Monday, September 23, 2013

Antique lace!

I was at my favorite thrift store a few weeks ago and found a plastic bag full of antique lace for $10. I snatched it up and clutched it to my chest in dramatic fashion until I'd paid for it and was safely back in my car where I couldn't set it down and forget about it. (that happens a lot. I still get a sick feeling in my stomach when I think of the giant antique portrait of a very sweet-looking old couple that I could have had for $5. Except that I set it down at some point while I was shopping with my former sister-in-law and her daughters, and completely forgot about it.)

Here are a few pics.

My friend, Jennifer, said that this is probably a mix of bobbin lace & tatting or needle-weaving.

This one is my favorite. It's so soft and drapey. Jennifer said this one is crochet lace. It's about 2 yds long and all in one piece--there is no beginning or end to this piece.

Jennifer said this was almost certainly tatting.

I haven't measured them properly, but I'd say there's probably two yards of each lace. I haven't cleaned them either. I found a recipe for cleaning yellowed fabrics using Dawn and hydrogen peroxide, which I haven't tried yet because I'm scared I'll ruin the lace. They are in remarkable shape though. There are no tears or frays that I can see in any of the pieces.

I hope I can use them in my Edwardian outfit! That I haven't made yet!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Summer dresses - New Look 6457, Part the Second

Hey look, it's New Look 6457 again! When I found a fabulous vintage sheet in bright, cheerful colors with an awesome little landscape scene on it, I knew it was perfect for this pattern.

The first dress was so (relatively) easy to make and is such a cute, perfect style, I couldn't wait to try it again.

And, well, it was still easy, but somehow the seam over my right boob (your left as you look at the picture) was off-center.

And damn it if I can't get that top band sewn on straight. It's maddening. I had that same problem with the first New Look 6457 I made. Why something like that is so difficult to accomplish, I don't know.

Oh, and the bodice is a little too tight in the bust. Again, I have no idea why, because New Look 6457 the First is not. I haven't gained any weight, and I didn't accidentally cut it smaller because I trace my pattern pieces on freezer paper before I sew anything for the first time, and I just reused those pieces. It does stretch out a bit during the day though.

I sewed the size 10 bodice with the size 16 (biggest size) skirt, because I love a full skirt, and since it's just gathered I didn't have to worry about fitting issues at the waist.

Here it is, in all it's radiant glory.

That strap on my right shoulder isn't really set crooked. Straps on that shoulder always tend to slip though.

Ignore tacky sports bra straps.

Can you see the off-center seam on my bosom?

Aww yisss... What you are looking at here is a perfectly aligned zipper seam.

I almost cut the front panel of the skirt out upside down. Thankfully, I caught it and flipped the pattern piece over before pinning it to the fabric. But, I flaked out by the time I was laying the bodice pieces out and so those are all upside down... But I don't think it's all that noticeable.

As always, by the time I've put in the zipper (which went PERFECTLY this time!!), I'm sick of the dress and impatient to wear it, so I get sloppy on attaching the shoulder straps. I should hand sew to attach them to the inside of the front bodice band, but I don't. This is why I don't show close-up details of my dresses, haha. You'll see my crooked seams and lazy stitching.

It's a great, sturdy little dress. I wore it to the dog park as well as out shopping. I need to make more weekend dresses out of sheets. Then I can use the same dress for both errands and sweatier activities and have more space in my closet.

Monday, September 9, 2013

1980s (?) dress refashion

I am obsessed with dress re-make blogs and when I came across this hideously unflattering belted tent dress from I'm guessing the 1980s in this adorable daisy-print fabric, I had to buy it. It was only $5 (thrift stores in Austin are expensive), and had so much yardage, it was perfect for a re-make. 

Look at this beauty. (no, I meant look at the dress, not me, silly!)

Ugh. Just... Who would DO this to themselves?

Unbelted. Lots of potential.

I love the fabric! And the matching buttons and pleats!
My dog immediately recognized it as a fashion don't and started trying to eat the buttons.

I found a sewing blogger that often remakes clothes, usually by just trying it on, grabbing fabric at the sides and waist, guessing how many inches need to come off, and then cutting and sewing something that ends up looking fabulous in no time. So rather than take notes from other bloggers with more precise tutorials on how to remake a shapeless ugly dress into something cute, I decided to try her method. I can't for the life of me remember her blog name, or the search terms I used when I came across her blog, or else I would link to her here.

I tried on the dress, inside out, used clothes pins to take up the extra fabric on the sides, marked the waist, carefully removed it, cut off the bodice, stitched up the sides, and tried it back on. And for some reason, the waist was now just under my boobs. I have no idea how that happened.

So I cut a midriff band from the sleeves, using the McCall's 5094 pattern, and that solved the issue of the bodice length.

But it was very saggy in the back. I stitched down the pleat on either end of the shoulder yoke (I think that's the term for it?), which made it much more nicely fitted, except then I couldn't extend my arms forward without lots of uncomfortable fabric straining. So I picked the seams out of those pleats down to a couple of inches above my waist and had room to breath and move around again.

Gathered the skirt, stuck a zipper in the side, bound the armholes with grey double-fold bias tape, and voila... It's a damn cute little summer dress and I am really happy with it. I get tons of compliments every time I wear it!

It did take a lot longer than I thought it would, and I almost shelved the project at one point (read: almost threw it across the living room in a fit of rage), but picked it up again after a good night's sleep and had no problems with it after that. :-)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Summer dresses - New Look 6457

In an act of stunning practicality (and after a fit of rage at my Edwardian corset), I decided that the Edwardian corset/costume was more of a fall/winter project and that my time would be better spent in making cute sundresses out of the fabric and patterns that have been side-eyeing me from my stash all summer long.

The first dress I made was from New Look 6457, view A.

I'd never made a dress with a fitted bodice, but it was actually a LOT easier than I thought it would be!

Gathering the skirt to fit the bodice was actually a LOT harder than I thought it would be!

I struggled for two hours to gather that damn thing and pin it to the bodice, and when I finally sewed it all together, I realized that the bodice was too long in the waist and I was going to have to take it apart and do all that gathering all over again. I immediately turned to my beloved genius sewing friend to bitch about it and she gave me this advice:

First I mark the center and quarter marks of each piece (I mark center and the fold and find the center in each of the half pieces) – I do this for both the skirt and bodice pieces.

I do the two rows of basting stitches on the machine (longest stitch) – using the throat plate markings and foot for gauging.  Leave long tails of thread. – the more rows of stitching you do the more ordered your gathers will be, but they will not stay that way once you removed the basting stitches after the bodice is sewn to the skirt.  I find two rows is good, and saves you if one row breaks – which does happen at times. 
I pull the threads and gather the skirt – pull it up to be just a touch smaller than the bodice.  Place a straight pin at the end of each side of the skirt and figure-8 the thread around the pins to lock the gathers as you work. 
Start pinning the skirt to bodice by first matching side seams then center marks and finally quarter marks – while adjusting the gathers evenly within each quarter section. 
This process shouldn’t take long at all.  

And by golly, she was right! It was SO EASY to gather the skirt and attach it to the bodice using her instructions! Absolute genius!

This dress was also a challenge for me because I had to set a zipper, which I've only done once--on my pirate costume overskirt, and it came out off-center but you couldn't tell because of the flounces. I've been avoiding it since then. My beloved genius sewing friend gave me instructions for that, too.

First you baste up the seam where the zipper will be and press the seam open. 
Lay the zipper, pull side down, against the basted seam – lining the teeth up with the seam line – using scotch tape to hold the zipper in place.  Place the scotch tape across the zipper when you lay it down, and long enough to hold the zipper and seam allowance to the back of the fabric piece.
Once you have the zipper in place securely, flip the section over to face up. Pull a piece of scotch tape the length of the finished zipper opening (or do smaller sections at a time and piece it together).  You need to fold the tape down the center back on itself – ON THE UNSTICKY SIDE.  What you want to do is make a center fold down the tape so you can line the center fold up with the seam line. 
Do this down the length of the seam line until you have the end of the tape at the end of the zipper opening.
This becomes your stitching guide on the right side of the fabric – the tape is the PERFECT width.  No guessing, no sewing from the back side so bobbin stitches are on the top. 
You just stitch around the top scotch tape and pull all of the tape away, rip the basting seam open – plain zipper set.  It is the only way I set a plain zipper.  Always have tape in your sewing kit.


So, here are the results. 

Please ignore my grody dog-walking shoes. I forgot I was wearing them. I'd have cropped them out but thought it would look too strange to have a headless and footless dress model.

Yeah, the dress is supposed to have a hook at the top and I set the zipper too low. So what??? I was sick of the dress by then and ready to move on. #idgaf

I added the ribbon belt because for some reason the bodice stretched out a lot after a few hours the first time I wore it. But ribbon belts are just really cute with that style of dress, and I was lucky to find something that matched perfectly. 

Mayyyybe the skirt is a little uneven at the hem. It might be slightly uneven at the top edge of the bodice too. But, I don't think it's too noticeable. I'm really happy with this dress!