In Which The Blogger Applies for Sainthood, Pt. 2 (aka A Man and His Jeans)

Okay folks: are you ready for the second portion of my most recent bout of Selfless Sewing? It’s a doozy!

WARNING: much text and many photos ahead.

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JEANS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Fancy side bits, up close

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Obligatory Mulder Cameo

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Jeans on parade!

What do you guys think?!? They were definitely a labor of love. ^_____^❤

I started these in February and just now finished them–it’s MAY, for crying out loud. *facepalm* (There’s something very demotivating for me about sewing an involved garment for someone else!) I talk a big game about making things for Tom (and hoard fabric for all my harebrained Dude Sewing ideas), and even though it can be hard to stay motivated, I really do enjoy it. Tom really appreciates the effort and care that I put into my handmade clothing, and we makers know that isn’t always the case! He also never asks me to use my valuable sewing time to make something for him, and lets me do as I will when it comes to buying ALL THE FABRIC investing in my hobby. (Let it be known that I would not tolerate anything less than that: he’s not the boss of me.) So anyway, I am quite proud of these jeans, not least of all because I learned a lot during their construction. Are they perfect? No–definitely not. But they look great and are better-made than most jeans at our price point, and Tom loves them and knows they are one-of-a-kind (for better or worse).

The red denim I used is Japanese and very high quality. The color did fade a bit in the wash because I punished it with 2 hot washes and 2 high heat dryer cycles–my attempt to avoid post-sewing shrinking. According to my records, this red Japanese denim (which is not selvedge, BTW) is 10.5oz, which is not all that heavy as far as non-stretch high-end denim goes. (I have 13.5oz yardage in my stash, and I am now dreading working with it after this project!!) I think this is a great weight for all-season menswear jeans: not so light that the fibers will wear out easily (is it me, or do guys just seem to kick the crap out of their jeans?), but not so heavy as to feel like you’re wearing cardboard pants in the warmer months.

I bought this denim from Pacific Blue Denims, who I honestly cannot fangurl for enough. They’re an amazing vendor with a mind-boggling selection and an incredible staff. (Not affiliated, just very satisfied.) They’re a wholesaler, but they will sell to individual folks as well. It’s a very different process to retail fabric shopping, but it’s so worth it!

As for the pocketing fabric, I bought that from Mood (it’s a cotton voile that’s labelled specifically as pocketing). It was easy to work with and earned rave reviews from Tom for hand-feel.:-)

Construction Notes and Blatherings

I used a very typical construction order for these jeans, as follows:

  1. Front pockets
  2. Fly
  3. Yokes
  4. Center back seam
  5. Back pockets
  6. Inseam
  7. Outseam
  8. Waistband, buttonhole, and belt carriers
  9. Hardware
  10. Hem

These bad boys got all the bells and whistles: rivets, contrast bar tacks, and plenty of flat-felled seams. There isn’t a single raw edge in sight in these jeans!😀

During construction, I made two significant errors, but luckily for me most people wouldn’t even notice. MY MISTAKES, LET ME SHOW YOU THEM.

  1. When I added my seam allowances to the pattern, I used different allowances for different areas. All flat-felled seam areas got 3/4″ seam allowance, and anything else got 1/2″. Well, I added the 3/4″ seam allowance to the bottom edge of the yoke pieces, but only 1/2″ to the top of the back legs! So I had to wrap the felled seams down from the yoke toward the legs, which is backwards. (Go ahead, check your own RTW jeans…I’ll wait.) Again, I am sure no one will notice, but ugh.
  2. I totally spaced out and wrapped the felled center back seam the wrong way by accident. It should wrap left over right, but I went right over left. And of course, the nature of flat-felled seams is that you trim the hell out of one side, so there’s no going back and undoing anything. Grr.

But overall, I think the jeans look really good! The topstitching lines all come together at intersections, and my flat-felled seams are really strong and look great, especially considering it was my first time ever trying them.

Among my more minor beefs with my work are the bar tacks; my machine did not care for the combination of topstitching thread + dense zigzag stitching, so I had to use regular thread. As a result, they look a little puny to my eye. My belt loops are decent, but one of them got a little crooked while getting the bottom edge sewn down without me noticing. The bar tacks really show their slightness on the loops, IMO. In retrospect, I probably should have just topstitched them down with the thicker thread. I kept the topstitching tonal (these jeans are already RED, you know?) and used contrasting gray thread for the bar tacks throughout to coordinate with the nickel hardware that Tom wanted. Speaking of hardware, I had some trouble getting the rivets in perfectly straight. Here’s hoping they hold on for a few washes, at least!O_o

The Fly

The fly construction was the most puzzling aspect of this entire project because I’d never done one. Thanks to a patient sewing friend, I got it…in theory. But after crankily ripping out the fly front and topstitching and lower front crotch seam for a third-ish time, I put the jeans in the naughty corner for several weeks. (Hence the 2-month delay in this post–can’t post about jeans that aren’t done yet!) I don’t know if I’ve ever been explicit about this, but I am not allowed to have UFOs: if my current project isn’t finished yet, I DO NOT pass “GO,” DO NOT collect $200, and DO NOT get to start anything else. Either I pitch the project entirely (only if it’s really not working out), or I buckle down and finish it. It’s for the best, believe me! I knew I was going to have to pick these damn pants back up if I ever wanted to move on with my sewing life, and that meant sorting out the fly.

While I pouted, I studied fly construction on Tom’s existing RTW pairs of jeans without disassembling anything, trying to learn their secrets. What did I learn? (Well, besides the fact that staring at the crotch area of a man’s jeans for a few weeks will teach you anything at all?) That I was way over-complicating it. To explain my method would make this post utterly unreadable (moreso than it already is), so I won’t get into it here. I will hopefully share it in detail eventually, though. But I DID IT. Yay!

Luckily, the rest of the sewing was very straightforward apart from the bulky areas and self-created drama! If you are looking for construction help with jeans, I highly recommend a visit to Angela Kane’s website and Youtube channel. I will note that, although I don’t use her fly method, I wholeheartedly recommend hers if you’re looking for help. (I did use her buttonhole method though, and it’s AWESOME!)

Pattern Notes

No commercial pattern here: these jeans are a rub-off of Tom’s favorite, self-proclaimed Best Fitting Pair of RTW jeans. Said jeans met an untimely end when husband had a tiny incident on his motorcycle and tore one pants leg all to shit. (Don’t worry, he wasn’t hurt.) He saved the jeans to wear on weekends and for yard work, but since they fit well and were basically ruined, he surrendered them to the great cause of Patternmaking. All I needed to make the pattern was one good leg anyway, so it worked out for everyone. I disassembled the jeans and traced off the pieces, and there you have it: jeans! That fit! I did have to make a couple of very small adjustments to compensate for the stretching out of his well-worn originals in some areas, but those were very simple.

Conclusion

These jeans were a long time coming, but we got there in the end! I have plenty of denim earmarked for Dude Jeans, so this isn’t the last pair I’ll make for Tom. I am thinking of buying Angela Kane’s men’s jeans pattern, which is designed with selvedge denim in mind. I also patterned two other pairs of jeans belonging to someone else (long story), including one selvedge pair, so we have lots of style possibilities now! But Tom has been warned that after this red pair, my sweatshop* is going back to its regularly scheduled programming: All Me, All The Time. I do have some of this denim left, and have promised to see if a pair of shorts can be squeezed out of it…I am sure I will regret that!😉

Here are some more pics, just for fun.

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Dat Ass

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Birdies!

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Meandering

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Posing

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Fun with lighting in a tunnel

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Possible photo of Bigfoot.

Thanks for tuning in for my (mis)adventures in Sewing For Other People!:-) I have some sharks to make for some kids, so I’ll probably share those with you soon! And then I can get back to what’s important: clothes for MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

What’s the most complicated thing you’ve made for someone else? Have you ever made jeans? How long are your average “sewing time-outs” for items that are giving you trouble?

*Term used ironically/self-deprecatingly/for laffs, of course. We here at The “Mads” House do not condone the dehumanizing and exploitative practices of actual sweatshops, which is partly why we do not buy fast fashion RTW anymore. The Sweatshoppe at Fort Kickass (as it is affectionately known), under the careful management of a no-nonsense Feline Supervisor, allows its lone employee ample break time for soda and pizza consumption; video entertainment is also provided, along with many opportunities for feline/human snuggles and naps.

 

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In Which The Blogger Applies For Sainthood, Pt. 1 (aka Adventures in Quilting)

Hi!:-)

Admittedly, I haven’t been the most productive seamstress since I last wrote, but I have finally managed to finish some stuff that I can share with you. Yay!

Here’s what’s on the docket today:
Part 1. Gift Sewing – Wherein the blogger learns to quilt

And coming soon to a “Mads” House near you:
Part 2. Dude Sewing – Jeans edition
(I am working on these presently, so hopefully I’ll be back to share them soon!)

Phase 1 of my application for canonization features my first-ever quilting project: pot holders. These were made as birthday gifts for my dearest friend. I made it hard for myself, naturally. The front of each one is paper pieced (somewhat elaborately), both use their own palette of fabrics, and each one features a unique machine-appliqued word box using the font and memory capabilities on my 8200. (Spoiler alert: I taught my sewing machine to swear. #winning)

Background: my dearest friend and I love going to one quirky gift/craft store in town and looking at everything. The last time we were in there, she was looking intently at some pot holders but didn’t want to spend the money. She then said that I should make stuff like that and sell it in there (they do that), to which I said I would just make her some damn pot holders. And since her birthday was last month, it seemed like a great idea. (Doesn’t it always?) I should note that one of our favorite, must-scope things in this weird craft store is a series of magnets called “Mincing Mockingbird“; essentially, they are pretty pictures of birds with funny, rude, or sarcastic statements on them. Perfection in magnet form, really. So I decided to riff on that for her pot holders. I found a free, sufficiently-avian paper piecing pattern on Craftsy for the “face” of the pot holders/hot pads, picked fabrics I thought she’d like (basically, lots of blue), and got started. Here are the finished pot holders in all their snarky, avian glory:

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Birdie #1, aka The Foul-Mouthed Fowl

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Back of #1

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Birdie #2, aka The Guzzling Gull

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Back of #2

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Close-up of the dirty bird

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And a close-up of the drunk bird

They look pretty great, right? I had some difficulty with the binding and it’s a bit sloppy (if my grandmother–a keen quilter–were alive to see these, she’d slap my face on account of that binding before she even noticed the swear word on the first one, at which point she’d probably go in for Slap 2: Electric Boogaloo), I think due to the bulk of the pot holders. In retrospect, the binding should have been cut wider, but you don’t know what you don’t know until you know it! All things considered, I am really happy with these. And so is the recipient! But there was one insurmountable difficulty: chalk.

Once I had decided how I was going to quilt these damn things (I chose a very modern style, but it has the added benefit of covering the entire surface and adding durability, since they’re going to be heavy-use items), I needed to make sure all my shit was symmetrical and evenly spaced. Since certain chalk pens are heavily marketed to quilters (uh oh), I never hesitated to mark the 1/2″ quilting lines with my yellow chalk pen allllllllll across the surface of each pot holder. (I own blue and yellow, so I went for the higher contrast to ensure visibility while sewing.) And then I quilted. My machine powered through the 5 layers–backing, cotton batting, cotton batting again, Insulbrite, and top fabric–and they looked fucking beautiful. And I got to try out my walking foot for the first time: weeeeeeeeeeee! And then…the chalk wouldn’t come off. Let me repeat that: the chalk, that chalk so heavily marketed to quilters as a way to make their work easier, Would Not Come Off. So now my painstakingly-assembled pot holders had persistent ugly yellow lines and smears all over them. Desperate to remove the marks, I washed the pot holders. I put stain remover on them first, and then I washed them. (On gentle, mind you–I’m not a madwoman.) And you know what? THE DAMN CHALK STILL REMAINED. “Crushed” isn’t really a strong enough word to describe how I felt. All the hours! All the care! Ruined. And of course, two pieced seams on one of the pot holders came open as a result of being washed, and a visible repair was my only option to ensure durability. There was not enough time or fabric to remake them, either.😦

Had these been for my own personal use, I would have never bothered washing them. But these are gifts, and they are the first things I have ever made for my friend–EVER. I was angry enough to write a message to the company that makes these pens, and became even angrier when I got a reply from them condescending to me about how to wash my shit and taking ZERO responsibility for their product’s failure to absent itself from my finished projects (oh, AND from the clear part of my walking foot; now it looks like it lived with a smoker for 30 years). Grade-A Bullshit. So lesson learned: do not use Clover Chaco Liners on the visible portions of anything I give a fuck about, by which I mean ANYTHING I ever make again. UGH.

I explained myself to my friend (since paper piecing doesn’t GAF about grainlines, my painstakingly-squared pot holders were decidedly wibbly after being washed), who luckily understood. But jeeze, this is the first time I’ve ever made her anything, and because of someone else’s product not measuring up, I had to give the gift with an explanation.😦 The bright side is that not only did she ask if I would make some for her mother (minus the snark boxes), my sisters each asked for some of their own, too (with snark boxes)! So it looks like I’ll be returning to home dec crafting sooner rather than later.

Do you quilt? Would you ever use a pot holder/hot pad with a swear word on it? Do you think I should set my Chaco Liners on fire, take a picture, and send it to Clover? >:-)

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It’s A Jungle (January) Out There

There once was a girl who lived in the city
Who thought that nature and the “great” outdoors were icky

But though a nature master she was not,
she could not resist joining in Jungle January with you lot.

Try as she may and try as she might
She could not shake the feeling that something was not quite right

“Is this wild zebra print really ‘me’?” 
No turning back now: the cutting and sewing had begun in earnest glee.

She pinned, she sweated, she pondered, and she fretted
If this dress turned out, to the gods she would be indebted!

And at last, the moment of truth had come
Scarcely any yardage remained–nary a crumb!

She bravely donned her togs, fit to be worn,
And her inner Jungle Vixen thus was born!

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Some super-effective jungle camouflage.

I hope you people enjoyed that, because a poet I am not!:-) I didn’t think I’d be able to come up with anything nearly as clever as what Anne normally writes (and which I am convinced is how she talks and tells stories all the time, in real life, because she’s just that awesome) so I settled for a silly poem instead. (And brace yourselves for a whole set of fashion-bloggeresque “Inappropriate Sunglasses at Sunset” photos, because I could not be bothered with a full face of slap.)

So as you have figured out by now, I am participating in Jungle January this year–my first EVER! I had not really planned on that but for some reason my inspiration whacked me over the head like a Shakespeare anthology one Friday night, and here we are. Anne Jungle January Goddess, get your fainting couch ready, because I must now admit that my stash contains a paltry 2 animal print fabrics. Clearly, I am a #junglenovice. Teach me your ways!!!!!!!

I bought this crazy-ass fabric over a year ago when Fabric Mart the-fabric-retailer-that-shall-not-be-named had one of their many sales. I even described it using the same foul language back then. I had no immediate plans for it, but figured it was one of those random things I’d regret NOT owning if I didn’t buy a bit of it. Let the record show that RETINA-SEARING ELECTRIC BLUE and motherfucking ZEBRA are, even on an individual basis, not really my usual taste; together, they create what is without a doubt the biggest taste anomaly in my fabric stash, all wrapped up into 3 clingy yards of “What the fuck am I going to do with that?” and shoved into an unmarked box until that particular riddle solves itself. 14 months of “seasoning” later,  the riddle finally got off its ass and presented me with the answer: McCall 6886, aka the ubiquitous knit sheath that everybody has already made and seems to love.

I had figured on doing a fitted sheath-type dress in this material when it arrived those many moons ago. My initial idea, I thought, was Brilliant (yes, *with* that capital “B”): focus the blue bits around the waist of the dress, and let the top and bottom sections fade gracefully into zebradom (or at least as gracefully as is possible with an animal print mash-up). Well, Present Mads had to make a slight revision to Past Mads’ plan. Turns out the greatest % of stretch in this ITY jersey runs perpendicular to the blue border, not parallel to it. And if there was one additional Taste Violation that this dress did not need, it was the “Painted-On Sausage Casing” effect.

In order to save the “Illusion Dress” idea, I cut the front and back pieces as pairs rather than on the fold as directed. That allowed me to get the side seam parts on the blue (an endeavor which met with more success on the back pieces than the front), which I felt would create the illusion of a narrower silhouette. (Yeah yeah, I know that’s a damn stupid thing to see someone like me write, but let’s face it: nobody wants to look wider than they are, not even me.) The hardest part of this project was the cutting out! I must have shifted the pieces around a dozen times, but I am happy with how the pattern got distributed in the end. In other words, we came out of this with ZERO unfortunate boob or genital flowers. SUCCESS.

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Front view

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Side

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Back; I can see that a swayback adjustment would be of use next time.

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“Mom, what the f*** are you wearing?!?”

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Just standing among some wood scraps, as one does

Fitting Adjustments and Pattern Changes

I made View C, with the scoop neck and one of the many assorted lengths provided. After consulting the back of the pattern envelope, I made the decision to grade the hips to 2 sizes above my size, and stick with the smallest size everywhere else. I also used a 3/8″ seam allowance from the hem through the hips. In addition to that, I gave myself a seam allowance of 1/2″ at the center front and back seams, but sewed those up at 3/8″ just in case. (Reminder: this pattern is supposed to have front and back pieces cut on the fold–I changed that to accommodate my pattern placement.) My fabric is not the intended weight for this pattern (it says “medium weight knits” and this is a very light ITY jersey) so I wanted some insurance to literally cover my ass. This turned out to be a mistake. I removed what I had added after the fact, and then removed a little more. All removal was done from the side seams; everything I needed to remove was from the underbust through the hips.

At first, I had lengthened the pattern pieces by 2.5″ at the bodice lengthen/shorten line but hadn’t changed the actual waist circumference: I wanted to make sure everything else fit first. (I did a quick tissue fitting before adding that length; the bodice was definitely too short for me as drafted.) I must have removed 2″ from each side seam at my waist by the time I was satisfied (after trying the dress back on 3 or 4 times, each time being SURE that this was going to be the last, because how much more fabric could I possibly need to remove?!?) and, while it isn’t super-fitted at the waist, it shows off my one-and-only curve and remains office appropriate. Um, as office appropriate as this bananas dress can be, that is.

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Office styling for Crazy-Ass Zebra Flower dress (snotty sunglasses optional)

This was a SUPER SIMPLE dress. Very awesome. My only major gripe, and I should have expected this, is about the sleeve cap ease. This is a fitted knit dress. The sleeves do NOT need much cap ease, if any, vs. the armhole. I had decided from the beginning to install the sleeves flat (not what the instructions said to do, but whatevs, this Disobeyer of Instructions cares not), and was not a happy bear when I realized how big the caps were vs. the armhole. In the end, since I had no fabric left (that poem was TRUTH y’all) to recut new sleeves, I did what Andrea at Sew to Fit recommends and just let the extra cap ease get taken up as seam allowance. (That knowledge-bomb is in her verbal explanation at the beginning of the linked video, before the sewing starts. Her video explains it beautifully, by the way, if you ever run into this after you’ve cut and feel stuck.) So the end result was 2 pucker-free sleeves and a mollified Mads. DOUBLE GOOD SUCCESS.

Sorry for these photos, by the way. It was dinner time on a Sunday and quite cold, so going anywhere that was more than 100 feet from my wood burning stove was out of the question. So yard photos were the order of the day, and I only managed 5 minutes of shooting time!

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Zebracicle.

Wrap It Up Already!

So there you have it, people of the internet: my first foray into the jungle! It was a lot of fun, and hopefully I’ll be brave enough to play along next year as well.

But WAIT! There’s More:

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Bam! Future bra.

Coming soon* to a “Mads” House near you: The Ze-Bra! Get it?!? (But seriously–The Ze-Bra is happening. This will be a beta test of the Watson pattern, which I am hoping will become my TNT bra. Exciting!!)

*”Mads” speak for approx. 3 forevers from now

I hope you’ll go check out Pretty Grievances for all the jungle action–people always have so much fun with Jungle January!

 

 

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2015 Reflections and 2016 Goals

Welcome! Consider this my version of a “Top 5” post, if you will. (And thanks to Gillian for masterminding this recap series–it’s been such fun to read everybody’s posts these last few weeks!)

Had I been more productive in 2015, I would have done the whole Top 5 shebang. **Actually, after looking it up, I finished 14 things in 2015–that’s 2.3333333 times as many as I finished in 2014!!!!! I am awed.**

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So in light of this BRAND NEW INFORMATION, here are my Top 5 Sewn Projects of 2015:

  1. Marfy 3093, Version 1.0
  2. True Bias Men’s Hudson Pants
  3. Marfy 3093, Version 2.0
  4. BHL Anna Dress
  5. McCall 7103 (aka Sherk, aka Dunuh)
    Honorable Mention: Style Arc Tamara Top
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Marfy 3093

The first iteration of the Marfy pattern has been worn so many times that I have lost count–nearly once per week since being finished! I think it is my best work to date (sorry, Anna dress) and I am really proud of it. Isn’t it awesome to fill a hole in your wardrobe that you didn’t realize existed??

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Men’s Hudson Pants

I guess this is sort of cheating, since the pants weren’t for me, but seriously: Tom wears a pair of his Hudsons every. single. day. When both pairs went into the washer this past weekend, he ruefully put on a RTW pair of sweats and kept asking if laundry was done yet. He is eager for at least one more pair, so I know they’re a hit!

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Marfy 3093 #2

Marfy 2.0 is also wonderful, but I don’t reach for it quite as often simply because my work wasn’t as excellent as on 1.0. (And I also got pizza on it the last time I wore it–I KNOW–and have washed it, but still have to re-starch and iron the collar before I can wear it again. I am nothing if not lazy.) But it is much-loved and does get worn!

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Anna Dress

Ah, the Anna dress…I love that I got it done and that I was able to wear it. The flaws in it–and trust me, they are flaws–are unnoticeable to most people, and the fabric is BEYOND amazing, so I won’t be dissuaded from wearing it to future formal events.

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SHERK

SHERK! I love this thing more than a 30-year-old ought to love a giant stuffed animal, but I can’t help it. He will be the first of a handful of these, I’m sure; I’ve already agreed to make one for a co-worker’s granddaughter for her 2nd birthday. I am just glad that my friends and their son enjoy the shark so much–that’s such a great feeling!

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Tamara Top

The Tamara top gets a lot of wear when the weather is cool/cold (solid polyester + snug fit = cold seasons only). It was definitely a good addition to my wardrobe this year!

And now, my Top Fails or Misses:

  1. Named Shadi Skirt 1.0
  2. Named Inari/Shadi Scuba Set-acular
  3. BHL Anna Dress
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Shadi Knit Skirt

Obviously this Shadi skirt is my biggest fail of the year–it was literally unwearable in polite society. I did wear it to the first night of my sloper class (Nina said to wear something tight for measuring, and I knew EXACTLY what to put on!), but after that it was unceremoniously cut up, the elastic salvaged, and the scraps of skirt thrown away. Womp womp.

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Shadi Skirt + Inari Top

I dearly wanted to love this set. REALLY wanted to love it. But I never, ever wore it.😦 The crop top is fine on its own, but I don’t have enough slim-fitting, high-waist bottoms to pair with it for office-appropriate outfit building. “But Mads,” you’re probably thinking, “isn’t that why you made the matching skirt?” Why yes, dear reader, it is. But I just couldn’t get comfortable with the idea of wearing such a tight skirt in public. I’m no prude–I despise “modesty” doctrines, etc.–but I just felt very self-conscious in it. (That’s right: even scrawny people can have body confidence issues!) The skirt is STILL unhemmed. It’s such a shame, because that incredible fabric deserved better.😦 Maybe 2016 will be the year I get over it and wear at least one part of the set…

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Anna Dress, with accurate facial expression of my feelings

Come on, guys: Anna had to make this list. Even if I wear the dress, love the fabric, and got tons of compliments on it at the party I wore it to, I cannot pretend that the flaws aren’t there. I see them every time I look at the dress. It is what it is.

No Man’s Land

Neither of my 2 Inari Dresses made these lists because they fell into that weird middle ground of being worn sometimes but not constantly; they’re neither hits nor misses, I guess! Vintage Simplicity 1281 didn’t make the lists either, but it got worn pretty regularly. My only complaint about that one is the fabric, whose favorite thing to do is still wrinkle. My Anna skirt got a lot of wear in the summer months, but is definitely a seasonal item when you live in OH!

think that’s everything from 2015!

Goals:

Last year, I did something very similar to what I’m about to do: laid out vague goals–big picture items, if you will–to strive for in the coming year. I do have a project queue, but it gets edited all the time, fabrics get reassigned to other theoretical projects, and stuff definitely “cuts” the line regularly. I prefer to let my inspiration be my spirit guide on this peyote fabric-fueled journey through the creative realm rather than make prescriptions. That being said, here are a few general things I’d like to be able to say I did in 2016:

  1. LIMIT THE BUYING. I don’t mean RTW–I’ve been unofficially RTW fasting for almost 2 years. I mean fabric shopping. I have so much fabric that storing it has literally become a problem. A problem I cannot solve unless: A.) we win the lottery and buy an entire IKEA warehouse and/or a bigger house, or B.) I sew through some yardage. I know which of those is more realistic, so I’m going with that. I LOVE sewing, and now that I have more free time to devote to it, I am hoping to make some real headway here in 2016. This was among my goals for 2015, and I failed very badly.
  2. Fill wardrobe gaps. I still lack tops/blouses in a way that really limits me, and more pants wouldn’t hurt either.
  3. Make some activewear/outerwear things for myself. I need these things, but not in a “SEW THIS FIRST!!!!!!!” sort of way. But it would be fun and different for me, for sure.
  4. Dude sewing. Tom has a long list of things he needs and/or wants, and while he does not expect me to make him a wardrobe, it is something I want to do.
  5. Lingerie. I need bras that fit, and I am trying to go pad-free. (Which, in my approx. 30A size, is damn-near impossible to find in a store.) I have what I need to get started, and I’m hoping this is my year. Underpants would be nice too, but those I can just buy if it comes down to it.
  6. Keep up with the sewing spreadsheet I started late in 2015. I am recording fabric and patterns that I have, fabric I would like to buy for a specific project I have in mind (and where to find it), a project queue (this changes depending on my mood or inspiration, but it does help get my creative juices flowing), and a selfless sewing idea list. The fabric and queue are the most up-to-date tabs so far.

Reflections: 

Non-sewing stuff in 2015 was a definite mixed bag. We nearly lost Tycho, but his amazing vets saved his life. (Talk about emotional whiplash…) I got promoted. I had braces, but they came off in March. I got bad family news. I made new friends. I took a leave of absence from my vintage job. (That one counts as both a high AND a low–I cherish the store and the family I have there, but my body couldn’t cope with my schedule any longer.) Overall, things could have been so much worse, and I feel lucky to have made it through another year.

I did spend a lot more time in my sewing room in 2015 vs. 2014, not least of all because my work schedule is now strictly a 1-job situation. My output doubled (!!!!!!) from 2014 to 2015, but I did accomplish much more than the final tally for 2015 would suggest: my patternmaking classes resulted in an increase in knowledge and understanding of my craft, and I have lots of bits and pieces from those sessions hanging around. Those classes really changed my life, adding new skills and friends that I never knew I needed but now could never do without. I can only hope that 2016 is a continuation of these good things, and hope that this new year brings you all health, happiness, and peace in whatever form it may take.❤

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Selfless Sewing Extravaganza! Pt. 2 (aka A Girl and Her Shark)

As promised (or threatened–however you want to look at it!), here I am with Part 2 of my holiday sewing binge. This one is a riot!

For my birthday last year, Tom got me nice gifts. (But don’t ask me what they were–I cannot remember!) And because he is a total dear, he remembered me going crazy over a stuffed shark sewing pattern that had been released by McCall’s right before my birthday: M7103. He bought me the pattern! And then I let it sit for over a year without using it, because that’s how I roll. But I always knew that I’d come back to it someday.

“Someday” turned out to be Christmas 2015, when I decided to follow through on a vague threat I’d made to my friends with a baby–to sew a giant stuffed shark for their 1-year-old baby. I am sure they thought I was kidding, but I would never joke about something this awesome. I decided to sew View A, the Great White, because it is the biggest shark of the 3 and therefore the best. (Have I mentioned that “JAWS” is one of my very favorite movies? It is.) I bought fleece, giant rick-rack, one square of felt, and some craft-weight interfacing–all of which was a first for me–and got down to it. Within one Saturday (plus cutting out the night before), the shark was complete. He needed about 3-4 pounds of Poly-Fil fluff.O_o

The pattern was actually pretty easy to put together, despite my lack of craft sewing experience. The pattern suggests shank buttons for the eyes, but since this was for a really little kid, I felt that was a choking hazard waiting to happen. I used some of my felt instead, and am really happy with how the eyes look. I just put my big washers on top of the felt, traced the center hole with chalk, and ta-da! Instant shark eyes that are perfectly round and the exact same size. The pattern also recommended decorative stitches–of which I am generally Not A Fan–for the gills and for topstitching around the fins. I used more felt for the gills, and those turned out beautifully, if I do say so myself. The fins just got topstitched with a regular straight stitch. If anyone out there wants to make this pattern, be sure to grade your seams, especially where you’ve got craft interfacing; the pattern says nothing about that, and I think that’s an oversight. That stuff will get bulky REAL quick. I did my best to cut the interfacing out of seam allowances and then graded everything else with pinking shears.

Would you all like to meet the shark (aka Sherk, which is what we called him)?

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Landshark vs. Dog

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Belly up!

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His beautiful gills!

Now, when I asked for this pattern last year, I didn’t do so intending to be selfless with it: I wanted a stuffed shark. I thought it would be fun to have around in a weird, whimsical-stuffed-toy, refusing-to-grow-up sort of way; I thought maybe we could mount it on the wall like a real fish or something. After I finished this gift shark, I realized how bummed I was that I still didn’t have one of my own. So to commemorate our brief time together, Tom took a series of photos of me and Sherk goofing off:

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He’s a big boy!

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Watching TV

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Shark body pillow

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Sharks don’t need cavities or gingivitis!

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Story time!

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So young, and already reading at a 12th grade level!

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Sherk LOVES fancy chairs!

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“How’d you get up there, silly Sherk??!?”

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“Get down!”

Obviously these are very tongue-in-cheek–we thought they would be funny. And they were! We also had fun driving the shark to his new home: he rode shotgun, with his seat belt on, and we turned the front dome lights on so people driving by could see him!  And then we said goodbye to our shark buddy:

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Making the drop-off at shark’s forever home

His new human is 14 months old and took some time to warm up to this big thing that some weird lady brought to his house. But once we left, I got a photo from his parents of him going in for a full-body shark hug, so I think this was a success! Bonus: one of the family cats has also taken a shine to him! His family has christened him “Dunuh,” after the well-known sound humans make to mimic the iconic “JAWS” score, obviously; we love the name they chose for him, and I am so glad he is enjoyed. All kidding aside, that was the entire point: he’s a great, giant, fluffy cuddle-buddy for a sweet little child (and a cat). And just in case–because I may not be a parent, but I know enough to have been concerned that a giant 5-foot shark may not be most parents’ idea of a wonderful gift for their kid when it comes to finding somewhere to put it–I also brought a carrot cake for kiddo’s parents to get back in their good graces. All that remains now is to make one for us to keep!!

Thus ends my selfless holiday sewing round-up for 2015. I did make all the Sewaholic Stanley Trees I intended to make, but never got photos of them before they were gifted. Oops! But that is a great little craft pattern, too: I love my tree, and (thank goodness!) my family members really enjoyed theirs, too. The hand sewing parts take a while, but once you get into the rhythm of it, it’s not bad.

Did you do any gift or holiday-related sewing this year? 

Shark Supplies

1 3/8 yds fleece (body), Joann’s
1 1/4 yds fleece (belly), Joann’s
1/8 yds fleece (mouth), Joann’s
1 1/8 yds extra-firm craft weight interfacing, Joann’s
1 1/4 yds 1 1/4″ rick-rack trim, Joann’s
4 lbs Poly-Fil, Joann’s
1 pre-cut felt square, Joann’s

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Selfless Sewing Extravaganza! Pt. 1 (aka A Man and His Sweatpants)

Hello everyone, and Happy Holidays! I truly hope that you all had a great holiday season, whatever you celebrate. And now the New Year cometh…where did 2015 go?!?O_o I’ve got 2 posts planned to show all y’all my holiday sewing for 2015–this is Part 1. You’ve been warned!

I have made Tom something for each of the previous 2 Xmas holidays, and decided to go for the Three-peat in 2015. But what to do??? His Cooper bag from 2014 would be hard to top (he still uses it every single day and adores it), I knew that. I almost gave up on the idea of making him something and instead resigning myself to the safe, store-bought option(s)–goodness knows he had PLENTY of ideas–but then fortune smiled upon me in the form of the release of the Men’s Hudson Pants from True Bias in November.

I love the idea of the original Hudson pattern, which is designed for women: the dropped crotch, generous hip room, and slim legs with no ugly elastic ankle casings actually manage to make sweatpants look cool. Not to mention the opportunities for contrast fabric use (or adapting them for woven fabrics), which can really make them into something acceptable to wear out of the house. Not long ago, I could never justify using my valuable and rather scant sewing time on something silly like sweatpants. (I’ve heard of some sewers who don’t want to bother with t-shirts or underwear, so I guess it’s the same principle at work!) But a pair of good-looking sweatpants that could be customized and elevated beyond the “sausage leg” varieties that are so often what we think of when the word “sweatpants” is uttered? THAT is an endeavor I can get behind.

For Tom, I had exactly ONE fabric in mind for this pattern: french terry. (It’s one of the suggested fabrics for the pattern–hooray!) It’s made the rounds in the sewing blog world this year in a big way, and it seemed like a good way to turn the humble sweatpant into something a little more luxe for my love. Combined with the cool vibe of the Hudson pattern, I felt like this was a great idea. In order to maintain secrecy, I taped my pattern together at my parents’ house while I was there for a night and took a “sweatshop day” off from work so that I could have some alone time to get these done. (Aside: it is also highly beneficial that I am The Do-er of Laundry at our house–pre-washing secret yardage is never, ever a problem.) I mentioned a couple of posts back that I am now the proud owner of a serger, and I was determined to use it for these pants:

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Juki MO-654DE serger!

I didn’t get into details before, but not only is this my first serger, I HAD NEVER USED ONE BEFORE. As in, ever. EVER. I decided to cut out the pants first, and then run some scraps through the serger to see if I could get the hang of it; worst case scenario was to use my sewing machine for all construction steps, which is how the Hudson instructions are written anyway. A few test scraps and 6 hours later, I had finished pants x 2, fully serged:

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Inside of Hudson Pants #1

Is my serging perfect? No, but it looks pretty legit IMO. The only sewing machine work I did was to baste things in place and to sew the buttonholes and drawstring casing on the waistbands. Even the ankle bands were attached using only my serger, which is a big deal for me. (Sewing things in the round is ALWAYS a free arm exercise for me–I’ve never done that type of thing without a free arm.)

When it came to Tom opening his gift (his ONLY gift from me), I felt really, really bad: turns out he got me a stand mixer for Xmas, guys. And I made him sweatpants. And I opened my gift first. The whole situation was decidedly Not Cool on the “Miss Manners Scale of Reciprocal Gift-Giving.” But once he realized I made the pants, he got SO excited. He actually thought that I went out and bought him sweatpants!! (I guess that’s a testament to the professional finish a serger can provide on knits, as well as the general fashion-conscious nature of the pattern itself.) And then he tried them on, and now they are all he wants to wear.:-) I now wish I had taken a chance and used some black ponte for the pocket bands and ankle cuffs and waistband on Pair 1, because he would have LOVED that and has already asked for another pair with that fabrication. And you can be sure that his not-divorced wife will oblige him…this time.

Truly, I LOVE this pattern. It was so easy to put together and the results are great and much more fashion-forward than your usual sweats. I felt that the sizing was appropriate vs. Tom’s usual RTW size as well, although I did follow True Bias’s advice and measure before choosing a size. I used the best-fitting pair of sweatpants Tom had in his dresser for comparison and settled on the size 32, which is his jeans waist size; the only adjustment I made was to add about 1/4″ to the inseam at the calf. I also cut the elastic so that the finished circumference was 28-29″, like his existing sweatpants. And now for photos! (They’re bad because *I* took them, so don’t expect much, LOL.)

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Goofing off

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Attempt at a side view

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Back view (he wears them a little low)

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The pocket details and side seam show up better here!

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These pants are great for Puppy Play Time, obviously.

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These two, tho…

So there’s Part 1 of my holiday sewing bonanza; coming soon, the story of a Girl and her Shark.

Supplies

2 yds french terry, this Etsy shop; I have about 3/4 to 1/2 yard left
2 yds french terry (same Etsy shop); different color, same amount of leftover yardage
2 yd bundle of 2″ waistband elastic, Joann’s
10 yd bundle of black drawstring cording, this Etsy shop
4 x  cones of MaxiLock from Wawak

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A Festive, Fiery Dress for Designin’ December (aka The Anna Has Landed)

Welcome! This VERY LONG post has been a long time coming–my initial muslin for this dress was completed during the summer months!–and I am glad I can finally share it with you. But be warned: this project did not end entirely happily.

Before I dive in here, a note about Designin’ December: this fun challenge taps into one of the reasons that sewing your own clothes can be so thrilling: you can replicate a designer or high-end garment that would otherwise be unattainable (due to price, color, limited size ranges, etc.) and make it your own. I love that Linda has gone to all the effort to include other people in her quest for designer style! When she announced this sewalong of sorts, I didn’t think I’d be able to join in–I hadn’t been researching designer dresses when I decided to make this dress–but was looking forward to seeing what everyone else chose and wanted to have in their closet. But as I worked on my dress, I remembered that the Gorgeous Fabrics description for my fabric had mentioned that dresses made in this very yardage had been for sale for several hundred dollars. I decided that some snooping was in order, and while I never did find THE dress made from this fabric, Elie Saab dresses kept coming up in my search results (for “ombre silk dress”).

I don’t know about you folks, but I LOVE snooping fashion week photo galleries and slobbering over all the pretties. The evening/red carpet gowns are always near the top of my lust-list, as impractical as they may be! Elie Saab is one of the world’s most awe-inspiring modern designers, in my opinion–his evening wear is second-to-none when it comes to delicate, feminine, dramatic, gasp-inducing beauty. I looked through the selection of ES dresses that were coming through the search and found two that both had elements of my own planned project:

ES 1

Elie Saab ombre dress; Photo property of BySymphony.com

ES 2

Elie Saab ombre dress; Photo property of Bergdorf Goodman

Upon seeing these, I decided to toss my dress into the Designin’ December group just for fun! My color palette is much more similar to the second photo, but the effect I got–and wanted!–is much more like the ombre pattern of the first photo. (But seriously, I would take that first dress in a heartbeat, because WOWWWWWWW.) And of course, I am incorporating a big split like the 2nd dress has!😉 I did opt for the higher neckline from the Anna pattern, since I would rather stick to showing off ONE bit of skin at a time. YMMV, of course! It helps that my chest resembles something more like a xylophone than bountiful cleavage, and I’m pretty sure nobody wants to see that in a deep V neckline!! But I bet you *do* want to see this dress, right? Drum roll, please…

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Anna in motion

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Reclining on a bridge, as one does

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Filtered for lighting, but you get the idea

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Bodice and waist

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Skirt!

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Back

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Big front split, up close

IT’S SO PRETTY I’M GONNA DIEEEEE!!!😀 The close-up series of the bodice and skirt are probably the truest depiction of the color of the fabric in real life. Now for the gory details:

I did a lot of fiddling with the fit on the bodice, but I had it down. Side seams and pleats were appropriately relocated, and excessive waist ease (all 2+ inches of it) was marked for removal. And then somehow, after tireless preparations (gelatin bath for the silk, anyone?) and conscious choice-making (cutting the dress out on the floor of our non-climate-controlled walk-up attic so that all the yardage could lay flat and not be disturbed by “helpful” kitties), I did something wrong between making the new pattern and cutting out the bodice. The result? A bodice whose waist was about 1.5″ too small for me. (Had I been going for a fully-exposed zipper, it would have fit. But yeah, no.) The worst part? I didn’t realize it was too small until I had assembled THE ENTIRE BODICE, french seams and all, and we were trying to pin the zip opening closed to see how things were going (BECAUSE I WAS WORRIED IT MIGHT BE TOO BIG LOLOLOLOLOL). PSA: try not to do this, especially when sewing meticulous french seams in a silk crepe de chine. You will hate yourself, you will hate your dress, and you will hate literally any living thing that dares to cross your path as you try not to vomit from rage and scramble to fix your fuck-up so that you can wear this damn dress. Note: this is doubly true if you are also dealing with bad things in your personal life when this sewing shitstorm occurs.

The bodice of this dress LITERALLY ended up in the trash can at one point–I knew how dangerous unpicking anything was going to be–and was only grudgingly rescued when I confirmed that I did not have enough fabric to recut the bodice AND preserve the ombre effect the way I was running it. Luckily for me and this demon dress, nobody had thrown away anything gross immediately before or after this tantrum. I believe my last words to my husband as I threw the wadded up, un-binned bodice onto my table and quit for the night were, “I don’t want to be awake anymore.”O_o

Now, since it has been several weeks since I did everything, I am not 100% sure now what went wrong. (That is why I try to start blog drafts when the project begins, which I did not do this time.) Regardless, it was my own damn fault and I had to buck up and fix it if this dress was ever going to see the light of day.

Rather than mutilate myself or go on a tapeworm diet, I ripped out (yep) the outermost pleats in the bodice and re-sewed them much narrower at the waist, tapering to the prescribed width by the time I reached the stopping points; the remainder was picked up by using a 3/8″ SA at the waist area of the center back zipper instead of the included 5/8″. This would not have been quite as possible had my invisible zipper tape not been 3/8″ wide, so thank you, little crappy zipper. Unfortunately, while these on-the-fly fixes solved the zipping-things-up problem, they *also* resulted in the side seams of the bodice no longer matching up with the side seams of the skirt, which as you may remember, I had already painstakingly fixed before sewing the final muslin. Yay! (Not.) My choices were to live with it, or scrap the dress. I opted to live with it. Is this an example of the sunk cost fallacy in action? Perhaps, but here we are. In addition, my silk dress ended up with lots of excess fabric in the back above the waist–and it was much more prominent than it had ever been in my final muslin. Instead of the excess looking like wearing/design ease in a flowing fabric, it looks quite blouse-y and I’m not particularly happy with it.😦

And now for some gloating: I am very, very pleased with my hand stitching on the sleeve hems, split, and one side of the bottom hem. The other side of the bottom looks just as good from the outside–which is ultimately what is most important, right?–but I fell into automaton mode and did a much more visible stitch on the inside and only realized what I had done when I finished and looked at my sleeve hems again. D’oh! I don’t want to rip it out (this project has had quite enough of that already) but it does bother me. Here is one of the good pieces:

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Hem stitching

I also decided to do a lot of hand overcasting on this project. I suppose that’s my vintage nerd coming forth–you see that finish a lot in Victorian-era garments particularly–but it was soothing work and I think it looks neat. I used that finish on the CB seam below the zipper and on the closed portion of the front split seam, which were both sewn normally due to the difficulty of doing french seams in those areas.

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Hand overcasting; obviously the right side was the second stretch!

The entire waist seam was stabilized with silk organza selvedge strips; since the waist ease is minimal (which was what I wanted in the first place) and that seam has to bear the weight of the long-ass skirt, this was absolutely necessary. I may also go back and add a proper waist stay once I stop fuming at this dress, because that would help with both of these concerns and look a bit nicer.

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You can see the organza here; I didn’t bother zipping it for such a short photo session.

This dress marks the first time I have inserted a zipper by machine. (I know, I know, that sounds stupid. But I like the control and freedom to sit on the couch that I get with hand insertions, and somehow that way always felt more approachable to me from a “this is something I can do successfully” standpoint.) It was also the first invisible zipper I have ever used. I am pleased to gloat say that I got the zip in on the first pass! I do not have a specialized foot for this kind of zipper, but my regular zipper foot was perfectly sufficient. I could have gotten a little closer to the teeth, but that’s about the only complaint I have. Rather than thread baste the zipper in place–which I had done with EVERY other seam of this dress–I used Wash-Away Wonder Tape to stick it down. (#noregrets, because that stuff RULES.) I then sewed the rest of the CB seam; the last step was to attach the facing to the neckline and zipper before putting the dress through a wash cycle to remove the gelatin. The wash went perfectly and the dress was then (clutch your pearls, y’all!) dried in the dryer on an air-only cycle for about 1 hour and 45 minutes. After a final press, this beauty was ready for her debut!

That debut was my company holiday party, and it was quite a hit! Here we are before leaving the house:

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A little washed out, but you get the idea!

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So handsome! (The “Captain Morgan” pose was to show off his new coordinating dress socks!)

Here are a few more photos from today’s outing; we’ve had unseasonably warm weather this weekend, so even though the lighting was utter shit, we took the opportunity to get some photos done without freezing to death!

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Anna Attitude

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“…are you taking the photo?”

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Caught a little bit of the breeze!

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Don’t mind my face–this was a great dress pic!

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Gotta flash the leg! (And UGH again with the face.)

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You know you aren’t a real model when you have to walk to your photo shoot in your evening dress AND carry your own keys and phone…

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Pensive

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Some more filter tweaks for lighting purposes

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Being ridiculous

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Pulling a face for y’all

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My “Are we done yet?” face

So that’s the skinny (LOLOL see what I did there?!?) on this dress. Please check out other Designin’ December pieces over at Linda’s space, because it’s always fun to see what other people come up with! As for me, I am working out what to make next–goodness knows I have one hell of a queue built up by now! Perhaps something for Jungle January??😉

Have you ever screwed up mid-project and had to scramble for a fix? Were you happy enough with the results to wear or use the item? 

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