Monday, August 24, 2015

Touchdown Anna

Deadlines are my best sewing motivator.  I had 8 days till an Atlanta bar mitzvah celebration and no options I was jazzed about in my closet.  So, what's a Goodbye Valentino RTW Faster to do?  I cleared out my weeknights and hunkered down to make a dress, of course!

The sports-themed invite specified a dress code of Club Level Attire.   I had to ask my husband what "Club Level" was even referring to!  (Sports-fanatic I am NOT.)

I chose to "play it safe" with another By Hand London Anna.  This is my third Anna of the summer (see here and here) and I think I finally scored a touchdown on both fit and construction!

Yup...i finished the hem on the plane.  

The fabric is from Metro.  It boasts an overlay of decorative straight stitching that creates a nubby texture.  According to my instructor Sharon, this is a sign of higher quality.   Cheaper fabrics would just uses a chemical solution to approximate a similar textured look.

I underlined the bodice with silk organza and fully lined the dress with cotton batiste. I chose cotton batiste for its breathability. (It is August in "HOTlanta," after all.)  Cotton batiste is known for stretching, so I stay stitched immediately.

Pattern Modifications:

With the Andover Anna, I felt that the back gaped a little, causing the bodice to feel like it was slipping off my shoulders.  To address this, I added back in 1 inch along each shoulder seam piece and blended it back into the original deep V at the juncture of the bodice back and skirt back.  For a more fitted look, I took out another 1/2 inch from the bodice side seams on each side (1/4 inch on each pattern piece). Finally, I cut the front of the skirt as one piece.  (The skirt front of my original "Show(er) Me Anna" was 3 panels and the "Andover Anna" was 2.)


The pattern does not provide instructions for a full lining--only for fussy facings.   My instructor Sharon taught me this RTW lining method for the bodice, which I have used on all three Annas:

1. Sew the pleats on the fashion fabric bodice front and darts on fashion fabric bodice back.  Repeat for lining.

I had basted the pleats and darts before sewing by machine.

2.  Sew the fashion fabric bodice back to fashion fabric bodice front at the shoulder seams with right sides together.  Repeat for lining.  Attach the lining to the fashion fabric with right sides together, sewing continuously along the neckline and back V.  Clip corners.

3.  With right sides together (lining to fashion fabric), sew the sleeve hems continuously from back sleeve to front sleeve in the flat.

4. Edgestitch the neckline, back pieces, and sleeves.

Edge stitched!
5. With right sides together, match the side seams of the fashion fabric and side seams of the lining and sew up the bodice side seams continuously from fashion fabric bottom to lining bottom.

All pinned and ready to sew up the side seams.  

Area of Improvement
  • My skirt lining didn't seem to match perfectly with the bodice lining.  I had excess skirt in the lining and had to make a few small pleats in the skirt lining to remove the excess.  What happened?   At first I questioned whether it was bad cutting (i don't think so)? Or did the skirt lining pieces stretch (doubtful because I stay-stitched immediately)?  But, then I realized that I had taken more than the 5/8 inch seam allowance for the zipper enclosure--more like 1.5 inches.  I did this so that the zipper would match right at the Deep V juncture of the 2 bodice back seams.  Since I forgot to take out an equal amount of the skirt lining, the skirt lining circumference was greater than the fashion fabric skirt circumference. When I went to fell stitch the lining skirt to lining bodice, I had excess skirt lining.  
  • In spite of my additional modifications, the back pieces are still gaping a bit.  
  • The top of the invisible zipper is visible and I need to fix it before i wear the dress again! 
Invisible zipper needs some help!  

I am so glad I gave this pattern a 3rd try and FINALLY experienced a stress-free sew! I think it's time to retire the Anna to the TNT Hall of Fame, bring out the muslin bolt, and start on something new.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Quick Sew for Male Pattern Boldness Day 2015

With Carol of Make it Anywear

Saturday was Male Pattern Boldness DAY! 

Peter Lappin of the Male Pattern Boldness blog has been organizing a sewing meetup for 5 years running. The big day had been on my calendar for months and took place this past Saturday! Unfortunately, I wasn't able to join the group for the early events, but I did meet up  with Carol for the fabric shopping and Bryant Park rendezvous.

At Bryant Park

Kashi graciously opened on Saturday for the MPB shoppers.  I purchased shirting for my husband,  a silk print I have been eyeing for over a year,  as well as a raspberry tissue-weight wool knit.

Purchases from Kashi!

What did I wear for the occasion of my first MPB Day, you ask?  I was running low on time, so I whipped up a knit Grainline Hemlock dress the night before!  The blue knit is a silk/wool blend from Kashi. The cashmere knit is from Chez Fabrique in Columbia, South Carolina.

Grainline's hemlock pattern is essentially 2 rectangles + dropped sleeves.  It's a one-size pattern (Bust: 44.5 inches; Hips: 46.5 inches).  I modified the pattern into a dress using tutorials from  Notes from a Mad Housewife  and Sweet KM:

  • Created waistline shaping using my french curve, removing 4 inches in total.  
  • Removed 1 inch from the center back and a corresponding 1 inch from the center front.  
  • Added 5.5 inches to the hemline to make it dress length.
Original Hemlock T is on the left; My modification to make it a dress on the right

I don't have a serger, so I used the "stretch stitch" on my Bernina with a jersey needle.  I broke several needles until I switched out the jersey needle to a regular 70/10 needle.  Is a jersey needle not appropriate?

This was a simple sew:  2 shoulder seams, 2 side seams, and a neckline finish.  I used Megan Nielsen's tutorial to sew the grey cashmere knit to the blue knit around the neckline.  As Peter pointed out at the meet-up, this method basically creates a facing out of the grey cashmere knit.

My husband quite cheekily remarked that the dress was a bit shorter than I normally wear. Yes, it's short and I'm quite aware.   I chalked it up to the "wearable muslin" and decided to wear it anyway...

I am learning that even the simplest of sews benefits from a wearable muslin.  For my next iteration, I have already made the following adjustments to the pattern pieces:

1) add back in 1/2 inch to both the front and back pieces along the center
2) lengthen the hemline by 3.5 additional inches
3) remove 1 inch from the neckline along the shoulder seams.

Culture in the City

Several goodies over the past few months...

David Sedaris:  We hauled ourselves all the way to the Brooklyn Academy of Music to hear David Sedaris. Having only read one of his books (Me Talk Pretty One Day), I can hardly call myself a groupie.  We enjoyed it, but I wouldn't schlep out to Brooklyn again on a weeknight for his readings.

Gad Elmaleh:What a special night!  Only in NYC can you sell out the Beacon Theatre with a stand up performance in French and fill all 3000+ seats.  With American stand-up I often find myself not understanding the references or I find the jokes too vulgar.  Not so with Gad.  His humor is intelligent, racy but never over the line, and just plain fun. Since it was a majority expat audience, the show touched a good deal on the cultural divides between France and America.  He hit the nail on the head EVERY single time. The crowd loved it!  It had been a long time since I laughed so much.

Heisenberg:  I'm not quite sure why this received such rave reviews, except for the fact that it starred Mary Louise Parker.  We enjoyed it, but I found the writing to be a bit wanting and superficial.  Heisenberg is the story of a chance encounter in the London tube between a single crazy American (Parker) and an older London butcher, and their ensuing relationship.  There was no set and we were in a small black box experimental theatre of under 100 people + the 2 actors.   Neither character ever directly mentioned the Heisenberg uncertainty principle (physics), but I guess we were supposed to infer it from the plot.

Preludes: This short musical theatre piece at Lincoln Center brings the audience into the mind of the great Russian composer Rachmaninoff and all of his insecurities in the face of his creative pursuit. It had a bit of a 4th dimension/non-linear element to it--jumping from the 19th century to the present.  Michael loved it, especially since Prince Humperdink from the Princess Bride was among the cast!

Debutaunt:  This was my first interactive/immersive theatre experience.  The "show" (if you can even call it that) is essentially  a 90 minute debutante ball during which time the audience is treated as guests of the ball.  It is intended to be a social commentary on the concept of "coming out," gender equality, the role of ritual and tradition in today's society, etc. Hard as the production team tried, a warehouse in Red Hook (aka hipster-ville)  isn't exactly a Southern country club!   This was definitely an amateur performance and I cringed at all of the one-dimensional southern stereotypes.  I was disappointed to see a southern-born woman (the writer/producer was a deb in Texas) perpetuate stereotypes about the relative intelligence, superficiality, and social priorities of Southerners. 

Summer Shorts:  59E 59 is one of my favorite off-broadway theatres!  There are no obvious tourists, the price is right, and the shows are always thought-provoking.  The show was comprised of three one-act plays taking place in or near NYC in modern day.  The first was about a near extra-marital affair between 2 suburbanites that meet on a running trail.  The second was about an encounter between a Native American woman and a black youth at a bar outside of Grand Central during the height of the police brutality protests.  The third was about three 9/11 widows meeting on the anniversary of the death of their husbands. I'm not sure which was my favorite!

Antigona:  Hmm...flamenco meets Sophocles.  The flamenco was incredible, but the acting not so much.  Either way, it was a good refresher on the Oedipus story!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Andover Anna

I am still coming off a high from last weekend's wedding festivities on Nantucket!  I really wanted this dress to be extra special since the weekend was also as a mini boarding school reunion.  Lirra, the bride and fellow "Eaton Cottage Girl," married Dave, a friend and classmate from our neighboring dorm.   (Yes, New England boarding schools are as incestuous as you always suspected!)  I was so happy to spend a weekend with my besties giggling, catching up and celebrating one of our own.

Before I get into the dress details, I'd like to share a special knitting project from the wedding weekend: the "Eaton Garter."  I knit the Eaton Garter back in 2011 with the idea that all 6 of the "Eaton Cottage Girls" would wear it on our respective wedding days.  Meryl wore it first (Florida, 2011), followed by Mari (Hawaii, 2013), me (North Carolina, 2014), and now Lirra (Nantucket, 2015).  Aneesa and Molly are the only two left!  I'm pretty sentimental about this little piece and the beautiful friendships it represents.

Now, on to the dress!

Pattern:  By Hand London's Anna Dress, which I had previously made as a wearable muslin for Lirra's bridal shower.

Fabric:  I picked up the silk crepe de chine and blue re-embroidered lace on a shopping trip to Metro with Carol of Make it Anywear.


To prepare the silk for cutting, I first checked that it was on grain using this Threads tutorial.  I knew that I needed to stabilize the fabric before cutting and sewing.  I considered trying the gelatin method, until Sharon--my purist instructor-- encouraged me to just sew the silk to medical paper with large basting stitches.

Slowly sewing the silk to the medical paper

I used up an ENTIRE spool of green silk thread + some for the basting.

I made a few tweaks to the pattern pieces.  Since any skirt seams would disappear in the busy lace, I modified the skirt into 4 panels as opposed to the original seven.  As with the wearable muslin, I converted the back into a deep-v.


In preparation for cutting the silk, I was sure to leave huge margins on the paper pattern pieces so that the silk would be sandwiched entirely between 2 sheets of medical paper. Thus, I actually cut the paper pattern pieces out as I cut the silk.  If you look closely in the photo below you can see a skirt pattern piece traced onto the medical paper.

Cutting the silk in a medical paper sandwich! 

Once cut, I immediately stay-stitched all the silk pieces.  After cutting the lace, I stitched the lace and silk underlining together as one.  This was pretty slow going, as I wasn't too comfortable working with that slippery silk!

The actual construction was relatively quick and painless.  I saved time by not doing french seams, but did take the extra time to hand baste most seams before I stitched them by machine. Somehow, every pattern piece matched up as it was intended to!  (No small miracle for me!)

To sew the skirt seams, I folded the medical paper back and pinned it.  The medical paper provided extra structure to keep the silk from slipping.

Just before attaching the bodice to the skirt, I had a eureka moment and decided to convert the pleats into darts. I think the darts looks much nicer and more streamlined with the lace!

Pleats on the left and darts on the right.
I have no regrets with this dress and just one "Note to File" for the future: I wish I had splurged on higher quality fabric. I thought the lace looked nice in the finished dress but I was a little disappointed that the scalloped selvedge was too cheap looking to use as an accent along the neckline and back.  Next time I have a lace project, I intend to go to Fabrics Garden.  Fabrics Garden has a nice selection of mid-priced laces ($30-$40/yard).  As for the silk crepe de chine, it was a real pain to work with and I suspect that its low quality ($5/yard) had something to do with it.

Please excuse my sunburned back--was having too much fun in the sun!  

Posing outside our rental home with Nantucket's favorite flower:  the hydrangea.  

I am relieved to have this special project behind me, but also looking forward to tweaking the fit for one final Anna.  Third time's the charm, right?