Monday, September 15, 2014

Spider-Man Dress


 And now for the big reveal: my Spider-Man dress for DragonCon!



My girlfriends did a group costume on Saturday night, and the theme was Retro/Pin-up Superheroes. Although duplicates were allowed, I started telling everyone who would listen months in advance about how I wanted to do Spider-Man, my all-time favorite super hero. Once word got out that I was sewing a dress from scratch, people started acting like sewing was super power! I felt like kind of a badass. Yeah, I can whip up adorable baby shirts by day and custom fit-and-flare dresses by night. I'm your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

This is me, um, "web slinging."
Okay, back to the dress. I used Simplicity 1755, one of the Leanne Marshall (of Project Runway) designs. I cut a 10 in the shoulders and then blended to 12 in the waist, with my usual SBA and 1" waist lengthening. I had some major fit issues in the beginning and went through two muslins, but looking back I think I was just really tired or temporarily lost my fitting Spider-Sense or something, because it really shouldn't have been that hard. It's probably still a little too big in the bust, but c'est la vie.



I made the Spider-Man symbol by fusing some heavy-duty interfacing to some black fabric from my stash and then carefully gluing it on with Tacky Glue and a paint brush.



The blue fabric is a poly crepe. For the bodice, I used a shiny spider-web mesh I got on clearance after Halloween last year (yes, that's how far in advance we plan for DragonCon haha!), and underlined it with cheap quilting cotton. I really like the final effect, but the mesh is very delicate and the spider-webs have rubbed away in places. I kept trying to handle the dress like glass as I sewed it up, terrified would ruin it before I even got a chance to wear it!


One of my favorite things about the dress are the cute upturned sleeves with the button closure. I think the instructions have a mistake though. The diagram shows the button loop at the top of gap, but the loop actually has to be in the middle. The marking on the pattern piece seems to be in the right place though, so I'd stick with that.



My other favorite part is the in-seam pockets!

As for things I didn't love so much, I'm not sure that the pleats look any better or all that different than a simple gathered skirt would have. It was a huge pain to mark and baste dozens of pleats, and it took two tries to get the two sides even. Here's a pic without the belt you you can take a look and decide for yourself:



The other thing I wasn't crazy about was how the collar came out, but I think that had more to do with my inexperience and a the multiple layers of fabric than the pattern itself.



Still, though, I am pretty proud of this dress! It's probably the most technically challenging thing I've made so far. I got so into this dress and the matchy-matchy look of the 1960's along the way that I went kind of overboard with the accessories. I made the belt using a vintage belt kit I got at a thrift store for $1, glued the spiderweb mesh onto the headband, and made a matching clutch!


I used a 5" purse frame from Joann's Fabric and this tutorial. It was juuuuuuust big enough to fit my cell phone on the diagonal, which is why the bag looks a little misshapen in the picture. It was fun to make though, even if I did end up with fingers covered in super glue by the end.

So that's my Spider-Man dress! I had a fabulous time, all of my friends looked drop-dead gorgeous in their retro costumes, and I'm already dreaming up plans for next year.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Baby Tee Refashion

Another top secret project I can finally reveal: a baby shower gift! When I first moved to Atlanta I had a hard time making friends and was getting pretty lonely until I stumbled on the Geek Girls of North Atlanta. It sounds a little junior high and cliquish, a grown-ass woman belonging to a club, but it's a really awesome group of ladies and open to anyone.

So anyway, last year we had tee shirts made for DragonCon and I ordered mine based on the bust size and it ended up being uncomfortably tight in the shoulders. You know, that awful, digging in  your armpits feeling? Ugh, it's my RTW bugaboo as a tall, small busted lady. I only wore it once and it languished in my closet until I heard my friend Lisa was having a little girl. Well, our newest (and tiniest) Geek Girl was going to need a shirt too, so I made her one!


I used this free pattern, only I left off the skirt portion and did a smaller hem with my twin needle. I followed the directions exactly and it was a pretty quick make, just a couple of hours. I struggle a bit with the arm bands because my jersey didn't have much stretch. In retrospect I probably should have just recut longer bands instead of fighting the fabric. You can see a little bit of puckering because this. I'm hoping the baby will be so squirmy and adorable no one will notice.

This is the original shirt:


This would have been plenty of fabric, except there was a flirty slogan on the back and it felt skeevy to sexualize an infant. Plus the font was way too big to fit on a baby-sized shirt.


However, in a bit of sewing serendipity I still can't get over, my husband went to an event at work and came home with a shirt by the same company using the same fabric in the same color. He couldn't resist my sky-high enthusiasm for this project (seriously, this has been so hard to keep a secret!), and let me cut up his new shirt.  This was fate, I explained, and one does not anger the sewing gods or they will smite you by breaking the upper looper thread in your serger.


The rest was cake. I traced the pattern onto the front to make sure the design was centered and the text was straight, and then sewed it all up in a jiffy.



I didn't finish the side or shoulder seams because I read somewhere that serger finishes can be rough on on a baby's delicate skin. It's so tiny and adorable I can hardly stand it.


As tiny as this is, somehow, impossibly, it won't fit until next spring or summer, but I had to go with a bigger size to fit the graphic. It's for the best though, because by then, our newest Geek Girl will be a little less hungry and sleepy and ready to take on some geeky adventures.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Thread Theory Strathcona Tee

Wow, it's been a while, huh? I feel like I've been doing a ton of sewing, but it's all been projects that aren't quite ready for the big reveal - DragonCon outfits and selfless sewing. Today though, I can finally share the Thread Theory Strathcona Tee I made my husband for his birthday.


I know you might be thinking, "Really, Emily, a basic tee shirt is your big gift? This is a BIRTHDAY we're talking about here." I know, I hear ya, but Brian isn't much for birthdays, so it's usually pretty low key. Plus, I made him a preeettttttyyyyyy awesome cake:



It's a Reese's Cup Icebox Cake, and oh man is it delicious. Seriously, go make it right now.

Okay, so now that you've had some cake, back to the sewing. I LOVED this pattern. I bought the pdf and it was a totally reasonable number of pages and easy to put together. The front and back are full size pattern pieces, so you cut everything out in a single layer -  my preferred way to cut out knits. And it has 5/8" seam allowances, which is perfect for a knits newbie like me. I treated the shirt like a woven and sewed the seams on my machine with a narrow zigziag and finished them with my serger. Basically the Strathcona is the Renfrew for men and I can't recommend it enough.


At first I cut a straight Small after comparing the pattern pieces to some of his favorite shirts, figuring it might end up a little big but I could take it in. I ended up with a Small in the shoulders and an Extra-Small in the torso. I also cut off about 2" from the sleeves, but to be fair, the instructions do warn you that the sleeves are intentionally on the long side. Brian is about 6'0", if that's helpful.


It's not perfect, but I'm getting better with knits (Remember this? Haha!). I'm particularly proud of the collar - it lies flat and I finally figured out all the tricks to get my machine and twin needle to play nice.



Brian raved about the fit and said it was the most comfortable shirt he owns. I was so touched when he chose to wear it immediately, for a celebratory night out with a couple of friends and then offered to pose for blog pictures. This is sure to be a TNT, which is fantastic because I'm growing increasingly uncomfortable with buying cheap imported RTW as I learn more about how workers abroad are treated.

My one and only complaint is that the pattern called for 1.4 yards, but I made this in a little less than 1 yard. I'm not too broken up about it, because it's a great excuse to finally try making a pair of knickers. Probably this free pattern from Zo to get my feet wet? I've been really inspired by all the beautiful swimsuits popping up in feed, so I think this will be a great first step to making my own bikini.

But that's definitely a dream for next summer. For now, there's only 32 days until DragonCon and I have to finish my costumes!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Savannah Saltspring

I just got home from a weekend trip to Savannah to celebrate my 5th(!) wedding anniversary. We went on a ghost tour, strolled around the squares, saw modern art and historic homes, and did some really good eating. And along the way, I got to debut my new Sewaholic Saltspring.


I apparently learned absolutely nothing from my last experience sewing on a deadline and finished this the day before the trip. I literally clipped stray threads as I was packing. I had been mulling over buying the Saltspring pattern, and when I found this beautiful rayon challis on clearance at Joann's (crazy, right?) I knew it was meant to be.



The rayon challis was the most challenging part of this make. I cut it in a single layer because it was a little too slippery to be trusted. It also frayed like crazy, so used about a gallon of fray check throughout construction after reading Marie's cautionary tale. Annoyingly, the rayon challis didn't play nice with my serger in a single layer. There were some touch and go moments finishing the pockets and skirt seams, and then when I got to the hem I had to skip serging altogether and place my faith in fray check. Worst of all, I had to do invisible hem by hand (uggggggggghhhhhhhhh). Good grief do I despise hand sewing - this took me several nights running and as meticulous as I tried to be, it's still a little dodgy. Grudgingly, I have to admit was worth the trouble though, because this dress felt like wearing a cloud in the sweltering Savannah weather. It was MAGICAL, you guys. This dress is a swishy, floaty cloud (with pockets!)



I skipped the muslin since there were already reviews filled with great advice out on the sewing interwebs. I left the zipper out, and I can add to the chorus that it's not necessary. I have no problems getting into this dress without it. I also followed the excellent advice of Lisa G. and added 1" inch to the skirt length - a floaty mini is NOT a good look on a windy day. As it is I just about had a wardrobe malfunction on the breezy River Walk. Consider yourself warned.



I cut a 6 in the bust, an 8 in the waist, and then back to a 6 in the hips. I probably could have gotten away with a straight 6, but I'm pretty happy with the fit. I decided I wanted less blousing, so I did my usual 1" lengthening on the waist of the lining and left the outer shell pattern piece alone. This gave me 1" of blousing instead of 2", which I think works better on my frame.



This is really the perfect dress for a summer day outdoors, and I think it'll get a lot of use. Here's to cookouts, picnics and walks in the park!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Knitted Cupcakes and Cats

A dress bodice turned into a wadder recently thanks to over fitting on my part, and it's especially frustrating because I went to the trouble of making a muslin. Le sigh. After some careful measuring, calculating, and flat-pattern adjustments, I think I'm back on track, but the waste of time and fabric has put a little bit of a damper on my creative spirits.

To cheer myself up, I've been finishing up some fun smaller knitting projects. I made several of these cupcakes to give away as birthday gifts. They're quick to knit up and great stash-busters, but sewing on the bugle bead sprinkles takes foreevvveerrr. It just seems too plain without them though, don't you think? I'm Team Sprinkles for sure. And also Team Milk Chocolate and Team Froyo, in case you were wondering.


My mother-in-law gifted me the yarn and pattern to make this "parlor cat" at Christmas, and I recently finished knitting it up. She originally planned to make it for me, but then decided the pattern was too advanced. I'm glad - I love the idea of getting a kit to knit something up myself.  And if there was any doubt before, I'm pretty sure making a yarn version of Pippin puts me pretty firmly in crazy cat lady territory.


The resemblance is uncanny, isn't it? Madam Toussaud's should hire me to make a special wing of knitted dopplegangers. Ha!


I'm actually pretty disappointed in the outcome, to the point that I didn't even bother to embroider the face. My stripe matching needs some work, even though I used the "slip the first stitch of each color change" trick, and I don't like how the pattern highlights the jogs by putting them in the center back. I also wish there were some short rows in the face to make it three dimensional. Ah well. 



I also picked my Miette cardigan back up. I was pretty frustrated with the fit issues and frogging, but I finally gave up and banished it to the closet last fall after Pippin ate some of the yarn. After a night crying in the emergency vet and paying a $600 bill, I just couldn't bear to look at the damn thing anymore. But I am stubborn, and not one to leave something unfinished, plus a cotton cardigan to wear with summer dresses sounds pretty great right about now. So it's me vs. the Miette, round 3!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Tea and Scones Dress

As much as I love watching shows like The Great British Sewing Bee and Project Runway, sewing under a deadline is definitely not for me. About month ago I got it into my head I would just "whip up a dress" for an upcoming fancy tea party with some girlfriends. Ha! Cut to me, last Saturday, frantically hemming at 12 pm with bedhead when I'm supposed to leave at 12:30. But, somehow, miraculously, I managed to finish the dress and pull myself together. Whew!


What really made the afternoon perfect was not the company, or the delicious tea, or the yummy miniature scones, but a passing comment by a friend who asked where I had gotten my dress because it fit so well. I could have done a Breakfast Club air fist right there at the tea table that 1) my dress didn't look Becky Home Ec-y (my biggest fear) and 2) I nailed the fit. Instead I gleefully explained that I made it and tried to convince her to give dressmaking a go. I think I may have my first convert, you guys!

Okay, okay, enough about me. The dress is Simplicity 1803 and it's made with a horrible polyester from Joann Fabric. Looking back, I have no idea why I used a GIFT CARD to buy this last year. For shame! I could have stocked up on notions or went home with a rainbow of serger cones, but instead I bought 100% polyester that's much girlier than I usually go for. In all fairness though, it doesn't wrinkle, and it's amazingly opaque for white. I'm wearing a black bra in these pictures, and you'd never know it.


All things considered, it went together pretty easily. I cut a 10 in the shoulders and then blended to a 12 for the waist and hips. I did my usual SBA, 1/2" lowering of the armholes, and 1" lengthening at the waist. It was actually pretty easy to fit because of the princess seams - just shave a bit off the curve and voila, smaller bust without any of the usual side effects. I am now completely enamored with princess seams.


Overall, this was a pretty straightforward make with a couple of tricky bits. One was the the notched neckline, which I ended up handsewing into place because I couldn't get it it centered on my machine. Even now, it's not perfect, but it's passable.


The other part I struggled with was getting the top edges in the back to line up. Maybe I accidentally stretched the facing out, because the dress met up at the waist seam no problem, but the right side of the back was a good 1/2" higher than the left. Or it may have something to do with the fact I was putting in the invisible zip, oh, 90 minutes before I was supposed to leave. In the end, I channeled my inner Tim Gunn, sternly told myself to make it work, and did some quick seam ripping and lowered the right side to mirror the left.


The only other change I made was to cut 2 1/2 inches off the skirt and used bias binding for the hem instead of folding 1/4" twice like the instructions called for. I figured the bias binding would be faster and easier, and when else was I going to use the rest of the packet I bought to finish the arm holes? And I have to say, it was kind of magical. I have never hemmed anything as quickly or easily in my life. Or maybe that was just the potent combination of coffee and adrenaline.



So I guess what I've learned from this experience is that every dress should be made with princess seams and bias tape. Every last one. Except that I'm already working on one with waist darts. Oops.
Also, sewing on a deadline and using polyester fabrics are generally terrible ideas that sometimes pay off. I'm sure this won't be the last time I set myself a ridiculous deadline, but for now, I'm going to take a breather and go at my (happy) snails pace.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Buffalo Check Shirtdress

You guys, I can't believe I'm saying this, but I CONQUERED PLAID. Okay, okay, it's a buffalo check, which isn't quite as complicated as an unbalanced plaid, but whatevs. I agonized for hours over matching the plaid as I cut it out in a single layer, so this definitely, definitely counts.


If it's not clear already, I'm so, so happy with this dress. It really fits my style - a little tomboy but still feminine, nothing fussy or twee or overly trendy. And the finished product 100% matched the vision in my head.

I picked up the last of this bolt of buffalo check flannel for a song at my local fabric store, Gail K. Fabrics (highly recommended, if you're in the Atlanta area), with a shirtdress in mind. I figured if the plaid matching  went terribly wrong at least I hadn't invested much. But, if you'll forgive me for bragging, I showed this plaid who is boss. And I in no way cheated by using a gathered skirt and bias-cut placket. Those were, um, strictly aesthetic design choices. Yeah.



This is View C of Simplicity 2246, with the sleeves and pocket from View A. I made View A, the Lisette Traveler Dress a few months ago, and while I still adore that dress, I figured the more masculine flannel needed a more fitted silhouette.


I cut a size 10 in the top half, but the waist was a little tight so I let it back out by 1/2" on each side. I think I was too generous, as it's a little loose now and you can see there's some bunching around the waist in the back. I was hoping the back bodice darts would fix the fabric pooling issue I always seem to have in the small of my back, but not quite. One of these days I'll figure it out - maybe I need a swayback adjustment? For now I'll just pretend it's not there and enjoy how supremely comfortable the dress is.


I didn't want the skirt to be as voluminous as the pattern drawing, so I cut a size 6 in the skirt and trimmed down the side of the front pattern piece so it wouldn't have such a dramatic A-line. I used the skirt front from my Lisette Passport Dress (now sadly out of print) as a guide.

I think this may be a new TNT, because I didn't do many alterations. Like the other view, I did a SBA and added 1/2" to the sleeve and back piece to accommodate my broad shoulders and avoid the straightjacket feeling. This go around, I also lengthened the bodice by 1" and took the skirt up by about 4". The skirt is drafted crazy long. Like, perfect for a modest giantess.


My only complaint is, once again, the collar. It's a single piece instead of two, and as a result it tends to be floppy. One of my new goals is to learn to sew a beautiful shirt collar with perfectly pointy lapels - I had a hell of a time getting this collar to look half-way decent, and there are definitely things I wish I could change. I shudder to think of how janky this thing would be without my beloved edgestitching foot. Don't look too closely...except here's a close-up, because we're all friends here.


So it's a flannel buffalo check shirtdress, just in time for...um, spring? I made this dress during not one, but two snowstorms (a rarity in Atlanta), and now, just as I finish, it's a beautiful, sunny 60 degrees. Ah, well. I've been dreaming of sundresses for weeks, and now I have every excuse to sew one up!