Ok I am back in the sewing loft after a crazy month of travel. Last weekend while I was in the midst of making my kid a costume, he wouldn’t stand still while I fitted it so I just pitched it in the corner and went out to F-land to seek my own satisfaction. I came home with a pattern and two different fabrics to make it up in: a brown soft plaid and a brown suede-look woven.

The pattern I chose was Burda 7203 which is now the second Burda I have tried in their more unusual styling and I look terrible in both. No more dolman sleeves, folks. Here it is on the dress form over top of the next project… any resemblance to an Ewok outfit is purely coincidental, I assure you.

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I really must learn to read Pattern Review on my smartphone while browsing pattern catalogues. Also this is why I have pledged to stop buying patterns. (Yet I can’t seem to help myself!)

Needless to say this garment is simply NoT going to be worn like this, but all that lovely suede mustn’t go to waste. So I am taking it apart and piecing together a dress that will blend bias drape with straight grain pieces… it may look like Jane Goodall meets Tarzan’s Jane, but it should go lovely with my brown boots. Plus it will be a learning exercise. Already I have made progress:

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I am working on the back right now, which I haven’t photographed yet. I have used up almost all of what was left from the yardage after cutting out Ewok above, because it used mainly pieces on the fold. Next I will begin deconstructing and gleefully chopping up Ewok to put the skirt pieces together for lots of lovely bias drapey goodness. Here is the design sketch…

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To be continued after I get some sleep…

Continued… I didn’t take any more pictures while the dress was in construction, but here’s the finished work:

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This dress is sinfully comfortable to wear. I’m a little concerned about the strength of the stitching because there’s just one row on each of the seams that patches it together (combined with fabric glue stick – I shall never baste again). I wore this dress on the plane and to a conference in Calgary, with a cardigan. It is my new favourite thing to wear.

Another Sunday, another stash-breaker! This time I am making a bias-cut, bow-front blouse to go under a black suit jacket. I have this funky turquoise and black patterned print that has been lurking for a while and it is time to bring it to life.

My first step was to take an existing tank top pattern and create a full size version so I could lay it out on the bias.

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I did the back first, and cut it out of some leftover fabric from another project with a similar fabric content so I could pin it on my dress form. I needed to lengthen it and give a bit of extra ease on the side seams because bias garments mold to the body and need more fabric, not less, to accommodate the downwards stretch. Then I did the front, and as I was prepping the pattern tissue I remembered that the existing tank top had a rather awkward fit around the armholes and bust, so I sliced the pattern above the side seam and put in an extra 3/4″. (There will be a picture of that soon).

Fast-forward — I didn’t get around to taking the rest of the pictures of this project while it was in progress, but I’m delighted with the finished product. It fits quite well (it’s a wee bit short at the side seams but still wearable and it fits perfectly everywhere else) and is so comfortable to wear. Here is the completed work:

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I’ve created another with another graphic print that was in the stash, only I had less of that fabric so I had to make the collar more of just a tie instead of a full bow. If I was going to create a pattern to sell online, this would be my first product. It’s awesome.

Having finished the Boy’s jeans, I simply had to dive into yet another attempt at making a garment on Sunday to wear on Monday. This time, I’ve had a vision of black skirt with pink godets in many seam openings.

I traced the pencil skirt pattern that I made for the disastrous blouse-dress/pencil skirt project, since I did actually manage to make a decent pattern shape for that skirt. Instead of the darts at front and back I made seams to piece things together. Then I began to lay it out on the remainder of black twill that I used for various & sundry things, because it was quite a nice twill. Except – wah waaaah – with the seaming, there wasn’t room to lay out this pattern on what was left of the twill. Sooooo I dipped into the stash and found a black floral print linen I’ve been harbouring for a year (that is actually a very short period of time for me to stash something). The pink fabric is a piece of (honestly) god-awful polyester that I picked up at a fabric swap almost as a joke. Turns out the pink matches the flowers in my linen print perfectly and the weight of the fabrics is a good match.

After putting together the seamed pieces for front and back and inserting another quite-decent invisible zipper with my new invisible zipper foot, I realized that I’d made one extra panel for the front and it was quite a bit too big. So I took out the side front panels and stitched it together, leaving the bottom 8″ open for the godets. I have finished the seams with black serging because this is linen and it will fray like nobody’s business.

I’ve inserted two godets now. The first was a bit of a nightmare but blessedly the linen print hides plenty of sins, and the second was a bit better.

I’m just taking a break for dinner at the moment and then I’m hoping to finish the godets and put in a lining. I’m really tempted to line the skirt with the pink polyester because I’m pretty sure I have no black lining at the moment.

Oh you want pictures?

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Update – All it needs is hem!

The rest of the godets went in pretty smoothly (literally) using a serger so everything is tidy and finished. The lining was quickly drafted by taping together the pieces from the skirt and laying it on the pink fabric. The trick is going to be what kind of hem to use, because the linen will like a simple finish-and turn but the godet fabric is lighter and possible needs a rolled hem which gives me a headache just thinking of it. And I want to hem it before going to work tomorrow…so doing one treatment all the way around would probably be preferred.

So it might not make it to work tomorrow. Better plan for something else!

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Hem This:
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I’m pretty satisfied by how the print florals lined up after sewing the pieces together. Essentially the seams took about 2cm out of the pattern at each seam but it still looks okay.

By the way, the waistband uses one of my favourite garment-sewing tricks… grosgrain ribbon between the layers! I tend to stock up on neutral colour grosgrain (or petersham as it’s called in wider form) whenever I find it on sale, and in this case I’m glad I did because this looks best without a waistband but it needed some firm hold at the waist, without interfacing.

I’m making jeans for my little guy (who at 6 years old is already 4 feet tall and shows signs of becoming a very un-little guy). I’m using Burda 9641, but I have decided to do a real zip fly instead of the mock zip and elastic waistband in the pattern. This is a sewing challenge.

So far what I have learned is that if you’re making jeans and plan to do the contrast-colour-thread topstitching, it is far better to have sewing machines so you don’t have to constantly flip back and forth between threads. I’m only using the topstitching thread in the needle, not the bobbin, but still… I wish I had an extra sewing machine.

I screwed up my first attempt at putting in the zipper, and I blame the tutorial I’m using entirely. Always blame something else, yes? I won’t link to the tutorial though because that’s mean. So I’m about to go “off-instruction” and figure out how to get this damn fly to go in properly, all by myself. Wish me luck.

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Here’s the finished fly! Yay!

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The zipper itself is a bit on the long side, but that gives me lots of room for putting on a waistband. I will have to adjust the waistband from the pattern to be long enough to go right over the fly shield. This isn’t the first time I’ve done a fly zip fortunately, but it is the first time with denim and topstitching.

Now on to the inseam and then the waistband! I might have these done before midnight tonight. Wouldn’t that be a treat?

Day 2 – fitting and waistband and hopefully finishing

I gave up last night just after finishing the inseam. I provisionally attached the waistband but realized I wanted to check the fit before going to all the effort of finishing the waistband. Good call. When I tried the jeans on The Boy this morning, there was a whole two inches in the rear that I was able to pin out. There is more looseness in the side seams but because these are for a little guy, I’m going to leave that there for comfort. He might have to hike up his pants a bit every now and then but it’s better than having him complain his pants are too tight. He grows, but not around – he just stretches day after day.

So now here we are!

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And the waistband is on!

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I’m just about running out of topstitching thread so I’m going to whip up hems on the legs with that before I get fancy with anything else.

Update: We’re Done!

The button hole was made with the template from my sewing machine’s buttonhole attachment. The button itself was a jeans button that went onto a tack that comes through the fabric. I’ve never used one of those before and it was very easy to put on.

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Here’s the overall look on the front. The belt carriers were tough to sew on with the machine – definitely need an industrial strength top-stitching machine for that.

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The other little secret in these jeans is that the pocket backs are made with the cute pirate fabric I used to make the boy and the hubby their matching Father’s Day shirts. So when he puts his hands in his pockets he’ll remember both mom and dad. Yay love.

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And that’s it! 😀

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Last weekend I went through a frenzied day of what I thought was totally inspired designing – draping a skirt which was intended to have a cool, drapey-bias front with a wrap style. Turns out that was WAY too much concept to put into a garment, and it ended up looking like a utilikilt. So as not to waste the good job I did of drafting the back, I remade the front as a simple pencil skirt but then I ran out of time for hemming and putting on a waistband. Then I found some pretty pink fabric to make a matching blouse out of, and this morning around 6:30am my brain started jamming on the idea of a blouse dress.

Climbing up into my loft after breakfast, I began tidying up the space enough to work on this and came across a rust colored crepe-backed satin which I decided was much more appropriate for autumn. I have draped it on the dress form with the skirt on bottom to see how it will look. I’m deciding between using the shiny side out or the matte side out. Here’s how it looks:

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Hubby is of the opinion that the shiny side will look better so I’m going to cut out the pieces assuming that will be the way I go, but I can always change my mind before construction and flip it all around. I want to make a tie-neck blouse this time, like I’ve seen Robin Wright wear on House of Cards, because I think it will be a really flattering look… and I’ve never done it before.

Updates to come as I progress.

Update 1: Truing Up the Fabric

Sewists learn early that you have to lay out your pattern pieces with the fabric as straight as possible to get the grain right in the pieces. Now, when I went to lay out my fabric today I found this weird little anomaly.
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See that there edge? That’s a ripped edge, meaning it should have parted ways with its bolt on a straight line across the grain. Yet, we have that unsexy curve. Somewhere along the way this fabric has gone horribly askew. So I am cutting off the selvage in hopes I can iron it out so the grain is straight again.

After pinning the edges square to my cutting table (an Ikea desk covered with a layer of compressed batting and thermal-coated canvas) and diagonally ironing the creases over and over for about 10 minutes, I achieved this:

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I pulled a thread across the grain at one end so I could make sure I wasn’t just dealing with a poorly-cut fabric. I think what happened here is the fabric was rolled onto the bolt more tightly at one side of the fabric than the other, and then it sat there for who knows how many months in the supply chain (and about 6 months in my loft). So a wee bit of pre-work before laying out my pattern pieces has saved me misery and disappointment with my finished garment. It’s not perfectly straight now but it’s a darn sight better and I’ll feel better knowing that I did what I could to get better results. And now, onwards to pattern-cutting.

I’m planning on using Vogue 2426 for the bodice block. This is an out-of-print pattern but you could use pretty much any basic bodice pattern or draft your own. I just happen to have used this pattern for three projects recently. I had added a bust dart to this pattern and with a bit of tweaking for added ease (this fabric should be allowed to drape generously) it should do the trick.

Update 2: Reaching the Stage of Despair

Damnit, this is not going according to plan.

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What’s happening here is I’ve got to line up the darts on the top and the skirt, and they weren’t designed or drafted at the same time. I’ve moved front darts on the skirt but there is still excess fabric in the front.

I think this was a little too much for my skills. I think I have two options here: 1) Try to finish this thing by basting top and bottom together and crossing fingers. If I do that option, I still have to work out the sleeves, cuffs and neckline on the blouse part. Option 2) I take the skirt off the top and put a waistband on it, hem it and put the zipper back in. Not in that order of course.

I’m hot as heck up here in the loft, and I really wanted to wear this project tomorrow. I also wanted to have something to show at the Saanich Fair. Waa waaaaaah.

Update 3: After all this bloody time…

This is what I’ve come to…

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The top and bottom are together and with the addition of a waistband, it seems to be approximately the right length for the skirt to sit at the place on the body where the dart shaping aligns with body shaping (I put it together a first time without the waistband and it was too short – the darts floated away from the body. Hell’s bells). A success, right? And the neckband seems to be quite simple and straightforward. Haven’t got onto the sleeves yet but that will hopefully also be quite straightforward.

The damn thing is now too small around the waist. If I put the zipper in the way it is now, I’m not going to be able to do UP the zipper. In the process of getting the top to fit into the bottom, I had to take a couple of extra darts in the skirt, forgetting that I actually had a skirt that fit quite well. SHOULD HAVE JUST PUT IN A WAISTBAND AND CALLED IT A DAY.

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We are not amused.

Update 4: Something for the closet?

Well, the zipper is in. Fairly well, if I dare say. But I was right, and the fit is just a little bit on the tight side around the bust and waist. Well I was planning to lose a few pounds anyway. I won’t be wearing this to the office tomorrow damnit, but I will finish it off this week and enter it in the Saanich Fair (where fit isn’t considered because they don’t put the garments on the people!).

I used a new gadget to put the invisible zipper in: a plastic invisible zipper foot.

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I got this gadget from Fabricland today when I was there buying my zipper. (For the record, the zipper I got was 5-7cm too short so I’m going to have to create a keyhole at the back with some buttons around the collar. Dang dang dang!) The zipper foot rolls along over your invisible zipper and holds it open so the stitches get right in close to the teeth. It really works – the stitching is so close to the teeth that it doesn’t actually slide very well, but I hope I can fix that.

Update 5: The Universe Does Not Like This Dress

I got the sleeves cut out, the sleeve opening bound with a self-fabric continuous binding, and the cuff put on (finished with handstitching, no less).

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Then I thought “hey let’s put this puppy on my arm and see how it looks!

O.M.G. Foxtrot. Sierra. Foxtrot. The arm opening will be too small once it’s sewn into place. The bicep will be too tight and the cuff is way too large. It’s like a reverse sleeve. And I don’t have any more of this fabric to cut new sleeves.

Off I go to Fabricland to try to get more. They’re sold out. So I’ve got something almost the same colour, and I’m going to try to make either a facing or bias strips to bind the armhole instead of putting in sleeves. At this point I’m torn once again between just tossing this whole thing in the bin, and finishing it because BY GOD IT WILL LOOK NICE.

I like to entertain torture myself by thinking about the other things I could be doing with this spare time. The other projects I could be sewing. Why am I so in love with this dress that I persevere despite so many ridiculous setbacks? I don’t know. I think I might need to do some soul-searching about this one.

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The sleeves are at least big enough pieces of fabric for me to cut out facings that will match the rest of the dress.

Update 6: Are We Done Yet?

The facings are in the armholes. I guess when you draft facings you should make it so they aren’t quite as round on the outside. Or maybe when I finished the edges of the facings, I stretched them. Anyways I now have frilly facings. *bang* *bang* *bang* What’s that, you ask? That is my head beating against the wall.

The next steps (for tomorrow evening, the fifth and last shift I will put into this godforsaken garment) are to put on the other collar tie, figure out how to put some buttons at the keyhole neck to make it look like I did that on purpose and not because my zipper was too short, and to figure out a convincing way to make the skirt longer. I had considered inserting some piping from the top of the blouse and then another tier of the skirt fabric. I don’t think I have enough left of the blouse fabric to make even an unpiped insert. Just adding another tier will make it look dumb. Perhaps I’ll leave it short and just hem that mo-fo and call it done.

I think I’m coming down with something, too.

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Update 7: Hacked Off. It’s a Skirt.
Aside from these photos being evidence that you shouldn’t take photos indoors late at night (which is why my head is cut off cuz I look haggard), I think they do an okay job of showing what I’ve done here. Basically, ditched the idea of a blouse dress entirely and made it a pencil skirt with a row of pleating at the bottom to give it added length (necessary for work attire).

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What I did for the waistband was actually leave the belted part of the satin fabric attached and just cut off the blouse itself. It’s probably not going to win me any points at the Saanich Fair for finishing, but it is DONE. I don’t even know if I’m going to enter it at this point. I’ll decide tomorrow evening after reviewing what other items I have to present. That’s another blog post though.

Final Assessment:

I do like this gold fabric. It is good for shaping and holds a fold quite well. It’ll be a while before I get back to it to make the matching suit jacket though, because I’m a bit burned out on sewing from this. I think I’ll take a two week break … long enough to get the itch to sew again.

I think I like the finished garment. It’s good enough to wear to work and that’s what I wanted. It’ll look great with brown boots in the autumn and spring, and sandals in the summer. Hurray.

I’ve also learned that I should have a complete plan for a garment before I start whacking away at stuff. Plan twice, cut once.

It doesn’t look like I’m going to come up with nearly enough political topics to blog about on a regular basis, yet I also want to have a sewing blog. Rather than going to the unnecessary effort of setting up a completely new sewing blog I’m going to multi-purpose this one. I’ll create sub-pages to separate the topics in case there are people who are mortally offended by cross-pollination of politics and sewing.