Sunday, April 26, 2015

Made by a Fabricista: Lilly Look-a-like

I have always been a fan of Lilly Pulitzer and the fun, unique prints used in her garments. I was first introduced to the brand while I was an undergrad in a fine arts program. During a luncheon, we listened to an alumni that worked in the fabric design department at Lilly headquarters in King of Prussia, PA. While she talked about various aspects of her job and the Lilly brand, she told us how they get inspired by traveling to exotic locations around the world. I thought that sounded like a lot of fun and from that day on, I was hooked. 

I was also one of many that trekked to their local Target last Sunday to snatch a piece of the Lilly Pulitzer for Target Collection. But with dismay, I came home empty handed. I didn't feel the need to sit outside the store before it opened, but rather walked in around 8:20 a.m., only to find everything was gone! I don't believe there was a huge line out front of my local Target (I have three within a 5 mile radius of my house.) I believe though that there was not a lot of inventory to be had. And when people went to the register with a cart full of pieces, a very select number of people got something. After that experience, I decided two things--- 1) I will just spend the money one day on an authentic Lilly piece that will become a timeless piece in my wardrobe, and 2) I am graced with the ability to sew, so gosh darn it, I'll make my own version of Lilly pieces! 

And so I did it.

This week I cut out and assembled my first "Lilly Look-a-like" -- a knit shift dress from a fun and bright print. I used McCall's 6612, a pullover dress with neckline and sleeve variations. This is a TNT for me, and it's really nice because I don't have to make any alterations! I cut out size 16. The only changes that I made were to the neckline and brought in the seam allowance on the sleeves to make them more fitted. 

The fabric I used was a striped ITY knit from Maggy London. I've had the fabric in my stash for about a year and had a shift style dress in mind from the day I laid eyes on this print! The colors also reminded me of Lilly -- bright and cheerful, but also sophisticated! Did you get a piece of this fabric last year? Although it is sold out, you can find many other ITY knits on our website

I also knew that since it is a striped print, matching the stripes would be key! But before I worried about that, I had to worry about stripe placement. The stripes are various sizes and I wanted the stripes to hit me in the most flattering place. On the photo above, you can see there are two large stripes -- green background with blue print and blue background with green print. I used my mannequin to decide the best placement of the stripes. The larger stripes were best placed below my hips, as to not bring more attention to that area. The small stripes all worked out really well from the bust line through the hips. And the large blue stripe was placed at the shoulders. 

I carefully cut out all the pattern pieces so that the stripes matched on the dress and then also carried that out into the sleeves. When deciding the length of the hem, I wanted to keep the hem above the knee. I played around with having the hemline at the end of the large blue stripe, but decided upon the one stripe just below the large blue stripe-- it reminds me of a little bit of lace embellishment, just like a Lilly dress!

I wanted to keep with a high neckline (almost boatneck,) so I cut the neckline to my liking, not following the pattern. I used techniques I learned in the Pretty Peplum Top Sew Along to finish off the neck. 

And with vacation just two weeks away, I'm definitely going to be wearing this dress to dinner on a fun-filled Caribbean vacation!

Happy Sewing! 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Made by a Fabricista: Luscious Linen Culottes

Do you wear linen?  I never did until a few years ago when I bought a long sleeved linen shirt for gardening.  I would alternate wearing it and a cotton chambray shirt when I worked outside, and I quickly noticed that the linen shirt didn't smell as much, or get as dirty as the chambray shirt did.  It also didn't seem as hot to wear.

What I had figured out, was something known for centuries by people in hot climates. Linen is naturally resistant to bacteria (thus cutting down on odor), dirt repellant, as well as both absorbent  and quick-drying! It also has a naturally high SPF factor, high luster, and strong, long-lasting fibers.  And the cooling factor? I read that studies have shown that skin temperature can be lowered 2-3 degrees when wearing linen clothing, compared to wearing cotton clothing!

It does have one drawback, and that drawback may be a deal breaker for some people- it wrinkles like crazy.  Just sit down once, and you will start to see lines wherever the fabric bent.  I like to look at the wrinkles as just a "design element" and as a way to tell real linen from the imposters.  It's a good idea to not tumble dry your linen bone dry, to make it a little easier to release the wrinkles from when it comes out of the dryer.

Linen comes in all colors, varying thicknesses and weaves.  For this outfit, I used three pieces of linen- all from Fabric Mart's incredible linen selections.  The pants were a lightweight soft blue/grey/green plaid, the top is a lightweight bright mint green, and the shrug is a tissue weight silver knit from last year. 

The culottes are from Hot Patterns "Camera-Ready Culottes" pattern.  I had made a muslin of them a few weeks ago, and had worn them out a couple of times to get a feel for whether or not I wanted to use this extra nice linen in this pattern. The pant leg was super wide, and I did feel a little clown-like in them, so when I made them in the linen, I reduced the leg circumference by about 6" per leg. They still measure a generous 30" around the bottom of the leg. Here's a close-up of the cuff which I made a little wider than the pattern, at 2-1/2" wide.

I also felt that the waist was too bulky and stretched out of shape, so for this version, I used a wide grosgrain ribbon as my waist facing.  This is a great technique for any waist facing that you want to make as light and firm as possible.  I couldn't find any grey or light blue grosgrain in my local stores, so I went with a navy.  This one is 1-1/2" wide.  I stitched it down at every seam, dart, and pleat to hold it in place.

For the top, I used another new Hot Patterns pattern- the Plain and Simple Woven T-shirt and Dress.  Despite the name, this pattern turned out to be anything but Plain and Simple.  To get the fit close to the illustration, I ended up going two full sizes smaller from what was recommended for my measurements.  I also adjusted the shoulder and added waist darts for a little more shaping. Definitely more work than I was planning on, but I really love this new top- mostly for the color!  It's so Springy!

For the shrug, I used a newer McCall's pattern 7135.   I shortened the sleeves by about 6", and left all of the edges raw.  I bought the silver linen blend knit from Fabric Mart last year, and I'm pretty sure that it is mostly polyester with just a touch of linen to give it a pretty texture.  But it is just perfect for wearing on a cool Spring day.

The scarf is made from silk chiffon, also from Fabric Mart. I love a lightweight scarf for Spring.  They are so easy to make too!  Read more about making scarves from fabric here

If you haven't already tried sewing with linen, give it a try!   There really are no special skills or techniques needed.  It's incredibly easy to sew with. I bet you will love it as much as I do.

Happy Sewing!
SewBaby News

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Made by a Fabricista: Mint Chocolate Momma.

This post could have also been entitled "I Look Exactly Like the Cover of Butterick 6183."

For the April blog post, I decided to keep a few things in mind when picking out my project.  First, I definitely knew I would need to do something that would come together fairly quickly (like less than a couple of days of work) since I would be just returning home from a long Easter break (we went to Indiana and Illinois to see friends and sites), and that I would commence my son's First Holy Communion suit after I was done with this project.  Second, I needed something that was less dressy than my last few makes (here is my Easter project, here is my March make for Fabric Mart, and here is February's make for Fabric Mart).   I really wanted something that would be a great "mom on the go" kind of outfit.  Third, I knew that I would want something that transitions well across all the seasons, on its own in late spring, summer, and early fall, but could be worn layered in late fall, winter, and early spring. 

So I proposed that I work with a gorgeous light mint green wool suiting (with a bit of stretch) for the top and a dark brown mid-weight linen for the pants (you can still get that one!).  I didn't intend for my outfit to fully look like the drawing on the Butterick 6183 cover, but it ended up looking exactly like it, even though I only used the top from the pattern.  The pants are Colette's Juniper, and though I like the style lines of the Lisette for Butterick pattern, I had seen so many rave reviews of the Juniper pants that I knew I had to give those a try.

I had seen this image in J. Crew's March catalog and I fell in love with the top and I knew right then that rather than buy the top, I would make an "inspired by" version, so thankfully the April post and my wants coincided at the same time.

The pants were a simpler choice, I simply do not have any wide-legged pants in my wardrobe.  Years ago I did, but they were lower waisted and far too fitted through the thighs.  Even the wide-legged pants I owned that did have a wider leg were from when I was heavier and those were long ago sent to Goodwill.  Wide-legged pants are coming back in style, so I was more than happy to give the trend a try with the gorgeous brown linen.  I can't really do this version of wide-legged at my station in life (though when I am 80, all bets are off, and those green ones will be mine, lol), but this version would work nicely for my daily activities.

Let's talk about Colette's Juniper Pants pattern first.  I chose to go with the size 10 simply because the 10 had the measurement closest to my hip measurement (40.5 to my 40).  Even though my low hip is an inch bigger, based on what I saw in the comparison of my tried and true pants pattern (McCall's 6711), there would be more than enough ease at the lower hip, and it definitely worked out that way since the flare of the wide-leg starts immediately at the curve of the bottom/thigh. 

I wasn't sure I was going to like the pants on me since they are tighter through the waist/hips/bottom and very loose everywhere else, but I ended up really liking it, especially after I had hemmed it to the proper length for "running around," aka not wearing high heels, which is what I would have to do if I kept the original hem length.  (I took the hem up by a full three inches, in fact.  I am 5'8" with most of my length in my legs, and an inseam of 34".)  This proportion seems to work well with my frame, especially when paired with a more fitted top.

Pockets!  So, I love a great pocket, and these are deep and lovely, but even though I am huge fan of the Colette instructions, I was not a huge fan of the drafting of either the pockets, zip fly, or waistband.  I think the instructions did a great job of explaining how to get them attached, but I didn't like the end result.  I thought the pockets seemed unnecessarily complicated (I love yoke pockets, so it isn't like this is my first rodeo at pockets), and I really didn't like the way the waistband closed (but to be fair, I really do like the size drafting for the waistband--it fits very well from waist to hip).  The zip fly didn't include a facing, so I need to take care when zipping since there is no fabric covering the back of the zip. 

This side shot probably best shows why I like the pants so much, barring a few minor tweaks in fit, it works so nicely with my larger bottom and smaller waist.  It is rare for me to be able to have both fit, usually I have a significant gap at the back of my waistband.  Sewing has changed that for me, but I still need to adjust patterns (usually using a size 12 waistband and grading out to a 14/16 at the hips).  This pattern worked nicely, and fully, in the size 10.  I loved the long length.  It is so gratifying to HAVE to pull up a full three inches on a hem.  Usually I serge the hem edge and turn it up by 1/2" to 5/8".  I don't love the waste of all that fabric, but it is a tiny bit thrilling, nonetheless.

Obligatory back shot, lol.  This seems to be a good fit.  I could be wrong, but I think they look decent enough. 


Here I want to show you how I decided the size 10 would fit and that the crotch curve would likely be okay.  Obviously there is not an exact match, but I took into consideration that the back crotch curve for the Juniper had more depth and length than the McCall's 6711, but the front curve of the Juniper had a bit less than the McCall's 6711.  Wholly unscientific, but I figured as long as the basic shape and overall length was similar enough, it would likely work for my body.  I do tend to do better with pants that have less length and curve on the front and a substantial amount more on the back curve, so the Juniper/McCall's patterns seem to suit my particular curve needs.

Onto the Butterick 6183, a fairly new pattern made by Lisette for Butterick.  My friend, B., is OBSESSED with Lisette, and she is the first person that turned me onto her patterns, both her Oliver & S. patterns for kids, and her lines with both Simplicity and Butterick (in fact my February make for this blog was a Lisette for Simplicity pattern).

I chose to make this top in the size 10, which is what I typically wear with all of the non-Indie patterns.  I did make the decision to grade out to a 12 at the high hip, and that worked nicely to curve properly over my "assets."  ;-)  I also needed to do a square shoulder adjustment at the front yoke and on the back center and back side pieces.  I would not have been able to get this top to fit properly at my shoulders if I hadn't done so. 

I did not need to lengthen it or increase the width on the sleeves, but quite a few ladies who have reviewed the pattern have had to do both.  I am fairly short in my torso and I have skinny arms, so this definitely explains why those adjustments were not needed.  I also used the A/B cup version, and to be honest, I had to pad it out a bit to get the princess seam curve to fully fill up.  Sigh. 

I have to say, I love the end result, but I am very fussy about the things that the pattern had us do.  I do want to point out my fussiness comes from the pattern's directions not being the ideal choice for the lovely gabardine wool, since when sewn together, the gabardine gets quite thick (it is not a thinner gabardine, it is more of a medium weight).  Because I had seen other suiting type tops out there in retail stores (here, here, and here), I figured I could make this work for me, but a few choices did NOT work so well with the fabric.

The first big issue was the yoke and its facing.  Usually you apply a yoke facing from the neckline down, but she has you apply it from bodice seam up, encasing the seams.  Well, I had fully serged all my seams, so it was actually unnecessary for me to encase those seams.  I also don't really know if I needed a yoke facing since she also included a neckline binding.  Sigh.  But of course I followed the directions exactly, and I found that the while the yoke and facing worked out fine enough, by the time I got to the neckline binding, it was SO thick and unwieldy to turn that I had no choice but to trim, STEAM press the ever-loving life out of it, and topstitch the facing down.  Technically I shouldn't have a neckline that pops up like that, it is meant to be hidden, but I couldn't turn it, even with steam, so I just made lemonade from that lemon. 

I definitely need to try this pattern with less thick fabric.  Again, I am very pleased with how it turned out, but for how "easy" it was meant to be, I sure felt like I was working pretty darn hard!



Some things that I used in this project that I find were especially helpful.

1.  I rarely work with solids (LOVE prints!), so I really struggled trying to figure out if there was a wrong side/right side.  The was a clear right/wrong on the gabardine, it wasn't super obvious, but with some time and great light, I could figure it out.  I am pretty sure there was no right/wrong side with the linen, but because I am a bit of a perfectionist, I chose to pick a side and call it the wrong side.  I know there are people out there who use serger thread that matches their garment, but I can't be bothered to worry about changing out the thread every time I have a new project, so I just keep sage thread and white thread in the holders at all times.  The sage thread is one side and white is always the other.  The sage thread this time indicated which side was the wrong side.  As long as I fed the wrong side face up through my serger, I would get sage thread on the wrong side.

2.  I love these hem clips.  They really do make turning up a hem quite easy.  I even had enough room on them for the monster hem of the Juniper pants.  Because they are metal, I can iron over them, but I definitely have to wait before removing them (ask me why I know this!).

One last look at my "mom on the go/mint chocolate" outfit.  :-)

Have a great day, and I'll see you back here in May!

~Dina of My Superfluities.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Made by a Fabricista: Diane's Border Print Wrap Dress

When I was little, I loved when my mom took me to the fabric store in the pink building (by the way, my kids have never "loved" going to the fabric store).  I would go up and down the aisles with my hands outstretched so I could feel the fabrics.  My love for fabrics started when I was very young and I admit, I can get nostalgic about fabrics.

My mom was a sewer and I remember many of the things she made, but one blouse in particular really impressed me.  She took a design class at a local college when I was 7 or 8 years old and made a two color tunic with an ogee print at the neckline and on the cuffs.  I thought she looked beautiful in it! When I saw this cotton print on Fabric Mart's website, it took me back to that blouse and I knew I had to have this fabric.

Border prints can be scary for sewers because we never know what to make with them aside from the typical dirndl skirt with the border at the hem.  When I saw this black and magenta ogee print with hot pink floral border I knew I wouldn't use it as a border on a skirt, but I would put it on the neckline....just like my mom did.

I used new McCall’s pattern 7119, view C, a maxi wrap dress with short sleeves.  I chose it in part because it has a neckband with a shape that would fit within the width of the border but also because a wrap dress is really comfortable.

It can be difficult to determine how much fabric is needed on a border print so a little extra is always a good idea.  I ordered 4 yards and used all of the border print (down to 2”!) primarily because the waist ties are very long.  However, I have plenty of black fabric left over to make another small project.

The dress went together quickly and the instructions were well written.  I chopped the maxi length to a midi length because making the dress go all the way to the floor would've looked heavy.  This pattern is a great choice for a beginning/intermediate sewist and certainly something I will make again.  

This is my first dress of the season and I'm looking forward to making it again.  Next time I'll make the sleeveless version because I know some hot weather is on the way.  

Do you have any summer dress patterns on your cutting table?  I'd love to know what you're making.

Happy Sewing!  
Diane - Gatorbunnysews

Friday, April 10, 2015

Made by a Fabricista: Copycat Swimsuit

I've got to be honest, the thought of sewing a swimsuit has always been one of the scariest things for me. I always have a hard time finding one that I like and that will flatter my curvy figure. So when I find one I like, I need to grab it while I can! I had a tankini swimsuit for a few years (I hardly swim!) but it was starting to dry rot and sag. So I decided I was still going to keep the suit until I grew up the courage to make one.

I'm not sure if my fear of sewing swimwear came from the fact that I just don't like wearing a swimsuit in the first place, or the fact that it actually has to be snug so it doesn't fall off of you in the water, but there was definitely a fear!

Back in January 2014, I went on a business trip/winter escape to Miami. I found a fabric store that carried a TON of swimsuit fabric! I found a fun print and solid to match. That made me one step closer to making my very own swimsuit.

THEN we had a business trip planned to Las Vegas for a trade show in October 2014. October weather in Las Vegas is still pretty nice, but I now REALLY needed the swimsuit because the bottoms I kept wearing had been taken in a few too many times! So this was the start of my swimsuit sewing adventure.

First, inspect the RTW swimsuit. What techniques do you want to repeat in your version? Below is a photo of the RTW suit I copied. I noticed they used rubber elastic along all seams. There was also a 1" wide elastic used on the shelf bra and there were molded foam cups. The foam cups were sewn on to a soft, semi-sheer swimsuit lining. The lining also extended to the back of the swimsuit. There were also black ties at the top of the halter. 

Close-up of the RTW lining - Cotton elastic on the bottom of the shelf bra. 
After inspecting, I ripped the seams on the entire suit so I had each piece I needed to make a new suit. I also ripped out the elastic that the manufacturer used around all the edges of the suit. It was still in pretty good condition, so I thought I better keep it! I also kept the cups and wide elastic for the built-in shelf bra. 

After doing some research on sewing with swimwear knits, I found I definitely needed to have elastic around all edges. The 1" wide elastic also needs to be cotton. The cotton will not deteriorate from chlorine. 

You will need the following:
- pattern paper 
- marking tools
- seam ripper
- scissors
- Enough swimsuit (4-way stretch) knit fabric to make the suit. (I had about 1 yard for the top and 1 yard for the bottom. But you may only need 1/2 yard. I liked having extra so if I messed up, I would have enough fabric left.)
- 1 yard of swimsuit lining or mesh
- Clear elastic, about 1/4" wide (enough yardage to go around all the seams.)
- Thread to match
- Stretch needles
- Sewing Machine/Serger
- Cotton Elastic, about 1" wide, enough for under your bust.

After the entire suit was taken apart, I laid each piece on pattern paper and traced around the suit. I then folded the paper in half, matching the side seams so that it would be a mirror image. The photo below shows the halter back piece. I also cut a front halter, inside lining (front and back) halter ties and the swimsuit bottoms, front and back and bottom lining using the front piece. When you're making the pattern piece for the halter front lining, mark the cup position so there's less guesswork later. (But if you feel like they should be positioned differently, you can place them where it works best for you.)

Here you can see the swimsuit lining fabric. (The nude fabric.) The black piece has the cups and RTW swimsuit lining before I cut out the cups. 

After you have all the pieces cut out from the swimsuit fabric and swimsuit lining, it's time to put them together! Take the front swimsuit lining and halter front and pin them together, wrong sides together. Sew or serge around the neck seams and armhole area. Do the same for the back around the top.

Note about the cups: I liked where the cups were on the RTW garment, so I used the same positioning. If you place them based on your markings, then zig-zag stitch them into place on the swimsuit lining only! If you feel they need to be positioned differently, I would wait until you have the swimsuit bodice and lining sewn together, THEN position them where you would like it and zig-zag in place. (It will just be a little bit trickier sewing them in.)

Pin the side seams right sides together, having the lining fabric stitched separately from the swimsuit fabric. Serge the side seam. Fold the lining down into the suit. Try it on. It should be somewhat snug. This is a swimsuit, you know! You don't want it to be too loose, otherwise it will bubble up or fall off in the water!

Now it's time to attach the 1" cotton elastic. Measure the elastic just below your bust. (Or wherever the shelf bra should hit your upper torso.) Make it snug, but not too tight that you're uncomfortable. Stitch this along the bottom of the swimsuit lining. Tack the elastic in place along the side seams, as shown in the photo above. 

We're almost done! For the next step, you will need to use a zig-zag stitch on your sewing machine. Starting at the top of the halter straps, line up the elastic just after the serged edge. Fold the serged edge over the elastic and zig-zag stitch all the way around the armhole and neckline edges. Do not stretch the elastic or the fabric! You will get ugly ripples! 

Halter ties: The RTW suit had solid black halter ties. I wasn't sure I needed them, but when the pattern didn't quite fit on the fabric, I knew I definitely needed to make contrasting ties. (Plus the contrasting ties looked cool! I use the same color knit as I did for the bottoms.) Sew the halter ties to the top of the halter (with finished seams.)

Finishing: To finish the edge, press up the hem about 1 inch, or where you feel comfortable. Zig-zag stitch or use a double needle to finish the hem. 

There you have it! A finished swimsuit halter top! 

Making the bottoms: I like a basic swimsuit bottom. I don't like low waist style or the high bikini lines like the 80's! But I also don't care for boyshorts on me. I feel like a horizontal line on my thighs makes them look even bigger. 

I used the same techniques for making a pattern, serging the edges of the knit and then zig-zag stitching the elastic into place. You can use the same swimsuit lining for the crotch, but instead of just using it on the crotch, I cut out the lining in the same size piece as the entire front. Then I didn't have two seams in the crotch AND it also created some extra coverage and stability to the front of the bottoms. 

I'm really happy with the way it turned out! It was definitely not as scary as I thought. Are you ready to pick up some swimwear fabric? Check out our selection knit prints and solids as well as swimsuit linings HERE.

Have you ever made a swimsuit? Do you have any tips about sewing a swimsuit? Share your stories!

~ Julie