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adventures in patterndrafting // mystery fabric contest 2017

Mystery Fabric Contest dress 2017

This dress was kind of a beast. It was unwieldy and not very nice at times. It also kind of had a mind of its own but I mostly managed to wrangle it into submission with a lot of hand-stitching.

But let’s start at the beginning.

MFC dress 2017 progress

I had two main sources of inspiration for this one: Claire Danes’ Met Gala dress from 2016 and the Iron Work dress by House of Worth. (Or technically the Redthreaded version because that’s what popped up on my instagram feed and cued heart eyes because holy crap.)

I knew I wanted to do something completely different from last year, so my sister expressly forbade me from doing 3D flowers to use up the uglier fabrics. And then lots of people last year kept saying they took their ugliest fabrics and made them into bias tape for binding seams on the inside. For some reason my brain took that and ran with it and I decided that no matter what fabric I got, I would turn it into bias tape and cover the dress with it.

MFC dress 2017 progressI never want to look at bias tape again.

I chose a blue bundle because I thought it would be fun to do something a little more colorful. Except “blue” really meant “beige with blue accents” and the one fabric I got a large-ish (2.5 yards) piece of looked almost exactly like my dress from last year (the one on the far left).

I started doing some sketching about stripe directions and what not, and somewhere along the line my brain also decided this dress needed to also be reversible. I kept looking at Oscars dresses and all of my favorites were solid colors, so I decided that I’d make a plain black side as the actual Oscars dress, and the striped side would be like the after-party dress. Repurposing ftw.

I started with a muslin high-low circle skirt, which I divided into quadrants. I sewed a cluster of 9 stripes straight down the front, sides, and back. Then I drew diagonal lines and sewed a 5 stripe cluster down the four diagonals. Then it was just filling in the horizontal stripes.

Two issues came up here:

Issue #1) I could NOT get the bias tape to stay straight. It kept wanting to curve. I decided to just go with it and in the end you can’t really tell, and it actually looks kind of cool in a Mat Hatter-y sort of way.

MFC dress 2017 progress

At this point I was sewing on a few stripes of the same color, switching thread colors, and then sewing a few of the other color before switching back. Killmenow.

MFC dress 2017 progressSpiderweb?

Then I decided to just suck it up and use my sick Bernina even though the timing is off and she skips stitches sometimes. I should really take that in to get fixed.

Issue #2) I ran out of beige fabric. There was a moment of panic but it ended up being fine; I used some of the uglier canvas fabrics covered with the black I’d purchased to make solid pieces at the bottoms. It gives the eye a place to rest and also matches the solid pieces in the bodice.

MFC dress 2017 progressUgly canvas pieces sewn together to form a piece a little larger than the “naked” area at the hem of the skirt.

MFC dress 2017 progressPinned down so I can cut the exact shape needed.

MFC dress 2017 progressA solid black piece cut out in the same shape to go on top.

I took many breaks during this process to work on the bodice, which proved to be a different sort of challenge. I started off drafting a corsety shaped thing and played with the style lines a bit. The black side still has the Claire Danes dress lines, but it didn’t really work on the striped side.

MFC dress 2017 progressBoning channeling.

MFC dress 2017 progressThe original bodice before I re-did it twice.

I decided that while the upside center piece works well in solids, it really doesn’t translate to a giant solid piece amongst stripes, so I redrafted those (thank god they were only style lines and not shaping ones!) and turned that piece upside down.

MFC dress 2017 progressSketch concept of the new bodice. 

MFC dress 2017 progressPinning to see how it looks.

MFC dress 2017 progress

I was running super low on the beige stripes at this point so I was trying to save as much of it for the skirt as possible. I decided to try adding triangular wedges of solid black. I realized that this inadvertently solved my issue of “Does the random center black panel look out of place?” (The answer was yes.) And then they also went with the solid black pieces at the hem! Total accident, guys.

MFC dress 2017 progressAnddd new bodice in progress. Much better!

MFC dress 2017 progress

I kind of went into panic mode at this point and stopped taking progress photos, but nothing super interesting happened after this, just a lot of hand-sewing. I had to trim an angle into the circle skirt waist to accommodate the pointy bodice.

And then I had to be strategic in how I put the whole thing together in order for it to be reversible.

1) I started at the neckline, sandwiching the fluttery pieces between the two bodices and stitching the necklines together.

2) I sewed each skirt to its corresponding bodice.

3) I hand-stitched the two waistline hems together to keep things from shifting around.

4) Attached ban-rol to the hem. I was going to use horsehair braid but I was concerned about how heavy the skirt was going to be. I’d never heard of ban-rol and was in an experimental mood. It worked ok, I think. I’ll have to try horsehair braid to compare.

5) Hand-stitched the entire hem closed.

6) I had three fabrics left so I made a little quilted clutch (also reversible with one side to go with each side of the dress) but I forgot to take photos. Oops.

Phew! I turned in my dress on Tuesday and now I’m kind of having separation anxiety. I’ve been working on it on and off for months, and basically on nothing else for the past few weeks. Now excuse me while I go sew a bunch of t-shirts and zippy bags and pillow cases for the next month.

And see my previous post for more photos of the finished dress!

Mystery Fabric Contest dress 2017

mystery fabric contest 2017

Mystery Fabric Contest dress 2017

Mystery Fabric Contest dress 2017

Mystery Fabric Contest dress 2017

Mystery Fabric Contest dress 2017

Mystery Fabric Contest dress 2017

Mystery Fabric Contest dress 2017

Mystery Fabric Contest dress 2017

Mystery Fabric Contest dress 2017

Mystery Fabric Contest dress 2017

Mystery Fabric Contest dress 2017

Mystery Fabric Contest dress 2017

Mystery Fabric Contest dress 2017

Mystery Fabric Contest dress 2017

I’ve been a little absent from the interwebs the past several weeks and here is the reason why.

My school does a mystery fabric contest every year (here’s last year’s entry).  The rules are pretty simple. You pick a random bundle of fabric that’s all wrapped up and labeled with only a color. You have to use at least 50% of each piece of fabric in the bundle, and this year there was the added “Red Carpet” theme.

I decided to make thing really really easy on myself. *snerk* Actually what happened was my brain decided to fixate on one idea and wouldn’t budge, and I ended up making approximately 200 yards of bias tape. (Nope, that’s not striped fabric.) And then it just had to be reversible.

In the interest of not including 100 photos in one post, I’ll save all the how-to’s and befores and afters and progress photos for the next post.

Mary poppins

Wax canvas tote bag

Wax canvas tote bag

Wax canvas tote bag

Wax canvas tote bag

Ever since I started to discover that things I had once thought were impossible (jeans, bras, jackets, etc.) were actually totally within the realm of possibility, I’ve wanted to make a bag. I did make one bag a while ago that was cute but not exactly practical for my lifestyle (i.e. too small). Most of the bag patterns I’ve come across online have either not been the style or type of bag I was looking for, or are entirely too Amy Butler-y, which doesn’t go with my wardrobe at all.

I randomly came across this pattern/tutorial/guide thing a few years ago and pinned it and promptly forgot about it. I ran into again the other day and remembered that I had a bunch of canvas, wax, faux leather and pretty Cotton and Steel horses that were just waiting to be made into a bag. (It was originally supposed to be a Walden Cooper bag but I decided I’m really not a backpack person.) The canvas was from fabric.com and the faux leather was from that giant warehouse of fabric shops in Taiwan, and the wax I randomly found at Goodwill one day. I’ve heard great things about Otter wax too.

Now, I’ve never worked with waxed canvas before and I still don’t really feel like I know what I’m doing, especially since I was waxing my own canvas. I did the rubbing in paraffin wax thing and then melted it with a hair dryer, but then the iron would basically make it evaporate or otherwise disappear. I ended up deciding to wax most of the fabric (once cut), ironing it carefully with a press cloth and on a low setting, and then just reapplying wax at the end as needed. It seemed to work well. I also did a light layer on the inside to protect the pretty horses.

The inspiration bag.

Onto the pattern/tutorial/guide thing. Fun fact: it’s written by Don Morin, who has a Craftsy class on leather bags that looks pretty interesting. Anyway, the instructions are a bit confusing and there aren’t any step by step photos but if you read through carefully and just look at some bags you own/photos of the finished bag it’s pretty straightforward. I also found this blog post of someone who made it and shows some of the steps, which was helpful. The main confusion is the fact that his finished photo is of the RTW bag that was his inspiration, and not an actual bag made with the pattern, so there are some differences.

Wax canvas tote bag

I also changed a few things due to preference.

1) He has you cut two struts for each side (the vertical things that extend down from the strap). Based on advice in the blog post I linked above, I cut two extra long ones so they wrap around the bottom of the bag for support.

Wax canvas tote bag

2) I thought his straps were too thin so I doubled the width, as well as the length so they can be worn over the shoulder. I also didn’t bother sewing the leatherette trim on because holy crap that looked fiddly.

3) I added a lining, which basically just entailed cutting a second main bag piece. I also had to cut additional zipper placket pieces and then had to fiddle with the zipper insertion so I think mine ended up being a little different than what his instructions said to do.

Wax canvas tote bag

3) I added a zippered patch pocket (basically just make a window in a rectangle of fabric like you’re going to do a welt pocket but then sew a zipper there and then sew it on like a patch pocket) and some open pockets on the other side. I interfaced the crap out of the lining and then just sewed it on easy peasy.

Tote bag details

4) I stole this idea from my Jordana Paige knitting bag because I love it so much, but I made a zippered pouch but attached snap buttons on the side, and then the other side of the snaps are on the inside edge of the bag so the pouch doesn’t get lost in the bottom of the bag but is also removable. (I use this pocket in my knitting bag for makers and needles and needle tips. This one holds Ibuprofen, tampons, chapstick, and ladybug bandaids.)

Tote bag details

5) Also stolen from my Jordana Paige bag: I added a snap loop thing either for hanging my keys or for feeding yarn through if I want to knit out of the bag. I realized afterward that I should’ve made a elastic top pocket thing to actually hold the yarn but I think I can still go back and handstitch one in.

Wax canvas tote bag

6) I also haven’t done the strap because I can’t decide if I would ever wear it that way. I did sew on D-rings just in case I change my mind though. Instead, I elongated the straps so it can comfortably fit on my shoulder.

Tote bag details

7) I don’t always zip my bags but don’t want the giant opening flapping around either so I added a small snap button in the middle.

Wax canvas tote bag

Anyway, I looove how it turned out. It’s so heavy and sturdy and lovely and then you look inside and it’s horses. Major heart eyes. I didn’t expect it to be quite so ginormous (I guess the fact that he calls it a “Weekender bag” didn’t tip me off..) but that means it’ll be nice for either weekend trips or just stuffing multiple knitting projects into.

Wax canvas tote bag

(Now I really want to sew another camera insert..)

brocade + bonus meowser

Pleated brocade skirt

Pleated brocade skirt

Pleated brocade skirt

Pleated brocade skirt

Pleated brocade skirtMy feline friend came to visit while I was taking photos hehe. 

I actually made this skirt ages ago but it’s taken me forever to photograph it. I picked this fabric up at a rummage sale for something like $3. At first it was going to be some kind of zippy crop top, possibly with a peplum. Then I decided I would probably never wear that and fell down the rabbit hole of brocade skirts on Pinterest. Then it was an issue of whether it should be a Moss skirt, a pleated skirt, or something in between. I decided to go with the pleats.

It’s pretty basic, really. The Armstrong book talks about all kinds of technical shenanigans for making pleats but to be honest, I just measure out a waistband in the right size and then fuss with the pleats until they fit the waistband. The result is probably not quite as neat as it could be, but meh.

Helpful pleating tip: regardless of whether you measure out your pleats ahead of time, try to angle them so the inside fold of the pleat sticks out past the edge of the fabric. This keeps them from splaying open and keeps them nice and neat.

The top is actually a cropped Nettie top that I’m wearing backwards. It’s not technically meant to be reversible but I was getting dressed one day and the low scoop neck didn’t quite work with the outfit so I decided to try turning it around. The shoulders end up being slightly off but not really noticeably.

Now excuse me while I go pet the kitty who is currently indignantly meowing because I ignored him while I finished taking photos. (For the record, after that photo, he settled about halfway between me and the camera and licked his bits — out of view, thankfully.)

Adventures in drafting // christmas dress 2016

velvet xmas dress

velvet xmas dress

velvet xmas dress

velvet xmas dress

OHAI. It’s been a while.

I realized the other day that while I’ve alluded to certain things, I haven’t actually talked about anything life-related in a while. So here’s a life update in a  nutshell:

Last year I decided that my old career was not exactly panning out to be what I wanted (a lot of this had to do with licensing regulations in California, but that’s boring and not sewing-related).  At the same time, I had signed up for a flat pattern class at the local CC just to have something to do while I looked for a new job after moving from Boston back to California. Pretty much by week 3 of the class I decided I was going to need to switch careers.  The next semester I signed up for a full class load. Now I’m finishing up my last semester (well, technically I’ll have one last class next semester) while interning as a pattern maker for a local designer.

So, lots of changes going on in the last year! Spoiler alert: I love it.

Anyway, full time school + internship + part time job means not so much time for blogging, which I really miss. I have a whole pile of clothes I’ve sewn in the last six months that need to be photographed. I keep being hesitant to do it because it’s too cold outside. And then I remember I used to do this in Boston, in the snow, in 30 degree weather. I’m shivering just thinking about it. -_-

ANYWAY, now that we’re all caught up, meet this year’s Christmas dress.

The backstory is that my friend kept buying these gorgeous velvet dresses from Anthropologie, and then we planned a weekend holiday trip and decided one evening we would wear velvet dresses. So I got on Pinterest and looked for velvet dresses and found this lovely one by Holly Willoughby.

Making the pattern was pretty straightforward. Move bust darts to waist and turn them into gathers, neckline yoke thing, V-front cutout that meets in the middle, puffed sleeve with gathers that don’t go all the way to the armhole. Since I was using velvet and didn’t want to bother with a separate lining, I made facings for the front and yoke to make it easier.

I used a cheapy stretch velvet from Fabrics ‘r Us because this was kind of an experiment. We’ll call it a Christmas muslin. It actually wasn’t that hard to sew together. I basted the tricky bits but other than that the pile of the velvet sort of acted like velcro and it mostly stayed put. I used stitch witchery for the hem and sleeve edge to avoid having a row of stitching. It stays put and I just think it looks nicer.

The beading was super fun and so quick now that I have a beading needle. I didn’t even bother buying new beads. I’ve done so many beading projects in the last few years that I have an assortment of extra beads and the original dress didn’t seem to have any distinct beading pattern so I just used what I had.

Anyway, I do kind of wish the insides were a little prettier (I was kind of rushed because this was one of two finals week procrastination projects) but I’m in love. It’s one of the comfiest fancy dresses I own and I’ve already worn it twice. The velvet makes it look dressy but the stretchy means more room for feasting.

Maybe I need one in green too..