Saturday, February 26, 2011

Musings: Simplicity 2209

Well, friends, it looks like this is going to be the weekend of two dresses. My Simplicity Lisette patterns finally came in the mail (and lo-and-behold are now magically in stock at Hancock's) and 2209 is already cut out and partially sewn up. Let's blame my early morning dance class - I came home and had a manic burst of energy.

The fabric I'm using is a white pique for the bodice and a navy rose print pique for the skirt. I've been in love with this rose print dress from Kate Spade for months now. It's too, too cute. Also? Too, too expensive. So, I'm using 2209 to try out my own take on the concept.

As far as changes go, this is another pattern that's a little difficult to do an FBA on. Or, perhaps, I'm just a chicken. So, I'm grading down at the armscye and waist, but going with my straight pattern size. From how the bodice came together, there's a chance I may end up going back and shortening the darts a little, as well. However it works, one thing is for certain: a lot of sewing is happening this weekend.

Edit: View the finished dress here!

Weekend Pretty: 2.26.11

Normally, I like to keep my dose of weekend pretty restricted to the non-retail - fashion shows, awards ceremonies, movie premieres, and the like. The stuff of drama and fantasies (for the fashion admirer, anyway). But then Anthropologie went and launched their own wedding line, BHLDN (beholden, if you're like me and the lack of vowels sent you off into a furious rant about needlessly esoteric titles). It's dazzling. The shoes, the gowns - even the bridesmaids dresses, for heaven's sake - are lovely. When I'm 30 and planning my own wedding to a charming British man (whom, right now, will either be a history professor I run into at a bookstore or a professional golfer) BHLDN better still be around, because these dresses set my mind spinning in glorious directions toward flower arrangements and waltzing and living happily ever after.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Musings: Colette Crepe

Later this afternoon, I'm diving in to my second Colette Patterns adventure - the Crepe dress. This was one of those revisions to my spring palette, added in because my Simplicity patterns haven't arrived yet, so I needed something else pretty to sew. With all the Crepes that have shown up on blogs and forums, after Gertie's Crepe sew-a-long, ideas for this dress have been spinning around in my brain for weeks.

Even better, Colette just released new pictures of the Crepe -made up in plain white with a turquoise sash and also white with turquoise polka dots. Both dresses prompted a hunt for comparable fabrics. Luckily, I already had a wonderful white pique waiting around, as well as a medium-weight shirting in coral (one of my palette colors!). I could just knock off the Colette inspiration piece completely, making up a white dress with a coral sash, but I've decided to try something a little different. I'm making the bodice up in the pique, but the sash and skirt in the coral shirting. I tried to find evidence of someone else doing the same thing, but it looks like I might be the first. So, fingers crossed that it turns out well!

As far as changes go, I'm not making any. Instead, I'm treating this as a very wearable muslin. With Colette's modern sizing and accommodation toward higher cup sizes, I don't foresee any real fitting problems with this dress. If it works out, I have a pale yellow and white floral in line for this pattern next. If there are any little niggling fit issues, I'll address them for the second time around.

Have you made the Crepe dress yet? Were you part of that fantastic sew-a-long? I'd love to hear about your experiences with this pattern and any suggestions you may have!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Greener Sort of Grass

It's a woman's prerogative to change her mind, right? Well, let's hope so, because I have changed mine about the Spring Palette Challenge. A lot.

You see, those new Simplicity patterns are haunting me. I want to sew them desperately. However, there's a problem - they aren't exactly in my challenge plan. The whole point of making the plan was to have a schedule and make a commitment. But I'm about to tell my plan that I just want to be friends. I'm leaving it for something new.

Here's my updated Colette Spring Palette Challenge roster:

I've switched out every pattern but one, Colette's Chantilly. This weekend, I'm planning on sewing up Colette's Crepe dress - the bodice in a white pique and the tie and skirt in a medium-weight coral shirting. I'll do a musings post about my plans for this tomorrow.

The other patterns I've added are all in the new Simplicity catalog - two dresses, a skirt, and a shirt. I'm particularly excited about these and absolutely can't wait for them to show up in my mailbox! Sadly, neither JoAnn's or Hancock's have these in stock yet, so I ended up ordering them directly from Simplicity. They shipped out yesterday, so next weekend's project should be one of these patterns.

Anyway, those are the changes! Has anyone else changed their plans yet? It's really hard for me to say no to a pattern I'm dying to sew, even if I have others in a queue. What can I say? My sewing willpower is minimal...and I'm fine with that.

A Wednesday of Lovely Things

Things To Want:
  • Dooney and Bourke Petunia Classic Satchel - Is there anything more Springy than bright florals? Is there any purse more useful than the satchel? I'm trying to convince myself that I don't need a $200 purse, especially one that's not even leather. I'm failing miserably, while deciding between the purple and pink versions.
  • Lipstick red Change Of Venue heels from Seychelles (my favorite shoe brand) - Don't know what to wear with your new blue polka dot dress? These shoes. Don't have a blue polka dot dress? Sew one, so you have an excuse to buy these shoes. (Sidenote, Seychelles are the most comfortable heels on the planet, I swear. I have one style of theirs in four colors my feet loved them so much.)
  • Emma Book Clutch from Kate Spade - One day, when I'm a fabulous NY Times bestselling author, I will be able to afford my Kate Spade addiction. Until then, I will daydream about that day when I can buy little clutches based on redesigned covers of my favorite book.
Things To Admire:
  • Sarai of Colette Patterns made this delicate white eyelet dress that has me combing the internet for comparable fabric. It's so wonderfully season-appropriate and feminine.
  • Shalyn of Ars Gratia Artis made an amazing mustard-colored blouse, complete with Peter Pan collar and front buttons. Absolutely retro adorable.
  • Bea W. of Butterflies and Hurricanes (Have you ever checked out her Etsy store? Prepare to experience clothing lust.) also experimented with eyelet and made a red-trimmed shirt and matching retro red shorts for a look that is so Summer of 1963.
  • Stitchy Witch of Green Apples posted her version of Vogue 8380, made up in a charming polka dot sateen. Doesn't this dress just make you want to attend a balloon-bedecked birthday party?
  • Gertie of Gertie's New Blog For Better Sewing modeled her finished Crepe dress, the product of the recent sew along she hosted. Not only does it fit her divinely, but the Liberty lawn she used is possibly the most gorgeous fabric ever woven.
Things To Read:
  • I Think I Love You by Allison Pearson - "In 1974 Wales, 13-year-old Petra is in love with David Cassidy, an obsession she shares with her best friend, Sharon. When they hear that Cassidy is playing a concert in London, the girls sneak away to see him, bringing Petra into brief contact with Bill, who writes for The Essential David Cassidy Magazine. Nearly 25 years later, Petra is separated and seeing how she had sacrificed her ambitions for her husband's when, after her mother's funeral, she discovers a letter her mother had intercepted years before. The letter was informing Petra she had won the Ultimate David Cassidy Quiz, and her prize was a trip to meet the star in California. A magazine picks up the story of Petra's missed opportunity, and suddenly Petra and Sharon, along with Bill, who now works for this magazine, are headed to Las Vegas for a belated meeting." - from Publishers Weekly
  • The Paris Wife by Paula McLain - "Paula McLain brings Hadley Richardson Hemingway out from the formidable shadow cast by her famous husband. Though doomed, the Hemingway marriage had its giddy high points, including a whirlwind courtship and a few fast and furious years of the expatriate lifestyle in 1920s Paris. Hadley and Ernest traveled in heady company during this gin-soaked and jazz-infused time, and readers are treated to intimate glimpses of many of the literary giants of the era, including Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, and F. Scott Fitzgerald." - from Booklist
Things To Wear:

Monday, February 21, 2011

Miss Sadie is Sen(cha)sational: Colette 1007

Hello, lovelies! I hope you had a wonderful weekend. It was a glorious 75 and sunny all weekend here in Austin - the perfect weather to wear sunny yellow flowers. Conveniently, it was also the perfect weekend to sew up my Sencha blouse, the second piece for my Spring Palette Challenge.

I didn't do the best job getting pictures of it, so I may have to update in the next few days, but it's adorable. The fabric is a cotton shirting I bought from Gorgeous Fabrics last month and, as one would expect from the name, it really is gorgeous. Little coral, orange, and yellow flowers twine around the white background, making it the perfect fabric for the first few weeks of spring.

Even better than the fabric, if you can believe it, was sewing the pattern itself. Colette Patterns certainly live up to the hype. The instructions were simply worded and well-explained, the diagrams crystal clear, and the pattern pieces themselves well-designed. It's going to be so hard sewing from the Big 4 pattern companies, after this experience.

But let's get down to business, shall we? The nitty, gritty little details of how Sencha became Sadie. Luckily, this blouse was an absolute dream to construct, especially when compared to last week's Alma dress. I did waffle a bit about whether to do a few alterations, but decided to see how the straight size blouse fit first. That's actually my favorite aspect of Colette patterns - they're based on a D-cup bust size, so there's no reason to do an FBA, if you're more well-endowed.

As far as pattern pieces, there were blessedly few. Just the bodice front, two bodice back pieces, and the front and back facings. A scant six pieces of fabric compared to last week's twenty. It's no doubt a sign that I've sewn too many dresses, when my mind is relieved at the pattern inventory staying in the single digits. Even better for the girl in search of a quick and easy sew, there were only tucks to deal with - four on the neckline, four on the front waist, two on the back waist. I'd actually never done a tuck before, just darts and pleats, but they, like their brethren, are very easy to construct.

The only truly tricky part about the Sencha blouse is the back column of buttons. Honestly, however, that's not even terribly tricky. This was my first time sewing buttonholes, but marking them well ensured success. With the Sencha, marking the buttons initially actually does no good, since the wrong side of the fabric is hidden by the time you're ready to button-hole. So, keep the back bodice pieces handy and instead mark the back fold line well.

When it comes to the final product, I love my version of Sencha. It's just the sort of blouse I love - interesting construction details, lovely fabric, and made of gloriously comfortable cotton. Fit-wise, I do have a few picky things that didn't work so well on me. Mainly: the sleeves. They look absolutely adorable in other reviews, but they're a bit of an awkward length for me. The way they attach to the bodice on the inside makes them a bit constricting - I think they'd both be more comfortable and more flattering if they were a couple of inches longer and perhaps not sewn to the bodice. The only other part that bothered me were the neckline facings. In the back, they have a tendency to come up and look uneven. I will probably end up tacking them down to the button fold, since I can pull the blouse over my head anyway.

If you're also new to the Sencha, I've made a list of my tips and tricks learned along the way.

Things I Changed:
  • For once, absolutely nothing. With how simple this pattern is, it wouldn't be hard to make up a muslin if you are worried about fit issues, but I didn't see the need after reading other reviews. It helps that there was no FBA to worry about.
Things I Would Change, If I Made It Again:
  • Lengthen the bodice by about an inch. When wearing the blouse today, I did find myself wishing it were a bit longer. When tucked in, it rides up a bit more than I'd like. When not tucked in, it makes my torso look a little short, which I was initially worried about, after seeing other reviewer pictures.
  • Lengthen the sleeves by two inches and don't attach them to the bodice. The sleeve shape looks excellent on other reviewers, but hits me in a weird place. I found it not only a bit unflattering, but constricting to movement, as well. Every time I raise my arms too high, the whole blouse follows, because of how the sleeves are constructed.
  • Tack the neckline facings down in the back. Actually, this is something I still plan to do. It's a common complaint with facings that they don't stay put and it's true in this case also. In the back, it seems to be especially bad, so tomorrow I'm going to tack them down to the button placket. The blouse is easy to slip over my head anyway, so it's an easy solution.
Tricky Steps and Suggestions:
  • Mark the buttonholes carefully. That's common sense, I know, but it's especially important in this case, because of easy it would be to have the back bodice end up misaligned. Like I said, the facings already make the back a bit hard to control, but the button placement really helps in keeping it tidy.
  • Attaching the sleeves to the bodice is a very counter-intuitive step and not something I've encountered on another pattern. Luckily, the diagram for this step is very well drawn and instructive. The only mistake I made (in the whole construction process, actually) was sewing the sleeves in a complete circle right before this step, instead of leaving the seam free. Since the sleeves do attach to the bodice, the seam needs to be free, in order to fold inward.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Weekend Pretty: 2.19.11

As you no doubt know, New York Fashion Week was this past week. For the most part, the collections kept the same trends that we've seen over the past few seasons: everything 70's, simple lines, loud prints. And then there was the Ralph Lauren collection, which was like a 1920's Hollywood vision of Shangai. It was, essentially, awesome. Tied with Fall 2010's Louis Vuitton for the title of my favorite modern fashion collection ever, it's most deserving as this weekend's dose of pretty.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Musings: Colette Sencha

Good news, lovelies. After a few days of zen breathing and yoga poses, the tremors from sewing my Alma Dress have finally stopped. Which means it's time to sew my next piece for the Colette Spring Palette Challenge! This time, I'm going with something easy - the Colette Patterns Sencha blouse. Not only will I not have to worry about a FBA (yay!), but the pattern is even labeled "Beginner." This bodes well for my sanity, don't you think?

In keeping with my palette colors, the fabric I've chosen is a lovely floral shirting from Gorgeous Fabrics. The mix of marigold, coral, and white fits perfectly into my Emma Woodhouse-inspired wardrobe plans. It also fits the profile of one of my clothing addictions - the delicate floral blouse. My closet is embarrassingly full of these shirts, from ruffled to minimalist and all in springy garden fabrics. What's more, the Sencha has a little extra pretty: back buttons. I've settled on jade green ones, so they stand out against the floral. Something tells me I'm going to love this blouse!

As far as Sencha alterations go, there are blessedly few pattern changes I plan to make. I love the neckline pleats of View 2, so no messing around there. The bodice-embedded sleeves also tend to be super flattering, so no sleeve fiddling to worry about either. Honestly, the only thing I'm considering changing is the length. After looking at quite a few reviews, I've noticed that the Sencha can make one look a bit short-waisted. Since I'm above average height anyway, a little extra length is no doubt a good idea.

Wish me luck, friends! If you've sewed a Sencha up before, do you have any advice for a first-timer?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Kid In A Candy Store: New Simplicity Patterns!

Have y'all seen the new Simplicity Spring 2011 catalog yet?

When I stumbled across the new collection last night, I felt like Simplicity had read my mind. Most of the Lisette patterns are projects I've expressly longed for in the past - full skirted shirt dresses, retro-inspired silhouettes, and tailored blouses that don't look like something Aunt Mabel would wear. That's not to mention the new Cynthia Rowley pattern which has not one, but three, amazing pieces in one envelope. I have a feeling my Spring Palette Challenge projects may be changing. Here are a few of my favorites:

Simplicity 2209: One of the new Lisette line of patterns, I absolutely adore the little A-line dress in this pattern. Can't you just see it made up in a lovely spring floral? I have a great cotton sateen floral from Gorgeous Fabrics that I might try this in, possibly with a contrasting bodice. The princess seamed jacket is also very cute, though I've never sewn outerwear before. That may be changing with this pattern!

Simplicity 2246: Another adorable Lisette pattern! What I'm lusting after here is View C, the full skirted, puffed sleeve shirt dress. I love, love, love shirt dresses, but have been very nonplussed by the available patterns. I tend to like the retro look of a fuller skirt, but this is the first modern pattern I've seen with that design. I actually have a few other shirt dress patterns which I liked the bodice from, but had planned to change the skirt on. This is a much easier option! Initially, I think I'll make it up in this lovely cotton coral shirting that's been malingering in my stash.

Simplicity 2211: Score another one for Lisette! I absolutely adore the delicate blouse of View E. It's exactly the type of thing I would snap up, if I saw it in a ready-to-wear store. It also would be amazing made up in my newest fabric obsession, the Moda Regent Street Lawn collection. These fabrics are of amazing quality, airy and soft - just perfect for this puff-sleeved jewel of a blouse. I'm also tempted to try out the skirt of View A in a dark denim - it's a bit schoolgirl, but very cute.

Simplicity 2215: When I saw this new Cynthia Rowley pattern, I actually sighed with happiness. Not only is it another adorable full-skirted shirt dress, but also a tailored blouse, and a full skirt with a waistband! These may seem like simple things, but I have been looking for this exact type of skirt in a pattern and haven't found anything exactly right. Until now. I have grand plans to make all three pieces here (View A of the dress) - probably more than once. Even better, the fabric requirements are pretty low, so I can use great fabrics I already have in my stash.

If there are any patterns you're also lusting after from this catalog, you may want to head to your nearest Hancock Fabrics on Monday, if you have one. They're having a nationwide Presidents Day sale, featuring 5 Simplicity patterns for $5. The only thing better than cute new patterns are cute new patterns on sale!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Miss Alma Has A Valentine: Simplicity 2250

It's finished. Simplicity 2250 is a fully realized pink seersucker dress.

Thank God. Let me be honest, kittens. This was the pattern from Hell. I thought I would never finish this thing. At some point during the bodice, I began having visions of being trapped at my sewing machine, sewing the same dress over and over again, never completing it. 2250 could easily turn one into the seamstress version of Sisyphus.

But let's start at the beginning, shall we? Thursday night, after my shiny new machine arrived, I naively set out to construct the 2250 bodice. Normally, it takes me three days to sew a dress - one to sew up the bodice, one for the skirt, then one to hem the thing while watching a BBC period drama (I prefer to do an invisible hem, rather than a machine-sewn one, so it takes a bit longer). I was convinced 2250 would be no different. I was wrong. Way, way wrong. This became clear while constructing the bodice. Or, as I like to call it, The Crazy Bodice From Crazy Town.

To illustrate my point, I took some photos. First off, there are nine pattern pieces for the bodice alone. Nine. Three of which are cut four times, two of which are cut twice. That's twenty pieces just for the bodice, kittens. Part of this is because the bodice is not just lined, but also underlined. (Which is a whole different issue I'll complain about later.) Most of it, however, is due to the complexity of the bodice itself. In just the front shell, there are three pieces: the front bodice, the left bodice, and the lower bodice front. These three pieces have, combined: six darts, one crazy dart (the raison d'etre of the slit in the front bodice pattern piece - it's a dart that extends the horizontal length of the bodice), three pleats, two seam lines, and a fold. So, that takes a while to construct. If you prefer to pin-mark your darts and folds, this construction may actually make your head explode. My pattern tracing wheel and contact paper made all the lines and dots somewhat more manageable. It still took three hours to sew the front bodice pieces, however.

What you end up with looks, on the inside, like a topographical map of the Steppes of Asia and less like a conventional bodice. Do not be frightened. This means you did everything right, even if you did accidentally sew the pleats in the wrong direction (they all fold different ways) and had to unpick them. From the front, miraculously, the look of the effortlessly draped bodice in the pattern photo does come together. Well, for the most part. I'm not a fan of the pleats - the darts give great shape, while the pleats seem a bit like unnecessary clutter. There's minimal value-add for how much I worried over the directions of those things. But, despite the headaches, Cynthia Rowley did design an aesthetically interesting bodice here. It's a look that is very ready-to-wear and a bit elevated over the typical Simplicity pattern.

However, despite the front bodice being the main draw of the pattern and what seems to be the difficult portion initially, all was not downhill from there. You see, the back bodice has not just an invisible zipper, but also elastic and ties. All of which one has to muddle through sewing and piecing together. For my first time inserting elastic, I was amazed by how easy it went together. Simplicity suggested clipping a safety pin to one end, in order to manage it better, which was a brilliant suggestion. Their lining instructions and invisible zipper guidelines, however, were dreadful. Y'all, I sewed the bodice lining in twice and pinned it two other times. It still didn't end up working. The diagram Simplicity provides makes it seem as though you should attach the lining from the bottom of the bodice (something I thought was fishy, but didn't stop me from sewing it completely in that way). When you do realize the correct orientation, their guidelines then instruct you to fold under the seam allowance...which is great, except it makes the bodice lining about 5/8 inches too short for the bodice. Cue foaming at the mouth. Additionally, the invisible zipper directions should just be thrown out the window. If you're putting in an invisible zipper for the first time, I suggest either Sew Serendipity's tutorial or Threads'.

No doubt, you're noticing a certain amount of frustration by now. It was worse this weekend, when I was in this middle of sewing this up. Here's the thing: I'm a reasonably intelligent person. I have two undergrad degrees, a Masters in Epidemiology, and am in the process of getting a Ph.D. I totally own at Trivial Pursuit and Scrabble. But, Simplicity 2250? It made me question whether my SAT scores were mixed up with someone else's, because surely I had to have the IQ of a turnip to mess up so many times.

Patience is widely held as the number one virtue sewers should possess. Well, you better possess it in spades, if you plan to attempt this pattern. Each individual step isn't that difficult, but all of them together in one garment? Oh, that way madness lies. There are too many places to make mistakes and not enough instructions to prevent them.

But, alas, onto the skirt. I can wholeheartedly say that the skirt was much easier to sew up. There is a lot of gathering and a few pleats, but compared to the bodice, it's a breeze. That being said, I ended up unpicking mine and changing it completely. It's hard to tell on the pattern envelope, but the waistband is fairly asymmetrical. This design may work on some people, as it does on the model, but it was abysmal on me. My measurements are a fairly traditional hourglass (42-32-43), but the concentration of gathering on the sides of the skirt, compared to the middle, made me look decidedly pear-shaped. Unfortunately, I neglected to snap any pictures of this stage. It was nearing midnight and I was nearing the end of my rope. However, the effect was horrid enough that I ended up undoing the skirt, then taking out the existing pleats and gathers. The pattern pieces themselves are just traditional rectangles, so I gathered all the way around and turned it into a much more flattering dirndl.

Overall, it ended up being a cute dress. Even though I did a muslin and made some fitting alterations, the bodice is still a bit big big through the armscye, but it's not noticeable to the untrained eye. With the few pattern changes I made (detailed a bit further down), it looks remarkably like the pattern photo. A cute, interesting sundress. However, not one I will make again. With the time it took me to make 2250, this should be the most adorable dress ever. It's cute, but not cute enough to make up for all the aggravation.

If you do attempt 2250, I hope you have better luck. To that end, I've listed up some of my pattern alterations, further notes I made along the way, as well as some suggestions to avoid the mistakes I made.

Things I Changed:
  • Lengthened the Lower Bodice Front by 3 inches. I'm 5'8'' and this dropped it to a better waist placement for my height.
  • Lengthened the Front Bodice Lining and Side Bodice Lining by 3 inches.
  • Lengthened the Back Bodice by 3 inches.
  • Used a 9 inch zipper, instead of a 7 inch.
  • Altered the placement of the straps, for what flattered me more.
  • Sewed down a pleat on the left bodice. (It made the bodice gape for me.)
  • Went down two sizes to a smaller front band.
  • Lengthened the Skirt Front, Right Back, and Left Back by 3 inches. Again, just an adjustment for my height - this allowed me to take a deeper hem and have more say about where the dress hit.
  • Eliminated existing gathers and darts on skirt, replaced with traditional dirndl skirt even gathering.
  • Added a lining to the skirt.
Things I Would Change, If I Made It Again:
  • Eliminate pleats altogether, replacing them with darts.
  • Put in a traditional zipper, rather than an invisible zipper. Where the zip meets the elastic is a bit clunky, which would be mitigated with a traditional zipper.
  • Eliminate the "Fold" in the Front Bodice. It's an odd design element that is partially hidden by the Crazy Dart anyway. I feel like the bodice would look more streamlined without it.
Tricky Steps and Suggestions:
  • Mark every center, dot, and line very clearly and carefully. In no other pattern I've sewn have these marks been as important as in this one. Without these clearly marked, you'd be in for a lot of unfortunate guesswork or belated marking.
  • I'd really think twice about the invisible zipper in this dress. Because of its nature, the invisible zipper didn't work well with the elastic top. I had to do a lot of hand stitching to get it to work without gaps at the top, where the two meet.
  • Really watch your pleat directions on the bodice. All three pleats go in different directions, which is rather counter intuitive. I think it's meant to contribute to the asymmetrical draping effect of the bodice, but it's a headache.
  • Pin the lining, then check the directions and how it will appear completed at least twice. These directions are very strange, then made worse by the vague diagram. Before you sew, be 100% sure it's right. (That should probably be obvious, but like I said: it took me four tries and still isn't quite right for me.)