Thursday, November 26, 2015

new things, new ideas, new projects

It's Thanksgiving in the US, so lots of us are thinking about gratitude. I am so glad to be living in an era of innovation. For example, there is a new feature (to me anyway!) on pinterest that lets you search for visually similar images.

WOW! Are you kidding me? That is cool. I really like the fabric on the chair and I pinned it because I own a chair that needs something to make me like it better. Using Pinterest, now I can find more fabrics along the lines of the one I pinned.

Everything about this chair is extremely comfortable except the pain in my eyes when I look at it.
I would love to re-upholster it.

When we were living in our last home, my husband and I never really used the main floor. We created a little cocoon in the largest bedroom where I had my sewing space and a big ole tv and a couple of matching chairs. These were literally the most comfortable chairs we could find. Fast forward to today and they don't fit too well in our smaller home. Honestly, we will probably sell them, but I reserve the right to dream & scheme. I picked up Getting Started with Upholstery.

My sewing room improvements are moving full-speed ahead!! After we eat turkey today, the next big task will be painting the room and carpet will be installed soon after that. I looked into having hardwood floors installed in the entire condo before we moved in, but when you live in a condo, there are all kinds of rules to follow. The only flooring permitted in this room is carpet. I am going with a commercial carpet that can be glued down directly to the concrete layer of the floor. That way I can roll around in my chair and yoga is easier, too.

This one reminds me of boucle and I'll be staring at it during downward dog, so ... it's a contender.

yeah, I know - commercial carpet will never look like a traditional residential carpet,
but I am getting what I want, not what others (salesmen, installers) think I should get.
The removal of the columns has made a huge difference in the amount of workspace I have.

you can't wait to see what color I chose, can you? LOL ;)
soon! very soon...
So here is the thing. I found my mojo - or did my mojo find me?

I know what I want to do with myself. 

It feels like I went through a slump in 2013-2014; I ran out of new sewing mountains to climb. Then along came my daughter's wedding and the passion came back in a very satisfying way. Now that the wedding is over, there is certainly a bit of let-down, but combined with that is a sense of expansion. Lucky for me, I met Naomi who needs exactly the sort of dressmaking I want to do. I want to sew for others. I have a full time job I like, and that pays the bills, so I am not looking to change careers or anything. Rather, I want to take on a client now and then - and oh the freedom! I can be selective and take on interesting projects that allow me to grow artistically. Wait until you see what we do for her! She has a strong artistic vision, so the collaborative aspects of this project are most enjoyable.

Naomi the stylish bride, knows good fabric.
I will be using a pattern for her coat, but I will be drafting the dress pattern from scratch.

Getting back to the idea of innovation, I am a big fan of the learning platform at When I think back to my youth, I could have never imagined what is possible today in 2015. Back then, you had to go to a library to get information, and you had to go to school to learn. What if you didn't have the time or the money? What if you had to learn practical things when you craved the life of an artist? That was my situation and I certainly have no regrets about my choices, but I am also extremely grateful that I no longer feel so limited by circumstances. I can learn what I want, when I want - and I can learn from really good teachers.

OH! One more thing - THANK YOU to someone out there for nominating my blog for Burda's Best of 2015. I was so very surprised and pleased to get that email informing that my small blog was chosen. 

Have yourself a nice day!
If you are in the US, I hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Wedding Gown for my Daughter - Alterations

Very early in the wedding planning process, my daughter and I decided that I would not be sewing her gown; we would shop for it. I have to tell you, that was a big relief for me, and I would absolutely take that approach again. The first decision had been the selection of the Caboose Farm as the venue, and the next decision was the wedding gown. She went with a very princess-y gown:

Style 9150 ball gown featuring lace appliqu├ęs over English net, shown in Blush.
Allure Bridals Fall 2014 collection.
The combination of a farm venue, bling and tulle drove the "Rustic Glam" theme. My daughter and her bridesmaids DIY'ed all kinds of cute details and I set to work altering all of the gowns. In this post, I will concentrate on the wedding gown, and it is going to be a long post!

When the gown arrived and she tried it on, it really didn't look nearly as good as the one she tried on that was way too big, but clothes-pinned in the back. And even though it fit in the waist, it wasn't level - the waist seemed to drag down in the back. It was the design - the waist dipped slightly below the waistline in the back. To my dressmaker's eyes, it looked like crap! Ha, no "before" pictures because it was actually a little discouraging and I just wanted to fix it.

I removed the bodice from the skirt:
You can see how the back dips down lower than the level of the waistline in the front.

The solid part bodice was made from polyester duchesse satin. At this price point, polyester was not a surprise. Since it did not fit, I decided to make a new bodice out of cotton and silk.

Altering the solid part of the bodice was going to be more trouble than it was worth.

The beaded belt (on LEFT) disintegrated while I carefully removed it from the skirt.
I purchased a new and improved belt (on RIGHT) 
At this point, I realized that buying the gown had been the right way to go because:

  • There were no design decisions to be made - she loved this gown and that meant we had no stress over all the little decisions that go into a design.
  • The skirt was a monster of many layers of tulle which was cut and constructed by someone else. Just cutting that would have been a pain.
  • The lace for the bodice was perfectly shaped with nice edging everywhere and glorious crystal beads in the back - sourcing these materials would have been time-consuming.
  • It was a pleasure to upgrade the materials from poly to silk in the solid part of the bodice.
  • I did have to buy a new belt, but it was more beautiful than the original, so I was fine with that, too. (source Palisades Bride)

Next I re-drew the waistline on the lace bodice, and I put off worrying about the skirt until the bodice was correct.

I removed several buttons & loops to establish a level waistline
And next we decided to go with a corset! I remembered this idea from the wedding gown Kathryn sewed for her daughter (blog: I Made This!). Kathryn described making a very secure bustier using spiral steel boning for her daughter. The advantage here is that you define the waist measurement and it does not change. Whether the bride gains or loses a little bit, the internal structure is so strong that it will remain at the exact measurement desired. When you have so much sewing to do, you can't really leave this fitting stuff to the last minute - I can't, anyway. 

Now - this is where about a month elapsed for research & development. I made her a moulage, which was then used to create the corset pattern. To make the moulage, I used instructions from Patternmaking Basics: The Bodice Sloper.  In another craftsy class, Patternmaking + Design: Creative Darts & Seam Lines, I picked up the concepts needed to move seamlines around and I just changed the moulage to look like a corset (based on pictures from Pinterest).
To actually make the corset, I used The Express Corset Making Course - click here for a great review of this class by verypurpleperson.

First I made a trial run corset to get familiar with everything, and check fitting.
Then I made this corset using a beautiful cotton coutil and silk satin.
It takes a day to make a simple corset like this. So worth it!
Now you can see how the lace overlay was still too big, but the corset was a great success!
I laced it up, took measurements and then I was able to move on and alter the skirt.
Once the corset was made and approved, we decided to let the corset act as the solid part of the bodice. Now it was time to fix the skirt.
The zipper originally extended several inches beyond the skirt, but I cut that down to end at the waistline. Only buttons were used to secure the back of the lace bodice.
Now, if you think about it, the waistline wasn't level on the skirt, either. It dipped down in the back. I decided not to re-cut the waistline. The length in the front was perfect as it was and I didn't want to risk making it shorter by removing any in the front. Normally, the waistline in a skirt must be level or the grainline will be off and the skirt won't hang right - but this was nothing but a cloud of tulle. There weren't grainlines to worry about, so I decided to just move ahead without changing it (except to take in the side seams).

Ah yes, taking in the side seams ... it maybe wasn't exactly fun during this stage ;)

Sewing tulle is like sewing air.

There was no gathering in the tulle at the waistline; it was cut like a huge circle skirt. That meant I had to take in the side seams on 8 layers all together. Yeah, it was the worst part, to tell you the truth. But I was enjoying it, no lie!

Using a pressing roll so I can press seams on my lap instead of the ironing board.

The main trick to working with tulle is to move it as little as possible.
It gets hung up on things very easily, and it rips easily.
Once the skirt was altered, what a relief it was to join it back to the bodice! I also attached hanging loops so I could finally hang the dress.

It's a dress again - yay.

Hanging loops - I used some pretty trim purchased, but never used for a little French jacket.
Isn't it nice to find treasures in the stash!
I didn't take pictures of the alteration to the lace part of the bodice - but it was just a matter of taking in the side seams. Now it was time to add back the crystal belt. I sewed it on by hand. 

It still dipped a teeny bit in the back, but when worn, the waistline now appeared level.
So.Much.More.Flattering than a waistline that dips a little.
Either dip it a lot, or don't dip it - that subtle dip wasn't doing anything worthwhile!

The weight of the skirt was held securely by the waist stay I added:

As I sewed the crystal belt to the dress, I noticed it snagged the tulle very easily. Tulle Tip: Put painters tape on the belt to keep the little prongs from snagging (and potentially tearing) the tulle.

My daughter wanted the gown bustled, but I think I read (on mrs.mole's wonderful blog) that you can't bustle a gown with a tulle skirt.
I'm going to have to agree with that. When we added bustle points on the underskirt, they showed through the sheer tulle:

This experiment drove the decision to skip the bustle. That worked out fine - the train wasn't too long and it survived the reception.
You can also see the lacing on the back of the corset here.
And, in this photo, the hook & eye at the waistband had not yet been sewn in.
The only sacrifice made was losing the sheerness on the deep V in the back. It was pretty when it was sheer, but it was also fine without it. To hide the lacing on the corset, I sewed up a rectangle of fabric and attached it to the corset using Velcro dots:
I included these in my "emergency kit" for the day of the wedding.
Guess what - they came in handy & they were used!
The changes to the gown were pretty extensive. In the end, it felt like I had purchased a wedding gown kit. I picked and chose what I wanted to use and how I wanted to use it. And, I was very happy with the process and the results. Don't get me wrong, I could have made this gown and yes, I could have done it for cheaper. But we paid for the design, and the certainty, and the experience. It really is fun to shop for a gown with one's daughter. I loved every minute.

And how did this dress turn out? She owned it!

you can still see the busk in the corset from the front - we decided it was fine.
And here you can see the rhinestone trim on the veil.
Yeah, that may have been more trouble than it was worth, but then again ...
I only have one daughter, so I had to give it my all.

I love this photo! That is my mom over on the 3rd from the left (chic as always).

Actually, that's not a short train, is it?
She wore it all night, though, without any bustling - and it was fine.
It was more than fine - my little girl was a very happy and a very beautiful bride.

These beautiful photos are by Kirsten Marie Photography. If you are in the Maryland /DC area, she is superb.

Update 11/24/2015: The links to in this post are affiliate links. That means I would make a small commission if you clicked using that link, and you purchased something at 

The rest of the links are not affiliate links - I included them them as resources incase you are interested.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

a little lifestyle change and another bridal alteration

When I first started this blog, I named it "a little sewing on the side" because I had a secret hope that someday I would have a little dressmaking business on the side. That little fantasy made me happy during years when I certainly could not afford to make a career change. I don't think every fantasy has to come true - sometimes they are good for daydreaming and that is enough.

But this fantasy might be coming true! And while that is happening, I have some lifestyle changes coming on board; in fact I could (ha! but I won't) write a lifestyle blog at the moment. Over the last couple of weeks I have learned how to operate an electric pressure cooker and I resurrected a long dormant love of baking.

This is an Instant Pot, and it can do a million things!
I learned of it from my pal shams (Communing With Fabric).
You can boil eggs without having to babysit the stove.
I have also steamed squash, cooked a chicken and made stock,
and using those ingredients, I made a squash and kale soup.
It is all so fast and easy with a pressure cooker.

And this was supposed to be a pic of my lovely soft-boiled egg.
I need to work on the timing a bit more! The great thing
about pressure cooking is that the eggs peel easily.
I could become that aunt who brings deviled eggs to every party.

And baking?! Well that came from my current bride. I am sewing for a lovely young woman who will get married in a year, and I will grab some photos next time we get together so you can see my muse. The first time we got together, she brought a fresh baked baguette and some sour dough starter. I never thought sour dough starter would interest me because I don't care for sour dough bread, unless I am in San Francisco, of course. But you know what? The name 'sour dough starter' is a bit misleading - it depends on the recipe and you can bake sweet or savory using sour dough starter. This site helped me get going: The Complete Guide - Baking with Sour Dough.

The whole idea is to incorporate these new interests into my existing lifestyle. I can't give up sewing! But that is another area that needs help. I am finally going to take more drastic steps to create a decent sewing area for myself. It has been almost 2 years in my new home, and I still have not been able to arrange my sewing nook properly. I lay the blame on these blasted faux columns:

Who needs columns in their condo? Not me!
I have tried every arrangement imaginable and nothing has worked well enough for me to go ahead and paint the walls so I can settle in.
Here is the floorplan of the room:

The sitting room is my sewing nook.

I am going to have the stupid columns removed, as well as the stupid tray ceiling. Then the room will just be a big rectangle and I will enlarge the sewing nook. I figured my husband would disapprove but he merely recommended we get it done professionally. Personally, I would have liked loved to grab a sledge hammer and demolish the columns, but I am willing to sacrifice my entertainment for the sake of my marriage. I'll be making a phone call first thing on Monday morning!

About my sewing project -  the wedding gown is by Catherine Deane and this is the bodice:

The champagne coloring is rich & beautiful.
For most people, it would not make sense to alter a dress so far in advance, but the way she is built (she is tall and very lanky) made me ask "Does your body fluctuate in size?" rather than tell her what to do. She said nope, she is confident about altering the dress now and so it is finished.

She asked for shirred shoulder straps and I like it so much better this way, too.
This dress is made of real silk and it is beautifully made.

look at those sweet little pearls! I snipped them away to do the shirring,
then sewed them back in place by hand.

The waist already fit her perfectly, thank goodness, because I didn't want to disturb any of the stitching in that area. There was not much room for error in this garment. I went in through the neckline to take in the side seams by 3/8" on each side. I also took in the princess seams under the bust by about 1/4". These seams had rigilene boning that I removed and reinstalled after the alteration. Then I stitched it all back together by hand.
I don't have a 'before' picture of the the center back seam below the zipper, but it was wonky. They should have stabilized that seam more than they did, and on top of that, it was a French seam. I had to take it in quite a bit to make it hang smoothly. It is better now.

The wedding gown is for the woman who gave me this haircut:
It was time for a change!
After my daughter's wedding, it was really nice to relax and let out a sigh of relief. I also found myself wanting to break free of any other conventions that no longer suited me. Cutting my hair seemed like an obvious choice! I almost colored it wild, too, but decided to wait and give that a little more thought. 

Anyhow, look at all I have gotten from my new hairdresser -  a fun & easy haircut, sour dough starter, a client, and more!

More? The alteration to the gown was just the first step. I will also be making a reception dress, and that is the project I am excited about. We will go up to the NYC Garment District to buy fabric on November 17 and I will get started in earnest after the holidays.

This is getting to be a long post, so I will stop now. I'll post more about my new project as it progresses. And we should be getting the wedding photos soon from my daughter's wedding. I have pics from the alterations I did for that, so I'll be posting about that, too.

More to come .........
And let me know if you have more time-saving cooking ideas! 
I am getting my Martha Stewart on.