Saturday, June 28, 2014

Finished Summer LBD and Yea or Nay: Black & Brown

So, finally I fit in a photo shoot of my new Tracy Reese Vogue 1314 dress.

I'd like to say that our new camera made this photo shoot just as easy as the last one. Alas, there is a learning curve. Little details like, oh, say, not having the camera on the landscape setting and not taking dozens of pictures while I am trying to say something are ones that we are still learning.  There were a lot of "outtakes" and yet few different views or detail shots of the dress. Oh well. Photography is a WIP here at Clio & Phin HQ.

But here is my dress and a question...

On the V1314 pattern, there isn't too much to say since I've sewn it before. I really needed a simple black knit dress for summer that would be cool and comfy and that I could dress up for work or wear more casually on the weekends with sandals.

Knits are not my strength as a sewist, and I didn't want to over-complicate things. I think the finishes are neat and clean without being fussy. I used elastic in the seams to gather the ruching on this one. I omitted the lining and instead finished the neckline with a self fabric binding that I serged on and then turned to the inside and top stitched down with a twin needle. To finish the sleeves I serged the raw ends, turned them in and, again, top stitched with a twin needle. The hem was simply turned, stitched with the twin needle and trimmed.

The fabric is an incredibly soft and drapey rayon jersey from my stash that I bought at Metro Textiles aeons ago. It's absolutely lovely to wear - cool, breathable and thin without being too clingy.  I've always been picky about how fabric feels on and this is exactly what I would want for a summer knit dress. Honestly, I think rayon is a better choice than cotton or poly knits for warm weather. It breathes like silk, is absorbent of sweat, retains its color, recovers it's stretch well and doesn't normally pill. Best of all, rayon somehow always feels cool to the touch, which makes me want to wear it on hot days.

The only possible downside to this dress is that photos were taken at the end of the day after a round trip commute and full day of work. I should have actually looked in the mirror and adjusted myself. It looks like I tugged the dress down or smoothed it at some point instead of letting the ruching do it's ruchy thing. (Another lesson about working with a photographer who is in a rush to get the shoot done.)

Anyway, my question is: Yea or Nay to a black dress with brown accessories? Or more broadly black and brown combinations.

I'm not sure this is actually the best shoe choice for this outfit, but I definitely like the other accessories with this dress, the scarf in particular. Years ago I would have argued that this is a fashion faux pas. I'm pretty sure that's how I was raised - sort of like the no white after Labor Day rule. But I guess I've changed my mind over time.

But what are your thoughts on it? Do you wear black and brown together? Are there certain circumstances where you would or wouldn't? Or is it a faux pas to accessorize one with the other?  Do tell.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Frenzy: WIPs and Plans Out the Wazoo

I think I'm developing a case of creative overload where I'm oscilating between OCD and AD/HD. After tidying the Craft Lounge to accommodate my new fabric and deciding on some summer sewing goals, I've been so enthusiastic about all my projects that I am having a difficult time picking just one to work on. Crazy, right?

I've drafted the schematic for my Future Dress and prepped the fabric. Now I have to make full size pattern pieces with seam allowances.

Let's hope my math skills still work!
This really is a fascinating dress. So, simple but I hope the results will wow.

Next, I cut my new wax cloth for a caftan for MomMuse:

Wax cloth - right fabric for Mom, middle for nephew

I'm using the fabric on the right and McCalls M6552.

Fashion Star M6552

I also found, bought, printed, taped a cut the pattern for the Charlie Tunic by Made by Rae to make into a wax cloth top for my littlest nephew.

Charlie Pullover Tunic

For myself, I finished a new V1314 Vogue Tracy Reese dress in a super soft black rayon jersey. I've used this pattern four times now, including the tomato red dress I sewed last summer and still wear a lot. Alas, I ran out of steam when it was time to take pictures when I wore it on Sunday. So, you'll just have to wait. 

I also have two knitting WIP's - more baby gifts. I have a nearly finished baby blanket and a cute little hat in the works.

Baby hat

And lastly, just to add to my creative frenzy, I have more new fabric.

4 of 5 new beauties! 

After years of swearing that I am the least likely person to ever SWAP (Sew with a Plan) because I get distracted by the next shiny pattern or fabric that comes along, I have been mulling over a wardrobe project. Adding fuel to my fire, one of the most amazing ladies of the sewing world sent me home with even more fabric from her stash and orders to use it as an opportunity to step outside my comfort zone. I shall!

Oh look!  I did find one picture of me in my new knit dress! Too bad you can't see the dress for all the fabric. ;-)

Anyway, I am sequestering myself on Sunday for a mini sewathon!

What do you have in the works? Just one thing or many things in many stages?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Fabric Stashing Crisis in The Craft Lounge

With summer coming in just two days and all my sewing plans changing from the cold weather projects I didn't quite get to, to summery fun projects that I plan to sew, there was a near crisis in the Craft Lounge this week. The fabric situation started to get out of control because of my recent acquisitions.

This is just some of the binge fabric: jersey prints

You see, after all the travel in the last 5 months, my glee to be back in the Craft Lounge with time to sew manifested itself in a bit of a fabric binge - 31 yards of fabric somehow came home with me in a two week span.

Rayon Challis for a summer dress

Boucle for a jacket/blazer to go with this lining

Plus, I still hadn't made room for the 12 or so yards of wax cloth my pop brought me from Ghana.

Wax Cloth

My stash has been in a happy equilibrium for some time. I buy a few yards and then sew a few yards, never outgrowing the chest of drawers and sweater box where my fabric lives.  But because I had purchased fabric for the winter projects that did not get sewn as planned, there was no more space in the stash.

Something had to be done.

So I sorted the fabrics that I have no immediate plans to sew, plus a number of winter weight fabrics that will not be sewn this summer into a few piles.

And Phin has found a place for them in the basement for me. I have to confess, I'm a little nervous about my fabric not being within arms reach in the Craft Lounge. But I'm glad to have a bit more room. Um, especially considering that I didn't buy fabric for a few of the projects that I will be sewing soon.

So, it looks like I will now have to do a seasonal changeover of fabrics.  Do you do any kind of seasonal rearranging of your fabric stash?

Oh, and speaking of seasonal, I rewarded myself for a job well done with strawberry sour cream ice cream, made from berries that Phin and I picked on Saturday... recipe here. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Ralph Pink Hareem Pants #2 (Silk edition!) and a New Toy!

Ooooh, folks. I finally bought a real camera - the kind that has settings and buttons and lenses instead of the point-click one's I've always used.

I spent a little time last weekend being tutored on the ABC's and 123's (thanks, Kelli!!) and then this weekend actually snapping away and making Phin snap away, too. It's a little intimidating; technology and I have a very mixed relationship.

Canon Rebel SL1

Here's the results of our first new camera photo shoot.  These are my second version of the Ralph Pink Hareem Pants.  I don't have much to add to my post about the first pair I sewed. These pants are dead easy to sew.

This pair is made from stretch silk charmeuse that I bought at Chic Fabrics.  Since the fabric is not as stretchy as the modal I used for my first ones, I made the waistband out of black ribbed knit, which I'm just realizing that I didn't catch in any photographs.

I have to confess that vanity is probably to blame. I've always been convinced that my hair just does not photograph particularly well.  So, I was really thrilled and probably a bit distracted by how much like my actual hair my hair looks in these photos.

Anyway, this is how I would wear these pants for dinner or drinks out - with a black silk cami, sparkly jacket and pumps. 

As fun and chic as I think these pants look, they are still just a comfy as wearing pajama bottoms. I love when clothing is so comfy you just want to curl up in bed fully dressed!

Another great thing about my new camera is that it doesn't have to stop and think between photos. So, I just twirled and turned while Phin snapped away. It was much less uncomfortable and awkward for me to do a blog shoot this way instead of having to pose for each photo - I was not born to be a model.

Although we didn't do any photos of the little details - and to be honest, there really aren't any on these easy pants - here is a picture from this weekend. My mom shot this one. She's an avid shutterbug and helped show me some additional features. She's also lent me a tripod so I no longer have to bother Phin if he is not in a picture taking mood.

"Battle Dragons" 

This is me and my nephew Linus (age 8). He build the blue dragon before I arrived and then we built the red and green ones together. They served as a Father's Day table centerpiece. We were going for a nice crisp image of the dragons and a soft image of us. It sorta worked.

Anyway, I hope this means that you can expect better photos here in the future. And if you have any tried and true tips for photos, please let me know! I, um, need all the help I can get in this department! 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Spring Fever Sewing Plans!

Now that I'm finished with work travel until Labor Day - and boy has it been a brutal 5 months - I'm full of plans and sewing mojo. I normally know exactly what I'm sewing next as I finish a project, but finishing my McQueen jacket as I headed to London and knowing the weather was changing left me with a blank slate. I didn't get to all my winter projects, but at this time of year I tend to chuck previous sewing plans out the window anyway in a massive case of spring fever.

So here are a few of the things I want to sew in the next few months.

The Future Dress


I've been sort of obsessed with this Claire McCardell inspired dress since Christine of DaughterFish recreated it about two years ago. Thankfully, Christine did a thorough tutorial on how she drafted it. I have some rayon challis, which I think will be perfect for it.

A Not-A-Diaper-Bag for myself
This one was on the winter sewing list. Every year I knock out a diaper bag or two for a special friend who is expecting. Here's the one I made at this time last year for my dear friend Magenta. I think it was my best yet.

Butterick 5055, which I've made 3 times already

It always strikes me that with all the travel I do, I really don't have a fun weekender or carry-on bag that I love. So, I think it's time. I haven't decided on a fabric yet. I'm tempted to make it leather, but a little worried that leather might make the bag too heavy. We'll see.

More Wax Cloth
Pop Muse brought me three more pieces of wax cloth from his recent trip to Ghana. He had two demands: that I make a tote for Mom Muse from some of the blue and a dashiki style top for my youngest nephew (10.5 mos) out of the orange/gold one. I have no idea where I am going to find a suitable pattern, but I'll try. Holler if you have any ideas.  I may also make a caftan for my mom because, well, she' s awesome.

It's Bombshell Time
Yep. One year late to the party, I'm going to sew myself a Bombshell Swimsuit.

I plan to make it into a bikini a la Norma Kamali. There is a Muse family reunion with all aunts, uncles, cousins and the next generation of kids at a lake we used to go to as kids over the 4th of July weekend. So, it seems like a fun time to have a new suit. Maybe next year I'll sew a Nettie.

And Drape Drape

I received a copy of drape drape for Xmas this year. I think it's time to take it for a test drive.

More Generally
After all of the fitted garments I've sewn since September, I'm a little ready for change, and my recent Ralph Pink Hareem Pants have inspired me to experiment with volume a bit more than I normally do. I've been wearing them non-stop and have already sewn another pair (stay tuned for the reveal). So, expect to see some cool summer drapey items soon.

Also, in the non-drapey category, I'm currently almost finished with another version of V1314, the Tracy Reese ruched dress that I've sewn twice already and used parts of in my lace Sew Sexy dress.

So, there is a lot happening in the Craft Lounge. What seasonal garments are you working on? And, like me, do all your sewing plans change along with a change of seasons?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Alexander McQueen Jacket - Finished! (And already worn a whole bunch of times)

It's a bit unlike me to wait so long to post a finished project, but I completed my Alexander McQueen jacket right before heading to London and didn't have a chance to photograph it until this past weekend. Apologies that it's a bit rumpled from my suitcase.

It seems like every year I sew a project that is at the tail end of it's wearable season by the time it's done. So I wear it intensely for two weeks and then have to put it away until the right weather returns. Unfortunately, this is that project for 2014. 

If you forgot that I was tackling this free, downloadable knock off of a McQueen jacket, here are my previous posts: first, second and third. Work travel and the SSS-Along meant that I had to work on it is spits and spurts. However, it's done and I really like it, despite some imperfections.

The first imperfection is the fabric. I love how it looks, but this wool/cotton blend really is too soft and mushy to really hold the pleating well. It is also a bit too thick/heavy. This is most evident on the back...

I can't help but feel like it has a more rumpled look than the original or other versions that have been sewn. However, now that I go back and look at some of the others, perhaps I'm being too hard on myself.  

I know I promised more construction details if things went well. The busy and small scale leopard print of my fabric made photographing steps basically useless. So, you are just going to have to wait until I sew version #2 when the weather begins to cool or when I have a chance to do a muslin version mapping out the steps with pictures where you can actually see what I'm doing, instead of the details getting lost in a sea of animal print. If you can't wait to sew this up, Blithe Stitches did the tutorial that was the most helpful to me.

A few construction details that I will share...

First, the jacket is unlined so I finished all of edges with bias binding and did a Hong Kong finish on the seams. I actually made my own bias tape from some black silk charmeuse I had in the stash. 

For a closure, I used two giant snaps, which I hand sewed to each side of the lapel. I think in my next  version I may make the closure higher up, which is where I think it is on the original, rather than under the bust. I think a higher closure would help with the fit across the shoulders and upper chest where it is a little loose on me.

One of the only things I wish I had done this time, and meant to do but simply forgot, was interface that long lapel piece. I think a little extra body and crispness would be a good thing since it droops a little at the back of the neck.

I have no real idea how one would significantly alter this pattern; I made very few changes. I added a bit of length at the hem so the jacked would be long enough on me. I also enlarged the seam allowances from 3/8" to 5/8" and added an extra 1/2" at the side seams, which was easy enough. I didn't need the extra room in the end (really, this is sized like a Big 4 size 10), but it was helpful to have extra seam allowance when doing the HK finishes, especially on this fabric, which was a little bit ravel prone at the edges. 

Last thoughts for now: This was not an easy sew. I was pretty realistic about how challenging the pleating would be. Where I underestimated the project was in how long it would take to finish the seams. It will take a while for me to muster any enthusiasm for Hong Kong seams or making my own bias tape again. Once I realized my fabric was not ideal, it was hard to keep my enthusiasm to finish the jacket. But I'm really glad I did.

Anyway, I wore this with a black pencil skirt and cami to work and with jeans and boots in the evening while in London. I love that it was a fun, yet professional enough work ensemble, and relaxed enough for casual wear, too.

Now that I'm back and over my jet lag, I'm back to sewing up a storm and my mojo is really in high gear. So, stay tuned for more to come in the next few weeks!