Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Vintage Revived

This is no April Fool's joke, y'all!

On a recent jaunt to Goodwill, looking to expand my professional wardrobe, I found this dress.  It's handmade, y'all, with the tiniest of stitches.  It fits like it was made for me, but to look at it I would place it somewhere in the 1940s.  The button plackets are reminiscent of sailors, and the side closure is made with snaps instead of a zipper.  If I can manage to get the small makeup stain off the collar, this will be the best bargain I've gotten to date at a whopping $6, and in constant rotation until I can't wear it anymore.

It'll take some stain removing prowess of the gentlest kind and the making of a lovely slip to make this the summer gem it deserves to be.  Since the whole dress is off-white, and cut on the bias, and vintage, I think a slip really is a necessary, and I've wanted to figure out how to make one so I am taking the plunge.

The dress is floor length as it is right now, and I would love to wear it more, so I am taking it up to knee length, but that leaves enough fabric and an intact hem for a whole second skirt on the bias!  When I buy fabric to make a slip, I plan to get enough to line the skirt too.  It's all making me VERY happy!

Monday, March 30, 2015


It's a beautiful labor of love, and how I spent a good chunk of my week last week.
9 tabs in a spreadsheet.
176 pieces.
223 yards.

We're going to ignore the fact that I have yet to count the linings or the interfacings or the net/tuelle/crinolines or the flannels and just marvel at all the pretty fabrics now.  They're lined up on a shelf where I can see them, wrapped around tiny bolts made from comic book boards.  It's been a 2 day process, but I think it'll be worth it if it means I can see my fabrics, I stop buying duplicates, and I want to sew more... which is what it's all about, right? If I can see my stash I can sew my stash.

This process is part of the complete re-organizing and un-cluttering of my sewing space in the guest room.  As I cataloged the fabrics, I folded them the width of the comic book boards, and stored winter fabrics that way until after we move.  Summer fabrics, knits, bag fabrics, and quilting cottons all went onto the shelf.  Decor fabrics were put away till it's time for curtains/slipcovers in our new house, folded in their own bin, and I have yet to find the solution for cuts of fabric under 1 yard(mostly quilty stuff) so it has its own bin, where everything is neatly folded and arranged vertically in rows so I can see it all.

Now I'm off to drool at fabrics and finish the rest of the room... Maybe I'll come up with some sort of grand reveal to do here on the blog.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Stitching, fitting woes and SO CLOSE

This is another post in my new(ish) Throwback Thursdays series.  I've used this spot as a way to highlight the process of sewing my wedding dress over the past few weeks, although a bad cold kept me away from the computer for a couple of weeks, and a new computer means this is a post without pictures.  Read on for the latest steps in the journey!

So I overcame fear of the machine, and it was smooth sailing because of all of the hours of basting.
And it was a big moment when I finally got to put the dress on... and a good bit of shock too.  In the 2 and a half weeks between un-stitching the muslin and putting real stitches in the silk, I'd lost nearly 3 inches at my bust and probably an inch at my waist. Thanks, stress.  And thankfully, a good bit of the excess pinched out at the sides pretty easily, and with the addition of foam inserts at the bust, the shape was maintained without messing with the hand-sticthed, carefully clipped princess seams.
 This was not a welcome surprise, but I unpicked the join of the lining and the dress at the top, berated myself for not trying it on sooner, stepped away from the dress overnight, took in the side seams, and put everything back together.

I used organza selvages to strengthen the curve at the neckline, and all the way around the dress, which really helped the integrity of the silk when the top had to be un-stitched and re-stitched. The straps went in the front at this point, to be pinned to the right placement in the back.

This is the point where I needed to go to the fitter/hemmer who is a friend of a friend and get the back marked for all the tiny pearl buttons, and for the accompanying tiny button loops.  She also pinned the hem in place, and I was very proud of myself, y'all.  I left it with her for her to hem. I let my baby- the project that had consumed all waking, non-working hours for some time at this point- in the hands of an almost complete stranger.

She had the horsehair, and the silk thread, and the dress, and I'd see it in a week to sew on all of those tiny pearl buttons and the bustle.  Cue a sigh of relief and the simultaneous biting of nails...

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

SWAP 2015

Y'all, I really like this year's rules for SWAP... Sewing With A Plan. Given my new job in a business casual environment, my desire to do something creative and use some color after acres and hours of sewing white, I think I am going to dive in.  A capsule wardrobe fitting the SWAP model would go a long way toward giving me a cohesive work wardrobe, and as a young professional I need all the help I can get.

If you're unfamiliar with the SWAP format, here's a run down:

Stitcher's Guild specifies you must create the following in an 11-garment format:
5 tops
3 bottoms
3 "wildcard" items

For this year's focus and twist, one garment has to reversible, multifunctional, or upcycled... making something new out of something old(which is right up my alley!!!) You are allowed one garment finished before the start date of December 26, and one purchased garment.  Wild Cards may not be accessories.

The deadline is April 30.  I think I'm in!

5 tops:
grey oxford cloth tee in TNT pattern
blue swiss dot Jasmine tie blouse by Colette Patterns
woven white envelope shoulder tshirt(will riff on TNT)
1 knit top using Renfrew by Sewaholic Patterns
1 cowl neck knit top in royal blue (likely also Renfrew)

3 bottoms:
upcycled purple boucle skirt with shaping and black side panels added??
Purple herringbone wool skirt??
black TNT skirt, add a pocket
grey pencil skirt with pockets

3 Wild Cards
Grey sweater knit dress
Fuschia Sweater knit dress
cardigan/jacket tie-together TBD, probably already in my closet.

Monday, March 16, 2015


It's over 70 degrees! Easter is in 3 weeks!

My "sewjo" as phrased on Instagram is here with a punch-packing presence and so it's off to the machine for me... I have quite a bit I would like to get through before Easter, so it's a good thing I've gotten a kick in the pants from the unlikeliest of places- a bed for our dog, Winston.  He outgrew his puppy crate a while ago, and I was ASTOUNDED at how much people pay for pet beds... So I made one with Minky and canvas. It's stuffed with scraps and clothes too worn out to give to charity.  He's one happy customer. I'm one happy customer because I didn't have to buy a dog bed, AND everything was stash.
Plus I have an excuse to share a picture of my dog, since he would kind of growl and whine if I tried to take the bed out of his crate to get pictures of it.  Apparently it's a good one.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Hi all,

It's time for some housekeeping... which I realized and thought about while I was away from computers and sleeping a ton... Thanks flu.

But, now that I'm feeling better, I thought I'd drop y'all a line, and say that I'm alive, and will pass on more wedding dress updates this week.  I've gotten a couple things made since then, so I am going to try to write them up as well, and in the next few weeks I'm hoping you'll start to see some changes on the appearance side of things... I have buttons hanging out from forever ago, and I'm missing others, and there's this quilting thing I've been dabbling in, which I would like to post a bit about as well, so I am going to see if I can make a schedule and stick to it.  The creative juices are flowing! I can't wait to share more!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Cutting and basting

This is installment 2 of Throwback Thursdays... I am attempting to catch up the blog with all the sewing I've done and somehow missed blogging about, and I figured the best place to start was my wedding dress.  So without further ado...

Trying on the muslin over the petticoat and corselette was a really good feeling.  I finally felt like I really knew what the dress would look like! And it was so fluffy! And not at all what I imagined and everything I imagined. It was pretty great. And of course, I forgot to take a single picture.

So it was time to mark my fitting changes (running and stress had made all of my measurements smaller from the waist up... Not fun. :/) and when that was done, I got to rip the muslin apart, iron all the pieces, cut them down, mark the right sides with washi tape, and then lay them out on a silk sandwich that was 8 yards long. 

The makeup of the sandwich: habotai silk lining on the bottom, silk organza in the middle, and the gorgeous shantung silk on the top layer. I pinned the layers together using superfine, very sharp silk pins, and it took a few attempts, but I finally got all of the muslin pieces on the silk, on grain.  Small victories, and pretty scrap piles! Silk at the front, lining in the middle, organza at the back. I've found so many cool uses for the scraps.  To include the bias mentioned last week for the edge of the corselette... I also made enough for the shoulder straps, hanger straps, and more!

Then came the basting. I pinned pieces together 2 or three at a time, then stitched it all together with orange silk thread, just to make sure everything would lay smoothly and come together properly. Everything stayed pinned in its silk sandwich all put away till I was ready for it, and I went from front to back, adding godets in batches. It took many many hours, but it was a strange sort of calming, if that makes any sense. I just listened to podcasts, and stitched. It was meditative and prayerful and calming, and since the rest of wedding planning was really going crazy, I was so thankful for that. 
Once everything was basted together, it was kind of difficult to imagine turning my sewing machine loose on it.  It was one of those silly things that was half-paralyzing:  I was so close to finishing this dress, without a whole lot of time to spare, and I was TERRIFIED that using my sewing machine on it would somehow ruin it.  So it sat.  For 2 days.  And I turned my attention to other wedding-y things that were demanding, like flowers. And wine choices, and vendors... So I'll leave y'all here till next week.  

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Wedding Dress Guts

Why yes! It IS over 2 months after the wedding.  And I did, indeed, finish my wedding gown... not as on time as I would have liked, but there you have it.  When we left off, we were at 17 hours and a finished muslin.  Then came the guts... All of the underpinnings needed to really showcase the fabric and the lines and the awesome sauce nature of all of the work. I'll keep working through the dress in posts in a new bloggy bit of awesome I'm gonna tag as throwback Thursdays, looking at completed projects I neglected to blog as I was completing them.

I started from the bottom... It was like petticoat junction, except not really. I DID make one fantastic petticoat though. It was fun, especially once the colored stuff came into play. There was a red/pink layer on the bottom, then a blue layer, then 2 white outer layers. So fluffy. SO FLUFFY! You can tell in the photos that there are actually 2 pieces, the outer layers and the inner layers... It made it that much easier to get everything through the sewing machine. 
I spent about 12 hours, maybe more, building this petticoat.  It was a process to be sure, but the colors would have been difficult to duplicate in anything RTW, and I got to split the back of the petticoat and then add in even more fluff on the outer layers to help the train do its thing better.

Next came the corselette I built. The outside was a twill, and the inside was a batiste, both cotton. I used spiral steel boning in combination with steel corset boning, and I cut everything down and capped everything off. Add in soft foam cups, and we were in business! The top of the corselette was finished with shantung bias after this photo was taken to ensure that if things played peek-a-boo, it wouldn't be as obvious.

That's the quick-and-dirty version of the underpinnings saga.  My goal is to post the rest of the wedding dress construction in a couple more posts, about once a week, and get back to blogging on a more regular basis here in the near future.  I miss it! The internet sewing community is such a great place, and I have more time and sewing mojo than I have in a while so I am looking forward to blogging a bit more often.  Check in, y'all! Happy Friday!

Friday, January 23, 2015


I'm gonna jump in, albeit a month late... I am committed, y'all.

I haven't sewn anything yet this year but plans are brewing and I have a whole weekend ahead of me.  It's so exciting. And to think it started with Instagram! Leasa of Project Leasa posted a photo and said it was gonna be the year of sewing all the fabric she'd been saving for something special, and used the hashtag #sewmystash2015 and got an amazing response.  It balooned.  She blogged about it,  and every 3 weeks or so she has posted a challenge.  No rules except the ones you set for yourself, lots of quilty inspiration, and a really amazing group of sewists gathering to cheer each other along! There's even a widget, and a list of blogs... It's all very exciting.

Our first task was to post publicly a picture of our fabric stash, and here it is:
5 32 qt bins, 3 15 qt bins, and 2 of those dresser drawers. There's also a bigger a bigger bin full of WIP/UFOs, and these bins with projects in progress:

And the next task is not to catalog or sort or otherwise organize, but to MAKE SOMETHING. Y'all, I can get behind that one.  I have a rainy weekend and no on-calls on the horizon, so after spin class tonight I am going to cut some projects out and get to it.  Maybe even something with hearts.

Check out Leasa, and if you Instagram, follow that hashtag! You'll be inspired. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Muslin: Round 2

I think this is the most fabric I've ever used in a single go.  I didn't believe it when I saw someone go through 2 bolts of muslin working on their wedding gown, but I can see how now.

I am really excited about how great this is looking and how well it is coming together. The draping was my biggest concern, because the entire dress is a Frankenpattern of sorts... Iteration 3 of the dress I found tucked away in the costume shop.  The original was ripped apart to have a second life as a pattern. It became Sunset, the red dress I ripped apart to use as a pattern when I realized its muslin was long gone. You see it above in the middle layer of the pattern sandwich, with muslin round one on top and length and a train added with mostly ignored guidance from Vogue 2788 on the bottom, augmented by newspaper.  It is crazy to think that the red piece is knee- length.  It's been a journey, friends.  But the finish line is in sight.

I spent 2 movies drafting the back, and another one drafting the front.  At that point, I started to cut, and we're looking at another movie and a half there.  Then there was the scary moment where I thought I didn't have enough fabric... because I ordered everything a month or so ago.  And so there was biting of nails until I laid everything out, and it was all gravy, but with 8 yards of 54" fabric, JUST barely. The laying out muslin pieces on pretty silk was all podcasts, but I think I listened to 3? So another hour?
I pinned all of my pieces in over the course of another 2 podcasts, but these were game shows and This American Life, so I think that's another almost 2 hours. They went together very quickly because of all the prep though, so just another hour and change.  Lake Woebegone and Ask Me Another.
This dress is a yardage monster, but I think it is worth every little bit.  It is also the most time I have spent on a single garment... If we add it up, to this point, that's 5.5 movies.  Let's just say they're each a little over 2 hours long. 2.25x5.5? 12.375... 12 hours and 20 minutes, ish.   Plus another 4.5 hours of podcasts.  And the pictures you're looking at are from a fitting session that was about an hour.  So... Let's round up and say 17 hours to that point.  Seventeen.

But it's worth it.
It is, after all, my wedding dress.