outfit: easter sunshine

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Happy Easter! We had such lovely sunshine yesterday, so we took a walk around town and took some pictures. I wore what I’ve been calling my “dotty cowl dress”, which is the wearable muslin for my Ireland dress that I finally went back and properly finished.

Fabric: Polyester crepe (?) from Vogue Fabrics in Evanston, IL. I found this poly in the discount section, but it’s been nice to work with. And the color and print is so fun!
Pattern: Self-drafted, finally wearable muslin for the Ireland dress. See the not-so-wearable in-progress muslin here.
Techniques: Self-lined bodice, fabric cut on bias, invisible zipper, bound armhole seams, understitching, bra strap carriers.

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I think my favorite part of this dress is the irregular dotted fabric in a purple-putty/bright peach color combination. It made me laugh out loud at the fabric store, and since I have an ongoing goal of wearing more patterned fabrics, I snatched it up. You might have seen this dress before, as part of the process of making a floor length gown to wear to a wedding in Ireland. The finished dress turned out beautifully, which was of course thanks to making several muslins to tweak the fit!

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One of the things the muslin helped me see was some excess fabric diagonally on the back bodice. I fixed the pattern for the final dress obviously, but since I just wanted to make this muslin wearable I wasn’t going to recut anything. Below is a picture I took while doing the fitting adjustments, and then the finished wearable muslin. I’ve taken the excess out of the side seams only, but it did help! The armholes are a little oddly shaped now (a little high and tight, and abruptly shaped from the armhole going up), but this is a totally wearable muslin. In fact, I’ve worn it several times since finishing it – while giving a gallery tour, at a nicer dinner, and at an evening work event. Success!

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In sewing for myself I don’t make muslins often, mostly just when I make very fitted garments like strapless bodices or blazer-style jackets. I think this is actually the first time I’ve even made a test garment out of “real” fabric instead of the standard unbleached cotton muslin! I hate letting things go to waste, so I’m glad this dress was salvagable.

DSC_5583DSC_5558I wish a Happy Easter to all – for me that includes a lot of oranges and tea and chocolates, knitting, reading, and sitting against a sunny wooden cabin wall wearing sunglasses. Aaaah!

case of leather

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One day I got the idea to make a leather tablet case as a present for a dear friend. I had a quarter hide of leather left over from my fashion collection project, and an idea for how I wanted the tablet case to look. I only knew he had an older iPad, but fortunately they are all pretty similar in dimensions so it was enough information to go by. Ready, set, start!

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It was a surprisingly quick project once I had the measurements all sorted out, so it only took me about an hour from start to finish! I knew from last time working with this leather that the feed-dog on my sewing machine would leave marks on the bottom layer of the leather, so I opted to punch holes and handsew with a denim-weight thread (wax the thread first to avoid breakage). I think it came out quite nicely, and happily my friend is pleased with his gift too!

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wedding present mittens

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Yarn: DK/Sport weight “Smart” yarn from “Sandnes Garn”, in gold (2527), lilac (4622 – I think!) and blue-grey (6162). Here is the Ravelry project page for the mittens.
Pattern: My own mashed-up pattern, based on lots of different traditional patterns. And a lot of math (sometimes poor math).
Techniques: Colorwork, tubular cast on, gusset thumb, twisted stitches for the smaller cuff.

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I bet you’ve seen that I went to Ireland a little while back, to celebrate our friends’ wedding. You know, the thing I made that wonderfully swanky mustard colored dress for? Yeah, that wedding. Even back when we got the save the date-card, I knew I wanted to make the gifts. At first I toyed with the idea of fisherman’s sweaters for each of them, but then I realized that 1. I probably didn’t have enough time to handknit two cabled sweaters, and 2. I didn’t know if that would be up their alley, style-wise.

Having lived in Chicago for three years, I knew one thing that made the brutally cold and windy winters a little more bearable – proper colorwork mittens. The wool and the double layer of yarn mean that they are surprisingly windblocking, and definitely very warm. So there it was! I would make them mittens. But what pattern, and what colors? After a quick decision to make them in a same-ish pattern in different colors but with a common neutral color, we did some investigating. I got John to probe the groom-to-be about what colors he liked to wear (orange and green, I think he said), and I snooped around the future bride’s pinterest wedding inspiration board and realized there was a lilac and grey color scheme going on. Done! Dusty lilac for her, funky gold for him (and he’s a funky dude, so I think it’s a good fit!)

wedding_mittens1I have to say, I have a whole new respect for colorwork mitten designers now. Not only do you have to consider the total number of stitches for size, but also the repeat of the pattern for the palm must work with the amount of increases for the thumb as well as the decrease for the top, and the repeat pattern after the cuff needs to be divisible too, and… Phew! I’ll be leaving this to the pro’s for now, I think! I also had to size down the main star pattern for the smaller mitten, but that actually went surprisingly smooth once I figured out where I could omit some rows.

I wanted something to make the mittens more personal, and to be a reminder of the wedding day and celebrations. I considered working the date in there somehow, but finally decided that I liked the thought of their initials better. I wish I would have been able to make the letters a bit more balanced to suit my symmetrical eye, but that’s being a bit nitpicky. All in all I really am pleased how they came out, and of course – I hope they get lots of wear in the bitter Chicago winters. I’d love to see them all worn to bits in a handful of years, from constant use!

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P.S. Wondering where the second yellow-gold mitt is? It has already made it to Chicago as a pre-taste, so these three are stragglers, destined to join the first any day now.

refashioned custom dress

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Fabric: Original dress made in a polyester two-tone satin faced taffeta. The matching fabric I think is a satin polyester, and poly lining.
Pattern: Self drafted with princess panels, dropped waist, and sewn in belt.
Techniques: Invisible zipper, fully lined, understitched neckline and armholes, sewn in bra-loops.

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Every once in a while I take on sewing projects for customers. A month or so back, I was contacted by a lady who wanted to have her dress resewn. The strapless gown had become too small, and she wanted somthing that would be more versatile. She liked the idea of refashioning this dress – especially since she had shoes dyed to match especially. She was picturing a sleeveless dress with a straight silhouette and a dropped waist.

I sketched out a panelled dress with a contrasting sewn in waistband, keeping a bit with the original dress. The first task of this refashion was to figure out how much of the orginal dress could actually be used for the new dress – or in other words, how much dress could I make out of the original gown? It turned out, unfortunately, that all the pieces of the new dress simply could not fit on the pieces of the gown.

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The customer lady and I decided on supplementing with a new but matching fabric for the bodice, which made for a three-tone dress. The contrast belt in the middle is actually just the back side of the main skirt fabric! The gown had gotten some bad water stains, so even with just needing the skirt and belt from the original fabric it was a bit of a challenge cutting around the worst spots. A good thing then, that I had the wiggle room to avoid them! The dress is fully lined, with an invisible zipper at the side seam.

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The customer lady was very aware of what suited her and her body, which in many ways made my job easier. She looked great in the finished dress, and I was so thrilled to see her happy with the final result!

Ireland dress, swanky and finished

Hold on peeps, this is a picture-heavy one! John and I just came back from celebrating a friend’s wedding in Ireland, and I’ve been working (well, ruminating and planning at least) on this dress for quite a while, so it’s a big sigh of relief to have it done and looking good. And so much fun to photograph in a castle (!) in Ireland! So many exclamation points!

Ireland_coupleThat’s not the castle, by the way. This is right after the ceremony at the Irish-catholic village church. Don’t we look nice!

Fabric: Mystery mustard colored fabric I got for free from a friend of a friend while living in Chicago. It has a beautiful drape to it and a subtle sheen, and I’ve taken it for a viscose rayon this entire time. When ironing it however, it smells unmistakably like polyester (though I haven’t done a burn test to confirm) – as a fabric snob (and being ok with that) I’ll chalk this up as one of the nicest polyesters I’ve met! Lining is a jaquard weave poly from Joann Fabrics.
Pattern: Self drafted with a-line full length skirt, bias cut cowl front, and v-neck back. I’m thrilled I had time to make both a bodice mock-up, and a wearable muslin ahead of time.
Techniques: Bias cut neckline drape, waist-stay, self-lined bodice, bias-tape bound armholes, and fusible seam tape at all cut edges of bodice seams.

Oh, where to start! I felt so damn swanky in this! I don’t often wear floor-length gowns, but it totally felt right for this occasion, and for this fabric. I shared this picture below a while back, of a dress from the 30′s that has been my visual inspiration for what I wanted to wear to this wedding:

wpid-20130629194618663.jpgI realized pretty quickly that as much as I wanted to take the opportunity and do a full-on replication of this dress from the 30s, I just didn’t have enough fabric to do it. And being a random mystery fabric, I certainly didn’t know where to get more! I’m ok with that though. Even if the inspiration dress is way more dramatic and stunning, I felt dramatic and elegant enough in the castle wedding setting – and looking back at this picture I’m quite amused at how similar the finished dress ended up to the super-quick draped mock-up I did back then!

The wearable muslin I made was incredible helpful. It meant that I could make the changes to the pattern, and then cut into the mustard colored fabric, confident that I didn’t have to recut, and confident that I wouldn’t have to make more alterations.

Alright, here comes construction notes – if that’s not your thing, just skip to the picture of the hat below – interspersed with somewhat non-related, pretty pictures of the finished thing (sorry about the lack of detail-shots and process, just didn’t prioritize it this time around!).

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So – the bodice is self lined – the front bodice cut on fold at the cowl neckline edge, and the back bodice cut twice. I spent a whole lot of time ironing on the fusible seam tape on almost all cut edges, which I did since I was terrified of stretching out seams so they wouldn’t sew together nicely! I’ve learned through some nearly failed projects that you can gather and ease a stretched out seam to the right length, but the fabric beyond the seamline is still stretched out, and will never lay nicely. Hence all the seam tape, haha! It really did make a difference though I think, and everything sewed together very nicely (in terms of seamline lengths). While making the wearable muslin I managed to iron on the fusible both too short on some seams, and too long on others. For this dress I actually ended up laying the fabric on the paper pattern, and pinning both of them to the ironing board (just with a pin straight down, vertically, into the board) to really make sure the length ended up correctly. I was quite pleased with this method!

Ireland_stair3Deer caught in headlights descending stairs in beautiful shoes, while holding glass attempting not to spill any more drinks on herself (total tally by the end of the night was 2 plus a broken glass, which was a total fluke, and a dress rinsed out in the sink that dried to look pristine).

I knew I wanted a waist-stay on this dress (you must know by now how much I adore trying new techniques and adding little touches to what I sew!), but it took a lot of internal debate on how exactly to do it! Most often the waist stay is sewn to the waistline seam-allowances, both self and lining fabric layers, and is visible from the inside. I don’t mind the waist-stay being visible, but this alternative would mean an unfinished waistline seam that I would want to bind in bias tape, which I was afraid would get too bulky with 5-6 layers right above the waist-seam, and only the 2 layers of the skirt below. Also, it would mess up having a clean zipper finish on the inside. Alternative 1 nixed.

The next alternative I considered would be to sew together all waistseam layers but the bodice lining, attach the waist-stay, and slipstitch the bodice lining to the seam. That would be better than the first alternative, but I was still worried that any little difference in the grain of the fabrics would end up pulling weirdly by being solidly attached at the waist, in addition to the issue of bulk. Alternative 2 nixed.

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Ireland_dress_backPosing in the rose-garden, swoon! I can see the draglines from the wearable muslin ar still there somewhat (probably exaggerated a bit here), and I’m pretty sure it’s from the straps having slid down too far on my sloping shoulders. A bra sitting further in plus bra-loops keeping it anchored should fix that.

This was honestly such a long back and forth conversation in my head, where I kept forgetting why I had nixed the different options! I’m sure I considered other approaches, but what I ended up doing was to attach the skirt and bodice layers separately for the lining and the self, sewing the waist-stay to the outside layer waist seam allowance (pressed upwards), pressing the lining waist seam allowance downwards, and loosely slipstitch the seamline together at center front, center back, and at the side seam. I did that to keep the layers together where they were supposed to be, while allowing everything to move a bit too. I couldn’t get around this little oddity of having to leave a gap in the lining by the zipper, right where the waist-stay comes together with a little hook. It’s a trade off to not having exposed seams, but I’ll admit a little fiddly to avoid loosing the ends of the waist-stay, since they aren’t attached all the way to the zipper tape! Oh well. I found Tasia’s multiple posts on waist-stays very helpful, such as this one sewn fully to the waist seam allowance, and also this more traditional one.

Who knew I would have this much to say about waist-stays? Ok, moving on… sewing really was quite easy, there aren’t that many pieces to this dress. But making sure that they don’t stretch, and that they’re on grain, that is the tricky part. I had such a hard time hemming the skirt – the lining especially. I totally recommend having a second person helping you when hemming these types of long dresses! At the bridal shop I used to work at, we would mark the skirt with pins set in vertically where the fabric touched the floor. Then we hemmed a certain amount up from those marks, based on the type of fabric the skirt was made of (generally cutting at the pins and aiming for a finished hem about 3/8″ off the floor, but for chiffon you’d cut less since it tends to crawl up and shrink in length when cut). Anyways, I think my lining must have been a bit off grain because it was waaaay longer in one spot off to the side. Oops! It took several rounds of trimming but turned out ok. Having made myself very few floorlength dresses, it’s a new way of thinking for me that this dress is hemmed pretty much only for these shoes, and these shoes only! (loved, loved, loved, loved my shoes by the way!)

purple_suade_shoesMy purple suede peeptoe platform patent leather wedding shoes! Crappy cell picture, but none of the other pictures really showed these beauties.

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Ireland_dress_stair2So glamorous!

Finally, let’s admire the beautiful fascinator that my talented and lovely Sara custom-made for me! She knew the color and style of the dress I was making, and she knows me and my style. Then she took that and melded it with her aesthetics to create this smashing headpiece. I loved wearing it, and got lots of compliments on it all day long. I don’t think this outfit would have been complete without it. (Thanks Sara, you’re so lovely!)

ireland_fascinator Alright, that wraps it up! I made a mustard-colored fancy dress, I wore it, and I loved it. It’s a win.

the Ireland dress in wearable-muslin form

Phew, sorry about the delay! I took these pictures early last week, but my new camera (!) and I are stilling getting to know each other so I haven’t gotten all the technical kinks out of the editing process. My apologies too for the odd color cast going on in these pictures – it was a little dark and I can’t get the raw-files to work right now!

DSC_3601Anyways, I made a muslin for that dress I’m wearing to the wedding in Ireland (which is a long thing to call a dress. I do also call it the Ireland-dress, which makes not much, but still a little sense all things considered). I picked up this surprisingly nice polyester with its wonderfully funny color combination at Vogue in Evanston, IL on my recent trip to Chicago. I went with my friend Sara and we also found a couple of more poly fabrics that were surprisingly nice, and that’s saying something coming from a fabric snob like me. The fabric I picked up to use for a wearable muslin is a little stiffer than my real fabric, but other than that it drapes pretty similarly.

DSC_3353That’s at John’s mom’s house, and I am attaching fusible seam tape (I think that’s what it calls itself) to the back v-neck cut edge, and I learned that 1. it is 3/8″ wide, so I redrafted the pattern so the seamline is right at the edge of the seam tape, 2. that I should cut the seam tape to the right length so I don’t accidentally distort the proper length of the seam, and 3. it is almost inevitable that the un-fused seamline of the lining stretches, so to avoid bunching on the inside I will fuse the lining, understitch, and any excess width will be on the outside layer which will roll over to the outside because of the turn of cloth.DSC_3598So, the first full muslin ended up being a little big. I made a bodice muslin that my wicked skilled teacher-friend Julie helped me with, which needed an FBA, some diagonal pinching out in the back because of the v-neck, and some balancing. I’m realizing that to make  garments hang nicely on me and look balanced at the side-seams, the front needs to be wider than usual and the back narrower. Good to know!

DSC_3512I decided it would look best to take out most of the excess in this muslin in the front, so I pinched out an inch at the waist, tapering it to nothing at the cowl fold edge since I’m happy with the amount of cowling there, and how low it falls.

DSC_3526I can see the hem in the front is significantly higher than the back, but I redrafted the skirt pieces more properly than my free-form carpet and copy paper travel drafting, so I don’t think that will be a big problem. I also cut the skirt with a fair amount of extra length for hemming.DSC_3518 DSC_3558

As you can see, the back had some diagonal pulling after I pinched in the center back.  The v-neck has needed several rounds of pinches taken out, which is common for deep necks like this one. The straps were sitting a little too far out on my shoulders, so I pinned out a good 3/4″ at the v-point. That, combined with the little wedge I’ve pinned out diagonally on the left side in the picture above, will help with pivoting the shoulder seams further in.

DSC_3510The pattern is now all altered and fixed and trued up, and the *real* fabric all cut out. We’re leaving for Ireland in a few days, so….um.. chop-chop! As for this wearable muslin, it’s not really wearable at the moment, but I would really like to make it so. I’ll have to take out all the excess at the side-seams, so it won’t be perfect. But look at that fabric! Too fun to not make a proper dress out of!

folk dance costumes

Oh, what a couple of weeks it’s been. I’ve been hard at work with costumes for the opening night of “Mellom rutene -det første trekket avgjør ofte det siste” (the link is to a news article). I travelled up and spent last weekend there to make sure they were all in order – and to see the performance of course! Following that I went straight into a monster work week, and now I’m home sick. I’m sure they’re related. But! That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about the costumes I made!

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I’ve been working for this pretty cool project: This traditional folk dance foundation does a three-year project in a municipality, ending in a final project performance. It’s very much shaped by the folk music and dance material traditional to each municipality, so every project takes on a unique life and progression. I got involved to make costumes for one of these final performances, and it was a really nice experience!

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The setting for the performance was a chess-game, and the concept revolved around what happens if the pieces starts breaking the rules. This show is an expansion of the version they did last year, and part of my job was to expand on the costumes they had used. This meant I was making a lot of pieces that needed to supplement the tunics they already had in place. It also meant that the silhouette was more or less already given, but anything I added also needed to be very dance-friendly.

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The main pieces I worked on were the vests for the kings and the queens. They already had beautiful hand crocheted crowns, but they needed something to make them more visibly different. I gave them vests with exaggerated collars (they queens more so than the kings, as you can see), and to make sure they were dance-friendly, the closures were made up of elastics in the front.

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I also made four skirts for the rooks. I really wanted a straight, column-like shape in the skirts for the stoic rooks, but you can’t dance and roll around on the floor in a pencil skirt! The solution was to use stiffer and heavier fabric for the main portion of the skirt, and to insert cheese-cloth-like thin fabric in between the panels. When the dancer moved and twirled and stuff, the panels opened up to full skirt shape, in line with how the other skirts were moving on stage.

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There were of course more chess-pieces to identify, and we used hats and collars to do so. The pawns had simple tunics and hats, the knights had flat shoulder-collars, and the bishops were given neck ruffles. And, being costumes, lots of velcro as closures!

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A recurrent inspiration was the medieval times, for several reasons: The previous performance was based on the old norse royal game of chess, so the existing tunics were very much medieval in style, and also – with my background in medieval studies I do jump at a chance to draw source material from the era. Several of the patterns were even based on medieval clothing, and I think it does show! In a good way, of course. For instance, the late medieval period saw a lot of collars attached to the bodice in the back with a diagonal seamline. It’s not really done much anymore, but it makes attaching the collar much easier, and I think, also more stable.

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In addition to working with costumes and getting a lot of freedom in picking fun fabric combinations, I got to meet a great group of kids who did a wonderful job on stage. They were a dedicated and fun bunch, and I’m glad to have met them!

SONY DSCPhoto by Ina Cyrus

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