Sunday, September 21, 2014

TESTED: Design by Lindsay Senna Dress + Musings

The Senna dress by Design by Lindsay is my first foray into pattern testing. I've definitely thrown my name in the hat for several other designers, but Lindsay is the first to take me up on it.

The Senna is described as: Versatile, comfortable, and modern, Senna can be made as either a dress or a cute crop top + pencil skirt combo. Designed for knit fabric, Senna features a loose kimono-sleeve bodice with blouson waistline and a ruched pencil skirt. The neckline comes with crew neck and scoop neck options.

I made up the pattern as-is in a straight size 16. I could have gone down on bottom, maybe on top too, but I wanted to follow the size chart and instructions completely. I had some kelly green cotton/lycra from Girl Charlee that was earmarked to be a Moneta, but after my last disaster attaching the elastic with the serger I haven't touched the pattern. Oh well.

I had my hubby take these photos and I have to say they look 100x better than the crappy selfies I take in our downstairs mirror. I might need to recruit him in the future. I felt a bit odd in this dress - it's not a silhouette I usually wear meaning it's fitted on bottom rather than the top. I usually prefer a more fitted bodice with a full skirt to hide my tummy. (You can read this post for my thoughts on body image.)

The skirt is gathered using 1/4" elastic although the original had you use elastic thread. Mine didn't budge when I steamed it so I had to use elastic anyway. The fit around the derriere is quite snug despite the gathers, and I honestly had a hard time placing them properly so they'd provide adequate coverage.

The neckline is finished with a binding and the sleeves are cut on with the bodice. The top is meant to blouse over the waistband. I assembled this entirely on my serger and used my machine only to hem the sleeves. The PDF is really small (11 or so pages?!) which I LOVE, and assembly to hemming this only took 2 hours, which again I appreciate. As far as easy peasy projects go, this one is close to the Laurel dress, which I can whip up in 2 hours.

The nice thing about this pattern is that you can make the dress or a cropped top plus skirt. I like having options when you buy a pattern. The skirt portion is definitely a new style considering the others that have sprung up - Mabel in particular.

I thought the ruching might hide my belly but alas it simply clings to it. Oh well.

I really enjoyed the critical aspect of being a tester, and I tried to provide a ton of notes, especially how to make the pattern more beginner-friendly. I was not compensated for my time but I was sent the final pattern - which is 20% off until midnight tonight. I know there have been many a musing on the "ethics" of pattern testing, but frankly I think all of that's stupid. I do, however, appreciate the opportunity to show the pattern in a larger size. I may not look like I would fit into the larger sizes, but I'm a consistent 12/14 in Colette, 14 in Sewaholic, 16 in Senna, 16 in Big Four, XL in Megan Nielsen, 16/14 in Nettie, 12/14 in Christine Haynes, 14/16 in By Hand London, etc. 

I appreciate designers making more of an attempt to include sewers of various shapes, sizes and blog followings, and I enjoyed the By Hand London post about their pattern testers. Although, looking back at their group, only 3 appear to fit into the larger end of their patterns. I know it's probably taboo but I like to know a seamstresses measurements when I view their items. It helps me put a pattern into perspective. I'm not shy about mine, and what I've found (quite interestingly) is that at one point my mother and I had identical measurements but looking at us you wouldn't believe it. I have a larger D-cup bust, she wears a B-cup. I have narrow hips in proportion to my bust, she has larger hips. We both have flat butts. Her waist is wider and mine has more depth. It's extremely interesting to think about how different every body is once you get down to the numbers.

Enough waxing on. If I make this again, and I'm currently undecided, I might change the following:
1. Use a darker knit fabric, and maybe use a thicker knit like ponte. This medium weight knit felt a bit thin on my bum.
2. Lower the neckline to more of a bateau and foldover the hem. The crew neck look doesn't work for my ample bust.

Have you ever been a pattern tester? 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

OWOP 2014

I decided it might be fun to participate in One Week, One Pattern this year since I have plenty of patterns of which I've made multiple renditions. I've blogged most of these so I won't go into great detail but here is a review of my week:

Day 1: green bamboo stripe knit Nettie + Miette skirt in chambray

Day 2: Red rayon/lycra knit Nettie + linen/rayon Hollyburn skirt.

Day 3: kelly green cotton/lycra Nettie + linen Chardon skirt

Day 4: navy cotton/lycra Nettie + pink shorts from Target

Day 5: I had a funeral to attend on Wednesday so I wore my new Anna dress instead. Oops!

Day 6: Paris green cotton/lycra Nettie + cotton Tania culottes

Day 7: teal cotton/lycra Nettie + corduroy Anemone skirt

Obviously I chose the Nettie bodysuit as my OWOP pattern, which I love. I had plenty of skirts to choose from and frankly I'm shocked that I didn't pair any of these with a Zinnia skirt, seeing as how I have 6 of those.

I have to admit, though, I got pretty tired of this look by Friday. I was dying to just toss on a dress and not have to think about forming an outfit.

On a positive note, the red knit, blue linen and brown corduroy are all JoAnn fabric purchases. I usually don't take enough time to really look through their fabric, but I was pleasantly surprised. 

Did you participate in OWOP2014? How was your experience?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

I'm Still Alive + OWOP 2014

Ya'll - I promise I'm still alive and kicking! With the fall starting back up my life has turned hectic again: my job started; I took on another once-per-week gig; I have two children's choirs at church plus a job as Music Associate to my hubby; I'm also working with the local high school's marching band.

As busy as all of that sounds, I am still sewing:
1. I am officially signed up for One Week, One Pattern and I've vowed to wear Nettie + Zinnia all week long! Woohoo! OWOP begins Saturday, September 6 and ends Friday, September 12, 2014.

2. I'm currently testing the Senna dress by Lindsay and I'm super excited as it's my first time testing a pattern! 

3. I'm working on plugging away at my fall wardrobe and I have some new garments to share ASAP!

I've also been approached lately about sewing for hire. I'm thinking up ways to make this work and make it profitable given my limited time to sew. So that leads me to the question:

Do you sew for hire? How do you determine your prices? Other thoughts or suggestions?
(Thanks in advance!)

Monday, August 11, 2014

FINISHED: Another New Look 6125

It occurred to me this morning that I should go spend some time in my sewing room, hopefully to encourage some motivation to arise. I cut out the pattern for my Simplicity 1371 pant and then realized I had this unfinished beauty hanging in my closet. This fabric was leftover from a pair of Tania culottes that for some reason I've never blogged. It's a lightweight cotton lawn from Denver Fabrics. I keep a book with all of my projects as well as the date each one is started: I began this dress on May 17, and finished it today, August 11.

I used French seams throughout - I really like this type of seam finish. I find it oddly relaxing to sew a French seam: switching the presser feet, trimming, pressing, and then coming away with an enclosed seam allowance. I skipped the lining because duh - 95 degrees outside.

I turned 1/2" then 1" for the hem, which gives me a 35" or so full length which I prefer on most dresses. I used Gutermann Mara in black which I like for lightweight lawns.

This morning I finished the armholes and neckline with bias binding - I had fused the neckline with fusible tricot to keep it more stable and I used commercial binding for the neckline. I used black cotton for the armholes.

This is now the 11th time I've made this pattern. I wore a yellow jacquard version yesterday to church and beyond and was reminded how much I like the style of this dress. It is so warm and humid here and the fact that this doesn't cling to the body makes it gold.

Pattern: New Look 6125
Size: 16
Fabric: Geometric cotton lawn from Denver Fabrics
Needle: Organ 80/12
Thread: Gutermann Mara 100 in black
Changes: Bias binding for neckline and armholes; 1 1/2" hem; French seams throughout

How do you jump-start your sewjo?

Friday, August 8, 2014

FINISHED: New Look 6125

I would be lying if I claimed this as a recent make. My sewjo is still on the fritz, although I've been intrigued by the thought of making some pants. 

I first made New Look 6125 (my tissue says 0165 - misprint) in December 2012. I was so thrilled to find a commercial pattern that didn't require a FBA in my usual size (16). I first made this in a royal and black wool blend houndstooth, and have made about 10 total since then. This chambray was #2. 

That's Louie by the way. We brought a family of three cats with us to GA when we moved two years ago, a mom and two boys. Johnny died suddenly in January, and we adopted Louie about 3 months later. He might look big but he's still a kitten - and very sweet. 

Back to the dress: I like this style for several reasons. First, it flares from the waist down to the hip. In doing so it detracts from an ample bust, although I'm less concerned about covering the girls up all the time like I used to be. Second, there are only two bust darts, none in the back, and only two pattern pieces. I drafted an all-in-one facing and have used it successfully, but this version I used bias binding. 

The pattern calls for a full lining, which I determined was optional, although I used it one two versions in cotton lawn - one a gorgeous yellow and orange floral, the other black with large white polka dots. I've also successfully made hacks to this pattern: removing 2" of length for a cute but short summer dress and/or beach cover-up; drafting a button band and collar for a shirtdress, although the collar looks a bit Star Trek; adding a 2" wide center front pleat like you see on this version. I simply extended the CF 2" off the fold and stitched it down ala Sorbetto. I also added buttons.

Now that I'm remembering, these buttons were found in a sewing case I purchased at an estate sale in Knoxville. I'm glad I was able to give them a new home. Version #3 also had the front band and buttons, but it's in magenta linen/cotton and needs to be hemmed an additional 1" to keep from looking dowdy.

This chambray was purchased from Denver Fabrics years ago. I bought 5 yards and managed to make this dress, a Sureau and a Miette skirt. I love love love the weight and color and really should have bought more as I can't seem to find anything to compare. It's nice and opaque unlike the Robert Kaufmann chambrays I've recently purchased. Maybe one day I'll find it again. 

This is one of my small collection of TNT patterns, and I'm strongly considering making several in linen to get me through the heat of August. I'm also wondering if maybe just sewing something will get my sewjo to kick in. This dress does NOT cling to any part of you and it's so comfy. I'm also considering adding a sleeve to make it very 60s chic.

Pattern: New Look 6125
Size: Size 16 based on high bust and enough ease to forgo a FBA
Fabric: Chambray from Denver Fabrics
Needle: Schmetz 80/12
Thread: Gutermann from JoAnn
Changes: Added 2" center front pleat; hand-stitched 4 buttons; no lining - finished with bias binding; overlock + 1" hem.

What's your go-to pattern when the livin's easy (aka summertime)?

Monday, August 4, 2014

FINISHED: Colette Mabel

A few months ago, like every other seamstress/blogger known to man, I bought the Colette Guide to Sewing Knits as well as the two new knit patterns. My love of the Nettie bodysuit is well documented on Instagram, and I do wear knits pretty consistently, especially in the winter months, so I thought it smart to start sewing some up. 

The Mabel skirt is designed for medium to heavyweight knits and pontes and is suitable for beginners. It comes with three variations, two mini-skirts, one with a button placket, and the other a pencil skirt. Mabel can be constructed on a regular machine or a serger.

There's been some recent blog discussion on whether or not there's a need for this skirt pattern considering it's basically just some rectangles. I've included a photo of the pattern pieces for you to make up your own mind. The skirt is not terribly complicated, and yes, there are several rectangles along with waistband pieces. Could I have drafted this pattern for myself? Sure. Moneta really needs the fine-tuned drafting skills in order to fit the bodice perfectly. I'm particularly impressed with how to accommodate a full bust in a knit bodice, but enough about that.

I made my muslin in some leftover coral ponte from Girl Charlee. I made it single layered and it was really too thin. When I made this version, out of red ponte also from Girl Charlee (no longer available) I basically made two skirts and "lined" the entire thing with another skirt. 

I cut the size Large (34" waist) but the 3XL length and it seemed to work well. Even with two layers, I still have VPLs - visible panty lines. I'm not sure this skirt will ever see the light of day to be honest. I really need a heavier weight ponte to feel modest enough in this skirt.

And here it is - don't mind the grey t-shirt and gold Hasbeens (which I'm breaking in). While you're at it, don't mind the empty Amazon box or bags of grocery bags - we have cats you know. Given the slim fit you can really see the line between my hip bones and my bum/low hip line. Super. I think a loose fitting shirt that slightly covers this area would look much more flattering.

You can barely see the VPLs in this photo, which is why this may not go out in public unless I have tights on or something. It is super comfy - as you can see there's plenty of room to move and breath and eat large quantities of food. This came together super fast - like maybe 2 or 3 hours. The fit is very spot on and I do appreciate how flattering the style looks.

So, what do I think about this pattern? I like it. I need a heavier weight fabric for sure. It's cute - and I definitely need some loose tops to pair with it - I'm thinking a Laurel blouse but cut longer. 

How do I feel about buying indie patterns? Well, I do tend to get distracted every time there's a new pattern release. I really love Colette patterns - Zinnia and Peony are two of my favorites - and I love other indies as well (Emery, Nettie, Anna, Anemone, Chardon, Coco, Miette). But sometimes I have to remind myself that I don't need every new pattern that's released - Myrtle isn't quite my style, although I'm open to changing my mind. I'm not really the body type for Sewaholic patterns, although I like Hollyburn. I'm not convinced I'm the type for Grainline patterns either, although I really like the Alder shirtdress. 

I think editing is extremely important. It's important to know what works for you, what doesn't, and when to spend your money. I want to support indie companies and am happy to, but I've also spent a fair amount of money on patterns that didn't work for me that I then sold to other seamstresses.

I think I can really love this pattern with the right fabric. Darker and heavier fabrics will look much more flattering. But I also have to make tops to go with it, so I'm not sure it will be as loved as my dresses and my Nettie + Zinnia combinations. 

Pattern: Colette Mabel
Size: Large
Fabric: red ponte from Girl Charlee
Thread: red Gutermann from JoAnn
Needle: Schmetz 90/12 Stretch Ballpoint
Changes: none!

Are you overwhelmed by new pattern releases?
(I am!)

REVIEW: Swedish Hasbeens Fredrica

If you want to be a true seamstress, you must acquire the following:

1. A signature style or accessory

2. A knack for sewing for your body type

3. A robust Instagram following

And finally...

4. Swedish Hasbeens

I jest, of course, but seriously: Swedish Hasbeens are the hottest thing among sewists. I won't pull at the thread of why because who cares, but I do want to document my experience with the controversial brand.

I'm not sure what turned me on to the shoe, but late one night I was perusing and stumbled across the Fredrica sandal ($239 retail) for $76. The price seemed too low, but sure enough I paid $76 for them. I bought them in Nature, the color you see below.

While I waited for my lovelies to arrive, I did some serious research. Hasbeens have a love/hate reputation: some reviewers said these were the most comfortable shoes ever, while other bemoaned how they were death to the feet. This all made me incredibly nervous, but I figured that $76 wasn't too much to spend if they ended up not working at all.

They arrived on June 6 in the afternoon and I promptly put them on and strutted around the house. "Brilliant!" I thought, seeing as how they make your legs look nice and long and the color matches the skin.

I must say, all of the bemoaning never proved to be true for me, as within a few days, I was able to wear these all day with absolutely no discomfort on my feet. I have been searching for YEARS for a sandal that is cute + comfortable without looking like a geriatric and I finally found it. 

I frequently experience discomfort with any shoe that hugs the bone at the base of my pinky toe on each foot. There's something about a shoe cramping that area that really hurts. Luckily, the toe section comes right to that place but stops before it covers it, making these extremely comfortable. These support my feet better than most shoes and I can wear them all day with minimal discomfort.

I am a size 9 US and I bought the size 39/9 and they fit perfectly.

Around day 3 I took some extra virgin olive oil on a cotton ball and rubbed it into the heel and soles. The next day the leather had darkened slightly and was a bit softer. At this point they're a nice caramel color.

Are these ugly shoes? I don't think so and don't care. They are unique and comfy! Since the sole is wooden you will get a few scuff marks and nicks in the wood.

Tips for Loving Your Hasbeens

1. Take a look at the Swedish Hasbeens website. Determine your style and size and then go searching on Amazon. Find the ones you want and put them in your Wish List. Keep them there for a few days and watch the fluctuation of the price. The price will change. I promise. When the price reaches your fancy, scoop them up!

2. Upon arrival, wear them at home for a few hours at a time. You can wear them with socks or stretch them with a shoe stretcher. You can also wet some socks and then wear them. Or spray them with water and wear them out. 

I didn't wear mine with socks but I did wear them around the house. When I finally wore them in public I made sure that I had flats with me just in case. I didn't need them, luckily, but it's good to have a back-up.

3. Treat the Nature color with EVOO. This will darken and soften the leather. I treated mine both inside and out.

4. Do not wear them in the rain or mud. The website is not kidding - water will damage both the leather (staining) and the wooden sole.

Overall, I have found the Fredrica to be an extremely comfortable and versatile summer shoe. The color goes with everything in the wardrobe. My arch fits perfectly with the wooden sole, and frankly they are one of the most comfortable shoes I own.

Since I love them so, my mom bought me these:

This is the t-strap sky high in Nature, which I found for $186, marked down from $249. Seriously, the price will drop. These are a bit harder to break in due to the large piece of leather, but I'm slowly working on it and they are slowly forming their way around my foot. They look a bit weird at first but they really slim the foot and elongate the leg. 

I also have my eyes on these pretties:

These gilded babies arrive a week or so ago, but Band Camp has kept me from giving them a proper wearing. The leather is tight but I put on socks for about an hour, then took my hair dryer and covered them with the hot hair for a bit. I think I saw this trick on Instagram and it worked wonders!

If you want to see the many styles in action, you can search for #swedishhasbeens on Instagram and see the full range of styles. 

*There is another clog brand, Lotta from Stockholm, that has glowing reviews. Owners tell of little to no break-in time and much softer leather than SH. I've never tried them, but you can purchase them from Amazon as well and they ship from Sweden. Lotta also gets rave reviews for their amazing customer service, although there are a lot of reported issues with sizing, so check the website!

What's the craziest thing you've ever done for a shoe you loved?