Monday, January 30, 2012

Shabby Apple Winner!

And the winner is....

Hooray! Congratulations, Montana! Once I get your size and mailing address, the lovely people at Shabby Apple will send your skirt to you. Hope you love it!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Shabby Apple Giveaway!

Good news, kittens. The lovely folks at Shabby Apple have kindly offered to give away one of their adorable, vintage-inspired pieces to one Idle Fancy reader. Exciting, right?

I've been a big Shabby Apple fan, since they first opened their virtual doors. They have some of the cutest, vintage-inspired women's dresses and skirts. So many of them have made it into my inspiration folders and Pinterest boards. Whether your style is Old Hollywood Glamour or Academic Chic, they have a collection for you. Personally, I've been ogling their Set Sail pieces for months now. What woman doesn't need a navy sailor's dress in her closet?

When it came time for me to pick the giveaway item, I decided to go for a great wardrobe basic. I absolutely love the line of bow skirts Shabby Apple makes. With their high waists and curvy pencil shape, they flatter most body types and have that retro flair we all love. The black canvas version, Francine, specifically has Joan Holloway written all over it. How could I resist?

Adorable! Just picture it with a snug ivory sweater and some red T-straps. Swoon.

To win your very own Francine skirt, just go to Shabby Apple's Facebook page and "like" them, then come back here and leave a comment (with your e-mail!) letting me know you did! The giveaway will run through Sunday, January 29th, at 11:59 PM Central Time, at which time I'll draw one lucky winner. Unfortunately, the giveaway is only open to readers with US shipping addresses and the winning skirt can't be exchanged, but don't fret! Shabby Apple has also made a special discount code, just for Idle Fancy. If you enter "idlefancy10off" at checkout for the next month, you will receive 10% off your entire order. Hooray! So, hurry on over to Facebook and good luck!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Miss Violet Is A Natural: Darling Ranges Dress

Last week, Mena chose a technique for the Sew Weekly challenge - buttons! This was lucky, as I already had another Darling Ranges Dress cut out on my sewing table. A little gathering and a lot of buttonholes later, it was done!

Like my first iteration, this is such a comfortable dress! Unfortunately, unlike my first dress, this one is brown. I used a small scale floral cotton calico, bought from Fabric Mart during ye olde gigantic sale. Obviously, I have a hard time saying no to dirt-cheap fabrics. I don't even like brown. You wouldn't know that from my stash, however, or all the brown dresses I've made recently.

This is probably the least wearable one of the three. Though I love the dress design itself, the fabric is hard to pair up. There are four colors in the small floral print - the light cocoa background, ivory, an orangey tan (which I used for the buttons, as well) and an odd light blue/gray. There's something about the combination that limits outfit options. Brown tights work, a brown belt works, but I've only had success with mustard shoes and, you guessed it, brown shoes. So much brown! 

As for little details, the buttons are made from tan leather and - miraculously - washable. I really love them! They bring out the other colors in the dress well, without shouting their presence. The buttonholes themselves are machine-done, as I am a lazy, lazy sewist. Per the pattern directions, the neckline is finished with bias tape (ivory) and the sleeves are elasticized. Comfy! It's also super roomy, as I forgot about the post-FBA narrow waist adjustment I did last time. One can't tell when it's belted, however, so it just makes the dress that much more easy-to-wear. If you're looking for more construction details and tips, check out my original Darling Ranges blog post.

Fabric Used: Cotton calico from Fabric Mart - $1.99/yard
Notions: 15 leather buttons, from Hancock Fabrics, and self-made ivory bias tape.
Time to Complete: 6 hours, thank you buttons!
First worn: January 17, 2012
Wear again: Yes, if I can mitigate that vast sea of brown a bit more!
Total Price: $12

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Weekend Pretty: 1.22.12

It's an unseasonable 80 degrees in Austin this afternoon, but I'm still holding out for cold weather. Part of this is thanks to the delightful debut collection from Ulyana Sergeenko, the Russian fashion photographer turned designer, which has been haunting my inspiration file for the last few months. Many of you have probably seen these images on Pinterest, but if not, prepare for the Victorian-inspired ladylike wardrobe of your dreams.

(More images of the collection can be seen at Honestly WTF)

Now, I'm off to finish my not one, but two, dresses for this week's Sew Weekly challenge! Unfortunately, despite the Make-The-Look theme of the week, they aren't inspired by those beauties above. I'm limited to dresses one can wear when winter forgets to arrive!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Show-and-Tell

Good afternoon, lovelies. I'm currently finishing up my copycat-themed dress for this week's Sew Weekly challenge (based on Esme's adorable vintage dress), which is taking a bit longer than I'd imagined. I'd like to blame a pattern or fabric, but really I've been busy with school and going to see The Civil Wars. So, in lieu of another dress post, I thought today I'd do a little show-and-tell of recent sewing finds.

 First up, are my two local fabric finds. Up until the last few months, Austin had a dearth of non-chain apparel fabric stores. Then, in a matter of months, we have two wonderful new ones: TexStyles and Fabricker. I have yet visited Texstyles, because it is so far south, but I made a pilgrimage to Fabricker last week and came away with these two beauties. The blue is a lovely floral-print silk charmeuse that will probably become a Sencha blouse and the pastel is a Liberty Tana Lawn that was both beautiful and an absolute bargain. If you're an Austinite who hasn't made it to Fabricker yet, I definitely suggest it - the store is small, but brimming with lovely, quality fabrics.

 Next up are three fabrics from Harts Fabrics, which is quickly becoming my favorite online fabric retailer. Not only is their customer service superb, but they always have gorgeous fabrics for the fashion sewist. The orange ikat print and the navy anchor print are actually from the same line of Dear Stella Fabrics, which walks the line between quilting and apparel fabrics. I am just dying to turn them into summery sundresses! The blue ikat is a viscose challis, a fabric I've never worked with, but which seems to be calling for a Darling Ranges Dress.

 Finally, my favorite recent fabric score. For a span of a few days earlier this month, Fabric Mart had this Marc Jacobs cotton bow print in stock. Naturally, I snatched up four yards of it. I'm thinking it will turn into a version of this Anthropologie bicycle dress, which is one of the most worn RTW items in my closet.

On the pattern front, I made a few recent discoveries at the Austin Antique Mall. There is the woman whom my sister and I refer to as The Button Lady. She has a room just chalk full of vintage buttons, sewing notions, and patterns. For once, I had enough time to peruse her giant bookshelf of patterns and came away with three I couldn't resist - a 1960s pussy bow blouse and two 1950s shirtdresses!

Elsewhere in the antique mall, I stumbled across my favorite button find to-date. A whole card of vintage forest green Girl Scout buttons! I couldn't get them to photograph well, but they are a lovely, vibrant dark green with the Girl Scout seal on each one. The former Girl Scout in me is already hunting around for some khaki fabric, imagining a grown-up GS shirtdress.

In other news, the good folks at Burdastyle seem to have lost their minds, because my Liberty print Simplicity 2215 is the member project of the week! I know, I can't quite believe it either. I actually had to take a screen-grab of the page, just to keep as proof. Incidentally, I'm also kicking myself for adding that particular picture to the site, because every time I see it, my mother's voice yells in my brain: "Stand up straight, Mary!"  Of course, that would be the picture chosen for the front page. My mom would be mortified, but even that's not killing my Burda-fueled bliss.

Have you had any great sewing finds lately? Any fabric you just adore or a box of vintage patterns scored at an estate sale?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Miss Vivi Makes A Cameo: Simplicity 2444

Good evening, friends! Despite what the last week of nonblogging would have you believe, I have been keeping up with The Great Sewing Resolutions. Unfortunately, my computer has not. Antoinette, the lovely pink Dell that's been my constant companion these past three years, passed away last week, after complications from hard drive failure. It was tragic. Not in the least, because I hadn't yet uploaded pictures of my first Sew Weekly project. Now a computer owner once more, I can finally unveil them! If, you know, a week too late for the deadline.

The theme for last week was Accessorize, which encouraged participants to draw garment inspiration from a favorite accessory. There was little deliberation on my part about what to choose. I have a small, but much beloved, collection of Victorian and Edwardian cameos. (I know. Who would've thought I would love something so girly and classic? Shocking.) Sarcasm aside, they really are dear to me. Most of them have been given to me by my mother and father, for various birthdays and holidays in the past. My two favorites, a large pendant/brooch and a simply set ring, were found during an idyllic Christmas spent in Bath and left for me under our improvised hat-stand-turned-Christmas-tree.

They are all wonderful. So delicate, so feminine, they're little wearable links to eras gone by. Since these are things I value in my personal style and sewing projects, inspiration was easy. I decided to try my hand at lace, underlining a light ivory floral lace with coral poplin to echo the carvings of my cameos. For a pattern, I chose Simplicity 2444, a delightful dress from the Project Runway line with the vintage fit-and-flare silhouette I love so much.

Ta-da! My antique cameo dress.
(Excuse the pictures. Our weather in Austin has been a bit blustery, so I had to finagle poorly lit inside shots.)

The hardest part about sewing this dress was, hands down, underlining the lace. Oh my heavens. Y'all, I thought I was going to go mad doing this. You know how everyone talks about how soothing hand sewing is? Not this girl. The only redeeming value in hand sewing, as far as I'm concerned, is that I can watch North & South while doing it. Even so, I got through all four episodes while hand-basting the poplin to the lace. That's four hours of hand sewing! Combine that with a rather tricky FBA (diagonal waist darts are, quite frankly, bitches) and this dress took way longer than it was meant to.

It was worth it, however. Which is good, because had it not been, I may have torched the whole thing as revenge for all that tedium. The dress looks fabulous. Despite my using polyester lace from JoAnn's (no way was I wasting good stuff for my first time!), it's a divine little dress. The diagonal bodice waist darts are so flattering, yet still keep the design interesting, and the full, pleated skirt just begs to be twirled. Even better? It looks great with a cameo...

A match made in heaven!

Now, onto the nit-picky little details. I did a 2.5" FBA, which was trouble. I followed the slash & spread directions for a traditional FBA, then moved the two darts over to my new bust point and added width to them. When I do it again, I may actually add a third dart on each side to the design, just to make the other two more manageable and take out another inch in the waist. For the inside, I overlocked all my seams, then finished the neckline and armholes with ivory bias tape, instead of the prescribed facings. When I make this pattern again (which I will - I'm dying for a pink plaid version like Jessica's from What I Wore), there will be a few more fitting adjustments. Despite using my high bust measurement for the bodice, there is still a bit of gaping at the neckline and in back, which seems to be common for this pattern. Next time, I will go down one more bodice size and take out that extra little bit at the waist. This should be a true fit-and-flare style, which would require less ease than in this iteration.

Additionally, the prescribed hem was a bit longer than I wanted, so I put the dress on Hedy and used her pin-marker. It made taking up the circular hem infinitely easier. Hooray dress forms! In the end, I did a baby hem and took out about five inches in length. Not terribly vintage-inspired, but I was worried that all that lace plus a long hem would leave me looking like a high school prom attendee. As it is, with the coral-covered belt I made and the shorter hem, I feel decidedly Valentine's-ready. Now all I need is a fabulous date to wear my dress on!

Full front view, as modeled by the lovely Hedy.
And, yes, I do need to organize my bookshelves. Never fear, fellow bibliophiles, it's on the agenda

The back, similarly modeled by Hedy, and sans zipper. I'm on a Mena-inspired zipper boycott at the moment. Also, I'm lazy and this dress is completely easy-on with just a tiny bit of wriggling.

Things I Love:
  • The silhouette! Who doesn't love a full-pleated skirt? It's divine! One just wants to walk around skipping and swishing, so it can be properly admired.
  • The design! Oh, diagonal pleats, you fickle, but lovely beasts. Despite how complicated they made the FBA, those pleats really do make this dress. They're so darned visually interesting.
  • The fabric! Okay, not the cheap lace, but I do love the combination of coral and ivory. I was inspired for this, not only by the cameos, but also by this vintage lace & silk dress that I pinned a few weeks ago. My homage is cheaper, but in the same spirit.
Things I Changed:
  • Chopped five inches of the hem, rebelliously.
  • Omitted facings for a bias-tape finish, righteously.
  • Left out the zipper, recklessly.
Things I Would Change, If I Made It Again:
  • Adjust the fit. If I made more muslins, perhaps I would never need to finagle with fit in later project iterations, but I like to sew by the seat of my pants. Call me impetuous, if you must. This one is almost perfect, but just needs a few tweaks in the upper bodice and waist areas.
Tricky Steps & Suggestions:
  • If you're going to underline lace by hand, which does prevent unsightly bubbling while sewing, rent two good movies. You're going to need them. (Note: if watching the Colin Firth version of Pride & Prejudice, one movie will do. Six hours of Mr. Darcy should see you through.)
  • The FBA. Don't let it scare you! Like I mentioned above, I did the typical slash & spread method, then just moved the darts over to the new bust point. It's bit laborious, but the end result is perfect.
Fabric & Notions:
  • Coral cotton poplin from Gorgeous Fabrics - $8.99/yard
  • Polyester floral lace from Joann Fabrics - $5.99/yard
  • Ivory bias tape - self-made

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Miss Wendy Goes To The Park

Friends, I am thrilled. Friday, I finished this dress, which I'm dubbing The Wendy Dress. At first glance, it may seem kind of boring. What's so great about a brown flannel dress? Well, it's super cozy, which is lovely this time of year. However, the real pièce de résistance? A Peter Pan collar!

If you follow me on Pinterest, you are well aware of my Lost-Boy-inspired collar obsession. My sewing inspiration boards should probably be retitled 1000 Images of Peter Pan Collars. I love them. If every dress in my closet had such a collar, my life would be complete. Thus, it was ridiculous that I hadn't yet drafted one myself. Following up with my 2012 Intentions (#4. Challenge myself), I decided to fix that with this project.

Since I'm not a total daredevil, this collar experiment was performed with some unloved stash fabric. This brown cotton flannel is one I bought in The Great Fabric Mart Sale, for something ridiculous like $2.50/yard. While it is quite warm, it's also brown. Not even the subtle green and chocolate stripes in the plaid made me love this fabric. Thus, the opportunity to jazz it up with a coordinating green collar & fabric-covered buttons proved irresistible.

A collar! Buttons! Joy!

For the pattern, I wanted something simple. I loved the high neckline of Colette's Peony Dress and already had the bodice fit perfectly, but opted for the fuller, gathered skirt of Simplicity 2180. They worked together beautifully. (After I chopped five inches off the skirt, anyway.) I did make one slightly unorthodox decision, however, by omitting the Peony sleeves. It's a winter dress and flannel, which makes one think sleeves, but I love to layer. Bulky sleeves beneath a cardigan is not a look I'm a fan of. Thus, for wearability's sake, I opted for a sleeveless style.

The most interesting part of this dress is, naturally, the collar. For tips on collar pattern drafting, I watched the divine Gertie's YouTube video series: Drafting a Peter Pan Collar. I didn't follow the directions precisely, as I made a full collar (there was no lovely button-back to show off), but it proved remarkably helpful. My collar ended up delightfully, perfectly round!

For construction help, I consulted a few sources, but ended up doing it my own way. I sewed the collar to the right side of the bodice, exactly as it would lay, then finished them both together with bias tape. Not only was the inside finish clean, but it allowed the collar to turn perfectly.

In the back of the dress, the collar runs the whole length of the bodice. Since there was enough room in this pattern, I omitted the back zipper, in order to preserve the integrity of my imagined collar design. I have no problem wriggling in and out of a dress, if it means I end up with a full working collar. At the last minute, I also decided to add three fabric-covered buttons down the bodice in the same green as the collar. With the high Peony neckline. the bodice needed something else to balance out that sea of brown. Also, I just love buttons.

Back bodice & collar (Wrinkled, as I wore this all day and couldn't face ironing it again afterwards for poor Hedy.)

In the end, The Wendy Dress is a very wearable little garment. It is the last of my true winter sewing, as it feels like spring is just around the corner here in Texas. However, I can easily see myself making this in a few warmer weather iterations. Alas, I do fear a great tide of Peter Pan collars is in my future. They're almost too easy not to add to dresses!

Also: shoe love! These are the Jada heel from Naya Shoes, which can currently be had for a song, in all colors, at DSW. I love my burgandy ones, but they had a lovely dark teal option as well. Who could resist such a gorgeous vintage-inspired heel?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Well-Intentioned New Year

Happy New Year, loves! Was your final night of 2011 filled with champagne, sparkly dresses, and merriment? I hope so!

Confession: I spent last night in pajamas watching Disney movies. Don't despair. It was wonderful. I was surrounded by family whom I don't see enough, my homemade brownies, and tons of laughter. A delightful way to ring in 2012, if I do say so myself.

As always, however, a new year brings a certain amount of introspection. Regrets from the departing year or hopes for the coming one tend to marinate in one's mind. Normally, I'm not one for New Year's resolutions. I can be a bit hyper-rational, so it's always seemed a bit strange to make goals on the same day every year. One can accomplish something just as well starting on September 22nd as January 1st, after all. Yet, this year feels different. 2012 just sounds promising, doesn't it? I'm a bit giddy at all the possibilities that this year might bring. It makes me want to help things along.

Elsewhere on the web, Shivani (from the lovely blog, Pins & Needles) referenced the idea of New Year's Intentions. I quite like that. Intentions sound less threatening than resolutions, don't you think? They're things you want to do, but won't make you feel like an utter failure if a few fall away. To that end, I've made a list of my sewing intentions for this year. These are mostly little goals I've been ruminating on for awhile, regarding where I see both my sewing and this blog going. January 1st, it seems, is a lovely day for starting as I intend to go on.

  1. Blog Regularly - My blogging habits are pathetic. Last year, I used the excuse that I hate photographing my projects. That's ridiculous. Sure the primping and posing is a bit much, but if I spent half as much time on blogs as I do on Pinterest, this would be a much livelier little site. This year, I plan on blogging more, be it on my new projects or lovely style inspirations. Lame excuses need not apply.
  2. Learn How To Use My Camera - I have a new camera! Now, if only I knew how to use it properly. Luckily, I've bought The Crafter's Guide to Taking Great Photos by Heidi Adnum, which promises to teach me what the heck aperture means. The quality of my outfit photos should, hopefully, improve accordingly.
  3. Be Thoughtful With Projects - Since learning to sew in 2010, I've been guilty of that most cardinal of beginner sewist mistakes: not taking my time. I've tried patterns I knew wouldn't work for my body type and been a bit indiscriminate with fabric shopping. This year, I'm planning to only sew things that truly speak to my personal taste. This means more embellishments, more classic details, using mostly fabrics from my stash, and finally sewing those vintage patterns I own.
  4. Challenge Myself - There are so many dressmaking skills I'm dying to learn. This will be the year I learn them! There will be self-drafted Peter Pan collars, proper pin-tucks, and underlined lace dresses. It's time to become more academic about my sewing.
  5. Comment More - I read blogs. A lot of blogs. Unfortunately, I don't comment on that many. It's a side effect of using Google reader - it's just too easy not to click through. This year, I will let someone know when I think they're neat. Sincere compliments make the world go 'round.
  6. Sew One Garment A Week - This is a biggie. Not only do I intend to sew more, I intend to sew 52 new items this year. I can easily and happily sew for one hour each night, which means there's no point not sewing something new each week. There have been months I've sewn 7 things with no problem, then been lazy for too many weeks after. With efficiency and a steady pace, this year I will always have a project in the works.
  7. Be Happy - This covers it all, really. I want to be happier this year - with both myself and my garments. I need to get used to seeing myself in pictures, without hating 99% of the shots, and sew things that I truly love. All the other intentions play directly into this one. Hopefully, my 2012 will be even more joyful than last year, because of them.