Thursday, August 13, 2009

Since I had a blue zipper - McCalls 4444

I have had other favorite dresses - here, here and here - but this one supplants all of them - this is my new absolutely-favorite dress.

I had cut this pattern out, but I didn't have enough of the fabric I wanted to make it in (the black fabric I used to make this skirt.) I therefore rooted around in the stash, found a blue invisible zipper, as well as this fabric I bought in Nigeria, and voila. Easy peasy.

Here's a review.

Fabric: This beautiful tie-dye. 100% medium weight cotton, bought at-least five years ago from a market in Lagos. I've hoarded it until now, but this is the perfect use for this fabric.

Pattern: McCalls 4444.

Pattern notes: This is a pretty easy sewing pattern. Stuff that's worthy of comment:

- I made a size 10 at the top, and 12 at the waist/hip. This has perfect ease, I love it.
- I thought the pattern adjusting lines were really convenient, since I always need to adjust the pattern anyway to petite-size it.
- The instructions call for the bodice to be self-lined. In my case, I used lining fabric to line the bodice instead, my fabric is medium-weight, and a double layer would have been too stiff.
- The back required a bit of pinning and adjustment to get the dress to fit right. Nothing major - the vertical pieces were shortened, and I pinned the neck piece in place until it felt secure.

(Picture of the back.)

Apart from that, this is a nice, beginner pattern - very easy sewing, though a ton of pieces. (It was a bit of a pain cutting out...)

Time taken: About 4-6 hours, split over three evenings. I'm a very slow sewer though - this is an easy pattern.

And there you have it - my new favorite dress. I feel very sexy in this - I love it!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My First Really Successful Clothing Reconstruction

I’m sure I’ve mentioned that my parents used to live in Nigeria for 7 years, and I bought an unseemly amount of fabric during visits there.

One of the happy by-products of living in Nigeria is that people gave them clothes as gifts. These clothes are traditional African wear, and are typically sized generously, since they are designed to be loose and unconstricting.

Much like me, my parents sporadically try to declutter, and they were trying to get rid of some of these clothes that they just don’t wear.

Enter me.

I firmly told them that I get the right of first refusal at all fabric flowing through the house, and made off with this generously sized top.

(Yes, that is me hidden behind the top.)

I wanted to reconstruct this into a simple shirtdress, and combing through the pattern stash, I found Simplicity 2885 that had the clean lines I was looking for.

And here it is, the finished result. I finished this about two week s ago, and I’ve already worn it out at least 2 times. I’m very happy with it.

Pattern notes: Because this was a recon, there’s a few things I changed or just omitted.
- I left out the collar.

- I didn’t bother with cutting/sewing the placket or facings, since that was already done in the top. I just cut the front piece so as to keep the placket in the center.

- Since I was keeping the neck and back facings, I abutted the front and back pieces and cut as one piece. (The shoulder slopes on the Simplicity pattern, and I did cut the slope, but slightly away from the neck facing so as to keep the neck facing.)

- My sleeves are slightly weird, since I wanted to keep the existing sleeve’s finished hem edge, and the Simplicity pattern has a curved hem edge, while my top didn’t. It is a bit weird, but not too much so.

Due to all these changes, it is hard to review the pattern instructions very well (for example, I didn’t use the most complicated part – the placket.)

However, I’m very happy with the pattern drafting. I made a size 10 gradated to a 12 at waist and hip. It runs true to size, and went together with no difficulty at all.

(Picture of the back.)

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Sewing pattern review - McCalls 5474

After the last two projects, both of which are a bit unwearable, atleast to me, I decided I wanted to actually sew something useful that I could actually wear.

Enter McCalls 5474, which I've made before but have never reviewed.

Fabric: One meter of a black cotton, that my mom bought me from India atleast 2 years ago. This was bought before I started sewing clothes, hence the one-meter cuts. (I vaguely thought I'd make a bag with it, or something, I guess.) Anyhoo, I used up all of the fabric on this, but I love it as a skirt.

Pattern: McCalls 5474. View B. I've called this the Catholic school girl look before, but this is a great basic skirt pattern, once you add some length to it.

Pattern notes: This is a pretty easy sewing pattern, and I didn't make any adjustments to it at all. A couple of things worth commenting though:

- I made view B - where the pleats are sewn, which is a look I really like - since I get the fullness of the skirt, without the corresponding fullness at the hip (which I don't need at all.) The pleats are 3 inches long, but it might be worthwhile measuring where you want the fullness to end, and sewing it to that length. (For me, 3 inches worked ok, but I'm petite. I'd imagine that for a taller person, the pleats might end at the widest part of the hip, which might not be good.)

- Also on the pleats - it is worthwhile marking them reasonably carefully. Since there are 6 pleats in all, less than a quarter inch extra on each pleat will make a big impact to the finished skirt size. My skirt is a bit tight, and I think that's because I did my usual half-assed job of marking. (I don't really mark most things.)

- The border band in my fabric was part of the fabric, but it was originally attached horizontal to the stripes on the black, not vertical. Since I didn't want the stripes going horizontally on this, I cut the border out, and then re-attached it once I cut the skirt pattern out. It works fine, and I like the little extra touch the border brings - it makes this seem like a more expensive/finished skirt. (Bonus - the border is finished, so no hemming required.)

Apart from that, this is a nice, beginner pattern - very easy sewing, only 2 pattern pieces, etc.

Time taken: About 3 hours, split over two evenings.

Good things: Wearable & pretty, what's not to love?

Bad things: It is a bit tight, but that's just a reminder that I need to get my ass to the gym. It doesn't bother me too much though, since I never tuck in my skirts.

A little post-script:

A shot of my fabric closet (which to most normal people would be a linen closet.)

Notice anyone?

Yup. Evidently, I buy, fold and store fabric just for Biscuit to sleep on. She doesn't even bother to hide that she runs my life.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

My space-age, Swiss-Milkmaid dress

Every so often, I make something that I look at and say - what the heck?

This dress (that I affectionately call the space-age swiss-milkmaid dress) fits that bill. What a disaster! Everything about this dress was painful and flawed. Ah well. It will go straight to the back of my closet, where I'll never wear it, but at-least it was a muslin, and at-least I got to finish a UFO, started way back in March.

Let's review it, shall we?

Fabric: One yard of a yellow cotton, about $4ish.

Pattern: BWOF 04-2008-118.

Pattern notes:
Ouch, this really, really stretched my sewing skills. First, all the curved seams in the bodice involved in setting the white band really challenged me. The skirt, with hidden welt pockets behind the a mock-welt pocket, and a inset-seam to get it all together, coupled with unclear pictures and typical BWOF instruction (I really was guessing at the assembly most of the time) - that was a disaster. Along the way -

- I realized the dress, cut in a size 38, but with no petite adjustments, didn't fit. I therefore had to rip the bodice and skirt apart, take an inch off the bodice bottom, rip out and re-sew the bust darts, cut an inch off the skirt top, and then put it all back.

- I sewed one of the pockets wrong, so it was upside down. It was bizarre. And there was no good way to adjust it, since it was already a welt-pocket. I adjusted by just cutting into the pocket fabric, and flipping it. Not pretty.

- The yellow - too thin. I wanted to line it, but at the end of the day, I was done. It was all I could do to finish it. (In the pictures, I'm wearing a slip.)

Also, my skirt - disaster. If you look at it, it puckers like crazy - at the side mock-welt-pockets, at the front, and pretty much everywhere else.

Actually, who am I kidding? The bodice is a disaster as well. It is all a disaster, honestly.

Time taken: Clearly, forever. I had to keep putting this away, I was getting so frustrated with it. Let's go with about a week of work?

Good things: It was a muslin. I didn't ruin my good cloth.

Bad things: Where do I start? It isn't just that I made a ton of mistakes with this. At the end of the day, I learned a lot, and that was worth-while. No, what frustrates me most of all is that this looks pretty horrible on me, for all that work. Either yellow isn't really my color, the pattern isn't really my pattern, or more likely, all of the above.

Question for everyone - the pink & orange fabric still exists. Should I make a version of this dress, keeping the bodice, and using a plain skirt? Or, should I just call this a dismal failure, and move on?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Finishing UFOs

This quilt top has been half-finished for at least a year, and I was determined to get to it this week. All that was needed was cutting the setting triangles, sewing the rows together, and adding borders.

I'm loosely thinking of actually quilting it myself, even though such efforts ALWAYS end in swearing, annoyance and deep hatred of my sewing machine, the quilt, and anything/anyone unfortunate enough to get in my way.

But... I should learn to do quilt properly, shouldn't I?