Saturday, September 28, 2013

Miss Anna Seizes Her Liberty

Happy Saturday, kittens! Most of my day has been spent watching college football on the couch in my pajamas, but the morning was certainly eventful. Sam and I attended one of our favorite weekend events, the Waco Downtown Farmers Market, where all manner of lovely things can be found: crepes, organic farm-raised meat, fresh tamales, frou frou coffee drinks, and Parisian macarons. It's a very international-meets-country start to the weekend and part of what I love about my new locale. When I find myself longing for the big city during the week, I think about the crepes awaiting me and my blues quickly disappear. 

So, what does one wear on such a perfect morning? A new dress, of course! Earlier this week, I put the finishing touches on another By Hand London Anna Dress. Or, a Franken-Anna, anyway. While I adore the bodice on my original Anna, I wasn't super crazy about the cut of the skirt. It's nice to have one out-of-the-ordinary dress for my closet, but I didn't want five more versions. Enter the dirndl! 

Instead of the gored original skirt, I paired the bodice of this Anna with a gathered rectangle skirt. The result is a lovely, flowy delight of a dress. Kimono sleeves! Pleated bodice! Gathered skirt! It's all that is good and right in the sewing world. 

Naturally, I didn't think of it myself. I knew it would work, because the lovely Roisin has already made a few of these. Her blog is an excellent source of sewing inspiration, as you can tell by my frequent linkage lately. 

For fabric, I used 3 meters of Liberty Tana Lawn that I bought off Ebay UK last year. It's a gray-and-brown floral on a black background, which makes it an ideal dress for fall. The name of the pattern is an utter mystery to me, despite ten minutes of solid Google searching, but it's gorgeous. Would we expect something else from Liberty? I can't wait to dress this lovely up with tights and boots!

In my mind, I flirted briefly with doing a full lining for this dress, instead of the prescribed facings. Once you try on a single-layer Liberty dress, however, it's hard to add a non-Liberty layer between your skin and it. So, I gave in. When it gets chilly, I'll throw on a slip with the dress and a cardigan. Since it's unlined, the dress is finished with black lawn facings and overlocked seams throughout.

While I do love this pattern, I have a few issues with By Hand London's instructions. They're wonderfully clear for beginners, but they skip some important construction steps as a result. After rethinking the way I did my first Anna dress, which was mostly by the book, I added a few steps to my process. My neckline was stay-stitched first thing, which kept the edges from warping as I worked, and the facings were added after the zipper instead of before. Additionally, I under-stitched the neckline seam to the facings, so that they turned more easily. In the end, the inside is much cleaner this time around.

 Invisible zipper!

 Facings! Wrinkled, because I wore this all day. Let's pretend I didn't tell you that, okay?

 Isn't it marvelous? To sum up: Liberty and Anna are a wonderful match, indeed.

The details...

Things I Loved: 
  • The fabric! Liberty is always a good idea. 
  • The neckline. A deep-V is such a fun shape to wear--comfortable, flirty, and perfect for my favorite antique cameo pendant. 
Things I Changed:
  • Under-stitched the facings.
  • Added facings after the zipper, so that the finish was prettier. 
  • Stay-stitched the neckline. 
  • Added in-seam pockets, because...pockets. 
Things I Would Change, If I Made It Again:
  • Widen the skirt. Liberty is pretty narrow, so if you don't want more than two pieces to the skirt, it's not the fullest dirndl. My next versions will be with wider fabric anyway, so I'll cut the skirt a few inches wider. 
Tricky Steps & Suggestions:
  • There is an invisible zipper, which can be tricky, if you're not used to them. There are quite a few great tutorials around the web, however, Sunni's being my personal favorite and the one that sold me on them. 
Notions & Fabric: 
  • 3 meters Liberty of London Tana Lawn - $45
  • 22-inch black invisible zipper
Construction Time:
  • Five blissful hours.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Miss Hazel Is in the (Floral) Navy

Why, look! It's another Colette Hazel. This is actually the initial version I wanted to make, in a lovely navy & pink floral, but that had to wait until some of the pattern fitting was worked out. Yet again, I added a gathered skirt, because full skirts are always a good idea. 

This fabric has been in my stash for a year, just waiting for the right project. I picked it up on my trip to London last year, where I finally experienced the wonder that is Goldhawk Road. If you ever go to Londonscratch that, darlingsif you ever go within a hundred miles of London, you must go! After swooning over all the purchases our favorite UK-based sewists have made there, the block of fabric shops was at the top of my sightseeing list. It is a reasonably priced fabric wonderland and, yes, my suitcase did double in weight afterward.

A ditsy pink floral on navy cotton poplin, this is the first piece I've used from that trip. It is lovely and fun and completely inappropriate for an autumnal dress. Of course, I don't care! I can't say no to a flowery dress, as we know. When it gets chilly, I'll throw on a pair of tights and call it a day.

Like my original Hazel, it looks killer with a cardigan and fits like a dream. I made the same adjustments as the last time, grading from a 14 to an 18 bust line to a 14 waist, instead of a traditional FBA. The bodice fits really well with my rather improvised strategy, so I didn't see much need to go the usual route. I suspect that success is at least partially due to Colette Patterns being drafted for fuller cup sizes.

So, there we go! Another Hazel. Shall we just continue on with a ton of pictures? Please excuse the wrinkles, my dears. I wore it blissfully all day long, before taking these.

Look at the lovely fabric! Goldhawk Road, I miss you so. 

For the back, I used an invisible zipper and hook/eye combination. The dress is fully lined in navy lawn, which is hand-attached to the zipper and inner waistline. Naturally, I neglected to take pictures of the insides.'s this dress, but inside out and navy. Thrilling, really.

A side picture! Woohoo!

There we have it, kittens: another Colette Hazel. This is definitely not my last, as I do love how this bodice comes together. It's an utterly divine sundress, especially with a full dirndl skirt pattern hack, and one I've already worn twice since finishing.

 I hope you all had a lovely weekend! Personally, I'm going to spend the rest of tonight watching Veronica Mars with my newly VM-addicted Sam and cutting out another Hazel...or three...

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Miss Anna Sees Spots

Bonjour, mes amis! This was quite a week, filled with many a stressful thing, but also a couple of completed dresses.

Now that I have a room dedicated to sewing (it is, technically, also an office, but that's about 1/10th of the space), it's much easier to use sewing as a stress reliever. Before moving to Waco, I sewed at my dining room table, which meant an exhausting process of pulling supplies and fabric out of closets and prompt clean up. Nothing saps one's creative energy like the thought of cleaning! Now, however, my projects are always waiting for me. It's made my sewing time more productive, but more enjoyable as well.

This week, my big project was an initial version of By Hand London's Anna Dress. Unlike most other bloggers out there, this was not a love-at-first sight pattern for me. I think BHL's designs are downright foxy, but they've all seemed targeted to a lither, leggier silhouette than mine. Anna seemed to be in the same vein. Sure, it was fit-and-flare, but it also clung to the hips in a disquieting manner.

But then I saw Alana's fabulous jersey version. And Lauren's adorable seersucker.

Plus, Emmie's floral confection, Kathryn's Liberty lovely, and Roisin's star-spangled stunner.

Basically, Anna looked awesome on everyone and I needed to make it. Stat.

Skeptical as I was about the styling, however, I decided to make a wearable muslin first. This black and grey polka dot poplin from Lisette has been sitting in my stash for years now. It was an impulse purchase, when JoAnn was doing one of their crazy sales, and not my favorite fabric ever. The polka dots are cute and all, but it washed up to a rather papery texture and is a bit on the juvenile side for my taste. But, silver lining! It made a perfect wearable muslin Anna.

Sizing wise, I graded rather than performing an FBA. Using Swedish tracing paper, I  traced up to a 16 at the bust, down to a 12 at the waist, then up to a 14 at the hips. This matches my past experiences with UK ready-to-wear sizing. Invariably, something will fit in the bust, but be baggy around my waist. I do love that by sewing my own clothes, such things can be fixed as I go, rather than altered later.

In the end, I like the dress quite a lot. It's the sort of thing I'll have to wear shapewear with, or else face the bellybutton issue happening in some of these pictures. I couldn't find my Spanx before the sun set on this shootif you wear them during a Texas summer, you're a card-carrying masochist, anywaybut they were probably needed.

The shape is lovely, however, skimming out from the waist in a ladylike flare. There's something vaguely 1930's about this pattern, which speaks to my Nancy Drew loving self. Can't you just envision it made up in a floral rayon? All I'd need is a sprightly hat and a garden party to attend, for a complete look.

On the inside, which I neglected to take pictures of, all of my seams are overlocked and were constructed in precisely the manner instructed. These days, I tend to construct things to my own preferences, only reading the given instructions if something seems particularly convoluted. With a new pattern company though, it's nice to get a feel for the designer's intentions and style, by following along with them. I absolutely loved the cheeky tone to the instructions that the BHL girls tookoffering insightful suggestions and funny asides along the way.

The instructions were easy to follow, although not always in the expected order. For example, they have you hem the armholes before the sideseams, which worked so perfectly that I may do that from now on. The only quibble I had was with the order of sewing the facings in. I tend to prefer the neater finish that comes with doing them last, after any zipper installation, rather than having them among the first steps. But with a bit of hand sewing, they came out well, so who cares? Next time, I'll just do them my way. 

Oh look! What's that? An actual zipper. Crazy, right? I'm all too tempted to omit zippers normally, but the Anna dress really needs to fit close at the waist, in order to look correct. I still didn't get it as close as I wanted, but the zipper helped quite a bit to fit the dress well. The installation is not totally perfect at the top, but this is a wearable muslin, after all. Rule #1 of Mary's muslins: Don't unpick a zipper more than once. 

So, that's it! An Anna on a Mary! I have some slinkier fabrics that will look wonderful made up in this pattern, including a floral rayon or two. This is not the last we'll see of Anna, despite my initial reservations.

Plus, it looks damn cute with a cardigan...

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Miss Hazel Is Feeling Plummy

Hello, my lovelies! I hope you had a wonderful weekend. Thanks again for all the comments on my last post. When composing that post, I was pretty sure there would only be cricket noises in response, since it had been so long. So, thank you again for the warm welcome back and for generally being the most lovely people on the internet. 

Up on the blog today is one of my more recent creations. Despite instantly loving both the Lily and Hazel patterns, when Colette released them last year, I hadn't yet attempted either one. Non-traditional bodice constructions kind of terrify me, given the vast discrepancy between my high bust and bust measurements. Sure, the whole of the internet said Hazel was easy to fit, but it had lines across the girls! And a pointy thing that had to line up! Add to that a slim-line skirt and it meant that Hazel was destined to languish.

What finally changed my mind were the two full-skirted versions that popped up in my feed, from Roisin and Tasia, which were adorable. Where the original Hazel is super cute, the poofy, froofy larger skirted one is a platonic Mary dress. I wanted that dress. I needed that dress! 

So, I made it. 

Okay, to be fair, first I made a muslin. There were those pointy bits to contend with, after all. When plotting how attack the "That's totally not going to fit these massive chest bunnies!" problem, there seemed to be two ways to go about it: grading from size to size or doing a FBA a la the brilliant Symon. I decided to grade, from a 14 to an 18 to a 14, and see how it went. If it failed, the FBA would be my backup.

It worked! I loved the muslin bodice. It took some nipping in here-and-there, but it was a fairly straightforward fitting job. So, I cut out some lovely, stretchy plum twill and blithely sewed along.

It was about the time I'd  decided to try on the new bodice that I remembered that word stretchy. All the lovely fitting changes I'd made to the muslin didn't translate quite as well to the real dress. I tried it on for Dr. Sam and he gently suggested it might be gaping all over and totally, freaking gigantic. 

So, I took it in.

And in.

And in. 

In the end, I omitted the zipper altogether to make up for the fabric. I took the back in by over four inches and the sides by two each. For the skirt, I added eight inches of width and gathered accordingly. The dirndl skirt really suits the bodice style and makes it a swishy delight of a day dress. 

The best part of this story is, of course, that once I washed and dried it a couple of times, the bodice shrunk. See that big horizontal line right below my bust? Totally not there two weeks ago! Apparently, pre-treating this fabric once wasn't enough, I should have washed it eight times instead.

Ah, well. I still love it a lot. It has pockets, it's super comfortable, and it totally fills any need I had to wear weird, pieced bodice shapes. Woohoo! It's not all darts and tucks for us, kittens!

Even more impressive, it survived a birthday trip to New Orleans. Over Labor Day (My birthday even fell on the holiday this year!), Sam and I trekked down to Louisiana with our very favorite people. We ate lovely food, went on a ghost tour, and—of course—drank Grape Voodoos from Lafitte's! 

It's not a birthday, unless your dress and your drink match!

As for Hazel, I've already whipped up a cute floral version to be blogged very soon and am plotting a few that work for fall. Now that I've realized how obvious just changing the darn skirt was, this pattern is quickly becoming a new favorite. I'm sure you've made it already, as I am quite the late comer here, but it's worth a try if you haven't.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Miss Laurel Returns to Earth

 Hello, kittens! It's nice to see you all. I hope the last year has kept you well. Not going to lie, I've been consistently stalking sewing blogs, even if I haven't been updating my own. Your new dog? Super cute. That dress you just made? Even cuter.

Personally, there have been a lot of changes in my life this year. We'll get to some of those big ones a little bit later, but they have meant less time to sew and even less time to photograph the things I've sewn. Things have settled down a bit recently, however, so it seemed time to break back into blogging. The first project up in my post queue is everyone's favorite sheath dress, Colette's Laurel pattern.

When I initially saw Laurel, I loved it. Not two seconds later, I decided it wasn't for me. There is no waist seam, it's super simple in shape, and it's all very gamine 1960s starlet. Y'all I have hips and boobs and myriad other parts that curve. Though I may wish it, I'm the very opposite of lithe. And yet...

I couldn't resist. Laurel seemed the perfect stash-busting pattern. It's super efficient for fabric use—less than two yards required for the sleeveless version—and works great with a border print. So, I made a muslin and ended up loving it. I didn't need a traditional FBA, instead just grading from my high bust size at the top to my actual bust size in the bodice, then nipping in the waist and hip lines. How easy to fit! 

 My first real version was this orange sherbet confection, which uses fabric that has been malingering in my stash for entirely too long. It's a very lightweight cotton voile, with a fabulous wide floral border running the length of the fabric. Laurel worked perfectly to take advantage of that fact, turning into the perfect, classy little sheath dress. It may not be the best pattern for my shape, but not everything in my wardrobe can be poofy skirted fit-and-flare styles. It's just too boring! This Laurel is a comfortable go-to summer cocktail dress, which is always nice to have on hand. 

 Since making this first one, I've whipped up two others in more autumnal fabrics, which will look great with boots and layers of cardigans, once we finally see the end of summer. I really loved the ease of making this pattern. Even with the full linings I put in every dress, they've taken me less than two hours from the first stitch to the hem. No zipper is needed, since they're so roomy, and they're a cinch to assemble. Colette's instructions were, as ever, straight forward and helpful. If you're just starting out in garment sewing, this would be a fantastic pattern to start with—quick, easy, and super cute.

My final review: A+, an all-around adorable pattern. Would we expect anything less from Colette?

The only last thing I have to document is the reason for my prolonged absence. Mary, where on earth have you been for the last year?
 Well, lots of great things have been going on. I finally finished one of the two degrees in my dual  doctorate program, leaving only my final dissertation project to finish this year. I've moved from Austin, into a lovely little bungalow in a small city 90 miles north.

Why the move? Well...
Are you so excited? No? Well, I am excited to tell you! 

All of this moving about and city changing has occurred, because a little over a year ago I started dating a wonderful man. His name is Sam—Dr. Sam, if we're being official—and he's lovely as you can see below. Not only is he appropriately bearded, but he's incredibly smart, funny, and generally the most delightful person I've ever known. 

 Sam, looking skeptical as I document a rite of passage: his first In-N-Out burger.

For Valentine's Day, he bought me all the seasons of Buffy. 

He is an absolute wizard in the kitchen, somehow even making Brussels sprouts delicious. (Note: the key is apparently bacon. Of course!)

He is a professor, a Trekkie, and quite attached to his gigantic German Shepherd. 

He is also the person I'm going to marry this December.
Obligatory ring picture, because it's not an engagement post, without something sparkly.

That's right! I'm getting married. 

It's okay, if you can't believe it. We've been engaged for over six months now and I'm still a little bit in disbelief. I legitimately never thought I'd get married. So much of my life has been focused on career and friends and interests, that I never left much room for what I thought relationships meant. It turns out, you can have all of those things, you just have to find someone who wants to share them. Sam is awesome. We are awesome. I'm beyond thrilled about continuing my life's adventures with him as a partner.

That's a lot of mush, readers, I know. This last year has been a whirlwind, both emotionally and professionally, but I am still alive and still sewing. And, after so many delays, still blogging. Thanks for sticking around, friends! 

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