Thursday, August 23, 2018

Zany to the Max

Before there was Ohana, there was Animaniacs. I bought this fabric in February thinking to make dresses for R and C - since their mother and I were Animaniacs fans together in middle/high school.

The fabric itself is pretty busy, and panels are always a challenge. But when I ran across the Candy Castle Patterns BubbleGum Dress on Etsy, I knew I had a winner. There are SO MANY stunning dresses made with this online!

Of course, it's also a more ambitious dress than most of the ones I've tried so far. Puffed sleeves, bias tape hems, a wrap closure... I printed & taped the pattern, read through the instructions and... promptly realized I wasn't going to be churning 2 of these out in the week and a half before I went to visit the girls, no matter what all the reviews on Etsy said. D'oh! 

Instead, I made my Ohana dresses that week, which worked out well. But I was still left with  a gorgeous, taped out pattern, a craving to learn puffed sleeves, and some fabric for which I had a vision. Oh, and plenty of time to shop for bias tape.

I picked this beauty up at Charm Cottage Fabrics on Etsy. I loved the crochet edge and thought the polka dots were about perfect. Cutting these dresses out took a while (there were lots of parts) and as with every sister set I have made, having to do everything twice can turn even a short project into a long haul.

I'm not entirely happy with the way the sleeves turned out (I forgot to take a picture, but let's just say you can tell the direction I sewed from where the gathers on the puffed sleeves ended up; and I am a consummate pin-er), and making sure that the second row of bias tape stitching covered the first was harder at some points than others. So, anyone online who ensures me this is a delightful and easy beginner dress will from now on earn some instant side-eye from me. Like, it's a beautiful dress. the construction steps are straightforward. But it is NOT a beginner's dress by any stretch of MY imagination. Oh, and bias tape isn't *cheap*, either.

That said, will I make it again? Absolutely. It wasn't EASY, but it was GORGEOUS. The wrap construction makes it flexible for all sorts of body types. The shape of the skirt is great for showcasing a panel. Being able to use a different fabric on each side of the bodice made for a nice/fun touch, and toned down a fairly wild print. despite the imperfections, I was happy with how they came out.

And as for the recipients? Well, they're looking sharp in their new dresses!

I get the impression these dresses come out about once a week. And R (the eldest) dresses herself, so I *know* that means her dress is well loved. C also looks cute as a button in hers, and that I have to admit when I see those kids so cut and happy, I can't help but take pleasure in a job well done.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Gone to the Dogs

My Brother is a Disney fanatic, and one of his favorite Disney movies is 101 Dalmatians. He's also a dog person in general, so when I saw this fabric, I immediately thought of him.

Fabric this cute just had to make its way to my sewing room! I don't do a lot of sewing for adults (fabric is expensive, and adults are pickier about fit usually), but I do own the Cole's Creations Jerry's Raglan pattern, which I keep swearing I'm going to try out on my husband one of these days. In the meantime, it would do nicely for my brother.

The Jerry's Raglan is GINORMOUS when printed out - 49 pages, I think - and having taped it together once, I think next time I buy a men's PDF pattern I'm going to splurge on something with an A0 format. That said, the raglan came together nicely, and I loved the Doggie details.

I even put a "custom" tag on the back, to assist my brother in finding the front of his shirt. It's just a small rectangle of Cotton Lycra, but it's soft and it gets the job done.

Mailing the shirt was a bit nervewracking, but it made it to its destination safely. Here he is modeling it in his signature Green Bay Hat! I'm glad I went with a size 44 (one size larger than measured).

The shirt made its maiden voyage on a bowling date with my parents, where it was much admired.

Hopefully that wearing is the first of many to come.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Rockin' the Aurora

You know that feeling when your kid develops an affinity for something FIVE MINUTES after the opportunity to buy it expires? That's what happened to me with little A and some Jojo fabric. One of my favorite sites ran a preorder, and I counted myself lucky that this print wasn't relevant to me and bought some other pretties instead; then like 3 days after the round closed, my daughter dicovered the singer and within a week she was bugging me for a "Jojo" dress. Aargh. Fortunately, a couple of months later someone in a destash had extra they didn't need, so I was able to acquire "one yard with tail."

Having learned from past experience, I also did a line drawing of some of the patterns I was considering purchasing, so that my daughter could pick the silhouette/neckline she preferred.

Given my lack of drawing prowess (and Jojo's affinity for bows), I was a little surprised she chose the Stitch Upon A Time Aurora, but hey: I was pretty excited to try it. I think she might get her love of interesting strap configurations from me.

In terms of the PDF pattern companies I have worked with, I felt Stitch Upon a Time was solidly middle-of-the-pack. The pattern pieces went together fine, and the tutorial has some small ambiguities, but nothing I couldn't figure out by double-checking the pictures after a more careful reading. The dress turned out lovely.

I did have some trouble getting the straps not to be lumpy in the back - possibly in part because I was using custom-weight fabric, but also because getting stretch fabric not to shift as you sew over it is easier said than done. That is a minor annoyance though: overall this dress is *definitely* a make-again.

Little A loves it - for the 4th of July she declared it her "fireworks dress," and it's just as gorgeous as the Solis but with less of a time investment. Operating on a time crunch as I was (I'm assuming Jojo is pretty "of the moment"... feel free to come back and mock me in 2 years if she's the next Madonna or Britney Spears), I am sad to report I totally forgot my signature pockets.

But A doesn't seem to mind - she just loves the colors and the theme, and who *doesn't* want to feel like a rockstar in a mom-made dress?

Sing it, kid :-)

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Cute Dress Countdown

It's not every day you get fabric that reminds you of your childhood, and it's *definitely* not every day that it's as pretty as this! 

Originally, I preordered this yardage for myself (with a little extra for the nieces) but when A saw it, it was love at first sight. She dropped hints about it for two months straight, and I was glad I'd indulged in a kids' panel "just in case." Through sheer luck I had a rainbow coordinate in stash that would work for it, too.

It took me a while to get used to the idea that (some of) the main print would be hers, but I lucked into some amazing inspiration. One of the Strike Off Sewists at Kammie Lou Lou posted a great semi-halter dress, and when I asked nicely, she was kind enough to reveal the pattern; it was the Solis by Sofilantjes. I loved the look of this whimsical sundress.

Also, I have to say that I was a little skeptical of the pattern instruction quality, since Sofilantjes' primary language isn't English and website can be hard to navigate. But my skepticism was unwarranted: their patterns are amazingly well explained and well documented, both in words and pictures. Want step by step? There's a section for that. Want a quick overview? There's a section for that too. There's even a pictoral guide to construction (with line drawings, not photos where the fabric changes from step to step), so if you don't speak a lick of English, French, OR Dutch (Finnish?), you're STILL not out of luck! The company must have put a lot of time into getting all those patterns ready for production, and clearly they had fluent speakers reviewing their English instructions. This is easily the nicest and highest-quality PDF pattern I've ever bought, and now when I need something, I'm going to check if Sofilantjes' has it first.

But anyways... Getting back to my particular set of considerations, the only thing that did make me uneasy was the recommendations based on my kiddo's measurements. She wears a 5 in storebought clothing, but her measurements put her in a 2T according to the pattern's (SI unit) recommendations. I'll be honest, I couldn't do it. I made her a 4T in width and a 6T in height, and in retrospect I'm glad I did.

I did steal one other idea from the inspiring design: a double skirt. Solids are way cheaper than custom knits, and I was already looking for ways to conserve my beautiful bear fabric. For the Solis I could get both halves of a 2T circle skirt from a single yard, and so this dress reflects a 2T overskirt on top of a 6T (pink) underskirt.

I also added my own unique touch, which was... pockets!!! I try to add pockets to every dress I make for my kiddo (it sets them apart in her closet), but a double skirt presented a unique challenge. Sew the two skirts together at the pockets, and you lose twirl factor. But leave them entirely separated, and the inner and outer skirt have a lump in between when the pocket is full...

...unless you leave an opening in the inner skirt for the pocket to fit through! This was my own solution to the problem, and we'll see how it works over time.

But in the meantime, A has been pretty darn pleased with this dress. She's worn it to several special occasions (by 5-year-old logic) and twirling in it is an absolute must. I was also very pleased with how the back turned out.

And, little A and I had a blast sitting on the swing after our photo session, learning about all the bears of my childhood and their personalities. It's fun to have someone little to relive your childhood with!

All in exchange for a delightful little dress with a double skirt and pockets.

Friday, July 6, 2018

A New Machine

I love my Janome DC2007LE, and will probably remain faithful to it until the day it makes its last stitch. But lately, I've been wishing for some things it just can't do, like creating rolled hems and finishing woven seams quickly and efficiently. I've been making garments for 2 years now, so my habit is well established. Tenuously, I stepped out into the market for a serger.

...And promptly stepped back. Why? Because in a stunning bit of luck, my mom found a used serger at her local quilt guild's auction, and won it for $22. Here's her story. It seemed to make the trip out to my place without incident, and when we plugged it in, it started right up.

We couldn't figure out how to adjust it in order to make the stitches look like they were supposed to, though, and a quick trip to the dealer told us why: the stitch finger was broken (I'd thought it was a screwdriver!). We also learned that this machine was made in the early 90s before Babylock parted ways with Juki. We left it there for servicing, feeling reasonably confident that a good once-over by a qualified technician (and a new stitch foot!) was exactly what it'd need.

It came back stitching great, and I've loaded it up with color-coded thread, so that I can learn my tensions per the manual.

I've already used it to finish the seams on a nap mat cover for my daughter, and it did the job with amazing speed and accuracy.

I still have some room to grow: the knife isn't cutting like I'd expect (not with wovens, anyway), and I have only threaded the thing from scratch once since I got it (I think I was correct, but it's possible the tech re-threaded it and didn't tell me). But, I'm signed up for a "Serger Basics" class on July 20th - and I have plenty of time to play with it beforehand.

And I'm excited... if I like sewing with wovens, I can patronize my local quilt store again!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Blast from the Past: A Dedication

Once upon a time when I quilted, I learned the art of the handmade dedication. My friend, my niece, My SIL, and my Son all got handstitched dedications on the back of their quilts. It was time consuming, but I really felt it added a nice, personal touch to the gift.

It's been literally years since I did a hand-stitched dedication (the last one I did for my son took me months), but this spring, we found out our pastor of 8 years was leaving for a different church. And I had a choice: I could let it go without comment, or I could put my skills to use on a handmade gift.

You can guess which way I went :-) Someone else had already put in the work to order a beautiful stole off Etsy, but it was bought and paid for by a small subset of our church - those of us who are LGBT friendly, and supportive of the progressive mission of the church our pastor is going to. I wanted her to remember and (others to see!) that this wasn't just a parting gift: she had our backing for her new mission.

I got seriously cross-eyed trying to sew this in less than two weeks - the same two weeks, I might add, where our fridge died and our kids switched daycares and everything as that could go wrong DID go wrong, but it was worth it.

It's easy to get lost in the day to day, sometimes, but the gift of a handstitched dedication has some staying power. I'll miss our old pastor, but I'm glad I got to hand stitch some love for her before she went.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Process Post: All in the Ohana

Since my process for All In the Ohana was pretty detailed, I have split it into two posts. One for those who just want to see the end product and coo over the selected fabrics, and another that documents the process for any non-quilters who are curious about my method for joining scraps to look continuous.

As a quilter, I learned a pretty neat trick for making non-continuous fabric look continuous. If you're curious about my process, here goes:

1) Start with two scraps that capture different areas of repeat of the fabric, but have some overlap. within the overlap, decide on your "Line of Relative Disinterest:" a line across the fabric that doesn't have much going for it (no faces, or designs that you don't want distorted). This is where your seam joining the two pieces will go. In this case, I picked a line across the sand and as much non-foamy water as I could get, so the seam would naturally be less noticeable.

2) Lay what will be your bottom piece out flat, and fold the top piece to the line of relative disinterest identified in (1). Then lay your FOLDED top piece with the fold along the same line on the bottom piece, so that the two look continuous when placed together.

3) Slide a quilting ruler (or some other straight edge) to the bottom of the fold in the top piece. It should line up with your Line of Disinterest. (see above)
4) Then holding both top and bottom piece carefully in place, open the fold and mark the fold line. This lets you put a "seam guide" at the place where the two fabrics match up.

4) Pin! Pin, pin, pin, pin, pin. Pin like it is going out of style! And, pin without moving the two fabrics relative to each other, because this is where you'e ensuring that your top piece is going to fold back out to look continuous with your bottom piece.

5) Sew along your sew guide line, again being careful not to shift your fabric. (I didn't think to take a pic, but if you can sew, you can imagine this)

6) Open the fabric back out, and admire (or critique!) how close you got to matching the repeats perfectly. When convenient, trim the excess on the side you are not using.

Here's my end result, which allowed me to fussycut the way I wanted to AND squeeze a second dress out of a yard of directional fabric with an 11 inch repeat! Not a bad deal, especially considering it was impossible to buy more fabric.