31 March 2007

Taking a Quilt Trip - Part 2

Project Photo:

: Once the front pieces were quilted, the silk side of the jacket was constructed as per the pattern instructions. Since this jacket is reversible, the faux Persian lamb side was cut from the full front and back pattern pieces and all facing were skipped. However, the jacket was still interfaced with hair canvas to give the front a nice sturdy, crisp edge. The cuffs were made completely from the faux Persian Lamb.

On the silk side of the jacket, the faux fur peeks out all along the edges, which helps tie the faux fur cuffs into the design. A closeup of the trapunto quilting embellishment can be seen in the photo at right. The opposite side of the jacket is completely faux Persian lamb. The jacket has the same button on each side.

Conclusion: This was another labour intensive project. I figure it took me 3 hours for research, 2 hours to create and perfect a trapunto design, 1 hour to cut out all fabrics/interfacing, 4 hours to implement the trapunto design and 4 hours to construct the jacket - so, 14 hours in all. Fortunately, I really love this jacket, so I think it was time well spent. It will make a wonderful cover up for all the formal garments created in this SWAP. I could not be more pleased with how it turned out. When I began this project, I was quite nervous about attempting the trapunto work as I had never done anything like this before. Now, seeing the results, I can't wait to try it again on another project.

30 March 2007

Taking a Quilt Trip

Pattern: Vogue 2934 - Vogue Vintage Model - Original 1950 Design

Size: Small (8-10)

Fabric: black faux Persian lamb for one side and black silk dupioni for the other side; both from Fabricland

: I saw an article in an old Threads magazine (February/March 1997 # 69, p.28) by Jane Conlon. The article focused on adding texture to garments using trapunto quilting. I just happened upon this article as the SWAP contest was beginning (back in December 2006) and I had an epiphany. I could use this technique to embellish my required reversible garment.

Trapunto Quilting (Silk Side):
Before any quilting could begin, I had to decide on a design. I was enamored of the dragonflies that were quilted on the feature garment from the Threads article I spoke of above. However, I felt the design needed something more than just dragonflies. This jacket pattern has a slightly Asian feel to me and I wanted to stick with that flavour. I wanted something graceful and understated - I certainly didn't want to overdo it. After sketching out several ideas on paper, I finally settled on three cattails with one dragonfly. To the right, you can see the final design sketch on the front pattern pieces. Drawing on the full size pattern pieces allowed me to tweak the design placement before proceeding with the actual quilting on the fabric.

The trapunto technique requires an underlining stitched to the fashion fabric along the design lines. I used cotton batiste as the underlining. The design was traced onto the semi-sheer batiste (see photo at left) and then the batiste and silk were pinned together. I stitched along the design lines using black rayon embroidery thread.

The design was then stuffed, in this case, with acrylic yarn, to raise the design. I used a large eyed needle and threaded it with up to seven strands of yarn (depending on which area I was stuffing). I kept adding more yarn to each area until I felt the design had been raised enough with respect to the non-quilted regions of silk. To complete the actual stuffing, on the back of each motif to be stuffed, the needle was used to separate the threads of the batiste backing. The needle was then passed into the motif, between the batiste and silk fabrics and drawn along inside, carrying the yarn with it. Drawing the yarn through each motif was difficult and time-consuming work. I estimate it took me 2 hours per jacket front to complete the stuffing.

Up Next: Construction and Project Photos

26 March 2007

Patent Pending

Some of you will recall that I have been on a mission to find a great pair of red shoes. Today, while shopping with a friend, I saw a pair the made my heart go pitter patter. Although I would not normally go for bright red patent leather platform shoes, these shoes spoke to me. They whispered alluringly, "I know we are a little tarty and over the top, but you must possess us. Buy us - buy us now." Those of you that follow this blog, know that I always do what fabric and shoes tell me to do and this was no exception.

Behold the new (slightly slutty) residents of my closet:

25 March 2007

Simplicity 1954

Pattern: Simplicity 1954 (copyright date unknown - ETA: I was informed that the likely copyright date is 1960 or 1961 - thanks, Gail!)

Size: size 11 (bust 31.5", waist 24.5", hip 33.5")

Fabric: Lightweight black wool with brown and rust embroidered flowers and vines from Fabricland. This fabric feels like cashmere - it is scrumptious. The lining is a black rayon (Bemberg lining) fabric.

Project Photo
: front view (left photo) and back view (right photo)

: This is another top for my SWAP. Obviously, the pattern intends for this garment to be worn as a jacket. However, since the fabric I used was a lightweight wool, this will work quite nicely as a top (although allowing it to do double duty as a jacket on occasion is a bonus).

I whipped together a wearable muslin (which is not quite finished yet) for this top just to get a feel for the sizing. It is a good thing that I did. The waist was a bit more snug than I would have liked. To remedy this, made the pleats in the back waist region smaller, freeing up some extra fabric. The bust region, on the other hand, was a bit too big. However, since both the muslin fabric and this fabric are wool, I was able to just steam out the excess fabric (I love that wool is so cooperative).

This top is fully lined in black Bemberg rayon lining. I inserted the lining completely by hand (as many of you know that I am wont to do).

Like all the vintage patterns I have used lately, this one went together nicely. Every notch and dot matched up, all the seams were the same length, the pattern instructions were comprehensive and logical - unlike many of today's patterns. If you ask me, the modern incarnations of these pattern companies should cast an eye back to their roots.

My favourite design features on this top are the cropped length, the pleats at the back waist and the tabs with button closures across the lower back and the front neck.

: I really like this top. It wears like a comfortable sweater. I love the way it looks with both the black and coffee SWAP skirts. It even looks good buttoned up over the rust SWAP dress.

19 March 2007

My New Baby

Now I know how proud parents feel when they bring their little bundle of joy home for the first time!

Before I explain, let me first provide a little history:

I first started sewing when I was 17 years old. I used my mother's Singer sewing machine (from the mid 1950s) to sew two Prom dresses among countless other garments. This machine served me well, however its most exciting feature was that it could sew a straight stitch...forward and backward.

In my mid 20s I decided to upgrade. I had just entered grad school and money was tight, so the best I could afford was the very lowest end Kenmore for sale at the time. This machine was a revolution to me though - it could do a 4 step buttonhole and zigzag. I felt like I had hit the jackpot. I have been using this machine ever since.

Then yesterday, my husband & I were wandering through Sears. I, of course, had to check out the sewing machine section and I noticed that a machine that I had my eye on for a while was on sale. We talked to the saleslady and asked a bunch of questions. This machine had everything I wanted. It is the Kenmore Elite 19005:
  • 951 stitch functions and 30 built in embroidery designs
  • embroidery monogramming in two fonts and three sizes
  • professional-quality embroidery with 650 stitches per minute
  • on-screen embroidery editing
  • backlit full colour 4.7" LCD touch screen with keypad
  • electronic speed control lever
  • built-in needle threader
  • thread cutter
  • upper thread sensor
  • slit take-up lever threading
  • 5 mm stitch length
  • 7.5 mm stitch width
  • needle position adjustment
  • start/stop button, needle up/down button and reverse sew button
  • twin-needle capability
  • 1-step automatic buttonholer with 5 styles
  • feed dog drop with lever
  • high bar presser foot
  • snap-on fixing system
  • adjustable presser foot pressure
  • non-heat foot control
  • instructional DVD
After discussing it with my husband over coffee, he told me to go for it. As he put it "the machine you have now gets used constantly - you should have a new machine if you want it." Yes, I know - I am one lucky gal to have a man that understands my passion for sewing. So, we went back and I bought it.

Over the next little while, I plan on putting it through its paces, so I can get to know its personality and bond with it. I look forward to the relationship I will forge with this new addition to my family.

18 March 2007

Cafe au Lait - Part 2

Pattern: McCall's 3489 (copyright date 1955)

Size: size 12 (bust 31", waist 25", hip 33")

coffee silk dupioni from Fabricland

Project Photo:

: Since I had already made the muslin for this top, all systems were a go to make the SWAP version. As usual, I underlined/lined this top with silk organza using my TNT method (see the inside of the top in the above right photo). The back of this top is created using a single pattern piece. The front however has two pattern pieces - a lower bodice piece and an upper bodice/neckline piece. The neckline is interesting, as the upper bodice/neckline piece is pleated once horizontally to create a boat neckline.

There are armhole facings, which give this area a nice, crisp finish, especially after they were tacked down, by hand, to the silk organza underlining of the bodice.

There is a side zipper that is installed upside down so that the left side seam opens completely. This is a nice feature that allows the wearer to easily get in and out of the top. Although the instructions called for a traditional zipper, I chose to use an invisible zipper instead.

The bottom is curved front and back, creating a pseudo-shirt tail hem. This is a nice finish which creates a top that looks nice tucked or untucked.

Conclusion: This is a great vintage top. I love the high neck and the fitted waist. It looks really nice with the matching skirt. The two pieces together have such a quintessential 50s look, without looking like a costume. I was originally concerned that this outfit would look too matchy-matchy bridesmaidy, but it doesn't (IMHO). I love that I can wear the top and skirt together or separately - it really expands my wearing options. This outfit also looks quite nice with the Rucci jacket over it.

17 March 2007

Will the Real Ralph Rucci Please Stand Up? - Part Three

This is the last Rucci jacket post. See the other two posts here and here.

Design Orientation: The applique pieces were laid out on the jacket fronts in the appropriate positions. Unfortunately, I did not have any fusible web (and I was too engrossed in the process to go out and get some) to keep the appliques from shifting. In lieu of the web, I pinned each piece to within an inch of its life (the photo at right has about a fifth of all the pins that were eventually used). In that photo, the crease where the cut on front facing folds back on itself can be seen. After placing the appliques and folding the facings, the two jacket fronts can be seen together in the photo at right. Each jacket front has a full design that wraps from the front to the front facing. When the two fronts are placed together there is a mirror image design outside and inside the jacket front. Since this jacket has no closures, I like that the appliques inside will be seen when the jacket opens during wearing.

Applique Application: The appliques were stitched down with a medium zigzag stitch, basically a satin stitch. The black silk pieces were sewn down first, followed by the satin and finally the rust silk. Any place the appliques overlapped, the stitching was stopped at the edge of the different coloured piece - there was no sense in stitching something that would then be covered up. The process was slow to guarantee neatness and a minimum of shifting.

Construction: The jacket was put together as per the pattern instructions - nothing earth shattering to mention here. Except a small reminder that when sewing cut on sleeves, it always a good idea to strengthen the underarm seam with a piece of seam tape or a sturdy selvedge edge from your fabric (see photo at right).

A matching coffee coloured Bemberg lining was sewn in by hand to conceal all the raw edges inside the jacket.

Project Photos: Below there is a full front picture and a closeup, as well as an inside view.

Conclusion: This was a very time consuming, labour intensive article of clothing. I figure I spent close to 20 hours from start to finish on this project. Considering this is my first attempt at applique work, I am quite pleased with how it turned out. I can foresee attempting other "Rucci-esque" designs in the future - I am always inspired when I see his work.

16 March 2007

Will the Real Ralph Rucci Please Stand Up? - Part 2

After talking to some people about this jacket, I quickly realized that few people were actually aware of Ralph Rucci. Check out this Kent State University Museum Exhibition for a taste of his amazing garments.

I will continue talking about my Rucci-inspired jacket. For anyone that needs to catch up, see the first post.

Design Prep: The jacket pattern I choose to use has a straight front opening with cut on facings. I wanted the appliques to relate to each other across the front opening and since there are no closures (buttons, etc), it made this much easier.

I decided to knock off the applique design from the runway picture of the Rucci suit. I had tried
drawing a few original designs of my own, but in the end I really wanted his design. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! You can see in my drawing (at right) that I shaded in different sections to represent the different fabrics that would be used.

Since portions of the appliques would overlap each other, I redrew the design with all the lines included (see photo at left). Each individually coloured section (marked with letters) was then traced again onto another sheet of paper, ready to be laid on the prepared fabrics.

Fabric Prep:
The jacket centre front was fused with interfacing to provide a stable backing for the appliques. Interfacing was also block fused to each applique fabric. Each section of the design was pinned to the appropriate fabric and two (or four, depending on the section of the design) mirror image pieces were cut out. Since the fabric had been block fused, the cut out applique pieces had crisp, fray-free edges for the remainder of the construction process.

Up Next: Applique placement and application, as well as final project photos.

15 March 2007

I Was Wazoodled!

It started innocently enough. Wazoodle sent out an email announcing a flash sale. No big deal I thought...I can handle this... just a little peek...I can leave the website anytime I want. Um, yeah.

So, anyhow, here's what I bought:

Bamboo - I have been wanting to try this fabric for a while now. I have been hearing rave reviews on all the discussions boards. The natural colour was on sale, so I picked up 3 yards. While I was there, I figured I'd snag 3 yards of chocolate brown and 1.5 yards of deep olive green.

Cotton - On the new arrivals page, I saw this homespun yarn dyed cotton in a Burberry-style plaid. It instantly said sheath dress. Then it said matching overcoat. I listened and bought 5 yards.

14 March 2007

Will the Real Ralph Rucci Please Stand Up?

Pattern: Simplicity 4123 (vinatge pattern - no copyright date) - This jacket has cut-on kimono sleeves that end at mid-forearm. There are darts that extend from the shoulder line to the bust and elbow darts. The jacket ends just below the waist, at the high hip. There is a one piece rounded collar.

Size: Junior Size 11 (bust 31.5", waist 24.5", hip 33.5")

Fabric: body of jacket: coffee silk dupioni; appliques: mottled satin, rust silk dupioni & black silk dupioni (all fabrics are from Fabricland)

Inspiration: I have been enamored with the designs of Ralph Rucci ever since the first time I laid eyes on one of his exceptional garments. His design aesthetic and the execution of his clothing is pure genius. I have rarely been so enraptured by the vision of a clothing designer. Among a multitude of exceptional garments from his Fall 2006 runway show, this outfit in particular spoke to me. There is something about the appliques that captured my imagination. This outfit stayed with me for a very long time, but you know how inspiration goes. Glimpses of other tantalizing garments and fabrics and patterns push the old inspiration out to make room for the new inspiration. Then last week, I saw this book for sale at Amazon.ca and I knew I had to order it. It showed up on my doorstep in short order and as of yet I have only been able to quickly flip through it. I have not been able to sit down and devour this scrumptious book because one of the first pictures I saw was the one on the left. Inspiration and a desperate desire to create overcame me. I immediately began work on a jacket inspired by this photo. For my SWAP, I had originally planned on making a simple jacket out of the mottled satin - no bells, no whistles, no frills - just a simple jacket. When the desire to create overcame me, all thoughts of a simple, 3 hour jacket went out the window.

Planning: Although I decided to create a different type of jacket, I chose to stick with the originally intended pattern. It had nice simple lines, that were just perfect to showcase the embellishment. The inspiration garment is made of double faced cashmere - I chose to make my version out of the silk dupioni and satin used for many of the other garments in my SWAP. I though this jacket would tie together several of the other pieces to make a more cohesive unit. The coffee silk dupioni was chosen for the main body of the jacket (with a matching coffee coloured Bemberg lining). The other three fabrics were used for the front appliques.

Up Next: Implementation and Construction - I'll discuss how I made and attached the appliques.

12 March 2007

Embroidery and Sequins and Satin, Oh My!!

Pattern: Simplicity 7990 (copyright date 1968)

Size: size 8 - bust 31.5", waist 23", hip 33.5"

Fabric: mottled coral, green, orange and brown satin with linear embroidery and sequins from Fabricland

Project Photo: On the left is the front view and on the right is the back view.
Comments: This is another dress for my SWAP. I had already done a muslin for this dress, so I was confident of the fit before I dove in and cut out the good fabric. When I first saw this fabric, I knew I had to have some of it. I was putting together SWAP fabrics and this one spoke to me.

The construction for this dress is the same as for the muslin, so I will not reiterate the details here. I do want to point out the underlining/lining fabric though. I bought a satin brocade home dec remnant one day, with no real plans for it. When I saw it with the mottled satin fashion fabric, I knew it was a match made in heaven. Little did I know, that this fabric would be a small nightmare to work with. Holy fraying, batman!! This fabric ravelled like crazy if you so much as glanced sideways at it. After much swearing, I managed to wrestle it into submission. You can see results in the photo to the right - this is the complete inside view of the dress. In the photo at right, you can see a close up of the fabric and the seam tape that I used to clean finish the neck and shoulder facings. I have to say, I am just as pleased with the look of the inside of the dress as I am with the outside. Due to the heavier underlining/lining fabric, this dress is fairly substantial. I love pulling it off the hanger to put on - it just feels good. There is a decent amount of hand finishing in this garment. The neck and armhole facings, complete midriff lining and hem (which you can see in the photo at right) were tacked down manually. For anyone that reads my blog regularly, you know I am a huge proponent of the hand finish. In my opinion, it makes the garment hang better because the hand finished areas are more flexible and light. At this point, all I have left to do is remove the sequins from the turned under portion of the hem - I don't want them to catch on my stockings or scratch my legs.

Conclusion: I love this dress. It is comfortable and flattering. For what more could I ask?

11 March 2007

Cafe au Lait

Pattern: McCall's 3489 - copyright date 1955

Size: size 12 (bust 31", waist 25", hip 33")

coffee silk dupioni from Fabricland

Project Photo

Comments: This is the second skirt for my SWAP. The fabric I used is a silk dupioni in a luscious coffee colour - the photos do not do it justice. The skirt has ten panels, each with a vertical dart in the centre of the panel. I chose to line and underline each panel prior to stitching them all together. This lining/underlining method is one I use quite often and I have described previously. It provides such a nice clean finish on the inside and it beefs up the dupioni fabric - basically it makes for a much more luxurious garment. The skirt has a side invisible zipper closure and a small waistband. I did a double fold hem (which is described here) that falls just below the knee cap. All finishing work on the waistband and hem was done by hand, as I feel it provides a higher end look to the finished product.

: I really like this skirt and I think it will look great with the matching top that is still in progress. I ran out of silk organza underlining for the top and I am waiting (impatiently) for Thai Silks to deliver more. What I like best about this skirt is that I can see dressing it up for formal events and also dressing it down for work. This promises to be a very versatile piece of clothing.