Jun 30, 2014

Finished Project: LBJ Dress

Like the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Butterick 4029 took more time than expected. 

I started sewing this vintage 1960s pattern weeks ahead of a planned night out on Broadway with my husband to see "All the Way," the play about Lyndon Johnson's unscrupulous (but ultimately admirable) efforts to push anti-discrimation legislation through the United States Senate in his first year as president. My husband is fascinated by LBJ; he prays every night that Robert Caro lives long enough to write the next volume in his epic biography on LBJ. The play was incredible (but it closed last night so if you're interested, you'll have to wait for the revival).

The dress was also pretty incredible. My husband may be as obsessed with it as LBJ. He told me a dozen times it was his favorite thing I've ever sewn:

Jun 27, 2014

Seeing *Your* Fabric Out In the Wild

So the other day I was picking my daughter up from kindergarten when I saw it: a lady wearing a peplum top made from the same fabric I bought at Girlcharlee.com for these Hudson Pants I made.

My hand-made pants
Yes, this is what some women wear to pick their kids up from school in the Bronx (she didn't have the matching mini): 

 And then, a couple days later (also on my way to pick up my kid from school), I saw another lady wearing a maxi dress in the same fabric (this is not her; I found this pic online after much googling):

Of course, I wanted to ask both women where they bought their "nautical striped" ready-to-wear, but neither looked especially open to questions from strangers so I let it be. The fabric is pretty cheap (it pilled after just a couple washes) so I'm guessing it was not sourced from a high-end designer.

Meanwhile, in my latest sewing class, one of my students brought in this fabulous toile du jouy, which she bought at Mood and had been told it was John Galliano. It has a brocade sort of finish on top:

We all loved the fabric and I was dying to see how Galliano used it. After a few minutes googling I discovered it's from Oscar de la Renta's Fall 2013 collection, though in a slightly different variation:

 You can see it's the same print, but with a black quilting-style finish on top rather than the brocade (apparently the same toile du jouy is available in different colorways at Mood NYC). My student was using this fabric for a skirt, which was clearly a good choice considering that same collection featured a multitude of skirts in similar toile du jouy prints.

We're lucky in New York to have such exciting, high-quality designer rollends at our disposal. Often you can find something that cost a fortune in ready-to-wear for a steal at the fabric store. A few years back I bought this bow print cotton by Marc Jacobs for just $5/yard from Metro Textile:

Curious to see what Marc Jacobs had made with it, I googled:

 Once I saw what Marc Jacobs had done with that bow print, I wished I had bought the entire bolt.

Recently I saw another Marc Jacobs print at Metro — this navy heavy weight cotton printed with his initials:

It was available in several colorways (at $5/yard), so I grabbed some for a friend's daughter whose nickname is MJ. I figured anyone with the initials MJ would be happy to have something special sewn with his fabric. Try as I might, I could not find any items made from this print.

Do you ever search to see what a certain designer has done with the fabric you bought? (Or have you ever run into someone wearing ready-to-wear made from your fabric?

Jun 26, 2014

Countdown to summer (and summer sewing)

I've got 1 hour and 7 minutes before public school ends and summer vacation begins, which will greatly impact my sewing and posting powers over the next 70 days (for more on my other summer project, see here).

Still, I'm looking forward to resuming my Project Runway recap posts next month. Lifetime finally announced the season premiere date — July 24. You can already see some of the Season 13 designers' work at Lifetime's Project Runway page, where they have those "home visit" videos already up. Who will get "Runway Redemption"? (Remember they asked viewers to vote on what former contestant to bring back?). That will be revealed on July 24. Let's just hope it's not Ken. I would be really disappointed in Project Runway if they allow someone who threatened violence against a woman on camera to return. What a terrible precedent that would set.

Moving on, I finished my troubled LBJ dress just in time to wear it to "All the Way" Tuesday night. My husband loved the show — and was crazy about the dress. I didn't manage photos other than this pre-show selfie (my husband showed up 5 minutes before curtain and afterward we had to quickly run off so we could get back to the Bronx to relieve the babysitter). You can just barely see one strap:

I made about 10 alterations to this dress (including a major back neckline excavation), and in the end the fit was pretty great. We'll shoot some photos of it soon.

I'm also taking my swimsuit sewing to the next level with a Wonder Woman bathing suit for my daughter. It's a birthday surprise, so shhhhh, don't tell her:

I drafted it myself, and if it weren't trademark-infringement, I would attempt to put it into Illustrator so I can share it here (who am I kidding; that would take me 40 hours and time is not on my side now that it's summer!). Machine appliqueing on the golden eagle was a bit of a pain in the zig-zag. But that is love for you. I think I'll make a little starry circle skirt to wear over top of the suit on the way to and from the sprinklers.

I bought the materials for this suit at Spandex House on a Garment District trip with Lisette from What Would Nancy Drew Wear? (We also checked out the lingerie exhibit at FIT, which I highly recommend). We talked lady-swimsuit-making and it has been on my brain ever since. I've only found two patterns I would wear. Jalie's Tankini pattern:

And Papercut Patterns' new Soma Suit, which has a couple variations. For myself, I like the one piece:

I do, after all, have nearly a yard apiece of solid gold, red, and blue-and-white stars spandex leftover (a kid suit doesn't take much yardage and the minimum you can buy at Spandex House is a yard).

What are your summer sewing plans? Does sewing take the backburner when the sun is shining?

Jun 23, 2014

Finished Project: Hudson Pants Two Ways

I love sewing up easy-to-wear separates that push people's idea about what handmade clothing looks like. Except for other homesewers, few people would expect that you made your own comfy lounge pants, like the Hudson Pants here:

Kelli of the great blog True Bias asked me to be a tester for her first pattern release, the comfy, cozy, but not-at-all schlubby Hudson Pants (named for the NYC neighborhood in which she lives — which also happens to be the first neighborhood I lived in in New York City too).

After seeing numerous versions of her new pants pattern pop up on her Instragram feed,  how could I resist?

So I ordered up two fabrics from GirlCharlee.com: a grey French terry (coming up down below) and this "nautical stripe" ponte:

I cut a straight size 12 for my first pair, made from the stripey fabric you see here. I don't love the fabric, but that was my own error; when you purchase a printed fabric online, make sure to actually check the size of said print. I had expected the stripes to be much smaller. Can you tell from this pic who I think I look like in these pants?

That's right: the Hamburglar! 

Moving on, my second pair of Hudson Pants was much more successful. I used a lovely French terry, which washed well, doesn't pill and feels as cozy as it should in this pattern. It looks like lightweight sweatshirt fabric from the outside and feels like a thousand fairy wings fluttering on your thighs on the inside:

Not only was my fabric a better choice in Version 2.0, but I also graded from a Size 12 to an 6 at the waist. I am pear-shaped and had hoped that cutting the elastic to the right length would cinch in the waistband enough that grading wouldn't be necessary. However, the leap from 6 to 12 is pretty big and my first pair were a little bunchy at the waist.

I've worn these a ton since I've made them. And machine washed them twice (after saying a little prayer). They held up beautifully. In fact, I took these photos on the Solstice, which was a month after making them:

The version of the pattern I used was the test version, and Kelli has made a few adjustments since then. The final version has some extra ease in the calf and ankle band for added comfort. The Hudson Pant pattern also includes a calf-length version.

Have you made lounge pants before? What's your fave fabric for comfy pants like these?

Jun 18, 2014

The Hunchback of Butterick 4029

Did women used to have far broader backs? In this modern era are we so weakened by our easy lives that our upper body muscles are practically atrophied in comparison to our 1960s sisters?   

I just don't know what to make of vintage Butterick 4029, which in its semi-finished state, fits me like this:

Seriously? I could stow a second set of boobs on my back in this thing.

I do remember from my patternmaking classes at FIT that the older dressforms had broad backs, and anything I made for class fit me poorly. Still, Butterick 4029 seems to have been drafted for a hunchback. Or maybe I need to start working out my trapezius muscles?

My five-year-old took these photos for me, hence the lack of focus, framing, and all the rest. The dress fits pretty well elsewhere:

Lying flat, it looks normal, I suppose.

I posted a pic of this dressmaking disaster on my Instagram account and got some very helpful suggestions (you, my sewing pals, are truly the best). Plenty of you have had the same issue with other patterns. My immediate thought was to add darts to the back neckline, which Diary of a Sewing Fanatic so nicely described:

I think, however, I may go with Lisa G.'s suggestion:

A deep V or a scoop would eliminate the excess and make this dress a little sexier. But I would have to draft a whole new facing and I only have scraps of fabric left. A V back seems more authentically '60s, to me (hey ladies who have had babies: does calling it a "V back" make you laugh too?). I'm also guessing double-scoops can be tricky; the whole thing could slide off my shoulders, right? (Note to self: work out deltoids too). I may need to do some engineering to make this work. Ugh. Want to see it again?

What in the??

Anyone else have this problem? How did you fix it?

Jun 17, 2014

Made by Lucy: Recital Dress

My husband takes pains to tell our daughter that not every kid gets to sew her own clothes. He doesn't like to see her take it for granted that thanks to her mother's skills, she has the opportunity to design and sew (on a machine!) one-of-a-kind creations like her recently completed Recital Dress:

Jun 16, 2014

Taking care of DIY

There comes a moment in every DIYer's life when she/he must make a decision: how to wash your me-made garments?

Every load is a risk
Because even if you take pains to pre-wash and shrink your fabric, there's still plenty that could go wrong in the spin cycle:

• Seams could unravel
• Fusible interfacing could unfuse itself and create ripples on collars and cuffs
• Painstakingly pounded-on snaps could pop off (or buttons can go MIA)
• Jersey could pill
• The lining could shrink while the rest remains the same

And though all of these issues could come up with ready-to-wear, when you made it yourself you know the true cost in time and effort — which makes suffering any of these laundry room indignities that much more painful.

Handwashing or spotcleaning can preclude some of these issues, and avoiding the dryer is enough for others. Of course, that means you can't always rely on your dryer to get the wrinkles out:

Knowing your fabrics and how to wash them can help avoid some of the pitfalls of washing DIY. I try to avoid machine-washing anything that is lightweight or combines fabrics — and never put anything that might melt into the dryer, like this Scout tee with a pleather pocket:

Luckily, it matches the shower curtain

However, even that level of care has not been enough to avoid pilling:

Handwashing stretch fabrics does not always produce nice results:

 Particularly with stretch fabrics that don't have good recovery (bounce back), a good wash and dry can actually make your me-made Tee look better again. And I find that after a few wears even pants I've made from pricier fabrics need a wash to restore their shape.

I know what you're thinking: dryclean, dummy. But most drycleaners still use carcinogenic solvents, which are bad for public health and the environment. Also, I need my money for fabric, so I'm not spending it on cleaning.

How do you care for your DIY garments? Spotcleaning until it's absolutely necessary? Or throw it all in the washer and say a little prayer?

Jun 13, 2014

Weekend sewing: LBJ Dress

It's not often that a man's disparate interests intersect in the way that the Broadway play "All The Way" brings together my husband's fascination with Lyndon Johnson and his love of theater.

So I bought tickets for the final week of the show (whose star Bryan Cranston just won the Tony Award for Best Actor). Set in 1963-64, All The Way starts with JFK's assassination and ends with the passing of the Civil Rights Act. It's not, as you may have guessed, a musical. The tickets are my husband's birthday gift and a major splurge; it's rare we get to go out like this together.

So I thought it appropos to make a dress for this very special occasion using a pattern I snatched from the swap table at Workroom Social's recent Manhattan meetup:

How very '60s, right? I choose View E for the neckline (it is a date, after all) and the 3/4 sleeves. I'm intrigued by the long dart that curves from the bust apex all the way to the hip:

I'm using this black and white printed cotton blend I bought last month at Mood:

The pattern's previous owner had already shortened it for me — and she apparently cut the same version too. Thank you, whoever you are!

Worried about how it would fit through the hips (and not sure how to take it in or let it out thanks to that weird long dart), I tested the pattern in a not-very-stretchy jersey I bought from Girl Charlee for just $3. I will be adjusting the pattern to bring it in at the waist — and then drop the armhole (and adjust the sleeve). Hopefully I can cut into my fabric before the weekend is through.

Moving on, earlier this week I also sewed three zipper clutch bags for my daughter's teachers, using the Bow Clutch Tutorial from Elm Street Life.

For the lining I used this "I Like You" fabric by comedian and crafter Amy Sedaris (I bought it at Hart's Fabrics here):

I made special sew-in tags for Lucy's teachers to remember her by using the DIY tag tutorial I posted last month:

My daughter helped with sewing the bags. She stitched the bows for all three on a Singer Featherweight on loan to me from Peter of Male Pattern Boldness. At one point she said, "Mom! I'm like a Pilgrim!" (because she was sewing on a vintage machine). Not quite the right era but I will take the enthusiasm. (Hopefully they teach History in Grade 1?).

So what's on your sewing table for the weekend?

Jun 12, 2014

Free Pattern: Little Swimmer Bathing Cap

What are the pool rules where you live? Do you (or your kids) have to wear a swimcap in the water? My daughter recently started swimming lessons at a nearby private pool (located in an apartment building in the Northwest Bronx) and everyone who enters the water must be wearing a swimcap.

It's kind of a pain though it makes sense; do you want to swim around with your neighbors' stray hairs? (Or see the pool shuttered when they have to clean the filter — again?).

But the spandex cap we bought her was too big, and the rubbery ones pulled at her hair. So what does a lady with some extra spandex and little pattern paper do? I drafted my own. And because it is so simple, I am sharing it here for free.  After the jump:

Jun 10, 2014

Finished Project: Stripey Concert Tee

I bought a bunch of jersey from Girl Charlee and fully intended to get in on the sewing blog zeitgiest and make some Netties.

But then we had one hot day in NYC and I remembered: I hate tight things in New York in the summer, when a bodysuit is likely to be soaked in sweat at the crotch within a few minutes of waiting on a stifling subway platform. Gross.

Maybe if we lived in San Francisco I'd be making Netties right now, but live in New York we do. So, instead I used Dixie DIY's Concert Tee pattern to make a floaty tee that's just right for sticky, stinky NYC summer days:

I love the dropped shoulders and the cropped-in-the-front, long-in-the-back hemline. The flare is perfect and the top hangs so nicely, especially in this vintage blue cotton-blend jersey.

I lowered the neckline about 1.5 inches because the original higher scoop made me look (there's no way to put this delicately) like my boobs hung low. There was just something about the combination of the swingy tent-like hem and the high scoop — I looked like a mom trying to wear her daughter's Forever 21 top. Luckily, lowering a neckline is about the easiest alteration you can do. Ten seconds with a French curve and a piece of chalk and all was right with this top.

My concert tee kept catching little gusts of wind on our photo shoot in the park (luckily I had a tank on underneath):

And let's just say it: this top hides your butt without being all tunic-y:

I really hate wearing shorts, but when I do this summer it will probably be with this top.

What's your go-to summer outfit when it's trapped-in-an-unairconditioned-subway-car hot?

Jun 9, 2014

Kindersewing: Connect-the-dots Sewing Sheets

In a previous post about getting started on sewing with kids I told you that sewing paper is a great first step toward true self-directed sewing. Eliminate the thread and you don't have to worry about tangles and jammed bobbin casings. But sewing straight lines on ruled paper won't keep kids interested for long. Connect-the-dots, meanwhile, totally will. 

Following the dots is good practice for pivoting around corners, sewing curves, and lifting (and putting back down!) the presser foot. By the end of sewing all three of my printable sheets, you kid will be well on his or her way to stitching safely and consciously. 

It's actually harder than you might think. You have to go slowly, but the result is fun: as the needle punches holes in the paper while you sew, the secret picture is revealed:

 My daughter is almost six, and she loves this activity. It buys me a solid half-hour at my own sewing machine. Win-win!

It was hard to get her to guide fabric under the presser foot when she first started sewing on a machine. But look how she uses both hands with the paper:

Look Ma, no thread!
This activity is great practice and really fun. If your rookie sewer tries one of my sheets, please post a pic on Instagram or Twitter and @ me (sewyorkcity). I'd love to see it!

And here

(Why can't blogger attach a link to a picture? It's enough to make a lady want to move to Wordpress!)

Happy sewing!


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