The Highs and Lows of Reaching One Hundred

When I joined the online sewing circle of Sew Weekly in mid-year 2012, I didn’t realize then that I was embarking on a tremendous challenge.  Sewing every week, pushing one’s limit’s, teaching one’s self new skills by accomplishment, and becoming 99% independent of all “ready-to-wear” (RTW) garments has been a very informative move that changes one’s outlook and knowledge in ways never expected.

Beginning my counting after my first blog posting, here it is exactly two years later that I have reached the number one hundred project!  Ya hoo!  This post is a combination of my quiet, unofficial celebration of my sewing feat and a project post on the garment that brought me to my century of ‘me-made’ items.

An unusual skirt with some neat fabric and the most current modern fashion is my #100 project.

100_3774THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a lightweight to medium weight rayon jersey knit, with a small percent of ‘Modal’ (a newer rayon-type) in its content, with the colors of ivory, grey, and rust orange. 

Simplicity 1429NOTIONS:  only a spool of matching thread was needed; everything else was on hand already

PATTERN:  Simplicity 1429, year 2014

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This pattern took me only 5 hours from start to finish.  It was done on September 12, 2014.

THE INSIDES:  the two side seams are in French seams, and the bottom is in a tiny 1/4 inch hem.

TOTAL COST:  about $15

This skirt pattern really impressed me.  It has a quality that I don’t find too much of in modern patterns, maybe only Vogue Company if anything.  The skirt’s design has a beautifully simple complexity, one which makes the construction very fun and happily intriguing to the mind (at least to mine).  Would you believe here are only three pattern pieces to make a skirt like this?  There is a waistband, the skirt back (cut on the fold), and the skirt front (cutting two).  All you need to know is how to do pleats and darts.  I know ‘hi-low hem’ skirts are not for everyone, but you must admit this skirt is unique and I like it that way.  The way I see it, if you’re going to make something, make it so much better and special than anything available to buy RTW.

100_3783100_4242b     Even though I can’t say enough good things about Simplicity 1429, I must vocalize a BIG complaint about the cutting layout instructions: they are completely wrong!!!  Following the layout the instructions show, one would cut out the back skirt panel with the stripes going horizontal (instead of vertical like the front sides of the skirt) – very big, very ugly boo boo!  Also, the total amount of fabric needed would be a ridiculous amount more over and above the 3-something yards already called for on the envelope back chart. Lucky for me, my mind was actually working so as to notice what was wrong.  I have never yet seen a cutting layout mistake this big and obvious.  Normally, any problems I do find in new patterns only have to do with construction details.  I can totally see someone, myself included, just going along with the layout, and trusting the diagram to be right because, hey, this skirt does look like it calls for some unusual things to be done.  I have done mistakes like this before, and they are usually repairable, learning experiences.  However, Simplicity 1429 cutting layout mistake is not cool – it makes for a complete waste of fabric, wastes money, and is not repairable unless you want (or can) buy more fabric.  Mistakes come easily enough in the experience of sewing without having to be tripped up at the very beginning of a project by a faulty fabric layout diagram.  Unfortunate sewing times shouldn’t come to anyone, and turn people away…the world needs all the interest possible in the fabric arts, so nothing gets lost.   100_4244a

It’s easy to avoid this cutting layout mistake.  At right you can see my own layout diagram drawing.  Start with the back skirt panel.  It looks like a very long and very skinny pattern piece – kinda strange!  Open up the fabric completely, single layer.  Next, take the one end of the cut edge and fold it into the rest of the fabric with selvedge to selvedge.  Don’t fold in too much, though – just enough for the back skirt pattern piece’s width because you’ll need most all of the fabric for the front skirt piece.  Now the back skirt piece should run vertical along with the stripes in your fabric.  Lay the ‘on fold’ edge of the skirt piece on the fold like my drawing shows.  You should be able to fit the waistband at the bottom fold, too, by folding the pattern piece in half, but you don’t have to do it this way.  I just always like to make sure I have enough room for a small but important piece like a waistband by cutting it out sooner than later.  Finally, the large and strange shaped front skirt piece can be cut out as directed, double layered, with stripes matching.

100_3785     The front panel pattern piece gets cut double layered, with fabric selvedge to selvedge, and there is a LOT of marking needed so expect to take plenty of time and space floor (or table) space for a successfully finished skirt.  The time you take to do all those markings is so very important with the front skirt pieces, even though it is hard on account of the need to match two layers and the fact that knit does not hold chalk very well.  I did the ‘tailor’s tacks’ style of markings with thread and, even then, had to keep out the front pattern piece and instructions to make sure I was matching the right sections plus turning them the right way.

Marking is the only hard part to this skirt, in my opinion, because the rest of the skirt (even the front) comes together easy-peasy as long as the construction instructions are followed.  No matter how strange the construction seems, just follow it, and as you do, it all makes sense because you see it suddenly looking like it should before you know it.  You dive right into doing all the front pleats, which get hidden by being taken into the folds.  The “pocket” over the belly created by all that fabric manipulation in the front is sewn together in a lapped seam inside, pulling the fit taught around the hips and waist (see below picture).  There is a very wide, basic casing sewn at the waist, to have very wide 1 1/2 wide ‘non-roll’ waistband elastic installed through.  I only wish I would have made the waistband casing double layered to help support the rest of the skirt, but sewing in the waistband at the front was thick enough the way it was, I’m not sure my ‘improvement’ idea would even work.

100_3953     I am very glad I switched between sizes for my skirt.  I noticed the model’s skirt on the cover envelope seemed very tight, plus I figured correctly that the skirt would be quite disproportionately heavy at the front.  Thus, I went down a size for the waistband, and up a size for the skirt sections, and, because you’re working with a knit, everything stretches to fit together to match up well.  The skirt seems to fit me perfectly.  It turns out snug enough the way it is, even with my going between sizes…it would have fit like a second skin according to the pattern – yuck!  Some amount of form fitting is appropriate to maintain this skirt’s proper styling and hot, figure flattering appearance.

This garment gives me something I don’t normally have – the feeling of being very tall!  I am on the average/almost petite height, and I kind of like the fact that merely wearing this skirt, with it’s vertical form skimming lines, makes me feel otherwise.  The high/low hem and the draping causes a sort of peek-a-boo effect with the bottom half of the legs when walking, creating a very complimentary effect to a lady’s gams especially when worn with heeled shoes.  If you have a booty, this skirt that part of your body a positive focus, too.

100_3778     I found my new skirt a bit hard to accessorize, in the way of finding the right top, shoes, and/or sweater to wear.  Any top worn with the skirt has to be just as tight as the skirt because there isn’t much room for anything blowsy to be tucked in at the waist.  On account of the bulky, pleated skirt front, I think any top worn with this skirt needs to be tucked in, which is another limiting factor…unless you have the gumption to wear a belly top 🙂  I think I found a few ways to outfit my striped skirt, and you see two in this post: 1.) my ivory short sleeve tee with studs and sequins, and 2.) my rust orange jeweled neckline tank top, layered with a tank underneath and grey long sweater.  Outfit #2 seemed to need a raw and modern backdrop so we tried out exploring a construction site (see below right picture). 100_3942

I love how the skirt’s appearance moves and changes as the wind blows and as I move.  When the four bias drapes hang just right, it is truly amazingly picture perfect.  Perhaps I’m just so happy with my new unusual skirt because it brought me to my ‘project #100’ in exactly two years!!!

Check my Flickr page for more upcoming pictures of this draped, unusual, and special skirt.  Happy Sewing!


My Fall “Fast Fashion” Skirt – An Easy Project with Modern Styling

I recently found a very interesting math equation that produces an excellent result.  Here it is: 1 yard of easy care, super soft knit fabric, plus 2 hours of time devoted to cutting and sewing, equals 1 very happy Seam Racer, a.k.a. Kelly.

At that time, I needed a no-fail, instant satisfaction project which was a change out of the ordinary for me, and this skirt was my lucky number.  Besides, I had been wanting to make my very own version of the “high-low hem” style that has been out since the first spring fashions emerged earlier this year.  The fact that I have been noticing how many 1920’s and early 30’s styles had the same “high-low hem” made my determination only stronger for me to sew something with that fashion element.

100_1720      A few of  the Pantone Fall 2013 colors are included in the tribal Indie print of my skirt – linden green and samba especially, among other background colors of turquoise and navy.

This skirt, although it didn’t call for much skill, makes me feel SO good, it’s amazing!  I haven’t made a new skirt for my wardrobe in so long of a time.  I intended on turning my skirt into a one piece dress by sewing a top to the waistband elastic, but the versatility being able to change top colors is much more fun than having another dress.


FABRIC:  a poly/rayon blend knit, bought at JoAnn’s store on sale

NOTIONS:  I used dark navy thread which was on hand already, and only bought the specialty color waistband elastic

Simplicty 1659PATTERN:  Simplicity 1659

TIME TO COMPLETE:  only 2 hours, from the beginning of cutting to finished and on myself: I made this skirt on a Saturday afternoon, July 27, 2013

THE INSIDES:  both side seams are French seams, while the bottom hem and waistband seams are zig-zagged over (this fabric doesn’t fray)

FIRST WORN:  I felt so good in my new outfit, hubby suggested taking the family out for a meal of food we don’t normally eat, but love: pizza, wings, potato skins, and root beer. Yum!

TOTAL COST:  the one yard of fabric only cost $5 and the elastic about $2, so the final cost is $7.00

The skirt portion of dresses A, C, and E was used and adjusted to be turned into my easy knit skirt.  Firstly, I straightened out the top of the skirt front pattern so it would go straight across.  On the dress, it arches up to the join the bodice center like an upside down V, with five tucks along the front.  I kept 4 of the tucks for my skirt front, the two on right and two at left, but eliminated the big tuck at the center to simplify things and keep some fullness.  Also, I re-drew a new length onto the pattern.  The longest length was too long, and I didn’t want to short version, either, so my skirt is in between those two lengths. With all these changes, I still cut out my correct corresponding size.  Only one yard (60 inch wide, and folded selvedges in at the center) was just enough to squeeze the two pattern pieces.

100_1724     Doing the waist band was fun!  There were at least 10 different fashion colors of elastic 100_1752to pick from at JoAnn’s, and I can’t wait for another project which gives me the opportunity to use a different elastic color as well as this interesting sewing technique.  All you have to do is cut your elastic to a comfortable measurement around your waist, add enough (two inches maybe) to securely sew the ends together, then pin and stretch both skirt and elastic!

100_1746     I know one thing…I have not yet figured out how to do a waistband like this without having someone with me to help me.  After I pinned the sides, hubby was sport enough to hold my skirt and elastic stretched out together so I could work at pinning the waistband in place.  Two rows of zig-zag stitches later, I was done and amazed – its nice to have an easy and uncomplicated project every so often.  By the way, the flower isn’t part of the belt – it just clips on for an easy decoration.

Look at the waistband picture above at right – there is a side seam going through the design, I just matched it up really well.  The other side isn’t matched up as well, but I’m o.k. with that because my finished project is just too good for me to care.

100_1733     A historic village in a different part of town was the perfect spot for a Sunday afternoon of letting our little tyke play in the dirt and take some photos.  I don’t know if I was enjoying being out more than him, but the picture below shows our little guy giving me quite a look.  Just HAD to add this outtake – it’s so cute!

I would like to make one last observation regarding the pattern, Simplicity 1659, which I used for my easy knit skirt.  I couldn’t help but see a resemblance between the long style dress with the open sleeves (view E) and this original Chanel creation from the 30’s (see pictures below).  I makes me wonder about the amount of fashion that comes around every so many years and sneaks its way back in without people ever suspecting.  There is a temptation for me to adapt Simplicity 1659 into a Chanel imitation, but, if I do, it won’t be anytime soon.
So many projects…so little time!

1659lineblack and white Chanel gown

My Hankie-Hem Dress of 1929 – the Year of Ups and Downs

My dress is, I believe, quite historically accurate.  I have taken a good amount of time and patience to get this project right, done plenty of historical and fashion research, and my public approval has come unwarranted in the form of comments from strangers.  The best part about my hankie-hem dress is the way it fits, how it feels so fun, and is very comfortable to wear!

My dress is meant to channel the ‘turn of the decade’ 1929 look, as evidenced by my early 30’s features:  Cuban heeled shoes, my Deco style Y-shaped drop pearls, and the small barely- flutter sleeves.

100_1276a     Here I’m posing with a 1929 Ford.  Now, for a brief history overview.

The year 1929 was quite a tumultuous year.  The world at that time, I mean the people and the events they caused, shows just how determined were the attempts to find out the right places for everything on the brink of a new decade.  However, it’s a matter of fact that what goes so far ‘south’ (Admiral Byrd was the 1st to fly over the South Pole in ’29), must boomerang back, as is especially the case in regards to “Black Thursday”, the Stock market crash of October 24, 1929.  Even fashion was no exception to the rule…after hemlines were at their shortest lengths above the knee from 1926 to 1928.  There was no doubt somewhat of a general outcry, and by 1929 uneven hems and asymmetric skirt hemlines helped the transition to new longer, more subdued hemline lengths.  Longer sheer over skirts and semi-sheer top skirts were worn over opaque linings as another way to gently ease away from the flapper enthusiasm while still attaining a new 30’s ideal of decency.

THE FACTS:Simp7227

FABRIC:  1 1/8 yd. of deep cream brushed flannel;  ivory lace from stash;  remnants of poly cling-free ivory lining for behind the flannel;  1 1/2 yard of pale yellow floral chiffon (poly blend) for the skirt and sleeves;  1 1/4 yd. of lingerie polyester to line the chiffon.  My poly fabrics are the only non-historical part.

NOTIONS:  I already had all the thread and interfacing that was needed.  I only bought a zipper.

Simp1810Simp1693PATTERN:  Well…this dress is THE Franken-pattern that beats all!  A good part of many little details are personal ideas from researching history, but I did use pieces from 3 different patterns.  Simplicity 7227, year 2002, view C, only the bottom layer of the lower half of the skirt was used to make the skirt for my dress (see above right picture).  Simplicity 1693, year 2013, view B, was used for only the sleeves.  Simplicity 1810, year 2012, view C tunic without the ties was used for the main body of my dress 

FIRST WORN:  to an Easter Sunday antique car show. 

TIME TO COMPLETE:   It took a very long time (for me), with sewing done between working on other projects, stretched out over the course of 3 months.  It was finally done on March 30, 2013

     The top tunic of my ’29 dress was sort of a whim, a “throw it together because I’ve been wanting to make this pattern” sort of thing. (I’m sure most of you have done this too!)  It went together quickly, easily, and turned out nicely while still fitting quite well.  I added the lace at the shoulder section to highlight the design and add a touch of femininity.  The funny thing is how sewing one project evolved into the finished dress.

100_1301    Flannel is actually quite accurate for my dress and had been used for clothing -both men’s and women’s- more frequently in the past.  Traditional/historical flannel, which has been around since the early 16th century, would be wool or a silk blend and cotton flannel is a rather modern invention.  The lighter colors of flannel, like my dress’ pale hue, became popular in the early 1900’s with use of bleaching (instead of dying), achieving the cool summer looks such as “Cricket white”.  My flannel tunic is lightweight and the facing makes for a super soft feel around the neckline.  I had it floating in my stash, leftover from the backing of a blanket I made for my mom.

100_1298a     I went through several differing preliminary drawings to figure out how best add theoriginal 20's hankie-hem dress chiffon. My drawing at left is the closest to my finished look.  Early on, I envisioned the chiffon as 1) draped across the front and back, 2) gathered up in layers, 3) heavy beading or sequins, and even 4) vertical bias ruffles, which I almost used.  I kept simplifying my ideas and staying away from the 30’s.  Early in February I even found a fancy bed skirt that seemed like it might have looked good at the bottom of my tunic, but it will be better as an individual skirt.  My husband was the one who picked the Simplicity 7227 I used for the dress’ bottom half, while I designed the zig-zag “hem” where the tunic bottom and skirt meet.  Those two features of our joint design gently incorporate the bottom skirt into the rest of the dress, and are very similar to vintage originals, like this Vionnet made dress at left.

Completing my hankie hem dress was more time consuming than I had foreseen.

100_1515a      First of all, finding the right lining was a challenge.  It was hard to find something that had a drape complimentary to the chiffon, as well as being opaque, and creating the right tint to match the flannel tunic.  I would have preferred to use a soft, lightweight cotton lawn, but I settled on a semi- shiny lingerie polyester.  Then, both the lining and the chiffon had to be cut, and the pattern piece for the skirt bottom was so unexpected…a large rectangle with a hole in the middle on the fold.  The hems of both lining and chiffon received my 1/8 inch tiny hem treatment, which makes for some time-consuming, thread-eating, beautifully invisible seams.  Since the top “hole” of the skirt was mostly on the bias, the fabric at that cut was stretched out as I sewed.   Next, I went to work measuring and centering the flannel tunic bottom so I could start adding the skirt bottom.  The lining and chiffon had been sewn together at the “hole”, and I can’t begin to express how frustrating it was to add the horizontal zig-zag seam.   Stretch, shape, pin, measure again, maybe unpin, and shape anew over and over was the regimen.  No matter where or how I would work, it was hard on the hands, back, and eyes.  As it ended up, the sides of the chiffon have small gathers to aid in the side shaping and gathering.  I think my determination to see it done got me through.

My last minute touches were to add a side zip (so as to get a better fit without it being tricky to get into) and small hand tacks to keep the points of the lining and chiffon hanging evenly with each other.

100_1284a     All the time spent towards making my hankie hem dress made me a very lucky girl when I wore it to the Easter car show.  Many of the owners of 20′ and 30’s era car recognized the time period of my dress, pointed me out, called me over, and invited me to take a seat in their vintage cars.  The car owners said very few people actually get to sit in their cars and check them out, so that day I felt special to have such unique opportunities.   We have some wonderful pictures of hubby and me in a 1925 Model T Touring (not in my post), and – my favorite – a great family photo (below) of our Easter.

100_1278a    Go, sit back, and look up some of the facts and historical landmarks of 1929.  I think you might be amazed, as I was, to find how advanced the world was in that year, as well as all the achievements that were made as well.  For example, did you know that in 1929 color TV was first patented and demonstrated publicly?  I know this has nothing to do with sewing except for helping a realization that back then compared to now are really not that foreign, but have a lot in common.