achievement unlocked: blue floral jersey dress

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well. this is a thing that happened.

this is mccall’s 6754. this is…not great, bob. i think it’s my fault. there are plenty of nice versions of this dress online. i’m not entirely sure where i went wrong. i mean…it’s all right. i’ll wear it. but this is not my finest work.

i wanted to do something with my serger, so i decided to tackle this knit dress pattern i had in my stash. i also didn’t want to use a really fancy, expensive knit in case i ruined it by not knowing what i was doing. i mean, i’ve never sewn a knit before. so i picked up a few yards of this blue floral jersey on sale at hancock fabrics. it looked okay on the bolt. i liked the blue & while i am not big on florals, it was better than just being a plain one-color dress. you know i love me a print!

i took it home & pre-washed it because i have heard that knits in particular can shrink a lot if they’re not prepped. in this case, it may have been wiser to just make the dress & wash it when it was done, because it is way too big. i didn’t do a muslin because i didn’t know what to use to muslin a knit. i only have wovens in my stash & none of them would mimic the fit of a knit. so i cut out the size that matched my measurements & did a tissue-fitting. (not that that in any way mimics the fit of jersey either, but you know.) the tissue-fitting indicated that i had to add quite a bit of length to the front bodice, as always. it’s another princess seam dress, so i did the same thing i did with the jellyfish dress & added the full length (five inches in this case!) to the middle piece & slashed the side piece to keep the side seam the same.

i had a devil of a time cutting my fabric. all it wanted to do was cling to itself, so it was nearly impossible to fold it over (a few pieces are cut on the fold) & get a stretch of fabric smooth on both sides. at one point while i was working on it, i complained about being really hot, & jared said, “maybe if you weren’t stressing yourself out over this fabric, you wouldn’t be so hot,” & i said, “i’m not stressing myself out. this is just a more difficult project than i expected.” & he said, “well, when you’re going around behaving so inappropriately…”. then i murdered him with my eyes. i’m not saying i was 100% genteel about complaining that i was hot, but it was seriously like 92 degrees that day, the air conditioning was off so we could listen for ramona waking up from her nap, & i was crawling around on the floor, trying to smooth some asshole jersey.

anyway! i eventually worked it out & started cutting my fabric. & then i realized that because i had to add so much length to the front bodice, i didn’t have enough fabric to cut the whole dress. argh! so, back to hancock for a bit more.

i finally got it all cut out & i started piecing it together. it was pretty easy because i just did a princess seam dress, & also, jersey is just really easy to sew. i did a lot of it on my regular machine because i was worried about fucking it up on my serger, since the serger cuts off the seam allowance, meaning that you can’t just pick it out & try again if you fuck it up. but i did serge the seams to finish them.

unfortunately, i did not staystitch anything. i was worried that staystitching would compromise the stretch & then the finished garment wouldn’t fit. i don’t know. i’m a fucking idiot. what actually ended up happening is that i didn’t staystitch anything, so everything stretched & the finished garment doesn’t fit. it would have been too big for me the day i gave birth to ramona. this was especially dumb because the side panels on the front are cut on the bias, so they REALLY stretched. i didn’t realize how bad it was until i was pinning the bodice to the skirt & i had numerous extra inches in my bodice circumference. i tried to ease it in, & wound up making a pair of kind pleat-ish things. uggggh. i should have made darts, maybe? i mean, nothing would have really fixed the problem & made my dress look as good as the other versions of this pattern floating around online, but the pleat things i made open into the bodice so there’s this blousy billowing thing happening around my waist…it’s just not my all-time favorite look.

also, attaching the sleeves really flummoxed me for a while. you can’t try the bodice on & get a sense of fit until both sleeves have been attached (at least basted in place), which makes it that much more complicated to make sizing alterations if they’re needed. i also used stay tape around the armscyes (not sure why i was worried about the sleeves drooping & not the dress itself?), which wound up being a giant mistake because it’s so goddamn itchy, especially in contrast to the smooth, soft jersey. i wound up trimming off as much excess stay tape as i could & enclosing the sleeves seams in bias tape. still not 100% perfect, but a major improvement.

i also don’t know what the fuck happened with the neckline. maybe that stretched as well? when i tried the bodice on to examine the fit before attaching the skirt, i was like, “whoa.” the neckline is really big. if i turned it under & hemmed per the directions, there’s no way i would have been able to conceal my bra. i wound up making a kind of faux-bias tape & using that to enclose the neckline & preserve a bit of my modesty, but folding the jersey that way when it was sticking to itself & curling on the edges…blargh. again, not my finest work. not by a long shot.

attaching the skirt & doing the elasticized waist went very well. i had a much easier time making a channel for the elastic with this pattern than i did with the miz mozelle. maybe i’m just getting slightly better at watching my seam allowances or something.

i tried the dress on so i could get a sense of the hem. (i have read that you should shorten a skirt anywhere where you’ve lengthened a bodice, & lengthen a skirt where you’ve shortened a bodice, but that doesn’t work for me since my waistline is uneven front to back. i have to try a garment on & kind of eyeball the skirt where it falls in relation to the waistline on the bodice.) as i was pinning the hem into place, it suddenly occurred to me…this thing looks like a nightgown. i think a combination of weird, flowery fabric & generally being too big…it looks like a grandma nightgown. shit shit shit.

so i put it aside & went to bed.

when i got up this morning, i hemmed it & that made it look a little better. it’s funny how just a hem can make something look so much better. but it was still a little nightgown-y. my friend rebecca, from baby playgroup, had dropped off some various sewing notions for my birthday, including some red rick rack. rick rack is not something i would think to buy on my own. it’s just not really my bag at all. i had just gotten a big bag of assorted lace at the antique mall, but i knew adding LACE to this flowery bullshit was not going to do anything about the Nightgown Factor. so i pinned the rick rack along the hem &…hey! it looked better! suddenly it had kind of an easy breezy casual 70s vibe! that’s not necessarily an aesthetic i would have intentionally chosen, but it’s okay. it’s better than a 70-year-old woman in her jammies vibe, right?

i pinned rick rack around the hem, & the neckline, & the sleeves. i made a faux-placket & sewed on a couple of random heart-shaped buttons i had, left over from the time i had to replace a heart-shaped button on a very cute sweater we got for ramona at the goodwill. & suddenly the dress was a lot less objectionable. i’m still not loving the fit–i wish there was something i could do about the blousing. i thought about adding a waist tie to cinch things & cover up the weird pleat element a little, but ramona only napped for like 45 minutes today, so i didn’t have the time/energy to pursue that. maybe another day.

like i said, i’ll undoubtedly wear this dress. it’s super-comfy. i am almost embarrassed to be blogging about it because i feel like it’s such an epic fail, technique-wise. i mean…i cut shit on the bias & then didn’t staystitch it. did i have a lobotomy or something? that’s so 101. i think i will try this dress again in a heavier knit & see what happens. (& i’ll make some fit alterations before that. i suspect that part of the problem is that it’s a mccall’s pattern & they build in a lot of ease, but i couldn’t find any info on the finished garment dimensions on the envelope, so i wasn’t sure what to expect. maybe i’ll try going down an entire size?) i got some heavier black & red striped knit that drapes really nicely & does not cling to itself at all, so i think that will be fun to sew. when it’s colder out. because it’s definitely, like, sweater material, which is horrifying to think about on a day like today, with a high of 102 degrees.

more photos:

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see that blousing at the waist? argh. but hey! there’s ramona!

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a slightly better-lit photo of the dress on a hanger.

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the top. is the fact that the bottom button is crooked totally noticeable? how do you not sew a button on crooked? because i seem to suck at that.

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the skirt.

not sure what my next project will be. whatever it is, i really want to sew something that comes out PRECISE. none of this, “whoops, i guess i’ll just tuck this extra fabric in here & call it good enough,” “oopsie, not sure how that trim got totally crooked but it’s too late now!”, “oops, accidentally serged the same seam twice…i guess that side will just be a little smaller,” bullshit. this project…i don’t know, man. someone on the internet was like, “this would be a great project for a total beginner!” really? REALLY?! a knit dress with princess seams. yeah, i don’t think so. not that this was OMG the hardest ever. i mean, the parts that failed for me were pretty much totally a product of my own idiocy. maybe i’d be singing a different tune if it had come out gorgeous. oh well. i am reminded of how recently i got annoyed with a sewing blogger for remarking that her latest project was “another ‘perfect’ make,” meaning that she had not made any mistakes with it. you know…good for her, dude. it came off a bit conceited, but if i managed to make something with no mistakes, i’d probably be hollering it from the rooftop, so.

achievement unlocked: underpants

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i’m hoping that the angle on this photo is distorted enough that it’s not in any way a cheesecake photo. but look! you can see my ramona quimby tattoo. that i totally got when i was 19, well before i had any idea that i would someday have a daughter named ramona.

i was reading “threads” magazine a few days ago & there was an article on making foam inserts for handmade bras. & i started thinking about how i have always been kind of jealous of girls that get to buy cute bra-&-panty sets because those things don’t generally come in my bra size. i guess i could probably get coordinating underpants for a victoria’s secret bra or something, but that stuff isn’t cute. any matching sets in my size usually cost approximately a bazillion dollars.

so, reading this article, i was suddenly like, “wait! i know how to sew now! i could MAKE that stuff for myself!” i started wondering how difficult it would be, given that i had not yet sewn with any stretchy fabrics or lacy trims or anything. i had some stretch lace in my stash for another project that i hadn’t yet gotten around to (because i was scared of the stretchy fabrics), & i had just purchased some jersey in order to tackle mccall’s 6754 (which i’m thinking of as kind of a big 4 version of the colette moneta or the lady skater dress–any of those knit circle skirt dress patterns, but more interesting because i’m doing the bias-cut princess seam version). i realized halfway through cutting the fabric for the dress that i didn’t have enough fabric because i always have to lengthen the front bodice on everything i sew so much, so i went ahead & cut out some underpants using the free pattern available from clothhabit.com.

my measurements put me exactly mid-way between a size 12 & a size 14, so i graded between the two to customize my fit. i adjusted the measurements for the lace trim as well. i cut everything out & serged it together. i used a pretty wide zigzag stitch in coordinating blue thread to attach the trim. & done! from start to finish, including tiling the pattern & cutting the fabric, it probably took about two hours. it would have gone faster except that i’d never tiled a pattern before (the only other PDF i ever used was a paper-piecing pattern with only a few small bits that had to be taped together) so there was a bit of a learning curve there & the jersey i used curls back on itself like whoa, so pinning the lace in place was a lot of work.

but they came out great! a perfect fit, super-comfy, & pretty cute. some people complained that the pattern did not provide enough butt coverage but i think it’s fine. every butt is different though, i guess. i’d definitely make these again. now i want to buy all kinds of novelty jersey (the pattern calls for stretch lace but i don’t like lace underpants–too much information?) & dye a bunch of stretch lace & have an underpants-making party.

& we did take a family expedition out to hancock so i could get enough jersey to finish my dress. i’m super-worried that it’s not going to be wearable when it’s done because the jersey clings to itself so much. i’m not sure if that’s something that can be fixed with a dryer sheet or something, or if i just made a poor fabric decision. i felt insecure enough that i bought a few yards of much heavier black & red striped knit fabric. honestly, the pattern i’m using would look gorgeous in the striped knit, because of the bias panels. but the black & red would make it look like a radical cheerleader uniform. i mean, i used to be a radical cheerleader, but…i’m not one anymore. & i pretty much don’t wear red. i don’t know what i was thinking, especially since there was identical blue & black striped fabric. too late now.

i told jared that i used to exclusively dress in red & black in order to communicate to everyone that i am an anarchist, & then i was like, “god, that’s so dumb. i can’t believe i admitted that.” he said, “yeah, it is kind of taking a sports fan-like approach to your political belief system. but i can’t judge. i used to paint an R on my chest everyday just in case a bunch of people needed to spell out ‘ANARCHY’ on their bare chests & were missing the R.” god, i wish that was true. i wouldn’t even put it past 22-year-old jared. not that i knew him then, but stories i’ve heard kind of tally with this idea.

a 35-year-old is strangely over-excited about her birthday

i just realized i’ve been 35 for more than a week already & i never wrote about my birthday! it was really nice. way too hot, but i guess that’s the problem with being born in july. jared, ramona, & i went to first watch for breakfast. it’s a chain that jared had apparently known about for years, but i had never heard of it until i was in the hospital, on bed rest with ramona. one day jared was like, “i went to first watch this morning before i came to the hospital,” & i was like, “YOU ATE PROFESSIONALLY PREPARED BACON WITHOUT ME?” even though i was eating bacon & fried chicken everyday in the hospital. (still not sure why they wouldn’t put a woman with pre-eclampsia on some kind of sodium-restricted diet, but hey. i am not complaining.)

it’s kind of a grandpa-type place, but i like that sort of thing.cute bistros annoy me. i had waffles with caramelized bananas & bacon-infused maple syrup. it was delicious. ramona managed to drink from a cup with a straw & not spill anything. then jared took her to the playground while i went to hancock fabrics & went buck wild. i got some more railroad stripe denim to make shorts, some black denim to make a jacket, several patterns because there was a $1.99 sale happening, various notions & trims & such forth. i like hancock because they have the notions the indie shop doesn’t have, & their apparel fabric is okay-ish. & they have a nice selection of kona solids. they also have weird shit like sparkle organza by the bolt. you know, if you’re into that sort of thing. but i always make a list to go there. it’s not really fun to browse because their fabric selection is pretty uninspiring.

ramona took her nap & i decided to pull the trigger & buy a serger. i’ve been wanting one for months, & as long as my reconsideration goes okay, i can afford it. i’ve been wasting like an hour a day looking at sergers online. i figured, you only turn 35 once, fall is coming & it will be nice to be able to sew up some knits, i think the past year has proven that sewing is more than a passing fancy for me, etc.

after ramona woke up, we went out & got coffee. we also got her a new pair of sunglasses that somehow exactly matches the sunglasses jared got for himself at a thrift store last week. she threw her previous sunglasses out of her stroller & jared ran them over & broke them. how annoyed was i by that, on a scale of 1 to 10? like maybe a 12. it’s not that hard not to run shit over with the stroller. but i digress.

we placed a take-out order with the basil leaf cafe, which i rather like. jared’s review: “too salty”. that is exactly the sort of thing i am looking for if i eat restaurant food! i had lasagna & jared had spaghetti & meatballs. even though we could easily have made lasagna &/or spaghetti & meatballs at home…in fact, jared just made spaghetti & meatballs last night. oh well. jared also made me a flourless chocolate cake.

we put ramona to bed & then we watched “the grand budapest hotel”. it’s a real testament to how little i keep up with most pop culture now that i have a kid that i didn’t know jeff goldblum was in that movie. i don’t consider myself a huge jeff goldblum fan, but he does somehow elevate everything he’s in. so that was a pleasant surprise, even though i can’t decide if i am willing to accept wes anderson’s shtick at face value or if i am starting to feel kind of annoyed by it. i wonder if he ever feels hemmed in by his own aesthetic. i do know that right after “the fantastic mr. fox” came out (which isn’t even a live-action movie), i went to a halloween party & like a third of the people there were dressed as wes anderson film characters. the same thing happened after “moonrise kingdom”. come on, guys.

i don’t want to speak too soon, but i am thinking about challenging myself to sew one new thing every week. because i can never let a birthday or a new year or a monday pass without setting myself some kind of obsessive-compulsive challenge. (i’m not trying to joke by saying that–i mean that it actually some kind of compulsive behavior that i am powerless to control.) so for my first week of being 35, i made that messenger bag. what will this week bring? i now have the serger, a pattern for a cute knit dress, & a few yards of weird floral print jersey. a dress? i’m going to try it, even though the jersey is tormenting me by sticking to itself & forming wrinkles & ridges every time i fold it in half. i’m supposed to cut some of the pattern pieces on the fold, but i am struggling to achieve an even fold. i even enlisted jared’s help, which is always a bad idea. not that this is some moral failing on his part, but it is kind of amazing that he has never once successfully helped me fold a bolt of fabric properly. maybe i just set him impossible challenges by making him work with difficult-to-fold fabrics. even once i get the cutting done, i’m a bit concerned about the fact that the jersey is so thin. i might be making myself a transparent dress. we’ll see what happens.

i’m also worried about the fact that apparently i totally do have carpal tunnel. i wasn’t able to wear my braces for a few nights because ramona was being such a velcro-obsessed terror baby, & yesterday after i cut out my dress pattern, i realized that my right hand had no feeling in it. i was like, “oh well, it’ll probably be okay in a few minutes.” fast forward several hours & my hand was still numb & excruciating bolts of pain were emanating from my wrist. so. my left hand seems to be relatively okay, but i can’t use scissors or a rotary cutter or thread a needle with my left hand. i did sleep with the brace all night last night & my hand is feeling better today.

also, jared leaves for boston tomorrow. then it will be the all-ciara-&-ramona-all-the-time comedy hour. i feel both excited & terrified. lately she has been really into saying “daddy” instead of “mama”. all day long, all i hear is, “daddy daddy daddy.” i pondered to jared last night, “i wonder if she’ll start saying mama more while you’re gone, since only mama will be around to hang out with her. or if she will just double down on her daddies, trying to conjure you ‘beetlejuice’-style.”

achievement unlocked: typewriter messenger bag

i made this for myself, but jared wanted to try it out because he used to be a bicycle messenger & so he thinks he is some kind of messenger bag authority.

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his verdict: “it’s a really good size. but this strap could use some padding.” i vote nay on the padding for two reasons: 1) i have a bad with padding on the strap & it just annoys me. 2) i wear my bags differently than jared does because i have boobs & he doesn’t. i have found that the way i wear my bags causes less need for padding. i also don’t plan to wear this bag while delivering legal documents via bicycle for eight hours a day.

i wanted a new bag because my primary bag is wool & it totally blows to carry a scratchy wool bag when it’s 96 degrees out. my secondary bag has a hole in it. which i could easily fix, but it’s also really small. it’s from before i had ramona & had to think about carrying diapers & snacks & stuff around with me all the time. & my tertiary bag is just not my fave. technically it’s a diaper bag, but it’s not really big enough for a cloth diapered baby. i’m just constantly frustrated with how small it is for its alleged function.

this is the second bag i have ever made. i’m not in a giant hurry to make another. my body is pretty wrecked from spending two days at my sewing table. it also didn’t help that ramona slept in bed with me last night but kept wanting to play with the velcro on my wrist braces, so i had to take them off. my hands really do feel less achey when i wear them, but…sometimes you have a toddler who is obsessed with velcro.

the image on the flap is the typewriter design i paper-pieced last week. (well, i actually started it in may. & it seemed to be really slow-going. i put it aside for almost two whole months before i finally finished it.) i taught myself some very basic embroidery in order to embroider the letters on to the “keyboard”. it’s not perfect, but it looks pretty damn good for being my first-ever attempt at embroidery & my third-ever attempt at paper -piecing.

i designed the messenger bag myself, based on the features i’ve had in other bags & things i saw & liked on the internet. let’s see here…

i was torn between doing boxed corners or doing gussets (i’ve never done either before), but when my friend ericka mentioned that she really liked the wood grain print fabric in my typewriter design, i realized i could use the leftover fabric to make piped gussets! so there’s that.

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you can see the piping a little more clearly here. it’s on both sides of the gusset. it’s a pretty subtle effect, because it’s only 1/16″. it’s kind of crazy to put so much work into something so easily overlooked…i mean, this bag features literally more than eight feet of handmade piping…in any case.

you can also see the front pockets here. the snaps are only on the outside of the pocket so the entire interior space is completely accessible. i guess i should also mention that all of these photos are going to suck a little because i made an almost completely black bag. maybe i should have taken the photos outside. next time!

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this is the back, which features a zipper compartment.

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the side, with an elasticized pocket for my water bottle. i had a pocket like this on an old backpack i used to have & i loved it. i suspect i will love it even more now that my hands are all jacked up all the time. holding my water bottle is one of those things that is excruciatingly painful, & ramona’s stroller does not have a beverage holder. before i had a kid, i always thought beverage holders on strollers were stupid because (don’t laugh) i think i thought they were for the kids. but duh! adults need beverages too! perhaps even more than kids, if we are talking about certain fermented beverages. sometimes i try to balance my water bottle inside my purse, but it always tips over & gets everything all wet. imagine that. so now i have a way to transport my water & i will never again force ramona to leave the playground early because i am dying of thirst. & the other side also has an elasticized pocket for her sippy! or her sunglasses or whatever else she decides to throw on the ground.

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love this! the top zips closed! & i used a two-way zipper! just for fanciness. i’ve had several messenger-style bags over the years & i always lamented that they don’t zip closed. sure, there’s the flap, but sometimes you just want the added security of a zipper. sometimes my bag ends up upside down (i don’t know, i have a lot of mishaps) & the flap doesn’t keep everything from spilling out.

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interior elasticized pocket. it goes all the way across the bag & is divided into three sections. (& yes, i used the leftover fabric from piecing the typewriter to make the bag & pocket linings.) the diaper bag i bought when i was pregnant with ramona has this feature & it has actually gotten an incredible amount of use. so i decided to implement it here.

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interior zipper pocket. i made it big enough to fit my laptop, mostly for traveling. i don’t like to put my computer in my checked luggage (shocker), but i also don’t like having it stuffed into my bag along with ramona’s diapers & everything. so this way, it has its own zone. & it zips flush with the lining when it’s not being used.

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quick release buckle! & it doubles as a strap adjustment mechanism. plus, see that D-ring? there are two sewn on to the strap so i can just grab them & adjust the strap with one hand. i have a (much larger) bag with this feature & i LOVE IT. especially because the strap is two inches wide, as is the buckle. without the D-rings, adjusting the strap is a major pain in the ass. i have to manually force the strap through the buckle. the D-rings make it so fast & easy! & i don’t really NEED a quick release buckle…i just think they’re cool. i guess i could start wearing crazy hats because this way i can put on & take off my bag without having to lift it over my head.

i think that’s everything. i used some new techniques in sewing this bag. i’d never done an elasticized pocket before. i made zipper tabs for all the zippers & it really does make for a nicer finish. maybe i should try it in clothes.

technically, i still have to tack the lining into the corners & i think i’m going to re-do the topstitching around the top zipper, & i also need to shorten the strap a bit. but it’s as done as it’s going to get tonight, & it’s perfectly functional as is. these are just little fixes. like how i’ve been meaning to take in the waist on my mermaid sailor shirt for…two months? someday i’ll get to it.

adventures with laundry & wind

i threw in a load of laundry this morning while jared was out with ramona. i went to switch it over into the dryer after ramona went down for her nap, &…it was all just sitting in a washer full of water. i tried to turn on the rinse cycle, but the washer just made a faint buzzing noise & wouldn’t do anything. i tried wringing out each individual piece of laundry & putting it in the dryer, but even just picking up such wet laundry was murder on my hands. i couldn’t even really begin the wring it out. & then i got nervous that it wasn’t actually clean anyway. so i loaded it all back into the hamper & went to to take it upstairs &…guess what? a hamper full of soaking wet laundry weighs like one trillion pounds. i managed to get it upstairs mostly by heaving & pushing. i ripped a strap off the hamper & wore some holes in the bottom in the process. i got the landlady on the horn, she sent over the handyman, he declared the washer deceased (R.I.P.), & she started canvassing town in pursuit of a new (used) washer for us. in the meantime, i had a cloth diapered baby running low on cloth diapers, so we took an exciting field trip to the laundromat.

i do feel fortunate that ramona is always up for new experiences. she doesn’t really understand that it’s boring & kind of scary to go to the laundromat. i brought one of her walkers & she had a great time just running laps around the washing machines for an hour while everything washed & dried.

the other night i woke up in a panic, thinking about how ramona won’t walk anymore. she walked for a while, & then she got an ear infection, & even though she’s better now, she pretty much will not walk. she can RUN with her walker, but that doesn’t really count. she’s been bear-walking a lot, which is a step in the right direction, but i wish she’d go back to normal-walking. she’ll be 20 months old at the end of the month. that’s pretty damn old to not be walking. i literally know kids half her age that walk more/better than she does.

but when i mentioned all of this to jared, he got kind of pissed & gave me a big lecture about how i shouldn’t pathologize ramona’s development, & there’s nothing wrong with her, & i shouldn’t compare her against other kids, etc etc. i wonder if he’ll still be singing the same tune when we need to start building her customized walkers because she’s 15 years old & still won’t walk without one. actually, i don’t worry that much. she has walked, i know she is capable of doing it.i suspect she doesn’t do it because she’s so much faster crawling or using a walker. i get it. i don’t like to do difficult things either. but still.

in the meantime, she’s picking up words left & right. we made a list last week, but she’s learned even more words since then. she has learned more songs too. she sang “head shoulders knees & toes” for like an hour this morning (complete with the appropriate motions). she sings “dads dads dads” (an original composition by jared) constantly. (sample lyrics: “dads dads dads/what’s the deal?/they don’t understand/how a baby feels.”) (also, the only part of this she actually says clearly is “dads dads dads”. she sings the rest according to the melody using babbles.) she can say “belly,” “bath,” & “bye,” & they all sound different (sort of). when i ask her to point to the kitty & she doesn’t see lula around, she points to my charlotte tattoo.

i wore my jellyfish sailor dress out on a walk the other day & discovered that i need to tack down the collar. i’m also not 100% in love with the collar. i made it the same way i made the collar on my mermaid shirt. it’s two pieces of fabric & lightweight interfacing. i maybe don’t like the interfacing? if i do another sailor collar, i think i’ll try it with no interfacing. even though it gets pressed after it’s sewn, i still feel like it looks kind of puffy & cartoon-ish. i know…i’m complaining that my jellyfish sailor dress looks cartoon-ish. kind of ironic. but still.

also, as much as i love the skirt & how twirly-swirly it is…it blows up in even the slightest of breezes! i have friends who wear skirts & dresses almost exclusively. the entire sewing blogosphere is FULL of women making these great swirly-twirly skirts & dresses. where do they wear them? how do they do it without being arrested for flashing the entire neighborhood? maybe it’s a lifestyle thing? maybe it’s easier if you’re just going from your house to your car to another indoor location (work, shopping, school, whatever) & back again. but if i’m outside, it’s probably because i’m en route to the playground with ramona. i don’t really enjoy being outside, but that’s where i end up a lot because i have a young child who is OBSESSED with slides. how do i make dresses fit this lifestyle?

ultimately, i think i need to experiment with sewing myself some shorts, maybe some pants, & some more skirts/dresses with straighter skirt shapes. &/or use heavier fabrics for the twirly skirts. my suspender skirt has a very full skirt but because it’s a lightweight denim, i haven’t had any issues with strong breezes. (yet?)

i think i mentioned that i saw a neurologist & got diagnosed with carpal tunnel? i wore the braces for a few nights & then i was like, “fuck this. i don’t have carpal tunnel,” & i stopped wearing them. &…my hands are KILLING ME.

i think my next sewing project is going to be a messenger bag, & this is part of it:

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this was paper-pieced using a (free!) pattern i found here: http://shape-moth.blogspot.com/2013/08/typewriter-pp-pattern-and-tutorial.html

i think was my third experiment with paper-piecing? i’m getting better! there are a few teeny mistakes in this thing, but they’re not super-noticeable. i am thinking about embroidering the polka dots in the keyboard with letters, i guess to make them more keyboard-y. we shall see. my goal is to have the bag finished by the end of the month so i can use it as my carry-on when ramona & i go to boston.

also, my birthday is in two days! just in case anyone wants to buy me a serger or a subscription to “threads” magazine. …no one? huh. that’s weird.

achievement unlocked: jellyfish sailor dress

okay, i have somehow stumbled back over to the old wordpress interface, which actually has the “add media” button that wordpress touts in its help section, so i can write about my dress. while i appreciate that wordpress may be trying to move away from its redesign that made it look more like tumblr, it would be nice if they came up with a fix that actually included the features that people use. anyway!

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jellyfish dress! this is mccall’s 6887, which is kind of a newer pattern, i think. i’ve only seen a few reviews of it online. i made view B, with the full skirt, but i lost the sleeve piece & had to sub in sleeve D. i drafted the collar myself & skipped some of the piping that the pattern suggested.

i had to make a lot of alterations to the bodice, which is probably something i am just going to have to do from now on. i am realizing that part of the reason i don’t wear a lot of the dresses i’ve made that often, or only wear them out in public & not when i’m just kicking it around the house, is because the bodices are too short & they make me feel weird & uncomfortable. i keep trying to tug them down to make them look right but it can’t be done because they’re just not fitted properly. for years, i thought i was short-waisted, but it turns out that i just have a really uneven waistline. for this dress, i made the front longer by several inches & the back shorter by several inches, grading out to the standard pattern length at the side seams. now the waistline falls exactly where i like it, & since it’s my entire body that is uneven, i didn’t even have to adjust the hem for balance.

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i drafted the collar myself. i had to make it a split collar since the dress zips up the back.

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i made matching bias tape to use for trim on the collar, along with a very narrow grosgrain ribbon. i kind of sort of wonder what it would have looked like with two rows of pink ribbon or just the bias tape, instead of both. i think bias tape only could look especially good with a larger white border at the edges of the collar. but the ribbon plays off the piping detail, & overall, i’m fairly happy with it. i’m also really pleased that i found a zipper that so closely matched the weird green-ish aqua color of the fabric, although i failed to find an invisible zipper.

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god, i look like such an idiot standing around, not knowing what to do with my arms. & thanks, jared, for making sure to get my weird shoe tan into the shot. i should probably make more of an effort to style these photos better.

anyway. the front collar didn’t turn out exactly how i wanted. i wanted the ties to be longer. but ultimately, i think this is better because the smaller collar doesn’t interfere with the piping style lines.

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piping detail. i was on the fence about adding piping, because it seemed like A LOT on top of the print & the collar, but i’m glad i did it. it’s fairly subtle in the effect of the dress as a whole, but it adds some flair & plays up the princess seaming.

this was my first attempt at princess seams. they’re a bit tricky. because i had to adjust the bodice lengths, i had to change six pattern pieces instead of just two, like i would for a typical bodice pattern. mccall’s included three different pattern sizes, depending on cup size. i cut D, which fit very well, aside from the fact that the fullness in the pattern is just a smidgen higher than my body’s fullness. let’s blame ramona for that. & the fact that i turn 35 next week. actually it probably would have fit perfectly if i’d sewn it with the original 5/8″ seam allowance the pattern called for instead of going down to 1/2″. i did that to have better control along the curves. adding piping also draws attention to any mistakes & makes sewing the curves trickier, because you not only have to manage the curves–you also have to be careful about sewing as closely to the piping as possible without sewing over it. around the curviest part of the front, i don’t think i sewed QUITE close enough to the piping, & that tiny mistake is exacerbated by the fact that i then topstitched the seams down. that really highlighted every little error. but i’m not sure it’s really anything anyone would notice unless they sew.

the seams & piping on the back & the skirt all came out perfectly!

i also added pockets, like i always do. lately my pockets seem to be coming out a little bit narrow, even though i use the same basic pattern for almost all of them. ??? maybe this summer’s crushing humidity is making my hands swell.

maybe my favorite part of this dress is the hem.

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i just think it came out really nicely. it’s so swishy & i did a truly excellent job easing in the fullness. my suspender skirt hem had a lot of puckers & creases, which aren’t apparent from the outside, where other people can see. but i know they’re there. i didn’t have any of those issues with this hem, probably because i pressed it to within an inch of its life before i sewed.

the fabric is called “coral garden” from the full moon lagoon collection by mo bedell. i was kind of influenced by the name mo, since that is what i usually call ramona. this colorway was hard to find. this same print is available in a purple-&-lavender colorway that was more readily available. i finally found a few yards at alewives fabric in maine, which shipped really fast.

it’s a quilting cotton, & i didn’t line the dress, which i regret now because it’s just ever-so-slightly scratchy. there are all kinds of tiny little differences in the weights, hands, & drapes of quilting cottons. you never really know what you’re going to get until it’s in your hands. i chose not to line because all i have right now is bemberg rayon, which feels really silky & nice, but is a giant pain in the ass to sew. i did not want to deal with trying to stitch it into princess seams, & the curves created by the finished seaming meant that i’d never be able to just lay the finished bodice flat & cut a lining to fit. i priced cotton batiste at the local fabric shop, which is very crisp & would have been easier to seams precisely, but it was over $17 a yard! i didn’t want my lining to cost more than the fashion fabric! so i just skipped the lining. i doubt this dress will get a ton of wear until the weather cools off some. it’s just a tiny bit too heavy to be comfortable on a 95-degree day.

& the sleeves! i originally cut the sleeve for view B. then i lost it. i could have purchased the pattern again just for the sleeve (big four patterns are almost always on sale), but instead i cut the sleeve for view D even though i didn’t love it. & it is SMALL. i cut the size corresponding to the dress size i made, but while the actual dress came out maybe a hair big on me, the sleeve is very snug. it’s not uncomfortable, per se, but i would prefer a slightly looser sleeve. just half an inch bigger. unfortunately, i just didn’t have enough fabric to draft a larger sleeve. if you’re making this dress & you go for sleeve D & you don’t have the arms of michelle obama, maybe go up a size on the sleeve. just to be safe.

i always installed it wrong THREE TIMES & had to unpick & re-stitch. argh! but that was just me sewing when i was tired & should have gone to bed.

also:

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i staystitched my neckline, armscyes, & bodice edges before i did anything else. i used a teeny tiny machine stitch (1.4–i usually sew at 2.5) & my quarter-inch piecing foot to sew around all those edges because this entire thing was all curves & bias edges that could easily stretch out of shape & distort the shape of the finished garment. & then god i did, because i fucked up the neck facing & had to unpick & re-stitch the entire thing. it would have been a droopy, stretched out mess when i finished if i hadn’t staystitched. i also used stay tape at the shoulder seams & along the back where the zipper was installed, for added strength at those high-stress points.

i bring this up because i recently read a blog discussing the author’s first venture into garment-sewing, & i noticed that the neckline of the tank she’d sewn was a bit droopy. i commented & suggested staystitching, & she replied that she’d never hard of it before & had wondered why her neckline had turned out weird. not that i’m under the impression that too many people who actually sew or aspire to sew read this blog, but just in case…staystitching! it’s easy, & although it is another step you have to complete before you can dive into construction, it’s well worth it for the shape & life of your completed garment!

not sure what’s next for me in terms of sewing. i was looking at some nice black eyelet the other day that i could use to make another suspender skirt. or i could finish the messenger bag project i started two months ago. or i could plunge right into another dress. i picked up a jacket pattern recently that is intriguing me, but i also want to try my hand at making shorts, since i actually do wear shorts more than skirts or dresses when it’s hot out (& it’s hot until, like, november in kansas). we shall see…

really, wordpress?

i wanted to post about the new dress i finished sewing yesterday, but wordpress changed their interface & i can’t figure out how the fuck to post a photo. nice work, assholes! if anyone can clue me in on how to actually use the blog interface that i’ve had for five years, leave a comment. assuming that i am still able to figure out how to read comments, maybe it will help.