Wabi-Sabi Dress

From the UFO (UnFinished Object) files:

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Once upon a time, I was inspired by Julia Bobbin’s colour blocked Laurel. I decided to tackle a small stash of some exotic silk that I got from my Mother-in-Law, and I chose this lovely navy-grey piece. It was quite sedate in comparison to other pieces from said stash… It featured a beautiful scalloped pattern along one edge. After being strongly reassured by MIL that yes, you can wash it normally, I took all the pieces and threw them in the washing machine (on gentle cycle, I’m NOT crazy), an then in the dryer, on cold. All the silk came out lovely, much softer and more pliable, and the colours acquired more lustre. But my gorgeous grey piece had threads pulled out through the entire length of the yardage… I was heartbroken. I tried to cut my pattern pieces in a way that the most obvious damage was hidden by the darts, but to no avail… And what’s even more, the lovely scallops did not align on the bottom, which was too much for me… in the UFOs you go!

Fast forward 6 months or so, and I find this reasonable, mostly finished garment with a seriously funky bottom. So I cut off the bottom, and decide to make a tunic, but then I realize that I have some cotton that matches the colour almost exactly, so I add a panel to the bottom, make a weird neckline for more interest, and I have my colour blocked Laurel, just like Julia (same, but different)! My MIL recognized the fabric right away when she saw me in this dress, and was very surprised and quite pleased that I made something out of that silk! As for the damage, it’s still there.

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Enter the beautiful concept of wabi-sabi. Good people of Wikipedia will tell you more, but just to quickly paraphrase, it’s an idea that describes perfection in it’s imperfection. My dress is wabi-sabi. I am wabi-sabi. And you, have you ever felt like you’ll never be  able to pick yourself up and put yourself together after something that happened? But then you did, you got up, and now you’re mostly whole again, except that now you’re so much richer and much more interesting than before…

In life (and sewing), it is so easy to get preoccupied with striving for perfection. There is nothing wrong with perfection, but one does not have to be perfect all the time. This dress has many faults, but it is one of my favourites. Casual, comfy, versatile, but it’s a dress. Looks good belted, and loose (you know, for skinny or fat days!) The cotton part wrinkles like crazy, but hey, more wabi-sabi to me!

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Care to share your wabi-sabi creations, dear reader?

I think I’m in Love…

Earlier today I made two garments, both are promising to be my spring/summer favourites. I feel that everybody involved in the process of making these should be thanked. So here we go:

1) Thank you McCaul, for putting out M6754. Terribly cute pattern, and I’ve been dying to make it since last summer. Also, it is a terribly silly pattern. Or it is great if you are a person who is comfortable with seeing your bellybutton through your front neckline, and your butt-crack through the back neckline. When I made the first version of View A the only thing that I liked about it was the placement of the bust darts. I liked them enough to go on with another muslin… Interestingly enough, both of the following versions have darts that go too high. Oh well, I think they make my bewbs look perkier, no?

2) Thank you to my sister-in-law. She wears horizontal stripes like no one else, she wears them all the time, big stripes, small stripes, and what-not stripes, and ALWAYS rocks them. You see, I am intimidated by horizontal stripes, and a lot of my stash involves stripes, because I love stripes. My SIL has a very similar physique to mine, she might be 1″taller than I, and is equally apple-shaped, so there is no reason why she should rock those stripes, but not I!? It’s all about attitude, yo! You wanna see what I made yet?

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3) I also would like to thank The Stashbusting Sewalong 2014 group, who are such a swell bunch of gals! This month’s theme is COLOURS! I love all the colours, I sew all sorta koo-koo hues, but I got to thinking about sewing for work, or for when I cannot match a jacket to a dress, because all of the clothes that I make are so crazy colour-wise. So I’ve decided to make me a dress out of the plainest piece of knit that I had: medium weight, grey t-shirt fabric, 100% cotton with not a lot of stretch. I thought of it as a plain canvas, on which one might hang a crazy jacket or a sick belt. When I put it on after I attached the skirt to the bodice, I gasped. It was the most understated but also elegant piece of clothing that I made. The way the skirt hung, how the fabric skimmed my body without clinging to my rolls… Love at first sight!

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And just to prove a point about it being a canvas on which one might hang things, I tied a piece of random cord around my waist, to mimic a sick belt, of course:

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See how pretty? Point proven…

4) Thank you wind, for blowing some nice weather this way, perfect for taking pictures:

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A Sweater, A Princess, and Second Chances.

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Once upon a time there was a cute sweater. It was snug, but not too snug, and it was such a colour that when you saw it, you tasted raspberries in your mouth. The sweater belonged to the fair-ish Princess, who wore it few times, enjoying herself immensely. One day, the evil stepmother* carelessly threw the sweater into the wash and then into the dryer on HOT! The Princess shed tears, as the lovely sweater barely covered her belly anymore. It was a pitiful sight, the Princess tugging on it trying to make it fit, but to no avail. Many years have passed (like, almost five) and the Princess acquired the skill of sewing. Even though the sweater was languishing in the darkest bowels of her closet, she never forgot the shrunken treasure.

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She was stricken with a bout of inspiration. She cut off the ribbing at the bottom, cut off most of the sleeves, added a black band and pink button to each sleeve, and a half-circle skirt to where the ribbing used to be.  The Princess’ heart was overflowing with joy, she was eagerly awaiting being re-united with her lovely, lovely sweater, now getting reincarnated as a high-waisted, MIDI dress. But an evil spirit possessed the Princess’ shears, and also poked her in the elbow as she was shortening the hem. Oops, there was nothing else to do but to carry on, the Princess apparently now had a high-waisted MINI dress, which she finished with a rolled hem on her serger. From the extra fabric that she salvaged from the hem she made a belt, which totally did not show in the pictures, and a cute bow, which she attached to the centre of the neckline. The Princess cherished her new dress, proudly wore it in her backyard while taking pictures. Afterwards, she edited her nipples out of the photos, as it was sooooooo darn cold outside, and it showed in the pictures. But her and the dress had a great time, and they lived happily ever after.

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THE END

*The “evil stepmother” was actually a helpful and well-meaning Prince, but some names got changed to protect people’s identities.

Mad Men and Woman in the Snow

 

I actually wanted to title this post “A petition to Julia Bobbin”, followed by a plea to change the date of the Mad Men Dress Challenge for next year (I hope there will be next year?) to later in the year. I mean, c’mon, doesn’t your heart just break looking at me modelling my lovely summer dress with heaps of snow in the background?

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Hello? Is it spring you’re looking for?

But anyhoo, this dress is inspired by Betty’s dresses. She is not one of my favourite characters, but fairly early in the series they showed her working away at a sewing machine, and at that moment Betty stole a piece of my heart. How could anyone not love her day dresses, or those breezy, summery party dresses?

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Fitted bodice, and a full skirt, in pretty, pretty colours. That is the general style that I desperately wanted to duplicate, because I have never had a dress like that. Since a very early age my mother discouraged me from wearing dresses, she believed that they did not suit me. So I abandoned the notion of dressing pretty and turned into a total tomboy. It is only now that I have the confidence to embrace my body the way it is, and I acquired  certain amount of sewing and fitting skill that I want to try to regain some of the girliness that I never had. So here it comes:

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Circle skirt: check!
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Twirl: check. OK, kinda, too windy and too cold to twirl.

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Now for the deets: the bodice is the same as the black dress. This time, I boned the front and side seams with plastic boning (in the black dress I put boning only in the side seams). I really enjoy the look and feel of a boned bodice, and again I am so surprised how easy it is to work with plastic boning! The front of the bodice, after drafting and installing straps, became quite short, so I drafted the waist band (a loooong rectangle), to which I added the circle skirt. That circle skirt was cut in the summer, and at that point was not meant to be a dress, just a stash busting experiment. Then it was marinating on a hanger for the next 7 months (to get the stretch out from the bias sections, I think the 7 months did the trick)! I lined the whole thing with cotton batiste, installed the zipper, discovered that I did not have any more hook and eye closures, trimmed the skirt, and added the lace to the bottom. Then I went to install the horsehair braid to the bottom of the skirt, following some well-meaning but wrong advice. The advice was to use thinner horsehair, since I made a narrow hem. Later, when I was flipping through Gertie’s book, I read that the more drama you want, the wider the braid you should use. So tomorrow at work I will be purchasing some 2″ or 3″ horsehair, rather than the measly 1/2″ that I was working with. And I will probably shorten the lace a little bit, it seems to be too long for the proportions of the dress, no?

So that is that. This is a dress that makes me feel like a million bucks. This is the dress that trumps ALL of the sewing messes that I’ve made so far.  This is the dress I’ll be wearing in bed when I catch a cold from twirling in 3 centigrade weather. And the dress also wants me to buy me a string of pearls…

Keep your eye out on Julia’s blog and the challenge roundup on April 6th, to see what other participants of the MMDC3 came up with. I expect it to be inspiring, as always!

 

Party!

IMG_0315“Haaaaaaai, I made my dress!” I wanted to tell everybody at the party that I attended 2 days ago. But I didn’t. But I wanted to, soooooooo badly! This dress must be one of the best makes of mine so far, and I am just so happy about how it turned out. Well, IT did not turn out, I crafted it for two weeks until it fit so well that  if I tweaked it any more I would ruin it. The way it hugs my curves in all the right places makes me feel like a middle-aged glamazon (here’s an appropriate pose for that statement:)

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That furry paparazzo follows me EVERYWHERE!

The fabric, which is a brocade-y black/metallic mystery blend, was originally purchased for a bad-ass pair of jeans. I lined it with some black acetate which I found deep in the bowels of my stash. The pattern is Vogue 8849, view B. I chose to work with it because it was one of those “custom fit” patterns, where they give you the pattern pieces for bust cups A-D. And “shorten” lines for petite, which I took full advantage of. I was feeling quite apprehensive when I started, since I had never worked with princess seams before.  So I measured myself to establish that indeed, I am a cup D, or maybe even more. Then I made a muslin, and to my greatest surprise had to take in the sides of the bodice. It was still baggy… So I took in the princess seams. It was still baggy. So I decided (after two days of obsessing about it) to make a C-cup bodice and see what happens. It kinda worked, much better fit across the bust, but still had to take in the sides a lot. Boo-hoo. But I tweaked and tweaked, and it worked.

Just before puttting in the lining, I decided to read the instructions, just to see if I was missing anything. Sure enough, boning! Again, boning is something I’d never worked with before, and there it was, staring me in the face. So I decided to meet it half-way: I put in the boning in the side seams, but not in the princess seams. It worked out! And the best thing, the dress survived all the dancing, eating and drinking, chasing after the offspring, and all that party stuff. Actually, I dressed it down with a cardi and pair of boots for the party, but to show it off for you, dear readers, I wanted to kick it up a notch. Kick it up in those shoes that are impossible to walk in, although I kid myself that I can. Well, at least I can wear them to take pictures.

dressLook, no back cleavage! No bra-band overflow! And even though the side view is not my most flattering angle, I think it looks reasonable! Oh yes, I made the straps much wider than what the instructions call for, and also the dip in the middle dips much deeper.

So if you excuse me, I have to go now to pat myself on the back some more, I can’t type with one hand… But seriously, I enjoyed working with that pattern, I really would like to make one of the peplum versions. But before that, I have to make more PJs, more leggings, and more work tops. And some badass jeans. Until next time!

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Stealing my dress’ thunder, you photobomber?

Laurel, The Forgiving.

How ya all doin? Nursing your turkey hangover? For those who don’t know, yesterday we celebrated Thanksgiving here in Canada. This is what I wore to the exquisite dinner at my mother’s-in-law:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou like? Yes, it is a Laurel by Colette, and I love her to bits!

The fabric I bought at King Textile, on my last day working there (I know, but to make a long story short, it was not the right fit for me, and now I work somewhere else, where I’m much happier). Anyhoo, I intended to make pants from that fabric, since it is a nice, thin satiny twill, with a little bit of stretch, in the coolest finger-print pattern in pinks and lime green. One of my co-workers convinced me that I needed to make a go-go dress from it. I thought she was crazy, but the seed got planted…

For a long time I wanted to make something from an indie pattern, but I was a bit concerned about selecting one that would be just wrong, like the Sewaholic patterns which are drafted for pear-shaped ladies. And if you factor in the steep price, it makes one think twice, no? But I did my research, scoured blogs and Flickr for pictures of dresses, and found tons of cylindrically shaped ladies (like myself) who made awesome Laurels. Sold!!! I read carefully about adjustments most women had to do, so I’ve decided to sew very cautiously, doing tons of baste fittings, instead of doing a proper muslin. Right off the bat I did the sway-back adjustment, took off 3″ off the lower back. I should have taken off additional 1″ from mid-back as well, but I kinda forgot to do that… Instead, I raised the back shoulder seam a bit, and it helped the situation somewhat. I found that I had to take most if the seams a lot, especially around the hips. I also added little tucks at the waist for a bit of shaping there. And as always, I convinced myself that I did not need to do a full-bust-adjustmnet… I have to say, it is the most forgivable garment that I’ve ever made, other than a t-shirt… The moderate stretch of the fabric, the print, and the pattern make it so easy to work with and wear it! I wore this dress to the Thanksgiving feast yesterday, and boy oh boy, it felt great not having to undo any buttons around my waist!!!

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See? that extra inch off from mid-back would have been nice. I have to say, I looooove the blue zipper!

But not all was sunshine and lollipops with this particular make. The print and colour was a problem #1. After I put the shell of the dress together, I discovered that the green totally washes me out. Also, there was so much craziness going on with that print that I needed to break it up somehow.  So I decided to do it by adding another colour (I know, right?). I settled for denim for a trim around the neck, and cuffs, and maybe a pocket or two. I loved the look of it, but hated how heavy the denim was next to the main fabric. So I settled for thinner black, abandoned the pockets idea, decided to make little ruffles for more impact, and add a little pretend tie for a bit of a vertical interest. Voila! And then I got to play with my blind hem foot, for the first time evah! So cool!!!

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The ruffles not laying flat on the cuffs are driving me bonkers… Will have to tack them on, I guess.

So, to sum up, I will not be resting on this Laurel, I will make another version. In less crazy print, in a smaller size (my 3 months of eating salads for lunch and working a retail job is paying off in multitude of ways), with a full-bust adjustment, 3/4″ off mid-back, much narrower hips with an addition of a slit on the side or at the back, and possibly narrower sleeves. And the BEST part is that I have enough of this super-awesome fingerprint fabric to make a pair of pants!!!

Have a good day, peeps!