Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Introducing Coraline

I think I mentioned a couple months ago that I picked up a second-hand dress form at an antique shop?  Well, when I bought her she looked like this:

Not so pretty, and the fabric oozed bits of filth whenever I touched it.  So I decided to recover her.  This ended up being quite a project: I tore off all the old fabric and scrubbed down the plastic pieces underneath.  Then I decided it would be easier to clean, and to recover, if I took it completely apart.  I wish I'd taken photos of this process!  Basically, I unscrewed all the dial mechanisms.  The knob at the "neck" of the form unscrews as well and that piece comes off, releasing the tops of the form sections.  The waist/hip sections are held to the stand with arch-shaped pieces of metal, which also unscrew.  So I was left with eight sections of dress form completely separate from their stand.

I used about a yard and a half of 99-cent polyester-blend fabric from Hancocks to recover.  I wasn't quite sure what to use to stick it on (the old fabric had been glued) but since I wasn't certain of what I was doing, I decided to use double-sided duct tape, as being easier to change if something went wrong.  I applied it along all the edges of the sections on the inside, and cut the fabric wide enough to wrap around to the back.  In retrospect this would have been easier if I'd used something like a jersey knit, with some stretch -- it was hard to get the woven fabric to lie smoothly over lumps and curves -- but it looks all right, I think.

This shows the inside view and the metal U-bends holding the lower pieces on.

The metal pieces holding the lower portion of the form to the stand were originally held in place with little brads - like those paper brads with the "wings", but much sturdier.  I tried to use paper brads to reproduce this effect but they weren't nearly strong enough to hold the weight, and kept falling out.  I contemplated either trying to find sturdier brads, or using little nuts and bolts, but a friend suggested (and donated) some sturdy wire and a pair of wire clippers, so I ended up using those.  Not perfect, but it holds!  I reassembled the form, screwing the dials back in through the fabric cover (this also helps hold everything in place) and putting the neck topper back on.  She's quite adjustable; the photos are of her smallest size (about a 23" waist and comparable bust and hip measurements); she also dials up to be slightly larger than I am.  Height is likewise adjustable, as is length of torso!

So here she is -- this is Coraline.  Not perfect, certainly, but for a total of about $30 I'm very pleased!

Sunday, 19 June 2011


I love weddings.  Drinks all around!

...wait... wrong movie...

Talking to Lukasz's father and to David, one of the groomsmen.
Anyway, I do love weddings!  This weekend I had the pleasure of singing at one, for a young man who attends my parents' church, where I sing anytime I'm home on the weekend.  I know him only slightly and I didn't meet the bride until Friday, but it was such fun!  They're a lovely, welcoming family and I felt immediately accepted and involved.  Laura and Lukasz are just the cutest couple, and it was an honour to sing for them!

I guess this is kind of a sewing post as well since the dress I wore to the wedding is one I made last summer (for another wedding I sang at!) and never posted about.  I can't recall offhand which pattern I used for it, but I know it was designed for a knit fabric and I adapted it for a woven one -- a polyester knock-off of silk dupioni.  It's lined with cotton leftover from a dress I made several years ago, and it's very comfortable to wear.  It doesn't photograph terribly well though since the fabric is quite shiny.  It's better when there's no flash!

I love the swish and flow of the skirt, and I got lots of compliments on it (that's always fun!)  The funny part was, though, that almost every single woman from our church in Michigan who attended this wedding (in Chattanooga) wore the same shade of blue!  And no, we didn't coordinate on purpose :-)

I hope to be back to more regular posts this week, since the summer travelling is all over and I'll be back to my normal work schedule.  I'm also hoping to get hold of photos from my brother's dance recital and share some of those!

Monday, 13 June 2011

Just a quick note

...to say that I'm back from a flying trip home for the weekend to see my brother's dance recital and sing at my old church.  Now I'm trying to catch up on sleep and give poor Conrad the attention he's craving since he was left alone all weekend!  But I should have some more crafty posts (and maybe some photos from the recital) to put up soon :-)

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Buttons and Lace

This dress is a delightful mixture of the old and the new!  The fabric and lace were bought new... the buttons are out of a quart-size jar of vintage ones that I bought at an antique shop.  I stitched all the seams by machine and all the buttonholes by hand.  I used a new release of a vintage pattern (Vogue 1044).

I am still charmed by the details on this dress, although I would like to adjust the fit of the bodice - I think it is slightly too long in the front (though I only added 1.5" instead of my usual 2"), and so it makes an unflattering "pooch"above the belt if I do not constantly tug it down.  I also realised that I need to put another snap on the front placket - it gaps open a little bit.  I originally planned to make a different dress with this fabric and so there was not enough to make the extremely full skirt the pattern called for.  I like what I ended up with but someday I would like to make this again with its intended skirt.

Tiny gap at the waist.
Not-very-full skirt.

But I love the belt, with its handworked eyelet holes and its vintage brass horseshoe buckle!

And I love the old shell buttons, each one slightly different, buttoned through their hand-stitched buttonholes.  (Even if the hand-stitching leaves a great deal to be desired.

I love the pintucks down the front, contrast-stitched in white for greater impact.

I love the white lace at the hemline!  The skirt was boring before.

And especially I love the facing of the bodice.  I ran out of fabric and had to cut it out of this pretty madras plaid -- and I am so glad I did!

It has a few fitting issues that I should have caught earlier, but I love the bodice of this dress - so sweet and old-fashioned.

Monday, 6 June 2011


I suspect most of you know about this company already, but I LOVE the dresses from Shabby Apple.  Problem is the average price is about $80.00 -- far too expensive for my slim budget.  Last fall I saw their dress Bonheur and loved it, but $76 was out of my price range.  Besides, I thought it bore striking resemblance to a pattern I already had in my collection, Simplicity's "Threads" line 3877.

So, I made my own!  I used a sturdy-weight cotton and pewter buttons.  I've made this dress up a couple times, once with the mandarin collar option and once just the skirt attached to the bodice of another shirt-dress.  This time, I lengthened the sleeves slightly and turned the cuffs up only once.  I kept the bodice the same length but gave it a waistband (which I did the first time I made this pattern because I forgot to add length, and I loved the way it looked!)  I adapted the wrap bodice to mimic the cut of the Shabby Apple dress.  It's a mock wrap, attached all the way around, and opens with a side zipper.

I also changed the cut of the neckline to reflect the inspiration dress, and also to be a little more modest than the Simplicity pattern.  I drafted pockets like those on the Shabby Apple dress, and made an extra-long sash, since the original wraps twice.  All the bodice seams are flat-felled; the skirt was supposed to be French-seamed but I made it in a hurry so the edges are still raw.  I need to go back and finish them properly.  I think this came out pretty close to the inspiration dress!  It's not exact, but the "feel" is the same and it's really fun to wear.

I wanted to do a photo shoot with a similar setting and similar poses to the original, as well.  I finished the dress in time to take it to Italy in March, and I really wanted to do a shoot there -- the inspiration dress was photographed in France and it would have been fun to have a European shoot!  But we were all much too busy sightseeing to stop and take photos of our clothing.  So I only have one decent shot of it, sitting on the edge of a fountain near St. Mark's square in Venice, waiting for the rest of the group to show up so we could go on a gondola ride.  No make up and my hair was everywhere -- but it's in Europe! ;-)

 For the rest of the photos we went onto campus and tried to find European-looking spots for pictures :-)

This is a great summer dress - light and airy and easy to wear.  And it cost me only a third of the Shabby Apple price!  I think this is going to be the first in a series of "knock-off dresses" -- there's another Shabby Apple one I've got the perfect fabric for, and I have so many others on my wish-list!

Sunday, 5 June 2011


My roommate and I have been reading Marissa's "New Dress a Day" blog, and were both inspired to go thrifting and make over something ugly into something cute!  Aubrey got two dresses and made several new items and accessories.  I started with just one -- this loud, huge linen dress.  Probably about a size 2X - it was swimming on me!

Mostly, I loved the border print of this dress, so I wanted to keep the rest simple.  I took off the sleeves and cut down the neckline to a V (much more flattering to my face than the high scoop neck).  I chopped off the dress right below the stitching of the pintucks, then cut off a band of that to make a waistband.  The bodice I took in at the sides to make it fit me more snugly, then I hemmed the armholes and new neckline, added the waistband, and gathered the remaining skirt to fit it.

After trying it on I realised the waistband was a little too wide and the bodice was baggy, so I added a couple darts in the back to fix that.  Then it fit fine!

The only thing I should have done differently was preserve the entire length of the back zipper.  I just chopped it off along with the skirt of the dress - which means that my zipper now only goes to the top of the waistband, and this dress is VERY hard to get on and off.  Eventually I may replace it with a longer zipper, but I can work with it for now, and I've learned a valuable lesson for the next time I do this!  There will be a next time - this was fun :)

An Audition Suit

I finally have pictures of my suit to show you!  I bought the pattern and materials for this project at least two years ago, and finished it back in February.  I forget why I wanted to make it at first (other than that it's a really cool suit!) but when I pulled it out again last fall I intended it to be worn for graduate school auditions.  And it was worn to the one audition I did!  But it took me two years to get up the nerve to start sewing, and over three months to get photos once it was finished.  Yikes. 

This is a Vogue pattern, a two-piece suit.  I made it in a heavy cotton (twill, I think), lined, with bound buttonholes and a huge stand-up collar, which can also be worn folded down.  Unfortunately the collar doesn't show terribly well in any of these photos, but I think you get an idea.  The bodice is very fitted and sculptured; it was tricky to put together but fits wonderfully!  My only really problem with the suit is that the fabric attracts *everything* -- hair, lint, dust, random fuzzies.  I have to keep a lint roller with me constantly.  But that is hardly a drawback with the pattern, and really it's a very minor problem.

My roommate and I held an extensive photo shoot this evening, as we both had several projects we wanted to document.  I'll have more photos and dresses up soon!  Unfortunately we did not get a lot of shots of this suit and most of the good ones were not full-length.  I'd like to get more at some point, but perhaps on a day when the high is not hovering near 100 degrees (!!!!) I've included the last photo because it's the only one that really gives a good idea of the shape of the suit, particularly the peplum; please excuse my odd expression and waving arms.  I think I was fixing my hair!

So there you are; my audition suit.  I've worn it many times already and I think this will be a staple in my wardrobe for years to come!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

A Knit Dress

Last week I finally found a use for a couple yards of jersey knit fabric that I bought several years ago and have never been able to decide what to do with.  I picked up a pattern (McCall 6070) on sale last month and decided it was perfect.

It took about two hours to make up and it is so comfortable.  The most difficult part was the elastic, and since it just goes through casings it's a piece of cake.  The back ties up - the pattern calls for large beads on the tie ends but I didn't bother on this one.  When I make the grey version I have planned, I will add the beads, but for this one I like it plain.  The only alteration I made was to add a bit of depth to the bodice front pieces -- the pattern was clearly drafted for someone with a much more insignificant bosom than I possess ;-P

My friend Shannon took the photos after church choir rehearsal tonight.  The light wasn't ideal, so I apologise for the slightly blurry focus.

I finished this dress a week ago and I think I've worn it four or five times already.  It's been so hot already; this cool, easy dress has been perfect.  I definitely will make this pattern again!