Friday, November 22nd
I am taking full advantage of my current life as unemployed scientist, enthusiastic seamstress. It’s just after 1:30 pm as I close down my computer, dimming the science paper I’ve been trying to write for months (years, really!). I grab my jacket, scarf, and camera, and I hop into my car. I am headed to the part of Seattle called Fremont in search of a new-to-me and relatively new-to-Seattle fabric store called District Fabric. The reason behind the early end to my “work” day: Maris of Sew Maris.
(That’s her above! Doesn’t her love of sewing just radiate off of her?!)
Maris is coming all the way over from her home and studio in Bellevue so that we can finally meet and so that she can introduce me to one of Seattle’s fabric gems. I am beyond excited.
I arrive at District Fabric a few minutes before Maris and get a chance to browse the store. I am more than pleasantly surprised. The space is the perfect size for its selection of well-curated fabrics. I find that there’s just enough fabric to suit most any project, but not so much to be overwhelming. As I browse on one side of the room, I keep stealing peeks at the two gentlemen pulling colorful bolts from the center aisle, all the time wondering what they were up to with all that color!?
Once Maris arrives, the conversation flows easily. Eventually, we also pull Ashley, the owner of District Fabric, into our chatter. (Ashley’s the one on the far right in the first photo, Maris is in the center, and I’m on the left.) We discuss all sorts of things – what Maris’s students are sewing, why I should join the Seattle branch of the American Sewing Guild (I already knew I wanted to, thanks in great part to reading about it on Maris’s blog earlier this year, but I hadn’t yet done anything about it – I blame being new to the area and getting ready to have a baby, but, really, I know it’s silly to keep putting it off!), what it takes to start a fabric store, what we could do to get something awesome going with the Seattle sewing community, and more.
Maris has to run off to a sewing lesson, and I’m left with Ashley and a store full of fabrics. I have long since realized I’m going to leave with something new – it’s just a matter of what.
As I look back over the store, the bolts of sequins fabric really stand out to me as something not only fun and perfect for a dress for the upcoming holiday season but also a great new-to-me challenge. I quiz Ashley on how exactly she would go about sewing something covered in sequins, and I decide it doesn’t seem that bad. I happily commit to this minty-coraly ombre knit covered in clear sequins.
I pay my bill, but I don’t seem to be leaving. I just can’t stop chatting! Finally, I throw my new fabric into my bag and take my leave with the promise to myself that I’ll make more of these little meet ups happen.
Here’s to having just the right amount of sparkle during the upcoming holiday season, to making new friends, and to getting out and exploring this new city I call home!
Okay, I’m going to brave posting pictures of my muslin since I’m curious about your input. Here is Simplicity 2145 straight out of the envelope in a size 10, although I left most of the length in the front pleats unsewn. I would typically cut a size 8, but my body has changed a lot these past few months from the pregnancy. Now, can we pause for a second right here? If you’ve been following along for awhile, you’ve probably realized that I don’t have any other kids – this pregnancy is my first. While I’m excited for why my body is changing, I’m also having a tough time watching all of my measurements creep up. My bust and my waist were the first to go, and now my hips are also gaining in circumference. It’s just that I’ve had the same measurements for so long, and now I look down and I don’t recognize anything! Then I see a little heel or elbow or something push out from my belly, and I really start to wonder what kind of alien has taken over! No, really, the whole thing is pretty magical, but this past week of working in a woven fabric has really brought to my attention just how much my body has changed. And, I’ll admit there’s been a small amount of panic over whether I’ll ever see my old body again. I’m sure it’s okay if I don’t; it’ll just take time to get used to the new me.
Now, before I begin to express my own opinions about the fit of this muslin, I wanted to first remind you of the fabric the real dress will be made in. It’s a soft and supple cross-dyed cotton voile, so it’s much more forgiving than the stiff muslin I’ve used for this toile. I took another photo of the fabric this week that shows off the cross dye on the corner where last week‘s untreated swatch was cut. I hadn’t noticed how cool it looked with the purple threads come off one side and the emerald off the other until I was laying the fabric out to give it a good press.
Now on to the fit of the muslin. Let me start by reminding you I am no expert in fitting. If I were, I’d probably be cutting my fashion fabric right now instead of writing this post! No, I’m just beginning to learn how to assess different issues, and I imagine I’ll still be learning years from now as well! That’s why I’m turning to you. If you see things I don’t see, or disagree with things I do see, please speak up! I’d love to hear your opinion.
My initial reaction was that this muslin was not so bad. There’s enough fabric in the skirt portion to expand around my belly, and overall everything seemed pretty decent. The most obvious fitting issues to me were the small amount of gaping at the neckline and the drag lines pulling from the empire waistline to the side seams.
But, before starting to mess with any of those issues, I tried to channel all the little lessons I learned in Lynda Maynard’s Sew the Perfect Fit Craftsy class. First up: the shoulder seams. And, would you believe it – the front shoulder seams seemed to be pulling a bit forward at the neckline. In the photo below, the top of my shoulder (as my husband and I saw it!) is marked in blue. You can see that while the shoulder seam meets the blue line pretty closely at the sleeve, there’s at least a centimeter difference at the neckline. Lopping the difference off the back bodice seems to do the trick to bring the shoulder seam up to where it should be. Then, without making any changes to the front, the front of the neckline is tightened up since it is pulled that centimeter or so tauter when sewn to the new back.
That said, I’ve never had this large of a bust before. Is the shadow running from the shoulder to the side of my bust in the first and third photos in this post indicative of needing more adjustments in that area? I was just planning on adding a little extra to the side seams from the bottom of the armhole down to my hips (which I’ll discuss more below), but I figured I’d at least throw out the possibility of potentially needing to do more bodice adjustments just to see what you all thought. Though I remembered to add the grain line to the bodice pieces (and both the grain and cross grain lines to the dress pieces), I forgot to add the horizontal cross-grain lines to both the front and the back bodice pieces, which means I can’t follow Lynda’s method of determining fit through this region. Perhaps forgetting those cross grain lines this time means I’ll always remember them in the future!
Next up: the pleats at the top of the front dress portion. Though I was hoping to keep at least the top of the pleats so that I could quickly sew down their entire intended length when I want to turn this dress back into the non-maternity dress it was meant to be, I don’t think even the tiniest hint of the pleats work for my belly. There’s just too much pulling going on from the top of each of the pleats to the side seams. My current plan is just to gather the dress to the waist instead to help more evenly distribute the fabric.
And, though the dress zipped up just fine, I plan to sew the side seams with a smaller seam allowance from the bottom of the sleeve to the hip since I think a bit more ease through that area will help things out a bit. Going down to a 3/8″ seam allowance will give me 1″ extra all around. I hope that’s enough, though now that I think about it, a safer bet might be to actually widen the dress through that region to give me plenty of fabric in case I end up liking even more ease. What do you think – will 1″ extra be enough?
I think the back looks pretty good. All the marked grain and cross-grain lines seem straight (though, just as with the front, I forgot the cross grain lines on the back bodice). I also think the extra ease I’m already planning on adding through the midsection of the dress will help erase any snugness in that region of the back as well.
Now, one final decision: the sleeves. The long sleeve pattern pieces come with these tuck-pleat details right near their hem. I can’t decide whether I like them or not. They’re kind of fun, but they’re also kind of weird – at least in the muslin. And, I’m having trouble imagining how it’ll look in the voile. I could just pin or baste them into the voile to check before stitching them up, but if I don’t like them, I’ll probably want to narrow the sleeves the amount they’re narrowed by the tuck in the pattern, which means some extra work down the road in the voile. What do you think? Are the tuck-pleat things a plus?
Now one last photo from the side to show off my ginormous belly. I can’t believe it has to get even bigger than it is now before the baby is due!
- Pattern: Simplicity 2145
- Fabric: FineFabrics.com Emerald and Purple Cross-Dyed Voile
My husband and I recently went on a short trip – a babymoon, if you will – to Alaska. We were on the hunt for aurora. We chose a long weekend as close to a new moon and the equinox as our schedules would allow, two criteria we’d heard improve one’s chances of seeing the aurora borealis. Sadly, though we stayed up into the wee hours of the night with our camera at the ready, the weather and the aurora never cooperated. At one point we got tired of waiting and tried our hand at taking one of those star track photos, the ones where all of the stars spin around the north star. And, when we looked through the resulting photos, we found that maybe, just maybe, our camera was able to capture a hint of green aurora off to the north behind the trees. We were excited to realize it really was out there. But, it just wasn’t in the mood to be caught, I guess!
Okay, so what does all of this aurora talk have to do with sewing?! Before we left for the vacation, I got it into my head that I wanted to make an aurora dress in honor of the occasion. At that point though, it hadn’t quite sunk in that we might not see the aurora on our trip! I’d found this radiant cotton voile at FineFabrics.com that was cross dyed emerald and purple. I loved that the two colors together shown just like I imagined the aurora would across the dark night sky. I’d even earmarked the Project Runway-inspired Simplicity 2145 as the pattern frontrunner since I thought that its empire waistline and full skirt - sans pleats, of course – would work for maternity, while I could easily come back in later and add the waistline details for a dress that would fit and flatter in the many more non-maternity years to come.
Of course, I didn’t have time to make the dress before our trip, which was probably a good thing since I would have been a wee bit chilly running around Alaska in a voile dress! So, I’m making it now, as a promise to myself and my husband that we’ll go aurora hunting some time again in the future.
I’m starting with a muslin of Simplicity 2145, which means I don’t have anything to show for this project just yet. But, I couldn’t help but pause in my sewing to write a bit about the fabric. This voile is super interesting! Untreated, it’s stiff and has a bright green cast to it that really catches the light. After pre-washing though, it softens up, and the purple threads come into their own and mix really nicely with the emerald, creating a darker yet more dynamic hue. The weave of the fabric even seems to get tighter after pre-washing. In the image below, the pre-washed fabric is on the left while the untreated fabric is on the right. Can you see the looser weave and brighter green on the right?
It’s hard to capture on camera! How about now?
What if I come a little closer?
I think the color comes through a bit better than the difference in texture. Again, the pre-washed fabric is on your left, and the untreated fabric is on your right.
One last try to capture the difference in softness between the two. Maybe if I drape them over my hand?
Maybe? No? You’ll just have to take my word on it then!
I’m really excited to work with this fabric. Have you ever worked with a voile like this? If so, share your take on it and your finished project if possible. If not but if you’re curious to try, it also comes in hot pink and yellow cross dye and an aqua blue gray. Now to get back to that muslin…
UPDATE: I should also say that we had a wonderful time in Alaska, aurora or no!
- Pattern: Simplicity 2145
- Fabric: FineFabrics.com Emerald and Purple Cross-Dyed Voile
Well, I finally got the fold-over elastic onto the edges of my So Zo undies. And, I’d say they’re passable, though I definitely still need lots and lots of practice. But, at least I now know I won’t have to use all of the fold-over elastic in my stash as hair ties instead of in my sewing.
The particular tshirt I cut up for the undies was one I was given for a girls’ night many years ago. I kept it since it was sentimental, but I only ever used it as an undershirt because it felt weird to wear a shirt that proclaimed I was a member of a girls’ group that was hot. I’ve blurred out the identifying words so as to hopefully keep a bit of anonymity here. Anyway, when I was digging through my tshirt drawer trying to find an old shirt that I wouldn’t mind turning into a pair of undies, I thought the slogan on these would be quite cheeky if used for the purpose.
I have a few more tshirts lined up to turn into undies, so here’s to hoping a bit of practice will go a long way in my ability to make a pair that live up to the idea of sewing well. Next time I think I’ll size up though. Maybe it’s because I used a tshirt instead of a super stretchy fabric or maybe it’s because everything from my shoulders to my knees has gotten a bit bigger during the pregnancy, but I’d appreciate a bit more fabric on my tush! Or, maybe next time I’ll make a rub off of one of my favorite pairs of ready-to-wear undies… Hmmm… Now that’s an idea!
Well, I did it again. I made another one of BurdaStyle’s Twisted Maxi Dresses out of one of Mood Fabric’s silk jerseys. And, there was no oops about it. I got so much use out of my first silk jersey maxi dress this summer that I just had to make another to carry me through fall and winter. Silk jersey is a delight to wear (seriously, I feel like I’m in pajamas when I wear these dresses yet they both look really pulled together), and the gathers in the front of this dress make it perfect for expanding over my ever-growing baby bump.
This time around I used this taupe and black geometric silk jersey print. To winterize the pattern I shortened the length and added sleeves. Both modifications were fairly easy. I simply chopped many, many (too many!) inches off the hem to convert the dress into an above-the-knee length, and I wrote about how I modified the pattern to fit sleeves here.
Sewing with the silk jersey was straightforward. I tend to switch back and forth between my regular sewing machine and my serger depending on what I think a particular seam needs, and this silk jersey handled itself beautifully in both machines. The hardest part was thinking about pattern matching, particularly along the center front seam of the dress. This seam is typically hidden in the gathers, but my baby belly is now large enough that the gathers are almost non-existent! Therefore, I knew this seam would sit front and center every time I wore this dress this season. Perhaps I could have fudged the pattern a bit and cut the front out on the fold, but since it does slightly taper in as it goes up, I just went for it. I cut each piece on a single layer, paying careful attention first to matching the horizontal repeat, and then to making sure the stitching line on the seam was falling symmetrically down the vertical pattern. When stitched together, the seam creates a vertical row of ovals that are thinner near the top, pretty close to perfect near the center, and wider at the bottom. Can you see it in the photo above? Finding the seam is probably easiest near the hem where the ovals get wider. But, overall, I think the fabric’s print and the pattern’s gathers and drapes hide it pretty well.
Since I shortened the dress, I also shortened the ties by the same amount. I liked the way the long ties looked in the maxi version, but sitting on them over and over often made them come untied. The shorter ties aren’t nearly as dramatic, but they’re cute and functional, and I really appreciate that they stay tied!
I think my added sleeve works really well to pull this dress into the fall and winter. I used the Sewaholic Renfrew three-quarter sleeve pattern (which I’ve made loads of times in the past – see here and here for examples), and I know I’ll get lots more wear out of this dress with sleeves than I would if I’d tried to make it work sleeveless.
Finally, about the hem – though I am really pleased with the little bit the hem band adds to the dress, it was not part of the original design. Even though I measured twice before deciding how much needed to be cut off to convert the maxi dress into an above-the-knee length dress, my measurements still ended up being too much. When I tried on the dress when it was mostly together, I was shocked and a bit embarrassed by how short it was. Now that I’ve reached my mid-thirties, I’m finding it’s harder to pull off short skirts! The easiest solution seemed to be to add a hem band, but I was not about to try to match the printed pattern. So, I dug through my stash and found some of Mood’s black jersey leftover from my Cavalli Cowl. A quick serge later, and my dress was just the length I wanted. And, it had a cute hem band to boot.
My husband and I had such a fun morning taking these photos since we used it as an excuse to explore a new area of Seattle. When we left our house, we knew it was going to be windy, but we hadn’t realized just how windy it would be near the water. Here are some of the outtakes to prove that we were nearly blown over!
And, one final shot of the growing baby bump. I wonder how big it’s going to get?! Also, any guesses as to whether it’s a boy or a girl? We didn’t want to find out, so it’ll be a big surprise for us come January. But, very recently strangers have started telling me unprompted what they think it is. So far we’re 2-1, so nearly tied with the few initial guesses. Any guesses here from the peanut gallery?
This post can also be found on Mood Sewing Network. I used my MSN allowance towards the purchase of the fabric.
- Pattern: BurdaStyle Twisted Maxi Dress 02/2013 #115 with sleeves from Sewaholic Renfrew
- Fabric: Mood Fabrics Taupe/Black Geometric Jersey Prints with a hem band from Mood Fabrics black jersey
- Previous posts: modifying the pattern for sleeves, perfect edge stitching, securing the ends of serged seams, sneak peek
My newest MSN make is up on their blog today. Check it out over there if you want a sneak peek before it goes live here tomorrow!
This past weekend I pulled out a favorite old tshirt that had seen better days and some fold-over elastic with the intention of making a pair of So Zo undies. It was easy breezy cutting out the tiny pattern pieces from the tshirt and then sewing the first couple of seams. When it came time to sew the elastic onto the raw edges of the fabric, I took Zoe’s advice and started with a three-step zigzag. It was my first time working with fold-over elastic, and I’ll save you the suspense – it was a disaster. Had I read forward in the instructions, I would have noted that in the next paragraph Zoe recommends practicing on scraps of fabric first. Yes, that would have been a very good idea. A bit deflated, I cut off the offending bits and put the undies to the side. Since the fold-over elastic was still out, I decided a quick no-sew project would do me some good. Before even a half hour was up, I was the proud owner of a dozen or so fancy new hair ties.
Have you seen these cute hair ties out and about yet? I was first introduced to them this past summer during a girls’ weekend away (the one that had me rushing through the making of the first ombre striped shingle dress). My trendy friends were all about them. They gushed about how comfortable they were on the wrist and how they didn’t put creases in your hair. I was intrigued, especially since I recognized that they were just pieces of sewing elastic. I decided I’d make some as soon as I got home, but then I promptly forgot. Until now.
Have some scrap fold-over elastic laying around and want to make your own no-crease elastic hair ties? It’s simple!
First, cut your elastic to length. To determine the right length for you, you can either cut willy nilly until you get something that works or you can take a more scientific approach. If you’re opting for the latter, I’d recommend taking your scrap piece of elastic, folding it into a loop, and then tying it into a loose knot close to one end. Try it on your wrist and in your hair. Is it too tight? Too loose? Adjust the knot until you get it just right. (Remember to keep that knot somewhat loose so that adjusting is easy, but not so loose that it won’t stay put!) Mark or cut the elastic just outside the final knot, untie it, and then measure the resulting length. I marked my ends with pins and found that I liked an elastic length of about 8″ (20 cm).
Now you just tie your cut piece of elastic into a knot! If you want a cute little bow, wrap the elastic around something wrist sized, like a seam roll, so that you can have a bit more control when tying the knot.
Or, skip the bow and go for a simple knot.
Finally, the raw edges of the elastic will fray if left unfinished. I don’t know the rules about what one should and shouldn’t say about potentially risky behaviors involving fire on the internet. I could imagine that I should at least start by saying I do not recommend that you do anything that may cause you, those around you, and the stuff around you harm. I truly don’t! That means I can’t recommend what I did next. But, I’ll write it out anyway for posterity’s sake. So, yes, to finish my raw ends, I held them one by one near a flame, and within a second they neatened right up. Really, all I had to do was get the elastic near the flame. If I had held the elastic too close to the flame, it may have caught on fire, and fingers would likely have been singed! Not to mention the mess (and potential fire) that hot, melty, flaming elastic would make! So, really, I can’t recommend this method at all. Please don’t play with fire. I take no responsibility if you do!
Anyway, that’s it! A snip and a knot and you’re all finished! It’s no wonder I turned to making these little guys after the three-step zigzag mess, right?
You can proudly wear your new fancy hair ties in your hair or on your wrist, or you could put a few of them around nice cards and give them as gifts. The holidays are coming up after all!