Archive for April, 2008


Just one fitting and a few frenzied hours from completion

My hook and eye tape arrived in the mail yesterday – hooray!  Huge thanks to ebay seller bridcishop for a very quick turnaround on my order.  🙂

So, it only took about an hour yesterday to sew the hook and eye tape into the dress foundation, and to sew the foundation into the dress.  The only steps remaining are to hem the skirt, and to hand sew hooks and eyes to the neck strap and above the zipper.  Bonnie will be over in the very near future to try the dress on so I can mark the hem and neck strap accordingly.

After some debate, I ended up deciding to make the dress foundation per the pattern instructions because there was a whole chain reaction if I started changing things.  I had my doubts about plastic boning and fabric lining providing adequate support.  But if I switched to steel boning, then I really did need to upgrade to heavier fabric, and then we were looking at something that would be quite a bit heavier, which seemed less than ideal for a dress that is going to be worn for outdoor performances in the summertime in Florida.  So I followed the directions, and I must say I’m pleasantly surprised!  It looks (on the dress form anyway) like this will actually provide enough support.  Our fitting will tell if this is true.

In the meantime, I thought I’d post a few more quick pics.  I’m very pleased with the drape, and with the shape of the bodice now that the neckline is finished!


Not so straight pins

We’ve all had that experience I’m sure, where the needle on the sewing machine hits a straight pin right on and dents the thing rather than sliding over its curve.  There have been many times that I’ve fumbled with slightly bent pins or gone ahead and thrown them out if they are too badly damaged to bother.

Yesterday, I had an experience that was new.  It was as though my sewing machine were posessed by some sort of homicidal demon and wanted to completely and utterly DESTROY my straight pin.  Somehow (and try as I may I cannot quite understand how it was possible) the machine needle hit a straight pin with enough force and at just such an angle that it jammed the thing straight down into the sewing machine and back up again!

Here I’ve removed the presser foot and the plastic plate over the bobbin case to try to see what on earth is going on.  Not only did the pin get jammed down into the bobin case, but somehow it got hooked back up through the tiny gap alongside the feed dog!!

A close up from another angle.  Look at that!!  That’s like a fish hook threaded through parts of my machine that are not supposed to have things poked into them!  Thankfully, my husband had a handy little screwdriver that fit in the limited space, and we were able to remove the metal needle plate from the machine to unhook the not-so-straight-anymore pin.

It was just bizarre enough that I thought I’d share a few photos!

“Straight” pin? I don’t think so!


A walk in the garden

Sorry I haven’t posted in a few days.  I’ve been continuing to work on Bonnie’s black and blue dress, and we’re making some good progress.  The foundation is almost finished (I just have to sew in the hook and eye closures in the back, and my hook and eye tape arrived in today’s mail!) and waiting to be sewn into the dress.  Very, very soon I’ll be ready to invite her over for a final fitting to mark the hemline.

Meanwhile, the sun is shining and summer is in full swing.  Never mind that it’s too hot and I’m sweating like crazy, my garden looks beautiful!  I thought I’d share a few photos of the flowers we’ve planted, just for fun.

Our home backs to an undeveloped area of nature preserve, with a wooded area and a small lake past that (which we could, in theory, access, but so far, haven’t).

The edge of that nature preserve is full of blackberry bramble and small wildflowers like the purple one below (only thing I’m going to post for which I don’t know the name).  There are small oak trees and wax myrtles in the foreground and behind that, in the water, are tall bald cypresses.

The blackberries are nearly finished blooming, but the cluster of white flowers above are still fresh and quite lovely!  Most of the bramble is covered now in small green and red unripe berries.  I’ve spotted just one ripe berry so far, tucked down at the base of a vine.

In the front yard, our gardening efforts are more intentional.  In other words, we planted a garden in the front yard, while in the back we just sit back and enjoy the wonderful garden God planted here for us.  We agreed early on that we prefered COLOR and wanted to work mostly with plants that bloom.  Green shrubs are very nice of course, but why not have a green shrub covered in blue flowers, like the Blue Daze here?

Most of what we have planted are brightly blooming perrenials that are fairly drought tolerant and can survive long periods without fertilizer.  I don’t want to spend much time bent over the flower beds working, but I want something pretty to look at nonetheless!

The sidewalk from our driveway up to the front porch is lined with bright yellow lantana, soft blue plumbago, and one gorgeous rose bush we bought on a whim.  (I’ve NEVER done well with roses in the past, but this particular variety is well suited and it’s been a real delight to come home to more blooms with each passing month!)

Eva regularly delights in pulling the clusters of small yellow flowers off the lantana and dropping them haphazardly on the sidewalk.  We try to keep this to a minimum, but for all that it can be really precious when she takes more care in picking a single bloom to give to Mommy or Daddy.

Around and underneath our rose bush, we have a few clusters of phlox that have sprouted up somewhat spontaneously.  We had planted just a couple of these annuals last year, when our garden was dinky and unestablished, to give a bit of instant gratification.  They self seeded and this year we have a hodge podge of colors mixed in and around our other plantings.


A close up of the phlox.

The plumbago is doing very nicely this year.  Our lantana fared very poorly in the lone frost we had back in January, and we had to cut back a lot of damaged growth, but the plumbago didn’t miss a beat.  So, while the lantana is playing catch up, we’re enjoying huge clusters of blue flowers from the plumbago.

This is one of my Florida favorites.  It’s remarkably drought and heat tolerant and once it’s established it can survive just about any abuse you throw at it.  Left unchecked, they’ll grow a good 8 feet tall, but they respond well to pruning and can fill in a flower bed or even serve as a hedge.

Eva thinks the plumbago is pretty.

“Look, my blue flower!”


I should be sleeping

But I’m sewing.  I managed to tweak the fit in a gloriously short amount of time, and fixed the pattern pieces accordingly so the lining would fit correctly right from the start.  And then, since I was dealing w/ the pattern anyway, I went ahead and cut out all the lining pieces.  Then I sewed them together.  And now I have basted them to the inside of the dress, and pinned along the zipper but not yet stitched it down there.  It is nearly midnight, I’m tired, my eyes are drooping, and my back is sore.

But I can’t help dwelling on the fact that I just have to stitch the lining to the zipper to be done with this step, and then I can make the foundation, sew that in to the dress, and be finished aside from marking/hemming!

Going to bed now.  I’ll be whip stitching in my dreams for sure.


Fit fix

My Aunt Bonnie came over briefly and tried the outer dress on.  I am delighted to say that it is EXTREMELY flattering on her and by and large all our plans and alterations have worked out brilliantly!  The funky back does need to be resolved, so that’s on my agenda for this evening, if my husband and daughter can bear with me.  I marked the dress while it was on her, and I’ll also touch up the pattern pieces accordingly so the lining of this dress will match the outer dress, and also so we’ll have a head start on future dresses in the same shape.

I’m also just thrilled that she has mentioned going forward on a second dress pretty quickly here!  A couple of their summer gigs will require her to wear all white.  Women out there can agree with us – all white is not a good look for most of us gals.  Dark colors are slimming and white is not.  But, I pointed out to her, most brides pull it off pretty well!  I suggested something with a corseted bodice and exaggerated V-shaped seams may help create a slimming affect, even though the color itself won’t.  That would definitely be fun.  🙂

More later.  I’m done writing for now and off to rip out a zipper.


Zippity Do Da

I thought I’d take a few minutes to talk about zippers.  Most patterns that call for zippers give directions along these lines: Sew the bottom part of the skirt back together, from that little dot you transfered over from the pattern piece.  Then take the raw edges above the seam, fold them under, and sew them onto your store bought zipper. They give a bit more detail than that, but this is the jist of it.

The problem?  Fabric is not paper.  When you fold it under, you don’t get a nice crease, you get a rounded, puffy fold.  You have to somehow hold the zipper and the fabric – perfectly folded down along the would-be seam line, 5/8″ in from the raw edge – with one hand while attaching pins with your free hand, and achieve a straight line in the process.  I sewed exactly one zipper ever using this technique.  It was uneven and wavy along the length of the zipper, and it puckered awkwardly at the bottom.

There may be many folks out there who have great success with sewing zippers as the pattern makers would have them.  I’m not one of those lucky folks, so I developed my own technique. My way means adding a couple of steps, but it has always resulted in a zipper I could be proud of.  And while I am THRILLED to save time where I can without sacrificing quality (like using a rotary cutter and mat instead of pinning pattern pieces to my fabric and scissor cutting), I am also willing to spend plenty of extra time where I need to in order to achieve the result I want.

When I prepare to sew in a zipper, I start by serging all the raw edges so that the final product is nice and tidy, with no frayed raw edges.  It’s basically impossible to serge the raw edges after the zipper is in, but they don’t just magically disappear by virtue of the zipper’s existance, and so you are left with a pretty zipper with unravelled fluff sticking out at the sides.  After I serge my fabric, I pin the entire length of the back together, and baste it using a long stitch.  Then, I iron the seam flat in both directions and voila, there is a lovely crease where I would have struggled to fold the fabric down.

I use a seam ripper or a small pair of scissors to clip the thread at the dot transfered from my pattern (or, as often as not, I ignore that dot on the pattern and just hold the zipper up to the actual garment so I’m positive I place it where I want it), and I remove the stitching from the top half.  I now have nicely folded and creased edges to pin to the zipper.

Normally, I sew a finer stitch right over the line I basted on the lower half of the skirt.  For Bonnie’s dress, I want the chiffon layer to rest freely on top of the tafetta.  So, I removed the basting from the lower half of the skirt first (and left it in place for the top portion).  I peeled back the tafetta, and pinned, stitched, and serged the chiffon layer together along the seamline.  Then I tucked the chiffon out of the way, and did the same to the tafetta.  The result is that the two layers of fabric are sewn together along the length of the zipper, and then they separate just beneath it.

Once I have my fabric creased for me, I basically do follow the standard instructions.  I sew the zipper in to one side first, open it, and sew the other half of the zipper to the other side of the dress.

In addition to installing the zipper, I’ve sewn in the bra cups since the last time I posted, by simply tacking them to the existing seams as the pattern directions instructed.  The cups are sewn right to the seam allowance so none of the thread is actually visible on the right side of the fabric.  This does mean they’re tacked in a few teensy places, rather than being secured all around, but they’re pretty snug all the same. And with these two steps complete, our outer dress should now be complete, right?  Take a look.  Looks pretty good, doesn’t it?  I mean, this is a dress you’d wear out in public, right?

The front looks good enough.  But what on EARTH is going on with the back of this dress??  Ugh.  I’m thoroughly annoyed by this, because in fact the muslin was a bit funky in the back as well, but I just attributed it to the loose weave stretching from the weight of the skirt.  Nope.  It’s a stupid cut.  Why do I buy patterns in the first place?

I think I will need to remove the zipper, cut a bit of excess from the back bodice pieces, and then sew the zipper back in.  I’m going to ask Bonnie to come over and try it on real quickly though so that I can be sure I fix it right.

One more angle as I smack myself in the forehead here.  *sigh* It’s bedtime.


My torrid affair

This morning my wonderful, loving husband told me he misses me.  It wasn’t to make me feel guilty, or to demand that I lay off the sewing for a while, just a simple honest expression of his appreciation for quality time together.  The past couple of evenings, I’ve spent too much time sequestered in my sewing room, stitching and serging like mad.  The time I’ve spent downstairs with him has largely been while I’ve cut and pinned fabric, or written here in my blog.  This morning, I got in a quick seam before work too!  In actual fact, I miss him too.  And yet my mind continues to drift to the dress (and to many possible future projects as well).

I remember that when I was nearly finished sewing my mother in law’s second ballgown, I took a moment to thank my husband for his patience with me, his time spent caring for our daughter and just generally accepting the fact that I was spending hours I didn’t have working on the dress.  I told him “I’m almost finished, and then it will go back to normal.”  He looked at me, laughed, and said, “No it won’t.  You’ll just be obsessing about something else to sew!”

I find myself thinking about sewing while I lie in bed, trying to fall asleep.  I picture the next several steps, practice them in my mind before I have the time to act them out in reality.  I daydream about sewing when it’s slow at work, and look at photos online or read other sewer’s blogs.  I write long posts here when I’m not actually sewing.  I am, quite simply, obsessed.  It’s a little like being in love, isn’t it?

Tonight, when I get home, I look forward to spending more time with him, and taking a brief break from the dress.  I have a half-sewn zipper waiting for me, and a half-written blog post to go with it; both will have to wait.  But I think we all know exactly where my wandering mind will be!

April 2008
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