Sunday, October 13, 2013

Lisette Traveler Dress

You guys, I am officially living the dream. You see, a long time ago (Spring 2011), in a far away land (Tampa, Florida), I was a novice seamstress struggling to make a supremely ugly pair of pajama pants. One day, I fell in love with the Lisette Traveler Dress, but I knew our romance was doomed from the start. With sleeves, a collar,  and 8 buttons, this dress was way, way beyond my skill set. But I couldn't resist the Traveler Dress' charms, so I bought the pattern and fabric, and put it away for some distant day after either magic fairy dust or a Rocky-style training montage gave me ability to do it. And that distant day, my friends, is today.

It cracks me up now that I completely ripped off the pattern picture, down to buying the Lisette Chambray. Beginner Emily had basically no understanding of fabrics, and so buying the exact fabric on the envelope was the only sure bet. Since then, I've even inadvertently stolen the model's haircut!

And really, it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, just time consuming. The trickiest bit was dealing with the chambray, which frayed like crazy and made it hard to find notches and line pieces up properly. I cut a 10 in the shoulders and then blended to a 12 in the hips. I also made a few adjustments, but nothing too crazy - this is a well drafted pattern with clear instructions. I did an SBA and took some of the excess out of the center back. It's still a little big, but I can live with it.

I'm especially happy with the fit in the shoulders. I tend to find sleeves really constricting and have a hard time moving my arms forward to drive, type, cook dinner, give hugs....basically everything. Googling the problem, I stumbled upon this genius tutorial by Sunni of A Fashionable Stitch, which instructs you to add about 1/2" of ease to the back armsyce and sleeve. It worked like a charm!

I actually set the sleeves in properly for once, and while they're not perfect, they're not half bad. I feel the same way about the collar. I was most intimidated by the collar going into this, but it turns out the collar and collar stand are all one piece. It's a nice way to ease yourself into shirt making, but it's probably worth the extra effort to have a separate stand. My collar doesn't sit as nicely as I would like.

The pockets are my favorite part! They were kind of a pain to sew up, but I'm so glad I did. They're not very functional, but they're very cute, and you could fit some money and a chapstick in a pinch.

I'm not sure if it's the most figure-flattering thing I've ever made though. When I asked my husband if it made me look especially small-chested and big-hipped, he very matter of factly replied, "It does, but I like that about you." My heart completely melted. I need a gentle reminder now and again that beauty and attractiveness don't need to have such narrow definitions. It's okay to let my hips out of hiding sometimes!

Overall, I'm really happy with the dress. It feels like a real turning point, with more challenging construction and finishing techniques. This is also first time I'm not worried that it's blatantly obvious the dress is handmade. Plus, it goes really well with my pink oxfords, and I am always looking for an excuse to wear them!

And so, on we go to even bigger challenges! I impulsively bought a plaid flannel (it was $4 a yard!) a couple of weeks ago, without really thinking about pattern-matching. This is going to be an adventure.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Ups and Downs

Oh, hey, guess what? I'm today's Featured Member on Pattern Review!

I'm sure it's a random pick by some computer program, but still, it was a really nice way to start the day. I have to admit I got a little thrill seeing my picture on the home page.

And it was especially nice, because yesterday was kind of a rough day. I'm furloughed because of the government shutdown, and so I was home alone sewing yesterday afternoon when I SEWED THROUGH MY INDEX FINGER. Like, completely through.  I have a an entry and exit wound, but I'll spare you the disgusting sight. My machine jammed while in the middle of a button hole, and I stupidly tried to unjam it by poking at the needle. I had to unjam the machine so I could get my finger out, pull out two threads that went all the way through my finger (*shudder*), and then give myself first aid, all while willing myself to not panic or throw up. But after I calmed down and realized I didn't even need stitches, I finished those damn button holes. Final score: Viking 1, Emily 1.

Then later that evening I was working on my Miette cardigan (yup, jumping on the bandwagon!), and realized I need to start over. I'm 44 rows (1 1/2 balls of yarn) in, and it's pretty disheartening. I messed up the lace on one section of the collar, which I might ignore as a "design feature", if it weren't for the fit issues. The angle of the raglan is off - it ends way over in the middle of my arm instead of my armpit.

Then there's this weird bunching of fabric when I try to stretch it to fit anyway. Strangely, it meets nicely in the center, but doesn't fit at all in the shoulders.

I think maybe I need to go up a size so it fits across my shoulders better? I knew the size 8 needles were too small to get gauge, so I went up to a 9 but didn't bother to make a second swatch. Gail over at Today's Agenda did a really detailed knit-along, and her posts are making me think perhaps I should have gone with the size 8 needle but followed the 36" directions. Such is life. I did learn lots of useful information about how to choose the best size.

In happier news, I finished this guy last week as a "Thanks for coming to see me!" gift for my Mom, who came to visit last weekend.

It's my second octopus from  my Amigrumi Knits book. It's got loads of quirky animals - I definitely recommend it if you're looking for a break from fitting!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Dolman Sleeve Top

Recently, I did the impossible: I sewed something in a single day. One. Single. Day.

I am a very slow sewer and it usually takes at least two weeks, if not several, to finish anything.
But the Dolman Sleeve Top by Cation Designs is a fun, quick pattern. Thanks Cindy! I wasn't sure how the silhoutte would look on me, but I figured with a free pattern, and free fabric I had nothing to lose. And I really like it!

Yes, the fabric was free too. My mom works a community theatre, and she sent me a whole box of remnants - it was like Christmas had come early! It was all left over from shows, or was donated in pieces too small to turn into costumes. But remnants are kind of my jam. I love the challenge of squeezing something useful out of leftovers. Also, I've clearly been watching way too much Project Runway and feel like everything needs an extra twist pulled from the velvet button bag that is my brain.

I juuusst barely eeked this out of 7/8 of a yard, but it meant I had to shorten the sleeves. I like how the elbow-length came out though. I cut a size Small for the arms and neckline, and then widened out at the hips using my Sewaholic Renfrew as a guide. I also made the arm and sleeve bands a little narrower and cut the underarm/dolman sleeve area a little higher.

Lest you get the wrong idea and think that one day I just woke up a sewing wizard, let me let you in one a little secret: I glued down the neck band. I was having some trouble because it was so narrow, and I didn't have enough fabric to cut a wider one. Plus, the brown thread I was using didn't match all that well, so the topstitching looked funny. So I sewed right sides together, flipped the band over, and glued it down using iron-on adhesive tape. Not my finest moment, but you can't tell from the outside.

Not too shabby, especially considering my whole goal was to practice more with knits and try a new silhouette. I'm putting this one in the win column.

P.S. Check out my new blog design! I couldn't have done it without helpful tutorials from Portia of Miss P on creating an archive page, and Sew Many Ways on how to make a header.