Saturday, February 18, 2017

Playing Catch Up, Part I...


What I Made for Christmas

I don't know why I haven't blogged!  Lack of photos?  Lack of time?  Lack of--who knows?!  Well, whatever the reason, I'm back now.  I've sewn a lot since my last blog post, and I'm going to try to document as many of these projects as I can remember.  But not all in one post!  For this post, I'll just focus on what I made for Christmas presents.

I made a top for Mehetabel's mother-in-law.  Let's call her Carmelita (the MIL, not the top).  The top is made from a sweater knit purchased from Cali Fabrics.  For the pattern, I started with New Look 6412.  I straightened the curve from the bust to the waist, lengthened the sleeves, shortened the length of the top, and curved the hem slightly.  For the collar and neckline, I used the cowl neck pattern piece from the Sewaholic Renfrew.  The shoulders were reinforced with twill tape.  All seams were sewn on my regular machine and finished with the serger.  The hems were done on my Babylock Cover Stitch machine.  I love how this top turned out, and I think Carmelita likes it too! 

Speaking of the Renfrew cowl neck, I also melded that collar piece onto McCall's 6886.  I trimmed quite a bit off the hem to make it into a top and curved the hem (I think it's a more flattering line). The top is made from a double knit from Fabric Mart.

For Christmas, I knew Mehetabel would like some relaxed tunic tops to wear with leggings.  For these, I used New Look 6412, straightened the curve between the bust and hips, lengthened the sleeves, lengthened the top (she's 6' in height; we are a tall people), made a slight high/low hem, and curved the hemline.  These were sewn on my regular machine, the seams were finished with the serger, and the hems were done on the cover stitch, and the shoulders were reinforced with twill tape.

The wearable muslin was made from this red and white jersey print.  I think I bought the fabric from

The photo above shows Mehetabel trying on another one of the tunic tops.  This one is a sweater knit from deep stash--I bought it on sale years ago from Joann Fabrics.  It's a paisley print, in shades of green with touches of black and turquoise.  

The final tunic was made from a cream and ivory boucle sweater knit from Cali Fabrics.  I thought this piece would be quite versatile.  I made some coordinating Jalie Eleonores (shown below), although I think she'll wear it primarily with leggings.  I also made a pair of red Eleonores.  The fabric for both pairs was purchased from Michael Levine.  

In the past few months, I've sewn quite a few pairs of Jalie Eleonore jeans for Mehetabel.  So far, I've made the previously blogged about violet and white pairs, as well as red, navy, burgundy, cream, and sapphire.  I also made two duds:  hot pink and black.  These failures were due to not enough stretch in the fabric.

To round out my Christmas sewing, I made some doll dresses for some girls in my neighborhood.  They are really into American Girl dolls, so I thought it would be nice (and fun!) to sew a few things for them.  I made the pattern for these dresses 20ish years ago when I made clothes for Mehetabel's American Girl dolls.

But I wasn't the only family member toiling in the bespokeability factory.  Mehetabel made six pillows for her mother-in-law (Carmelita!) for Christmas.

Mehetabel's top is New Look 6150
And I have to mention the fabulous present Mehetabel gave me:  enrollment in the Susan Khalje  Classic French Jacket video course.  Wheeeeeeee!

I plan to blog about other completed projects soon(ish), although I'm not sure you should believe me! ūüėČ

Happy sewing!

Monday, July 4, 2016

White Jalie √Čl√©onores for Independence Day & Violet Ones Just Because

I'm going to add more width to the calf on the next pair to alleviate the wrinkles at the knees
Recently, Mehetabel and I were perusing the offerings at Old Navy.  She snapped up this navy and white gingham top--I don't remember how much she paid, but it was on sale, and the cost was pretty low.  She knew she had a block party to go to on the 4th and thought she could pair this top with a red camisole--and I offered to make her some white Jalie √Čl√©onores to complete the outfit.

This is the fourth pair of √Čl√©onores I've made.  The first pair was in violet cotton/lycra stretch twill (Violet, you're turning violet, Violet), and it is the same fabric as the white ones.  The fabric was purchased online from Vogue Fabrics; unfortunately, these fabrics no longer seem to be in stock.  I've also made √Čl√©onores in hot pink stretch denim and black stretch gabardine--perhaps I'll blog about those at some point.
The photos of the white pants were taken late afternoon.  The light wasn't great!
This fabric does have the required 20% stretch, but its recovery is just so-so, and it wrinkles quickly.  It also unraveled quite a bit during construction which prompted me to finish all seams with the serger (in fuchsia for the violet pants, because, why not, and in white for the white pants), even those I topstitched with the coverstitch.  This created overkill in a couple of instances (inside leg seam, back yoke) but it should stop the shredding and shedding.

The photos of the violet pants were taken on a cold day in March.  Again, the light wasn't great.
The coverstitch made the topstitching process quick and easy for the most part.  

I used size V and added two inches to the leg length which left room for a scant 5/8 inch hem.  Sewing was a breeze, and all the pieces fit together perfectly.  
This is a better representation of the (violet) color and fabric
In addition to the added leg length, I shortened both pieces of waistband elastic by 1-1/2 inches each, and I'm glad I did!  Like me, Mehetabel has at least ten inches difference between her waist and hip measurements. 

The only other change I made was to eliminate the front faux pockets.  I figured Mehetabel's top would cover them anyway; if she wants them on future pairs, I'll be happy to add them. 

The directions were clear, and Jalie even has a video showing the construction from start to finish.

Mehetabel likes both pieces, which is great, because I have several pieces of stretch denim that should work well with this pattern.

Happy Independence Day to those of you from the U.S.  Happy 4th of July to everyone else :). 

Monday, June 13, 2016

McCall's 6891: Pink Blossoms Shirtdress

Like many of you, I joined the McCall's Shirtdress Sew-Along.  It's been a great experience--lots of handy tips, lots of beautiful dresses, and lots of nice people!  For the sew-along, I chose to make McCall's 6891--a Palmer and Pletsch offering that's based on a Dior design from the 50s.

I made this dress for my daughter, Mehetabel.  It's view A in a size 12.  This is a typical Palmer and Pletsch pattern with multiple lines for all sorts of pattern adjustments.  After making a muslin, I left the shoulders alone, lengthened and added a little more width to the rest of the bodice, and added 5 inches to the length of the skirt.  I omitted the pockets.  I have one tiny complaint about this pattern--there is a lengthen line on the bodice but not on the front facing.  It's not a big deal; I just drew my own line and lengthened it.  What gets me is that they make such a fuss over putting a zillion adjustment lines on the pattern pieces, it seems odd that they'd omit a pretty basic/obvious one. Maybe they just don't understand tall people!  (When my daughter was a teenager, it used to infuriate her that there were stores just for petites, but none specifically for tall females.  I know, I know; these aren't serious problems!)

I love the graceful flare of this skirt!  It's also a fabric hog--particularly because I needed to add so many inches to the length of the skirt to cover M's knees (as per her request). This dress took five yards of fabric. The poly/cotton fabric was purchased last summer at Joann's with a 60% off coupon.  Of course, I had just gone into the store to buy some notions, not fabric!  You probably know how that goes.

There was drama during the construction of this dress, although it wasn't the pattern's fault!  Mr. Arbuthnot tore out part of the hem, the little rascal.  I'd waited to work on the hem until he was preoccupied with a bully stick (or so I thought).  But like a good supervisor (dictator, tyrant, despot), he keeps a constant watch over his subjects.  For such a little chunk, he moved quite swiftly, grabbed the dress from my hands, and ripped out the hem.  And he wouldn't let go of the dress!  He thought it was so much fun--the best day ever!  Aargh. I finally rescued the dress, and while the hem was torn out, he hadn't punctured the fabric.  It was very gooey, though.  Thank you so much, Mr. Arbuthnot.  You'll be glad to know that the dress has been washed and re-hemmed.  

Speaking of hems, I used bias tape to eke out a 5/8" finish to the skirt.  I hand-stitched the hem as well as all the facings.

When I was prepping the pattern, I cut out the skirt pieces first and let them hang for about a week; that way, by the time I was ready to attach them to the bodice, the bias had already stretched and I was able to trim the skirt and hem it without any additional hanging time.  

Even if you didn't join the sew-along, you might want to check out the various posts on the McCall's blog. There's lots of helpful information on a variety of shirtdress-related topics.  Very handy!  There was also a corresponding private Facebook page where participants asked questions and shared photos of their dresses.

I'm thrilled that Mehetabel loves the dress!  So much so that she says she's wearing it to work tomorrow! 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Necessary Separates: McCall's 3830 & New Look 6150

A white shell and a black straight skirt:  could anything be more basic or more needed in one's wardrobe?  Just think of the outfits that can be created from these two building blocks.

Mehetabel spied a divine white double knit at Mill End in Portland and snapped up a couple yards. She asked if I'd make her some white shells; hers had started to get a little worse for wear and tear. She loves her New Look 6150 tops and asked if I could make them sleeveless as they work better under cardigans.  I can't remember how many New Look 6150s I've made by now.  12?  15?  Well, whatever the number, more are being added.  I blogged about one of her other 6150s here.

I made a wearable test version out of some leftover ivory double knit that I had used to make this dress. The fit was great.  Mehetabel's only request was that I add 1/2 inch to an inch to the length. No problem!

The first shell using this white double knit has bands at the neck and arms, and it was hemmed on the coverstitch. For this version, I wanted a cleaner look, so I lined it with a beige knit from Joann. Lining this 6150 makes it different from all the others I've made.  The hem was hand-stitched.  I think there's enough fabric left to make one more shell.  Coming up!

This is an easy and straight-forward pattern that creates a classic garment. I love the look and feel of the lined top. It gives the finished shell more heft, it hangs nicely, and I love the polished look. Mehetabel told me it will get lots of wear.

The skirt is McCall's 3830 sewn in a stretch RPL suiting.  I cannot remember where I purchased it, but it was  probably online from Fabric Mart.   I added a waistband to the skirt as well as additional darts in the front and back.  I used an invisible zipper and the hem was hand-sewn.  This is another classic, no-nonsense pattern.

Mehetabel has several black skirts, but not one this length.  It, too, will see plenty of wear.

Monday, March 21, 2016

A Dress of Many Colors

This is another new dress for Mehetabel.  It is New Look 6301 which I've made quite a few times, but always sleeveless and with the straight skirt.  I blogged about two of these dresses, here and here. I also made this dress for the officiant at Mehetabel and Aloysius's wedding, as well as versions for the bridesmaids (but we wound up going with a more formal style).

This iteration has 3/4 length sleeves, the length Mehetabel prefers for a sleeved dress or top.  Like the previous versions, I added 10 inches to the belt pieces.  I also lengthened the skirt by 10 inches to make it more of a midi length.  And, I decided to try something that Andrea of Sew to Fit did on her version--I used the right front piece for both sides of the bodice instead of the pattern piece provided for the left front which just has a tuck in it.  I was curious to see how this would affect the bodice's fit.  Okay, really, I just liked the idea of cutting out one less piece. 

And while I like the look of using the same front bodice pieces, this bodice is a bit too loose and the neckline is too low for Mehetabel to wear to work without a camisole underneath.  But other than that, the dress fits well, it's comfortable, she loves the colorful fabric and the length of the skirt (swishy!), and it works perfectly with her boots.

Before starting this blog, I had made several McCall's 5974s for Mehetabel and she loves them. However, the length of the skirt didn't work well with her boots, so she wears the dresses in warmer weather with other shoes.  The proportions just weren't right with her boots.  So with this pattern, I thought it would be fun to see if we could come up with a faux-wrap style with a length she'd like with her boots.  This does the trick!  

I have a couple fabrics in my stash that I think Mehetabel would love in this style, but they're precious and no longer available for purchase so I don't want to make any mistakes with them.  To make sure everything was copacetic with the sleeve length, the skirt shape and style, and the experiment with the bodice front pieces, I whipped up this version in a fabric that I bought at a deep discount and is still available.

The polyester/spandex ITY knit is from Joann which I purchased last summer at a 60% discount. The fabric has almost all the colors of the rainbow, and I dithered about which color to use for the coverstitch, finally deciding on purple.  My Babylock coverstitch machine sailed through like a champ, but my computerized Janome sewing machine had fits with this fabric.  I can't begin to tell you how many needle changes I made, how many times I re-threaded the machine and the bobbin, how many times I fooled with the tension, etc.  Eventually, I gave up and switched to my 33-year-old mechanical Bernina which handled the fabric perfectly.   All seams were finished with the serger.
The neckline was finished on with the coverstitch, as were the sleeve and dress hems which were sewn at 5/8".  The shoulder seams were stabilized with twill tape.  The sleeves were sewn in flat, and the skirt pieces were sewn to the bodice pieces and then the side seams were sewn.  The fabric is fairly heavy, and after finishing the dress--but before Mehetabel tried it on--I was worried that the heaviness of the fabric combined with the extra 10 inches of skirt length was just too, too much for the dress to keep its shape.  

Coverstitched neckline
The instructions call for elastic at the waist--in a casing made from the seam allowances.  I'm not a big fan of this method.  I hadn't added the elastic to my earlier versions, but after I'd finished constructing this dress, I added clear elastic to the front and back waist sections (sewn onto the seam allowances).  This gives the skirt a little more support.   

Mr. Arbuthnot, the Bespokeability studio supervisor and design assistant, approved of this dress. He found the leftover fabric soft and silky--ideal for a nap, rendering him unavailable for today's photography session.  However, his assistant and good friend, Bj√∂rn,  took his new duties quite seriously.

Bj√∂rn lives with Mehetabel and Aloysius.  He is almost six-months-old and a sweetie-pie.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

To Make a Short Story Long: My Take on McCall's 6886

These days, I'm trying to squeeze in sewing whenever I can--that is, whenever my new studio supervisor, pictured in the sidebar (big smile, heart-shaped nose, large pink tongue), is snoozing. Mr. Arbuthnot is a delightful, mischievous, and cuddly young man who wants to be with me all the time; however, he is also very curious.  He thinks anything and everything was put on this earth for him to chew and swallow.  So, it shouldn't be any surprise that my studio supervisor isn't actually allowed in the studio!  Sewing now happens when he is safely tucked in bed.
Mr. Arbuthnot in his younger days.
Look at that cute little tummy!
Mr. Arbuthnot has been in my life for several months now.  I love him, but I have missed spending time in my studio.  I thought a few quick projects in the evening would satisfy my sewing cravings and help me figure out how to balance my peppy pup's needs with my own.

No, that's not Mr. Arbuthnot.  It's his assistant, Bj√∂rn.
For my first project during Mr. Arbuthnot's sleepy time, I chose the ubiquitous McCall's 6886. There are loads of reviews online for this dress, many of which stress how easy and versatile it is. And I agree.  It is easy and versatile.  But in true bespokeability fashion, I took a simple pattern and made it much more complicated than it needed to be.  Heh.  Oh well.

I made this dress for my daughter, Mehetabel, to wear with her brown suede boots.  (It is still plenty cold to wear boots here; it's snowing as I write this.)  For this first version, I raided my stash. The fabric is a super soft and lightweight crepe jersey from, and features small geometric shapes in dark chocolate, passion fruit, caf√© au lait, and apricot.  I'm hungry.

So, how did I complicate matters?  Well, I decided the fabric was a bit too thin for Mehetabel to feel comfortable wearing it while teaching.  To fix that, I decided to line the dress, but in a different manner than I normally would.  Well, except I have kinda/sorta done it before.  For this dress, I wrote about Sandra Betzina's method for lining knit pants which I adapted for lining the skirt of that dress--and it worked very well.  I thought I could use the same method for lining this dress; I particularly like that it creates a clean, nicely finished hem.  I also decided to use the same method on the sleeves.  The sleeves didn't really need to be lined; it was my laziness--not wanting to hem the sleeves--that caused me to do it.

Close-up of the lining/hem
I used tricot, purchased at Mill End in Portland, Oregon, to line the dress.  Except "line" isn't entirely accurate.  While I did line the sleeves, body of the dress, and shoulders from the hem up, I treated the fabric/lining as one for the armscyes and neckline.  After the sleeves were attached to the lined/underlined dress, I serged the armscye seams.  The pattern calls for turning under the seam allowance at the neck and stitching it down.  I prefer to face necklines as I think it creates a more polished product.  So I traced the front and back necklines from the pattern pieces and drew facing patterns.  I almost wrote that I "drafted" facings, but that seems a bit grandiose for what I actually did!   I fused interfacing to the fabric prior to cutting out the facing pieces (more laziness!).  
I do love the clean neckline
Even though I made a series of mistakes while making this dress, I'm very pleased with the outcome.  I think Mehetabel looks great in it, and more importantly, she likes it!  The lining gives a nice finish to the dress, although I'll do things a little differently next time.  

Order of Operations and Blunders / Notes to Self:
  • After pre-treating the fabric and determining my preliminary changes to the size 14 pattern pieces for length, I cut out the fashion fabric and the tricot lining pieces.
  • The tricot is significantly heavier than the fashion fabric.  The tricot also has a two-way stretch whereas the fashion fabric has a four-way stretch.  I thought these things might possibly cause problems, but damn the torpedoes, I wanted to sew so it was full speed ahead!  Except for the miscalculation for the lining's length, the tricot worked well.
  • I am embarrassed to say that I had a terrible time figuring out how much shorter the lining should be from the fashion fabric.  I took 2.25 inches off the length of the lining.  This created a deeper hem, but with the heaviness of the tricot, the fashion fabric didn't have enough support at the hemline to make it as clean as I would've liked.  If I do this again, I'll take one inch off the length of the lining--and/or beef up the fashion fabric with some fusible interfacing at the hem.  
  • For the next steps, I pressed each seam well before moving on to sewing the successive seams.
  • I sewed the bottom of the lining dress front to the bottom of the fashion fabric dress front, right sides together.  Then I did the same for the dress back pieces.  The lining pieces were 2 1/4 inches shorter than the fashion fabric.
  • I pinned the fashion fabric front to the back and the lining front to the back (these pieces were already connected at the hem) and sewed the side seams, making a long tube.  I turned it right side out, matching the lining with the outer fabric at the armscyes and neckline.
  • I stabilized the fashion fabric shoulders with fusible interfacing and sewed front/back shoulder seams of the fashion fabric right sides together, and then repeated this with the lining shoulder seams.
  • I attached the hem of the sleeve pieces (lining and fashion fabric) right sides together. The lining was one inch shorter than the fashion fabric.  This is what I should have done for the dress pieces!  Nuts.
  • Like the dress, I sewed the sleeve side seams together (fashion-hem-lining), turned the tube right side out and basted the lining/fashion fabric at the top of the sleeve.
  • I prefer to sew sleeves in flat, but because of my lining experiment, the sleeves were set in.  The fashion fabric/lining of the sleeves were treated as one--ditto the dress's armscyes.  I managed to snag excess amounts of the lining fabric into my seams.  And I had quality time with my seam ripper. 
  • After unpicking white thread from white lining, I serged the armscye seams.
  • I made the facing pieces, finished the raw edges, sewed them together, and sewed them to the neckline (treating fashion fabric and lining as one) in a 5/8 inch seam.  After trimming and pressing, I hand stitched the facing edge to the lining/underlining so it would stay put.  It amuses me that I was too lazy to use my coverstitch machine to hem the sleeves, but had no problem hand sewing the neck facing in place.
So, that's it.  That's what I did.  Was it worth it?  Yes, I think so.  This dress looks polished and professional, and it is appropriate for Mehetabel to wear in her high school classroom.  I envision all sorts of possibilities for this pattern.