31 July 2009

160. Refashion 25: Shirred Babydoll Sundress from Men's Dress Shirt

It's been just over a year since my very first refashion, and the dress I'm about to show you has been on my mind for almost that long!

Every time I'd cut up a men's shirt and lay the sleeves out flat, I'd marvel over the amount of fabric it takes to wrap up two arms. Just looking at the shape of one of these big sleeves, it seemed to echo the shape I would expect for a shirred bust bodice -- then I'd use the shirt front and back as the dress front and back. A few months later, I picked up Simplicity 2902 and laid the pattern pieces on top of the largest men's shirt in my stash; there wasn't enough fabric for this pattern. As always, there are lots of ideas and only so much time, so I put this on the backburner in the R&D department.

Two days I ago, this idea made it back to the front burner, and I cut a men's size XL shirt, 100% cotton seersucker, and draped this babydoll dress right on Clementine.

I had most of the dress done in a couple of hours -- it was fast! This bodice style does not lend itself to standard undergarments. Despite my *ahem* diminutive upper body, I feel most comfortable wearing a bra when I am ready to face the day. That's just me. So I took a Hancock break before sewing the bodice lining and evaluated their offerings for built-in bra inserts, which I've never used before. They had an impressive array of options. The "fits cup size A/B" versions were automatically out of the running, and the only "full bra" option was this one:

In the store I'd worried that the sew-in directions would be so complicated I might be frustrated, but as you can see, when I got home I discovered that the bra insert is actually bigger than the bodice front piece. So I dropped the bra insert idea, at least for the time being, and finished construction on the dress.

Front view, as modeled by Clementine.

And the back view. Remember Clem's bust is a full inch larger than mine, when I'm wearing undergarments.

Me wearing the dress. It's comfy, though I still don't feel... protected up top. I'll probably buy some inserts or something, or make my own sew-in bra from some poly batting and bias tape.

Obligatory detail paragraph:
  • I did not cut and re-shape the skirt part of the dress and re-sew the sides. The width of this dress is the exact width of the original shirt.
  • The front of the men's shirt became the back of the dress so that the placket would be functional. I just had to add a buttonhole to the back band. (Now I need to sew on a button, haha!)
  • Draping shirred pattern pieces never goes quite the way I think it will. It looked just right pinned on the form. Cut everything, gathered the fabric with thread, put it back on the form, and it was too big. There's another gap in my draping education to fill.
  • I never know whether there will be quite enough length for a refashion to qualify as a dress. I thought this one would be a top, for sure, but it really is long enough! I ended up sewing the shirt placket from the second button from the bottom all the way to the bottom hem.
  • I was able to match the pattern for the gathered front bodice, but after sewing in the gathering, it was harder to line up than I thought. This was one of those moments I thought I might unpick the piece and work really hard to align them. Then I decided I needed to get over it and get on with it. So it doesn't look very neat but this is the nature of research and development and trial and error, I guess.
  • There was a lot of fabric left over -- the entire back yoke from the original shirt is still intact. This really surprises me! I'm thinking about adding some more random straps, you know, cause I really need the extra support. LOL
This is my optical illusion: If you stare long enough, the outwardly bending plaid design convinces you that contents are larger than they appear! ;)

It is a very easy dress/ top to just make up as you go along, and thus prob. an ideal tutorial garment. I'm just not 100% confident I can explain and photograph the steps very well... It's also very possible that one sleeve is not enough fabric to cover another woman's "dirty pillow" (I can't resist the chance to throw in that gem from Carrie). Note that one short sleeve gave enough fabric to cover both of mine! Hahahahahahahaha!!!


My thought is to try this on a larger form for a reality check, to see if a tutorial makes sense after all.

So, maybe another men's shirt refashion tutorial? Just in time for a beautiful spring. In Australia and New Zealand. Have a great weekend, everyone!

27 July 2009

159. Sing-Along & Chanel Jacket Sew-Along

Did you sing along? Be honest! Hahaha. This scene is from Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, one of my favorite recent movies -- just hysterical. This scene captures how many people I know, who were then coming of age/ entering adulthood, feel about the early 90's: we've got generally pleasant memories but are vaguely embarrassed to revisit the time. I know it's painful to see what I was wearing then! Oh brother. Thank heaven for growing and developing one's sense of personal style.

Speaking of developing my personal style, a few posts ago I shared with you some fall fashions I'm loving. One was a Chanel ensem that was striking, and Gail from My Fabrication emailed me that maybe it is a good time for a Chanel jacket refashion sew-along. Given my recent checkered past with sew-alongs (i.e. I "host" and don't actually finish the garment), I remembered Cindy from Colour By Number mentioning that she wanted to work on a Chanel jacket this year, and asked her if she would like to host. Cindy suggested we make a team blog, not really "host" it except to administer the site, and open it up to refashions OR origins (as Gail so eloquently phrased it, meaning sewn from new fabric).

So here we are! Cindy posted about this yesterday and already there's a bunch of interest both in sewing along and in watching. Big thanks to Gail and Cindy for all their ideas and work behind the scenes so far. If you're up for it, join us! We are just collecting ideas, patterns, fabric, and sew-along partners for now, with a tentative kick-off sewing date of Sept. 1 and a completion goal of Nov. 15.

And that's my specific "inspiration garment". Not the iconic Chanel jacket, but from a recent, Pre-Fall/ Winter 2009 collection. I'm more confident I'll finish this on time, as opposed to the pants, because:
  1. I have a bodice sloper
  2. Given my inspiration garment, I'll be much more focused on "couture" embellishment than couture construction
  3. I don't have emotional baggage from having failed multiple times before
But don't you worry. I'll be working on pants the last few months of 2009. What a nice end to the year with a custom Chanel-inspired jacket and custom slacks, too. In fact, what a great holiday outfit! Now I'm feeling even more inspired.....

20 July 2009

158. Coco Before Chanel

I love Audrey Tautou. I'll be cheering for this movie. Might be in a theater near us on September 25. [BTW, IMDB says it's rated PG-13 for sexual content and smoking. And smoking? First time I've seen that!]

19 July 2009

157. Sustainable: My Buy New (Clothing) Manifesto

My lucky streak is still going: I recently won a giveaway on Keiko Lynn's blog -- an $80 gift certificate to ModCloth.com! Out of some 433-ish entrants! What are the odds? (I ask that rhetorically, but if you love to figure out that sort of thing and want to tell me, that's awesome!)

When I found out I won the gift certificate (thanks ModCloth and Keiko Lynn!!!), I went straight to the site to browse around. They have so much to choose from, and most of it is more than reasonably priced. Since I've been sewing and refashioning so much, I haven't shopped all that much for new clothes in the last year. Plus, I'm picky and can have impossibly high and obnoxious standards when I buy. To guide my shopping trip through Modcloth, I recalled a set of shopping rules that guide me and continue to morph (BTW my #1 priority when buying new is that the garment is sutainable both construction-wise and style-wise -- I want to wear it in 5 or 10 years):

1. I'll only buy a garment I would not happily sew myself, preferably quickly.
ModCloth has a ton of cute shirts, any of which I could make for myself from a men's shirt and a couple hours' work. But I'm not tackling a swimsuit. At least not this summer. And this one is just adorable:

I've shared my lack of luck/ experience with sewing pants. Haven't tried shorts but I anticipate similar challenges. Here are a pair of shorts I'd have loved to have worn every single day this summer:

2. I'll only buy a garment if the fabric is so unique I would have to scour the globe for it, and even then I might not find it.
Border prints and anything with a robot printed on it would fall in this category. I love whimsical, colorful bird print fabric but there isn't nearly enough to choose from in a fabric store, online or IRL.

3. I'll be OK buying a garment if copying it would bring me no joy or wouldn't teach me something I want to learn.
Rows of painstaking pintucks? Gorgeous embroidery? Someone else do it. I'm taking a nap. A corollary of this is I can justify buying clothes in fabrics I am not comfortable sewing yet. In the past this applied to knits; currently it applies to slippery and delicate fabrics, like silk georgette.

4. I'll consider buying a garment if its style is unexpected for me but so What I Need Right Now.
Despite liking clean lines and structured shapes, I don't need military. I've worn military-style clothes in the past and they're a bit sharp. But with Michael Jackson's recent passing I'm a little more inclined to see the band leader crossover potential and go for something like this:

5. I will buy it if it fits perfectly and looks perfect as is. Why mess with perfection?
Here we hit that tricky conundrum we face when clothes shopping online: It might look like perfection, but how will it fit? I'm betting on this one. I'll let you know how it turns out:

18 July 2009

156. Dear AngelaPea and Umatji...

... Will you please leave me your email address in a comment so I can contact you about the meme? When I tried to reply to your comments, they weren't linked to your personal email addresses. I have visited both of your blogs, and can't find your email addresses there or on your blogger profiles. Thanks! :)

I've been offline most of the week with the workshop and then I just felt kind of brain-fried yesterday. (BTW, did any of you see The Fashion Show? If so, did you vote for a collection? Guess next week's is the last episode of the season. And soon our beloved Project Runway will be back! Just a month away now!) Getting back in the swing of things today and I look forward to catching up with everyone's blogs! Hope you're enjoying your weekend!

15 July 2009

155. Blog Goodness + A New Way to Pay It Forward

Oh my oh my oh my. Seems like every emotion is hitting me three times as intensely these days (I have surely left a comment at your blog this past week in which I repeat myself three times).What's causing this emotional intensity for me?

Part of it is preparing to deliver a 2-day workshop on Fierce Conversations, which is a very meaningful and personal honor I'll share with you sometime if I haven't already. It's kind of intense.

And part of it is that tons of people, all over the world, in every country and at every socioeconomic level, have been experiencing stress and contraction in their lives. I read the news and I read blogs and I know and talk with real people, so the pain and stress are very real to me as they are to most of us. And magnified at the current moment.

And we've spent a lot of time with local friends since returning from our June trip to Vegas. We're lucky to have such great friends.

And, frankly, this whole blogging thing has grown into something I cherish. It's been about a year since people other than my husband actually started reading this blog (and I wouldn't even have called him a regular reader, if you know what I mean), and I have gotten to know so many of you at various levels and enjoy these unique friendships. You may remember a blog giveaway I hosted a few months back? The winner is a young lady who lives in Israel named Selvi. A friend of hers visited Austin and stopped by my house this past Sunday to bring me a lovely thank-you gift from Selvi, all the way from Israel. It's a handmade ceramic pomegranate, and symbolizes fertility and creativity.

Selvi's friend stayed for an hour over summer cake, fresh sweet cherries, and nice conversation. I thought about how that giveaway created two long-distance friendships, and how generous it was of Selvi and her friend to commit to bringing a precious and fragile gift from so far away!

And earlier this week, Dana at MADE posted about Craft Hope.

And two days ago, Angela at RiAnge Creations posted the coolest pay-it-forward meme I have seen so far. I'm so so so in love with this idea that I'm going to post it now, get absorbed in the Fierce workshop for a couple of days, and hopefully come back to find 5 names and start generating ideas for 5 pay it forward gifts.

I just want to say that, if you have stumbled across this post, and you're feeling the squeeze of life, and you need a pick-me-up, and you need to have someone show you some care and you're number 6, go stalk the blogs of the first 5 who respond until they post their pay-it-forward and get on their list. Seriously. That, to me, is exactly what this meme is about. It's about caring for those who need it, and passing that on once our soul has been refreshed in some small way.

I love it I love it I love it!

I am entering into the following agreement with the first 5 people who comment on this post and then commit to doing the same on their blog. Just read below and if you feel up to the task copy the following into your blog and leave me a comment.

I am willing to post overseas (I am in the U.S.), but remember you must commit on your blog to do the same for others.

  1. I make no guarantees that you will like what I send you. But you may be pleasantly surprised. It will definitely be sewing/craft related.
  2. What I send will be made just for you, with love, by my own hands. You'd be surprised how much of our personalities does come through online.
  3. I will complete all 5 gifts this year - 2009.
  4. I will not give you any clue what it’s going to be. It will be something made in the real world, that you can touch and feel, and not something cyber.
  5. I reserve the right to do something strange. It may be weird or beautiful. Or it may be monstrous and annoying. If you find it truly horrendous, just let me know. Perhaps you'll send it forward to someone who will absolutely love it.
  6. In return, all you need to do is post this text on your blog and make 5 things for the first 5 to respond to your blog post.
  7. Send your mailing address - after I contact you to confirm.
Everyone is welcome. I guarantee that you will receive something from me providing you do the same for 5 other people in your blog post. Are you game? Let's do this and I can't wait to send you what I hope you'll consider a nice surprise!!!!!!!!!


08 July 2009

154. Sustainable: Refashioning the Clothes I've Made

It's hard to believe I've been sewing long enough to refashion the clothes I've sewn for myself, and blogging long enough to refer to the original posts from these garments' debuts to the world! This time I don't mean dramatic transformation, and I don't even mean finishing a UFO. I'm talkin' about refashioning clothes I've made for myself that have languished in the closet because of a little something in their look or fit that is less than ideal.

First up is Simplicity BBW 3964. In Flickr, the pic of the original dress is my most popular picture, i.e. Favorited by more people than any of my other photos, which mystifies me because I hate the way the cap sleeves look. I never liked the angel flutter sleeves that come in the pattern, so I followed a tutorial to convert the existing longer sleeves into cap sleeves. Except, knowing almost nothing about sleeves, I followed the directions to a T and didn't shave off any of the excess fullness, so the resulting cap sleeves were almost as crazy as the original flutters.

I've worn it maybe 5 times since I made it. I love the shape and length of the bodice, but it's just not my favorite dress because of those sleeves. So I took them off. This process brought back a few memories of how I struggled to sew them on and finish them in a manner consistent with the finishing on the rest of the dress; I had to unpick five or six sets of stitches just to get those sleeves off!

The other dress is a summer dress from last year, sewn from New Look 6731. I didn't realize when I sewed it that the pattern is for a tunic with no dress option! I put it on and thought, "Wow, I didn't petite this dress but it's soooo short! How would a 5'4" woman wear this and feel comfortable?" Checked the pattern envelope and saw that a 5'4" woman would wear it as a tunic and feel very comfortable.

Didn't stop me from wearing it as a dress on hot days anyway! I was careful to not bend over when wearing it, so as not to increase likelihood of appearing on Daddy Likey's walk of shame, Don't Show-cha your Chocha. I even think in the original photo that my hands are in my pockets to help push the hem down to a more modest length. Mental note to self: when you use your toes to pick things up from the floor to keep from bending over and flashing the world, your dress is too short.

And it didn't stop people from liking the dress. This is probably one of my most popular dresses IRL. Friends and strangers would ask me about the dress every time I wore it, I guess because it was something that didn't look like you'd be able to get in a store but something they would want to wear. Now, with extra length, it's something I want to wear a lot, too. :)

Had some extra scraps in the scrap drawer so I pieced together an extra 4 inches to add to the bottom hem so it is now a comfortable knee length. And my toes can rest.

[Wondering why the "now" pics are so blurry? I'd tell you if I knew! They looked fine in the camera viewer, and fine when I downloaded them to my laptop, but when they got to Picasa they looked totally blurry. But you get the gist, right?]

02 July 2009

153. More giveaway news, the Pollyanna Dress, etc.

There are so many short items to cover that I will number them:

1. What fun responses to the honesty meme from my last post! Keep 'em coming. If you're getting a kick out of it, too, please consider yourself tagged and let's read your honest truth. :)

2. Columbia Lily Designs is hosting a giveaway, too! Found out about it after my last post, but do visit her blog for giveaway info.

3. I still have one dress from my Las Vegas trip last month that I didn't blog about. I'd wanted to use the immaculately-fit bodice from New Look 6723/ Sid & Nancy dress and add a short circle skirt at the natural waist. I wore this to my niece's graduation, and apparently it was a good choice for visibility from the graduation floor (my niece said that as she searched the audience for us, her nearby friend said, "Your parents are near the lady in the yellow dress.").

The bodice is self-lined and I have finally settled into a preferred method for hemming circle skirts: Serge the bottom edge in a thread color close to the fabric, press a hem the width of the serging (in my case, 1/4"), and sew this very narrow hem. So easy. Yes, it requires a serger, and yes, it's worth it.

Clementine clearly ate too many Cheetos when I was in Vegas. There was a little struggle to get the back zipper zipped up. OK, just kidding. She can't eat; she's a dress form. The dress is actually comfy for me to wear -- it's got just enough ease -- and at times like this I'm reminded of what that one inch difference between our busts can really mean for fit.

And Carmen... she always has to do the rabbit ears when there's a shot she's not in. Such a camera hog. Photobomber.

4. I've been struggling a little with how to respond to comments on my blog. I've in the past only responded via email to those who leave their email addresses, or I've responded with my own comment if someone has asked a question but didn't leave their email address. Without an email address, at times I would seek out the commenter's blog and leave a message there but it felt awkward to answer a question they asked on my blog in the comments of their blog!

I'll respond with my own comment from now on -- just FYI in case you would like to start checking the box in the comment form saying you want to get follow-up comments emailed to you. I've been doing this on Facebook and it works aaaaaaalright.

5. I've been a sewing and patternmaking maniac. I haven't posted several of the most intensive projects because they are leading up to debuting that new independent clothing label I mentioned a few months back. I think I'll be ready to "open shop" in the next couple of weeks so I can reveal a few projects I've been working on and what I've been learning along the way.

6. Our Favorite Swedish Sewist (tm), Johanna Lu, just published a very considered (and because I totally agree with her, a very accurate) review of The Fashion Show. Coincidentally, about a week ago, I sounded off about it again via email to Kyle, who suggested another blog post about it. Rather than hijack Johanna Lu's comments, I figured I'd jot down a couple other thoughts about Our Favorite Substitute for Project Runway (tm):
  • TFS needs to find its voice, which is ironically the same advice they have given to their contestants. They kind of rush through the show, like a few designers rush through making their garments, and by the end of the hour I'm trying to find the "point of view" of the show just as the judges are struggling to see their designers' points of view.
  • There is very little focus on the creative process, which I'd like to see more of.
  • TFS gives their contestants equal screen time, but democratic coverage simply isn't as interesting as getting to know a few of their folks better.
  • They've moved away from showing judges' comments during the runway shows and saving them for the judging, which I prefer.
  • When choosing to eliminate a designer who is not impressive nearly every week vs. a designer who's pretty strong but had a very bad week, they eliminate the weaker (overall) designer. This is much more crowd-pleasing but also much more predictable.
And again, having said all of that... I keep watching. :)

01 July 2009

152. Blog awards and someone else's giveaway

Actually, let's do the giveaway announcement first: Novita at Sew I Do is hosting a giveaway of a really fun, bright bag to celebrate the opening of her Etsy shop. The deadline to enter is July 4 so head on over if you'd like to check it out.

I have four blog awards to share that have come in over the past month! The first came from Melissa at Moonshine and Piffle, about a month ago. I recall reading about the award mere days before our long trip and letting Melissa know it might take me a while to pass it along, but that I was grateful for her acknowledgement and I would. Well, I went to her blog yesterday to read the rules, etc. and, inexplicably, I kept getting referred to a domain placeholder web page. For those of you who have not been to Melissa's blog before, she is an amazing photographer. Her blog is just a thing of beauty. She herself is adorable and so is her writing style. And if that's not enough, she recently returned from a long-awaited, much-deserved trip to Paris, photos and all. If you can see her blog just fine, please let me know. Otherwise, my dear Melissa, if you are reading this, something's up with your fine blog. Please keep us fans and followers posted. xo

The One Lovely Blog Award from Lulu at Gus & Lulu:

A One Lovely Blog Award from Meg at Elsie Marley, though this award looks different:

The Honest Scrap Award from Catherine G:

The two Lovely Blog Awards have different rules but the same intent, which is to share lovely blogs which are new to me. I'm always in awe of the many, many beautiful blogs in the world that I just find out about, but it's never a secret because I add them to my blog list in the sidebar.

The Honest Scrap Award is one I'd not seen before and sounds fun, but involves a game of truth or dare but without the dare. Ten things. Let's see...
  1. Austin is great but I am having escapist fantasies of moving to a cooler climate.
  2. I eat really healthy meals and really awful, junky snacks and desserts. I like to think it all balances out in the end, but fear a two-inch layer of fat surrounds my heart.
  3. I love black clothes.
  4. My son's and my favorite TV show to watch together is So You Think You Can Dance.
  5. I will easily drop $6 for a plastic toy to put on the shelf, but have a real problem paying $6 for parking. It's the principle...
  6. I adore the whole Japanese street culture thing, even though I'm prob. way too old for it.
  7. I work on aging gracefully, i.e. accepting that I am not meant to eat such spicy and acidic food anymore because of the acid reflux and heartburn.
  8. Most of the time I think I'm 6 feet tall and a big bear of a woman, and I often act like it.
  9. Sometimes I dream of eating meat again. The desire doesn't feel the same in real life.
  10. I'm terrified of the teeth-falling-out phase of my son's childhood.
I'm to pass on the award to 7 other bloggers but I'll pass it on to anyone reading who wants to fess up! I'll read your blog confessional. Tell us the honest truth. I dare you.