Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Downton Baby

Be warned that this is a picture heavy post.  I can't help myself.

For my birthday, my parents bought tickets to see Dressing Downton, an exhibit of costumes from the first four seasons of Downton Abbey on display at the Biltmore Estate.  We went the other day and it was fantastic.  If any of you out there are near Asheville, NC- go.  It was well worth the visit.  I've been to the Biltmore before but it was especially enjoyable this time with the costumes included in the setting.  Each room on the tour had a costume or two.  

“The day-to-day running of Biltmore House was surprisingly similar to that of Downton Abbey,” said Ellen Rickman, Director of Museum Services. “Just like Downton has Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes, Biltmore had its own cast of fascinating characters. Displaying these fabulous costumes from the show gives us an unparalleled opportunity to delve into Biltmore’s stories.”

I borrowed the quote and photos from the Biltmore site about the exhibit. The pictures on the web don't do the costumes justice.  You really need to see them in person.  Some pieces are actual clothing from the era and some were made specifically for the show.  One jacket was made from a vintage tablecloth.  The beading and overlays (and jewelry) were incredible.  What an opulent time.  Well, for the aristocracy anyway.  Even the menswear was extravagant, though not nearly as exciting as the gowns.

So anyway, let's get to this cuteness, shall we?

This whole outfit was sparked by the hat.  My aunt made this little cloche for Jane for Christmas.  My talented aunt who knits beautiful things for Jane.  She has recently ventured in to knitting and felting hats.  She had two of her hats featured in a museum show.  We all agreed at Christmas that the cloche was very "Downton Abbey."  So when it was set in stone that we were all going to see Dressing Downton, I decided that Jane needed a dress to go with her hat.  I did extensive research first.  Ha, just kidding.  I did a quick google search of what children wore during the early 20th century.  And then this pattern came to mind- the Apple-picking Dress from Oliver and S.  Which I just so happened to have in my pattern stash.

The pattern has a real vintage feel, doesn't it?  I thought the bow collar, drop waist and double button placket were perfect for the time period.  I also had this iridescent rust colored shot cotton in my stash, too.  Which just so happened to match the cloche.  This was definitely a serendipitous project.  I bought the fabric several years ago so I'm not one hundred percent sure it's all cotton.  I suspect that there may be some silk in it because of the way it felt when I washed it and the fact that it shifted every which way when I was sewing with it.  That's my excuse anyway.  It was not a well behaved woven.  I had trouble pressing seams flat and top stitching because the fabric shifted around so much.  Maybe it's just because the weave is looser.   Anyway, don't look to closely at my top stitching.  I found parts of the pattern to be somewhat difficult.  The top of that wide placket where the bow collar meets has to be trimmed very carefully.   I didn't do such a great job, but it's passable.

The proportions are a little different on my version because I made a size too big and shortened everything.  Jane is wearing a 2T now but for some reason I thought I'd go up a size for some growing room.  That was a dumb decision because it was huge.  I cut off the skirt and sleeve bindings and took up the hem of both.  That's why I only have four rows of buttons instead of five.  So the dress is wider than it would be had I used the right size.  If it's too short in the fall (when I think she'll wear it more), Jane can wear it like a tunic.

This photo above is my favorite.  I title it, "Bribery With Raisins."

No pictures inside the Biltmore so we only got to take some out in front.  And it was cold.  I made her suffer though a few photos without her jacket.  I also took some photos beforehand near the english ivy in my yard (see what I did there?).

Fun times.  It was a great exhibit and fun photo op for Jane.  She is changing so much!  She is looking more and more like a little girl everyday.  My almost two-year-old girl, if you can believe it.  I am so glad to have these photos for posterity.  

Any other Downton Abbey fans out there?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Sack Dress

I'm on the fence about this one.  I'm leaning towards really loving it, but there is something a little off about it.  And yes, this is most definitely a sack dress.  No waist definition at all.  I really dig the way sack dresses look... on other people.  I've tried making them from time to time and have never felt like they suited me.  However.  I honesty don't really care that this dress is not one that is considered traditionally flattering.  I like it.  There is something not quite right about the proportions, though.

I used Vogue 9022.  I'm not really sure what drew me to the pattern.  I thought the pockets were cool. And I liked the dolman sleeve.  The suggested fabrics list different wovens along with ponte.  I figured I could make it out of something stretchier than ponte, which I did.  I used a really cool textured knit of questionable content I found at Joann's.  This particular knit has a lattice texture and is very stretchy.   You can see the texture really well in that heavily edited photo below.  I was worried that it was too thin for a dress so I underlined it with a black cotton knit.  I searched for one that had the same amount of spandex as the textured knit.  But there are some issues with having the two knits together.  The cotton knit is really grabby which makes some odd wrinkles show up while I'm wearing this dress.  I can smooth them out, though.  And the two layers together make this dress extremely thick.  There is some seam rippling as a result of all the thickness, especially where the pockets are doubled over.

The pattern has a separate pattern piece for the lower pocket with a seam at the bottom.  After reading a pattern review about it, I decided to eliminate that seam and cut out the side front pieces in one giant piece.  That was an interesting pattern piece.  I'm not sure that it was a necessary move as a seam at the bottom of the pocket "bag" wouldn't have made a difference to me.   My measurements put me as a size large and that is what I cut, ignoring my instinct to go smaller since I was using a stretchier knit.  I should have cut a medium, maybe even a small.  Ok, well probably not a small.  I can't remember the last time I ever wore a size small.   It was huge when I basted everything together.  I think I ended up sewing all of my seams at an inch or more.  For real.  I cut the long sleeves and they were so long it was comical.  And I have long arms.  I took four inches off the sleeve hems and I still prefer them rolled up a little shorter.  I took two inches from the pattern shorten line before cutting my fabric.  I knew I wanted the dress to be short to balance out the ease.  Then I ended up hemming it up two more inches.  So four inches off the hem, four inches off the sleeves and I'm guessing about four inches around.  Over sized pattern?  I'd say so.

I did sew the keyhole at the back because I like the way keyholes look.  But it isn't functional.  I sewed up the hem split because it was indecently high after taking out all the length.  Anyway, I'm liking the end result.  I think I need to wear it out once before I can really make a final judgement.  I don't think I'd revisit the pattern, though.  Maybe the pattern would work better in a woven.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Burda Cardigan

I may never take this off.  This cardigan was inspired by the fabric.  It's not anything fancy.  It's just something I found on a trip to Joann's for thread.  You know how that goes.  You only go in to pick up some thread and...  It's a double sided knit. Polka dots on one side, stripes on the other.  Actually, I think this would be considered double cloth since it seems to be two knits fused together at the dots.  I have used some of this same knit before to make crawling baby pants for Jane a while ago.  It is really soft and spongy and has some drape because of the weight.  But not a lot of recovery.  So I bought it knowing it would be perfect for a drapey cardigan.  One that would show off both sides of the fabric. 

I cleaned out my pattern stash recently.  I was ruthless.  Since I began sewing all the time five or so years ago, I have bought patterns with reckless abandon.  Mainly big four patterns when they are on major sale at Hancock or Joann's.  I had a huuuuge pattern stash with no chance of ever making all of them up.  I got rid of everything that I didn't love.  I donated them to a local thrift store that has a giant crafting section so I know they'll go to good homes.  And I've whittled my pattern stash down to just what I intend to make.  I'm also vowing to not buy any more patterns unless I am serious about making it up.  We'll see how that goes.  I think I've already bought four or so since that cull.  Oops.

Anyway, this Burda 7184 pattern survived the pattern stash purge.  I'm generally a fan of Burda patterns, magazine or envelope.  So I kept this one.  It was perfect for this fabric.  The pattern has a two piece raglan sleeve.  The sleeve is not a very close fitting one.  I bet you could make this pattern up in some sort of wool knit or coating and it would be a great jacket.  Maybe even in a ponte knit.  I made the longer version with pockets.  I did size down to a 38 thinking the pattern pieces looked oversized.  I'm glad I did.  I normally make a 40 in Burda patterns.  I hemmed the front by flipping under twice and straight stitching.  The front hems shouldn't need to stretch much.  I made it up exactly as the pattern directed except for the neck facing.  The neck facing is a small piece of binding that you sew on to the back neckline and flip inside to finish the edge.  I inserted a piece of 1/4" elastic when I flipped the binding inside.  I wish I had taken a picture.  The elastic keeps the back neckline from stretching way out since the knit fabric is so heavy.  Helps it keep it's shape.

I love it.  It's like wearing a bathrobe that is acceptable to wear in public.  It's perfect for weekend wear.  This project was a win.  Like I said, I may never take it off.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Very Late Review

Ok, I told myself I wasn't going to bother doing end-of-year graphs this year.  But Joy's post changed my mind.  I love a pie chart.  Can't help myself.  So I make no apologies for this post.  I was curious how my year stacked up against previous years being that this was such a crazy one.  And I want to be able compare this year visually to the previous two years that I've done year end graphs.  That was a mouthful.

 Thirty-nine projects!  Holy cow.  I honestly can't believe I made so many things.  Most projects were super easy ones, but still.  I must have found more time to sew than I thought.  Of course summer is more productive since I get to be home all day.  Nap time equals sewing time around these parts.  I probably should have used nap time for cleaning time, but you know.  Most were blogged.  I think.

Here are some pie charts for your viewing pleasure.  First up, by garment type.

Lots of tops.  Lots of quick and easy tops.  No closure, pull over tops.  That was half (!) of what I sewed.  I guess that's why I ended up having such a large grand total.  I do love my Jacqueline tops so the fact that they were quick and easy is only an added bonus.  I only sewed four measly items for Jane.  Yikes.  I really thought I sewed more for her.  The things I did sew for her were a little more time consuming, though.  She has some projects already planned for this year.

Jacqueline Tops

Next chart, by pattern company.

Self drafted sounds fancy but most of that is all those half-circle skirts I made.  And I love all of them.  They probably win for most worn garment of this year, especially the leopard print one.  I used a few Indie patterns but most of that category goes to Tina Givens patterns.  I really like her wild, art teacher designs.  I love a big linen top.  My white Luella is such funky one.  And I wear my Jacqueline tops all the time.  All the time.  In fact, they may have surpassed my circle skirts at this point...

By fabric type. No surprise about the linen.  I love linen.  But yes, you so have to embrace the rumple.  I also discovered this year.

This last graph is a new one I added.  It's all my projects categorized as either a success, fail, or meh.  I added in ufo and baby for a few projects I couldn't categorize.  

I had a rough time this year with making things I was unhappy with.  It all came to head this summer.  It looks like I made a ton of projects in July but most of those were a bunch of fails I made at one time.   Looking back, my unrest in sewing things coincided with my unrest with life at the time.  I wrote a post about J's leukemia diagnosis well over a year ago and then never mentioned it again in this space.  He has chronic myeloid leukemia for those who are new here.  It's been a rough year, although things have ended up really well these last three months of so.  J "failed" two of his medications earlier in the year.  One lowered his platelet count too much and he couldn't take the full dose.  And one caused liver toxicity, which is scary in it's own right.  Anyway, he had to stop taking medication during the summer for a while to recover before we tried a third option.  And you don't want to be off of medication for too long when you have cml.  So in hindsight, I get why I've been so wishy washy and anxiety ridden this year.  2014 has been somewhat of a roller coaster.  I've had to put on my big girl panties a few times.  J is on a third medication now and is doing fantastic.  Very minimal side effects and all of his counts are in the normal range.  I think we can exhale now because I hope we've found the meds that he can be on long term.  Which, you know, we need him around long term.

Of course this little one has been a huge bright spot this year.  She mostly overshadows all the hard stuff.  And makes it all worth it.  Those teeth...

Anyway, this turned in to a rambling and deep post.  I so enjoy writing this blog even when posts are few and far between.  I've thought lots about whether I want to keep this space up this year.  And yes, I do.  I love the sharing, the connection with others and sense of community we have around here.  I love reading sewing blogs whenever I have a free moment.  It's like being a part of great big, bright and boisterous sewing club.  So thank you for reading, thank you for having conversations with me and thank you for sharing, too!  Here's to never ending bobbins in 2015.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A Dress!

 Yes, a dress!  A completed project that I am actually pretty happy with.  I think this is a good way to start the new year.  And yes, I know it's technically cheating since I started this dress back in.... October.  But I am adding it to the Jungle January pool since that is the reason I finally finished it.  It had been sitting on my dress form for over a month now waiting on buttonholes and a hem.  But Jungle January peer pressured me in to finishing it :)

Like I said before, I started this project months ago.  And it started out differently in my head.  I planned on making a maxi shirt dress for a November wedding I attended.  I envisioned a floor length shirt dress made out of a slippery, flowy fabric.  So I browsed around online and ended up purchasing this army green leopard print rayon challis.  When it came, I was underwhelmed.  It kind of reminded me of camouflage.  I forged ahead with my plans anyway, cutting out the top half of a Lisette shirt dress pattern, Simplicity 2246, that I've made before (view C but with the long sleeves).   I planned on using my half circle skirt pattern for the bottom half of the dress, which I luckily did not cut out right away.  The Lisette pattern is an easy beginners version of a shirt dress.  The collar is one piece, which I think is a little strange, and there are no cuffs or sleeve plackets.  I knew I liked the fit, though, because I made a version last year.  That dress has been on constant rotation this fall.  It's not a super close fitting shirt dress.  I left a little bit ease in the waist and bust on purpose.  I made the original while I was still nursing baby Jane and I needed the ease then.  I've found after wearing that dress a lot this fall that I really like the extra ease.  It's an easy dress to wear all day.  I wear that one to work a lot.

I did the same shoulder adjustment where I took out all the excess ease.  Only I think I went to far this time.  There is an issue with the fit in the shoulders which doesn't seem to be apparent while looking at the dress, but I can feel it.  There is a tugging feeling.  I think I would leave a little bit of ease in next time around.   Also, the shoulder seam pulls off the ends of my shoulders which doesn't happen on my first version.  I did a collar stand by tracing from the one piece collar.  I didn't realize there was actually a separate collar stand pattern piece (d'oh!) until later so I can't comment on that.   It ended up huge.  I can actually flip the collar stand down and it looks almost like a full size collar.  As a side note, I've yet to sew a shirt collar that I haven't found too big.  Why do collars on sewing patterns always seem so large compared to rtw?  Or maybe I just prefer a smaller collar.

Somewhere along the way I lost interest in the project and I didn't finish it in time for the November wedding.  I think the fact that I didn't really love the fabric contributed to my stalling.  But I revisited it later on and decided to go with the gathered skirt from the actual pattern instead of a maxi skirt.  I lined the whole dress by cutting out the same pattern pieces from a solid drab green rayon challis and basting each piece together before sewing.  It makes for a really nice finish.  See dress guts below.  The whole dress feels very substantial and nice on.  Rayon challis is definitely not a cold weather fabric but it works in a double layer like this.  It's actually decently warm.  The skirt lining was hemmed separately but incorporated in to the placket.  Speaking of which, that placket is all sorts of messed up.  It's wavy and ripply and all over the place.  And my button spacing is not even.   I cannot get my one step buttonhole function to work if it is anywhere near another seam. Fortunately the print hides most of it.  I hope.

And now for the sleeves!  I am most pleased with the sleeves.  I was working on this dress when a post at Handmade by Carolyn describing a simple buttoned cuff came up in my reader.  It was the perfect solution.  The Lisette pattern doesn't include any sort of finish for the long sleeves.   Just a hem.  On the original dress I made, I did a sleeve facing which looks good rolled up.  On this dress, I did the simple buttoned cuff that Carolyn so kindly did a tutorial for and I love it.  So thank you, Carolyn!  I was lining the sleeves already so I didn't have to create a facing.  I just sewed the split and button hole and that was it.  I like how they look rolled up, too. 

All in all, I am pretty pleased with the finished product.  I know I'll get some everyday wear out of it at this length.  Although I still want to make a floor length shirt dress in a wispy fabric.  One day!

Sunday, December 14, 2014


Well, hello there!  Long time no see.  I absolutely love this time of year.  The weeks leading up to Christmas, including Thanksgiving, are always a Big Deal in elementary school.  The excitement is palpable.  And also contagious.  So even though I've been crazy busy, it's an enjoyable busy.  But yes, I'm also looking forward to having two weeks off here soon to snuggle with my busy girl (if she'll stop for a minute) and relax.  Soon enough!

I haven't been sewing very much in the past month.  I have a huge art show at my school the last week of school before break.  I've mainly been spending all my free moments working on that.  One piece of art to hang for all 900+ students.  Phew.  I don't normally talk about the art lessons we do at school because honestly, I don't want to blog about work when I get home.  But I am going to sneak in a pic of my first grader's paper mache penguins.  They are fantastic. The armature is a paper lunch bag stuffed with newspaper and then twisted closed to make the beak.  That and a whole lot of masking tape.

We also had our Crafty Christmas Party 3.0 the other weekend.  This year a friend hosted it but I got the supplies together for the craft.  We made hand-stitched felt ornaments- old school style.  My parents have a whole set of felt ornaments that I believe they made with friends back when they were first married.  They were always my favorite ornaments to hang.  In fact, we didn't put them on the Christmas tree.  Instead we always decorated our big grapefruit tree with them.  Nostalgia!  It was a fun party.  Look at all those crafty supplies.  Nothing original.  I googled 'felt ornaments' and then drew out a few sketches from picture results ahead of time.  The owl was a favorite.

I made a few examples before the party and got hooked.  Now I'm actually working on a few more to attach to presents when I wrap them. You really can't go wrong with combining crafting, cookies and wine, I say.  You can read about the last two crafty Christmas parties here and here.

I've sewn a bit in small little chunks of time.   I have an almost finished shirt dress sitting on my dress form waiting for buttonholes and buttons.  It was meant to wear to a wedding at the beginning of November.  I also made another Jacqueline crop top in a pretty blue-green linen.  It has been worn often- as soon as it comes out of the wash.  So that's a winner in my book.  But I think I am done with that pattern now.  There are only so many big gathered tops you can wear, right?  Before people start to wonder.

And last but not least, my sweet pea's Christmas card pictures.  Look at the difference from last year!  Gah.  Slow down, time.  We snapped these pictures as a last minute effort.  We just threw everything together so I am really pleased that they came out so well.  The red chair was perfect.  No, I didn't make the dress.  It's her party dress (Carter's) and her awesome cowgirl boots.  I actually woke her up from a nap so we didn't miss the last bit of daylight (bad mom!).

She is almost 20 months old now.  Almost two.  Holy cow.  And she is a trip.  Girl has some dance moves that neither her mom or dad have.  It was a team effort to get the photos.  If you could only see what J is doing behind me to make here smile.  Ha!

Oh, and also, I'm on Instagram now.  I'm lizajanesews.  I'm enjoying it as a quick little blog fix when I don't have time for blogging or full on blog reading. 

Merry Christmas, everyone!  I hope you all have a wonderful holiday!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

More Black and White...

I know, I know.  Color-- I need some color in my life.  But the black and white really makes getting dressed so easy.  Everything works together.  I have recently purchased some wild, colorful fabrics.  So one day soon.  Anyway, I made a few more black and white tops.

 A few posts back, I wrote about two tops I made from Tina Givens' Jacqueline pattern.  The black and white color blocked version has become a favorite.  I wear it a lot despite the crazy amount of fullness.  And I actually get quite a few compliments when I wear it.  I think all that volume works well because it's cropped.  It looks good with skinny pants.  I love wearing it because it's fun to wear something with all that fluff.  No need to worry about standing up straight and sucking in :)

The first version I made was the black and white printed linen version with long sleeves.  I made it up almost exactly as the pattern intended.  Except I lengthened the back panel two inches and used one less panel of fabric in the gathered skirt.  I really liked the first version I made, but it's short.  It truly is cropped.  I was having a hard time figuring out what to wear it with.  Most of my jeans and pants were too low.  I wanted to make something to wear under it to add some length.

The pattern is intended to go over a slip, also included in the pattern (along with pants that really aren't my cup of tea).  I wasn't sure how I felt about the cropped, gathered top over another longer layer.  But I thought I'd try it out. I made up the slip in a black rayon knit.  Unfortunately my version is shorter because I didn't have enough fabric.  I folded out about three inches of length right from the middle of the pattern and then redrew the side seams to match.  So my version is about three inches shorter, but taken from the middle.  I did not like the asymmetrical handkerchief hem when I was done.  It just looked sloppy in a knit.  So I made it symmetrical.

I don't love it underneath the linen top.  It's okay.  It's really different.  But I am loving the long knit tank with other things.  It actually has been worn a lot with long cardigans and skinny jeans.  The armholes are super duper low, though, so no wearing it on it's own without some modification.

Next, I decided to try a sleeveless version of the same crop top pattern in a black linen.  I made up the crop top pattern just like I did with the black and white version but excluding the sleeves.  I also added two more inches of length to the front and back so it would hang out the bottom.  The result is a whole lot of volume. Mega fluffy.  But I'm kind of digging it.  It's different, too.

Here are the two black tops together.  I used the printed linen for the bias facings on the cropped version.  So it looks like a set with the original top.

I'm sticking in this last top because it doesn't deserve it's own blog post.  Remember the plaid disaster in this post?  Simplicity 1366.  I decided to give the top a go since it seems to have such good reviews.  I made it in a white linen and one size smaller than I would normally cut.  Remember I bought the wrong size pattern envelope and had to do some 'grading' to try and make the skirt work.  This top is a size 12.  I usually wear a 14.  And it's still really boxy.  Just something to keep in mind.  The dropped shoulder is pretty cool.  It does have a very modern shape.  I don't hate it, but the length is really short on me again.  I'm at a loss as to what to wear with it.  I'm going to hang on to it but I'll have to figure out something later.  I'm wearing it with my skinny jeans for photos but I don't think I'd rock this look in my everyday life.  I feel a little exposed without my bum covered.

My remote timer caught me in a sneeze.  Ha! So some more basics that are decent. Nothing too terribly exciting.  I think I like the black cropped version best with the original top.  You really can't go wrong with sewing in black and white.  Well, I guess you can always go wrong somewhere, but you know what I mean.  Happy sewing!