Monday, September 22, 2014

Sewing So Far in 2013: I would call it a success!

While I have been terrible at blogging, I have been quite good about sewing in 2014, my first year with a sewing machine.

I have been even better at fabric shopping! I am on a self-imposed ban while I whittle down my stash, which according to all the blogs I follow, is a common problem among dressmakers! The ban might be broken as I have a trip to NY next week, and by all accounts, Mood Fabrics is not to be missed ...

Back to my progress update: When I bought my machine at the beginning of the year (it arrived the 3rd week of January), I set a goal of 12 makes for the year. One per month seemed quite reasonable for a first-year dressmaker.

With the year almost 3/4ths over, how am I doing?

I am proud to say that I have exceeded my goal, and while not everything I have made is wearable, I have made some lovely pieces that are quite good for my novice skills. And more importantly, I am wearing them!

Here is a quick overview of the first 6 makes, along with some learnings:

Miette Skirt: Tilly and the Buttons

Miette Skirt, but too big!

Came together really well but was entirely too big, even as a wrap skirt. I am pleased with the overall construction, but I certainly learned a lot about sizing and looking at the finished sizes. I find that Tilly’s patterns have a lot more ease than I am used to. This is in a pile for a possible alteration one day, we will see. I love the contrast I did with the grey and pink. (Forgive the pictures, as it is hard to photograph something on a hanger.)
Learned: first time ever sewing by a pattern (and a PDF one at that! BTW, I prefer paper patterns in general) and following instructions. Learned a lot about basic sewing. Love Tilly’s on-line tutorial.
My helpers with the PDF pattern assembly

Colette Crepe Dress

I made the Crepe dress with a stunning raw silk fabric I bought at Manor. It was quite pricey (although this is Switzerland!), so I was nervous about cutting into it, but I did. I was quite pleased with the end result and have worn it once. It fits quite well, except the bust area is a bit big. I did make a muslin of this dress, and I learned that you do not need to cut every possible piece out, just the necessary parts for fitting. So I have pockets and facings lying around in muslin, ha ha! I am not really sure the muslin helped, because I did not really understand how to do a small bust adjustment. I also do not really like the facings, as even though I understitched them (thanks Gertie for that tip!), they still flip out a bit. I want to try bias binding as a finish for necks and arms, so something to learn. I also put the pockets in upside down (ha ha!), and I could not figure out how to fix them without a lot of unpicking, so I just removed them. Overall, very happy with the dress and received lots of compliments.
Learned: to only cut necessary pieces for a muslin, so much easier! Learned understitching. Learned how to pay attention to pocket insertion! And, I only discovered Gertie's sew-along after I was finished, so I now know to search for sew-alongs before beginning any new project.

I made the pencil skirt in a blue suede that I have had for ages, when I used to make curtains and such for my house. This is a fairly simple pattern, with only a few pieces, and it has no waistband. I did not have an invisible zip, so I did something like a lapped zip, although I am not quite sure what I did and where I found the instructions. The stitching around the zip leaves a lot to be desired, but the thread color is such a good match that it is not too noticeable. But, it was my first zip ever, so I am going easy on myself! I was not sure how to iron suede, so I neglected to press the seams, until once when I forgot and scorched the inside waste band facing. At least it is inside the skirt, but it itches a lot if the scorched area is touching my skin!!! I have worn this skirt twice and am semi-pleased with it.
Learned: zipper (sort of!), sewing with suede, need for a press cloth!

Colette Sencha
Note my assistant photog in the corner. Always helping!
Inspired by the Tilly and the Buttons Sencha blouse, and with some amazing cotton voile that I found in Paris, I made the Sencha, version B. I love this blouse. Again, with Colette, I really need to learn how to do an SBA, but this is not too bad with this blouse. I also really do not understand the sleeves and while I understitched and handstitched them, they kept flipping out. I finally topstitched them a bit shorter than I think they should be, but they look better now. I love the buttons down the back, and I found the most beautiful pearl buttons, also in Paris. My button holes are stunning, but I credit my fantastic Janome machine for this. This is one of my favorite makes. I have worn it three or four times.
Learned: button holes, neck darts

For my first knit, I went with the Coco dress. There were so many reviews and great tutorials, so I thought it was a good place to start. I like the knit fabric I found on Goldhawk Road in grey. I also bought a similar weight in purple and made the sleeve cuffs and a band at the bottom of the dress in the purple. I did not add any pockets, as I find the pockets look really small and out of sync with the rest of the dress. I am really pleased with this make. There is a slight bit of pulling on one side of the neck, but it is not terribly noticeable, and I received lots of compliments. I like the instructions and tutorials from Tilly. I have worn it two times.
Learned: sewing with knits

I next tried the wrap dress in the GBSB book. This is still undergoing revision to see if I can ever wear it. First off, the pattern and instructions are not that good! The instructions seem a bit out of order in a few places, like hemming the sleeves, which seems like it would have been easier before stitching up the side seam, as the wrist hole is quite small and hard to get around the sewing arm. It also has pleats in the bum??? Who needs pleats in the bum? They stick out a bit in an area where I need no additional help! This is also a knit which is challenging, and I am sure it has stretched out with my sewing. I am not sure I chose the right type of knit, as I bought it in Annecy, and the labeling was not great, and my French knowledge of fabrics is not much better. I followed all instructions, but in the end, I took off the bias binding that edged the entire dress. It was too heavy/bulky for the fabric and made the dress look a bit awkward, plus my installation was not really that good, with seams in some very visible places. The hem is not quite even when wrapped (due to stretching, I am sure), and it is a bit large in the top area. Overall, not sure if I will ever wear it ... we will see after ironing it and trying it on once more.
Learned: bias binding as a decorative edge, more sewing with knits, pleats. Also learned that just because the instructions say it, there may be better ways. I will do more research before starting a project.

I will add the next batch of projects in a future blog post, as this is already quite heavy. If I were a better blogger, I would have done an individual post on each of these. Let's see if I can improve in this area in the future!

Thanks for reading, and Happy Sewing! I am off to work on the Mortmain Dress from Gather in a light-weight denim-look fabric. We will see! I love the style of this dress!

Monday, May 12, 2014

A tool or a toy?

It depends on who you ask! I bought this pin cushion in Paris over Easter weekend. I really needed one but didn't want to spend precious sewing time making one, even though I have seen some really good ones. I also did not want the traditional red tomato one.

When I saw this one, with polka dots, I knew it was perfect.

I am not the only who thinks so.

Maurice and Aurélie (our cats) also love it and will run off with it whenever I turn my back. They bat it around, pins go everywhere, and it is a mess. Aaron says I should just give it to them already (sans pins, of course), but I just cannot. I need a pin cushion ...

In the end, I am sure they will win. They always do. Who can resist their cute antics, and besides, they are big helpers in the sewing room!

What do you think? Tool or toy? Should I give it to them or selfishly keep it for myself?!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Je suis accro à la couture (I am addicted to sewing!)

I learned a new phrase in my French lesson last week and it has stuck with me, probably because it is so true!!! I am addicted to sewing! I just love the idea that I can make the clothes and styles that I love.

I am sure that much of this comes from the early success I am having and the compliments I am receiving. I have made 5 items now:

  • The Miette Skirt, from Tilly and the Buttons: Not blogged because it is too big. Even though it is a wrap, it is enormous. Not sure what I did wrong, or how to fix it, but at some point, I will rip out some of the stitches and try to re-size it.
  • A pencil skirt in blue suede, from The Great British Sewing Bee book 2: A really nice and easy pattern, but what was I thinking sewing in blue suede? This is a bit advanced for a beginner, non? I wasn't sure how to press it and accidentally burnt the inside waste band, and the zipper (my first!) is not great. These things are only visible to me, but undecided if I will wear it ...
  • The Sencha blouse from Colette: Will blog it soon. I love it!!!
  • Coco dress from Tilly and the Buttons: Really love this one too and will blog it soon! I just need my lovely husband to take some snaps!
In the meantime, I am working on a stretch knit wrap dress, also from the Great British Sewing Bee book. Hoping to finish it today, so I can start on my next project: a remake of the Colette crepe in a summery pink linen.

Here is my inspiration for my next Crepe:

I was walking through Place St. Francois near my flat and passed the Bon Genie department store, known for gorgeous window designs. There in the window was a perfect pink summer dress with a tie at the waste. I was smitten, until I saw the price tag: Robe (dress) 449 Swiss francs. (And the adorable shoes are even more at 460 Swiss francs!)

I immediately thought of the Crepe dress. While not a perfect pattern match, it is quite close with the waist tie and overall feel, and I have been wanting a chance to make it again in a lighter, more casual fabric and with the sweetheart neckline. So, I will be making my own version, for a much more reasonable price! Now, where to find a better deal on the shoes ...

Stay tuned! Pics to come soon, I promise!


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My first make

What a feeling! To wear something you made, something you can be proud of having made. Well, today was the day for me! And I must say, I am smitten with sewing!

Today, I wore the lovely Crepe dress from Colette. I vowed before leaving the house that I would not tell everyone I met that I made the dress. Instead, I would wait for the inevitable comments on the stunning fabric, the style, the quality, the total look.

And I mostly managed to keep my vow. I told one woman in my office who knew I had taken up sewing, but otherwise, I waited until people said how they liked my dress, and then, I would break the news! I tried to be modest, but it was all I could do not to sing it from the roof tops!

For those of you who sew regularly, perhaps I seem a bit dramatic. But truly, for the first garment I have ever made, with visions of Red Valentino designs on my sewing machine to lull me to sleep each night, I am so pleased.

I love the style of the Crepe dress, with the wrap dress and ties around the waste. It was fairly simple for a beginner, with no zips or buttons, and it looks great.

I had seen the fabric at Manor, the local department store in Switzerland. I think it is a Duponi silk, but I am not sure. It was too expensive, as is everything in Switzerland, but having thought about it for a week, I couldn't resist returning to buy it, armed with a 10 CHF coupon to soften the blow. And I am glad I did, because it is perfect for the Crepe.

I made a toile first, because I did not want to just cut into such lush fabric and immediately make a mistake. But, I must admit that I was lazy with the toile. I just could not get too excited about the cotton fabric I bought from Ikea. I did not iron anything, and I barely took all the steps. It really defeated the purpose of making a toile, because I cannot say that I really made any adjustments, other than to cut the bodice one size smaller.

You can see that it is a bit large in the top. I will have to learn how to do an SBA. The toile should have revealed this to me, but again ... LAZY ME! To try and solve it, I made the darts a bit larger on the front, then sewed a larger seam allowance. With a sweater, I do not think it is too bad.

I struggled with the arm and neck facings flipping out constantly. No amount of ironing solved it. I finally gave up and went to the trusty Internet to see what I could find. And what else, but Gertie did a sew-along with this dress, complete with videos and everything. I was thrilled to find it but sad that I had not found it earlier. I will follow her excellent instructions this weekend to sew the facings to the seam allowance. Brilliant! And next time, before I begin any pattern, I will search for all sew-alongs in advance. I learned quite a lot from Gertie on the Crepe, but too late for this version. But, I am sure I will be making a few more.

Another little bit: I was so excited to be making pockets that I brazenly stitched them in without paying enough attention, only to discover at the end that they were upside down. Upside down pockets do not work. I tried to fix them without removing the entire side seem, but it was a complete mess, so in the end, I removed them and sewed up the seams for a pocketless Crepe. Okay for me, if this was the worst mistake I made. And, it is kind of funny!

I made this dress all by myself with lots of help from the on-line sewing community. Thanks to so many of you, as I have been lurking and reading so many of your blogs and following so many tutorials, which gave me a wealth of great resources and knowledge from the start. How did we ever live without this thing called the web? How did I ever live without sewing?

Thanks everyone! I would love to hear all about your first project? Were you happy with the result? Did it motivate you more?

My trusty helper, Aurélie