Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Gown: Week One

I should just put "questioning my sanity" for every week of this project. Not only that, I've got a back-up plan for a dress because I do not want to take shortcuts and skimp on this dress.  It shall be THE couture gown in my closet. Taking a very old mentality on clothing, it should be something that lasts the test of time, to be lovingly cared for and not tossed to the floor like some cheap polyester princess.

Having said all that, I am going to add that this is a very intimidating project.  The number of new skills include major pattern alteration/drafting, hand basting fashion and underlining, soft pleats, six gored skirt, godets, and a hidden placket  in the side seam for snaps.  Because I'm making this out of such a lightweight silk I'm using acrylic snaps instead of a zipper.  It really took some mental mustering to even get out my resources.  I brought out my "Fitting and Pattern Alterations" text book, the "Couture Sewing Techniques" from Shaeffer, and of course the Susan Kalje online couture class.

I'm using Simplicity 1801 by Cynthia Rowley for the bodice portion, and Colette's Oolong for the skirt portion, and the article in Threads #155 by Susan Kalje in how to add vintage details (like godets) into a garment (not pictured).

So far I have managed to separate the pattern pieces and make seam lines.  I also made the full bust and rounded shoulder adjustments, as well as change the grain line on the Oolong skirt pieces from bias to straight of grain. There is something in the way of 12 pattern pieces once I include the eventually self-drafted sleeves, godets (six, one in each seam of the skirt), and facing pieces.

re-drafting the grain lines. 
 In the process of ironing and pinning the muslin I realized that I need another bolt of the stuff.  Luckily there's a nice sale going on this weekend at JoAnn's.  I also need to get some drafting supplies for my class, which doesn't help on the stress part but I'm still psyched about. Oh yeah, and the kids are going back to school and they are asking me about making them clothes. Which I guess is kinda cool, but uh.. not now.  (Costume October is coming up, yo. I just made that up, I might make it a yearly event).

laying out the pieces
 This photo should be self explanatory to my sewing readers, but a lot of my non-sewing friends read this I'll go into more detail.  This is what is called the couture muslin.  In most home sewing you mark the cutting line then stitch in from there a set distance. This is not very accurate, so with this level of sewing you mark the stitching line, in this case I'm using a very large sheet of wax paper and a pattern marking wheel.

pattern marking wheel

What this does is transfer the marks to the back side of the pattern.  I then will take the paper patterns off, re-pin inside the stitching line and then trace over the marks on the other side so I have mirror images.  This gives me a full piece for those things on the fold, two for those not.  One must remember we are taking flat cloth and engineering it to something that fits to an often non symmetrical body.

the other side
I will then cut this out with VERY large seam allowances and machine baste (sewing with wide stitches that are easy to take out), or pin, then do a first fitting of the bodice. The second muslin fitting will include the skirt portions.

My intention here is to also log the number of hours spent on this project and do a running tally of what it would cost if I were charging someone by the hour to make something at standard market wage for a couture level seamstress(albeit, beginner). $30hr

Materials: Six yards of coral silk crepe de chine(inherited), 5 yards of crepe de chine for lining (35),  1 yard of antique lace($15), 1 yard of 45" wide lace ($15) =$65
Hours put into this so far, not including blogging and daydreaming:   4 hrs = $120

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Gown

Lace and silk!

This material and lace are the main components of the gown that will be my major project.  If the bottom piece of lace looks familiar its because it used to masquerade as my blog header.  It is a 43" piece of chemical lace from the 1910's, which makes it a bonafide antique.  The other lace I found from RetroNana (who has lots of cool stuff and is closing August 12, so go buy something) on Etsy, she sells finds from op-shops in China.  No telling age or anything.  And the silk is a crepe de chine from my mother's stash.  Six and a half yards, 36 inches wide.  The difference in lace color does not bother me because the top lace will be the godets in a six panel gored skirt.

The most expensive part of this whole gown is the interlining.  I'm not doing a lining, that would be kinda silly.   I originally posted my sketch and clipping idea for the gown last year, but its really hard to tell.  Here it is below. I'll get the sketch scanned and put up sometime later in the week. I won't lie,  the entire dress has revolved around the antique lace and inherited silk.  I'm going for a retro look but its got so many elements of the early 20th century I couldn't pinpoint a specific decade.  My hope is that, when done, it will feel timeless and look amazing on me.


Because I need to have this ready the Thursday before Labor Day, I've made myself a rough time-table.

Gown Itinerary: 
Week of July 23rd:  Copy all the different pattern pieces and make known flat pattern adjustments first, cut muslin and do first fitting. Transfer markings to flat pattern pieces. Also, wash fashion fabric, and dye underlining then wash.
Week of July 30th: Second muslin fitting, make any necessary adjustments, cut out underlining, baste to fashion fabric. Stabilize necklines, armholes, and godets before final cutting.
Week of August 6th: Cut out fashion fabric and begin assembly.  Fit as I go, start to question my sanity.
Week of August 13th: Finishing details such as attaching lace and hemming, other attention to details
Week of August 20th:   Panic and the amount of work left to do. Question my sanity. Drink cocktails, finish it anyway.

So that's what I'm working on. There's no way I'd have it done in time for Promballoona, so I'm just going to say that this will be an extension of that, just a month later!  

Monday, July 23, 2012

Pencil Skirt Obsession

Starburst Skirt Burda 05/2012
I'm not going to lie to you. Ever since I got this particular Burda in the mail I have been lusting after it heartily.     I even want it in this tangerine color. I probably won't, but STILL.  <3 I love high-waist anything now (full convert) and pencil skirts are my signature item at work.  I only have one very good one, and one passable green one.  Both are the same pattern, Vogue 8672 View E  but the green one was out of a ponte knit and I didn't take into account the amount of stretch needed or how much it shows tucked in clothing.

Which leads me back to the above skirt.  Its for stable knits and has no zipper drafted into the pattern. A thing I did not notice until my friend Ilanka said "Wow, that's a tight skirt!".  Uh... she was right. Ooooooh.  Its for knits.  Which led me to the conclusion that they must of photo-shopped out a lot of lumps and bumps cause that blouse is going to show through, I don't care how skinny you are.  Drat.  So it went on the back burner.

So, during long tedious nights at work I've defended myself but going to my happy place, sewing. I've been thinking about how to construct this skirt to make it as sculpted as it looks here but still retain its allure with tucked-in blouses, and not go OMG PANTY LINE! The only answer I've come up with is underlining.

Aaaah yes. Underlining. You are my new best friend. Its almost impossible for me to make a garment out of woven now without underlining it.  Or at least thinking about underlining it. But this would be the first time delving into the realm of underlining a knit of any type, though ponte knit would be the most sensible one to try first, me thinks. In this case it would need to be a fabric that has as much stretch as the ponte itself, and I would probably use make sure the waistline facing had ridgeline stays as well. I realized I could use a silk stretch charmeuse after hitting up the Dharma Trading Co. for my evening gown underlining. I didn't add the stretch charmeuse to my order. I may go back and get some more later in August, depending on how much I can get done on what I shall hence forth refer to as The Gown.

I still haven't done a full post on that yet. *sighs*  I shall. Very soon.

So what sewing challenges have you been puzzling over lately?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Uff Da!

Doing a blind hem by hand on a circle skirt for the shop sample for my class has left my hand practically numb.  This is why I add lace to everything.  Its like cheating.  Very expensive cheating. Anyway, its a circle skirt, which most of you who sew probably know all about already.  If not, take my class!  *shameless plug*  

But here it is, it goes to the shop tomorrow. Now I'm going to take  lost more medication and go back to bed.  My body is very very mad at me right now.  Lots of pain plus summer cold. BLEH.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Big Announcement! I'm Teaching!

For those of you that follow Tasia's blog over at Sewaholic may have noticed there's a new fabric shop in my neck of the woods.  The shop is called Sew Main Street and I'm happy to announce I'm now on the teaching roster!  Yay me!

Easy as Pi: Drafting and Sewing a Circle Skirt

Did you know that (x−h)2+(y−k)2=r2 can be used to draft a pattern? Using this little formula and your waist measurements, you can create your own pattern for a circle skirt, designed to fit you perfectly! Don't worry, its not complicated at all.
If you're ready to move past the basic elastic waist skirt, Elizabeth will show you how to create your own patterns for a tailored, custom fit.
In the first class, you will draft the skirt as a 1/4 pattern piece and mark your pattern piece for a 1/2, 3/4 or full circle skirt. By the end of the first class, you will have your pieces cut and a little sewing done! Your second class will walk you through inserting the zipper, adding the waistband, hemming the skirt. Once you have drafted this pattern, you will be able to use it over and over again to create more skirts for yourself, and you'll have the knowledge to draft a new pattern for others!

I'm really excited because I've had this idea of somehow incorporating math into sewing for a long time as a way to help get more young ladies interested in both.  It first peculated in my head while attending a "Women in Science" panel at Dragon*Con. One of the things that came up is how even the examples in science tend to be gendered.   Thankfully, the wonderful owner, Debi, also thought that bringing sewing and math together a great idea and hence my first class! So you if you live in the Atlanta area and are curious, come on down! This class will be two Friday evenings the second half of August.

Circle skirts are cool. 

Fuzzy Cam

I was trying to get  nicely setup family portraits while on vacation,  took my tripod with me, setup at the beach at sunset... all that. But unbeknownst to me, the focus went out of whack when I set the auto-timer.  I didn't think to check cause I was exhausted and on lots of pain medication I'm derpy like that. But I couldn't resist these two cause the blue gingham dress has turned into one of my ALL TIME FAVORITES and well,  the family photo just speaks volumes.

Oh yeah, and I have a big (for me) announcement coming up later today.

Star Trek Fuzzy Cam!

Yeah, we're like that.
Sometime later I'll tell you how my husband shocked the mess out of me coming home with a mohawk.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

I'm back! We had a total blast, too. I hafta say that vacationing with kids is exhausting. I probably got more exercise in one week than the last three months combined, though I blame some of that on not one, but two major falls making ignoring the pain hard.  I took a good number of photos but I tried to focus more on just being there in the moment than capturing it on film.  There was beach combing, bike rides, sand castles, water park,  and horse back riding.  We even managed to squeeze in the newest Spider Man movie, which was pretty darn good. I also did some antiquing and found some pretty awesome items.

 And I have photos of the "cheater dress".  Felicity wore it almost the entire time we were there. I had to wash it after she dumped chocolate all over it and it shrunk.  Cause I didn't prewash when I made the dress the day before leaving. WOOPS.  Since I don't like how the me-sized one worked out I'll just wash it then make another one for Felicity. I expect she'll live in it this summer.  I'll probably go back and get a yard of every other color and make more because it ends up being about eight bucks a dress and I can't buy them that cheap and that well made at the store.  Win-Win.  Coincidentally, my favorite photos of Felicity this vacation are her in the dress.  WOO.

Taken on St. Simon's Island

criss cross back straps

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sleep: The Best Beauty Product

I tend to avoid the news whenever possible because its just depressing. I do, however, like to go through the "Science" and "Health" sections of Google News.  Recently this article came across my news feed.

We all know that sewing while tired is a bad idea. Nothing sucks more than realizing you just serged the wrong two seams together and there was no wiggle room for error in the fabric left. Being tired makes those kind of mistakes more prevalent.

And since many of us in the sewing corner of the internet are also interested in looking our best, there's something else sleep can do for us.  Remember the old saying "I need my beauty sleep"? Well, now there's scientific precedence to back it up!  Digging up this article on WebMD further studies show this:

6. Lack of Sleep Ages Your Skin
Most people have experienced sallow skin and puffy eyes after a few nights of missed sleep. But it turns out that chronic sleep loss can lead to lackluster skin, fine lines, and dark circles under the eyes.
When you don’t get enough sleep, your body releases more of the stress hormone cortisol. In excess amounts, cortisol can break down skin collagen, the protein that keeps skin smooth and elastic.
Sleep loss also causes the body to release too little human growth hormone. When we’re young, human growth hormone promotes growth. As we age, it helps increase muscle mass, thicken skin, and strengthen bones.
“It’s during deep sleep -- what we call slow-wave sleep -- that growth hormone is released,” says Phil Gehrman, PhD, CBSM, assistant professor of psychiatry and clinical director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine program at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. “It seems to be part of normal tissue repair -- patching the wear and tear of the day.”

That's right, a good night's sleep can do more for your complexion that Dove or Oil of Olay. Not that there is anything wrong with a good moisturizer. I still say Mom's beauty advise was the best I have ever gotten.

"Getting a good night sleep, moisturizer, and avoiding too much sun are the best recipe for beautiful skin. Oh, and always wear a good bra."  - Mama Katza
So what do ya'll think? Did you know this already or is this a revelation? What do you do to make sure you get enough sleep?  I know, particularly for us working Mom's that it can be very hard to take care of everything we need to but maybe watching out for yourself in this way is the best thing you can do for success.

Since I'm on vacation the rest of the week,  I look forward to an inbox full of thoughtful discussion. Cheers!

In closing, I leave you with this little tip for success:

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Last Minute Sewing

I didn't get any of Felicity's retro outfit done, but she was much more excited about this dress anyway.  We bought it during last Saturday's excursion down town that involved me getting more batiste and silk organza for underlining and the kids picking out fabric for their elf costumes. Which was news to me cause NO ONE had said anything about their costumes previously.  WTF?  Anyway, I call this "cheater fabric" because its already shirred.  Its also 55" long so I had to cut and hem it for Felicity.  And its a seriously pretty dress on her too and makes her look too grown up.  It was fairly inexpensive, so, you know. Its cool.

Simon and my husband, on the other hand, spent 30 minutes looking for the the exact right green for Simon's Legolas  costume. They came back from the silk section and both had this very self-satisfied triumphant grin on their face.  They then procured the bolt of emerald green silk dupioni for a whopping $25 a yard.

"REALLY???" I asked my husband.
"Yes, it was the only thing that fits, and it shimmers and looks like trees."  Which it did, he was right.  I was incredulous.
"Twenty five dollars a yard for a costume? A KID'S COSTUME?"  They both just grinned big ass grins and nodded at me.  Husband went on to explain that silk would have been worn by archers anyway because it wraps around the arrow if they get hit and helps make it easier to get the arrow out.  At that point I gave up and was like "OK FINE!".

My husband is an enabler.  He's not allowed to complain about my fabric habit anymore. SHEESH.

In any case, we're about to pack the car and head out of town.  If you want you can follow me at Instagram.  Username is  "ladykatza", like it always is.

Stay cool everyone. CHEERS!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Independence Day!

I know this is just my particular country, but I will wish you a Happy Fourth of July Day!  Or as I affectionately call it,  "Happy Drink Beer and Blow Sh*t Up Day".

Though, I think that the announcement from C.E.R.N. labs that the Higgs Bosen is real today is just kinda more awesome.  Smash atoms together to create tiny black holes? Man, it doesn't get any more bad ass than that.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Couture of the Lambs?

If you are anything like me the news that the Fall/Winter 2012 Couture shows have started was exciting news. YAY!  I surfed on over to take a gander and not exactly sure what to make of it. Versace was nice, I found Chanel just plain... meh.  Then I took a look at Giambattista Valli. This collection looks like it was inspired from scenes of "Snow White and the Huntsman" and, wait for it... "Silence of the Lambs".  Um.. what? 

Is anyone else creeped out by this?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Braving the Heat!

Yesterday, since I needed to go downtown to Gail K's for foundation fabrics (batiste, organza, etc), I woke my husband up early and said "Lets go to Fernbank while we're at it! Planetarium is free today!".  Given it was 8am I had to convince him this was a great idea. We ended up having breakfast at the Landmark Diner since the fabric store doesn't open till 10am.  Unfortunately, we missed the first planetarium showing and the next one wasn't until 1:30pm and by noon I was asleep on my feet. That's like midnight for me! I'm getting old.  We promised a trip back another time to the kids. We did get to see the Apollo Six landing pod and Simon was all about that. I mentioned his Grandpa (my Dad) worked at NASA for a while but I can't remember if it was the Voyager (which just left our solar system!!) or the Apollo missions.

My absolute favorite shoes, too.
Anywho, I wore my newly finished Simplicity 2369 wrap dress (don't worry, I brought a change of sensible shoes) and despite it being a poly blend of some sort it was not bad even in the 100F weather. I tried to get good photos but most off them weren't even rescueable with photoshop.  This photo is just to prove I actually finished it.  Oh, bonus!  The lady that rang me up at Gail K's recognized the fabric, as I bought it there, and complimented me on the dress. That made me happy. :)

Later I'll have updates on the other projects and my husband the fabric enabler. I know right, who'dathunk?