Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Lace Hem Tunic

Recently, I have been doing a lot of sewing for other people. Garment and costume construction, alterations for weddings, and sewing holiday gifts for friends and family. At every opportunity Little Miss, is in my studio sorting buttons and choosing patterns and playing in my fabric. She is eager to learn to use a machine, but until then she wants to know, "What are you going to make for me?" 

I have a long list of sewing for her including a dress for her and her dolls. I needed a quick project to show her some love before I got to sewing more elaborate pieces. I choose to make a tunic using Mccalls 6827.
I like this pattern because it was so fast to whip up and I was able to use scraps from other garments (This fact unfortunately, reinforces my hoarding of scraps!).  Here are pictures of Little Miss in the dress and a pattern review follows.

Side Lace Inset


Pattern Description: CHILDREN'S/GIRLS' TOPS AND LEGGINGS: Pullover tops have sleeve and hemline variations (wrong side may show), and narrow hem. A and B: tie ends. C: pocket. D: side panels. Leggings have elastic waist and stitched hems. Elasticized two-piece sleeves A and knees E:

Pattern Sizing: 2-5, I made a 5. I think I could have gotten away with the 4 easily for a perfect fit.

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

Were the instructions easy to follow? They were very easy.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I liked how quick it was to sew. My daughter loves the lace hemline.

Fabric Used: A grey ponte knit and a cotton lace for the hem inset.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: The sleeves of the 5 were too long for her so I hemmed them deeper than suggested.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I will definitely sew this again. Little Miss has chosen her fabric for the next one. I like the other tops in this pattern and will make the leggings as well.

Conclusion: This was really fast and easy to make. The contrast hem adds a small detail that implies more effort than it took. 

Happy Sewing,

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme Costume

A friend came to me in distress over her 5-year old daughter's school assignment. She had to choose any character from a Mother Goose nursery rhyme and come to school dressed in that costume. They needed my help and I was happy to oblige. With all of the typical little girl options like Bo Peep, Little Miss Muffet, Jill and Old Mother Hubbard,  I expected to make a pretty dress. I was delightfully wrong. She wanted to be the clock from Hickory Dickory Dock!

My first thought was, let's paint a cardboard box and call it Christmas! Turns out, that would not do because she would wear it all day and would not be able to sit in cardboard. It would need to be fabric, but still maintain the shape of a wooden object. I did not know how to begin, but I was intrigued by figuring it out.

I was doubtful I would find a pattern so I decided to make one. After ruling out cardboard I quickly ran to Kroger and grabbed a few brown paper bags. With my "Little Miss" as a stand in, I got to work.

Trying a template
Pattern pieces cut
After drafting the pattern, I cut the fabric for the body and the accents like the clock face, pendulum and the mouse.


Clock face and body

I added stiffer felt to the back of the clock top to help it stay up.
The costume is made in two parts with a body and a head piece. I stitched most of the costume using my serger. It gives a clean finish to the seams, is faster than my sewing machine and with the differential feed does not warp the felt as it was sewed. When I used my machine to sew the accents, I used a 4mm stitch length. The head piece has a cardboard platform to stay flat and an elastic strap to stabilize it under her chin.

I used purchased numbers for the clock numbers and made a little mouse to run down the clock at 1 o'clock.

Here is the delighted darling in her completed costume. She and her mom were delighted with the end result with one exception. I was told that I missed a crucial detail...

The mouse needs a piece of cheese! That is why she ran up the clock in the first place, right? I quickly ran to my studio, made some cheese and was told it was now "perfect". Could I ask for anything more?

Happy Sewing!

Friday, January 24, 2014

New Alabama Chanin Collection! Nude is not a color.

**************Update October 18, 2014***************

The use of "Nude" as a color descriptor at Alabama Chanin has changed. The new color is "Ballet". I am not sure when the change occurred, but I am glad to see that it has happened.


When I originally  saw the new Alabama Chanin Collection I loved it. This post originally raved about it with photos and praise. I later spent more time looking at the collection and reading the descriptions.

The Magdalena Gustav coat is one of the many garments "available and shown here in 'nude'". It is rather disappointing to see such a narrow color description. After a week of supportive Civil Rights Movement and MLK posts in their journal, this racially exclusive description saddens me. It put a pin in my  earlier enthusiasm about the collection. This is not a universally nude color and seeing it described there as such makes me feel like these garments are not meant for me, a person of color.  When that is added to the price, it further draws a line under who these designs are for. Perhaps simply calling it beige, sand, taupe, light toast, might be less insensitive? I wonder how a Caucasian person would feel to see a chocolate brown dress coded as "nude".

I am not one to throw stones and hide. So, I optimistically wrote the company, and hoped that they will make a change to this descriptor. After an insufficient response from a staffer, I sent a follow-up message and finally received a detailed follow-up message from Natalie Chanin herself who acknowledged the inappropriate name, but has no plans to correct it based on the way business works. The specifics of her response were surprisingly dismissive and hurtful. It broke my heart.

Based on her response I wrote a detailed explanation of why I am pulling my support for the company (something she invited me to do). It included references from my graduate education in Conflict Analysis and Resolution and my years as an Equal Employment Opportunity, Sexual Harassment Investigator. It touched on white privilege, institutionalized racism and personal responsibility to change things.  In the end, I decided not to post it. It is unnecessary to intellectualize concepts that should be so basic. My response to it all is to simply say: I will no longer support this company. We have vastly different views on the appropriate response to racial bias and exclusion.  

I am very proud of the work I have done to this point using their patterns and stencils; I have learned much.  I have a hard time however, "loving my thread" and investing extensive time and money in this company moving forward.  I will not direct my hard earned money to a company that devalues my essence. You may not see me, but I see you. Luckily for those of us who enjoy hand-sewing, there are many other patterns, stencils and sources of fabric from which to choose.

Happy (inclusive, sensitive, considerate) Sewing,

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

My Sewing Retreat: Chevron Back Tunic

My super fantastic husband sent me away on a self-defined sewing retreat! He booked a great hotel for four days and three nights and promised to keep the kids alive while I was gone. Oh, the thought of waking on my time, eating what I want and not having to share, and having the entire bed to myself was divine! What a great gift! I love you, see you in a week! Oh wait, I mean, see you in four days!

I packed my serger, my machine, some patterns and fabrics.  I pretty much took a mini sewing studio without clutter! 

Sewing area

Some of what I hoped to make

Patterns I bought on the way out of town ;)
I will write about the many things I made in future blog posts, but today I will review my chevron back tunic made using Vogue 8962. I made two of these on day one!

 Here is B.I.R.A in the finished tunic.

Pattern Description from Pattern: 
Pullover top has yoke back, bias back extending to side front, no side seams, and shaped hemline, wrong side shows.
Pattern Sizing: 8-16, I made the 10

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

Were the instructions easy to follow? 
Super easy!
What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? 

I really like the look of the chevron stripes in the back. I love the large and loose cowl neckline and the curved hemline. I am not crazy about the shaping in the front. I know horizontal stripes make you look wider, and I think the angled front is supposed to minimize that effect. I feel that the angle may taper to a tummy pooch. I made two and plan to make more, so this is not a deal breaker, but I would have been happy with straight sides.

Fabric Used:
A rib knit in a narrow stripe for the muslin 

and a lace and jersey stripe that has a bolder stripe for the actual.

Right sides together matching stripes.
Both fabrics have more stretch than the pattern suggests, but I really liked the fabrics so I was willing to take my chances. I needed 2 ¼ yards of fabric 60 inch to match my stripes. I found it easiest to match them right sides together using one cut side as the pattern. Starting at the bottom stripe, I shifted the fabric to the left to the next stripe until they were all aligned. I pinned aggressively then cut it out. From there I took it right to my machine to sew.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:

I did all of my sewing on my serger with the exception of the hems which I stitched using my machine and a twin needle.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?

I will definitely sew this again! I want to try with a ponte knit stripe (2-way stretch) as suggested. I may experiment with color-blocking or a contrast cowl.
I loved the pattern image and am super pleased with my result especially my stripe alignment! My preference is for a bolder stripe over the thinner stripes. The thicker stripes were also much easier to align.

Here is B.I.R.A in the finished muslin

Check back this week for more projects from my retreat. I have an Alabama Chanin shirt for my husband, another tunic, a pair of pants and a retro dress.

Happy Sewing,

Monday, January 13, 2014

Beading Woes and Wins in my Anna's Garden Poncho

Oh the troubles of beading an Alabama Chanin piece. The dilemma comes from finding a needle that is large enough to accommodate the thickness of the button and craft thread but narrow enough to fit through the bugle and seed beads. In the past I have found needles that work but I lost the package and didn't know what type they were  when I needed to replace them. 

I did some research and asked around on Craftsy for suggestions for good needles. I got suggestions for big eye needles. 

They have a collapsible eye and a narrow body to fit the beads. These work great in that they accommodated the button and craft thread easily, however because they were so flimsy they would bend and made the process very slow going. 

I then switched to the Sullivan's beading needles. They were thin enough to accommodate the seed beads but the eye was too small. I ended up using another needle to enlarge the eye and it worked for a time. The problem with this needle though was that going through the layers of jersey fabric, over time it would begin to arc and bend. This made for a slow process is well forcing me to stitch one running stitch and bead at a time.

I asked Dr. Fun what type of needles she was using and she pointed me in the direction of the Dritz Milliners needles. When I went to the fabric store though I forgot if she said embroidery or milliners. So, after debating for quite a while, I decided to go with the embroidery needles because the eye was  larger and the body of the needle is really narrow. I figured if I got it wrong I'd be back at the store if I needed to replace them.

Turns out the size 5 embroidery needle was perfect!  The steel is firm and the needle is short so it allows me to be easily work through the fabric without the needle arcing.  This needle allowed me to stitch a beaded back-stitch as opposed to a single running stitch every time.  It is hard to explain the difference, but in the time it took me to do one shape with the wobbly needles I was able to complete three shapes with the firmer needle.

My husband put some compression sewing gloves  in my Christmas stocking.

Compression Glove with double-sided tape as my beading glove.
I put them, and my needles too good use on my new poncho. With this poncho, I used a tan top layer stenciled with brown airbrush paint using the Anna's garden stencil and a white under layer. I used three types of beads in color combinations of white, silver,  and clear iridescence.

My label on scrap jersey.
I chose to use reverse applique in random shapes while leaving some shapes unstitched and unbeaded. 
Front on my custom dress form
I am sure to return to this piece over time, adding more beads and stitches. For now, I am happy with it. 

Happy Sewing,

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Alabama Chanin Long Paisley Dress WIP

Now that I have completed my Anna's Garden Short Dress I am ready to move onto another Alabama Chanin project. Next up on my list is this long paisley dress from Alabama Studio Sewing and Design. I fell in love with it the first time I saw it, but at $2800 it is out of my reach. I knew I had to make it when I had an occasion to wear it. I have two weddings this year, one in March and one in July. I hope to have this one done for March.

Alabama Chanin Maxi
This will be a daunting task as this is a fully embellished dress. I am hopeful that  because it is a large format stencil it will go quickly. I made my paisley stencil in a process I explain here. For this project, I made it with three sheets of pennant felt because I wanted the airbrush process to go faster.

Stencil ready for airbrushing

Dress laid out

My trigger airbrush.
I recently upgraded my airbrush to this trigger model.  I love this mechanism with the lower pull trigger. My former top pull model made my finger cramp when I sprayed for too long. I find I spray faster and smoother with this new one.

Covering the already stenciled parts.
In the photo above, you can see that I used the mail box and felt sheet to cover the already airbrushed portion of the dress. By covering the previously stenciled area I can get really close to the painted areas without large gaps. The top layer is a tan jersey and the lower layer is also a similar tan with a bit more white in it.

One of four panels 

The stitching has begun.
So, I am chugging along and will keep you posted on how it goes.

Happy Sewing!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

My Alabama Chanin Short Fitted Tank Dress is Complete!

Since Competing this dress, I have pulled my support of the Alabama Chanin company. The contents of this post were true at the time. I am very proud of the work I did on this dress. I guess it is like the way you love your children after a divorce. I have entered it in the Sew Stylish Spring Fashion Challenge. Here is a photo of me in the dress for my entry:

I can hardly believe I hand-embellished and-stitched this entire dress! I feel like I did after delivering my kids, glad I embarked on the journey, thrilled with the result, physically and emotionally exhausted and fairly certain I will not consider taking on the task again for a least a year! This has been quite a journey which I have written about here. I have also written a detailed pattern review here.

Cretan Stitch on neckline and arms.

My custom dress label

My label says,"This hand-sewn garment was made with love and care just for you. It took FOREVER to make so please cherish it as long. Hand wash, dry flat, medium iron." :)

I would love to know what you think!

Happy New Year and Happy Sewing!