Sunday, March 29, 2015

Advance 9441 (1950's kimono sleeve dress) and bluebonnets!

Hello, everyone!  I finished the dress I was working on in my gusset tutorial, and, most importantly, finally got around to photographing it.
First off, the pattern I used was Advance 9441, a 1950's dress pattern with kimono sleeves.
I used an African cotton fabric I bought from one of those world import stores, this one in Roanoke, VA.  It was originally a six-yard cut of fabric, and contained three different prints.  I used the print from one end for the bodice, and the print from the other end for the skirt.
In addition to the print, there's a pattern woven into the fabric.
Here's a close-up of the woven pattern.
As far as the construction went...I really didn't follow the instructions at all.  First off, I inserted the gussets using lapped seams, which you can read about in my tutorial.  The standard way would have been fine, but it doesn't play to my technical strengths, and I probably would have mangled it horribly. 

I also constructed the bodice in a completely non-standard way.  Most patterns of this era have you assemble the bodice, assemble the skirt, sew the bodice to the skirt at the waist seam, and then insert the zipper.  I have tried this approach many times, and I have never managed to get the zipper in cleanly.  I always insert my zippers by hand as a hand-picked zipper, and this approach does not give me enough room to work.  Instead, I assemble the bodice front and skirt front and join them at the waist, the bodice back and skirt back and join them at the waist, insert the back zipper, and then join the back and front at the side seams.  This approach has the added bonus of letting you make last-minute adjustments at the side seams if you need to.

The pattern didn't call for a lining, and originally I did not plan for one, but after I tried wearing the dress, I found that all of the silk organza interfacing was extremely itchy.  So, I lined the bodice with black silk habotai.  I didn't interface the gussets, but I did provide an inch of ease in the side seams, so hopefully the lining gussets won't wear out prematurely.  Sorry about all the wrinkles-- after the photo shoot, I changed clothes, shoved the dress in a bag, and went hiking. 
I also added 1" horsehair braid to the hem for added poofiness.
In short, I think this is a fantastic pattern and I highly recommend it.  It went together easily and required very few alterations.  I took out half the fullness of the bottom front bust darts as a small bust adjustment, and took in the side seams by maybe half an inch.  This will absolutely become my go-to pattern if I need a kimono sleeve bodice.

Now, the photo shoot!  It's a tradition in my family to take bluebonnet pictures in the spring, and I thought this fabric would work beautifully with the blue and white flowers.

I hope you like it!  Two technical notes about the photographs.  First, if you want to take lying-down-in-the-flowers pictures, you really have to bring a stepladder or something like that-- if you have someone stand over you and use a wide-angle lens, not only will you get perspective distortion, you're also likely to get your photographer's shadow in the picture.  Second, if you're taking a photograph of a very dark dress which takes up most of the frame, your camera's first impulse will be to overexpose the picture to keep the dress from coming out too dark.  If you have very light skin, like me, this will blow the highlights in your face.  You'll want to play with the exposure compensation.  I didn't, and even though I could salvage the photos in Lighroom, it was pretty rough, and it would have been better if I had gotten the exposure right the first time.

I hope you enjoyed this!  I'm looking forward to getting a lot of wear out of the dress, and making this pattern again.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

1930's Sweetheart Overalls! And COWS!!!

From the first moment I saw the 1930's Sweetheart Overalls from Decades of Style, I knew I wanted me some pink overalls.
 So...I wish I could remember more about the pattern and the construction details, but I did the bulk of the work for these overalls in my next-to-last house, so there isn't much to tell.  The pattern went together more or less smoothly, though I had to make adjustments for the fact that I am not as busty as any of these patterns seem to think I am. 

The overalls are made out of pink leno weave linen.  The original plan was to line them with pink silk habotai, but when I started playing around with the fabric, I realized that this was a bad idea-- I'd be able to see the seam allowances through the open weave of the fabric, and the pink silk habotai wasn't opaque enough for lining.  So, I underlined the linen with the pink silk habotai, and lined the overalls with black silk habotai.

Handling the fabric was the most difficult part of the process.  Since the linen has a sort of check weave, I had to match the weave pattern across the seams.  It was hard to underline the linen with the habotai without the habotai shifting around too much.  And it was generally a big time sink to work with three layers of fabric.  In the end, I think I did a really good job matching the print, though.
I finished almost all of the sewing, but then the overalls languished in my unfinished projects pile for a long time because I couldn't find buttons I was happy with, and I wasn't sure how well the habotai and open-weave linen would hold up to buttonholes which were obviously going to be under a lot of stress.  Eventually, the answer dawned on me-- SNAPS!!!

I'm really happy with the way the overalls turned out.  They're light and breezy in the summer months, but the three layers of fabric still hold heat pretty well in the cold air conditioning.  Plus, who doesn't love pink overalls? 
I'm also pretty happy with the fact that I found matching cowboy boots!
I had so much fun with this photo shoot, guys...
I mean, just, really a lot of fun.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

And the sewing humor blog of the day...

If you haven't seen it, the blog McCall's Pattern Behavior is hilarious (though some language may be NSFW).  Head on over there and take a look!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The FTL Skirt and PAX East 2015

Last Saturday, my fiance and I attended the gaming convention PAX (Penny Arcade Expo) East.
It was a lot of fun.  We spent a lot of time trying out games in the indie video games section, but we also checked out the board games and the old arcade games, and even attended a Super Metroid speed run.

Of course, I had to make something fun to wear. So, I made a skirt based on one of my favorite games, FTL:  Faster Than Light.  It's a roguelike spaceship simulator, or, really, a Captain Picard simulator.  You're the captain of a spaceship on an important mission to save the Federation from the Rebels, and so you travel to new star systems, interact with the people there, run diplomatic missions, and get in fights with other spaceships.  These fights work pretty much the same way that they do in Star Trek, where you take a hit to your shields so you reroute power to the engines, but the engine room caught on fire so you have to vent the oxygen from the room to put out the fire...
Nooooo!!!  Not an asteroid field!

Anyway, I had fabric printed using Spoonflower-- I arranged some of the playable ships in a floral-print sort of pattern.  I made a circle skirt, used a row of ships to make the waistband, stiffened the hem with horsehair braid, and lined it with white silk habotai. 
The skirt was a big hit, and I got a lot of complements.  I really like how the print turned out.  The assembly didn't go right the first time-- I cut the waist hole too big-- but I was able to fix this by taking up the extra fullness with a box pleat at the back.  I used Spoonflower's basic combed cotton, which was terrible.  I absolutely would not use this fabric again.  It doesn't drape well and it creases horribly.  Even the most minor amount of handling will result in creases.  Seriously, what a pain.  I also don't like the way the skirt drapes as a result of the horsehair braid. 

Still, it was a lot of fun, and I'd highly recommend PAX and FTL if you're interested in gaming! 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Exhibit Review: Hollywood Glamor

On Wednesday, I went to see the exhibit "Hollywood Glamor" at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which featured clothing and jewelry from Hollywood movies of the 1920's through 1940's.  It was small but excellent.  This is my favorite period in clothing design-- I especially love bias-cut evening dresses-- and the exhibit provided the opportunity to see sixteen outfits up close.  I'm going to point out some of my favorites here, but you can see the full set of pictures, including higher-resolution versions, in my Flickr album.

I love the attention to detail in the beading of this evening dress and jacket from What a Widow!  (1930).  The beaded flower motifs have been appliqued across the seams, and to match at the bottom of the jacket opening.
The bodice of this dress from the 1934 movie Limehouse Blues makes clever use of the bias cut.  The seams form an X across the front of the bodice, which emphasizes the bust, but also allows the seams to fall along the straight grain, which is much easier to work with.
In this dress from This Way Please (1937), the strips along the side of the bodice become halter straps.  Do any of you know exactly how this construction works?  I haven't been able to find a pattern which features it.

I hope you've enjoyed this brief look at the exhibit!  Please browse my full Flickr album-- it has nearly 140 photos, including labels and detail shots of the dresses.  What are your favorites?