Beatrix X 2

Despite the absence of grown-up sewing on this blog for a long while, I have been sewing for myself quite a bit over the past few months.  But somehow, asking my (very obliging) husband to take photos of me and then posting them on the internet is not always on the top of my list of favorite things to do, so I’ve been holding out.

Now, it’s time to come clean and show you what I’ve been up to.

Made By Rae, Beatrix TopHere are two versions of the Beatrix Top from Made By Rae, which came out this past summer.

My fabrics are Aloe Vera Voile in lime from Anna Maria Horner and gorgeous Nani Iro double gauze.

Made By Rae, Beatrix TopI think this is a great pattern — very similar to the Scout Tee by Grainline Studios, but less boxy with the addition of darts.

Made By Rae, Beatrix TopDon’t you love the shape of the shirttail hem?

The button placket on the back adds a lot of interest, and can be made in a contrast fabric. It’s also surprisingly simple to put together.

Made By Rae, Beatrix TopFor the double gauze version, I used little hand painted wooden buttons that my (crazily thoughtful) husband gave me for my birthday.  They’re just perfect, don’t you think?

The fit is very forgiving for those of us who have a thicker post baby mid-section, which is always a relief 🙂

Made By Rae, Beatrix TopAnother nice thing about this pattern is that you don’t need to unbutton it to pull it on and off over your head.  I’m thinking of making one with the back in one piece, much like the Scout Tee, but with a better fit.

Made By Rae, Beatrix TopI was a good citizen and made a muslin.  I ended up with a medium, without any adjustments.  The voile version behaved just as the muslin did, and I left the sizing as is.

But the double gauze Beatrix turned out to be wildly larger than the voile in the width. It’s crazy how different fabrics behave!  I took that one in quite a bit on the sides, and could probably stand to take in a bit more.

Another thing I noticed with the double gauze is that, despite diligent use of interfacing, the placket very quickly looks a bit pulled at the buttons — even though it’s not tight at all. A possible solution might be to sew the placket pieces together down the center back together so the buttons are actually not functional.  What do you think?

Made By Rae, Beatrix TopOk, that wasn’t too painful.  I’ll be back soon with more of me!!!

Shakespeare and Sundresses

It’s that time again.  Time to put away the sundresses (or at least think about putting a sweater over them) and get out the Mary Janes.  School has started.  Yes, Kiki is now officially a Kindergartner.

Don’t worry, all’s well.  She loves her school and her teacher and all her pals.  But I’m not ready to talk too much about that yet.  We still have summer dresses to think about! Specifically, we have dresses to wear while flitting around the backyard in the style of A Midsummer Night’s Dream . . .

Figgy's Zephyr Sundress Happy Homemade Sew Chic KidsThe lovely Lulu is in a modified Zephyr Sundress from Figgy’s, and the enchanting Kiki is in Dress J from the much loved Japanese pattern book  Happy Homemade Sew Chic Kids — both in Nani Iro Pocho double gauze.

To be honest, the inspiration for both these dresses is our annual family photo shoot coming up soon.  We’re planning to be captured on film frolicking on the beach in the late afternoon.  What could go wrong???  At the very least the girls will have appropriately flowy dresses in which to frolic, should they choose to do so on the appointed day.

Let’s start with Kiki . . .

Happy Homemade Sew Chic KidsHer dress was a no brainer for me.  I’ve been wanting to try this V neck dress from Happy Homemade for more than a year.  When I saw Laura’s version in Nani Iro, I knew what I had to do.

I looked at the modifications that both Laura and Rachel made to their versions of this dress and got to thinking.  I liked their idea of lining the bodice, as the pattern instructions have you just zig zag the edges and then sew trim on top of that to finish — which does seem a little skimpy when you’re using double gauze (ie, the good stuff).

In the end, I decided to go with Rachel’s method to add that bodice lining.  She suggests that you follow the instructions for the Oliver + S Ice Cream Dress bodice and lining.  Brilliant idea!  The tops of these two dresses are constructed in a very similar way, and the Oliver + S instructions take all the guess work out of it.  This worked like a charm, and I highly recommend to anyone else making the dress with a lining to follow Rachel’s lead.

Happy Homemade Sew Chic Kids(For the record, the flowers were 100% Kiki’s idea.  In fact, she made backyard flower picking and bouquet creation a condition for her participation in photo taking.)

Happy Homemade Sew Chic KidsWho doesn’t love double gauze?  It can be a little bit of a pain to sew, and the weave is pretty loose, making it easy for things to unravel and get a bit stretched out when stitching.  But hey, it’s totally worth it.

Happy Homemade Sew Chic KidsA little round pink button seemed to be the thing to do for the closure — with metallic pink dots on the fabric and all.

Happy Homemade Sew Chic KidsI think I made her a size 4 with added length (it’s been a few weeks).  The fit is very nice, with a bit of room to grow — which is a good thing since gauzy dress wearing days are numbered around here at this point.  It’ll be nice to see this one again next year.

Happy Homemade Sew Chic KidsAfter Kiki’s dress was done and hidden in the closet to await family photo shoot day, I had to think long and hard about what to do for Lulu.

If you’ve stopped by here before, you may know that Lulu will not wear any kind of skirt or dress that doesn’t “spread around.” It has to twirl, and twirl big.  No negotiations on this one.  Pattern choices are a little limited with this requirement.  I really wanted something flowy and beachy — not a fitted bodice and circle skirt.

After much searching, I decided on using the top of Figgy’s Zephyr Sundress, with its truly fab braided straps and buttons, and adding on a very full skirt.

Figgy's Zephyr SundressThe top is made with leftover Nani Iro from Kiki’s dress, and the skirt is that crinkly cotton gauze you can find at the fabric store for, like, $3 a yard.

I made the top of the dress as directed.  For the skirt, I decided how long I wanted it to be, and then cut two pieces that length from the crinkle gauze from selvage to selvage.  I sewed them together, gathered the top and attached it to the bodice.  That’s it!

Figgy's Zephyr SundressI was hesitant to press up the bottom of the skirt for the hem, since I had no idea what that would do the the crinkle factor.  So, I just zig zagged it and called it a day.

Aren’t the braided straps neat?

Figgy's Zephyr SundressI found the pink transparent buttons at an antique store a while back.  Don’t they look kind of like beach glass?

Figgy's Zephyr SundressAnd now for the moment of truth . . . does this dress have enough twirl for the discriminating Lulu?

Figgy's Zephyr SundressWhy yes, it does!

Enjoy the last days of summer!

Life with Laurel

In honor of Selfish Sewing Week, I bring to you not just one, but two incarnations of the Laurel by Colette.  One is the Laurel in dress form in Anna Maria Horner Pretty Potent Echinacea in rayon challis.  The other is a blouse version in Nani Iro double gauze.  (Full Disclosure:  I made the top a couple of weeks ago — but the dress is a 100% Selfish Sewing Weeker, cut out on Monday and finished on Friday.)

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(Yes, it’s weird to see two photos of yourself side by side.  One is awkward enough, but this is just over the top.)

I’d like to start by saying that this pattern is the bomb.  All three times I’ve made this (there was another top made last spring), I’ve cut out a size 8, and the fit has been spot on with no futzing at all.  There are horizontal darts at the bust and vertical darts in the back that give just enough fit to be flattering, but is forgiving enough to be easy to wear.

If you’re thinking of making your own Laurel, I highly recommend getting yourself a 1/2 inch Clover bias tape maker.  To make the keyhole neckline version, you need about 4 yards of the stuff, so don’t fool around.

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I had several of these in various sizes before starting my first Laurel, but somehow none of them were 1/2″.  Crap.  Instead of waiting until I could get my hands on the right tool (which would have been the right thing to do, but I’m incapable of waiting once I’m ready to start something), I decided to make the bias tape the old fashioned way — folding the whole thing in half, pressing, folding one edge in toward the center, pressing, folding the other edge in toward the center, pressing, then folding the whole thing in half and pressing again.

After singeing my fingers numerous times in the steam and contemplating killing myself a time or two before getting through the several yards of bias tape required, I vowed never to do that again.  So, I ordered the bias tape maker in the proper size this time, and voila — in no time I had a huge amount of perfectly folded and pressed bias tape without any burns or thoughts of suicide.

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As soon as I saw this echinacea print in rayon, I knew I was destined to make a Laurel Dress with it.  Rayon challis has a fab drape, totally perfect for dresses and tops.  It’s a little on the slippery side, so you have to be on your toes when cutting and pinning.  But otherwise it’s a no brainer — throw it in the washing machine on delicate, dry it on low, and it looks spiffy as soon as you pull it out of the drier — my kind of fabric.  When the Pretty Potent line came out this summer, I was so happy to see some rayon in the mix. These echinachea blooms are so gorgeous — they make me think of the sound of cicadas in the last evenings of summer.

Another cool thing about Laurel is that the folks at Colette provide a free e-book of full of fantastic variations with photos and complete instructions.  I decided on the keyhole neckline variation on both the top and dress.  (The original pattern has a plain neckline finished in bias tape.)  For the dress, I did cut the keyhole about an inch shorter than the pattern piece included in the e-book.  As you will soon see, the original size of the pattern piece produces a rather plunging view through the keyhole on me 🙂

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Another plus with the keyhole neckline is that you have a great excuse to finish all that bias tape with your machine, rather than hand stitching it, which is what Colette recommends for the plain neckline.  I mean, you could machine finish the plain neckline too and no one would be the wiser —  but it’s nice to not feel like you’re cheating.

Here’s the tricky part . . . I knew I wanted to be sure to match the print in the back center seam, so as not to have hacked-up flowers all the way down the back.  I was pretty nervous about it.  Between the slipperiness and the invisible zipper, I wasn’t sure I’d be up to the job.  But, I gathered up my courage, re-read this cool tutorial, and went for it.

I spent about ten times longer cutting those back pieces than I have for any other project. I could literally feel the sweat coming down as the rotary cutter met the fabric.  I was so relieved when it came out pretty well — not perfect, but good enough for me.

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And, it must be said that invisible zippers are nothing to fear, as long as you have a handy invisible zipper foot (which is not the same as a regular zipper foot).  The pattern instructions send you to a a great tutorial on the Colette site, complete with photos, written instructions and a super video that really take the mystery out of the whole thing.

One more thing I’ll tell you about this dress is that I used a blind hem for the first time. The instructions advise you to do it by hand.  But I happen to have a brand new blind hem foot, so I thought I’d give it a go.  I also checked out this tutorial for moral support. Turns out that it’s easy and pretty darn cool.

So, with the mostly matched up print in the back and the fact the husband says I rock this dress, I’m pretty happy.

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Now for the top . . .

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I, like everyone else in sewing world, think that double gauze is dreamy.  This is a very nice way to use it.  However, I would not recommend using it for that famous bias tape.  I did it here, because I couldn’t find a solid that was just the right color, and I didn’t want to take away from the awesomeness and subtle coloration of those dots.  Maybe things would have gone better if I had used spray starch — but  folding it, pressing it and sewing it was pretty much a thready nightmare.  And, truthfully, my new bias tape maker hadn’t been ordered yet, so you know what that means.  I prefer to forget the whole experience.

But, once I got passed all that, it was lots of fun to put together.  No patterns to match, no zippers to install, no loss of sleep.

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Oh, and here’s what happens when I use the full length of the keyhole cutout pattern piece . . .

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The ties obscure things a bit, but suffice it to say that I will avoid standing next to any very tall persons while wearing this top.

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So that’s my story about Laurel.  I hope you had fun sewing something fabulous for yourself this week!