Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hannah's Dress Complete

It has been a labour of love, all those tiny hems on the tiers and the final hand sewing of the lining to the front bodice. The dress has a pleated cumberbund and rose that fastens at the back. I will make these in sky blue satin, using fabric from the bridesmaids' dresses at Hannah's mom's wedding nine years ago. That seems to be a fitting finishing touch to the dress.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Heading into blues

Yesterday, I stopped in briefly at Fabricville to pick up a 14" zipper for Hannah's dress. And quickly looked through the fabrics, just in case there was something too good to pass up. Why should I doubt it? I can always find something. This printed fabric above is 55% linen, 45% rayon, a wonderful combination that drapes beautifully, yet has the stability of linen but without the wrinkle factor. I have found most linen blends to be wonderful fabrics. Linen/cotton is superior to either pure linen or pure cotton, in my opinion. And a fabric that is linen with rayon is just going to be great.
This is destined to be a gore skirt, and in my stash is some tencel denim that is a perfect match. The tencel is the perfect weight for a shirt-style jacket and I know there is a pattern somewhere in my collection that would be just right for this.

It seems that I am favouring blues this season because a couple of weeks ago, I picked up a remnant of pure linen, also from Fabricville, and it matches the tencel denim as well.

I could be onto a collection here. Two skirts, one shirt-jacket, a white blouse and tee and I am all set for spring. I'm off to my sewing room right now.

The dress fits

Hannah models the dress, and mom and I agree it needs to be taken in a little on each side for the next version.
Which will be cut out this afternoon. I am not thinking about the six tiers which all need to be hemmed with that tiny machine hem that looks so good but takes quite a time to make.

Monday, April 11, 2011

First Day at Aquacise

Well, my doctor and the orthopedic surgeon both recommended swimming as exercise for someone awaiting hip surgery. But I didn't really want to do it. The thought of driving to a pool, changing, getting in and exercising, then showering, drying off - I mean 30 minutes of exercise would actually end up taking an hour and a half. I much prefer to put on the running shoes, clip on the dog leash and head out the door.

Only that doesn't work anymore. Gone are the 2-3 mile walks with Teddy, as I just can't do the distance anymore. The hip joint has deteriorated to the point that walking more than a few blocks is simply too painful.

Last week, I ran into one of my daughter's teachers from school and I know she has arthritis in many joints. So I decided to ask her about it when I spotted her at the grocery store. She has had both a shoulder and a knee replaced and she credits aquacise with her rapid recovery. She convinced me that the point is to strengthen the muscles which support the joint and that helps both before and after surgery.

I took her advice. Yesterday I bought a swim suit and this morning, I took myself to the local pool. Not the pool at the university, but the one in the north end of town that would most likely draw women from working class backgrounds. Good choice, there's no sense in feeling out of place when doing something you're not crazy about.

I found myself with 16 women, and one man, most of whom seemed to have already had knee or hip replacements or were there due to the effects of arthritis. One woman said she has been coming faithfully for four years and no longer takes pain meds for her knees. She still has the same knees but she no longer takes tylenol for arthritis and she has put away her cane.

It is surprising how easy it is to be flexible in the water, when you have next to no flexibility on land. This afternoon I feel achey and the hip is particularly bad, but who knows - perhaps this may change with the exercise. Anyway, I am willing to give it a try.

The only downside was that I somehow lost my watch. No matter, I was going to buy a new one because the wrist strap had stretched beyond redemption, but felt that it was wasteful to buy a new one when the old one was still keeping good time. Tomorrow I will fix that.

Dress for Hannah

Over the weekend, I finished the trial dress for Hannah. I will mail this off this morning and mom Elena will check the fit before I cut the Communion dress from the same pattern in the longer length. I don't want Hannah to look as if she is wearing the hand-me-down dress of a bigger sister. I can get the skirt prepared with all the tiers (6 in all on the long length, each hemmed with a tiny machine hem).

The dress bodice is fully lined, which eliminates all those pesky facings. And the flounced tiers are stitched onto a "stay", which is essentially an a-line skirt/lining. The pattern also calls for a skirt lining as well, to be inserted after the tiers are all stitched on, but I think this is unnecessary and would make the dress heavy.

Isn't it nice to see the inside of a little girl's garment so nicely finished? I definitely recommend this pattern to anyone sewing for their little girl. The possibilities are endless; this would be so cute done in lace, and I can imagine a "peasant look" with all the tiers in coordinating cottons. Hannah's mom said she wished she could have a dress whipped up so quickly for herself, hint hint.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A change of pace

My daughter asked me to make her daughter's First Communion dress and the time is closing in. We don't have a date yet, but it can't be far off. First Communion is usually in the month of May.
We had decided on this dress from Sense and Sensibility Patterns, and I ordered it before Christmas. It arrived in January and I made a mock-up of the bodice and mailed it off to Elena two weeks ago. This project is requiring long-distance fitting. And even little girls of 7/8 years old need tweaking, especially when they are average in height but tiny through the chest and waist. Hannah measures size 4 in the chest and waist, and size 6 through the hips, but she is average height for her age.

When I made the bodice up, I thought this is weird. I know that historical patterns have their own styling, things like the shoulder seam is set behind the shoulder on the back, the sleeves are different. But even I could tell without anyone trying this on, that this was just going to fit very strangely and Hannah would have virtually no arm movement. An email from Elena confirmed this is so.

So a quick internet search of patterns, links were sent for Elena and Hannah to check out, and this pattern won hands-down. Hannah just grinned when she saw it, what little girl would not want a dress like this one? Butterick 4967

Elena's only specification was "please no shiny fabric". A quick trip to Fabricville yesterday to pick up the pattern and I checked out the fabric choices in the bridal section. Plenty of really nice white cottons are in stock, if anyone is making white shirts, you are in luck. But plain cotton is just a little too plain for this dress.
I have a white eyelet in my stash that was going to be used, when the other dress was the choice, but it is a little too heavy for the tiers of this dress. But I lucked out and found a light white eyelet and it was even 40% off. Of course, everything is always marked down at Fabricville, just their way of eliminating the small independent fabric stores so that we will have no choice other than what they offer us.

I will put up a photo of the fabric later today but right now, the morning dishes are calling and some other important stuff that needs to be done.

Photo of eyelet for Butterick 4967

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Neck Binding on Knits

I have several methods that I use for finishing the necklines on knits. And some work better than others for me. One method I learned from Kathleen Cheetham of Petite Plus Patterns. Links to Kathleen's website are below. It is illustrated in her pattern Short Sleeve Shell, a pattern for wovens but which can be used successfully to make a nice tee shirt.

Kathleen instructs you to join the back and front at one shoulder seam only, leaving the other shoulder open. Then cut a strip of fabric (bias if using a woven, on the greater stretch if using a knit) about 2" wide and a few inches longer than the neckline length.

Place the strip right side to right side of the neck, beginning at the end of one shoulder. The body of the tee is down on the machine, you will be sewing with the strip uppermost. Then, stitch the strip to the neckline at exactly 3/8", making sure to keep this seam allowance exact (it determines the width of the binding and you want it to be uniform). As you sew, stretch the strip slightly just so that it curls in your hand. You have to develop a feel for this. I would suggest trying a sample first before doing this on a real garment. Who enjoys unpicking?

Trim off the binding at the ends, making sure you cut it to follow the angle of the shoulder seam. Turn the seam allowances toward the binding, and sew the open shoulder seam closed. The photo below shows the garment at this stage. I don't even press this although with a woven, you probably should to get a crisp edge.

Now wrap the binding over to the inside of the tee, making sure that the seam allowances are enclosed. This is why you wanted to be sure to sew with an exact seam allowance. (You could use 1/4" allowance if you prefer or even 1/2", the choice is yours; I tend to like the look of 3/8".) The seam allowances fill the binding and give it body. If you have done this before, you can probably wrap and stitch in the ditch at the same time. I take the time to pin the binding in place first, then simply stitch in the ditch to catch the binding. Or you can top-stitch this if you prefer.

With wovens, Kathleen instructs you to understitch the seam allowances to the binding. This is because she is turning the binding entirely to the inside of the garment. It is essentially a facing, but I prefer to have the binding show. And I think the options on a woven shell could be nice, using a contrast binding or perhaps stretch velvet binding on a silky top would be nice. You have a ton of choices here.

The technique of stretching the binding while sewing it on always gives you a neckline that lies flat on the body. It pulls the neckline in very nicely. I often find that tee shirt patterns give you a pattern piece for the binding and it is often too long for the neckline. You end up with some gaping. I have never had this problem, using Kathleen's technique.

Neckline with pins holding the binding in place, ready for "stitch in the ditch"

Close up of neckline with pins in place

Link to Petite Plus Patterns
Link to Short Sleeve Shell #101

Saturday, April 2, 2011

What's Next

Last week, at the local fabric store, I found a rayon knit. Although it would not be my usual choice in colour or design, I picked up enough for a tee because rayon knits are few and far between in this neck of the woods. It has enough contrast in it to work; normally I can't wear beige at all, but this one has enough white and bright red to offset the beige.

This afternoon, I ran short of white thread. Great, an excuse to run out to the fabric store, and use that coupon I got last week. Save $15 if you spend $30! What's holding me back? I found a beige bottom weight, cotton/poly/lycra, that will make nice pants or capris to go with the knit above. It is a medium weight and the content will make ironing not required. I passed up the 100% linens in beige, knowing that they would sit waiting to be ironed and not get worn as much as they should. Our summers don't get all that hot here on the east coast, so the poly content won't be a problem.

This combo might just decide the next jacket in the Jacket a Month sew-along. I think an off-white jean jacket might just be required now.

And this is the front of the Vogue 8323, a tee shirt pattern with princess seams. Not common and I have had this one in the pile of to-dos for a while. I compared it with the Connie Crawford tee that I made last month, and they are very similar so I made no adjustments before cutting. Even though I am short, I rarely alter patterns on the lengthen/shorten line as I prefer the length in most tops, especially knit ones. The styles are longer now, thank goodness, and it is nice to wear tees that come to mid hip, no more tugging at hems to pull the tees down everytime you reach for anything.

And on the sale rack, there was this gorgeous 100% linen that feels soft and heavy. There was only three metres left on the bolt, enough for a bias cut skirt. The blue is a real true indigo, what a find!

I have decided I need to have more colour in my wardrobe; when I hang out clothes to dry, the washline looks pretty drab, with a lot of black or dark knits predominating. This spring and summer, I intend to brighten up my clothes.