Spring for Cotton plans

After participating in the past Fall for Cotton, I couldn’t stop myself from joining in Spring for Cotton. I’ve recently bought some beautiful cotton fabrics from Stoffamstueck and I was planning on making some vintage inspired dresses, so this came just in the right time.

As I’m planning to make a couple more of vintage reproductions for the Vintage Pledge, I decided to sew Gertie’s shirtwaist dress for this challenge. When I saw this cotton poplin I knew it had to become this dress. Unfortunately it’s a lot more saturated in the pictures in Etsy than in real life and the shipping costs were a killer (even inside Europe). Anyway it’s still a lovely fabric and it’s going to be a wonderful dress.

And you? Are you participating in Spring for Cotton?

Completed: 1947 Tiki Dress

I never expected to participate in the Vintage Pattern Pledge. Sure, it’s a wonderful initiative and I love vintage designs, but my luck buying vintage patterns was not always the best. First, I can’t find them locally, so I have to buy online, and the times I’ve done it the pattern didn’t fit me at all. They were always huge, so for me it was more a gamble than anything. But then I discovered that Amazon.es sells a few vintage reproductions with several sizes in each envelope, so I knew that it was this or nothing. I purchased three patterns, and this B5209 is the first I decided to make.

It’s a beauty, right? I had several possible fabrics to make this, and at first I was not sure about which version to make. View B would be more appropriate for spring but there’s always something that irrationally attracted me from halter dresses, so I made view A. Finally I did something completely unexpected and used a fabric that I purchased more than a year ago by the kilo. It was two one meter and a half pieces, enough for a dress. I haven’t used it before because I usually avoid green (10 years wearing a green uniform makes that to you), but it seems this year I’m learning to wear it again.

As you can see, I have omitted the front and back seams on bodice and skirt pieces. My print is busy and I didn’t think that these seams would add much. And this way I also saved a little bit of fabric.

As you can see I modified the back piece quite a bit. The original shape was not bra friendly at all, and that would have made me leave the dress in the closet forever. I quite like the new shape though. And BTW, I always had a skinny back, but it has broadened a bit since doing pilates and capoeira. It seems huge on this picture. You can see how I modified the back piece in the picture below, and how the original design was meant to be.

I made a size 8, although my measurements corresponded to a size 10. It’s snug but I can breath perfectly. I’m not sure if I’d have liked a loser fit. I had to shorten the straps a create a wedge close to the side to make it fit. Usually one should shorten the midriff piece, but this wouldn’t have worked for me. I must have a weird shape, because I often have to shorten the area between shoulders and bust. The halter needed some “burrito” construction that was not completely clear on the pattern instructions, but it was not difficult to visualize and and make.

With those mods the dress fits perfectly. I had a gaping issue on both sides of the neckline, probably because I stretched the fabric while sewing, but I fixed like I did with my Cambie (original tutorial here), with some twill tape and I have to report that I’m very happy with this fix. No more gaping, yay!

The bodice, according to the instructions, is self lined. This part of the construction reminded me a lot of the Lonsdale Dress. Some design lines are the same, and it’s also self lined. As my fabric was a bit thin, and you could see a bit through the white parts, I decided to line the bodice with some while batiste from my stash. I think it brings out the color making it look much better. I didn’t have enough for the skirt, so I went to the closest haberdashery in search for a similar fabric and came back with the most similar one, a white muslin that was a bit more stiff than my batiste. I gathered skirt and lining together and I think the muslin gives the skirt the right oomph. Here a picture from the dress innards. It looks so neat and pretty. Also, because I’ve used a different fabric for the lining, I have only used 1,5 m for the entire dress, so I have another equal piece left (that I’m already using for something else).

This is my first time working with so much gathers (and my first gathered skirt). I usually avoid them for fear that will make my bottom look bigger (than it already is) and also because somehow I thought they looked kind of messy. I see now that they can look fine when made right, and that is sewing three lines of stitching, being one of them at the seam allowance and the others inside it, then pulling the thread on the right side of the fabric and distribute the gathers evenly. I have learned that I don’t dislike gathers, and I may make them again in the future.

The hem is sewn by hand with some petersham added to give some structure to my soft fabric. It took me a while but totally worth it. The lining is hemmed by machine, nobody sees that.

The zipper, hook and eye are not my best jobs, but they are still decent. Probably I should have stabilized my fabric with some interfacing. And BTW, I loved that this dress doesn’t use any darts or interfacing. Those two steps are often things I don’t enjoy so much and that require a lot of precision.

I’m looking forward to summery weather to be able to wear this dress. Made with a not so loved fabric and a pattern that I didn’t know if it was going to work, I didn’t have very high expectations. But you know? I really love this dress, and it takes so little fabric that you can make as many as you want. I have some black satin that I bought some years ago and I didn’t know what to use it for. I think it would make a lovely dress .

Inspiration

I started writing this post in June of 2013, and then abandoned it. Thanks to Michelle and the Gilmore Girls KAL I decided to revive it.

I arrived late to many shows that I ended up enjoying a lot, like Desperate Housewives, the Gilmore Girls, Firefly , Downton Abbey and Broadchurch (ok, not so late for Broadchurch, I started watching it just after season 1 was over). Normally I don’t really pay attention to garments in shows but I’m acquiring more and more an experienced eye on the subject.

This cardigan appears at the end of season 4 and on episode 7 of season 5 if I remember well. I like the detail of the cables and the soft pink color. I’m not very convinced though about the general shape. It doesn’t have buttons, and the fronts hang at the sides in an unflattering way. It looks like it has some mohair or angora. I looked for a similar pattern in Ravelry and I found none. I’d love to design something like that one day but with an improved shape (and I need buttons on my cardigans).

On episode 4 of season 6, Rory is wearing a stunning dress for the baptism of Sookie’s children. It doesn’t seem like a difficult pattern: princess seams and a half circle skirt with gathers at the back. I like the detail of the black piping.

Coming back to the cardigan, I am not very sure of its construction. It seems to have raglan sleeves and the back has asymmetric cables. About the front I can’t say a lot since I think we don’t get a good view of it.

Update: I think this pattern could be modified to make something like it.

My first pair of jeans: a wearable muslin

Sorry for the radio silence, but between the jeans breaking my machine and one of my medications being raised, I’ve been a little bit off last week. The jeans took a bit longer than expected and they fit worse than expected too. The change in the medication makes me nauseous in the morning and tired in the afternoon-evening, so after work I didn’t manage to do anything else but sitting on the couch with my knitting and watching the 100. Series 1 was okay, but series 2 is pretty damn addictive! I just hope finishing it soon and get on with my life. I think things are going better and today I’m feeling better than previous days, so I gathered the strength to write this post (twice again, since WordPress ate my first version).

As I told you before, I was torn between the Ginger Jeans and the Angela Woolf Bootcut Jean. Since the latter is similar to the jeans I’m wearing nowadays, I went with this one. Plus, I hate skinny jeans on me, and the Ginger Jeans would have needed a strong modification of the leg to make them wearable outside the house. I’ve read that the Ginger Jeans fit big booties well, and I was a bit sad that I couldn’t find all that I needed in one pattern, but I thought that after giving a first try to the Angela Wolf I could make the needed modifications for future pairs.

The pattern is drafted with a 34” inseam, so I shortened 3” to start with. I should have remembered that my ideal length in my teenage days was 30″ and I would I have saved me from chopping off an extra inch after the jeans were made. I trusted the sizing and found that these feel like a size larger than the RTW jeans I’m wearing nowadays. It’s not something bad though, because I started to do more sports two weeks ago and I never lose weight in these cases (it’s not my intention anyway), but I tend to develop quite some muscle, especially on my thighs (like a female version of the Hulk). Even like that, they don’t fit like the pictures on the pattern instructions, so if you want that, you will need to size down. I used a similar fabric to the one specified in the requirements, and after wearing it on Saturday, I feel it quite loose. In the pictures it looks okay though, so it could be that I’m just used to my too tight RTW jeans.

I didn’t make any important modifications to these jeans, except leaving the 7 cm wide waistband in 4 cm. The original needed two buttons and looked horribly wide. I measured the one of my RTW and it’s how I decided how wide this one was going to be. It looks ok. I didn’t modify anything else since I was not sure how Angela Wolf patterns fit. I wanted to make a wearable muslin and then then adjust the pattern for a future pair. I was a bit disappointed though. The waist is huge. I already suspected this when I was cutting my pieces but I continued anyway. You can see the wrinkles under my belt. They feel annoying but nothing new since this happens with all my RTW jeans. I expected a better fit here since this is a common complain among women (and even men). Do the Ginger jeans fit better here?

I just have one functional sewing machine, so I had to switch the upper thread all the time, but it’s not as bad as other people say, since the bobbin thread keeps being the same. I had to pay attention to adjust the tension though, since the topstitching thread needed a higher tension. And even like that it kept giving little problems, even after my machine came back from being repaired. At random moments you could see a loop showing on the back of the fabric like in the picture below. The topstitching looks generally okay though, except where it curves on the fly. I redid this part but the second time was not better than the first. Well, you only see it from close.

I learned how to use my blind hem foot to sew parallel stitching lines. It could be used too as a stitch in the ditch foot. Now I need to learn how to use it to what is intended for 😉

I used washaway quilters tape to place the back pockets and the zipper, and also for folding in the lower edge of the waistband facing. Even though the default seam allowance for this pattern is 5/8”, in some places it’s smaller, eliminating trimming. The waistband seam allowance is 1/4” (6 mm) so the washaway tape was very helpful. These different seam allowances are specified in the pattern instructions and on the pattern pieces, so it’s almost impossible to miss them.

The instructions are clearly written and they even include a link about distressing. I didn’t have any doubts and installing the zipper was also very straight forward just by following the instructions. One thing I liked is that they have you shift a little the back pieces, so that after topstitching the back pockets look symmetrical, and not one of them closer to the center topstitching. I managed to place them more or less, and after washing them (to remove the washaway tape) they look ok. They seemed a bit large the first time I saw them on the jeans, or too dull due to lack of topstitching, but I now think they look fine.

The front pockets are too small for my liking since my hands don’t fit completely, and definitely smaller than any RTW jeans I’ve ever owned.

As it was already at the end, and after two weeks I started with these jeans, I didn’t want to take more time and modify it, but the hem of these jeans is a bit too wide. It feels a bit too handmade for me. Something to point out is that this pattern uses faux felled seams. I was a bit afraid beforehand of doing real felled seams on denim but since they are all faux felled, everything went more or less smooth.

The buttonhole was a pain in the ass, as usual. I did several tests on pieces of fabric and some were more or less right, but on the real waistband they always came too short, even helping my machine to move the fabric. I ended up doing it manually with a zigzag stitch. I just hate my machine when making buttonholes. At least my buttonhole is not too bad and it’s quite sturdy. I applied some fray check before cutting it open.

I was going to add rivets but after such a long project and my energy levels not too high I just skipped them. Also, the fit is far from perfect, so I decided not to throw more time and effort on these jeans. Maybe when my strength is back I’ll think differently. You also see that I don’t look wonderful in the pictures. I took them on Thursday during my lunch break and the nausea didn’t let me do much, so I skipped the usual make up I apply for taking pictures.

The belt loops are too wide, so I’ll narrow them for next time. And they were a pain to sew in. On the upper part your needle needs to go through TEN layers of denim so you can imagine that even going very slow with a recently oiled machine is not going to work wonders. During a couple of seconds I even thought if I could glue them to the waistband, or staple them, or bite them in place. It was a pain!

Now that I see them in the pictures I have to say that I like them better. I would like to make another pair with the mentioned modifications, or go for the Ginger jeans. I don’t know. What I know is that I’m going to let my machine rest from the denim for a while and let her sew soft and thin cotton.

And you? Have you made jeans before? Have you tried any of the mentioned patterns? Just tell me your experience.

A couple of things about sewing machines maintenance

As you know, my machine broke last week when I was sewing my first pair of handmade jeans. I was heartbroken because I was not sure if I was going to be able to finish these jeans and because my machine had to go away for repair for the first time. They came to pick it up on Wednesday and told me that they would probably bring it back on Saturday. They couldn’t make it for Saturday, but the technician was going to be around Madrid center on Sunday morning, so could he come and bring it then. Wonderful!

He explained that denim was not the root cause here. The real problem was that the upper part of my machine was never oiled in the two years I’ve owned it, and that coupled with some heavy fabric, caused the needle axis to break. I reviewed my machine user manual, and it only mentioned oiling and cleaning around the bobbin case area. The maintenance chapter only included that and how to change the light bulb. I mentioned this to the technician and he explained that low-mid range machines do not include a clear access to oil the upper part so that they break after some time and you need to buy a new one (!!). In order to oil this part, you would need to lift the upper cover like I partly did when I was checking what happened to my machine (and Gerry supervised).

Since doing this can be cumbersome, it can also be done by sliding the bobbin winder to the right and introducing the oil spray straw aiming to the left. He mentioned that two drops there from time to time would be fine. Also oiling the needle area that you can see in the upper picture is a good idea, according to the technician.

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I can report that my machine never sewed as smooth as right now, and that my jeans are almost finished. Remember, you can sew heavy fabrics with your machine, but always make sure that all parts are correctly oiled. And I’ve learned that blindly trusting a sewing machine user manual is not always a good idea.