Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Birthday Dress for my Girl

I made this dress over one year ago for my daughter's 2nd birthday.  She's since turned 3, but she still fits in it, surprisingly.  It's the Emmaline Dress by Violette Field Threads.  I made it in size 2T, but my daughter is rather slender so it was a bit big.

The photography at Violette Field Threads is so beautiful and enchanting that I was drawn to this pattern instantly.  I was also heavily influenced by the fabric they used.  When I found this pink chevron print at a quilting shop in Bend I immediately picked up the bolt and started calculated the yardage required.  That's when I got instantly a little irritated with the pattern.  It lists yardages for each piece of the garment separately.  This is fine if you want to use different fabric for each piece, but honestly even their own website only shows sample images for one dress done with different fabrics.

This pattern needs a listing of total fabric yardages in addition to separate breakouts.  Adding these yardages up at the cutting counter was beyond irritating.

Photo Taken from Violette Field Threads showing fabric requriements for the Emmaline Dress.  Why is there
no total?

As lovely as I found that pretty pink chevron print I really should have said NO to quilting cotton for this dress.  Quilting cotton is really only good for home decor and quilting projects.  Every time I've ever tried to use it for garments I've been really disappointed in the result.  the weave of quilting cotton is so stiff it just doesn't drape well at all for garment and children's garments are no exception to this rule.

Because the cotton was so stiff I had a horrible time gathering the skirt and I kept breaking threads.

Another problem I had is the direction of the fabric and the pattern layout made the chevrons on the bodice go in the vertical direction instead of horizontal.  After I realized the mistake I didn't have enough fabric to fix it.  Oh well.  I don't think the result is too bad.

Another thing to be aware of is this pattern doesn't actually include pattern pieces for the ruffle.  It only gives dimensions for your final pieces.  The only actual pattern pieces are for the bodice and the skirt.  The pattern also relies on photos for the construction directions. It reads through more like a tutorial than a traditional pattern.  I really would have preferred line drawings. It is often hard to see what is being described in photographs.

The neckline is bound with bias tape and the pattern includes instructions for making your own, which is handy.  I wanted a contrast so I just purchased packaged bias tape in white for the neckline binding.

I think the dress is really a lovely design, but a combination of my own bad fabric choice and a pattern lacking some polish and detail I can't really recommend this pattern.  I think just few things would make this a must have pattern for little girls.

I'd like to see:
  • Totals for yardage requirements
  • Line drawings instead of photos in the guide sheet
  • Pattern pieces for everything, instead of merely dimensions
Has anyone else tried Violette Field Thread's patterns?  I see on their website they have women's garments as well.  Let me know what you think of them in the comments!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

McCall's 7246

Hello dear reader!

After a lengthy hiatus that went on far too long I've decided to get back to blogging my sewing.  I've still been sewing, but I just haven't been blogging about it.  In all reality, my plan is to do more than blog about my sewing.  I am a creative person I have so many different interests. One of the reasons I took such a lengthy break is I just couldn't reconcile with myself that fact that I want to talk about more than just sewing and somehow I felt like I couldn't.  This is just silly. I realized that this is my blog and it really can be what I want it to be.  That is one of the fun things about blogging.

What you are going to see going forward is more of a breadth of content.  You can expect to see posts about sewing, knitting, painting, my kids and also my running and exercise pursuits.  I realize that many people want to only read about one topic so I'll do my best to organize with page links and also tags. Feel free to skip right over anything that doesn't appeal you, but I hope you'll find what I have to say somewhat interesting and I appreciate you taking the time to read.

Also, on a more personal note, my family has gone through some major changes in the past two years.  One year ago we left my beloved Bend, Or and moved to the greater Portland area.  Job prospects are just so bleak in Bend and we had to face the fact that financially, Bend is a difficult place to make a living.

I also we had our second child, James in December 2014.  I feel so lucky to have my healthy and happy little family.

So, without further ado I will get into my latest project, which is McCall's 7246.  This is a Melissa Watson for Palmer/Pletsch pattern which means it includes some extra fitting instruction and tips for using the Palmer/Pletsch tissue fitting method.  I tried out the tissue fitting method on this dress and found it worked fairly well, but in all honesty there are still fitting issues that sometimes don't become obvious until you're wearing your fashion fabric.

I had the pleasure of meeting Patti Palmer and Melissa Watson at the Sewing and Stitchery Expo in February.  The expo is incidentally in my hometown and I look forward to going every year.  It's full of great vendors and some excellent classes.  I also look forward to seeing the McCall's fashion shows.  My mother actually took the living fitting class where Patti and Melissa demonstrated the Palmer/Pletsch method live.  She said it was really informative and a great class.  I hope I get a chance to take it also next year.  Craftsy has the Palmer/Pletsch tissue fitting video classes.  I've got them in my wishlist to purchase someday.  Has anyone taken them?  What did you think?

While at the sewing expo I grabbed one of the FabricMart kits for this dress before even being aware of the Fit-Along that Melissa and Julie were hosting. 

The fabric kit I purchased is a poly/rayon/lycra double-knit that is quite stable and actually pretty warm.  This certainly isn't a summer weight fabric so I decided it would be best with the long sleeve version.

I cut my pattern in a straight size 12 and did the tissue fit from there.  I took out 2 of the 3 front pleats from the bodice to give me more room in the tummy and then I added back the same amount to the skirt so it would match in width.  Because my fabric is a knit, it was a bit forgiving on fitting in this area.  The dress is unlined so I serged all the inside seams to finish them.

What I'm realizing now that I wish I would have done is take out length in the bodice.  This pattern is drafted with the bodice actually hitting above the true waist.  Because of this, during my tissue fit I thought I wouldn't have a problem, but I'm seeing now in these photos that I really need to remove some fabric from the back of the bodice.  All those wrinkles at the back I suspect are due to bodice length.  This is not a new alteration for me.  It seems like all patterns are too long for my short torso.

Another alteration that I think I should have done is a narrow shoulder adjustment.  It seems like the sleeve seam sits way on the outside of my shoulder.  This too wide shoulder I think is also contributing to some of the bunching at the waistline. 

I'm considering making this dress again with another of the fabric mart kits.  I think the blue roses on navy is actually quite pretty. 

The sleeve and sleeve facing was a bit tricky for me at first.  I'm thinking of making a tutorial for this if anyone has an interest.  It was one of those steps I had to think about overnight before completing.

All in all, this was a fun dress to sew and simple enough that I think a beginner could tackle all the steps with ease.  It's also a good way to learn a bit about the tissue fitting method.  Although, with the seam between the bodice and skirt I think this is a more difficult pattern to do some adjustments.

FabricMart still has kits left and is actually hosting a contest for this pattern, if you're interesting in making your own.


All opinions are my own.  I was not asked to promote the fit-along or the contest by FabricMart. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

A cozy cowl for spring

 By the calendar it's officially spring, but here in Central Oregon it doesn't really feel like it yet. Typically it takes until late June or even July 4th to really start getting warm.  Especially in the mornings. Typically it's still below freezing.

So, I won't be putting away the wool sweaters and the hand-knits just yet.  After my last big sewing project I wanted something easier and mindless so I went with Annabella's Cowl.  It's a pattern from Churchmouse Teas and Yarns when I got to visit last Thanksgiving.

I strayed from the recommended yarn and used Berroco Flicker which is so nice and soft.  I ended up sizing up several sizes from the pattern recommendation and ended up at a 10.5 I think.   

I love the yarn and the pattern is so easy to knit.  I really perfected my knitting while not looking. I've been really practicing being able to look away while knitting plain stockinette and this cowl gave me plenty of practice.

It's so warm and cozy and since it's a nice neutral color, I've been wearing almost daily.  

I highly recommend this pattern and if you can make it up to Churchmouse to visit it's a great place!  Bainbridge Island is so quaint and fun.  I'm hoping to get back this summer.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Albion Family - Behind the Scenes

Participating in the Albion sewalong was by far the biggest sewing project I've ever completed.  It was a lot of hard work and I really couldn't have finished it without a lot of help and cooperation from my husband especially.  I literally worked on this nearly every day from the beginning of January until early March.  I devoted a lot of entire weekends to sewing and actually blew off a lot of run training for my upcoming race in April.  (I'm probably going to pay for that one!)

I thought it would be fun to show you some behind the scenes photos of the construction phases of the project.  So here we go: The Albion Family - Behind the Scenes!

My husband was a huge help in creating the deer antler toggles.  When I originally told him what I wanted to do for the toggles he had all sorts of ideas on how we could cut them and stain them.  All the antlers we had we somewhat weathered from being outdoors exposed to the elements.  This bleached them white and left them somewhat brittle in places.
My husband put a cutting wheel on the die grinder for some high speed cutting.

Cutting through those antlers was actually quite smelly.

Antler tips.  You can see how weathered they are from being outside.

My husband used a milling vice to hold a section of antler and then used a cutting disc in a drill press to cut thin cross-sections for buttons.  Do you see all that haze?  It smelled terrible.

Toggles and buttons.

Throughout this whole process I was so worried about my old Pfaff hobby machine.  This machine is older than I am (34 years) and is a hand-me-down from my Mother.  (I actually borrowed a machine from a co-worker just in case this thing bit the dust!) My little Pfaff has a lot of history.  It's made dozens of children's dresses, prom dresses and even helped make my wedding dress.  It's been a great little machine, but is really getting long in the tooth.  I had to do a lot of belt adjustments to make it through all the Albions and the heavy canvas.

Below shows a close-up the wool army blanket lining for my husband's Albion.  I opted to do a hand-stitched blind hem and then top-stitched that by machine.  I was having a hard time with all the wool staying put when I tried to just hem with the machine.  Too much fabric!

For my Albion, I made version 2.  This marks my first time making bias tape.  I used the method outlined in a tutorial from the Coletterie.  I went out and bought a bias tape maker for this. It sure made pressing easier.  I also went and bought glass head pins just for making the bias tape.  It made things a lot easier to press since I could put the iron right on the pins.

Clover bias tape maker.
Making the Albion for my little girl was a little bit tricky.  I was essentially creating an entirely new pattern and I wasn't sure at all if it would fit.  I had to have her try the thing on multiple times during construction. She was a cooperative model. :-)

Where are my sleeves, Mom?

Before toggles.

Insides showing lining.  It's a quilting cotton I found at JoAnn.

The back showing piping on hood and yoke.

And finally here's a few detail shots of my husband's coat showing the hang tag I added and the pocket placement and construction.

I hope you enjoyed the behind the scenes look at my Albion family.  It sure was a fun project and I feel so happy to be able to have made coats for all of us to enjoy together!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Albion Family-Claire

For my daughter's Albion I had to actually draft my own pattern!  I've never done this before so it was very nerve-wracking.  I used the smallest size Albion pattern and then, by hand, scaled it way, way down using a coat she already has as a size guide.  Since the Albion coat has straight side seams, the whole process was a bit simpler, but it still took quite a bit of engineering.

I thought it would be fun to add some color to her coat since the olive drab military surplus canvas looked a bit boyish so found a bright lining and hot pink piping.  The lining is a quilting cotton print.  I also rounded the patch pockets because I thought it looked a bit more feminine.  

My little one gets the same handmade white tail deer antlers that her Daddy hunted for dinner.  She doesn't have quite enough teeth for venison yet, but soon!

Plenty of room to grow in this coat and that means more time for adventures in the beautiful Oregon outdoors!

Albion Family-Jane

For my part of the Albion Family I made version 2 with the side seam pockets and hood.  The fabric is a thrifted and repurposed military surplus army pup tent waxed canvas.  It seemed like the perfect fabric for this type of coat.

For interest and to keep the military inspired style I put felled seam details on the front, sleeves and on the facings.

For the bias binding I used a quilting cotton print in bright colors that match the olive drab of the coat.  I think it adds some femininity to an otherwise unisex style coat.

The toggles and sleeve buttons are fashioned out of white-tail deer antlers hunted here in Central Oregon.

The hood was very useful on this blustery day for keeping my hair tamed a bit.  Can you see my pup behind me?  Does it look like I have a tail?

We went out for a little hike on one of our favorite trails in the Deschutes National Forest.  As my little girl gets older we hope to wear our matching Albions on many more adventures!

The Albions were perfect for our little adventure and the weather was absolutely gorgeous.  You could see all 7 peaks of the cascades from north to south.  What a fantastic day!

The Albion Family-Russell

When I first laid eyes on the Albion pattern by Colette patterns I just knew this was THE pattern for my little outdoorsy family.  We live in the high desert of Central Oregon.  Bend, to be exact.  Bend is unlike where 90% of Oregonians live and unlike what most people think of when they think Oregon.  Bend is dry.  Bend is a desert.  Bend is also beautiful and up near the Cascades mountains and home to some of the best outdoor recreation you will find, arguably, in the entire lower 48.  Skiing and boarding?  Yep.  Golf?  You bet!  Trail running?  Heck yeah! Mountain biking?  Oh my, YES! Hiking? Of course! Hunting, fishing, boating, kayaking, bird watching, horseback riding, festivals, art walks, brew pubs, coffee shops .... I could go on and on and on.

But this isn't an advertisement for Bend.  This is about my sewing.

So, I present to you my Albion Family!

I decided to make all of us matching Albion coats to wear on our rural property and also out hiking and backpacking.

Here is my husband, for whom I made version 1 with a lining.

Do you see the black "US" stamp on the back of the coat?  That is because I repurposed thrifted waxed canvas from an army surplus store.  This fabric was originally army pup tents.  I cut it all apart and refashioned it into coats for us.

For my husband's coat,  I made version 1, but I omitted the hood and drafted a collar instead.  For the lining I used thrifted military surplus wool.  It's very warm and also pretty heavy.

Taking inspiration from a waxed canvas coat my husband already had, I added a weather flap and a zipper closure.  This will keep out any driving rain and wind.  

For the patch front pockets, I added snaps to keep the flap closed and rivets to the corners to strengthen them.  My husband can be pretty hard on clothing.

Here is the inside of the coat showing the zipper I added and the wool surplus blanket lining.

The toggle closures were a project in and of themselves.  The are handmade from white-tail deer antlers hunted here in Central Oregon.  White-tail deer a great and sustainable source of lean, organic protein and we love venison.  My husband helped me cut them into toggle shapes and also thin cross-sections for the buttons.  I sanded and stained them with some wood stain to give them a little better color.

Here we are on one of our favorite trails in the Deschutes National Forest.

The Albion is a great coat for work around our property.  Bend is a desert and while sunny a beautiful a lot of the time, it gets pretty darn cold in the mornings even late in the spring and early summer.  Wood heat is a great and cozy way to stay warm on the cold mornings and nights.

The Albion is a fantastic pattern and perfect for our lifestyle.  This coat is going to get tons of wear!