to get a nice pic of the dress being worn.

Moving on to the dress from the unknown source.  My younger daughter wanted this dress for one of her college events.  I had black pleather in my stash along with some flesh colored knit and black lace.  I purchased one more piece of lace to pull a copy together of this dress.  Was I able to accomplish a RTW clone?  You betcha!  Here is her dress on my dress form.

 
 
This was another "Wow!"  My younger daughter was amazed at how much it looked like the inspiration pic.  You think she could have thanked me with a pic of her in it?  She should have but didn't :( .  Oh well.  Live and learn.  Make sure to get pics of them in it with the threat of never making anything else for them ever again :) .
 
A few more requests were sprinkled in here and there over the next few months.  This was a leopard-print cardi I made for my younger daughter.
 
 
 
And then there was a spring semi-formal dress made for my older daughter from my fave vintage Butterick.  Again, this is the best pic I have of her in the dress which isn't the greatest.  I also created a lace-up corset back for this dress which was beautiful (one gentleman on the city streets asked her if she was a doll lol  :)  .  She is on the right in pink.  She loved the dress, and just a few weeks ago was asked by one of her sorority sisters if she could borrow the dress.  Too bad she spilled wine on it, but I'm going to see if I can get it dry cleaned and maybe the stain will come out.  Luckily, this was another one of those "disposable" dresses with Walmart fabric because this girl will take care of a dress until she wears it.  After that, it may never see a hanger again lol.  It sure did look lovely though.
Moving on to skirts.  Stay tuned for Part II.
 
                                                                                                                                                                                 



Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Ridiculous USPS 2-day Priority Mail Ordeal


I have to post this.  Simply because I sent out two more packages via USPS yesterday for one of my daughters, one of which is a replacement package of homemade healthy snacks (gluten free and sugar free) which means ingredients that sound like "Cha Ching" and a Priority envelope with her jeans.  Ingredients such as chia seeds, hemp seeds, almonds, etc., are more on the expensive side and let's not even talk about the cost of a custom, made-to-fit pair of jeans I made for her which earned a Blue Ribbon at our local fair.  

On September 9, I sent out a box of healthy treats via USPS 2-day Priority Mail with a scheduled delivery date of September 11, 2013.  Here it is September 17, and it's still not there!  No, it is NOT being sent across the country.  Its destination is a 2 hour, 45 minute drive from my house or thereabouts.  Less than 150 miles!  It left our local facility, traveled to another facility, traveled backwards to another facility, and now is transferred back to the second facility.

I paid $10.35 for my 2-day Priority package.  After 3 days with no delivery in sight, I went into a different post office to inquire about the package.  The counter clerk was most unsympathetic and commented, "Well, 2-day is not a guarantee."  I went back to the post office from which it was mailed and another unsympathetic clerk told me my package must have missed a scan and said, "...it happens.  Your package is wherever."  What?!?!  My package is "wherever??  So much for tracking.  So much for 2-day Priority.  I'm still tracking the package, and eventually I'll post a pic of the tracking details once it reaches its final destination. 

Yes, I will have to file a claim to get my money back.  All the food has spoiled with the exception of the homemade almond butter.  The food was able to last up to 4-days without refridgeration, and now about 80% of the package is not edible.  Priority mail includes $50 of insurance.  Now as for the two packages I sent yesterday?  Yes, I'm tracking them.  No updates yet, but they left our local post office around 4:30 yesterday. 

Will my Blue ribbon jeans make it to their destination?  We'll see.  What really sucks about this entire situation is there is no one to complain to.  There are no people who can actually check the status and find the package at the facilities.  There is no accounting for the mismanagement of delivery.  And I'm still out the $10+ for postage.  Essentially, I paid for sh**service that still has not  been completed.

The point of this post?  The 2-Day Priority Mail option is bogus.  You are left with praying because USPS simply doesn't give two hoots about when your package gets there even though you have paid for a premium service.  One clerk actually told me I should send it via the Overnight option.  I wanted to yell back at him, "So does that guarantee me delivery in 7 days for more than double the cost?!?!"  No thanks.  The only excuse you will get from the counter postal clerks is, "It isn't guaranteed."

Thanks.  Thanks a lot USPS.  Thanks for NOTHING!!! 

Caveat Emptor.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

I Did It Again!!!

And I'll do it again and again and again! 

I previewed my first version of the Jamie Christina Mission Maxi dress in this post I wrote up earlier today and decided to write a post of my second version I finished a few days ago.  Here it is:


I got the idea to mix and match some black/rayon lycra and stretch lace in my stash to create this Jamie Christina maxi dress last month.  I love this version as it is just a "little bit sexy" with it's lacy bottom half.  It shows some pretty, peekaboo leg but I have to find just the right kind of shoe to wear with this dress. 

Any suggestions, people?  I'm open to options for shoes.  I've been looking but can't find any I like to wear with the dress.

I'd like to thank my oldest daughter for the rayon/lycra.  She went in to NYC last month and purposely stopped at Spandex House to buy me a belated Mother's Day present of fabric.  She chose this along with some purple snakeskin ITY I was lusting after on the website.  The stretch lace was purchased from Spandex World.

For alterations or changes, click on the link above in the previous post.  The only changes I made on this one were:

1.  The obvious--splitting the pattern into two pieces and adding seam allowances for the top and bottom of the dress.

2.  Tightening up the waist side seams.  Rayon/lycra hangs differently (more drape) from cotton/lycra and it had more stretch.  The dress was actually a little big in the waist.

3.  The lace hemline was serged using a normal 4-thread serger seam.  No turning under, just a serged edge.

That's it for now.  I foresee a club-style short version of this dress for my oldest daughter in the near future.

Stay happy, keep sewing!

Jamie Christina Mission Maxi

There are patterns, and then there are PATTERNS!  This is a blog post which is a big shout-out for the Jamie Christina Mission Maxi pattern.  I LOVE THIS PATTERN!  Did I mention I love this pattern?  Yes, I do!!!  Every couple of years there's a pattern that I can absolutely rave about it, and this one is it.

Here it is:

I was totally sold on this dress when I saw Deepika's version around the time this pattern came out.  Hers was absolutely outstanding, then every subsequent review was just as fabulous.  Before making this dress, I looked at every PR pattern review.  Working with an independent pattern can be tricky due to sizing.  I ended up making an 8, which is 35 Bust/26.5 Waist/35.5 Hip which worked out great.  My measurements are about 35.5-36 FB/27-27.5 Waist/ and 35 hip.  I did whip up a quick top from this pattern to ensure the fit was good, and it was.

I was forewarned about too narrow straps and a low neckline from pattern reviews so I raised the front neckline about a 1/2" and made sure the finished straps would be 1" wide.  I also lengthened the pattern several inches which probably wasn't necessary since I ended cutting off a few inches (I'm about 5'7"), but it's definitely better to be safe than sorry.

Let me talk about the binding technique for the armholes and neckline.  I love the technique used, and it's like "Duh!  Why have I never thought to do it this way???"  So easy, and it produces professional results.  I do want to note something that I always do to necklines and armholes like the ones found on this dress:  I stretch the binding just a little while attaching to the dress and pin.  My younger daughter asked how much (she's a beginning sewer).  Can't tell you exactly, it's all in the "feel".  When you've been sewing as long as I have, how much to stretch is instinct.  Then I stretch as I sew the binding to the edges so both layers fit.  This way, there is no worry about a gaping neckline or armholes.

I used a teal cotton/lycra from Spandex World in NYC (www.spandexworld.com) which was a nice weight--not too beefy, not too thin.  Actually, it might be too heavy for 90+ degree days, but it's fine and comfortable for temps under that.

Shoes and accessories?  Wow.  I had nothing but black to coordinate with this pretty teal color so I googled a color wheel to find the opposing color which was a nice orange shade.  I headed out to AC Moore and found some nice round, orange beads and made two stretch bracelets, then picked out orange ribbon to embellish some brown sandals I picked up at Kohls.  Kohls did have some great orange, jewel embellished flip flop type of sandals, but of course, they were not in my size :( .  Sometimes a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do and make her own.  I'm showing off my bracelet and shoes in the left pic :) .


The back of the dress is a typical racerback.  Boy, I sure had a hard time finding a nice racerback bra this summer.  Don't know what happened to the one I bought last year, but I had to settle for one that isn't nearly as comfortable as my MIA bra.

So the verdict?  A super comfortable, stylish dress that can be dressed up or down.  It's relaxed, yet dressy.  Great for a casual barbeque or a dinner at a quaint restaurant.  I love this pattern, and am going to make a few more dresses from it as well as tops.  I'll modify the back to create a regular tank style as well.

Stay tuned for my second Mission Maxi dress!  I'm loving Version 2.0 just as much as this one.

Be happy, keep sewing!







Monday, July 22, 2013

The Surprise of McCalls 6326

Here is one my recent sewing projects, McCalls 6326. The pattern has several style options which are really cute, and I loved the version with the neck strap.

I really liked the way it turned out and think this is a great pattern, but...I had to do a LOT of pattern alterations to get this one to fit.  I read all the pattern reviews and some said it fit great, a few said it was very big.  I'm in the "very big" camp.  I made a 10 at the neck and shoulders and a 12 from full bust down.  This usually works quite well for me.  It ended up being so large that I had to take at least 3" or more out of the mid-back, created darts at the front chest which can't be seen due to the print, as well as creating small darts on the band which goes around the neck.  I'm pretty sure I took a good deal off the band which goes around the neck as well.  Really, I'm wondering if an 8 would have fit.  I've never used a size 8 pattern before, but I found the draft to be immense on me. 

In addition, the horizontal front seam was way too low.  It look terribly odd on my figure, so I removed an inch of length at the CF tapering back to the original seamline at the sides.  This looked so much better!
The fabric used was a nice, stretchy knit purchased from Spandex House or Spandex World in NYC.  I also used this fabric for my dress entered into the PR Knockoff contest this past Spring shown here.  Is it possible this fabric had too much stretch?  Maybe.  If I made the same top in a cotton/lycra knit, perhaps I would not have had such extreme sizing issues.  Therefore, I can't place true blame on the draft unless it is made up again in a knit with less stretch.  Every knit stretches differently, and that could make a big difference in fit.

Now let me talk about how the top feels.  Love the look, don't like the feel of the strap going around my neck.  I've never particularly cared for the feel of halters, but I do like the looks of those too.  That's just a personal thing and no reflection on the pattern. 

Will I make this pattern up again?  Probably, but not in the same style.  I really like the single strap, pink version shown in the pattern photo above.  However, I WILL do a quickie muslin for fit purposes. 

Overall though, the top was a success, and I really like it paired with my black leather mini.  Probably will wear it out to dinner and after a glass of wine, I'm sure that neck strap won't be bother me much at all lol. 

I leave you with a pic of one of my sewing sweethearts.  Yes, he is a gloriously nudey, super-friendly and loving Sphynx boy.  He's always on top of my new Elna 740, and is a much better camera model.  What is it about cats and boxes and cats and sheets?  Whenever I put up my sheet as a backdrop, both my little boys come out to play and sometimes take the whole thing down!
They're lucky I find them adorable and irresistible!

In conclusion, McCalls 6326 is a great pattern which includes several styling options.  But do your homework first, as in sewing up a muslin so you have no fit surprises.  I don't know what it is with McCall's lately, but I'm loving their pattern styles.  There are some cute, hip options that I like, and more importantly, ones my daughters like and their older teen/early 20-something age group is mighty hard to please.  I hope McCalls keeps some trendy Bebe and ArdenB style patterns coming to inspire the younger generation to sit down and sew.  I'm doing my part by encouraging and teaching my younger daughter to sew, and it's time for the pattern companies to do theirs.

Keep cool and keep sewing everyone!  We're only halfway through summer where I live so there are a number of summer garments needing to be stitched up.  Stay tuned for some great maxi dresses I just finished this past week and some maxi skirts I'm working on for my oldest daughter.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Talented Teenage Seamstress!

(Note:  Lots of pics in this post :) !)

I've waited a LONG time for this moment.  Far too long.  How I could have given birth to two daughters who expressed no interest in sewing I'll never know.  I tried to get them interested when they were 8 and 10 with sewing lessons at a local shop, and although they did make nice, fleece tops, they didn't get bitten by the sewing bug. 

I was a virtual pariah to them in middle school and high school.  It wasn't until my oldest daughter's Junior prom that I suddenly became a little important.  Gradually, I started become more and more important to the point where they actually wanted me to make knockoffs of clothes they pinned to their Pinterest boards.  I happily obliged.  The only problem was their requests went from nothing to everything in what seemed like overnight.

This summer my younger daughter arrived home from college and was doing a lot of sitting around on her laptop (looking at Pinterest of course) when she wasn't working.  I told her she could get a lot more accomplished if she actually made some of the clothes she was dreaming about.  In fact, she replied, "That's what I have you for."  ;) .  So it took me by surprise (that's actually an understatement) when she announced a few days later that she wanted to sew some tops for herself because I'm "too slow" lol.  If only there was nothing for me to do all day except hang out in my sewing studio, right?  If only I had a maid...

Let me tell you, she is a fine, young seamstress!  She is ambitious, easy to teach, and never was intimidated by a sewing machine.  Perhaps it was her early training as an 8-year old or maybe always seeing me at my machine.  Could be a little of both.  She had tons of ideas, looked at fabrics she wanted, and she drew out sketches as per my request of each top that was in her head along with the type of fabric being used.  She logged hours looking at fabric (a girl after my own heart :) ) and filled the website shopping cart. 

Here are all the tops she has made as well as her first getting-acquainted-with-the-machine projects. She created custom Greek letters in her choice of fabric, adhered them to the RTW tees with Heat N Bond, then zigzagged around the perimeter of the letters: 

 (My apology for these not being in order.  Blogger was being very uncooperative with picture placement.)

2nd tank where she learned about stretch %

1st tank with front darts for a better fit
5th tank with front V-neck that is hard to see.



4th tank with back darts for improved fit
3rd tank in lace w/ FOE and serged rolled hem.
6th tank, her best one yet with custom flounce.

1st Greek Tee


5th Greek tee
 
2nd Greek tee
Her Luck-of-the-Irish 4th Greek tee

3rd Greek tee.  We both love the leopard print fabric.




 
We decided to use the Jamie Christina Mission Maxi pattern as the basis for most of the tops.  She tried on the Maxi top I made for myself and liked it but wanted it to be a looser, flowy fit at the bottom.  I performed the necessary pattern modification and voila!  Her pattern was born.  She has learned so many things including:
  • Selecting knit fabric types like rayon, cotton/lycra, stretch and non-stretch lace along with appropriate needles
  • How to use the rotary cutter and mat and make markings
  • Review of fabric selvedge edges and importance of grainline or rib alignment
  • How to utilize the features of a top-of-the-line sewing machine
  • How to utilize a serger and a coverstitch machine.  (She's still not a fan of the coverstitch because it stitches too fast for her.)
  • Importance and use of the seam ripper, hem gauge, chaco pencil, tracing paper/tracing wheel
  • Seam finishes like a narrow hem, rolled edge, turn and topstitch, FOE
  • Pattern modifications for blocking and patternmaking design to make a flounce, adding circular fullness, lengthening, and designing a second back pattern for a choice of racerback and regular tank style.
  • Staystitching, basting, and reinforcing a point
  • How to stitch darts both fisheye and open-ended
  • Determining different stretch percentages of knits and how it affects fit
What hasn't she done?  Learn how to properly read a pattern!  I'm not worried about this at all.  By the time we actually choose a Big 4 pattern to use, the directions will seem like a piece of cake and just a rehash of all the info she is learning.  In addition, she is learning how to sew with knits right from the start.  What I will never understand is how some people fear knits.  She doesn't understand this either.  Knits have certain challenges, but they're much like wovens in that you need a particular needle, a walking foot helps, and having a straight stitch plate (like my Elna does) really, REALLY helps.  The straight stitch plate is da bomb because it prevents flimsy fabric from being gobbled up under the needle plate. 

Yes, she does have it made.  One-on-one tutoring by me.  I'm there for every problem, every question, and explain the ins/outs, why's/how's of every technique she is learning.  But she brings some very special qualities to the sewing table:  ambition, motivation, good planning and follow through.  She "says" she doesn't really like to sew, it's just that she needs, or rather wants, clothes.  However, she seems to be taking a decent number of pics of the tops she is making and sending the pics to her friends.  She accidentally left her phone by my machine last night, and her friend responded back with an enthusiastic comment about her most recent top.  Why she doesn't want to admit it, I don't know.  I guess that would mean that Mom is right--sewing is fun!  And we certainly wouldn't want anyone that think that Mom is (GASP!) right.  That is so uncool.  I laughed at her when she said she would stop sewing if I posted a pic of her on my FB page.  I did anyway, but only of her hands creating her flounce pattern lol. 

Anyway, I am a very proud mom! So proud that at times I feel like I'm ready to burst.  It has been a long time waiting for a sewing seed to sprout, and it not only has sprouted but is growing at a fast and furious rate.  In fact, she wants to go fabric shopping in NYC next month.  How cool is that?

So, I leave you with hope.  Hope that our favorite young ladies who say the never want to sew may some day change their minds.  We have planted the seeds, and over time some may take root and blossom into a young generation of fine seamstresses.  We can only hope, but it takes time and planning.  "Sew" your seeds carefully and nurture with encouragement and a positive attitude toward the art of sewing.