Monday, June 29, 2015

Mad Men Dress

Betty is a hell of an inspiration for a lot of us, isn't she? Specially at the beginning of the series, still submerged in the 50s, with the American Look...because let's face it, those 50s dresses are eye candy for a sewist, aren't they? Crinolines, great silhouettes, structural rods, wonderful natural fibers dresses...
Gertie is such a sewist, and in her new book presentation, I peeped a sketch that hooked me. It is a Carolyn Schnurer red dress, a designer exemplifying the American look:

Isn't it just perfect?
On the other hand, I have been fantasizing with a red cherry fabric since I saw some in a street market in The Netherlands and I did not buy it. I have been dreaming about it for years! Finally I had a suitable project for it, so I bought it from the Fabric Godmother. It was very expensive, but the fabric is worth it: solid, good old cotton for a classic dress.
I had the clear idea of doing my own pattern. This is a tight design, and it had to be constructed to my exact measures and tastes. I consulted Armstrong book, and found a section  about strapless bodices. It has a bodice foundation that is exactly as the one I used in my previous project, with a dart under the bust that combines bust and waist darts (if you have the book at hand, it is on page 475). 

So, I followed the indications to make the necessary adjustments, added some halter straps, and made it into a muslin for a perfect fit. I only had to enlarge the bodice 2 cm at the waist, as for the rest it was so perfect it fitted me like a globe. So it was good to cut the fabric. I cut it double to use one as facing and lining.

Meanwhile I was planing my skirt... circle skirt? half circle? pleated? what kind of pleats? gathered? After cutting the bodice I had three skirt lengths left, so I sewed them together and finally decided to pleat it. I did some research about 50s pleated skirts, and chose box pleats, starting in the middle front and going around to the centre back. 
I applied fusible underlining to the whole bodice, stitching both bodices at the upper part and straps. After turning it over, I pressed and pressed and machine-stitched some channels for plastic rods at the sides and back panels.
Then I attached the pleated skirt to the bodice and machine stitched it closed. I put a long zipper at the centre back and finished the skirt: hem is rolled and machine topstitched.
I added the tulle crinoline I had from a previous dress, and the result is stunning, and yet wearable and comfortable enough to sit through a 5 hours family lunch, where I had massive success, hehe... one of my best projects, it is perfect and really special.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Liberty Dress

This project was inspired by its fabric (2m x 1.35m), of course. Karen in her blog explained about Liberty Tara Lawn cottons and I decided that I absolutely needed a dress made of it for my holiday this summer. I ordered from Liberty's and it cost me 80 Euros with shipping costs, but it is a wonderful fabric. The only drawback is that some patterns, like this one, are in fact repetitions of a small illustration, and the overall effect  is a little bit weird, so be careful to see the whole picture before you decide among the mountain of possible patterns they offer. Everything Karen said is true: it is a very thin fabric but it does not show though. It is a sweet cotton, wonderful to work with, and it barely wrinkles. I think it is completely worth it.
I was in love with this pattern at first sight, and I thought it would render beautifully with my Liberty cotton. It is from Patrones magazine, which we can buy in Catalunya. I am lucky enough to have it in the library bus that visits us every month.
I copied the pattern to the muslin, which was necessary in this case: expensive fabric+ new pattern. In the first fitting I saw that I need to lengthen the waist and modify the pattern for large bust. I followed the instructions in Armstrong's book:

The modification was successful. In the past, I would have used a bigger size, or added some fabric at the side seams or even in the back zipper (OMG!!!), wherever I could get some extra space for my big boobs, haha... but of course that means you loose the equilibrium and right proportions in the rest of the bodice.

Another process I learned along this project (man, I am on fire!!) was the invisible zipper application. I only had to buy a special leg for the sewing machine and watch a video in the net. That simple. Problem is, my zipper is not invisible at all. I think it is even beautiful in this design, but I really have to know how to make it disappear.


The sleeves a seamed in the middle and were perfect at first fitting. Good! I love perfect sleeve caps. I had some doubts with the flounces at the sleeves, design wise, but my image advisor said they were nice, and in fact I think they add some movement and life to the design.

I also took special care with the neck. I applied some fusible interlining to the facing, and machine stitched it to the right side of the dress, following the interlining as a guide. I trimmed carefully the hem to 0,5 cm and cut slashing lines to the stitches. Then I pressed it upwards and stitched the facing to the hem allowance. When I turned it down, the curve of the neck was just perfect. I secured it to the dress with a picking stitch.

I have some doubts about the inferior flounce. Although I like it being almost invisible, as an extension of the skirt, it is more visible in the magazine design. This might be due first to the different hemming method. I simply zig-zagged the bottom of the dress and left it raw, instead of making a small double folded hem which would have added flare to the flounce. 

I decided to encase all the seam allowances in themselves and topstitch them, since the thread is invisible in this pattern. That makes the dress perfect outside and inside, and easier to iron after washes.

I premiered it for a special occasion and received several compliments, both for the dress and for the fabric. I felt like a princes with that light and beautiful fabric flying around me, and after a long day of working with kids, sitting with them on my lap, the dress had barely a wrinkle.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Lately I've been sewing t-shirts for me and my boy.
I had purchased several jerseys, organic some of them, and decided to start making them and try to figure out what is the best neck procedure.
For me, I have been using my Universal T-shirt pattern, which I took form a Patrones magazine some years ago, and used a zillion times. For Carlos I used the rub off method to copy his favourite long-sleeved t-shirt.

Striped viscose jersey bought in Here I used my classic neck procedure: put a bias band around the neck, right to right side, machine stitch it, turn it towards the inside folding it in itself and sanwiching the little seam allowance. Then, I handsewed it with an invisible backstitch. Pretty good method for dressy t-shirts.

Black organich cotton from Ecological Textiles. Same procedure, but here I applied the bias strip on the worng side, turned it towards the front and machine stitch it with the double needle. Pretty good, but not perfect, it gaps a little.

This is some cheap knit I had in my statsh since last year. I don't like growing a big stash, so let's clean it up! For the neck, I applied a bias strip right to right, turned it to the inside, hold in in place with pins and finish with the double needle. It also gaps, so I start hating the double needle for necks, as I suspected it pulls the fabric.

Organic cotton from Only organic: soft and nice to the touch. This was a mistake in my order, so I decided to make the best off it. I bought some ellasticated lace and applied it in the sleeves, simply sewing it together, cutting it around its flowers and machine sewing it on the cotton. I used a double needle machine straight stitch forthe sleeves and body bottoms. 

 As for the neck, I decided to make a V-shaped neck with organic black cotton. First you machine sew  a V shape in the middle of  a 5 cm wide bias strip. Press it flat and apply it to the t-shirt's neck as if sandwiching it. Baste it and the machine sew it with the double needle. Pretty good if not for the double needle with black contrasting thread. If looked closely, it is not too straight. But still pretty good look!
Here I made some more research in the net, and I found an evidence that made me feel like and idiot: the neck strip has to be shorter than the t-shirt neck to avoid gaping!!! Of course!! How could I not see it for myself?! A blogger said 90% is a good rate, I think it could be even less, but one can pull the strip as you apply in over the t-shirt, and feel the right stretch. I started to apply this trick on this v-neck and it was wonderfully flat around my neck. EUREKA!  

I like the laced sleeves so well that I decided to make another version, and leave the lace alone to make it sheer. I used organic black cotton for the body. 

Here I applied my newfound trick to my classical neck method. Bias strip, right on right, turned towards the inside and hand sew it with an invisible back-stitch. The final result is almost perfect, but this time I cut the neck's shpae over the manequin, and the shape is too narrow in the front. I make a note of testing the shape over me before sewing it, because the manequin pull the fabric a little and the result is not the same.

Finally a couple of long-sleeved t-shirts for my man. Both are organic cotton (from sources mentioned above). In the black one I used my neck method but I did not stretch the bias strip and it is not tight enough. In the second I used the method most comercial t-shirts use: cut a strip 90 % shorter that the neck, apply it right to right, doubled in itserf,  turn it upwards, press, and machine stitch it with the double needle (which does not stretch the fabric after all). The result is quite good for sporty t-shirts.

Sunday, June 7, 2015


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Maternity Dresses

My friend Meri is expecting!

 And while she happily expects, she has to actually wear clothes. The baby is due two months from now, so we decided she was gonna need some summer dresses. 

For the purple one, we bought this wonderful interlock in Only Organic. It's sweet, soft and a beautiful shade of purple. I used my Universal T-shirt pattern, and modified it by adding "the tent" structure as explained in Armstrong's book. Simply you slash the pattern open from breast point down and open it, add also some flare to the sides, and voilà!

We bought this knit jersey at Telas. Meri loves the pattern and colours. I copied another friend's top with the rub-off method I've learned recently form Lincecum's book. It was a sleeveless pattern with some pleats over the breasts that made room for the large belly. The braces come together in the back for more stability.
Now she can show off her happiness in style!