Sunday, November 30, 2014

Skirts, a top and a cardigan - oh my!

Just a quick after-Thanksgiving post to share some photos of the outfits I made during my sewing retreat. I hope to get some shots in a few days of the garments on Dr. Erin - I think they'll look so much better on her than they do on Gwendolyn, but these will have to do for now.

First up: a cardigan and pencil skirt.

I used a remnant of a wonderful poly/spandex heavy knit from St. John called Natale (long ago sold out) - I had my eye on this print from the time it first arrived at Sawyer Brook, but waited so long that all I had to work with was a 3/4 yard cut and a lengthwise strip that was about 10 inches wide. I adjusted the pattern lengthwise (Pamela's Patterns, the cardigan from her Twin Set) so it would fit on my 27 inches, but there was no way the sleeves were going to fit. By adding a seam from shoulder point to wrist, I was able to cut them in two pieces from the strip I had. I can't believe how great this worked - the stripes of the pattern make it look seamless!

There is seam in there, I promise!

Sleeve hem edge rolled back to show the seam down the top of the sleeve. I used my machine blindhem stitch on this fabric - it just disappeared into the knit, where topstitching would have looked horrible.

The dark brown skirt is made from Metropolitan rayon ponte knit, and with its elastic waist, (Pamela's Patterns Magic Pencil Skirt) I think it will provide a comfortable fit for the busy doctor. I did choose the non-topstitched method to apply the elastic, just stitched in the ditch at all the seams and darts, it gives the waist a smoother look, more suitable for a young professional. I also added a center back seam to accommodate a vent, just to give her a little room to maneuver in and out of a car more easily.

A print 3/4 sleeve top made from Wenona cotton jersey should be easy to care for and comfortable. This cowl-neck Renfrew top (Sewaholic Patterns) is going to do double duty - I made two skirts to go with it.  Here it is with a longer skirt made with McCall's 5523, view A. The fabric is Cabernet rayon ponte (now sold out, sorry).

The color is pretty washed out in this photo, it's a really deep wine. Love that back flounce!

I checked the curve of the back facing on the waist against the jeans yoke pattern I made for Erin last year, so it should hug the curve of her lower back nicely. I love it when an invisible zipper tab is such a perfect match!

Last, here is the print top with another pencil skirt, this time in Roasted Red ponte (also from Sawyer Brook, of course.) I made it the same as the dark brown one, with the center vent.

So, I spent two days of my retreat weekend sewing these outfits (all cutting out was done at home before I left). I traded almost a week of my pay for Sawyer Brook fabrics and notions - worth every penny!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Sewing Retreat Dreams

Wenona cotton jersey, from Sawyer Brook (of course!)
If you had 3 days just to sew exactly what you felt like making, what would you dream up?

Every November  my circle of sewing friends takes a weekend retreat into the Berkshire mountains of Western Massachusetts. 5 miles off the majestic Mohawk Trail 2-lane highway, then 1 mile straight up to a wonderfully rustic cross-country skiing lodge, where the owners provide us with fantastic gourmet meals made with local products. Sure, we have to bring our bedding and fight over which of our aging bodies will take the top bunk, but the days (and nights!) spent in the 'sewing' barn more than make up for the hardships of roughing it. Even my great friend Donna, a seasoned traveler who prefers upscale hotels with room service, copes with the lodge's rusticity - as long as she can bring her coffee pot for that (very) early morning first cup.

The barn we use as a sewing room is transformed from a game center - the pool/ping pong table is covered with rotary cutting mats, our banquet tables arranged around the room to take advantage of glorious views out of so many windows. Seating areas are chosen based on who's at that point in her life where she wants to be far away from the wood stove's heat. And friends we knew well before our first retreat many years ago come together with the friends we've made here in more recent years. We catch up on each other's news as we recreate our little sewing corners, admire one another's projects, critiquing and coaching through the fitting process.

The ski trails are inviting hiking paths: for some in the early morning, and others as a break from sitting for far too long.

But the weeks before we go are always stressful for me - not only the ordeal of packing all the essentials to set up a temporary sewing room, but the decisions! What will I make? What do I want to sew, in this time and place set for "strictly for me" sewing (my own rule - I decided from the start that I would NOT bring clients' work on MY retreat.) The first year there, I made a coat. Another year was spent perfecting working on the fit for my first pair of custom jeans. Multiple knit tops have come home with me, and last year I brought my barely-touched 3-year-old embroidery machine to play with. I've learned to bring more projects than I'm sure to get through, to always have something else to turn to when Murphy's law decides to pay a visit - that far off the beaten path, with only one store that might have the light bulb or notion you need, a Plan B is definitely a good idea.

This year, I'm focusing on career clothes. Not for me, though - breaking my own rule, I'm going to be sewing for my daughter. The new Dr. Dowd needs nice things to wear under her white coat - and has absolutely no time to shop. Her requirements are simple: skirts that come long enough to be modest both standing and sitting, easy-care fabrics, coordinated pieces. I've brought home enough fabric from Sawyer Brook recently that I doubt I'll see a paycheck at all next week, but it's giving me the opportunity to sew with some fabrications that have intrigued me. Here's what I've cut out and prepared in the past week:

Ponte pencil skirts - in Roasted Red and Metropolitan Dark Roast, using Pamela's Magic Pencil Skirt (modified to include a center back vent for ease of movement). Print cotton/spandex knit top in Wenona - using the Renfrew cowl from Sewaholic patterns. The print also goes with a longer skirt with flounced center back, from McCall's 5523 in Cabernet ponte (I think Erin will love this with boots!) I squeezed a cardigan out of a small remnant of heavier printed knit - 3/4 yd and a narrow strip along the selvege, had to piece the sleeves with a seam from shoulder cap to wrist!) but it's perfect with the dark brown. And I cut a cowl top for myself out of a chestnut brown heather knit last cut, just in case.
Roasted Red Ponte from Sawyer Brook

Next up: photos of the garments -hopefully on Dr. Erin!

Thanks for reading -

Saturday, September 6, 2014

How did they DO that???

This post isn't going to be about anything I've sewn. Not that I haven't been sewing (actually very little, since I just got back from vacation.) It's about something new I just discovered in the RTW fashion that's available. I'm looking for any knowledge anyone out there has to share, to help me figure out exactly what was done to this garment.

A couple of weeks ago I bought a shirt, a summer tank top, at one of the mall ladies' clothing stores. It's probably been around since the middle of Spring, because it was on the markdown rack. I didn't buy it because I was in love with it, it's a fabric that I'm not fond of wearing but the colors are good for me, it was reasonably priced, and makes a very cute outfit with the knit maxi skirt that's become my first choice for a quick change for an evening out. I put the top on last night for the first time, and found myself marveling at what it actually is.

The fabric is printed - most likely a digital print, with a section of metallic beads heat-applied on the center front. (Yeah, I know. Not really the best choice for a woman my age.) The first thing that caught my eye as I was wearing the shirt is that the embellishment is color-coordinated and applied so that it follows the images in the print - there are blue "stones" (they're actually more like little nailheads, like flat-top hexagonal mounds) on each petal of a flower, for instance, and gold ones following the scalloped border of the section. The entire design is a little bit distorted in the center, so not as perfectly applied on the garment right as it is on the left. But someone would have to be pretty close and staring at an intimate part of my anatomy to really notice that, for sure.
I can envision this as a sort of iron-on transfer, with all the studs set on the garment at one time.
 More intriguing to me is the binding that is used around the neckline and armholes of the tank top. It is printed as well, and upon close examination, I discovered that it is perfectly matched where joined to the body of the shirt. Did I say perfectly? It's actually continuous - there is no break in the print. On closer examination, when I lay the shirt flat to photograph, I realized the design actually continues above the front neckline onto the inside of the back.

I pointed this out to my husband, and he - ever the engineer - had me turning in circles while he examined the shirt. The print continues across the side seams as well. A little tug there, and you can see a small solid line on either side of the seam.

Actually, there is a line that breaks the print - you can see it right down the center in this photo The pale line just to the left of that is the side seam, breaking the print again. At the top right here, the print showing on the wrong side is the inner front armhole, which is actually the continuation of the back print.
Lifting the folded edge of the binding shows solid fabric beneath as well. The half of the binding that is turned to the inside at the neckline is also unprinted.

Not so with the armhole binding though - the inner fold is printed as a continuation of the overall design.

The front of the armhole is lying flat, with the back side pulled over to show the inside. The print break at the side seam is also visible in this photo.

So, how did they do this? The garment has to have been assembled using a solid fabric, then printed as a garment. The embellishment has to have been applied in one pressing, coordinated to the print. My dh used to manage a team in a plant that assembled CNC (Computer Numeric Controlled) milling machines - these are room-sized pieces of machinery that can take a block of steel and turn it into a part for something at the push of a button: holes drilled into any face needed, engraving done, you name it. He's betting this process has been adapted to fabric printing, but he's stymied by how the garment is held in position for the printing. Working with the flattened shirt to take the photos this morning, it looks like it may have been some kind of spray application. The logical mind in me wants to know if this is even possible?

The country of origin is listed as China. Fabric is a poly/spandex knit. I can't wait to hear if some of you have seen this in the clothing out there - I look forward to your comments.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

2nd life for the gown

In years past, a young bride held onto her wedding gown, carefully packing and preserving the white innocence for its next appearance - hoping her daughter someday would want to wear it for her own wedding. I've been doing bridal alterations and custom work for over 20 years, and only once did I have a bride come to me with her mother's gown.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Machine Loyalty

A quick post today, to let you know that I'm alive and kicking. I have been sewing and have a couple of posts in draft mode, just waiting for photos. I'll get to them this week, I hope - no promises.

But I'm hanging around doing nothing (not really, but telling you I've been crazy busy gets old really fast...) This weekend ranks up there with the busiest

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

My favorite custom project...

This morning, I was commissioned for the first custom project of the year - a christening gown to be made from the mother's wedding gown. Repurposing a gown that was such a large investment really appeals to my "green" side,

Friday, January 3, 2014

Christmas gifting from the stash and scrap bags!

In the last weeks before Christmas, I managed to sneak into the studio to whip up a couple of little gifts for the girls and guys in my family. Digging into the stash, I found two great wool plaids and made scarves for my two sons, son-in-law, brother-in-law and DH. Simple! Snip-and-tear to size, stabilizing straight stitch along each edge and pulled threads to fringe all around.