Everyday Dresses

Emery Dress and Red Velvet Dress Sewalongs

A few weeks ago I realized that I don’t have any everyday dresses in my wardrobe. Not one. I have everyday skirts but no everyday dresses. Yep. I’m more of a separates kinda gal so that’s part of the reason. And I guess the other reason is my attitude toward dresses. I guess I think of them as being something that you don’t wear everyday.

The five dresses I own only get worn a couple of times a year or not even that. They include a vintage black dress that I got years ago; the dress I wore as a bridesmaid to a wedding; two dresses I made from vintage Vogue patterns, and the dress I made for my BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern contest entry earlier this year (I was a finalist but didn’t win). I usually end up wearing a vintage hat with these outfits and even a crinoline with the one I made for the sewing contest – not exactly everyday wear but I do wear them to work when I’m in the mood and the weather is warm enough in San Francisco.

So when I heard about Christine Haynes‘s Emery Dress and the Red Velvet Dress by Cake Patterns – I had to take a closer look. At first I thought the Emery Dress was a touch too girly for me – I think the bow made me hesitate. But then I saw the striped Emery Dress by Devon of Miss Make blog and it convinced me that I should get the pattern. She cut the collar on the bias and it looks fabulous, doesn’t it? She kindly let me repost this photo from her blog post Emery Dress Pattern.

Emery Dress - sewn by Devon of Miss Make - pattern by Christine Haynes

The Emery Dress Sewalong has just started but Christine is only on fabric and notions. Muslin sewing starts on Oct. 30. You can view the schedule here. I think you could still join in on it if you order the pattern right away. In November Christine will focus on bust adjustments – small and full. I’m looking forward to that!

The Red Velvet Sewalong starts on November 11! So there’s still time to participate.It’ll be a series of ten sessions over two weeks. I participated in the Cake Patterns Hummingbird Sewalong earlier this year, which was a lot of fun. So far I’ve made three Hummingbird tops, which you can see here.

Melizza of Pincushion Treats was a pattern tester for the Red Velvet sewing pattern. You can see two of the dresses she made here.

And I also love the Lady Skater Dress that Katie of Kadiddlehopper made. She wrote about it in Lady Skater: Sakura Blossom Style and graciously let me post this photo of her twirling around in the dress. Check out her post for more photos of this pretty dress.

Lady Skater Dress by Katie of Kadiddlehopper

And last but not least, today my copy of Clothing for Everyday: Stylish Dress Book by Yoshiko Tsukiori arrived! I pre-ordered it on Amazon.

Clothing for Everyday Wear: Stylish Dress Book by Toshiko Tsukiori

This is the English translation published by Laurence King. There are dresses, tops, jackets, and pants in this book – a total of 26 garments – according to the book flap. There are plenty of photos in the book – slender, winsome, and unsmiling  Japanese models, which probably means grading the pattern up a bit for me. The pattern is sized for XS, S, M, and L. No XL folks.

The dimensions for large are 36 5/8″ (93 cm) bust; 29 1/8″ (74 cm) waist, and 38 5/8″ (98 cm) hips. Based on that, I’m more of an XL in the hips and height. Oh, and the pattern gives the same height for all four sizes – 63″ (160 cm), which must be a mistake. 63″ is 5′ 3″. I’m nearly 5′ 8″ so who knows what the height measurement means.

I’m looking forward to adding everyday dresses to my wardrobe. Have you made any dresses that fall into the everyday category? What patterns have you liked? Have you  made anything from Japanese pattern books? What was your sizing experience like?

And do let me know if you’re participating in the Emery Dress Sewalong or the Red Velvet Sewalong. I’d love to see what your version looks like!

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My Sew Red October Project

Fitted tee using part of Sewing Cake Hummingbird pattern - photo by Chuleenan Svetvilas - csews.com

OK – my Sew Red October project seems a bit lazy (and lame) in comparison to the oh-so-pretty Red Roses Dress that Heather of Handmade by Heather B made or this red polka dot beauty by Roisin of the Dolly Clackett blog. But I wanted to do something super easy after spending many, many hours on my Fall for Cotton blouse, which involved delicate 60-something-year old vintage swiss dot fabric, hand embroidery, and an invisible side zipper (see pix here My Fall for Cotton 1940s Girl Friday Blouse Is Finished!).

I made a fitted tee using the front and back pattern pieces of the Sewing Cake Hummingbird top and drafting a piece to extend the bottom, which you can see in my my post Hashtag Sew Red October. (I made my first Hummingbird peplum top during the Hummingbird Sewalong.)

This my first Sewing Cake pattern hack – and I’m sure I’ll do plenty more. Melanie of The Seeds of 3 has done a quite a few Sewing Cake hacks – see the links in her comment in my Hashtag Sew Red October post.

Thanks to Lady Katza for coming up with the initial hashtag and to Gillian for creating the very cool button below. Love it!

Sew Red October

Now I’ll subject you to a bunch of photos (or what my husband calls narcissism). As I mentioned in the earlier post on this top, I was just guessing about the width of the hip area. I did want a snug tee but this seems a tad too fitted. Actually I prefer not wearing it all smoothed out because then it makes my waist look slightly less pudgy than it currently is. Hehheh. (I need to get back to the gym!)

One thing I forgot about this knit fabric is that it’s a heavyweight cotton knit (with 5 percent lycra) and doesn’t have a lot of give in it. Sure it stretches but it’s got a tight weave so you don’t have much ease.  The red Hummingbird peplum top I made was snug. So for a tee, I should have traced another Hummingbird top at the next size up. Oh well, next time. (You can see my three Sewing Cake peplum tops in the post More Sewing Cake Hummingbird Tops!)

Thanks sewcialists for this sewalong idea! It was a good way for me to

Tee using part of Sewing Cake Hummingbird pattern - photo by Chuleenan Svetvilas - csews.com

Tee using part of Sewing Cake Hummingbird top pattern - photo by Chuleenan Svetvilas csews.com

Tee using part of Sewing Cake Hummingbird top pattern - photo by Chuleenan Svetvilas csews.com

Tee using part of Sewing Cake Hummingbird pattern - photo by Chuleenan Svetvilas csews.com

Tee using Sewing Cake Hummingbird top pattern - photo by Chuleenan Svetvilas csews.com

Materials

60″ wide heavyweight cotton knit with 5 percent lycra $9.99/yard
[I had two yards and much of it had stains (from a prewash disaster), which I cut around. I think you could make this top with about a yard of fabric.]
Schmetz jersey needle
Matching thread

Accessories: I’m wearing a cheap hat made in China from paper fiber but I like it a lot and wear it often. In my hair is a strip of the knit fabric with the ends knotted together – a great way to use up scraps and make headbands or hair ties! The vintage bracelet was a gift from one of my sisters. Jeans are RTW – trouser cut by Tahari that I’ve had for a few years.

Photos: The top photo was shot when a beam of late afternoon sun was hitting the shed I was standing in front of – thus the sun glasses. But then that bit of sun disappeared so I shot the rest against the back of the apartment building. By then the area was all in the shade, which gives the photos a bluish cast.

Thanks for reading! What have you made or are in the process of making for Sew Red October? Please let me know and include links so I can check out your project. I’d love to see what you’ve made!

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Wool Newsboy Cap and Beret – Final photos!

Wool tweed newsboy cap - photo by Chuleenan Svetvilas | csews.com

A couple of weeks ago, I finally took a bunch of photos of the wool newsboy cap and beret that I made for my husband Kofi. However, he only liked a few of the photos. So here are the “approved” photos. (If you want to read the nitty gritty details on my draft patterns, see Sewing Pattern for a Wool Newsboy Cap and Beret.)

Oh, and I should mention that I made his lined vest (with small patch pockets) earlier this year. I think I was from a Simplicity pattern that looked pretty dorky on the envelope. There were six variations of the vest and I think I combined elements from two of them to create this version. This is the second one I made for him. I used a nice grey-blue wool on the first one. This one is a brushed cotton with a small houndstooth pattern, which you can’t really see here. I haven’t blogged about either vest. If you want to know what pattern it was, let me know and I’ll see if I can find it. Maybe I can get him to model both of them for a future post. 😉

Here’s the beret. There are three rows of top stitching around the bottom. One row of stitching looked odd. It’s amazing how much better it looked with the additional rows.

Wool tweed beret - photo by Chuleenan Svetvilas

I’m happy to report that my husband told me that he got a compliment from a stranger on the cap. A woman told him she really liked it and asked him where he got it. He proudly told her “My wife made it.” This is the photo I used in my earlier blog post but I thought I’d use it again because so many people liked it on Instagram. 😉

Wool tweed newsboy cap with brim - photo by Chuleenan Svetvilas

A vertical shot so you can see more of the beautiful tiles behind him.

Wool newsboy cap - photo by Chuleenan Svetvilas

Have you made anything for your significant other? What did you make and did they wear it?

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Hashtag Sew Red October

Sew Red October

I’m participating in Sew Red October (#sewredoctober) – initially called #redoctober but then it was changed when folks realized that it was a hashtag being used for the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team. The idea is simple –  sew something in red in October.

I first heard about it from Leila of Three Dresses Project in her September post The Sewcialists do it again with Red October. Then you post your photos to the Sewcialists Flickr page. There are some great finished projects up already so check it out!

The great logo was designed by Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow. I love the periscope, which oh so cleverly evokes the entertaining film (and book) The Hunt for Red October. Thank you Gillian!

Red is one of my favorite colors so I wanted to participate as soon as I heard about it. But first I had to complete my Fall for Cotton project and my Grainline Tiny Pocket Tank. (You can see photos here: My Fall for Cotton 1940s Girl Friday Blouse Is Finished! I haven’t posted about the tank yet.)

We were going through a couple of heat waves in the Bay Area but I knew that wasn’t going to last so I had to get the tank done.

Meanwhile I thought about what I would make for Red October. I had a couple yards of red knit fabric that was ruined in June when I prewashed it with three other knits – black, brown, and blue. For some reason the red was the only fabric that got these blotchy stains on it from the black! I was so disgusted I just put it away. Here’s one splotchy area. Grrrrr!

Stain on my red knit fabric from prewashing

When I heard about Red October I decided to take another look at the fabric. A couple areas didn’t have random dark areas on it so I thought why not see if I could make something from it? So I decided to do my first Sewing Cake Hummingbird pattern hack and make a red tee shirt. (You can buy the Hummingbird pattern in Sewing Cake’s Etsy shop as a printed paper pattern or a PDF.)

I’ve already made three Hummingbird peplum tops and I like the binding on the neckline and armhole so why not make a tee? (Photos of my blue, striped, and red ones are here: More Hummingbird Tops!)

I used the front and back pieces of the Green top and then I drafted a bottom piece 9 inches (22.9 cm) long to attach to the existing Hummingbird top pieces. I really wasn’t sure how much to add to the hip width to accommodate the stretch. Also I wanted it to be a fitted tee, not a loose one. I used my hip curve to draw a line from the waist to the widest hip point. I decided to add about 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) – it may not enough but hey, this is essentially a muslin, right?

Cutting around stains

Here’s a closer shot of the bottom piece I drafted and just placed beneath my pattern piece for the Hummingbird front top piece. I drafted another bottom piece (also 9 inches long) for the back.

New bottom piece for Hummingbird hack

My pieces are cut and ready to sew! (Yeah, they’re wrinkly because I folded up the fabric to cut elsewhere and didn’t have an iron on hand.)

Hummingbird hack - cut pieces

Have you hacked any Cake Patterns? What did you do? And if you’re making something for Red October, please share your link in the comments below. I’d love to see what you’re working on!

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Winners of My Vintage Fabric Swatch Giveaway

Vintage Swiss dot cotton voile - late 1940s

I had a little vintage fabric leftover from my Fall for Cotton project so I decided to some of it away. This Swiss dot voile fabric dates back to the late 1940s, according to Maxie’s Daughter Fabrics, the Philadelphia store where I got the fabric. So I thought it would be nice to let other folks see what this fabric looked like in person. (Thanks to Trice of SewTell for telling me to visit Philly’s Fabric Row area when I was there in August!) My original intention was just to cut small swatches – a few inches square. But then I realized that I likely won’t do anything with my remnant so why not give larger pieces? I have three largish scraps, one about 1/4 yard and the other two are more triangular (30 inches on one side). I drew three names for the largish scraps and one will get a swatch. Not everyone who entered a comment wanted fabric so I didn’t have five winners. Here are the winners of my Vintage Fabric Swatch Giveaway:

1/4 yard – MaciNic of The Somnolent Dachshund who made a very lovely red and white striped Tiramisu, which you can read in her post I do like Tiramisu.

1 triangular piece – Catja of Gjeometry, who made two snzzy knit dresses for her Fall for Cotton project. Check our her post That 70s Dress: Diane Von Furstenberg.

1 triangular piece – Lyric of Sew and Cro, whose blog I recently discovered. Her tagline is intriguing: “Wardrobe transformation from modern to Regency, Edwardian, 1940s and 1950s.” Her blog covers vintage sewing and crochet.

1 swatch – Loran of Loran’s World, who made an amazing number of outfits for Fall for Cotton. You should definitely visit her site to see what she made! Here’s a link to her second of three (THREE!) posts on her completed outfits: Fall for Cotton – part two.

Congrats ladies! Send your mailing addresses to info [at] csews [dot] com!

And if any of the folks who commented by over the past week would like a swatch, send me an email with your mailing address and I’ll send you one!

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My Vintage Weekend

Last weekend was my vintage weekend. On Saturday I stopped by the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, which was having a sale of vintage clothes, shoes, and other accessories. This place  occasionally gets vintage goods from its estate services.  The next day I went to the Alameda Flea Market a.k.a. the Alameda Point Antiques Faire (its official name), where hundreds of vendors convene on the first Sunday of the month, selling a huge array of vintage (and not so vintage), upcycled, and funky items, everything from furniture and toys to clothes and jewelry. I’ll write about that fun experience tomorrow.

The Depot is a nonprofit organization loaded with donated art and craft supplies, vintage goods, fabric, furniture, and more, which it sells. Its mission is “to divert waste materials from landfills by collecting and redistributing discarded goods as low-cost supplies for art, education, and social services.”

I looked at the clothes at the Depot but they were either too small or the styles weren’t what I was interested in. But I was thrilled to find some vintage patterns for $1 each. I spent many minutes looking through two small boxes of patterns from the 1950s and 1960s.

Here’s what I bought. All the patterns included the original instructions but I haven’t checked yet to see if any pattern pieces are missing. They patterns are for bust size 30, 32 or 34, smaller than my 36 but I’m hoping it won’t be too difficult to grade up. I’ve only graded up one size when I made a dress from a vintage Vogue pattern.

I might start with the blouse below (Vogue 9961). I’ve been assured by Melizza (@mujerboricua) via Twitter, that it’s “totally doable.” She had a vintage pattern that she graded up from a size 40 bust to 44. She told me that she used the book Fit for Real People as a guide and she kindly offered to lend it to me if I’m ever in the Peninsula.

This Vogue 7034  dress pattern is size 14, which back then, as you can see, meant a 32 bust and a 35 hip. No vanity sizing back then!

1950 Vogue dress pattern
Vogue 7034 dress pattern from 1950

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vogue 1955 coat pattern
Vogue 1544 coat pattern from 1955 (apologies for blurry image!). One of the recommended fabrics is “wool hopsacking,” a loosely woven wool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vogue 1960 blouse pattern
Vogue 9961 blouse pattern from 1960. For this pattern, a size 12 meant a 32 bust, 25 waist, and a 34 hip. This top has a waistband.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vogue 5380 dresses - no copyright date listed
Vogue 5380 dresses – no copyright date listed

 

 

Vogue 6419 dress (no date but looks very '60s)
Vogue 6419 dress (no date but looks very ’60s)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vogue 7282 dress pattern (no copyright date, 1960s)
This Vogue 7282 dress pattern says “new sizing” on the front. Here a size 12 was 34 bust, 25 1/2 waist and 36 hip. No copyright date but looks ’60s 

 

Vogue dress pattern 5968, 1960s (no date)
Vogue dress pattern 5968. I like the buttons on this dress.

 

I love vintage patterns of the 1950s and ’60s. I’ve also bought some Vogue reissued dress patterns from the 1950s. Have you made any clothes from vintage patterns? Did you have to grade the pattern? How did it turn out?

 

Choosing the Right Interfacing

V2984I’ve been thinking a lot about interfacing lately because I’ve been trying to figure out if I want to use what this Vogue pattern (V2984, now out of print) recommends (60″ nylon fusible knit interfacing) for this wool crepe jacket — or use something else. I’m not sure what that “something else” will be so I thought I’d take a moment and write about what I’ve learned about choosing the right interfacing.

The most important things to keep in mind is:

  • the hand of your fabric,
  • the weight of your interfacing,
  • and your pattern.

For example, if you’ve got lightweight fabric, such as cotton voile, and your pattern calls for interfacing for the collar, you don’t want to use a heavy-weight interfacing or you’ll have a really stiff and uncomfortable collar. Plus you’d change the hand of your fabric from something that’s light and flowing to something thick and stiff.

What does interfacing do? It provides additional support for your fabric; it’s most commonly used in areas that get a bit more wear and tear, such as a neck facing or a waistband.

Earlier this week I tweeted (as @csewsalot): “Do you use fusible interfacing? If so what are your faves? Any that you avoid?”

Erin Erickson (@yorkiemischief), who blogs at Dog Under My Desk, replied: “It depends on what you’re using it for. For quilting cotton in bags I use SF-101 (Pellon’s woven fusible) + sew-ins”

She followed that up with a couple more tweets: “I’m sure there are good applications for non-woven fusibles, maybe clothes, but definitely not on quilting cotton.”

and then: “This is what happens when you fuse non-wovens to quilting cotton”

interfacing2
(photo courtesy of Erin Erickson of Dog Under My Desk)

As you can see, selecting the right interfacing is really important. (Thanks to Erin for sending a bigger photo!)

I bought the above Vogue pattern in 2009 and I remember reading the back of the envelope and thinking — uh, what’s nylon fusible knit interfacing? I went to Britex Fabrics and looked at some but they didn’t have any that was 60″ wide. I wasn’t ready to make the jacket and hadn’t bought my fashion fabric yet so I put it away.

Not long after that, I was reading Anna Maria Horner‘s book Seams to Mewhich has many lovely projects and patterns, and she mentioned that she didn’t like interfacing. In fact, she recommended using flannel or some other fabric for some of the projects in her book. This made me rethink interfacing.

I went through a brief anti-interfacing moment. Here’s what I made during that time.

Knit top - no interfacing
The result of not using interfacing in the yoke of this knit top

I decided not to use any interfacing on this rayon knit top, which as you can see, was a mistake. Knit is very drapey and the yoke really needs additional support. I had made this top once before and used a medium-weight fusible interfacing that was too stiff so the yoke didn’t look quite right. When I made it again, I went in the opposite direction and so I got this saggy front. Though I can wear the top I need to pair it with a turtleneck, which gives it something to stick to, and I have to remember to sit up straight so it lays right. So I don’t wear it very much even though I really like the fabric.

White dress - flannel interfacing
Using flannel as interfacing on this dress

On this vintage dress pattern (a Vogue reissue of a 1953 pattern), I used white flannel as my interfacing. But I think it was a little too thick. The white cotton fabric was of a lighter weight and had a different hand than the flannel. However, I got the five yards of fashion fabric for about $10 at the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse in Oakland and  I was experimenting. It was sort of my muslin but I’ve worn the dress a couple times a year with a vintage black straw hat so I guess it worked out. It was a good learning experience!

Here’s the pattern:

Vogue 1953 Dress Pattern

And here’s my last example. On this vintage dress, I didn’t use any interfacing. The red cotton fabric has a crisp hand to it and it didn’t need any additional support.

Red dress - no interfacing
The bodice, front detail and reverse side (finished with seam tape)

I’ll be writing more about fusible interfacing but if you have any interfacing nightmares or successes, let me know. Or if you have any suggestions for interfacing alternatives to nylon knit fusible (organza perhaps) for wool crepe jacket, please comment below!

 

The Search for Sewing Advice After Hours

Colette Patterns tutorials (left), BurdaStyle techniques, Threads Magazine How-to
Colette Patterns tutorials (left), BurdaStyle techniques (top right), Threads Magazine How-to

When I made a dress from BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern, I added my own adjustment to the pattern, such as lining the bodice of the dress. Though I had made a couple lined vests for my husband and lined a jacket, I hadn’t lined the bodice of a dress before. It had seemed like a simple thing but when I began to put the lining and fashion fabric together, I got confused. It was late at night so I couldn’t stop by my local fabric store for advice. Naturally I turned on my laptop and began my search for sewing advice.

I typed “how to line a dress” in Google and got a tutorial on How to Line a Sleeveless Dress on Blithe Stitches. This post had helpful photos and clear step-by-step instructions so I could easily figure it out.

The web is a great resource for sewing advice. Many sewing enthusiasts, designers, publications, and companies have sewing tutorials on their blogs and websites. So if you ever get stuck on something, fire up your computer and start your search. You’ll be amazed at the plethora of instructions, both written and video, out there.

A few of my go-to places for instructions and tips (in no particular order) are:

Colette Patterns Tutorials — Sarai Mittnick, Colette Patterns founder and designer, author of The Colette Sewing Handbook, covers a variety of topics, ranging from working with fabric to fitting and adjustments. She has a nice explanation on installing invisible zippers.

BurdaStyle’s Techniques section — If you click on “Resources” on the home page, you’ll see a wide array of sewing techniques and tips posted by BurdaStyle, members, Burda Style magazine, and others, including advice for beginners.

Threads Magazine‘s “How To” pages include everything from garment fitting to sewing techniques but some content isn’t accessible unless you are a “Threads Insider.”  To view those tips you need to join ($32.95/year for online membership or $12.95 for print subscribers).

Where do you get your online sewing tips?

My First Fashion Photo Shoot for a Dress

photo by Susie Biehler
photo by Susie Biehler

I’ve never worked with a photographer to shoot anything I’ve made. It was either me with my iPhone, friends, or my husband with a point-and-shoot digital camera. But this time I’d be working with a professional photographer – Susie Biehler, a fine art photographer who graciously agreed to take photos of me in exchange for a handmade top. (To see how I found a photographer, read this post.) Here’s what happened on my first fashion photo shoot for a dress I made using the Elizabeth Gathered-Waist Dress pattern from the book BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern.

You may have read in an earlier post that I entered this dress in the BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern contest. I had never entered a sewing contest before but I knew that good photography would be important to present the dress to its best advantage.

We arranged to meet at the San Francisco landmark, the Palace of Fine Arts, which has a theater, rotunda, lake, and plenty of trees. Susie visited the location earlier in the week to see what the lighting would be like at 9 am. Though it had rained earlier that week, it was bright and sunny that Saturday morning. The temperature was in the 50s so it wasn’t very warm but it was bearable even though I was wearing a sleeveless dress.

I live in Berkeley so it would take me at least a half hour to get there, so I needed to change into my dress at the location. I didn’t want it to get wrinkled. You can read here about how I prepared for the photo shoot.

photo by Susie Biehler
photo by Susie Biehler

It was easy to find parking before 9 am in the morning. We met in person for the first time — and then walked around to the back of the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre among some trees and I changed there. Susie kept an eye out for morning joggers and I quickly unbuttoned my cardigan and slipped the dress over my head. Then I shimmied out of my jeans, put on my high heeled shoes, and was ready to go.

Every evening that week I was up really late sewing so I hadn’t really given much thought to how I would pose. I have very little experience modeling (I once posed in an outfit for a retail store in an informal shoot) but I know that I’m really not very patient and that I don’t have a repertoire of facial expressions or poses.

I thought that having a prop would be one way I could compensate for my lack of experience. It would give me something to do with my hands. So I  ordered a black-and-white full-size umbrella on Amazon.

I told the photographer that my goal was to show the dress to its best advantage. I also had had conversations with my work colleague Cailan who had attended fashion school. She has suggested that I wear high-heeled shoes, telling me they would provide some height and would make a big difference in the photos. She was right – I didn’t take any photos with the low-heeled shoes.

photo by Susie Biehler
photo by Susie Biehler

We began with me posting with the umbrella open and and then closed. I stood in an area where the sun streamed in between the columns and began smiling and posing, trying to keep my arms relaxed. I didn’t want to look stiff. We took photos there until we began losing light. Susie also pointed out that the open umbrella may overwhelm the dress so we didn’t take any more pictures with it open.

We left that area and walked along the paved path along the lake with the fountain in the background. Though we took a few shots there, Susie said the sun was getting too bright there. So we then moved to an area that had a bit of shade and took shots standing near a bench.

Then Susie suggested that I sit on the top of the bench back with my feet on the bench. I liked those photos. Then we moved over to a tree and took photos of me holding the dress out to show off the crinoline and full skirt.

I quickly ran out of poses and I couldn’t think of what other views I needed other than front, side, and back. It probably didn’t help that I was tired. I’d had less than six hours of sleep the night before and that entire week I’d been up until 4 am nearly every night working on the dress (I could only work on it when I got home from work). After about an hour, we were done. I couldn’t think of any other view to shoot.

To see the photos I uploaded to my BurdaStyle project page for the sewing contest, go here. All the photos on this page are ones that I didn’t post to that page.

photo by Susie Biehler
photo by Susie Biehler

Though Susie is not a fashion photographer, she did a very nice job. I also learned a lot from this experience. On the drive back home I thought of other things that would have been helpful. Here’s my list:

  1. Create a shot list – write down every possible shot you want so you don’t forget anything, for example, Full-length Views: Front/Back/Side/three-quarter; Bodice: Front/Back/Side; Details: Gathering at waistline; Invisible zipper; crinoline.
  2. Bring along a friend who can act as your stylist and tell you when some part of the dress is off because of your pose or let you know when your hair or makeup needs fixing. It’s hard to do it all by yourself.
  3. Look at some fashion magazines and get some ideas for poses. Search online for model poses. I didn’t have any time to do this because all my energy was focused on finishing the dress. Modeling is a skill — and unless you’re a natural at it, you should do some research and practice before a shoot. Otherwise, you’ll end up looking awkward and have a stiff expressions on your face.

If you have any other tips, please let me know!

 

 

 

 

Nitty Gritty Dress Details

Clockwise from top left: Gathering the skirt, detail of hand sewing the lining around the invisible zipper, the hook and waist stay near the zipper, waist stay attached to bodice
Clockwise from top left: Pinning gathered skirt to waist, detail of hand sewing the lining around the invisible zipper, the hook and waist stay near the zipper, waist stay attached to bodice

Yesterday I wrote a post about adjusting the neckline and lining the dress I was making from the book BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern. I also mentioned that I would be writing more about the dress details. So here’s the nitty gritty.

After I sewed the lining and the fashion fabric together, I turned the pieces inside out (wrong sides together). See this tutorial on Blithe Stitches for step-by-step directions on how to line a sleeveless dress.

Three-quarter view - turning in dressI sewed a couple inches down the left side seam below the armhole to leave room to insert the side invisible zipper. My next step was to prepare the skirt so I could attach it to the bodice. I sewed the right side of the back and front skirt pieces together so I had one long rectangular piece of fabric.

Then I sewed yards of seam tape to the bottom edge. The book instructs you to finish the hem edge by serging or using a zig-zag stitch. I don’t have a serger and I don’t really like the look of a zigzag stitch so I used seam tape.

[Side note: Britex Fabrics is only a couple blocks from my office so I went there on my lunch break to get seam tape but they didn’t have any in the off-white color I needed! Next I called Discount Fabrics and asked them if they had any in the color I needed – nope. My last hope was Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley, which is about a 15-minute walk from where I live. I called and they checked to see if they had off-white seam tape and they did! Yay – but that meant I needed to leave work early enough to get there before it closed at 6:30 pm. I got there about 10 minutes before closing. Thank you Stonemountain & Daughter!]

After that was done, I machine basted two rows of stitches at the top of the skirt, which would then be pulled to gather the fabric at the waistline. The book had a great tip — break up the gathering into four sections, which makes it easier to manage. You just take the front and back pieces, divide them in half, and baste each section separately.

After I pinned and sewed the gathered skirt piece to the bodice, I sewed up the left side of the skirt, leaving open several inches for the side invisible zipper. I pinned and sewed the invisible zipper to the bodice and skirt sections, carefully keeping the lining of the bodice out of the way. I found the  tutorial “Installing an Invisible Zipper” on Coletterie to be very helpful.

Once the zipper was in place, I realized the bodice lining might be a tad short to fold over the waist seam so I attached seam tape to the hem of the bodice lining. Then I ironed a crease in the lining so it lined up with the waist seamline and hand sewed the lining to the waist just over the seam and around the invisible zipper. When I hand sewed the lining to the zipper tape, I made sure that it wouldn’t get caught on the zipper teeth when the zipper was going up or down.

Bra strap holder and snap
Bra strap holder and snap

Next I hand sewed the hem in place — by this time I was getting really tired of hand sewing. And then I had two final details I wanted to add — bra strap holders and a waist stay. My mom first showed me how to make a bra strap holder many years ago. She grew up in Thailand, which has hot and humid weather so sleeveless outfits are the norm. Thus she was an old hand at adding bra strap holders to her clothes. She made them by crocheting a thread carrier and attaching a snap at the end. (See this post on Design & Style for how to make a thread carrier.)

But I didn’t have a crochet hook, it was after midnight and the photo shoot for the dress was on the following morning. I was out of time so I improvised. I looked through my stash of ribbons, bias tape and twill tape and found some off white twill tape that I could use in place of thread carriers. I sewed one end to the shoulder and sewed a snap to the other side.

I got the idea of adding a waist stay from a reissued 1957 Vogue dress pattern I bought a few years ago. I made the dress (it used four yards of fabric!), which got me really interested in construction details that I don’t usually see in modern patterns. A waist stay helps the dress keep its shape and also take away some stress from the zipper. You hook the waist stay before you zip up. The waist stay (I used Petersham ribbon for mine) has little ease in it so it brings the fabric edges of the zipper opening close together.

I attached the waist stay in seven places – near the front and back of t he zipper, at the two front and back darts and at the right side seam. I hand sewed it in place with small stitches at the top of the ribbon at the waistline. And then I was done with the dress.

On Friday, I’ll write about the photo shoot for the dress, how I found a photographer, and what it was like to be a model for an hour.

If you want to see more photos on the dress, see my BurdaStyle project page. My dress is a finalist in the BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern Sewing Contest! To see the 20 finalists, go to this page. My dress is on slide 13. You have until Sun., Feb. 24, 5 pm ET to vote.

 

 

Making a Dress from the Book: BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern

Construction Details A
Clockwise from top left: Muslin of bodice, pinning darts in fashion fabric and lining, pinning fashion fabric and lining at neckline, attaching neck and armhole facings to lining

In December I bought the book BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern at a sewing event at Britex Fabrics and I had also interviewed the author, Jamie Lau. Naturally, I had to make something from the book! And when BurdaStyle announced a sewing contest using a pattern from the book, I had some incentive to get going. But first I had to think about what to make and wrote here about my initial criteria and what I was considering. After I looked over the fabric in my stash, I knew that making a dress from the book would be my best option.

At first I thought I would use the pattern for the Jamie Shift Dress because I had some great wool crepe that I could color block. But it would have taken me a lot more time (and muslins!) to adjust the pattern so it would be more flattering to my curvy figure.

So I finally decided to use the master pattern for the Elizabeth Gathered-Waist Dress. It’s from the chapter that features fashions from the 1950s, an era when dresses had full skirts and women wore crinolines.

Audrey Hepburn in the 1957 film Funny Face

This pattern has a square neckline but I decided to give it more of a boat neck, which is a style I really like. That neckline always makes me think of Audrey Hepburn and the dress she wore in the 1957 film Funny Face, which also stars Fred Astaire who plays a fashion photographer.

To change the neckline of the Elizabeth Gathered-Waist Dress, I traced the neckline of the Jamie Shift Dress but made it wider at the shoulders.

I made one muslin of the bodice but once I tried it on I realized I made it too wide. It didn’t look right and my bra straps showed. So I traced out another pattern but only made it about an inch wider than the Jamie neckline — much better!

My other adjustment to the bodice was that I decided to line it. The pattern uses facings. So using my muslin, I cut out the bodice twice – once from my fashion fabric, which I got from Discount Fabrics in San Francisco, and a second time from my lining fabric (a lovely Bemberg rayon lining from Britex).

I pinned and sewed the front and back darts on all the pieces and then I pinned the neck and armhole facings to my lining front and back. My fashion fabric has a soft hand and I wanted it to give it a little more stiffness around the sleeves. I used a very lightweight interfacing on the facings.

Next I attached front and back at the shoulders of the lining version and the fashion fabric. To put the two pieces together, I followed the clear instructions in the tutorial “How to Line a Sleeveless Dress,” which I found on the blog Blithe Stitches. Though my dress wasn’t exactly sleeveless and it also had a side zipper, the directions still worked for me.

Tomorrow I’ll be writing more about how I finished lining the bodice, dealing with the side invisible zipper, and additional construction details.

In the meantime, you can see more photos of the dress on my BurdaStyle project page and you can vote for my dress here. My  dress is one of 20 finalists in the contest! So please check out the contest entries and if you’re a member you can cast your vote. It’s free to join!

 

Pre-washing Fabric

Prewashed fabric

I usually pre-wash cotton woven fabric in cold water and tumble dry low before I cut it. Pre-washing fabric ensures that your fabric will not shrink after you wash the completed garment. It would be really awful to spend a lot of time cutting and sewing something only to have it shrink after your first wash. If you want your fabric to last longer, then don’t put it in the dryer. You’ll also be saving energy by line drying.

Sometimes I’d rather skip pre-washing because I just want to start sewing. But I tell myself it’s better to pre-wash.

You can even pre-wash silk, as I learned from Steph at her 3 Hours Past blog here.

The only exception I make is wool, which I don’t typically pre-wash. However, I might consider dry cleaning it before cutting. For example, I decided to dry clean some wool crepe fabric because I’ve read that it shrinks.

You can certainly throw wool fabric in the washer. Then it’ll be machine washable when you’ve completed the garment. I wouldn’t put it in the dryer though. My guess is that it would shrink more in the dryer than in the washer.

If you have a more delicate wool or an expensive wool, you might not want to put it in the wash because you’ll be putting more stress on the fabric and the fabric may get worn out more quickly.

When you pre-wash your fabric, be sure to finish the cut edges by either pinking the edges or just sewing a zigzag stitch close to the edge.

I pinked the cut edges before prewashing my fabric.
I pinked the cut edges before prewashing my fabric.

This will prevent any unraveling of the fabric as it goes through the wash cycle. If you don’t do that, you’ll end up with a mess of tangled strings.

If you are washing a piece of fabric that’s more than two yards long, it’s a good idea to sew then ends together in one big loop. Then the fabric won’t get all tangled up with the other fabric you’re pre-washing.

I forgot to do that when I did a load of pre-washing earlier this month. I had two longer pieces of fabric – one was about three yards and the other four yards –  that I was washing along with other cotton prints that were one or two yards each. So when I took the load out of the washer and the dryer, the longer yardage was all tangled up with the rest of the fabric (as you can see in the photo above).

If you are using fusible interfacing in a project that you intend to put in the wash after you’ve finished the garment , you may want to pre-wash it in the washer or soak it in hot tap water for 15 minutes and letting it air dry (as mentioned on Fabricland’s site here). I haven’t experienced interfacing shrinking but I have read about other people having problems, such as in this post here.

Do you pre-wash your fabric before you sew?