This past week my husband received a job offer and our life is suddenly in disarray as we get ready to move to another state in less than a month! Since our move will be taking up all of our time and energy, I thought it was best to warn you all that this website will likely be on hiatus for the next month at least, if not two, while we get ourselves and Gia and our Singer 15-91 all safely settled in a new place.
Please do come back and visit again in late October or November! I have two recent sewing projects to share that I haven't photographed yet, and am eager to share more about our new sewing space, and any new projects I might get started on after the move.
We’ve been having a hot spell in California, and so I’ve been grateful for all the cotton in my handmade wardrobe. This was an outfit I was particularly pleased with for being cool but still interesting when I wore it last week on yet another 90 plus degree day: the blouse I reviewed here, and the recently completed gingham skirt I reviewed here. I made the citrine necklace, too, which I blogged about recently here.
There is something about the contrast of a white collar and cuffs on a dark dress that is always attractive to me. I am not disappointed with 1970s-era raised-waist collared dress pattern Simplicity 5497: it makes an attractive and comfortable autumnal dress, and even if the collar is larger in real life than the pattern envelope makes it seem, it is still proportional and nice looking with the long cuffs and the slightly puffed sleeves. I sewed my version out of striped black cotton that I bought at Michael Levine’s ‘Loft’ in the Los Angeles fabric district back in July. The Loft sells large pieces of remnant fabric by the pound, so most of the yardage I buy there ends up coming out to $1 a yard or less. I think this cotton was meant to be for men’s dress shirts, but there were two relatively large pieces of it, so I decided it would make a nice dress for early fall when the weather is still warm, and for later autumn and winter days worn with cardigans and heavier layers. For that reason, I left off the bow in the back of the bodice to make wearing sweaters easier and lengthened (and widened) the skirt pieces quite a bit, until they are at ankle length. I find that I like ankle length dresses and skirts a lot right now: they are easy to walk in without feeling tangled, and I never have to worry about them climbing up my legs in a stiff breeze. I think ankle length skirts also look nice with boots, like my favorite old Nine-West ones I’m wearing here.
Construction notes: I cut the skirt pieces on the selvedge wherever possible and pinked the other seams. I used a heavier interfacing for the collar and cuffs. It didn’t fuse very well, so they can look a little creased sometimes close up, but I think they turned out well enough all the same. My goal is to have wearable clothes rather than perfect ones. While I’m always striving to be a better sewer, I think it is better to accept minor flaws and consider them as part of the overall personality of a garment than to be continually dismayed over them. I edge-stitched the collar and cuffs, used bias binding to finish the waistline seam, and sewed the buttonholes on the cuffs by hand. I like the detail of the curved edge of the cuff---I think it echoes the collar shape and makes the dress more special. The buttons are from my thrift-store bought button stash.
Mr Rat took me shopping at our favorite thrift store the day before we took these photos, so I was happy to wear the new gold flower brooch I found on that trip with my new dress, and its matching clip on earrings (although they didn’t end up peering out of my hair in any of these photos). My hat is from the San Diego hat company, bought at the beginning of the summer via Amazon.
The monastery garden is starting to look more autumnal, even though the weather continues more hot than cool, and there are still flowers here and there, wilted but triumphant. Still, the leaves are starting to change, the earth is dry and brown under the olive trees and the redwoods, and the squirrels and spiders are all busy getting fat for the winter only a few months ahead. There are webs everywhere, which give the garden a haunted, mysterious aspect. Mr Rat got several lovely photos of a large and handsome spinner with her yellow stripes. She had built a web large enough to catch me had I been able to fly up above the bushes between two redwood trees. The industry of such an enterprise is astonishing to me----I can’t imagine what it would be like to crochet a blanket the size of a house (what I imagine a human-made-web might be like), or to construct a piece of architecture so enormous and so delicate. And yet spiders do it as a matter of fact, all the time. And when the wind or the rain blows down their creations, they find a new spot and start all over again.
-Take your time while cutting and sewing. Patience brings the best results.
-Iron between steps. Press your seam allowances flat first, to ‘blend’ the stitches, then open, then on the opposite/right side of the fabric for the greatest crispness. It also helps to pre-iron your fabric (and pattern, too, if it’s wrinkly---just make sure to use a dry iron on the lowest heat setting) before cutting it out.
-Pre-wash your fabric. You will save yourself so much disappointment if you know how your fabric will behave in the wash, and it helps make the sewing process easier to have the sizing that is added to some fabrics washed away.
-Edge and top-stitch your seams. This adds a professional look to your sewing projects, strengthens the seams, and helps the fabric behave itself and stay crisp looking while worn.
-Finish your seams on the inside, too. It takes extra time and effort, but it helps your sewing projects get through the washing cycle intact, and makes your projects look good inside and out.
-Hand-stitching is more precise than machine-stitching, so don’t be afraid to spend some time with a thimble and a needle. Hand-baste difficult joins or trims, or add bias binding by hand.
-Sew on your buttons one at a time. After I finish making my buttonholes, I mark each button with a pin and sew them on one at a time, starting with the top-most button. This helps me keep the blouse or dress flat as I go down, and I can compare the position of each button to make sure they are even and properly placed. If I make a mistake and fabric bubbles above a button, I only have to remove and reattach the one button rather than a lot of them.
-Plan ahead! The more planning you do, the better you will be satisfied with your finished projects. Knowing what you like to wear, what fits are more flattering, what colors and cuts you like best, etc. will help you make good decisions when matching your fabric, pattern and trims. Consider doing some wardrobe planning, choosing a color palette, and/or creating inspiration boards before settling on your sewing projects.
-Don’t skip stay-stitching. It really makes a difference in accuracy and not letting important curved sections of your fabric stretch out before they’re sewn.
-Use a seam-ripper to unpick any basting or gathering stitches that may be visible after you’ve finished sewing a garment.
-Test your thread-tension on a scrap of fabric before jumping into your sewing project. Thread tension makes the difference between puckered and flat seams.
-If you’re uncertain about a pattern’s fit, make a ‘wearable muslin’ first out of an old sheet or leftover scraps. It takes extra time, but when you want a great result, extra time and effort are required.
-When gathering fabric, use 2 or 3 rows of gathering stitches rather than one. This will help your gathers look more even.
-Press your darts on a tailor’s ham, first on the inside of the dart, then on the outside of the garment. Make sure you never back-stitch at the ends of your darts, just stitch a few stiches flat against the very edge of the fabric, then leave the ends of the thread long and tie a knot and trim off the excess before ironing the dart. Pressing the dart on a ham helps give it a natural look and flattens the tips so they don’t look pointy.
-Plan some accessories for your finished outfits. Sometimes a garment doesn’t look quite right until it has the perfect jewelry, scarf, hat, etc. to finish the look.
-Take pleasure and pride in your work, and it will show in your finished projects!
Mr and Mrs Rat
Mr and Mrs Rat like to sew.