Category Archives: stashbusting

fix-it-friday: african dress tweaks

african_after_front

I love this dress. It was gifted to me years ago by a friend after she had travelled in Africa, and I so loved that she picked this color for me. I also have loved the fabric – a lightweight, gauzy kind; the traditional (I assume as much) print with what reads to me as a typically “Western” dress shape, which all adds up to a quirky dress I have worn and loved for years.

Why have it ended up as a friday-fix then?

african_dress_before

First issue – it wasn’t lined in the skirt. You can probably see in the picture that the bodice is self-lined, but the skirt is a single layer. I’ve always had to wear a slip or an underskirt, and I haven’t loved either option. It was also a smidge looser in the waist than it needed, so I have now taken it in slightly.

african_dress_zipper

In addition, not all construction details have held up to my use over the years. The (invisible!) zipper was just folded under at the top, and the fabric at the corners were actually starting to tear. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that exposed seams with uneven seam allowance was bothering me a little (how perfectionist are you allowed to be?!), so with the prospect of tweaking some aspects of the dress, I decided to just go ahead and disassemble, neaten, and reassemble.

african_back

As I was trying to decide between reinstalling the invisible zipper or changing it out for an exposed metal zipper, I realized two things. One was that metal is cold against bare skin, and the other was that I don’t think I have actually unzipped this dress a single time. It’s loose enough to just slip over my head, so in a move worthy of Mena of SewWeekly (who has made it almost a trademark to get away without pesky zippers), I did in fact omit the whole thing. It’s of course a little more snug now that I’ve taken in the waist a little, but I can still manage to just pull it on over my head!

african_dress_side

As for the skirt, I lined it with some yellowish green polyester stuff I’ve had around for *ages*, so yey stashbusting too! I did the trick (I used it also on my recent wintery summer dress) of sewing the seam allowances of the outside fabric and the lining together to anchor them at strategic points, which I’ll be doing a tutorial of sorts (more like a guide. I like guides.) in my next post, so look for that!

In my sewing corner I currently have one of John’s dress shirts that I’m taking in, and a Minoru jacket underway, and I’m so happy to be knocking out and actually finishing projects again. After my surprise at how little I actually sewed in 2012, I think this year is getting off to a good start!

gathered sundress in winter

Of course you make summery dresses in the dead of winter! Why wouldn’t you?

I think a core reason I’ve been knitting so much lately, is the overwhelmingness of my current pile of half-finished sewing projects – none of which have been calling my name lately. The one project I got excited about, was the Gathered sundress by Pattern Runway. And, I had some lovely cotton/silk that I always planned on making into the perfect summer dress, so it seemed like a good match.

gathered_sundress1

I’ve shared some snippets of this fabric and the making of the dress in several recent posts, and I’ve really been taking my time (and now that I’m finally ready to share, I feel like I have so much to say about this dress!). I’ve come to realize that part of the reason I sew is to do it as neatly and well made as possible. That might not be the driving desire for other people who sew, and that’s ok. But it is a driving force for me, where I really enjoy the process, and adding little construction details wherever I can and want. Of course this means this dress took much longer to finish than I thought – especially when you add the part where I was careful during the cutting process so the pattern would match up, and the part where I decided to have the side front panels and the inside of the pocket cut on the bias.

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I was inspired by Oona’s delightful lace insert version of this dress, where she made some of the panels contrasting. With this kind of busy, but still orderly pattern, I thought it might help to do something similar to break up the mass and create a differentiation. That was also the thought behind the deliciously colored piping I made for the belt and the pockets (my tips for making and using bias tape is right here). I’m not sure it was a roaring success – this print pattern looks much more busy from a couple of yards away than it does up close, so the fabric hides some of the details and lines until you’re quite close. I’m not super comfortable with prints to begin with, so I might be a little biased and feeling in unfamiliar territory here!

gathered_sundress_inside

gathered_sundress_interface

gathered_sundress_pockets

gathered_sundress_lining

Like I mentioned, I did enjoy adding a lot of touches to the construction of the dress, and a lot of them is due to the sheer and thin nature of the cotton/silk printed fabric:
· Using iron-on stay-tape along pretty much all curved edges, both on the lining fabric and the self fabric. (seen in this post)
· Edgestitching the seamallowance to one side to add some heft and structure to the seams. I was afraid that the light fabrics might not feel substantial enough for a dress of this style, and adding more seams in form of edgestitching, top-stitching, and piping helped with support.
· Backing the bias cut side panels, the belt, and pockets with straight grain organza, so they wouldn’t be completely bent out of shape. I figured the pockets would feel more solid and sturdy (but still light!) with the organza as well.
· Binding the raw edges of the pocket with more of the same green-yellow silk dupioni I used for the piping.
· With the patterned fabric beeing lighter and more see through than I was expecting, I lined the skirt as well for a full lining in a cotton voile. This changed the construction a bit – I sewed the lining as a full separate piece, but to keep the layers together, and again, add stability and a little more heft, I sewed together the seam allowances of the top belt seams on both the lining and the patterned fabric. It’s a technique also used in lined jackets, to keep the outer and inner layers of the collar moving as one!
· As for the fit, I did shorten the bodice by a good inch or so, which seems like a common alteration for this pattern. I also added some width at the princess-seams after a bodice muslin, and pinched off a little on the back pieces for some neckline gaping. I may or may not have overfitted a bit. I intentionally kept the fit a little looser – I wanted an easy, effortless dress, but that doesn’t define the waist as much as this style of dress usually does.
· Finally, not a construction note, but worth mentioning: I had some weird and random problems with these fabrics. I swear I cut out the exact sane patternpieces of the voile and the cotton/silk, handled them with extreme care, and interfaced the edges to prevent stretching out. And yet, sewing the lining to the self fabric along the armholes had me looking at over an inch to ease in on a 6″ stretch! (picture above) I also had an issue with the hem not matching up in a way I can’t even explain, despite being super careful matching everything up while cutting and sewing! To a perfectionist as myself, this was most maddening.

gathered_sundress6

gathered_sundress4
The sheer fabric also means that the seam allowance shows up, especially having interfaced them first! I trimmed down the seam allowance on the princess seams as much as I could get away with, but a better idea might have been to underline everything instead. Hindsight is 20/20, but I really think I’m going to like and wear this dress, and I do consider that a success – even if it might not have come out as awesomely as I was picturing.

I did have some pretty high hopes for this one – I might have been expecting too much! It’s funny to see a similar sort of feeling discussed by Tasia quite recently – that even if, as a non-sewer I talked to recently put it, we can make things any way and exactly how we want it, not every project is an absolute success. Maybe I didn’t choose the optimal pattern for the fabric or vice versa, maybe I didn’t choose the best combination of fabrics, and maybe I didn’t choose the ideal construction methods at every point. I do feel some pressure to absolutely love everything I make (though I’m not sure to what degree that pressure is external or internal, or some combination of the two). I think I will try to simply accept this as a piece in my wardrobe, and that it doesn’t have to be “the perfect garment” all on its own. If it’s a garment that fits, and I’m happy to wear, that’s a lot just by itself.

gathered_sundress2

outfit: February fitted pullover, winter wonderland style

Thanks for the suggestions I got for how to wear my newly finished February fitted pullover that I shared recently (and here is the ravelry link to the project)! I have a short list of ways to try wearing it (feel free to offer more suggestions if you can think of any!). I did wear it last weekend the way I mentioned in that post – with my grandma-dress.

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It’s a little funny; in my mind, the blues of the sweater and the dress would match perfectly, but in certain indoor lights they were purpely blue and green blue, respectively. It looked fine though, so the lack of perfect colormatching doesn’t bother me too much. And I can tell you this much – that sweater is quite warm! It certainly kept me toasty even with just the strapless dress underneath. Score one for the sweater. I paired it with a belt to break the blue expanse up a bit (and match my boots of course).

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The pictures are on the artistic (wacky?) side – taken at dusk one day with the only camera lens available that day (it’s actually broken, but works as a sort of handheld tilt-lens). I find it funny how the city behind me in this last picture kind of looks like a little model!

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February Fitted Pullover for the win, I think?

I wanted to show you the dress I’ve been working on these past weeks, but it’s not done. And, being winter and all of a sudden busy at  my two not-so-new jobs, I really only have Sundays available to take pictures in actual daylight. I plan to have a pretty, summery, and finished (!) dress to photograph and show you next Sunday, but for now, we can take a look at my brand newly finished February Fitted Pullover:

I started this sweater over two years ago (according to my ravelry notes), and the road has been a little less than smooth. While I wouldn’t call this a beginner pattern, it’s not entirely the patterns fault that I’ve had hiccups. I should have printed out the pattern and circled all the numbers that went along with my size, but I didn’t, so I’ve been swapping between, which of course didn’t always work out so well! I’ve also taken alot of breaks (ehem… two years to knit a sweater?), and completely forgotten what in the world I was doing in between. No matter, it is done now!

If you look at this from the right angle, I swear there is a bit of a herringbone pattern going on, which makes me wonder how I can play that up in what I pair this sweater with. In fact… I wonder what in the world to pair with this sweater, period! I’m thinking jeans might be too close in color, and the kind of see-through-ness of the lace pattern could limit underlayers. Let’s all play a game and brainstorm what to do with this sweater, shall we? I’ve noticed a lot of people on ravelry wear theirs with button-down shirts, but that’s not really floating my boat. I’m planning to try it with my grandma-dress (I think the colors will look nice together!), but then what? Help a girl out!

is it time for wool hats yet?

Yes it is. I took these pictures yesterday in beautiful, chilly sunset  light, and this morning, looking at the sun rising on my city, there are big snowflurries in the air, settling on the mountaintops right across the valley. We’re on the brink of winter, and I’m finding the need to get my woolens in order – taking them out of storage, washing them, and mending them.

knitted wool cable hat

This hat should look pretty familiar. I made one, almost identical, last winter. It ended up a little too big, so I cast on fewer stitches this time, and went to it. I love the pattern for this hat, with the perfect rhythm of cables in different sizes. The yarn came from a merino wool sweater that I took apart, and the yarn is so thin I had to knit with 4 strands at once! (The pattern is Kristen of KristenMakes’s Cabled Watch-cap, and my ravelry notes are here)

The picture is a little blown out, but I’m pleased with how the cables merged for the decreasing at the crown.

I am really intrigued by decreases at the crown of hats. The best ones are little fantastic little design-puzzles, where the pattern melds perfectly with shaping the crown, and ends up in a circle, or swirling lines, or cables integral to the pattern itself. Working with this hat, I thought of a fun challenge – making a top down hat to really make the shaping of the crown and the pattern there the star of the show. I’ll just add that to the other 7 projects I’m currently working on and planning. (meaning, maybe in two years I’ll get around it!)

I was left to my own devices to take these photos, and it involved a lot of running back and forth, crouching, trying to be in focus, and in frame! I missed a couple, as you can see, but I did want to share a side picture of the hat and all the cables.

Now, what is happening to the other hat? I don’t need two almost identical hats around, especially with one being too big, so the first hat is being sent off to live with a friend with a bigger head! I know it fits her, and I’m happy that the hat can go be useful somewhere else. Win win all around!