Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A fun vintage diversion

Last week a very interesting detour into the world of vintage came my way. My sister was working with a client who asked if she knew anyone that could repair the beading on a treasured dress. The owner inherited it from her mother who wore it in the 60's and the now the daughter has worn it as well. But time and maybe some wild dancing took a toll on some of the beadwork. I couldn't resist showing it to you, my sewing and fashion loving friends.

Halter style, full length, wool crepe underlined with cotton batiste and then fully lined in acetate. Elastic waist stay, hand embellished with 7 different types of beads and rhinestones. Designer: Mr Blackwell
Vintage dress front2

Yes, he of the annual "worst-dressed" list. He has now gone to the fashion show in the sky but from the 50's through the 70's he did very well and was known for a sparkly Hollywood glamour. 

Here is a close up look at the bead motif which appears all aroung the bodice. The beads that appear blue are really not, they are actually more of an aurora borealis type so they catch the light differently based on the angle. There are also strings of rhinestones, round crystals in clear and grey, bugle beads and some smaller clear and grey beads. I don't know anything about beading so I looked at some of my books, got a few tips and gave it a try. Most helpful tip: beeswax on the thread which makes it easier to work with.

bead motif

So what did I fix? A lot of the area that was unravelling was in the back and under the arms which makes sense as that would rub or get snagged on a chair, etc. There sections with some missing beads so I took myself off to Michaels (a big chain craft store, somewhere I try to avoid at all costs) but I knew they had beads etc. I bought a few packs of Swarovski crystal beads and then some glass beads that looked similar to those appearing on my Iphone photo. I couldn't take the dress anywhere - too delicate at this point.

The two swirls on either side of the zipper were missing lots of beads so I filled those in. Also the larger motifs in the back had a lot of broken threads and some missing beads so I stitched those up as well.
This dress is TINY!  Shown here on my smallest dress form which has a 26" waist and look the zipper won't close. One thing I like about this dress is that you can tell it was hand beaded, the various lines and curls are not exactly matching, they differ a few millimeters here and there but the eye doesn't see that on the wearer. So note to all perfectionists - we are human and a bit of wavering is fine.

Vintage dress back

Full length view. Glamorous, huh?  Not that I have an event on the calendar or anything like this in my closet but I would wear it in a heartbeat.

Vintage dress full length

A look at the seaming at the waist and bodice. Very nice shaping achieved with the seams and I always like this type of skirt, fitted and straight with a few small pleats at the waist. A very flattering design. I also repaired those curliques in the center front. 

Vintage dress waist seam

The label inside and the waist stay elastic.

Label MrBlackwell

Of course I had to do a little web searching and found a very similar dress. It must have been from the same collection.  Here is the link if you want to see it:  Dorothea's Closet Vintage Mr. Blackwell and it can be yours for only $950. Please let me know if you buy it, I want to see pictures !

Now I am off to do just a little more on this, when I went to move it today a couple of the large round beads fell off. So I will be giving it another once over. 

motif closeup 1

I hope to finish up the Irish wool jacket this weekend and then maybe some spring sewing. Today I went to the gym in shorts and a sleeveless top. Weird, I tell you. Trite to say it but the weather is weird.
My apologies to all of you in the latest polar vortex. Hang in there, spring is coming to you too!


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Vogue 7975 wool Jacket with Avoca handwoven fabric from Ireland

Do you recall back in October that I said I was making my faux French jacket as a test version for another project? Well I really was. I am using that same pattern, Vogue 7975, to make a classic jacket with this gorgeous fabric which has an interesting backstory.

Avoca closeup with indicator
A sewing client/friend found a piece of fabric folded up inside an old suitcase when they went to clear out the house of her cousin. The woman who originally bought it had been a traveler and a hoarder so it probably was tucked away for 20 years or more. Here is the card that was included with the fabric.  I think the purchaser wrote the $ 23.98 on it, perhaps that was the amount it cost in dollars at that time. Note "frock length", this would be one itchy but warm dress!  
Editing note:  based on the comments so far I realize I wasn't clear on this project, I am making the jacket for the person who found this fabric during the house clean-out, so not for me. Despite the fact that it is definitely my color.  I am on a jacket moratoriam for the time being :)

Avoca card

Of course getting my hands on the fabric plus this fantastic typewritten card sent me down the internet rabbit hole to do all kinds reading on Avoca Handweavers and their interesting story. They have a fantastic website and if you like fiber, wool, history, Ireland or any combination thereof you will enjoy it. Here is the link to their website for more loveliness. 

The Story of Avoca from Avoca Ireland on Vimeo.

Have I said it before? I love Ireland! I guess in typical American fashion I am drawn to the lands of my ancestors, and both my paternal grandparents were born there. So green, so pretty, such great food and drink...you knew about the drink but yes, the food is fantastic also.  I can't wait to go back and you can bet that the next time I will go to Avoca.

This fabric is so springy, so alive, if that makes any sense.  There are lots of little wiggly fibers sticking out in the weave, and so far I have just let them be but perhaps they will need to be snipped off once the jacket is finished. If you look closely in the middle of the photo below you can just see one of these grey fibers. I have never worked with a handwoven fabric and it is a learning experience, the actual threads are larger than other wools, the edges to tend to fray but the weave is very tight and there are actually 3 colors going on in this, a royal blue, an aqua-y green and a grey that blend to make one of my favorite color combos.

Avoca closeup2

Before I cut out the fabric I steamed it thoroughly to pre-shrink but it did not seem to shrink at all which was great. At that point I gave it some serious scrutiny and came to the conclusion that both sides were exactly the same in color and texture, however I still wanted to treat it as a fabric with a right and wrong side so that is why I have the yellow thread on the left. On the upper right you can see a pin pointing out a big knot in the fabric, I don't think it is a flaw but more like a join ? or just a spot where the blue fibers overlapped?  I don't know anything about weaving and it wasn't horrendous however I didn't want it to show so I cut around it.

under sleeve Avoca jacket
Here is the pattern used for this jacket. Such a great basic pattern and I used the sleeve on my recent Burda wool tweed jacket. Useful ! Try to ignore the less than stellar illustration art. Those women look very grumpy.
V7975 pattern envelope

I used Fashion Sewing Supply interfacing, the Pro-Weft Supreme Medium-weight Fusible which I find is perfect for most wools. And it helped to keep the edge fraying to a minumum. Conversely if I had decided to use silk organza underlining for the whole jacket I would have hand basted that along the seam lines and left it at that.  Now for an editorial comment:  step away from the serger!  Once in a while I see a sewist has serged all their pieces for a garment prior to sewing it together, to overcome the fraying edges. eek!  I would not do that as I am sure it would distort the shape of the pattern pieces or mess up the careful seam allowance I just cut out. Or slice off all the edge markings.  Or something more dreadful, like inadvertently cut the fabric (which we all have done, right?)  anyway to me a serger has almost no place on a lined garment.  OK, off the soapbox for now :)

Being in a family of string-savers and old button-keepers I retain the selvedges of nice linings to use as stays in place of twill tape. Its basically free, very strong and yet soft so when you press the shoulder seam open it disappears. Plus any color will do. 

Avoca jacket shoulder stay copy

This jacket is nearly done, I have the lining assembled and it is just ready for a try-on and final fitting before hemming. 

Avoca jacket inside with interfacings

I had a little buttonhole trauma before I made these as I originally tried to make them smaller. OF COURSE making test ones on scraps before the final versions and these were the smallest I could make that would be nice and even and flat. This fabric is so springy and when you get down to little 1/4" cuts such as on the inside corner of the buttonhole slice there was no way that it would not become a frayed little mess. So these are about 1 inch by .5 inch and I found some fantastic buttons as well. After the fact which is not how I usually do it but this time it was necessary.  The sleeves are just basted on here in anticipation of the fitting.

Avoca jacket front 1

So later next week I will have a finished jacket to show you. Meanwhile I am finishing my crafty worktable project and thinking about sewing a knit top.

Happy winter weekend,  Beth

Friday, January 17, 2014

Random Threads # 5

Whatever I have been doing lately, it certainly has been keeping me busy. I have a lot of projects in process, both sewing and home improvement but nothing completed to show you. When I asked for blog topic suggestions, commentor Ngoc said she liked my Random Threads posts which is great as random is what I have for you today.
First up, I am in the process of making a large moveable worktable with a newly purchased piece of plywood, two very heavy wood shelves that I already had, many L-brackets, my staple gun and a newly purchased phillips screwdriver drill bit for my trusty Craftsman drill. So far I have it assembled and am just testing out where I want to secure the top. Then I will complete it and have something to show you. I went down the rabbit hole of wanting a higher (37" high) worktable that I could iron on top of and looked at a lot of options, plus I found the website IkeaHackers.net and then spent too many hours looking at stuff. Next I went to Ikea, looked at the raw materials for some of my ideas and came away with nothing but the appreciation for using actual items I already had. Score!
Craftsman tools

Remember my sewing machine purchase back in June? I bought the Singer Quantum Stylist 9960 at Costco. It was a deal I could not refuse. So I have been mostly happily using it ever since. Oh, it is not perfect. The feed dogs are kind of sharp? they seem to snag on delicate fabrics and there is not as much space between them and the bottom of the presser foot as on my other vintage Singers. Also the lighting really seems harsh, not a fan of the LED lights but I guess that is the future. On the plus side I LOVE the thread cutter, such a satisfying feeling to push that little button and snip, no need to pick up a scissors. 
I will do a full post on it sometime but here is a question that is nagging me.  See this foot, it is the basic foot that is used for most stitches.  Why is there the little button with the tiny spring on the right? What is that for? I cannot figure out any use or what it does but obviously it is there for something. When you push on the black button the little stem moves over toward the shank but seems to do nothing. 

Presser foot question

I did just make another Renfrew top for a friend of mine. Who is basically the same size as me and so it is easy-peasy to make her stuff. Plus she is a great friend and likes whatever I make her. A keeper!
                                 Black renfrew top
Black renfew close up fabric
Kind of a weird fabric, huh? but I saw it at Stone Mountain and thought it would make a cozy top. Although it was around 70 degrees F today so no cozy tops needed.

I did a little analysis of what I made for myself in 2013 and used Excel for good not evil  (meaning for something amusing instead of grimly serious business analytics as in my former corporate life). 
So here is the chart breaking down what I made into garment categories. As an overview, I sewed the following for myself. It includes 3 items made for mom and my sis.  
  • 25 total items  
  • 9 of the 25 reused a pattern = 36% repeat pattern use
  • 8 of the 25 items used fabric purchased at thrift stores or garage sales, total cost estimate $ 20 for those

What I made

8 jackets, 7 knit tops, 2 skirts, 2 shirts, 1 coat and 5 dresses. For the first time I can remember I made more jackets than any other category. Interesting........
And now the pattern breakout: Vogue still the winner and Simplicity next most often. Interestingly the pattern reuses were mostly Simplicity and New Look. 

Which patterns used

Based on this data I probably could give up purchasing any new patterns just shop my filing cabinet. But we knew that, didn't we.  After all there are NO new patterns. I repeat, no new patterns. Just my opinion. And yet...I will probably make any/all of these 3 Vogues. I already have the first one V8944 but now I am liking the second one V1382 more. I promise you that the third one, V8970 is better than it looks in the drawing and actually would make a very cute blouse. 


That's all for now, I have so many more topics for Random Threads such as Pinterest (I can't find a use for it), sewing swimwear (I was never going to until I had an unfortunate incident with a thieving racoon, story to follow) and bodice length (the number one pattern adjustment that I think could help many who struggle with fit).
Yesterday I was in San Francisco for a lunchtime party and was walking up the street when I turned and looked behind me. The sky was so blue, my friends had arrived via the ferry, we had lunch in a waterfront restaurant and I felt like a tourist in my own hometown. Kind of a crazy city but always beautiful.
Ferry building

Happy weekend sewing, Beth

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Pattern repeat, Simplicity 2339 shirt

Do you get ridiculously happy when you reuse a pattern? I do. It appeals to my sense of frugality, it means I don't have to store some new pattern and the subsequent makes are usually quicker - another thing that appeals. I love to sew fast fast fast! So I made Simplicity 2339 Amazing Fit Shirt for the third time. Whoo hoo, for a third version and I still want one in cotton lawn.

Blue plaid shirt on me

I have said it before but I think these Amazing fit patterns are amazing, or at least very good, utilitarian patterns that can be modified to make just about anything. Plus they do have some very cute dresses too. You are not convinced? I sent a pattern to my friend Karen (who you may know as the Mistress of the Sewlutions jar) and told her you must make this, because it is just right for you. Here is the evidence, her version 1 and version 2. Pretty, huh? Sometimes Simplicity patterns do have a tendency to be gapingly large across the neckline but if you can deal with that adjustment they work well. I also recommend reading the finished garment measurements printed on the pattern and taking that into account when you choose a size as the ease is definitely excessive.
While I was very happy reusing this pattern I was not at all happy with the fabric. Which I bought with a super duper discount coupon at Joann's fabric. Knowing that you get what you pay for. It is a soft cotton flannel, just right for a winter shirt but the plaid was completely wonky. Unmatchable! no straight lines anywhere, off by about 1-2 inches across just the center back piece. 
Thus the bias cut sleeves and a few other fixes that probably only my little eye will spy.

Plaid shirt frontPlaid shirt back

Look at those images, the background color - my camera drives me crazy. I took them within 60 seconds of each other. Too lazy to use the manual settings.
I think this pattern has the binding type placket on the sleeve, in any case I put the 2 piece stitched placket on. I did a step by step post here about sleeve plackets.
And if you look closely in the photo below the cuff you can see the side seam and the wonky plaid. I cut the back piece on the cross grain as it was the only way to get a sort-of match at the side seams, and then realized that the plaid was a bit different, but at this point I figure no one will notice. Except that I just told you.

Plaid shirt sleeve placket
Here is the collar and front placket. It is a faux placket, I have made this shirt now 3 times and not done the front as designed, here I have nothing sewn onto the center fronts. To do this type of front that looks like a sewn-on placket takes a little math calculation but it results in a very clean soft finish. I will put it on my list of things to do a post about. 

Plaid shirt collar

Here are the other version I have made using this pattern.

Blue silk blouse with skirt
Blue silk charmeuse version, blog post here, for this one I changed the front to have a hidden buttonhole placket, copying a RTW silk blouse I already had.
Simplicity shirt on form
Version 2 in some leftover cotton fabric, kind of bright but nice weight for a summer shirt. And the pattern envelope. Could that shirt look any more boring that the version on the pattern envelope. Who makes that no collar with the front ruffle version??? blech.

Blue silk blouse pattern S2339
Today I am working on some pattern adjustments as my sister wants a tunic type version in plaid flannel. I hope to have better luck with her flannel (smaller checks - should be OK)

Hope all your sewing is warm and cozy this weekend, if you are in the northern hemisphere. If you are in the southern hemisphere I am not liking you now with all your fabulous summery beachy vacationy photos. That is not true.  I still like you and wish I were there!


Thursday, January 9, 2014

New Year, New Look

New Look, but not the pattern company. I'm working on a new look for my blog to coordinate with my new website.

I teach sewing to individuals looking to expand their skills and I am always asked if I have a website. Now I can say yes!

web page header image

This excerpt from the site states my philosophy "My goal is to teach as the student requires – covering topics of interest, skills you want to develop or garments you may be hesitant to try. Private lessons allow you to really focus on your own skills and cover what you need to get better."  

Pattern fitting, sewing techniques, time saving methods - we can cover whatever you need. There are so many options available for sewing information from books to blogs to on-line classes but I know that some focused time with me will jump-start your sewing or move your skills and confidence to the next level. 
From beginners to someone who is returning to sewing after a hiatus I find there are so many topics to consider and ways to take your sewing from frustrating to fun. 

Please take a look at the site and then email me to schedule. I look forward to meeting you!


any questions email me:    sunnygalstudio (at) gmail (dot) com

Edit: 1/9/13 4:30 pm.  OK, people who read sewing blogs are the best. I put out a request here for some help on adding this info to the sidebar, and had some quick replies. So if you see those references in the comments that is why. I will be doing some edits to an image and then adding that HTML soon.   Thank you !