Apr 27, 2014

my alabama chanin style dress

Here it is--a month in the making.  I am so proud of this dress.
  It is entirely hand-stitched, just like my tank.  I added beading to make this a fancier sort of outfit because I wore it to chaperone prom. :-)

I used the short fitted dress and bolero patterns from Alabama Studio Sewing and Design.   I altered the neckline a bit, the same way I did for my tank, but I didn't think about how this dress would fit at my waist until I was almost finished with the construction.  I ended up needing to take it up at the shoulders to bring the waistline of the dress up to my waist (I have a short torso, and I often need to shorten the bodice of my dresses), so the neckline is even higher than I originally intended.  I hate that I didn't think to check this before I cut out my fabric, but it's okay.  The fit is still pretty good, and this dress is incredibly comfortable.

I bought my cotton jersey from Organic Cotton Plus.  This jersey very closely matches the weight of the AC jersey at less than half of the cost.  I found glass beads and button craft thread at local stores, and I went through a ton of both.  I should have kept track of how many spools of thread I used--I felt like I was always running out!  For the stencil design, I used the AC paisley stencil again and regular fabric paint from a local store.  I liked how the navy paint looked on the navy fabric, so I left some of the design uncut.  I applied the beads with a running stitch and used a back stitch for the flower part of the design.  I wanted the bolero to dress up the outfit a bit, so I added beads to the binding with a parallel whip stitch.  For the binding on the dress, I left off the beads and used a feather stitch, which might be my new favorite decorative stitch.

As I mentioned in my post about my AC tank, I really enjoy the hand stitching for these garments.  I didn't think I would because one of the reasons I like sewing (as opposed to knitting) is the element of instant gratification.  For most sewn garments, your progress is quickly apparent, and the entire process can take as little as a few hours.  However, I am perfectly willing to take on a sewing challenge that requires more time and attention to detail, and I think this project satisfied that desire for me.  I can't wait to start on another AC style garment, but I want some time to plan it out.  Sounds like an excellent summer project.

I think the hardest thing to accept about this type of project is that it will not be perfect.  Every stitch cannot possibly be uniform, there will be imperfections in the paint and the design, and those are the qualities that make a dress like this even more unique and special.  Everything about this outfit is unique to me; every inch of fabric has passed through my hands.  This is slow sewing and design at its heart.

I like that this dress becomes a little more casual on its own.  I know this style may not appeal to everyone, but I adore it.  I can't say that I would want my entire wardrobe to be AC style garments, but I like that this is very different from anything I see in real life day-to-day.

Apr 23, 2014

{almost} victory for ava

Oh, Ava.  I love the look of this pattern so much, with all of the feminine details and variations.  Unfortunately, this pattern almost broke me.

I used a very lightweight chambray for my blouse, which worked really nicely for cutting and sewing but not so nicely for ripping out seams.  Everything went smoothly until it was time to attach the bodice at the sweetheart seam.  The directions seemed to make sense until I actually tried to execute them.  I haven't read much about other people having issues with this step in the pattern, but I did find this incredibly helpful tutorial.  It took me five tries to get this neckline in decent shape, and I'm afraid my fabric suffered a bit in the process.  After that point, I basically had to redo every single step.  Frustration creates a vicious cycle, and I ended up dissatisfied with everything I did.  I feel like this top looks homemade.  Maybe it's just a mental block because of my sewing experience. 

I think I like the fit of this top.  I cut a four in the shoulders and graded to a six at the waist.  I inserted the side zipper, hated it, and decided to take it out because I could shimmy in and out of the top fairly easily. (Again with the seam ripping though.)  I don't mind the looser fit at all, especially because of the lightweight, floaty chambray.

I love the cap sleeves.  They're not perfect, but I like how they balance the peplum.  If I make this blouse again, I will probably omit the sweetheart neckline, like this version.

Apr 21, 2014


 I am not one to jump on the bandwagon of brand new patterns.  I actually prefer to let everyone else on the internet try out a new pattern, work through the quirks and kinks, and explain it all to me before I try it out.  (And there are some really lovely versions of this dress out there.  See here, here, here, and here.)  Of course, with the Sewaholic Saltspring, there are virtually no quirks and kinks.  This is a most lovely pattern.

The true genius of this pattern is the lining.  (There are so many explanations of this technique out there that I feel ridiculous even mentioning it.)  The lining ends up shorter than the bodice, which is what creates the blousing, but it also means that the lining fits pretty closely.  The result is zero gaping at the neckline, which is really awesome when you have little kiddos to chase around.  Moving without feeling exposed is kind of important to me.  However, this dress does feel a little odd because it looks a lot different than it feels.  I expected it a looser fit, and I thought I had cut a size too small, but once everything came together, I realized all was well.  I can wiggle into this dress without much trouble, so I left out the zipper in the back.

This is a perfect pattern for a beginner.  The elastic at the waist is forgiving to any mishaps, there are no darts to worry about, and it's a fabulous showcase for gorgeous fabric.  Speaking of fabric, this was my birthday present from my mama.  She came up to visit me right around my birthday, and we visited a huge fabric store nearby.  My mom knows exactly what I want, and she told me to pick out something I loved.  Thank you so much, Mama!

Apr 19, 2014

looking sharp

One of the sewing projects on my Spring Break list was to whip up a little something for the boy so that he can look sharp for Easter.  Fancy dresses are standard for Easter, so clearly, the boy needs something equally as fancy.

Colin is at a funny moment for fancy boy clothing.  On the one hand, I want to dress him up in little jon-jons forever, but for some reason, that doesn't feel right anymore.  He's more little boy than baby.  I don't necessarily want him dressed like a little old man, but he needs something that suits his personality more than a jon-jon would.  (Obviously, I am overthinking little boy clothing.)  I decided to make another Oliver and S Art Museum vest because I cannot make enough of these little vests (see the corduroy version here).  Oh, the cuteness!

Those welt pockets are perfection in stripes.

I spent way too long trying to decide between the classic Art Museum trouser and the Sketchbook shorts.  I debated this out loud to a friend, and she said that Easter is the perfect time to show off chubby knees.  She is absolutely right.

I love this shorts pattern so much that I've actually whipped up three more pairs for the boy.  And when I say "whipped up," that's exactly what I mean.  This pattern comes together super fast and with quite a professional result.  I can't wait to see how cute the boy looks in his Easter outfit next to his sister in her fancy dress!

Apr 14, 2014

a fairy tale Easter dress and a few other things

It's Spring Break, and I couldn't be happier about it.  I have developed quite a long project list, and now I finally have a little time to work my way through it.  This is perfect timing as I'm planning to participate in Me Made May this year.


I've never done a Me Made May before, but I finally feel like I'm ready to try.  My plan is to wear at least one handmade garment at least five days per week during the month of May.  I expect to repeat garments, but I'm going to try not to repeat exact outfit combinations.   I think this will be a perfect opportunity to evaluate my me-made wardrobe and plan my summer break sewing.  I suspect my big gap will be in tops and blouses.  And who knows?  Me Made May might finally inspire me to tackle some pants.

I've been focusing more on kid sewing lately, especially with the change of seasons and with Easter approaching.  Easter is definitely a celebration worthy of new outfits.  For Cara's Easter dress, I decided on the Oliver and S Fairy Tale dress.

I went with a size 6 after the size 5 seemed a little bit snug.  The 6 is a tiny bit big, but hopefully that means it will still fit next year.  I love the little collar and the bow at the waist.  This is such a great dress pattern.

Check out the 3-D effect of the trim at the waist.  Also, gingham on the bias is always a good idea.  My only fear is that my hand sewing won't hold through the wash, but I'm getting a little more confident in my hand sewing skills with all of the Alabama Chanin style stitching I've been doing lately.

I can't wait to share pictures of this cute little number actually on the child, but I'll have to wait for Easter for that.  :-)
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