Wednesday, June 18, 2014

My new baby, and a second Miette skirt!

I am very pleased to announce the arrival of my bundle of joy:

Brother SE400

At 12.4 lbs and 11" tall, this beauty arrived early on 6/7/14.

Yes, I'm a dork! ;)

This is my birthday present from my husband! My birthday isn't actually until the 29th, but I was given it early because I was losing my mind about my buttonhole dilemma you may have previously read about. I started researching possible solutions to my buttonhole problems which didn't involve buying another sewing machine since I have enough of those, and it seemed wasteful to buy a whole machine with the sole purpose of buttonholes! (And also, not having to hand sew them, which I'm willing to do for my historic costumes, but not so much for all these modern things I've been making!) But then, getting any of my existing machines serviced/repaired would cost as much as buying a new machine. Then it dawned on me that if I hunted out a sewing/embroidery combo machine, not only would I be able to make buttonholes, but I'd also be able to embroider all the things, which means it wouldn't feel so wasteful to buy yet another machine.

I researched all kinds of embroidery machines, and finally settled on the Brother SE400. It's affordable and has ridiculously great reviews, and I could even get it on Amazon with free shipping. I put it in my cart so I could think about it, and my sneaky husband went and ordered it for me! *feels loved*

Upon receipt of the machine, the first thing I did was test a buttonhole. . . And, it was a total success!!!

Brother SE400 buttonhole example

I immediately pulled out one of my UFO's that wanted only buttonholes and zipped them off in no time. This is my first really modern, computerized machine, and I never thought I'd say this, but it's amazing! The buttonholes literally make themselves. Put the button in the presser foot, lower the buttonhole guide, choose what style of button you want, and push the green button. Then sip your tea while you watch your buttonhole appear before your eyes! (Though when making a non-test buttonhole, I keep a hand on the fabric just in case it starts to slip. . . But there hasn't been a problem yet!)

Over the weekend, I tried out using it as a general-purpose sewing machine, and made a second Miette skirt:

Miette skirt

This one is in black Twill ("Hampton" Twill by Robert Kaufman). It's 58" wide, and I bought 2 yards, and have plenty left over. Again, I ignored the directions to piece the waistband out of lots of little lengths of fabric, and instead made the waistband all in one piece, and then one piece for each tie. I used my new machine to make a buttonhole to pass the tie end through. (Side note, this is the longest buttonhole my machine is capable of):

Miette skirt buttonhole Brother SE-400

The only thing I find isn't perfect about this new machine is that I don't have total control over the position of the needle (as in, left to right, not up or down). This means I can't get the needle far enough over to easily make 1/4" seams, because the point that would be 1/4" away from the needle is under the presser foot. This is kind of disappointing, especially for a machine that is supposedly able to be used for quilting, and 1/4" is the go-to seam size for quilting. My old Husqvarna Viking breathed a sigh of relief when she heard me whine about that, because now she has a reason to stay! ;)

I haven't tried out the embroidery feature of the machine yet because I didn't realize there were other things I need for that (stabilizer, special thread for machine embroidery) so there has been some ordering and waiting around for supplies to arrive. I have everything I need now, but of course, now I've got a ton of stuff going on and don't have time to mess around with it!

I was shocked at how costly the embroidery thread can be. I guess it's not all that much more than a spool of sewing thread, but I'm used to the less-than-$1 cost of floss for hand embroidery! I went hunting for a cost-efficient option, and read good things about Embroidex, so went with this 48 spool set from Amazon:

Embroidex 48 spool set of machine embroidery thread

I feel like there are plenty of options here for me to play around with! I also have plenty of ideas of things to embroidery. In fact, I'm almost a little fearful that I should have chosen a machine with a larger field for embroidery. This machine has a max of 4" x 4" (which I hear is actually 3.5" x 3.5" since you can't go right up to the edge of the hoop), and I thought it wouldn't be worth it to spend hundreds of dollars more for a couple of extra inches. . . Hope I made the right decision! Also, depending on how much I end up enjoying this machine embroidery thing, there's a distinct possibility I may end up investing in the software that allows you to create your own designs!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Miette Skirt

I have finally caught up to my most recent project: a denim wrap skirt, from the "Miette" pattern by Tilly and the Buttons!



This was a totally unplanned project! My friend Sarah came over for a sewing date, and convinced me on a total whim to make this skirt. I went stash-diving and found some remnants of Kaufman 8 oz denim, and by the next day, I had a new skirt!

I did make a change to the waistband of the pattern, which is to cut it as much in one piece as I could. Instead of leaving an open seam, I'll make a large buttonhole to pass the tie through. This idea is absolutely stolen from Sarah. :) Also, I wanted to note that I needed less than the prescribed yardage, which was 2 1/4 yards. When I first bought my denim, I believe it was 2 1/2 yards. After cutting out a Beignet skirt (and that skirt has a LOT of pieces!) I had enough in remnants for the Miette (in a size 3). Of course, as I said, I got creative with piecing the waistband and ties, and I think I cut the waistband facing crosswise instead of lengthwise. If I buy for another, I'd just buy 2 yards, and that will be more than enough.

I think this might be one of my new favorite patterns! I promptly wore the skirt out to brunch with my husband, and felt so pretty in it that I decided to make more. My next one will be in a lightweight black twill, and then a pink denim one might happen after that, we'll see!

Friday, June 6, 2014

A Pink Stripey 1970s Dress

My next sewing adventure involved finally using up some pink stripey seersucker I've had in my stash for a while. I'm not usually a fan of seersucker, but a.) I had it, and b.) I thought it would be a great choice for a dress to kick around at home and sew in during the hotter months of the year. . .

McCall's 5084

I love how this one turned out! It's wonderfully lightweight and comfortable, and also meets my criteria of being flexible in size, because the belt is only sewn on at the middle, and then ties in the back, drawing the dress in to fit whatever size I am at the moment. Perfect!

McCall's 5084

I used McCall's 5084, from 1976. I love 70s dress patterns! They are such fun, and so comfortable to wear. This pattern fit me almost straight out of the envelope, which is a rarity for me! I just needed to make a small adjustment at the back for my narrow back/shoulders. McCall's 5084, finished insides

This is the dress turned inside out! I try to always finish my insides nicely these days, but I took extra time securely finishing every raw edge on this one so that it could get lots of wear and survive many trips through the washer and dryer.

This is definitely a pattern I will make up again! Also, with these last two 1970s dresses going so well, I feel like there may be many more 1970s dresses in my future! ;)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Plaid Flannel Dress

I've been ever so slowly working to try to lose some weight, and so have been avoiding making things that snugly fit, and keep an eye out instead for things that I can wear both now and after a few pounds are gone. Back in January, I decided to give Simplicity 9834 a try in some plaid flannel:

Simplicity 9834

This fun 1970s pattern really only fits in the yoke area, and then the rest of it is very free-flowing. A perfect candidate for my changing waist size! I gave the dress a bit more length, and decided I'd cut the yoke and pockets on the bias to break up the plaid a bit. Of course, cutting something on the bias means it can totally change the shape and fit of the piece, but I got around this by flat-lining, and cutting that layer on grain. I also fully-lined the entire dress because I like lined things, and because I wanted to be able to wear tights without the flannel sticking to them! I also made a simple tie to belt in the fulness because I thought it would look cuter that way. . .

Simplicity 9834

As you can see, this one is not quite finished yet! I still have to put the pockets on, but more importantly, it needs buttons and buttonholes! And that, readers, is what caused this dress, which otherwise went together really quickly, to sit unfinished to this very day and beyond.

First, it was the buttons. Apparently, it is ridiculously hard to get 5/8" or 3/4" buttons in a not-all-the-way-purple-yet-not-pink-either color! When I couldn't find what I needed at JoAnn's, I turned to Etsy. After several orders, I ended up with all of these:



As you can see, this is kind of a weird color! The buttons at the right were the perfect shade, but only came in the one size, which was much too small. I gave up on finding the right shade of purple, and decided to try some wood buttons, thinking to maybe match the tan color:



I felt like these were just way too bright. I wanted something that blended in a bit more. So, off I went to JoAnn's, with my Granny and Glenn in tow. I was able to find two viable options there:



But this was all they had of each style, and I estimated I needed in the ballpark of 15 buttons. So my amazingly patient and supportive husband took me to not just one, not even two, but three fabric stores, all in one day, on the quest for the perfect buttons! I didn't find the others I'd found at the JoAnn's last time, (not surprising since they were discounted and I suspect perhaps no longer to be carried), but I found these:



These could totally work! But guess what? Each JoAnn's had only one or two cards left. Guess what else? There was major color variation between cards. Argh!

By this point in time, I was about ready to give up all together, when my good friend Sarah stepped in and suggested we try Grey's Fabrics. When I got to the store and pulled out the swatch, Sarah of Grey's first of all recognized it off Instagram (my tale of button whoah had spread far and wide!) and second, knew just what to do, and directed me to these fabulous 5/8" shell buttons:



SUCCESS AT LAST!!!!! She had plenty in stock and they were clearly going to be fabulous! Also, her prices are so much more reasonable than JoAnn's. Grey's all the way!!!

Next up, I procrastinated for a while because I was really quite tired from all the button drama. Just kidding! In reality though, I'd become rather sick of even thinking about it. But at least, I sat down to finish the dress. I grabbed some test fabric to practice my machine buttonholes as it had been a really long time since I'd done a buttonhole by machine. (In historic sewing - which is primarly what I do - buttonholes are done by hand, or not at all because there's a lot of hooks/eyes and closing things with ties as well!)

My Husqvarna Viking utterly failed me. I knew I'd had trouble getting the buttonhole feature working when I first got the machine, but at the time, I figured I must be doing something wrong, because I was being too lazy to read the booklet. This time, I knew I was doing everything correctly because I carefully read the book, as well as watched YouTube videos of similar Viking machines executing buttonholes. If I set the machine to the settings indicated in the manual, I get a buttonhole (HAHAHA NOT REALLY!) like the one shown on the left below. If I turn the dial with the buttonhole image so that it is nowhere near the buttonhole image any more (so in complete contradiction to what the guide tells you to do), I get the one shown in the middle below. At least this one looks like a buttonhole, but it was ridiculously thick and heavy. I hated it! So, I pulled out my old Singer, and gave that one a go. That's the example below on the right. This machine made a nice buttonhole. . . On one side! I know on some machines there's a little screw-type-thing you can turn to balance the buttonhole, but my Singer doesn't appear to have one. I'd probably have to open up the machine to get to it, and that's a bit more than I'm willing to mess with.

      

My other sewing machine options in the house are all antique and have no buttonhole settings, attachments, or anything like that, and are not really in what I'd call good working order! So we have a bit of a crisis here. Theoretically, I could do them by hand, but in addition to the 15 this dress needs, I also have an unfinished Beignet skirt (so that's another 11 or so), a summery blouse I made ages ago that is done except buttons (I think there are about 7 or 8 on that), a vintage repro shirt I have almost finished for my husband (another half dozen or so there), a pair of doll pajamas (3 more). . . And I feel like I'm forgetting something, and not even taking into consideration my future projects. So, that's a lot of buttonholes! I think I need to somehow get a machine into my life that can do buttonholes. . . Well it is my birthday in a few weeks, after all. . . ;)

Monday, June 2, 2014

Hopp Cardigan Finished & Ginny Cardigan In Progress

This is a project I did back in September/October of last year, and if you've seen my Ravelry, you'll already have seen it!



This is the "Hopp" (or "Hope") cardigan by Yarn-Madness. I was lucky enough to be a tester for this pattern, and am happy to report that it's a great pattern! It's easy to follow, knit up fairly quickly, and the result is beautiful and fits nicely. I would knit this one again!



I made mine in Berroco's "Ultra Alpaca" in the Orchid colorway, and scored some beautiful glass buttons on Etsy to add an extra something special. The buttons are all flowers, and all the same color, but the design on each one is slightly different, which I thought was fun.



So that catches me up on finished knitting projects, but I might as well go ahead and post about the most recent unfinished knitting project too:



This is the "Ginny Cardigan" from Interweave Knits' "Unofficial Harry Potter Knits." I started it back in September and worked steadily on it before and after knitting Hopp during the test period, but then I wandered away from the regular knitting kick I'd been on. Every so often I pick it up and do a few rounds on the sleeve, but then I get distracted by assorted sewing projects again. ;)

Speaking of sewing projects. . . I'll post about those tomorrow!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Agatha Cardigan

So, it would appear I'm VERY behind in posting! I'm going to try to do a post a day until I get caught up. (Which actually shouldn't take long since I do far more historic costuming than I do modern!)

For starters, my finished Agatha cardigan!



I actually finished and blocked this back in December, but didn't get around to sewing the buttons on until last week. And, I went with some plain pink buttons, preferring to save my fancy, expensive, sparkly pink ones for a future project.



The sleeves took me so long! But, they are pretty!



And, the back view. This was definitely the most complicated knitting project I'd taken on to date, with all the different lace patterns going on. Sadly, I never really wear this sweater. It's really bulky and heavy, yet doesn't provide much warmth, so it's not one I turn to for practical reasons. . . And, it's got lots of space in the shoulder area, which is the opposite of what tends to work for me since I have quite narrow shoulders. Finally, I should have shortened the pattern by quite a bit for my short waist. I thought I might be okay since it's designed to hit at the waist, but it's even too long on the dress form, and on top of that, since my waist is much higher up than the "average" person's, I should have taken out a couple of repeats of the lace pattern. So, it sort of takes up space on my shelf, but, it's so pretty and pink! So there's that. ;)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

10th Anniversary Party Dress

Over the weekend, my husband and I celebrated ten years of being married! We threw a party at the place we originally got married at, which was pretty much a second wedding reception, minus gifts and bridal attire. . . However, I could not miss the chance to make something special to wear! I decided to run with the inspiration of "swans" because that's sort of the theme of the restaurant, and was also a sort-of theme of our reception too (featured in things like little swans as favors). This is what I came up with:



And let me tell you, I am ridiculously happy with it! I think it might be one of my absolute favorite things I've ever made, in fact. :)

My sketch, before-hand:



At this point, I knew I wanted black lace over white, and a black velvet band at the waist with bow in the back, but hadn't gone fabric shopping. (I did have the black velvet ribbon in the stash though; I had bought many yards of it to trim an 1860s ball gown which I haven't yet felt inspired to do!)



My husband was so awesome and drove me into Boston to two fabric shops until I got what I needed! I didn't find the pointy lace I was looking for, but I like this gently scalloped lace as well! The white fabric is some sort of synthetic taffeta-ish fabric, and it's white but with this neat sheen, which made me think of moonlight reflecting on a lake. Perfect for a swan-inspired dress! And the cameo was something I dreamed up in my head, went hunting for, and found on eBay. How lucky was that?!



My Mom brought her nice camera and snapped a few pictures of us on the very same gazebo where we had wedding pictures taken. We got there just in time to get pictures before the sunset, so it worked out perfectly!



I straight up love the way the bow at the back turned out! It's really a mock bow, sewn on each side of the zipper, with the idea that, once the zipper was up, you wouldn't be able to tell. However, I had a little last-minute drama with the zipper! I checked the zipper before I put it in the dress, and so knew it worked fine. . . But when I went to get zipped in the dress? It would not go up! It would only get so far and just stick. It turns out the fancy invisible zipper foot I bought for my machine doesn't work right, and instead of perfectly sewing the zipper in like it claims it will, it actually does a crappier job than I do with just an ordinary zipper foot! Precisely what it did was sew too close to the teeth in some parts, which made it impossible for the zipper to go up. (This foot has a channel in it that you slide the teeth in to, which is supposed to unroll the edge of the zipper and stitch the perfect distance away, but clearly that did not work!) I ended up just ripping some stitches and quickly hand-basting the zipper back in place, so that I could wear the dress, and that's the bit of white you see at the back. This is going to drive me nuts, so I will for sure be going back and re-setting in the zipper properly. . . Without the evil zipper foot, thank you very much!

Zipper crisis aside, the dress was perfect, the night was super fun, and we couldn't be happier. Yay! :D