Friday, September 28, 2012

... Infinite Dress

OK, so it's been a while, but things are basically getting back to normal. I had the baby (whaaat? I know!) and we're getting used to being parents and everything, and I 'm slowing getting back to making non-baby things again (albiet with a baby slung around my torso, which adds a delightfully challenging level of difficulty to pretty much everything). So, what kind of things? Well, lately I've been working on a custom project: bridesmaids dresses for a good friend of mine.

My friend is getting married in November and was interested "infinite" or convertible dresses for her attendants. Have you seen these? They're basically knit dresses with circle skirts and really (really) long straps that you can wrap around yourself in a theoretically infinite number of ways to create different styles: halter, strapless, one-shoulder, cap sleeve, etc. For a wedding party, the upside to this is that everyone is in the same color and fabric, but can wrap the dress in the style that is particularly flattering to each person. I told my friend I'd give it a whirl and see what I could come up with.

Test Dress - fabric was too heavy!

One back option
For the basics of making this dress, I am hugely indebted to a tutorial on the Sew Like My Mom blog, which gives guidance on what measurements to take and how to put the dress together. What I found was that the dress was pretty simple - four pieces in all, sewn together on one seam. The edges are all raw (meaning that you have to use a nice heavy knit fabric that won't roll up on the cut edge, unless you want to have to finish the edges, which would be a huge pain in the behind). It really couldn't be easier.

Winning fabric!
By far the most complicated and time-consuming parts of this dress are a) finding suitable fabric, and b) cutting out the pieces. Since there aren't a ton of fabric stores near me, I ended up ordering lots and lots of swatches online. I made a test dress for my friend out of a "slinky" fabric which was 90% lycra and 10% acetate, but found that that fabric was way too heavy and stretchy, which resulted in the dress being way too big (did I mention my friend lives in NJ? This meant a lot of sending measurements and test dresses back and forth until we got the fit right). For her actual bridesmaids dresses, we went with a lycra/spandex blend in a deep merlot color that had a nice weight to it and a little bit of shine. Needing a specific kind of fabric definitely limited our color choices, which is tough for someone planning a wedding, but we luckily found something that my friend really liked.

Cutting out the straps requires a very clean floor
So the other difficult part of this project was cutting out the pieces, particularly the straps. Since all the edges are raw, you want to be really careful about making nice, straight cuts. The straps are so long (about 100") - longer than my usual cutting surface - so I had to lay the fabric out on the kitchen floor (after swiffering the heck out of it). I still wasn't happy with the straightness of the cuts, so I ended up doing a rough cut with shears, then going back with a rotary cutter and straight edge to make sure the width of the straps was uniform and the edges really clean. Time-consuming, but worth it!
Trying out different styles

I dig this cap-sleeve option
So after making a bunch of these dresses, what tips would I give? When you take your measurements, measure your waist at its narrowest point, because the waistband of the dress will pretty much migrate to that spot anyway. Be really aware of the stretchiness of your fabric: if it's really stretchy, you'll want to take and inch or two off your waist measurement. I would definitely make sure you have a really sharp pair of shears (or rotary cutter) before you cut out your pieces. Baste everything together before you sew the seams - it's really easy to catch in the different layers when you're stitching.

Hopefully after the big day my friend will let me use some of the pics of her wedding party so you can see the full effect!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

... Random Round-Up: Baby Edition (Pom-Pom Curtains, Crib Sheets, Baby Clothes)

So here's my reason for being so lazy lately: I have been gestating a baby! It's true. Not that this actively takes a lot of time, but it has made me fairly tired at different points and has certainly taken up a lot of mental energy as we try to get everything ready for our new tiny roommate. All this preparation has involved making things, of course. So what follows are a few baby-related projects I've been working on in the last few months. I have to warn you, the word "cute" figures heavily into this post.

Pom-Pom Curtains

Several of the projects have been for the nursery, which is still in-progress but happily getting closer to completion. One of the first things I made for the nursery was a set of pom-pom curtains for the room's lone window. I started with a pair of fairly sheer white voile tab-top panels that I picked up at IKEA for about $10. The window looks directly at the building next to ours, about five feet away - not the most attractive thing to look at - so I wanted something that would let in light while still screening the view. I decided I didn't like the look of the tab-tops (they were weirdly long, so the curtains hung low and exposed the top of the roller shade) so I cut them off and sewed in rod pockets instead (the curtains came unhemmed, so I had a lot of extra length to work with) and then hemmed the bottom.

Attaching the pom-pom trim was really easy - just a matter of pinning it down to the inside and bottom edges of each panel and stitching down the center of the trim.

I got the trim on Etsy for about $2.50/yd. I think I used about 8 yards (with some left over), so the curtains cost me about $26 all told. I think that's a pretty good price for something this cute!! 

(Oh yes, as you might have guessed from the pom-pom color, we're having a girl. Not that boys can't do pink - and the nursery has lots of bright colors, of which pink is just one. But I couldn't resist just a little pink. Moving on...)

Fitted Crib Sheets

We're planning on having the baby in our bedroom for the first few months, so we have a tiny little crib for that purpose. This tiny little crib has a tiny little mattress which is too small for most crib sheets, so I made some of my own. Each sheet took about a yard of 44" cotton, with some muslin strips sew to the short ends to make it long enough to wrap under the mattress.

Making the corners is very easy - I folded the two edges of a corner to make a triangle, then used a pencil and a straight edge to mark my sewing line perpendicular to the folded edges. This makes a nice square corner. After sewing each corner, I just had to sew a casing for the elastic and thread it through. Super easy!

I made a few sheets in different prints, just for fun. And also because I expect them to be peed on and then need to be changed.

Baby Clothes

OK, I held off on making baby clothes for a while, because I had other things going, I didn't know how big the baby would be, etc. etc. But now that I've started, I can't stop. I've said it before: making baby clothes is instant-gratification sewing - you can make a ton in just an afternoon. Plus, they take so little fabric - I'm using up loads of my scrap collection. It's awesome!

Because of my complete lack of personal knowledge about infants, I'm really clueless about sizing. So I started by sniffing around the internet for free infant dress patterns, of which there are quite a few. Behold, my growing obsession:

I made this dress from a tutorial on Sew Much Ado - a little peasant dress with a rick-rack hem. Come on, that's adorable.

This was based on a tutorial at Craftiness is not Optional, which has a ton of ideas for terminally cute kids' clothes. I'm not sure how old things have to be to be considered "vintage", but I'm going to go ahead and say that this fabric and button are vintage (they are at least from the early 80's - they come from my mum's stash. She thinks she probably got them while making baby clothes for me). 

This dress is so cute, I can barely stand it. I made it with a tutorial at Made by Rae. And then once I made the dress, I felt like it needed a little hat...

And then all the dresses obviously all needed matching diaper covers, which I made with a pattern from MADE... I know. It's becoming a problem. I'm trying to hold off for now, because I know that babies grow wicked fast, and they poop all over everything, and all that. But it's hard.

So that's what I've been up to lately, besides sitting around being as big as a killer whale, debating middle names, and being unable to pick up things from the ground (problematic when you drop things as much as I do). I'm still working on some projects for the baby's room - I just finished up a skirt for the crib - which I'm hoping to show when it's finished. I'm starting to think that the baby might beat the nursery into completion, though. Just a few weeks left! 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

... reupholstered caned-back chair

I... I can hardly believe it. We finished reupholstering that chair!*

I feel like I've been looking at it in it's half-finished state forever. It feels so good to have it finally done! Not to mention it helps to have an extra seat in the living room. Here's the "before" shot and the whole story:

Sorry for the inexecusably awful pic. It's apparently the only one I took.
We got the chair at a yardsale a few years ago for about $20. The seat was really comfy and the caning was in remarkably good shape. We knew we'd eventually have to do something about the fabric on the seat, which was getting really threadbare. We used it as-was for a couple of years, until the fabric finally split and the front legs started to detach a bit from the rest of the frame. Rehab time!

We stripped off the fabric and the old foam underneath. Luckily for us, the cotton batting and coils were in decent shape so we didn't have to much about replacing those. George reattached the front legs and shored them up with some strategically placed wood screws. For the reupholstering, we followed the same basic steps we used when redoing the ottoman. Since we already had the coils, burlap and batting in place, the next step was attaching a new piece of 1" foam (George was on staple gun duty once again). Then the chair sat for literally months while I dithered about what fabric to use on the seat.

Finally I bit the bullet and ordered some velvety chenille (it was poly - all I could find - so really reasonable, about $12/yd) in an elephant-y gray. I think it makes a nice break from all the patterns in the living room - it's soothing (as far as chair fabric can be soothing). We stapled down a layer of batting before finally attaching the fabric. We chose to pull it all the way under the chair and staple to the underside, rather than to the front of the chair as the original fabric was attached. It was just a heck of a lot easier. Attaching the fabric was a little more complicated than in our ottoman job, because we needed to make release cuts around the arms and legs. They aren't perfect, but I was happy enough with them at the end of the day.

The last step was sewing a few lengths of double-welt cord and hot gluing it around the legs in the front, to cover the raw edge of the fabric and make it look purdy. Then... finally done!

Well, almost. We could still attach single welt cording around the entire bottom length of the chair for a really finished look - but I ran out of cotton cord. So until I get some more, this is finished enough for me. It looks puffier than the original, but I think it'll wear in over time. Plus it is just super-comfy to sit on. George has his favorite reading chair back, and the cats have another surface to completely coat in cat hair.

So what the heck else have I been doing for over a month since I posted anything? Lazy, lazy. I do have a few more projects to write about, one of which will explain my questionably legit excuse. More soon, but first let me bask in the glow of finally finishing* that damn chair!


Friday, May 18, 2012

... filia dress preview - Flea-for-All, May 19

This Flea-for-All dress preview is a bit of a cop-out because, as you unusually astute readers will not doubt notice, there are no new dresses in the following post. But! This doesn't mean I don't have anything new for the Flea this week. I do, in fact, have some skirts in new colorful prints and also, something I don't usually do a whole lot of, new summer-weight tops!

These tops (blouses? tanks? I'm not entirely sure what the best descriptor is) are really lightweight, perfect for summer with shorts, jeans or skirts. They're a little bit shaped, but loose-fitting for a relaxed look. Pleats around the scoop neckline and button closure at the back of the neck. I've got one in the great brown-and-ivory print seen above and a few in a fantastic pink/teal/purple/navy print that I call "Yellow Submarine Print" in my head because I think it looks pretty psychedelic-fabulous.

(The shorts in these pictures look a little funny on Estelle because they're just pinned onto the front of her. I couldn't actually put them on her because Estelle, unlike most of us, has a metal rod sticking out the bottom of her torso which effectively prevents her from wearing pants. Don't feel too bad for her though - she can also lose like five inches off her hips with a couple clicks of a dial and about twenty seconds. That I wouldn't mind).

In addition to the new tops, I also have some of my classic elastic waist skirts in bright new prints, including a preppy kelly green geometric print and a fantastic print that's like a cross between fireworks and Spriograph drawings on a royal blue background. How perfect would that be for Memorial Day or the Fourth of July?? I'll have a few sizes with me this weekend, with enough fabric to make more if I don't have your size on Saturday.

So come visit me at the Flea, 125 Kennebec Street, Portland, Maine from 10AM-5PM this Saturday, May 19! (It's also my parents' 33rd anniversary - Happy Anniversary, Mum and Dad!!)

In non-filia news, god that chair that we've been working on forever - still not done! I am totally creating the hold-up because I just. can't. decide. on what fabric to use. I don't think I've ever been so indecisive about a fabric choice before. Our living room already has a lot of prints going on, so I think I'm leaning toward a solid (even though I'm always drawn to prints) just to even things out a bit. So maybe a grey or dark blue velveteen, something like that. Maybe. I just need to decide so we can finish it! Here it is looking all forlorn and halfway done:

Somebody decide for me!! Gah!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

... filia dress preview - Flea-for-All, April 28

The last two weeks flew by and my second Flea-for-All appearance is this coming Saturday, April 28! Thanks to everyone who stopped by to visit and shop on Opening Weekend - it was a blast. Hope to see even more on Saturday! And here's the newest dress I'll have with me:

If the last dress was a little modern, this one's a little bit country at heart, I think. I thought of the shape as soon as I found the fabric - a super-soft cotton voile in a tiny floral print (mostly reds, pinks and blues on a ivory background). Because voile is almost sheer, the dress is fully lined in cotton muslin. It also features pockets on the side seams, a red button closure at the back of the neck, and a drawstring waist. I had a very limited amount of this fabric, so I was only able to make a few of these dresses (I'll probably make more in another fabric if I find some I like). Find me at the Flea this Saturday if you're interested!

And that Flea is once again located at 125 Kennebec Street in Portland, Maine, open from 10AM-5PM. See you there!!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

... filia dress preview - Flea-for-All, April 15

As previously promised, here is the first dress I'll be debuting at the Portland Flea-for-All this Sunday!

(Sorry for the lack of human modeling in these pics. I can't fit into anything for a while, and I couldn't recruit anyone on short notice. So you'll have to make do with my lovely dummy Estelle and just imagine how good these would look on an actual person. Like you!)

It's make of crisp cotton poplin in colorblocked red and navy (I also have a few in red and khaki). It has a comfy wide elastic waist, button closure at the back of the neck and pockets on the side seams (of couse). Available for the first time this Sunday, April 15 at the Portland Flea-for-All!

And because it's the big Flea Opening Weekend, here's one more sneak peak of a new item I'll have there:

This skirt is made of navy cotton eyelet (fully lined), has a really cute paper-bag style elastic waist and those trusty side-seam pockets. I came across the eyelet in one of my favorite fabric stores in Boston and snapped it up (I wasn't letting it pass me by, considering the epic quest I went on to find navy eyelet for a dress I made for a friend last year). I turned it into a limited number of skirts, so stop by Sunday to grab one for yourself they're gone!

So, one more time, the new Portland Flea-for-All opens this weekend on Saturday, April 14 and your truly will be there on Sunday, April 15th. It's at 125 Kennebec Street in Portland (in the Bayside neighborhood). Hope to see you there!!