Friday, October 4, 2013

And Baby Makes 3 - well, uh okay, 4

 I have a new sewing machine! 

It's the Janome Jem Gold 660.  Isn't it cute?  It weights just 12 lbs.!  I'm so excited to begin using this machine after combing the web and reading several great reviews about it. 

So, why do I need a new sewing machine when I already own 3?  My husband is definitely wondering about this one.  Well, I travel extensively for my job - this week I'll be gone starting Sunday morning and won't be back until next Friday.  Then I repeat that schedule for the next week, etc.  That's just too long to be away from my sewing projects.  In planing my fall travel schedule I thought to myself, why not bring my sewing projects with me? 

My usual workhorse, which I love dearly, is my Bernina Virtuosa 150.  It works like a dream.  However, I took it with me on my last business trip, and it was quite heavy to lug around and to put into the overhead bin.  Plus, I was a bit nervous about it getting damaged as the only case I have to carry it in doesn't have any padding.

My second sewing machine is actually my first, that wasn't a hand-me-down, the Bernina 1001.  While not a computerized machine, this little cutie is a strong performer.  It's all metal and has never given me any issues.  However, this machine does not live with me in New York.  Since I have a second home in San Francisco (which used to be my first home), and I spend a fair amount of time there during the calendar year, I decided to leave it there (in the hands of a great friend, of course) to use when I'm visiting.

That brings us up to machine number three, my Elna 945 serger.

Again, another fabulous machine, but also not very transportable. 

Research on the web suggested the Janome Gem Gold 660 would be a good choice for those needing to transport machines and with an 8 stitch capability (including 2 stretch stitches) plus a buttonhole stitch, I doubt I'll be lacking stitch variety while I'm on the road.  Plus, it only weighs 12 lbs., did I mention that already?  12 lbs!  I can definitely lift that into an overhead or sling it on top of my suitcase and roll the two together.

I'm so excited to start using this little machine on my fall projects!  I'll post my own assessment of it after I've used it a bit, so stay tuned.

What machine do you use for sewing?  Do you have a machine you use specifically for travel?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

October is here! ¡Ay Caramba!

Happy October!  I can't believe we're in the 3rd to the last month of 2013.  Even though we should be well into fall, we hit a high of 80 degrees here in NYC today.  Coincidentally, I finished my last summer project this past weekend - my ¡Ay Caramba! skirt made from Vogue 8908.

¡Ay Caramba! - Vogue 8908

This is definitely a statement skirt!  We have a 3 day Mexican cruise coming up in November, so it's a natural for this trip.  However, my husband thinks the other passengers may mistake me for one of the cruise ship workers and will try to order Margaritas from me.

When I first saw the pattern on the Vogue website, my entire Latina being was shaking with excitement.  Once I picked myself up off the floor, I pressed "Add to bag" and purchased.  I'm pleased with how it turned out and incorporated a construction method to limit hand sewing in attaching the lining to the skirt, which I've outlined below. 

The fabric is a lovely mid-weight Alexander Henry cotton from Jones and Vandermeer (they have lovely fabrics and lots of other fun goodies too - check them out!) named, Sloane Persimmon.  It was a marvel to sew.

I deviated from the pattern instructions in two ways.  First, I interfaced the front yoke.  The instructions didn't call for it, but I feel it's necessary for the fabric I was using and for the weight that the two ruffles would add to the yoke.

Secondly, I didn't follow the instructions for the lining.  The pattern calls for a full lining of the entire skirt, including the skirt body and bottom ruffle.  However, the instructions tell you to sew the skirt as one piece (yoke, skirt body and bottom ruffle) and the lining (inside yoke, skirt body lining and bottom ruffle lining) as another piece.  You then attach the two yokes and you have a lined version, leaving the skirt and the lining, including bottom ruffle, to shift around of their own volition.  Well, en mi otra otra vida, I am a flamenco dancer; and I know my ruffles.  Lined ruffles, where the lining is attached directly to the fashion fabric, behave much better than unlined ones.  Additionally, I thought that the lining, if unattached to the outside fashion fabric might poke out at weird angles when sitting, standing and dancing (of course, I'll most likely be dancing in this on my cruise).  Ay, no, no, no - we can't have that.  So, I decided to sew the skirt and lining ruffles together, attach to the skirt and then join the skirt and lining yokes together.

I borrowed the technique for "bagging the lining" and left a bit of one of the lining skirt seams open so I could pull in the ruffle and sew the skirt lining to the bottom lined ruffle by machine.  The only hand sewing was securing the lining to the inside back of the zipper!  ¡Que bueno!

My construction process was then (roughly) as follows:

1. Sew the skirt seams, interface and sew the outer yoke
2. Sew the fashion fabric ruffle to the lining ruffle and understitch
3. Attach the ruffle to the skirt body, then attach the skirt body and ruffle to the skirt yoke
4. Sew the lining yoke
5. Sew the lining skirt body seams leaving one seam open about 4"
6. Attach the outer skirt to the lining at the top of both yokes and understitch
7. Insert the zipper
8. Pull the ruffle and lining through the 4" slit in the skirt body
9. Sew the bottom of the skirt lining to the ruffle just inside the seam allowance
10. Push the lining and ruffle back through the opening
11. Pin the 4" slit together and topstitch closed (it's on the inside, so it's not noticeable - stick you arm through one of the sleeves of any of your ready-to-wear blazers and you'll see a seam closed in this manner).
12. On the inside, hand stitch the lining to the zipper tape.
13. Put on your skirt and give it a twirl!

Here are some photos to illustrate my construction process:

Construction of Bottom ruffle: fashion fabric and lining sew right sides together then understitched

Lining: lining seams sewn together but with a 4" slit left open for turning

Pulling the ruffle through to pin and sew it to the bottom of the skirt lining
Turning the lining and skirt right-side out through the 4" slit

Final seam: the 4" slit sewn shut

A look at the inside lining all done by machine and ruffle and lining are secured - We're ready for dancing!

Even if you don't sew this skirt, perhaps this technique will help you in constructing one of of your own projects.

Now, it's on to fall sewing - after I serve my husband a margarita!

¡Hasta pronto!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Business Chica

Yesterday I had business meeting uptown, so I decided to wear my Tracy Reese Vogue 1092

Vogue 1092 - Tracy Reese Front

Vogue 1092 - Tracy Reese Back
Vogue 1092 - from the Vogue Patterns website

I made this up last year as a work suit staple.  It's such a different look for a suite with the gathered bell sleeves and the pieced skirt.  I also love the buckle detail on the sides.  Its got a small godet in the back of the skirt that acts as a kick pleat, and the fact that it's comfortable to wear is a big plus.

Bottom rear of skirt

This was made over a period of a couple of months and was a bit complicado.  I had a lot of trouble getting the curves on pockets nice and smooth (yes, there are supposed to be 4 pockets on the jacket - 2 on the top and 2 on the bottom of the jacket front).  I gave up on the curved pockets and tried rectangular ones.  Those didn't have a prayer so I abandoned the pockets completely and just left them off.  I don't think it takes away from the finished garment - digo yo

Matching plaids and stripes can sometimes be an issue, but in this case it wasn't difficult but just took time.  I was thankful that I had purchased more yardage than what was recommended on the pattern envelope. 

Finally, I had to purchase a grommet maker to install the grommets for the side buckles.  This was a pretty fun project after I had done a test on some scrap fabric, of course.

Close-up of the buckle

There's a lot of topstitching required in this pattern, and I have to admit that this was not one of my strongest sewing skills.  I did a lot of poking around on the internet and within my own sewing library to glean some tips from some very talented chicas who sew, and that really helped.  The most helpful tips I learned were to use an actual topstitching needle (I know, duh) with your topstitching thread, to lengthen the stitch length and to practice, practice practice.  I think the practice was really key.  After completing this garment, I feel that my topstitching abilities have improved.  I no longer fear topstitching or automatically omit it when I'm sewing something, like I used to do.  And, I've done some topstitching on some recent garments I've sewn, and I'm pretty pleased with the results.  ¡Algunas cosas cambio!

The other thing that made this a complicated sew were the bound buttonholes.  Ay, ay, ay - let me tell you. We are just not friends.  In the end, I made some passable-on-the-outside bound buttonholes, but more work is necessary for me to hone this skill.  If anyone knows of a good tutorial or other reference for making bound buttonholes, please pass it on.  My thanks in advance.

More detail about the fabric: it's is a lovely wool pinstripe suiting that I purchased at Mood.  It handled beautifully and was a dream to sew.  I lined the entire suit in a thick rayon lining, with a coordinating non-wool fabric for the facings.  Although I love touching wool, sewing with wool and wearing wool, my skin just can't take wearing it.  I have to have something non-itchy between me and the wool - the thicker the better.

Here's a peak on the inside showing the coordinating facing and lining (and not much of the bound buttonholes, hee hee):

In the end, I'm happy that I persevered and finished it!  It's comfortable and fun to wear adding a more whimsical look to my sometimes staid business wardrobe.

I have one last summer project on my sewing table to complete and will then begin my autumn sewing binge.  I'm getting really excited about all of the fall colors and patterns I'm seeing out there that I want to interpret and produce on my sewing table!  Stay tuned.

¡Hasta Pronto!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Wedding Bells

My eldest sister is now married!  Congratulations to the happy couple!  In anticipation of this event, I had decided to make a dress.  When I found out that the wedding would be outside, and given that nothing screams ”hat” louder than the words “outdoor wedding,” I decided I had to have a coordinating sombrero-cito.

 The bride had requested that my brother and I escort in our Mom at the very beginning of the ceremony, so I knew I needed something smashing for this highly visible job.  She also requested that we ladies wear off-white/cream.  There were several dress patterns in my stash that might work for this event.  The first was Butterick 5880.   

From the Butterick Patterns website

As you can see, it’s a lovely “Retro” pattern and extremely ladylike.  I love the vintage vibe but decided against it because made up in off-white, I thought I would compete with the bride.

Another option was Simplicity 1798, a Project Runway pattern.  Although I really want to make this up, I was looking for something a little more adventurous for the wedding. 

I finally settled on on Simplicity 1877, a Leanne Marshall pattern.  The short length makes it very contemporary, and the flounces add a dressy touch that are a bit reminiscent (to me, anyway) of the crepe paper wedding bells that people used to hang as decorations for bridal showers. 

For the hat, I chose Vogue 7600, view B (top left below), a Patricia Underwood pattern.

From the Vogue Patterns website

I found a lovely cream-colored linen/rayon blend fabric from Paron Fabrics that was the perfect color for the dress along with a Carolina Herrera lining, also from Paron that was just $4/yard! 

Since I wanted the hat to coordinate but not match, I chose a darker and heavier linen from New York Elegant Fabrics.  Taking a cue from a very stylish friend’s lovely Emilio Pucci hat, I wanted the lining fabric to be from printed silk – Pucci if I could find it.  After a multi-city search, I found a muy linda Pucci silk in LA’s fabric district.  I was just lucky that a business trip coincided with my hunt for Pucci.  Here’s a shot of this lovely fabric.

Isn’t it amazing!

I made some changes to the pattern by adding a lining and lengthening the hem just a bit – it’s really short as is and the pattern calls for a 1 1/4" hem.  I added 1 1/4" and, in the end, used a 1" hem.  I also made a muslin of the bodice and realized I had to make a Small Bust Adjustment (SBA) for the top (yes, a Small Bust Adjustment – the chichi fairy has never visited this Latina). 

The hat was fairly easy to construct, but I had some issues.  I believe it’s meant to be a very floppy sunhat.  Even though I used some very stiff interfacing and spray on sizing, I couldn’t achieve the smart curl on the brim as in the photo on the pattern envelope (top left, above).  I ended up spraying Stiffen Stuff over the brim 45 minutes before the start of the wedding and speed drying with a blow dryer.  It held up for the ceremony and the photos that followed; but I think I’ll have to re-do the brim, inserting buckram for the interfacing. 

Given that I had a business trip before the wedding and that I hadn’t had time to finish the dress before leaving NYC, my trusty Bernina Virtuoso 150 accompanied me on my  travels.  Yes, there was late night sewing in my hotel room!  In the end, I completed the dress at my mom’s just under the wire at 4:30 AM the morning of the wedding ceremony which was scheduled for 10:00 AM. Ay, ay aythis was definitely a “sew chica, sew moment!”

With my brother just before the ceremony.  Isn't he handsome? ¡Que Guapo!
The ceremony was followed by a lovely brunch.  A few times I reached for the flounces thinking they were my napkin!  That's the only hazard to wearing this dress but overall, I'm very pleased with the ensemble.  What a lovely, lovely day.

¡Hasta pronto!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Once upon a 16th of September - Happy Birthday Mexico and Mom!

September 16th is Mexican Independence Day (and my mom's b-day - Happy Birthday Mom!).  This is the day that is celebrated in Mexico as Independence Day.  Here in the U.S. we celebrate Cinco de Mayo, but that's another Mexican Independence Day (and the birthday of yours truly).  If you want to understand this in detail, Wikipedia will be your friend.

Back in the small town where I grew up, there were 16th of September celebrations and parades.  My father used to take my brother and me, dressed in our Mexican folk wear to the parades.  Sometimes he'd start talking with folks and they would let us ride on their floats.  Here's what we looked like back then:

My costume is the China Poblana, and I wore it any chance I could get.  The sequined skirt dazzled me when I stared up at it hanging from its perch in my closet, and I loved running my fingers over the smooth and silky embroidered flowers on the blouse.  Best of all, when I wore this outfit, the only shoes I was allowed to wear were my dressy shoes! 

My brother is wearing a Charro outfit, traditionally worn by Mexican horsemen and mariachis.  His suit was made of thick, unlined, wool coating (!).  Because it was so itchy, he wore a pair of "Toughskins" underneath the pants.  And even though he wore a thermal top under a long sleeve shirt, he could still feel the scratchy jacket on his skin and removed it as soon as he could. When we were outside, I froze and he baked.

For me, wearing my China Poblana outfit was like playing dress up in a princess costume.  For my brother, wearing his Charro outfit was a carefully orchestrated exercise in timing.  On the day we were scheduled to take this photograph at Olan Mills (Oh yeah!  Remember the wagon wheel?), I danced around the house for about 20 minutes in my China, while my brother continued to play with his cars in his jeans and long sleeved shirt(s).  When it was time to leave for the photography studio, our mom carried his outfit to the car on a hanger with the plastic dry cleaning bag over it.  At the studio, and only when the photographer was absolutely ready to take our picture, my brother put on the jacket and my mom helped him step into the Charro pants (over his jeans).  We smiled for the camera - click, click, click - flash, flash, flash.  When we were finished, my brother jumped off the studio platform, handed the jacket to my mom and began ripping off the pants.  Once the Charro outfit was off, he smiled even more brightly than he had during the photo shoot.  The results were in: Charro outfit on for only 10 minutes - he had set a record!  He swaggered out of the studio in his Thoughskins, and I followed twirling in my skirt.

Sadly, this 16th I won't be riding on a float in a parade with my brother or clocking his quick changes into and out of a Charro hairsuit, but I did haul out my "Frida Falda" in honor of Mexico's special day.

Frida Falda at the fountain

I made this self-drafted half circle skirt a few years ago from an Alexander Henry cotton wonderfully named, "Viva Frida."  Here's a close-up of the fabric in green.  I often think of adding sequins to some of the images on the fabric to pump up the vintage Mexican skirt vibe I've got going here, but it's one of those projects that's all or nothing.  Meaning, I can't get tired after adding 5 and call it a day.  If I started this sequin project, I'd have to add them all over the skirt, front and back, before I could wear it again.  ¡Ay Dios!  I'm not sure I have the stamina.

Truthfully, this skirt has been languishing in my closet for a while; but after today, I'm not sure why.  It swings when I walk, and the fullness of the skirt gives it a very "ladylike" silhouette.  I love the images on the fabric, and it coordinates with so much in my wardrobe.  It feels great to have rediscovered it!

Later this week I'll be traveling to California for my eldest sister's wedding.  Currently I'm working on some outfits for this exciting event - wedding outfit posts soon to come!

¡Hasta pronto y Viva Mexico!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Labors of Love

Two weekends ago it was our 3-day Labor Day weekend which allowed me time to finish two outfits that were cut for my vacation wardrobe, but sadly didn't get completed in time.  I don't know about you, but just before a vacation I go into this obsessive sewing frenzy determined to make an entirely new wardrobe to wear on my travels (I'm going through something similar now in prepping for my eldest sister's upcoming wedding - ay, ay, ay). 

Completed not in time for my trip is Simplicity 1666 - a Lisette pattern.  What a great pattern!

Simplicity 1666

I've never had a pattern fit so well just out of the envelope like this one.  I made one fitting adjustment to the top by taking it in about a half inch at the neck and tapering back out to the original seam line mid-back.  However, I didn't make any fitting changes to the skirt.  It fits my curves perfectamente!!!!

The fabric is from Ikea and was purchased to coordinate with my vacation wardrobe's purple, black and white theme.  I think it may be a bit much to wear the top and skirt together, but I think they'll function well in my wardrobe as separates.  I think I may make this up again all in black with a leather peplum and leather panels in the skirt.  ¡Que rico!

The next finished piece is another Simplicity pattern, #7460 from 1967!  It's a sometime ago e-bay purchase.  Isn't it cute?

I made several adjustments to this pattern.  First, I rounded out the neckline, as I prefer this much more than a square neckline (although I may try that in future).  The back of this pattern was much too roomy, so I adjusted it to fit, taking it in up to an inch in some areas.  Even though I made the "mini-length" (view #2), I raised the hem by about 5".

Back adjustment in pencil on left

I'm looking forward to making more of these next spring but for now it's wedding weekend sewing...

¡Hasta pronto!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What She Wore to Goldfrapp Last Night

"Goldfrapp! Wha?  They're touring the U.S.?" you ask.  Well, no.  They just released their new album, "Tales of Us," yesterday and made only one U.S. appearance with the fabulous Wordless Music Orchestra last night for us pobrecitos in NYC.  They were magnificent and simply tore up the Beacon Theater.  I'm still shaking.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Beacon, it's a beautiful theater dating back to 1929.  You may have seen it on TV when the 2011 and 2012 Tony awards were broadcast from there.  Inside it's lovely with lots of gold art deco accents.

Because the venue is so fancy, I decided to DO IT UP for last night.  I wore my black Guy Laroche cocktail dress from Vogue 2899 which I made last year.

Vogue 2899 and me at the Beacon Theater

This shot below may be a little easier to see.  The definition of the gathers in the neckline and flounces are difficult to photograph without professional lighting, digo yo.

I absolutely love this dress, and it is one of the most worn items I've ever sewn.  It has been to many cocktail and dinner events, including a casual, in the costume sense, Halloween party - I just added a fancy mask.  Since it's sewn from a knit fabric (another Fabrix find that moved with me from San Francisco), it's great for travel and packs easily.
From the Vogue Patterns website

This was much easier to sew than I had imagined.  Although the little flounces on the sides look like pockets, they're just there for the ride.  I love the low back and how figure hugging this is.

Back View
I sewed this as instructed making one change to the lining.  I cut it from a matte jersey stretch knit but sewed it just un poquito smaller than the dress in the hip area, something you don't normally do with lining, but presto - a built in body shaper!

¡Hasta pronto!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

La Bici

It's here - my new Citibike membership!  You may have heard that just before summer, NYC got a new bikeshare program called Citibike.  I've been traveling for most of the summer but joined Citibike as soon I returned and am now an official annual member.

I just finished this skirt, intended for many bike riding adventures.  Although summer wanes, I believe I'll manage to get in a good ride or two.

La Bici - Front View

La Bici - Back View

The pattern is the Crescent Skirt, #1101 from Sewaholic and is my first Sewaholic pattern!

Image of 1101 Crescent Skirt
From the Sewaholic website

It was a fairly easy pattern to make up and really fun to sew.  The yoke is made from several pieces to which I added red piping for a bit of spice.  I made version C since I knew this skirt would get a work out on a bike, and I didn't want my chonies (undies) to show.

The fabric is a wonderful bicycle print, Henry Glass cotton (I know, I can be a bit too literal) from one of my favorite fabric haunts, Fabric Depot in Portland, OR.  Like a nice cotton should be, it was super easy to work with.

I made a bit of a boo boo during the initial pattern cutting stage.  I started cutting the pattern based on my hip measurement and tapered a size down in the waist (something I have to do with the big four pattern companies).  Luckily, I did a tissue fitting before I started cutting my fabric and realized that the waist would be entirely too small if left así.  Looking back at the pattern envelope and the sizing, it turns out that I should've just cut the waist the same size as the hip.  (Isn't taking your measurements and comparing them to the sizing on the pattern envelope sewing 101? - ay ay ay!)

Well, I was able to tape some of the cut away pattern tissue back onto the pattern pieces and for others where I had already recycled the cut away pattern tissue, I simply measured, cut and taped paper to the pattern tissue.  My project was saved in spite of my silliness!

Self-inflicted yoke crises narrowly avoided!

Changes I made to the pattern:  I omitted the twill tape as per the pattern instructions.  I felt that with the strong interfacing I used for the yoke pieces and the structure added by the piping, I didn't really need to add the twill tape.  Secondly, I inserted an invisible zipper, instead of a regular zipper.  Other than these  2 very minor changes, I made it pretty much as instructed.

Overall, I'm really pleased with how this turned out.  I love the nice deep pockets and the yoke design.  It's super comfortable to wear, and yes - it's perfect for bike riding.

¡Hasta pronto!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Magenta Amor

Hola Chicas,

Here's another dress I made for my vacation.  It's McCall's 6556 - a Fashion Star pattern.  As soon as I saw this on the McCall's website I knew I had to have it.  Here I am sporting it in front of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The back view:

This is a a little more close-up with the right sleeve more visible:

This came together really quickly.  The only issue was finding enough space to cut out the grande pattern pieces without stretching out my fabric.  The fabric is a wonderful magenta (although it looks wine colored in some of the photos) jersey which I purchased some time ago at Fabrix in San Francisco.  

Changes I made - The pattern instructions call for folding over the neckline (and all other edges) twice then topstitching.  I decided to add a neck binding, which worked out pretty well.

For the sleeve and dress hems, I folded some stretch tape into the seam to stabilize it, un poquito, and topstitched over that.  It worked out perfectly.  Although there's a lot of fabric to this dress, because it's made with a knit, it's great for traveling - no plancha necessary.  

It's almost time to move my summer wardrobe out of my closet and replace it with my cold weather clothes.  However, I think I may leave this in the closet.  I can imagine wearing it with boots, tights and a turtleneck underneath.  I may even try it belted.  It's so versatile!

Hasta pronto!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mod Squad

I made this dress for my recent vacation but didn't get a chance to photograph it until now. 
My vacation wardrobe's color theme was black, white and purple - easy to coordinate and mix and match.  I used Vogue 9503 dated from 1996.

Another chica who sews and blogs (I don't remember who) suggests looking past the illustrations on the pattern envelope to imagine what the pattern can become.  Who knew there was a little mod dress lurking in there?

Some modifications I made:
shortened hem by about 6 inches
inserted a separating zipper in the front
added lining

I used stretch denim purchased from one of my all time favorite San Francisco fabric stores, Fabrix.

A peak inside (a bit wrinkled from wear)...

I used a white cotton of forgotten origin for the lining.  I also added a zipper flap (copied from my husband's North Face jacket) so the zipper wouldn't rub against my skin and to prevent my skin from getting caught in the zipper (ouch!). 

I can wear this through summer and into fall with a long sleeved tee and tights.  I can also accessorize with scarves and long chain jewelry.

I can imagine making this up again in wool for winter - a bright color contrasting with black or grey.  Although I don't want summer to end, I find myself thinking of cooler weather and sewing some fun warm clothes.  ¡Hasta pronto!

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