Monday, December 22, 2014

Reappearing briefly ... and a Giveaway

First, before we get into this post click this link and enter the CSC giveaway running in connection with my review there of the Hot Patterns Uptown/Downtown Knit dress. It ends at midnight EST tonight. HURRY!

Then, leave a comment on this post to double your chances because Trudy and Jeremy have also generously gifted a second copy of this great pattern for a giveaway here. I will do the drawing sometime this weekend. Probably Saturday, but with Christmas and all, I'm not promising. As long as the comments are still open on this post, the giveaway is still open.

OK, back to this post.

I am SO behind on everything. The Marine (Tyler) arrived last week, unexpectedly, and I kind of just threw my hands up and decided to have fun with him instead of honoring obligations. He changed bases and is now 8 hours closer for the next 3 years. Yay! He left Thursday but he'll be here again this Wednesday for the long Christmas weekend. Double yay! It had been 9 months since I had seen him and it was such a treat to have so many days with him. Plus, Alex was at his dad's in Virginia last weekend which gave Tyler and I some alone time. We did lots of stuff, none of which involved my sewing room. Hah.

But I did reacquaint myself in there this weekend and with my old BWOFs, and traced a couple of patterns to make a "track suit" for weekend wear. I'm sorely lacking in casual clothes at the moment.

Even before starting, I didn't forget what a Royal PITA it is to trace BWOFs, which made me procrastinate throughout the whole process, but both patterns are now traced. And that's all the "sewing" I've done lately. I would MUCH RATHER tape together a hundred PDFs. But, as I was looking through the magazine inserts, I saw so many patterns I want to make. Even TEN YEARS later, many of these BWOFs are fashionable and so much more interesting than most of what's out there in printed or PDF patterns. Sigh. No pain, no gain, right? Looks like I'll need to invest in some Swedish Tracing Paper.

Here's what I'm making, hopefully.

And proof that BWOF/BS loves to recycle ... does this one look familiar? Actually, I think this pattern is older and the one I did trace is the "newer" version. I may get some motivation to lay out my tracing over this pattern sheet and really compare.

Now, go enter the giveaways! I'm hoping to be back here briefly before Christmas, but if not, Merry Merry to everyone!!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Pattern Testing and Review: Muse Natalie

This is the pattern I mentioned I was testing, the latest offering from Muse, aka what is becoming my new favorite indie pattern company. Not because I received two patterns for "free" (quotes because testing isn't really free to me, or any tester, when you account for time, materials, etc. but I know that and volunteered with eyes wide open) but because I really like what I've seen and sewn from Muse so far. And I did buy the Jenna cardigan pattern with my own money so it's not all fluff and unicorns here. :-)

This dress is Natalie. Side note ... although I've heard/read grumblings around the interwebs about the practice among indies of naming patterns instead of or in addition to numbering them, I actually prefer the names. I can NEVER remember a pattern number (especially if they've been reissued), but I always remember the names. So names over numbers gets a thumbs-up from me and my forgetful brain every time. (You can also read about the inspiration for the Muse pattern names when you click over to the Muse site.)

This pattern testing cycle was pretty much like the last testing I did for Muse. I was given a preview of the pattern to see if I would be interested, along with a schedule of when to have my testing finished. No photos were required but I caught a nice day on a weekend after finishing the dress so I've had these waiting for this post. At first, I wasn't sure about this design for me and volunteered to only review the instructions, PDF print-out, cutting layout, and pattern pieces. But then, being the fickle sewist I am, I decided to just go for it, figuring nothing ventured, nothing gained. And I'm glad I did. I like the final dress a lot.

It's definitely a very feminine dress and my curves probably make it a little more so, but, hey, I've got curves. I have worn it to the office and while the vee is low, it's not work-inappropriate low. I also wore a black cardi over the dress in the office. Because office air conditioning.

The dress falls like an empire waist but wrong side out on Zillie below you can see that it's not really an empire at all. There's a triangle inset, gathering at bust and CF (optional at CF), and diagonal seaming down the front. The neckline is finished with a mitered attached band and was sized perfectly to fit the neck opening and lay flat on the body underneath. The back is cut on fold. Truthfully, I kind of wish there was some cool seaming at the back too and I contemplated adding at least a CB seam when sewing this, but laziness over pattern matching won over. And this print is cool/busy enough so any more seaming would've been lost anyway.

I cut a straight 44 with no adjustments except to square the shoulders (my usual) while cutting out the pattern.

It fits perfectly, no FBA needed due to the gathers and diagonal seams. For a next make of the dress, I will add 1-1/2" to the length because while the pattern is drafted for a 5'10" woman (yes!), it would have been shorter than my preference on my 5'5" self if I had hemmed it more than a smidge. So I cut a shaped hem facing instead. I could have just turned up a 3/8" hem but I prefer a deep hem on drapey knits so they have some weight. The sleeves, on the other hand, were much too long for me. I cut off about 2" and still hemmed them with a 1-1/2" turn-up. But that's to be expected if the fit model is 5'10", no? Better too long than too short anyway. The dress was cut out and sewn in one day. It's a fast project.

While testing, I noted some corrections and slight improvements to the pattern markings and cutting layout and I think every one of them was incorporated into the final. I thought the pre-release instructions were fine as-is, with no corrections needed, although other testers must have had suggestions since the release notes mention those changes being included too. This tells me that again Kat, the designer behind Muse, listened to her testers and adjusted her pattern and release schedule to make necessary changes. As a tester, it's gratifying to know that the testing does matter and we're not here for just a happy shiny blog tour to sell patterns.

I'll state it again, I was NOT asked to post this review or any photos. What I'm writing and showing here is by my own choice. I like the pattern and my final dress. If you like it too and want to buy it, that's your choice. I get nothing if you do, or if you don't.

Now if you do decide you're interested, the full sale price, less transaction fees, of all Natalie patterns sold during the first week of launch (December 8-14, 2014) will be donated to the Wellington branch of the Cats Protection League and you can get 15% off the Natalie pattern during launch week with the code NATALIE. A win for the kitties and a win for you.

I have a few projects running through my mind that I want to tackle soon so this will be it for me and pattern testing for a while. Stay tuned for my overly ambitious to-do list. ;-) I hope the sewjo holds up.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Ahhh Goodbye Long Weekend I Have Loved You So

I can't believe I have to go back to work in the morning. Well, it's a good thing ... past unemployment, etc., but I was really REALLY enjoying the paid time off. Something I haven't had for almost a year. I hope all of my American readers had a great Thanksgiving! It was very low-key here, just Alex and me, but we cooked (and ate) like we were expecting another dozen. I'm really craving a salad so the leftovers will be set aside tonight and maybe only come out one more time tomorrow before they are tossed. (Don't worry ... Alex has already made sure that not much is being tossed.)

I didn't sew a whole lot over the last four days, but I did what us sewistas do when we're not sewing ... BUY FABRIC. Hahaha. I went to Hancock's yesterday for thread on sale, a couple of invisible zips also on sale, and to see if they still had any of the gray pinstripe left at $3.99/yd. Yes, yes, and yes. Although the fabric initially wasn't coming up as on sale, but the clerk did honor the sign above the bolt, so yay. I left the store spending less than $25, which I count as a win. The pinstripes may be pants soon. Or it may be a blatant copy of Carolyn's latest dress.

I wasn't nearly so thrifty online last night where nearly $100 worth of knits fell into my shopping basket.

And I just spent my CSC / Smuggler's Daughter winnings to take advantage of the "notwalmart" discount code before it expires tonight. A cool fabric was calling my name (below left). I have no idea what to make with it, but I want it nonetheless. I may have been channeling my inner Shams. I'm hoping it speaks to me when I have it in my hands. Another piece may have jumped in the cart too.

And this from the woman who never used to wear black. Hmmm. The times they are a changin'.

The sewing I did do this weekend is still embargoed. I've been testing yet again. I promise ... this is not turning into a pattern testing blog. At first, I was only going to look over the pattern itself and the instructions since X and I both thought the pattern wasn't really my style. However, I don't really have a style, per se, since I tend to just buy/make/wear what I like and what I think looks good on me with maybe only one eye toward "fashionable," and the more I looked at the pattern, the more I decided I did want to at least try it. All I can share before it's released (which will be soon I'm told) is a little sneaky peek.

Yeah,that helps a lot, doesn't it? But since I did manage to get outside for some pics today, when I can share them, they won't be of the usual crappy variety. Ahem. Still, I am not a model and I seriously had to delete about 10 for every 1 I kept. I'm much better at the au naturale bathroom mirror shots.

Not sure how much sewing is going to happen during the week, but I hope at least some since my upcoming Saturday afternoon is already booked with a trip to nowhere on my boss' boat. It's called "The Holiday Death Cruise to Nowhere (with boxed wine)" to give you some idea of the warped senses of humor in my work group. I'm proud? to say I fit right in. Alex is invited too but I'm not sure yet if he really wants to go. Might be kind of boring for him. But still, a boat ride around Tampa Bay can't be all bad even if you're 22 stuck with a bunch of oldies. ;-)

Have a great week!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

It's Time for More Crappy Photos

Maybe Santa will bring me a better camera, but for now we're all stuck with a simple Point and Shoot and/or my phone. But at least you get me and not Zillie, right? (cough:cough)

So here's what I wore yesterday, which is the newest Jenna cardigan paired with the Kwik Sew tank and the Butterick "Carolyn" skirt. Love! this skirt. I want two more.

I've been wanting a pinstripe skirt for a while now and I'm so glad it's finally in my closet. I may go back to Hancock's for more of the fabric to make a pair of pants too. It was a steal at only $3.99/yard.

Bought these last night in anticipation of The Big Freeze today. Brrrr! They are very comfy.

I did finish the Hot Patterns Uptown/Downtown Knit Dress last night, motivation rising as the temps kept falling. It was in the THIRTIES people. Good god! This is what I wore today ... Yeah, you can't see the dress very well in these work bathroom cell phone pics, but I like it a lot and it was nice and cozy. New boots, check. Scarf I made last night from scraps of that dress I made and hated, check. And a RTW cardi. Gillian, if you're reading, this is the curved hem RTW cardi I mentioned. Somehow that curve minimizes my hips. I want more of these too. My head looks huge in these pics and I have no chin. Lovely.

 Here I was trying to show more of the dress not hang myself. Not sure it worked out as planned. :-)

And now I'm off to brave the cold again with some dinner out. And tomorrow night is our firm's holiday party for clients, at which I'm "working" (hello overtime!). Everyone says it's lots of fun. I believe them ... the caterers were in all day today setting up bars and food stations all over both of the floors we inhabit in the building. Nice! Staff gets its own party next month.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The mini SWAP continues

Lots of sewing has been going on but you'll have to settle for Zillie doing the modeling for now. And crappy nighttime indoor photography, which is doing horrible things to the colors.

I finished the next Jenna cardi. You saw a sneak peek of this one last post.

While I didn't use the gathered front version, I did use the shoulder yoke pieces for a contrast and applied them over top. Also contrasting is the neck, button, and sleeve bands. I have used what seems like a TON of this gray sweater knit in the last 10 days, as you'll see. It's been in my stash for so many years I've lost count. And I still have at least 2 yards left. Holy cow ... it must have been a really good deal whenever/wherever I bought it.

I also made another KS tank so the cardi becomes a twinset.

But I made this one with a little "twist." It's party in the front, business in the back. A un-mullet. Ha.

This way I get a plain gray-fronted tank to layer under the cardi and other things when the mood strikes. I'm a little proud of myself for thinking of this. I know it will come in handy.

Next in the queue was this Simplicity gored skirt. Trust me, it's purple, not red/maroon, and matches the new cardi. This pattern is made for a woven but I used a knit. I omitted the back zip and inserted some elastic into the sides of the waistband to snug it in when worn. I have no idea what this knit fabric is. It looks like a double-knit or golf/pique knit but it's really stretchy and drapey. It's also been in my stash for a long time. A. Really. Long. Time. As you can tell, I'm on a flippy skirt jag at the moment.

The skirt ... again, really purple, not red ... also coordinates with the other Jenna. Looks like Zillie is leaning like the Tower of Pisa. Weird.

I'm now in the process of making this HP Uptown/Downtown knit dress, with yet more of the gray sweater knit. It's my plan to have it finished tomorrow night so I can wear it Wednesday, when it's supposed to be quite FRIGID here. What the heck northerners ... keep that stuff up your way, OK? It's not even Thanksgiving and we're dropping into the 30s?? Yikes. Good thing I've been sewing (and buying) cardigans.

I still have to add the waist elastic and sleeve bands, plus decide on either a hem or hem band for the bottom. I wore the heck out of my summer version of this dress and decided I definitely needed a winter one. The plain gray is going to be a great blank canvas for layering. Obviously the new Jenna matches perfectly. I kept the neckline lowered per the last make and didn't add length to the neckband even though this knit is a lot less stretchy ... which made for a bit of gathering which I actually quite like. Happy accident.

Here are the patterns, for anyone interested.

Muse Jenna for the cardigans.

Kwik Sew 2759 for the tank underlayer.

Simplicity 1697 for the purple-not-red skirt.

Hot Patterns 1090 Uptown//Downtown Knit Dress.

The new job is going well. Thanks again for all the good wishes. I'm working with a really great and fun group of people in a really great firm. I'm so thrilled that a permanent position opened up at just the right time. And I really, REALLY hope this is the last job I have to get for a good long time. It's going to take a little while to get my finances caught up but it's so nice to finally know it will happen. I have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, and your virtual support is truly one of the things on the list.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The start of a mini SWAP with my Carolyn Skirt

After the wadder from last weekend's sewing, I went in a different direction for the pinstripe skirt after finding this inspiration photo on Pinterest. I'm calling mine the Carolyn Skirt because (1) pinstripes are very corporate and Carolyn is all about sewing a corporate wardrobe and (2) she's also all about finding inspirational fashion pieces and interpreting them for herself.

My skirt didn't need much interpretation since I already had this Butterick 4877 pattern stashed and my skirt is pretty much a straight copy. But I did have to do a bit of pattern hacking, first for the size and then for design details. The pattern is from my bigger days and the size range I bought is too big for me now. I graded it down two sizes, using the pattern's actual grading upward as my guide downward. That sounds a lot more complicated than it actually was. Essentially all I did was to chop off  1-1/2" from each side seam and shorten the waist facings to match.

I had previously made this skirt 2-3 times in the larger size range in a couple of the different views and loved the fit of them all so I had high hopes for a new smaller version. I wish it wasn't OOP because it's an awesome draft for women with curves. If you're curvy, I definitely recommend picking it up should you come across it. 

So, anyway ... my Carolyn Skirt. I started with View A (the white skirt), shortened the flounce by 5 inches, and then traced it and spit it so I could make the chevrons at the seams per the inspiration photo. I had to cut the flounce pieces (there's 6 of them total after the splitting) single layer so I could be sure my seams would create actual chevrons and not almost-chevrons.

I think I did very well with the stripe matching and the skirt copying. I added topstitching which the inspiration didn't have, but I wanted to really set off the seams. My skirt sits at my knee instead of above it, which is more flattering on me. And I'm as happy with the fit of my smaller version as I was with the original makes.

I debated a machined blind hem but decided for the faster method of just topstitching a narrow hem, figuring it blends with the other topstitching and, really, NO ONE is going to be looking at my hem. I'm not aiming for couture here. ;-)

I did think to take a pic of the serged/overlocked edge for anyone that's new to sewing a curved hem where the outside edge is larger than the turn-up. The trick is to turn up the differential on the serger so it very slightly gathers the edge and then to softly turn the hem under without straightening out the gathers. You can see in the photo below that the edge is already cupping inward. Work with that cupping so you can pin a hem that turns smoothly without actual gathers/ripples. Then press (up and down motion) it in place and sew it right side up so the feed dogs help in easing the longer edge too.

Next up is another Jenna cardi (in progress below), which will go with this skirt and another skirt already cut and waiting.

I'm hoping to finish the cardi in the morning, and that will probably be it for sewing this weekend as I have a bunch of errands to run and then dinner with a friend. Plus I'm hoping to do a little housecleaning too. But that's last on the list because ... well, it's housework. No pics on me until next week at the earliest since it's supposed to be still raining tomorrow. And one of my errands is to hopefully get a hair cut.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Some Random Thoughts

1. I sewed a pinstripe skirt last weekend.
2. It's a wadder.
3. I may blog about it later.
4. Even though the photos are incredibly UNflattering.
5. Or I may not.
6. I reached into my BWOF (yes, still WOF) archives.
7. Traced through the roadmap.
8. Even graded it up two sizes, since this was a "regular" size.
9. Sewed it all together.
10. Even installed a me-shortened invisible zipper perfectly.
11. And it's horrible if one has a belly.
12. Which I do. Hah.
13. Oh well.
14. Onward and upward.
15. I also cut out another non-Burda skirt and another Jenna cardi last weekend.
16. I was on a roll.
17. Until that Burda made me lose my mind.
18. I'll start on the other two projects first thing Saturday.
19. Unless I'm distracted by the HotPatterns order that arrived after work tonight.
20. I forgot what else I ordered beside the new HP cardi.
21. The package is taunting me.
22. I think I ordered at least one skirt.
23. And I still have more of the pinstripe fabric.
24. Will I allow myself to go off the rails again?
25. Time will tell.
26. Tune in to the Curvy Sewing Collective blog tomorrow for Wrapalong results.
27. Even with a wadder, it's been a good week.
28. Because, yay, fabric prizes! :-)
29. And, I found out today that I am now a permanent employee.
30. Woot!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Mirror Shot and Go Vote!

Here's a really crappy mirror shot of me after work today in my very extremely messy sewing room, complete with my work badge dangling off my skirt waist. You're welcome. ;-)

I am in love with this outfit and apparently others like it a lot too since I received a nice amount of unsolicitations. Woot! What a nice way to start a week. Besides needing more Jenna cardis, I need more of these skirts. I ended up tucking in the underlayer tank, which works well I think. Gives me a waist too.

Now please go have a look at the Curvy Sewing Collective's entries into the Wrapalong Sewalong and vote for your favorite here. I won't lie by saying I hope it's for me cuz the top three vote-getters each get a $50 gift certificate from Smuggler's Daughter for fabric, and you all KNOW how fabric deprived I've been. :-)

But even if not for me, please go vote. There are many pretty entries and they all deserve a look.

And go vote in the mid-terms too. Alex and I will be heading to a local polling place tomorrow after work for early voting. Love that option. The only thing better would be an app for that.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Muse Jenna Plus Kwik Sew 2759 = New Twinset Love

Here's my almost complete Jenna cardigan over the tank from Kwik Sew 2759. I still have buttons to sew onto the cardi tonight while plopped in front of the television. I decided on shank buttons from the button stash and so there's no way NOT to do these by hand. Oh, the sacrifices ... ;-)

The fabric is an acrylic/poly lightweight sweater knit purchased from Hancock's on Friday during my aerobic lunchtime shopping. I say "aerobic" because I was out of the office, into my car, in Hancock's (3 miles away), through the fabric and cutting table for 4 selections, a stop at the pattern cabinets to pull 8 Simplicities I had on a list for the sale, through the checkout, and back to my desk in a little over an hour. Whew! It's probably a really good thing that I was so time limited because I saw a LOT of fabrics that were asking to come home with me, made worse by my fabric shopping withdrawals for the last many months.

I picked this fabric with the Jenna in mind and to hopefully match this Sophia knit KS skirt I made last year. I love the skirt but don't wear it much because I'm not so in love with the pairing possibilities in my closet. I made a knit HotPatterns top which goes with the skirt perfectly but the fabric is just so clingy that I tend to avoid wearing it. The new knit doesn't match exactly but I think it blends well enough at a reasonable distance to fool the naked eye, so I'm very happy the skirt has a new mate and I'll be wearing this tomorrow. (Plus I did hem the Gillian dress shorter which means TWO new outfits to wear this week!)

The underlayer of the twinset is the tank from this classic Kwik Sew 2759. And, yes, you're probably thinking I could've used the cardigan from this or even the Jalie I hacked instead of buying the Jenna, and you'd be sorta right. Except, one, I really wanted to try the Jenna, especially after my recent success with the Gillian. I'm not immune to the call of new patterns/designers and I've really liked all the Jenna makes I've seen around the interwebs. And, two, there's enough shaping subtleties between Jenna and the other two to make the Jenna much more current-trend fit-wise. Jenna's more fitted, with nice sideseam shaping and high armholes (something KS is notorious for NOT drafting).

After cutting the Jenna, I had enough left from the 2 yds I bought to eek out a tank. So, out came my personal pattern catalog for a quick look to see what I had on hand, and then the tracing paper. I know KS always runs big on me and those armholes always low, so I traced a M everywhere and raised the armholes to the XS height, and while tracing made my usual square shoulder adjustment. The finished tank fits very well. I just wish I had added an inch in length because this thing is pretty short as drafted and I had to turn the tiniest of hems when I would've preferred to hem this knit a bit deeper. Oh well. Sew and learn. I like how the print worked out for neck and armhole bands, even though I will NEVER wear this single layer. So I'll just enjoy the bands in the mirror and on the hanger. :-)

For the Jenna, I cut at the 42 for the shoulders/neckline and morphed out to the 46 for the rest, also adding a square shoulder alteration before I cut the pattern. There was nothing particularly scientific about this, just my gut after sewing the Gillian in a straight 46 that I probably could've gone down a size or two but the wrap styling forgives sizing accuracy a lot. My gut was correct and the finished cardi fits just as I was wanting. Which you'll see when I get photos of it on me instead of Zillie.

I had a few problems with the page alignment marks on my printout but I haven't studied it enough to blame the draft or the printer. Whichever it was, the actual pattern lines fit together without issue, which makes me lean toward the marks being the culprit. The whole thing prints out on 30-ish (I forget the exact count and the PDF is at the office) pages, which tape together just as quickly as unfolding and pressing tissue. I know I'm an oddball, but I actually prefer most PDFs over tissue. I've always had an aversion to pattern tissue. It's gotten better over the years, but I still don't love it.

The only drafting issue I found with the Jenna is very minor and does not affect fit at all. Where the side seams come together creates a "bump" at the bottom edge, which will affect how the hem band sews on and lays if left alone. (Don't stare too long at my sad matching at the sideseams. This is what eyeballing will get you. And I actually cut this single layer!)

Solution: trim the bump away.

Everything else fit together perfectly, including the neckband and center front bands. No overage, no shortage, so nice even edges top and bottom on all the bands. Here's the top button waiting for handsewing tonight. And a glimpse of the teal topstitching.

Overall, I'm very pleased with the two offerings from Muse, after sewing and fitting them both, and I know that you'll be seeing more of these patterns made up in the near future because I love me some pretty cardigans for our Florida winters and who doesn't love a nicely detailed wrap dress? (So, Kat ... when is your next pattern due??)

I want to get back into the sewing room later today to start on something else because the mojo is on FIRE, but the grocery store and weekly trip to the dog beach call first so we'll see how far I get on the next project.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Hopping on the Hop

I bet Manju thought I was never going to respond to her nomination! Hah. I'm just a procrastinator. But thank you for nominating me. I'd like to thank the Academy .... er ... oops.

I'm probably now one of the last stops on this Blog Hop of Why I Write, and I don't do a lot of hops/memes/awards for various reasons (all lazy and selfish of course!), but I have to say I've really been enjoying reading everyone else's so I figured what the heck. And it's a slow day at work (yes, WORK!!!) so I can look busy while typing this and have the added bonus of not using up sewing time this weekend, because I have BIG plans for weekend sewing starting TONIGHT, after coming back from a mad-dash lunch hour stop into Hancock's for the Simplicity sale and to put a small dent into rebuilding my stash. (Run-on sentence much?)

Sidenote: I never realized how many brown/white/ivory prints I have/had until that's about all that was left in the knit prints section of the stash. Yes, I like brown and prints and even brown prints, but good lord ... was I holding a self-contest these past years to see if I could binge buy all the browns? I'm SO happy to now have a few different colors to choose from, and enough to keep me busy over the next few weeks at least.

OK, enough blabber ... let's get to the task at hand.

1. Why do I write?

Well, that's easy. Part of me likes to show off share what I've made with others who Just Get It. I've lived with only males for the last 30 years (yikes!) and while they have all enjoyed the my sewing when it came to their own special request projects, I would inevitably get the glazed eyes/deer in the headlights treatment for most everything else. Part of me wants to keep some sort of journal/diary of my sewing projects. Part of me wants to share the love of the craft with hints and helps that I have picked up along the way.

2. How is my blog different from others of the same genre?

It's not really. It's just me being me with some sewing. And  sometimes my sons and the dogs. (Speaking of which ... the Marine is being promoted to SERGEANT in two weeks!! Can I get an OORAH!!) And some life stuff. And definitely shoes.

3. What am I working on right now? 

Um, this blog post. Oh, I guess that wasn't meant LITERALLY. Hah. It's Friday and I'm a goofball. I must be on a fabric high since lunch.

I have a few things I want to work on right away now that I have NEW FABRIC burning a hole .... er ... where am I going with this metaphor?? ... starting with the Muse Jenna cardi I bought and downloaded today and will tape together tonight. It will be interesting to compare it to my Jalie hack. I also have a HotPatterns dress pattern bought eons ago I'd like to make from the new print I bought today. But first, I'm going to shorten the hem length of the newly made Muse Gillian wrap dress an inch or two. I haven't worn it to work yet because I decided I do want it a little shorter, and the energy isn't always there after working, making dinner, and dog walks. So, I'm hoping to get that done tonight so that Saturday and Sunday are free to SEW, SEW, SEW all the new things!

4. What is my writing process?

Blue moon? When the iron's hot? Hell has frozen over? Pigs are flying? I don't really have a process. I just write what comes to mind, usually after a sewing project but sometimes completely unrelated to sewing, and I write when I feel like it. Well, more like when I have the spare time. I always *want* to write more than I actually do, but there's only so many hours in the day and often the blog has to come last. But I usually manage to get something on it fairly regularly just so the comment 'ho in me (Hi Carolyn) gets her fix. :-) I never schedule a post. When you see a new post it means I have just clicked the Publish button. I'm just not that organized and I don't really see the point. If a post is ready, it's ready. For sewing projects, the post will start to percolate as I'm making the whatever. I take pics along the way so I don't forget what I want to say about a particular detail and then when I'm ready to write, I load up all the photos, edit them, and upload them to Blogger. THEN I begin on the words. And inevitably I've missed a typo or three after I click Publish so I go back and read/re-read and try to find and correct them.

I think that about covers it. I'm home now, having emailed myself the draft so I could finish and post it. I think I'm supposed to nominate two bloggers for the next stops on the tour. I didn't ask in advance so I will understand if you choose to bow out. First is Carolyn of Diary of a Sewing Fanatic. Did I miss her already hopping, because I don't think so and I can't believe no one has nominated her yet. I think she needs no introduction but I REALLY think she needs to send half of her ponte stash to Florida. ;-) Next is Dawn of Two On Two Off. I love her wit, her love of prints, and the Alaskiana she occasionally shares. Alaska is definitely on my Bucket List of places to visit.

I'm off to tape together a pattern and re-hem that dress while the brown thread is still in the machine. Hopefully I'll be back Sunday with something newly made.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Muse Gillian: The Reveal, and an Honest Review

Warning: This is an untypically photo-heavy post. The planets aligned and I had a nice day, a dress I'm very happy with, a son willing to take multiple photos (I don't have a camera remote and my camera only takes two shots at a time, and I quickly tire of running back and forth and smoothing clothes in the process), and -- a good hair day. :-)

So, let's get to it.

This is the Gillian wrap dress by Muse Patterns. The Gillian pattern can also be made as separates, a wrap top and a wrap skirt. As you can see, I made the dress. It's available in sizes 30 - 48, which correspond to bust sizes 30" - 48". Kat of Muse invited me to test the pattern before its release and I agreed, because this is a style that I would wear. Which is one big reason this new indie pattern line stands out from others for me. While there are a number of indie patterns I admire from afar, I know I'd never wear most of them, either due to body type or age (cough:29:cough). Muse offers patterns I would actually wear (two so far, but I'm hoping for more if this dress is any indication) , and I think ladies of all ages will want to wear. The styles are not beginner basics which you can find from other indies or the Big 4. Now that's not to say an advanced beginner couldn't make this dress, but don't expect this to be a teach-me-to-sew pattern.

I asked during testing what bust cup Kat designs for and she answered "B." I'm a DD and didn't have to make a full bust adjustment. But both knits and wraps are very forgiving for full busts, so I'm not sure I should really doubt the B cup sizing. I do know that if you are full-busted, you will find alterations for the girls are probably not needed. Yes, even you Michelle. :-)

Testers were given a little over 2 weeks to turn-around testing the pattern, instructions, and garment view of their choice. We were asked to provide feedback. We were not required to provide photos. I'm sad to admit that I failed miserably in one aspect -- finishing the dress before the release. I had every intention, but the fabric gods did not cooperate. I had ordered new fabric because the fabric requirements had me thinking this dress is a bit of a fabric piggy (more on this later), calling for 3.5+ yards. My stash was not yielding any appropriate pieces that length. So, my fabric order arrived ... SANS the 4-yard cut of the print I had planned to use. Grrrr. Does the universe not know I NEED fabric??

I did read the instructions thoroughly, printed and assembled the PDF (no problems there), checked the cutting layout, and assembled the dress in my mind visualizing the instructions as best as I could. So, even though I didn't sew the dress during the testing schedule, I found a number of issues in the instructions and cutting layout and I'm happy to report that corrections and/or clarification, as appropriate, were incorporated into the final release. So know that Kat is a pattern designer who takes her testers seriously and doesn't have a release date set in stone if corrections are mandated. (Kat was very responsive during the testing process. If anything, it was me who could have been more chatty.) As a tester, it's also gratifying to know that I wasn't just spitting into the wind and wasting my time. The one thing about the instructions, after receiving the released version, I would still like to see improved upon are some of the illustrations. They aren't sparse or horrible as is, but I think a few could be more spatially correct. And that just might be the graphic designer in me. Your mileage may vary. The illustrations certainly didn't hinder me from ending up with a pretty new dress.

I also found a few "problems" when actually sewing the dress, but only one is not due to body type or my own stupidity. Details for all below.

The one drafting "problem" I found you can see below, but it's very minor and easily corrected. The shoulder seam joining the front and back yokes results in a bit of a wonky shape at the top of the armscye. 

Solution: Trim it off. That's it. Definitely not a deal breaker.

This next alteration, below, is due to my very erect back/posture and square shoulders. I did not make either alteration before cutting fabric because I was testing. But I did want a wearable dress if possible, so after I had the bodice mostly completed, I tried it on and decided I really needed to remove an inch from the CB length above the shoulder blades (erect posture) to avoid the neckband sitting in my back hairline. I have this same issue with Jalie and Burda, so I know it's me and not them. The chalk line below shows what I trimmed away before sewing on the neckband.

Speaking of fabric, I did end up using stash after all (an ITY print and ribbed brown poly for contrast) because I decided that I would see if I could squeeze the pattern onto a 3-yard piece. I'm happy to report that I easily could, and I even lengthened the waist ties by 16" each so I could tie them in front, instead in back as designed. (Back ties look fine on other ladies and I'm not judging, I swear. But on me I feel like Holly Hobbie or pregnant or something). But, I didn't cut long sleeves or self-fabric yokes and I didn't follow the layout exactly because I thought I was in squeeze mode. The important takeaway from this is to note that the cutting layout reflects cutting every single piece from the same fabric. If you're planning on any contrast pieces (and you should, so the unique design elements stand out!), then the fabric requirements will vary. I'm thinking if you do contrast yokes, neckband, midriff, and ties, you can get by with 2-2.5 yds for the main dress and about 1 yd for the contrast.

The next alteration was due to my petite-ness-above-the-waist-ness. Yes, that's a sewing term, why do you ask? ;-) The instructions have you construct the bodice, skirt, and midriff pieces as separate units and then you attach the skirt and finally the bodice. This is actually pretty cool because sewing the skirt hem is done way at the beginning and once you assemble the units, you have a finished dress instead of a dress needing a hem.

I dutifully followed the instructions, and then tried it on. Oops. As you can see below, there was gaping in the wrap and extra length above my waist. Solution: frog stitch the bodice from the midriff, cut off 3/4" from the bottom edge of the bodice, and reattach to the midriff, which worked a treat. So, I advise that if you're fitting as you sew, BASTE the bodice to the midriff and evaluate. (This "extra" length is another reason why I think full-busted girls will have more fitting forgiveness. You can keep the underbust length and taper a shorter bodice as you go toward the bodice back, and no one will be the wiser. Well, unless you're REALLY long-waisted.)

Look Ma! No gape!

The next "problem" I had with construction was due to my own stubbornness. See this opening in the sideseam below? It's for the tie to slide through so the dress actually wraps. This is a real wrap dress, BTW, not faux. Well, that hole was almost my undoing. I kept following the instructions halfway and then thinking they just were not going to work. I emailed Kat and she so very diplomatically told me that her more experienced testers seemed to have the most problems with this step, while her less experienced testers just trusted the instructions and didn't overthink things. (Kat's actual words were much nicer than this.) So, I returned to the instructions one last time and followed them exactly, and THEY WERE GENIUS. Good lord, did I feel like an idiot. So, just follow those instructions. Don't overthink, don't doubt, don't stop halfway through and scratch your head. They work. And it's pure drafting magic. Really.

The rest of the photos are detail shots. Here you can see the edgestitching at the neckband and you get a glimpse of my "ribbed" constrast.

The gathering into the yoke.

The back contrast yoke and gathering below it.

I added contrast bands to the sleeve hems to tie into the contrast yokes.

The wrong side of the wrap skirt section.

The wrap sections overlap fully. Even in a strong wind, no good china will be shared with the world. You can't see for the print, but the hem edges of the wrap sections are curved, which can be a little tricky to sew without puckers. My advice: washable basting glue (Elmer's school glue works great), working slowly and methodically around the hem, and forcing yourself to give the glue a few minutes to dry thoroughly.

On Zillie.

Likes: The feminine details with a slight vintage vibe, such as the yokes; the soft gathers into the yokes; the wide (but not too wide) midriff, which is sturdy without being interfaced (thankfully, since I'm still out of interfacing) and which I edgestitched with a "stretchy" triple straight stitch; the different views so you get a dress, a top, and a skirt in the same pattern; a neckband that doesn't gape; thorough instructions; and fit. I should've mentioned it specifically earlier, but the fit is very good. My full bust measures 46". I sewed the 46. I'm a hourglass with the sand settling in the bottom of the glass. ;-) I made no fit adjustments except those mentioned above.

Things I will change for the next one: Remove bodice length above the waist on my pattern; adjust the pattern for my erect posture and square shoulders; maybe remove a little skirt length, although this length is fine on me I think I might want it shorter; and add pockets. My hands kept wanting pockets as I tried it on and then when taking the pics. Easy enough to add sideseam pockets, though.

Overall, I think this is a win. And for $12, I think it's more than fairly priced compared to other indies, especially those which are basic shapes and easily found in the Big 3/4 catalogs.

I did receive the pre-release and final pattern at no charge, but I think you can tell that this is a pretty thorough review and not just fluff to help a bloggie friend sell a pattern (truthfully, I don't know Kat at all except through emails during this testing process and reading her blog before her patterns were launched, so I'm not sure that really even qualifies us as bloggie friends and not just sewists who blog!). I hope I also gave you a little insight into what was expected from my testing, what I provided (and didn't), and how my feedback was incorporated into the final product. This is not the first time I've tested something for "free." I used to be a software tester for Corel Corporation, starting as an unpaid beta tester and then later "promoted" to a paid alpha tester, and a technical editor for McGraw-Hill. I'm telling you this to give some insight into the fact that I just enjoy testing. I'm a geek. I like the challenge. I like being a part of something new. I like sewing. And I LURVE patterns. For me, that's payment enough. And when it's not, I'll stop testing.