Saturday, September 28, 2013

2013 Figure Dress #2 - The Galloping Peacock

Ok, so a few days ago I showed off my first attempt at a figure dress for the season.  It turned out alright, but it wasn't quite as impressive as I wanted it to be, so I decided to make a second dress for nationals.  Earlier this year I bought this fabric from the LA Fashion District:

My lovely peacock fabric.
I had some shiny blue/green mystique spandex in the stash and I though I would make a very peacock inspired dress.  Well, I had so many costumes to make for other people that making this dress kept getting put off.  It got put off to the point that it was the night before my family was leaving for nationals and this dress was still just fabric heaped in a sack.  After a last late-night practice and delivering my (nearly last) client costume, I finally started it.  At midnight.  Of the morning of the day we were leaving.  Eeep.

This dress was a bit more complex than some of my others - I first had to make a skating dress, then I had to applique the peacock panel onto it.  So first I made my self a dress, then I had to drape the peacock panel onto it (while I was wearing the dress), pin it in place, and then take off the dress to stitch it down.  Since it was very early and everyone was sleeping I didn't really have any help with this process.

By this point I had been getting very little sleep for weeks, and I had been inhaling glue fumes for days, so my thought processes were a bit... out there.  And after sewing like mad for several hours I started thinking my dress reminded me very much of the peacock costume from the skating spoof movie Blades of Glory.  In the film one of the characters has a silly signature move called the "galloping peacock."  Hence I gave it a name - The Galloping Peacock Dress.

Jon Heder as Jimmy MacElroy - in his peacock costume.
A full look at the costume.
So I finished stitching my dress together about 3 hours after we had intended to leave (luckily we were driving - this would NOT have worked if we had a plane to catch), spent an hour packing for the trip and we were off!  Since my family was going I was able to sleep in the car.  The first night in the hotel I spent trimming off the extra mesh fabric around the peacock applique, which took several hours.  During the next day's car ride I hand-sewed on several large pear shaped rhinestones.  I finished stoning the dress after we got to Albuquerque a just few days before skating my event.  All told I am sure I spent 20-30 hours making this dress, and it was absolutely worth every second of it.

Close up of the beading.
I used five different colors of glue on stones.
Close up of a sew-on pear shaped rhinestone.
More beading details.
I used several sizes of sew-on and glue-on stones to get the effect I wanted.
So, without further ado, I give you the dress:

The Galloping Peacock!
You can see the feathers extending onto the back.
A view of the side.
I had the panel run diagonally over my hip.
I used several colors and sizes of rhinestones so the entire design was covered.  The last photo is probably truest to real life color, though the main fabric changes from blue to green depending on the light.  For the sleeves I actually used a green mesh under a blue mesh to give the same color changing look.  All in all this may be my favorite skating dress ever.  Though, to be fair, this might have had something to do with it:

Bronze Medal at Nationals!
Yes, this will definitely be a dress to remember.  I have certainly had my fair share of pretty skating costumes, but this is one of my all time favorites.  I liked it so much that I picked up this peacock panel in a few more colors.  Maybe I will do a few variations on this dress next year as well?  Or use it in a non-skating context?  Only time and inspiration will tell...

And that is the last of my skating costumes for this past competitive season.  I made many many others, but they weren't for me, so I won't be showing them off on the blog.  I'm still skating, so I can assure there will be more practice dresses and competition outfits coming in the next year!

Friday, September 27, 2013

2013 Dance Dress

This year I knew I wasn't going to have a lot of time to decorate my own costumes, so I wanted to make something that would have maximum sparkle with minimum effort.  I found this great sequin fabric in the Los Angeles Fashion District, and lined it with some acetate slinky.  It had a lovely flow and fantastic sparkle.  It was a bit of a pain to sew with these sequins because they were so big , but the result was totally worth it.  Between sewing and stoning the dress it took me about 15-20 hours to complete.  I think I liked my dress from last year a bit better (I loved the intricate beading and lacework on that dress), but I was happy with the way this dress turned out.

My dance dress.
Side view.
The back.  This picture actually gives a better
indication of how much it really sparkles.
Another back shot (from regionals).
So that was my dance dress!  I was pretty happy with it, but my favorite dress that I made this year was my figure dress for nationals, which I will be showing off very soon.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

2013 Figure Dress #1 - Teal Lace

I have been a bit slow in posting the skating costumes I made for competition this year because I was waiting for some of the good professional photos to come.  I don't have a lot of good photos of this particular dress because I only wore it at regionals, and the lighting was terrible.  I wasn't particularly thrilled by it, so I made a different dress for nationals (and I am glad I did - the new one is probably one of my favorite dresses ever; also at least three other girls were wearing the same lace - though in different colors - in my event at nationals).  Originally I had lace sleeves as well, but I felt like it had a sort of matronly look about it.  It looks more youthful without the sleeves, but it also looks a bit bare.  I tried to do a gradient effect with the rhinestones - I used darker stones at the top and lighter stones at the bottom - but the lighting was so bad the effect was lost when I actually wore it for competition.  All in all it didn't end up being one of my favorite dresses, but I expect I can still use it for tests or practices at regionals and nationals next year.

My aqua lace figure dress.
The back of the dress - very open back.
I will post my other two dresses in the upcoming days - next will be my very sparkly dance dress, and I will save my nationals figure dress (my favorite) for last.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Newsflash: New Kwik Sew Patterns Announced

Kwik Sew used to be one of my favorite pattern companies.  Their athletic patterns are the ones I use most often.  Then McCall's took over and things went downhill, fast.  I can't say that this release has turned things around, but I will say that I was pleasantly surprised.  There is still a lot of the crafty stuff that I am going to ignore here, and a lot of crazy sacks made out of quilting fabrics that they pretend are clothes, but they actually had a few decent patterns, so let's take a look:

KS4029 - I love this jacket.  The collar shape is so modern and elegant.

KS4026 - This cowl neck knit dress is cute!
Though I expect I could probably make one using patterns I already have.

KS4013 - The gathering on the midriff is a bit thick,
but overall I think this is decent dress.

KS4014 - I love the color blocking on this top.
Though, again, I expect I could do this using a pattern I already have.

KS4028 - This cowl neck is cute, but again I think I already have a similar pattern.

KS4027 - A nice basic v-neck top.  Probably needs to be worn with a cami.

KS4017 - Nice to see a man's pattern in the release.
I do wish there were a few more details, but this is a pretty decent jacket.

KS4019 - Since I am at the age where a lot of people are getting married,
this diaper bag pattern might be a worthy addition to the stash.
 Of course, before we all get too excited, I do have to point out that a fair number of the patterns looked a lot like this:

KS4030 - A big reminder of why I don't sew with quilting cottons.
So, overall, there isn't a lot of wow in the collection, but there were more decent patterns than I had been expecting based on previous releases.  So, what do you all think?  Was this a worthy effort from Kwik Sew?  Or does this seem like a lot of rehash from patterns you have already seen?  Feel free to discuss in the comments!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Pattern Review: Vogue 2960

I have had this review written for quite a while, sitting in the draft pile.  Its been months since I actually sewed up this dress, but getting photos proved to be more difficult than I anticipated...

Vogue 2960 - A Vintage Vogue reprint pattern.

Last year my sister had asked me to make her a dress for her college graduation.  Of course, I happily agreed, assuming I would have several months to construct it to perfection.  Then I got orders for skating costumes.  And more orders.  And more.  And so I ended up sewing this dress in the morning before we left.  I hemmed it in the car.  Oh, and then after she tried it on it was too big, so I used hand stitches to take it in.  Then a button got pulled off by the seatbelt in the car, so I spent the car ride to the University literally stitching my sister into her dress.  To say this is not my finest work is more than a bit of an understatement.  But, well, despite my shoddy construction, the dress ended up being rather cute and flattering.  So, even though the construction was sad, the pattern was a win.

The dress!
The buttons in the front make it quite easy to put on.
The neck is quite open, so you might need to
consider alternative bust support options.

The back - actually scoops quite low.
Obligatory twirly skirt picture.
Front buttons.  You can also see the slight gathering on the top.
The happy graduate!
Here is my official pattern review:

Pattern Description:  A 50s reprint pattern with button front, pleated skirt, and scooped neckline.

Pattern Sizing: (4-6-8-10) and (12-14-16-18).  I found that there was a lot of excess ease in this pattern, and ended up using a smaller size than I had expected.  I recommend reading finished measurements on the pattern pieces before choosing a size.

Were the instructions easy to follow?  Yes, I thought so.  Granted, I ignored some of the finishes and details from the pattern (I left off the bound button holes and used machine ones, for example).  I used my serger to finish off the seam allowances and lots of other things that wouldn't have been historically accurate.  My sister wanted a pretty dress, so I was going for fast and wearable, not for historical accuracy in my finishes and techniques.  I will point out that the pattern pieces #5 and #6 are labeled correctly (as being back facing and front facing) on the tissue sheets, but in the printed instructions the picture images are correct but the front/back labels are mixed up.  I spent a longer time than I should have staring at everything and second guessing myself.  But I also recommend double checking everything before you stitch things in place.

Did it look like the photo/drawing when you were done with it?  Actually, it did look quite like the cover photo since I used similar colored fabric!  The skirt was not as poofy (you need the appropriate undergarments for that effect, but since my sister was going to wear it under her graduation robes we didn't want the skirt too poofy anyway), but overall it did look very much like the drawing.

What did you particularly like/dislike about the pattern?  I very much like the style (it looks great on my sister), and the button down front is a nice detail, and makes it easy to get dressed, but the style of the top of the dress keeps it from being too casual.  Aside from the mistakes in the pattern sheet, overall it is a nice pattern.  No dislikes.

Fabric used: Rayon challis.  My version of this dress is much more drapey than I think the pattern recommends, but it did give the skirt a nice soft shape.

Pattern alterations or design changes you made:  Not much other than the finishing techniques.  I went with the fast modern machine finishes instead of the vintage techniques in the instructions.  Otherwise the pattern is made as drafted.

Would you sew this again?  Would you recommend it to others?  Yes and yes!  Since my first version had a few problems (mainly due to the fact that I waited until the last possible morning to sew this so there is a lot of last-minute fitting with hand stitches and other sloppy looking things on the inside), my sister has extorted a promise to make her another one.  I think next time she wants one in a stiffer fabric like taffeta or a cotton sateen print (in her words she wants to feel like she is "wearing a freaking couch") because the main bodice was a bit loose and un-fitted on her.  A stiffer fabric would give it more of the vintage look as well, which I think will be fun for the next version.

Conclusion:  Love this pattern!  Even though it wasn't for me I really liked this dress.  I am a bit embarrassed by the last-minute slapdash construction, but at least the pattern is tested and ready for another version.  The style is great for my sister, so hopefully there will be another special occasion coming up so I have an excuse to make her a new, better constructed version.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Sewing Plans: The Transition to Fall Sewing

Ok, even I have to admit that the weather is changing and eventually I will want to wear something other than a lightweight knit tank top.  I decided to make a few more dresses (one for me, one for my sister) that are more suitable for spring than fall, since I have had the patterns traced out for quite a while.  But once those are done I am going to want to make some more seasonally appropriate clothes.  Which means it is time for me to start considering all of the fun things I am going to sew for fall!  Some of these are things I listed on my previous sewing plans (I got a bit distracted... ooops), and some are things I couldn't muster the energy to deal with while it was a million degrees outside.  It looks like I might be going a bit heavy on the coats and jackets, but then again those are the things I have been really wanting to make for over a year now.  So my fall "wardrobe" might be a bit unbalanced, but at least I am going to be getting to projects I actually want to make.

(1) Plaid Skirt

I have been wanting to make this skirt since I got this old issue of Burda from Ebay, and I finally found the perfect fabric.  I actually got enough to make a jacket as well, though I have decided to not use the jacket pattern from the photo, and I probably won't get around to making it for quite a while yet.  But the skirt should be a quick and fairly easy make - just the thing to start off my fall sewing plans.

(2) Linen Jacket

This jacket might be a bit lightweight to see much use during the fall, but I have been dying to make one, so it is finally getting done.

(3) Silk LBD

I figure this dress will be the perfect project to insert between all of the more complex and time consuming coats and jackets I plan to make.

(4) Blue Corduroy Jacket

 This will be a slightly heavier weight than the linen jacket - should be a great wardrobe item for fall.

(5) The "Elaine" Birthday Coat for My Sister

My sister has long been a fan of the movie The Graduate.  Which has apparently made her fantasize about owning a wide collared camel colored coat a-la-Elaine Robinson.

The inspiration.
She even bought the fabric for it a few years ago.  And been pestering me about it ever since.  And while part of it has been procrastination, and part has been busy schedules, a more reasonable part of the delay was me never quite settling on the perfect pattern.  There was a lot of hemming and hawing and maybe-ing as I searched my pattern stash, but I never really thought I had found it.  At least, not until the recent Vogue pattern release.  And while the crazy leopard print hides a lot of the detail, the line drawing convinced me that this would be the perfect pattern to use for my sister's coat.  It's not an exact copy, but it has the wide collar and a sleek silhouette (the model's stance hides it a bit), so it should have the same feel but be a more modern interpretation.  I showed her the pattern and I have convinced her that it is perfect as well.  So, this won't be a surprise, but I am hoping to have it done in time to serve as a birthday gift.  Fingers crossed.

And I think that's enough for now!  We'll see how fast I go with these projects - definitely won't be churning out 2 to 4 a week like I was with the knit tops and summer dresses.  But I am excited to slow things down a bit and focus on precision and details as I work on these new projects.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Pattern Review: BS-03-2013-107

When the preview for the March issue came out I saw this photo and I fell in love with her entire outfit.  I thought the colors and the lace combo looked fantastic, and I wanted to make the whole thing.  I started by making the skirt, figuring it was the easier piece of the two.  Then I got really really busy and didn't get around to making the top part until now.  The sad thing is that the cardigan really didn't take me as long as I thought it would, so I really should have just thrown it together earlier this year anyway.

I've been wanting to make this since February.
This doesn't really count as part of my summer sewing binge - it is definitely a spring piece - but I have had the pattern traced since the beginning of March, and the fabric has been sitting in my upcoming projects bin nearly that long.  (Yes, I have a box dedicated to fabric that I plan to use on quickly upcoming projects - I try to pull out all the fabric I want to use for my next 2-5 projects and store it right next to my cutting area for easy access, which makes it much easier to move on to the next project, since everything is at hand.)  So I decided I might as well go ahead and make it rather than put it off and have the pattern sit around for several more months.

Here is my version, styled to be similar to the model photo.  Though Burda seems to think this should be worn over nothing more than a bra.  Ummm, no.  Sorry internet, not today!

My new lace sweater-top.

Slightly better photo of the top, but my head got cut off.

Back of the sweater top.

I really like my button snaps.

I had to use a hammer to put them on, but worth it I think!

And here is my official pattern review:

Pattern Description: Cardigan with gathered front.

Pattern Sizing:  Burda sizes 34-42.  Based on other pattern reviews, I decided to go up one size from what I normally trace.  This was excellent advice!  I used a size 40 on the back neck, and a size 42 everywhere else.  Normally I use a size 36/38 on the back, and a size 40 elsewhere.  However, this is a very close fitting pattern, so it is probably best to go up one size larger than normal.

Were the instructions easy to follow?  Yes!  It was odd, really.  I thought I would set the sleeves in flat and ignore Burda's instructions, but after fiddling with things I actually found that it would be easier to set them in the round, so I actually followed Burda's instructions exactly, and there wasn't a moment of confusion.  Not that I needed them, but I always read through them for kicks.  But these were actually good.  I was sort of shocked, actually.

Did it look like the photo/drawing when you were done with it?  Yes!  Almost exactly, actually.  I intentionally picked fabric that would be as close as possible to the garment in the Burda magazine because I really loved the style and color.

What did you particularly like/dislike about this pattern?  Likes: The style with the gathering is really pretty, and the drafting on the sleeves is excellent (they were very easy to set in).  The instructions were also good, and I think the style is flattering for me, so I really like it.  It was also nice to have a more fitted pattern, since it seems like most of the cardigan patterns lately are very loose and oversized.  Dislikes: I found it a bit fiddly to attach the collar band, though I expect that was mostly due to my fabric choice of a rather delicate lace.

Fabric used:  I used a stretch lace that I got from a sale on  The lace had a fair amount of stretch in one direction (horizontal) but almost no stretch in the other direction.  It was very lightweight and sort of fiddly to work with, though it went through my sewing machine and serger much better than I anticipated.

Pattern alterations or design changes you made:  I used snaps as closures instead of buttons, because I thought they would put less stress on the lace fabric.

Would you sew this again?  Would you recommend it to others?  Yes and yes!  I would love to make this again in a heavier fabric.  I will have to find a knit with a good amount of stretch since this is a bit more fitted, but I would like a version I can wear during the fall/winter when it gets colder.  I would recommend this to others - it is a flattering pattern and very quick to make, with good instructions - but I join in with other reviewers in cautioning that you should go up one size when you trace.

Conclusion:  Love this pattern!  It is a great style, and goes together fairly quickly.  I expect to be making more of them in the future when the perfect fabric comes along.

As of now I still have two patterns that I traced much earlier this year sitting around waiting to be made.  Though they are both definitely spring sewing and not fall sewing.  So I am debating - should I go ahead and make them, even though I won't be wearing them for a while?  Or should I put it off until closer to next spring?  I am feeling the pull of fall fabrics and I am tempted to head in that direction, but I also feel that I might as well make these since I have everything nearly ready to go.  And, well, who knows?  By next spring I might be excited by completely different projects, so I might as well make these now, right?  I mean, they aren't really UFOs, since I haven't cut anything, but I also don't like having unfinished projects hanging about.  So... more unseasonal sewing?  Or is it time to get with the times?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Pattern Review: BS-07-2009-124A

I think this will be the last top for my summer binge sewing that I have been doing recently.  I had agreed to make my sister a top from the July 2009 Burda, and while I was looking through the issue this top caught my eye:

It was a pattern I had ignored initially, but I thought it looked really cute when I was flipping through the magazine.  And I had a very small knit remnant from the Michael Levine Loft that I thought would be perfect for this.  It was a tiny piece of fabric, but I loved the colors and I figured I would find some way to use it.  I had barely enough to make this top, but in the end I am really happy with it.

Another easy summer top.
Back of the top - it is a halter style with a neck tie.
Close up - I kept the front ties from the original pattern.
I changed the back so it wasn't a wrap style.

Here is my official Pattern Review:

Pattern Description:  Tank top with neck tie, and overlapping back with front ties.

Pattern Sizing:  Burda sizes 34-42.  I made a size 40, but I used a size 38 at the neck.

Were the instructions easy to follow?  Well, I made some considerable alterations to this pattern, so I really didn't use them.  When I glanced over them they seemed fine though.

Did it look like the photo/drawing when you were done with them?  The front looked like the photo and like drawing, but I changed the back, so that is a bit different.  But the pattern came out great and looks like the pictures.

What did you particularly like/dislike about this pattern?  Likes: The style is cute and surprisingly flattering.  The neck tie makes it easy to adjust so that it fits comfortably.  Dislikes:  I wasn't a fan of how the back was a wrap or how low it went, so I decided to alter the pattern a bit so it was a top with side seams and no wrap.

Fabric used:  Striped ITY knit that I got as a remnant piece from the Michael Levine Loft.  I had less than a yard, so I had barely enough to make this top, but it was another thrifty buy (again, probably less than $1 for the fabric) so I am happy I was able to make something out of it.

Pattern alterations or changes you made:  I made the back a normal back but tracing only half of the back pattern piece then cutting it on a fold.  I caught the front ties in the side seam since they wouldn't be needed to hold the wrap back in place.  I also made the back higher so it was even across the back rather than dipping as low as the line drawing shows.  I added some 1/4" elastic to the top of the back to help it stay in place and not sag down the body.  Otherwise I made the pattern as instructed.

Would you sew this again?  Would you recommend it to others?  I might sew another one of these, since I really like the way it turned out, though I think one halter style top like this is probably good enough for now.  I like the style, and I definitely think the alterations I made make it more wearable as compared to the original version from Burda.  I would recommend this pattern, especially for summer or a trip to the beach, though the style does make it a bit more difficult to wear a bra with it.  Something to consider if you make it, but the pattern itself is great so I highly recommend it.

Conclusion:  Great pattern!  I am really happy with the way this top turned out and I expect it will get a lot of use next summer when it heats up again.  Now I just need to make some shorts to go with it.  Though that might be a project for next year.