Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sewing Formalwear: Vests and Ties for a Friend's Wedding

Recently, my sewing time has been consumed with an epic wedding project for one of my good friends. 


I made vests and ties for all the men in the bridal party -- six vests, five neckties and one bow tie.

Ashley, the bride, has been a good friend of mine (and sorority sister!) since college. She was a bridesmaid in my wedding and made the most beautiful guest book tree for our guests to sign. Not only that, she helped do the dishes after my wedding. Now that's a friend right there!

When her husband-to-be told me that she wanted vests for the wedding to match the bridesmaid dresses, but that the shop was trying to charge an obscene amount for them, I, of course, said I would make them.


I apologize for the quality of the photos -- they were taken in the wedding tent, late at night, when we were several hours into the reception. And I took them with my cellphone. But I just couldn't resist sharing this project!

This was one of the most thoughtful, beautiful weddings I've ever been to and it was done at the home of the parents of the bride. Ashley planned out the most lovely minute details, from the table dressing, to the flowers, to these vests.


For most of these, I used Simplicity 4762. The tall guy on the right got Simplicity 1506 (basically the same pattern but in big and tall sizes).

The patterns actually worked out well for sizing. I made a muslin for the fellow in the bow tie (he was a bridesperson, which is why his tie is different) since he lives close to me and would be available for fitting, but, happily, the envelope size for his suit size was a great fit. For the rest of them, I just went with their straight suit sizes and the vests all fit well (especially when they don't have their arms up -- I promise they were all long enough!)


Since I knew I'd need multiple sizes, I traced off the pattern in each size and ended up making two smalls, a medium, two larges and a 1XL. The ties were all identical, so I was able to batch cut them and sew them up in a couple nights. The bow tie (it's actually a fake bow tie and is held on with hand-sewn plastic snaps) was super quick to sew up, too. The ties are all a bit flimsier than normal store-bought ties, but they were fine for the one night.


As far as fabric goes, the bride requested some shiny, textured fabric, so I ordered a large amount of swatches from Fabric.com. When she came to visit, we could not believe how exactly this fabric matched the bridesmaid dresses (plum Alexia Bridal dresses). It looks like the exact same fabric (and maybe it is!) I ordered 15 yards while the fabric was on sale -- I knew I'd need around 12 yards and I wanted a little wiggle room just in case I made a mistake! The fabric came in a giant bolt. It was a pretty intense mail day, let me tell you. 

For lining, I used black pongee lining, also from Fabric.com, since it was only $3 a yard. Not the best stuff on the planet, but cheap and it got the job done. 

The entire front of each vest is interfaced with medium weight interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply. (The only real "splurge" of this project at $6 a yard -- I was worried the cheap stuff would cause massive wrinkles in the poly shantung and I'm really glad I went this route.)

The buttons are cover buttons purchased from Etsy. On the backs of the vests, which I didn't get pictures of, there are gold vest buckles from JoAnn. 



All in all, I think they turned out well! And I managed to keep them cheap -- around $35 per vest/tie set. Which is at least cheaper than the $90 the shop wanted to charge -- and I think that was for vests alone! It was a tough project, just because of the scale of it, but with a little bit of wine and a lot of movies, I made it through.

The groom looks happy with them, right? It must be the vest he's happy about. Or I guess it could be the whole wedding thing. ;)

Now the only question is what  to do with all that leftover purple poly shantung!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Birthday Suit for My Favorite 4-Year-Old (New Look 6257 and New Look 6576)

When I received the birthday wishlist for one of my favorite little friends, I was tickled to see that he had requested not only clothes, but "a birthday suit."

The list also included such gems as "a gold-colored bike that moves" and "a balloon that has a string." But of course I fixated on that birthday suit. 

The Birthday Boy's current Favorite Thing is, of course, balloons, which served as the party's loose theme. 

You know where this is going, right? 


BALLOON FABRIC BIRTHDAY SUIT, BABY!

And, of course, a matching dress for his 7-month-old sister, my Goddaughter, who is much adored by her older brother. So much adored, in fact, that he included presents for her on his birthday list. What a generous guy!


I wasted no time in ordering a pair of Michael Miller balloon fabrics from fabric.com. These are quilting cottons, which mean they are easily washable (always a relief, I imagine, for parents.)

I also got some turquoise rayon Bemberg from Hart's Fabric. The buttons were a guessed match at fabric.com, but I think they turned out to be fairly close to the turquoise balloons on the fabric.


The pattern I used was New Look 6257, which includes pants, a mandarin collar jacket, a vest and a dress pattern.

Yes, this outfit is possibly a bit clownish and maybe even a bit girly. But Birthday Boy's parents are about as interested in gender norms as vegetarians are in meat -- and if you can't wear crazy clothes when you're 4, when can you wear them?


One of BB's grandmas was kind enough to measure him for me. He's a bit small for the size 3 (which was the smallest one in the pattern), but I needed to cut an extra inch or so to account for his height.

The pants have an elastic waist. I cut the elastic exactly to his waist measurement in the hope that even if the pants were big on the leg, they'd fit in the waist.

It turned out I didn't need to worry -- the pants fit fairly well!


The jacket was pretty easy to assemble -- more so because it had only a mandarin collar and didn't require a full on collar or lapel scheme. I used cuff and collar interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply to interface the collar. The button edge is interfaced with light fusible, also from FSS. 


The pattern was fairly difficult to match because of the scale of the repeat, but I managed to get some climbing balloons onto the button area.

I also got to work on my technique for bagging linings, which was nice. I have a new winter coat planned and, silly as it may sound, I feel much more confident about the lining now that I've accomplished it on the small scale.


I love rayon Bemberg for lining -- it feels so luxurious!


At the last minute, I decided to make another pair of pants from a slightly stretchy khaki I have in my stash. These pants use so little fabric that I think I can still get a skirt out of the yard-plus of khaki I have left.

You can't really see it in these pictures, but I realized as I was pressing everything that I could not tell the back from the front of these, so I sewed a small grosgrain ribbon tag into the back of both pairs of pants. It's hard enough to dress a preschooler -- who would want to do it twice because the pants went on backward the first time?

All in all, I'd say the balloon suit was a hit. BB wasn't too impressed at first, but then his mom asked him what was on the pants and you could see his eyes light up when he took a look and proclaimed them to be "BLOONS!"

And so he put it on, in the middle of the living room, right then and there, in front of all the guests. (Who were mostly all family, but it was still amusing.)


Of course, it's difficult to resist making little girl clothes, so I made a matching dress for BB's sister.

This is New Look 6576, made up in size small. It's got shoulder buttons to make it easy to take on and off. I imagined it would be cute for the end of summer -- it's finally getting hot where I live -- just to wear over her diaper. Probably a shirt and tights could go under it, too, though its a very summery fabric.

I broke the first button I tried to sew on -- hit it with the needle and snapped it in half, so she got some random buttons I found in my stash that were the same size since I had exactly six of the turquoise buttons. I'd already made the buttonholes, so we were pretty much stuck with these, but I do think the purple looks nice.


I never got measurements for this, so I just eyeballed based on the pattern paper -- a dangerous proposition -- but it worked out and fit perfectly.

I've been absent from the blog a bit lately because I've been tackling a huge project for a dear friend's wedding, so it was nice to take a little break and do some fun kid sewing. Both of these projects were easy to turn out and very very quick. The pants each took about 45 minutes from cutting to finishing, as did the dress. The jacket took a bit longer, maybe a couple of hours. 


Do you all sew for others? I enjoy it -- as long as the expectations aren't too high. This was a nice, low-stress project. Like a little sewing vacation!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Things I've Sewn Lately: Deer and Doe Robe Belladone

Bonjour, Robe Belladone!


Believe it or not, one of my undergraduate degrees (yes, I'm insane and I have two) is in French. So of course I love Deer and Doe patterns. They have instruction books in French and English and it's really neat to look through the French ones.


This dress is an unlined sundress with a cutout back detail and was a lot of fun to sew up!

I will say, though, that fun does not always equal perfection. If I make this dress a second time there are several things I'd change.

For one, the dress is SHORT. Really short. This is the absolute longest skirt for the largest size done with a very narrow hem and while it's not indecent, let's just say that I am constantly worried about bending over, if you know what I mean.

Also, the back opening gapped horribly on me. Luckily, I was able to unpick, cut out some of the fabric (I just eyeballed it after I made Greg pin it) and made it work. I added a small loop of fabric to the center back there to hide the unsightly join in the bias tape that appeared.


Similarly, the waist is very high. Now, I love a good high waist, it's true. But this one has slash pockets that are pretty much unusable. I'd definitely lower it and/or omit the pockets.


The pleats I made were supposed to be going the other direction, but I thought they'd look better this way on me. (They do.)

Also, there is no way I could think of to line this dress. I know some folks have managed it, and I bow down to them. But I could not figure out a way that didn't make me want to tear my hair out. So this pattern sat on the shelf for a while as I pondered my options, since most of my sundress fabric requires lining.

Happily, I managed to find the perfect fabric for an unlined sundress. This is a quilting cotton I bought when Charlotte was destashing. It's a bit stiff, but I like the way it holds its shape.


I did a double line of top stitching everywhere just 'cause. This was the first dress I sewed on my new machine (I know, blogging out of order!) and I wanted an excuse to show off the lovely top-stitching. And that zipper! Can we all take a minute to just enjoy that super invisible invisible zipper? The Pfaff zipper foot is the best tool in my sewing room at the moment.

I also flipped all the bias tape to the inside, rather than leaving it exposed. I made matching bias tape, but I nearly always prefer the look of having it flipped to the inside when I use it for bindings.


While there are lots of things I'd change about this dress, I definitely wear it a ton. It looks nice with my chocolate brown hand-knit sweater, which is a bonus for sure. Not a high recommendation, but if you like the detail at the back, then it's definitely worth a try!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Things I've Sewn Lately: Seersucker New Look 6266

I love sleeveless button-up blouses. It's easy to wear them with a cardigan (no need to worry about stuffing your sleeves into your sweater) and they look nice and summery. 

And you can never go wrong with seersucker -- just ask the U.S. Congress.


The pattern for this blouse is New Look 6266. 

I tend to sew New Look more than any other major pattern brand. The looks are pretty simple, the patterns are cheap even if they aren't on sale and the block fits me fairly well. 

For this one, I cut my standard 8 at the top graded to a 10 at the bottom. 


The construction was very easy -- though I have some experience making button-up shirts, which is always helpful. After making three Archers this past winter, I can do a collar and collar stand in my sleep.


The armholes are bound with bias tape I made from some soft white quilting cotton.


The stripe is super small, so I didn't work too hard at matching, though I did match up the shoulder panel just for fun (I'm such a nerd.)


The pattern features a nice slit up the side for wearing ease, which makes it very comfortable to sit down in.


I serged all the exposed seams with white thread and for the hem, I just did a simple turned-under narrow hem.


The fabric for this shirt was a remnant AK Fabrics that I picked up at Male Pattern Boldness Day last August. There was about a yard and a half left, which they gave me for the price of half a yard.


I am really happy with this shirt and I'm sure I'll make the pattern again. It's a great staple. I wore it to work last week with my navy circle skirt and my Myrna sweater -- I love it when my handmades mix and match easily!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Outfit Along: Myrna Sweater and New Look 6184

For the most part, I don't join sewalongs. But when I saw that Andi Satterlund and Lladybird were joining up for an Outfit Along, I was sold. The idea behind the challenge was to knit a sweater and a sew a dress. 


Andi Satterlund has a lot of sweater patterns designed to be worn with retro, high-waisted dresses. Sounds like me, right?

I didn't start working on this until almost a month in because my wedding happened right at the beginning of the challenge, but I still managed to finish it, helped largely by the fact that I now commute on the metro and get an hour for lunch every day. Lots of daily knitting time!


This sweater was  just as easy as promised. I managed to knit the entire thing in just over a month, despite the fact that I'm still a relatively new knitter and knit fairly slowly (well, I purl fairly slowly anyway -- a row of purling takes me twice the time a row of knitting takes!)

I made this with KnitPicks Comfy Worsted cotton yarn in Whisker. Isn't that the cutest color name? My poor old light grey J Crew sweater had just about died, so I was super pleased to find my perfect light grey yarn.


I bought buttons for this sweater at my local yarn store, Uniquities, but I have been unable to find matching petersham. I've also worn this sweater twice now and have not missed the buttons yet -- I almost never wear sweaters buttoned. Maybe I will just leave them off forever?


The back of the sweater has a cute keyhole detail; it gives a little peekaboo of my dress. Saucy!

I definitely made a few mistakes in this sweater (like not picking up enough stitches in the button band, which apparently means the band is a little small -- who'd have guessed?! -- which I suppose I should have known.) I fully admit I'm still learning. But I definitely think it will get a ton of wear.


The dress is New Look 6184. I adore this dress. It has a pleating detail at the neckline and the armscyes are nice and deep. No alterations there necessary! 


I cut an 8 at the bust and a 10 at the hip -- my standard New Look alteration.


The skirt is lovely -- it's a half circle cut in seven pieces, which was perfect for my 45-inch-wide fabric. The fabric is Michael Miller Madrona Road Wild Carrot in blue. It's a really soft and drapey quilting cotton fabric and I just adore the pattern. I didn't bother to match the pattern at all, but I did place carefully to make sure I didn't have any questionable yellow dots in inappropriate places on my bodice front.


Instead of lining, I went with facings, as directed (for once!)

This dress was super quick to sew up. I cut all the pieces, fused my interfacing, serged all edges and then sewed it up all in one night!


Greg's comment on this outfit was: "400% you!" which, in terms of compliments, is really the best I could ever want.


I feel so good in this outfit -- I may never take it off!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Great Reveal: Sewing My Own Wedding Dress and Giveaway Winner!

This week, Greg and I will have been married two months -- high time for a post about my wedding dress, am I right? 

All photos in this post were taken by our fantastic photographer Ian Sbalcio (I highly recommend him!)



I went through quite the trial leading up to sewing my wedding dress. I started out with some lovely silks from Mood and the By Hand London Anna bodice and a big skirt -- but that dress just wasn't working out. I wanted a big floofy skirt, and the fabric I used was so light it showed every bump in the crinoline. 

After a quick mental breakdown, I had a good night's sleep, regrouped, ordered new fabric and went with my backup plan: basic white sundress. 

The pattern I used it Butterick 5748, which I've made twice before.


The outer fabric is Robert Kaufman silk cotton sateen and the lining was just plain light cotton lining fabric. Both were ordered from Fabric.com about a month before the wedding -- and, in a moment of insanity, I only ordered four yards of each, which is about exactly what you need to make this dress. (The ribbon was a plain satin ribbon from the stash I used to decorate the wedding area.)


I didn't start the dress until two weeks before the wedding. I was pretty exhausted by that point (we had an at-home wedding at Greg's parents' house in Leesburg, Va., so there was a fair amount of work involved) and I was not super excited about sewing ANOTHER wedding dress. 

But I finally put on a movie a zoned out and got this mostly done in a day. 

But can you see my major error in the above photo?


Me neither -- but look at it again and you'll see it.

I am fairly sure I forgot to staystitch the neckline and the super light fabrics just streeeeeeeeeeetchhhed out. Really badly. And I didn't have enough fabric left over to make a second bodice. 

I mean, God bless the sewing community. I posted on Instagram for help and was immediately offered tons of advice and offers to go and look for lace to cover it up. It really calmed me down a lot. And then a lady on Pattern Review (I posted for help in the wedding/formal sewing forum) suggested I steam it into submission. I applied tons and tons of steam, but ultimately, didn't make enough difference. Finally, I just made a strip of bias binding, sewed it on, flipped it to the inside, stitched it down and called it a day.


Oh, and I also, in my panic, got a little makeup on the neckline. So I dry-cleaned it, which got the crud off the neckline, but also made it bubble and flip to the outside. I was pretty mad about the pressing job our dry-cleaner did(n't), actually, but I brought it home, pressed the hell out of it and it was fine.


I don't have much to say about the construction -- this is a super simple dress to put together. As with previous versions, I put the zipper in the center back, rather than the side (which the pattern tells you to do) because underarm zippers annoy me.


Because the fabrics were light, I used a microtex needle. I originally planned to hem by hand, but when I got to the end, I was ready to be done, so I just trued the hem and did a plain old narrow hem on my machine.


Underneath the dress, I wore a crinoline from Modcloth made from soft polyester and on top of that, I wore a House of Oliver cotton and lace petticoat, which maintained the smooth lines of the skirt. I definitely plan to wear the cotton petticoat again -- it doesn't provide much floof, so it's not too costumey and it was very comfortable.


The sewing moral of this story? Staystitch your necklines. 

The life moral of this story? Making my wedding dress was 100 percent worth it -- I'd never have gotten a dress like this in a store. No one noticed the wonky neckline. Or if they did, they didn't say anything. 

I had the absolute best day of my life, the exact wedding I wanted. I wore Keds to the reception and danced to a fantastic bluegrass band all night. And, best of all, I got to marry Greg. 


So all the pain was worth it! 

And, finally, here's our winner for the House of Mouse Caroline Dress from Indiesew

Congratulations to Erin Goh
It's such a pretty dress, especially the cute little sleeves and the high neckline.

Thanks, Erin! Send me an email and I'll pass it along to the folks at Indiesew for your pattern. Enjoy!



What do you think? Would you ever sew your own wedding dress?