Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Finished Baby Wax Cloth Tunic

I mentioned a few weeks back that one of the things my Pop asked me to sew with the pile of wax cloth he bought for me in Ghana was a dashiki style top for the youngest grandchild, my nephew.

The middle fabric is the one meant for the baby top.

I finished the top just in time for the little guy's 1st birthday party on Saturday.

A Mini Dashiki-style top
Isn't it cute? The pattern I used is Made By Rae's Charlie Tunic. I give it a thumbs up.

Charlie Tunic by Made by Rae

Since my fabric is so busy, I decided to keep things as simple as possible, but the pattern has a number of easy variations for adding contrast facings on the neckline, sleeves and vents. This would be a great pattern for using up those fun but too small fabric remnants.

Now, this is one of those patterns which you download and tape together. You know I'm not a big fan of taping and so was absolutely pleased that the printing instructions tell you which pages to print for each size. Instead of printing out all 20 pattern pages taping them together and then figuring out which pieces you need, I just printed out the 8 pages that I needed for the 12-18 month size. No waste and less taping - hooray!

Neck Facing with Orange Top Stitching

The instructions are very thorough and include photographs of many of the steps. I think this is a smart way to go for a downloadable indie pattern that is aimed at advanced beginners. In particular, I liked that the sleeves were sewn in flat and thought the instructions for finishing the neckline and facing were thorough and thoughtful. That said, for a more experienced sewist, there are a lot of instructions and at times I found myself wading through looking for small bits of information, like the hem allowance on the sleeves. Again, for beginners, this is exactly on target, and really my complaint is a "why isn't everything designed for my specific needs and skills" sort of nit picking.

Little top stitched vent

Overall, the pattern went together beautifully. And, as I've said before, wax cloth could not be easier to sew. It's so very stable and presses like a dream. The print is irregular, but I think I did a good job getting the neck facing to blend with the bodice print. However, wax cloth is not particularly soft or cuddly; I don't think I would generally recommend it for baby clothing.

There is nothing much else to say except that I used my serger to sew or finish the seams and top stitched with regular orange thread using a back stitch. I find it easier to use a heavier stitch instead of top stitching thread, which always seems to cause problems.

Contemplating life on Auntie Erato's lap

The top was delivered on Saturday. It looks like my nephew has room to grow. In RTW baby clothes he is just outgrowing 12 mos sizing and about to move into 18mos - and this is a 12-18mos top. So, on target, I think.

Anyway, one-year-olds are not particularly compliant models by mid-afternoon; by then he was an uncharacteristically serious little guy. This is as close as we got to model shots.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Thighs of Doom: The Revenge

If my weekend was a summer movie, that would be the name. 

A simple ruched skirt.

This has happened before. So, let's not talk about it, and instead simply remind ourselves that it is always a good idea to measure a flat pattern before cutting, particularly at the spots that you tend to need more room, like the thighs, in my case. Knits are no exception.  

Oh, and if you are wondering why I was working on a ruched knit skirt instead of my Future Dress, it is because my weekend started ominously when I ran out of thread. Sigh. I should have heeded the signs.

So, um, how was your weekend?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sticky Scissors Dilemma

I have a sticky little problem that I'm hoping some of you can help with.

My applique scissors: they're sticky. And not because of any gunk.

Duck bill trimmers

They are Gingher 6" knife edge applique scissors that were a gift. I've had them for 2 and 1/2 years and they are still "sticky". The snipping action doesn't glide easily and smoothly, and I end up using them less because my hand gets tired and whatever I'm snipping looks jagged/choppy instead of straight and even. I don't think it's a matter of hand strength; I can open a jar of pickles with no problem.

I thought they'd be broken in by now, if you know what I mean, but they're still tight.

I considered oiling the hinge or loosening it, but I'm not sure either wouldn't create more problems.  Oil + fabric?  I dunno.

Any thoughts on the best way to loosen or break in these tight snippers?  

Monday, July 14, 2014

Seamingly Simple?

I spent this weekend thinking about seams - two very different types.

I'm in the middle of sewing my Future Dress, since my additional fabric - a beautifully drapey rayon challis - arrived during the week. Given how light weight and potentially ravel-prone I thought it would be, I decided that french seams would be the best finish for the dress.

Future Dress Tutorial by

French seams are time consuming since you basically sew and press them twice. The slower and more carefully I sew and press, the better they come out. Oh. And did I mention that this dress has 12 very long seam? Yeah. My work was cut out for me, and there were a few set-backs. It was nearly impossible to figure out which was the right side of the fabric. Also, I sewed one or two seams together with the incorrect sides facing because "sew right sides together" is so ingrained (for french seams you start with wrong sides together.) I used my seam ripper a lot and I'm still not completely finished with the dress.

Turquoise and navy challis with french seam

That said, despite the effort I didn't hesitate on the decision to use a complicated seam option, nor did I procrastinate working on it. I also didn't try to cut any corners no matter how frustrating my french seams became. This was not the case with the other seam I should be working on.

My other project is a baby blanket ('tis the season for baby gifts again). I finished the actual knitting several weeks ago. It's the Baby Tree of Life Blanket by Lion Brand Yarn. I just love classic heirloom style ecru baby blankets.

Anyway, the whole center area is knit separately from the leaf trim, as you can see. Then you seam the trim around the perimeter. The seaming doesn't require any fancy stitch or handy-work, and yet I spent the entire weekend procrastinating to a point where I only have about 4 inches done.

I'm feeling uncertain. For many knits, you should block before you seam.  But this pattern actually suggests seaming as you knit the trim (ie: pre-blocking).  I didn't do this. So, now I have 96 inches of trim to seam.

I have no explanation for my behavior; it makes no sense. I happily spend hours toiling at a complicated sewn seam, but can't seem to do a simple knitting seam, which I could even do while in front of the television. In fact, as I write this, I have the Harry Potter marathon on. I suspect that once I get going and feel like I've made progress, the blanket will speed along. But for now, I procrastinate.

Do you have any strange and inexplicable crafting behaviors?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Perfect Weekend for a Caftan: McCalls Fashion Star M6552

I sometimes forget that there is anything in New York outside of the eponymous city that is my hometown. But a long weekend relaxing on the shores of Lake George is a good reminder of all the things NYS gets right.

I get my cheek bones from my mom. 
Our family reunion was a ton of fun, complete with swimming, bbq-ing, boating and a silly string fight.  I delivered the finished wax cloth caftan to my mom and she wore it that weekend. This pattern was a cinch - actually, I can't imagine any caftan pattern being truly difficult - but here's a review anyway...

So, this is M6552, part of McCalls Fashion Star line of patterns. Based on my mom's high bust measurement, I made the x-small. There is so much ease in this pattern that fitting the loose bodice and then just making sure the skirt measurements would fit was the reasonable way to go. My mom is a pear.

The bodice is actually all one piece, front and back, (ie: no shoulder seam) with cut on kimono sleeves.  The neckline is finished with self bias binding. There is a dot on the pattern which marks how high you should whip stitch the neck closed, but I stitched it closed to the point my mom wanted since she likes a more modest neckline.

Mom Muse is a tall, slender lady (5'11" peeps!) I compensated by adding 4 inches to the skirt pieces at the lengthen/shorten line. The only other change I made was to shorten the bodice. It's supposed to be an empire style, but I discovered during our fitting that the bodice was half way to my mom's waist. Shortening acted like an SBA, which I would normally do for anything sewn for my mom. So, it was lucky that I added the additional length, since I used it all to give the final dress a toe grazing hem.

Maxi's are hard to come by when you are so tall. 

The bodice and skirt are sewn together with a 3/4" seam, which then forms a casing for a drawstring under the bust. Two small button holes allow the self fabric drawstring to be tied at the base of the bust.

My only difference of opinion with my mom is that she likes the drawstring very loose, whereas I think that if she cinched it just a bit it would create a lovely shape and accentuate her height and svelte figure. But it's my mom's prerogative to wear it loose, and well, when have mothers and daughters ever agreed on the finer points of fashion?  I'm just happy she likes it. :-)

And here is one final action shot of both of my parents in their natural habitat - behind their cameras.

Pattern review here. Final thoughts: this is a great beginner pattern and wax cloth is a great beginner fabric because of it's stability. I used my serger for all the seams except the waist, where the seam allowance is used to make the casing. The hem and sleeves can just be turned twice and top stitched. Easy peasey.

Hope you had a great weekend whether you were celebrating or not. And now, on to some sewing for myself! 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Finished Object Teaser: Caftan for Mom Muse

Midway thru cutting my future dress on Sunday, I ran out of challis. The dress is a fabric hog. Thankfully, I had ordered the fabric on-line and they had more available. So, more fabric has been ordered.

Instead of letting this dis-rail my mojo, I sewed McCalls Fashion Star (M6552) for Mom Muse instead. It's a draw string empire waist caftan that I made from the wax cloth that my pop bought on his most recent trip to Ghana. When I was a child, my mom had a dashiki caftan that she used to wear around the house on summer mornings when she was getting children up and out for the day - there were 5 of us and in the summer there was always a cousin or two visiting. So, it was quite the production.
Button holes for the draw string to go thru

Thanks to a quick fitting session last Saturday, I'm pretty confident that this will fit her beautifully. Here is a quick peek at the finished garment.

Today we're heading to a 4th of July family reunion, and I'm bringing the finished caftan for her. I'm picturing her wearing it as a beach cover up while she chases after the 4 grandchildren - aka my nephews.

Have a great weekend, everyone! Final photos and reviews next week!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Finished Summer LBD and Yea or Nay: Black & Brown

So, finally I fit in a photo shoot of my new Tracey Reese Vogue 1314 dress.

I'd like to say that our new camera made this photo shoot just as easy as the last one. Alas, there is a learning curve. Little details like, oh, say, not having the camera on the landscape setting and not taking dozens of pictures while I am trying to say something are ones that we are still learning.  There were a lot of "outtakes" and yet few different views or detail shots of the dress. Oh well. Photography is a WIP here at Clio & Phin HQ.

But here is my dress and a question...

On the V1314 pattern, there isn't too much to say since I've sewn it before. I really needed a simple black knit dress for summer that would be cool and comfy and that I could dress up for work or wear more casually on the weekends with sandals.

Knits are not my strength as a sewist, and I didn't want to over-complicate things. I think the finishes are neat and clean without being fussy. I used elastic in the seams to gather the ruching on this one. I omitted the lining and instead finished the neckline with a self fabric binding that I serged on and then turned to the inside and top stitched down with a twin needle. To finish the sleeves I serged the raw ends, turned them in and, again, top stitched with a twin needle. The hem was simply turned, stitched with the twin needle and trimmed.

The fabric is an incredibly soft and drapey rayon jersey from my stash that I bought at Metro Textiles aeons ago. It's absolutely lovely to wear - cool, breathable and thin without being too clingy.  I've always been picky about how fabric feels on and this is exactly what I would want for a summer knit dress. Honestly, I think rayon is a better choice than cotton or poly knits for warm weather. It breathes like silk, is absorbent of sweat, retains its color, recovers it's stretch well and doesn't normally pill. Best of all, rayon somehow always feels cool to the touch, which makes me want to wear it on hot days.

The only possible downside to this dress is that photos were taken at the end of the day after a round trip commute and full day of work. I should have actually looked in the mirror and adjusted myself. It looks like I tugged the dress down or smoothed it at some point instead of letting the ruching do it's ruchy thing. (Another lesson about working with a photographer who is in a rush to get the shoot done.)

Anyway, my question is: Yea or Nay to a black dress with brown accessories? Or more broadly black and brown combinations.

I'm not sure this is actually the best shoe choice for this outfit, but I definitely like the other accessories with this dress, the scarf in particular. Years ago I would have argued that this is a fashion faux pas. I'm pretty sure that's how I was raised - sort of like the no white after Labor Day rule. But I guess I've changed my mind over time.

But what are your thoughts on it? Do you wear black and brown together? Are there certain circumstances where you would or wouldn't? Or is it a faux pas to accessorize one with the other?  Do tell.