Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sneak Peek and Give Away Winners!

It's straight to business today! Ladies and gentlemen, a sneak peek of the finished dress:

And by finished, what I mean is that there are still one or two little things that need to be slipstitched on the inside. No one but me would know if I don't get to them. And it needs a good final pressing.

Next, here are the winners of the Give Away:

The book on fleece is going to Tanit-Isis! And the book on felt, to Mar-Mar. Congrats, ladies. I'll get them out early next week if you email me your deets at Clio[dot]Phineas[at]gmail[dot]com.

Have a lovely weekend everyone and stay tuned for pictures of me in the dress!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Sleeves: Taking the Show on the Road

By "the show" I mean the Project Dress, of course. Here are the two sleeves, which I stitched up while traveling.

It's hard to believe that this and this, turned into something that looks so beautiful.  I need to amend my earlier complaint about bias cut georgette. It definitely is difficult to work with on a sewing machine. BUT for sewing by hand, it was fine. And I'm thrilled with how it looks and how it handled.
That said, it took many hours of stitching away diligently. I spent most of both flights (12 hours or so of actual sewing) plus 2 hours a night, 3-4 nights while I was in London, usually between midnight and 2am when insomnia struck.  So, these sleeves represent about 20 hours of sewing.

For sewing on the airplane, I was nervous that even if I had scissors that were TSA approved (ie: less than 4 inches), they might be confiscated anyway. This happened to me flying home from Canada once since I hadn't considered that their standard might be different (in the UK it is 6cm or 2.36 inches). So, I bought this:

A yarn cutter pendant

Inside those notches are razor blades which you can't get out or cut yourself on. I just put it on a chain and into my jewelry bag in my carry on. It worked beautifully.

My other tools were silk thread (LOVE it for hand sewing), John James sharps (the best needles for hand sewing IMHO), and Thread Heaven.

Heaven for your thread

We have to have a little talk about Thread Heaven. For quite some time, it's been my dirty little sewing secret. You see, I've done other projects which have required rather extensive hand sewing. And other sewists who have done the same have touted the benefit of using beeswax to coat the thread. This would mean running individual strands through beeswax, then pressing the threads with an iron between paper towels or paper and then getting to the sewing. I think that you'll agree when I say that I'm not the kind of sewista who shies away from labor intensive sewing projects. But pressing beeswax into thread is not something that I ever forsee myself doing. Honestly, I think it would be just one thing too many - the straw that breaks the camel's back for me. And Thread Heaven does the same job, but I've never heard it mentioned in the sewing blogosphere as a suitable substitute.  So, my question is: have you heard of or used Thread Heaven or is it, like I suspect, my dirty little cheat? Will I now be branded a heretic? I hope not, but c'est la vie!

Fianlly, there was zero direction in the pattern instructions on what kind of stitch to use to attach the strips of bias to the sleeves. I experimented with a few stitches and then settled on the pickstitch. The decorative side (the picks side) is on the underside, so lost. But because it's a mini backstitch, it's a strong stitch and allowed me to keep the stitching completely invisible. So, I think it was a good call on my part.

Anyway, I'm in full-on crunch mode. Tomorrow I hope to have nothing left to do but hemming.  Ladies and gents, cross your fingers and toes for me, please!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Give Away!

Well, it's chaos here. It's Sunday and I've arrived home from London. Phin is in Jamaica for a funeral and won't be home until tomorrow. I'm jet lagged and can't find the camera. 

So, to start off the week, instead of talking about the hand sewn sleeves of my dress - which are fully done - but not showing any pictures, let's just do a giveaway. M'kay?

A few books have come my way recently, and I don't think I'll get to use them in the near future - Sew What! Fleece by Carol Jessup and Kata Gold's Hand Stitched Felt (updates 9/26: apologies - I had the name of this book wrong at first! I hope you realized I meant "Hand Stitched FELT" and not fleece! It's the jet lag - that's my story and I'm sticking to it!). And even thought it's only September, I can't help but thinking that the holidays are coming and these have some excellent crafty gift ideas. (Or some cute things for you, too!) Both would be great for a beginner (a sewist-to-be!) or for someone more experienced who's interested in some fun and easy projects.

Anyway, leave a comment saying whether you are interested in both books or just one of them before Wednesday at noon (EDT). I'll do the drawing that night.

More on the sleeves and the dress to come. With the wedding on Friday, we're in the final countdown and it's crunch time!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

One Sleeve Down, One to Go

Greetings from London! Apologies for the shoddy picture quality - my phone is not so smart or good at taking photographs. Oh well. 

Jet lag is thoroughly fueling my sewing. I am done with sleeve #1 and have made good progress on sleeve #2. Let me tell you, there is nothing quick about sewing these sleeves.

I hope you are all having productive and sew-y weeks! Cheers!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Honeymoon Cake: 1 Part Lace, 2 Parts Silk

The project dress is basted together and the sleeve pieces are packed and heading with me to London this morning. So, this weekend I took a momentary break from sewing for a side project related to Magenta's wedding: A Lingerie Cake.

Dr Kiang did a MUCH better job than me at making panties into flowers!
Magenta didn't want a bachelorette party, per se. We're kinda past the age where a crazy all-night do is appealing. So, I organized a dinner in her honor, just for the close circle of long-time friends, as a last hurrah for her single years. The centerpiece was an all grown up version of the ubiquitous baby shower diaper cake created by me and Dr Kiang. We covered and filled hat boxes with lingerie, small bottles of liquor and other honeymoon-appropriate, um, accessories. Sheila inspired the project (thanks, Sheila!). It was a big hit.

Anyway, I'm off but have a few posts and giveaways planned. Sadly - very very! - I'll be working from almost the moment I get off the plane until I head back to Heathrow. And I'll have both day and evening commitments. It will not be an easy week. Next time I go to London, I am definitely going to add a few days on to the end of my trip and see if I can meet with some other sewistas.  

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pickstitched Zipper and Re-Give Away Winner!

Well, I am just about where I want to be with the dress. And here is my beautiful hand picked zipper.

Isn't it lovely?  I used Susan Khalje's tutorial from Threads. Really it was not hard to do and seems very secure. In fact, I may have saved time by hand sewing, since I normally end up wrestling with a zipper before getting it right. One really great tip that I picked up from Kenneth King was to use masking or painters tape to help you make your stitches even - cut the tape however wide you want the stitches away from CB and then mark every 1/4" to 3/8" on the tape so you know where to make each stitch. My stitches are 1/4" apart, and 1/4" away from CB. I used painters tape after carefully testing that it would not leave any mark or residue on the fabric.

And now for the Re-Give Away!
Since the lovely Dr Kiang is in town visiting me, I let her pull a name from my new purple aligator clutch.

Allie Mae, Threads #135 is yours. Congrats! Just let me know where to send it and I'll get it in the mail asap. Email me at Clio[dot]Phineas[at]gmail[dot]com.

Have a great weekend everyone! On Sunday, I'll be sewing my up the dress. More then!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

More Progress and Re-Give Away

A few more tidbits of progress!

Here are all the many bias strips which will be the sleeves and neck ruffle of the dress.

Sleeve Flower Ruffles

Neck/Collar ruffles -pleats basted in

Last, I know this is a bizarre little thing to be thrilled about, but I'm tickled with my piping.


It's a layer of the crepe back satin underlined in organza with a piece of cording. I used my narrow zipper foot to sew it. I've never made piping before, and this was a cinch and came out looking just perfect. And now my beady little brain is thinking about all the projects I could add piping to! Does that happen to you? Also, although this is only one line of stitching, this is the first piece of the satin that I've sewn by machine; I'm considerably relieved that it sewed up so beautifully and without any problems.

On to the Re-Giveaway
So, it's been more than two weeks since I announced the Threads Magazine Issue #135 give away winner, and I haven't heard a peep from her, either via email or on the blog. So, I'm going to draw a new winner on Friday.  If you signed up the first time, I'll just re-enter you. If you'd like to be in it this time, just leave a comment by midnight (EDT) on Thursday.

Here are the deets, as previously posted:

One of the things I did to prepare for this dress sewing marathon is buy Threads issue 135 (Feb/Mar 2008) which has an article by Susan Khalje on sewing the perfect Little Black Dress. It arrived on Friday. Um, twice. Somehow, I must have clicked two times or something, but it appears that I ordered two copies. So, my unexpected gain is your gain, too. Just let me know in a comment (by Wednesday - midnight EDT) (Now by Thursday midnight EDT) if you'd like the magazine and I will do a drawing for it. It has some terrific articles in addition to the LBD one including articles on 5 essential hand stitches (I'm already practicing my pickstitch), Creating Couture Lingerie, Underlinings vs Interlining, Bias cut sleeves, and an interview with Charles Kleibacker. It's a really good issue. (And now that I am using it, I can doubly endorse it: it's great!)

Oh, and don't fear, there are other, new giveaways coming...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Progress on the Project Dress

Well, it had to be done. With Magenta's wedding approaching and a business trip to London looming, I cancelled my weekend plans in order to sequester myself for a sewing blitz. I spent both mornings cutting, both afternoons at the sewing machine, and both evenings hand sewing.

I made the decision to underline the dress in silk organza. Even though this meant more cutting, I think it was smart for a number of reasons. First, the crepe back satin is very soft, drapey and stretches a little; the organza will support and stabilize it. Also, I've transferred all of the pattern markings to the organza, which has spared me the need to use tailors tacks to transfer the markings. I'm completely inept with tailors tacks. Finally, the underlining will give me a way to sew the hem invisibly (I'll sew it to the underlining and not thru to the satin).

Here's the progress report, in pictures.

The dress pieces are cut in both satin and in the organza underlining and basted together by hand with silk thread.

I also basted in the pleats on the front bodice. (Side note: I'm in love with this fabric. It looks so very luxe in person. And the draping - even underlined - is gorgeous!)

The sleeves, which will be coming with me to London, are basted and all the markings are transferred to the organza side.

This is what I will be hand stitching in London.

I spent a large chunk of yesterday cutting and then sewing bias strips of all shapes and sizes in silk georgette. I do not recommend this. The bias cut georgette stretches to an unbelievable extent, getting very long and narrow, which distorts all the markings. What a pain!


Finally, I sewed up the lining, which is ready to be dropped into the dress whenever it's done. The lining front has two fisheye darts, which run from the underside of the bust to the waist. I had never sewn a fish eye dart before - what great shape they give! 

And that is where I am! This week's tasks include hand picking the zipper, basting all the pleats on the neckline ruffles, and basting the dress together.

I hope my blog doesn't get too boring over the next 2 1/2 weeks. It's mostly going to be progress reports on the dress. So, I plan to also throw in a few giveaways for those of you who do stop by to check on my progress. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Labor (on Sleeves) Day

Well, vacation couldn't last forever. So, on Monday, it was back to the Craft Lounge to work on the Project dress.

Before I left for vacation, I set in the sleeves and realized they'd need some work. I didn't realize quite how much until I tried the muslin on again. I must have set the sleeves in 50 times on Monday; it took all day to get right. Initially, I had some pulling in the front (both on the dress/armskye and on the sleeve itself) and a lot of bagging in the back.

I'm not all that experienced with fitting sleeves, and diagnosing the problem(s) was challenging. I'm pretty sure I tried every sleeve alteration out there - rotating, making larger, making smaller, raising the cap, lowering the cap, changing the armskye...  Honestly, it was a struggle, but I think the sleeves are now looking pretty good.

Hurray!! A vertical grain line!

This dress is pretty much all about the sleeves, and there were a few unhappy moments when I was thinking that I should give up. Ultimately, I added 1/2 inch to the front of the sleeve, tapering to nothing at the cap/shoulder seam, I made the matching part of the armskye smaller/tighter so there was less pulling across the bust/arm pit area, and, last, I made the back of the sleeve about 3/8 inch smaller tapering to nothing at the cap to get rid of the bagging. After I took this picture I took a teeny tiny tuck on each side of the bodice neckline to tighten it up and stop it from doing that little dip in the front.

Since I added/subtracted nearly the same amount to the front and back of the sleeve, I shouldn't have problems sewing the flower and ruffles on to it. I'll just shift the design to the front a tiny bit.

So, it's on to cutting and sewing the dress, which I am a bit nervous about. I plan to underline the sleeve in organza so that I have a very stable base for the hand stitching and something to transfer the flower pattern to that will not risk marking the outside fabric. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Yarn Bombing in Paradise

Well, my vacation came, was wonderful and is now over. Big sigh.

For those of you who knit, I thought you would appreciate this yarn bombed (yarn stormed if you are on the other side of the pond) palm on the beach in Sint Maarten.

Phin and the Yarn Bombed Palm
A fun time was had by all, but especially my 5 year old nephew, Linus. He can be a bit mischievous. So when I told him I wanted to take him on a lunchtime pizza date - just the two of us - he somehow finagled a "pizza and waterslide" date out of it. This is us after about seven trips down the 3 story on-board waterslide. The kid has no fear.

This is his sneaky smile - when he knows he's getting away with something.

Other highlights for me included scuba diving with Phin in St Thomas - I saw some huge sting rays and 2 turtles - followed by some beers and conch fritters at a local joint overlooking the bay. I also loved a catamaran snorkel trip with my parents and nephews in Sint Maarten, and celebrating my parents 40th wedding anniversary on board the ship.

Here's a little slide show of the trip. Honestly, I wore LOTS of things that I made - the jumpsuit, the seersucker dress, my flowered pants, some tops, a beach cover up... And NONE of them seemed to get photographed. Sigh.