Saturday, March 24, 2012

Miss Ava, Apple of My Eye - Simplicity 2343

Happy National Puppy Day, readers! Oh, you were not aware of this lovely holiday? Honestly, I wasn't either, until this morning. Nonetheless, for your viewing pleasure, Remy, my photo-bombing puppy:

 Remy, the Bichon Who Loves to Sneak Into Photos!

Okay, enough puppies (I know, can you ever have enough?), onto the skirt. During the prolonged torture of my eyelet dress, I broke one of my sewing rules and worked on another project. After all those pleats and darts, a simple pencil skirt seemed just the thing. Simplicity 2343 is one of my favorite skirt patterns, a narrow-waisted pencil skirt complete with faced pockets and a back vent. I've made it once before, in an aquamarine brocade, but never blogged a review of it. It's a skirt I wear all the time on my rotations, as it dresses up well, so another one was obviously needed in my wardrobe.

For the fabric, I knew just what to reach for. Earlier this month, I helped my little sister make her first skirt with some polished cotton swiped from my mother's vintage fabric stash. It's a cheery apple print on a black background, with a perfect mix of bright red & mint green. One of my favorite color pairings! Even better, there was just over a yard-and-a-half left. That's pencil skirt kismet, friends.

Construction was a piece of cake. Don't you love that? It certainly helped me get a little sewing mojo back. This pattern is out of print, but if you can track it down, it's a wonderful piece. There are four small pleats along the waistband of the skirt, then two darts in the back for shaping. Amazing. I'd almost forgotten how easy skirts are to make. What lifts this to go-to status, however, are the pockets. Instead of in-seam side pockets, there are two front faced pockets. They don't add any bulk to the skirt, but still provide a convenient place to put my cell phone.

 Pockets! My fidgety hands rejoice!

I did make one change to the pattern, for the sake of wearability. My brocade pencil skirt bunches and wrinkles throughout the day, which is a bit annoying. To alleviate that, I added a full lining to this version, in a bright red cotton lawn. Thanks to the lovely Alana, from Lazy Stitching, I knew just how to do it. I added two inches of width to the skirt pieces, then gathered them into the waistband, which made the finish both lovely and comfortable. Brilliant!

Color pop!
The skirt is finished with a 7-inch invisible zipper in the back, then narrowly hemmed to hit right at mid-knee. In all, it took me about two hours, from cut-out to hemming. Pencil skirts are such quick, easy projects. I love it! Why aren't there more of these in my wardrobe? Last week, when I wore it with a white ruffled blouse and my beloved green cardigan, the compliments rolled in. One of the best parts of being a home sewist has to be when people ask where you bought something. "I made it myself!" is one of the greatest sentences in the English language, don't you think?

The oh-so-exciting details...
Things I Loved: 
  • The fabric! I was thrilled that there was enough of this left over from my sister's skirt. I'm such a sucker for a retro fruit print! Plus, any fabric that combines red and green without channeling Kris Kringle is always a win. 
  • The shape! Pencil skirts really are so flattering. It sits below my natural waist, but still manages to emphasize that hourglass shape. 
  • The lining! Pops of color are always a good addition. Even if no one else knows it's there, it makes me happy.
Things I Changed:
Things I Would Change, If I Made It Again:
  • Widen the waistband. I do love how it fits now, but think it would be a nice change to have another version with a wider, higher waistband. 
Tricky Steps & Suggestions:
  • There is an invisible zipper, which can be tricky, if you're not used to them. Honestly, adding a full lining makes it easier to install - you don't have to worry so much about how the inside looks, when you can cover it with the lining. I love a clean finish!
Notions & Fabric: 
  • 1.5 yards Vintage Polished Cotton - Free!
  • 7-inch black invisible zipper
Construction Time:
  • Two blissful, stress-free hours.

Has anyone else lost their sewing mojo lately? This skirt went a long way towards getting mine back, but I'm still not all the way there yet. How do you handle loss of creative motivation? With writing, I talk it out with my best friend, but that doesn't quite work with sewing.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Miss Juliet Welcomes Spring: Simplicity 1873

Happy spring, darlings! Just in time for the new season, I've finally finished Simplicity 1873. No worries, I did not drop off the sewing/blogging world. An unexpected trip and some unexpected sewing foibles just have me running a bit behind. You know how, sometimes, a project will try its best to kill you? Well, I don't know what I did to Cynthia Rowley, but she sent this pattern to do me in. If something could go wrong while sewing this up, it did. But - ha! - it's finished. It can torture me no more. You'll have to try harder to get this sewist to give up, Rowley.

Okay, honestly, the issues were mostly my fault. Cynthia Rowley has designed another delightful pattern in 1873. As I've said previously, I'm not a huge fan of her ready-to-wear designs, but her sewing patterns work really well for me. (Witness the million iterations of Simplicity 2215.) This dress is no exception - the combination of that low scooped neckline and the full, pleated skirt makes me a bit weak in the knees. It's the epitome of my beloved fit-and-flare silhouettes. Right now, if I were forced to pick one dress from my closet to wear everyday for a year, this would be it. How's that for pattern love?

Confident in Ms. Rowley's design, I chose a fabric I've been hoarding for awhile - a lovely, soft cotton eyelet from Gorgeous Fabrics. This summer, a sudden desperation to recreate Maria's dance dress from West Side Story overwhelmed me. This fabric was bought with that dress in mind. Of course, autumn came and it proceeded to sit in my closet for six months. When Simplicity released its spring patterns, however, 1873 demanded this fabric. The gentle lines suit eyelet so much, don't you think? The pattern only calls for a bodice lining, but this is eyelet. Obviously, a full lining was called for, unless I wanted to give my classmates an eyeful. So, a nice white linen from Hancock Fabrics was called to duty.


Construction was, itself, a terror. I don't know what I was smoking when I cut out the fabric, but the skirt hem was a hot mess. Not a single piece of the five panel skirt (front panel, two side panels, and two back panels) was the same length. How does that even happen? I also, somehow, ended up with a wider bodice than skirt, which I suspect had something to do with my FBA. Luckily, the side seams are hidden between pleats anyway, so my waist finagling is invisible.

Worse, however, were the sleeves. I know what you're thinking. What sleeves, Mary? Well, originally, I had cut out these darling little self-drafted cap sleeves. They were lovely and so very Maria! They were also too small by a good inch. I had forgotten to add seam allowances. My arms, they could not move. As lovely as it is to walk around with one's arms pasted to one's side, I ripped them out. Naturally, I hadn't realized they were too small until I'd sewn the damn things in. Brilliant, Mary, just brilliant.

So, I then proceeded to stare at this dress for a week, debating the sleeves issue. Finally, I decided that I just couldn't face them again. Who cares what Maria's dress looked like? This was mine and it would be sleeveless!

Sleeves? Who needs 'em? I've got a pink belt instead!

The dress then sat for another two weeks, waiting for me to stop doing work, sewing a pencil skirt (which will make its debut later this week!), and having unexpected travels, so I could hem it. Which, considering that wonky cutting job I did, looks pretty spectacular. There was barely enough length to raise it to the perfect just-above-my-knees spot. Of course, as soon as I finished, I loved it. Why did it take me so long to finish this dress? It's lovely. So springy! So versatile! Why, with just some black peep-toe pumps and sunglasses, it's even so very retro! 

Here's lookin' at you, kittens. 

The Ever-Exciting Details...

Things I Love:
  • The skirt! Is there anything so wonderful as a full, pleated skirt? Barring chocolate and puppies, of course, I can think of nothing. It just makes me want to swish!
  • The eyelet! I am a bit of an eyelet hoarder, it must be said. I buy it, then hold it close, so I never mess it up. It's one of my favorite fabrics - so classic & feminine, which is my style crack.
  • The scooped neckline! Perfect for necklaces and balancing out bodice proportions. Hooray!
Things I Changed:
  • 2.5 inch Full Bust Adjustment, as ever. 
  • Added a full lining, rather than just the prescribed bodice lining.
Things I Would Change, If I Made it Again:
  • Nothing! The pattern is, itself, perfect. If I could change the sewist making this dress, I would. Sadly, no one else seems to be lining up to sew my clothes. I'll just have to fix my mistakes, next time around.

Tricky Steps & Suggestions:
  • The trickiest part of this pattern is the skirt pleating. It's a bit counter-intuitive, as the box pleats cover some of your seams. Don't worry! That's supposed to happen. For best of luck, clearly mark all those finicky little pleat lines, put on some Kimbra, and rock out while meticulously pleating yards of material. It will be worth it!
Notions & Fabric:
  • 22 inch invisible zipper
  • White Eyelet Cotton - Gorgeous Fabrics: $10/yard
  • White Linen - Hancock Fabrics: $8/yard, on sale
Construction Time:
  • Three weeks, or twelve hours, depending on how you count.

And my absolute favorite way to wear Simplicity 1873? With a cardigan, of course! Today I wore it with a mint green sweater, black belt, and black shoes...the perfect outfit for the first days of spring.