Saturday, August 27, 2011

Apropos of Nothing

Today I am madly sewing a bridemaid dress that I have to finish this weekend, so I don’t have any finished projects to show you.  For today’s blog post, I have some topics jotted down in a notebook - none of which seem to merit a their own post, however I do enjoy it when other sewing bloggers do a kind of random thoughts post.  A great example of this is Victoria’s Ten Thousand Hours of Sewing weekly post, sometimes including sewing plans, new shoes, or other “stuff orbiting her brain.”  
Which got me thinking about my hours of sewing and doing a few calculations. I started sewing around age 8,  but really seriously around age 14. From then on I have always had a project going so I am estimating a total of somewhere between 15,000 - 20,000 hours.  Whew!  Yes I was the one who made my prom dresses, my first business suits, all my party dresses.  I have always told myself that all the money I saved on clothes I could spend on shoes!  Anyway - kind of amazing for something that is a leisure time activity. 
Pattern Tracing 
Just can’t seem to do it.  I have seen some great creations from Burda or La Mia Boutique pattern magazines, but somehow I don’t have the knack for finding all the pieces and tracing the pattern.  I ordered a My Image magazine earlier this year, thought I would give that a try, and one day I took out the pattern sheets, started looking for the components of a simple dress and gave up.  Eeek!  it looks like scribbles to me.  Oh, I can make out the various garments but it just doesn’t seem worth it.  Not when my lovely tissue patterns are so easy to use.  So despite my hours of sewing, this task escapes me.  
Project Runway
Wake me up when it’s over.  OK, not really, I watch every episode but I find this season’s designers are really boring and the challenges repetitive.  The producers seem to have forgotten the show’s roots in fashion and couture, and have moved to more of the kooky challenges using unconventional materials, which I always find less interesting.  Also the team challenges means more drama and fighting, and usually fewer garments.  So enough with the crazy creations and let them make actual clothes.  The preview for next week did not bode well, it almost sounded like Halloween costumes.  Hope not.  A little of the workroom theatrics adds a nice spice to the show, but I watch it to see what they create.  My favorite season by far was Season 3 which included Jeffrey, Laura, Uli, and Mychael.  The participants were outstanding, some of them had already been in business, the skill level was a lot higher, and the challenges were mostly very interesting, my favorite being the week they had to use a famous fashion icon’s style as inspiration.  Also Season 4 was good, and with Christian being quite phenomenal to watch and Rami making some beautiful clothes.   If you want some international Project Runway entertainment, I can confess that I watched Season 1 of Project Runway Australia in its entirety on line (although it may be removed from YouTube now due to copyright)  and it was fantastic.  
Fall Sewing
Sewing for Fall.  While I do love making tailored jackets, using gorgeous wool fabrics and sewing holiday party dresses, wearing the autumn/winter items fall into the category of " guess I have to get through another winter so might as well sew something fun to wear".  Granted it is not exactly arctic here, I feel a bit guilty when I see the weather reports from the east coast, cities digging themselves out from blizzards and serious sub-freezing for weeks on end.   But I am a California girl, through and through so with a nod to the Beachboys,  I say Endless Summer would be fine with me.  Friends who are from other states say they miss the changing of the seasons.  Our seasons change, believe me, as evidenced by my heat bill and the quantity of leaves falling in the garden.  But I could not leave my home state where it snows in the mountains as it is supposed to and not on my driveway.    Late August and September find me hoping for our typical SF bay area early fall which usually brings the most sunshine in the city proper, much to the delight of the tourists.  In fact if you plan a trip to foggy San Francisco, think about  September which is statistically the warmest month in the city.  
Some of my all time favorite creations have been winter garments, such as my black wool coat, but considering my output of cotton dresses and affinity for sandal over boots I will be picking out a few fall/winter patterns and dreaming of summer by reading all the lovely Australian sewing blogs. 
Strapless Dresses
In my last post I said that I didn’t care for strapless dresses but that it was a topic for another day.  Its not that I would never make or sew them, but that they seem to have taken over the formalwear and bridal category, to the detriment of so many other styles.
Two things about them.  FIrst - it is really not a good style for many body types, a change in neckline or addition of sleeve or strap can serve to flatter a shape.   OK, some actresses like Anne Hathaway can look great, but as evidenced by many of her red carpet appearances, she can wear almost anything.  Someone a little more endowed, such as Penelope Cruz, also looks great, but I suspect that anything she wears is fitted to absolute perfection so the result is dazzling.  Other times you see a strapless dress and it is too tight, so there is too much girl on top of too little dress.  The other issue, causing an equally bad result, is a dress that gapes because it is not fitted enough to the body contour, or the bodice is too short and the wearer hunches over a bit to keep the bodice in the right place.  My second criticism of strapless dress is that they have become boring, like an evening wear uniform.  There are so many options for a dress, formal or daytime, and a strapless dress takes away the option of neckline and sleeve variations.  
Can a designer be a Genius?
Slightly facetious question, but I have been very impressed this past year with the Donna Karan Vogue designs,  some of them really are genius in the way they go together and flatter the body.  Could it be because she is a woman?  Interesting to ponder.  Based on the number of people making them I think many will agree.  I am having some great success as well with Michael Kors designs, and found a vintage pattern in my stash that will appear in a future post.
So any of your thoughts on summer vs. winter sewing, Project Runway or strapless dresses, it would be fun to hear them.

Back to sewing - next up a dress for my birthday dinner.  Thanks for the nice comments on my last dress, appreciate it.  Also thanks to all who wish me well with my back issues, especially Shannon (Mushywear)  - as I know you are quite the athlete now so that gives me confidence I will get "back" to normal, even if it takes longer than I want.

Here is my SunnyGal garden photo - a very nice plant (feverfew) I bought at the garden club sale earlier this summer, and I now realize is missing.  I hope the gopher enjoyed it.

Flower feverfew

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

In the Mood to Model

And its not a dress for me!  I started this dress a while ago, as I had ordered yards of the cotton sateen fabric to use in my Etsy shop and now it is all but gone.  So I am giving this dress to my hairdresser Lia.  She and I are just about the same size and height.  I decided to slip into her dress take some photos of myself for a change.

Before I get to any sewing, I want to say a very heartfelt thank you to everyone who commented on my last post with lots of good wishes for a speedy recovery to my back problems.  I am being careful, slowly healing, diligently doing my exercises. Surely I speak for many when I say that through a year of blogging I now have some wonderful friends in all corners of the globe and it would be so great to meet in person. If only!  And go fabric shopping!

redwhite dress 1
This is one of my all-time favorite fabric choices.  You know I love the super-colorful but my sister pointed out that for other people who may not be as color crazy as I am but want a print or some color, the 2-color or one bold color on white is a good option.  I think she is correct since this fabric was snapped up pretty quickly.
Of couse I put pockets in it.  The pattern is New Look 6457 with a few tweaks, such as much thinner, wide-set straps to give it a retro look.


This summer I have altered a few J.Crew strapless dresses and they all have the inside elastized back strap which helps with the fit and maybe keeps someone from a wardrobe malfunction.  I really dislike strapless dresses but that is a topic for another day. So I added the inside back strap to this dress to try it out and I am really happy with it, I don't know why this is not included on patterns, such an easy addition.  This version is not particularly beautiful but I made it on the fly - next time it will look a little better.  I attached it by stitching in the side seam through all layers (dress plus lining) from the outside, the stitching is hidden and it makes it very secure.
This pattern has a nice shape across the top of the bodice and an attached facing that creates that pleat across the front.  I used the same pattern last year on my Floral Dress for a Sunny Day.  As I did on that dress the front facing was changed to 2 pieces, and is sewed into the side seam.  

silvercork sandalsThe SunnyGal garden photo was included in my first photo - the crepe myrtle trees in shades of pink.  So instead a look at my newish sandals - I really like them, but due to my back issues they will only get out for photo shoots, 5 minutes at the most. I bought them on a whim,  silvery-bronze on cork wedges.  Oh well, next summer. Plus you get a peek at my lovely tennis-sock tan lines.  

Happy Summer Sewing, Beth

Monday, August 8, 2011

Unexpected Break from Sewing and Pleated trim tutorial

As the title says, I have had a very unexpected break from sewing, as well as gardening, cooking, walking, going out to dinner, enjoying life, in short just about everything.  A back injury has kept me mostly off my feet for the last 3 weeks.  Long story and I will spare you the medical details however now I am on the mend, thanks to a great physical therapist and some new ways of moving.  
The last few days I have been catching up on everything, and finishing the unconventional wedding dress made from Japanese Kimono silk I mentioned some time ago.  I have taken lots of pictures but the post and photos of the bride in her dress will have to wait until after the wedding which is in 2 weeks.

JennReddressfrontToday I did some alterations and finishing on a dress I started months ago.  My neighbor Jenn kindly models for my Etsy shop photos and looked so great in this color so I decided she should have it.  

I used Butterick 5314 (out of print) as a starting point, which is a basic dress with bust and waist darts, separate skirt, and different neckline views.
I changed the neckline to make it a bit deeper, and pulled in the armholes at the shoulder as I like that look.  For the skirt I changed it to a very slightly gathered skirt where the center front is flat and then the gathers begin where the front darts would be which gives an effect of a smooth front but the ease of gathers.   

Here is a look at the pleated trim on the neckline.  This is so popular right now and I have my own low-tech way to make the pleats.
This is my pleat maker,  which started as a manila folder.   To make one, measure and mark the pleat distances, fold, press and secure the edge by stitching.  No glue or pins needed.

Before pleating, make the ruffle to the desired width, and finish the edges.  Then pleat away.
I used a scrap of white fabric, unfinished, to show how the pleater works.
On left, fabric placed in pleater.  On right, fabric pressed and ready to shift to pleat the rest of the strip.
Ruffle template whitesample1Ruffle template white sample2
Next step is to shift the pleated area down, placing the last pleat into the bottom slot, and then continue until the entire trim is pleated.  Once I have the whole strip pleated, I can stitch down the center to secure, or just pin it directly on the garment and then stitch down.
Ruffle template whitesample3
So that is my handy-dandy handmade pleater.  I think I saw a contestant on Project Runway, Andy from Hawaii, show Tim Gunn pleated garments he was working on and there was a quick flash of his handmade pleater so that is where my idea came from.  Does anyone else watch that show with a notebook in hand?  There are some very clever tips and techniques for the sharp-eyed viewer in between all the workroom drama, which I also enjoy.

Madrid dress Jenn front fullHere is Jenn in the dress - actually before alterations so it is a little big on her but I think the color suits her.

I have lots to catch up on this week,  around the house and in the sewing room.  Hard to resist the temptation to do too much - but I REALLY don't want to go back to where I was 3 weeks ago. So I will be taking it easy and enjoying feeling better :)

Definitely no gardening for me for the time being, so I will share a beautiful tropical bouquet sent to me as a get well wish.
Tropical boquet