Monday, January 28, 2013

Jamie Shift Dress in Alabama Chanin Style

I have completed my entry dress for the BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern Contest. It took only one and a half weeks of nap-time and bedtime sewing. Given what was involved from start to finish, I am surprised that I completed it so quickly!
  • First, the pattern was traced and cut (my least favorite part).  From the original pattern, I omitted the facings and instead used a double layer of jersey fabric; blue for the top and cream underneath. I also omitted the back zipper and instead used a six inch slit and hook and eye closure.
  • The top fabric was painted with the Angie's Fall stencil with fabric paint and allowed to dry overnight.
  • Next, I began hand stitching around the shape using running and reverse back stitches leaving the thread tails and knots visible on the right side of the fabric.
  • I then, hand beaded sequins and seed beads inside the shapes. This process is completely new to me and I think I did a fair job of it. I learned some "what not to dos", but all in all I am happy with it.

  • The dress was then hand sewn together, then the side and shoulder seams felled to the wrong side and sewn.
  • Finally, I bound the neck and arm holes securing them with a herringbone stitch.
 It is fun and flirty and I think it is too cute!

The contest deadline has been extended to February 15th, so there is still time for you to get your entry in!

Happy Sewing

Sunday, January 27, 2013

New Embroidery with Vintage Patterns Contest

I first picked up an embroidery needle when I was ten years old. It was a school project where I embroidered a pink flower on a grey pillowcase. It was a satisfying project that I enjoyed, but for some reason, I never kept it up. I believe, it would be twenty three years before I would  pick up an embroidery needle again. I was at a neighborhood garage sale and purchased a bag of floss, needles and a dream. I could not remember how to begin, but knew with the internet abounding with tutorials, I would figure it out and that's what I did. Over the years, I have found patterns and transfers in thrift stores and stitched for family and friends.

In keeping with my goal to participate in more contests and expand my sewing skills, I have entered another one. The Flickr group New Embroidery with Vintage patterns is hosting it and it looks like fun! Here are the categories from their discussion board:


As always, you can stitch on anything you want. For example: a tea towel, hankie, napkins, apron, clothing, pillowcase, quilt block, curtains, art canvas, felt, etc....You will only be "judged" on the embroidery, not the actual item the embroidery is part of.

New Year, New You - Choose any vintage embroidery pattern that you feel captures the meaning and spirit of one of your new year's resolutions or something you hope to accomplish this year.

New Year, New Stitches- This category is for specifically for showing off your fancy stitches! And by "fancy stitches" I mean (1) using an abundance of fill stitches so there is hardly any bare/exposed fabric inside your embroidery AND/OR (2) learning and using a variety of new, unusual and/or exotic stitches in your embroidery. You may use any vintage embroidery pattern of your choice.
Please click here to go to an amazing collection of free videos to teach yourself some new and "fancy" stitches.

New Year, New/Old Mixed Media with Stitches - This category is specifically for combining "media" with any vintage embroidery pattern of your choice. Entries in this category should have a significant amount of mixed media incorporated into their embroidery. Examples of "media" to add to your embroidery include sequins, buttons, home improvement hardware, fabric, decorative papers, random and surprising found objects, etc.... You may use any vintage embroidery pattern of your choice.
Please see this gallery for inspiration and examples of mixed media with embroidery.

After reading the rules I headed to my transfer stash to choose my entry.

1950's Vogart transfers.

1980's Keepsake Transfers

F C and A mail-order transfers from the late 1980's and early 1990's

Girl in the sewing basket

I  found this adorable girl in a basket of sewing notions in the 1980's Keepsake Collection book. I thought immediately that it suits the first contest category of   "New Year, New You". I want to be more intentional about the projects to which I devote my time. I love the idea of diving into my sewing basket. The idea of stitching this up for the sake of the contest left me with the question of what to do with it after? I thought it would be cute to use the finished image as the face of a clock to hang in my sewing room. 

I bought this promotional clock from the Forgotten Angles thrift store for $1 and the plan is coming together. Now, time to get stitching! The contest ends in two weeks!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern Contest

As part of my resolution to sew things that challenge me, I have entered a few sewing contests, sew-a-longs and sewing challenges. To start things off  I am currently working on an entry for the BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern Contest (see rules on their site). They just released the book and are hosting a contest which involves making or modifying one of the garments featured in the book. So with very limited information about the patterns and designs, I ordered the book and planned to simply choose a style I like and enter the contest.

 The book came in the mail and I quickly identified my top contenders for entries.
The Jamie Shift Dress from the 1960's

The Margaux Evening Dress from the 1970's

I love the 1960s mod fashion. This little shift is short, cute and totally fun. I see a lot of potential to embellishing this very simple style. In my skimming of the book I was also immediately drawn to the Bohemian look of the Margaux Evening dress. I really liked the wrap bodice, billowy sleeves and the maxi length.

Which would I choose for the contest?  I thought it would be a difficult decision until I took out the included patterns. One thing you should know about me is I HATE cutting patterns out of the paper. I find it to be the most tedious part of sewing.  I am sure everybody has their sewing albatross and this part is definitely mine.  What I hate even more than cutting out patterns is also having to trace the patterns out before I cut. No matter how fabulous the book, I really battle my desire to make the item with my willingness to trace and cut.

In this  book you have to trace of all of the pattern pieces before you begin to cut and construct a garment.  I guess I should have known this since it is a BurdaStyle book, but I overlooked it in my excitement. So, I could choose to cut out the dress I really love, the multiple piece Margaux evening dress, or I could cut the second choice with four pattern pieces. Given the deadline, I chose to make the Jamie shift dress and will make the other at a later time.

The contest lists three entry options:

Option One: Make a creation using one or more master pattern(s) from the BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern book.

Option Two: Create one or more variation project(s) featured in the BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern book, which are based on the master patterns featured in the book.

And the one I chose:

Option Three: Create your own variation project using one or more master pattern(s) and/or variation project(s) from the BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern book.

The Jamie shift dress has a very simple shape. I thought it would work very well hand sewn in the Alabama Chanin style. For my design choices I decided  to use the Angie's Fall stencil and embellish it heavily. I chose to use a baby blue jersey fabric for the outer layer and a cream jersey for the under layer. I chose to use black fabric paint and a mix of beads and silver sequins. The designs are sewn using slate colored button and craft thread with the knots exposed on the right side of the fabric.  The reverse back stitch and running stitches are used.  Fortunately, I had the stencil cut from previous uses so I was able to get to the painting of the fabric and begin the embellishments.

Angie's Fall stencil cut from pennant felt

 So, during multiple nap times and bed times I have been hand sewing.

Adding beads to the dress.
 I am excited about the progress I have made!

Utterly, Completely, Totally Obsessed beyond all reason with Alabam Chanin sewing.

A year ago my mother-in-law gave me the book Alabama Studio Sewing and Design. I added it to my amazon wishlist because it was a sewing book and I liked what I saw in the preview. I really had no idea how much I would love the process of slow-stitching  and completely constructing garments by hand from start to finish. Natalie Chanin's design concept uses 100% organic cotton and all hand-stitched and richly embroidered with applique, reverse applique, intricate bead work, ribbon embroidery and various knot techniques. Her designs are available for purchase as customizable garments on her website Alabama Chanin. The garments are made to order and to your specifications. The garments are expensive and at first glance may seem outlandish. If you consider what goes into each piece, you will see why they are worth so much.

If paying $300 for a skirt or $3400 for a dress is too much for you, how about you make your own! She does the fabulously unthinkable thing of giving her fans all the tools to build their Alabama Chanin wardrobe at a fraction of the cost  in her three books. She provides the patterns, the stencil artwork for download, the sewing techniques and inspiration for you to begin the slow and satisfying process.
Alabama Chanin sewing books

I have since purchased the other books and dived in. I have traced patterns, cut stencils, painted fabric, and sewn and sewn and sewn. Here is a sampling of what I have made using her techniques.

With all the details required for her garments, I thought I would start my projects small and began making the uber cute bolero from her third book. I used the spiral applique technique and the herringbone stitch. It was so satisfying to make this and I worn it a great deal last summer.

Spiral Bolero front

Spiral Bolero Back

 After constructing the bolero, a few skirts, and a couple of failed projects, I decided to tackle a dress or two. I thrifted some lovely tan jersey fabric from the local Value Village and used some plum jersey from my stash. I used the paisley stencil and tank dress pattern from Alabama Studio Sewing and Design. I made this dress in a single layer and am happy with it because of the Texas heat, but I think I prefer the heft of a double layer garment.
Alabama Chanin Paisley Tank Dress

Detail of the skirt

Detail of the herringbone stitch on the neck and arm bindings.
This dress took a month to make and I relished the slow progress as I went along, but boy was I glad I didn't decide on an all over design. I wanted it to be done so I could wear it! I am very happy with the end result and am so ready to move onto the next project.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Vogue 1314

Vogue 1314

Pattern Description:
Pullover, close-fitting, lined dress has draped sides and narrow hem.
Pattern Sizing:
(6-14) (14-22) This was a straight size 12 with no alterations!

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Yes, I guess.

Were the instructions easy to follow?
Instructions were excellent to follow.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?

I liked the detailed instructions. I liked that there was a separate lining pattern with bust darts.
I disliked that the gathers were not as pronounced as I had hoped across the front. My fabric is super soft and stretchy, so that may be why.

Fabric Used:
It is a stretchy knit the contents of which I don't know, but it is butter soft and feels great on my skin. It was a clearance fabric from Joann's fabric. I liked it so much I bought some in blue for another dress.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
Yes, and yes. I plan on using a sturdier knit to try to get the gathered affect better. I live in Texas, so I think I will also make it in a sleeveless or  a ¾ sleeve version. This would work great as a maternity dress (not that I have any plans to need one!).

I like the designer and I like this dress. I have been stretching my sewing skills by trying patterns that appear intimidating. This is an "easy" pattern, so in terms of difficulty, this does not fit the bill. It does stretch me in that it is not my usual style because it is so clingy. I am glad I made it!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Review of Vogue 1312

I fell in love with Vogue 1312 and had to make it! I loved the full seamed skirt, and an opportunity to tackle my sewing nemesis, the invisible zipper and lining. Turned out this was a great project for giving the appearance of difficulty, but was surprisingly easy to make given the impact of the finished dress.

Vogue 1312

Here is my review submitted to

Pattern Description:
From the pattern envelope: Pullover dress has close-fitting, self-lined bodice, raised waist, seamed skirt, stitched hem and invisible side zipper.

Pattern Sizing:
Muti-sized pattern: B5 (8-10-12-14-16) and F5 (16-18-20-22-24) I cut my dress in a size 14.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?

Were the instructions easy to follow?
The Vogue instructions were easy to follow.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I like the unique skirt of this dress. It is easy to put together, but there are no bust darts in the bodice which I missed. (I feel like I could have made the 12 everywhere but the highest point of my bust. I feel that darts may have helped. I am a nursing mom, so that is probably more a function of my body and not the pattern.)

Fabric Used:
I used a cotton/ poly blend for the dress. It was a denim colored broadcloth that I bought on sale at Joann's fabric.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
Yes and Yes!. Even though it is a unique dress, I wouldn't mind making one in a knit without the zipper in a smaller size. I am 5'8, so I think I would add about 5 inches to make it a maxi dress. I am also thinking of converting it to a skirt.

Great dress to sew and wear. The zipper installation was super easy as were the instructions for the lining.

New Year, New Goals

Welcome to my world of sewing, crafting and all things do it yourself.

I have been busy, busy, busy with sewing projects and challenges as we begin 2013. I love to sew and have been pushing myself to increase the quality and reduce the quantity of my sewing projects. With two rambunctious kids running around, I sometimes rush to complete a project to check it off my list of things to do. It is good to have tangible proof of accomplishments when the days are marked by diaper changes and penmanship practice. I have however, ended up with a closet full of uninspired, ordinary, clothing. So tomix things up, I will be chronicling my journey in raising my sewing bar to create projects that I love, challenge me and teach new skills. Join me!