1940s · Commission · Finished! · Modern Sewing · Pattern · Vintage

The Starella Sisters Make Their Debut

IMG_2687

Readers, I’m super excited to share with you my latest commissioned project – pin-up girl dance costumes!

You see, two of my vintage model friends, Sanjna and Pearl, recently formed a vintage dance duo, The Starella Sisters (which is a combination of their last names). They had their debut performance this past weekend at the CD release party for the Jenny Finn Orchestra.The girls did a coordinated dance to the song Chinatown My Chinatown (which you can listen to here) complete with parasols and the Charleston. The venue for this was perfect, The Secret Society, which is located in an old Victorian building and has the feel of a 1920s speakeasy (yes, I was in heaven). British Boyfriend (TM) and I made a date of it, and met a very lovely woman named Tina who told us about her Scottish husband and adorable fluffy cat named Sebastian (Hi, Tina!)

IMG_0492

IMG_0491

The costumes are an altered version of Butterick 6019, which is one of the patterns by Gertie. I shortened both the wrap skirt length and made the bodice a separate bralette top, per the girls’ request. This project actually involved a number of new sewing techniques for me, including sewing pom-pom trim on (not difficult at all, just something I’ve never done before) and shirring the side back bodice pieces with elastic thread in the bobbin. I’d seen this technique done once before on an episode of The Great British Sewing Bee, so I already knew that I’d have to wind the bobbin by hand (you don’t want this stuff to stretch before it’s sewn!). What I wasn’t prepared for was how much elastic thread this project would use! I used up my entire 11 yard spool of Gutermann elastic thread (yes, it comes on 11 yard spools) and had to re-wind the bobbin 3 or 4 times, which I guess makes sense as you sew lines on the side back pieces 1/4″ apart. The end result was fabulous, though, and really provides a great deal of movement and adjustment, which was perfect for this project.

IMG_0494
Don’t worry, I tacked the seams down and clipped the threads!

 

IMG_0496

The fabric is a vibrant magenta brocade with a fire-breathing dragon motif on it. I love how the finished outfits turned out, but this fabric was both difficult and time-consuming to work with as it frayed horribly (in fact, I’m still finding threads all over the apartment!) and I had to use a press cloth any time I needed to iron a seam, as the polyester content meant direct contact with the iron would melt it. I fully lined both garments to both hide the unseemly fraying seams and add durability (I knew the girls would be moving around a lot in them, so I wanted the garments to be able to hold up).

IMG_2693
Post performance costume change (I did not make these dresses!)

The Starella Sisters have another performance planned next month for the holidays and they’ve asked me to be their official costume designer (!) so I’ll have another couple commissions in the works to share with you guys. Stay tuned for that!

Advertisements
Contemporary Pattern · Entertaining · Finished! · Holidays · Home Dec · Modern Sewing

A Shakespearean Halloween

IMG_2620

Happy (Belated) Halloween, everyone! Peter and I threw our Halloween party the day-of, after having to postpone due to several unforeseen circumstances last weekend . First, the oven caught on fire Saturday morning while I was baking a cake (it sounds worse than it was – part of the protective coating on the heating element that sits on the bottom of the oven was exposed, and started sparking). Luckily, we caught it early so there wasn’t too much damage, but it was finally fixed on Thursday (Peter and I have both been working longer hours this week). Then on Saturday afternoon, Portland had a pretty bad windstorm and we lost power until early Sunday AM. We made the decision to postpone after the oven fire, and we were very glad we did when the power went out (although it would have added to the spooky element!).

IMG_2617

Anyways, I love throwing parties and getting my Martha Stewart on, and this event was no exception. I don’t know how I originally conceived of the Shakespeare theme (there are a lot of spooky elements in his works, especially Macbeth), but once we had that as the theme, I ran with it. The food was so much fun to plan, and we named the dishes after puns on Shakespeare plays. We served:

  • Much Ado About Nutella Cookies
  • Hamlet and Cheese Tart
  • King Pear Cake with A Midsummer Night’s Cream
  • To Pea or Not to Pea Salad

I also made apple cider with shrunken apple heads, and we had a basket of Shakespearean insult cards guests could pull out and read to one another, which was super fun!

IMG_2646

As for costumes, I originally was going to make reproduction Elizabethan clothing for both Peter and I, but I quickly realized the time and budget constraints we were working with, and scrapped that idea. Instead, Peter wore his “You Discussed Me” Shakespeare T-shirt, and I whipped up a hostess apron just in time. I saw this purple spider web fabric at Mill End last month, and loved it so much that I had to go back and buy a yard. I used one of my favorite apron patterns, McCall’s 6177, which is sadly out-of-print now and no longer on their website.

IMG_2622

I also made an adorable witchy woman table runner to adorn the drinks table. I had so much fun putting this together, mainly because it was a super quick and easy project, and those striped witch legs with the point shoes amuse me to no end. The pattern I used was Simplicity 1343, “Autumn Table Accessories,” which also comes with patterns for other table runners, leaf placemats, and fabric pumpkins. Since my table is longer than the one on the pattern envelope, I ended up lengthening my pattern piece, which meant that I didn’t have enough fabric to do a backing (the main plaid fabric was from the stash and was originally supposed to be an 1860s pinner apron). This ended up being fine, as I just hemmed the raw edges. I also omitted the buckles on the shoes, preferring instead to do some faux socks using ruched trim (which is the same trim I used on the apron, as well!).

I’ve also been decorating for fall around the apartment, and thought I would share a few of my home dec pics, as I did a lot of DIY crafting!

Manle 1

The mantle is absolutely my favorite, I love having a fireplace to decorate this time of year. I made the “Happy Halloween sign” out of scrapbook paper, as well as the wreath. Originally, I was going to make this wreath from Martha Stewart using scrapbook paper instead of cutting up an old book (the horror!), but the paper I chose ended up being too blah. Luckily, I bought some faux leaves and those ended up being perfect to glue over the paper leaves British Boyfriend (TM) helped me cut out. I then glued these to a ready-made styrofoam wreath form that I had wrapped an autumnal ribbon around.

Front door

I also found the perfect wreath for our black front door. Isn’t it darling!? I love that it’s more a general fall wreath, so I can continue to use it throughout November.

Well, that’s it for now, kittens. I hope everyone had a happy (and safe!) Halloween!

 

Dress · Finished! · Modern Sewing · Pattern · Personal

Forays into Special Occasion Sewing

IMG_2370

Most people that don’t sew have a mistaken notion that sewing your own clothes is a money-saver. Holy Hannah, is that far from the truth! Case in point: the dress I made for Peter’s sister’s wedding. It would have been much cheaper (and time-efficient) to buy something from Modcloth, which I did consider. Unfortunately, it takes like 10 days for anything they ship to me to reach my front step, and then there’s always a risk that once it does show up, it won’t fit. So, I decided that sewing a dress would probably be my best bet.

IMG_2463

I knew I wanted to wear a fancy wrap dress in a shade of blue, and after looking at numerous patterns, I chose Butterick 5983, which has a lovely wrap dress bodice that is pleated at the shoulders. Luckily, I made a muslin mock-up first, as there were several alterations that needed to be done. First, I shortened the length of the circle skirt about 9 inches, so that it was knee-length, rather than tea-length. I also pinched in the shoulder seam, as it was too full for my shoulders. As for fabric, I used a gorgeous Kenneth Cole blue cotton sateen that I got locally at Mill End Fabrics. I love this fabric, it has a great satin feel to it, but because it’s a cotton, is way easier to work with. I also bought several yards of lace fabric to create an overlay over the sateen, but when I got the fabric home and saw the two together in non-fluorescent light, they just didn’t work together, so I had to scrap that idea. Hopefully, I can use the lace for another project, as it’s really lovely.

IMG_2479

The back closes with a hand-pricked lapped zipper (somehow I didn’t get a photo of that, sorry!). I didn’t do this to be fancy, but rather, because somehow I’ve managed to lose both of my zipper feet for my machine (this is one of the reasons I hate moving, people). I’m sure it’s somewhere in the sewing/craft stuff, but in the rush to get this dress done, I really didn’t have the time it would take to thoroughly look for it, so hand-pricked zipper it was! This was my first time using this technique, and I actually really like it! I found I got way more control with hand-sewing it (the zipper pull is always getting in the way when I insert zippers by machine), and it also looks neater than my machine-sewn zippers.

IMG_2484

Despite being sick as a dog on the day of the wedding, I had a great time and got so many lovely compliments from everyone on the dress (which they couldn’t believe I had made myself!). It definitely made the hectic last-minute sewing worth it. The wedding ceremony took place at the Sponza Palace, a 16th-century building in Dubrovnik’s Old Town. Afterwards, we walked out to the harbor and took a boat ride around one of the small islands, before reaching shore again for the reception at The Grand Villa Argentina. The wedding ceremony and reception were absolutely gorgeous, and I’m so grateful that I was able to attend!

IMG_2457

Finished! · Home Dec · Modern Sewing

Home Dec Sewing!

First off, thank you so much everyone for your lovely comments on my last post about our new place! As promised, here’s a look at some of the home decorating projects I’ve been working on. Since all of them involve square or rectangular pieces of fabric and were fairly straightforward to construct, I decided to combine them all into one post.

IMG_2358

The first thing I made for our new place (and on the day of the housewarming party, no less!) were pillows for the couch. The two tan ones came with the couch, but I wanted some other pillows, as well. I didn’t use a pattern at all for these, just cut out squares of fabric based on the dimensions of the pillow form.

IMG_2347

I also made a quilted wall hanging for the kitchen using a neat fabric panel I found on Etsy.

IMG_2350

Next up were Union Jack quilted coasters! I used this fabric from Riley Blake’s British Invasion collection. Interested in making your own quilted coasters? I have a tutorial here!

IMG_2354

Finally, though not a sewing project per se (more like a stapling project), I tried my hand at upholstery and reupholstered my old vintage vanity bench. I really wished I had taken a before picture, but alas, I was too staple-happy to remember to do so, and I did this project on the day of our housewarming party, as well (nothing like procrastination!). I’m really glad I got it done that day, though, as it was a really big hit at the party and people loved sitting on it.

IMG_2356

I want to make some new pillows for the bedroom, as well and maybe reupholster my sewing chair, but those will be future projects. 😉

 

Finished! · Modern Sewing

The Cute as a Button Skirt

IMG_2170

We’ve been experiencing a bit of a heat wave in Portland this week, and so I’m frantically whipping up summer-appropriate clothes (almost all of the summer dresses I brought with me last year when I moved down here no longer fit. Silly weight gain!).

Pardon my squinting, it was like a million (okay 90) degrees outside.
Pardon my squinting, it was like a million (okay 90) degrees

This skirt was not a planned project at all, but a result of wandering into the Joann Fabrics clearance aisle (always dangerous for me!). Now, I do try to shop local as much as I can, but when doing commissions (which was the reason for this Joann’s trip), I find it more cost-effective for both me and the customer to use Joann’s since they have amazing coupons. Anyways, I happened upon this fabric on a bolt in the clearance aisle for $5 a yard. There was about 2 yards left on the bolt, perfect for a skirt. Best part? The skirt has a button print motif AND is blue and orange, which reminds me of my bestie as those are her favorite colors.

You have to look closely, but those circles are totes printed buttons.
You have to look closely, but those circles are totes printed buttons.

I used my typical “this is a gathered skirt so I’m just going to rip rectangles out of the fabric” pattern, which isn’t really a pattern at all. I love these skirts, as they go together with hardly any effort. That being said, I did do a slipstitch for the hem, as I didn’t quite have the correct shade of orange thread to match the fabric (this was definitely a stashbuster project when it came to notions).

IMG_2146

 

Anyone else doing fun summer sewing?

Finished! · Modern Sewing

Black & White Polka Dot Top

IMG_1810

Modern tops that fit are sorely lacking in my wardrobe (I’ve had a bit of a weight gain since moving to Portland, but that’s a whole ‘nother post), and so when I saw this pattern in the Simplicity catalog on a recent fabric shopping trip, I knew it would be a great staple to have. I made version E almost exactly (sans the black strip down the middle), but I did decide to fully line it (polyester chiffon is so sheer, who knew!), which the pattern doesn’t call for. Including a lining made this project take twice as long as it should have, but you can’t really see my undergarments through it, so mission accomplished.

IMG_1840

I also made my own bias tape out of the lining fabric to finish the raw edges of the armholes ( I like to use self-fabric bias tape whenever possible, as it wears better with the garment, uses up more of the project fabric, and you can cut it to any width you need, as opposed to the packaged stuff).

 

IMG_1837

The top is closed with a button-fastening at center back, which makes it super easy to wear.  I also made my first thread loop (there’s no buttonhole! Yay!), which was way easier than I thought it would be. The pattern also has great instructions on how to do this, along with a diagram, which was super helpful. That being said, the back is a bit saggy, and I don’t know if that’s due to the pattern design, or my button choice being too heavy. In any event, it’s still very comfortable and versatile to wear, especially when making friends with neighborhood cats (this one happened to only have 3 legs, but she was such a sweetie!).

Me and Montage

All in all, I’m quite pleased with how this project turned out and will definitely be making another! Do you have a go-to top pattern? Let me know down in the comments!

Contemporary Pattern · Dress · Finished! · Modern Sewing

A Starburst Yellow Moneta

IMG_1488
Look, Ma! I made my first knit dress!

Living in Portland, I was fortunate enough to be a pattern tester for Colette Pattern’s first knit dress pattern, the Moneta (which made its debut this past Tuesday). It was *so* hard for me to keep this from you guys, because I love this dress so much! I made Version 1, which is sleeveless and has a really neat collar.

IMG_1483

It is incredibly comfy and soft and so easy to wear (no zip! Just slips on over the head!). I think that has a lot to do with fabric choice. I wanted to make my Moneta out of a fabric that was the highest percentage of cotton I could find (easier to work with, and a lot of the poly knits out there are just too slinky for me), and so I snagged this starburst printed cotton by Robert Kaufman. Luckily, I was able to find my fabric locally at Fabric Depot, but you can also find it online here.

IMG_1494

Regarding my experience sewing knits prior to this, I’ve made a basic cardigan before using this Simplicity pattern. Not having a serger has always detracted me from sewing knits, but luckily, my machine as a stitch that is specifically designed to sew seams on knits (you can also use a zig-zag stitch, as well).

IMG_1511

Besides the relative new-ness of sewing with knit fabric, there were also several techniques that this pattern uses that I had never done before. For example, the skirt is gathered using clear elastic, a notion that I had never used before (luckily, the Colette Patterns blog has a handy tutorial about how to use it).

IMG_1491

I definitely plan to make this dress again (I already have the fabric!), but there are a few changes I would make:

  • Shorten the bodice by about 1/2″. I don’t know if it’s the stretchiness of the particular fabric I chose, but the bottom of the bodice doesn’t hit quite at my natural waistline (hence the belt).
  • Edgestitch along the neckline. Right now, the collar has a tendency to roll up, and edgestitching would help it lay flat.

Despite these future changes, I’m completely chuffed with my first knit dress, and would definitely recommend this pattern to any seamstress (or seamster!) wanting to get started with sewing knits.