Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Another Spring Dress?!

I know.  I KNOW.  The high today was 53 and I'm about to show you a sleeveless dress made with the lightest cotton ever.  Excuse me for being an idiot.

However, in my defense, next week will be in the 70s, and I live in the south, so we'll only get warmer from there, right?  That's my wish, anyway: to feel warm again.

After I finished my shirtdress from the last post, and sometimes while I was working on my shirtdress from the last post, I started a Colette Chantilly dress.  I cut them both out the same night.  Do you do that?  I find it's easier for me to stay focused if I can cut everything at once.  I'll cut out two or three skirts or shirts or dresses at once just to have it done and over with, because cutting is a necessary evil.  And then this Chantilly sat for a couple days until I ran out of interfacing, so I started sewing darts, gathers, and all those other fun, non-interfaced things.

I actually skipped around a lot on this dress.  I made the bodice, and then the yoke; I sewed the skirts and the bodice before even thinking about the lining; I inserted the zipper before I finished the yoke.  I guess the only thing I did "right" was I hemmed it very last, after everything else was done.

I used fabric by Sarah Watson for Art Gallery.  I know a lot of people have beef with quilting cotton and that's fine; I refuse to use anything polyester, so we all have our differences.  But this is seriously the softest and smoothest quilting cotton!  It felt more like lawn or voile with a crisper hand.  It was just lovely.

I originally bought this fabric for this dress, in fact--I've had it sitting in my stash since around Christmas, just waiting.  I had to purchase lining, of course, and notions, and why make a spring dress in the middle of winter?  I'll tell you why: so you aren't so rushed, worrying you won't finish it in time for a nice-weather weekend.  

If the back looks a little wonky, it's because it's the result of an optical illusion--the yoke and bodice somehow matched up pretty well--and it's probably also a little wonky.

I did try this on the other night and Nick said it brought "attention to my boob area, so that's great."  Thanks honey!  What a pal.  I do plan on wearing a cardigan.  I like that this dress is so floaty and light: quilting cotton and cotton batiste make for a meringue-like consistency in dresses.  I'm really excited to wear it when I no longer shiver from standing in a shadow.  Please, oh please, let that be soon!

I'd also like to note that this dress was the first pattern I bought when I decided to start sewing.  I'd never heard of Colette, never seen anything by Sarai, but came across this on Fabric.com.  In fact, I even emailed them to ask if dotted Swiss would be appropriate (duh, Emily, they said in nicer tones).  I ended up using the dotted Swiss on a Banksia top long ago, and hung onto this pattern until the right fabric came along.  I'm glad I waited, because this dress stumped me at some points, and I feel like I can pretty easily coast through most projects now.  But my linings didn't match, my armholes were uneven--messy, but worth it.

What's next on my sewing agenda?  I'm not sure!  I have some bee blocks to do but that's about it.  I mean, I do have stacks and stacks of fabric I should probably use, but I'm going to take this weekend--my mom's birthday weekend!--to figure out what's next.  Another Truffle?  Another Cambie?  An Alma?  Who knows.  Suggestions, as always, are welcome!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Shirtdress for the Early Spring Blues

If you're in America, or even in Europe from what I hear, you're wondering where spring has been lately.  It's cold and snowy or rainy just about everywhere, and end-of-March is resembling beginning-of-February.  And it sucks.

We've had a few nice weekends here in Charlotte--breezy and highs near 80s--and we've spent them outside.  Because that's what you do when it's nice.  Unfortunately, we got used to it, and this past week, with its rain and frost, even, made me sad and nostalgic for summer.  I'm learning that I'm not the cold-weather girl I used to be.  Besides, I look way better in shorts than I do in parkas.  (Who doesn't?)

I know this shit weather won't last forever, so I've started my spring sewing.  A bit late, maybe, because these next could of dresses were on my project plan for February, but whatever, at least they're getting done.

The first dress I have to show--the second won't be for a couple days--is McCall 6696, a new spring pattern.

Things were moody and wintery this morning, so displaying the dress in the window seemed like a good enough shot to me.  

The fabric is embroidered cotton from Denver Fabrics.  I love their free shipping sales and picked it up earlier this year for $5 a yard.  It was really easy to work with, the feel of cotton lawn, and it'll be great for summer, I think.

I liked some things about this pattern, but I will say, I remember why I don't use McCall patterns.  After being spoiled with Colette, Sewaholic, and even Simplicity, it's hard to go back to a McCall pattern.  There are very few directions concerning things like plackets, and they also had you hem the dress before adding in the front band.  Very strange!  So I did things my way, knowing my way around a placket by now, and it all turned out fine.

Oh right--things I liked.  Well, it's a shirtdress, which is something I love.  It has pockets, too!  The pattern is sized by cup, which is something I think all patterns everywhere should have.  It also has pieces for a straight skirt, cap sleeves, long sleeves, and a separate slip.  I have plans for the long sleeve-straight skirt combo later.

Man, I love this fabric.  Anything resembling dotted swiss has a permanent home in my closet.

According to Accuweather, our temperatures should start climbing to the 60s and 70s next week, which means I can wear this and my chambray dress finally.  Right now they're hanging in my sewing room closet, waiting for someone to love them.  I'll be there soon, my babies.

I said I was working on another dress: Colette's Chantilly dress.  I've really skipped around and need to sew down the yoke facing, finish the underarms (that's another story), attach the lining to the zipper, and sew up the hem.  If someone wants to give me some motivation, that'd be great!

I also have to add this, just because.

Stay warm, friends!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Gardening Update!

I've been meaning to write this post for a week but just haven't.  I don't even know why, but I'm glad I waited, because there's so much more to show you!

A couple weeks ago, I had a rough day.  I had an unpleasant run-in with another quilter and work was tedious.  I came home to find our beautiful greenhouse, which housed my baby seedlings (which weren't growing--so depressing), completely toppled over thanks to a wind advisory.  I took a deep breath, made Nick clean up the wreckage with me, and decided to have BBQ that night instead of whatever I'd originally planned.  It was a much-needed break, despite my rule to eat at home on the weekdays.  It was also a blessing: my seedlings weren't going to grow, as sad as that made me, because I'd overwatered them.  It was a chance to start over!

But I tend to be negative, so I wallowed for a few hours.  The next morning I shook it off, ordered some seedlings from Burpee to replace the ones I lost, and went on with my day.

Last weekend was the first really beautiful weekend since we've moved here.  Spring has sprung in the Queen City, despite a sometimes-chilly breeze, and Nick and I were set on working outside a little bit (thanks to the magic of Zyrtec and OTC decongestant).  I had lots of bulbs to plant and he was going to try his own hand at seedlings to make up for what I'd lost.

And oh!  What did we find?  Radishes!

This was the scene last week.  We planted the radishes and carrots in a pot together--we're using containers for everything due to our rental status--and peas and beets in two other pots.  There weren't any peas or beets yet, but that didn't stop me from practically peeing my pants with delight!

I've been checking in throughout the week, usually in the afternoon when we get home from work.  The radishes have gone from that tiny sprout above, to this...

...to this!

I'm so proud!  I tell them everyday I love them and I'm so happy and my neighbors give me weird looks, I'm sure.  But I don't care!

These radishes couldn't be any cuter.
Radishes mature in under 35 days, and tomorrow will be day 21.  We're zeroing in on primetime, people!  Just as a note, I planted Easter Egg and French Breakfast radishes.  I also have some teeny tiny carrot sprouts, but they take closer to 55 days.  I planted Cosmic Purple and Parisian carrots.

Behold!  I have peas and beets sprouting too!


I planted Chioggia beets, which will have pink and white stripes on the inside, when cut.  I've actually never eaten a beet before, but my mom loves them and Kelby has recently tried them, so I'm excited to do the same!

My peas are Green Arrow heirlooms, which are normally small and don't typically need trellising for the vines.  I'm prepared to buy a trellis if it looks like they're going to grow larger, but for now I'm trusting in the description.

Tiny pea shoots!
You may be asking yourself, why are there bamboo skewers in Emily's pots?  That's a good question.  While we don't have squirrels, we have a fair amount of feral cats and one obnoxious chihuahua who like to enter our yard at-will.  In fact, the day Jesse and I planted the seeds you see above, the radishes and carrots were torn apart by one of the aforementioned assholes and I was afraid nothing would grow.  Well, obviously things are growing, but there's no rhyme or reason anymore.  So I came up with a pretty decent solution: I lay tomato cages over the entire pot, and the bamboo skewers keep them from rolling off!  I'm really cheap and already had the supplies, and so far, everything has been okay.

I did mention Nick is still using the greenhouse, mostly when we're at work and at night.  He planted catnip, basil, cilantro, and some peppers.  The kid has a green thumb: everything has tiny sprouts!  I'm so proud of him.  Nick was eating Lunchables daily when we met, so he's come a long way.

I promise there's a sprout in there somewhere.
I also mentioned we planted bulbs!  I bought ranunculus, anemones, begonias, Lily of the valley, tulips (well, my aunt bought me those) (thanks TT!), and peonies.  And away they went!  The two smallest pots on the end are for Jesse; I planted her a mix of tulips, ranunculus, and anemone.  Thanks to Pinterest I learned you can layer the bulbs, so hopefully that's true and none are suffocating in there.  I'm not as confident in the bulbs as I am in vegetables, mostly because they're making pretty little progress, but I can only do my best.  I'll also probably give them a few seasons, because I did a late planting and because I'll be sad if they don't bloom.

The tiny garden!
In April, it'll be time to plant cucumbers, tomatoes, watermelon, pumpkins, more flowers, and peppers.  I'll also plant herbs.  Like I said, everything will be in a container, so be prepared for some weirdness, neighbors.

The cats are loving the warm weather: we leave the windows open and they're more than happy to guard our plants!

I can't remember if I've noted this, but...

  • I've bought all my seeds from Urban Farmer, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Baker Creek, and Burpee.  I also purchased my seedlings from Burpee.  Everything is organic and/or heirloom, and nothing is GMO. My bulbs came from Bulbs Direct, which was totally affordable, considering they were shipped from the Netherlands, or Home Depot.
  • I'm growing everything organically, from the potting soil to the fertilizer.  However, I've been using plastic pots, because my aunt pointed out they'll be a bitch to water in the summer in terra cotta, which is super porous.  I've been looking into Smart Pots for future use--any recommendations?
  • Two books that got me through this process: You Grow Girl by Gayla Trail (awesome blog, too) and Grow, Cook, Eat by Willi Galloway.  I can't recommend them enough.  I've been reading Heirloom Gardener magazine and Organic Gardening magazine, as well as Southern Living and Better Homes and Gardens.  All can be found at your local Barnes and Noble, which is where I found them!
  • My aunt, cousin, and mother have been tremendous helps--thanks to all of you!  I'll share my crops if you're lucky (and if I only have to drive 20 minutes, so it looks like Jesse will get the most benefits).
I'm not an expert but I'm having a lot of fun learning about gardening!  It's amazing how happy I am just from some seeds and dirt.  Leave me some gardening love!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Michelle, My Belle

It's been two weeks since I last posted.  Here's my biggest question: where's spring?!  Before I get into my new dress's details, I will report that there has been zero progress in the seedling department.  I'm terrified that my seeds rotted or just gave up on me as their mother.  Last weekend my cousin and I planted carrots, radishes, beets, and peas, along with more seeds to become seedlings--nada.  I'm so bummed.  Keep me in your gardening thoughts, everyone.

Okay, moving on to more positive things: I finished a spring dress!  I've missed garment sewing so much with all the quilting I've had on my to-do list.  All my apparel fabrics would sit and stare at me while I was piecing or binding--I know they're sad, and I'm sad, too.  It's March and I've only made two dresses and a shirt this entire year!  That's far too few, if you ask me.

(If you ask me, don't ask about my calligraphy--I've spent exactly two minutes practicing since my class.  Shit.)

But with the completion of a giant, pain in the ass project yesterday, I was able to refocus and cut out a dress just for fun.  Just because I could, and I wasn't on a deadline and I wasn't giving it to anyone.  Just a simple project for me.  I bought a cut of chambray from Denver Fabrics during their free shipping sale in January, and I bought Liberty Love a month or so ago (and reviewed it here)--naturally, I combined the two and decided to make a Michelle, My Belle dress for spring and summer.  I love chambray and the dress is so effortless in its style, which is perfect because I don't have a whole lot of time for more effort.

I cut out the dress last night and sewed it up today.  However, it wasn't all sunshine and flowers--because I'm an idiot.

I sewed all of this within about 90 minutes this morning.  I only stopped to shower and go grocery shopping.  Damn adulthood.

This was the first time I've used my walking foot for something besides quilting!  I used it to sew the skirt to the bodice, on top of the gathers.  It worked wonderfully.

So much Washi.
So my problems started with this zipper.  It was the only long invisible zipper in my stash, and it's black.  Close but no cigar.

After running to Joann's for two different navy invisible zippers (variety, and stash building), I came home and pinned in a 12-14" zipper.  I had to sew it with the Bernina invisible zipper foot twice on each side--no matter what I do, I can't get the needle close enough on the first go-round!  Any advice is much appreciated.

Once that was done, and the skirt was sewn, I tried it on--I have such narrow shoulders that I almost always expect to alter them somehow.  Except the 12-14" zipper wasn't doing it.  It didn't zip down far enough for me to get into the dress.

I now had to rip out all that stitching, plus the rest of the skirt, and repin a 20-22" zipper onto the back bodice.  Here's a question: why aren't there 18" invisible zippers?  That would solve a lot of my problems.

However, I forgot about my invisible zipper foot, and ironed the zipper.  My foot went directly over the teeth and sewed right down the middle of them.  And I didn't notice until I went to zip it up.  So that's awesome.  I ripped some more.  I pinned again.  I stitched, with the regular zipper foot, and did the best I could to get close to the teeth.  I tried it on--the bodice was a bit too tight.  Out came the zipper again, making the seam allowance a bit smaller, and in it went--more pins, more stitching.

It still isn't perfect, but holy hell, was I aggravated.

Who knows which zipper stitching this is?
Being good.
Another problem: I can't make continuous bias binding.  I used the tutorials on the Coletterie and Youtube and still managed to mess it up completely.  I plan on asking my mom for a lesson the next time I see her.  Hopefully she knows!  Until then, regular-ass binding went onto the neckline and armholes.  I didn't think lining was appropriate for my version, but still needed to finish the edges somehow.

Bloomsbury Gardens!
So--it's done.  I thought about making it short and flirty, but because I'm only one of those things, I stuck to the included hem allowance.  It's a very versatile dress and I really liked it!  I'm loving princess seams.  They're such a nice alternative to darts.

So what else is going on?  I can't wait for spring, as I mentioned.  Besides warmer weather, we'll finally have bikes and can ride them.  Winter caught up with me this year and I'm no longer walking a mile back and forth to the train.  Nick claims he hasn't noticed any weight gain, so maybe it's just hormonal, but a bike ride certainly can't hurt.

How was your weekend?  What'd you sew?  Expect a lot more dresses coming up--I've got big plans!

Images by Freepik