Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year with a Lekala Dress Pattern

Fit...the final frontier.  You buy a new pattern, bring it home. Stare at the envelope, that technical drawing taunting you with its many pattern pieces all begging to be sewn. But before you get to the fun part, the actual stitching, you have to consider the fit. No chance to stomp on that pedal, hear the soothing roar of the machine until you do some measuring, slicing, pivoting, math calculations, a few little swear words, and then cross your fingers and hope for success.  What, you don't do that?  You open the envelope, pick a size, cut it out and then pray it will button or zip or be able to pull it over your head?

True confession, I actually like fitting and feel comfortable with most challenges, but that is after many classes, and years of practice. If I were learning to sew today I would not think it is fun, although there are so many resources for learning and I recommend them all, from DVD's and blog posts to high-level classes.

Have you looked at the Lekala patterns website?  I have always been intrigued by this pattern company and periodically scanned through their selection, noting a few dresses I might like. Recently I was contacted by Natalia of Lekala Patterns who asked me if I would give their patterns a try and then blog about them. Their website had been revamped since the last time I had looked at it, with a variety of language options and payment methods. I chose a dress and here is the result.

Lekala dress front

But I have buried the headline on this one - It Fit ! Repeat, It Fit Perfectly!  With no adjustments. For Lekala patterns you provide your measurements (bust, underbust, waist, hip and height) and then they provide a PDF pattern custom sized to your measurements.  I was a bit skeptical but figured it was worth a try.  Taping together printer pages is not my idea of fun, however I will happily use a roll of tape and reams of paper if I don't have to mess around fit adjustments. 

I taped the printer pages together and then traced out the pattern pieces on tracing paper, adding seam allowances which are not included.  Once I did that I gave some thought to doing some verifying with the tape measure but decided against that because the back pattern pieces looked fine (at this point I can eyeball my size) and I also thought it was a good test of this pattern company to sew it up just as I received it to see how the custom sizing worked out. 

           Lekala dress backLekala dress front 2
I did make a muslin, just for the main pieces, front and back and omitting the sleeves and collar. Mostly because I am not such a whiz with the pattern tracing (remember - no Burda or other magazine patterns for me)  and wanted to make sure I did it right before I cut into my nice fabric. This fabric is a ponte knit from Stone Mountain.  Not very original as it is a virtual copy of the Lekala image but I wanted a holiday dress.  This is Lekala Pattern # 4060.

Lekala dress 4060Lekala_4060_drawing

A little analysis on this pattern.  Maybe I could make it a bit more fitted in the waist but I probably won't. It is very comfortable, I really like that drape effect across the front that gives shaping and allows you to hit the buffet at a party without fear. I don't think the dress looks perfect when I am standing mannequin still as in the photos above, but everyone who has seen it in action thought it was perfect. Do you have a dress that looks better "in action"? I think this is one that does. The fit through the shoulders and neckline is what really sold me. It could be that I just happen to fit the Lekala sloper or they are magicians with the fit, but either way I am very happy with the result.  I did add a couple of inches in the length when I cut it out and did need that. The instructions are a bit confusing, not entirely sure what they were referring to in some instances but if you are not a beginner I think you could figure out how to sew up the pattern on your own. The markings (notches, pleats etc) were very well marked, all matched exactly.  Looking at these photos below I could use some improvement on my hem stitches on ponte knit - any tips?  I don't like machine hems so I did hand stitch, or maybe I am being too fussy.

Lekala dress on form side   Lekala dress on form front

In summary, I am very happy with my first Lekala pattern and will definitely use them again. There are other dress patterns on their site that are calling out to me (I know, more dresses that I don't need).  I do have a jacket pattern from them with a peplum design - yes time for me to get on the peplum trend - so I plan to get to the jacket in January.

Note: I received 3 patterns at no charge from Lekala. Their prices are very reasonable and I would be happy to purchase others in the future.

Good wishes to everyone for happiness, health and fantastic fabric finds in 2013.
Happy New Year,  Beth

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Catching up and a few recommendations

Happy Holiday wishes to everyone. With the last minute rush of sewing, shopping, wrapping, cooking and general merriment I am far behind in my posting. I want to thank everyone for all your lovely comments this past year, particularly on my last two projects and I appreciate your participation in the sewing blog universe. I regularly read tons of blogs and while I don't always comment I am amazed at the creativity and talent out there. I have said it before but I think the web has changed sewing from a singular pursuit to a collective one with feedback, advice, information and inspiration. A positive development that some days has taken a good chunk of time I could have spent actually making something - but I would not trade it for the world.
The amazing Carolyn of Handmade by Carolyn, whose writing and sense of humor are equally lofty as the quality of her sewing, passed on this Blog Award to me three weeks ago so it is time I acknowledge that and share some thoughts with you.
one-lovely-blog
The blog award terms being one should reveal some things about themself and pass on the award to some other lovely blogs. I was thinking about the intersection of sewing blogs and friendship. At this point I feel I have lots of far flung friends who share common interests, with the unfortunate circumstance that we are not often (or ever) in the same room so we can't enjoy the back and forth of a real converstion, much as we might try via comments or e-mail. When you are with your "in-person" friends what do you talk about?  For me it usually includes the latest doings of family and friends plus local news. It could include politics, recipes, travel, sports, recent annoyances, unexpected thrills, sometimes sadnesses and future plans. Usually some recommendations for things that each thinks the other might like. After all, where do you hear about the great restaurants, a new fabric shop, a yet undiscovered wine, a fantastic book just finished?  From your pals, whether near or far.  So I will reveal a few things about myself via these lists of my favorites in several categories.  

Sewing is a hands on pursuit - which leaves plenty of time for listening. I am currently obsessed with podcasts, they are fantastic for accompaniment to sewing or gym workouts.
  • Slate.com podcasts, just about all of them. My favs are the Political Gabfest, Double X Gabfest, Culture Gabfest, Hang Up and Listen, Lexicon Valley, and The Movie Spoiler podcasts. 
  • Planet Money Podcasts from NPR.  Learned so much about economics from these.
  • Stuff you Missed in History Podcast, from the How Stuff Works.com site. I don't download these just listen in Itunes.
There was a phase of foreign movie viewing, not done much lately but here are some of my all time favorites.  If you are looking for something to add to your movie queue, for your consideration:
  • Eat, Drink, Man, Woman, in Chinese, directed by Ang Lee who went on to much bigger movies but this family story is so touching.
  • Amelie.   A bit of a chick flick - French and makes me long for a Parisian cafe.
  • Waking Ned Devine. Ireland, in English. some of the characters are ringers for family members so this movie hits me right in the heart.
  • Dear Frankie.  Scotland. In English but that accent is tough for a california girl like me, a bit gritty and sometimes heartwrenching. First time I saw Gerald Butler who also went on to some very big movies but scruffily attractive here.
  • Cinema Paradiso. Years of studying Italian means that I could recommend many but this one is just so...perfect. 
Websites that steal my time.  There are no more hours in a day than there were ten years ago but now I find the time to websurf daily. These websites are sometimes silly, often snarky and totally entertaining to me.
  • Tom and Lorenzo,  self proclaimed Fabulous and Opinionated. Red carpet fashion critiques. My favorites are the "Girl that is not your Dress"posts. So often, so right.
  • CakeWrecks   I can't help myself, I look at this one every few days and often laugh out loud. And now scan the bakery counter in the grocery in case I find a cakewreck of my own.
  • Mrs-O   The first lady has style - I want her wardrobe (and height!)
Designers whose clothes I covet or want to copy.
  • Valentino:  the ultimate to me. Craftsmanship and fabrics beyond beautiful Also check out the documentary, Valentino: The Last Emperor.
  • Oscar De La Renta:    gorgeous, wish I had a lifestyle and the bank account to need one.
  • Michael Kors:    sometimes a bit too beige for me but the guy knows how to make simple shapes and details into great clothes.
  • Tori Richard:  line of resort wear from Hawaii. I would wear every single one of these sunny summer creations. I look for similar fabrics based on inspiration from this line.
  • Chanel: the designer Karl Lagerfeld is a windbag nutcase weirdo but the collections are fantastic, filled with fabrics and details that I want to recreate. 
Lastly but certainly not least, how about a book?  I have loved reading since the flashlight under the covers days (fondly remembering the Laura Ingalls Wilder series). Now I save up a lot of fiction for the summer months, I am one of those people than can sit on the beach, in the direct sun and read ALL DAY, with breaks for swimming and ice cream.  So here are just a few that have stayed with me forever. The kind of book that I almost wished were longer because they were so good. I am also a big fan of mysteries and so happy when I find a new and prolific author.
  • Possession by A.S. Byatt
  • The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustim Thomason
  • Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
  • Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
As for mysteries, there are a few series that I recommend.
  • The Inspector Morse series by Colin Dexter, my favorite mysteries. (best read in order or near to it).
  • Ngaio Marsh, she wrote about 70 books, same era and very much like Agatha Christie but often set in the theatre.
  • John Dunning, a series of mysteries about a used book seller which sounds like an odd premise but very good.
And now back to sewing stuff.  Reading sewing blogs is good for someone like me who is very sure of what I like or don't like - the opportunity to see what others have made with a pattern or fabric that I would not have chosen is great to get me out of my own bubble.  Having said that and in keeping with the theme of stuff I recommend, I am passing on the Lovely Blog award to these blogs. They often pick the patterns or fabrics that I would chose, so I often look to them for a little inspiration and to get the creativity moving.
Shannon of Mushywear:   She makes lots of New Look patterns which I also do and picks some fantastic colorful fabrics.  Plenty of sleeveless styles and she is a whiz with the knits. Tropical style with sophistication.  
Melanie of Seamstress: PoppyKettle.  She seems to love tailoring as much as I do and her analytical take on various sewing projects is so interesting.
Catherine of CatherineDaze's blog, one of my discoveries of the past year. Super interesting selections of dress styles, a great new winter white coat and always the chic short haircut - my kind of style...again if I were 6 inches taller :)
Sertyan of Sertyan's Sewing Corner.  Feminine and so cute. Mad Men style and it works on her. Makes me wish I still worked in a corporate office so I could make some of these clothes. (Ok not really but I admire them all the same).
Erin of I Heart Fabric.  In addition to making lots of fantastic things, (check out her Vogue patterns makes - look great on her) the blog she writes is really cool. 
Back to regular sewing posts shortly - the sun is shining and I need to get outside for some photos. I have made a few knit tops, as I mentioned previously finished 2 pairs of Sewaholic Thurlow pants and just completed a Lekala pattern (review in 2 words - I recommend!)  but more on the Lekala later. 
Happy almost New Year Sewing, Beth
and a SunnyGal garden photo of this pale green nicotiana that keeps on blooming despite the torrential rain.  Is it spring yet?

Nicotiana yellow

Friday, December 7, 2012

Winter Coat Time - Simplicity 2534 completed

Some speedy sewing has transpired around here and I have finished the child's wool coat I started in this post. Some detailed info there on bound buttonholes if you have a coat or jacket in the works. I am happy to have it done in time for the recipient to wear it for this holiday season, even though I took a detour to make my Little Black Dress.  Hey, I am on a roll these days...I better start with some gift making while the sewing is on a hot streak.

Grey coat front

Oh I love this little coat (children's size 6, Simplicity 2534)  and I had to give it a lovely blue lining. The collar and cuffs are from a piece of velvet (luscious quality stuff) I have had for ages. No idea where I bought it and the stuff I see available today is nowhere near the quality.  Maybe next time I go to Britex I will buy a yard of the good stuff, so worth it to have when inspiration strikes. The grey wool I bought at Stone Mountain in Berkeley, a lovely weight of wool and very cashmere feeling. I know - I petted all the cashmeres when I was there. Something on my lifelong sewing list, a cashmere coat.  One of these years.
Coat lining view

This pattern does call for cuffs and I made them about 3 inches longer than the finished sleeve length I was going for, that way as my little friend grows a bit the sleeves can be made longer by flipping down the cuffs.  
                                  grey coat back

I did quilt the bodice portions of the lining with fleece, just to give it some more warmth. Not really tricky, I cut out fleece pieces using the pattern, trimmed away the seam allowance, drew the stitch lines with pencil and stitched away.  On these tiny pattern pieces it took very little time.  The piece on the left has been sewn and on the right you can see my pencil lines.

Quilted lininggrey coat with lining pleat for ease
When I sewed the lining at the hem, I first pressed the lining to get a nice crease, and then pull that back and stitch about 1/2 inch from the crease to get that nice bit of ease that you need in a coat lining.

Real leather knot buttons, because after all that work with the quilting and the buttonholes only the best will do. Actually I am crazy about leather knot buttons, always have been and they may be repetitive but I tend to use them often on jackets and coats for myself.  Classic and if I lose one I can find a replacement.  
Grey coat velvet collar

As I mentioned this coat is going to a little friend who lives in Seattle but I did want a photo of the coat now, so my friend's daughter was very nice to model it for me and she did a great job. 

Holiday coat front
Another coat finished - my favorite thing to make. Strange, huh?  but it has been that way for ages, since I made the first one I don't know when. 
Up next, some more knit tops and and a couple of mystery projects.

Plus some planting - I went crazy at Home Depot today with the tulip bulbs which were on super sale. Which is great when you are looking at all the pretty pictures on the package, but they don't grow in the package - so I will be digging some holes this weekend. 

Walking out of the store - here was the view. I had a nice moment with 4 other shoppers who were all stopped in their tracks. Beautiful the way the autumn trees show up against the pink clouds.
Happy December sewing, Beth

Sunset

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Breaking my own rule, the Little Black Dress

Curse you Vogue Patterns! Just when I have put a moratorium on making dresses I was tempted by this  one.  It is Vogue Easy Options 8280, which is their version of the designer Roland Mouret's Galaxy dress. Very popular among celebs and others who can afford $ 2000 for a little something to wear. Certainly that is not me, having neither $ 2K to drop on a dress nor a list of red carpet appearances. Such a pity. I will have to settle for wearing it to some holiday parties.

Black dress final version
And double drat. I broke my own rule of not wearing black. A non-color so visually uninteresting, so fade into the background, so blend in with all the other females wearing black dresses at parties. But wait...I am having a bit of an epiphany here.  Black, well deployed can really work. I suppose the same can be said for beige also. Last week I had to laugh because Tasia from Sewaholic mentioned me in her post about her new Cordova Jacket Pattern which she sewed up in beige.  I feel the same way she does about beige - neutrals are just not my thing and she is a fan of the colorful and flowery as well.

However this dress is so, so something - very fun to wear and not difficult to make. I did enter in the Pattern Review Little Black Dress contest - I swear, the last contest for me so I would really like to win! Wouldn't that be ironic... with the wardrobe piece I used to scoff at but now love. So if you are a member surf on over and vote, my PR name is "sunnysewer".

The fabric I used is a cotton sateen that has been in the stack for ages, ordered from Fashion Fabrics club and when it arrived I was surprised to see it had a faint iridescence on the fabric, so not really suitable for things I would use cotton sateen for. But just right for a dressy item. I did lighten these photos a bit since it is so difficult to photograph black and it is looking a bit wrinkly here. Something about the sleeves give me a toreador vibe.
                   Vogue 8280 front of dressVogue 8280 back view

I made a couple of changes with the pattern. The skirt has front hip darts which always bug me and in this slightly stiff fabric never want to lay flat so I actually used the skirt portion of my blue wool vintage McCall's dress which fits well and has cute pleats on the hip instead of darts. This dress needs to be very fitted so I took in the skirt quite a lot. The sleeves are my favorite feature and I think they may reappear on some future dress. In these images you can see the slight shimmer on this fabric.

Vogue 8280 skirt front pleat detail

Vogue 8280 sleeve view

As I have mentioned in the past, I have a drawerful of vintage goodies which have been passed down from my nana and my Aunt Jo (nana's sister and my first sewing teacher).  This dress seems perfect for some of the sparklies that only see occasional outings...actually I can't remember the last time I did wear any of this stuff, but I swear I have done so.  
These are all rhinestone pieces from the 50's or before.  On the left is a bracelet, and matching earring. I can't find the 2nd earring, sob.  It has to be somewhere in one of my dressers.  On the right are a set of earrings and dress clips.  The dress clips are such a cool item, they have a frame so you can clip them both in and then wear them together as one pin. On the right I am showing the dress clips and matching earrings plus the bracelet.  Lots of sparkle, these old pieces are incredibly well made and comfortable to wear.  

Costume jewelry setsBlack dress with vintage jewelry

Here is the Vogue Pattern, one of their Easy Options patterns that has more than 40 reviews and looks great on so many.  One of my favorite recent versions was done my pal Amy of SewWell blog when she entered the Tessuti contest.  I LOVE her version. Check it out.  Fabric choice MAKES a dress! 
V8280 pattern envelope

And now back to my regularly scheduled sewing, finishing the little girl's coat from my previous post. Then onward to some Christmas gifts. It is pouring rain here and I was thinking about planting some tulip bulbs but not today!

Happy rainy day sewing, Beth

P.S. For a very funny take on the original designer version, here is a link to a short UK newspaper article.
P.P.S. my hair is driving me crazy - soooo close to calling for a "please cut my hair today" appointment instead of waiting patiently for it to grow.  Based on comments on one of my previous posts - everyone knows the feeling!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Winter coat time - starting with bound buttonholes

It is winter coat time here, or as much as that happens here in temperate Northern California. Mostly we are wearing our rainboots and watching the weeds sprout after our typical dry summer. But in the Pacific Northwest the chill has arrived. A pretty coat is a necessity for a little girl to go see the Nutcracker Ballet dressed in her holiday outfit. I am making a wool coat for a little friend of mine who lives in Seattle. She is 8 years old and an aspiring seamstress. We conferred on the color and selected charcoal grey for a versatile coat.
I find sewing for children a nice palate cleanser after a stretch of complex fitting such as my recent pants quest. For the most part, it is choose a size and go with childrens patterns, with some adjustment for height. For this coat I decided to do bound buttonholes, they seemed to go with the fabric. I don't really have a rule for choosing bound or stitched buttonholes, often I do a sample of both on the fabric and see how it looks with the buttons. This may seem counterintuitive but I can get a better result for a coat front with bound buttonholes rather than machine worked, with the machine buttonholes there is always the chance that there will be one little pest that is slightly crooked.

Here is quick overview of my steps to making bound buttonholes.

Step 1:  on the fused coat front, draw a buttonhole ladder (I use pencil), and then run thread trace through the lines. Here I used orange thread for contrast on the other side with the grey.  On the right, the coat front with the thread trace showing. I also went over the horizontal button lines with wax tailors chalk which disappears when ironed.
Buttonhole 1Buttonholes 2
Step 2:  (below on left) pin on the buttonhole strips. I didn't show how to make those here, I fold and press a piece of fabric about 1.5" x 6 inches, stitch 1/4" from folded edge, then draw a chalk line 1/2" from fold. Cut precisely at the chalk line, resulting in a strip exactly 1/2" wide with a stitched line down the center.  I do several of these and then cut the buttonhole strips, about 1" longer than the planned buttonhole. Here they are pinned on the marked buttonholes. I sew all the stitching in the same direction. For the ends of the stitch lines, I have marked with my yellow chalk marker. Since the thread ladder in orange is there, I  lay the clear ruler along the orange ladder and mark across the buttonholes. This way everything stays in line and each is equal to the other. 
Step 3: (below on right) The moment of truth - cutting the buttonholes. I marked the cutting lines in a red pen so you can see how it is sliced open. I use a sharp scissors, snip the center first, stopping about 1/4" fron the end, and then cutting the sides of the triangle. The most important thing about cutting the buttonholes is to get just to the stitching, literally one thread weave away from your stitching in order to be able to turn that buttonhole and have it be smooth and flat.   By the way, when I stitch the buttonholes I do backstitch at the ends, you can see the stitching is doubled, and pull the thread tails to tie knots. 
Buttonholes 3Buttonholes 6
Step 3: Turn the button strips to the right side and smooth them out. Now is the time to sew the little triangles down and secure the buttonhole. If they are cut nicely you should have little triangle flaps like this.
Buttonholes 7
I use my trusty friend, the zipper foot to sew these. 

Buttonholes 8

And the buttonholes are done! I do baste them shut on the wrong side, so they don't get wonky during the handling when finishing all the other steps. I did catch stitch down this front princess seam, was a quick step but it keeps the front nice and smooth. 

grey coat buttonhole finalGrey coat buttonole inside

I made this same pattern a few years ago for the same little girl, a red version. This year I looked at the children's coat patterns and this is by far the very cutest one out there (not much choice in this category)  plus I already had it, and my little fashionista said it was OK with her.

                   red wool coat buttoned S2534S coat pattern
Onward with some rainy day sewing today. Hope all your winter projects are going along well,
Happy sewing, Beth

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