Author Archives: Alice

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Though there may be a more streamlined way to do this, I don’t know how to transfer everything about my old blog over to this one, so I really am starting over, and claiming this blog as well as my old one (which, to the best of my knowledge, is not actually accessible by anyone, including myself).

Aqua and Lavender Anna

Anna dress

This fabric is a Lisette lawn that my mother bought for me nearly two years ago, which I have been saving until my sewing skills improved. It was originally destined to be a maxi-length McCall’s 3246, but I have yet to get that pattern fitting perfectly. Or maybe an Ashland? But in the end, it was paired with Anna!

Anna dress

And I think they suit each other very well.

Anna dress

Anna dress

There is relatively little to be said about the process. I narrowed the neckline by about 1/4-1/2″ on either side, to fix the gaping I got on my last Anna. Neckline and sleeves are bias-bound, with decorative turquoise prick-stitching, which also features on the zipper and the hem.

sleeve detail

neckline detail

The inside is entirely french-seamed.

Anna dress inside

On my last Anna, I had stitched the side-seams at 1″, but as this one doesn’t have any stretch, I stitched them at 3/4″. I must have forgotten to do so on my skirt seams, or something, because none of the seams match up at the waistline, but luckily the fabric is busy enough that no one is likely to notice.

Anna dress

I have about a yard left of the fabric, which may actually be plenty for an Ashland if I felt like it. Or a high-waisted gathered skirt…? Or something else entirely.

alice dress

Alice dress

Every year, the theatre department has a big dinner and party at the end of the year to celebrate the graduating seniors. There is food, entertainment, and lots of speeches–and a theme. Last year was Harry Potter, the year before was Space. This year, the theme was “Down the Rabbit Hole.”

Being named Alice, I have always sort of identified with the Alice books. When I was ten or eleven, my mother made me a fantastic Alice-in-Wonderland dress for Halloween, out of a sheet she had dyed blue herself. I wore it constantly until I developed too much of a bust to squeeze into the bodice anymore. So the senior dinner seemed the perfect opportunity to recreate my favorite childhood dress.

Alice dress

While in London, I went to Goldhawk Road, searching for the perfect fabric. Buying something solid blue seemed too boring, but I found three meters of this beautiful cotton lawn, and it was perfect.

Alice dress

For the bodice, I used McCall’s 5927, a somewhat bland pattern that happened to be in my stash. After much deliberating on what size to cut, I finally settled on a size 4, C cup–which fit better out of the envelope than anything I had ever made before. I shortened the darts by 1/2″, lowered the armhole by 1/4″, and graded out to a size 8 at the waist. It fits more or less perfectly, though there is a little bit of gaping at the back neck, and the waist could be a smidgeon smaller (a matter of personal preference, I like very little ease at the waist). I also deepened the neckline in front, not because it didn’t fit, but because I really don’t care for such a high neckline.

Alice dress

Alice dress (back)

I stole the puffed sleeves from an old 70s pattern I had lying around, and the skirt is simply twice the width of the fabric, gathered. The entire dress is lined, for decency’s sake, in the only white fabric I had lying around–a poly-cotton sheet. Breathability, therefore, is low.

Alice dress (inside-out)

I took great care with the finish of the dress. All the bodice seams are enclosed, and the lining is hand-stitched to the armholes and the skirt.

Alice dress (stitching detail)

I edge-stitched around the neckline…

Alice dress (neckline

Hand-picked the zipper…

Alice dress (zipper)
(Oops, loose thread there.)

And hand-sewed the hem.

Alice dress (hem)

It is really the nicest-finished dress I have ever made, and one of the best-fitting as well. The only trouble is that it is a little too adorable. Better suited to 10-year-old Alice than 20-year-old Alice…

I might remove the sleeves, and possibly lower the neckline a bit more, which would make it more of a quirky sundress, and less of an Alice-in-Wonderland costume. Alternatively, I could take it all apart and salvage the gorgeous fabric, but that seems like a sad waste of many hours. Or maybe I don’t care that it’s a dress a little girl could wear with equal composure… Thoughts? Suggestions?

Alice dress
(I just saw my neighbor looking at me from over the fence, and got all self-conscious.)

daffodils and yellow wool

Spring has come in Dublin. The air is balmy, the sun appears occasionally, and hearts are light (when they aren’t laden with apprehension and homework). I leave Ireland in just a little over two weeks, and a week after that I’ll be home! I’m definitely a little sad that I haven’t done everything I wanted to do while I was here, but I suppose that just means I’ll have to come back.

One sunny day a couple of weeks ago, I had my friend Sullivan take pictures of my yellow skirt in St. Stephen’s Green, surrounded by daffodils. Lots of yellow!

yellow skirt

The skirt is a basic circle skirt made of some (unfortunately slightly moth-eaten) wool from my mother’s stash. I made it in a couple of hours at my parents’ house this winter, and since I didn’t have a zipper I opted for a placket and snaps instead. Lucky thing, because the waistband turned out to be too big and the placket made for easier adjustment.

yellow skirt

yellow skirt

The yellow is not quite the perfect shade of yellow, and for the first couple of months I barely wore the skirt at all! It felt oddly-proportioned and I never knew what to wear it with–I don’t wear black much but didn’t know what else to pair with such a yellow. I was actually thinking of leaving it in Dublin to make more room in my suitcase, but then I found these brown boots in a charity shop for three euros! Having the right shoes made it so much easier to wear. I guess it’ll be traveling back with me after all! There will be loads of new styling options at home, so I’m sure it’ll get a lot of wear.

yellow skirt

yellow skirt

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This is a bit of a silly post as I don’t have much to say, besides that I’ve joined Bloglovin’, but I have to say it in order to claim my blog. So, if you’re reading this, and like my blog, please follow it!

And I promise I’ll post something with pretty pictures and handmade clothes soon.

crazy paisley dress

Well folks, it’s my first(ish) post on the new blog AND my first post from Dublin, where I’ll be living until mid-April! How thrilling! I promise there will eventually be photos of my handsewn items in Dublin, but first I have a couple of garments that I photographed before I left Portland.

The first of these, I actually began working on close to a year ago, and finished last summer. The pattern is McCall’s 3246 from the early 70s.

photo credit: vintage pattern wiki

I have made this dress before, back in the days when I thought you just cut a pattern out and it fit perfectly without modification. That was the dress that taught me that’s not true (also, that quilting cotton is not always a good choice of fabric). It looked okay in pictures, but I felt restricted and uncomfortable wearing it, and the crossover bodice gaped like mad, so I gave it to my mother to use in quilting. I really liked the idea of the dress, however, and when I was given this crazy poly/wool paisley border print, I knew it was meant to be.

mccall's 3246 (70s)

The fabric is very loosely woven and pretty sheer, so I underlined it with a poly cotton bedsheet. Given that I had actual 100% organic cotton bedsheets lying around, this was a dumb choice. The underlining was stiff and hated to take a press, while the fashion fabric was floppy and unstable, and also hated to take a press. Consequently, my darts are a bit, well, lumpy. Luckily, this fabric hides all the flaws in its mad pattern.

mccall's 3246 (70s)

I did make a muslin for this dress, but be warned, dear readers: if you don’t do a muslin right, it is a waste of time. I didn’t put sleeves on my muslin, which would have alerted me to all manner of problems. I also didn’t put a waistband on my muslin. Lastly, I made too large of an FBA, but rather than addressing this directly, I just sort of pinned the bodice front pieces together where it looked least bad. It was all very foolish, as I realized when I stood in front of the mirror a couple of months later with a half-made bodice in my fashion fabric. I lengthened darts, I shortened darts, I lengthened them again… in the end I did an SBA to my altered pattern piece and carefully cut the new bodice piece out of the old bodice piece. It was a mess!

mccall's 3246 (70s)
(I don’t know why there are so many pictures of me looking down my nose at the camera. It’s a major trend and I don’t know how it happens.)

Other changes I made, besides the FBA:
• I took a total of two inches (I think!) out of the bodice width, and altered the waistband accordingly. The bodice is fine but the waistband is a bit snug so I must have done something wrong.
• I made the shoulders narrower by 1/2″ each
• I added darts from the waistband up, as part of the FBA
• I made the skirt a lot shorter, thinking I would be wearing it with rubber boots (I prefer to wear rubber boots with miniskirts). I have yet to wear it with rubber boots but I do like the length!

mccall's 3246 (70s)

I will admit I don’t love this dress. I feel super cute in it and I do wear it sometimes, but the fit is still weird, especially with the sleeves and the slightly-too-tight waistband. The polyester also gets pretty gross to wear in humidity, but I live in a humid climate… all this combined means I don’t reach for it too often, unfortunately.

mccall's 3246 (70s)

Here is a detail of the crossover bodice and one cuff. The sleeves and cuffs of this dress are probably my favorite thing about the pattern.

mccall's 3246 (70s)

mccall's 3246 (70s)

I tried to have a bit of fun with this photoshoot (if it can be called that…) since photos are fun and I hate looking awkward in front of a camera. If you don’t feel awkward, you don’t look awkward! Still, I’m always a little worried that one of my roommates is going to look out the window and see me posing by myself in the backyard.

mccall's 3246 (70s)

mccall's 3246 (70s)

Oh, and since I am in Dublin, here’s a picture of me in a pub:

in a pub

alma blouse

Well, I’m back! What with school and all, I’ve hardly had time to sew, and it doesn’t help that both of my sewing machines are broken! I did make a Secret Santa present using the sewing machines in the costume shop, but other than that I haven’t been able to sew since I don’t know when. Now we’re in the middle of winter break, though, and I’ve been out in the country using my mom’s fancy Juki to make her an Alma blouse!

Alma and car

When Mother first bought this lawn, she described a fitted, vaguely medieval, possibly button-back blouse with 3/4-length sleeves. We decided that the Alma blouse had the right fit, and the sleeves were easily modified. It is also such a nice, versatile, modifiable pattern, and falls within both of our sizing ranges. I can’t wait to sew myself a version in white geometric-patterned cotton with a forest green yoke, or a little floaty summer blouse in lawn or voile with cap sleeves…

I cut a size 16, going by Mother’s upper bust measurement, and did a full bust adjustment. At first I added a total of three inches to the bust, but after the first muslin, I had to reduce the bust by an inch (interestingly, this happened with the last FBA I did as well–I’m really not sure why). I also did a forward shoulder adjustment of probably 1 1/4″.

Alma and car

I had a lot of trouble fitting the sleeves, and as you can see, they’re still not quite right. I narrowed the shoulders by about 5/8″, and put that fabric into the sleeve cap instead. I also did a full arm adjustment, and cut the sleeves on the bias. They fit a lot better in the lawn than they did in the poly-cotton sheet I was using for the muslin, and Mother can move her arms pretty freely, but I’m still not entirely satisfied. Sleeves are hard!

sleeve detail

In addition to changing the sleeve length, I gave the sleeves a little notch that matched the neckline. I trimmed both sleeves and the neckline with some homemade burgundy bias tape.

blouse and earring

Alma neckline

I attempted to do a swayback adjustment because of the wrinkles in back. I don’t think I did it right, but there are fewer wrinkles than there were…

Alma back

Alma zip

I used a regular zipper instead of an invisible one, for no particular reason. It is still pretty discreet. The belt shown here is the leftover burgundy bias tape.

Alma and car

I also made the skirt that Mother is wearing, which was last year’s Christmas present. It is something like a quarter circle, made out of something woven but stretchy from Fabric Depot. It matches the blouse perfectly!

I’m going home tomorrow with a borrowed sewing machine, to sew like mad until I leave for Ireland in a week! I’m hoping to make a shirtdress, two circle skirts, and to finish the Macaron I was sewing when my machine broke. And if I can accomplish all that, there’s a million other things I’d like to sew…but I’m trying to keep my to-do list short!

floral drop sundress

The moment I saw the Joel Dewberry Floral Drop pattern (used in three different colorways in this quilt!) I knew that I wanted a dress out of it! Never mind that it’s quilting cotton, it HAD to be a dress for swing dances and ceilis–even in January, you can only wear sundresses because it gets unbearably hot, and the best sundresses are twirly ones, because what is dancing without lots of spins? Less fun, that’s what. Luckily, the fabric store in Astoria had the red colorway on sale, so I bought a couple of yards it to make my dream dress.

dress and sweater

And it is such a dream dress! Let me tell you, I want five of these dresses, in a variety of beautiful prints, to wear in all seasons to all dances and classes and parks and dates. It is so comfy and pretty, and the fact that it’s quilting cotton matters not a bit–it actually makes it better, because it gives the skirt some stiffness without needing a crinoline. It’s a fantastic sundress, and if it’s chilly, I can just wear a sweater and tights!

I’m actually wearing white tights in these pictures, but you can barely tell because my skin is pretty much the exact same color. It’s nice to feel sunshine again! (Though Sierra had me face the sun for better lighting, and I haven’t mastered the ability to stare at a brilliantly glowing object with a straight face.)

floral drop dress

I knew I wanted a sweetheart neckline (I have admired them for ages, but never had a dress with one until my Macaron), so I used the bodice from the Macaron pattern, sans yoke. I had to take it in at the sides, and make it higher front and back to cover my entire bra. It took ages to alter it just right, and foolishly, I didn’t trace my finished product out on pattern paper, so for the next dress, I’ll have to figure it out all over again. Oh well.

I wanted a full skirt, because it’s a dancing dress, and I used a circle for maximum twirliness. I didn’t originally buy enough fabric to finish the circle, so the project was put on hold for a couple of months until I had enough. It twirls excellently!

floral drop dress back

The back. My straps are quite wide–perhaps a little wider than they need to be, but I wanted to be sure they would be stable and cover my bra straps.

floral drop dress

From the side. I put this zipper in and ripped it out twice before realizing that I’d been doing it right the whole time. After that, I didn’t have the heart to take it out again and try to make it properly invisible. I don’t think I’ve ever done a zipper well–I’ve done two in the last week or so and neither of them came out very well, though I’m probably the only person who will ever notice. Maybe in the future I’ll just handpick them all.

I also hemmed this dress twice. I cut it out sloppily, thinking that I would take off length once I’d tried it on, but I liked the length so I didn’t trim it down at all, I just hemmed it. I didn’t notice anything wrong, and wore it around one day, and then dancing a few days later (I got a very nice compliment from someone, who was very impressed when I told her I had made it and wanted to know if I’d used a vintage pattern!), but when it was hanging in my closet afterwards, I noticed that it was not even at all… so I had to rip it out, trim off about an inch from places in the front, and do it over. It’s just a machine hem, luckily. In the end, I decided I like this length much better, it feels like a much more reasonable amount of fabric for some reason.

floral drop dress

It’s been such a gorgeous weekend, I’m so happy it’s sunny. I went for a two-hour walk/run in the state park near campus, and have played a ton of frisbee in the sun. I have been making a Colette Violet blouse in a charming print, but my sewing room was taken away and I no longer have a place to set up my machine, so I’ve started sewing it by hand–just the darts, so far. I don’t want it to be half hand-sewn and half machine-sewn, so I’m hesitant to go too far, because then I’ll have to finish the whole thing by hand! Ah well, anything to teach me patience…

a sunny day and a colorful dress

Although I was initially overjoyed to be reunited with my extensive wardrobe after winter break, I have quickly fallen back into the habit of wearing a few key items over and over again, and letting the others stagnate. This is partly due to laziness, partly due to weather, partly due to “saving” dresses for the right occasion (which is completely imaginary and does not exist in my life). In short, there are many reasons, and none of them are very good. But Saturday dawned sunny and warm and positively springy, and I had no obligations more taxing than a stroll around campus and some physics homework, the perfect opportunity for a new dress.

floral dress

It’s not actually new, but it has languished in my closet for what–six months? a year? and this is the first time I have worn it. It was given to me by my friend Jessica, the source of most of my vintage clothes. I think it’s from the 70s, but what do I know? It’s polyester, simultaneously both slightly fuzzy and slightly shiny, and quite warm, which is a plus since it’s not really spring yet however balmy it feels.

My roommate Sierra (who took these pictures) lent me a big pale-green flower pendant. It’s mother-of-pearl-y and amazing and goes very well with the dress’s crazy oversized pattern.

I wore it with white tights and my poor beat-up black mary-janes. I love these shoes to death but I’ve had them for nearly three years and they have been sorely abused in that time. The Lewis & Clark cobblestones do no favors for shoes, and nor does the rain…

floral dress

These photos are taken partly just to capture the beautiful Imbolc light quality before it completely disappears behind three more months of rain. Also, I live on the loveliest campus I ever have seen, which is the closest I come to having school pride or whatever.

dragonskin parka

Over winter break, I made a brief foray into the World of Practical Sewing, and sewed an actual, functional, waterproof garment. Not for me, of course, I have far more waterproof garments than I ever wear in my indoors-y lifestyle.

My dad bought several parkas a couple of years ago, made of canvas. I think they were Swedish army surplus or something, effective windbreakers but not terribly useful in the rainy Pacific Northwest. He took one of them apart to make a pattern, and bought a great deal of Goretex. I sewed it up, with some alterations of course, and finished it mere minutes before I returned to school.

The Goretex didn’t iron very well, even on low heat with a towel, and all the seams were flat-felled, which would have been a lot easier if I’d been able to press it without melting it. I had to use a 100 needle and change it regularly, especially when I got to the point where seams began to intersect and the fabric dulled the needle really fast. I pretended that I was sewing out of dragon skin, in order to make the fabric’s idiosyncracies less frustrating. It worked pretty well to imagine myself as an apprentice dragon-skin-tailor, who had finally earned enough skill to try making something out of real dragon skin (I spent most of my formative years reading fantasy novels, if you couldn’t guess). Because I was flat-felling my seams and working with such an unusual fabric, I could look past my slightly wobbly seams and see the beginnings of a ready-to-wear garment–except not ready-to-wear, made by me! It was really exciting to be making something so practical and ordinary-looking (weird…).

This sort of excitement really only lasted up until I had to put the underarm gussets in. I’d never done gussets, and in a stiff fabric with flat-felled seams–well, it wasn’t too pretty. Everything really started to disintegrate around there. Gone were my clean, straight (ish) seams and smooth surfaces, now all was wrinkling and puckering and weird gathers. I managed to set in the sleeves, though I had to re-do one of them and probably should have re-done them both, if it wasn’t for the holes that the needle made in the fabric. I knew they would leak forever, and in a parka specifically made to keep water out, I decided that a wrinkly sleeve was better than one that let the rain in.

Because of the nature of the pattern, there were no instructions whatsoever, so I sort of had to make up the order of construction and how the pieces fit together. That was most troublesome with the hood, which had be far the most pieces, but it the end it looked better than the sleeves.

Here is the parka, as seen already in Mother’s post of a few days ago:

parka front

And here is the back:

parka back

I have a few conclusions from this whole adventure:

Goretex is a pain to work with.
Flat-felled seams are now a piece of cake.
Practical sewing is kind of fun! My dad has swatches of super lightweight waterproof synthetic something-or-other that you can use to make backpacking tents/tarps. It’s super cool and comes in all kind of bright crazy colors, so there may be a neon tent in my future…