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.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

All in the Ohana

It's been over 2 years since R received her "More Mingoes" dress, but her mom still sends me photos of her in it. It's well loved! R's mom - an occasional reader of this blog, and faithful humor-er when I need to talk about fabric - also reports that R *loved* having a matching dress for her baby sister, but that since baby sis is almost a year old, that six-month sized dress isn't fitting any more. R hasn't received a new dress since I switched to knits. That's one oversight I'd like to remedy!

Fortunately, this little beauty - ordered in January - arrived exactly 5 days before I was scheduled to get on a plane to see R and her family. The schedule was tight, but I was determined to rise to the occasion.

I had lucked out because as it turned out, I already had two Peekaboo Violet patterns traced out in the right sizes from another project I'd abandoned (or more accurately, scaled down to better fit my nieces). I was able to drag those out, and get right to work on cutting. Which... immediately became a challenge, because I had *just enough* fabric to get 3 of the 4 panels I needed cut in continuous fabric. You can read my process post to see how I pulled the 4th together.

It was still a crazy weekend - I think the fabric arrived on Wednesday, I prewashed it Thursday, and I had both dresses done by Sunday; but I was very glad I'd gotten them done. Here they are being showcased before I packed them up:

and here they are on the happy recipients!

I was able to deliver them in person, but it was late when I arrived so the girls did not wear them until later that week. Nonetheless, R's mother tells me that R let every teacher at daycare know that these dresses were made for her and her sister by me personally. How's that for a commendation? Here's hoping these dresses are just as loved as the previous set. So far, all signs point to "yes"!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

A Cinderella Mash-Up

The Jack's Back dress and raglan set were a ton of fun, but they did push me out to May without any actual spring (let alone summer!) dresses sewn for my daughter. Oops! Although by May, I had made good on my promise to order more spring-friendly fabrics.

Having learned my lesson from the Christmas-fabric-for-spring selection last time, I more carefully curated A's fabric selection the second time around; this is what she picked. The colors didn't look great when I photographed it at night before starting (working mom sewist, here), but rest assured that this panel (and coordinating fabric) is really an amazing, colorful, stunning must-have in person.

Of course, the panel is also 18" x 21", because that was the only size I could score. Panels, I am beginning to realize, are hard to plan around. No matter what plan you have for them ahead of time, they arrive and the characters are to big, or the panel is too small, or you just HAVE to include some amazing detail in the most inconvenient corner. I mean, these things can usually be solved with pattern changes and additional fabric buys, but they are details that have to be worked out after the panel is in hand and before sewing begins.

At any rate, realizing that the castle and the characters at Cinderella's feet were just too cute to cut off meant my original plan of using the PaB Violet pattern was out. So too was blindly creating a short-sleeved version of the Haven's Hoodie, because putting the panel and the featured print together without any visual break got... really busy. Oh, and both the Haven AND the Violet feature pockets that would have covered part of the beautiful panel. So, that was also out. But... they're all tried n' true patterns for me, and they all had visual elements I liked, so...

In the end, they both got used. Haven became the silhouette of the dress + the pattern for the armscyes, and Violet contributed both the neckline (so I didn't have to make a hood) and the concept for the back. And at the last minute, I realized I could still place pockets in the side seams of a Haven, which I did by bringing the pockets of the SLPco Isla into the mix. Thus, this dress became my first three-way mashup. I went ahead and traced out the entire front of the dress onto some tissue paper so that I could optimize placement of the artwork:

And here it it is, all carefully cut out and ready for assembly. I did use the lines from the Haven for my inner and outer back, adding a 3/8" seam allowance added to both pieces for assembly as I went.

I put the pockets in just where the hips flared out, on the logic that that's where the pockets on jeans go. I also added contrast bands to the ends of the sleeves, because I loved that shade of violet with the fabric, and thought a contrasting neckband would 1) look good and 2) need another element to tie it in somewhere else on the dress. Here's what it looked like made up:

But even once I had it together, I thought it still needed something... like a contrast band on the bottom to even it out. So, totally on the fly I trimmed the bottom a bit, and and added a bottom band using the same method I used for the foldover neckband.

All in all, it made for a very happy customer! I do think the bottom band balanced things out a bit, and A loves to show this dress off. At first she was a little bummed that it doesn't "twirl" like the Isla does, but disappointment quickly gave way to excitement over the panel up front, the colors of the dress, the "cool" silhouette

and, as always, the inclusion of pockets.

The back is a little harder to see under all that hair, but I think it turned out nicely as well. I also think I ended up with enough of the main feature fabric on the back to squeeze out another dress if I have the chance.  A doesn't have a little sister she can coordinate with, but I'm sure she'd enjoy occasionally matching a friend.

This is by far the most unique dress I have made - in pattern mashups, in panel workarounds, and in last-minute modifications. But, when I look at it, I'm pretty proud it is "mine" - and I think kiddo is proud that it is hers as well!

I still desperately need to make little A a shortsleeved dress with a full skirt - an SLPCo Isla or a Paisley would work, and now I am also eyeballing the Solis pattern by Sofiljantes for - but I am very proud of this make, and very relieved to have at least one mom-made summer dress in her closet!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

One Good Turn...

My son may have missed out on his own Merry Nightmare Shirt this past Christmas, but he got a second opportunity with the "extra" fabric from my daughter's new NBC-inspired dress.

I'd cut this fabric with an eye towards leaving some big scraps for a raglan for him, and though it took some work, I did manage it. Then of course, I just had to sew it up!

As usual, this is the MBJM Explorer Raglan pattern (my review), made in a size 4 with 2 inches cropped from the bottom. It's an "oldie" at this point, but a goodie!

And my little man is thrilled to finally have his own shirt with the ubiquitous characters, and surprisingly happy to be matching his sister.

... Even if his shirt doesn't "twirl" like her skirt does (believe me he tried).

Both kids had a blast admiring each other's matching outfits and this "matching set" trick is one I'm going to have to try again in the future.

Hooray for two thrilled customers, and hooray for an age when matching is actually fun.