In a Colorful Mood: Technicolor Lace Skirt

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This month I was in such a colorful mood. When challenged by the Mood Sewing Network to sew with lace, I found myself gravitating towards this bright, textural orange lace with its organic pattern of swirling leaves and flowers (from Mood Fabrics but no longer available online; the store itself has other similar lace though – you can call the NYC store at 212-730-5003, ask for the lace department, and tell them you are interested in guipure lace). I really wanted to have some fun with color by pairing the orange with an equally vibrant hue. After a very circuitous path, I ended up choosing this blue double-faced wool (also from Mood but also no longer available online; similar wools can be found here) to partner with the lace. Since this experience marks my first time to truly work with lace, I chose a pattern I had successfully made in the past: BurdaStyle’s Jenny basic skirt. It’s a classic, and I wanted to be able to focus on the fabric without any pattern hiccups!

Since lace can run on the expensive side, I’d bought just enough to work as an overlay with the scallops running along the hem of the skirt. I wanted to be ever so careful with it, so I read up on how to prep it for use and settled on the method of hand soaking, then laying it flat to dry. I spent all of the next day at work mustering up the courage to cut it that evening. When I got home, you wouldn’t believe my surprise when I realized it had shrunk too much to use as a simple overlay! Instead of cutting, I spent that whole night draping the lace this way and that way to see how I could keep a semblance of my original design while maximizing the scallops somewhere other than the hem. After some encouragement from my husband, I finally settled on a wrap effect by using the scallops vertically. I then created pseudo scallops along the hem by cutting along the lace’s natural design. Since the lace wouldn’t reach the true hem, I aimed for it to cover roughly 2/3rds of the skirt’s length in the hopes that the rule of thirds would look favorably on my new design. The little bit of the length I cut off meant I had a couple extra scallops. I appliqued them on at the bottom corners to help the vertical scallops merge with the natural hem scallops. Surprisingly, after all of my fear of working with lace, sewing with this lace was really easy! It’s texture meant my hand stitches sunk right in and disappeared.

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To add to the lace challenge, I also did my best to make invisible darts and seams. I really like how the subtle break in pattern is almost imperceptible. There are side seams in the lace in the photo below, I promise!

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I made a few modifications to the pattern to keep the focus on the lace. First, I eliminated the back center seam on the lace overlay so that I wouldn’t have a break in the motif. I also narrowed Jenny’s high waistband to a more typical height, eliminating the back center seam there as well. Finally, I switched out the split for a kick pleat so that there wouldn’t be an obvious break in fabric right under the lace hem at center back. But, I didn’t mess with the classic pencil shape. Jenny’s just naturally got the right curves!

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I lined the entire skirt in a purple silk crepe de chine (again, from Mood but no longer available online – these fabrics move quickly! – similar crepe de chines here). For some reason purple seemed the obvious choice. Since the double-faced wool was so thick, I used the lining to face the waistband. I hope it holds up! Also, I always convert darts to tucks in the lining. It keeps the shape of the skirt while also providing a bit of extra wiggle room. I will admit to some laziness in not switching out my thread for something that matched a little more closely when understitching the waistband facing and hemming the lining. But, I figure it helps tie the lining in with the rest of the skirt. A bit of teal for everyone!

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All and all, I am very happy with this skirt. I love the colors. I love the shape and the feel of the wool. I love how much I learned about working with lace. MSN lace challenge completed!

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This post can also be found on Mood Sewing Network and BurdaStyle. I used my MSN allowance towards the purchase of the fabric, and I received the pattern for free from BurdaStyle.

P.S. The winner of the free pair of Firmoo.com glasses was Julie hales. Congratulations! I hope the glasses you choose will usher in a bit of Spring weather for you!

What do you get when you mix cats with puff paint?

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A cute little sweatshirt for my niece, of course.

Once upon a time when I was a wee little girl, I had a favorite sweatshirt.  It was pink and short sleeved.  And, as if that wasn’t enough to make it the best sweatshirt ever, it was appliqued with colorful bunny that was outlined in puff paint and jewels.  Yes, puff paint and jewels.  When I saw BurdaStyle’s Girl’s Long Top 12/2011 #141 pop up in my reader a month or two ago, my heart leaped:  my long ago favorite sweatshirt – with pockets!!

I immediately started plotting a gift for my niece.  I knew I had enough of the oatmeal knit from Fine Fabrics that I’d used a year ago for my Renfrew cowl, so I was all set for fabric.  But, what about the design?  While the eagle on the above top is fabulous, I wanted something that screamed, “I’m the niece of someone who grew up in the 80s”!  Enter applique.  Enter puff paint.  And enter cats.

Hello, 80s.  I heard you were back in fashion.  This is totally what you meant by being back, right?!

I based my cat applique off of a similar cat I’d seen on a display bag in my neighborhood quilting shop, Eddie’s Quilting Bee.  After sketching the cat out on paper, I cut out each of the pieces to make my pattern.  I then played with the quilting cottons I had on hand from the Craftsy’s 2012 Block of the Month class until I was happy with the design.  I chose to make the head, ears, feet, legs, and tail all the same pattern so that all of the patterns wouldn’t be too overwhelming.  I then used my pattern to cut out my fabric pieces and my secret ingredient:  Steam-A-Seam 2.

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Steam-A-Seam 2 is wonderful for applique because it temporarily sticks to fabric with a little bit of pressure.  You can move pieces around as long as your heart desires, and then when you’re happy with the layout, you can permanently affix your applique to your garment with the heat from an iron. It comes with two backings.  The one that’s easiest to remove comes off first, and then it’s pressed on to each of the applique pieces.  Then, the slightly harder to remove backing is taken off.  In the large image above, I zoomed in to try to show you the texture of the Steam-A-Seam 2 on the back of the cheek.  I then positioned it onto the cat’s face and pressed until it held.  As I built the face up, I moved pieces as needed until I was happy with the layout.

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Once I had the head together, I started positioning everything on the front of the shirt, building up the cat piece by piece.  When I was happy with it, I gave it some heat from the iron to fix it in place.  Then it was time for the puff paint.  If you attempt to make your own puff-painted applique (you need more puff-painted applique in your wardrobe, I promise!), I’d highly recommend a bunch of practice first.  Not only so that all of your lines will be even, but also so that you figure out how to keep from dragging your hands through it.  I was trying to be oh so careful, but I still managed to get it all over everything.  Most spots I could blot out, but there was a tiny little heart shaped one just to the left of the top of the belly that persisted.  The worst was right at the neckline, but I just cut it off.  Hopefully my niece won’t mind a little extra scoop in her neck.  Less messy ways to decorate the edges of the applique may have included thread, just in case you’re looking for alternative methods.

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I love the finished product. It reminds me of my own from years ago, minus the jewels and professional puff paint job, but plus the cat and the awesome pockets. I mean, what little kid wouldn’t love a secret kangaroo pouch? I know I would have. This little sweatshirt is currently winging its way up to my niece. Here’s to hoping she loves it half as much as I loved mine!

This post can also be found on BurdaStyle’s blog. I received the pattern for free from BurdaStyle.

Silk Dots and Rhinestones

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I fell for this Marc Jacob’s embroidered silk from Mood months ago.  I saved it in my list of must-get fabrics while I searched for the right pattern.  I wanted the pattern to be playful for the sake of the dots, while also being serious enough to live up to the silk.  Enter BurdaStyle’s Graphic Dress 09/2012 #113.  I liked the carefree nature of the Peter Pan collar, as well as the design of the front facing that lent a tuxedo vibe to the dress.  Add some of Mood’s rhinestone buttons, and you’ve a great combination.

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Overall, I’m incredibly happy with the outcome.  The final dress is just as I imagined it.  Cute enough to wear with leggings, but dressy enough that I could easily go from work to a night on the town without too much effort.

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I just love how the rhinestone button at the very top sets off the Peter Pan collar.  Another favorite little detail:  the double rhinestones on the cuffs.

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My least favorite part of the dress right now is the hem.  I was hoping for the dress to have more of a feminized-husband’s-tuxedo-shirt thing going on.  I actually hemmed the dress higher than the pattern suggested in the hopes that it would be a little bit shorter than the already pretty short version the BurdaStyle model is wearing.  But, alas, she must be much taller than me.  After looking at these photos, I think what I’m going to do is recut the hem to have the curved shape of a man’s shirt at the bottom.  What do you think?  Would that be a huge mistake, or would that help me achieve the look I was going for?

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Another thing I want to do is make an ivory colored slip to wear underneath this dress and then pair it with some bright colored tights. I’m thinking I might make a pair of hot pink of tights (perhaps using the BurdaStyle Carol legging pattern?) since I got a lot of compliments on the way to work this morning when this dress was peeking under my pink pea coat (read:  my husband said he really liked the pink of my coat with the dress – but, that was all I needed to get my day started off well!).

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This dress marks my first real effort to modify a pattern based on comparing my measurements to the flat pattern measurements, a technique I’ve been learning in Sandra Betzina’s Pant Fitting Techniques class on Craftsy.  I figured this drapey pattern would be a good trial for translating what I’ve learned for pants in to tops.  I think I did a decent job taking the pattern in to better match my measurements, but I could have left myself a bit more ease across the shoulders and bust.  I also could have made the cuffs just a smidgen bigger.

Also, thanks to the confidence I got from all of your comments on my blog last week, I followed my instincts instead of the directions for sewing in the collar (after removing 5/8″ from the width so it better framed my long, skinny neck).  It was nice to read that there are many different ways to sew in a collar and that you guys often break away from instructions as you see fit. Thanks for so much wonderful input! How I love the wonderful online sewing community.

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See, the dress does look good paired with a bright color!  Now, go make one yourself!  Happy sewing!

This post can also be found on Mood Sewing Network and BurdaStyle. I used my MSN allowance towards the purchase of the fabric and buttons, and I received the pattern for free from BurdaStyle.

P.S.  I teased prttynpnk that I was going to submit this dress for her Jungle January series since dalmatians are well known jungle carnivores.  Doesn’t it just scream predator print?!

Watercolor, Feathers, and a Drop-Waist Dress

Jamie Lau, one of the authors of BurdaStyle‘s newest book Sewing Vintage Modern, actually wrote to ask me if I’d make a dress from her book before asking if I’d review the book itself.  Of course I jumped at the opportunity, even though at that point I only knew that the patterns were classic designs from different eras in the 20th century.  Jamie explained that my choices of patterns were a 1920s drop-waist dress, a 1940s men’s shirt, a 1950s gathered-waist dress, or a 1960s stirrup pant; she also let me know that I was free to modify the patterns as I wished.  I ended up choosing the drop-waist dress since I’d been intrigued by the 1920s style ever since I learned about the Gatsby-themed party that happens each year here in San Francisco.  Jamie sent the pattern right over.

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It was only after I’d started the pattern that she asked me if I’d review the book.  The offer came at the perfect time – I was just trying to plan my modifications, and I was eager to see what had been done in the book.  The Louisa Drop-Waist Dress actually only has one major modification described in the book:  the 1960s Jackie Dress (seen here and here).  I wanted to stick with the 1920s style though, so I passed Jackie up and starting toying with simple modifications.  First, I contemplated making a V neck line, but then I didn’t want to lose any of the beautiful watercolor flowers on the silk charmeuse from Mood that I bought for this project with my Mood Sewing Network allowance.  I also debated turning the skirt into a single tier, but I decided against that idea because of the fabric yet again.  I liked how the tiers played up the silk’s abstract print.

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Ultimately, I didn’t make any big modifications to the pattern.  I did swap the facing-lining combination for a full lining and the belt for a row of feather trim along the top tier (similar trim in brown here).  Simple little changes that were again guided by the fabric.

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All in all, I couldn’t be happier.  The pattern and fabric came together into a great dress.  I love how the silk shimmers and dances through the tiers as I walk.  I finally have the 1920s-style dress that I’ve coveted – one with a very “vintage modern” attitude.

If you guys live in or near Brooklyn, Santa Cruz, or San Francisco, check out the upcoming book launch parties this week and next.  And, give a hug to Jamie for me!

This post can also be found on Mood Sewing Network and BurdaStyle. Though I also mentioned it in the text above, I used my MSN allowance towards the purchase of the fabrics, and I received the pattern and book for free from BurdaStyle.

Finally! The Italian Riviera Peplum

Whew!  You have no idea how excited I am to finally have this peplum “dress” completed.  It’s taken me over a month from prepping the fabric, to cutting the fabric, to putting in the last hand stitches.  Since the peplum and skirt are actually two separate pieces, construction took twice as long as I expected.  But, I did my best to not skimp on any of the steps – except maybe that last press to get the garment into ideal photo shape.  Why not cut a corner here or there?  Because this garment is actually destined to end up in the hands of my good friend J (who just ran a 2:50 marathon – go J!).

This is my first peplum, and I have to say I’m quite taken with it.  The pattern is BurdaStyle Peplum Top 08/2012 #113 with long sleeves and the coordinating pencil skirt #111, both of which I received from BurdaStyle.  I have nothing but praise for both patterns.  Not only do both fit and flatter, but both also come with multiple different variations.  I can’t wait to make a cute short-sleeve peplum top, a fancy collared peplum top, a casual A-line dress, and a godet pencil skirt like Marina’s.

But, what’s a pattern without great fabric?  For the exterior I chose an Italian Carolina Herrera turquoise silk and wool blend covered in the most delightful puckers from Mood, which I bought with my Mood Sewing Network allowance.  I pretreated the fabric by sticking it in the dryer with a damp towel and then giving it a good press to even out all of the puckers.  It proved to be a tricksy one to press during sewing, but turning up the heat on the iron seemed to do the trick.

For the lining I used a beautiful silk crepe de chine print also from Mood featuring a bathing beauty on the Riviera Italia.  It was pretreated by hand washing with gentle shampoo and then line drying.  I misjudged the panel repeat (closer to 37″ than the published 56″), so I was only able to use the print for the lining on the front pieces of the top and skirt.  For the rest I used some ivory silk crepe de chine (no longer online, but similar fabrics can be found here) from Mood that I had left over from a previous project.  Though I would have liked to have had a bit of the print on the back, I was very happy that the ivory base of the two lining fabrics matched perfectly.  Again, I used my MSN allowance towards the purchase of these fabrics.

The most difficult part of the top turned out to be the last step:  the peplum hem.  I wanted to line the peplum with self fabric since it’s high-low hemline meant the lining peeked out quite a bit on the sides.  I tried machine stitching the lining and exterior together, sort of like I was stitching a facing on to the hem, but it bubbled quite a bit.  I then added lace hem tape and stitched the hem with running stitches all the way through the lining, grabbing just a tread or two from the exterior fabric.  I thought these stitches were invisible because of the puckers, but when I took photos (one is above on the top right, another is two above on the top left), I noticed just how much the fabric again pulled and puckered.  As always seems to be the case, the third try was the charm.  This time I used a catch stitch, again going all the way through the lining and grabbing a thread or two from the exterior fabric.  Though the hem lace now doesn’t sit flush against the underside of the peplum, the hem is nearly invisible where it counts – the outside of the peplum.

In an attempt to try out a new technique, I also decided to add sleeve heads following instructions from Claire Schaeffer’s Couture Sewing Techniques book.  These should hopefully help the sleeves keep their shape for many years to come.  Following instructions on page 156-157, I cut two strips of silk organza roughly 8.5″ by 1.5″ (top left above).  Then, I folded the two strips in half lengthwise, making sure one edge was 1/8″ wider than the other.  After hand stitching them together, I rounded the free corners (top right above).  I then made a mark along the fold 5″ from the end.  Both were stitched into the armscye seamline, again by hand.  I was careful to place the wider of the two sides against the fabric, and the mark at the shoulder seam with the longer section extending into the back of the sleeve (bottom left above).  A good press later, and the shoulder looked just like a shoulder should (bottom right above).

The skirt was really straight forward.  I practiced pressing nice darts and got to line my first kick pleat.  My favorite part of the skirt has to be the lady in her red swimming cap on the lining.  It’s fun to know such a proper skirt has a secret playful side to it.

I hope J enjoys wearing this garment just as much as I enjoyed sewing it.  I’m already on to my next project, so stay tuned!

This post can also be found on Mood Sewing Network and BurdaStyle. Though I also mentioned it in the text above, I used my MSN allowance towards the purchase of the fabrics, and I received the patterns for free from BurdaStyle.

My Mood in October: Swingy Stripes

I had the pleasure of writing for both the Mood Sewing Network (guest post here) and BurdaStyle (guest post here) this month. I made BurdaStyle’s Swing Dress in a lovely striped wool jersey from Mood. If you haven’t already read my story over there, check it out below.

I’ve been in the mood for stripes lately – swingy stripes.  For my big project this month, I wanted to find the perfect pattern to pair with a lovely striped wool jersey from Mood (sadly, out of stock, but here’s a similar, albeit narrower, stripe in the fetching combination of navy and pea green) that I bought with my Mood Sewing Network allowance.  I was imagining a full, gathered skirt to take advantage of the beautiful drape in the fabric.  When I was contacted by BurdaStyle about doing another guest post, I jumped at the chance to make their Swing Dress 08/2012 #133 pattern.  It not only had a full skirt but also had a bodice that I thought would play well with stripes. When everything came together, I was thrilled with the contrasting stripe directions in the bodice; the pairing of the horizontal main bodice piece and the vertical side pieces add dimension as well as fit and flatter.  Unfortunately, my inexperience with sewing shows through a bit here.  I originally chose this wool jersey because I’d heard such good things about the this type of fabric but had yet to sew with it.  When picking the pattern, it hadn’t occurred to me that this wool jersey was a knit, not a woven.  Silly, I know.  I realized pretty quickly that the bodice was going to stretch out like crazy if I attached the weight of the skirt.  So, I kept the bodice and skirt as separate pieces.  To finish the bodice I added a band along the bottom, two stripes wide.  And, since the invisible side zip I had planned for this dress was no longer going to work without the skirt attached, I added a button placket and four buttons along the side to close it up instead.  So that the black buttons would be a little more discreet, I spaced them so that they fell in line with the black stripes along the back.  I hadn’t realized until it was too late that this placement meant the top would end up buttoning with the edge of the button placket towards the front.  Even so, I’m quite pleased with this top. I finished up the skirt by adding a band of thick black elastic to the top.  As a separate piece, it’s extremely versatile.  I can wear (and have already worn!) it with quite a few things in my closet, dressed up for work or down for a weekend adventure. What I’m most proud of though is my efforts to match stripes.  The print-at-home-with-no-seam-allowances BurdaStyle pattern was key to my stripe matching efforts.  To start, I actually printed the pattern out twice and taped it together so I had each pattern piece in full.  I then drew lines perpendicular to the grain line to help me align the stripes along all of the edges.  Because there were no seam allowances, I knew everything covered up by each pattern piece was going to be a part of the completed garment, which further helped me place the stripes.  I then traced around each piece with chalk and loosely cut around it.  When I was sewing each piece together, I made sure to pin along the chalk line but then sew just inside the line since that’s actually where the edge of the pattern piece actually was.  For the side bodice pieces I actually drew each of the stripes on the pattern pieces and labeled which ones were going to be the black stripes.  This extra step ensured both pieces were mirror images of each other. The extra effort to perfectly match the stripes meant that even the darts on the back bodice are nearly invisible.

Can you spot the darts?

The above photo is proof of just how swingy these stripes are.  The collage below is further proof.  I had so much fun twirling in the leaves for these shots. These photos were actually taken this past weekend when my husband and I were on a whirlwind trip to New Hampshire for a wedding.  We had an extra hour on our way back to the airport on Sunday, so we took a tour through the USS Albacore, a research submarine now docked on dry land, after taking photos in a pretty patch of fall colors.  You can see how I was actually wearing this dress during the day:  all bundled up with a bright cardigan and a plaid scarf.  It was chilly!  But, I think the gray and black stripes actually work well paired with bright colors and mixed patterns. Thanks Mood and BurdaStyle for another great project!

Dusty Rose Jenny Skirt

My Jenny Skirt went live on BurdaStyle yesterday, so I can finally post more pictures of it. Check out my article over on the BurdaStyle blog.

If you’ve already read what I wrote over there, no need to read on. Otherwise, here’s the article that I wrote for them about the skirt.

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The makings of this story include a yard of wool blended with just enough lycra to give it softness, body, and depth; a classic, high-waisted pencil skirt pattern; a collaboration between two of the sewing industry’s biggest names and one sewing enthusiast; and a bit of suspense for good measure.

It’s still hard for me to believe that this story is a true story. My story.

It began early in July when I was contacted by BurdaStyle and asked if I would like to be a part of their BurdaStyle x Britex Fabrics collaborative project. Would I? Of course! I enjoyed reading about Natasha’s project for the collaboration last month, and I couldn’t wait to get started on my own. Only waiting is all I could do at the time. I was out of town at a work conference, and I wasn’t going to be back in the Bay Area for over a week.

When I got back from the conference, my mind started whirling with all of the possibilities that could be made by combining a world leader in sewing patterns with four floors of exquisite fabrics. To be honest, it was a little overwhelming. Thankfully, Britex Fabrics narrowed it down for me by suggesting I choose a light- or mid-weight wool. The number of fabrics I had to choose from was still large but now a manageable large.

Knowing that I wanted to make a summer garment in a lighter-weight wool before the end of the month (which amounted to just a few hours of sewing time thanks to my incredibly busy schedule at work these days) helped me narrow my pattern selection quite a bit. I quickly settled on a skirt of some sort, and then I narrowed my choice down to the Jenny Basic Skirt soon there after. The marvels of the internet meant that I had the pattern immediately (thanks BurdaStyle!).

Getting the fabric took a little bit more time because it required a trip to Britex Fabrics itself. Time was of the essence, but my work schedule prevented me from getting to the store until the 19th – leaving me with only a little over a week to make the skirt. The lovely people at Britex Fabrics showed me quite a few samples based on the fabrics that I’d seen and liked online, and we settled on the Italian Dusty Rose Lightweight Stretch Wool Blend (thanks Britex!).

With everything now on hand, all that was left was for me to make the skirt. Could I pull it off in less than ten days? Oh! The suspense!

Thankfully, careful choice of fabric and pattern meant the skirt came together easily. The fabric was a dream to cut and sew. The straightforward construction of the skirt meant I could spend most of my sewing time crafting a few extras for the skirt like a structured waistband and a hand stitched hem, not lost in matching endless seam after endless seam.


The front and back of the waistband facing during construction.

A structured waistband is not an essential part of the pattern, but I think it adds a lot of elegance to this highwaisted skirt. Marina von Koenig, BurdaStyle’s expert in all things couture, recently wrote about her experiences making a structured waistband for a high waisted skirt. What I’ve done here is very similar. My waistband is essentially a sandwich of Rigilene, a plastic boning found in many sewing shops. The bottom layer of the sandwich, the facing, is made up of a layer of the fashion fabric, a layer of silk organza, and a layer of horsehair canvas – all quilted together. On top of this layer are silk organza channels into which the Rigilene strips are threaded. The top layer of the sandwich, which becomes the outside of the waistband, is made up of a layer of the fashion fabric and a layer of cotton flannel interfacing. The flannel helps give the waistband a smooth look from the exterior. The two halves are stitched together along the top and then the seams are graded and understitched so that everything looks lovely and stays put.

The smooth waistband exterior conceals the structured facing. A bit of lace adds fun to the hem and slit interior.

The pattern calls for a slit in the back, but I briefly toyed with the idea of adding a back vent at first. In the end I decided to keep the slit but to jazz it up with a bit of lace on the inside.

The interior of the slit.

I also hand stitched an eye from a hook and eye set to the top of the slit. This little piece of metal should reinforce the slit as it gets stressed during wear. To make sure the eye had staying power, I doubled my thread, ran it through a bit of beeswax, set the wax with heat, and then stitched the eye on with tiny little knots. The book in which I found this trick used a bar, not an eye, but I didn’t have any on hand. Time will tell if the eye functions just as well as a bar would have. I hope so since I really like its lucky horseshoe shape!

My husband and I took the skirt out for a test shoot the day before I headed back to Britex for their photo shoot. I was nervous about modeling for someone other than my husband or my tripod, but it turns out I had nothing to worry about. The Britex staff was beyond lovely and put me at ease as we headed to Chinatown for a few quick photos. I was so comfortable that when a bystander exclaimed loudly to her friend, “Oh! She’s a model! It’s a photoshoot!”, I just laughed and smiled all the wider.

Now that the completed skirt is proudly on display at Britex, my story must come to an end. But, I have a good feeling that this skirt and I will live happily ever after.