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, 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, " 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 ( 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.

My Pride and Joy. Thanks, Annie!

Years ago (more like 3 decades+) back in the summer of 1980, I asked my grandmother if I could have her old Singer when she stopped sewing.  She laughed and said she had many more years of sewing ahead of her, but if and when she stopped she would give her machine to me.  She didn't have as many years as she thought.  Alzheimer's gradually robbed her of her impressive sewing ability, and that same disease robbed me of that old Singer which my grandmother gave away not remembering her promise to me.  It was more than a machine to me, it was a family legacy, and it hurt that it just "disappeared".  I remember asking her about it sometime in the mid/late 80's, and it felt like a gut punch when she said, "I don't sew anymore.  I gave away my machine."  It's tough.  You can't be mad at someone with Alzheimer's, but I sure was mad at that disease.

Kenmore Model 33, exactly as my aunt left it during her last project.
Fast forward to 2013.  My great aunt is having some serious health issues. My dad works hard at making sure all her things are taken care of like bills, her house, medical stuff, etc.  He puts in so many hours of work and travel and each one of us kids has gone to visit her at least once since her health decline.  She's not local, so it can be hard to plan out days for visiting.

Anyway, during my visit to see her my dad and I stayed at her house.  Of course you know I'm going to check out her sewing machine.  It was bittersweet.  Her machine was covered with plastic, but still set up on the most recent project she was working on.  She was replacing the elastic in a pair of pajama pants.  The new elastic was pinned to the waistline, the seam ripper still in place, machine was frozen in time.  A Kenmore 33 purchased in 1967 that she will never use again.

Kenmore Model 33, Manufacturing date:  1967
I felt the cold, smooth metal.  Lovingly ran my hands around the top and down the side to the handwheel, and down to the on/off button.  At first I didn't want to move anything, just savor the moment.  Then I picked things up and looked at them.  Her tomato pin cushion, wooden point turner, seam ripper, hem gauge, among other things.  I stitched a few stitches on her sample, looked in her basket, and opened a few drawers to look for accessories.

Annie's wooden point turner
Accessory Attachments and Manuals for Kenmore Model 33
I found a box of "gems" in one of her drawers.  An accessory box from 1968.  Price still on the receipt at $5.99 for the following all-metal beauties:

Buttonholer Attachment for Kenmore Model 33
I really thought that was it, and it was thrilling.  However, the next day produced another present--a buttonholer for the Kenmore 33 also purchased around 1968 with the $9.99 receipt still attached to it.  Honestly, I don't know if she used her accessories that much.  They looked brand new and in great condition.  These little beauties were all metal, some fairly heavy given their size.  My dad asked if I wanted to take the machine home.  Are you kidding me???  Of course!  I would give the machine a wonderful, loving home :) .  Although getting that heavyweight machine in and out of her house and into the car was another story lol.  Those old machines weigh a ton, are sturdy as heck, and just don't die.  I think they'd rust out before wearing out.

Metal Buttonhole Templates for Buttonhole Attachment.
When I got it home, I immediately took my machine to the "spa" where the tech gave it a great tuneup.  It now purrs like a kitten, stitches beautifully, and will be once again lovingly and properly cared for.  And the best part?  It's a family heirloom for me.  That legacy machine that I never got?  Well, now I'm happy because I did get a legacy machine.  My great aunt was a fab seamstress just like my grandmother.  Every time I use my "new" Kenmore 33, I'll think of her and thank her.

Annie in her heyday.  Christmas in FL, 1952.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

McCalls 6460, Version 2.0

If you read my blog (and God love you if you do because my following is near zero lol), you will remember this blog post about my first version of McCalls 6460 for my oldest daughter.  Let me tell you, I LOVE this dress, but her version was a bit on the short side for me.  So I set about making the same dress for myself with some fabric in my stash.  (More specifics on the pattern itself, my issues with design and construction, and specific fitting alterations can be found at the blog link above.)

Here is McCalls 6460, Version 2.0 for me, dear old mom:

The main dress fabric was a beautiful blue/black mystery fiber fabric that I picked up in NYC during Pattern Review Weekend 2007.  I have fond memories of that first PR Weekend trip meeting many new sewing friends for the first time in "real life" as opposed to hanging out in cyberland.  There must have been 2-3 yards of the fabric in my stash so there is plenty more for a fancy skirt or jacket, and it's possible to use the reverse side as well.  It's just as pretty, but definitely a different look.

The top part of the dress (fabric from shoulders to upper bust) was made with um...a sheer from Walmart. lol.  Sometimes it's really hard picking out the right fabric from the Internet, and on a trip to Walmart to pick up household stuff, I checked out the sewing department and found this fabric which was suitable for my dress.  The feel and shimmery look was spot on for the dress, although it's not an easy fabric to work with (think chiffon regarding difficulty).  Flimsy, flimsy, and it frayed like mad so I had to work fast. 

Again, one of the issues I faced on the back was how to handle the zipper, which was by omitting it entirely (on the upper bodice piece) and using a hook and eye.  More details on that can be found about that in my first version from the blog post link in my first paragraph of this review.

On this version for me, I took out an additional inch in CB length in the upper bodice of the flat pattern.  My daughter is shaped a little differently than me in the upper back so I tweaked a copy of the pattern to fit me.  This involved making a horizontal slash in the upper bodice pattern on the back piece from CB to mid armhole.  I overlapped the CB by an inch tapering to 0 at the side seam.  This improved the fit tremendously on me. 

I handpicked the center zip and added hot-fix crystals in the front main dress bodice piece where the seamline meets the upper bodice piece.  My preference was for a little sparkly bling (shown in the photo below) which would shine in the low-light of the Advent dinner that I was attending last December. 

The upper bodice piece edging was trimmed with some satin mystery fabric in my stash.  Perhaps it was the leftover fabric from my daughter's dress?  I don't know--it's been well over 7 months since making this dress.

Anyway, I leave you with at least one crazy lady pic from my dreaded photo shoots lol.  I'm a real jeans and t-shirt gal when I'm at home futzing around doing various sewing and woodworking projects as well as cleaning so photo shoots are always a big drain on my time and so NOT me.  I don't know how models do it. 

Anyway, I hope to update you with my second woodworking project soon--a sewing/craft table cut, constructed, sanded, painted, and polyurethaned all by my myself!  I'm really proud of it and am excited to share it on my blog.  It's a great addition to my kitchen and allows me to have a little sewing corner in the hub of my house.  Also, I've started a post on a new addition, my lovely little Kenmore Model 33 (manufactured in 1967) that I inherited from my great aunt, all with great accessories and in mint condition.  I'm very excited to share that post with you too.  And if I'm lucky and get enough time, I'll actually write the article that is in my head to submit to either Sew News or Threads. 

As always, sew much to do, sew little time!  Happy Sewing!!!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Beat 'em to it!

I'm sure there are many seamstresses out there like me who are one or two seasons behind the times fashion wise.  I never seem to make things when the pattern just comes out, it's always much later :( . 

However, my 19- and 21-year old daughters have been keeping me VERY busy this year.  They can't seem to see beyond many of the pattern styles and instead opt for looking at Internet pics and saying, "Mom!  Make me this, will you?"  Who am I to shy away from a challenge!  I've made some nice knockoffs this past spring which I have yet to review, but I present you today with a design that I sketched up and made into a dress specifically for my oldest daughter.  Here's the kicker:  the day after I finished, I saw a similar dress pop up on the Bebe website.  Ha!  I like to think I beat 'em to it :) .  For once I was not only on time, my creation was early.  At least it felt like it was.

Here is the dress:

Shown are a few front versions, followed by the back.  I sketched out this design on paper, then went about deciding how to create it.  For the upper bodice, I used Textile Studio's Santa Monica Tee pattern.  I LOVE that pattern.  Can't begin to tell you how many times I've used it for close-fitting tees, then modified the pattern into looser fit fleece tops, made some short-sleeve tees, used part of it for a dress a few years ago, and now used the upper part of the front and back of the pattern for the top of the dress.  I added princess seams on the front and back to create a molded-to-the-body look.  The black fabric used was a stretchy rayon knit, source...can't remember for sure.  Could be

The midriff band was self-drafted to fit using stretch lace in the front and a solid knit band in the back.  Originally I planned on installing a zip, but the knit that I used (think it was a stretchy rayon one), had enough stretch along with beautiful drape.  So I skipped the zip and molded the CB seam to fit.

The skirt was basically two rectangles joined at the side seams, gathered at the top and attached to the midriff band.  Easy peasy. 

The end result?  A style I thought my oldest daughter would like because she was the intended recipient of this dress.  She was really happy with the dress, although I have yet to obtain a pic of her in it.  I thought I had made it short enough for her young adult self, but nooooo!  Those pretty young things like their dresses shorter than short.  I ended up taking another 3" off the hemline if you can believe it.   I was thrilled she was happy with the dress.  That age group is tough to please, and few patterns have the styles she and her friends love.  I'm constantly drafting, morphing, combining patterns...whatever it takes to get the styles both my daughters like.  Let me tell you, it has been an incredibly busy spring making them RTW knockoffs.

I've been seeing a lot of color pops with shoes lately too.  So I paired my red heels with the black dress.  My handbag is handmade from leather which was purchased in NYC at Leather, Suede Skins.  It's a beautiful red, alligator patterned leather, with my handmade beaded handle, and handmade fabric flowers.  The pattern for the bag came from Emma Brennan's book, "Making Vintage Bags."  It's a terrific book with lots of interesting bag styles, and I highly recommend it.

I leave you with a pick of the back.  Really, it would have been my preference to keep this dress.  It's a great LBD for a special occasion that is figure flattering with enough stretch for a glass of wine and a good meal :) .  Even one of my plus-sized friends remarked she loved the style and thought it would be flattering for plus-sized women as well.

Overall?  A successful project that went to a good home.  I hope my daughter enjoys the dress and finds it to be a useful garment in her wardrobe. 

Till next time, Happy Sewing!  :)

Friday, March 1, 2013

PR Contest Entry: The Kardashian Knockoff dress

Last week at this time, I had just received two of the necessary fabrics in the mail to make my contest entry.  Saturday I retraced my self-drafted pattern from my red knit dress, and on Sunday I drew new style lines as per the Sears Kardashian dress style.  Monday and Tuesday were spent sewing, Wednesday was finishing details, and Thursday was the photo shoot, writing the review, and entering the review in the contest.  Whew!!!

Here is the result of a whirlwind last four days!

The original style I was copying is at left from the Kardashian dress line at Sears with my Knockoff version at right:

It's a fairly close copy.  My pattern was self-drafted.  I made modifications to the self-drafted pattern I used in my red lace knit dress from a couple of posts ago.

The red lace dress had vertical princess seamlines.  This RTW Knockoff also has vertical seamlines, but they're curvy ones as opposed to being straight.

My bra cups were self drafted from a RTW foam bra.  A seamed bra would have been easier to draft a pattern from, however, I don't own any seamed bra because I just don't like it when the seam shows through tops.  I used a Wonder Bra (I think I own at least 8 of the same style lol) with foam cups to create a paper pattern for the bra cups.  It's not an easy task, but it's not hard either.  In a month or two I will explain how I went about drafting the bra cups and the dress.  It is a process I think any Advanced Beginner sewer can tackle.

Here are a few more pics of the front:

Can't forget the back now, can I?

A few things about the dress and I have mentioned this in my review for the contest.  All of them are likes, and I have no dislikes about my dress.

1.  The design has been engineered for a 40+ body instead of a 20-something one.  What does this mean?  It's all in the details, my dears!  See how the original dress has round bra cups?  I could have made mine just like that, but I chose to draft my bra cups to come up high to the arm crease.  Trust me, it just looks better on an older body and many of my 40+ sisters will know exactly what I'm talking about :).  Even though I'm a gym rat and Eat Clean fanatic, there are some things that we just have to accept and lipo is not my thing.

2.  This relates to No. 1.  When I'm wearing a dress like this, I don't want to have to wear a bra.  Finding a bra that works with a style like this is just too darn hard.  Either the straps won't be placed right in the back, they'll slip and be seen at the front or shoulder, or the front bridge of the bra is too high for the low V of the dress.  I engineered the dress to be snug, the bra cups giving me support, good coverage, and lift just like my original Wonder Bras.  In addition, when I made the cups I used black spacer which can be purchased from Spandex House in NYC.  Two layers of spacer were used for each cup because I felt this was more in line with the thickness of a Wonder Bra with the spacer being covered with fashion fabric.

3.  Ahhh...I love my centered zip!  I loathe invisible zips on snug/close-fitting garments.  They just don't work.  I have two daughters that can break a RTW invisible zip in record time, and they've done just that.  I HATE redoing broken zippers and can't understand why so many manufacturers use invisible zips.  Let's just say they haven't met my daughters.  I'm betting that if every female returned garments to stores that had broken invisible zips, maybe more centered zips would be used.  That's my theory and I'm sticking to it!  :)

4.  My fabric.  I love the blue leopard print.  I can't remember exactly where I purchased it (either Spandex House, Spandex World, or, but I love it.  The black panels are cotton lycra purchased from Spandex House in NYC.  It's a nice weight, not beefy, not thin, just right.

 5.  Let's talk cost.  Could I have afforded the original which is on sale at $59 on the Sears website?  Of course!  But that's not the point.  I wanted that dress, but I wanted a fit that molded to my figure, not to the 21-year old fit model.  Would an off-the-rack garment fit me just as well?  No.  Maybe the bra cups would gape, I'm sure there would be a few things I could pick out that wouldn't fit me just right.  My version gives me a custom fit at a rock bottom price of $12-$15 and that includes the thread and zipper in addition to the material.  I actually have enough material to make a second, identical dress.

Which leads me to another question my hubby asked me:  "Why don't you just buy the dress?  It's only $60!"  Well, what fun would that be?!?!  We garment sewers like the challenge of recreating RTW that fits like a glove.  It's a tremendously rewarding, nerdy activity to be able to construct a self-drafted pattern to one's measurements, pick out fave fabric combos, tweak fit in fabric, and produce a result that would fit better than RTW and flatter a body of my age group. 

Believe it or not, the hardest part of making this dress was tweaking the fit with curvy seamlines that intersect with other seamlines.  Also, I work with 1" seam allowances to be able to easily tweak the fit, and the seam allowances would get in the way of the seams with all this flopping around of seam allowances on the inside of the dress.  Frequently I had to double and triple check to make sure I was adjusting the correct seamline lol.  The seam allowances were eventually trimmed down, but it was a little bit of a challenge at times during the fitting process.

So there you go!  My RTW Knockoff entry for the PR Contest.  I now understand why this contest is a fave among several PR members.  The entries are so good that it raises the bar for sewing, fit, and style.  When that happens, it pushes us to do our best work and be able to showcase our efforts.  The contest gallery does not disappoint!  I am amazed at the beautiful knockoffs created by very talented seamstresses.  Would I like to win?  Absolutely :) !!!  However, every contest entry is a winner because of how high the bar has been set high for this contest.  Every entrant rose to the occasion and produced awesome garments, and I'm still in awe of the amazing work.  I thank every entrant who made me work hard to produce a garment worthy of entering into this contest.  Hats off to this incredible crew!

Monday, February 25, 2013

It's Official!

RTW/Designer Knockoff Contest

I've entered!  :)

Will I finish on time?  We'll see.  3. More. Days....

BTW, I found a great link on Geni's blog.  It's for the Fabulous 40+ group.  And what a group we are!  :)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Hey Kardashian sisters...

I'm not fattening your wallet, but I'm keeping mine well padded!  I love some of the dresses in your Sears Kardashian line, but I'm NOT going to pay for them :) .

Instead, I created a knockoff dress in virtually the same style in a beautiful red lace on nude stretch lining.  See here:

And you know what?  It fits better than any garment I could purchase off the rack.  When I saw it in the store last May, the cost of the dress was about $60 or $70 on sale.  That's certainly not going to break my budget, but my inner snotty seamstress said, "I can make that same style, and make it better!"  It fits me to a tee and molds to MY curves.  Not the curves of the standard fit model for the K-line of Sears dresses.  Total price of my dress?  Let's see.  Stretch lace and stretch lining were purchased from Spandex House in NYC.  The amount of fabric used for the dress is about $20.  Thread and zipper?  About $4.  Total cost is $24.  My next version will be about $14 due to some drafting changes.

Here are back and side views:

Believe it or not, this was a "proof" garment.  I hesitate to use the term muslin or test garment because those evoke images or a mindset of a garment not meant to be worn except for fitting purposes.  Therefore, I call it a proof.  I drafted the garment to my exact measurements, felt pretty sure I got it right, then went about creating the dress to prove it fit, and subsequently created my "proof" garment.

Here are a few other views.  

And last but not least, a few movement pics.  Let's be realistic.  Movement produces a bit of wrinkles in a fitted garment.  This one is no exception.  The pics give an accurate view of how the dress is worn in real-world situation.  So yes, if you sit down and then stand up, you will have to re-adjust the dress.

I started this dress last May.  I created the pattern, and let it sit.  I sewed a little in June, then in July with bits of time I had available to me during the summer.  One of the things that took a while was handstitching the stretch lace to the stretch lining which served as the underlining.  There are 10 vertical seams on the dress so this process was not exactly what I would dub speedy.  I must have stitched up the dress at the end of the July because I referenced back to this post  about my feline sewing assistants and was still doing the tedious handstitching at that point.  From that point on it sat in my sewing cart as a UFO until I pulled it out in January resolving to get it done.

My dress was self drafted, and I did not use any commercial pattern for the design.  At this time, I'm not going to post how it was drafted because I want to test it out a few more times.  Right now I'm reworking the pattern and taking lots of pics to illustrate some of the steps.  I guess the best way to test it out is to use another body and draft the pattern based on those measurements.  I know my own body so it's easy.  Working it out on someone else's, maybe a few other bodies, is a good pattern proof.

But as for this dress, my first "proof" of a self-drafted pattern, I think it was a success.  It fits, it's flattering, and it's exactly what I envisioned it to be.  And I think my daughter is eager to get her hands on this dress for one of her college events.  I know there will be quite a few more versions yet to be made from this pattern.