Monday, May 18, 2015

Graduation Day Dress! Butterick 5884

My baby girl graduated from college!  Making her graduation dress was bittersweet to say the least.  I have three daughters and she is the youngest, so this is our last daughter to go through this life stage.  I remember my college graduation dress very well, and I wanted to make her something special that she would remember as well.

She chose the pattern and the fabric.  The pattern is Butterick 5884, from the Suzy Chin/Maggy Boutique patterns.  I love all of the Maggy London patterns, but had not made this one, so I was pretty excited that she chose it.  The fabric is a beautiful sky blue tencel challis.  It has a vibrant color and beautiful drape.

What you can't see from the pattern illustration is that the lining of the bodice is actually fitted, and that brings the outer fabric in so that the neckline doesn't gape.  It's brilliantly drafted, and the front just hugs the chest perfectly.

The back on the other hand was perhaps not drafted as well, as when she first tried it on, there was so much extra fabric at the upper back, that it made her look like she had a hunchback.  I think that if I had made the version with the sleeves, that this extra fabric would have been pulled sideways to the arms, but the sleeveless version doesn't have anything to pull this extra fabric out of the way.   So I removed about 1-1/2" at the back neck edge on each side, tapering down to nothing at the waist.  That took out 3" of the upper back, and now it fits beautifully.  I also shortened the skirt by 2", as girls her age usually like their skirts a little shorter.  Here it is on the dressform:

Here you can see the gathering at the shoulder seam, and how luscious this fabric is:

Since graduation day can be hot, and she was wearing a heavy polyester gown over the dress, I wanted a breathable lining.  I had a lightweight cotton voile that worked great for this.  Here it is turned wrong side out:

 Unlike some lined dresses where you don't see any seams on the inside, this one has the waist seams of the lining and the shell fabric sewn all at once, so that you do see the seam allowances.  The instructions have you leave the lining open 3" on each side of the zipper, then you tuck this under, so the seam allowances won't get caught in the zipper.

Here's momma and baby girl at her party:

And here's all three of my girls, all graduates of the University of Illinois:

Her degree is in Animal Science with a Business minor, and she is looking for a job in the dairy industry or joining the Peace Corps.  But first she's going backpacking with her best friend to Utah and California.  Then she's going to Bangladesh to work on an agricultural research project.  We are really proud of her and know that she will do amazing things!

Happy Sewing!


Saturday, May 2, 2015

Standing Sewing Station

Have you heard that sitting is the new smoking?  Hmmmm...  It's easy for me not to smoke, but what do you do when most of your favorite things are traditionally done while sitting?
Let me introduce you to (drumroll...)  my Standing Sewing Station! 

For the past year or so, I've been having back pain that was exasperated by sitting.  If I would sit for even 30 minutes at my desk, I would stand up feeling really stiff with a sore back.   I didn't have a terrible case, but bad enough that I knew I needed to change something.   I tried so many chairs- I switched from a regular office chair, to a exercise ball, to an exercise ball on a pedestal, back to a different office chair.

Nothing helped!  Whatever chair I was using, I still had the problem.  I saw a spine specialist- she told me that I was getting old, and I just have to accept the reality that I will have aches and pains.  Really?  I'm 52, in relatively good shape, and you are telling me that I'm "old" and this is normal?  Well, that really ticked me off, and I just started researching on my own. Sometimes you just have to take matters into your own hands.

I started reading about standing computer stations, and since I do spend a good chunk of my day at the computer, I decided to try one out.  First, I just rigged up something temporary with plastic crates and footstools.  After a week, the pain was completely gone!  No joke. 

Standing desks can be pricey, so rather than buy one, I decided to construct a more permanent version.  I sent my daughter, who lives in Chicago, to IKEA with the shopping list to build this $22 standing desk.  I had her get enough supplies to make two- one for my computer, and one for my sewing machine!  They have the side tables in all kinds of fun colors, but I decided on black.  I don't spend long amounts of time sitting at the sewing machine, but I figure that every bit that I don't sit might help in the long run. 

I will admit that it did take some time to get used to it.  My legs started feeling a little wobbly at first, but it didn''t take too long to get up to speed.  I started this in late January, and am standing whenever I use my computer at home now.   Standing all day is not good for you either, but I have a regular sitting desk at the school that I work at, and I spend most evenings sitting watching TV, so I'm still getting in plenty of sitting.

For sewing, it definitely takes more coordination, as you are effectively relying on one leg to steady yourself, and the other to run the foot pedal.  You can see here that my cord is just barely long enough to still rest on the floor.   If I were to need to do some sewing that requires more precision, I would definitely take it off the table and sit down.  But for the majority of my sewing, standing is just fine.  We didn't need the shelf part of the standing desk plan for the sewing machine, just the side table.  The height is absolutely perfect for me when I am standing.  I have a very clear view of the area right under the presser foot, without having to bend forward at all.

My serger doesn't have a long enough cord to sit on the table, so I have it sitting on 10" high storage container.   It's not my dream solution, but it will work until I can find a 10" high table that is sturdier.  My husband found a extra large computer mouse pad that fits underneath of it and helps stop it from traveling.  This is important.  Otherwise, the container will just slide once the serger starts up.

I've gotten a lot of very interesting information from the Katy Says blog about body alignment and prevention of back pain.  I purchased two of her books- Alignment Matters and Move your DNA, and had several light bulb moments from each of things that I was doing that could be potentially damaging in the long run.  I highly recommend checking it out if you are anyone you know has back pain issues.

My lesson learned- if you have back pain, don't stop sewing, start standing!

Happy Sewing!


Sunday, April 26, 2015

The "Wear Everyday" Coat from Ottobre Woman 2/2015

Have you ever wondered where the word "notion" came from?  I looked it up, and found this:

Notion- Word Origin and History for notion  n. "miscellaneous articles," 1805, American English, from notion with the idea of "clever invention."

This finally makes sense to me! Zippers, buttons, elastic- all fit the description of a clever invention!  Alas, all of these clever inventions can often add up to cost more than the fabric for a project, so that's why I usually choose notion-lite projects.  I bristle at the price of zippers these days- grrrr.

But this particular jacket, the Wear Everyday Coat from the Spring/Summer Ottobre Woman issue, caught my eye, because of the notions.  The plain white coat, accented with bright yellow cord locks and contrasting zippers was something that I wanted to copy.  I had a really nice white synthetic knit with a fleece back in my stash- just enough for this jacket, with barely a scrap to spare.  I made a size 42 in the neck/shoulder, and 44 in the body, and I'm happy with the fit. 

I cut it out first, then went to look for the notions to go with it.   Here's a pic of all of the notions that I got for the project:

The cord locks were the hardest to find.  I really wanted a bright lime green, and the only place that I could find them in small quantities was on Ebay from this vendor.  They took about a month to get here, but I think it was worth the wait.  A word of advice- if you order some notions from China, put everything else in one place while you wait.  By the time they arrived, I had completely forgotten where I put everything else, and wasted a couple of hours tracking it all down!  I had bagged up the cut out pieces, but my husband had thought it was a bag of leftover scraps, and used one piece to clean up some oil.  Yikes!!!!  Luckily it washed out.  Whew!

Since Ottobre doesn't have illustrated instructions, I took photos along the way of some of the more unusual steps, so that if mine turned out okay, I could pass this process info along to you- just a little supplement to their written instructions.  A warning, my sewing is imperfect at best, so if you are a perfectionist, and get caught up in my crooked seams, then just squint.  It all looks fine when you squint.:)

First, interface the edges of the pocket opening.  Then,  place the zipper next to it to determine how much it needs to be shortened. Stitch back and forth over the teeth at the new zipper stop, and cut off the rest of the zipper, leaving about 1/2" below the new zipper stop.
Next, sew the center fronts to the side fronts, leaving the pocket openings unsewn.  I pressed the seam allowances back, although my synthetic fabric didn't want to hold a crease, so it's hard to see here.  Apply Wonder tape to the right side of the zipper, and then press to the seam allowances.

Using a zipper foot, stitch the seam allowances to the zipper, trying to show as much of the zipper teeth as possible for that pop of color.

Apply Wonder tape to the wrong side of the zipper tape, and press the pocket bags to each side of the zipper, folding the pocket bag back and stitching from the top of the zipper to the bottom.

Place the pocket bags wrong sides together, and stitch around the open edges. I serged mine. 

Lastly, thread a short piece of elastic cord through the zipper pull and cord locks, tie a knot and cut off the excess.  Pockets- done!

Next up was the hood.  This is where you need the eyelets. 
I used 4 mm white eyelets, applied with the Dritz pliers.  I made and attached the hood facing, and trimmed the facing with the single fold bias tape.  The pattern instructions actually have you make the bias yourself from fabric.  However, if you just want a solid color like I did, then a 4 yard package will do all of the binding in the garment without a little left over.

Next, thread the elastic cord through the facing and cord locks, and then stitch the ends down at the front casing.  This is what it looks like at this point.

Then the last step of the hood is to attach it to the jacket body, and cover the neck seam with the bias.  Hood- done!

Then on to the big zipper.  First, interface the front edges with a 1" strip of fusible interfacing.  This is really a critical step.  If you don't do this, you'll end up with a wavy zipper. (My zipper is a 24" Ghee's separating zipper, that has black teeth on one side, and white teeth on the other.   Isn't it cool?  It's a little short- a 27" zipper would have been perfect, but I placed the top of the zipper a couple of inches lower to account for the shortness.) 

Insert the zipper to the front edges with the teeth exposed, and stitched in place.  The last step is to bind the edge of the zipper and seam allowance together with the binding fabric, and then stitch down.  Zipper- done!

Here is what this looks like from the outside:
And turning the jacket wrong side out, here is what it looks like from the inside:

The last step is to hem the bottom edge and the sleeves.  For this I used a twin needle with lime green thread.  Just one little last touch of lime to tie it all together.  Hems- done!  I hope these visuals will help if you decide to make this jacket.  I'm up to 10 items sewn from this Ottobre Woman issue!  This is a record for me- I'm having so much fun with it.

Do you avoid patterns with lots of notions?  Or do you seek them out so that you can use cool inventions?

Happy Sewing!

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