4.23.2014

Time for Tea Break

Dear blog readers, today a single tear runs down my face because #sewdollyclackett is over.  Part of me wishes it could go on forever, or at least until cold weather returns and makes me abandon dresses. Channeling the style of Roisin has been nothing but fun and there are several more crazy shoe purchases I'd like to rationalize. Many thanks to Sarah from Rhinestones and Telephones for thinking up/hosting this wonderful sew-a-long.   Congrats and well wishes to Roisin and Nic on being awesome and for their impending marriage. Even though I've never met you in person, you seem perfect for each other and I hope you have a great life together.  I'd toast you with some wine, but Froggie seems to have consumed it all.  Should have never bought him that wine glass with a frog in it.
Anyway......before closing the book on #sewdollyclackett there is one more dress to share. It's the "My cup of tea" dress complete with more Miss L Fire shoes.  Previously purchased shoes, mind you cause my husband is reading the blog now. "I read something the other day that says you're neglecting our son?""
For my third and final Dolly Clackett dress I decided to break out the rusty pattern drafting skills and finally knock off this Eva Franco design from last summer.

Awesome dress right! Even more awesome is that Modcloth keeps the web page accessible so you can zoom in on all the seaming details. It's hard to see since the bodice is a solid color, but it has diagonal seam lines that divide the bodice into 3 segments.  These seam lines serve as a design element and provide the bust shaping for the garment. It's basically an armhole princess with a slightly different shape. (This garment is on my sewing inspiration pinterest board if you want to take a closer look.)
The stash was lacking matryoshka doll fabric, so I went with an equally bold linear print "Genmai tea cup" from Alexander Henry Fabrics. Mmmm Japanese tea cups, I love you so.
Stash busting effort having been made I went and purchased Kona cotton in Royal Blue for the contrast. In my defense the stash has very few solids that aren't black or gray. My favorite tea cup cotton demanded better.

I've yet to draft my own bodice block for pattern drafting, tsk tsk bad pattern drafter, no cookie.  So I went the easy way out and used the Emery bodice with SA removed as a base.  After some enthusiastic cutting and a little dart manipulation, a diagonal princess line bodice was mine. Muhaaaa!
Maybe you can see them a little better on the inside.
Yeaaaaah look at all those nice seam joins.....is it weird that I said that?

The skirt is divided into four quarters, each with two 4" box pleats. Completed skirt length is 22" with a 5" contrasting hem band. The skirt pattern is almost a rectangle, but with the side seams angled out/hem slightly rounded to give the skirt a little more flare.
I'm 90% sure the original dress did not have any pockets.  But home sewing means we can have all the pockets we want snitches! Side seam pockets were added so that I could lounge around with my hands in them during most of the photo shoot.  I need a stylish to shout, "Get your hands out of your pocket for 5 minutes!" They would also have to yell. "Don't look at your husband, it will mess up your camera mojo."  Cause my husband was off to the side looking at me like I'd lost my mind.  What's weird about this pose? BTW - I'm pretending that rock is an Easter egg. Totes normal for Easter weekend, right? Just say yes and we'll move on.
There are two areas I'd tweak on a redo.  First would be to have move the straps in because they are in the awkward "almost slipping off the shoulder" location. That was a drafting error on my part.  Secondly I'd narrow the contrast piece on the bodice just a bit. It's not egregiously large, but the bodice was drafted the bodice to be sewn in a solid.  I just like to change my sewing plans at the last minute. MOAR tea cups in the dress! Frog commands it!  Frog also commands that I hand over the peanut butter cups.
Oh there is one more confession that needs to be aired.  I had to make the bodice a little big in the back to have evenly sized pleats.  My circumference in the front is exactly 8" but I'm more like 7.25" in the back.  As much as I like a snug fitting bodice, who wants weirdly narrow pleats in the back of the dress. So my dress is about an 1" too roomy in the waist. I just cinched my belt on tightly and tried to forget about it.  Besides, Froggie tells me that it's just extra cake ease.

Mmmm yeah, I might need that cake ease cause there's one waiting for me in the kitchen right now. Pretty sure there's a rule that a girl can eat as much as she wants on her birthday. Oh yeah, I'm another year older and pretty much as immature as ever. So here's to pretty dresses in loud patterns, shoes with bows/fruit/birds on them and to cake. Now hold my drink and watch this. Wheeeee!
P.S. Do you guys want a pattern drafting tutorial for this bodice?  Ask and you shall receive. :)

4.20.2014

Semi-Boring Basics

Poor fashion basics, they're like the steamed vegetable of the sewing world. But you can't eat dessert for every meal or run around in chiffon dresses when it's 50 degrees. Some times you just have to knuckle down and sew a boring pair of navy pants.
Sewing pants really isn't the problem, it's fitting pants.  Most of you know this cause I like to rant about pants fitting on a regular basis. I'm like an old man yelling at the TV, just replace the TV with pants muslins.  The language is equally salty.
My lower body fitting issues include, tilted waist, post baby fat shelf, giant butt, narrow upper back, full thighs and large calves. That's just the stuff I know about at the moment, because the list never seems to stop growing.

For my foray back into the "cycle of pants fitting hate," I decided to use a pattern that already had some of the kinks worked out of it, Colette Clovers.  Past me had done a pretty good job with the waist area and I thought those changes could be copied over to another size. For the legs I wanted to try some of the fitting adjustments that Cation Designs detailed in this very informative post.  Some of those alterations I'd never seen before and I'm always looking for the magic key to great fitting pants.

Much like every pair of pants I sew, these feel like they fit a little better but aren't perfect. But first lets do a quick rundown of my alterations broken down for each fitting problem.

Large Butt - Raised the rise at CB 2.5". Extended the back crotch hook an 1" and also scooped out the crotch curve about 3/8".  The front crotch curve was extended 1/2". On the side seams  1/2" extra ease was added just in the butt area.
Narrow Upper Back - Increased the back dart to have an intake of 1". Shaved off about 1/2" off the CB by making the seam line more diagonal.  The back waistband was reduced in width to match.

Titled Waist - this means your waist is lower in the front than in the back.
Cut down the CF seam line 1/2 and blended this out to nothing at the side seams. Raising the CB for my butt also takes care of the higher waist in the back.

Post Baby Fat Shelf - Straightened the CF seam line and added 1/2" to the front side seam area only.  Front waist band was increased to match the new width.
Full Thighs - Did the Full inner thigh adjustment shown on Cation Design's blog to the front pant piece only. A 1/2" was added through out the leg, up to the crotch curve. I skipped this alteration on the back because I always seem to have excess fabric in that location. Adding more fabric to that area seemed dumb.
Large Calves - Did the hyperextended calf alteration also on Cation Design's blog.  I split open the lower leg a 1/2".

*Other alterations were, 2 1/2" of additional length to the legs and "Excess Fabric at the Crotch" alteration to try and remove some of those back thigh wrinkles.*

Conclusions - Transferring my fitting changes for the tilted waist, narrow upper back and baby gut to the new size worked. I'm pretty happy with how the whole waist area fits and feel those like fitting problems are solved.  The full inner thigh adjustment and hyperextended calf adjustment seem to be an improvement over what I was doing to the legs before. (A knock knee adjustment and adding extra width to side seam.)  I may need to increase the calf adjustment a tad since wrinkles still stack on top of them.  The back rise, oh the back rise, will forever be the bane of my existence. It's a little too short and gives me the slightest of wedgies.  I do prefer that look over the "looks like I took a dump in my pants" thing that happens when I start extending the back rise.  I've also come to terms with the fact that there will always be wrinkles under the butt.  I need a lot of "sitting down ease" for that butt, so it's gonna have to hang out on the back of my thighs when I'm standing up.  For now I deem this pattern "done with fitting alterations."  I'd rather spend my time on more fruitful occupations, like plotting new shoe purchases.

Hey guess what? I sewed up another basic, but one that's a classic instead of being boring. It's a semi-sheer striped Trifecta Top.
One of the good things about having a large stash is that fabric can disappear until the perfect pattern arrives.  I recently unearthed this roll end from the deep stash level and immediately knew it would be perfect for the high scoop neck version of the Trifecta Top. The fabric is an extremely stretchy jersey with a sweatery hand.  It seems to be some sort of rayon blend, making it perfect for transitional weather. I traced a straight size 4 and made no alterations.  The extra stretchiness of this fabric worked in my favor and disguised any fitting problems that might have happened with a more stable fabric.  The stuff was a bit of a pain in the ass to sew, but I'm really happy with the finished top.

To be honest, this is the sort of thing that gets a lot more wear than pretty pretty dresses.  But don't worry, I have more pretty pretty dresses to show you. So many dresses.....so little time.

4.17.2014

The Dark Side of Sewing

Disclaimer - this post is for giggles, but you knew that didn't you?

Sewing is fun. Sewing allows us have clothes that fit well.  Sewing lets us express ourselves creatively. There's no end to the positive attributes of sewing that we love to talk about at length.  So much so that our non sewing friends have long since passed into a coma of boredom.  But like any addiction there's a dark side that we like to keep mum about. It's not all pretty prints and designer card stock people. Sometime it's sliced fingers and burnt fabric. So in the effort of full disclosure, I'm going to take a minute to peek behind the curtain and talk about the dangers of sewing.

1. Exponential Stash Expansion
It starts out so innocently, a couple fabric purchases tidily folded up and stacked in a plastic container. But left unsupervised fabric breeds like rabbits. First you need a second plastic container and then 4 more.  You start throwing other things to have more closet space, all the while telling yourself that it's not a problem. Then the fabric begins migrating out to other rooms, leaving thready trails in it's wake.  How did that pile of fabric end up on the dinning room table?  Another threatens to topple over on you every time you open the linen closet. (Note - fabric yardage totally counts as linens.) Yet you still find yourself trolling the internet looking for new babies.  When will it ever stop?  Probably only after they pry some silk out of your cold dead hands.

2. Spousal Fabric Friction
Your spouse comes home from work to find another box on the front steps.  He comes in the door with an accusatory look and chucks the box in your general direction. He might even say, "Is that fabric? Why do you need more?" He seems to be concerned about the pile of fabric on his nightstand toppling over and smothering him at night.  You make excuses like, "It's a present for someone," or "I need this for work, " or even, "Robots ordered this while I slept." He doesn't seem to buy it. You vow to keep a better eye out for the mail man and hide the boxes next time. It's not like anyone is going to notice the mountain of cardboard in the basement.

3. Mild Child Neglect
Sure you make sure that your kid/kids is/are clothed, fed, and not waving around giant knives without supervision. But the phrase "Go play your toys, Mommy needs to sew," is routinely uttered. TV watching watching may even be encouraged if it means you can get 15 uninterrupted minutes to finish this darn hem. "You want to watch another episode of "Young Justice" starring Aqua Lad? Be my guest. We'll talk about DC's ridiculous lad phase at a later time." Mild child neglect maybe also bleed over to aspects of sewing blogging.  Such as yelling to either get into the camera frame or stay out of it depending on who is supposed to be modeling the clothing.  (Note - child will do the opposite.) Let's not forgot about blog writing and your pleas to, "Keep down that racket, mommy's trying to write. Yes I know I've been telling you that for the last 2 hours. Mommy doesn't have a good grasp of the English language."  Do this long enough and your child will tell you to "Go work on your fabric," when you try to talk to them.  No problem, now you have permission to sew.......right after they hand over the rotary cutter.

4. Sewing Planning Insomnia
Tucked tight up in your bed, you're ready for sugar plum faeries to dance in your head.  Instead patterns and fabrics appear and start filling your brain with ideas.  Yes, that cotton would be perfect for a button down skirt. Hmmmmm, maybe you should make that dress pattern you've been hoarding for the next family get together.  Or maybe you need a dress with lobsters on it. OMG, why did you not realize that you needed hot pink zebra leggings until now?! All of a sudden it's 2 am and your mental sewing list is a mile long.  At least you're not the least bit tired now, might as well get started.  Running on no sleep is future you's problem, right now you've got things to sew.

5. Inability to buy RTW
Whether it be lack of time or not having the skills/inclination, sometimes you need to buy RTW clothing.  This doesn't seem like a big deal at first, but sooner or latter you realize your standards are now ridiculously high. Why do these pants fit like crap?  Does the waistband really need to be 3" too big. Oh my word, was this hem sewn by a pack of drunk monkeys?! And poorly trained drunk monkeys to. Mine does much better work even on a full bender.  After criticizing sewing skills sets of the animal kingdom you are still left with a Sophie's choice.  A - Leave the store in disgust with no new clothing, doomed to wear the same 2 ratty pairs of yoga pants for another month/until they fall off your body. B - Purchase ill fitting clothing and grumble about how you could have spent that money on nice fabric instead. Actually there is a C - Tell yourself that you'll stay up late and finally sew those pants.  Then go use that money to purchase new shoes. The pants might not get sewn, but at least your feet look good.

6. Wadder Rage
After spending hours carefully sewing a garment from start to finish it is finally complete. You excitedly try it on only to find it looks like crap. Your excitement morphs into a deep rage which bubbles up from your core.  With a Hulk like scream you rip off the offending garment and throw it across the room. Then you start yelling about seam allowances and no good drafting.....maybe about all these darn socks all over the floor.  Can no one put things in the hamper? Seriously what is the deal? Pets and small children scatter in your wake knowing that mommy is looking to smash things.  Older children fling chocolate in your general area and hope for the best. Your spouse quickly rounds up the kids and announces "It's time for an ice cream trip cause Mommy needs some alone time."  All sneak out the back hoping you will no longer be holding a seam ripper in a threatening manner when they return.   (Note- Wadder rage has a cousin, Sewing Tourettes.  If find yourself routinely cursing at your sewing machine, you may have sewing touretts.  This also might be how your children learn all their "colorful metaphors.")
I hope this PSA has opened your eyes.  Keep sewing my friends but beware of the dark side.......unless you've already mastered light saber fabric cutting. If so give me a call, I've got a lot of yardage to laser.

4.13.2014

Frolicking in a Field of Poppys

What's this? Back to back poppy print dresses? Oh yeah, I think we all need another hit of pretty poppy goodness. Just shield your eyes from the glare coming off of my lily white legs. Ahhhh it burns, quick find me some sunglasses!!!
Everyone have their protective eye wear in place?  Good, good, then I can show you this. Poppies precious, so many poppies!
Dipped hem Heather?  Did you go and make another Flora skirt? Guilty as charged.  To say that I've been jonesing to make another Flora would be putting it mildly. Instead of going the TNT pattern repeat route,  my brain was all, "Let's switch things up and make something fun and semi impracticable."  Just like that a plan was hatched to do a little BHL pattern mixing and matching.
Yep, it's the Elisalex bodice with it's gorgeous neckline and sleeves for those of us with reptile blood.  Wooo Hooo, I'm only partially freezing in these pictures and there was a nice patch of sunlight out of frame. Mmmm warm me sunshine, but don't burn my pasty flesh.

For this smaller sized Elisalex bodice I did all of the same pattern alterations as the first time, with the exception of increasing the diameter of the sleeves. One new change was made, the front of the sleeve cap was flattened to compensate for the 3/8" taken out of the front princess line seam. Here I was wondering why there was so much ease in the front sleeve with a forward shoulder adjustment made.  Ummmm because you removed 3/4" of armhole diameter without adjusting the sleeve Heather. Ooops.
The good news for those of you who also like bodice/skirt swamping is that the Elisalex/Flora patterns don't need much tweaking to fit together well.  I sewed a size 10 for both pattern parts and found the Flora skirt to be around 1/2" bigger in the front then the Elisalex bodice.  It was then a simple process to make the knife pleats a little deeper so that the circumferences matched up.  The back circumferences were the same to begin with, but I moved the box pleat over an 1" or so to match up with the princess seam line.
All pleat adjustments were done on the fly while attaching the skirt to the bodice.  The proper way would have been to check the patterns and adjust them before cutting out the fabric.  But I'm all for truth in sewing and doing it the lazy way work out just fine. Don't tell the sewing goddess lest she smite me.

Now about this fabric, it's a Milly cotton sateen with.......wait for it.....an ivory background.  Past Heather really had an ivory background buying problem.  This fabric should have gone in the "give to other people with warm complexions" pile.  But as you can see I greedily held on it it cause poppies and reasons related to poppies. I hope you can forgive me.
Overall I'm pretty pleased with this pattern mash-up.  The one thing I would change is to slightly lower the front portion of the dipped hem.  Because the front seemed short, a very narrow rolled hem was used to preserve as much length as possible.  I still get the feeling that a pair of poppy modesty shorts might be needed for getting out of cars and stiff winds.  I see London, I see France, I see your underpants, you hussy! So sorry, that's my inner grandma talking. Go bake me some poppy seed cake grandma and keep your opinions to yourself. Mmmmm caaaaaake.

4.09.2014

Now You'll Sleeeeeep.....then I'll steal your shoes

Hello all. I hope you have your shoe closets locked up tight, cause I'm about to knock you out with one heck of a dress. That's right, I was not speaking in hyperbole during the last #sewdollyclackett post about hemming a poppy dress. The "Painterly Poppy Dress" is real, and it's amazing. (I'm really getting into this whole dress naming thing. Long live Dolly Clackette!)
Are you feeling woozy yet? No?  Darn!  Frog say in a ready position with the shoe boxes, I have to soften them up with a few more photographs. I know, let's pander to the pocket lovers. Back side of pocket bag matches skirt, front pocket doesn't. Ooo La, la.
This is my #sewdollyclackett dress number two, a pattern mash up of the By Hand London Anna bodice with the Christine Haynes Emery skirt.  OMG, don't these two patterns looks fabulous together. I just want to squee all over myself and make a couple more. The credit for this idea goes to Jennifer Lauren and her amazing Christmas Dress.  Upon seeing it I drooled all over the keyboard and then plotted to make one of my own.

That must have made Ann, over at Gorgeous Fabrics, spider senses tingle.  She went and posted the perfect fabric for this type of dress, a giant floral boarder print. The print starts out as kind of like a multi-colored polka dot that gradually morphs into poppies and foliage. YES, YES, YES, take my money!
Part of me wants to make a summer dress out of this right now.
If you can believe it, this was my very first border print purchase. The plan was to make the Anna/Emery combo and put the largest flowers on both the hem and top of the bodice. However my Christmas cookie addled brain neglected to realize that I'd need extra yardage to do this. It just though, "Hey 2 yards of 60" fabric is plenty for a sleeveless dress."  Yeah dumb dumb, if it's an all over print.....but you only want to use the one edge!  Past Heather, buy another yard!!!  Past Heather never listens. She probably couldn't hear me with her head buried in a cookie tin anyway. It was time for Present day Heather to put on the thinking cap and came up with a solution.

After playing around with the pattern pieces, I could see that after cutting the skirt some of the large floral area would still be left. I could also cut the bodice upside down on the print, to get some of the smaller flowers in the shoulder area. Then a few large flowers could be cut out and appliqued to the bodice.  This crazy plan might just might work!

I cut the skirt and bodice pieces as planed and then used the lighter print area for all the pieces that wouldn't show.  Except for the one side of the pocket bag, they needed to blend nicely in with the skirt. See my brain was working on that day.
After completing the rest of the dress I turned my attention to harvesting some of those large flowers. To keep the edges from fraying, I block fused the fabric before cutting. Then for added insurance I put fray check on the backside edges.
When it came time to attach the flowers on inspiration struck.  I had some left over beads in my craft supplies, why not use those to hide the hand stitching?  Get out the needles, cause we've got some beading to do. Who am I doing all this hand work? Frog hand me some chocolate, I think these poppies must be making me a little high.
Tadaaaa, a pop of red color on top, balancing the bottom. Perfect!
After completing this dress I knew it needed some very special shoes......and none of my red shoes matched the orange red poppies. Oops, I once again bought a fabric that is not in my color scheme. At least the background isn't ivory this time.  Then Frog told me I was thinking about this all wrong.  A dress that necessitates a shoe purchase should be a plus. Thanks Froggie, you'll always be my number 1 enabler.
So we asked ourselves WWDCD - What would Dolly Clackett Do? Purchase Miss L Fire heels with the grapes on the toes?  Yes, yes, she would.

Oh sweet, I think those shoes finally made all of you pass out.  Frog, plan "Rudy Slipper" is a go! Start filling the shoe boxes.  Muhaa haaa! You didn't know I was the wicked witch did you? My color correcting and my new nose totally had you fooled.  "I'll get you my pretties and all your little shoes too." Then I'll instagram my new ensembles, I'm not a monster after all.

4.07.2014

Winifred Sans Collar

Just a quickie post to say that I've written a little Winifred hack over on the Bluegingerdoll blog.
Same great pull on style with 100% less collar.  Perfect for all those giant necklaces your father has purchased for you....well that might just be me.  I'm pretty sure my shopping/stashing gene came straight from him.  Anyways if you're interested pop on over there.  In closing here's a goofy pic of me embracing the wind that was trying to blow me and the camera over.  "I'm the king of the world!!!"

4.05.2014

Hoodie Hoodlums

One of the great things about having a toddler is using them as justification for fabric purchases.  Traa laa laa, I'm buying fox print cotton for my kid, not because I want it.  No, no I swear, it for him. *Beats toddler off fabric when he tries to take it*  My latest "kid" fabric purchase was this skulls sweatshirting from Kitschy Coo.  It was too awesome to pass up, period. I concocted the idea of matching Mother/Son hoodies to block out the "you should be stashbusting" voice.   Hush up voice, I got some family bonding to do.
I'll also admit that I dreamed of adorable photos a la Katie and Myra in our matching hoodies.  Yeah, that didn't happen.  Half of the photos are of me trying to drag Desmond into the shot while he goes limp and flops to the ground.  Thanks son, I pull the same trick the next time you yell about needing to bake cookies.  "Oh no, I can't reach the mixer from the floor. Guess they'll be no cookies today." Then he'll try to jump on me like a trampoline....maybe I should come up with a Plan B.
My hoodie is the Kitschy Coo Penny Pinafore hack with added kangaroo pocket. I'd thought about adding a kangaroo pocket to the navy version, but didn't want to break up the color accent. On this version it was time for pockets precious, pockets!  My iPod never had it so good.
Desmond is wearing the Kitschy Coo Reversible Zippy Hoodie. His version is not reversible, cause the skulls are too awesome, but is fully lined with some black jersey scraps.  I'm super jealous of his lining, it makes the whole thing twice as lush. He is more interested in sticks. "Phew, Phew!"

Pattern
Kitschy Coo Reversible Zippy Hoodie - sewn in a 4T size, which is what Des is currently wearing. The pattern comes in the size range of 18m-8 years. Sweet!

Fabrics used
Sugar Skulls sweatshirting, which is more like a beefy french terry. It has a looped back which you can see in this shot of the inside of my hoodie.
Also used Black cotton/lycra ribbing and black jersey scraps.

Pattern changes/alterations
Sewing for kids is fun, no alterations needed!  Modeling with kids, that's a different story. Stop trying to Escape!

Confessions/Advice
- The "working for now" coverstitch machine was used to attach the kangaroo pockets and to hem the hood edge.

- Installing the zipper is a little fiddly because of having to mess with two layers of knit.  My biggest problem was matching the motifs since I couldn't see them with the lining in the way.  I ended up attaching the zipper to the shell only, then attaching the lining with a second seam. The lining hides all that mess and no one is the wiser.

Husband Comment
"Cool matching outfits. Now I need one, but I want it to be poncho."  - He's joking....I think.

My Final Thoughts
Kitschy Coo had a hoodie pattern so I didn't go searching around for alternatives.  I know that Amanda's patterns are well drafted and have good instructions. That makes sewing her patterns enjoyable and I'm always pleased with the final project. What more could you ask for?  Maybe a ton of Lillestoff to magically land in my back yard. "The knit gods are pleased!" Looks like Des has got the "knit rain dance" sorted out. You'd all better go indoors. "Blam, Blam, Blam!"