Category Archives: sewing

achievement unlocked: Vogue 9112 dress

Hey, look at me, being all alive & stuff! I kind of fell off the face of the Earth for a while. Ramona started kindergarten at the end of August & it was a far more challenging transition than I anticipated. There’s been a lot of bullying & some issues with school administration. I don’t really want to go into all the details in a public-ish forum like this, but suffice to say, taking care of Ramona has being eating up a lot of my physical & emotional energy recently. Obviously I have hours everyday when she is at school (like right now!), but it hasn’t been the blissful, productive idyll for which I’d hoped. Oh well.

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Ramona on her first day of school!

Accordingly, I didn’t get a ton of sewing done in September. In fact, I had a good solid ten days when I was having some kind of weird anxiety attack & was too freaked out to even go to the studio at all. I didn’t do nothing. I got a lot of cross stitching done during that time. But the cross stitch projects I do are so complex, I’d only be updating this blog like twice a year if that’s all I ever wrote about here. …Wait a minute…I kind of only update here twice a year anyway…

I made some curtains for the house, but I think the only other sewing project I actually finished in September was a dress commission for my friend Alex. She was going to be in a wedding party & needed a black dress, but she was having trouble finding something off the rack that fit properly, both physically & aesthetically. So I offered my services.

Alex sent me a bunch of different images of the style she was after–kind of a lagenlook thing. She definitely wanted a drape-y cowl situation, but she also wanted a relatively fitted bodice, & an above-the-knee skirt length, since she is pretty short. This is the kind of challenge I really enjoy. It’s why I took up sewing in the first place, really. Because so often, there is a mismatch between what a person wants to wear & what is available for them to buy in ready-to-wear. Alex is a small person who wants to wear witchy, asymmetrical layers, but she doesn’t want to look like a walking laundry pile. That means these layers & proportions need to be scaled properly for her. Fun!

Based on what she showed me, I gave her an assortment of pattern options. She chose Vogue 9112, a Marcy Tilton design. She liked the interesting collar, the draping, & the sleevelessness. It’s a really interesting pattern. It’s seventeen different pieces, with only the pocket bags & armscye bindings being the same as any others. It’s mostly extremely convex curves being sewn to very concave curves, with some gathering on a few pieces & a bit of pleating on the collar.

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official pattern photo

We went on a field trip to the Mill End store to choose fabric. Alex settled on a black wool suiting with subtle shimmery silve pinstripes. I wasn’t thrilled, because I’m allergic to wool & I knew my hands were going to be an itchy mess the whole time I worked on the dress. But it was an excellent fabric choice for the occasion & it worked really well with the design.

I took great care to cut accurately & on-grain, & carefully marked each pattern piece. My precision in prep combined with the excellent drafting made the whole thing a joy to sew.It could have been an absolute nightmare, but careful staystitching & plenty of experience sewing curves (thanks to all the bramaking I do) helped me construct everything without a single pucker & without having to rip out any seams. The fabric ravelled like crazy, & even with steam, it didn’t hold a press very well. I briefly considered topstitching the seamlines to flatten them out more easily, but I was making the dress for a wedding & topstitching has a casual vibe, in my eyes. So I just used lots & lots & lots of steam & exercised a lot more patience than I probably would have had I been making the dress for myself, & I got there in the end.

IMG_7743on the dress form

We did have to make quite a few adjustments to achieve the fit Alex was after. She wanted something that was relatively fitted in the bodice, so she wouldn’t look like she’d just wrapped a bolt of fabric around herself & called it a dress. Based on her measurements, I cut a straight medium, but we wound up taking the side seams in about 3″ on either side (grading from nothing at the armscye to the full 3″ just above the pockets). We made even more alterations to the back seam, which is thanfully a straight seam running from neck to hem. We took in the neckline 1.5″ & then curved the seam to take in a full 8″ at the waistline, grading back to nothing at the hem. I was worried that this was going to radically effect the grainline, & thus, the drape, but to my surprise, we had no problems. I did re-cut the collar the match the new neckline circumfrence. I originally seamed the back of the collar to take out the excess, but I hated how the seamline looked. Starting the collar from scratch also gave me a chance to miter the hem instead of just folding & stitching, which made for a more professional finish.

We didn’t adjust the length at all. The dress hits mid-thigh on the models on the pattern envelope. Alex is only 5 feet tall, & the dress hit her just above the knee, which was exactly what she wanted.

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finished dress, hanging up in my studio

I am pretty thrilled with how well it all came together. I think the fit is spot-on, & I’m really proud of my sewing. The only thing I’d change is maybe hand-stitching the arm & neck facings & the hem. I followed the pattern directions & topstitched, but since none of the other seamlines are topstitched, I think the dress would look more elegant if it was hand-finished. I also think the topstitching at the neckline & arms is too far out from seams. I mean, I did it as the pattern instructed, but it’s like 3/8″ away from the seams & it just looks clumsy to me. I prefer to be about 1/8″ out.

42315314_10155533336671962_2579738811755921408_oAlex at the wedding!

Hopefully I will get more sewing done in October. In fact, I have already finished a couple of projects! More to come!

 

 

reflections & plans for the new year

I suppose it’s the time of year to do a little reflecting on the past year, & share some thoughts about what 2018 may hold.

1. I beat cancer! Not that there was a huge amount of doubt. I knew from the initial diagnosis that my endocervical adenocarcinoma had been caught early & was very treatable. I was fortunate enough to avoid chemo & radiation. I had a hysterectomy on Valentine’s Day & the pathology came back clear. I was released from oncology in April, & now I just have to stay on top of doing annual screenings for the next 25 years. The annual screenings for a person who no longer has a cervix or uterus, & a history of such a particularly pesky & challenging type of cancer, are kind of a big deal & no fun at all, but hey–things could be a lot worse.

I feel like I am still in the process of re-building my physical strength, as the post-surgical recovery was enormously taxing. I’m also still struggling emotionally. After Ramona was born, I had hoped & planned to have another baby at some point. I had a late-ish (ten weeks) miscarriage in the summer of 2015. But being diagnosed with cancer a year later cemented our status as an only-child family, & I am still having a tough time making my peace with that. This was reinforced the other day, when we met up in Boston with some friends we hadn’t seen in a few years. The mom in the family is pregnant with her second child & did not let us know in advance. So, just a PSA on that front: please don’t surprise your friends & loved ones with your pregnancy. Especially if you know they have a situation going on that might make pregnancy/babies a sensitive topic for them. But even if you don’t know that, as so many people experience miscarriage & infertility without sharing it openly. All you have to do is say, “Just so you’re not surprised when you see me–I’m pregnant.” This lets your friend process the information on her own time, privately, so that she can be happy for you when you see each other in person. & then you don’t have a situation where someone is sobbing in the middle of the Predators of North America exhibit.

2. Ramona starts school this fall! & this is big because it means that we need to finally decide where we want to live. We talked about moving back to Massachusetts a year ago. (If you don’t know, Jared was born & raised in Massachusetts, in the Boston area, & I moved there in 2001. That’s where we met & started dating. We moved to Kansas in 2009 so he could get his PhD at KU.) But we decided to postpone it so Ramona could finish her last year of preschool with her friends. Well, that didn’t work out, to say the least.

We’re feeling a lot more serious about making the move this year. Jared is getting licensed to teach secondary school in Massachusetts & we’re exploring western Mass to try to find the right balance of affordable housing & decent public schools. We’re hoping to make a commitment to either Kansas or Massachusetts in time for Ramona to start kindergarten.

3. #365DaysofSewing starts tomorrow! This is my own personal sewing challenge. I didn’t get to sew as much as I would have liked in 2017 due to my health challenges. (Aside from the cancer, I also broke my foot in October & am still recovering from that!) I did develop some new skills that I could do from bed or the couch, like cross stitching. But it was still a bit of a slow year for me.

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Starting tomorrow, I am challenging myself to engage in some type of sewing thing everyday in 2018. In order to build in a little wiggle room, I’m going to count things like researching techniques, sourcing supplies, mending, etc. Especially if there’s a cross-country move happening sometime in 2018, I can’t limit myself to just work I do with the sewing machine. Tomorrow will be the first big test because we are flying home from Boston. It will be interesting to see what kind of sewing work I can fit into a full travel day with a five-year-old. (I did bring a cross stitch project with me, so I might be able to do that on the plane if my embroidery snips get past security.)

4. Shoemaking! This is the 2018 goal I am most excited about right now! I’ve done a ton of research while we’ve been in Boston for the holidays, & it’s amazing how many resources there are around here for people who want to learn shoemaking. I talked with a woman yesterday who does workshops teaching people how to make entirely hand-sewn leather shoes. She offered to let me be her guinea pig to see if I could figure out how to use her methods to make shoes at home via a kit, rather than in her workshop. Obviously, I don’t think I am ready to dive in at that level! But I’ve been accumulating some basic supplies, including a pair of wooden lasts I am really stoked about. I have wide feet & I’m especially particular about the shape of the toebox on my shoes. I hate tapered or pointed toeboxes with the fire of a thousand suns. I found a vintage set of extra-wide lasts with the nice round toebox I like best. I think I’m going to start small–I’m thinking lasted flats with a rubber sole. But ultimately, I’d love to get to the point where all of my shoes are handmade by me.

5. Reviving this blog! I was looking at my archives the other day & it really struck me how infrequently I wrote here in 2017. That was mainly due to my many health issues. I wasn’t sewing as much, so I didn’t have as much to share, & even when I did finish a project, I didn’t always have the energy to do photos & posts. (I have quite a few yet-to-be-blogged garments waiting in the wings…Like these mermaid sequin leggings!)

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I’m hoping to stick to a posting schedule in 2018. I want to post at least twice: a weekly wrap-up on my #365DaysofSewing project (which I will also document on Instagram using that hashtag), & a completed project post once a week. Jared surprised me with a brand-new camera for Christmas, which is compatible with a remote. I’m really hoping this ups my photo game! Ramona does a surprisingly decent job of taking photos, considering that she’s only five years old, but her patience for the endeavor is limited, & for every usuable garment photo she gives me, I get like three photos of her thumb or a rock.