Tuesday, 30 June 2015

SOSM Round One: The Sutton Blouse

When I saw that the first challenge of the Super Online Sewing Match was the Sutton Blouse by True Bias, I wasn't sure what to think at first! It's not a pattern that I would have picked out on my own, but I can see why they chose it for the first round. It's simple enough, but perfect as a blank slate to make your own.

It was only the first morning of the competition, though, and I had already run into a problem. The contestants were generously provided with a gift certificate to Hart's Fabrics to cover the cost of the project, but as is always the case, shipping from the US to Canada takes far too long for this to be an option for me. In Canmore, there's a great quilting store where I'm able to buy all the notions that I need for my sewing projects, but their supply of garment fabrics is very limited, and I couldn't find anything to work with there.

The only fabric I had in my stash that I thought would work was this rayon from Cotton + Steel's Frock collection, which I had bought at Spool of Thread in Vancouver while I was there in May. I didn't think that I had enough, though - I had just over half of what the pattern called for!

I ran into my second problem that evening after work, when the printer where I'm staying decided that it had printed enough PDF patterns, and ran out of ink. It was 6:10... every printing store in Canmore had closed 10 minutes ago! I thought that I was stuck until the next day after work, until I realized that the public library would have printers that you could pay to use. Phew!

I printed the pattern scaled to 90%, because I'm smaller than the size 0, and a bit of math told me that the size 2 would be perfect when scaled like this. I cut out a muslin in this size, and the fit was great! The only alteration I made was to take out a little of the yoke seam in the back, toward the outer edge of the back piece. I know that the style is supposed to be loose, but it just seemed like there was a little too much excess fabric there.

I then laid out the pattern pieces over this rayon, and miraculously, they fit if I cut everything on a single layer! I wouldn't have much to play around with for pattern matching, but at least I had something.

Speaking of pattern matching, this was the first time I ever tried it! Throw in a super shifty fabric and some French seams, and it wasn't long before I wondered what I had gotten myself into. Cutting this out took an entire evening!

To make it a little easier, I traced the pattern onto Swedish tracing paper and drew in the stitching lines, so that I could see where the print would hit the seams through the pattern pieces. I also traced the pieces that were supposed to be cut on the fold twice, so that I could cut everyone on one layer.

I started with the front pieces, since I decided that the centre front seam was the most important to match. I cut everything out very, very carefully and slowly, and staystitched all the edges before cutting the next piece - I wasn't taking any chances with this stretching out! Once I had all the front pieces cut out, I basted them together by hand to make sure the pattern matched... and it did!

I realized pretty quickly that pattern matching wasn't possible anywhere else, although I think I did a decent job of at least lining up the diamonds in a straight horizontal line at the side seams, and in a straight vertical line at the centre back. Because the the width of the pieces, and the angled seams at the yoke, I couldn't really match anything else up.

I felt like this blouse would need a little something more to feel like 'me', so I spent some time rummaging through the notions at the quilt store, and I found this cotton lace trim that I thought would look nice sewn into the seams. I cut it in half, then basted it in place after sewing the first seam of the French seam, so that when I sewed the second seam, it was sandwiched in between the layers.

I also changed the hem a little, and made the edges rounded for a scalloped effect. I wanted to stay true to the pattern, and yet make it more wearable for my style. I love how this turned out!

I didn't have enough fabric to make bias binding out of the same fabric, so I used some white silk lining. This probably wasn't the best idea - I used the continuous bias tape method, and the fabric was so shifty and delicate that it took ages. I had never used this method before, and I ended up with a lot more bias tape than I was expecting!

When I attached the bias binding, I slipslitched it by hand rather than topstitching. I love the clean look of hand sewing, and I find it so satisfying!

I followed the instructions for the most part up until the side seams. They suggest hemming the sleeves and then sewing the side seams, but I prefer sewing the side seams first for a cleaner (and more comfortable) finish.

Rather than turning under the edge, I hemmed the sleeves by hand with more of the silk bias binding, since I loved how the neckline looked. I originally planned to use more of the lace trim here, but after basting it in, I decided that it was too busy and took it out.

I used a French seam at the side seam since I have no serger, although the pattern doesn't suggest it because of the side slit. I just stopped right before the side slit, and then snipped the seam allowance so that it would lay flat and I could finish the edges of the side slit.

I sewed the side slit in a completely different way than the instructions suggest, since I made it rounded and wanted to use more of the lace trim around the edges. I started by basting in the lace trim, then attaching the bias binding, sandwiching the trim in between the two. When I turned the bias binding to the wrong side and sewed it by hand, the lace trim stuck out past the edge of the fabric. I finished the front and the back separately, and then finished the top edge of the slit with some more bias binding and hand stitched it down to secure it. (Looking at these photos, I realized that it needed another good press - those wrinkles at the top are now gone!)

I'm so proud of my finished blouse! Although the pattern isn't one I would have picked on my own, I think I really managed to make it suit my style, and I think I'll wear it tons. It also looks great tucked in, but it'll be so easy to just throw on over jeans - exactly the kind of top I need more of!

Despite the challenge of pattern matching this fabric, it worked out really well for this blouse. It's so drapey, but was surprisingly easy to sew with (or maybe that was just by comparison to the silk bias binding!). It's super soft and probably the nicest rayon I've ever worked with. It pressed beautifully, and any needle and pin marks pressed right out. I'm on a huge rayon kick right now, so I'm really tempted to try to find some more of it! It's pricier than a lot of other rayon (it cost more per metre than the silk I used for the binding!), but it was really worth it.

I should also point out the Kelli's instructions for the pattern are excellent and very clear - I love how cleanly the insides are finished. I would really recommend the pattern, and I'll probably be making more!

To see all the finished blouses for the first challenge, head on over to Sew Mama Sew - I believe they'll be up by Wednesday!

Lastly, a HUGE thank you to Micheal from Photoflow for taking these amazing photos for me!

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

The Super Online Sewing Match II - I'm a Contestant!

When I saw that Sew Mama Sew was hosting another round of the Super Online Sewing Match, and that they were accepting auditions, I thought I might as well send in an email and see what happened. Why not? I like participating in challenges, and the grand prize of two Janome sewing machines is pretty tempting!

Image source

I wasn't really expecting to be chosen, but lo and behold, there was an email waiting for me this morning, saying that I had been picked as one of ten contestants!

I'm so, so excited to be a part of this. I've spent the past year working on creating lots of practical, wearable, and simpler pieces, but I feel like by now, a have a pretty good hold on my handmade wardrobe, and I'm looking to branch out to some more challenging projects. I think the contest will be perfect motivation to really challenge myself and get creative. I can't wait to see what the first challenge is - it's announced tomorrow!

Head on over to Sew Mama Sew to meet the other contestants, and to follow the contest over the next couple of months!

Friday, 19 June 2015

So I Found This Thing Called Instagram...

I'll admit that I've never been that much of a fan of social networking. I use my personal Facebook pretty much entirely for communication with groups (my dance group, my residence, my group of friends), and I've never before used Twitter, Instagram, or any of those other sites... until now!

I'm not even going to count up how many years late I am to the party, but I finally decided the other day that I would make myself an Instagram account, and I'd love it if you'd follow me @youngseamstress! There's not much there at the moment, but I'm looking forward to using it to share some progress on projects in between blog posts.

I've also started using my Pinterest account a little more lately - I've had ones for ages but never really used it until recently. Follow me there, too, if you like!

I've updated my social media buttons in my sidebar too - the original ones were a little small for my liking anyways! I'm still slowly working away at some graphics updates for the blog, bit by bit. I'll see how far I get!

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Completed: Miz Mozelle 2-Piece Set

When I bought this fabric, I was very, very torn. Dress, blouse, or skirt? It really begged to be made into a dress, but I knew that was I needed more at the moment was tops and skirts.

My solution? Make all three!

By making a 2-piece set, I could have something that looked like a dress, but I could just as easily wear the pieces separately.

The fabric is rayon twill that I bought from Plazatex in Montreal - it's a gem of a fabric store that's not in either of the fabric shopping districts, but instead near McGill. I found it while wandering around after moving into my apartment, but it's fantastic! It's a small store, but with lots of selection and plenty of notions. I'll be going there lots next year, now that I know about it!

It took me a while to decide on a pattern, since my initial idea was to use a blouse pattern and a skirt pattern, and the first ones that came to mind were the Pendrell blouse and the Hollyburn skirt (two of my TNT patterns). But, I just didn't think that they would look like a dress when worn together. I spent some time looking online at 2-piece sets, and the ones that are trendy right now are mostly structured crop tops and full skirts - a style that I actually think is kind of cute, but not at all right for this fabric.

I put the fabric aside for a while, and it wasn't until I was browsing through some indie pattern collections that I wasn't familiar with that I had this idea. I found the Miz Mozelle dress by Jamie Christina, and loved it! I immediately thought of this fabric, but then I remembered my 2-piece set idea. Then I thought - why not take a dress pattern, and modify it into a 2-piece set? That way, it'll be sure to look like a dress when the pieces are worn together.

I bought the PDF and taped it together, and cut out a size 2. I'm actually a 4 at the waist and a 6 at the hips, but I figured that the only part that I really needed to fit was the shoulders, since there's plenty of ease everywhere else.

I thought the dress would be one piece, with an elastic casing at the waist, but it has a top and a skirt that are sewn together, and the elastic is sewn into the seam allowance. This made it really easy to make into two pieces! I lengthened the top by 6" and narrowed it just slightly so that it wouldn't be too bulky when tucked in, and I added 1 1/2" onto the top of the skirt, for an elastic casing. I also raised the keyhole opening by 1/2"

I started with the blouse, and I had originally planned to use a cream fabric for the collar, and cream bias tape. After sewing the bias tape to the keyhole, though, I realized that it was just too busy, and ripped it out to use black instead. I also decided to use black fabric for the collar, which I think looked better. Since I didn't have very much of the black fabric and I'd already cut out pockets from it, I had to piece the under collar, but it's underneath so you don't see it at all. I did something that I never do and skipped the interfacing, since the contrast fabric was already stiffer than the rayon. It turned out just fine!

I couldn't find a button I liked, or any cord that would work for the loop to close the keyhole, so instead I used a black wooden bead and made a daisy chain out of some embroidery thread.

I modified the order of construction a little, since I used French seams on all the seams. I don't have access to a serger anymore since leaving home, so I'm experimenting with different seam finishes! I love the look of the French seams, and the rayon is lightweight enough that they worked really well.

The pattern suggests inserting the sleeves flat, then sewing the side seams, but I thought that a vertical French seam under the arm would be less comfortable, so I sewed them in the round instead. I don't mind setting in sleeves in the round, and I find it makes for a nicer finish.

I love this method for the collar - I couldn't quite wrap my head around it at first, but once I understood what was going on, I realized how genius it is. You finish the edge with bias tape, with the collar sandwiched in between the top and the bias tape, and then the collar covers the stitching that attaches the bias tape. I finished the edges near the keyhole by hand, where the collar wouldn't quite cover the stitching, for a cleaner finish.

I wanted the blouse to be evenly gathered when tucked in, so that it would look more like a dress. Enter, elastic thread! I sewed five rows of stitching with a bobbin of elastic thread to shirr the waist, which worked really well! It was my first time shirring with elastic thread, but I'll definitely use it again. It took some samples, and I had to play with the bobbin tension on my machine a little, but it was easy after that.

For the hem, I just turned up 1/4", then 1/2", and hemmed by hand. The stitches are completely invisible in this fabric!

Onto the skirt - I added pockets (of course), but I wasn't quite sure how to make them work with French seams. This tutorial helped a lot! I love how they turned out.

I used a modified version of the pockets from the Cambie dress, which I extended so that I could sew them into the seam that made the casing, for stability. I used the same black fabric as I did for the collar, because I thought pockets from the rayon might be too flimsy and delicate.

To make the casing, I just turned under 1/4", then turned under 1 1/4" and stitched it. I used 1" wide elastic, and just enough length to fit snugly around my waist. For the hem, I did the same as the top - turned under 1/4", then 1/2", and hemmed by hand.

I'm really, really happy with how these turned out! I love both the top and the skirt, and I think that they really do look like a dress when they're worn together. I could maybe have sewn the shirring a little bit lower, since it pokes out a little from the skirt when it's tucked in. Since the skirt is also gathered at the waist by elastic, I don't think it's super noticeable. If I did something like this again, I might shirr the waist of the skirt before making the casing so that it looks even more seamless.

The top is great with jeans, or with a plain black skirt, and the skirt is great with pretty much any solid colour top. I think these pieces will get a lot of wear!

Thanks for reading!

UPDATE: This outfit has been chosen as a finalist in the Monthly Stitch's Separates Contest. There are so really fabulous outfits made for the contest that you should check out, and if you like mine, I'd really appreciate a vote! Thanks!

Monday, 8 June 2015

Completed: Muse Natalie Dress

After filling the wardrobe gap of a LBD, this is something I’ve wanted to make for ages – a little red dress! I’m always drawn to prints, but I wear solid colours way more often. I’ve already made a few solid colour knit Moneta dresses that I wear all the time (here and here, with a third unblogged), so I knew that this would be a great wardrobe staple for me. Plus, I love red – it seems to work for all seasons and all occasions!

I’m always super excited when there’s a new knit dress pattern out, especially if it’s by an indie pattern company. So, after making the top version of the Natalie top and dress by Muse Patterns and loving it, I knew I wanted to make it as a dress.

I cut out a size 30, as I did for my top, and the only alteration I needed was to shorten it. I shortened the skirt 2″, and I can’t remember how much I shortened the sleeves but it was an inch or two.

The fabric is rayon jersey that I bought from Fabricana in Richmond. It was on sale so I bought a few metres – I already made a top from it (so far unblogged), and I have enough left for at least another top, possibly another dress.

Since I’m away from home again, I don’t have access to my mom’s serger anymore, so this was my first knit garment made entirely on a regular sewing machine. It went together more smoothly than I was expecting! The insides don’t look as professional as they would with a serger, but they’re still quite neat, and my gathering and my neckline actually look way better than on the version that I made on my mom’s serger. After sewing the seams with a narrow zigzag, I finished the seam allowances with a slightly wider zigzag wherever I thought they might roll. The local sewing store where I’m living for the summer didn’t have any ballpoint twin needles, so I just hemmed with a single line of narrow zigzag stitching. I actually quite like it – it’s very subtle, almost invisible in this fabric.

There’s a bit of extra fabric bunching up at the back because of my swayback, but I think the only way to fix this would be to put in some sort of seam or some darts there. 

The only changes that I would make next time is to make the skirt a little more flared, to make it more bike-friendly (which might also solve the problem of the bunching in the back), and to add pockets! I usually add pockets to everything, but I completely forgot with this dress. 

Overall, I’m very happy with it! It’s very flattering and a nice change from the Moneta, which I’ve made lots of already. I’ve been really impressed with all the Muse Patterns that I’ve tried – the instructions and the drafting are great, and I really love the styles. I think I might try the Gillian wrap dress next!

Incidentally, after resorting to mirror selfies for the last week or so of Me-Made-May, I knew I would need to find a better way to take photos while I'm living on my own. I could ask a co-worker to take photos, but I'm quite picky about my photos and take lots of them, so I don't like asking people to take them for me until I know them well. I'm rather proud of my solution:

It's a holder for my phone made out of duct tape, that I taped onto the railing of the porch at my uncle's condo where I'm staying! I use a timer with it, and managed to get some pretty clear photos. Although the background isn't that pretty, the lighting is good, and my phone can take decent photos so long as there's good light (inside, like for the flat shots, they get a bit grainy). They've also just replaced the wood on the porch but haven't painted it yet, so I don't have to worry about peeling off the paint with the tape. I wish I had figured this out for Me-Made-May!

UPDATE: This dress was picked as one of 15 finalists in the Indie Pattern Month Dresses Contest over at The Monthly Stitch. If you like the dress, I'd really appreciate it if you head on over and vote for me!

Thanks for reading!

Dress: Me-made (Muse Natalie dress)
Shoes: Bought second-hand from the McGill Clothing Exchange (Sperry)

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Completed: Sewaholic Davie Dress - the Perfect LBD

If you've been following my Me-Made-May posts, you've probably noticed that I wear knit dresses quite a bit! In fact, I probably wear them more than I did during May... I just tried to vary my outfits as much as I could!

I was excited when I heard that Tasia from Sewaholic had released a knit dress pattern, the Davie dress, but to be honest, I can't say that I was immediately drawn to it. I could tell that it was well designed, as all Sewaholic patterns are, but I just wasn't sure if the style was for me.

It was pretty much because of this fabric that I decided to give the pattern a try. During my last day in Montreal, I went out fabric shopping and bought some solid black cotton knit from Stretch Tex, and some heathered charcoal gray as well, though I didn't have room in my suitcase for that one! I was very impressed with the fabric from there that I used for my maroon Moneta dress, so I was happy to pick up some more. This was a little bit thicker and less drapey than the maroon stuff though, so I decided that my plan to make yet another Moneta dress wouldn't work.

I knew that I wanted to make a dress from it though, because I didn't actually have a little black dress! It was a serious wardrobe gap, but I'm always drawn to coloured fabric so much more than black.

It was then that I remembered the Davie dress, and the samples made up in black. The more I thought about it, the more the pattern grew on me, and I decided to buy it.

I'm so glad I changed my mind, because this dress turned out so well, and it will be super versatile. Although it's a different style than I'm used to, it's very flattering!

I cut out view A (with cap sleeves, knee length) in a size 0, which is my standard size in Sewaholic patterns (even though my measurements don't fit exactly, I've found that a 0 usually fits). I knew that I would want to widen the neckline a little, just out of personal preference, so I started by taking out 1/2" of each side before cutting it out.

Since I have quite a short upper torso, I made the keyhole 1" smaller so it wouldn't be too low on me. Raising necklines is a pretty standard alteration for me, so this was nothing unusual.

Once the front and back were sewn together, the instructions suggest basting the side seams to check the fit, which I'm glad I did. The princess seams were sitting a little low on me (again, due to my short torso) and the armholes were a little big. I took an extra 1/2" out of the shoulder seams, and took in the side seams under the arms 1/4" to fix this. There's a little extra fabric above the princess seam that I'll deal with if I make it again, but it's perfectly wearable like this.

I also decided that I wanted the neckline to be a little wider still, especially since it was now higher after adjusting the shoulders. In the end, I took out 2" on either side, and I also needed to lower the back neckline a little to make it rounded - otherwise, it looked really strange with the wider neckline! I really like it now - I think the wider neckline suits me better than the original one.

Although it's a knit dress, it's constructed much more like a woven dress, since it was originally designed for heavier knits (though the jersey version looks great too!). It has a centre front and centre back seam as well as princess seams, and the instructions suggest sewing all seams on a regular machine, pressing, topstitching, and trimming the seam allowance. I tend to prefer less topstitching, though, so I experimented with some different finishes. As much as I was tempted to just serge all the seams, I wanted them to lay a little flatter, so I sewed them on my regular machine with a slight zigzag, pressed them open, and serged the seam allowances separately. At the keyhole, you need topstitching to keep the seam allowances down, but instead, I used some lightweight Stitch Witchery to keep them in place. Since they aren't really under any stress, I think that should hold them.

I also wanted to see if I could get away with using the same technique to avoid topstitching the neckline and hems. The neckline is finished with bias binding that's turned to the inside, and the hems are just pressed and topstitched. Instead of topstitching, I pressed them up with Stitch Witchery, and hand tacked them to the seam allowances. The neckline seems to be holding up quite well, but I'm not so sure about the hems after throwing this through the wash a couple times. I might have to topstitch them - there'd be no point sewing them by hand since it's quite visible in this fabric.

The last thing I did differently was to add pockets. In her Q&A post about the dress, Tasia suggests not adding pockets, because they would either be droopy and weigh down the dress, or be bulky if the fabric could support them. I've had mixed experiences with knit pockets - the ones in my second Moneta dress droop and bunch up quite badly (I ended up tacking them to the front of the skirt), but the ones in my third (unblogged) and fourth Monetas are quite functional, because the fabric is a little less drapey. Since this fabric was a little thicker than the fabric I used for my Monetas, though, I tried using a woven lining fabric. I had no idea if this would work out at all, but I really, really wanted this dress to have pockets, so I gave it a shot. When I volunteered at Our Social Fabric, I picked up a small cut of black lining fabric that was just enough for the pockets. I used the Cambie dress pieces, and sewed them in like regular inseam pockets.

And luckily, they turned out really well! The pockets don't gape, don't weight down the dress, and don't droop! I don't know how functional they would be for carrying anything very heavy or bulky, but for my phone, lip balm, and some money, they're perfect. In a fabric with more vertical stretch, adding some stabilizer to the side seams (like narrow twill tape) might stop them from weighing down the dress, although removing the vertical stretch in those seams might make it tricky to get on and off.

The instructions suggest letting it hang before hemming, which I didn't think would make a difference since the skirt is cut in panels, but it actually did! I also shortened it, so it's somewhere in between the length of view A and view B now. Depending on how much it had stretched, I shortened it 2-3", then hemmed it.

With those modifications (widening the neckline, tweaking the fit and adding pockets), I'm really happy with this dress! It's very classic and can be dressed up or down easily, plus it's comfortable and flattering. I thought that it would look good with my favourite red heels, but looking at these photos, I think they might be a little much. Oh well - I'll probably be wearing this with flats most of the time anyways.

I'll probably make another one of these in the fall - I'm not so sure I want to make it in a drapier jersey, so it lends itself more to fall dresses made from heavier-weight knits. I have some nice purple ponte knit that I think would be perfect!

Thanks for reading, and thanks to my brother for taking photos for me!

Dress: me-made (Sewaholic Davie)
Shoes: thrifted/vintage