Friday, October 30, 2009

Project #271- Twist Front Shirt



I finished my third piece for the wardrobe contest, a twisted knit shirt from Butterick 5429. The pattern, unlike the picture, sews up pretty loose, so I ended up taking out a few inches on the sides and front to get a more flattering fit.

The fabric I used for this shirt is a wonderful double knit cotton. It's thick enough not to show my bra and but comfy and sporty. I want this fabric in every color.

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posted by Alison 10/30/2009 10:52:00 PM : (2) comments : splink


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Project #270 - Box-Pleated Skirt



The key to making almost any kind of zippered skirt without buying pattern after pattern is to start with a well fitted yoke. The yoke is the upper part of a skirt that fits over the hips. You can attach many, many kinds of skit to that (ruffled, pleated, flared, tiered, A-line, etc...) and each time end up with something that fits perfectly. Usually, I'll pull a yoke off of a skirt I like and then use that over and over again. Today's yoke comes from one of my favorite Japanese pattern books. The skirt attached to it is box-pleated and has a black bottom border. I made it to wear while giving blood tomorrow, the colors are Halloween festive.



The pieces for this skirt are pretty simple: four yoke pieces (front, back, front facing and back facing), a big rectangle for the skirt cut to the width of the fabric, and a skinnier rectangle for the border, plus a zipper for the side.

The skirt construction is pretty straightforward.

  • First, I attached the border to the skirt, folding over the border in half and sewing it to itself at the skirt-border seam line to form the hem. I left a little folded over border facing open at the edges so that I could hide the side seam when I sewed the whole thing together.
  • After that, I sewed my back and front yoke pieces together on one side.
  • Next, I box pleated the skirt to the size of the yoke (spacing evenly) and basted the pleats in place.
  • Then I attached the skirt to the yoke, leaving one side open. I then sewed that side shut, using basting stitches for the upper 8 inches so I could add my zipper.
  • Lastly, I sewed in the zipper


I'm in love with the new line of bird-themed fabrics at IKEA. They're reasonably priced for what you get and the designs are just fantastic this season. The chickens seem to like them, too.

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posted by Alison 10/29/2009 10:48:00 AM : (0) comments : splink


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Project #265 - Hourglass Jumper



I love reissued retro patterns. There is something about mid-20th century clothes that is so hard to find these days. Maybe it's the solidness and shape of the clothes. It's hard to replicate that using today's construction technique and fabric-buying short cuts. There are a lot of darts and a lot of yardage in this dress and I just can't image anyone taking the time.

Still, it's a little like wearing armor. Wearing this kind of dress makes me want stand up and take charge of something. No one can push me around in a massive, tailored dress like this.

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posted by Alison 10/24/2009 05:04:00 PM : (0) comments : splink


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Project #263 - Genji Costume for Mary



My chicken Mary is special. Well, not "special", but extraordinary. She's not as big as her sisters and her feathers are a little more red than what is usual for a Rhode Island Red, but she also has a unique ability to tolerate having her picture taken. While Catherine and Elanor will peck and squawk when compelled to stay still, Mary takes it all in stride. Catherine and Elanor will walk immediately out of view range of my cacmera, but after being put back in place once or twice Mary will just stay and wait until you are done. She's behaved this way ever since we adopted her as a wee chick.

I decided to press my luck today to see what we could accomplish with Mary's unusual amount of patience. I decided to enter her in the New Yorker's Critterati Contest, a competition to see whose pet makes the most convincing literary figure.

I swear that I've never dressed up a pet before; I've always felt bad for dogs in sweaters. Mary has never worn a hat before, at least not a real one. I don't know, I felt...compelled to see if I could pull this off.

I decided to make a chicken-sized Genji Monogatari costume. There would only be two pieces needed to set the character and both were relatively easy to make. The hat took a few minutes to fashion out of felt and a rubber band. The robes were a cinch to make out of scrap fabric. The question would be whether they would fit and whether Mary would tolerate wearing them without freaking out.

I waited until nightfall; Mary is a lot more comfortable being handled after dark. Saralinda was on hand to assist and hold up the background. After some initial resistance, Mary acquiesced to wearing the costume.

She really knocked it out of the park. In fact, she did so well that I was kind of freaked out that she could stand still for that 5+ minutes while wearing something completely foreign to her. I took lots of shots while my friend Saralinda held a posterboard behind her.

We took a video just to show how still and regal she was. That, and to prove that we didn't just Photoshop a hat onto a picture of a chicken. I ended up really apologetic because her stillness was just so eerie.

Of course, she was happy to toss off the costume herself the second we stopped taking pictures. She was compensated handsomely in the end.

*UPDATE* Mary was one of the winners chosen by the judges! Yay for Mary!

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posted by Alison 10/22/2009 11:18:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Project #262- Anti-Cold Corduroy Skirt



It's time for another Make-A-Skirt Thursday! The weather has been turning chilly, so I'm switching to warmer fabrics, namely corduroy. It's one of my favorite fabrics to work with. Despite its ability to keep out the winter chill, it's also breathable and wearable in summer heat.

There are two things I love when it comes to skirts: A-line silhouettes and pockets. Simplicity 3754 has both, but the pleats under the pockets are a bit much for what I want, and I already have two skirts with that detail. So, I took the slim skirt and flared it out into the shape I had in mind.

I also plan to wear this skirt in conservative Egypt, so I lengthened the hemline a little. I edged the pockets in navy blue twill to give it a little character.

The back came together really well. The pointed yoke has been a pain in the past, but this is my third time with this pattern and I managed to get it right on the first try.

I put this skirt on as soon as I finished. It's been cold in the house during the day, but we can save money on heat if I dress warmly. I think this skirt will probably pay for itself a few times over in gas bill savings.

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posted by Alison 10/22/2009 10:03:00 PM : (0) comments : splink


Friday, October 16, 2009

Project #256 - Pillow Case



There were some very lovely fabric stores in San Diego. I *heart* Rosie's Calico Cupboard. It's huge and crammed with lots of designs that I've never seen before, all nice 100% cotton. Clark even got into the spirit and purchased a yard of fabric in order to make a new pillow case.

I'm usually bad about mending things or making things he requests in a timely manner, so I made a concerted effort to give him what he wanted.

Pillow cases are one of the easiest things to make, ever. They're just a rectangle sewn on three sides and then cuffed and hemmed on the remaining side. I made mine in about 20 minutes.



I used one of our old pillow cases to measure out my new one. Unfortunately, one yard is not quite enough to cut out a case with the butterflies flying in the correct directions. Our butterflies look a little disoriented.



When you measure out your fabric make sure to cut a few extra inches on one end for the cuff. After you sew up the three sides, just fold up the extra twice and sew it in place.

Oh, I should note that I used a serger to finish my seam edges. I would recommend using some kind of seam finish so that the case won't unravel when it gets thrown into the wash.

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posted by Alison 10/16/2009 10:17:00 PM : (2) comments : splink


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Project #255 - Canvas Circle Skirt



I love making circle skirts when I have fabric that is at least 59 inches across. They can be cut in just one piece if you buy two yards. That means that just the waist and hem need to be finished in order to leave you with a finished garment.



Plus, circle skirts are great. Swish. Swish. Swish.

[I shortsightedly forgot to take pictures of the process of making this skirt. If the directions aren't clear, they're very similar to my illustrated ones for a circle skirt template.]

Cutting out a circle skirt isn't hard. You'll just need a yardstick, some chalk and a little patience. First, fold your fabric to find the center point. Mark that.

Now, if you have two yards of fabric, it should be 72 inches long and (ideally) about 59 inches wide. If you want to go for the maximum length*, then mark the edge of the fabric 29.5 inches across the width in one direction and 29.5 inches in the other. Now, mark 29.5 inches from the center across the length at a 90 degree angle from the two width-wise marks. Do that again for the opposite end. Now you will have a center mark and four additional ones laid out in a '+' shaped configuration. Make some more marks to fill in the edge of your circle, pivoting the yardstick around the center mark and going out 29.5 inches. Cut along your marks.

Now you have a giant flat circle that needs the center cut out so you can actually wear it. Measure yourself at your hips. This will be at least how wide the skirt must be so that you can step into it to put it on. To figure out how big it should be I used the circumference equation, circumference = 2πr. I substituted my hip size for the circumference and solved for r and got about 6 inches, so my diameter will be 12 inches. I cut the smaller circle out using the same center point technique as the outer circle.

Fold down the edge of the inner circle to form a casing for elastic. Clip if you need a little give to make the casing lay flat, sort of making shallow sun rays from the inner circle. Sew in place, leaving a 1 inch opening. String narrow elastic through the casing and adjust so that the skirt sits comfortably at your waist; give yourself a little breathing room. Clip the extra elastic and sew the ends together. Tuck the elastic into the casing and sew the 1 inch opening shut.



Finally, just the hem is left. Folding up fabric to make a hem on a circle skirt is always kind of a pain. It's always annoying tying to ease in the excess fabric from the edge and it's usually about nine yards of sewing. No thanks. Instead, my edge finish of choice is bias tape. It adds a little contrast and no easing is necessary.

If you're not familiar with sewing with bias tape I learned how to apply it properly from this tutorial.

*I always recommend going for the maximum length at first. It's easy to remove excess length, but not vice versa.

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posted by Alison 10/15/2009 05:02:00 PM : (0) comments : splink


Monday, September 28, 2009

Project #241 - Striped Shirt



There is something about this shirt that gives me an acute case of 'I don't wannas'. I managed to get it to a state of near completion, but I just can't get myself to finish the bottom hem and add buttons. I don't think there is anything wrong with this shirt, but every time I look at it I get the urge to clean the kitchen, or cut out a pair of pants, or do anything but work on this project.

This is the exact opposite of how I usually prioritize household tasks. My normal mode of operation is to perform tasks that can be accomplished easily so that I can give myself a check mark on my to-do list. So, it's not the most efficient scheme, but it's one that maximizes my self-satisfaction. This shirt is a good example of a low hanging fruit, one that shouldn't take more than an hour to complete, but self motivation is lacking.

I'm going to put this one aside and take a break from it. Perhaps the urge to complete it will return later when I'm trying to avoid something else.

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posted by Alison 9/28/2009 01:55:00 PM : (0) comments : splink


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Project #235 - 55 Years Gown



Dim light and photography don't really mix, but it's what you have to do if you want a picture at a wedding reception with mood lighting. I sewed most of this dress right before leaving for Indiana a few days ago, but I was tacking down facings and stitching the hem up until an hour before the wedding ceremony.

The pattern is Vogue #2960, originally published in 1954, hence the name of my dress. Two people I love were born in that year, so it's a good one.

This is the first time I've ever done bound button-holes. I think I'll need to do a few hundred more before I get the hang of it; they are not for the faint of heart. I think they where a good choice for what would be a formal dress (much neater than machined button holes), but I'm dumbfounded as to why any pattern with such a difficult set of details would be classified by Vogue as "easy". I really makes me scared to try any vintage reprints labeled as 'average'.

Still, I loved wearing this dress and I think the color suits me. I made it out of three yards of silk shangtung that I purchased with this pattern specifically in mind. I don't think I've ever gotten so many compliments on a dress before. Maybe the good wedding vibes prompted everyone to be free with positive comments, but it's nice to get nice feedback on a dress that has to fit in amongst hundreds of really nice store-bought ones.



It feels a little weird to tell people that I make most of my own clothes. It's a little like fishing for compliments when I say that I made something, so I've been keeping my mouth shut most of the time in public. Still, the rumor got out, so I'm not sure if people were saying 'What a pretty dress!' or 'What a pretty dress, you know, for something handmade.'

Whatever. I like it and I'm going to wear it again.

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posted by Alison 9/20/2009 02:00:00 PM : (2) comments : splink


Sunday, September 06, 2009

Project #225 - Wrap Front Shirt



The pattern for this shirt is B4789, and I've made it least twice before. So, really I should not have been surprised that it's such a low-cut pattern...but I was. I have a goldfish-strength memory sometimes.

It left part of me thinking that I needed to install a 'modesty panel'. Is there a grimmer name for anything in fashion? It makes me think of the fussy calico dresses work by my grade school teachers, the kind with tiny pastel floral prints and a prim white panel if the dress even dared to show some collarbone.

So, for that reason, I'm going to reject the idea of a 'modesty panel' and show a little décolletage. Whatever, it's not like we burn people for doing that anymore. Right?

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posted by Alison 9/06/2009 03:14:00 PM : (0) comments : splink


Saturday, September 05, 2009

Project #224 - A-Line Skirt



I finished my green corduroy A-line skirt in the car at the last minute as we drove to the Cass Railway, the first stop on our 2nd Anniversary trip. I spent most of the 4 hour car trip in my pajamas, which is actually a pretty comfy way to travel. When we arrived at our hotel I did a quick change and Clark drove like a maniac on little mountain roads to get us to the train just before it left. We made it with just 5 minutes to spare.

The whistle on the train is very loud. Next time I'll ride in one of the rear cars just to protect my hearing.



Clark's Dad worked for Union Pacific Railroad until he retired last year. Clark inherited from him a strong case of train fever and spent a while after dinner deciphering the machinery on the Shay #6 that drove us up and down the mountain.

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posted by Alison 9/05/2009 03:13:00 PM : (0) comments : splink


Thursday, September 03, 2009

Project #222 - Bias-Cut Silk Dress



I've never worked with silk charmeuse before. It's a beautiful, lustrous fabric, but with a reputation for being difficult to work with. It's slippery, quick to tear, and shows needle and pin marks. Plus, fabrics cut on the bias (that is, fabrics cut at a 45 degree angle) have a little stretch in them and are therefore more prone to warping and stretching.



Silk charmeuse really is all drape and no body, but it's perfect for a slinky cocktail dress that's supposed to hug your curves. This was how sexy clothes were built before the creation of mass-produced knit fabrics. Marilyn Monroe almost certainly never wore a jersey dress. Instead, she wore clingy fabrics cut on the bias to hug her curves, with a dart here and there to show off her waist.



Still, I think I managed to pull it off. I used some navy batiste for the lining to add some stability. Batiste is usually used to make lightweight shirts, but it has a good hand so that it's easy to sew with and yet has enough drape not to spoil the lines of the dress.

I really liked the pattern, Vogue 2898. The foot petal to my sewing machine is broken from overuse, so I sewed this entirely using the push-buttons on the machine display. This method of sewing is growing on me because I have a little easier time controlling the speed. I've learned the trick to sewing charmeuse neatly is to set the needle pace really, really, slow. Still, it was simple enough that I only needed a few hours to sew the dress together and finished in time for my wedding anniversary dinner. Time for sushi!

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posted by Alison 9/03/2009 06:12:00 PM : (0) comments : splink


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Project #221 - Woodland Apron



Each year for our anniversary I try to make something that is on theme for the traditional type of gift for that year. Our first anniversary was paper, so I put together a photo album for him. This year is cotton, so I made him an apron out of cotton fabric. Clark likes to cook and get messy, but it's hard to find an apron that fits him and doesn't look to feminine.



I purchased the fabric for the apron back last fall in Tokyo. Clark only sort-of liked it until I pointed out that it included a hedgehog balancing an apple on its back. After that, he really liked it. Of course, bright, garish colors are also his style.

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posted by Alison 9/02/2009 03:24:00 PM : (0) comments : splink


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Project #214 - Fall/Winter Fabric Palettes




I've spent hours going through my (embarrassingly ample) fabric stash to assemble my fall wardrobe this year. I'm already going to enter a wardrobe contest, and I have one palette assembled, but that would only cover part of my fall sewing. It's ridiculous, but true. Really, I just like to sit on the floor of the living room stacking and re-stacking my favorites in little piles, trying to build a 'color story' for what I'm going to wear.

Okay, 'color story' sounds a little nuts, but trust me, it's like the pleasure of organizing all of the crayons in a crayon box into perfect 'ROY G. BIV' color order. It's soothing. Plus, it's good to have clothes that coordinate, especially if you're going to take the time to make them yourself.

I came up with two palettes that will cover my fall/winter wardrobe.



I like mixing intermediate colors together, and these greens and purples combine to make the think of a shady grove. There are at least three corduroys packed into this palette, so I think most of the clothes will be business casual and 'play' clothes. I also have a beautiful dupioni silk and some lovely silk shangtung that I'll use to make the dresses for some of my formal occasions this fall and Christmas.



I expanded on my last primary colors palette to add three festive polka dot fabrics that will help make this collection of fabrics look a little less serious. I have some knits for t-shirts and light cotton fabrics to keep me covered up, but not stifle me in the more conservative parts around the Nile.

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posted by Alison 8/27/2009 09:35:00 PM : (0) comments : splink


Friday, August 21, 2009

Japanese Fabric Finds: Otsukaya, Part 2

More from one of the greatest fabric stores on the planet:















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posted by Alison 8/21/2009 09:04:00 AM : (0) comments : splink


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Project #206 - Fall Wardrobe Plan



I used to be that the end of summer meant back to school shopping and new clothes. In my younger days that meant angst and boredom at the department store. As I got older I gradually grew an interest in clothes, although, mind you, it was years after most other young ladies my age began to care about what they wore. Still, I developed my own shopping system. I would look at the Sunday circulars for items I liked, circle them and then try to assemble a wardrobe under the dollar amount set by my mother. Other times of year I shopped where-ever for what-ever with friends, but fall always had a plan and a mission.

Now, instead of perusing circulars and catalogs, I'm looking through pattern books and my fabric stash. This is my second year of making all of my own clothes, or at least my second year of attempting not to buy clothes I am capable of making myself. The magic of having this kind of goal is that it's suddenly made me impervious to impulse. I can slide through a entire rack of clothes thinking "...I can make that...I can make that...that is hideous...I can make that..." Now I can walk out of stores empty handed when it used to be guaranteed that I would drop at least $50. It's a nice feeling. In fact, it's been months since I so much as purchased a pair of socks.

I'll be joining the wardrobe contest over at patternreview.com to give me limits and structure for my fall clothes. There's just something about having rules that makes it easier to make a plan and get started. I'll be making most of my stuff with a future trip abroad in mind, so there will definitely be some pieces that are more conservative than my usual style.

I've been waiting for it to finally get cool enough to sew. It's not fun to be buried under piles of fabric when it's 85 degrees in the house. I'm excited to start again.

A larger version of my wardrobe plan can be found here.

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posted by Alison 8/18/2009 07:41:00 PM : (0) comments : splink


Friday, August 07, 2009

Project #195 - Sit Upon



We're going to another bonfire in the woods! I like nature, but I do not like sitting on the ground or on dirty benches. When I was a girl scout about *mumble* *mumble* years ago we would make these things called 'sit-upons' so that we wouldn't have to get our precious fannies wet or muddy in the wilderness. The first one I ever made consisted of a few laminated layers of newspaper and didn't last too long. Now it's time for a sturdier, more grown up version.



My sit-upon is made of a layer of quilt batting sandwiched between two layers of vinyl. It will be waterproof, comfy, and easy to roll up and carry.

First, I sewed the two vinyl pieces together on three sides, right sides together. I then turned to vinyl and inserted the batting. I sewed the open end shut, tucking in the edges, and topstitched on two ends for extra waterproofiness.



Rolled up and ready for campfire time!

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posted by Alison 8/07/2009 01:53:00 PM : (0) comments : splink


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Japanese Fabric Finds: Otsukaya, Part 1

Otsukaya (Kurumamichi, Nagoya) - This place is the Mother of all Japanese fabric stores. It is simply huge and by far wins for total selection and prices. I found so many things that I hadn't seen anywhere else and other things for 200-300 yen less than the equivalent in Tokyo. The discount pile is easy to miss on the first floor, but two weeks ago it was stuffed with bolts and bolts of fabrics that I had contemplated buying on the internet for $20 or more, all for 400 yen or less. The top floor has a great selection of quilting cottons and Japanese-style fabric. I think I walked around for two hours with a look of pure ecstasy on my face.

This store is also cash only, but that is probably for the best in my case.

Plus, there is a little cafe on the second floor where one could stash their husband and buy him cake and coffee for being so patient.

It's really worth a trip from Tokyo if you have half a day to spare. It's only an hour on the Hikari and then a quick switch to the Sakura-dori line on the city subway. One of the exits from Kurumamichi Station leads directly to Otsukaya's front door.



















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posted by Alison 7/29/2009 11:15:00 AM : (1) comments : splink


Friday, July 17, 2009

Project #182 - Metafilter Dress



I need to learn to be more careful about vintage patterns where the cover art represents an artist's interpretation rather actual finished product. For example, the above pattern looks pretty cute. It has a big, flowing skirt and nips in a bit at the waist. Lovely.

Well, the real thing is a tad poofier than the drawing above, like, 80's prom dress levels of poof. I should have taken heed when the seller labeled it as a 'square dance' dress.

The top part does not conform to the front cover. Instead of a nice, trim waistline, the upper section gives one the appearance of a pigeon chest. I fashioned a sash to give me some curves in the right places, but the rest of the chest and shoulders are so poofy that I had to shelve the dress from its intended purpose. I was planning on wearing it to the Metafilter 10th anniversary party, but it is not the right dress for meeting strangers in a casual bar setting. However, if there is a 80's or 90's party in the near future I'm set.

* * *

I've been neglecting my fabric countdown, but I've been making lots of progress.

Yardage Countdown to buying more fabric:

1 yard - Yellow T-shirt
2 yards - Hiking Skirt
1.5 yards - Office Shirt
3.5 yards - Parasol Dress
2.5 yards - Interplanetary Space Travel Dress
.75 yards - Vintage 1950s Top
4 yards - 1950s Vintage Dress with Tie Back Neck
1.5 yards - Half Circle Skirt
1.25 yards - Cutsey Knit Dress
1 yard - T-Shirt Muslin
2.5 yards - Fourth of July Dress
5 yards - Metafilter Dress

Total: 26.5 yards
Remaining: 3.5 yards

Rats!! I promised myself that I wouldn't buy any more fabric until I finished off thirty yards and I'm just three and a half lousy yards from being able to buy all the silk that I can fit into my budget. I thought it would take less than six weeks to blow through the full 30 yards, but it's going to take at least twice that. ちくしょう!

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posted by Alison 7/17/2009 01:20:00 PM : (0) comments : splink



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