Monday, March 23, 2015

Made by a Fabricista: The Versatile Knit Wrap Dress

Hello everyone and happy Spring!  This is the first time that I've taken photos outdoors since October.  It feels so nice to be outside again!  To celebrate the arrival of Spring, I wanted to make a new dress.  One of the most versatile dresses that I think you can own is a knit wrap dress.  They work for all seasons- just throw on a jacket or cardigan in the winter, and you can make a wrap dress work all year long.  Fabric Mart has all of their knits on sale this week, so this would be the perfect time to try making a wrap dress!


The wrap dress was made popular by Diane Von Furstenberg in the 70's.  Have you ever seen a real DVF Wrap dress?  If you go to the Wrap Shop you can see that the average price is $400, and all of the gorgeous variations that they offer.  The one thing that I noticed that they all have in common, is that they are made from silk jersey knit.  I actually tried on an authentic DVF wrap dress once, and found out what silk jersey really feels like.  It's a lot like an ITY jersey in feel, but it has a lot less stretch.



I really had my heart set on making a wrap dress from a real silk jersey, and as usual, FabricMart had the perfect fabric- a striped silk jersey in my favorite colors.  They have sold out of it now, but this is a close-up for you.

My favorite pattern for this style is Vogue 8379.  I've taught a class using it before, and amazingly, every student, no matter what size or shape they were, looked great in it!  There are a ton of wrap dress pattern options available, and most of them take between 3 to 3-1/2 yards of fabric, depending on your sleeve length, collar and cuff options.   I did make adjustments to the pattern to customize the fit for me: a full bust adjustment, a full biceps adjustment, and added length to the skirt.  But after my adjustments, I got a much better fit than I could ever have gotten buying an authentic DVF wrap dress.



Although my fabric was striped, the stripes actually were gently curved like a winding road, instead of perfectly straight.  This is what it looked like layed out across my cutting table:
This actually opened up more possibilities for me design wise.  Rather than worry about matching stripes at the seams, I decided to just try to play around with the general direction of the stripes with the different pattern pieces.  Since the bodice and sleeves are fitted closely, I decided to lay the back bodice and sleeves in the direction of the maximum stretch- which was horizontally.



I omitted the seam in the center back skirt, and cut it all in a single layer with the stripes at a slight angle.   Then I tried to match the sides in whatever direction the stripes were going in.  It has a kind of ice cream swirl effect.

I oriented the front bodice so that the stripes would line up with the direction of the wrap- almost a 45 degree angle.Lastly, I cut the tie and facings with the stripes going horizontally. My front facing does turn out (even though it's not supposed to!), but it looks intentional with the horizontal facing.

Of course, you do need to pay attention to the skirt when you are sitting, but there is plenty of overlap so that you can stay covered up.  And if it's a windy day, well, you might want to wear another dress that day!  I'm wearing a cami and half slip underneath, just in case a gust of wind comes out of nowhere.



Have you made a wrap dress before?  What is your favorite Wrap Dress pattern and fabric?

Happy Sewing!

Ann for SewBaby News

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Made by a Fabricista: Spring Sewing with Fabricista Diane


I'm so happy to be back this month on the Fabric Mart blog with my first spring projects, simple and lightweight black pants and a flowy and sophisticated print top.



Inspiration for sewing comes from everywhere and I'm thrilled (like everyone else) that I no longer have to organize stacks of torn out pages from catalogs and magazines but now can save anything that inspires me to my "I Wanna Make This" board on Pinterest, no papers, no mess.  And this outfit today is inspired by one of those pins.


The top is McCall's 7093, a brand new tunic pattern with different color block variations.  I made View A (without the slits) in this geometric viscose print from Fabric Mart.


The top is a quick and easy sew and the only changes I made were omitting the slits in the front, taking in the sides 1/2", and adding black bias trim to the neck.  I used the wrong side of a black silk charmeuse I had in my stash.  It can be tricky to get bias trim to be even and I've found that if I ditch the pattern piece and make a free cut, I can have even binding. Here's how I do it:
  1. Cut strips of bias at least 1" longer and 1" wider than the neckline pattern piece.
  2. Fold fabric in half lengthwise and press.
  3. Using a ruler and rotary cutter.  Cut the folded bias strip down to the desired width (see photo).
  4. Cut bias same length as the pattern piece and add markings.

Yay!  Even bias strips = Even neckline trim.



I'm sure I will end up making this McCall's pattern over and over.  I always want to wear leggings but never have the right top to go over them.  Finally, I found the perfect blouse for leggings... longer in the back and shorter in the front.
























The pants are from one of my "Tried and True" (TNT) patterns, Simplicity 1696.  Now, of all of my TNT pattern types, a pant pattern is most cherished.  A good fitting pair of pants is really hard to come by.


I've made these pants many times before, all with different variations, and this time I used this lightweight cotton twill from Fabric Mart , deleted the slash pocket and added 4" to the length.  I ended up with a classic pair of pants that fill a gaping hole in my wardrobe. 


Spring has sprung and I couldn't be happier.  What's your first spring project?

And here's a gratuitous dog picture....he's my photography assistant!



Have a great day!  Diane - Gatorbunnysews

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Made by a Fabricista: (Faux) Persian Lamb and Floral Charmeuse...Lined, Padded, and Matching.


I got it into my head after seeing the faux Persian lamb on the Fabric Mart site a few months back that I would be using one of my blog posts to make *something anything* with the amazing fabric that I rarely see at fabric stores and heck, rarely see in real life.  (And now all of their faux Persian lamb is gone, but maybe they will get it back in one day!)

Confession time, though...I already OWN a faux Persian lamb jacket, a black car coat that I purchased at Macy's in 2003.  So why in the world would I want to make another one? 

Well, the colors that Fabric Mart offered were stunning, not the basic black that I owned, but a gorgeous light tan/golden color and a baby pink.  And since I love retro fashion, I knew I had seen many jackets/coats made in the mid-century from the more atypical hues.  I chose to use the golden color, since I feel like it is more versatile, but I was very tempted to try the baby pink.  In the end, I bought a small amount of the baby pink to make a coat for CW one day.  I know that will thrill her!

So even though I *knew* my schedule would be tight in February and March (I made my son a fully tailored blazer for his First Holy Confession in the last part of February--last photo, btw), I knew that the time and effort that would go into sewing up a fully lined, partially hand-sewn, vintage jacket would 100% worth it.  And I think though you can tell I am tired in the above photo, you can also tell I am super excited to show off my new make.  :-)  (So much so I couldn't stop myself from posing like Lady A).

Before we can get into the results of the process, I want to show you some of the things you absolutely must expect when working with this fabric.  The results are rewarding, but there is a lot that goes into working with this velvet fabric (it is not like traditional faux furs, it is classified as a velvet). 

1. It sheds after cutting, just as would happen with regular velvet.  The faux high pile furs shed way worse, which is why you are told to cut into the backing only when working with those faux fabrics.  You could cut into the backing of the lamb, but it really isn't necessary since the leftover bits aren't that difficult to clean up.

2. The velvet loses its texture super fast if you overpress.  I only overpressed once, and I learned my lesson.  From that point on I would briefly press, very gently, with a bit of steam, and then finger press.  All of my darts turned out great, but to ensure they stayed flat, I stitched them down in the seam allowance to make sure they didn't flop out of place.  Also, make sure to trim the darts and seams as much as you can without losing the integrity of the structure.  The fabric quickly thickens up at seam junctures, so bear that in mind and try to limit your patterns to ones with fewer seaming details.  I felt like the jacket I chose was a nice fit, enough darting and seaming to be interesting, but not too complicated and tailored to make fitting it and reducing bulk a nightmare.

3.  I don't know about other faux Persian lamb furs, but the two I received from Fabric Mart were backed with a thick (I think--cotton/poly) backing.  This backing was great...and made my life so much easier.  It made marking the fabric very easy (more on that in the next bit of the post) and it was sturdy enough that absolutely NO interfacing or interlining was needed.  Woo!  The job of making this jacket still took a ridiculous number of days (thanks, hand sewing!), but at least interfacing and interlining were not part of it.

4.  I bought a walking foot for my machine in 2013 right before I set out to make my daughter a Rapunzel costume which included a ton of velvet and tulle and lacy bits.  Let me tell you, having that walking foot was amazing and made the job so much easier.  This time I knew the machine would only have the walking foot (and straight stitch plate) on it so that I would be ensured of a fabric that maintains its "look," and seams that properly lined up.  I am sure you can get away not using a rolling foot or walking foot, but from what I read there are lots of difficulties sewing velvet with a regular foot.  (Crushed pile, uneven seams, fabric slipping all over the place, etc.)  In addition to helping with the lamb, I also found it was great at helping with the poly charmeuse, which is the devil wrapped in a pretty package (talk about slippery and static-y nightmares!).

So I mentioned the awesome backing to the fabric, and you can see above how it really helped when marking up the fabric.  I used a tracing wheel (the serrated, cut you if you are not careful kind) and marking paper.  If any of the lines ended up too faint, I went ahead and marked over them with the air erasable marker.  The marks are CRUCIAL when making a jacket with a collar.  If you are off, then your collar won't lay right or be in the right place.  I am so glad that I was very diligent about the marking for both this jacket and my son's blazer.  Both times the collar came out great, but I knew it was because of all the extra time I had put into marking them.

On the right side of the fabric, you can't see any of the marks, so this is exactly the right method to use for this kind of fabric.

The only thing that I absolutely needed on the right side was the pocket to be marked, so I thread traced the pockets using a navy thread so it would be seen and when the time was right I could place the pockets on the front properly.

I wouldn't say that what I did was "couture," but the elements were there.  I also hand-basted my set-in sleeves on both the lining and main body to ensure they sewed in correctly with the machine.  Another thing I did was to hand tack the hems in both the jacket and the dress.  The fabrics of both show every sewn seam, so I knew that I had to hand sew these to make sure the fabric didn't pucker or go wonky with a machine sewn hem.  (In fact one of my hand sewn hems was visible from the outside--not the stitches, mind you, but the tautness from pulling the thread too tight...it was a sad moment undoing all that work and redoing it properly!)

Above are the pieces I sewed up and some details.

I decided to add the dress after seeing I had about a yard and a quarter left over.  I had always wanted to try Butterick 5211, and this seemed the right time to do so.  I had to interline it with a white poly so it wouldn't be too sheer, and because the poly charmeuse shows every hiccup in stitching, that interlining was great so I could attach my hand sewn hem to it instead of the main fabric.

The jacket called for a full lining and a proper facing.  I kind of love the interior shot of the jacket, it looks so "finished."  It also called for two buttons, but I ended up only using one.  I may add another, but for now the one is fine.  I chose not to topstitch the collar and edges since that would be a whole lot going on with this fabric, but if I do make it up ever again (unlikely!), I would topstitch then.

Together on me.  I love the combo of the two, but I feel like I need a few days of separation from the project to fully enjoy them together.  Especially the dress, which I just finished this afternoon (Friday).  I think a good press from a dry cleaners will make a world of difference, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't get the fabric to press as cleanly as I would have liked.  (And, well, lol, I gave up rather easily, too!)

By the way, I ended up purchasing the Simplicity 1054 from an etsy seller in size 16, which correlates to a bust of 34".

The pockets are patch pockets, and they are lined in the floral charmeuse as well.  It is a peek, only visible when you go digging.

The shoulders are certainly "present," eh?  I have square shoulders and typically shy away from using shoulder pads, but the pattern called for them and without them, the upper part of the bodice would have looked sunken, so I am glad I went with them.  I actually kind of like how it looks, and may have to try more patterns that call for traditional shoulder pads.

I almost entitled this post "Her Lining Matches Her Dress!"  I really did hope to have enough lining fabric left over to make a dress since I really wanted to be like this lady here.  I think though I am decked out in brighter colors, we have a similar "look."

From the side you see that I took the hem up on the back a bit to correct for my sway back/large bottom/erect posture/whatever you want to call it.  I am excited that it worked and my jacket looks clean from top to bottom with nothing excessive in the way of drag lines or wrinkling (that wouldn't be there otherwise as part of the design and for "ease").

A smooth unlined back.  YES!  It worked!

Of course now I can see diagonal drag lines on the right arm.  Darn.  I assume those are from a larger arm circumference than I need or I set the sleeve in just a touch wrong.  Hmm.

My grandmothers would be proud of me wearing this coat.  I am confident both of them had a version of this in their wardrobes.

Onto the dress...I made this using Butterick 5211 in a size 10 at the shoulders/bust and grading out to a size 16 (not in the packet, I added an inch to the pattern) at the hips.  I did add the pockets, but after seeing how static-y and sticky this fabric is (even the poly interlining, dang), I regret that choice as the pockets get the same way.  I ended up adding a slip, and while it helps, it still gets clingy.  Take it from me, only use the pockets if you know they won't stick to your body and the dress.  (BTW, you can see my slip, shoot.  I thought it was short enough.)

I like this pattern because under typical circumstances this would take around a few hours to sew up.  I bet if I had done it in a stretch cotton sateen with no interlining, I would have whipped that baby up super-fast.  (And I am gonna do it, too.  LOL.  With a timer and everything.)

I feel like it needs the belt, though, so plan on making one with the fabric or having one from your wardrobe to use (mine is from J. Crew from a few years back).  Without the belt, it is just really shapeless.  (I don't know how the cover model ended up looking so adorable...probably something to do with her being a model.)

The fabric is so pretty, though, all those big florals and leaves in super saturated pinks and oranges and pure optic white.  Right now Fabric Mart does not have this fabric, but they do have a lot of charmeuses with floral designs (including a silk charmeuse that I purchased to make another dress from one day).

Okay, that's it from me for now.  I hope all of you are having a lovely weekend, and I hope that some of you will give either retro patterns OR fun, unique fabrics a try soon.  ;-)

By the way, if you have some faux furs that have a higher pile to them, check out my fellow Fabricista's post on how to use them in your sewing

~Dina of My Superfluities.