Tuesday, June 30, 2015

One, Two, Three, Four Maxi Dresses in a Row...

I want to start the conversation about these dresses talking about my body, my perceptions of my body and how I choose to dress it.

See the thing about sewing for yourself and then posting your pictures on the internet is that you've opened yourself up to criticism as well as praise from others. But here's the thing...the criticism, whether about your weight, your shape, or how you choose to dress your body, is just someone else's opinion.  

They haven't walked in your shoes. They don't know your experiences and how it affects how you see yourself. They can't even participate in your day to day life experiences, to see whether the dress or garment will work for you. So in actuality it's just an opinion or as dictionary.com defines it - "a belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty."

I say this because I truly believe that I look better in long, straight garments. Yes, I'm learning that a closer fit works well for me but I will never IN MY OPINION look good in a dress with a bodice and a gathered waistline. To me, it emphasizes my bottom half and not in a flattering way.  My bottom half is the part I want to de-emphasize. But that's me...and my opinion and the opinion that counts the most since I'm sewing for myself.

A little about the construction of these dresses~
So with that said, these last three dresses are made using McCalls 6559. The ITY knit maxi dresses fit completely different than the ponte version did.  For one they are lighter and the fabric was a little more challenging to cut. Two, it's gonna take me a little to wear them alone...they will probably be worn with a sweater or topper over them for waist definition and to cover some of that arse I'm rocking! Because that sure didn't seem to have gone anywhere when I dropped a few pounds!

Otherwise the construction is exactly the same as the black ponte one except I did not serge the seams.  Why? They are knits and won't ravel. The distinguishing thing about these maxi dresses is solely the fabric.  I made three of them out of distinctive prints so that the prints speak loudly enough that most people will probably ignore the similarity of each dress.

Red/brown/black polka dot version ~
Somehow the neckline stretched out a little with this one.  I could have tamed it but I liked how it forms a slight v so I let it be. The neckline and armholes are finished with a line of stitching as is the hemline. This one does not have the bias fusible stay tape added to it.

One more thing...this is an ITY knit from my fabric collection purchased from Fabric Mart. I bought 3 yards at $5.99 per yard so total cost to make was $18. It is the lightest of the three maxi dresses.

Bold printed version ~
The challenge of this dress was cutting out the border print so that it wrapped around my body. I wanted the print on the same side on the front and back...and remarkably it worked. I've had it go epically wrong in the past, so I'm really thrilled this one is fine! To me that's the interesting factor of this maxi dress. 

More fabric from the collection from Fabric Mart (it's hard to beat their sales!) was used to make the dress. This one cost $5.99 per yard and again I bought 3 yards so total cost to make was $18.

The border print version ~
I cut this one using the border print at the bottom of the dress.  A simple use of a great border print...but again making the print the central feature of the maxi dress. This dress is a little shorter than the other two because of the distinct border print.  It had large 2" white bands at the top and the bottom of the print so I lost inches at the bottom of the dress but gained some interesting details at the top in the front and back.

This ITY knit is a little heavier than the red/brown/black dotted one, which is really light, and the bold printed fabric which was a medium weight ITY. The fabric is also from Fabric Mart and cost $4.49 a yard, and I purchased 3 yards so total cost for this one is $13.50.

Conclusion ~
All of these will work well for my upcoming vacation and were cheaper to make than purchasing them from retail.  They were also fast to sew, seriously fast! I made all three of these and the ponte one that was in the last post in two days! They will even wear well to my day job with a topper.  

I want to make a couple of linen or cotton voile high/low maxi dresses next. I even have a pattern picked out. I just have to rumble through the fabric collection to find some interesting prints. I may be a little late to climb on board this fashion trend but I'm here now and I'm going for it! 

...as always more later!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Finally a maxidress...

For the last couple of years my solution to a cool summer knit dress was Vogue 1250.  Well lose a few pounds and all of those amazing dresses have been added to the donation pile...and what is a woman to do now?

With much prodding and poking from my girl, Gaylen, I pulled out McCalls 6559. You know the maxi dress that everyone has made (110 reviews on Patternreview at last count) and I horribly failed at three years ago.  But body changes and an acceptance that maybe just maybe this should fit closer rather looser and I have this...

Okay let's back up a minute.  I really wasn't sold on McCalls 6559 until I went on the Avenue's site and saw maxi dress after maxi dress in this style. The only thing distinguishing each dress was the print used on the fabric or a binding added to the neckline and the armholes. I guess I could have just bought a few but all the elements to make them exist in the cave, so I thought I would try again.

As you can see from above, it worked. 
  • I started with the same pattern pieces adding 5/8" to the front and back side seams.
  • I added a 1/2" at the center front seam by placing the pattern piece 1/2" away from the fold. 
  • I also added a center back seam instead of placing the back piece on the fold.
  • The neckline was raised an inch and then an inch was removed from the shoulder straps to raise up the armholes. 
  • For the next version I added another 5/8" at the neckline on the pattern to raise it up. I think the black one is a little low.
  • I topstitched the neckline and armholes in white thread to give the top a little sumthin' sumthin'. 
  • The shoulder seams were stabilized with "Design Plus" bias fusible stay tape.
  • Finally the side seams were sewn with a 1/2" seam allowance and then serged finished.
  • The hem was pressed up 1.5" and I added some stitch witchery. Then I topstitched the hemline with black thread.
  • After finishing the dress, I had some gap in the front armhole, so I improvised side armhole darts.
  • Altered the front pattern piece by slicing and folding over at the armhole and did a similar alteration at the back armhole.
My first try is from some of the black cotton/lycra ponte from my 10 yard stock. I figured if it didn't work, I would still get a maxi skirt from the leftover. I realize that this is a firmer fit than an ITY knit will provide, which are my next choices. 

Here are my fabric choices ~

An ITY navy & black border print, a red/brown/black polka dot ITY knit
a cotton/spandex vanilla dot print & a bold border print ITY knit

...a few more pictures of this maxi dress in action.

I will show pics of the other dresses in another post because I ended up making four of them, enough for vacation and as Gaylen reminded me on Instagram, enough for a week's worth of work outfits. 

Finally, I really like the tie top that accompanies this pattern and I think it will give me some much needed waist definition.  Now to find that linen knit fabric I bought from Fabric Mart years ago to make a couple!

...as always more later!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Onward and Upward

Well I've been at my job for four weeks now and I'm starting to feel settled in. I've developed a few routines and figured out what I'm comfortable wearing. I'm still a little more dressed than some of the other office peeps but this is it...this is as casual as I can get! *LOL*  Even though I did wear jeans to work one day...but it was pouring rain and I really appreciated the ability to wear them to work THAT day!

I think my sewing mojo is attempting to raise it's little head. I might have to force it to come back because I go on vacation July 17th and I need a vacay wardrobe...well a few pieces anyway.

The painted skirt back has been hanging for a week and I've decided to just add a little more paint to it...mostly to the edges so that the repeats are balanced out...that will take about 10 minutes...

...so I'm onto the fronts which should prove a little trickier cause I'm going to need to match the fronts.  I'm also thinking that I'm going to use a solid color for the waistband...just have to figure out what color since every color in the rainbow is in this!

Well it's Thursday night and since my office celebrates "Summer Fridays" I have a three day weekend and I want to make it count this weekend!  Hopefully I will have some sewing to show for it!

...as always more later!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Closet Cull - Summer Edition

After spending most of the weekend working on painting the skirt, I still had no sewing mojo.  So after cooking dinner, I decided to try a few things on for work this week. Now to be perfectly honest, I've been dreading this...heading into my closet and looking closely at what's residing there. I've definitely been putting it off because of the weight loss and the job change.

However, it wasn't as bad as I thought.  Yes, I did end up with a huge carpenter size garbage bag full of things to be donated, but I also found my old business casual wardrobe stuffed way in the back of the closet.  Things I shared here years ago!

Things like this:

This skirt was blogged about here.

This skirt was in the same post above.

...and this skirt was in this blog post.

All of these skirts were made in 2006, back when I worked in a large financial institution and the dress code was business casual. I wore a skirt and a twinset or a skirt, tank top and cardigan in the summertime...occasionally I wore a dress but not often. My picture taking skills left much to be desired...hahahaha!

After finding these pieces and adding some cardigans from the collection to them, I felt like I'd found myself again. First off they all fit again, thank goodness! Why I held onto them so long I have no idea, since I'm usually cleaning things out with a quickness, but I'm glad I did! 

Second, they will work in my new environment without making me stand out. Even though I received great advice that it's okay to stand out...I'd rather look like I'm part of the team.  As it is I'm still going to be a little more "dressed" than some of my fellow employees, but I won't be "overdressed."

The title of this post is "Closet Cull" so to keep it on track, I tried on every summer dress that was left in the closet.  Then I set up three piles ~ keep, donate, will be fixed. I ended up with about 25 more dresses being added to the donate pile. A few have been designated fixable...some lay on my cutting table and some are in the closet waiting their turn.

Originally I thought I would list all of the dresses that are going away but it's just too much!  Suffice it to say that almost every summer dress that I've made in the last 3-4 years, no longer resides in my closet. I've also decided that the yellow dress featured in my last Closet Cull post is not worth saving. It was donated as was this one ~ which is one of my favorite makes:

As I fix dresses, I will share them with you since this is a much smaller list. 

It was interesting that as I touched each one of the dresses to be given away, I could remember the inspiration, buying the fabric, and the hours spent constructing each garment. To say that this is a milestone in my life both creatively and professionally is an understatement.

I wrote this blog post in May 2013 about my wardrobe. I stumbled upon it when I was looking for pics for this post. So much of what I wrote is still true regarding my feelings on my wardrobe...so much so that I wonder how interesting my blog posts are going to be now.  I guess we'll see...

...as always more later!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Fabric Painting - Part 2

Well this is a flight of fancy that's completely taken over my sewing time! *smile* However, it's creatively stimulating and stretching me in new directions.  Also it gives me time to figure out exactly what I want to sew next...

First, I bought more paint brushes...  
I found that I needed a thick one to generally apply the dye to the fabric and a thinner one to fill in the borders and smaller spaces ~ basically two paintbrushes per color.  So I've ended up with a collection of new brushes...

I also bought more paint...
Not more shades (well one more pot of green) but a large pot of white paint to mix colors. I also bought a couple fabric markers. Though when I tried one on the fabric I didn't like how it worked. I just liked how the paint using the paintbrush applies to the fabric much better so I won't be using the fabric markers going forward. 

A few things that I've learned/relearned along the way...
Add white to any color and it makes it lighter or more pastel colored. I messed up at the beginning by trying to mix the white into the darker color. Didn't work so well and it takes some trial and error to get the lighter shades I see in my minds eye. So I've ended up with some interesting shades by doing this process.

White with a little blue mixed in

Adding a little more blue to get 
a darker shade of blue

I had to figure out a color "design" for the fabric and make sure that I paint it that way every time...especially since the fabric has a repeat pattern in it.

Mostly this just takes time...alot of time! I'm almost finished painting JUST the back piece, still have the two front pieces and the waistband to paint before I can assemble the skirt. Remarkably enough the dye hasn't changed the hand of the fabric which is good.

A few pictures of the skirt's progress...

Just starting to paint the skirt back

Adding more color...

It's almost finished.  Just need to add a little more 
color so that there aren't quite as many white spaces.

I put a lot of paint on the skirt yesterday. Now it's hanging for 24 hours to dry so that I can see where I want to add the last of the color...plus I need a break. The painting is very detailed and I have to really pay attention to what I'm doing. 

Just wanted to give an update on the fabric painting progress.

...as always more later!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Things Change and Nothing Remains the Same...

Intriguing title right?  Well it's nothing earth shattering.  See I'm still painting the fabric and my second idea had to be shelved because the fabric wouldn't work with the pattern I had in mind.  

So I've been thinking about who I want to represent to the world now that my clothing restraints have been removed.  I've spent the last two weeks walking around my new job's neighborhood looking at what normal people wear to work. Because even though the restrictions are gone and I can wear anything, I am flailing a bit. It's like letting a woman out of jail who's been incarcerated for 20-30 years, there are now so many choices to make that it's a bit overwhelming. Definitely how I'm feeling lately.

If I don't wear a dress - who am I?  A dress and a cardigan have been my outfit, my go to pieces for years.  But that outfit doesn't fit in my new environment...so what do I do now?

This thought has been circling round and round while I've tried to redefine myself. I've finally decided to just sew some separates and incorporate them into my wardrobe.  I haven't been a separates kind of woman for years like back before I started my last gig.

To that end, I went digging around in the pattern collection to see what lurked there to inspire me...and I pulled quite a few patterns...

I know I won't get most of these sewn.  Some are for inspiration, some I may sew and some are to help me adjust existing TNT patterns. There are a couple of vintage patterns for maxi dresses, an older Khaliah Ali pattern and some top patterns.

I also paired two with fabric...

I've since changed my mind about this one. I want to make the dress. I just want to use a solid blue linen from the collection. 

I got the idea to pair the pattern above with the black 'n white seersucker after it came out of the dryer and the sections were puckering. The dress idea I was thinking of wouldn't work with the fabric, so I went looking for this pattern instead. I think it will make a cute full knee length skirt for the hot and humid days that are ahead.

That's where I am right now...standing here trying to figure out the next chapter of my sewing life and painting fabric...still painting fabric. 

...always more later!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Simplicity 1662 Skirt - Painting the Fabric

I posted this picture to Instagram last week and both Sheila and Oonaballoona wrote that I should paint the fabric.  At the time I posted the fabric, it was a beautiful and dramatic black and white print.  

Then I ran it through the washer and dryer (without a color catcher because why would I need one?) and ended up with this dingy piece of fabric...

All of a sudden that "painting the fabric" idea seemed really great.  Now I have some fabric paints on hand but they've been in the drawer for a little too long. So a trip through the garment district led me to SIL Threads where they did have fabric paints.  I bought five pots - red, blue, yellow, green and purple. That extra red is from the stash that actually was still okay!

After double-checking the paints, I found a white one that will work to mix colors and possibly make some pastel shades. I decided that I needed to paint a sample because I don't want to paint the entire yardage, only what I need for the skirt. Also I don't want to practice on the final garment pieces.

Here are a few pictures of the samples ~

This is going to take a minute to complete and is the first of the two projects I mentioned in my computer moan post.  The second one will be up on the blog soon.  It's not an easy project either...but I only work four days during the summer (my job has summer Fridays) so I'm up for some meaty projects after the sewcation week.

Hopefully you won't mind me sharing some progress posts cause I'm gonna need all the encouragement I can get to make it through this project! *LOL* 

...as always more later!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Goings on in the Sewing Cave

My old trustworthy computer finally died.  I loved that HP and had it for about six years.  I'd bought another one last year...opened the box and then never put it up cause the thought of putting together a new computer made me want to weep. I knew my trusty friend was on it's last legs cause the fan sounded terrible when I would start it.  So I've spent the evening setting up a new computer that has me befuddled because nothing works like my old one.

My new computer surrounded by all the junk 
on my computer desk

Anyway, one of the things I absolutely loved about my old computer is that I could download pictures from the SD card and then a program automatically popped up and I could crop, change the color or brighten or darken my pictures. It was the main reason that I bought it! The new computer doesn't have this program so I'm appealing to other bloggers to tell me what FREE photo editing software do you use?  And why?  Is it easy to use - a MUST!  If you don't use a free editing software - what do you use and cost?  Is it worth it to pay for it?  Any help you can provide would be helpful!

While I'm at it ~ my computer starts with this stupid microsoft screen:

Does anyone know how to change the setting so that my desktop comes up first.  There is a link on the toolbar of the laptop but I set that up so long ago that I can't remember where I found it.  My computer is an HP Pavilion 23 touchscreen. I can google the answer, I'm sure, but it would be nice if someone knew and could tell me in layman's words how to do it.

To say that I'm lost is an understatement!  I have to get all my links back and I can't get my back up to hook up to the new computer - stop I just got the back up and running! Sheesh! But the process to get my pictures and stuff back onto this computer is too much for this tired brain tonight.  Google has answered that question but I need a "fresh" brain to get that to work!

So the post that I was going to write about my next two projects will have to wait until I can figure some stuff out.  

...as always more later!

Monday, June 08, 2015

Lisette #3 and Matching Maxi Skirt

I really did like this Lisette top! The first one was made in linen, this one is actually the second one and it's made in a scuba knit (or at least that's what Fabric Mart called it) and my final one was the black embroidered cotton sateen from the last post.

As you can see I made this one without sleeves and from the altered pattern. I did top stitch all of the seams but other than that there are no new construction techniques to discuss. I probably should have raised the underarm seam a little and will do that the next time I make this. Otherwise it's the same as all of the others.

The maxi skirt is a piece of fabric wrapped around my body and then eased to a 2" piece of black elastic. The elastic is the waistband and is about 10" smaller than my actual waistline.  The skirt has a back seam with a slit and is machine hemmed.

I've already worn this outfit to work with a scarf and my denim jacket and it was a winner.  So a few more pics...

BTW, this is my new work normal. My office although touted as business casual can sometimes seem a little weekend wear-ish in dress. There are alot of jeans worn to work and I'm so not a jeans girl. I'm still struggling a little with what will work for me but all of the more formal garments still swimming around in my head will become church gear.

You will see a lot more separates and maxidresses sewn here with a few complicated dresses thrown in to wear to church on Sundays.  Thank goodness for church so that I'm not sewing things I'll never wear! 

I'm no longer worried about donating a lot of the things that I previously made and can no longer wear. My life is changing and someone who could use them should have them!

...as always more later!

Saturday, June 06, 2015

The Lisette Top 'n my TNT pants

These pieces were the result of a dream. Honestly! Last Thursday I'd been sewing for three days straight and I was moving very slowly that morning. My daughter came by to check on me and after she left to run an errand, I went and took a nap.

I woke up with this look burning into my brain because the thought of it was just so enticing. I don't usually sew pants in spring/summer but a pair of black pants is a good thing - no matter the season. This is my third Lisette top. I am posting these out of order because I love this pattern. Can I say that again - Love.this.pattern! I've been looking for a great top and this one fits the bill for me!

Construction ~
To get the eyelet design evenly at the hemline on all of the pieces, I laid them on the border lining up the marked hemline on the pattern pieces.

I sewed them from the hemline up to the underarm sleeve to insure that the hemline matched up. Any extra pieces (seam overlap) were cut off to clean finish the seam.

On the other versions of this top, I didn't like how the pattern suggested finishing the neckline. For the fruit version, I added binding per the pattern suggestion but I kept thinking that a lined version would be awesome. 

I made a back lining/yoke pattern piece for this version and cut it & the front yoke from a black cotton batiste. I sewed this to the neckline, flipped it in, edgestitched it, and stitched the front facing in the ditch. The armhole facing was basted at both sides and the center back was handstitched to the zipper tape.

Originally I also cut the sleeves and the front yoke on the border. I assembled everything and ended up with this hot mess.

Not exactly what I'd seen in my dream. I was also having some challenges with the pants. I'd slimmed the front and back pattern pieces down by an inch on each side. Cut the pattern pieces on the cross wise grain with the stretch running around my body...but the pants were also perplexing me. I still need to make another alteration to the body of the pants. Remove some length from the front and add some to the back. 

At this point I'd been sewing for 11 hours and was disgusted...totally and utterly disgusted. I posted this pic to Instagram turned everything off and went to bed.

The next morning I recut the sleeves from leftover solid black fabric and ripped the embroidered ones out of the top. I'm so thrilled that I bought so much of this fabric because the excess allowed me to recut the sleeves and the yoke.

I jimmed the pants - started the elastic about an inch lower on the front and right at the back and finished the pants. I will need to make more adjustments to the pants pattern but the outfit was finished.

Here are a few pics of the finished outfit ~

I have included a back shot to show you that I've got the pants to fit my backside which is new for me...*sigh* but I have quite a few wrinkles down the legs. Some is fabric related and some are fitting challenges that I need to address.

I could have omitted this picture but since my sewing this year is all about fitting my new body, I want to be transparent about how I'm working through my challenges.

Otherwise, the final outfit looks like how I dreamt it and I'm going to wear it. I was halfway through sewing this top when I realized that I made a similar one back in 2007...so I guess I really like this style! 

The second version of the Lisette Top is up next...

...as always more later!


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