Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Grown Up Macaron

One of the worries that I (and others that might fall into a "more mature" age bracket have), is that it's possible that certain patterns are too youthful. Several Colette Patterns might very well fall into this youthful category, but I think fabric choice can be the key to "age appropriate". The Macaron is one that might be too youthful, but you be the judge here:
(Please ignore the snow white legs. I bought these great grey tights, but just wasn't feeling the whole, get dressed for the photo shoot thing.)

Some details: the main fabric is a "almost black" Italian stretch wool herringbone, and the lining is black silk habotai, both from Gorgeous Fabrics. The contrast is the tie silk from Gail K's in Atlanta.

I made some changes, but it's been a while so let's see what I remember.
  • Added 1" to the bodice and 3/4" to the midriff piece.
  • Started with a size 6 or 8-ish at the shoulders and graded up to a 12-ish. I cut 1" seam allowances for the skirt on the size 12, but ended up sewing a 5/8", so maybe we'll call it a size 13.
  • Lengthened the skirt by 1-3/4" and had a 1" hem.
  • Fully lined, interlining the yoke pieces and lining the rest. I used the facings, too, for extra neckline stability. Bound the sleeve seams with bias cut contrast silk.
  •  Did not use the contrast fabric for the midriff, but instead used piping for a little definition. I think it makes me look taller and thinner (please leave me this delusion).
  • Finally, moved the zipper from the side to the back.
 I'm sure that I probably made some other tweaks to the fit of the bodice, but like I said, it's been awhile since I made the muslin. Oh, the sleeves. Yeah, they were a bitch to be honest. I'm not sure what it is about my arms and the way they connect to my body, but I've had some issues with patterns recently. Anyway, they turned out ok, but it must have been magic, or some supernatural sewing skills that I possess.

And look! Pockets!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Life's Thread

First, I want to say that I hope all had a merry Christmas if you are so inclined to celebrate. My holiday was memorable, but to say it was merry would not quite be true. I've debated about this post, and thought about it, and even woke up in the middle of the night "writing" it in my sleep. I just can't write more posts about sewing though as if all is well in my life when it simply isn't. So, let's rewind back to my last post.

That post was on December 16. Yep, the dress was almost finished. Actually, I've worked on it a little bit more, and it just needs to be hemmed. Fingers crossed, that will happen tomorrow, and pictures will follow. I'm loving the dress, and can't wait to share it with you. But then December 17 happened. Now, when you think about why a holiday might not be so happy, it seems perfectly acceptable to say that grandpa had a heart attack, or auntie had a stroke, and everyone would be sympathetic and sad. So, why is it so hard to talk about mental illness?

The thread of sewing has passed from my grandmother to mother to me, but I also have the thread of mental illness passed along the generations. Mental illnesses can be just as "inherited" as high cholesterol, some cancers, or blue eyes. And there is a stigma surrounding mental problems that has always bothered me, because somehow it makes me feel that I can't share a very significant part of my life. While I'm thankful that it is not me that I'm referring to, this time the thread struck so very close to my heart, as we had to admit our son to a psychiatric hospital on the 17th.

I won't go into all the details, because they aren't really mine to share. He was discharged 5 days later, and we are all still struggling with finding some answers and how best to help him. He is attending an outpatient program now, but all concerned are not sure that the particular program he is in is really the best fit. And here I thought finding the right college was hard.

Anyway, the focus of this blog will still be sewing and crafty projects, but the occasional update will happen. I think it's important that mental health issues can be discussed, just as we talk about other health issues. But you know, having a crafty sort of hobby can also be very therapeutic. I mentioned my new found hobby of knitting (remember the glowing ball of yarn?). Even more than sewing, knitting in its repetition and hand movement has proven to be extremely relaxing to me. If only I could convince Kyle to give it a try. He has started to play the piano again to help reduce some of his anxiety. (See kids, don't stop your lessons too soon... )

So, prayers and positive thoughts are always appreciated, and I'll find the camera soon and show off my dress and my almost sweater in a day or so!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Macaron Bodice

I'm almost finished... just need to construct the skirt lining, do some inner hand sewing on the lining, and hem. In the meantime, I thought I'd give a rundown on how I attached the yoke front to the bodice front. Basically, if you've sewn a princess seam, the technique is the same, otherwise known as the Right Side Together method (RST). That's my name for it anyway.

1. Stay stitch each piece just inside the 5/8" seam line. Do this for the lining, too, if you're lining.
2. Clip the yoke front seam allowance (SA) almost to the stitching, about 3 times on each curved section. Clip the bodice front and lining at the center.
3. On a flat surface, pin, RST with the yoke on top.
4. You can baste first, or just go for it and stitch. Slowly. If you are lining, then sandwich the bodice front/yoke front/lining, and stitch again. Important: DO NOT sew your lining all the way to the side seams, but stop about 3" from each side.
5. Cut some wedges from the seam allowance of the bodice front and lining to help it lay nice and flat.
6. Check your stitching. I needed to do a bit of ripping and resewing. It happens.
7. Press and admire!

Piping note: I used my invisible zipper foot and it worked out so well. The cording I used is super thin (I know that's the technical name). I think it's crochet thread, but I've had it at least 22 years, and used it to make piping for Peter Pan collars for Laura's smocked dresses when she was a baby. OK, I'm rambling.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Macaron -- Early Production Notes

Kind of a sneak peek here. I've been working on the Macaron, and wanted to share a few notes. First, the contrast fabric. I had already purchased a fabulous stretchy wool from Gorgeous Fabrics for the body, but felt like the yoke selection could make or break this dress. After browsing online, I really wanted to feel some fabric, and ended up at Gail K's, a local fabric institution. Ordinarily, you are completely ignored as you browse there, but this time, Gail (although not THE Gail K) almost immediately approached me. I had a swatch of the gray wool, and after explaining the design, she immediately led me to this:
It's silk. And you may be noticing that huge white flaw down the middle. Well, apparently, this is silk to make ties out of, and the owner must have gotten it for a song, because it was only $4/yard! And on top of that, everything in the store is 20% off til the end of the year. And it was a perfect match. But.

I think you get what you pay for. Or, it's just silk. Anyway, it moved and grooved all over and in the end, I used a Pro-Sheer elegance fusible interfacing on the yoke pieces to stabilize it.

Second. Biggest design change is moving the zipper from the side to the back. So, I constructed the back, and have inserted the invisible zipper. [Basically, the pattern instructions call for constructing the back and front bodice, then sewing the shoulder seams. I just went ahead and attached the skirt as well.

All pieces cut out and sorted.

Third. The pattern calls for the yoke and bodice sewn together in an interesting, flat, from the right side fashion. Kind of top stitched on, if you will. I did it more conventionally, right sides together, staystitching each piece, and clipping curves where necessary.
Fourth. I'm lining the whole thing. With silk apparently, but I'll have to confirm that. For the yoke, I'm simply underlining, basting the silk to silk, and treating it as one piece. I'll use a French seam for the shoulders. I'll explain how I'm doing the rest of the lining in another post.

Fifth. (I didn't really mean for this to get so long) The midriff piece in the original design is the contrast fabric, but I've decided to use the wool, and made piping from the yoke silk to outline. OK, I think that's it. Have a look:

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Department of Random

Well, checked in on my blog today, and what to my wondering eyes did I see, but 100 followers! Yippee!

I really do love my followers and their insightful and supportive comments. And I promised a giveaway, which I will do. Um, just not today. I can't even decide what to get my closest family members for Christmas, much less organize a giveaway for my favorite readers. But have patience, and it will happen.

I've been working on cutting out the Macaron pattern, but I've been distracted, so it's slower going than usual in the cutting out department. And yesterday, I felt compelled to bake. Not any gifts, mind you, but I'm going to blame Christine and her Sweet Treats Saturday feature on her delightful blog. If you click on Sweet Treats it will take you directly to her blog, and the recipe for the Brown Butter Toffee Blondies, which I followed faithfully (except for the walnuts, we don't like them too  much here). And this is what I got:
Guess who likes the gooey center pieces the best? Trust me, they are DE-licious!

And in cold weather news, those of you who live in real cold weather areas, please promise not to laugh. Well, ok, laugh if you must, but it's been snowing here in Atlanta today:
I can hear you laughing. ;-)

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Art of Muslining

Do you muslin? Is that even a verb? Back when I was a skinny, little thing I didn't. I just whacked away at the pattern, trusting the measurements on the envelope. But then much time past, and now that I'm "more mature" so to speak, my body has lumps and bumps and measurements that certainly fall across several size ranges as I go top to toe.

But having said that, I still resist, and I don't do it with every garment. The Mondo top... nope, no muslin. The Lady Grey coat, 3(!) muslins. Actually, I find that even though the lovely Colette Patterns are more "true to size" than the Big 4, I still cross the size ranges, AND the designs are more fitted, and they especially need to be muslined.

[And aside, since I'm on the subject, my idea of muslin is not to make it wearable. Oh, no. I think wearable muslin is a misnomer anyway. If you are making a garment out of some kind of fashion fabric, even cheap, expendable, fabric, and you have the idea that you might wear it out in public, then I call that simply practice, and it certainly has its place in sewing... I've done it, too.]

So, yeah. Here's the pattern that is up next:

And here's what the muslin looks like on me:
Kind of like an ill-fitting nurse's dress, truth be told. I was going to make it out of green satin and sequins, but the direction has totally changed now, and I think I'll surprise you. The point of this post is to say "reading" a muslin takes some practice. I'd say I'm an advanced beginner at this point. Some things I've learned:
  • First, check out Pattern Review to see what quirks others have discovered. Might save some time if you're looking out for a particular issue.
  • Cut out one size to start with and go from there. Did I do that? No.
  • I don't really have narrow shoulders, but rather the area under my neck and above the boobs, in between my arms, is kind of narrow.
  • Sleeve fit/armscye fit is really difficult. Even for pattern makers. This length looks right for me, but I'll have to add the hem.
  • Colette Patterns are notoriously short bodiced, and short in length.
  • Don't get obsessed. You can over fit a pattern.
  • This muslin is misleading. I have actually redone the front yoke to take into account the narrow chest issue.

And... I'm ready to cut. I'm not going to use the muslin as pattern. I am going to make the seam allowance of the skirt and the midriff pieces 1". My fashion fabric has a bit of stretch, but I want some leeway. I'm also going to put the zipper in the center back and not the side.

That's it. I learn a lot from each muslin I make, both about the garment construction and about my own shape. I can't wait to get started on this dress. Finally. Of course, there is all that pesky Christmas stuff that must be done this weekend, too, so I'm not sure how much sewing I'll get done.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Whoooo Doesn't Love...

... adorable little knitted owls? I just couldn't resist trying to knit one of these little owls that I saw when flipping through the Holiday 2010 issue of Knit Simple. Designed by Susan B. Anderson, this pattern was rated Intermediate, but I forged ahead with, what I think, was a pretty decent result. Sure, there are some pretty obvious flaws, but I still love the little guy. By the way, family, this book is on my wish list:

And without further adieu,

And I bought the coolest fabric today at the greatest price! Sharing soon...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Are You Sewing? Knitting? Shopping?

... or all 3? I'm doing all 3 right now, or should be anyway. I'm not really into the shopping this season, but suddenly I will be. Remember those lists I mentioned in the last post? I've made one! Who I'm buying for... but the "bought" column is suspiciously blank. I'll get to it. Really, I will!

And the sewing? I'm on my second muslin of the Colette Pattern Macaron. I did the first muslin way back at the beginning of October, so picking it up this weekend, I had kind of forgotten some of the things I wanted to change. Nevertheless, a couple more tweaks and I'll be ready to start.

But remember the glowing ball of yarn? I really made it into something, and gave it away as a gift. To a knitter! I know that sounds crazy, but wait, there's more! I even felted it! With a front load washing machine! So, if you don't know about felting, basically, you knit something up out of 100% wool, and then shrink it in the washing machine. I've done it accidently to one of Roland's beloved sweater vests. Oops. And according to instructions for felting, you need a top loading washer so that you can stop and check the felting process.

But I don't have one. After searching around the interwebs, I found a blog, Fiber Geekery,  that gave me hope (and some instructions). Back to the beginning though. First, I followed a pattern in this book:
The pattern is to make a felted knitting needle case, and includes some sewing! I ended up first with this:
The finished measurements were what was required, but I didn't knit nearly as many rows as was in the pattern. I think I should have gone for all the rows, and not worry too much about the measurements.

Then I put it in a zippered pillowcase, and threw it in the washer with 9 tennis balls and 2 towels. I used my quick wash cycle on hot with a cool rinse, and no spinning. It took 3 cycles to get the desired effect, and even though it turned out a little smaller than I wanted, like Tim Gunn advises... I made it work.

felted piece, with a wooden button from Australia

 inside view, batik fabric plus 3 rows of pockets

 rolled up

More sewing, knitting AND even some shopping (which I won't be able to show you yet) to come. Have a great week!

Friday, December 3, 2010

List Making Season

Did you hear? It's the Holiday Season! And if you don't do it any other time of year, this is the time that making lists seems to be the most important! Full disclosure: while I'd love to be all inclusive, I celebrate Christmas, so this post will be skewed toward that point of view. Simply substitute Christmas with the holiday that you celebrate.

So, back to the lists. There are Christmas card address lists that will need updating, gift lists, wish lists, menus and grocery lists galore. Calendars that need updating with parties and events. So much to do! And I have not even made the first list yet... but I can't say I haven't been warned:


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