Archive for January, 2011


Bridesmaiding under the sun

January 28, 2011

About 8 months ago, a close friend of mine asked if I would make her bridesmaid dresses for her beach wedding in Mexico two weeks ago. Then she asked if I would be a bridesmaid (which made it much easier to make the dresses as I could practice on mine and make all my mistakes  on it).

Naturally I said yes, and then tried to be nonchalant about the slight nervousness I was feeling. I mean, hey, I’ve made costumes before. I’ve made things for other people that got worn in public – and she said the dresses would be simple: a fact confirmed when she gave me the pattern.

Mcalls 6113, as you can see, is a flowy dress that is only fitted around the bust area. It’s great for a beach wedding.  From the pattern envelope, I discovered that the suggested fabrics for this light and airy sundress included cotton, silk rayon,  and crepe.
My confidence grew…

And then she gave me the bag of fabric for the four dresses and I learned that the fabric she had chosen was a stretchy cotton jersey with varying  lycra content depending on the dress. I would definitely need to use my serger.

And I was definitely nervous. I took that serger workshop last July so I could make sure I learned all the tricks I could for making the dresses. My nervousness was not all that helped by the class because I brought a fabric sample with me and the instructor said “wow, that’s really stretchy.”

I procrastinated an eensy bit (shh, don’t tell the bride) but finally took the plunge. After making my own dress and learning that an FBA was completely necessary, I altered the other patterns according to the measurements I was given adding FBAs where necessary.  I doubled up the bodice fabric to give that area as much support as possible.

The most difficult part was sewing the bodice together. In the end I was trying to serge together four layers of ultra stretchy fabric and two of the layers were gathered to shape the bust properly . I tried to do it straight away on the serger but the blade and needles just couldn’t handle it.

I was able to zigzag back and forth multiple times along the seam allowance and managed to tack it down into a flat enough state that the serger blade could cut through it and the needles wouldn’t tangle in it and snap, or at least not as often.

The other problem I had was that the serger blade wouldn’t always cut cleanly through the fabric and would instead shred the seam allowance and drag it into the mechanism where I would wind up with a tangled mess and occasionally another broken needle. This sort of incident would also lead to a seam that looked like this:

I replaced my serger blades and found that wasn’t all that helpful for this fabric. It was just too slippery and full of tiny elastic threads that held the sliced off seam allowance too close to the remaining fabric.

In the end, I solved the problem by pulling the seam allowance away just as it was going through the blade. This way, I made sure the excess fabric wasn’t dragged into the stitching and that my seams were nice and smooth.

Before long (actually within a week) I had four dresses. I took them to the other bridesmaids for a fitting, made some final alterations such as lining the most see-through of them, and then it was time to hem them.

One of the things I learned from my serger class was that the lovely topstitching found on so many stretch tops is not actually done using a serger but rather requires a coverstitch machine. I do not have one and it is not in my immediate budget so I faked it with a zigzag hem.
I don’t think anyone noticed.

Do you?

  Above is the side view
And here is the front view during the ceremony.

Congratulations to the bride and groom!


Foundation garments and body oppression

January 4, 2011

I was just reading Gertie’s latest post and caught the beginning of  what looks to be becoming a great discussion about the impact of the phasing out of foundation garments such as girdles. She refers to a book she is reading and questions whether the end of the girdle in the 1960’s was really as liberating as we tend to claim.

Since this is part of one of my personal fashion and body image hobby horses (right in there with “clothes can be poorly designed, constructed, and fitted; people can’t”, I encourage you to check out the post and join the coversation.


2011 Here I Come

January 1, 2011

My Christmas trip  isn’t over yet. We fly home tomorrow, so I can’t say I wound up the year with any major sewing projects.

Here is how I did with regards to my 2010 goals

1. Post in this blog at least 4 times a month (once a week would be ideal)  I didn’t always manage 4 posts a month but since I posted so much in May and June, I did manage an average of 4 posts a month so I didn’t do too badly with this one. One thing I do need to get better at is blogging more of what I sew. There are a few things I’ve made that never made it onto the blog including another version of McCalls 4444 that I hope to get pictures of when we go south in a week. I also made Vogue 1117  for my mother so she could have something new for the Christmas dance she went to. I even finished the Rachel Comey blouse I talked about incessantly but I didn’t really like the way it fit in the end. I should have picked a fabric with a different drape. The silk I chose was too boxy.

Here it is:

It’s definitely one I want to try again with a less structural fabric.

2. Complete the Timmel SWAP – I want to make the deadline but I also just want to complete it  I’m really proud of myself for getting the SWAP done on time. I am going to do it again this year. I’m calling my plan the Tops SWAP because it’s pretty much all about bodice work and making items fit my D cup chest as though they were designed for it.

3. Take another sewing or fashion class/workshop I took a serger workshop at The Sewing Studio here in Toronto. I really enjoyed it and Iwas excited to learn that they’re opening a branch in New York. Another reason to finally make it to New York someday.

4. Fix that coat and create 3 items for my husband Yeah, this just didn’t happen. If I really wanted to push it, I could count the vest I made for his Hallowe’en costume as an item but I don’t think it really counts.  This goes back on the list for 2011.

5.  Wear only clothes I have created for a week (excluding foundation garments) – this will get me building my handmade wardrobe Sadly, this didn’t happen either. I need more tops, hence the Tops SWAP

6. Finish the crosstitch – it’s not exactly sewing but it is stitches and I’ve had it FOREVER. If I finish it, I will be so excited. I have declared a truce with this crosstitch. I picked it up over the summer and realized that not only did I not like the poem I’m supposed to embroider on it eventually, I had also lost the counted pattern and had no idea what the end product was really supposed to look like. I am going to put this away for now and stop worrying about it.

So, the main lesson of the last year seems to be that I either need to sew less or make sewing more of a priority so that I can be better and more efficient at it.

Personally, I prefer the second approach so I’m going to try to do that.

Here are my 2011 sewing goals

  1. Get my sewing area organized.  Now that we know we’re staying where we are for awhile, I can work at making the space work better for all of the functions it needs to serve: sewing room, office area, guest room, kitty litter space.

  3. Finish the Tops SWAP – ideally on time. I’m a combination of excited and scared for this SWAP. I generally avoid sewing tops because they take so much more time as I need to work harder to fit them. This is the year.
  4. Make 3 items for my husband. I really want this to happen. I may need to expand my skill set to make things he likes though.
  5. Finish the Trench Sew Along. It’s all cut out but it needs to be put together.
  6. Take a sewing course/workshop. I love learning more about garment construction and fashion. Sometimes I wish I’d studied it in school instead of what I did study.
  7. Make Hallowe’en costumes. We’ll either try to improve the Steampunk or try something else but I really want to do costumes again this year.

That’s the plan for this year. Let’s see how it goes.

All the best to you and your new year!