Category Archives: Classes

Nothing like a sewing lesson to jolt you…

back into the land of sewing.  I have nothing to show for it, but hopefully I will after this evening.  Thea, my sewing guru/teacher was over last night, but all we really did was talk about sewing.  We looked at all my new patterns (oh my, I have a lot of patterns now) and talked about what I wanted to accomplish.  A lot of my sewing angst is derived from my life long love/hate of “process” and my current figure (or lack thereof).   Process is how you get from point A to point B.  I’m not a big fan of process, but I do want to get to a lot of point B’s and expect it to happen instantaneously and magically through little effort of my own.  Is that asking too much?  😉

We’re going to work on my pant sloper (again!).  *sigh*  Hopefully something will come of it this time.   For some reason, one side is missing a half inch that the other side has.  How on this green earth that happened I have no idea.  So tonight we are going to hunt for the missing half inch. 

For now, I will leave you with this beautiful boy.   I believe I’ve introduced him before…  His name is Jack and he’s my very own torture device.  🙂  Please note the red socks he’s wearing when his outfit has nary a red theme in it.  He is obsessed by red socks, which he calls blue socks.  He does know his colors, but still calls his red socks blue.  He will not wear any other color socks, which forced me to buy 5 pairs so there is always a clean pair at hand.

photo 2

I only say he’s my torture device because we (and I do mean we!) have been sleep challenged this week.   Hey, do you recognize that skirt?  That’s the 3 hour “20 minute” skirt that I recently altered to be more “fitted”.    What do you think???

Sneak preview:  Next post will be about my Burberry raincoat.

Happy sewing!

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The big reveal

Ta-da!  Here’s my finished Simplicity 3678 in the pretty fabric I’ve named Purple Rain.

final front dress

I wore it to work today and am so proud.  My co-workers love it.  I love this dress and feel pretty wearing it.  *big grin*

Here’s the review (a la PatternReview — Thank you Deepika!):

Pattern Description:  Misses knit dresses with bodice and sleeve variations

Pattern Sizing:  Sizes 8-16.  I tried it in a knit I didn’t like with size 14 and it was ginormous on me.  I wear size 8 in RTW.  For the final dress I used the size 12 pattern and it fits much better, if a little snug in the bodice.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?  Yes, I think so.  *blushing with pride*

Were the instructions easy to follow?  Yes and no.  I am a beginner, so I over thought and double guessed the meaning of different directions.  Like “stitch/serge”:  does that mean stitch then serge, or stitch or serge, or stitch and serge at the same time???

What did you particularly like  or dislike about the pattern?  LIKES: I thought it was drafted well and came together easily.  DISLIKES: I’m not so sure the empire waist is a great style on me.  I am not convinced the gathering on the back skirt is necessary, and I do not like the pleats sewed down as they suggest.  Looks great on the inside and terrible on the outside.  These pics are from the muslin.  I also don’t like how low the cross over bodice is; I am constantly adjusting it to cover the “girls”.

Bodice pleats inside

Bodice pleats inside

 

 

 

 

 

Bodice pleats outside

Bodice pleats outside

 

 

 

Fabric Used:  Rayon/lycra knit from Metro Textile in NYC.  I call it Purple Rain.  😉

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:  1.  I slavishly followed the directions for the muslin, but ended up not liking the stitched down pleats on the bodice.  So I didn’t do that on the final dress.  2. I used a woven blind hem stitch on the hem because on my machine (Viking Emerald 183), that stitch looked better from the right side than the knit blind hem stitch.  Go figure!

I used a woven rather than knit blind hem stitch

I used a woven rather than knit blind hem stitch

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?   I may sew it again, using a slightly larger back bodice piece to make it less snug and eliminating the back skirt gathers.  However, I have so many patterns that I want to try, being a beginner and all, that I would like to do something else next.  I would definitely recommend it to others, but advise making a muslin first as the sizing is quite a bit off.

Conclusion:  I am not sure this will be a TNT for me as I am not sold on the empire look on me.  That all being said, I love my dress and am so proud to be wearing it to work today. 

Techniques learned from this pattern take 2 (the first list is in this post):

  • pleating
  • gathering
  • when to use the serger and/or sewing machine on a knit
  • why basting is a good thing!
  • how to use the blind hem stitch

I know I’m repeating myself here, but I am so excited to be wearing my dress at work today.  Here are some more views:

Final back dress

final dress side

waistband finishing

waistband finishing

 

freedom pleats (not sewn down)

freedom pleats (not sewn down)

Inside sleeve finish

Inside sleeve finish

 Many thanks to Thea for helping me muddle through the pattern instructions and giving me such good instruction.  While I flew solo on most of the final dress (she was there with me only for the sleeves and hem of the final dress), her previous sessions with me while working on the muslin really show up in the final garment.  Now we’re going back to work on my capris from my pant sloper.

Happy sewing!

Because I can’t keep a secret…

I was up until 2am last night working on Simplicity 3678 with my good fabric.  I just couldn’t let it go.  I had to get it to a point where I could try it on and see how it fit and looked on me.  I didn’t insert the sleeves or do the hem yet, but here’s how it looks!

final fabric full view wo sleeves or hem

It’s actually a bit snug in the bodice (how could going only 1 size down make such a difference???), but still a little big in the skirt part.  I can definitely live with the bodice, and if I ever lose the baby weight (like that will ever happen!), it will be perfect. 

I have another sewing lesson tonight with Thea, so I’ll ask her how to address the skirt.  We’ll finish up the sleeves and hem tonight too!  I just might make my “deadline” of wearing it to work this week.  I am so excited.  I’m going to call this my Purple Rain dress.  Other people in the sewing blogosphere are naming their wardrobes, so I’m jumping on the band wagon.  I know 1 dress does not a wardrobe make, but cut a newbie some slack here.  😉

I will post a more substantial review of Simplicity 3678 later this week.  I had my doubts that this dress would look good on me, especially in the too large size, but I am quite please with how it’s turning out.  It’s amazing what the right size will do. 

Happy sewing!

Deadlines, schmeadlines

I was way too tired to attempt any sewing last night.  Jack and I had a whirlwind of a weekend, starting off with a 5 mile bike ride followed by swimming at the community center on Saturday morning.  In the afternoon we went to the park.  Sunday found us at a birthday party and then we trekked off to the hinterlands of Brooklyn to visit my friend Nikki and her family.  We had a lot of fun, but boy were we tired when we got home late on Sunday night.  Needless to say, I didn’t want to risk tired sewing with my good fabric.  Ergo the dress is still in the same state as you saw it yesterday: cut but not sewn.  Let’s just disregard that little post I wrote about deadlines, shall we?

However, during Jack’s nap on Sunday, I did a little bit of sewing.  Remember the 3 Hour “20 minute” Skirt?

3 Hour "20 minute" Skirt

3 Hour "20 minute" Skirt

Well, I just couldn’t wear it again in that state (lots of gathers at the waist and hips) after I read Cindy’s post about elastic gathered skirts.  So, determined to wear it to Brooklyn that afternoon, I set about rectifying the situation.  I pinned it on me, taking pinches out of each side seam about 2 inches in on both.  Then I pinned it successively wider as I moved down the hips in 1/4 inch increments until it was only 1 inch, reaching about the mid thigh, and pinning at 1 inch the rest of the way down.  Pinned, it looked slightly A line in shape.  Then I took it to my serger and serged the new seams.  The only bummer was that the elastic escaped one of the seams so I had to open up the channel and re-attach it at that side seam. 

The resulting skirt is much more comfortable to wear and slimming.  There’s still enough fabric for walking ease and a nice full look without all that fabric bunched at my waist.  I wore it with my t shirt tucked in, a leather belt and turquoise jewelry.  Apologies, but I don’t have a pic yet of the altered skirt. 

I can’t believe I’ve already altered something I made recently.  I am determined to make things that I will want to wear and that will be great additions to my meager wardrobe, so I am really happy with this alteration.  Can’t wait to show you the picture.

In other sewing news, I have another sewing “class” tonight with Thea, but I don’t know what we’re going to work on.  Ack!  I don’t want to work on Simplicity 3678 again, because she’s already done that with me.  But I haven’t prepared (i.e., traced out) any new patterns yet.  I guess we could work on making my pant sloper into capris.  I need to draft the waistband, figure out the closure and add some pockets.  That should keep us busy for a while.  😉  Hmmm…  I think that’s what we’ll do.

Happy sewing!

Almost there… Simplicity 3678

I’m so close to being done with the dress, I can smell it!  Despite circumstances, we were able to complete quite a bit of sewing last night, Thea and I.  Jack decided that he didn’t want to go to bed at all and I was finally forced to bring him out to the living room with us while we sewed.  He sat in my lap almost the entire time, so some of my stitching is less than stellar (as you’ll soon see).  He talked up a storm the whole time telling me the color of the pin heads, which numbers were on what buttons of my sewing machine and playing with scraps of fabric.  Do you think I have a future tailor on my hands?  😉

As I mentioned last time, I had difficulty with the instructions for the pleating on the bodice, but surprisingly, so did Thea.  She didn’t understand why they required us to stitch down the pleats from the inside of the bodice (see pic below).  It looked ok on the inside, but from the outside it was awful.  Thea didn’t want to put the line of stitches down for each pleat at all, wanting them to just fall open.  I agree, it’s much more pleasing to look at when you leave them be.  But we were doing this dress “straight out of the envelope” so we slavishly followed the directions.  Here are close ups of the bodice inside and out.

Bodice pleats inside

Bodice pleats inside

So you can see the pleats stitched down, that I basted the pleats twice (second time to connect both sides of the front bodice) and then used the stretch stitch above the basting to attach the empire waist band.  You can also see the gathered skirt at the bottom there. 

Bodice pleats outside

Bodice pleats outside

Here are the pleats on the right side (click the picture to “enbiggen”).  The arrows show where they have been stitched down (and show my bad sewing with Jack in my lap).  I do not like the look of this from the right side.

I decided to serge the side seams (using the 3 thread – single needle stitch).  I am still amazed at how fast it is to use the serger.  It’s like magic.  And then all of the sudden, I had a dress!!!  I mean, I still have to attach the sleeves, but I could actually put it on and wear it!!!  I don’t think I will ever get tired of the final moments of putting something together that’s wearable.  SO COOOOOOOOL!  I was so enamored of the finished project, that I actually considered wearing this dress even though the fabric is too young for me. 

Side seam

Side seam

Oh and before I forget to mention it…  ahem…  get ready for this…

I WAS RIGHT!!!!  Size 16 was too large for me.  The size 14 I made was too large for me.  My gut feeling to make a size 12 was right on.  Why, oh why do I never trust my gut???  This makes me feel so much better knowing that most of my patterns are size 14 and lower.  I would have hated having to repurchase them all again!

Ok, ok, I know you’re wanting to see the pictures.  Just remember that I haven’t hemmed yet, I haven’t cut all the stray bits of thread and the sleeves aren’t even on yet.  But lookee!

Bodice

Bodice

It’s a little low cut as you can see my bra here.  Hmm…  I really don’t like being forced to wear a cami. 

full view

There’s Jack.  Still up at 10pm at night.  He was a pistol.  So you can see that this dress is too big on me right?  Also, I don’t think this style is flattering on me.  In fact, I think it makes me look darn right dowdy.  The empire waist emphasises my large rib cage (made larger from years of singing opera). 

So, what do you think?  Should I even bother making this up again in the smaller size?  Do you think it would look better if I took out the gathers?  Please let me know!

Happy sewing!

My first at home lesson…

Well, my first at home lesson was great!  Thea came over and she was very patient with all my questions.  We went right to work on Simplicity 3678, view A (lower right).

Simplicity 3678

Simplicity 3678

I asked her my torrent of questions and she calmly answered them one by one.  As I mentioned before, I want to be able to read these stupid patterns on my own.  So our “syllabus” will be to go through a couple of commercial patterns together from beginning to end, make some pants from my pant sloper, learn a lot of basic but new to me techniques like gathering, pleating, adding a lining, drafting a waistband for my pant sloper, etc.  Just to name a few.  😉  Sounds like she’ll be spending more than 2 nights a week for a few weeks, right?  Well, hopefully I will get speedier and also do a lot of my own “homework” when I’m able to do so (i.e., when I’m not stumped by the stupid pattern directions!).

Last night we worked on steps 1-5 of the pattern instructions: attaching the back waist band to the back bodice, attaching the shoulders of the back to the shoulders of the two front bodice pieces and sewing the front and back facings together and then onto the bodice.  We finished the evening “lesson” with me pinning the facing to the bodice.  FYI: the “facing” for the bodice seemed suspiciously similar to single fold bias tape (except for the bias part).  Why not just call it binding?  Weird.

Things I learned from Thea:

  • How to correctly pin knit fabric (who knew there were right and not so right ways?): I was not lining up the pieces correctly and I didn’t use enough pins.
  • Being left handed is a handicap in sewing: Pinning is hard to do correctly for me as my left hand wants to pin the other direction.  😦  Not to mention that the sewing machine is set up for right handed people.  I keep wanting to flip the presser foot up with my left hand.  Awkward.
  • That I can’t use my serger to completely “sew” a knit garment.  I actually used the sewing machine for most of this project so far.  So tell me, why did I buy a serger?  I was using a three thread serging stitch.  I didn’t like how you could see the thread from the right side when you pull at the seam.  Would that happen if I used both needles for a four thread serged stitch?  Must remember to ask Thea that.
  • We experimented with the different stitch options on my Viking to see which one would work best.  I had a lots of settings from which to choose for zig zags, but my Emerald 183 has a great little stretch stitch which I will use from now on.  It seems much sturdier than a plain ole zig zag.  And it was stretchier than the zig zag!  I also liked how it looked from the right side, just like a regular straight stitch seam.  Perfecto!
  • How to correctly use a ribbon to stabilize the shoulder seam.  I have never done this before and placed it too far away from the seam allowance so that when I serged after stitching it on, it wasn’t enclosed in the finished  part of the SA (see pic below).  This was after I had sewed it on using a straight stitch on my sewing machine.  We left it as is since this is just my muslin.
  • Thea confirmed my previous error lesson learned that I should not have cut my fabric from 3 yds to 2 yds before seeing how the pattern pieces layed out on it.  Reminder to self, this is just my muslin and this is a learning process (i.e., I’m going to make mistakes – lots of them).

I learned a lot in one evening, don’t you think?  And the fabric I’m using for my muslin?  It was an on line purchase fail with the fault being entirely my own.  I completely ignored the word dots in the name of the fabric.  I’m not sure why I ignored it since you could see the dots in the picture, but I did and I regret it.  While the print itself is pretty and Pucci-esque, the dots just ruin it for me.  Also, I don’t like the hand very much, it feels very synthetic, almost rubbery.  But at least I am using it for a good purpose.  So it’s all good. 

Here’s some shots of the dress in progress…  You can see the fabric in all its dotty glory.

Waist band attached to back bodice -- do you see the dots?

Waist band attached to back bodice -- do you see the dots?

 

Stretch stitch used for waist band

Stretch stitch used for waist band

 

Shoulder seam with ribbon too far away from the serged finish - oops!

Shoulder seam with ribbon too far away from the serged finish - oops!

 

Facing attached with top stitching (I already removed the basting)

Facing attached with top stitching (I already removed the basting)

So the facing the bodice step is fully completed and tonight it’s on to pleating the front of the bodice with Thea.  I thought I might attempt that on my own last night, but, again, I was flummoxed by the directions.  *big sigh* 

Happy sewing!

ETA: I forgot to mention that I draped the bodice on me last night and have a sneaking suspicion that it may be too short.  It rides up a little on the girls if you know what I mean.  Uh oh….  good thing this is a muslin.

Mama needs a new dress!

Hmmm…. where to start.  Well, let’s get the icky stuff out of the way.  This weekend was a tough one for me and Jack.  This single parenthood thing is hard sometimes.  But something good came out of this weekend: The List.  I bet you’re wondering what list could it be?  Well, obviously it’s the good parent cheat sheet, silly!  I am not proud of my behavior this weekend; I hope Jack’s long term memory hasn’t kicked in yet and that he doesn’t remember July 4th weekend of 2009, or as I like to call it, “Bad Mommy Weekend.”  So here’s my “post it” list of things to do or not do to be a better parent…

The List

  1. Sleep: It’s the most important weapon in a parent’s arsenal.  Don’t stay up late.  Ever!  Because Murphy’s Law dictates that if one stays up late, one’s child is guaranteed to wake up at 4am for the day (or even earlier, like 2:45 am).  If you get enough sleep (7 hours minimum, 8 hours ideal, more than 8 hours and you probably went to bed with your kid), you are not only fresh as a daisy the next day, but you have patience.  Patience to handle the whining, the constant throwing of heavy and hard objects into the air to crash into china cabinets, etc, and general kid stuff all day long and not start drinking at 9am in the morning (and I’m not talking coffee here).  Patience is not a resource I have in abundance.  I guess you could say that it’s almost a non-renewable resource for me I have so little of it.  So sleep is very important for my patience quotient.
  2. Act your age, not your kid’s age: My major realization from this weekend was that I was throwing temper tantrums.  Me?  Temper tantrums???  Whoa!  Poor little Jack.  I was sleep deprived, but that’s never an excuse.  I was not acting like a mature adult.  It’s just not a pretty sight to see an adult lose it because her kid likes to throw hard objects into the air 24/7 (oops, did I mention that already?).   Once I caught sight of myself throwing a tantrum, I just stopped. 
  3. The mystery of Three:  Three IS the magic number.  When Jack and I are with other people, even if it is just one other person, it’s magic.  There are hardly any temper tantrums (adult or child), there is significantly less whining and everyone is happier.  I see two-parent families in the park all the time and it seems like heaven how they can take turns caring for the cranky child.  What bliss that would be to have a fall back person.  It makes me almost want a husband.  Almost.  😉  So, plan playdates and get that third (or 4th or 5th) magical person into the mix.
  4. Plan an outing or activity every day: Sounds simple doesn’t it?  If Jack and I don’t get out and “do something,” he gets hyper and starts venting his ginormous reserve of energy into activities like throwing large and extremely heavy objects into the air (I don’t think I’ve stressed the throwing thing enough yet).  Some weekend mornings, I just don’t feel like going out to the park; I just want to be lazy and hang out inside.  But then I “pay” for it later with a child who’s bursting at the seams with energy.  Boys need to be run like dogs or so I’ve heard. 

I know there are only four items on The List, but those four strategies will go a long way to making my parenting skills better.  Of course, I am open to suggestions, so please feel free to leave a comment with your favorites for the list.

Ok, now that that’s off my chest, let’s move on to sewing matters…  I’ve done a lot of research into what my next major project will be.  I knew I wanted to make a dress.  I knew I wanted it to be knit.  And I knew I wanted it to be easy.  I only have one knit dress in my wardrobe and I would wear it every day if I could, so a knit dress (or maybe 10) is definitely the way to go.  I looked at my Simplicity pattern stash (my friend Victoria insists that I start with Simplicity patterns) and narrowed it down to two patterns, 3678 and 2850.  I read the reviews on PatternReview for both and decided that 3678, view A (on the bottom right) was the one to make up right away. 

Simplicity 3678

Simplicity 3678

Of course, as soon as I made my choice, the parade of endless questions started, beginning with which size should I trace and cut out.  My measurements indicated a size 16.  16????  Yes, I wrote a size 16.  It was just as jarring for me to find that out.  I knew there was no vanity sizing in patterns, but sheesh!  That’s down right insult sizing if ever I heard of it.  I am going to wing it with a size 14 (I’m totally ignoring you Size 16!) with some fabric bought on line which was not a winner upon receipt.  Let’s just say it has a 70’s vibe to it, not in a good way, and leave it at that.  During one of my son’s naps over the weekend I traced it out, and over the next couple of evenings, I cut the fabric and transferred all the markings. 

Oh before I forget, to the other newbie sewists out there: Here’s one important lesson I learned when I cut out this pattern.  If the pattern says 2 yds are required for your size, don’t cut down your 3 yd piece of fabric to 2 yds and then lay out your pattern pieces to cut them out.  Why you might ask? Well, I didn’t need the whole 2 yds.  I could have gotten away with using 1.5 yds and had 1 large scrap left over instead of two small scraps of fabric which may or may not be useful in the future.  The drawings for the pattern layouts are not to scale!!!  So check how much fabric you really need by laying out the pattern pieces BEFORE cutting into your fabric.  Ok, rant over.

Remember when I ruminated over the learning process for sewing?  And how I talked about maybe hiring someone to teach me at home?  Well, I bit the bullet and sent an email to the woman who helped me with the infamous couch slipcover project, Thea.  What prompted this decision was the fact that I sat down last night to start sewing Simplicity 3678 and couldn’t get past the first direction!  I don’t have the pattern instructions in front of me right now, but that one paragraph had me asking an awful lot of questions…  ARGH!  Carolyn and Karen agree that I am overthinking things, and I know that, but I don’t have the experience yet to move past the questions and just do it.  And, although I love PatternReview, asking questions on the boards there is not an instantaneous thing, meaning if you need an answer right away, you’re not going to get one right away necessarily.  A lot of my questions are about interpreting the directions, so with time and experience, I will have less and less of these questions pop up, I hope.  As I also mentioned in the ruminations post, taking classes is an expensive proposition when babysitting fees are included.  So taking private lessons, I think, is the way to go.  My plan is to work on a couple of specific projects with Thea from beginning to end to address all of my questions along the way.  I’ve asked her to come over twice a week for a few weeks and see how that goes.  Her rates are very reasonable and I found her very helpful last time. 

Besides, Simplicity 3678, I am going to work on my pant sloper with her, a skirt and who knows what else I will add to the list.  I am very excited to work with her and tonight is our first night.  Woo hoo!  Can’t wait.

Happy sewing!