Wednesday, April 26, 2017

RTW vs Sew It Yourself?

How do you decide what to sew for yourself and what to buy?  I admire the people out there who make the "no RTW" vow because their sewing skills must be quite diverse, their fabric resource centers or availability greater than mine....and their patience for fitting even more so.  Me, I'm a dilettante in many things and master of not many so I have to contemplate my willingness to tackle a project plus its deadline with a realistic assessment of my ambition, skills and past history.  Long introduction to say that my next sewing projects will have a mix of RTW, alterations and brand new garments.  

What prompted this reverie is that Mr. Lucky and I will be heading back to South Carolina for a fabulous family wedding weekend next month.  I've mentioned before that we have a very small immediate family....even smaller than we anticipated when we got together over thirty years ago.  My loving, sweet and delightful first cousins have been including us as part of their extended families and we are so grateful for their kindness and thoughtfulness.  So we were thrilled to be included in the next special event, the wedding of their son to a lovely young woman.  

Now, here's my guilty secret confession, but as sewing peeps I thought you'd understand that my first thought when I got the "save the date" notice was...what a lovely picture of the couple, what a generous family to include us, "what will I wear?"  But the "save the date" came last fall and I didn't do anything about it except put it on the calendar until this winter.  Sarah Veblen had helped me fit two dresses last year.  The full swingy Vogue 8997 one had been so much fun to wear while dancing during our Florida vacation....but it is too casual for this wedding.  I considered making some changes to take down the flare and add sleeves....but would I have time to really do that before the wedding?  Sarah also fit me in Burda 3247 sleeveless sheath dress which could be adapted for a wedding...if I could commit to color and fabric in time to get it done.

I am the most fortunate person on the planet to have that winter tropical time renting a place in Florida... but being away from my fabric resource center and/or New York was frustrating while I contemplated this project. I also knew that the time frame was going to be a real crunch since we would not be back in Baltimore until the first week in April and I had numerous other commitments that would take up precious planning and sewing time. While in Florida I did take myself out to my favorite department store, Dillards, to do snoop shopping.  I tried on maybe twenty dresses in their wedding and evening wear dept.  It was interesting to try styles I would never consider but it would have been so discouraging if I felt the pressure to buy one of them.  I'm in an entirely different clothing demographic these days.  I want something that covers my upper arms...at a time in fashion when every woman is supposed to have Michelle Obama arm definition. I want  knee length dress...not three inches above my aged knees.  Thank goodness I sew!  

I took crappy cell phone pictures just to remind me of some of the things I liked during this process and to remind me to incorporate some details in future dresses.
Snoop shopping details: nice sheer top with sweetheart dress neckline  Too tight but not bad silhouette actually.
Hmmm, all stretch lace might work in a sheath....like the color.  Way too short and boring neckline
Ignore the bra straps...interesting embroidered sleeves and neckline that feel open and lighter
Now here's the surprise part of this experience.  I did find a dress that would fit most of my requirements...dressy enough for this evening wedding reception, comfortable enough for dancing, some color since this is a May wedding, covered upper arms...but still 1 1/2 inches too short. 
Dillards dress
The style is so immensely practical that I want to make several versions for future needs....this could be my dressy version TNT pattern.  My first thought was hey, I'll have time back in Baltimore for a NYC trip to find a similar sequin lace in some colors I like and some nice solid stretch knit for the sheath underneath...easy, flattering, comfortable and dressy enough, jackpot.  

I was explaining all of this to one of my Florida sewing friends when we got together.  She  kept encouraging me to find a way to just add length to the Dillards dress.  I said adding to the hem would just look like I was ten years old and my mother had to add fabric to the bottom of a dress because I was growing so fast.  Then she said, how about making it as a band several inches above the hem?  I vetoed that because a new fabric had no relation to the top of the dress with its lace and coordinated band....but that gave me an idea.  All I needed was another 1 1/2 inches in length.  I certainly have dark navy knit fabric in my resource center....and I could just cut the dress further up my torso underneath that sequin overlay and add the band.  It will be visible to us as sewists but virtually invisible visually to anyone else.  
Voila, that's my plan and here's how it is shaping up in my sewing room.  First, the RTW dress on my dress form...sequins are hard to photograph.
front

back
The sheerness of the sequined lace
Underneath the overlay, nothing but a side darted knit sheath dress
With a center back seam so it feels shapely
I don't think of altering RTW which is why my friend's ideas were so enlightening.  She's more likely to buy something and alter it herself and I'm more likely to figure out what the next item is that I want to make for my wardrobe.  Once again, listening to someone else with experience in an area that is not your specialty can be so helpful.  

To tackle this small alteration project I decided to channel the wonderful Mrs Mole who does those astonishing wedding garment re-makes/revisions/miracles.  Mrs Mole at Fit for a Queen blog  Truly, she is the queen in this area.
So I searched the fabric resource center and came up with two possibilities.  One is a dark navy ITY which would be adequate although the fabric itself is thinner, not as dark, and would have to be interfaced.  But then I came across this perfect navy stretch satin silk.  I'm fairly sure it is from Fabric Mart because I have a lot of it although I only need four inches to make this plan work.  I'm using the dull, "wrong" side and I think it's almost perfect:
Wrong side of stretch satin on top of actual dress
Next I used yarn and pinned the yarn in place where the lowest part of that extra 1 1/2' band that I need will be sewn.  I wanted to make sure that it was well enough under the shortest part of the lace overlay and hooray, it is.  So even if the seam and band are visible as Mr. Lucky twirls me around the dance floor. I don't think the band will look glaringly obvious.
Everything looks good so far but I'm not going to get to the actual marking, cutting and sewing this week. We are busy getting ready for our church auction offering, our fourth "Downton Abbey- inspired" tea for ten this weekend.  I've been printing out recipes, some old and tried, several new and delicious sounding, all of them taking time and effort in addition to the house cleaning and table setting.  Here's part of the savory selection in progress...vodka and citrus salmon curing in the refrigerator, an Emeril Legasse recipe Vodka and citrus cured salmon  

Wrapped up for curing in the refrigerator
Do you alter RTW for yourself?  Or do you decide that sewing it would be easier?  Whatever you do, I hope sewing something is bringing you satisfaction and pleasure.

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Cleaning Up

April is the month when cleaning up is happening everywhere in my life.  Mr. Lucky is doing the heavy digging in the garden beds, transplanting plants that I want moved, removing ones that have died and turning old leaves and plant matter in the big compost bins to make more "black gold" for the perennials, new bulbs and some annuals that are coming soon.  In the house I am making a seasonal closet change which is a good time to evaluate items.  Already I have bags of items heading to charity shops.  I am finally putting away my sewing supplies from my recent vacation and winter sewing retreat and relegating some unsewn projects to the "future" bin.  And I am cleaning up my project blogging list by showing you the last of the winter projects.  I'll start with the one making me most happy, this wool double cloth fabric topper jacket.   

The pattern, Vogue 7627, I decided to use was a surprise.  I thought I was interested in making a faux fur lined winter coat and had Sarah Veblen do a coat fitting two winters ago. 

But as I see myself getting bulkier around my mid-section I decided that a fur lined coat was the last thing I needed.  Yet the pattern kept calling me...the lines of the pattern itself are nice....princess seams up into the armscye of the two piece raglan sleeves.  I was thinking of a lightweight wool topper jacket for wearing over the longer tunics I have been adding to my wardrobe.  I'm going for a sort of Eileen Fisher, simple silhouette in a classy fabric and I'm happy with the final result...which is not really my final result quite yet. 
I have had this plaid fabric for perhaps fifteen years, purchased from the long gone Winchester Woolen Mill.  I have debated over what to do with it forever, boring my sewing friends by dragging it out and petting it while asking their advice. 
Auditioning the fabric on my dress form

Finally, as part of my "use it or lose it" theme I decided to try out a pattern.  If it didn't work, at least I would have had some "sewing lessons" and I would no longer be haunted by the fabric. 










It took me perhaps a half day on my dining room table to cut this project out.  It's a subtle plaid and I cut each piece single layer making sure that the hemline was the start of the plaid matching.  
Match, mark, cut a layer....then drink a cup of coffee

I did the cutting out at home then took it as my sewing retreat project.  I hand basted each seam before machine sewing it at the retreat.  I think this might be the first plaid garment I have ever sewn where I cared about paid matching and am proud that it all worked nicely...even if I had to sew some of those seams twice to get them to match.
I took the jacket to Florida for our vacation since I have a lot of hand stitching in my future before this project is fully complete.  This double cloth is wonderful but the seams do not press flat enough. 

I have a heavy metallic royal blue thread selected and I am going to hand top stitch each one of these seams.  I like hand stitching and thought I would get to it but the results would prove me wrong.  Too much fun doing other things in February and March.  So here are the local Baltimore pics of the still unfinished jacket on me.  I'll put shoulder pads in and get that top stitching done and will enjoy wearing it next fall.  

Checking out the weed status
Just long enough to cover that tunic
Still needing shoulder pads and top stitching
Yes, many times my projects need to percolate for many months before they come to fruition.  Then sometimes, they are quick and easy, peasy ones.  At the sewing retreat I whipped up two more Pamela's Patterns Magic Pencil skirts 

The houndstooth one reminds me of a skirt I wore in high school and I got to wear it when visiting with two grade school classmates in the Atlanta area on our drive south.  I love the border print on the second one and only regretted that I hadn't packed a navy top for the Florida trip.  
I did pack a lace RTW top that I enjoy and wore it several times with these latest Jalie Elenore pants when Mr. Lucky and I went out dancing.
Jalie Elenore pants
All of these, of course, are Fabric Mart fabrics.  These pants made me smile while I was doing snoop shopping in Naples during those two months.  A new friend at the dogpark we got to every morning shared how popular a brand of pants were in her trendy boutique.  She said they were flying out the door and sales were better than they had ever had.  Hmmm, I just had to go visit those magic pants.
Turns out they are a brand from Canada, Up Pants Up Pants  When I tried them on, they are basically a pull on stretch woven pant...gee, just like the Jalie Elenore pants.  One cool idea that I will be incorporating in my next versions....rather than use the fashion fabric for the inside of that wide top band, they use heavy slippery stretch power net fabric.  Hmmmm, I think that may mean you could even eliminate the 2" elastic that I currently use and just rely on the power net.  The other difference was that some of the pants had a wider band as seen in the picture below.  Otherwise, my $8.00 fabric cost version looked remarkably like their $120 versions.
Some versions have a wider band at the top for more tummy control.
Moments like this make me soon happy that I sew.  
I did a lot more snoop shopping for my next projects but that post will have to wait.  I have a big family wedding in South Carolina in the middle of May and then two weeks later we will be on our much anticipated bike and barge trip from Bruge to Amsterdam.  Of course these will be fun in their own right but sewing something for each of them will also be part of the fun I am having back in Baltimore.  In the meantime, I hope you are planning and enjoying projects in your sewing room.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Not Sew Happy

My previous two sewing projects left me feeling accomplished and stylish....not so with these next two.  But isn't that the challenge of creating something new?  There's no guaranteed outcome.  These new tops are not wadders but both patterns still need adjusting and tweaking....and patience isn't one of my strongest traits.  Still, I think admitting our frustrations to one another is genuine and supports the persistence we I need to carry on.  
These two new tops have me feeling like Goldilocks...the first one is too big, the next one is too little.  So there's some pattern tweaking still to be done but there are "wearable mock-ups" for this spring and summer season.
I was trying to capture a breezy, boho summer look with this New Look blouse since that's what our weather was like in February in southwest Florida.  This is a lightweight polyester with some slight texture.  The print was good for our Florida vacation.  However I need to reduce the flare on the front of the blouse since it's too billow-y and add a little more room to the bicep area for it to be totally comfortable.  Simple top and I think once I get the fitting done it will be easy to make, change and embellish.  I guess we never got a picture of me wearing it so the garment photo will have to do for now.
New Look 6414

I changed the front closure to a tie one and kept the sleeves shorter and belled.  When I tried styling it the same as the model I thought there was just too much attention downward at my widest hip level...but long belled sleeves without elastic, trendy as they are right now, would just be flopping in my food creating a mess.  I did see some clever sleeve treatments while on vacation....resort areas always have such a variety of clothing styles...so this summer I will add sleeve details to this simple pattern.
So that design was a little too big across the front area....and this one is a little too small on me.  I wasn't feeling good about how it looks so I'd rather our rental condo location be featured than my disappointing new Simplicity top.   

Simplicity 1462

The fabric is a wonderfully heavy rayon...but why is it that these great rayons seem to only come in tropical prints?  The top itself has great seams but that means a lot of adjusting.  Sarah Veblen marked it for me back in November then I spent time transferring those marks and cutting this blouse out for our trip.  I'm very meh about it now but the bones of the pattern hold promise.  I will tackle it later but right now it's not a high priority.    
These two may not be my favorite garments but they do follow the maxim I saw in a little local boutique:

Last thing to share are some pictures from the Naples Botanical Gardens.  What an absolute treasure.  It was our first visit there and I vow to go back at least once or more each time we return to the area.  In addition to wonderful gardens, this year there was as astonishing outdoor sculpture exhibit inspired by origami.  
Of course, as a sewing person I immediately saw how the "paper" folding (in this case metal) was so similar to the fabric manipulation done by designers and couture sewists.  





Next post I will finish sharing my winter sewing projects and start blogging about what spring is bringing to my sewing studio.  It's not easy to leave our Florida friends and head home but we have pictures and memories of good times until we return next winter.

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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Burda 6809

My January sewing retreat projects started with this tunic pattern which I planned on taking for our Florida vacation.  Well, after two months my Naples friends might be tired of seeing it but I am not.  Love the pattern and can't wait to make a slew more.  
Burda 6809

I had only some minor alterations to this Burda pattern...which should be a clue to me...sew more Burda.  I shortened the back 1 1/2 inches and made the side dart 1/2 deeper.  I added 1/2 inch to the bicep area of the sleeve which was easy peasy to do since this is a nice two piece sleeve.  
At the sewing retreat I was a little very befuddled by the placket directions and had to walk through the instructions with an experienced friend who frequently sews Burda patterns.  Once I did it, yes, the directions made perfect sense.  That little point at the very bottom is quite tricky stitching but my fabric was very forgiving. 
It's burn-out polyester but lightweight enough that it doesn't feel clammy.  I do need to wear a camisole underneath so it wouldn't be suitable for the hottest and most humid summer days in Maryland.  But a nice linen version would be comfy and I think I see a knee length linen dress in my future.  
I wore it to visit a former classmate in Sarasota....and fell in love with Sarasota on a brief visit.  
I wore it again to meet up with my local Naples sewing girlfriends which is always a delightful afternoon.
Not all my sewing retreat projects worked out so well.  Next up I'll share one that needs more work and editing before I'm happy with it.  Until then, I hope you have a project that pleases you when it is completed.