April 28, 2012

What Have I Gotten Myself Into? MMM ‘12

Well, it’s official….

'I, Alicia of Sewing For Real Life, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '12.  I endeavour to wear one self-sewn or refashioned garment three days a week for the duration of May 2012, and to document the evidence at least once a week.'

Go here to sign up!

So I’ll admit that this was a very spur-of-the-moment decision.  Several factors probably should have discouraged me from doing this: it’s the end of the semester, so I’ll be extra crazy busy, and it’s still in the 40’s here so it’s far too cold to wear the skirts that make up a large part of my me-made wardrobe. On the other hand, it made me say, “If not now, when?”  My workload for grad school will not lighten considerably in the foreseeable future, and the weather should warm up at least for the second half of May, so if I can manage it now, that should make it so much easier later.  I also felt like a bit of a wimp for only doing 3x per week, but I literally don’t think I have enough pieces for every day.  We’ll call it a warm up round. I think the biggest effect will be having to be presentable 3 days a week.  It's sad that my appearance has taken such a backseat to everything else, so hopefully looking better will help me feel better. 

I do actually have a finished garment to show, but I was hoping there’d be a nice day to show it off.  Since that doesn’t appear to be the case any time soon, I’ll try to get inside pictures tonight. 

April 19, 2012

Dancing the Fitting Dance and A Dangerous Addiction...

       So after the disaster (okay, as Seraphinalina pointed out, not really a full-on disaster; more of a disappointment) that was Lesson Learned #2, I knew that I needed to get the BF to retake my measurements and get a really nice set so that I could do some actual flat pattern measuring instead of just blindly sewing everything.  I had known I needed to do this for a while, and yet I didn’t do it.  And didn’t do it.  I’m not one of those people that are scared of the numbers on a tape measure.  I am a curvy girl and have made my peace with that.  What on earth was holding me back?  Expectations.  Somewhere in my mind, I had associated taking measurements with actually knowing how to fit.  As if knowing all those numbers magically meant the sewing community at large would suddenly start hounding me if I had bad fit. (Crazy, I know, but just the way my brain works.)

       I know in a general sense where my fitting problems are:  I’m 5’8”, but have the same length legs as my 5’4” sister; all my length is in my torso.  Additionally, I wear a F cup bra.  A little ways off from the standard B cup, to say the least. (No, I won’t complain about it. I just thank my lucky stars that they aren’t any bigger.  My great grandma was very petite but had I cups. Yeah.)  Once I buckled down and did it, I learned a few things I really had never thought about.  For instance, one of my legs is a solid inch longer than the other, and there is all sorts of good information in the method Fabulous Fit for Every Body uses, where you measure the front and back (say, of your hip measurement) separately.  I have this lovely new set of measurements, and what do I do with my newest project?  Make a muslin instead.  Some days my mind is just not up to translating flat patterns into 3D.  But I’ve gotten the info off my muslin (of which there will be no picture because the bust area of course needed much more fabric than was present, making it not suitable for the internet) and am planning to cut into my real fabric this weekend. I'll be even more motivated to do so because it's actually supposed to start warming up here again.

      In other news, I'm beginning to think I have a dangerous addiction to acquiring (I prefer the term "rescuing" sewing machines.  The latest one to walk home with me is MJ (short for Mary Jane):
 As far as I can tell from internet searching, She's a Model E made for Montgomery Wards.  The sources I've found say it's from about the 1920's but there's very little information about these guys.  She has the long shuttle bobbin and is a straight stitch only machine. Unfortunately, you can see the bobbin directly because she is missing some sort of plate on the bottom.
However, she sews beautifully and is in great condition other than that plate.  She is a tank, and built to run until doomsday.  And someone just gave her away. *tear*  My number of sewing machines (3 plus a serger) is now starting to worry my boyfriend slightly.  Clearly I'll have to demonstrate just how amazing these machines are and why I should continue saving them from the scrap yard.  If this means learning how to do all the cleaning and maintenance stuff myself, so be it.  I'm not particularly mechanically inclined, but for these babies, it'll be worth it.  Just to prove my point (though I'm probably preachin' to the choir here) more gratuitous pics:
The Montgomery Ward badge    

Girl is packing some junk in her trunk!  Check out that motor! 
Alright, I think that's enough rambling from me for one day.  Hopefully maxi dress pictures are coming soon! 

April 8, 2012

Lesson Learned #2: Flat Pattern Measuring

As of my last post, I was very excited about the progress I was making on McCall's 5538, a unisex fleece jacket pattern. Unfortunately, because it was just a jacket, I made no effort to really check my size, and cut out my usual large.  Which of course, meant a men's large. Granted, I probably should have caught that from reading the pattern envelope (or thinking for about two seconds - unisex pattern, duh).  But if I'd flat pattern measured, like I keep saying I'm going to do, I won't end up with garments that look like this:

I feel like I should be in an 80's music video, it's so oversized.  The contrast yoke highlights just how far the shoulder seams are from my actual shoulders, and the sleeves completely cover my hands.  Granted, in some cases just hanging around outside this would actually not be completely horrible.  However, if this had been anything more important than a polyester fleece jacket, it would have been very aggravating.  In this case, there is a happy ending for this garment.  My byofriend (who actually wears a men's large) kindly volunteered to take this version, so I can make myself a properly fitting one while knowing this one still gets use.  It fits him much better...

... okay, a little better, but he at least doesn't mind the bagginess so much.  So something can still come of this jacket. It will be a little while before I get over my aggravation (with myself; there's nothing wrong with the pattern) to attempt to make a me-sized version. But it marks the day when I stop assuming that the pattern companies know anything about ease or that my measurements on the envelope mean anything at all.  I've got the measurements chart copied out of Fabulous Fit for Everyone and it's getting filled in today.  Or else. After that, I'll have absolutely no excuse for not knowing exactly how much ease is allowed in each part of every garment. 

Another little blip with this jacket came when I managed to slice a decent way into the body of my garment while serging a seam allowance!  (Side note: does anyone really do a double turned hem on fleece?  It seemed like it would have resulted in crazy thick seam intersections...)

Ack!  Of course this happened while sewing late at night, when I probably should have stopped already, but the damage was done.  I used my favorite method of mending straight tears, which is to butt the edges together, fuse a small piece of interfacing to the back, then go over the rip with the smallest zigzag stitch that's feasible for the particular fabric.
Voila!  Not quite good as new, but not too shabby.  For this one, it didn't matter too much because most of the tear ended up hidden in the seam allowance.  But it's a pretty slick trick if you're in a tight spot. 

Once I get my measurements all figured out, (which might require a post of its own - it's a very extensive chart!)  my next project will be New Look 6864.

 I'm planning on doing the view shown in white with black trim here.  I have a lovely turquoise print for this; the only problem is that it's a knit, while this is a pattern for wovens.  It's a very stiff knit, though, and I'm planning on doing some muslins, as well as flat pattern measuring, of course!  :)  Happy Easter everyone!

April 4, 2012

Lots of littles...

      Nothing groundbreaking today, but several little bits of progress.  First up, I used McCall’s 7851, a recent thrift store find that I actually bought for the robe patterns, to make a matching pair of pajama shorts to go with my Star Wars shirt.  You only get flat shots for this because the shorts are a bit skimpy and trying to show shorts on a dress form is a losing battle. (Ask me how I know.)  While a bit of a detour from my goals, it was too cute not to do, and it used up enough of the sheets that I was mostly down to really worn parts that I could just throw out.

Next, I finished my reconstruction project from my goals in the form of this sweater vest.  A few years  ago, I went to Walmart with my family (no, I don’t generally shop there, but where I’m from there are places where it’s literally the only store within a half hour drive.)  We happened upon the last of the winter clearance, and I picked up two of these sweaters for $1 each, because I figured I could do something with them, where Walmart would just throw them away.  As full sweaters, there was some definite sleeve funkiness going on, and the pattern just didn’t look good on me.  I kept them thinking I could somehow fix them, and eventually it came to me.  Sweatervests are one of my favorite pieces of clothing, and have been since elementary school.  Some might say they haven’t been in style since then, but I just don’t care.  I can rock a sweatervest any day.  

    Converting the sweaters to sweatervests took less than an hour.  I essentially used part of the sleeve as a facing, serged the edge, then topstitched it down.  Voila!  Instant sweatervest!  Now that I’ve tried it on clothes I had no emotional investment in, I plan to use this approach on some of my favorite old sweaters that are no longer wearable for one reason or another (mostly because of lengthwise shrinkage).  I’m also contemplating picking up lots of basic white button up shirts and dyeing them to give a little pop to these vests.  Watch this space.

     Finally, a random trip to the thrift store Sunday yielded gold, in the form of a complete Singer buttonholer to the tune of $9.50! 

   Since my Brother machine’s 4-step buttonhole leaves much to be desired, teaming this up with my vintage Kenmore machine should hopefully remove buttonholes as a source of project dread.  You know what I mean, when you’re reluctant to start a project because you know something will go wrong when you get to that one technique?  Buttonholes are like that for me.  A project where I can use this will probably go into next month's goals.
Right now, I'm about halfway through construction of McCall's 5538 and it's looking pretty good! I'm trying pretty hard to avoid the "homemade" look with this one, as it would be great to wear at work or as a spring jacket.  (Yes, fleece is still appropriate during spring; Wisconsin is cold!)  I'm hoping to have it finished up by the end of the week.  We'll see what happens!