Thursday, June 26, 2014

Miss Taylor Believes That We Will Win: Pattern Revolution

Good morning, lovely ones! As I write this, Sam and I are wandering across the southern United States. We're Georgia bound, for his wonderful uncle's 60th birthday and a weekend of family revelry. Consequently, we're also missing the USA v. Germany match. 

Yes, there were heartbroken wails, when we realized this fact last week. Such are the sacrifices we make for beloved family members! We are not entirely unpatriotic, however. My phone is synced to a radio broadcast of the match and we're both decked out in red, white, and blue road trip attire. Sam is in the official USA kit and I...well, I'm wearing the most ridiculous shorts ever owned by a Mary.  

These are the Taylor Shorts, by Greenstyle Patterns, and the Hip Hop Tank by Love Notions. After the rousing success of my Katy & Laney Tap shorts, I was eager to try my hand at some other styles. When Robin, of Pattern Revolution, asked if I'd try any of this sale's bundled patterns, I jumped on this cute pair of shorts and awesome blouse. Shorts are only part of my wardrobe during hot weather, but it is brutally hot here until October! An easy, modern pair of shorts sounded just perfect. 

Unlike the retro silhouette of the Tap Shorts, the Taylor pattern features a low rise waist and three inseam lengths. It has a traditional zip fly, faced pockets (!), and a darted back. Since the rise is pretty low, you're directed to choose your size based on hip measurement. For me, this translated to something between a 12 and a 14. Which means, of course, that I made a size 16. 

When it comes to my lower half, I am never convinced by stated measurements. This may be from a particularly traumatic experience with Colette's Ginger skirt or just a desire for more than the standard ease. Part of the reason I love dresses is that they don't constrict my rump party. So, yeah, I refused to believe I was a smaller size and cut a 16. This was ill-advised, y'all. When I tried on the muslin, they were ginormous! I ended up sizing down to a fourteen in the hips and a twelve at the waist. PSA of the day: trust your measurements! 

As fabric, I used this red-and-white anchor print cotton canvas from Hancock fabrics. A Hancock just opened in Waco on June 14th and I've already been there six times, including one post-dinner trip to buy this fabric because it was haunting me, demanding to be nautical shorts. I sewed these shorts through Saturday night, intent to have patriotic attire for our World Cup viewing party in Austin. The sewing gods demanded it be so! That I already own a navy anchor print dress was, obviously, a nonissue. 

The construction of these shorts was pretty easy, if a bit unorthodox. I opted for the longest inseam of the three, for comfort's sake. Greenstyle provides photographs and video tutorials, along with the directions, which were super helpful in this case. The fly insertion doesn't use a fly guard and has you insert the zipper upside down, which would have been a challenge to my spatial reasoning skills, without those detailed pictures. I still somehow inserted the fly incorrectly, but it zips and looks perfectly normal. To be honest, I prefer the method in the Tap Shorts, which is a more traditional finish. Y'all know how I like to do thinks the "proper" way, after all. For a beginner, I think the Taylor method would be an easier introduction into fly zips, if not the one that should be used forever after. 

Other than that, the construction was super painless. Every piece fit together beautifully and all the instructions were clear. I did end up taking a bit more room out of the center back waistband and seam, in the end. The canvas has more stretch than muslin, so it was gaping back there and driving me insane! An additional 1.5 inches were taken out and things are still roomy, but more secure. I'm not sure my body type is proportioned well for low rise styles, honestly. When there is such a discrepancy between waist and hip measurements, fitting that middle area can be a beast. The next time, I may take the shorts in a bit more through the legs, just to perfect that fit. I quite like this comfy little pair, however. Wearing anchors makes me crave fireworks, hot dogs, and a bit of Sousa in the background. 

The only problem to deal with? What exactly one pairs with red anchor print shorts. I opted for a simple chambray tank, using Love Notions' Hip Hop Tank. The pattern comes with a ton of variations and the option of using either wovens or stable knits, which is an interesting twist. Never able to resist a button, I opted for the yoked, button-back version with a dipped hem. 

This was such an easy pattern that I had to add in some technical flair, just for fun.  Every seam is flat-felled, with white top-stitching along the hem, neckline, and every seam. If it could be top-stitched, it was. There was a great button debate, but I ended up with simple vintage white buttons from my stash. I almost went with polka-dotted red buttons, but really wanted this to be a versatile basic. As much as I love my country, I don't wear red, white, and blue together terribly often. 

There really aren't that many construction details to impart. Indicative of the knit option, this is an undarted blouse. It's flowing and loose-fitting, providing a wearable summer silhouette. Everything is finished with bias tape, which makes it a really beginner friendly pattern. If one made the straight, unembellished version of this blouse, it would be a 1.5 hour project max. As it is, my flat felled seams and top-stitching rounded me up to 3 hours. 

It's funny, I didn't expect to feel one way or another about this blouse, but I ended up loving it. It's just such a cute, summery little basic. It's well-shaped, despite the lack of darting, and so comfortable. I don't own anything with a high-low hem, as I'm rather impervious to  trends, but I like the rear coverage. If I were a busy parent, constantly chasing after a wee one, a million of these shirts would be in my wardrobe! As it is, I may make a few more, just for filling out the summer wardrobe. 

Excuse the wrinkles! This was my second round of outfit pictures, taken next to a lovely field in East Texas earlier this week. I also decided to wear it as a cutaway back, unbuttoned, as demonstrated in the pattern images. It can be buttoned all the way, but it does lose a bit of swing!

Now, let's chat about Pattern Revolution, shall we? I'm so thrilled to be part of the Bundle Up! blog tour, which features so many awesome indie patterns. Until June 27th, you're able to bundle up the patterns to fill our your own summer wardrobe. If you'd like to learn more, click here! If you'd like a bit of inspiration, check out the rest of the blog tour below. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Miss Vera Taps Her Way Into our Hearts: K&L Tap Shorts

Good afternoon, kittens! Today, I'm back with an unusual garment for Chez Fancy. These are the brand new Tap Shorts from  Katy&Laney

That's right. I, Queen Swishy Dress, made shorts. What's more, I love them. Clutch your pearls, dear readers, for pigs may start hiring themselves out as passenger jets. 

When Katy and Laney approached the Curvy Sewing Collective about pattern testing, I was cautiously excited. As someone who went my teen and college years never wearing pants, much less shorts, they're not something I own in large numbers. In my wise old age, however, I've decided they're the perfect summer garment. When the sidewalk is hot enough to cook both chicken and egg, I want the easiest, lightest outfit. Shorts, paired with a breezy tank top, fit the bill beautifully. 

Katy and Laney's Tap Shorts are my dream pattern, in this regard. There are three views, the original pleated pair, an angled seamed version, and the classic fly front, faced pocket style I chose for my first pair. All three are high-waisted, with wide legs, optional back welt pockets, and a decided retro flair. 

For this testing pair, I chose a heavy, abstractly striped cotton twill from le stash. I'm not sure what compelled Mary of Future Past to buy such a modern, neutral fabric, but it works quite well as shorts. Paint stroke stripes of grey, cream, and tan sweep across a black background, resulting in a print that truly pairs with anything. Also, as luck would have it, it's one that proved impossible to pattern match. I ended up settling on matching stripes to each other and not worrying about aligning the amorphous parts perfectly. 

As for the pattern itself, I am SO impressed with Katy and Laney. These shorts were accompanied by, hands down, the best pattern instructions I've ever encountered. Both fly fronts and welt pockets are little practiced skills in my repertoire, but they were made so easy by the diagrams and instructions. I am a strategic worrier, so it's not uncommon for me to yell at patterns: "Why am I doing this!? The next step makes no sense! Surely, this diagram is fucked?!" Not so with these shorts. Every time I had a doubt about construction, K & L were right there with reassurances or elucidations of their methodology. Such attentiveness is rare in sewing patterns and so helpful, especially with tricky skills like zip flies. This is a pattern that makes supplementary sewing manuals fear for their usefulness. 

The only true deviation I made from the pattern was sizing. Based on measurements, I'm a straight 16, but I like shorts to fit loosely through the hip and butt area. (Reference: weathering the heat and abject hate of hip clinging.) To appease this mix of vanity and practicality, I graded from a 16 at the waist to an 18 through my hips and thighs. Everything else, from length to construction, was as directed. 

This was one of the most enjoyable garments I've sewn up in recent memory. I have a weird, ardent love for faced pocket construction and interesting waist closures. So, inserting the fly was a blast and looks awesome, if I do say so myself. So straight! Such pattern matching! This is mostly due to K & L's badass instructions, let's be honest. Both the front pockets and the back welt pockets are done in mustard yellow cotton and serged for reinforcement. All of my seams were finished with a serger, after pressing, so that these shorts stand the test of time. 

The fit of these shorts ended up being glorious. They nip in at the waist, skim the butt, and show just enough leg. Since the upper end of the fitting was done with the lovely Jenny, of Cashmerette, as a fit model, this comes as no surprise. Katy and Laney have fit their larger sizes perfectly for the curvy figure. 

 Do I still prefer my body in skirts and dresses? Totally. But for summertime casual, you can't beat the Tap Shorts. They super comfortable, flattering to curves, and full of design potential. Plus, they're way more practical than my usual swishy dress affair.  I have not one, but two, floral versions all cut out. One is the adorable seamed version, with coordinated flat piping in the seam. An array of shorts in pretty fabrics is definitely in my future! 

If you're jonesing for more shorts inspiration, check out the other lovely ladies in the Tap Short Tour! There are some amazing versions of this pattern out there already. 

Tap Short Tour

Thursday, June 12th: Heather at Closet Case Files

Friday, June 13th: Ping at Peneloping

Saturday, June 14th: Jenny at Cashmerette

Monday, June 16th: Mary at Idle Fancy

Wednesday, June 18th: Sarah at Grey’s Fabric and Notions

Thursday, June 19th: Jennifer at Workroom Social

Friday, June 20th: Kelli at True Bias

Saturday, June 21st: Mary at Young, Broke, and Fabulous

Sunday, June 22nd: T at Uandmii

Tuesday, June 24th: MacKenzie at Some Real Things

Friday, June 6, 2014

Notes from an Overcommitted Hobbyist

Good morning, friends! As you may have noticed, things around this blog have been a bit official lately. For the last month, I've been either blogging about Project Sewn or participating in a blog tour of some sort. While this may not bother some people, I know that others start to get twitchy when previously normal blogs start joining up with promotional events.

I get it. It's like when Second City's Sassy Gay Friend started selling Mio, as a part of delivering a wake-up call to literary heroines. It devalued the whole series for me and I stopped watching, because water should not taste like grape candy and amusing literary criticism should not include purple syrup.   (Though, for real, the Giving Tree video is my favorite thing to happen on the internet. It should also be acknowledged that these videos exist in that morally weird space of comedic self-stereotyping, as discussed in this Salon article. The literary skewering, however, was brilliant) For sewing blogs, there is also a line for many people, when the same patterns pop up in every blog or the same promotion is heard about for weeks on end. While I love seeing a pattern on as many bodies as possible, before I shell out cash for it, it also can seem like a bombardment of pseudo-advertisement to some. That is a legit complaint.

With that in mind, I thought a little transparency was in order. If you've been uneasy with the direction of this blog in the last month, don't fret. The end is in sight. You see, a few months ago I started getting requests for the first time ever, to participate in pattern tests and blog tours. This made me extraordinarily excited, because such endeavors seemed like fun, interesting ways to be involved in our community. Plus, it was pretty cool to be asked! Unfortunately, once I said yes to Project Sewn, this meant I'd way, way, way overcommitted myself for the months of May and June. All of the unveiling dates for these projects and commitments ended up falling within a few weeks of each other. Currently, I have two more committed posts for the month of June, before the wide, clean slate of July is ushered in. I am quite excited about both of the pieces made for these posts, as they fall into a category of new-to-me sewing and stylistically unique patterns, but it would also be understandable for y'all to roll your eyes. Another blog tour, Mary? For real?

I'm right there with you. As it turns out, I hate having a full schedule of necessary projects. When it comes to sewing, I am a hobbyist in the truest sense of the word. I like to sew what I want, when I want. Similarly, I like to not sew for days on end. A few necessary projects in the lineup are fun, but I would go crazy if they were all I made. Even when I really love the pattern I'm working on, it feels more like work than my usual sewing adventures. There are instructions to follow by the letter and constructive feedback to consider. My normal sewing is more of a joyful, scattered sort of process that happens in a few hour-long bursts.

I know many sewists view sewing as their true passion, that one thing they would turn into a job, if those lucky lottery numbers ever came up. That is not my dream or the goal of this blog. It actually sounds like the quickest way to make me throw my machine off a very tall cliff. If Sam and I were independently wealthy, one of the first things I'd do is buy a kick ass, crazy expensive machine...which I'd then use just as often as my current cheapo. My dream careers involve becoming an Egyptologist or opening up a tea house/bookstore with my best friend, not sewing forever after.

For me, sewing will always be my favorite hobby. It's the thing I turn to, when work is overwhelming or my emotions are running high. I love the creative buzz that comes from it and the way time flies by without worry, as a garment is constructed. It's introduced me to the most interesting, supportive community on the internet and some true kindred spirits. So, while I will blissfully keep pattern testing (because--let's be honest--plus sizes need to be involved more in that realm) and participating in blog tours I believe in supporting, things are going to ease up around here. These past few months have elucidated what I love about both blogging and sewing, which looks more balanced than its current form.

On that note, I'm quite curious where your passion for sewing lies. Do you long to open up your own sewing studio or teach classes for a living? Or does sewing and blogging as a job sound like the worst thing ever to you? The spectrum for such a thing is fascinating, when dealing with a passionate population like ours. Incidentally, what would your dream career be, if you won the lottery? There have to be other Egyptology groupies, who've been overly influenced by one Amelia Peabody Emerson.

Note: There was no specific criticism that launched this post, in case you're worried. It's just a product of my own unease and pathological need to discuss and dissect the things that brew in my mind . 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Miss Betsy Walks the Plank

Bonsoir, my fellow sewing geeks! Today has flown by in a whirl of new appliances, tedious academic kerfuffles, and insistent family matters. It is still Wednesday, however, which means it's my day on the Betsy & Ava Blog Tour! Huzzah!

The lovely Abby, of BlueGingerDoll Patterns, just released two gorgeous pieces that I had the privilege of testing. (Well, if we're being honest, that I barely squeaked under the wire for testing, because I over-committed myself last month. Deadlines, dissertations, and sewing competitions don't mix well. Who knew?) The Ava is a divine little kimono jacket, with a glamorous bit of swing to it, while the Betsy is your go-to pencil skirt in three chic variations. I had planned to show you a coordinated Betsy and Ava today, but disaster struck yesterday evening, while prepping for photos...

The invisible zipper on Betsy #1 is no more. Cue the mourners! Grab the seam ripper!

Luckily, I was four buttons away from finishing my second Betsy skirt, a nautical wrap version. It doesn't remotely go with my Ava, unfortunately, so her debut will have to wait for her partner in crime to be repaired. You can intimate from this happy coincidence, however, how much I adore this little pattern. After finishing View A during the testing, Views B and C were quick to follow along! 

The three views in question are a traditional pencil skirt with embellished belt loops, a buttoned wrap skirt with a narrow waistband, and a high-waisted "Pin-up" skirt with an accordion pleat at the back. As a pencil skirt junkie, I whooped with joy upon seeing these illustrations. Not only do I love a curve-hugging skirt, but Abby's patterns are consistently among my favorites. They are well-drafted, thoughtful, and have proportions that work brilliantly for my shape. Miss Betsy was destined to become just as beloved as my dear Peggy

Even better, this time around Abby has expanded her size range! The Betsy covers every woman from a 23-inch to a 42.5 inch waist measurement, which far exceeds the current skirt offerings from Big 4 pattern companies. So many sewists can get in on the pencil skirt love! 

Let's talk construction, darlings. Betsy is a double-darted pencil skirt, which we ladies of the Curvy Sewing Collective have decreed to be the most flattering of designs. The extra bit of shaping provided by doubling up on darts works brilliantly, for those of us with large waist-to-hip ratios. 

If you've ever sewn a wrap skirt, you'll be familiar with the design of this view. There are two front panels, which are sewn to the opposite side seams of the skirt back. You wrap them around you, fastening a hook and eye at the hidden side seam, then the row of buttons along the visible panel edge. Voila! An adorable skirt. On the Betsy, there is also a narrow waistband running along the top, which adds a bit of security and design interest to the skirt. The waistband construction is so novel, actually--it uses one large pattern piece, instead of the standard facing method. The piece is folded over twice while sewing, so that all raw edges are concealed and there are no bulky seams up top. Don't you love efficient little details like that?

For this particular Betsy, I used a navy twill from JoAnn Fabrics that I'd originally sourced for my final Project Sewn look. It was meant to be a blazer, but I could not stop fantasizing about a nautical-inspired wrap skirt! There's something about white buttons marching along navy that screams summer skirt to me. Maybe it's all those Ralph Lauren lookbooks I poured through in high school, but it's a pairing that makes me long for sunny days and sailboats. 

So, that's exactly what I made! The twill doesn't have any stretch, as the pattern calls for, so I went up a size at the hips from my first Betsy (from an AUS 18 to an AUS 20) to account for the difference. BGD patterns run with much less ease than the Big 4, so it was good decision. Even with the up sizing, it's quite a form-fitting little skirt. The seams were all sewn traditionally, then finished with my serger to prevent unraveling, which is my standard procedure. I love the speed of a serger, but I'm such a stickler about proper garment pressing. It makes me twitchy not to press the seams of woven garments open! 

This was such an easy, fun skirt to put together. I took my time with it, as I prefer to sew in small sessions when not under deadline, but it only took a few hours total to whip up. The result is a super cute wardrobe staple. It's rare that I sew with solid fabrics, but I love the simplicity of this piece. Sure, it's just a navy skirt, but with those white buttons and the right blouse, it's the perfect skirt for a lakeside adventure. You can bet I'll also be sporting it on July 4th! 

In addition to my currently injured initial version, I also have a large floral Betsy all cut out and ready to sew. As demonstrated by the lovely Tanya, fabulous T, and adorable Mary, this pattern is ideal for large, gorgeous florals! Quite frankly, I can't imagine a print that wouldn't work for Betsy. Since pencil skirts are so conservative on yardage, they're a great opportunity to use up bold, fabulous fabrics. Knowing me, there will be quite a few loud iterations in my future.

The details...

Things I Loved:
  • The buttons! I'll use any excuse to embellish a garment and buttons are a fabulous way to do so. These four little lovelies are from my vast, ridiculous collection of vintage buttons. I can't come away from an antique store without more buttons. 
  • The shape! Double darts ftw, y'all. 
  • The waistband! It was such an efficient, brilliant method of construction.
Things I Changed: 

  • Though intended to be a little longer in design, I took a 3.5 inch hem on this Betsy. At 5'8'', that put the skirt's hem right along my knee. 
  • Sized up to an AUS 20 at the hips, to make up for intractable fabric. 
Things I Would Change, If I Made It Again:
  • Not a thing! It's a super little skirt. Not having to sew a zipper is amazing!
Tips & Tricks:
  • As I said, BGD patterns don't have much built-in ease. If you're between sizes or prefer a looser fit in clothing, I strongly suggest sizing up for the Betsy. This is meant to be a va va voom sort of piece, but would be just as cute as a more casual skirt
  • Sewing a buttonhole through four layers at the waistband was bit of a trial for my machine. The fabric was quite thick and my machine is on its last legs, but it's something to be aware of, if your machine is similarly decrepit. I opted not to interface the waistband, with just such a scenario in mind. 
Notions & Fabric:
  • 1.5 yards of navy twill - JoAnn Fabrics - $16
  • 4 vintage white buttons
  • Betsy Pattern courtesy of Bluegingerdoll Patterns
Construction Time:
  • About three hours, because I was purposefully slow. 

Don't forget to check out all the other lovely pieces on the Betsy & Ava Blog Tour! I'm sure I'll be back quite soon with more of both patterns. Chic wardrobe staples are the cat's (well-tailored) pajamas!

29th May – Tanya at MrsHughes - ( Betsy)
1st June – Liz at Sewn by Elizabeth - ( Betsy & Ava as well as a little interview with Abby.)
2nd June  – T at uandmii ( Betsy)
3rd June  – Mary at YoungBroke&Fabulous
4th June – Mary at Idle Fancy (That's me! You're here!)
5th June – Andrea at foursquarewalls
6th June– Tanya at MrsHughes - (Ava) 
7th June - Melissa at Scavenger hunt 
8th June -  T at uandmii ( Ava)

Obligatory cute shoe shot!