Monday, September 1, 2008

Princess Dress Update

I got the go ahead for spaghetti straps for the princess dress. Here's a sketch of the re-designed bodice. I'm not sure what fabric I'm going to use...something inexpensive as we are, after all, talking about a play dress. Another reason for an inexpensive fabric is that I think it's going to take yards and yards of it counting petticoats, etc.

But at the same time, I want it to look very princess like. I haven't been to the fabric store in ages - it's safer that way - but I think it's time for a trip.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Princess Dress

I got a phone call from my granddaughter the other day (yes, the same one who was the happy recipient of the BWOF ensemble and the dragonfly dress) asking for a princess dress. I am only too happy to oblige.

The dress will be for playing dress-up, I assume, so it's no holds barred, nothing is too far over the top! Yeah! What you see here are my preliminary sketches. I've gone ahead and designed it as sleeveless, but I'm asking my daughter for permission to go with spaghetti straps close as I want to get to strapless for a five year old (so I guess not every hold is barred). If I don't get the go ahead for spaghetti straps, I'll have to decide between the armhole with and the armhole without the ruffle.
No fabric has yet been chosen, but the color will, of course, be pink!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Aw, Shucks!

Gosh, it's good to be welcomed back by so many of you...I feel even more like a dog for dropping off the face of the earth, but it's nice to be missed.

Just a quick clarification, as there seems to be some confusion. I do have two grandchildren, but only one granddaughter. Kara is 5 and started Kindergarten on Monday, and her brother, John, is 2-1/2. Their new brother, Luke, will be making his debut on September 23rd.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Disaster Narrowly Averted

As I mentioned in my previous post, my daughter bought a dress to wear in her brother-in-law's wedding, rather than having me make the Maggie London dress. She took the dress, which was cleverly purchased off the sale rack at Nordstrom, to the cleaner this week to have it steamed.

Daughter called this afternoon in a panic. She had picked the dress up today and there was a small, a tiny, a miniscule cut in the fabric, at the bottom of the center front pleat. She brought the dress over for me to have a look. The tiny cut was right right below the pleat and right on the pressed edge. It didn't show much, but it did show. I used a tiny piece of fusible knit interfacing on the inside to reinforce the area, then stitched the pleat another quarter of an inch down, turning the pressed edges under slightly to hide the cut. It worked acceptably well.

Now that cut may have been there before she dropped it off at the cleaners but there's no way to know for sure. Even though she asked that the dress be steamed, they pressed it; so what were soft folds became sharp creases. I suspect that the flaw was hidden in the fold and only became obvious when the pleats were pressed.

And as it turns out, they cut was the least of the problem. Not only did they do a poor job of pressing, but they managed to shrink the dress as well. Seriously, I could barely zip it up, even though it fit perfectly last week. I was certain that I was going to rip it if I pulled it together any tighter. We did finally manage to zip it all the way up, but it's uncomfortably tight. She figures she can wear it for the pictures and the ceremony, then change afterwards.

So as the title implies, disaster was averted, but by the narrowest of margins.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

I'm Baa-aack!

And many thanks to those of you who were thoughtful enough to inquire about me while I was incommunicado. I hope you'll all accept my apologies for leaving you hanging. I lost my sewing mojo, I was busy with work and family, my computer was acting up and...I've been obsessed researching colleges for my youngest daughter, the main criteria being will she qualify for a fat scholarship at said colleges.

Well I'm still busy with work and family, still researching colleges and my mojo's still in hiding but I did get a nice, new 22" LCD Touch Screen All-In-One PC for my birthday (Friday). And my darling middle daughter, the mother of my two - soon to be three - adorable grandchildren, finally found the USB cable that had gone missing when they moved house So without further ado, here are pictures of my granddaughter in the dragonfly dress with hemstitching and the BWOF capris-not-bloomers and tunic.

I am still working on the Maggie London dress for my oldest daughter. She won't be using it for the wedding, and I must say, I'm happy about that. I was not looking forward to making that dress out of polyester crepe backed satin. I'm going to finish the practice dress using the cherry print cotton, then we're going to get something really nice and make a little black dress that will be a little more versatile. I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Something Unexpected

Look what I found in my yard today! We don't have a lot of butterflies in Western Washington. They are uncommon enough that seeing one fly by on a hot day is a treat. So you can imagine how surprised I was when I found this absolutely perfect specimen on the ground in my garden today. It's actually not quite dead, but nearly. It was being attacked by tiny red ants when I found it, so I was just in time to preserve it. I'm pressed for time right now, so this was the best photo I could get in a hurry. I'll try to post one with better color later.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Refresher Course

Perhaps you remember these BWOF pants that I posted about here. Or maybe you don't. Either way, let me just say that my oldest and youngest daughters had serious doubts about the cuteness of these pants.

I finally got the pants mailed off to my granddaughter in Texas. There was quite a delay as they were moving and I didn't want to mail them until they were all settled in their new home. Anyway, I got a call from my daughter and granddaughter yesterday to let me know that the package had arrived and...they loved the pants! I am vindicated!

Photos of the my granddaughter wearing the pants along with the coordinating top (and the butterfly dress, too, but not at the same time) forthcoming...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Ugly Stepsister

I completed my third skirt for the Hundred Skirts Project, Garden Party. I am not loving it. That being said, it has flowers and pink ric-rac, so I'm sure that there's a little girl at The Shadow of His Wings orphanage in Guatemala who will love it.

There are a couple of things about the skirt that I do love, such as the pockets. I like these so much, in fact, that I'm hanging onto my template so I can use it again.

I also like the way I placed the ric-rac so that it's only partially showing. I copied this idea from Bloom's Fabric Obsession, where she used it to good effect on 50s-inspired pockets to dress up a simple skirt. Placing the ric-rac like this did entail some hand basting, but these skirts are so small, it really doesn't take any time at all.

To learn more about the Hundred Skirts Project, visit Vintage Threads

Saturday, June 21, 2008


After seeing the hemstitching on my Daisy Chain skirt, Dawn commented, "I love that hemstitching. Seeing things like that make me sometimes wish my machine had more than just the basics."

What's pretty cool about hemstitching is that you don't necessarily need a lot of special stitches on your machine. In the sample on the right, I used various utility stitches on my machine, machine embroidery thread (and bobbin thread) and a 100/16 wing needle. From top to bottom:

  • Feather Stitch
  • Zig-zag Stitch*
  • Ladder Stitch
  • Triple Stretch Stitch
  • Blanket Stitch
  • Overcast Stitch
*I stitched over the zig-zag twice, taking care that the needle went into the same holes.

So while they're not a daisy chain, you can still get some pretty nice effects. The main thing to keep in mind when choosing stitches is the more times the needle goes in and out of the same hole, the more "open" your hemstitching will appear.


Rhonda in Montreal asked if the hemstitching on the Daisy Chain skirt was done by hand. I'll answer that with a resounding "NO!" I do resort to hand sewing at the first hint of difficulty, but even I draw the line somewhere!

The hemstitching is done using one of the many choices found on my Baby Lock Ellegante and a big, ole' wing needle. I first saw the technique in the excellent book, Fine Machine Sewing, by Carol Laflin Ahles and was encouraged to try it by Bunny on a dress I was making for my granddaughter. I first checked Fine Machine Sewing out of the library and kept it until they wouldn't let me renew it anymore. I'm happy to report that my very own copy is now waiting to be picked up at my local Barnes and Noble.

While today we're lucky enough to have amazing sewing machines that produce perfectly precise hemstitches, in days gone by these stitches were done by hand, but probably not by homestead wives for every day wear!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Something Simple and a Confession

I took a break from work, family responsibilities and my daughter's Maggy London dress and sewed something quick and easy: another skirt for Charity's Hundred Skirts Project. I've sewn a grand total of two with five remaining to fulfill my pledge.

Let me present to you "Daisy Chain." This skirt utilized the remnants from the BWOF tunic I made for my granddaughter.

I modified the pattern ever so slightly from the one I used to make Animal Farm, chiefly by lengthening it to compensate for the lack of ruffle and by making the casing wider to make it "just a little" easier to insert the elastic.

Daisy Chain's unique design elements are an attched tie belt, pocket with hemstitching and button details and a "daisy chain" hem.

Here's a view of the daisy chain hemstitching. Although the hemstitching takes time, it's really an easy way to finish a hem.

Extreme closeup of the hemstitching.

Backside of the hem with the fabric trimmed close to the hemstitching.

Pocket detail.

Extreme closeup of the hemstitching on the pocket.

Here's the back side of the tie belt. I would have preferred to be able to make the belt two-sided but I didn't have enough fabric. My results with my rolled hem foot continue to improve.

Now for the confession. I did not use my serger to construct this skirt (hanging my head in shame). I wanted something quick and easy and that did not include wrestling my serger into a usable location and re-threading it with appropriately colored thread. Maybe next time (evil grin).

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Then and Now

Circa 1929

Circa 1946

Circa 1960

Circa 1963

Christmas 2007

Love you, Dad.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Something New

A new technique for me today...I inserted my first invisible zipper. My daughter bought a strapless dress at Value Village. It was in really good condition except that the invisible zipper was broken. Hey! No problem! And it wasn't a problem, it was easy-peasy!

Easy, that is, once I figured out how to attach the zipper foot to my sewing machine. Even with my glasses, print on the package was so tiny, I needed my magnifying glass to read it. Then they expected me to have arcane knowledge of my sewing machine: long shank* or short? How am I supposed to know? It certainly doesn't say in my manual. How do those pieces fit together? How do I attach them to my sewing machine? Aaaack!

Then, once I deciphered the insertion instructions on the package, piece of cake! Except - oops! - I sewed the zipper to the outside of the dress. So it was back to those instructions, where I realized I'd overlooked a key piece of information the first time.

So I tried again, and it worked like a charm...the zipper is on the inside of the dress, where it belongs! If you're interested, she plans on wearing the dress like a jumper, over a thin, white t-shirt.

*Long shank, haha! This reminds me of the evil villain in my favorite movie, Braveheart - Edward Longshanks. Don't you all think Mel looks really good in blue?

First Fitting, B4915

Yesterday we had our first fitting of the Q&D muslin. I learned many things, such as the tissue fitting was an apparent waste of time and my original pattern alterations were - essentially - unnecessary.

Here's the front. Notable on the front is that her bust apex is approximately 1 inch lower than the apex marked on the pattern. One thing that is not apparent from this angle is that the front gaps away from her body a bit. I am not sure why. My first instinct is that she needs more bust room but she is only a B cup so I'm not sure. I am not sure if lowering the apex is critical with this design or not, since the fullness is coming from below the bust rather than from the side. I loosened the bodice pieces from the midriff and pulled the ends down about half an inch, which helped. Now I would say that it's not really gapping, but it does not fit snug up against her body.

The armscye is also to high and way too tight on the front. She tells me that she has this problem all the time with RTW and actually can't wear woven tops unless she goes up one size. Of course, my pattern alteration exacerbated this problem.

The back, on the other hand, fits beautifully with no gapping at all on the inside edges of the bodice. In the photo, you can see some pulling across the midriff. I may have pinned the sides too tight or it may be related to the problems with the armscye; not sure which.

Here is the back armhole. There is just the tiniest little gap here. I'm not even going to try to figure out how to fix this until it fits properly in the front and at the underarm.

That's pretty much it. I'm cutting a new muslin without the broad back adjustment. I'm scooping out about half an inch from the front and bottom of the armhole and adding about 1/2 inch of extra seam allowance under the arms to compensate for her developed lats. I'm hoping to have it ready for another fitting tomorrow.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Quick and Dirty (Not to Mention Ugly)

I cut out the quick and dirty muslin for the Maggy London dress I'm making for my daughter. Do you not love the charming fabric? At one time, like about 12 years ago, I was going to use this with a coordinating fabric in a twirly dress for Jennifer. I saw it made up a Joann...I swear it was cute. Really.

Haven't really had a chance to sew it up, though. My dad's health issues are once again my top priority. We were going to do the first fitting tomorrow, but between another trip to the hospital and paid work that needs to be completed, I'm probably going to have to cancel again.

At any rate, posting will probably be irregular for the next week or so. Once again, your prayers for my dad's health would be appreciated.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

More About Daughters

You've already met Becky, my oldest daughter. Today I'd like to introduce you to Jennifer, my youngest daughter. Today we are pretty excited because she's been selected as a semi-finalist in the National Hispanic Recognition Program (NHRP).

NHRP is administered by the College Board, the same organization that administers National Merit and Advanced Placement. While NHRP Scholars don't receive a scholarship like National Merit Finalists do, many schools do offer scholarships.

This could be huge for us. We've always planned on paying for college and we can certainly do so. But a fat scholarship would sure make things easier. I did some checking online yesterday and many schools offer full tuition scholarships to NHRP scholars. Schools like Arizona, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. And smaller schools like Westminster College, Knox and Bowling Green.

Jennifer is smart but what sets her apart from a lot of the other smart kids is that she has worked super hard in school since about the second grade. Her drive and focus are staggering. This is a child who has never needed nagging to get her to do her homework. And she swims and plays the violin!

The final word will arrive in September, not so far away, but the suspense is killing me already.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Round 1, Continued

I continued working on Round 1 of alterations on Butterick 4915 this evening. I now have two altered pattern pieces, the Upper Front and Upper Back. I'll be using them along with the unaltered Middle Front and Middle Back pieces to construct a bodice muslin for a fitting on Thursday evening. Pictures will be forthcoming.

Thanks to Marita and Birgitte for your advice, and to Gwen for stopping by and offering some moral support. I really appreciate you taking the time to help me out or just to let me know you're there.

Completely Off Topic

I wouldn't be much of a mother if I weren't inordinately proud of my daughters. I actually know more than a few people who surely think I'm overly and irrationally proud of mine.

It just so happens that my oldest daughter, Becky, the lucky recipient of the Maggy London dress I wrote about in yesterday's post, has just made her first post to her new blog, Becky Hartman, Professional Student.

Becky is going to make a wonderful nurse, and I'm looking forward to keeping track of her progress on her blog. If you get a chance, take a minute to stop by her blog and get to know her a little better and leave her a comment if you have the time.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Round 1

I spent some quality time with Fit For Real People today. I laid the pattern pieces of B4915 out on my desk next to my computer while I worked, awaiting some brilliant flash of insight as to how to best alter them.

I can't say that I had a lightening bolt moment, but I do at least have a starting point, which is progress in itself. Here's a photo of the original pattern piece, with my first alteration cutting line marked in red. I know it's hard to see here; however, if you open it in it's own window, you can see it quite clearly. My plan was to cut out a box around the armscye, slide it over 3/4", then redraw the side seam. This was also going to increase the width of the shoulder strap.

Here it is after I moved the armscye and redrew the side seam, waiting to be cut out. You can see I also extended the shoulder strap a ridiculous amount; I wanted enough length to just be able to pin it to fit at the next fitting. You can also see that I've redrawn the armscye. My daughter's shoulders are broad, but not as broad as her back is wide, so I removed 1/2" of what was added when I made the broad back alteration.

Here's a detail shot of the armscye and shoulder.

Here's my new pattern piece...

And a side by side comparison with the original.

I hope believe that I've maintained the grain line and the original angle on the bias edge. My intention is to make corresponding changes to the front bodice. I originally thought that I might have to do an FBA, even though my daughter is barely a B cup as the tissue gapped so dreadfully, but I'm going to hold off on that until I see how it fits in the actual fabric.

Comments, opinions and advice are most definitely welcome!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Up Next On My Agenda

I went over to my oldest daughter's house today to tissue fit her Maggy London dress. She will be wearing the final dress in her brother-in-law's wedding at the end of August. My daughter is tiny, so I cut the pattern in a size 8 (I ever so briefly considered tracing the pattern but opted not to as I was pressed for time).

As it turns out, I could easily use the size 6 for the midriff pieces. After that, it gets tricky. The front bodice pieces appear to be the correct size around the bottom; they meet nicely at center front and reach around just exactly to where the side seams should fall. But I think I need to do an FBA maybe? I don't's not as though she's actually chesty! But the halter sections gap dreadfully and come nowhere near providing enough coverage to appear in public!

And then there's the back. The pieces are really close to the correct measurement at the bottom, but moving up her back about two inches, there's a good inch and a half gap between her center back and the center back of the dress!

And what to say about the shoulder seams? Another gap of about and inch and a half before I even take seam allowances into account.

I'm not sure I even know where to begin. How will I perform an FBA on a halter style bodice (it's not in FFRP, I checked!). How to I add enough width to the back of the dress to fit and still maintain the correct line on the Vee? I guess I will figure it out, but I'm stressing a little bit about it right now. We bought some fabric for a practice dress, but I'm thinking some cheap muslin is in order!

I Hate To-Do Lists

Because I feel like such a failure when I don't complete all the items. Take yesterday's to-do list, which I posted for the current meme:

Finish the purse for Daughter #3;
Trace off a pattern for Daughter #1;
Yard work;
Watch There Will Be Blood;
Paid work (three files)

You'll notice that only two of the items are crossed off my list - and in all fairness, the yard work isn't actually done (it never is in our yard); crossing it off the list just signifies that I did some yard work.

Enter the reason for my failure: a cotton rib knit I picked up on sale for $2.50 a yard at Hancock's last weekend. I know, I's a cheap piece of fabric, but the print called out to me. It's vaguely reminiscent of Celtic knots and I am a sucker for all things Celtic.

So rather than move on to the next items on the list after I finished the brocade bag, I spent the rest of my evening contemplating my next move with this fabric.

Amazingly enough, I have a pattern designed for knit fabrics! How did that happen? It's Sandra Betzina's oft-reviewed Vogue 8151, and my musings focued on whether or not the knit is soft enough for the wrap version or should I stick with the plain version, as I intend to actually use my serger (Charity, are you listening???)!

Saturday, May 31, 2008


Yay, the brocade bag is finished and best of all, my daughter loves it!

The bag is small; it measures 9-1/2 inches at the bottom and 12 inches from the top of the handles to the bottom. It would have been nice to be able to make it a bit larger, but I used just about every bit of available brocade at this size.

The bag has two exterior pockets, two interior pockets and a magnetic closure.

I never did figure out how to sew the lining using my sewing machine, so it is stitched by hand. In fact, a lot of hand sewing went into making this bag...tons of hand basting, then the lining and finally, attaching the purse to the handles.

A few things I learned about working with seriously ravels. I have polyester "stuff" all over the house. It's worse than dog hair.

It doesn't fuse well. In order to bond the interfacing to the fabric, you have to use a heat setting that makes the fabric do weird stuff. I think it really wants to melt, but doesn't quite melt. So sew in interfacing is a good thing.

It makes bulky seams and doesn't hold an edge, so if I ever get around to making the Asian-style top that I have planned in blue and silver brocade, I'll need to use a different fabric for facings to minimize bulk.

As for changes I would make to this purse, if I were to make it again - and I am seriously considering making two more - first off, I would replace the interior brocade pieces (where the magnetic fasteners are) with a closely matching lining in a different, thinner fabric. I think the brocade looks great, but it's a lot of extra bulk in the seam allowances.

I would square off the bottom corners and eliminate the gathers. They look cute and my daughter quite likes them, but I think it would be a neater look without them.

I asked my daughter to model the purse and she declined, as she didn't think her outfit would do it justice...not sure why. She's wearing the soccer shorts we bought for her when she was 5 and a Kokopeli t-shirt she's had since she was 10 or so. These shorts are a child's size small! And she still can fit her 16 year old body into them!

It's true, she does have to pull them all the way up to her waist or they're too tight. I explained to her that they're supposed to go all the way to her waist, but I don't think she believed me.

The shorts are in surprisingly good condition. Other than the binding on the side slit, they're still good to go!

Tagged Again!

I've been tagged by Rhonda, of RHOTO's Rag. This time it's a few questions designed to help us get to know one another a little better.

Ten years ago, I was working as the IS Manager at a letter shop. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the junk mail direct mail marketing industry, a letter shop processes the data and product, i.e., letters, flyers, post cards, brochures, etc., that you are so happy to receive daily in your snail mail.

Finish the purse for Daughter #3;
Trace off a pattern for Daughter #1;
Yard work;
Watch There Will Be Blood;
Paid work (three files)

My favorite dessert is cheesecake. I also like chocolate in just about any format. My favorite salty snacks are well-buttered popcorn, pretzels and Fritos.

Establish college funds for the grandbabies;
Build a 50 meter x 25 yard indoor training and competition pool for my daughter's old swim club;
Hire a cook

Unincorporated King County, WA
Eugene, Oregon
Bellevue, WA
Renton, WA
Ellensburg, WA
Renton, WA
Anchorage, AK
Renton, WA
Sumner, WA
Bothell, WA
Unincorporated Snohomish County, WA

Swimming Pool Cashier
Inventory Clerk
Billing Clerk
International Invoicer
Day Care Worker
Administrative Assistant (x2)
Marketing Manager
IS Manager
Officer Manager
Self-employed Technical Writer/Editor

Rhonda said, "I GUESS a “peep” is someone who writes and/or visits blogs??" I'm thinking it's just short for "people."

Allison (AllisonC Sewing Gallery)
Heidi (Sew Exotic)
Marita (Paradise for Me)
Charity (Vintage Threads)
Elaine (Goodworks1)
Bunny (La Sewista!)

As always, tagees, you're free to decline to play with no hurt feelings.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Legacy

Most of what I inherited of my mother's mother is china; beautiful bone china teacups and saucers with matching dessert plates in random patterns. They're beautiful and I love them but they're not the topic of today's post (maybe another day, though).

I also have the small but treasured collection of notions and needlework-related items that you can see here.

I never knew my grandmother, Grace, to sew, although having been born in 1906 and raising four children during the depression years, she must have had at least a passing acquaintance with the business end of a needle. She did do some lovely hand embroidered pillowcases in her later years, which, after her death, I finished off with some crocheted edgings for my mother. She bought me my first sewing machine, an inexpensive Singer, as a high school graduation gift and I sewed with that machine for about ten years until it was replaced by a Kenmore SensorSew (the immediate predecessor of my Ellegante).

I know for certain that she never crocheted and the excellent selection of steel crochet hooks were her mother's. My great-grandmother, Amelia, taught me to crochet when I was five and produced an amazing number of doilies, tablecloths and bedspreads, some of which I'm privileged to own and which are in amazingly good condition.

A point of interest...notice the brand name on the pinking shears!

And a little something to make you long for the good old days...check out the prices on the needles!