Monday, September 15, 2014

Liesl + Co. Cappuccino Dress Returns to Its Roots

So, I understand that Simplicity 2245, the Lisette Portfolio dress designed by Liesl Gibson, is kind of a thing. After the pattern had been taken out of print, it caught fire on Pinterest and copies grew scarce. I believe they go for big money on eBay.

According to Liesl's blog, despite much customer interest and many requests, Simplicity decided not to reprint 2245. Reading a bit between the lines, I am guessing that copyright concerns prevented Liesl from reissuing the pattern in its original form under her own brand, Liesl + Co.

Original 2245

2245 Line drawing. The pants are cute too!
So Liesl + Co. reworked the design and released it in digital format as the Cappuccino Dress + Tunic.

I like the new design and I think the V neckline would probably suit me better than the original round neck. But when I showed the pattern to my friend Amie as part of our "smock project" to outfit her in comfy funky smocks, she preferred the round neck. I blithely assured her that redrafting the Cappuccino dress to return it to the original Portfolio design would be no problem.

And actually it wasn't a problem, though like all pattern drafting it did require some thinking and much studying of images of the original dress. This is a size 12, shortened 3" at the hem to hit Amie right above the knee for wearing with leggings or slim pants, over a long-sleeved t-shirt.

I'm going to show you a couple of photos of the inside of the dress, in case someone out there would like to try a similar "back to the future" adaptation of the current pattern.

The gray linen smock for Amie is actually the second version I made of the pattern. After downloading, printing (all 45-some pages!), taping together, tracing and altering the pattern, I felt a need to check it before cutting into the final fabric. Using a cotton print bought for little at FabricMart (specifically for making test garments) and a scrap of linen from Amie's Tosca Dress, I mocked up a trial version. Here it is pre-embellishment:

I brought in the side seams underneath the arms and through the bodice to see if I could make this muslin work for me, but it's still really too big for me to wear out of the house. And it is long! Not the hemline--though I shortened that six inches--but the distance to the pockets. I can hardly reach them.

Even though I couldn't see myself getting much use from this garment, I couldn't help but try to dress it up a touch, with an applique made from some very fancy Anna Maria Horner ribbon.

Now I honestly like the tunic, but the colors still look grim on me and the neckline is still too large. So I'm tracing out a smaller size at the chest and shoulders, and shortening it through the torso, and I will see how that goes. I can't imagine this shape being particularly flattering on me, but it could be so comfortable and practical for my everyday activities of writing, housekeeping, cooking and childcare. I think it would be great for winter worn over a warm turtleneck and warm leggings or pants as an upper layer to brighten things up and hold my phone and tissues. And think of the crazy possibilities for combining fabrics and trims...

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Here's Proof!

...of how cute the Tosca dress looks on my pixie-like friend Amie!

I also want to draw your attention to two very insightful comments on yesterday's post, in which I talked about how not-cute the dress looked on me.

First, from Steph of The Dashing Eccentric:

"What a gorgeous version of this dress! I've been a Tosca fan for years now, but haven't bought the pattern or made it up. You're tempting me!!! Lucky lucky friend :)

I see this type of comment popping up quite a bit recently. Certain shapes - a princess lined sheath, fit and flare dress, classic trousers - look great on the vast majority of people provided they're properly fitted.But there's a lot of other, interesting, unique designs which look great on some people but fall flat on many others. This often depends on subtler variations in build and proportion. This dress looks amazing on TerriK of Sew Sophisticated (she has pics on her flickr stream but i don't have time to search right now). Terri's a rectangle with a delicate build, high small bust and neat square shoulders and long, lean calves with nicely turned ankles.

Those figure types are highlighted and showcased with this design. If a person has a lower-set, fuller and more rounded bust with sloping shoulders this can start to make the top part of the dress look kind of bulky and droopy because the dress design accentuates and exaggerates that aspect of the person's form. If you have two people with the same bust measurement, but one's inches are mostly chest and less bust, while the other has a smaller chest but more in the breasts themselves you could get this type of situation (hope this makes some type of sense!).

These types of designs are wonderful to give life and style to our wardrobes, but they won't work for everyone. I adore Marcy Tilton's designs but i only look good in her V8876 dress - everything else looks terrible on me. But Marcy is a delicate rectangle, with a high small bust, whereas i'm a busty, hourglassy linebacker shouldered IT. Really, it'd be surprising if much flattered both of us with such different shapes!

But your case here shows that even subtler differences in shape can have just as dramatic a difference. I enjoy the challenge of educating my eye, but it can be so frustrating and vexing at times! 

I hope we get a picture of this wonderful piece on your friend sometime :) Happy Day! steph"

Oh, doesn't Steph just hit the nail on the head about how small differences in proportion can make architectural, sculptural designs like this one look great on one person and not great on another? And I do think Steph could wear this design magnificently herself, so make one already, Steph!! By the way, Steph's latest version of Vogue 8876 makes me think hard about finally making up this pattern for myself.

Second, the amazingly stylish Curtise of The Secondhand Years points out:

"The dress looks great, how nice of you to make it for your friend, but it would look just awful on me! As the commenter above observes, there are all sorts of differences of shape and figure which means that styles work for us or don't. As an hourglass with biggish boobs and hips, this style would disguise rather than accentuate the good things about my figure. But hey, wouldn't the world be dull if we were all the same! xxx"

Even though Curtise is shaped very differently than I am (i.e., she is a goddess), I think she's right--this dress wouldn't be a good look for her either. It would turn her statuesque curves into an undifferentiated volume of lumps!

So here's a great benefit to sewing for others: it gives us a chance to take a new idea for a spin, check it out and see if it might also work for us. As long as it works for its intended wearer, it's all good! And I do think this dress works for dear Amie, amazingly well. I'll enjoy it on her!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Tosca Dress from The Sewing Workshop

You will not be seeing this just-completed project on me for two reasons: first, because I made it for a friend and second, because it just wouldn't be fair to those nice folks at The Sewing Workshop. This dress looks so cute on my friend and so very bad on me. I amused my husband and myself by parading around the house in it last night. My friend and I are of similar size and height, so I don't know why it works so beautifully for her and so dreadfully for me, but such is the truth.

When Waechter's Silk Shop was going out of business in the spring, my friend bought their sample of this dress. She liked it so much she wanted another, so she ordered the pattern and the fabric and had me make it up.

For this version we omitted the top pockets.

Even with just the two lower pockets, it's still plenty pocket-y! The fabric is European linen in Fig from I enjoyed working with the fabric--it had a nice combination of weight, drape and softness.

It's not a hard dress to make, though the pockets take a good bit of time. This is a size small at the chest and shoulders, medium through the hip to hem. I reduced the length by four inches.

My favorite part of the project is a little brooch I made for my friend to wear on the dress. The pin on the back was still drying when I wanted to take a picture, so I held it in my hand. It's a combination of needle felting, free motion stitching and a little trapunto stuffing. I think it will be cute on the dress and I did enjoy making it!

Friday, August 29, 2014

McCall's 6891 Shirt Dress in Silk Noil

Sewing by the numbers, checking off my "needs, wants and requirements" list:
  • Solid color
  • Pockets
  • Collar
  • Stash fabric
  • Appropriate for summer to fall transitional wear

Making up a new-to-me pattern is always more exciting than embarking on a proven winner, and I loved the collar shape of McCall's 6891. Although you wouldn't know it from the envelope of this Palmer/Pletsch pattern, the instructions note that this dress is based on a 1947 Dior design.

From the fitting perspective, I found the dress very straightforward. I compared another well-fitting darted bodice to the tissue and found the necessary changes to be fairly minimal and easy to execute. This is a size 8 in the shoulders and neck, tapering to about a size 12 at the waist and through the skirt. I shortened the bodice one inch and took a generous swayback tuck in the back.

A more significant change was reducing the flare of the skirt to fit within my three yards of 45" wide silk noil fabric. I used another pattern as a guide, which helped me to adjust the curve of the waist to match the flare of the skirt. Do you always remember that the wider the skirt, the more extreme the curve of the waist? I don't. At any rate, the skirt is much less full than as drafted--maybe as much as 25" to 30" less circumference at the hem. But I used up nearly every scrap of the fabric even so. I had to piece the inseam pockets, using a strip of the garment fabric as a facing at the edges, but switching to lining material for most of the pocket bag.

The biggest challenge of all was deciding what to do about buttons. Nothing at Hancock Fabrics was exciting me, self-covered buttons seemed too boring and I was having a terrible time picking out a button online. I wanted to try out a mixture of different vintage buttons, but I wasn't sure how to handle making different-sized buttonholes for varying sizes of buttons. Some of the ones I most wanted to use were really too big for a dress anyway. The solution was snaps sewn invisibly under the edges, with the vintage buttons applied on the outside. Wow, that was a lot of hand stitching--eight snaps on the right, eight snaps on the left, eight vintage buttons on top--at least to my mind.

I'm not positive how I feel about the buttons, but the good thing is I can change them out, since there are no buttonholes. It would be hard to make myself cut off all that hand sewing, but it wouldn't hurt the dress at all.

The only review for this pattern I found online is over at Cotton Creek Sewing--love her blog and her finished dress is gorgeous!--but she was, oh, shall we say, not a fan of the instructions for sewing the collar and facing. I consulted Claire Shaeffer's Book of Sewing Shortcuts (my enthusiasm for which I have mentioned before), which had some good points on this method of sewing collars. I took a few construction photos, but I just don't have the strength (or really the thorough knowledge) for a full tutorial. I am including the pictures, and the encouragement that I found the collar construction achievable. Just a different point of view from someone who is a booster for the convertible collar style and who would hate to see this pattern passed over entirely.

Under collar applied to bodice

Upper collar applied to facing

Inside corner detail, upper collar applied to facing, trimmed and pressed
This is actually my second version of this dress--I will show you the first just as soon as I get it hemmed and photographed.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Kwik Sew 2935 Birthday Shirts

My sweet stepfather turned 75 a few days ago, and I decided to repeat a popular past gift: a short sleeved camp shirt. How lovely that he wore his first Virginia-made shirt (from 2010, according to my note on the pattern), to his party today.

Version One of Kwik Sew 2935 in crinkle rayon

Holding up the card I stitched for him
These photos of this year's shirt don't do it justice. I took some other shots this morning while wrapping it, and then just a few minutes later my phone was, well, I don't know what it was. Hijacked? By porn vendors? My husband declared that only a complete reset would do, so the photos were lost. Here is the shirt after it had been passed around the party, and then hastily flung onto the pool table as my son was trying to drag me out the door.

The fabric is a dreamy cotton shirting from the late, great Waechter's. It was so cooperative. The main challenge of the project was matching the plaids. I think that turned out pretty well.

And here are the pictures of me wearing Butterick 5925, as promised. These photos, too, are not quite what I would like them to be, but my camera remote seems to have given up the ghost, so my husband kindly took some shots. His composition is good, but the light was so flat and gray that it's difficult to see much detail in the lace in the wide shots.

Being silly, but you can see how the back side panels wrap around to the front in this shot.

Wearing a lace camisole from Coldwater Creek underneath

And here I am just showing off one of my big pumpkins, along with my shorter haircut.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Lacy Butterick 5925 Tunic

From the black hole which has been my summer emerges a lacy white tunic top! As bloggers say, I've been sewing but not photographing and consequently not blogging. I plan to wear this top to my stepfather's 75th birthday celebration on Sunday, and I hope to have some photos of the top on me from that day. But I decided to strike while the iron was hot and go ahead and show this top now, modeled photos be damned!

I have made this Butterick 5925 Katherine Tilton top once before, that time in a limp black rayon jersey which didn't survive long. The top was very comfortable and served its purpose as a muslin and short-lived pullover. 

This one is a combination of views A and C: the back and sides from view A, minus pockets, with the front of view C, but cut on the fold rather than with a center front seam. 

Side view, showing curved points and raised front hem
The pointy lower edges were rounded off after the top was assembled, allowing me to attach a ruffled strip continuously around the lower edge. I cut this strip on the lengthwise grain (it had a better edge for rolled hemming on the lengthwise rather than the crosswise grain, and both were quite stretchy), finished the edge with a serger rolled hem, gathered it slightly and attached it to the bottom of the top.

Back view, showing curved pieced back panels
I reduced the length of the sleeves by six inches and finished them with the same ruffled strip as the bottom.

The neck edge is finished with a strip of the fabric selvedge, which offered a convenient fold line. It was attached to the right side of the stabilized (stay-stitched) neck edge, then folded to the wrong side of the neckline and stitched into place in the ditch.

Other than the modifications described above, this was made as size XS with no alterations for fit. It's still very roomy. To my mind, the design needs either a fluid fabric or, as in this case, a sheer one. Otherwise it risks drowning a short figure. The way the side back panels curve around to the lower front is very cool, but it does cause the top to stick out in front, which could easily be frumpy in a more substantial fabric.

Speaking of fabric, this came from the yard sale of a very cool friend, a wandering musician and belly dancer. It is either nylon or polyester and it soaked in OxyClean a very long time before giving up its mustiness and stains. But I do think it is so pretty, and it cost all of one dollar.

Can't wait to wear this frothy new top. I'm very much in love with ruffles right now.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Better With Bernina? I Got A 1090S

Friends, I am fickle.

Fickle, fickle, fickle.

My constant is a love of sewing machines and a deep curiosity about their different forms. But my sewing partners--well, I love them all for different reasons, but I am not "in love" with them forever. I'm not sure whether I even want a committed, long-term relationship.

I've been playing the field--by which I mean scanning Craigslist--for a while now. Yes, I was looking for trouble, and I found it.

As a form of talk therapy, I want to tell you about my history with Bernina.

I first started sewing as an adult, when I had moved from North Carolina to Boston with my boyfriend (now husband). Right before I left the nest, my father produced a vintage Kenmore sewing machine from the 1970's from his vast horde of goods. That machine is now long gone and I don't know exactly which model it was, but it was a capable machine. Though my parents both sewed, I learned from books (because that's how people in my family did things, pre-internet). And I merrily made lots of skirts, jackets and dresses for my corporate jobs.

Along came plans to get married. I briefly shopped for wedding dresses, but I couldn't get into parsing the different options, pros and cons of what was available in ready to wear, so I decided to just jump right in to making my dress. I asked my mother if I could borrow her Bernina, a 1000S, and she dutifully packed up the machine and sent it off to me.

What a revelation! I loved that machine, and my sewing became instantly and magically much more precise and easier. Without that pretty Bernina, my wedding-dress-making adventure might have ended before it got properly started and I might have bought something off the rack after all. In retrospect I could have saved myself a lot of aggravation and expense if I had just secretly kept that machine and told my mother that it got lost in shipping or stolen from my house or some other dire fate.

Instead, I packed it back up and shipped it home to North Carolina after my honeymoon, and soon I found myself at a Bernina dealership in the Boston suburbs being talked into a newer, more feature-laden, more sophisticated, more expensive machine, the Virtuousa 160. What a ridiculous name, by the way.

I had big plans for my new 160--but two life events interfered. First, I unexpectedly got a new and very demanding job. Second, I got pregnant. Event #2 trumped event #1 when I became the mother of an extremely high-maintenance baby. Colicky is just not the right word. Not much sewing happened until my son started school (and then stopped school and started homeschool, but that's another story).

By the time I got around to using my 160 in any major way, I discovered that I really didn't love it as much as I had expected. And then the motherboard went out. And then the local dealership displeased me with their attitude. So I just felt mad that this Bernina, which was supposed to be the end-all and be-all of sewing machines, hadn't lived up to my expectations.

So I sold it on eBay. After it was repaired, that is! And I used the proceeds (plus some extra funds) to buy a Juki F600, which I have enjoyed very much.

And yet, there were things I missed about the Berninas: 1. The thing everyone talks about: the amazing, wondrous presser feet, especially the #10 edgestitch foot and the #35 invisible zipper foot; 2. The small diameter of the free arm; 3. The quality of the stitch. I can look at a garment and tell whether I sewed it on my old Bernina or on another machine. And I recognize that no one but me can see this or will care, but still, I do see it and I do care.

So I've been following Craigslist and eBay, and the prices the vintage Bernina 830 and 930 Record machines command are daunting. A beautiful, very complete 930 came up on our local Craigslist, and I certainly considered it, but it was $900. The 830s were manufactured from 1972 through 1977, so they are now between 36 and 42 years old. The 930s date from 1978 to 1989, now between 25 and 36 years old. Based on my experience with a nine-year-old Bernina needing a new circuit board, I felt worried about investing so much in a machine of this age, especially since Bernina is no longer manufacturing the boards.

And then this 1090S came along. The feature set is perfect for me--just enough electronics to satisfy my longings, but not too many. It has the heel-tap for needle-up or needle-down on the foot control, which my 160 did not and which I love. It has the extra-long basting stitch, which the 160 did not have and which I am hesitant to try (because the machines can get jammed in this position if the basting stitch has not been used in a long time and require service to unstick). It has the continuous-reverse stitching feature which the 160 did have and the Juki did not, and which is wonderful for darning.

The 1090S came with everything--case, manual, knee lifter, extension table, all original attachments--and it is in gorgeous condition. Sews wonderfully. The only things I don't love so far are those dated graphics (the pastel swoosh on the front) and the not-terribly bright light. The light is easily addressed, since I have a great LED gooseneck sewing light mounted to my sewing surface (the Reliable Uber Light). For what I considered a great price on a Bernina in great condition, $440, I decided I can live with the graphics. It was manufactured in 1995, so it is 19 years old. Still vintage, but half the age of 830s going for twice the price. True, its electronics are more complex than those in the 830, so we will see how we do.

I loved the Juki's buttonholer, and I also loved how well it started off sewing without sucking the threads into the bobbin area. I will just have to miss those, because the Juki is headed to a new owner off in California as I type.

Bye, Juki! It was fun!

Another thing I've noticed is that the Bernina does shake the sewing table more than the Juki--maybe a function of the weight of the machine, maybe the difference between the rotary horizontal hook of the Juki vs. the vertical oscillating hook of the Bernina. Might need to rethink my sewing surface!

So, it's being very fun to play with a new toy. Hope I don't live to regret the change, but so far I'm good with it.