Monday, October 3, 2011

What Am I Working On....

I seem to suffer from chronic sewaphrenia. I start one project, then am completely dazzled by something else then take a break and work on another hobby. I wish I could organize myself better. I still have a ton of fabric purchases left over for the Summer 2011 wardrobe. Oh well, I will have to find room in the closet for the now Summer 2012 fabric. Thank goodness I don't buy too much trendy fabric!
Below is a list of projects I'm currently working on:

1. Riding Breeches
I made a pair of full seat breeches last year using Suitability pattern #2038. It doesn't seem to be available on their website anymore, but it looks like they repackaged it as #2300. These breeches have lasted me longer and are the most comfortable than any that I have bought! Here is me riding in them with my horse Jasper (that's me on the left). Isn't Jasper handsome?

I made them out of black doubleknit and synthetic suede for the full seat. I never showcased them on my blog because I did a terrible job on the welt pockets! Riding in a good quality doubleknit is heaven. It is like wearing heavy control top panty hose, which means no jiggle when trotting or cantering! That being said, I am making another pair out of navy blue doubleknit and a gorgeous blue ultrasuede and I did a much better job this time with the front welt pocket, made out of the ultrasuede!
I would LOVE to find some better zippers like the ones used on activewear, with interesting zipper pulls, so if anyone is actually reading this blog and can recommend somewhere please let me know!

Although pricey, I do love the quality of Sawyer Brook fabrics compared to my local crappy Joanns, which is becoming more and more like a craft store. However, I have to say I'm a little disappointed in the inconsistency. I bought black, navy blue and red, all listed under the same doubleknit fabric - yet the navy blue is slightly less meaty than the black and the red is stiffer than the black and navy blue. All are nice and 4 way stretchy - but I specifically went back to the site to buy the navy blue and red because I was so happy with the black I received.

2. A Reupholstery Project
Since we bought the house in Napa, I've been pouring over architectural sites, furniture sites and design blogs for how best to design the interior of this mid century home. I was instantly drawn to Danish modern furniture. A lot is made from teak and come from the 50's era, when the house was built. Alas, a particular dining room chair I had been eyeing came up for sale at an antiques store in San Francisco. 6 to be exact, with a teak table.  We probably paid to much, but I just had to have those chairs! The dining area will be the main focal point when someone walks into the front door so I wanted something funky and interesting - but comfortable.

These are called either compass chairs or flap back chairs, depending on what site you go to, designed by Kai Kristiansen for SVA Mobler. All of the chairs are in great shape but the upholstery is plain - and a little smelly. I am not entirely sure if this is the original upholstery.
I am going to reupholster them myself. Crazy, maybe, but it will cost an arm and a leg to have it done professionally. I have reupholstered chair seats but not one with a fabric back such as this. It doesn't look too complicated - if I choose a solid color! There is piping where the back meets the arm that appears to have been nailed in underneath:

And there is a lot of staples under the chair back where it appears the fabric was tucked in:

From what I am learning, and from deconstructing clothing, I am taking lots of pictures of the original chair, then will take pictures when I am taking the original fabric off so I don't forget how everything went together. I can then use the original fabric as pattern pieces.
One more hobby to add to the list - oh dear!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sweet Satisfaction!

Five years after I ventured into designing a competition ballroom gown  I finally got to see it in action.

Palm Desert Dancesport Championships July 2011

Watching the video made me remember the long hours spent researching, designing prototypes, the frustrating failures before I finally created a competition worthy dress.

It was all worth it to achieve that goal, creating something I never thought I could. I hope this is a lesson to all sewers out there who think they cannot sew something difficult. Take it from someone who knew nothing about ballroom gowns. You will make mistakes. The stitch ripper will become your best friend. Don't give up. With perseverence, you WILL become a better sewer.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Ubuntu Top - New Look 6149 And MY new look

I just finished redesigning my blog and moving it back over to Blogger. Yep, I designed it all myself!! I had to change the cartoon of me a little because 2 weeks ago I got my hair completely chopped and she originally had long flowing hair!

Do you always have the urge to wear something new everytime you go out? I certainly do, and of course most of the time, I will end up making it. Sometimes I give myself a ridiculous time window to complete and that was the case with this evening out. Luckily I had this New Look pattern in my stash and a remnant of ITY print fabric that I had been dying to make something out of.

I felt like calling this 'how to whip up something in 2 hours' but since I seem to be going with restaurant themes, I decided to keep the theme going. Since we are moving to wine country, we are starting to explore restaurants in the area. Our goal is to eat and drink our way through Napa!
Last night was dinner at a vegetarian restaurant called Ubuntu in downtown Napa (delicious!!). Then it was off to see Ottmar Liebert at the Napa Valley Opera House. He's a flamenco guitarist concert so all I could think of was that I must wear something bold and what is more bold than red?

Unfortunately, there was not enough material for a dress and barely enough material for this top! I had to shorten the arms considerably. Luckily I could lengthen it 2 inches for my long torso. Very easy to put together and I used my serger cover stitch for all of the hems. It still ended up feeling a skosh short on me, but atleast I could finally do something with this fabric!

After my long and arduous previous project, it was nice to 'whip something up'!

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Gary Danko Dress - Vogue 1233

The Pamella Roland dress is finally completed. I am calling it the Gary Danko  dress because that is where I wore it for the first time out as we were entertaining a business associate from Sweden. Although I love the dress, it did not pass the dinner test very well as you will read below.
Pattern Description:
Close-fitting, lined dress has front darts, princess seams, patch pockets with flaps, cap sleeves, large turned back collar with extensions, partially concealed button closure and mid-knee length. Belt with covered buckle.
Pattern Sizing:
6-12, 14-20
Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Pretty darn close!

Were the instructions easy to follow?
Labor intense alert - there are 50 steps! I did not think this dress would take me so long to make. There's a few lost weekends I barely remember except for waking up with threads hanging off me and stiff fingers. Even with the LARGE number of steps, the pattern was for the most part easy to follow. There is a mistake in Step 2. All it says is "Pin Side Front to side edge of front." and that's it. It should also say "Stitch" :)
What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I love the unusual collar and the fun front pockets

I love that this is an actual dress from Pamella Rolands collection Spring 2010 . Overall, I like how it turned out but this took a long time to get the fit right and there is one issue I sort of fixed which I will discuss below. I cut out the pattern a little big, my mistake. I am smaller on top than my bottom so had to make adjustments to all of the princess seams to fit perfectly to my upper body as per the model photo. It was worth the effort. The flare of the lower portion of the dress was a lot more pronounced than it shows in the model photo and was very unflattering when I first tried it on.

It really stuck out at the sides. It could depend a lot on the fabric. My fabric, although not very thick, is a little stiff. I ended up taking in about half an inch of the flare on each side seam. My advice is to wait until you have sewn on the facing, collar and sleeves to see if the sides need any adjustment.
My biggest hurdles were the cap sleeves and the lower concealed button panel. It took me forever to fit the sleeves in and have them looking perfectly symmetrical. My first attempt looked too full so I ripped them out, cut the sleeves again, reduced the cap somewhat and tried again. I also interfaced the sleeve openings on the dress to prevent stretching or fraying. It took walking away from it for awhile because the third attempt went in fine.

The lining is hand stitched to the sleeve lining and I had to be careful to avoid puckering on the rs of fabric:

The bottom of the lining is hand stitched to the hem ends of the fabric which has been pressed up 2 inches, producing a fold at the bottom of the lining.

Although I detest hand sewing and this is something I would normally machine sew, this came together easily.

The lower concealed button closure was very easy to sew - however - it did not pass the dinner test. Sitting down at the table the bottom of the dress revealed the no longer concealed button closure  (this is not sitting down, but you get the idea).
I decided to tack a couple of stitches in between each button on the concealed panel  It reduces but doesn't completely get rid this. Obviously the fact that I took in the sides may have contributed.

Fabric Used:
A silk linen type fabric with metallic threads purchased from Fabric Mart as part of their club membership. Sewing wise - It was very easy to work with and the metallic threads stood up well to ironing. This pattern needs some type of linear fabric because of the different grain detailing - on the collar:
 and the belt.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
I stayed true to the pattern except for the belt. Steps 40-50 have you sew a tube out of the fabric and and slip over belting, then edgestitch etc etc. I have an easier solution:
  • 1. Buy cheap belt.
  • 2. Buy Liquid Stitch.
  • 3. Unstitch and unhook buckle.
  • 4. Glue fabric
  • 5. Reattach buckle. Voila.  

Would you sew it again?
No, it's a pretty unique design.
Would you recommend it to others?
Yes. With an fyi on the concealed button closure.
A lot of tedious steps produces a very elegant looking dress. Except when sitting!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

New Project - Vogue 1233 Pamella Roland Dress

I am currently sewing together this dress:


To be honest, I did not think of sewing this dress until I had found the perfect fabric - and I did. If you belong to Fabric Marts swatch service, there was a silk with metallic threads linen type fabric that came in last months samples. Perfect for this dress. A little off grain, though - so it was a challenge to cut. Details to come....

Friday, April 22, 2011

Burda Magazine 01-2008-119

Moving to wine country means - a new wine county wardrobe, of course! I've started off with this fairly simple top from Burda Magazine. I had made the top a couple of years ago, but I never liked the all around elastic that went right under the bust. It felt uncomfortable and looked...sausage-y. With this second attempt, I added 2 inches to the upper front and back pieces so the elastic casing is lower. I think it looks much better, in my opinion.

Pattern Description:
This tunic looks very dressy indeed, with the empire waist, seam under scoring it's elegant style. narrow tie bands adorn the plunging (and yes it is!) v-neckline adjusting it as desired.
Pattern Sizing:
Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Except for one change, yes.
Were the instructions easy to follow?
After studying and wrapping my head around as per usual!
What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
Love the vintage-y look, the gathered detailing at the shoulders, under the arms and around bodice. The casing for the drawstring is placed a little oddly. It starts at the , goes under the arms and up to the front neckline. This photo illustrates it better:

The instructions call for you to make your adjustments, then sew down the drawstring where it exits the front neckline. I chose not to do so because depending on what I am wearing underneath, I may want to adjust it differently. Since I lowered the upper bodice, I sewed together the two front bodice pieces where they cross the chest to avoid any gaposis.
I finished the armhole and bottom hems with a serged rolled hem.

Fabric Used:
Polyester chiffon that had a nice border design on it that I thought would be perfect for this pattern. Think I got this from Hancocks.
Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
I had made this pattern up once before and did not like the placement of the elastic right under the chest.

It looked a little too sausage-y on me, if that's a word! Plus I have a long torso. So I added 2 inches to the upper front and back pieces. The elastic falls just above my waist and looks way more flattering.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?

For a Burda pattern, this is easy to cut out with only 5 pieces! A perfect top for spring and summer.

Monday, April 18, 2011

We're moving to Napa, baby!

My husband and I have been pretty busy lately and I am happy to finally announce that we are moving -  to Napa!!! It took a long time and years of saving to realize this dream, but we finally found the perfect home in wine country for the two of us. It overlooks the Napa valley and beyond. Check out these views!

It's going to be great to get out of our townhouse condo. Right now, we live about 45 minutes from Napa. We won't be moving for quite some time, though. The home is a mid-century ranch and we are planning to do a complete remodel on it. We kind of HAVE to, that is. It's falling apart in places.

When the inspector turned on the shower in the guest bathroom - water started gushing out of the side of the house!!!

Uh Oh!
But that's all part of the fun!!! At least I think so. We already have a contractor and architect in place and we can't wait to start tearing down some walls! I think a custom designed sewing room is in my future!! I've also started a blog - check out The Napa Project

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Laurelle Skirt

Courtesy of Burda Style. The photographs from the pattern creator show rear welt pockets, yet the pattern comes with regular back jeans pockets. I chose the latter. But after sewing them on, I realized they sat way below my butt because they are placed below the rounded seam. Seriously, I looked gangsta. So I took them off and left the rear pocketless.
I used a dark stretch denim from my stash and yellow topstitching thread. Jeans thread was way too thick for my machine.
Sorry for the poor quality shots. It has been raining here in N. California non stop so the lack of sun makes for dark pictures!

There are no instructions (but hey, it's free!) so here are some of my steps in making the skirt:

1. Cut out the pattern. The front pockets are a little confusing. Cut 2 of the jeans material:

And 2 of the pocket lining material minus the pocket opening:

2. Sew the pocket lining to each jeans front.

3. Then flip over, press lining down and topstitch at the pocket opening.

I used my cover stitch on my serger for this and the rear seam, but my Babylock does not work well at all with curves at all and it turned out to be too much of a pain for the fly. So I chalked out the double lines for the fly and stitched it with a single needle on my regular sewing machine. I would have used a double needle, but none of them were wide enough for my liking for denim.
I then sewed the fly using instructions from a Kwik Sew jeans pattern. It's pretty standard steps, except for topstitching the front.

Side View:

I love it. It looks nice with the sleeveless turtleneck I made out of some leftover grey ponte knit and my black boots. Perfect for this rainy weather!

Monday, March 14, 2011

UPDATE: Burda World of Fashion Magazine and How I Avoid Tracing AT ALLCOSTS!

Since I posted my original article on how to scan Burda World of Fashion patterns instead of trace, I have come up with some tweaks and shortcuts, based on my experience and others. This is for all those that HATE to trace the Burda Patterns. Some of you may not like my method. This works for me and if you are a computer nerd like myself, you will probably find this easier than tracing a million lines through carbon paper!

Material Required:
- Highlighter
- Scanner
- Adobe Photoshop or similar
- Scotch Tape
- Scissors

1. Since Burda has reduced the number of pattern sheets, thus making a particular pattern color even more perilous to locate, I first highlight all of the pattern pieces for the pattern I want to trace.

2. Rather than cutting up the pattern pieces, I fold them into 8 x10 rectangles row by row of the sheet and scan them. You want to keep them in 8x10 size as much as possible in order to print onto 8x10 paper and not have any cropping.

 I scan them from Photoshop. Do not resize or they will print out the wrong size.  I print each one as I scan it (to keep track of order).

Keep all of the scans in Photoshop. You will need them later.

Now here is the only tricky part - piecing everything together! I print off to a color printer and this is where the highlighter really helps. You will end up with an exact replica of the pattern sheet:

WAIT. DON'T CUT OUT THE PIECES JUST YET. Pattern pieces for one pattern usually overlap one another on the pattern sheet. Examine your pattern sheet and determine which scans you need to print doubles, triples of etc to cut out overlapping pattern pieces.

Now start cutting :)

And there you go. You now have pattern pieces for your pattern - and an intact original pattern sheet.