Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Hawaii: Best Vacation Ever!

My husband and I recently took a trip of a lifetime to Oahu.  The eight days just flew by while we relaxed at Waikiki Beach and Hanauma Bay, took romantic walks along the beach, watched dolphins, went kayaking and snorkeling, toured movie locations, ate wonderful food, sipped pina coladas under palm trees, and made friends for life.

Look how clear the water is.
Verdant scenery
View from the condo

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Little Black Dress

New Look 6886 
Pattern Description: This pattern features a flared skirt and simple back bodice (free of darts) which I love. These are the original elements of the pattern. 

The front bodice and back shoulder area are from Simplicity 2337 and the sweetheart neckline is from New Look 6723.
Pattern Sizing: 8-18. I graded down to size 6.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? The parts that I did use, yes.

Were the instructions easy to follow? I really didn't refer to them, since this was a frankenpattern dress.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? The skirt has just the right amount of flare without being too full; and there are no gathers or darts to mess with.

Fabric Used: Black stretch cotton sateen, lined with plum stretch satin.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I shortened the skirt by about 4 inches.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes, and yes.

Conclusion: This is a well-drafted pattern with many different elements to draw from.

The Improved Starlet Jacket

Vogue 1132

Pattern Description: Semi-fitted, lined jacket has princess seams, collar and lapels, and shaped hem.

Pattern Sizing: BB(8-10-12-14), FF(16-18-20-22). I started with size 8 and graded down to size 4, for the most part.

Fabric Used: Maggy London Paris Pink basket weave textured cotton suiting, lined with with Vera Wang silk check in pale pink. I dip dyed the lining for an ombre' effect to add visual interest to the inside of the jacket.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? As much as can be expected, considering the changes I made.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I rounded the corners on the collar and lapel and added an additional button to the center front to raise the neckline. I shortened the sleeves to ¾ length and I tapered them quite a bit. The original design features a "gored back (back is longer than front)" which verges on a bustle, 

so I toned it down to more of a peplum. The look I wanted was close to Gertie's Starlet jacket, but with more of flared peplum. This is a happy medium between the two.

Were the instructions easy to follow? I didn't refer to them. I mainly followed the instructions in Jackets for Real People for the basics, including drafting and glue-basting back stay made of muslin.

 I also implemented the lapel wedge

and floating chest shield

per Marci Tilton's article on  Armani jackets.   I also taped the roll line and drafted my own lining pattern per Judy Barlup's tips.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I like the shoulder princess seams, and the stylish silhouette. The one-piece sleeve with elbow dart is a nice change from the tailored two-piece sleeves I've been sewing.

Would you sew it again? Yes; it was fast and easy to sew as far as jackets go, and I have some gray silk suiting lined up for it. Would you recommend it to others? Yes. This is a great pattern which can be easily modified to achieve the look of Gertie's Starlet Jacket, without having to deal with the poor drafting of her actual pattern.

Conclusion: This pattern is well drafted and has timeless style.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Starlet Jacket Attempt

Pattern Sizing:  0-16

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?  It actually looks worse.

Were the instructions easy to follow?  The instructions are via video accessed through Craftsy, but the presentation of the steps is not as well thought out as it could be.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? The drafting is very odd.  There is a lack of curves compared with other patterns:  the neck line is very shallow and the armscye is more of an angle than a natural curve.  

Fabric Used:  Maggy London Paris Pink basketweave textured cotton suiting.  I got this fabric on sale for $1 a yard, so I had plenty to use for muslins.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:  I didn't bother with the armhole princess seams in the bodice; I sewed shoulder princess seams since these fit my hollow chest area much better.  I did use the collar pattern and lapel shape, but the results, as you can see from the picture, screams Goofy, not Pluto, but Goofy!  Needless to say, I stopped while I was behind and moved on to an established pattern.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?  No, no, no.

Conclusion:  I have yet to see a decent version of this jacket.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Ombre: To Dye For

For some reason, I used to think that "ombre" was something mysterious, relegated to couturiers and high-end designers.  Little did I know that it is simply color gradation achieved through simple dip dyeing.  I got the basic instructions through the Rit Dye website, and added my own perfectionist-tendency engineering.

Supplies:  Dishpan, measuring cup, metal spoon, liquid dye, salt, dishwashing liquid, rope, and brick.

 I used the rope to suspend the garment over a shower rod; rotating the brick a quarter turn provided even intervals of gradation.  The garment needs to be dampened before dyeing, so I did a test run with just water to get a feel for the process.

I timed the intervals about 10 minutes apart.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Antebellum Style

I promised my sister I would post these additional pictures, so here they are--better late than never.

This was the most interesting item to me.  It's a pair of crotchless bloomers.  I had heard that Southern belles would squat and pee under their full skirts and their slaves would clean up the floor after them.
Here's a close-up view.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Antebellum Sewing

During our vacation on St. George Island, my husband and I drove to nearby Apalachicola, Florida and toured the antebellum home of Thomas Orman, a prominent businessman who was key in developing the area into a major cotton shipping port. It's a vintage home after my own heart, with not just one but two sewing areas, one on each floor.

The downstairs sewing area

The upstairs sewing area 

 featured an assortment of vintage buttons and needles,

along with an old sewing book which was like eye candy for me.


Beside the fireplace, there was a tiny sewing machine and a toy iron, along with other toys. 

Unlike other historical homes, we were free to explore the house on our own and touch and photograph items as we pleased.  It's rare to be able to get up close to see seam finishes on period clothing like this.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Sewing Class Review: Sew Retro The Starlet Suit Jacket

Unlike Gretchen's first Craftsy course, this one leaves much to be desired.  The whole premise seems silly to me, presenting two different methods, hand tailoring and fusible, each on half of the same jacket.  It would have been so much better to complete a whole jacket one way and a separate jacket the other way, side by side, from start to finish, instead of trying to lazily cram it all into one Frankenstein garment.  The sequence of steps is severely compromised, which can lead to confusion and frustration, as evidenced in the questions and comments posted.

I believe the purpose is to contrast and compare the old-fashioned, labor-intensive, time-consuming method with the more modern, faster approach in the end product.  However, this is never really accomplished, as the video ends with the buttons being sewn on the jacket, and the completed garment is never seen, except for a couple of quick shots added in as an afterthought, of Gertie flashing it over a Craftsy logo T-shirt.  I suspect this was a wadder, since the actual jacket is not showcased along with the other suits or displayed on a badge like the bombshell dress was.

I was not impressed with the quality of the information contained in the video.  Rather than an expert teaching from years of mastering the subject, it's more like an intermediate seamstress exploring techniques she read in old books and magazines; and the methods presented are not necessarily the best, easiest, or most efficient ones out there.  For example, the patch method used for bound buttonholes is cumbersome and requires endless manipulation to form the lips by hand.  Gertie references an alternate method on her blog, but a far better tutorial can be found in Jackets for Real People.

The lesson on attaching the collars and facings is especially convoluted, with starting and stopping a seam several times (supposedly for better control).  This could have been executed more effectively by simply basting and then sewing it all in one pass.  In this same section, it's almost painful to watch as Gertie presses the curved collar open on a point presser (the collar has no point or straight edge like a traditional shirt collar); she really needs a June Tailor board for this task.  She mentions a contour pressing board generically, and someone posted a question asking for more information about it, but the question remains unanswered.

The only useful bit I gleaned from the class was having the process of pad stitching being demonstrated live rather than in two-dimensional textbooks.  I'm still not a convert as to the value of such a practice, especially when I am satisfied with the results achieved through the lapel wedge.

The pattern included in the class is crudely drafted.  The curves on the collar and under collar don't match, not because one is supposed to be slightly smaller to favor the seam, but because the lines are just wonky.  The same applies to the front facing and jacket front.

Overall, I was disappointed in the class; it's simply not as well-done as the bombshell class.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Royal Dresses of Princess Diana

I recently attended the Southern Women's Show in Nashville, just to see the special display of Diana's dresses.  I was disappointed that there were only five dresses in the show, and the lighting was rather dim.  The sleeved dresses seemed dowdy and dated to me.

 The Travolta Dress that she wore to dance with John.
The Burgundy Tailcoat

The Dynasty Di Dress

The Cream and Pink Sequin

The Black Halter