Saturday, November 8, 2014

cat lady sewing challenge!

i LOVE cats, guys. i have been a certified crazy cat lady ever since my family rescued a mean-tempered black kitten from the SPCA when i was 5 years old. maybe even before then. so i was all in for the Cat Lady Sewing Challenge, hosted by Erin//Miss Crayola Creepy.

cat ladies unite!!

this is my cat lady cocktail dress, and also my cat--who was super happy not to be continuously removed from the photo frame this time around, gracing 115 out of the 142 pictures i took. he's very sociable. but! before i descend into complete cat-babbling, THE DRESS.

i need a cooler light source so i stop blending in with that wall :p

the bodice is made from the alexander henry "hocus the cat" print ive been hoarding FOREVER, and the body is a stretch cotton. i flattened the waistline curve on the Grainline kat dress bodice lining pieces (my full version of the dress fit so well!), and used new look 6377 for the skirt/waist, tapering it in for a more pencil skirt-y silhouette. the two patterns were merged together at the waistline seam by pinning, trying on, re-pinning, basting, and ripping the basting out. repeatedly. :p

see cat derp

originally i wanted to reverse this, so that the cat print was on the bottom and the black on top. but! im patting myself on the back for not doing that, because i hardly wear the stuff i make thats primarily a super busy print. and that would be a crying shame for such an adorable cat print :). its a lot more "me" this way.

falling over to attack the hand that pets

the bodice is lined in cotton twill, and i used some reinforced plastic boning i got from Vena Cava Design for supporting the bodice (looking up the link, they have a pretty decent selection of steel alternatives). i'd say its about the same weight as spring steel boning, but is flexible, scissor friendly, doesn't kink like Rigilene, and im fairly confident won't rust in the wash like ive had happen with spiral steel (boo to rust stains! :( ).

boning: outside & inside the dress. heyy natural light.

the zipper application is your standard visible job, and the ribbon is single fold wide bias tape. i really love using bias tape as trim for some reason. it reminds me of illustrations of mildly dishevelled seamstresses with embroidery scissors on their necklaces and seam rippers stuck into their messy buns. and a little its about giving a nod to the things especially particular to home sewing (i like my stuff to scream "handmade"). for the hem i did my first blind hem ever, which worked fabulously just using my regular presser foot + blind hem stitch.


anyways. so with this version of the kat bodice, i was torn again by the conundrum of how to modify a strapless dress for appropriate undergarment coverage. while musing on how i need to learn bramaking so i can build supportive internal structure into fancy dresses instead of having straps over straps/pinning the dress to a bra, i came up with a compromise: adjustable bra loops!

mercilessly cut from the strap of an old bra

you know those 5-way convertible bras?? well, i sewed a teeny bit of folded over bra strap elastic into the neckline seam to mimic the loops the little adjustable sliders fit into on those. so! i can ostensibly wear this strapless, or attach it to whatever style bra i happen to wear by pinning/tying the loops to it, OR put straps onto the dress itself (in these photos, i'm just wearing it with a halter bra).

the boning doesn't extend down quite far enough to support upwards from the waist

NOW. the cat paragraph. this is lucky, my adopted fluffy monster that has probably driven my neighbours insane with his constant chattering. he ALWAYS wants to do whatever im doing, to the point where my patterns are peppered with claw marks and he once pulled a pin out of a top i was making and swallowed it in the resulting tussle to get it out of his mouth (dont worry, he got to go cuddle with all his veterinary besties and i now obsessively account for every pin im using). he quacks when he's happy and i've taught him to come up to me and stand on his hind legs when he's hungry.

so squirmy

so! thats my dress, and thats my cat. thanks Erin for putting this challenge together, it was the first sewing challenge i've ever participated in and was super fun! i'd been mulling over how to use this cat print for ages, so thank you for the perfect excuse to sew something out of it!! :)


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

the halloweenies

the afternoon of sunday october 26th, i decided to make a halloween costume.
with about 12 hours available that week to dedicate to costume-making, i of course decided to go as an avant garde venus flytrap.

see? a sensible amount of costume to accomplish in that timeframe!

the corset:
a hundred years ago--back in the days of feeding a website called 'natron und soda' through babelfish for instructions on drafting goth-punk clothing--i drew up an overbust corset pattern from my measurements. i pulled this out from the dusty recesses of a filing cabinet, cut out some orange halloween taffeta and some twill, and cannibalized an old black satin corset for the grommets. i stuffed in mismatched spiral and spring steel bones, trimmed it with burgundy bias tape, laced it up, and promptly got stuck with the waist wedged firmly around my shoulders (at home, by myself, for about half an hour) trying to put it on. once i had finished that desperate contortion act and tightened the corset lacing i realized i had originally drafted it to sit over a gathered skirt made of heavy drapery brocade, and in no way did this version fit at the hips.
time: 3h

i dont know what my hair is doing in these pictures. it looked much less strange in person!

the skirt:
at least 65% of my halloween costumes have utilized split wire loom in some fashion, and for the venus fly trap i thought it would make the perfect interpretation of vines. i cut a length of upholstery vinyl with regularly-spaced circular holes to accommodate the tubing, fed the loom through and hot glued it in place. i figured using some twill with heavy interfacing would be enough to anchor things, but it turns out when youre buying supplies from the hardware store all bets are off! i ran a row of stitching between each tube to try and strengthen things, but in the end had to cut little cardboard squares and hot glue them inside the belt to support the weight of the wire loom (with only moderate success). to finish things off, i sewed a rectangle of red-orange organza onto a loop of elastic for the overskirt. bless my 1980s Singer sewing machine for putting up with me shoving all manner of things under its needle.
time: 5h

do not adjust your television, it is indeed a plant costume with no green

the collar:
this is where the magic happened! after mulling over and googling all manner of elizabethan ruffs, supportasses, whisks, and standing collars, i settled on the idea of having two detached standing pieces for the venus fly trap petal bits. the collar was constructed by sewing two pieces of plastic sew-in boning flat onto longer pieces of 1/2" elastic that would sit against my shoulders. at regularly spaced intervals, i wedged separate pieces of boning (placed at a 90 degree angle) between the elastic and support boning before sewing overtop, then bent these pieces so they stuck upwards. i then sewed the two elastic-boning contraptions to intersect at the nape of my neck, like a racerback top. then, i cut two petal-shaped pieces of bristol board and hot glued them onto the upwards-sticking-boning-pieces, so it all looked a bit like a paper fan. finally, i taped and glued pieces of fuel line tubing on for the spiky bits, covered the whole thing with red fabric, stuffed some muslin scraps in, and painted the tubing. to wear, the elastic bits just pin onto the corset. i'm calling it a feat of engineering! ;)
time: 4h

the verdict:
success! after going as specific movie/historical characters for so long it was fun to go as something completely random :). the only downside was that the venue we were in was so warm the hot glue re-melted, destroying the collar and skirt and making me feel badly for having made such a disposable costume. but! i was able to salvage the corset and the tubing so i could potentially make another tube-vine-skirt in the future, if need be. because who knows when a wire loom skirt could come in handy?? :) :)

hope everyone is having a lovely november!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

for lack of a good portmanteau

the leaves have changed, the air is crisp, and the rack of neon taffeta with flocked spiderwebs has appeared again at the fabric store. fall is my favourite season, and i have taken a break from my piles of muslins and leaves to make a mashup of some favourite patterns :)

casual fall jacket
with a season-appropriate name of 'frankenpattern'!

for this cosy specimen, i have combined the sewaholic minoru and the victory patterns lola with a little garment surgery to come up with a fall jacket. many, many years ago i bought a single yard of this wobbly skull flower print off eBay because a) skulls! and b) not a quilting cotton. excitement! sadly, the design was printed onto a really low quality white rib knit and it was therefore banished to the stash for being beautiful when sitting flat, and disappointing in most wearable conformations.

the perils of online fabric shopping

anyways, during a recent archeological excavation re-organization of my yardage i came across the fabric again and was inspired to turn it into a casual jacket sort of thing. since there was only a yard of it, it was a chance to exercise some off-pattern creativity. and! i think it turned out pretty well, all things considered :)

sort of lululemon-for-the-strange-ish?

i used my adjusted minoru pattern for the base, and the waistline curve of the lola dress as a cutting line for the printed pieces. things got temporarily derailed when i forgot to add extra length to the front printed piece to accommodate what would be removed by my side seam bust dart (oops)…and without enough fabric to recut, i ended up having to steepen the angle of the back curve to compensate. which is a shame, because i think the more pronounced front curve of the lola dress pattern is nicer :p

i also cut two identical sleeves despite checking 83 times to be sure they were mirror images, bah!

to assemble the body, i used full length front and back pieces of black french terry together with the cropped printed pieces. i stacked the printed piece on top of the french terry to traced the curve, then drew another line 1" above the first curve. finally, with the printed piece flipped upside down, i stitched the cropped piece to the french terry at a 1/2" seam allowance, using the second line to line up the raw bottom edge of the printed piece. and voila! simultaneous underlining and edge finishing!

you guys don't know the thrill i get from piecing things together like this! :) :)

because both fabrics are pretty drapey i interfaced the collar with a scrap of woven fusible interfacing, and also added a strip of bias tape to the neckline seam for extra stability. since i opted to make it underlined (instead of lined, as the pattern instructs), i used the collar underlining as a facing and slipstitched it over the neck seam allowances for a tidy finish :)

wobbly skull flowers up close

it was pretty eye-opening to see the difference between the knit fabric and the woven of my first version! i scrapped the vertical bands--nearly 4" of width--because the centre front magically ended up in the right place without them. which just goes to show how different wearing ease can be between a knit fall jacket and a fitted winter coat! looking at the pictures now, i think the side seam could definitely be taken in a wee bit at the hips to improve the overall proportion.

classic west coast zip up

so! it was super refreshing to just play around with some pattern pieces and stash fabric--especially with a low stress garment like a knit jacket. ive never really been into sewing basics when i need a break from more complex garments (when given the chance i will overcomplicate the simplest a-line skirt!), but using familiar patterns for casual wear definitely was the perfect change of scenery :) :)


Sunday, August 31, 2014

smoke and mirrors

for the record, to date this is the best thing i have ever made.

Grainline Kat
are you watching too many crime dramas when you start saying things like 'for the record'??

this, friends, is Grainline Studio's Kat dress, and i am SO GLAD that i bought the pattern before it disappeared from the online shop. because i LOVE this dress. the style lines are super flattering and its a gorgeous and unique style.

and i'll stop fangirling now. actually no i wont. ITS GORGEOUS.
(also: missing a hook & eye at the zipper top here)

okay okay, on to the nuts & bolts. when choosing a size, i ended up cutting all the horizontal lines on the bodice as a size 4 and all the vertical lines as a size 6. usually i cut a small size for my frame (shoulders, armholes, etc.) and then add extra room at the bust, which sometimes makes for an unfriendly curve in the under-bust-part of the princess seam. so! i was curious to see if distributing the extra horizontal room a wee bit would make for a nicer overall fit, and it worked! all i needed to do was add 1/2" extra height to the centre front and side front (tapering to nothing at the side seam), and then contour the seams above and below the bust.

vertical lines size 6, horizontal lines size 4. hours spent redistributing an FBA across all those contrast bands, zero!

the main fabric is a heavy cotton print from Mood, which had these weird reverse-tye-dye splotches along the length. when i bought it, i was actually going to use it for a Sewaholic Saltspring, but the stiffness definitely works better (on me) with the structure of the Kat :). anyways, the fabric pattern is pretty regularly spaced, so some careful cutting was required to get everything on grain with a good splotch distribution. but! in the end it kind of looks like a plume of smoke on the front, which i think is pretty rad :).

that is a bra strap, btw. i have yet to meet a strapless bra i can agree with.

throughout the whole process of making this i was super nervous about the colours working together, but in the end i think the contrast totally works. the lighter fabric is a quilting cotton (2 fat quarters actually, although it meant piecing the bottom front hem part), and the black is a light voile. i used the voile for the bodice lining and hem facing, but the Mood fabric for the skirt lining so the skirt would have extra volume :).

the skirt finishing. its so pretty.

now, the best part was hands-down the construction. this was pure zen to sew. every fiddly little piece lined up, every seam allowance gets finished and tucked away so it looks as clean and lovely on the inside as the outside. the zipper is finished between the lining and shell, the hem facing encloses all the raw edges of the contrast bands so the skirt lining hangs free, and the bodice lining has boning for beautifully sculptured support.

hanger loops definitely made out of halloween ribbon. its how i roll.

the only little issue i had was with the hem balance. the front does hang a bit lower than the back, which im pretty sure is because my posture is different in 5" heels and the finished dress than barefoot in a muslin (oops). a small horizontal tuck right above the light contrast band should fix it though. and then it will be THE PERFECT DRESS :) :)

yikes overly twee expression

so! verdict is i love this pattern, love this dress, love this fabric, and all of the engineering and care and finishing makes it the best thing i've ever made :). and! if you're the type who gets a kick out of making intersecting pieces line up perfectly (and i guess has the pattern already :\ ), i think you will enjoy sewing the Kat dress!


Thursday, July 31, 2014

we can't all be zooey deschanel

hello friends! hope you are having a fantastic summer :) i also hope you are enjoying the fruits of your summer sewing and are not, like me, wondering if august is too late to start making shorts. one day i'll get the hang of sewing a season ahead! ive been doing a lot of experimenting and toile-ing lately without finishing a lot, so today im sharing a dress i made back in the spring:

simplicity 1652
and from the left side of the photo, no less!

this dress is based on simplicity 1652, one of the patterns from their Amazing Fit line. its got front bodice pieces in a range of bra cup sizes, so i figured it was a good place to start to get a nicely fitting princess-seamed bodice. i wanted to try and emulate this dress…

dress by Folter

…so i started by merging the back pattern pieces together, overlapping the top and bottom and retracing them as one piece, and using a dinner plate to make a moon-shaped cutout instead of the triangley one. then i made up a muslin to check the fit and phase of the moon.

you see its not quite a semi-circle, so its a moon. im really trying to make this moon association happen

so! the muslin was pretty good but had a whole bunch of excess fabric across the upper chest, which seems to be a theme with the ole narrow shoulders. i tried taking out the excess in the princess seam, but this just had the effect of turbo shrinking and distorting the armscye. my compromise was to take as much as possible out of the seam without it looking too bad, which resulted in an okay fit…but! i took the finished dress to a fitting class with the delightful Jan Bones where i learned i can take a wedge out of the neckline (pointing to the bust apex) to fix the fit across the shoulders and also get rid of the bit of neckline gaping. next time!

oh what couldn't this basic bodice do? :D

aside from upper chest adjustments, i made a small swayback alteration, raised the waistline to sit at the natural waist, and shortened the skirt to a more saucy length. the dress is made from a dusty brown quilting cotton featuring skulls with crowns and butterflies, with a black cotton waist and hem band. the contrast bands are cut from the pattern pieces so the vertical seam lines continue, and the skull fabric is cut to be symmetrical.

symmetry! well, except the facings, but lets not get carried away.

construction was pretty straightforward, except for the part with my fancy rising moon cutout dealie. i had decided early on that i didnt want a closure at the back neck and did want the edges of the neckline, cutout, and armscye fully enclosed (not broken by a seam). i couldnt figure out how to actually engineer this feat because it defies all laws of being-able-to-turn-things-right-side-out, so i eventually resorted to two linings, bias bound armholes, plus a neckline facing that appears confused about its role in life a little bit. but! in the end, you can't really tell from the outside and i dont have to fuss with a button or clasp at the back neck, so yay! for it working, though boo! for the back finishings being such a hot mess.

just keep throwing finishings at it and it will eventually make sense?

while its a decent enough fit and hella cute on the hanger, i just dont quite love it. ive thought a lot about why i havent been super jazzed to wear this out and narrowed it down to being partly the proportion of the dress, and partly the print. to me, the addition of the waist band visually raises the waist and makes it look a bit like a babydoll dress (definitely not something pour moi). the print also has a bit of an awkward contrast for this dress…maybe if the white skulls were a little bit more blend-y in colour or a bit smaller/bigger it would be more successful. for me. personally.

eee, reactivating art class critique mode

so judging from my quilting cotton experiments over the past bit, im thinking i like prints best on me if their volume is tamed a bit more than in this dress...which is a good thing to know when putting scissors to those printed mood fabrics (not to mention this AMAZING purple cat print fabric i've been saving forever). and you never know, maybe in a few years i'll graduate to full-fledged ms. frizzle dresses :) :)


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

pants: a novel

while in new york this spring, Kim told me that these were fantastic pants to make, and after seeing several versions up on her blog i was inspired to try em out for myself :)

butterick 5895
she was right! also, i may have been bitten by a vintage bug there

butterick 5895, aka gertie's retro-inspired separates pattern, took me exactly 2 hours from opening the envelope to hemming the cuffs of a test pair. which was fantastic for me, as ive been trying to establish some basic patterns i can knock out for work (when there exists the chance your pants will be forever ruined by wayward science, one does not bust out the oscar de la renta fabrics for adventures in bespoke pantsmaking). now. my favourite thing to make is definitely the super structural finely detailed sorta handiwork, but the one RTW garment i've purchased this year (out of some necessity) turned out to be the extremely disappointing, off-grain, poor quality, expensive pair of pants that broke the camels back. because of this, and also with the conversation on fashion revolution day questioning the ethics by which pants such as these go from cotton plants to fall fashions, ive started making more of the basic garments in my wardrobe.

step 1: make better pants to reduce waste and know definitively they were not made under terrible working conditions. step 33071: keep small alpaca farm and make wool pants on solar powered sewing machine? :) :) :)

so ANYWAYS! i needed pants, i made pants. based on the pattern ease i decided to go down a size to get a more legging-y fit, then promptly cut the test pants from non-stretch fabric. the resulting forest green sausage casing alerted me to two new facts: 1. my vertical measurements seem to be a size or two smaller than my horizontal measurements and 2. holy toledo on a short, short-waisted person that is one. HIGH. WAIST.

as in, its more of a neckline

thing the first: while they were cant-bend-my-knees tight, the crotch curve was perfect! the fit through the hips and legs would probably have been bang on with a bit of lycra in there, and honestly i do prefer the stretch recovery and flexibility offered by even 2-3% of that fancy not much to change there. the other issue was the waistband--on me that sucker went straight up to my bra, which, since i planned on wearing these with longer-length tops, was a tad unnecessary. so! i scrapped the waistband altogether for the pictured version, although i think it still needs to have another inch or two hacked off as it cuts into my stomach when i sit down. no good!

restrictive waistband = not cupcake compatible :(

i used a 9oz denim found locally, which is nice and sturdy if lacking in my beloved lycra content, and let the side seams out about 1/4". since i omitted the waistband, i finished the top edge first using petersham ribbon, then using twill tape…THEN using the denim fabric as a small facing. i really was in love with the idea of having red polka dot ribbon finishing the inside of these pants but think this is probably an application reserved for garments either less fitted or requiring less mobility. even with some work yet to do on perfecting the waist though, these pants have seen a bunch of wear. i find they pair equally well with fancy shoes, chuck taylors, and boots. :)

they also go with my simplicity 4487 shirt, which is a shameless near-identical replica of a project i saw hanging at the fabric store years ago. it had skulls!

after wearing this pair around they have stretched out a lot, and ive noticed the front rise has developed vertical folds of excess fabric, which is pretty bulky-looking from the three layers of denim across that area (pocket + inside of pocket + pants front). i've already got a couple other versions planned, using a stretch twill or stretch denim and also drafting out the front pockets, and i'm curious to see how this area will be affected by stretchy fabric and having less reinforcement in the area. experiments, whee!

im envisioning a polka dot brushed stretch denim pair, but that fabric does not seem to exist.

maybe its a good thing there will be more of these fantastic pants, as i apparently have a lot of different things to say about them! :p


Thursday, May 29, 2014

adventures in accessorizing

guess what friends? i made a handbag!

although technically more of a shoulderbag

im super excited about it because it was really simple and it turned out unexpectedly amazing :). off-and-on for years now i've been wanting to make a purse, but abandoned anything i started because the patterns never quite worked out--the big four's cheery array of cotton totes and canvas satchels just weren't floating my boat. (also im annoyingly picky...if you carry it everywhere, it should go with everything! :p ) i wanted a durable vinyl bag. preferably a hobo shape. with dramatic hardware. and a top zip closure. plus some sort of cool funky detail.

but not so funky that it wouldn't go to a nice restaurant

anyways, my finickiness had to be resolved in a hurry this spring when i broke every single purse in my possession. as in, was carrying phone and lipstick in a green camo dickie's pencil case because there were no other suitable containers in the house. but! brett bara saved the day by writing 'sewing in a straight line', a collection of beginner patterns (pillows, quilts, skirts, dresses, belts, fabric flower bowls. its got decent range). one of the included patterns is for the 'heavy metal bag', which is what i made. in one weekend. one weekend! guys, it is seriously that simple!!

hooray! thanks for the pattern brett! :)

the exterior is black upholstery weight vinyl, which played nicely with my regular presser foot for all but attaching the side tabs, but then that was like ten layers of upholstery vinyl so i forgive it. to help with the hefty fabric i used a heavy duty machine needle, which was weirdly satisfying to watch eat through multiple layers of tough fabric :).

ooooh here comes the big lining reveal!!

for the lining, i used a hilarious halloween-themed quilting cotton featuring spiderwebs and neon orange eyes. its totally perfect for a weird little detail, i totally smile every time i go to grab my keys! :) the O-rings and pyramid studs (which are apparently called 'nailheads') i picked up from pacific trimming when i was in new york (they have oodles of good stuff!).

and the zip is one of those "fashion" separating deals, to make it extra fancy

i added a cell phone pocket and a flush zippered pocket into the lining, and also a zip closure for the main compartment of the bag. the zip closure i find totally necessary for carting things around on a daily basis (keeps the lip gloss from rolling off into the night), but it does pull on the top band of the bag and distorts the shape a bit. there was also not quite enough length in the shoulder strap for a proper finish on the ends, but its a perfectly serviceable bag as is :)

photography sure is a lot easier from behind the camera!

because this went so well, i think the next adventure will be to make a weekender bag. i picked up a copy of 'the better bag maker' by nicole mallalieu recently and there are some lovely large-scale bags in there! :)

super dynamic pleats. yay texture!!

and thats that! hope everyone's finally enjoying a bit of summer in the air!! the weather's finally nice here & ive been whipping up some summer casuals to suit :)

//on kollabora