Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Second Blue Dress

I had enough of the blue and white sheet leftover to make a simple dress, and knew I wanted to make it shirred.  I've been wanting to do this for awhile, but it kept getting postponed.  I read tutorials, I wound my elastic thread, and cut a large rectangle from the remaining sheet, using the hem as the dress hem.  I sat down to shir.

I've mentioned before, with machine knitting, how tuck rhymes with *uck....well....ever notice how close shir is to shi* ?  LOL.  The elastic thread in the bobbin was not feeding very well, and was WAY tighter than any of the tutorials showed.  As in, the tutorials showed it would be barely gathered with the first few rows....I had it severely gathered as it was sewing.  I read more tutorials, esp. ones relating to Brother machines as those machines don't seem to like to shir... however, I have a Kenmore.  One tutorial showed a similar drop in style bobbin, and she said she had to tighten the shuttle screw.  Well, I knew I did not need it tighter, so I tried loosening it, bit by bit.  That worked, and finally by about the 4th row, I got a good tension.

I hadn't drawn my guide lines on, and my presser foot is too narrow to use as a guide for 1/2" rows (so many tutorials said they did this!).  I thought I'd be able to use the extended hem guide markings on my machine, but can't see them when you're sewing in the middle of the fabric!  I finally got fed up and drew guide lines on.  I did as many rows as I thought I needed (I wanted it to cover my bust and a bit below), then I went back and redid the first three rows since I still had some elastic left.  I could get about 3-4 rows per bobbin of elastic thread.  I actually did stop mid-row and start a new bobbin, even though the tutorials say not to...I just backstitched really well over the end.  Of course, I was using a patterned fabric; I might not have done this on a solid fabric.

I serged the side seam, wrong sides together, then did a French seam on the regular machine.  I cut two strips for the straps, and tried sewing elastic inside them to make them a little more interesting.  That was a disaster.  Maybe if the fabric was more fluid.

Once I had it on, I could see the front hem was higher than the back, since I had used only one piece, and there was no way to make the front bodice longer than the back bodice to account for the extra length over my chest, LOL.  I also saw some bagginess at the sides which could have been the poor shirring job or a size issue.  I was going to take the sides in, but that would disrupt the stretchiness of the shirring.  Next time, I will use two pieces for the bodice, so that I can taper the sides, and make the front longer.  One thing I did do was to add an extra row of shirring just on the front, to create an optical illusion of the front shirring being the same length as the back.  It could use another row.

I'm actually not fond of the straight line across my upper chest, although I like the height of this one compared to one I bought.  Which is strange because they are both just straight, and the RTW one has adjustable straps, so I don't know why it seems/is lower.  Maybe because it's a knit and slips a bit?  I made the straps wide enough to (mostly) cover bra straps, but found it was actually fairly supportive without a bra on.  The shirring though does trap sweat!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Tale of Two Dresses

Early in the summer I picked up a blue and white floral window topper, thinking it was a sheet (early June).  Later, I found a blue and white floral sheet, Mainstays brand (Wal-Mart?), 60% cotton, 40% poly.  I'm pretty sure it was a twin.  It had a nice, crisp hand; not a wimpy polyester 70's sheet.  I also found two dress patterns at Value Village in my size.  One is a shift dress, Butterick 5628, and one is a sheath dress, Simplicity 7965.

I had just tried making another shift dress, McCall's 3173.  During tissue fitting (my first "real" time), I was worried that it was going to be too shapeless, despite the large darts, so I went with making a top.  However, I didn't quite finish it as I was disappointed in the shapeless shape, and the feel of the fabric irked me (I think I live in knit t shirts too much).  Shortly after making that dreadful top (it probably isn't so dreadful, but compared to t shirts...), Elizabeth wrote a few posts about shift vs sheath on her blog, SEWN.  This was so timely for me as I was struggling with trying to break free of the empire waist style.  I thought a loose, flowy shift dress would be a nice, cool, summery dress I could quickly sew in a variety of fabrics and just throw on and wear easily.  However, I had just bought a gorgeous stretch twill sheath dress (with empire waist, but not noticeable), and it made me feel fabulous.

Despite my now second guessing a shift dress, I went ahead with Butterick 5628.  The pictures show the dress as a jumper, over a long sleeved shirt.  It also says "fitted, A-line jumper".  Doesn't look too fitted in the tiny envelope picture!  I don't remember exactly if I did a FBA or just cut smaller shoulders (I think that's what I did).  I did take an inch out of the upper bodice, the inch shown above the waist, and the inch shown in the skirt for petites.  I also made it shorter.  I had some issues with pinning the dress...stupidity, actually.  After pinning the first piece, I realized it should have been on the fold.  Re-pinned it, then realized I wanted the hem to use the sheet hem.  Unpinned it, started pinning it at the hem, and realized the sheet wouldn't be wide enough to cut both pieces along the hem.
 The sewing was going good, however, when I went to sew up the sides, I got a surprise...poor pattern drafting meant one piece was longer than the other!
I've never checked pieces prior to cutting!  I guess I should.
I didn't want to do the facings; I never get a good finish on the edges, I don't have a good stash of plain fabrics to use (the fashion fabric would show through if used), etc.  I went and bought a 1" bias binding gizmo after the (relative) success on the last two dresses with the smaller binding.  The package has wrong instructions though---it said to cut the fabric in 1" strips!  I cut 2" strips using up the odd shaped pieces leftover from cutting out the dress, sewed them together, and ended up with way more than I needed.  What a great way to use fabric!  I finished the edges, and tried it on.

Blah!  It might have been "fitted", but only at the sides, and only if I wore a sweater under it.

I can understand how fashion "experts" say a shift dress is totally hides any of the mid-section curves.  Supposedly, this makes viewers look at you and think "Oh, I can't see her waist, it must be REALLY small under there!"  Ya, right!  LOL!!

So, I added some front and back vertical darts, and took the sides in a bit (actually, I think I did this before finishing the openings).  It affects the lay of the skirt, but it's acceptable (to me).  I hemmed it, and washed it, and I think it shrunk!  It's way shorter than just the hemming would account for.  The first time I wore it out, I used a dark blue wide ribbon as a belt, but looking at the pictures now, I don't think I'll share those!  I wore it recently to a pool party and forgot the belt.  I had a couple compliments, so I think the belt is out.

At least now I know, a shift dress just isn't for me.  Maybe as a nightgown.  Even though the alterations probably took as long as the initial sewing, I DO have a wearable dress that I really like (and I found some blue sandals at Value Village!!).  Sometimes quick isn't worth the time!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Time to Catch Up

A number of issues has caused a slow down to my postings, but I hope to get back on track soon, at least, when the kids go back to school!
While at my parents for Father's Day (mid June), my mom found this fabric.  It was a pre-shirred piece, sold by Simpsons-Sears, is 50% cotton/50% polyester, and probably from the mid-70's.  I had a very similar (commercially made) shirred dress, in the same shade of green, but plaid.  I wore it when I was about 5, it's a little too short for Meg to wear as a dress by today's standards (ever look at old patterns and wonder about just how short those little girl dresses were?!).  There's no way Lucy would wear green flowers, so I had to make Meg a new dress.

The fabric is about 52-56" wide along the unshirred edge.  The package said you could make a dress for up to a 36" chest.  Indeed, I tried to stretch it to fit me, and it wouldn't.  I think that the more shirring there is, and the closer together it is, the less it will expand back out.  Also, commercially shirred fabric uses a different stitch than a home sewing machine, so maybe this affects it too. 
I  cut off some from the bottom for straps and to shorten (I cut maybe 6-8") and blindhemmed it flat.  Then I went to sew the side seams (Meg has a 28" chest, so I didn't take anything off the width).  I lined up the shirred section and pinned the smooth skirt.  And one side was longer than the other!
Crappy picture of the hem, showing the difference between the two sides, on my crappy looking ironing board.
I ripped back a few inches of the hem on either side, and lengthened one while shortening the other so that they'd meet at the edge.  Annoying.
It is on the long side, but she grows quickly, and most of her dresses are on the short side.  She really wanted a halter tie since Lucy has a halter dress, and she doesn't.  I used my 1" bias tape maker, but cut the fabric on grain.  Pressed it like double fold tape and top stitched it closed.  So much nicer than making a tube and turning!  The instructions on the tape maker are wrong though!  I think it's the "Unique" brand, not Clover.  It says to cut the strips 1" wide.  Same as for the 1/2" tape maker.  Good thing I'm far enough along in this journey that I knew better!!
This is Meg and my cousin's daughter, who is almost 3.  She's adorable!
I'm glad I got the chance to sew this up for Meg, it was pretty quick and easy and looks commercially made (I guess cause most of it is).  Stay tuned for more shirring escapades that weren't quite so quick and easy!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

SewingPatterns . com

Somehow I got on's email list.  I never look at the emails since by the time you add shipping it's usually not a deal to order from the States, compared to waiting for a sale.  But recently, Kwik Sew patterns were on sale and they hardly ever come on sale at the fabric store here, and I wanted some bathing suit patterns.  The four patterns, with shipping, came to just over $40, so I saved some money, esp. since not going to the fabric store means I didn't buy anything "extra" LOL.

However, I just got a notice today that they have shipped my patterns.  That's a week after I ordered!  Is this normal for this company?  I did once get a shipment notice from Knitpicks that was dated the day after I got the notice, LOL.  Does this mean that they JUST got mailed today, or that today was just when they sent the notice?

Itty Bitty

Almost forgot to show this project from late spring!  Lucy got a new camera for Christmas and had been keeping it in a sock.  I kept saying I'd make a case, but after some not-so-wonderful experiences trying to make a cell phone case for Meg, I put it on hold for a little bit longer.  Finally, I decided a zippered bag would work fine enough and got to work.  There's lots of tutorials for lined, zippered bags/pouches out there.  It's not a terribly difficult project, although I found it hard to figure out some steps due to the fabric choices/photos of the tutorial I used.
 A few years ago, Rob's brother, who works in the film industry making/supplies props, brought me a BIG bag of remnants, mostly upholstery weight fabrics.  That's the outside fabric, the inside fabric is satin from a Christmas mei tai that taught me slippery fabric does NOT work for straps!
I'm not sure why the top corners are angled in.  It's okay, but I'd like to know what I did wrong.
The zipper is a little bright for the fabric; I didn't have it with me when picking the zipper out and totally forgot that brown would have been a nice choice too.
I do have plans to make more of these, but there's lots of things out there I want to make!  I do have materials to make one for my band "stuff"  (oil spray, tuner, mouth piece, pencil...).

Monday, August 01, 2011


I just got a comment on the last post about the hat and mitts in my profile picture.
I just did a quick scroll through the posts under "LK150" and "Machine Knitting" and it's not there---I might have posted it before I learned about Labels.  However, it's a self-made pattern using the tuck stitch design that's in the LK150 manual.  The mitts are based upon several mitt designs out there; that was in my early days of figuring out what I like in a machine knitted mitt.
I recently washed all my winter stuff, and had trouble getting the rinse water suds free.  So there were many (hot-ish) rinse cycles...and this hat felted!  Didn't shrink too much, but it's felted alright.  Oh well, I don't wear it much.

A very similar pattern can be found in another post  and there's a link to Ray's site, the designer.  I haven't checked recently to see if he's selling the pattern or not.  For my hat, I just made one wide rectangle to go around my head, ribbed for the band, then tucked till I got it high enough, and casted off.  Fold in half and stitch the top closed (graft) and sew the side seam.  Add some tassels...
Such an easy pattern since you don't need to work decreases into a stitch pattern, or transfer stitches. 

Sorry I'm not much more help!