Thursday, 23 January 2014

Christmas Circle Skirt

In all of the kerfuffle around the holidays I forgot to show you the circle skirt I whipped up.  It was a quick job, finished the morning before the family Christmas party.  I'm fairly happy with it, though I did learn an important lesson about sewing machines.

Photographer-fiancee is still in training...
I'll remind him to back up next time ;)
I've almost never sewn on machines that weren't a similar price point and technical level to my own.  My best sewing friend has a machine that's similar to mine, though a different make.  And the machine I learned to sew on was my mother's vintage machine she inherited from her aunt, but that hadn't been for a tune-up any time in my memory.

As was bound to happen eventually, my mother's sewing machine finally bit the bullet.  She doesn't sew a lot any more, so she decided to replace it with one of the super-cheap Walmart sewing machines.  I didn't discover this until I couldn't find the sewing machine in the basement because I was looking for the wrong one.  Now, the new machine does in fact sew, and even has a few different stitch options.  However, I did notice some things were lacking, primarily the foot pressure and the feed dogs (that move your fabric through the machine).  This resulted in uneven stitches that tended to jump around at little bit.  I also noticed some skipped stitches.

Now, to be fair, this was fabric I had gotten at Walmart to test out.  The fabric itself worked fairly well for this project though.  It was really more of a canvas-type fabric, which helped give the skirt a lot of body I think.  However, it frayed terribly, so I do need to go back and add bias binding to the waist seam.  The waistline also seemed to have warped quite a bit between when I cut it out and when I unpacked it at my mother's to finish sewing.  I had probably an extra 4-6 inches, so I added some gathers while attaching it to the waistband, which I think turned out nice enough.

I used a pattern generously posted here by Casey of Elegant Musings.  The pattern is from a 1954 Smart Sewing booklet.  Instead of the traditional circle, the waist line of the skirt is a little bit more of an oval, which makes the skirt hang a little bit differently.  It is still just as quick to sew up though.

Now I just need to make a day wear petticoat to go under it.  The one I have is shortened from my step-mother's wedding dress, so is a little full to wear from day to day!

Monday, 20 January 2014

The Not-Historical Fortnightly Dress

I don't really want to show you this dress.  I'm sure I'm not the only one who's had a project that just doesn't seem to work no matter what you do?  Well, this was one of those dresses.  I did have it 'finished' but I couldn't wear it to dinner Saturday night.

It also occurred to me that I wouldn't be able to submit this as my Historical Fortnightly entry this month as it was no longer made from a printed pattern.  More on that later.

As I mentioned, I'd decided to use the jersey fabric I had in my stash and drape a pattern myself.  Well, it took me a little while to realize that I could trace a tank top that I already know fits me to make the pattern for the base of the dress.  And then, being so excited by this brain wave, that I forgot to widen the straps into kimono sleeves before cutting the front piece out.  Fine, I thought.  That's fine I can work with that.
Not what I had envisioned, but so far, it
doesn't look that bad...

I got the base sewn together, and could not for the life of me get the gathers to lie flat on the base.  I did the best I could and moved on.  The skirt went fairly smoothly, which was nice, because that means at least something did with this dress.

But once the skirt was sewn on the whole dress pulled forward from the weight.  Well, that's ok too,  I can just add a waist stay.  I'm not sure if my fabric stretched, or if I added less ease to the waist stay than to the waistline of the dress, but the stay was a few inches shorter.  So, rather than sewing it in, I just tacked a few places across the front and at both side seams.  Which, lead to a lumpy and unflattering waistline.

Sadly, it's back to the stash for this...
So, I wore a back up dress to dinner, and will likely be taking this back apart and making something else.  Perhaps I'll try something with a pattern...

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

The Woes of Stash Sewing

I finished tracing and cutting out the pattern for Butterick 5605 last night.  I made a muslin and a few more tiny adjustments, adding a bit of width across the back and raising the scoop to cover my bra as well as pinching out a bit of excess in the front neck line.  I started laying out the pieces to cut only to discover that I had nowhere near enough fabric.

The pattern envelope calls for 5 3/8 yards of 45" fabric.  I had already decided not to line the dress with my fashion fabric which would cut down the requirements a little bit.  Unfortunately, it does not cut it down to 3 1/2 yards, which is what I have in my stash.  In fact, three and a half yards is not even enough to cut out all of the skirt pieces... Talk about a fabric hog!

There is one possible way to cut this dress from this fabric, and involves a style sacrifice and a cardinal sin of sewing.  The style sacrifice is pinching out the pleats in the back of the skirt.  I really like that style element, however, if that was all that was required, it was a sacrifice I was willing to make.  The cardinal sin is cutting one piece upside down.  Now, this isn't always a problem.  However, I'm working with a satin, and even though it looks like there isn't a nap to the fabric, I'm certain that once the dress is made up the side back piece would look like a completely different colour of fabric.  I've been there before, and I'm not going to make that mistake again!

And so, back to the drawing board.  Unfortunately, being on the budget of the unemployed, I can't really justify going out to buy new fabric, tempting as it is...  So, that leaves me with a very large piece of jersey.  I sew very little with jersey, and though I do like the print, I'm not sure why I would have felt the need to but four yards (at least) of it for my stash.  However, maybe I should be more thankful, because now I can use it to make a dress.

I'm attempting to drape a pattern that will in the end look something like the dress from Simplicity 1168, but with kimono sleeves and a v-neck rather than the original sweat heart halter.  I'm not hugely fond of draping directly onto my own body, however, difficult times call for difficult measures.  And I need a dress by Saturday!

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Historical Sew Fortnightly #1!

As I mentioned last time, I've decided to do a half marathon of Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenges.  My first challenge is Innovation, due on Feb 1st.

I've decided to feature the printed pattern as my innovation.  Butterick Patterns have been an innovative company since beginning the production of graded patterns back in 1863.  You can read the company's full history on the Butterick History site, but I'm going to skip ahead to 1948.

In 1948, the Butterick manufacturing headquarters had just moved to Altoona Pennsylvania.  Two new printing presses were brought in with the new manufacturing plant, and the printed pattern was born.  To quote their history:

The 'printed pattern' was the most significant improvement of home sewing patterns since its invention. What a joy it was for the home sewer to have bold dots, notches and lines replacing the little holes that previously marked darts, matching points and foldlines!

The pattern I am using is Butterick 5605, which is a reprint from 1956.  As you can see, it has a cute back detail and a fairly simple front, with a tea length skirt.  I'm using View C, in the top right corner.
Butterick 5605

So far, it has been pretty simple.  I've traced out the pieces and adjusted them for size.  I'm using size 22 in the bust and size 20 in the waist.  The bodice is 8 pieces (Center front, side front, side back and center back) with all of the waist shaping don on the side pieces.  So, I've cut the center front and back in straight size 22, while the side pieces transition from 22 to 20 at the waist.  

Construction seems fairly simple, with the exception of one thing, sleeve gussets.  This will be a new technique for me, so we'll see how it goes.  But I have found a number of helpful-seeming tutorials on the web so far.  First, from Karen at Did You Make That? an excellent tutorial with some quick tips and helpful hints (including a warning for your house-mates!). The second is from Gertie, at Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing.  Although this tutorial is designed for a two piece gusset in a dress with a two piece bodice, it was still helpful to read about the process before giving it a go here.

So, I'll get back to you on how it goes.   Here's hoping!  (Oh, and did I mention I need to finish it in exactly one week to wear to a dinner with my Fiance's new company?)

Wednesday, 8 January 2014


December was a pretty frantic month.  The most exciting thing happened right at the end of the year, when my boyfriend proposed at the stroke of midnight on New Years.  This was definitely my best new years ever, and the most amazing way to start 2014.

A few days before that we moved into Ottawa proper, which has also been wonderful.  I've only been here a few days, but it is so nice to be back in a city again.  We're able to take public transit anywhere, which is a big change from the small town.

So far, its been a fabulous year.  And I think there's plenty more to come that'll make 2014 a year to remember.

2014 will also be a year of sewing.  I've decided to attempt a Half Marathon of the Historical Sew Fortnightly hosted by The Dreamstress.  I've decided to complete even number challenges, meaning I'll be starting with Challenge #2:  Innovations. The only sight alteration I'm making to the rules is the definition of 'Historical'.  I want to make sure that my projects won't be closet ornaments.  The official rules state that Historical runs until the end of WWII (1945), however, I'm going to extend the time period until the end of the 1950s, as it is the 40s-50s that I am interested in.

The first four challenges have been published so far, and so here is a run down of what I'm thinking of making for each.  Of course as I get to work there will be at least a reveal post for each one.

Challenge Number 2: Innovations:

According to their website, In 1948 Butterick began to produce printed patterns in 1948.  Not too long after that (ok, almost a decade is a bit of a stretch, but stick with me) in 1956 Butterick 5605.  And that will be my first project for a dinner with my fiancee's new work.

Challenge Number 4: Under It All:

A challenge devoted to under-things.  I'd already decided to try and make the Bullet Bra from VaVoom Vintage, and now I have the perfect opportunity.

Challenge Number 6: Fairy Tale:

I don't think it will really come as a surprise, if you've been following for any length of time now, but I'm going to make Little Red Ridinghood's cape.  The cape pattern I've mentioned a few times here was among the patterns that I got for Christmas, and although the timing is not idea for a nice warm red wool cape (being due on April 1st, that is exactly what I'm going to make!

That's it for now.  Tune in next time for a Historical Fortnightly Challenge #2 update!