Sunday, March 31, 2013

Pushing Daisies Sew Along: In the Home Stretch!

I played dress up with me this time instead of torturing one of my cats. 
So I've almost fallen behind again because I've been working during the day and watching Game of Thrones in the evening. Game of Thrones required my full attention - I'm sure you understand. I went back and forth this weekend between thinking I'd get it all done and I wouldn't get anything done, but actually, I made decent progress so posts shall be coming and maybe, just maybe, I'll have the full reveal next weekend.

One of the worries I had about this dress were the sleeves. I've never done real sleeves before, at least not on my own. There was that one time where I taught my sister how to do it, but... it was actually the first time I had ever done anything with sleeves and now this is the first time I've ever actually done it myself.

I had to gather the top of the sleeves a bit because somehow they came out to large, but that works perfectly because I loved gathered sleeves. I'll be sewing them up shortly and then I just need to insert the zipper! 

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Monday, March 25, 2013

For When You Don't Have a Serger: French Seams

For those without a serger (and for those like me who have yet to try the overlock stitch on their machine), french seams are a great way to finish seams without the ends unraveling. If you haven't yet tried, here's an easy tutorial that should help get you started!

First, you'll need to figure out what your seam allowance should be. Just to be easy, let's say it's half an inch. So you'll sew the first bit at 1/4 seam allowance.

The first bit is sewn with wrong sides together. I know, it goes against everything you've been taught, and if you're like me, you panic just a bit when you're finished because it looks so very wrong. Don't give it in to the panic.

What I particularly like about the first step is that you're able to see where you're going and if you need to adjust either the second seam allowance or if you need to adjust something more drastic, like redoing the neckline, for instance. But hopefully that's not the case!

Next you press the stitches, and then snip off the excess, down to the seam.

Then you flip it inside out and sew, right sides together, your second seam allowance. By flipping and sewing the second seam allowance, you're encasing all the loose ends that may fray into a neat little pouch.

And then after pressing, you turn it right side out and find a beautiful seam! A little extra effort makes a beautiful finished garment.

Do you like french seams? What's your favorite way to finish seams in a garment?

Edit: As Miss Emmi from The Bar Nothing mentioned below, sometimes french seams aren't always the best way to finish a seam (i.e. if the fabric is too heavy or if the seam is curved), but I found this great round up of various ways to finish seams over at Sew, Mama, Sew and I thought I would share! She also has a tutorial for mock french seams, which do work on curves.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

And this, my lovelies, is why you should make a muslin...

I've finally found time to sew, and as a result, I've found some problems. A blessing in disguise, I suppose. I'm using a vintage Vogue 9810 for the top part of my dress, and I just knew it would cause problems. Well, I didn't know but I assumed because the drawings on the front aren't very flattering. They sort of look like aliens.

Anyway, I was going for view C which had a high neck and a high back. Instead of a zip, they suggest hook and eyes down the back, which is not practical in anyone's life. I was going to put a zip in the side just because I like side zips better, but therein caused all the problems: the neckline was so high, I couldn't get it over my head.

Way too high of a neckline!
I suppose I should back up and say that I had other problems as well. As I was putting in the interfacing, I found that it wasn't the right length. For once I cut it exactly so I'm not sure where the problem came in, but I didn't think anything about it. I just added another strip and sewed it up... which didn't work simply because the lining I'm using likes to fray. So the neckline had little bits of frayed thread where I added the strip. Not one to be deterred, I added some fray check glue and thought that would be that.

(I also tried adding text because I couldn't find an arrow to stick on there to point out my mistakes. Not sure I like the text though...)

Gaping hole in the middle!

Additional strap I laid on top.

...that causes fraying on the neckline.
But then after trying to fix the fraying, I realized the neckline was so high I couldn't fit it over my head. While trying to figure out how to adjust it, I realized that view A had a nice dip in the back (which they don't like to picture for some reason), and wouldn't that scoop look lovely on the front? Maybe?

Potentially the front?
Actually the new front. Maybe.
So I laid my new pattern pieces over my old pattern pieces and adjust the neck and shoulders and hacked into my old pattern pieces, which I actually find rather funny because cutting lace was so daunting before, but now I'm all, "WHERE ARE THE SCISSORS?"

So I adjusted it and now I can't decide which should be the front and which the back. Perhaps it will be reversible when I finally finish?

To make matters worse, I attempted to skip the interfacing step and just fold over the neck line half an inch. Big mistake. To be honest, it didn't look awful. Or rather, it could have been a look, a styling decision for the bold, whatever. Not really my style so I then unpicked the entire collar. Again.

So exhausted.
On the plus side, now I know not to skip steps or be lazy and I have a wearable garment since I can now get it over my head. I was also worried about putting in an invisible zipper because I was worried about having to unpick the zip through the lace (you know, in case I make a mistake), but I learned today that it's really not a big deal at all. I was hoping to make more progress on the dress today, but I feel like I'm exactly where I started. I'm packing it up for the day and will try again tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Pushing Daisies Sew Along: Basting the Bodice and Gathering the Skirt

I'm finally back to sewing! This dress has been so sad sitting in all of its pieces and I'm so happy I was able to work on it today! My cats were also excited. Every time I held up a piece, one would come out of nowhere and attack it, almost giving me a heart attack. Luckily no lace was ripped. :-)

I mentioned on the last post that I was going to baste together the lace and the lining to create one piece to work with, but I didn't enjoy the way it was turning out.

Basting is simple. You turn your stitch length up high to create longer stitches. Usually on machines it's a 4, though mine goes higher. I started basting together the bodice, but I decided that I wanted it to be more secure so I went back and stitched the bodice pieces together normally.

You can see the difference here (and my inability to sew in a straight line):

So after that, I just stitched up all the sides to make sure everything was right.

Then I cut off the excess lace:

After sewing around all the edges, I went ahead and sewed my darts. Because I marked them on the lining and because my two pieces of fabric were one, it was now incredibly easy to stitch the darts up.

 Then I turned my attention to the skirt. I did not trace around the entirety of the skirt as I did the bodice. Because I am working with such large chunks of fabric, it didn't seem as important to me that they be perfectly connected.

Because the skirt is a bit full, I started to gather the top seam. I turned up my stitch length to 3.5 and then I sewed 2 lines, one right after the other.Leave plenty of thread tail at the beginning and end of your stitching. You can see it below, and you can see how it's already starting to pucker because of the longer stitch length.

Finally, after sewing the two lines, I took the back two threads and held them while I began to pull the fabric. It creates a ruffle and you can make it as big or as small of a ruffle as you'd like.

Whew! Took me long enough to get to this point! How is everyone else faring?

Also apologies for the awful pictures. My regular camera died, my replacement camera is awful (and I lost the battery charger), and my phone, despite its boasting of HD 10MP, etc, etc, takes terrible pictures as you can see. I should have another, better one coming in a few days!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Sew Grateful and Pushing Daisies Sew Along Updates

Remember how I mentioned I was ridiculously busy with work back at the beginning of February? It's gotten so much worse. I won't bore you with the details, but I've been spending 18 hours a day either working or travelling to and from work. Hopefully it ends this week and I tell you this only because it's affected my sewing and I've fallen behind on the sew along and most other things in my life. I'm hoping to get all caught up by the end of the week, but I'll definitely be on top of things next week.

I don't want to leave you without anything. I have a few announcements and updates if you'll bear with me.

Firstly, I've been coveting some patterns and scouring ebay and etsy with minimal luck so I thought I would turn to you guys. I would LOVE to own both McCall's 5816 and Simplicity 9227. If you have either copy (or maybe something similar?), especially if they're in a size 12 or 14, please let me know. I'm happy to trade something out of my own pattern collection (which is mostly vintage) or whatever you'd like. Shoot me an email or leave me a message here.

Secondly, I have just contacted the winner from Sew Grateful contest. I know, it's shameful! But I'll have it out this week. Congratulations go out to Catja from Gjeometry. If you'll send me your info, I'll send it out this week.

And finally, I have been incredibly lucky during the Sew Grateful week as I won a total of 6 contests. I was hesitant to say anything because I feel a little bit like I cheated somehow, but I want to credit the amazing bloggers and their gifts, as well as give something back.

I'm going to host another sew along in the next few months, this time from The Hour, but more on that after I finish the Pushing Daisies Sew Along! I'm also going to sponsor a few more giveaways as a thank you. I have some patterns I could part with and potentially some fabric as well so stay tuned for that in the next few weeks!

Okay, in no particular order:

1. Suitcase full of goodies from Deborah at Minnado's House. The contents of the suitcase were actually a surprise, but I was a little more excited about the vintage suitcase because I collect them. However, when I opened the suitcase, there were so many amazing things inside, including lace trim from her grandfather's wedding dress business!

2. Ring cushion pin from MrsC at Sent From My Iron. Made by her mother, this ring cushion is such a clever idea. You wear it and keep your pins in it and that way there's no twisting and turning trying to figure out where to stick the pins. She also threw in some adorable ribbon!

3. Vintage knitting magazines from Finished Threads. Yes, there are some horribly dated sweaters but there are some great vintage ones as well, which is why I couldn't wait to get a hold of them!

4. An issue of Mollie Makes from Nessa's Place. This magazine isn't available in the US (as far as I know), but I've heard it has some interesting things in it and I couldn't wait to take a peek!

5. A blouse pattern and some beautiful fabric with Chinese lanterns on it from Graca at Sew Essentially Sew. I already have some great ideas for the fabric, and I can't wait to get started!

6. 10 yards of fabric of my choice from Erin's stash at Seamstress Erin. I grabbed some jersey (of course), some silk, some vintage hounds tooth that I can't wait to make something with, and some cotton and others.  Erin threw in some extra trimmings from her grandmother and a pattern.

(more fabric not pictured due to no cell service at one of my jobs - updated soon!)

Andddd late breaking news: I just won Oona's weekly contest for a bobbin holder. Go check out her blog if you haven't already. She's amazing.

And perhaps I'll stay away from entering contents for awhile... or maybe I'll buy a lottery ticket!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Finished: Silhouette Pillows for Valentine's Day

Remember how I mentioned the week of Valentine's Day that the bf and I were celebrating a bit late because of work? Remember how over the weekend I mentioned that I was still working on his gifts? I'm finally finished! I was afraid it was going to be a month late, but it was only a few weeks late.

Yes, you're seeing correctly. I made a grown man some pillows.

I knew I wanted to make him something, especially since I bought his Christmas gifts (and um, may have skipped his birthday), but I wasn't sure what to do. Last year I made him some terribly awesome paintings (here and here). To be fair (to me), it was the first painting/artistic thing I had done since middle school, which was about 15 years ago. I was generally proud, but I knew it could be better.

His reaction last year? "I love it because you made it." Not quite what I was going for, but I'll take it. I asked him recently and he said the paintings not only grew on him, but he actually loved them because they were reflections of our personality. (Awww!)

So as I was brainstorming for ideas, I saw this painted pillow idea from Cotton and Curls and I knew that was it. But I didn't want to have a bicycle because we're subway people. We're also vain so I knew I wanted to feature us. He's a cameraman in real life. I love dressing up all the time. He loves taking my picture. Perfect! 

As I was searching for silhouettes to use, I came across the vintage couple image having coffee and a smoke.  One of my favorites things to do is to sit over tea or coffee and chat so I wanted to include that one. I cut out the cigarette from the picture because I'm trying to instill good habits!

Okay. So while Cotton and Curls had a great tutorial, I took photos of my process because it's slightly different. Also, I want to add that I know it seems like it's a lot of work in theory, and while it is a lot of steps, this was pretty simple to create.

All right, so once you find the silhouettes you want to use, you need to print them. Because I didn't want to waste black ink, I converted them into a vector outline. I looked up how to do it on photoshop, and it seemed like there were a lot of steps involved. Since I'm not a photoshop expert (or even beginner), I went back to my tried and true Picasa and just clicked on "pencil sketch." Voila.

I made my pillows 15"x15" so I had 4 fabric squares of that size. I printed and cut out the vectors, then taped them to the fabric. In hindsight, I would center them a bit more because adding the stuffing obviously stretches them out, but place them however you like. Use a ruler to make sure everything's level.

And watch out for cats.

The couple vector had a lot more detail, as you can see from the original, on the above right side. I used small pieces of tape where I wanted detail, like in the chair, the legs, parts of the table. You'd think it would need to be perfect, but it's nowhere close.

After lining up and taping the vectors, I used sponge paintbrushes to transfer the black paint. I suppose fabric paint is best, but I used acrylic because it's all I had. According to the internet, acrylic is just as sturdy, but the dried result is just stiffer than fabric paint. Fine by me.

The aftermath.
And the result!

Then I went through my suitcase of fabric scraps and picked out colors and weights I liked. Some of the lighter fabrics weren't as good for this project because they were so flimsy. I loved the satin, sateen cotton, and the heavy lace the best. I cut out my shapes, arranged them appropriately, and pinned them into place.

Then I top stitched the hearts into place. I used the same blue thread, and I was afraid it was be a terrible contrast (but too lazy to change the thread and bobbin), but it actually turned out quite nice I think.

After top stitching, I took some yarn and a needle and I threaded the balloons. I tied knots behind each ballon and had the strings come through the girl's fingers.Instead of tying them at the end, I used fabric glue to secure them behind her hand and again where the strings are loose.

Then I just stitched up the pillow, leaving a small opening on the bottom for the stuffing. After stuffing, I topstitched the small opening shut.

As for the vintage couple, I decided putting hearts around them would be too much. I didn't want to leave it alone because while it was very classic and simple, it wasn't overtly Valentine's Day and it didn't match with the cheesiness of the other pillow.

I was thinking about putting an outline of a tree next to them because I'm obsessed with regular furniture and scenes taking place outside at the moment. But then I stumbled across a very beautiful photo of some hot air balloons that seemed so nostalgic and romantic. I just loved it and decided I would have hot air balloons.

The boyfriend was more than a little shocked that I gave him pillows for Valentine's Day, but he loved them. (Of course!) He was terribly confused until he saw the little cameraman and he exclaimed, "That's me! Oh, and that's you! This is great!" Ha, I actually thought he would like the couple better because it's simpler and less flashy, but remember how I mentioned we were both terribly vain? Turns out he likes the one where I'm hot and he's being a big shot the best. ;-)

Even Franklin approves!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Pushing Daisies Sew Along: Cutting Lace and Lining

I may have bought my fabric last week, but I've been postponing cutting the fabric because even though I did lots of research and feel somewhat secure about working with lace, I'm still terrified. I've been working on finishing up the bf's Valentine's Day gift (just a little late), securing fabric for the Mad Men Challenge, as well as brainstorming ideas for the Black and White Challenge. But since I made a timeline, I've pushed through and just in time, I'm making my deadline for this week.

So. I didn't check my patterns for yardage before I purchased the lace and lining. I had made the skirt before so I had a general idea and I figured the top wouldn't take more than 1.5 yards. Still, because I was terrified of screwing up, I went ahead and got 5 yards of each, bringing my total to $25. (Have I mentioned recently how much I love my local fabric store?)

You can definitely get away with a lot less. Possibly 3-4 yards, but I wanted to be sure, and I've already been fantasizing about making french knickers or some other type of lingerie with the leftover bits. We'll see.

First I traced and cut the lining. I wanted to stick with what I knew before I delved into the lace.

For some reason I thought the lace was going to unravel the second I started cutting it. There are a lot of rumors out there that lace doesn't ravel, but I'm sure it's not entirely true and anyway, I'm pretty sure that because of my awful luck I've had recently, mine would fall apart.

But it didn't! The lace held. Nothing unraveled.(Yet.) Scissors cut it just fine. It was slightly more of a challenge just because it had a bit of a stretch to it and the lining didn't, but overall it was very easy.

To recap: I used the pattern pieces and cut out the lining. Using chalk, I traced the dart lines and any other marking necessary onto the wrong side of the fabric. Then, using the lining pieces rather than the paper pattern pieces, I pinned, traced, and cut out the lace fabric. Then I attached the lace to the lining.

Dart marks clearly visible with lace pinned on the "right" side of the fabric.
My next step will be to baste the lining and lace together around the edges. This isn't necessarily meant to hold, but rather to bind the two together so I can use the lace and lining as one piece of fabric as I begin to sew the entirety of the dress. I hope to have a post on that up in the next few days!