Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Punishment? Why yes, I would like more punishment, please.

Ahem. I'm convinced after last week that I'm definitely insane. Why else would I do this?

I, Reethi from http://weekendcrafting.blogspot.com sign up as a participant of Me-Made-June '11. With the exception of outerwear, sleepwear, underwear and shoes, I endeavour to wear all handmade or re-fashioned items each day for the duration of June 2011.

(Oh wait, I know. I like participating and seeing what other people are up to.)

7 Dresses in 7 Days - Learnings

Yes, I know Learnings isn't actually a real word. But, as a former consultant, trust me when I say we used this not-word daily.

In the end, even if there weren't 7 dresses, I was pretty pleased with what I accomplished. 5 dresses from stash, 5 never-used patterns from stash, and 5 new mostly-wearable dresses.

I was most excited about using the patterns. I've accumulated 3 boxes of patterns, not counting the Burda magazines, and I'm pretty stoked that I used a few of them in this exercise.

The other thing I liked about this challenge is that it got me to sew daily. I can accomplish a lot if I just sew in 15-minute increments.

Of course, when you are in the midst of self-imposed craziness, things like cooking and cleaning fall by the wayside. Balance is the thing I struggle with on a daily basis. I still need to find time to sew, clean, cook, read, play-with-Biscuit, work-out, practice-my-French, go-out, entertain, drink-beer, all on a consistent, regular basis. This is significantly harder than it seems, but if only I manage to figure this balance thing out, I will attain nirvana. (Figuratively, of course.)

My biggest sewing related learning: I don't sew as much as I think I should because I'm vacillating on what project to work on next. Note to self - vacillate less.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Sewing Pattern Review - McCalls 6243

Fabric: A cotton lycra blend. I bought this in Toronto - about $6 a yard?

Pattern: McCalls 6243, view C.

Construction: So easy! I left out all the zippers, mostly to speed it up. Since it is a knit, it didn't need a back zipper. Start to finish, this was 2 hours, tops. A really great dress for a beginner.

I finished the neck, arm edges and hem with a simple fold back and stitch down with a stretch stitch on my machine. First time I'm trying this, and it worked great! I will definitely try this again.

Likes/Dislikes: Like, with qualifiers. It's a tight dress, I need to lose weight. I wore this with Spanx, and I still kept checking the mirror. It isn't that bad, clearly, but I think that I'm supposed to be at ease in what I wear, so in that sense, this is a bit of a fail. I'll get over myself eventually...

Oh - this was dress 4.

Sewing Pattern Review - BWOF 04-2010-112

Pattern: BWOF 04-2010-112. A one-dot, super-easy Burda pattern.

Fabric: A gift from my cousin, I think. Or my aunt. It is a cotton fabric, and the black dots are sort of embossed. I really like this color on me!

Construction: This was a one-dot pattern, and it actually was really, really easy. In fact, I should have been finished with it in two hours, until I hit one tiny snag. My casing for the elastic - not wide enough. (Silly Burda directions!) Make your life easier - sew a half-inch casing, not a 3/8 inch casing like the pattern suggests. After much painful trying to push the elastic through, I finally ripped and redid the casing.

Also worth noting - the elastic length they suggest is for a falling-off-the-shoulders look. I wasn't really interested in this, so I shortened the elastic till it stayed on my shoulders.

Likes/Dislikes: Really like. I wore this dress out Friday night, I got looks! Looks are fun.

Oh, this was actually dress 6. I sort of skipped past dress 5 since I wanted to wear this dress out Friday night.

Sewing Pattern Review - Simplicity 2963

Pattern: Simplicity 2963. I've had this pattern for a really long time, I've never used it.

Fabric: A gift from my aunt. I think this is a silk-cotton mix? Or a really nice kind of cotton. When I first saw this fabric, I thought the color looked kind of like hospital scrubs. After reflection, I've come to like the color on me, I just sadly really don't like the pattern very much... Sigh.

Construction notes: They were fine. I made a size 10 all the way through, and made it shorter so it would hit above my knee. This is a pattern that's pretty good for beginners - apart from the pleating in the bib, there's nothing else that's complicated at all.

Likes/Dislikes: Meh. Perhaps I'll try it with a different belt. I just think that these loose unstructured pieces don't really work well on my body. I'm short and I'm carrying around a few extra pounds. Loose just makes me look huge and shapeless.

This was dress 3, btw.

Some pictures while I write reviews...

I have chores to do, so I'll get these reviews up over the next day or two, but here are some pictures.

McCalls 6243

BWOF 04-2010-112

Simplicity 2963

Of all the dresses, I like this one the least. Ah well.

7 Dresses in 7 Days: In the end, there were 5

What can I say, dear Readers? Thursday night and Friday night involved copious amounts of beer.

I had a blissfully lazy weekend, and finally ended up finishing Dress 6 this morning. Unfortunately, trying it on, it needs some tweaking... (yes, I am aware that normal people try on a dress during the sewing process, not after the zipper is in and the hem is done.) I'm going to try tweaking without touching the zipper, and if that fails, I've some serious ripping in store for me. Entirely my own fault, of course, I should know better. But sometimes, I just get in a sewing groove, what can I say?

I will do photos tonight. (Saturday, the day I was supposed to take pictures? I spent most of it being very, very, very lazy, refusing to get out of my pjs. Good times!)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

7 Dresses in 7 Days - Slightly hopeful

Well, I didn't set out to sew and blog about 7 dresses in 7 days. It's all I can do to sew these puppies up. Pictures and reviews will have to wait till Saturday.

So - let's summarize the state of the challenge.

Saturday (Day 1) - Dress 1 sewn.
Sunday (Day 2) - Dress 2 half-sewn.
Monday* (Day 3) - Dress 2. Dress 3 started..
Tuesday (Day 4) - Dress 3 finished. I am now a dress behind.
Wednesday (Day 5) - Dress 4 finished. Dress 5 cut out. Dress 6 traced out. I'm still a dress behind.

Wednesday - yesterday - was actually super productive. The dress I chose (McCall 6423) was a knit - very easy, no fitting - especially when I left off the details that made this distinctive - the exposed zippers. I left them off for two reasons. The most important was that I didn't have a suitable zipper in stash, had no time to shop, and really, didn't have much time to fiddle with exposed zippers.

Also, really, exposed zippers are a trend. They will soon be behind us, and I'd rather have a classic dress with interesting seaming. (I made it in black too, so really, short tight little black dress? That thing will kick around in my wardrobe for years.)

I also cut out the next dress, which is a vintage Advance pattern. And I traced a BWOF dress (a one-dot dress - I'm all about making this easy.) So hopefully, tonight I'll finish the Advance dress (dress 5), cut out the BWOF dress, which will leave me finishing the BWOF dress and making another dress tomorrow. Difficult, but not actually impossible. (Especially if I pick another easy knit dress!)

As I was thinking about this challenge, I asked myself - if it came down to it, would I rather use new-to-me patterns, or would I rather finish on time? Because there's plenty of knit patterns I've made before that I can finish in a couple of hours.

But really, I'm incredibly excited that I'm using up these patterns that I buy with the best of intentions, and never end up using. In the end, that's much more important.

* Monday was a holiday for Canada - and I had the day off.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

7 Dresses in 7 Days - Punting?


Monday's dress isn't done, since I did very little work on it yesterday. (I just lazed around all day instead, blissful!)

And I realized - apart from social engagements today and Thursday, I also have a French class I signed up for tomorrow. (My French is barely passable and getting rusty with lack of use, and I've a trip to Paris planned in the fall. French class seemed necessary.)

Part of the 7 Dresses in 7 Days thing - I'm trying to use patterns I haven't used in the past. If it were a familiar pattern, I could maybe just whip it up. For example, I could probably make 7 versions of the Butterick dress without too much trouble. But that wouldn't be as interesting, would it? Plus, I want to use these patterns I buy and never use.

5 dresses to make. 4 days to make them in. 1 full-time job. 3 evening engagements.

I'm not giving up yet. But, this is starting to look like a long shot.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Second Dress: Simplicity 2444

Ok, this dress technically took a day and a half. I started at 9pm, sewed for a few hours, then spent about an hour finishing it up today. Moral of the story? Start sewing earlier than 9pm.

Of course, if you have a day job, I challenge you to start sewing before 9pm. I'm not sure how Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are going to play out. I have to work, of course, and on Tuesday and Thursday, I have social engagements that involve beer. I'll have, at best, two hours to sew, but post-beer. And this is what happened the last time I sewed after drinking beer. :)

Now, the dress, and a review.

Pattern: Simplicity 2444. A recent pattern acquisition, bought when Simplicity patterns were $2.22 at Fabricland. This is as low as it gets in Canada, and I splurged and bought 7 patterns. I should at least try to use them, right? Instead of shamelessly hoarding?

Fabric: Cotton, bought in WalMart when I visited my brother in South Carolina. I paid $2 a yard for it. This fabric has been aging in my stash for a year and a half now, so I'm quite pleased to pull it out and use it.

Construction notes: I actually pulled the instructions out for this one. They were fine.

Here's what I should have done differently.

- After cutting a size 8 bodice, grading to a size 12 at waist and down, I read the pattern sheet, and noticed the bodice size 8 had a finished measurement of 34.5 inches. Major oops, leaving me a half-inch of ease. I therefore took my seam allowances down to a quarter inch, but this bodice is still quite snug. Next time, I'll read before cutting. (Or try to.)

- I should have taken a half-inch off the width of the shoulder. Now, I know I need to do this in almost every pattern. Why I constantly forget, I have no idea. The sleeve is falling off a tiny bit, but it isn't a major oops.

Here the alterations I made. They worked out well.

- I took an inch off the bodice length to petite-size it. No lines on the pattern, but straightforward nonetheless.
- I took 4 inches off the skirt length as well.

Likes/Dislikes: I love this dress! I love the color on me, and I love the skirt, it feels full, but still flattering. Also, pockets? Super-useful.


I need to scramble to finish a dress today. have intervening dinner plans, and honestly, my house looks like a tornado touched down right in the middle. Still, 7 in 7 is still on, I haven't yet given up.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Dress in a day: Butterick 4443

Do you ever wake up in the morning, decide you have nothing to wear for an evening BBQ, and spend the day making yourself a new dress? Because, dear Readers, that was me yesterday.

This is a really easy dress. My pattern was still in factory folds. I started at 1.00pm, I was done at 5.30pm. In between, I stressed about how messy my house was, played with Biscuit, ate lunch, and wasted some time on the Internet. That's an easy dress.

I've been really bad at posting pattern reviews, so let's reverse this trend.

Sewing review:

Pattern: Butterick 4443. I cut a size 8 for the top, grading to a size 12 for the waist and hips. I petite-sized by using the provided petite-sizing lines (so useful!)

Fabric: A cotton with a bit of stretch to it. I bought this fabric in New York's garment district a year ago. I think I paid about $6 a yard for it? Wasn't more than $6, but it could have been $4. It was a while back, I don't remember.

For lining (the bodice of this dress is lined, the skirt is unlined), I used a cotton voile. I bought this when I was in India in Feb 2010, and have used it to line all my cotton projects. The voile tends to distort pretty easily, which is a pain to work with. On the other hand, when summer kicks in, I don't want a synthetic lining against my skin. Hence, I sucked it up and used the voile.

Construction notes:

- Rather than use the pattern's suggested method for attaching the bodice to the lining, I used Trena's method of attaching the bodice to the lining. Much easier.
- If I were to do this again, I'd shorten the bodice another inch. The waist seam is below my natural waist, and I don't really care for this look. (I don't hate it though, I still wore the dress out.)
- Entirely my own fault - but I should have interfaced the edges of the neckline and armscye. This fabric has a bit of stretch, and I think it stretched out a little.
- Even cutting a size 8, there's a bit too much fabric in the back neck. Next time around, I'll redraw the center back seam to remove this excess.

None of the above quibbles prevents me from wearing this dress though. It's just that after 4 years of sewing, I now look at everything with a sewist's ridiculously picky eye. I I can do a better job fitting.

Conclusion: I'm wondering if it's crazy that I'm thinking of sewing 7 dresses in 7 days? I'm still on the fence about this, but if I do see this through, this is dress 1.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A couple of mini-miracles

Were you wondering if I was floating around in a raft of crankiness? Because the last post was extra, extra cranky.

But no, things have been pretty good!

So, as you know, my sewing machine was making alarming noises, and I was afraid the whole thing was going to fall apart. It was still stitching ok, but it was loud! Anyway, I was sewing a pretty thin fabric, and the stitches were pulling, so I thought I'd rethread and try again. So, I re-threaded, re-inserted my bobbin, changed the tension and tried again.

While I was looking at my bobbin though, I noticed how disgusting my whole bobbin area was, filled with lint and gunk and yuckiness. So - miracle 1 - I decided to clean it out. I took my bobbin cage out, cleaned all the lint out, and put everything back together. And the alarming noise disappeared! (I don't think lint makes machines noisy, I'm guessing that the bobbin cage was loose or something?)

Anyhoo, I'm delighted that my machine is better.

It's a cheap machine, so I hate getting it serviced, since the servicing in Toronto costs as much as the machine. My brother was going to India, so I was going to send it with him to get it fixed there. However, he's going for two weeks, so I would have been without machine for two weeks, and I didn't think I could survive that. Now, I don't have to, yay!

The other miracle, I've been sewing. I went through about a week of sewing-slump, in which every project I touched briefly seemed to fail, and nothing seemed very fun. But on Sunday evening, I gave myself a stern talking-to, and started cutting fabric. I've been working on it in bits and pieces all week, and it's now done! (It helps that I haven't been out much all week and it's a really easy dress.)

Pictures to follow soon, I promise. I would have taken pictures this morning, but I woke up entirely too late. It'll still be daylight when I get home tonight, so I'll take a few pictures then...

Thursday, May 12, 2011


I've had a string of sewing failures, and these make me cranky.

The first one was a quilt top. My mom had originally made 12 blocks with white backgrounds as part of a quilt-along. But, she wanted a full-size quilt, not a lap quilt, so I told her I'd make the same blocks, but with black backgrounds, and then we could combine the two to make a black and white quilt.

I made three of the easiest blocks, and then got bored by the project. So, I set it aside... This was back in 2007. (Oops.)

Last week, I helped my mom arrange some fabric on newly-installed shelves, and found these blocks. I thought it might be time to get this project done, once and for all. So, I grabbed fabric from my mom, and got to work.

All of last week, I pieced blocks together. (Apologies to all the quilters out there, but wow, quilting is so boring, and takes so long!)

And then, when I was almost done, I ran out of border fabric. I'm short 1 yard, which I'll have to go to the States for... Aaargh. And aargh again.

So, nothing to show there.

I was cranky about that for a couple of days, but last night, I cleaned my sewing/dining table, got all the crap off it, and decided to start another project. I thought I'd start quilting my woolen quilt top.

I had two packets of quilt binding, so I started sewing it on. Get to the end, and of course, I'd run out of binding, with a half-side left.

In all of this, my machine is making some seriously horrible noises, so I'm going to have to part with it for a bit and get it serviced.

And so, gah. And gah again.

Monday, May 02, 2011

A fuzzy picture of a really crumpled dress

I got my mother to take pictures of my Vogue dress over the weekend. Unfortunately, this didn't work out well at all. My camera batteries were dead, so my mother used her camera, which is evidently set to take the lowest resolution pictures possible. So, no ability to zoom in and see details.

The wrinkling, that's my fault. Evidently, this dress wrinkles. I wore it to work on Friday, and wore it again for photos on Sunday, without ironing in-between. And with this fabric, I clearly need to iron it after every single wearing. More sighing.

But, for reader amusement, here is a really fuzzy picture of a really crumpled dress. Unfuzzy, uncrumpled pictures coming soon.